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U. of Toronto's Open Source and Free Software Conference - ePresence Video
Monday, May 10 2004 @ 03:29 AM EDT

The University of Toronto is hosting a conference on Open Source and Free Software, which began Sunday and will continue through Tuesday. I just heard about it tonight. If you can't go in person, they will be making the event available live through streaming video, for a $95 fee. That's Canadian. It's US $71, they say. Obviously, it's more if you attend it all in person. Speakers include Bob Young, the founder of Red Hat and later of Lulu.com, his innovative publishing company, and today it was Brian Behlendorf, one of the co-founders of the Apache project, and Eben Moglen of Columbia University and the Free Software Foundation. There will be archived video available down the road, I think for free.

Monday, there is a session on Open Source and business models and one on the technical side of open source, talking about security, usability, reliability, and customizability. Then in the evening, Bob Young gives his keynote address, which is described like this:

"The topic of the address is an autobiographical journey through issues such as open source, free software, open content, public domain, public good, entrepreneurship, business, free markets, democracy, customer service, and profits.

"Bob will attempt to explain how the 18th Century philosophers, from Adam Smith to Ricardo and Mill he was introduced to at the University of Toronto, can be used to identify business opportunities that lead to highly profitable business ventures and huge social good at the same time. How his toiling in the backwaters of the technology industry for 17 years contributed significantly to his ability to recognize the business opportunity that Open Source, then called Free Software, represented to his and Marc Ewing's starving Red Hat start-up. If time permits he may also attempt the rhetoric contortions of justifying his latest projects, the Ticats and Lulu, as simply logical extensions in a career dedicated to proving (if only by accident) that Adam Smith was right."

Somehow, I note, Microsoft always finds a way to get invited to send speakers to these things, which is ridiculous. They truly don't belong there. Not unless they get involved from the heart in open source or free software. I believe that is scheduled for some time between pigs flying and the end of the world. Or immediately thereafter. Expect delays.

No. Shared Source doesn't count. And they'd have to quit trying to kill GNU/Linux and the GPL. Those seem like the minimum requirements to be allowed to speak at such events, I think.

Here's the schedule, in case you'd like to go or would like to tune in. Registration is here. The part that I wanted to share with you the most, though, is that the software they are using to make the conference available will be released eventually under an open source license. You can read about it on the ePresence site. More details in an archived talk, "Introduction to the ePresence Interactive Webcasting". If it can do all they say, I am wondering if you could maybe have an online international party, using this software? One of these sweet days.

: )

In a red dress.

More importantly, if you watch the slide presentation, maybe you will agree with me that this is the way to do newbie documentation, not in printed words only but in archived software demos. I seriously see how you could do such a "book" using this software. They say you can save to online archives or to CD. I hope they release this software soon. Am I just dreaming, or am I right that this would be an incredible improvement for how-to's? As you can see, my brain is off and in flight. I need to find out more about this software. Maybe some of you know an even better way that is already available.

Here's what the ePresence page says about the software:

"The ePresence Lab is a research project of the Knowledge Media Design Institute at the University of Toronto. The goal of our research is to make webcasting:

  • Highly interactive
  • More engaging
  • Accessible in real-time and later via structured, navigable, searchable archives
  • Useful for knowledge transmission, building, and sharing
  • Scalable and robust.

"Work to date has succeeded in the creation of a viable and innovative webcasting system. This includes support for video, audio, and slide broadcasting; slide browsing and review; submitting questions, integrated moderated chat, live software demos and the automated creation of event archives.

"We have recently formed a Project Partnership. Our mandate is to further develop the ePresence Interactive Webcasting system and work toward an eventual open source release."

So, what do you think? Are there not lots of interesting possibilities with ePresence? I wish I had it for Groklaw, so we could work collaboratively in real-time on certain projects. Imagine the OCR, proof, edit process, for starters. I guess you can certainly see how I think, huh?

It saves as XML, the demo said, and all I could think was: Microsoft just got some kind of XML patent. I hope they don't turn their legal beagles loose on trying to find some nasty way to destroy all the freedom of this software by claiming XML is theirs, all theirs, and thrusting it into a patent prison, because the creative possibilities of ePresence are wonderful to contemplate. Young is quoted in one press release about the conference as saying that closed systems stifle innovation, and I believe that:

"'It is a myth that successful businesses have to maintain proprietary control of their product and marketplace in order to be successful. Innovation is ultimately the key to success for any business. Closed systems actually discourage innovation,' says Young."

Anything that raises the bar to participation reduces innovation, because you never know who will have the next great idea. It could just be some poor but creative brainiac who can't afford some stupid royalty on somebody's stupid patent that in many cases probably should never have been granted in the first place, with the result that the world loses out on his innovatation. Meanwhile, imagine a world where only large companies can innovate, because they have all the patents in their holster. Which reminds me: Here's a peek at Longhorn. And another. One idea I do like is the Alt-Tab tilted line-up of windows, so you can find what you need on your monitor. You should see my monitor.

And Microsoft would like the world to know that Palladium is alive and kicking, despite recent reports to the contrary, and it will reappear in Longhorn. You just can't kill Palladium. Like the ghouls in "Night of the Living Dead", it keeps showing up, wanting what it wants:

"Microsoft is continuing to be vague about exactly how much of its NGSCB code will ship as part of Longhorn. Company officials have gone on record saying that customers would not be impacted by the technology until Microsoft delivered Version 2 of the NGSCB platform. The company has not provided a date for Version 2.

"In spite of these facts, the plan of record continues to be to deliver Version 1 of its NGSCB technology as part of Longhorn, said Juarez."

I'm sure you are thrilled by their innovation. How do you enjoy the secrecy? Not only are you not allowed to look at, copy or modify their software code, we are not even allowed to know what it will do exactly or how much Palladium there will be in Longhorn. And they wonder why they are in danger of losing out to GNU/Linux systems. Hint: people use software. People. As in human beings. Human beings love freedom. We're hardwired that way.

They are tossing features overboard to get a Longhorn release out that is more secure, and some time before Linux takes over the desktop and the server space totally, but one thing they are keeping is that you will probably have to buy a new computer to run Longhorn. It sounds like it will require 64-bit just to boot:

"But not everyone is impressed with Microsoft's Longhorn vision. A software engineer who requested anonymity said it is likely that by the time Longhorn actually ships, it may look very different from what is being touted today. Microsoft also must have 64-bit support in Longhorn, said the engineer, since users are 'going to need 64-bit computing just to boot [the operating system]. Microsoft really needs something to cause people to have to buy new computers, since people just don't upgrade the operating system once it's preinstalled at the factory.'

"Microsoft is also taking a 'hard bet' on the adoption rate of 64-bit computing, said Allchin. But he said he expects the adoption to move rapidly, with few compatibility issues 'other than the drivers, which could slow it down, and that's another reason why we have to take a hard bet on it,' he said.

"Allchin confirmed that Microsoft is planning a 32-bit version in addition to a 64-bit version of Longhorn, although he did leave the door slightly open for change. 'We will have a 64-bit version of Longhorn, no question,' he said. 'Will we have a 32-bit version? The plan is yes, but if we learn a lot between now and then, that might change. But right now we are staying the course, and it is so hard to predict how fast the run rate will be. We know where [Advanced Micro Devices Inc.] will be, we know pretty much where Intel [Corp.] will be. I think we just have to wait a little bit.'"

Meanwhile, IBM has a plan for the desktop too, Workplace:

"'We're delivering this here and now. It's 2004, not 2007 or whenever," says [IBM's] Mills. Other companies, including Novell and Red Hat, are pushing their versions of Linux hard right now for the same reason: Mighty Microsoft is vulnerable.

"OPEN-SOURCE BOOST. With IBM Workplace as an alternative, corporations could decide not to buy any Microsoft software, or at least buy less. 'They can use things they run on Windows, but they're not stuck with it,' says Mills. For example, a customer could run Linux or Macintosh operating systems on its PCs and laptops, use IBM Workplace as so-called middleware sitting between the operating system and applications, and either tap into its custom applications or into run-the-business applications from SAP (SAP ), Siebel Systems (SEBL ), and PeopleSoft (PSFT ) located on servers. Or they can use Windows but avoid using Microsoft Office and use Workplace office software instead."

I hope everyone pays attention to something Bruce Perens just said out loud:

"'The open-source (community) has its own view of what you can and cannot do with a commercial exploitation of it,' he said. 'If they feel that Linux and open-source are becoming too much of a commercial playground, they're going to stop developing.'"

That is the ultimate power play, but it's certainly true that without the community, there will be no Linux to exploit, so those who wish to benefit from it commercially will have to learn to respect the community and their values, because they can't do a thing without them and they can't fool them either. I present Exhibit A, part of a lengthy online discussion you may find interesting. It's also why SCO can't win, no matter what happens. You just can't steal Linux and run off with it. Even in a worst case scenario, with a bribable judge, for example, all the creative, innovative authors of the Linux kernel will just stop working on it any more. And then, that's all folks. SCO would then become a troll under a Linux toll bridge with no more water, trying to eke out a living from two dying operating systems nobody wants, instead of just one. I hope everyone, including the BayStars of this world, understand that clearly, because it's the bottom line.


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