21 January 2008

Licensing Costs

This article about the cost of unlicensed software use has left me wondering how commercial software will deal with unlicensed users. Specifically, will they treat them as "the enemy" as the commercial music industry seems to do on a regular basis? I doubt it, actually.

The software business has a lot more experience in dealing with the licensing of content than the music industry has, since everything the software business does is by definition digital. We have been through the copy protection schemes, the hardware dongles, the secret activation keys, and these have probably worked to some extent and the other thing they have done is helped fuel the open software movement.

Free and open software is important for many reasons social, political and practical but I think software licensing schemes like these, that make it a pain to use commercial software, that are at least partially responsible for users looking for alternatives, and free and open software is a pretty attractive alternative.

When you can get the software for free, without worrying about whether or not you are licensed properly, get free upgrades on a regular basis, have it supported by teams of people, and know that you can transfer it to any machines and use it forever at no cost... well, that seems like a much better option. The fact that's even more reliable and secure than the commercial alternative is gravy.

There is obviously a market for innovative commercial software, and happily some of that is still being produced, and some of it is even no cost!

But a lot of commercial software just offers the same old licensing, same big sticker price, same old promises, and a shiny new look... but putting lipstick on a pig doesn't change the fact that it's a pig.

19 January 2008

Adventures in Ubuntu

I have been using Linux in my business and on my personal machines since 2002. In my business I have used it mostly for file and print serving, Apache services, database services and tunnelling services and for these things it's been amazingly stable and rewarding. In my personal life I have used it for file serving and to just play around and to have another desktop in the house for the kids and I to get comfortable with. What I have resisted though is actually using Linux as my main desktop. That is, until now.

This past year I purchased a new Dell M1330 Laptop. It's a beautifully designed small laptop that packs a big punch. It also came with Vista. After using Vista for nine months or so now, I am of the opinion that Vista represents one of the biggest opportunities for Linux on the desktop. Say no more.

Now, as some of you will know, I have been a software developer for years and I tend to write software that requires a lot of power - web sites, data management, data linkage, etc... In addition, most of my consultant work I write a lot and to generate spreadsheets and diagrams for people to document and explain complex concepts, AND, I tend to do a lot of software evaluation for clients. Ninety percent of that software is Microsoft software.

The other interesting thing that has been happening in software is virtualization. What Virtualization means is that I can set up virtual machines (whole computers in software that run inside the windows of other operating systems) that run specialized software, without having that software actually installed on my main (host) machine.

When I bought the M1330 I maxed out the RAM at 4GB because I knew I would be running virtual machines under Vista, and also purchased the largest, fastest hard drive for it because I hoped some day I would get virtual machine technology running under my favorite Linux OS, Ubuntu. Well, a few months ago, I managed to get that working, so now I had all of the pieces.

So, last week I finally decided, it's time. I have partitioned my drive on my main laptop that I use for daily work, and am now running Ubuntu as my main OS. And, since the machine is dual boot, I have Vista still available as needed for things like Word, Excel, Visio, etc..

The first thing I need to do is get everything running. The M1330 comes with a LOT of bells and whistles, and not all of them are supported out of the box, and some may not yet be supported at all. Over the next few weeks I will be going through each thing and hopefully getting it working. I will catalogue my adventures here and on the Ubuntu wiki site.

18 January 2008

XO Arrival

I am writing this post on my new XO laptop. If you have been reading this blog you may know that a couple of months ago I took advantage of the opportunity to purchase a new XO laptop from the One Laptop Per Child project. Purchasing this laptop for myself and donating one to a child in a developing country was just too great of an opportunity to pass on.

So, my first impression?... WOW! This thing is cool. It's cute as a button but don't let the appearance fool you. This thing is running a great operating system and comes packed with cool software and the device itself is packed with hardware features.

Now the timing is not great for me because I am busy working on the upcoming release of DataZoomer, but I will write some more about this nifty device in the upcoming weeks.

03 January 2008

Who knows you?

I wrote some time ago that who you know isn't nearly as important as "Who Knows You". Seth Godin wrote today about something else... "Who trusts you?"

So, if trust is important, it begs the question... what is it that has people trust other people? There are probably many factors that go into the formula of trust, people have written whole books about trust, but I would say there is one over arching principle that is the foundation of trust, the entry level from which all other trust factors are built and I can say it in one word.


I could write a whole chapter on integrity because I have studied it in some depth and it has become such an integral (no pun intended) part of how I choose to live my life but in short, the definition of integrity I live by is: "Honouring Your Word".

When people know that they can count on my to walk my talk, to do what I said I would do, their level of trust goes up. This shows up numerous ways every day and I find that I have many opportunities every day to increase my level of trust ( or not ).

I also find that when people in my life don't do what they said they would do that my level of trust for them sometimes goes down depending on how they are about it. It doesn't mean that I love them less, or think less of them. I just means I trust them less. When translates into, I don't count on them as much and when they say something, I don't rely on the validity of what they say as much... in short, I don't make decisions for myself based on what they say.

Why is that important? Because human beings live in stories, we make decisions based on stories, and people who can tell stories well can influence other people and can in turn make a real difference for other poeple. And to be a good story teller, one that can make a difference, one whose stories are believed and can make a difference for others, people need to trust you. Because people listen to people they trust... people talk to people they trust and people do business with people they trust.

All things are transitory

Zen philosophy teaches that all things are transitory.

As human beings evolved our brains developed to take advantage of the slow rate of change relative to our lifespan. We talk of fear of change, like as if there is some alternative to change. Consider that the world we live in is constantly in change.

As I write this, the only thing I can think of that doesn't change, is information. The words that I am writing in this post will never change. The 1's and 0's that make up a digital photograph will never change. The notes that make up Beethoven's 5th will never change. But these are not "things" in the strictest sense of the word. The physical manifestations of them (a printed page, a printed photo, the musical score) are subject to change.

The experience of "no change" is something that we make up, something that our mind makes up. It is a survival mechanism. If I am alive now, then if I keep doing what I am doing, I will stay alive.