26 November 2006

Competing Business Models

Twit.tv pointed me to this article about Himachi, a peer to peer VPN system which was aquired by LogMeIn.

I like the concept of Himachi a lot but was hoping that it would go open source. Keeping it closed however made it a more likely target for a buyout.

Many of the companies using a 'software as a service' business model keep the software that drives their service proprietary, giving them a competitive edge and providing a barrier to entry. So, although much of the proprietary software that we run on our own computers is becoming obsolete, the software that powers 'software as a service' is far from obsolete and is usually far from open.

It's also interesting that in most cases these proprietary systems are implemented with open source software.

One of the most compelling reasons to use Open Source software is the quality of the code, especially when it comes to security feautures, which is why I thought Himachi offering, was ultimately doomed. I wouldn't run it or recommend it because it was proprietary and for that reason I wasn't confident that it wouldn't be vulnerable to hackers. The fact that it wasn't open source became a barrier.

So, open source is very compelling as a way to get your project noticed and used, but, if you are writing software that you ultimately want someone to "aquire" then proprietary still has a lot of appeal.

24 November 2006

Open Source in Government

I have been an advocate of using open source software for govenment for several years. So far, little progress has been made. Large software corporations still tend to dominate in this arena. A recent article, Open standards group to beat Microsoft at its own game, talks of part of the struggle that is in progress to create more open and free (as in freedom) software options for the public sector in their software choices. I would love to see more software being used and supported financially by government.

Why are we throwing away millions and millions of dollars on plans, requirements and specifications for software that never sees the light of day? Why aren't we spending some of that money on open source development? Because the game of selling mega software (failures) is way too lucrative.

Some traditional IT managers insist on banning open source software from their IT shops.

Why? Because it's unreliable? I don't think so. Because it's not robust? Nope. Because it's a security risk? Wrong again. It's good enough for google, Yahoo, IBM, so why not the IT manager?

Because it's free.

  • Free software developers probably aren't going to throw a nice big dinner party for you in every major city in the country.
  • Free software developers aren't going to come and schmooze you over a nice lunch.
  • Free doesn't require a multi-million dollar budget.
  • Free doesn't satisfy the ego.
  • Free isn't as much fun.

But, what traditional IT managers conveniently ignore is that if they are doing anything with the internet, they are already using free open source software.

Free software works. And that's why it's successful.

The binders that are produced are impressive... but I, for one, would much rather have my tax dollars spent on supporting software that works.

07 November 2006

Gmail mobile client

After reading this article , I decided to give the Gmail mobile client a try. Seriously, there are not many bits of software I would install on my phone but since this is from Google, and Gmail is so amazing, I just had to give it a try, and... it doesn't disappoint. This is a seriously cool little application.

I am running it on my Sony Ericsson W810i (which is a phone that you should check out if you are in the market, BTW) and it's fast and has some great features like shortcuts for search and compose. It also seems incredibly fast. I am guessing they download a bunch of stuff at once, although it doesn't seem to take very long to connect. No doubt that usual mail clients on phones don't optimize for packet size so you get lots of little chucky mostly empty packets.

Anyway, it was painless and easy and worked right away. I will let you know if I still like it in a few weeks.