The Standards Blog


Tuesday, October 20th, 2009 @ 05:01 AM
Contributed by: Andy Updegrove
Views: 19,682

People in Congress have it tough.

They're expected to deal with every new topic that comes down the pike, from regulating securitized credit swaps to beefing up cybersecurity, whether they've had any previous experience with it or not. Of course, there's never a shortage of people who want to educate them, but the "educators" with the greatest access are likely to be lobbyists. And when one paid advocate is promoting one action, political physics dictates that another highly paid individual in somebody else's pocket will be promoting an equal and opposite action. Soon, all potential solutions become obscured by a fog of business propaganda.

What's a poor legislator (and her staff) to do?

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009 @ 12:37 PM
Contributed by: Andy Updegrove
Views: 7,528

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Two weeks ago, I wrote a critical analysis of the governance structure of the CodePlex Foundation, a new open source-focused foundation launched by Microsoft. 

But what about the business premise for the Foundation itself?  Let’s say that Microsoft does restructure CodePlex in such a way as to create a trusted, safe place for work to be done to support the open source software development model.  Is there really a need for such an organization, and if so, what needs could such an organization meet?

As with my last piece, I’ll use the Q&A approach to make my points.

Monday, September 14th, 2009 @ 10:29 AM
Contributed by: Andy Updegrove
Views: 27,598

Well, it’s been a busy week in Lake Wobegon, hasn’t it?  First, the Wall Street Journal broke the story that Microsoft had unwittingly sold 22 patents, not to the Allied Security Trust (which might have resold them to patent trolls), but to the Open Inventions Network.  A few days later, perhaps sooner than planned, Microsoft announced the formation of a new non-profit organization, the CodePlex Foundation, with the mission of “enabling the exchange of code and understanding among software companies and open source communities.”

Not surprisingly, more articles were written about the apparent snookering of Microsoft by AST and OIN than about the new Foundation.   But while the tale of the 22 patents is now largely over, the CodePlex story is just beginning.  Microsoft says that its goal for the new Foundation is to create an open and neutral environment, and that the formation documents posted and governance structure described at the CodePlex Foundation site can provide a foundation for such an organization.  The CodePlex site also makes clear that the Bylaws you can find there are just a starter set, stating, “Our governance documents are deliberately sparse, because we expect them to change.”  

That’s good to hear, because I’ve reviewed all of the material at the CodePlex site, and I think that quite a bit of the governance structure will need to change before CodePlex can expect to attract broad participation.

Monday, August 31st, 2009 @ 10:00 AM
Contributed by: Andy Updegrove
Views: 8,682

iPhones and ChinaSteve Jobs is a genius of design and marketing, but his track record on calling the right balance between utilizing proprietary arts and public resources (like open source and open standards) is more questionable.  Two news items caught my eye today that illustrate the delicacy of making choices involving openness for the iPhone platform - both geopolitically as well as technically.

The first item can be found in today's issue of the London Sunday Times, and the second appears at the Web site.  The intersecting points of the two articles are the iPhone and, less obviously, openness.  But the types of openness at issue in the two articles are at once both different, and strangely similar.

The Sunday Times piece recounts the (unsuccessful) efforts of Andre Torrez, the chief technology officer at Federated Media in San Francisco, to switch from the iPhone to an Android-based G1 handset, because he objects to the closed environment that the iPhone represents.  But after just a week, Torrez reverts to the better app-provisioned iPhone.  The Sunday Times author concludes in part as follows:

Friday, August 28th, 2009 @ 09:09 AM
Contributed by: Andy Updegrove
Views: 6,098

Modern society harbors many bad habits. One is its penchant for enthusiastically embracing the benefits of new technologies before considering their less desirable side effects. Whether we look at the development of automobiles (first) and safety features (much later), or industrialization (first) and environmental protection (much, much later), the story is always much the same: we reach for the candy before we grasp the reality of the cavities. Only after the problems become too great to ignore do we investigate the unintended consequences, realize how difficult and expensive they are to address, and grudgingly start to rein in our appetites and exercise a bit of prudent self-discipline.

Perhaps we should not be surprised, then, that the U.S. government is only now becoming alarmed over the vulnerability to which we have become exposed as a result of our whole-hearted embrace of the Internet. With the operations of government, defense, finance, commerce, power distribution, communications, transportation, and just about everything else now dependent on the healthy operation of the Internet, that alarm is well-justified. And with the creation and storage now of virtually all data in digital, rather than physical form, exposure of our financial as well as our most intimate personal and health information is only a hack away as well.

Monday, August 24th, 2009 @ 11:24 AM
Contributed by: Andy Updegrove
Views: 4,510

200%20Teddy%20Roosevelt.jpgMan's ability to affect the land is all too evident in these times of climate change, pollution and habitat destruction.  Happily, the landscape can change man as well.

The weather finally broke last night, dropping 30 degrees by dawn, and thanks be for that.  The night before I had camped in the Sheyenne National Grasslands, heavy with heat and humidity.  But the next day it was pleasantly cool (upper 60s), albeit overcast rather than sunny.

Nor was this the only change.  It took over 2400 driving miles to finally leave the Eastern, and then Midwestern terrain behind, but today I reached the beginnings of what I think of as the West.  More than anything else, in my mind that means “dry.”  For the last 800 miles, the landscape had been primarily flat, lush - and transitionally post-glacial.  That last factor means an area where the great ice sheets completed their periodic southward pulses, dumping rich, black earth born of thousands of miles of ice grinding down stone, some deposited by glacial steams, and other as windblown “loess” – very fine mineral particles.

Friday, August 21st, 2009 @ 09:02 AM
Contributed by: Andy Updegrove
Views: 12,247

Mea Culpa.  I am uncharacteristically late in commenting on the XML Wars of August, 2009, which have already received so much attention in the press and in the blogs of the technology world.  The wars to which I refer, of course, broke out with the announcement early in the month that Microsoft had been granted an XML-related patent.  The opening of that front gave rise to contentions that patenting anything to do with XML was, in effect, an anti-community effort to carve a piece out of a public commons and claim it as one's own.

The second front opened when a small Canadian company, named i4i, won a stunning and unexpected remedy (note that I specifically said "remedy" and not "victory," on which more below) in an ongoing case before a judge in Texas, a jurisdiction beloved of patent owners for its staunch, Red State dedication to protecting property rights - including those of the intangible, intellectual kind.

So if this is war, why have I been so derelict in offering my comments, as quite a few people have emailed me to tell me they are waiting to hear?  Here's why.

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009 @ 12:04 PM
Contributed by: Andy Updegrove
Views: 3,454

In 2001, I took a one month solo cross country trip, driving from Massachusetts across the Northeast, the Midwest, and then the prairie states, until I reached what we generally think of as “the West” – the land of canyons and buttes, deserts and mesas.  Once there, I spent the rest of the time backpacking in the canyonlands of Utah, and then meandering North on dirt roads until I reached Glacier National Park, in the Northwest corner of Montana.  After that, I zigzagged back East until I reached the Mississippi.  Then, it was just a straight highway shot till I arrived back home once again.  It was during that trip that I began writing in earnest, although I haven’t (yet) posted anything from that journey to the Web. 

Monday, July 27th, 2009 @ 05:13 AM
Contributed by: Andy Updegrove
Views: 9,731

Last week, Microsoft and the European Commission each announced that Microsoft had  proposed certain concessions in response to a "Statement of Objections" sent to Microsoft by the EC on January 15 of this year relating to Microsoft's bundling of Internet Explorer with Windows.  If you've been reading the reams of articles that have been written since then, you may have noticed that the vast majority of the virtual ink spent on the story has been directed at the terms relating to browser choice.  Typically, and as an afterthought, most of these stories have added a brief mention that Microsoft also proposed commitments relating to "another" dispute, this one relating to interoperability.

While the browser question is certainly important, in many ways it is far less important than the interoperability issue.  After all - the primary benefit for consumers under the browser settlement is that they can choose their favorite browser when they first boot up their new computer, as compared to investing a few extra clicks to download it from the site of its developer - as they can already do now.  Interoperability, of course, goes far deeper.  There's no way that you can make one program work the way you really want it to with another unless it comes out of the box that way, or unless you have not only the ability, but also the proprietary information, to hack it yourself.  And if both programs don't support the same standards, well, good luck with that.

So what exactly did Microsoft promise to the EC, regarding interoperability?  Let's use ODF as a reference point and see.

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009 @ 03:40 AM
Contributed by: Andy Updegrove
Views: 9,608

I'm pleased to report this morning on the formation of a new advocacy group for the use of free and open source software in the U.S. Government.  I'm also pleased to have been asked to serve on its Board of Advisors, along other proponents of free and open source software, such as Roger Burkhard, Dawn Meyerriecks, Eben Moglen, Tim O'Reilly, Simon Phipps, Mark Shuttleworth, Michael Tiemann, Bill Vass, and Jim Zemlin.

The new organization is called Open Source for America (OSA), and you can find its Web site here.  Tim O'Reilly will officially announce OAS at OSCON later today, and you can find the launch press release here, as well as pasted in at the end of this blog post for archival purposes.  I'm sure that you'll also see quite a few articles blossom across the Web today relating to its announcement, but having been in on the planning, here's what it's all about.