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Report from MTLC's 2nd Annual Open Source Summit in Boston
Sunday, June 24 2007 @ 06:46 PM EDT

Dan Bricklin has all of the panel discussions and talks from last week's Second Annual Open Source Summit in Boston online now. So if you didn't get to attend in person, you can listen for yourselves. A Groklaw member, Jim Olsen, who attended the summit has written up a report for us. He describes what each panel or talk was about, so you will know which you want to listen to.

This is the same summit where the keynote was by OLPC's Ivan Krstic which I wrote about earlier. That's just the keynote, though. There was quite a bit more.

I listened to the panel discussion on GPLv3 and the one on Open Source Strategies, the latter pretty much all about the Novell-Microsoft deal with the inevitable Justin Steinman. There is some misinformation from Iona's representative, by my lights, who seemed to imagine that the deal protects developers. That is the very last thing I think it does, except for certain "blessed" developers under Microsoft's patent thumb for five years, unless Microsoft changes the terms or quits the deal in the meantime. Red Hat and the IBM representative hold down the fort on that panel.

There were five parts, but if you think like me, you probably want to skip the introduction, which was all about how wonderful Microsoft was to host the event at their building in Waltham. I believe attendance would go up if it were held elsewhere.

Our reporter connects some dots, namely that when Novell talks about customers in connection with the patent deal with Microsoft, it means corporate customers, and this is in alignment with what Eban Moglen told us was the Microsoft strategy, to divide corporate customers from the rest of the community first, so they won't protest if and when Microsoft were to start suing end users. He also provides links to sources for more information, which is very helpful. So, all in all, I'm very glad he attended and can tell us about it. Thank you. And here is his report:


Last Tuesday, I attended the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council's Second Annual Open Source Summit. The event announcement from MTLC has this:

Join us for this half-day summit as technology leaders discuss the current state of open source and the implementation of collaborative development models. The program will spotlight innovative open source companies in a rapid fire lightning round session. The summit will culminate with a keynote presentation on OLPC (One Laptop Per Child), an initiative lead by Nicholas Negroponte, as recently featured on 60 Minutes.

Interestingly, the event was hosted by Microsoft in its Waltham tech center, as part of its current strategy of embracing open source (on its own terms).

In addition to my report here, you can also check out other reports of the meeting from Andy Updegrove, who was sitting directly in front of me, pounding out his report on his laptop, and from Dan Bricklin, who was recording the meeting for later podcast. I particularly recommend the podcast if you want the full details of the discussions and presentations, which I am unable to give here.

The summit had four major parts, plus the introduction-welcome:

1. Introduction by Bob Zurek with a welcome from Microsoft's Ted MacLean.

2. GPLv3 Panel - Discussion of GPLv3, the upcoming third version of the FSF General Public License by lawyers on the various committees, including Karen Copenhaver (Linux Foundation).

3.Open Source Strategies - Panel discussion about Open Source business strategies, including the Novell-Microsoft deal. Red Hat, Iona, IBM, Novell and Microsoft were all represented on the panel.

4. Lightning Round - 10 open-source companies, each making a 6-minute pitch.

5. OLPC talk [audio; video or if you have trouble with that, it is now also on Google Video here ]


After the introduction, the meeting got going with a panel discussing the status of GPLv3. The 'last call' discussion draft was issued on May 31, with final adoption expected around the end of this month. The major subjects of discussion in the 'last-call' draft are:

  • license compatibility
  • DRM
  • internationalization
  • patents
  • the Affero GPL.

The major goal in compatibility was to ensure that GPLv3 would be compatible with the Apache license. This has now been achieved: GPLv3 code can be mixed with Apache code and the combined code can still be distributed. Any combined GPLv3/Apache code will have to be released under GPLv3.

The "anti-DRM" provisions of GPLv3 require that any information needed to load modified GPLv3 code will have to be disclosed. These provisions will only apply to consumer devices.

The patent provisions in GPLv3 are designed to discourage business deals that tend to weaken the free-software community, such as the Microsoft-Novell deal. However, there are other patent deals that might strengthen the community, and the difficult decisions have been in how to distinguish the good deals from the bad ones.

The Affero license is based on GPL, and is intended for those who wish to address the fact that GPL software can be modified and used to provide web services to the public, but as long as the modified programs themselves are not distributed, the modified source code can remain secret. The original Affero license was based on GPLv2; an updated Affero GPL based on GPLv3 will be released soon after the release of GPLv3.

Open-Source Business Strategies

In this segment, the moderator posed a number of questions to a panel including representatives of Iona, Red Hat, Novell, IBM, and Microsoft.

Asked how their companies derive revenue from open source, the panelists responded:

  • Iona: by providing support, services, and training
  • Red Hat: by providing software subscriptions, maintenance, distribution of tested code, support, training, and an online software configuration and patching system
  • Novell: by mixed-source' software distribution, providing support and training, and enterprise management software for mixed environments
  • IBM: by using most strategies (except hosting): embedded systems, consulting, layering, subscription, providing an'on-ramp' to more sophisticated offerings, and by a 'Patronage model' where IBM helps develop a healthy marketplace into which it can sell its products
  • Microsoft: by providing a Common user interface and combined environment management

Regarding the recent Microsoft-Novell deal, Novell's Director of Linux Marketing, Justin Steinman, said that it benefits the industry by reducing uncertainty for paying SUSE Enterprise customers. This restricted protection jibes with Eben Moglen's explanation of the problem with the deal: it attempts to placate the large enterprise users (who are also Microsoft users and will be angered by Microsoft threats), while still leaving the open-source developers out in the cold.

Lightning Round

Next, there was a 'lightning round' of presentations from ten open-source companies, each ruthlessly limited to six minutes:

Akaza Research provides open-source OpenClinica software for clinical trial management.

Apatar provides open-source data integration software.

Blackduck provides software analysis tools to verify license and regulatory compliance: “Blackduck is the de-facto M+A due diligence standard.”

Drupal is a pure open-source modular website content management system.

enterpriseDB is world's the largest PostgresSQL company, competing with Microsoft, Oracle, and IBM in the enterprise DB marketplace.

IBM discussed a new initiative for business partners using OSS.

Simula Labs DevZuz is an open-source software project control system.

SnapLogic is an open-source system for implementing Internet data services.

SugarCRM is a customer relationship management system.

SofCheck provides advanced static analysis of software systems.

Keynote: One Laptop per Child (OLPC)

Next, Ivan Krstic, Director of Security Architecture for OLPC, gave a presentation about the project. He gave a more technical version of this talk in April at Google, available at as video.

All kids learn, both before and after school age. Pre-school learning is curiosity-driven, all-day, peer-based, and happening everywhere. School learning is authority-driven, at select hours, unidirectional, and in a particular place. This works great with a great teacher, but badly without one. Of 1.3 billion kids in developing world, about 75% lack adequate access to education.

To solve this problem, we could try to do top-down rethink of the traditional education system, but might take 50-100 years, if it could be done at all. Instead, with appropriate technology we can put peer learning back into the picture. We can do laptops now, and let schools fix themselves over time.

How do you build a laptop for these kids? Not by cost-reducing existing models, which simply won't solve the problems of working in areas with sparse or non-existent power and communication infrastructure, with extremes of climate and of operating conditions (e.g., operating outdoors in bright sunshine).

The OLPC XO-1 laptop deals with the lack of electric power by extreme power conservation, and by using innovative power generation techniquies. It uses an AMD Geode LX-700 433Mhz CPU, dissipating 0.8 Watts. It uses the most aggressive power management of any Linux device: the goal is to be in full-suspend mode every few seconds. It also uses innovative battery chenistry for a safer and more durable battery. All told, system power dissipation will be 4-5W at peak, 1-2W standard, vs. about 40W for a conventional laptop. When regular electric power is not available, the laptop can be hooked up to a $10 solar panel, or a “yo-yo” charger.

The lack of communication infrastructure is addressed via a mesh network, where every XO-1 is both an end-point and a router for an ad-hoc mesh network. For example, if there were Internet access at the vilage school, kids within range of the school would have direct access. Kids within range of those kids would get access through them, and so on. XO-1 will be the first system to implement the IEEE draft 802.11s wireless mesh network standard.

One goal of the OLPC design is to have it as if it were built with “glass legos”, so that kids can look inside and see how it works, then take it apart and put it back together again, perhaps changing it in the process. Suppose there were a 'Show Source' button, and it just worked! This goal can only be accomplished with open-source software, which is used throughout, starting with an OS based on Fedora Core.

To further this goal, and to help fit within the storage and CPU constraints, the OLPC software is largely in Python: the GUI, window manager, filesystem, and most user-mode code are all written in Python.

The OLPC GUI is named Sugar. It uses full-screen windows (because of the limited screen size) and has built-in features and to exploit the mesh network and enable collaboration.

Kids are already using the XO-1 in initial deployments. Real-world user reports, invaluable for guiding development, are now coming in.

Notable OLPC links:

main website

project wiki, news, updates, and user reports

developers site, for source code and bug tracking

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