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.
The dominance of Microsoft's Office in the marketplace would be logical (if frustrating, to those that think that competition breeds better products), if it was simply a matter of developer seats. After all, Microsoft deployed hundreds, and then thousands of engineers to develop and evolve its flagship app over the last 25 years. How could anyone expect a less well funded commercial competitor, much less an open source project, to equal Office for features, performance and interoperability with other office suites?
At the same time, people keep trying - a lot of them. Not just long-established competitors, like Corel, with the venerable and estimable WordPerfect office suite it bought from Novell, open source projects like OpenOffice and KOffice, as well as projects launched by much larger players, such as IBM (Lotus Symphony) and Google (Docs).
WordPerfect aside, most of these offerings disappoint when it comes to round tripping documents with Office users, although many provide perfectly fine alternatives for stand-alone use, particularly by those that don't need to create the most complex business document.
The funny thing is, though, that the quality of the result, and even the ability to interoperate in a world dominated by Microsoft's Office, doesn't necessarily equate to the depth of the resources of the developer. Now isn't that an interesting observation?
Why did perennial litigant Rambus, Inc. settle with the European Commission?
Certainly the most watched standards-related legal conflict of the decade involves the participation of memory technology vendor Rambus, Inc. in a working group hosted by standards developer Joint Electron Device Engineering Council (JEDEC) in the early 1990s. The fame (or notoriety) of the conflict arises in part from the importance of the conduct at issue (did Rambus set a "patent trap" for implementers of the standard that emerged from the working group?), and in part from the seemingly endless string of law suits that resulted from that conduct some fifteen years ago.
Most of these suits were brought by Rambus against vendors that refused to pay royalties when they implemented the standard, but these suits almost always resulted in vigorous counterclaims against Rambus, brought by those same implementers. And investigations into Rambus's conduct were also brought by both the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the United States, and by the European Commission in Europe. A separate string of cases related to alleged price fixing and other improper conduct by other vendors that participated in the same working group, which ended in record settlement amounts being paid by those vendors to the regulators.
If you haven't heard the words "smart grid" before, that's likely to change soon. That's especially so if you live in the U.S., where billions of dollars in incentive spending is pouring into making the smart grid a reality. As you might expect, since I'm talking about it here, the smart grid will rely on standards to become real. A whole lot of standards, in fact, and that's a problem
Those of you who are subscribers to my free standards eJournal Standards Today know that I've dedicated each of the last several issues to one of the many multi-billion dollar initiatives that the Obama Administration has launched that are heavily dependent on standards - which in many cases do not yet exist. Each initiative is also of great complexity, and will need to rely on a level of cooperation and collaboration that does not natively exist in the marketplace. That's certainly the case with the Smart Grid challenge, and that's what the latest issue of Standards Today is all about.
Throughout the 20th century, the U.S. electric power delivery infrastructure served our nation well,… This once state-of-the-art system brought a level of prosperity to the United States unmatched by any other nation in the world. But a 21st-century U.S. economy cannot be built on a 20th-century electric grid. A Vision for the Modern Grid, National Energy Technology Laboratory, for the DOE, March 2007
For decades utility companies and environmentalists alike have known that more dramatic and economical advances in energy policy could be achieved through energy conservation than by any other means. By utilizing techniques as simple as buying more efficient appliances and better insulating our homes we can lower our dependence on foreign oil, release fewer greenhouse gases, and savemoney as well, all at the same time. For almost as long, utilities have promoted the concept of “demand side management,” and sought to enlist the aid of consumers and businesses to shift electricity usage to low-demand times of the day, with the potential benefit of avoiding the need to build expensive new power plants.
I am an avid, lifelong, reader of newspapers in general, and of the New York Times in particular. And I'm a staunch believer in the essential role of an independent press in a modern democracy. I’m also the owner of a Web site that serves over a million page views a month, some of which display short extracts of news articles, with links back to the full text. On occasion those links lead back to stories appearing at the Web site of the Times.
So why am I trying to kill my beloved Times and its worthy brethren?
Before Linux.com went dark late last year, it was one of the most visited open source news aggregation and discussion sites. As you may recall, word got this March that the Linux Foundation had taken Linux.com over, and was committed to making it bigger, better and richer than before. Further to that goal, it set up "Ideaforge," to tap the developer and user communities to learn what they in an on-line resource to make the Linux ecosystem more successful and satisfying for all involved.
After months of effort behind the scenes, and some pretty impressive Web design, the Linux Foundation delivered on that promise last night. What you'll find there is something that's different from anything that's ever existed before - an interactive, growing, feature and content rich resource that can help you hone your skills, find a job, assemble a Linux-based system, and, of course, access the most up to date news, blogs and ideas about open source software in general, and Linux in particular. What it's all about can be summed up in just six words: For the community, by the community. And if you read this blog, that includes you.
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.
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.
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.
Quote of the Day
“The least the EC could do, is to put its policy into practice”
-Director of European Policy at OpenForum Europe Mael Brunet on the failure of the EC to make public documents available in open formats
NIST Issues New Revision of Guide to Assessing Information Security Safeguards NIST Techbeat December 18, 2014 - NIST has released the final version of the 2014 update to its core guide to assessing the security and privacy safeguards for federal information systems and organizations. The revised guide is one of two basic NIST publications used by government IT security professionals to assess a wide range of software configurations, physical security measures and operating procedures meant to safeguard information systems from both chance failures and hostile attacks.... ...Full Story
Google Promises Better Compatibility with Open Source Documents Christopher Tozzi VAR Guy December 17, 2014 - Google (GOOG) may soon be taking open OpenDocumentFormat (ODF), the native file format in virtually all modern open source word processors, like LibreOffice and OpenOffice, more seriously. That's according to a statement from Google's open source chief speaking about the future of the company's cloud-based app suite.
Google already supports ODF to a certain, meager extent....Many governments are now requiring ODF as a way to avoid vendor lock-in and other concerns associated with Office Open XML, the file format created by Microsoft (MSFT) for use in current versions of Office and other applications.... ...Full Story
Cloud Foundry Foundation Launch Pushes PaaS Forward Jennifer LeClaire CIO Today December 15, 2014 - It’s official. The Cloud Foundry Foundation has launched as an independent, nonprofit foundation to manage the global open standards for platform-as-a-service (PaaS) technology. The foundation will be managed as a Linux Foundation Collaborative Project and will be governed by a team of open source experts from founding Platinum Members EMC, HP, IBM, Intel Relevant Products/Services, Pivotal, SAP, and VMware Relevant Products/Services.
Cloud Foundry is currently the leading PaaS platform and has seen a 36 percent increase in community contributions over the past year, with more than 1,700 "pull requests" for contributions to the open development project. The Pivotal Cloud Foundry, IBM Bluemix, HP Helion, and Canopy Cloud Fabric are among the most notable deployments, thus far.... ...Full Story
A Ton of Tech Companies Just Came Out Against Net Neutrality Mario Aguilar Gizmodo December 15, 2014 - More than 60 huge tech companies including Intel, Qualcomm, Cisco, and IBM have written a letter to leaders in Congress and the FCC opposing net neutrality. The free and open internet isn't going to happen without a fight.
In an effort to implement net neutrality regulations that would stand up to legal scrutiny, President Obama has proposed that broadband internet be classified as a utility under Title II of the telecommunications act. It's a smart proposal that ultimately favors consumers, and it's supported by slews of companies like Google and Facebook. Obviously, the companies that own the infrastructure—Comcast, AT&T, et al—oppose the idea because they want to be able to charge money for internet fast lanes. These companies also wield a lot of influence.... ...Full Story
Target ruling raises stakes for cybersecurity vigilance Jaikumar Vijayan Christian Science Monitor December 12, 2014 - A Minnesota court may set a chilling new precedent for retailers with its ruling that Target could be sued for failing to adequately defend against last year's massive data breach.
By rejecting Target's motion last week to dismiss the lawsuit brought by several banks, and allowing the case to proceed, the court held that the retailer’s failure to heed warnings from a security alerting system, and its disabling of certain security features, could be viewed as negligent actions.
Consumers and banks have routinely brought negligence claims against businesses such as Target that have suffered a data breach. However, this is the first time in a data breach case of this magnitude that a court has said a company can be sued for failing to respond to warnings from security software. That decision could set in motion new legal standards for bringing negligence claims against organizations that suffer data breaches.... ...Full Story
ITU approves G.fast DSL high-speed broadband standard Leon Spencer ZDNet December 12, 2014 - Members of the United Nations' International Telecommunications Union (ITU) have reached a final approval of G.fast, the broadband standard that is designed to deliver access speeds of up to 1Gbps over existing copper telephone wires.
G.fast is a digital subscriber line (DSL) standard that is designed to allow speeds of between 150Mbps and 1Gbps -- depending on loop length -- for standard local subscriber lines shorter than 250 metres.
The ITU, which allocates radio spectrum and develops technical standards, said that the standard meets service providers' need for a complement to fibre-to-the-home (FttH) technologies in scenarios where G.fast proves the more cost-effective strategy.... ...Full Story
Is Google coming back to the open community on document formats? Simon Phipps ComputerWorldUK December 12, 2014 - At the ODF Plugfest in London, Google’s head of open source told the audience that work once once again in progress extending OpenDocument support in Google’s products.
At the opening of the event, Magnus Falk, deputy CTO for HM Government, told the audience that the decision to adopt ODF (alongside HTML and PDF) as the government’s required document format is now well in hand....As a result, Google faces significant pressure securing government business in the UK – including in the health and education sectors – now that ODF is a requirement.... ...Full Story
Cabinet Office Plugfest builds momentum for ODF OpenForum Europe/COIS December 11, 2014 - On Monday and Tuesday, 8th-9th December, a group of technologists, SMEs, corporations, individuals, and representatives of Governments gathered in Bloomsbury, London over two days to collectively improve the implementation of Open Document Format (ODF)....The Government's policy mandating ODF for editing and sharing documents, announced in July by the Minister, commits all departments to adopting the format to boost the strength and diversity of apps which read and write ODF documents. The Cabinet Office partnered with the OpenDoc Society to host this week's event. Magnus Falk voiced Government priorities when his speech on Monday demanded "serious choice" for Government IT buyers, and a level playing field for suppliers based on the use of Open Standards and ODF.... ...Full Story
Separating The Opportunities From The Obstacles In Open-Source Networking Mike Cohen TechCrunch December 11, 2014 - Open standards have driven the networking market since the earliest days of the Internet. While the use of open source for networking is a more recent phenomenon, it is no less important. A major industry transition to open source for software-defined networking (SDN) is under way, and users and vendors stand to benefit. Some expectations, however, may need to change....However, the consensus-driven process behind open-source projects moves much faster than that of traditional standards bodies like the IETF. The mantra that “working code wins” can help open-source communities agree on de facto standards and start using them well before they become officially sanctioned. OpenStack’s community, for example, aims for a new release every six months.... ...Full Story
ANSI Electric Vehicles Standards Panel Issues Progress Report ANSI Weekly Newsletter December 11, 2014 - The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Electric Vehicles Standards Panel (EVSP) announced today the publication of a Progress Report on activity within the standardization community to address the gaps and recommendations described in the ANSI EVSP’s Standardization Roadmap for Electric Vehicles – Version 2.0 (May 2013). Available as a free download, the report outlines significant developments including new areas where there is a perceived need for additional standardization work to facilitate the safe, mass deployment of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) and charging infrastructure in the United States.... ...Full Story