Apache damaging to Open Source

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I just read an interesting blog by Savio questioning the value of LGPL.  IMO, he has something right, the OSS license chosen for a project is not that important as far as adoption or business goes.  The most important driver for OSS is and always has been the brand of the project.  Like their commercial counterparts, how the project is perceived by consumers is what drives both adoption and business.  So, I agree, LGPL doesn’t add a lot of value.  But, it goes both ways, the Apache license is also not that important either.

If you boil it down, the distinctions betwen GPL, LGPL, and ASL are pretty much meanlingless to most consumers of OSS.  How so?

1. The viral nature of GNU bases licenses is only triggered when binaries are distributed.  Most consumers of open source do not distribute software publicly.

2. LGPL is also not an issue for ISVs as long as they leave the binary as-is.  Its viral nature is triggered when the project is both modified and distributed.

So, when you take these two points together, the number of people affected by the differences between GPL, LGPL, and ASL become fewer and fewer.  GPL does not affect > 90% of OSS consumers.  For LGPL, the number of people actually affected by the license becomes a number that you can probably count on one hand.  The ones affected are the ones who actually want to use derivatives of the project within their own competing initiatives that are not LGPL-based.   So, do you see how meaningless it truly is?

Why making these distinctions is damanging

This all brings me to my final point.  The whole push by Apache.org and its minions that ASL is the one true license is just damaging to open source.  When you consider the handful of individuals affected, you got to question the motivation for it, especially when you match it up to LGPL.  The thing is though, highlighting the differences only helps those handful of people that have selfish motives and/or want to exploit OSS for commercial gain.  Believe me I’ve lived this.

Back in 2003, a group of JBoss contributors tried to fork both the JBoss code base and the JBoss business.  IMO, their motives were mostly financial.  They wanted a bigger piece of the pie that Marc Fleury was unwilling to give up.  Whether or not they were right to do this is besides the point, there are good arguments on both sides, and whats done is done.  They initially derived themselves from the JBoss codebase, went to Apache, and thus Geronimo was born.  We complained that their derivation was both a copyright and LGPL violation.  In the end, they started over from scratch (don’t think the LGPL had value for JBossians back then?  think again!).  When Geronimo 1.0 came out, their feature set was vastly inferior to JBoss so their push was that it was the only Java EE implementation that was ASL.  That LGPL was scary and the only way to get over the fear was to use ASL-based projects.  IBM got into the act when they purchased Gluecode (and all the Geronimo developers) and embraced Geronimo as their children’s edition of Websphere.  Again, the main push was that Geronimo was ASL based.

We then come full circle to 2010 with history repeating itself (well, sort of).  You have Tom Bayerns leaving Red hat for Alfresco to create a competing BPM engine.  Now, I consider Tom a friend, and I completely understand his reasons for leaving Red Hat.  That being said, launching a new open source BPM engine with the premise being “we want to create something in ASL because it is better for our business”, is not the way to go about it.  Again, it smacks all over of having nothing but the zero-add of the ASL distinction.  And, is just completely irresponsible.

If you are an Apache guy, you should be appalled by behavior like this when it happens.  Individuals and companies that use ASL as a weapon to further their own selfish and commercial needs should be castigated and called out instead of championed as the reason why ASL is so cool and LGPL is so bad.  Respect the choice of other open source developers, propagating the myth that an ASL project is superior to a LGPL project because of license distinctions does nothing but hurt the open source movement as a whole.  We need to stop eating our own.

Finally, I just don’t want to bash on Apache and ASL.  Joining the GPL revolution isn’t so hot either.  The fear of GPL virality is used extensively in the dual-licensing ploy of commercial interests.  Think MySQL.  For me, I would never pick GPL, because I believe in the freedom of letting ISVs distribute my stuff as-is.  As for LGPL vs. ASL?  I could care less, it really doesn’t matter.  You don’t see JBoss caring so much either.  Drools is still ASL as well as a number of other jboss.org projects.

Anyways, have fun with this, and remember taking any one position to seriously is unhealthy.

Google’s ‘worries’ are just a ruse

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I think this Google announcement that they are worried about Java being rudderless is just a ruse.  I guarantee they are planning to take what they’ve done within Android and position it as a new language to replace Java.  This “the sky is falling” statement by Josh is just setting the stage for it.  They’ve pretty much done it with every non-standard library (do their own thing), so, IMO, setting the stage for a new language is right up their ally.  Plus,  creating your own language is the ultimate expression of ego and we know there’s lots of it at Google.  So, when Google announces their replacement for Java, remember, I told you so…

Study shows Republicans stupider

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Ah, finally! a recent study shows what all us liberals already knew.  That conservatives are stupider.

Announcing a new distributed computing paradigm: ULSER

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I’m pleased to announce a new distributed effort named ULSER.  ULSER stands for a set of uncompromisable architectural principles, specifically:

  • Uniform constrained interface.
  • Links as the engine of application state
  • Statelessness for scalability
  • Enterprise applicable
  • Resource and representation oriented

Why call it ULSER?  Well, even though these architectural principles are extremely useful to design distributed applications (and middleware), I’ve found that discussing any of these  principles publicly have given me (and others) an ulcer.   So, I thought I’d make these principles my own and let others share the pain.  I’m also going to create a set of standards called ULSER-*.  ULSER-*.org will focus on bringing ULSER principles to middleware technology.  Since middleware generally produces ulcers in engineers I think the name is perfect!  I’ve also created an open source Java project called EasyULSER so that you can let Java give you an ulcer too!

Also, don’t worry, I’ve deliberated with the doctor who discovered ulcers and coined the term “ulcer”.  He didn’t mind me using the term as long as what I’m doing will cause me an ulcer.  The ulcer community didn’t seem to mind either as when I tried to explain to them the principles of ULSER and how I’m using them, it gave them an ulcer too, so they were happy.  So, it looks like we’re ready to go!  ONWARD!

Yet another reason to avoid Apache.org

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I find  it strange how Apache.org allows for competing projects as they don’t really position themselves as a Sourceforge or Google Code.  I know I’m pretty stupid for creating buzz about a competitor, but IBM and HP have launched a new JAX-RS effort at Apache.org.  The thing is, the Apache CXF project already has a pretty good certified JAX-RS implementation.  If I were Sergey or Dan I’d be pretty pissed.  This just solidifies my opinion that Apache.org is a horrible place to host an open source project or to build start an open source business.

Not only do you have to worry about some Apache bureaucrat pulling rank on you or disallowing you to commit too much work to a project, you also have to worry about sharing your already diluted brand with a  competing project.  With a competing project the “Apache” in front of your project’s name ceases to add any value to the uniqueness of your project.

BTW, I don’t mean to pick on IBM and HP.  I’m just annoyed at Apache.org.  While it may be a great place for big vendors to collaborate at a neutral site, Apache.org is just a horrible place for the little people of the world.

I also shouldn’t pick on Apache.org so much.  They are a good organization with a good message and good ideals.  I just want to encourage future OSS developers to try and go at things on their own.  Learn to promote their project on their own without relying on the Apache brand.  Its better for them in the long run.

Polyglotism is the worst idea I ever heard

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Let me first start off being a little facetious with a little tongue in cheek…I’m an American.  I have no need to speak another language because well, I speak English.  99% of the civilized world speaks English so WTF should I ever learn another language?  Case in point, I minored in German in college.  For two semesters I went over to Munich and worked at Deutsche Aerospace so that I could learn German better.  The thing is, besides the fact that my coworkers spoke damn good English to begin with, all the documentation they put out was in English, the units used were feet, pounds, miles.  When the French came over to work with us, we also spoke English.  So what is the freakin point of learning German?  I was pretty damn disappointed that I wasted all this time in college learning German when in reality it was just a freakin useless exercise…

Which brings me to the point of this blog.  Polyglotism in software has to be the worst idea I ever heard.  The idea of it is that you use the language that is best fits the job.  Some say this is a huge boon for the developer as they will become more productive.  In practice though, I think this is just a big excuse so the developer can learn and play with a new language, or for a language zealot/missionary to figure out a way to weasel in his pet language into a company.  Plus, you’d probably end up being average or good at many languages but a master of none….But lets pretend that it is a benefit to the developer.  Developers need to realize that there are implications to being polyglot.

Maintenance Nightmare

So, you’ve added a Ruby module to that big flagship Java application or product your company is so proud of.  You did it fast.  It works. And management loves you for it.  They love you so much for it, they’ve promoted you to software lead and now you are running a brand new project.  Now that you’ve left your polyglot project, somebody needs to take over your work.  Unfortunately, your group is a bunch of Java developers.  For any bug that needs to be fixed, these developers need to be retrained in Ruby, a new Ruby developer needs to be hired, and/or a Ruby consultant/contractor needs to be brought it.  Multiply this by each language you’ve introduced to your project.

Refactoring Nightmare

The JVM is pretty cool now.  We can run Ruby on it, Python on it, and even PHP on it.  Your JRuby apps can work with Java APIs.  Same with Jython and JPHP.  Great.  So now your developers can use any one of these language to build out extensions to your Java app.  But what happens when you want to refactor one of your re-used Java libraries?  OOPS!!!

Installation Nightmare

Ah, so you’ve weathered through the maintenance and refactoring nightmares and you’ve finally shipped your product.  Hmm, but you’ve just added the complexity of installing multiple runtimes on your user base.  Its not hugely bad if you’ve used the JVM as your base virtual machine.  But you still need to package and install all the appropriate Java libraries, Ruby gems, and Python libraries on the appropriate places of your user’s machine.  You also need to hope that all the desparate environments don’t conflict with anything the user has already installed on his machine.  And that’s just with languages running in the JVM.  Imagine if you used vanilla Ruby, Python and Java all as separate silos!

Support Nightmare

A support call comes in for your product or application.  Its obviously a bug, but where is the problem?  Is it your application code?  Your JVM?  Your Ruby VM?  Your Java library? Your Ruby gem?

All and all, let me put it this way.  We all work in multi-national environments.  What if each developer documented their projects in their own native language, because lets face it, they are most productive in that language.  Where would we be?  Doing what’s best for oneself isn’t always best for the big picture.

Obama to the rescue

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I listen a lot to talk radio, specifically WEEI Sports radio, and 96.9 FM Talk Radio in the Boston area. Unfortunately, when it comes to politics, all you hear on talk radio is conservative, right wing viewpoints. I do live in Massachusetts, so don’t ask me why all this right wing propaganda pollutes our airwaves. I guess this is because right-wing politics tend to piss a lot of people off and drive up ratings. I don’t know. You got me, a liberal democrat listening to them, so I guess the ploy has worked.

One thing I heard a lot after Obama’s first address to Congress was conservatives attacking Obama’s speech and the stimulus. You hear nitpicks about how Texas is getting a cheerleading museum. Stuff like that. Showing bloat that when compared to the overall size of the stimulus package is pretty insignificant. What I wanted to do within this blog is call attention to a few of the good things that are in the bill.

Last summer I joined our Town’s Finance Committee. The Finance Committee’s job is to review all departmental budgets in town and to submit an overall base budget for the entire town. I couldn’t have picked a more interesting time to join. The economy has stalled town growth which means very little new revenue growth. Massachusetts state revenue is also way down which has put local aid funds in serious jeopardy. The contracts for our Police, Fire, and Teachers are all up for renegotiation. Add to this Massachusetts Proposition 2 1/2 which forbids local communities to raise taxes more that 2.5% without 2/3 of the town voting to support a tax increase. It has turned out to be a very tight budget year.

In a tight budget year, we all know what takes the brunt of any cuts. The school system. Our school is faced with probable cuts in funding to after school programs, children supplies, furniture, and even textbooks. There’s also the very real danger of staff reductions and increased class sizes as well as we’re dangerously close to the 2.5% threshold.

The federal stimulus package couldn’t have come at a better time and is affecting our budget in three possible separate ways

  • Special Education.  Massachusetts law requires kids with special education needs to be supported by the community and integrated with the school.  A special needs kid moving into town can have a huge impact on the schools budget as they cost a lot more than a regular student to educate and support.  For example, in our town, new special ed kids account for 25% of the growth of the schools budget.  During the Bush Administration ‘W’ set up guildelines for special education, promised funding, but never delivered.  It looks like the stimulus is providing the promised funding.  This results in hundreds of thousands of dollars being put into the school system.
  • It is not fully clear yet, but it looks like the stimulus package will help fully fund the shortfall of state education aid.
  • Obama wasn’t lying when he said our schools were crumbling.  Our 40-year old roof started leaking into a 4th grade classroom due to the severe weather we’ve been having this winter.  The kids had to be moved to another area in the building.  There is a high possibility the stimulus will help us fund putting in a badly needed roof.  Our junior high and high school also have new roofing needs that have been put off.

I know the conservatives among you will never ever admit that the stimulus is doing any good, but I hope those of you on the fence at least have had their eyes opened to some of the good.  Too often the media (even the liberal media) focuses too much on the eyebrow-raising parts of politics and never really sheds light on the true reality.  Hopefully this blog has done a little to shed some light on things.

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