Archive for the 'blather' Category


Dad, have you seen my shoes?

Sunday, June 10th, 2001

what a mickey mouse establishment!

Wednesday, June 6th, 2001

Batten down the hatches, Mickey, the Ashley family’s coming to Disneyland.

On Friday morning we arrive in L.A. for a 10-day stay in Santa Monica. Disneyland, Disney’s California Adventure, San Diego’s Sea World, and visiting with our friends Chico and Victor and their families.

Got tickets for the Leno show and space in a box at the Hollywood Bowl for the Playboy Jazz Festival.

Jasmine (8) and Rachel (3) are almost as excited as my wife Clare and her mother Hazel (ages withheld).


Bring out yer dead! Bring out yer dead!

Tuesday, June 5th, 2001

Sorry for the title, scottandrew, I couldn’t help myself.

Pope John XXIII died in 1963, the same year as the JFK assassination. Now, 38 years later, they plop his body into a new see-through casket and parade him around the Basilica. His body. Long since bereft of his soul. I don’t get it. Maybe I’d hafta be catholic to get it.


left, middle and right on the intellectual property spectrum

Tuesday, June 5th, 2001

Bring out yer dead! Bring out yer dead!

I’ve done my research in the last week on licensing – open source, commercial, private, you name it. Contrary to my initial hyperbolic stance, reason generally prevails and choice is abundant.

The one major open-source license that significantly restricts one’s ability to integrate the licensed software into a commercial product is the GPL. There is a Lesser GPL, the LGPL, which is meant for the likes of code libraries, which doesn’t have the same restrictions. The Apache and Mozilla Public licenses allow even more flexibility and impose even less requirements on the user.

As I pointed out with The PSL, developers should choose the license that suits their software’s intended use.

Throughout the various discussions I’ve had about the licensing issue, and in the reports I’ve read via other bloggers, a theme is emerging that says there need not be two polarized sides to this issue. When the dust settles, it will be apparent that the two models can coexist, based on different community needs.

Kevin Dangoor writes about The Software Commons in his new blogspace, and articulates my thoughts on this quite well.

From the far left of the GPL to the far right of patent frenzy:

NetObjects has been awarded patents on WYSIWYG HTML editing and they plan to start extracting pounds of flesh from all and sundry – Microsoft and Macromedia will be asked first to turn their heads and cough up a bundle.

This brings us back to The Software Commons. WYSIWYG HTML editing is as fundamental to modern software as a basic roux sauce is to cooking. The idea itself follows so naturally from preexisting word processors as to render it painstakingly obvious.

Will companies be able to get around this like they did with the Unisys LZW patent (ie, just use another compression technique – Had they patented compression itself, where would we be?)? At least that was an implementation of an idea and not the entire concept itself.

Perhaps offending software could be rejigged as WYSIWYG rich text editors, and their HTML component could just be considered a “save-as” conversion feature. That is, until someone appears out of the woodwork to hijack that by-then-entrenched industry with a well-placed patent they bought at a dotcom garage sale…


unpingable yet again

Sunday, June 3rd, 2001

Aaaauughh! My frickin cable provider has me down again. I’m dialed up at 48k for now – lunchbag letdown. Of course, my server and domains are unavailable. I’ve gotta wait till tomorrow afternoon for a warm body to come out and have a look. Colocation is getting closer and closer. Conversely, I may just rant about it a bit and then return to SNAFU.

More input:

Request ID Summary Submitted By Assigned To
“Of course, commercial software is also covered by licenses (almost no two alike, either) which could contain their share of traps as well. But that doesn’t even matter IMO; people keep telling me that business is about managing risk. If you are not willing to undertake any amount of a certain kind of risk, then a shrewd competitor may expoit this to beat you. Simple answers are always illusory”
Wesley Felter Brent Ashley

I’ve been taking a bunch of well-deserved flak for spouting my unripened opinion here. It’s opened a lot of discussion, though, so I think it’s overall been a good thing. My opinion is subjected to iterative refinement and you are exposed to the process through blogging. Dave has a phrase for it: the two-way web.

Bocconcini is unripened cheese, but it’s still to die for on sliced tomato with basil and olive oil.


blogging as open-source opinion

Saturday, June 2nd, 2001

When I started blogging a while ago, I open-sourced my opinions. Recently I checked in my new License module. Feedback from the opinion community has revealed some design process problems and adjustments are underway.

Request ID Summary Submitted By Assigned To
“The essence of your argument is: ‘there are open-source licences out
there that can cause legal troubles if you want to incorporate
open-source products into your commercial products and it’s bad because
I don’t have the time to sort through this mess ‘. Which reminds me of
the quote ‘if you think education is costly, try ignorance’.”
Krzysztof Kowalczyk Brent Ashley
“The GPL *can* be onerous for someone looking to build a commercial
product built on top of open source parts. This is why software that is
meant to be linked with other software is often released under the LGPL or
another similar, less restrictive license. When looking to use a programming
tool, even a commercial one, you need to be aware of the licensing terms.”
Kevin Dangoor Brent Ashley

Development effort is being undertaken to understand the available licenses before incorporating them into my opinion-space. Release notes will be forthcoming when the new nightly opinion build is available.


a bit too lumpy

Thursday, May 31st, 2001

Brent’s Potato Salad License (PSL)

You are hereby licensed to build, use and distribute Brent’s Potato Salad (the SALAD) according to the following rules:

If the SALAD is to be distributed, you must announce the following to your guests:

Portions of this meal were created using Brent’s Potato Salad Recipe.

Your guests must be made aware that the recipe is available to them without charge. You must supply photocopies of the recipe on demand.

If you include the SALAD as part of a paid catering gig, you are required to license the entire catered affair under the PSL, making complete recipes for all appetizers, entrees and desserts available at no charge to all guests.

Any derivative recipes based on the SALAD inherit full protection under the PSL.

“… Damn, if he’d only chosen the LPSL, we could have used this for the Schmolsky wedding. Looks like we’ll have to come up with our own …”

Microsoft plans to impose a software subscription model, whereby they provide you with software as long as you pay them…

Dan Gillmor has this to say about it:

Microsoft is steering customers toward software rentals, the idea of paying an annual subscription fee. When that system is the standard, will there be a version of the software that — as is standard today — allows customers to buy once and keep using the product indefinitely even if they decide to jump off the upgrade merry-go-round? Don’t bet on it.

As usual, my friend Greg Vincent pointed out some issues and got me thinking about various scenarios:

  • Internal Memo: Due to the postal strike, Microsoft didn’t receive our cheque in time, so nobody can use Word or Excel or Powerpoint until this is resolved. Please stand by at your cubicles.
  • Dear Customer: the provider of our DBMS software has been purchased by XYZ corp, who is discontinuing this product, so we can’t use it any more. We will be down for a month while we integrate another provider’s solution.
  • Please Note: The significant price increase on this invoice is due to increased overhead. Our critical internal systems depend on software for which the subscription price has suddenly doubled, slashing our profit margin to zero.

What remedies will need to be in place for dispute resolution?

The landlord can’t double your rent or evict you without due process.

The gas company can’t turn off your heat in the winter.

This new model cries out for some legislative framework.


the restrictions imposed by freedom

Thursday, May 31st, 2001

I’m working on a new project. Tomcat/JSP/Servlets/Oracle. There is a need for some synchronous RPC from client to middle layer. I’ve been considering XML-RPC and SOAP, but have decided for a few reasons to use Microsoft’s Remote Scripting with Erik Hatcher’s Java servlet. Time is of the essence, the specifications and tools for the other technologies are not mature, and another criterion that’s new to the game – intellectual property considerations.

It’s 1998. You want to add some new functionality to your commercial web application. You hop on the net, search Altavista, and find a few Perl CGI implementations, a couple of shareware COM objects, some commercial executables and COM objects. You decide which gives the functionality you want and you come to a pricing arrangement with them from zero to hundreds of dollars depending on the licensing, and you include its functionality in your offering, maybe add credits to your help page.

Roll forward to 2001. You want to add some new functionality to your commercial web application. You hop on the net, search Google, and find a few Perl CGI implementations, some COM objects and Java classes, some commercial packages, and a whole raft of projects on SourceForge. This time, though, it’s a minefield of GPLs, LGPLs, BSDs, Mozilla and Apache Public Licenses, homegrown licenses, et al. Using a product may impose upon you perpetual requirements impacting source release, documentation, distribution, splash pages, derivatives… the list goes on.

I’m not likely to convince my clients that they should open-source their heavily invested competitive vertical market solution in order to take advantage of the defacto reference implementation of this technology because it’s covered by the GPL. Time being a consideration, I’m not going to wait until the legal department has had a chance to investigate the implications of ten different types of licenses. So, we find a commercial implementation, build it ourselves, or use another technology that doesn’t burden us with these issues.

Am I naive in thinking that I was much more free (read:unfettered) when I could just buy the damn thing and then use it?