blogging as open-source opinion

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

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

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?


who was that masked man?

May 24th, 2001

Independent consulting makes for a nomadic life. An adventure here, a campaign there, never a place to hang your hat. While alliances are made, they are usually transient. In the door, assess, recommend, resolve, ride into the sunset.

In a game where it’s all about relationships, the real long-term winning relationships are built in fits and starts, usually in project-oriented chunks. Clients, resources, allies, vendors.

In a heirarchical organization, it is practical and often necessary to make alliances with those around you, to mentor and groom candidates to succeed you so you can grow. As an independent, this is somewhat difficult. You have no staff or colleagues of your own to mould. Alliances with other consultants are useful but seldom take on a heirarchical form – other independent consultants are also in the business to be Batman – nobody wants to be Robin.

I’ve been involved for some time with a networking group (that’s human relationship building, not hubs and routers) that affords me the opportunity to meet other independent consultants. I find it very useful to meet and converse with other folks in the business. It fills some of the voids that set us apart from our “employed” counterparts, and occasionally results in business leads.

There should be similar groups and organizations where you are. Look ’em up. Get involved – just attending meetings and shooting the shit can go a long way. It’s good for you, good for your business.


spam == desperation

May 23rd, 2001

I got spam today from Lucent.



I would have thought that was WAY beneath them. First thing I did was check their stock chart. Sure, they’ve got over 30 billion market cap, but they must be getting desperate. A sure sign you’re turning the corner from being a market force to fighting for your life is that you’ve resorted to spam.


my god is greenland really that huge?

May 23rd, 2001

the word of the day is usurp – thanks Tara. nice to converse with someone in your daily stream of existence who is able leap from esoteric semantics to obtuse cartography in a single bound. when was the last time you discussed the mercatur projection map?

i’m sitting in the chair at Union Station wating for Bruno the barber today reading the Toronto Sun, something i don’t often do, and i burst out laughing, almost causing Bruno to graze this guy’s scalp.

in this article about Ontario members of parliament seeking pay raises into 6 figures, some MP is quoted:

“The risk factor for an MP is very high,” said the Liberal. “We can lose our job every four years.”

boo-fucking-hoo for you, mister hard-done-by MP. give us a break, dipstick. in the real world, you can lose your job every four frickin minutes!


on my radio

May 18th, 2001

so i’ve got radio userland on my new notebook. i’ve flipped my page. i’m entering this text. i still can’t figure out how to change the heading at the top of the page – aah, save as… that does it!


back to browsing basics

May 15th, 2001

Wow. A gecko-based browser that is quick, standards compliant, runs javascript (JSRS works with it), and is entirely unencumbered by excessive features. K-meleon, you got my vote. Fan-frickin-tastic.