Quite a few folks, myself included, have signed a letter opposing a patent policy being adopted by OASIS, a major industry consortium that produces e-business and Web services standards, that threatens to undermine the development and licensing model for open source software. Discussions are ensuing with the hope of an outcome more acceptable to all parties. Details of the letter at Groklaw.
As a buyer, I came away very happy from the Origins of Cyberspace auction yesterday. CNET coverage here.
My favorite item is the original typescript of the first ever business plan for a computer company, written by Eckert and Mauchly for the proposed commercialization of the ENIAC.
As a first of a kind, the auction overall produced mixed results. Many lots, especially first editions of books which are otherwise available, didn't sell and the total realized was less than expected. There was a lot of interest in 19th century works by Babbage, but the key Von Neumann reports that essentially defined the field in the mid-1940's didn't meet their reserve.
I suspect the collector's market for computer artifacts is still embryonic.
Mary Hodder has a great photoblog entry on the auction. It uses an interresting web app called Foto Noter which allows textual annotation of areas of a photo. Combine this with Jon Udell's fascinating experiments with screencasting and Google Maps to create interactive walking tours and what results is a new genre of bottom-up collaborative multimedia.
The auction catalog can be found here.
If it hasn't been done already, somebody should create a page of links showing Firefox share for key web sites. It would show it catching up to and passing IE across a variety of sites popular with the "digitally aware". Will it cross the chasm to the mass market? Link.
Comment spam has increased to the point where I've reluctantly had to disable allowing unregistered readers to post comments for submission. I'm spending too much time cleaning it up as well as trackback spam. I am also disabling trackbacks. This is a shame as it undermines the connectivity that blogs are supposed to foster. You can still post comments by getting a Typekey, which is free and very straight-forward. Instructions can be found on the comment posting form.
Andrew Pollack, NYT, on open source practices for biotechnology:
The open-source movement, which has encouraged legions of programmers around the world to improve continually upon software like the Linux operating system, may be spreading to biotechnology.
Researchers from Australia will report in a scientific journal today that they have devised a method of creating genetically modified crops that does not infringe on patents held by big biotechnology companies.
They said the technique, and a related one already used in crop biotechnology, would be made available free to others to use and improve, as long as any improvements are also available free.
Thomas Friedman, NYT, on a geo-green strategy: "combining environmentalism and geopolitics is the most moral and realistic strategy the U.S. could pursue today."
Bill Greider, in The Nation on new thinking about investment strategy: high returns over the long term, as needed, for instance, by large public pension funds, will come only from companies with sound environmental and workforce strategies.
"The current laissez-faire, let-'er-rip system damages important social values--equitable treatment of workers, the environment and other commonly shared public assets--and that both workers and retirees (and the state taxpayers who put up the money for public pension funds) have a strong self-interest, personal as well as financial, in husbanding the distant future: a healthy society and strong economy for themselves and their families."
Premiere issue of new O'Reilly print magazine Make is out. Sub-titled "technology on your time" it's a kind of Popular Mechanics updated for the Digital Era. Lots of hands-on projects --most various kinds of hardware hacking but also supporting software. Worth a look.
Lisa Dusseault has created a wikipedia article on CalDAV. A good place to start if you're looking for information about a new approach to calendar sharing and interoperability. Also see Jon Udell here.
Does your favorite protocol have a page? If not, add one!
Christie's will be auctioning a treasure trove of rare books and manuscripts in the history of computing on Wednesday, February 23 in New York. My favorite item is the typescript of first business plan for a computer company, Eckert and Mauchly's "Outline of plans for development of electronic computers" (1946). As I'll be in New York, I'm planning to be there.
I'm looking for basic information about getting a mobile phone for a family member. The carrier is Verizon. The most important affordance is that it be easy to use, with a readable screen, and should stand up to being carried around a lot. Not a PDA, just your basic 2005 mobile phone. Advanced features are not desired. If you can point me to sites which have useful reviews and information, I'd be much obliged. I can find lots of info for the geek-minded, but that's not the target here.While I'm on the subject of asking for help, what about recommendations for a KVM switch specifically designed to support a configuration with one PC and a Mac Mini? I'm adding the Mini to my family room set up and want to share the keyboard, mouse, and display. The PC is configured with a PS/2 mouse and keyboard and SVGA video. The Mini uses USB for keyboard and mouse and has one of the Mac-specific video ports, I assume.
A commenter asks:
Mitch, you are a big supporter of open source, but do you think you would reach the same position you are in today (in terms of money and credibility) if you were starting now in the software business embracing the open source model?
I do not mean to be antagonistic, I am truly curious of what your opinion is about this. I am sure this is a question people ask you a lot, and maybe you have written about this already.
This is a fair question, and it's not the first context in which it's come up. If VisiCalc, the original spreadsheet, had been patented, we couldn't have brought Lotus 1-2-3 to market. Had VisiCalc come to market in 1990, not 1980, it surely would have been. What would I then have done? Assuming I was interested in starting a business to make a lot of money, I used to say I would have sought a different opportunity.
In fact, though, I was motivated by a combination of factors: the desire to do a great product, to have it widely accepted, and to make enough money not to have to work for anyone else. I always had problems with authority, and concluded if I wanted to have food with my dinner, I needed to be my own employer. I didn't have the desire to build a big empire or become fabulously wealthy. I would have been ecstatically happy with a much smaller outcome at Lotus. I would have been even more happy had the competitive landscape then been more like it is becoming today. Open source levels the playing field and makes it more difficult for monopolists to triumph with technically inferior products which are also hard to use.
If I were starting today, do I think I would have had a shot at achieving financial independence? Yes. I look at today's entrepreneurs, people like Dave Sifry at Technorati and Ross Mayfield at Socialtext. Do they have a shot? Sure. So would I.
I also think that the role models for entrepreneurs today are broader and more socially enlightened. Had there been a wider menu of choices of who to emulate back when I was starting out, I might have pointed myself towards "social entrepreneurship", i.e., starting a company with a double bottom line of financial success and positive social impact.
From Good Morning Silicon Valley:
During a panel discussion at the OSDL Linux Summit, Linux founder Linus Torvalds; Brian Behlendorf, a co-founder of the Apache Web server software; and Mitch Kapor, chairman of the Mozilla Foundation and the Open Source Applications Foundation, spoke out against software patents. "Are software patents useful," asked Torvalds. "That's pretty clearly not the case. Software patents are clearly a problem." Kapor and Behlendorf both echoed Torvalds' criticism, Kapor by posing a particularly disturbing scenario in which Microsoft, to defend its market share, is eventually driven to launch wide-ranging patent lawsuits. "We have to be concerned about ... the use of patent WMDs. That will be the last stand of Microsoft," Kapor said. "If totally pushed to the wall -- because their business model no longer holds up in an era in which open-source is an economically superior way to produce software, and the customers understand it, and it's cheaper and more robust, and you've got the last monopolist standing -- of course they're going to unleash the WMDs. How can they not?"Link