Australian Open Source Census taking off!

Jeff and I launched the Australian Open Source Indsutry and Community Census less than two days ago, and already have over 60 completed community responses and 20 completed industry responses,as well as a further 50 people sign up. Wow! Thank you everyone who has contributed. Please pass the word around and lets try and really make this a true census 🙂

Just to clarify a point, the target audience of the research project is a) people/companies in Australia and b) Australians overseas. It has an Australian focus specifically so that the final report (which will be freely available to download) will help educate and inform Australian Government, corporates and education about the realities rather than the perceptions of our industry and community locally. Hopefully it will reflect the strength, diversity and opportunities presented by the Australian Open Source industry and community, so everyone needs to stand up and be counted 🙂

“Sorry, we only support MS Office 2007”

I ordered a Dell laptop for a client today and wanted XP with MS Office 2003 or older (their infrastructure runs FOSS and we are getting a great FOSS desktop in the door, don’t worry!). Anyway, Dell turns around and says sure on the XP option, but tells me cheerfully that they don’t support anything but MS Office 2007 (and Works). Considering the default data formats used in MS Office 2007 are not supported by any other Office product, and are only just supported in Open Office, it seems ludicrous that Dell would make this choice.

Ah well, it turned out to be a good thing. The client SOE will now have Open Office by default with MS Office as an option where there is a business case reason because they have limited MS Office 2003 licences and are unhappy with Office 2007.

The Australian Open Source Industry and Community Census – now live!

Jeff and I have just launched the worlds biggest research project into the Open Source industry and community. We are looking at the size, strength and dynamics of the companies and individuals involved in Open Source. The final report will be freely available online and will hopefully show both Government and the general populace that we as an industry and community totally rock 🙂

So what are you waiting for! Stand up and be counted!

Check out the Census website for more details.

Sharepoint killers

Sharepoint is scary. People that use it quite like it and are blissfully unaware of the sticky technology and licensing trap they’ve allowed into their environments. It provides some useful functions that could be found in many applications or bundled applications, however the trap is that once you deploy it, Microsoft have you pretty much under their thumb. You have to use their technologies, you have to use their office suite, their operating system, their data formats. It is very hard to move away from.

There are loads of articles written about this. I’ve put only a few interesting ones below:

So Sharepoint is something that needs careful consideration. What are the alternatives? I don’t profess to be an expert in this space, however I’ve put a list of useful applications below that give you loads of great collaborative functionality:

  • Alfresco – Enterprise Content Management
  • Clearspace by Jive (not Open Source, but looks interesting)
  • O3Spaces – document centric collaboration
  • Metadot – Open Source portal server

Plus of course all the other applications that are great for collaboration including WIKIs, chat applications and loads more.

On the road again…

So over the last week I’ve been on the road with IBM and Red Hat on their Linux on the desktop roadshow. It has been pretty interesting! I am speaking about Linux and Open Source generally, how to create a strategy and providing a vendor neutral perspective to balance the Red Hat and IBM perspectives. Microsoft have really shot themselves in the foot with Vista, it is making loads of quite conservative IT buyers look at Linux seriously 🙂


The events have been pretty good and I’ve had a chance to catch up with friends all over the country 🙂 Tonight is dinner with some of the Linux SA crew, and then tomorrow is dinner with PLUG in Perth.

Brisbane was fun, I saw Elspeth and Stephen Thorne which was great! In Melbourne I stayed with Donna and Peter who are always fun, and had a lovely dinner with a few extra friends. Unfortunately both taxis I took in Melbourne had really racist drivers, so they got an earful.


While I was in Canberra I stayed with Rusty and Alli in their beautiful “new” place outside of Canberra. Check out the photos below! They have horses, dogs, cats and bandwidth! 😉

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Travelling with Red Hat and IBM around the country

I am participating in a Red Hat and IBM roadshow about Linux on the desktop. We’ll be visiting Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, Adelaide and Perth (Perth is a private event only), so if you are interested in either coming along to the event or catching up for a drink afterwards, check out the schedule on the invitation below 🙂 I’ll be talking about Open Source generally, the business benefits, case studies and how to go about creating a strategy for Open Source deployment. Red Hat and IBM will be focusing on the Linux desktop, which is excellent timing.

Red Hat, IBM and Waugh Partners road trip invitation.

The evening of every event it would be great to catch up with the FOSS communities in each location, so please just add a comment or email me if you’d like to catch up 🙂


  • 14th August (tomorrow) – Brisbane
  • 15th August – Melbourne
  • 20th August – Canberra
  • 21st August – Sydney
  • 22nd August – Adelaide
  • 23rd August – Perth (private IBM/Red Hat event, but open for drinks in the evening! 🙂

Sorry about the short notice! Registrations are here.

FOSS in Sydney education and busy times

A few days ago I did a short 1 hour talk on FOSS for about 30 IT teachers in Sydney. It was a lot of fun and it reminded me how spending just a little time can have such a great effect! Finding people who are keen to hear about and who can really use FOSS really helps the chances of success in your message having an impact. Thus far the people I’ve found to be most open to hearing about FOSS and also the concepts of Software Freedom, Free Knowledge and a digital democracy are teachers, activists, people in the NGO/non-profit sector and students. Politicians are also good to chat to, and there is a growing community of FOSS saavy lawyers too.

Any opportunity you get to talk to these people can often have a great flow on effect to their spheres of influence. I’ve had many occasions where someone I spoke to comes back to me months or years later to help them take it further, or to assist in some great scheme they’ve created with others.

It has been flat out recently. Jeff and I are working hard and getting some great new work (more news to come!), FOSS is really taking off in Australia in Government, corporate and education, and apart from being so flat out, life is really good 🙂

Software Freedom Day is only 5 weeks away, and the website (which is hosted by Canonical) is down and has been for 2 days. Terrible timing! We expect it to be back up soon and it isn’t slowing down our shipment or other plans, but we’ve no way to let the teams know that yet.

Microsoft and Open Source – the inside story

A couple of weeks ago Jeff and I had a very interesting experience. We were invited to the 2007 Microsoft Technology Summit at Redmond. It was a small event with about 50 or 60 people from all walks of technology, and I think about 1/3 of the attendees had been invited due to their understanding on Open Source, so there were some familiar faces. Jeff and I were certainly curious to get inside Microsoft and talk to the technical people working with Open Source there.

Firstly it must be said that Microsoft are excellent hosts. They paid for our accommodation, flights, travel and all meals. They looked after us very well and it was a very pleasant trip. We even got some sunshine in Seattle, so thank you to Charles Sterling who invited us, and Nigel Watson who arranged all our travel. Both are Microsoft developer evangelists and great guys.

The summit consisted of talks by Microsoft people, including Bill Hilf and Sam Ramji. Sam runs the Open Source lab, and Bill is General Manager of Platform Strategy, started the Open Source lab and now also runs the Get the Facts campaign. There were other talks about SOA, IE7, Xbox, PowerShell and a whole bunch of stuff which was largely unrelated to our work. The talks were interesting, particularly as I haven’t really been involved deeply in Microsoft technologies for a few years, however I also spent some time in discussions unrelated to the agenda.

Some of the talks would start with Microsoft technology and then at the very end say “by the way, here is how it is better than (insert Open Source equivalent)”, which seemed a little patronising. I guess they were trying to change out minds. This was most evident in the IIS talk where at the very end the guy started seriously bagging out Apache, much to the amusement of several attendees who debated his opinion.

Bill Hilf had been talked up by several notable Open Source characters, including Tridge, however his talk (which launched the Summit) was very disappointing. It was arrogant, limited, and appeared to miss the larger picture of Open Source. He talked about how they are focused on Open Source only as a development model and business model, which would be fair enough, however he went to to rant about how he is not running a “jihad”, that Open Source is “writing and licensing software. That’s it. It isn’t freedom, it isn’t a movement”, and how he’s just here to sell licences. I questioned Bill and Sam on the sustainability of a strategy only seeing Open Source as a mechanism for driving licence revenue, as every successful company building revenue around Open Source has multiple revenue models and usually a strong services approach.

Microsoft - drinking the kool aid
Bill’s been drinking the Kool Aid…

Sam strongly debated whether it was even possible to build a sustainable business on Open Source. Unfortunately he just didn’t seem to understand that there is already an entire industry built around Open Source that is doing very well. He used Oracle as an example of the problem. He thought it preposterous that Oracle would take RHEL, build services around it and sell those services even though they didn’t build the product. However, this is explicitly allowed under many of the Open Source licences we use, which is understood to drive an open market competing on value rather than locked down to a single supply chain.

When asked about standards Bill said that Microsoft are not interested in pushing a standard, but rather selling a product. Bill and the other Open Source people in Microsoft referred often to Open Source being used as a technology weapon by competitors such as IBM, which I guess is in many ways true, however I think they’ve let this opinion interfere with their ability to see beyond that and to why people are starting to care about Open Standards. When asked why they don’t just support ODF, Bill made some comments about how it wasn’t as easy as that and it isn’t just a standard but a whole product. The ensuing discussion driven by the Malaysian guys who are strong Open Standards proponents was almost comical as Bill simply didn’t answer their questions usefully. Sam said that it was likely MS Office would eventually support ODF as the market demands it.

Sam and Bill both also made the unfortunate mistake of painting any Open Source people who didn’t comply exactly with their views as fanatics and extreme, which isn’t a great way to endear them to the community. I had to really sit Sam down and say every time you compare the vast majority of Open Source people to fanatics, you are only making it harder for yourself to successfully participate. He was, to his credit, open to constructive criticism. I can understand his position being in between a rock (Microsoft) and a hard place (the community), however I think for him to succeed he and his team really need to keep grounded through keeping in touch with the community.

I also noticed most of the Microsoft people who mentioned Open Source differentiated between Open Source and commercial software, which was very frustrating considering how much Open Source is used, sold and supported commercially. The guys we mentioned this to were open to the issue and said they would try to fix this mistake.

I really think that Microsoft have come a long way from only a few years ago when Open Source was a “cancer”, and the Open Source people did say that every time Steve Ballmer opens his mouth about Open Source it hurts them, so I think they are doing quite a good job. I would strongly encourage them to participate more in the community so they can keep an open mind to Open Source beyond the Microsoft party line. Also I think unless Microsoft can see that there is value to Open Source beyond the development model, then they are severely limiting their understanding and missing the bigger values of Open Source economically and socially. There is certainly value to an Open Source approach when it comes to trustworthy systems through transparency (for example in electronic election systems, where access to the source code is really important to a trusted system) and sustainability through Open Standards. An open platform and approach drives innovation, competition, value and ultimately more freedom down the line. Unfortunately for them, Microsoft either doesn’t understand or doesn’t want to understand this.

Microsoft unfortunately regard an Open Standard as something they create inhouse and publish for others to comply to them, and open community as building a new community for other people and projects to join. They haven’t yet appeared to understand that Open Source is about active participation, not about creating yet more silos.

I guess although we found in the Microsoft Open Source labs some knowledge about some Open Source technologies, we were quite disappointed with the limited views held about Open Source, openness and community.

Software freedom isn’t just an idealistic philosophy. It is a commitment to technology openness and freedom which is increasingly important when so much of our lives is based on and possibly limited by the technologies we use to vote, communicate, create, share and work. Luckily this is becoming more understood by the general population. People like Cory Doctorow are driving the charge on protecting consumer rights when it comes to a digital age. Companies like Microsoft can choose to embrace a more open approach, one that will maintain the rights of software users and developers rather than locking them in to proprietary data formats, DRM, vendor lock-in or worse. Or they can choose to be left behind.

Other blogs and interviews on the event from other OSS people:

Links of interest:

  • Port 25 – a community project by Microsoft about Open Source run by the Microsoft Open Source lab crew.

Who’s exhibiting at Open CeBIT 2007

So, as some of you know, Jeff and I are working with Hannover Fairs to make sure Open CeBIT (the Open Source bit at CeBIT) is incredible. I’ve spoken about the conference, but check out all the exhibitors who have already signed up.

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We also have Ingres, and a few others who are yet to go on the website, so we have already a pretty good cross section of the industry, but the aim is to have over 20 companies, and possibly 30 there, so if you are interested in exhibiting, contact us as there are loads of options, even for the little guys 🙂

Pancakes and FOSS – wrapup

Jeff and I are in Brisbane and tonight we had a huge turnout to come talk about FOSS and pancakes at the Pancake Manor in Brisbane. We had about 30 people all up including OSIAns, HUMBUGs, the people from the PHP meeting that was supposed to be on at the same time (but got cancelled) and some interesting individuals from Government, industry and Microsoft (gasp!). It was all in all a very fun and interesting night, and many thanks to everyone coming along!

Jeff took some great photos (and some not so great ones) that he’s uploaded to his flickr stream 🙂