Open Source Round-Up Rodeo

Should "Axis of Evil" nations be banned from using open source, How one NZ HS is making open source work, open source in bio-tech and the Red Hat State-of-the-Union

Sometimes there is just so much going on in the open source world that I can't pick just one thing to write about. I have this problem on my own personal blog from time to time as well. When that happens I like to do a roundup of the all the things interesting me today. I may not go into as deep a dive on any one of them, but will give my own 2 cents on each. So, here is today's Open Source Round-Up Rodeo. BTW, this is my first Rodeo. Ride'em Cowboy!

1. Should the "axis of evil" be banned from Open Source? Does that make us any better than China? Lots of noise over the fact that yesterday Sourceforge announced in a blog post that they started blocking the usual suspects (Iran, North Korea, Syria, Cuba, Sudan, etc.) from downloading from the site. Sourceforge is actually blocking IPs from these countries. Not sure if people in these banned countries can get around the IP block by using proxies or not, but where there is a will there is a way.

Sourceforge and other popular open source repositories (Google) have in their terms of service the right to block access from countries on the United States Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanction list. I bet some folks at Google wouldn't mind seeing China on that list about now too. In any event not sure Google is actually blocking IPs from these countries on their open source repository or not right now.

From reading between the lines of the Sourceforge post, it looks like there might have been some political pressure applied to the Sourceforge folks. They seem to have a heavy heart about taking this action saying, "in addition to participating in the open source community, we also live in the real world, and are governed by the laws of the country in which we are located. Our need to follow those laws supersedes any wishes we might have to make our community as inclusive as possible. The possible penalties for violating these restrictions include fines and imprisonment. Other hosting companies based in the US have similar legal and technical restrictions in place." Sounds like some arm twisting was applied to me.

I understand that in the real world you need to play hardball. But this does fly in the face of what many in the open source community cherish and hold dear. If open source can't be really open, what is it? We here in the US have taken a high-handed disdain for the censorship that the Chinese government has imposed on Internet access of its own citizens. At the same time it now appears that we are deciding to censor access to other people who are not our own citizens even. The overwhelming majority of these people I am sure are just innocent bystanders in this. While we are out preaching democracy and openness and freedom of the Internet, we seem to be practicing something else. I just hope that this does not result in driving more business out of our country and taking jobs with it.

2. North Albany HS in New Zealand shows them how it is done. A high school down under in New Zealand has created a buzz by going all open source. In and of itself this is really not earth shattering. But NZ is a country where each school has to pay Microsoft whether they use MSFT software or not. North Albany HS is still saving lots of money and being ultra-productive by using Linux on servers and desktops and open source solutions for office and many other applications. Money isn't the only positive either. Lots of lessons learned, not the least of should be lessons learned by politicians in New Zealand about squandering educational dollars on software licenses that are bloated and inefficient!

3. It ain't just software! Continuing a theme I started with the open source car story, there is more to open source than software today. In the pharmaceutical and bio-tech world we are seeing open source labs make available free DNA samples to speed the development of drugs and microbes. Also GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) have offered up thousands of compounds in an open source manner to let others try and see if they can find anything useful againts malaria. I know many of you feel differently, but open source is sometimes a state of mind as much as computer code.

4.Finally today in a prime example of how far they have come, open source Goliath, Red Hat has delivered their "state-of-the-union" message. A couple of the highlights include:

  • Double digit growth throughout the recession (recession, what recession?) in both revenue and head count
  • Strong support, leading to stronger growth in the government sector (especially at the federal level)
  • Major strides in both cloud and virtual computing -positioning Red Hat to capitalize on these high growth markets
  • Java Leadership - I thought this was a key insert. With folks worrying about the Oracle-Sun deal effecting Java, Red Hat seems poised to jump in and assume a leadership position in the Java community.
  • Also Red Hat is now a Fortune 500 (there are only 500 of them you know) company and they will have a Red Hat Summit and J-Boss Word in Boston in June.

Yes there is some marketing spin in the Red Hat message, but the POTUS does some spinning of his own in his State-of-the-Union message as well. And paraphrasing the immortal words of Babe Ruth, Red Hat had a better year!

That’s it for this round up, time to ride off into the sunset. Have a great day!

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