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Thursday, July 31 2014 @ 04:38 PM CDT

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On the Desert Road – Day 7: A Western Kaleidoscope

Not Here but There: A Wilderness Journal

It was an interesting trip, in all, providing a cascade of often starkly diverse images.  How varied a range?   On the natural grandeur list, I would add spectacular sunsets, wildernesses of soaring, broken redrock, and broad vistas of pristine desert. 

And at the opposite end of the spectrum, I might begin with the sights that greeted me when I crossed the Colorado early in the trip, and threaded my way through the 27th Annual Laughlin River Run, a meet that draws over 40,000 leather-clad, mostly aging bikers to what Motorcycle-usa.com calls, “one of the more popular events on the West Coast rally scene, packing bikini contests, custom bike shows, demo rides, poker runs, freak shows and tattoo contests into four-days of 24/7 fun.”  I can attest to the fact that it also packs in what is presumably one of the largest assemblages of multi-story, inflatable Jim Beam bottle and Budweiser can replicas to be found anywhere in one place.   

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On the Desert Road - Day 4: Prejudice, Prehistory and the Puzzle of Pictographs

Not Here but There: A Wilderness Journal

The southwestern landscape hosts a variety of signature geologic forms, some of which have become iconic as the backdrops for countless western movies.  If you should find yourself channel surfing late tonight, a single frame of a mesa, butte, spire or hoodoo will instantly lock you on to the genre, even before the dusty characters ride into view.

The desert rock garden is a less well known type, but it will be familiar to anyone who has spent any time knocking about the southwest, and around Arizona in particular.  Unlike the angular, striated spires and hoodoos that erode out of sedimentary formations, rock gardens are more often volcanic in origin than not, usually granitic, and rounded in form, characteristically resembling enormous blowups of the sand dribbles that a child makes at the beach by allowing a slurry of water and sand to slip through her fingers.

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On the Desert Road - Day 1: From the Ridiculous to the Sublime

Not Here but There: A Wilderness Journal

Long-time readers will know that whenever I can, I disappear into the desert for as long as I can.  Often, the opportunity arises to cadge a lift out west on the back of a business trip, and so it is that I write this in northwestern Arizona a couple days after spending a day in a conference room buried deep within the bowels of the raucus, random, blaring, unworldly nonsense that is otherwise known as the Mandalay Bay Casino and Resort, Las Vegas, Nevada.

Some of the nonsense worked to my favor, or at least amusement, as my $143.95 room was somehow traded up into a penthouse suite on the 62nd floor of the hotel – a suite that was bigger than the first floor of my admittedly small house, with 18 foot ceilings, a wall of glass behind motorized drapes, bar, living room, two bathrooms (one palatial), four flat screen TV sets (more than I have owned of any type in my entire life), and no coffee maker.

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Killing the Roach: The Incredibly Illogical, Fundamentally Odious — but Seemingly Ineradicable — Billable Hour

Monday Witness

The service the lawyer renders is his professional knowledge and skill, but the commodity he sells is time — Reginald Heber Smith, inventor of the billable hour

Both reviled and ubiquitous, the billable hour is the roach of the legal world — Douglas McCollam, writing in the American Lawyer

Let's imagine that you would like to have your dilapidated, wood-sided house painted. The southern exposure is peeling, the soffits sport dark Rorschach patterns of mildew, and more than a few window sills have that uncomfortably punky feel to the touch that whispers "we're rotting — you must help us." You know that you can't put off facing the music any longer, and hope that the impact on your wallet will be no more painful than absolutely necessary.

So you do what any rational homeowner would — you get some referrals from people you trust, call the folks they recommend, and tell each of them that you'll be soliciting several bids. While you're at it, you also call the painter who, as luck would have it, had dropped a flyer in your mailbox that very afternoon.

Over the next week each housepainter stops by after work, walks around your house, scribbles a few notes, and promises to get back to you with a quote. Within a week, most of them actually do. Like any homeowner would, you select the cheapest, failing to note that it came from the painter you found through the flyer. Soon, the job is done, and he drops by to collect the agreed upon amount. Pleased, you pay him on the spot.

What a nice, logical system, especially for the buyer. You know just what you'll have to pay before you commit to pay it, and gain the benefit of competitive bidding as well. You'd be crazy to take on such a large financial commitment any other way, wouldn't you?

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How Open a Platform does "Open Government" Need?

Standards and Society

Any old standards hand forced to choose the single most disputed issue in standard setting over the past decade would likely respond with a deceivingly simple question: "What does it mean to be an 'open standard?'" A similar debate rages in the open source community between those that believe that some licenses (e.g., the BSD, MIT and Apache licenses) are "open enough," while others would respond with an emphatic Hell No! (or less printable words to similar effect).

That's not too surprising, because the question of what "open" means subsumes almost every other categorical question that information and communications technology (ICT) standards and open source folk are likely to disagree over, whether they be economic (should a vendor be able to be implement a standard free of charge, or in free and open source software (FOSS) licensed under a version of the General Public License (GPL)); systemic (are standards adopted by ISO/IEC JTC 1 "better" than those that are not); or procedural (must the economic and other terms upon which a necessary patent claim can be licensed be disclosed early in the development process)?

The reason why this background level of disagreement is relevant today is because the Obama Administration has pledged to use technology to bring an "unprecedented" level of transparency and interaction in government to the people.  If that's going to happen, though, it means that the platforms that the new administration adopts to provide open government will have to be open as well.  Which brings us at last to the question of just what, exactly, "open" should mean, when it comes to "open government."

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Linux Foundation takes over Stewardship of Intel's Moblin OS

Open Source/Open Standards

It's said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but I guess being the kind of organization that people love to leak news about might be the next.  That seems to be the case with the Linux Foundation, which for the second time in a matter of weeks has seen an enterprising reporter scoop the opposition (and our own internal planning) by releasing a story ahead of our planned schedule. Who knew that an open source foundation could attract paparazzi?

Last time, it was Steven Vaughn-Nichols announcing our acquisition of the Linux.com site, and this time it's the New York Times (no less) announcing a day ahead of time the fact that the Linux Foundation has taken over stewardship of Intel's Linux-based Moblin mobile operating system.  If you've been following the mobile space for awhile, this is news worth noting, on which more below.

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Strike/Counterstrike: TomTom Sues Microsoft

Intellectual property Rights

It would be an understatement to observe that Microsoft's patent suit against Dutch GPS vendor company TomTom has been closely watched.  Why?  Because Microsoft alleges that several of the patents at issue are infringed by TomTom's implementation of the Linux kernel.  In this first month of the dispute, the most urgent question has been this: will TomTom fight or fold?  Now we have the answer:  TomTom has decided to fight - and perhaps fight hard.  Yesterday, it brought its own suit against Microsoft in a Virginia court, alleging that Microsoft is guilty of infringing several of TomTom's own patents.

The question that many Linux supporters are now asking is this: is this good news for Linux, or bad?  Here are my thoughts on that important question.

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Geeklog and the Joys (Sigh) of Software Upgrading

General News

This morning I got an email from a regular Standards Blog reader with some unwelcome news - he informed me that the RSS, Atom and other feeds at my blog were dead, and that he hadn't gotten a new posting notice in a month.  Sigh.  Not the type of email you like to get, so I'm hoping that this posting reaches everyone that it's supposed to.

The reason for the problem is that the developer that supports ConsortiumInfo.org has been upgrading the version of Geeklog upon which this site is based.  Unfortunately, it hasn't been going well at all, in part because the developer isn't familiar with Geeklog, and in part, frankly, because they aren't checking the things that they should as they make changes (like syndication feeds).  Complicating things is the fact that this is a "second generation" blog, which began as home-grown software.  Later, it was migrated to Geeklog when I wanted to make it more sophisticated than the original setup could support (e.g., by adding the News Picks to the right). Along the way, a few weirdnesses were built in, all of which (naturally) are undocumented.  So it's been a challenge to the guy who has tried to figure it all out.

I chose Geeklog in part because it's a really powerful tool, but also because it's the product of a FOSS project application.  Given that I write a lot about FOSS, I thought I ought to b e using FOSS to support this blog (that "walk the talk" thing).  That's had some downsides, though, because Geeklog is a developer's tool, and not a mass-market application.  Consequently, so far as I'm aware, the type of "Geeklog for Idiots" user manual that would be very useful to someone like me just doesn't exist.  On the other hand, the Geeklog community has been great about answering the questions my developer has posted at the Geeklog site. 

As a result, if anyone out there is a Geeklog ace and would be willing to answer my questions from time to time, that would be great, and would save me a lot of grief, as it would help me become a more efficient and productive Geeklog user, without having to run up my developer tab.  It would also save me a lot of heartache.

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Linux Usage to Rise: It's an ill Recession Wind that Blows no one Good

Open Source/Open Standards

Economic downturns have a tendency to accelerate emerging technologies, boost the adoption of effective solutions, and punish solutions that are not cost competitive or that are out of synch with industry trends.

So begins a new white paper from research analyst IDC.  History supports the logic of the statement, but applying the same logic to predict the future is a dangerous game.  Having good starting data can help considerably in that regard, though, and that's what makes this report interesting.  Its title is Linux Adoption in a Global Recession, and it marshals some impressive data to predict that Linux will be a significant gainer, while others are punished by the current global meltdown.

The report bases that conclusion in part on its finding that: "Linux users are clearly satisfied about their choice to deploy Linux, and during trying economic times, the potential for those same customers to ramp up their deployment of Linux is strong."  In other words, unlike the last recession, in which the free OS had to establish itself in environments where it had never been deployed before (its market share increased dramatically anyway), this time it need only increase its beachhead among existing users in order to post impressive gains.  But IDC predicts that it will also do quite well with new, missionary sales as well, promising that this time around, its competitive position should strengthen as well as broaden - including on the desktop.

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Linux/Windows/Solaris: Who Owns the OS Future?

Open Source/Open Standards

The headline act, if you will, was announced this morning for the third annual Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit, and it promises to be an interesting show: the Foundation's Jim Zemlin, Microsoft's Sam Ramji, and Sun's Ian Murdock, each giving their predictions on the future of operating system they represent - and, I expect, the others' as well. Jim will moderate the exchange, which will be held on the first day (May 8) of this year's Summit, which will be held in San Francisco. As with previous Collaboration Summits, there is no fee to attend, but attendance is by confirmation only, as the size is limited to a few hundred to maximize the interactivity of this annual gathering of the elite of the Linux clan.

While the OS debate provides the most provocative portion of the program, the rest will provide a great deal of substance - and, who knows, perhaps a few surprises as well.