Tag Archives: open

Open fun with Microsoft Surface Pro 3

Like many, I’ve been fast-forwarding past the Microsoft Surface commercials as I watch recorded episodes of The Walking Dead. (Though, I will admit that I had to use Google’s listening capabilities to find out what that music was… it’s I Am the Best, by 2NE1.) It looks cool and all, but it also comes with a Windows lifestyle. I don’t mind if you decide to use Windows, but I’d really rather not.

Then I saw this article:

CNN Discovers Promotional Surface Pros Make Fantastic iPad Stands

photo of iPads propped up against Surface Pro devices
Last night, CNN wasn’t just covering the mid-term elections. It was also pimping the Surface Pro 3, conspicuously placing a kickstand-ed unit in front of a bunch of its commentators. The catch? They were actually just being used as iPad stands.

This makes me laugh. It’s such a beautiful example of how people react to having technology pushed on them when they are trying to get something done. I wonder what sort of time was spent setting up the SPs and trying to orient staff on how to use them. Did they just pass them out or was there a concerted effort that was ultimately just ignored.

When I first saw the Surface Pro 3 I thought it looked interesting, but, as I mentioned before, I wasn’t interested in moving to Windows for the privilege. I wondered how long it would take to see Linux running there. The answer… it already does:

So… I would probably need some time to poke through the tweaks for the keyboard and bluetooth, but I have no doubt that those things would all fall into place at some point… possibly by magic as the updates embraced the nuances of the hardware.

I could totally get on board with this! I wonder if they have any leftovers from CNN I could use!

Quickie today about commercial control vs. true open source

My new Twitter follower Robin Mulkers (mulkers) pointed me to a great article written by Jeremy Allison, a major contributor to Samba, about the demise of Sun and how their decisions about how to handle their open-source contributions may have been part what killed them.

He brings up a lot of really interesting points that I have also observed about how some people approach open source, and why it may be unwise to believe that you can really win a siege against it.  There is great power in openness and we are only beginning to scratch the surface.

Patent news I like to hear

I got a fun bit of patent news today.  In a widely-reported news story, Novell and Red Hat have prevailed in a patent case, alleging patent infringement brought by IP Innovation LLC, a subsidiary of Acacia Research Corporation and Technology Licensing Corporation.  Groklaw has analysis.

As I’ve said before, I’m not opposed to protecting intellectual property.  People should be able to profit by their own ideas.  However, technical patents, especially software patents, have developed a great deal of complexity.  I think it’s easily arguable that the current system for awarding patents has a number of weaknesses and that patents are awarded that don’t necessarily have merit.  Unfortunately, it seems the only way to challenge a patent is in court, which is an expensive course of action that only the biggest players can afford to do well.

This situation is a real challenge for the open-source world, where ideas are freely contributed and distributed.  It’s made more complex by the fact that there are people working on projects that have to deal with just about every technology in existence.  I really don’t have an answer, or even a solid question about this.  I can see little experimental attack on the Open Source keep.  Only time will tell if someone is gearing up for a genuine siege.  Even if there is a massive commercial and legal battle against the open source world, will that kill it?  How many Linux users quit using Linux until these various court cases were settled?  How easy is it going to be to stuff this genie back into the bottle?

In the mean time, it looks like a time to celebrate.  As more people have more exposure to open-source software maybe it will become less of an issue.

Q: How do I get involved in Open Source?

Congratulations on discovering the importance and opportunity in Open Source software. The first step, in my opinion, is to start using Open Source yourself, wherever possible. You have probably already started on this path. The easy steps are using Firefox for browsing, and programs like OpenOffice.org and Thunderbird for productivity. (If you’re nervous about the whole Oracle thing with OpenOffice.org, fear not, there are forks that have occurred which will keep it open.) For development, you should look at the Eclipse project as well as the many other interesting development tools that are out there. There is a vast (and incomplete) list of interesting Open Source applications available in Wikipedia. You can also find a rather complete repository of Open Source projects (including the good, the bad and the really ugly) at the grand-daddy of all Open Source sites, sourceforge.net, a free repository for project owners to organize and share their project.

Of course, you should also consider taking the Open Source plunge and running Linux. (That link is not the official Linux kernel site, but a good starting place.)

Like I said, you are probably already using Open Source software to some degree, but the more you use the more you become aware of how the Open Source world works, how the community drives development and support and what you think is missing from the equation that you can contribute.

To get involved on the development end, you have a few options. One is to take a project that you use and identify something within your skill set that needs help. You don’t really have to ask permission to offer a solution, but you should follow the protocol for the project. Every project will have information about how to contribute. If they don’t, then write to the key players of the project and let them know that you have something to contribute. They will likely be very pleased. If they’re not, then go find someone else to help!

Another interesting thing to do is to look at the list of projects at sourceforge.net. They actually have a list of “help wanted” projects that you can dive into. If you dig around, you may even find projects that have lost their maintainer (which happens for a variety of reasons). Picking up that work could be a great project and a valuable service to the community.

Don’t forget that there are open projects that need more than just coding. There are needs for testing, documentation, translation and just about anything that you can imagine in the business of software development. Simply writing excellent tutorials with good manuals and video demos could turn a project around… and this is typically the sort of work that the deep developers don’t find very interesting. There are even other opportunities, like the proofreading help needed by Project Gutenberg. Unusual projects like the Open Prosthetics Project, which try to accomplish goals for the general good.

It’s not hard to get involved in projects. It takes time and a little discipline to stick with it, even though you don’t have a manager demanding that you produce. However, I think that you gain the same satisfaction from this work as you do from any sort of good volunteer work that you might do, and you actually get to benefit from the work yourself by having greater functionality and improved skills.

Comments and pointers to opportunities are certainly welcome!