Geekcorps Looking for Linux Volunteers

February 28, 2006

Have you ever wanted to travel to exotic locations while solving technology problems and teaching the local communities to use innovative information technologies? Volunteering for Geekcorps, a U.S. non-profit organization, is one way to fulfill your wanderlust while doing something productive.

“Currently, according to the Geekcorps Web site, the organization needs experts in Knowledge Management, object-oriented programming, C++, and Linux for spring and summer 2006 assignments in Zambia, Kenya, and South Africa.”

“Although the organization would love it if volunteers could stay four months or longer, one-month stints are common. Geekcorps pays the travel expenses and housing and tries to make it easy for family members to come along.”

“‘The people we are targeting to volunteer are employed, might be mid-career and have families,’ Vota said. The median age is 32.”

“Geekcorps can essentially be thought of as a Peace Corps with a focus on PCs. The organization recruits technical experts to conceive ideas for integrating technology into local economies in a self-sustaining way.” (CNet News.com)

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Correction to the Gifting Ubuntu post

February 28, 2006

In any community, there are always a few bad apples. The guy who claimed to be distributing Ubuntu CDs to McDonalds has now admitted that the story was mostly untrue.

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Gifting Ubuntu, one McDonalds at a time

February 27, 2006

The open source culture of sharing is demonstrated in unusual places. I posted an earlier blog entry about the guy who used the street beggar model to hand out Linux CDs, and now we have someone burning copies of the popular Linux distribution, Ubuntu, to give away at his local McDonalds.

Open source advocates do tend to be passionate about evangelizing Linux and open source software, even in the most bizarre locations and strange ways. This is not a criticism; these guys get big kudos in my book for creativity and innovation.

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This Week in Open Source News Feb 19 – Feb 26

February 26, 2006

Firefox has kicked off their marketing planning for 2006 and are planning a presentation of the marketing plan tentatively scheduled for March 7. This is a great example of how participating in open source communities does not necessarily mean writing code. Most of the big projects like Firefox, OpenOffice.org and others have marketing communities and other non-technical communities where people can contribute.

The South African Revenue Service has issued a request for proposal for a proof of concept solution for Linux on the desktop, which could eventually be deployed on 14,000 desktops if the proof of concept is successful. Although this is just a request for proposal, it does show that more and more governments are beginning to at least evaluate Linux on the desktop.

Amid rumors that JBoss might be acquired, JBoss announced an acquisition of objectone GmbH, a key partner and reseller of JBoss products and services in Germany, on February 23. Effective March 1, 2006 the former objectone staff will become part of JBoss Deutschland GmbH. In more acquisition news, Sun acquired Aduva, a Linux and Solaris patch management software company that not only installs patches, but also uses a knowledge base to check for dependencies and patch compatibility with other software.

The SCO / IBM lawsuit is back in the news (for anyone who isn’t already familiar with the case, here is a great summary). IBM has subpoenaed Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, Hewlett-Packard, and BayStar Capital to provide detailed information about their dealings with SCO. This is expected to shed additional light on how SCO has financed this lawsuit; for example, we know that BayStar Capital invested $50 million dollars in SCO, and after much speculation, BayStar finally admitted that Microsoft was involved in this investment. These depositions may help us understand exactly where SCO is getting the money for this case. This follows a comedy of errors earlier this month when SCO made so many mistakes in their subpoena of Intel that it would have impossible to comply with the order and then told the judge that Intel didn’t show up despite having adequate notice. This was followed by a response where Intel basically calls SCO a liar. The judge ruled this week that the subpoenas were defective and did not provide adequate notice adding that “Her October 12th orders were clear, not subject to unilateral decisions to violate” (Groklaw). Oops, irritating the judge will not win SCO any bonus points in this case.


Is Linux on the Desktop Approaching the Tipping Point?

February 25, 2006

Dave Rosenburg of OSDL seems to think so. He accurately describes the challenges of Linux on the desktop, which I have described in previous blog entries: the difficulty in getting the applications that people expect to see on a PC ported to Linux (Adobe, Intuit, etc.), and the lack of support for plug and play drivers that consumers expect with devices like digital cameras. Dave points to the Portland Project as the unified effort to tackle these problems and help the ISVs port applications to desktop Linux.

Although I wish that 2006 would be the year of Linux on the desktop, I have to be a bit more pessimistic. I think that the Portland project will help; however, it will not solve the chicken and egg problem that exists with desktop Linux. I suspect that it will take a while before enough applications are available and before consistent driver support makes it easy for people to use their consumer devices with Linux desktops. The Portland Project is a great first step to help drive momentum for the Linux desktop, and as we start to get momentum, it will become easier to convince vendors to commit resources for application and driver support on Linux.

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Governments and Open Source Software

February 22, 2006

I have blogged about the benefits of government support and encouragement for using open source software, but I was reminded about this topic when reading a blog by Matt Asay on InfoWorld.

Matt has a really great point here:

“it’s clear that money really isn’t driving these decisions. Freedom is. Freedom from lock-in to vendors whose interests are not always aligned with the government’s. Freedom to build up the local economy…” (InfoWorld Blog)

People tend to talk about how open source is free (as in free beer) saying that the cost factor leads governments (especially in emerging countries or countries without many resources) to select open source. This misses the point and misses a great opportunity. Many governments do not want to be locked into purchases that require them to pay large sums of money to big software companies in the US and other wealthy nations. These governments also have the opportunity to grow a robust, local software ecosystem and create local jobs by using open source. With readily accessible source code and online communities of developers, local companies can be formed to provide support and service, consulting, and system integration. This creates local jobs and supports the local community by combining open source software with local services, something any government would readily champion.


Open Source E-Government System for Colorado

February 21, 2006

This is a great way to put the community benefits of open source into practice. Several local Colorado governments are creating an open source e-government system that will allow people to perform a number of services online (animal registration, parking ticket payment, etc.) The reason for doing this as an open source project is particularly interesting:

“We would love to have other organisations using the product. For example, if a small rural community in Australia implemented the system and added an animal registration module, they could contribute that module back to the project and everyone else could use it” (ZDNet UK).

This collaboration and spirit of sharing in order to have the best possible end product is one of the reasons that open source culture so compelling. I will be curious to see how the project progresses and to see how other governments decide to participate.

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