Monthly Archives: October 2007

Can you explain open-source in one sentence?

I’ve been working in open-source for about a decade now. For example, I have contributed code under an open-source license, I have run a project, and — though this is probably unusual — I have caused my employer to draft its first open-source license so I could contribute the code and run the project.

I think I’ve learned a little bit about open-source and so ask others who have worked in the open-source and free software communities the following question:

If you had to summarize what you have learned in one sentence then what would you say?

Here is my answer:

You must be completely open — holding nothing back — for if you hold anything back then you will lose trust, and trust once lost is almost impossible to regain.

What’s your answer?

Golden Oldies With a New Sparkle

Here are some questions. With your own eyes, have you ever:

For over four centuries it has been the case that if the answer to the first question is “No,” then all the other questions have the same answer, for all these works of art can be found in Florence.

I’ve only visited Florence once, in February, 2003. Before going there I did some reading. One of the things I learned was that the United Nations estimates about 60 percent of the world’s greatest art is in Italy, and many of Italy’s greatest works of art are in Florence. [2]

I believe Florence to be the single greatest city in the world in terms of the quality of the art that can be found there. Though I had known Florence had played a role in the Renaissance, it was only by visiting Florence that I came to appreciate that many of the seminal works of art of the Renaissance were created in a single location, Florence, over the course of a century, from about 1410 to 1510.

I took a course in the French Revolution when I was in college. Yet I didn’t fully understand its origins until I first visited Versailles many years ago. As you leave the train station, you look up a long hill that slopes upward for perhaps a half mile. On the top of that hill you see Versailles, and when I first saw Versailles I understood the cause of the French Revolution.

I had a similar experience in Florence, the first time I saw Michelangelo’s David. It is monumental in scope, yet the work of a single artist, who created the sculpture as a young man using a large piece of marble that other sculptors had refused to use due to known cracks and limitations.

Perhaps the best-preserved sculpture I have seen from ancient times can be found in the Uffizi. It appears to be perhaps a century or two old, yet it is almost two thousand years old.

By the way, you must go to the Uffizi to see the works of art inside it, as the last survivor of the ruling Medici family left his collection to the city on the condition that no part of it could ever leave Florence.

This true of almost all the other works of art in the long list, for Michelangelo’s David is too large to move, and many of the other works are buildings, or frescoes within those buildings.

This is, however, one exception. Though the Baptistry is a remarkable building, it is most notable as the building that was entered via doors containing panels that are among the most remarkable works of art in Florence. The panels were the work of Lorenzo Ghiberti.

I was thus greatly pleased to learn today that three of the ten magnificent panels from the doors will be on display for the next few months at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, courtesy of the lead story in the Arts section by Roberta Smith, Golden Oldies With a New Sparkle, that begins as follows:

Most of the historic sculptures, frescoes and edifices of early-15th-century Florence are not the least bit portable. It’s simple: You want to see them, you go to Florence. But right now nearly a third of one of the city’s greatest glories can be seen without leaving town, by visiting “The Gates of Paradise: Lorenzo Ghiberti’s Renaissance Masterpiece” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

This show presents 3 of the 10 gilded bronze reliefs that decorate the doors created by Ghiberti from 1425 to 1452 for the 12th- to 13th-century Baptistery of San Giovanni. Newly cleaned, they have never looked more golden or less oldie.

One of the treasures of the early Renaissance, the 17-foot-high doors depict Old Testament scenes in a radically new fusion of physical action, emotional intensity and narrative complexity. Especially the three reliefs at the Met. Their subjects are Adam and Eve, Jacob and Esau, and David and Goliath. Each is pictorially unified and yet, in a different way, almost cinematic in effect.

Some may be disappointed that all 10 of Ghiberti’s reliefs did not make this first and only American tour. (The Met is the third of four stops.) But the three reliefs here, accompanied by a life-size photo panel of the fully assembled doors, can by themselves sustain multiple visits. You have until the middle of January.

“Gates of Paradise” will be on view through Jan. 13 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The article contains a photo of one of the panels that should be more than enough to put this exhibit on your “must see” list.

It’s worth noting that the Doors will also be shown at other locations, though I don’t know where.

However, I will be in the City within a few days, and will attempt to learn where they go next.

Notes:

1. The Medici Family displayed their art collection in long halls, or galleria, whence the term “Art Gallery.”

2. I prepared the list of art works using the Wikipedia entry for Florence. I had forgotten just how many great works of art there are in Florence. I believe I saw all of the works listed during a week’s visit, though of course you could spend the rest of your life in Florence savoring the uniquely great art that can be found there.

My wife and I visited Rome this past summer.

Shortly after I first viewed Michelangelo’s David I wondered why any artist had ever attempted to sculpt after seeing it for the first time. However, after seeing the work of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, notably his sculptures in the Galleria Borghese, I now rate him Michelango’s equal.

One of Bernini’s greatest works is Apollo and Daphne. The subtlety of the stone as it turns from skin to bark is breathtaking.

Rome is also the home of the single greatest work of art ever created by a single individual, Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel.

Though I knew of hie famed frescoes on the ceiling, I wasn’t aware that one wall consists of another masterpiece, his fresco of The Last Judgment.

You have to see the Sistine Chapel personally to appreciate its enormous size. It would be unimaginable to think that so much of the art within it was the work of a single individual, yet your eyes tell you this is so.

Some IBM Resources on Patents and Collaboration

IBM has an internal network known as “w3.” I just saw two articles on the w3 Home page that made mention of some externally available articles and documents about patents and collaboration that may of interest:

Reinventing the invention system

Inventors’ Forum: Collaboration Amongst Small and Mid-Sized Enterprises

Bob Sutor Blog

Meet the Tuxers

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Tuxers Smile on seeing Dave boot up Ubuntu

I work for IBM’s Linux Technology Center, the LTC. Though many LTCers work at IBM sites such as Austin, TX, and Beaverton, OR, most of them work at various locations throughout the globe, including the “Oz” team in Australia (LTCers there include Rusty Russell and Andrew J. Tridgell, “Tridge.”)

Some locations are thinly spread. For example, Ted T’so is LTC in the Boston area, and I am one half of the LTC team in Westchester, NY. (This was Dan Frye’s doing I expect, as he probably feared too many LTCers near the offices of some of IBM’s most senior executives might lead to our having a bad influence on them, or perhaps it was the other way around.)

The nearest LTC site to my home is about forty miles north, in Poughkeepsie, where there are about a dozen or so LTCers.

Since it is difficult to build and create relationships within a worldwide team, LTC management has created “Morale” groups at various sites, and as part of that, I journey last Thursday to Poughkeepsie to join a “Morale Lunch,” which is a high-faluting way of saying I drove to POK so I could chow down with some fellow LTC members, and then chat with some of them during the afternoon.

I took along many members of my Linux Menagerie, a group I call “The Tuxers,” for not only is the Penguin the mascot of Linux, the Penguin has been my favorite animal for many decades.

I took along a camera, both to take some pictures of the chow-down for inclusion in the next quarterly LTC newsletter (my manager helps put the newsletter together, and so had asked I take some pics while in POK).

I had a business call during the afternoon, and Diane B. suggested I use the office of W. Smart. [1]

I assembled the Tuxers for their first group photo in Smart’s office. It can be found at the start of this post.

Sad to say, on occasion I have to use Windows, and, when the Tuxers see I have fallen victim to the “Evil Empire,” they turn away to express their disgust:

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Tuxers doth protest

The Tuxers were so disgusted on this occasion that they bent over so I could see the part of their body that best expresses their view of Windows. If you examine the screen closely, you will see evidence that even Adobe hasn’t yet figured out how to write software for Windows. I have suffered through a failed update for months now, as I noted in my post PDF: A Portable, Persnickety, Problematic, and Proprietary Document Format. [2]

I took along the Tuxers when I went to IBM Research yesterday to attend Eben Moglen’s talk, and you can find a picture of two of them on the podium with Eben in the post I wrote about the talk, Eben Moglen: Copyleft Capitalism, GPLv3 and the Future of Software Innovation:

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Eben Moglen and some Tuxers

Chappaqua-20071021 006Tuxers observing Dave blog about Eben Moglen’s talk at IBM Research

I left behind my most valuable Tuxer, the one I purchased at Steuben Glass for about $250 several months ago, so earlier today I assembled the full group, in the company of the “Jikes Collage” that my daughter Jen created. Steuben Tuxer is in the top-right corner, near the “shaking hands” symbol in the Jikes banner:

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Tuxers on a sunny day

Note the famed “Jikes Coupon” in the bottom center, a birthday present from Jen. (We share the same birthday.)

I put up our inflatable pumpkin last night. I got up this morning shortly after six and plugged in the pumpkin so children and commuters would see it. It looked so good when I returned from running some errands that I have left it plugged in, to make sure it’s there when the children come home from school. I took the above Tuxer picture just a few feet from the pumpkin:

Halloween-2007
Pumpkin Smile

Addendum: Halloween Morning

I woke the Tuxers up early this morning:

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Rise and Shine, Tuxers!

I then realized the Tuxers had been unhappy as I have been using Windows XP on my back porch since I haven’t yet configured wireless for Ubuntu (I know it works, it’s just that I did a fresh install and haven’t yet configured it.) While at Staples yesterday I noticed there were some ethernet cables on sale, so I bought a few, including a 50 foot cable for just ten dollars. I then jury-rigged a direct link from my Linksys WRT54GL router — which runs OpenWRT LInux — to my back porch:

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Note blue ethernet cable from window to back porch

I then booted up Ubuntu and showed the Tuxers that I was now able to run Ubuntu on the back porch, and that I had posted their picture on my blog’s home page:

Halloween-2007 009Tuxers: “You get it, Dave.”

It’s a bit cold today, so I fired up a small space heater I use to keep my hands warm. The Tuxers then came over to investigate this strange new device, probably to see if it was supported by Ubuntu. I didn’t let them know that it was a heater.

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Tuxers: Is there a Linux device driver for this?

The Tuxers are already #14 on the Google list of matches for “tuxers,” just a day after I first announced their existence. I’ll update this when they reach #1, and will flog this blog as needed to achieve that goal.

Notes:

1. Those in the LTC will understand why Diane suggested I use Smart’s office, for I was about to have a call with Mark V, a famed LTC member who has been continuously on the phone talking about Linux since before Linus started writing it.

2. (Added 10/31/2007) I just noticed that someone reached my blog by searching for “adobe acrobat error 1336,” proving I am not the only Adobe customer who has had this problem.

Open Source Divertimento K. 2007

I was asked to give a brief presentation on open-source to a group of Austrian officials from the government and public sector on Monday, October 22, 2007. I learned that while the officials were guests of IBM, their trip was funded by an organization in Austria, and also that there would be software vendors present.

I thus made only limited mention of IBM’s business activities around open-source, and briefly described two proposals that I had handled that I thought were memorable.

The first was to honor a request by Prof. Scott Fahlman of Carnegie-Mellon University that he be given permission to take back to CMU work he had done while visiting IBM Research. This request was honored by releasing the code to him under an open-source license. Prof. Fahlman has gained some deserved recognition as the inventor of the smiley, for he was the first to use a colon followed by a right parenthesis in an email to indicate an emotion.

The second was to honor a request made by an IBM employee in the Netherlands. Knowing he had a a terminal illness, he asked on his last day at IBM that IBM release some code he had written as open-source, and IBM honored this request. (I described this incident in a post I wrote last year, Kaddish. )

Otherwise I based my presentation on my volunteer activities.

By way of introduction, I made mention that I had visited Austria in the summer of 2005, visting Vienna, where I stayed in a hotel that was in a building in which Mozart had once resided, as well as a visit to Salzburg, Mozart’s birthplace. So I began by putting up a video clip that shows some students at the University of Texas performing “Ecco La Marcia” from Mozart’s opera, The Marriage of Figaro, K492.


Open Source Divertimento K. 2007

Introduction / Summary

Welcome

Fanfare

I’m Dave Shields. I joined IBM Research in 1987. Philippe Charles and I wrote a Java compiler called Jikes. It was released in late 1998 as IBM’s first open-project. I ran the Jikes project throughout 1999. I left Research in early 2003 to join the team that manages IBM’s day-to-day activities in open-source. See BIO for more
details, and also the video interview Me Tube

eGovernment

Some things are so important they should be completely open. No company should seek commmercial advantage here. No member of the community should take advantage of another.

Examples:

  • Humanitarian assistance: Sahana
  • Public and other government records. For example, I have ancestors who were born in Massachusetts around 1650. How will my descendants access my birth certificate, etc.? Microsoft Word V2240?
  • Improving the environment
  • Pandemic response. IBM Research working on this
  • Developing economies of underdeveloped countries: Ubuntu,
  • Fighting terrorism
  • Honoring Fallen Soldiers

Education

IBM’s Commitment to be a Responsible Corporate Citizen

IBM has a commitment to be a responsible corporate citizen going back to shortly after the company was founded. Current work on this is supervised by IBM Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs (CCCA).

Corporate Citizenship: Sahana

CCCA approached me in late 2005 seeking help in encouraging IBMers with coding skills to support Sahana, a Free and Open Source Disaster Management system.

LTC Colleague Rob Eggers joined the team in March, 2006.

Rob was called while on vacation this past August, and asked to fly to Peru to help IBM Peru deal with the aftermath of a devastating earthquake. He spent a week there, during which he met with the Prime Minister of Peru. This is an example of the ways in which volunteer efforts can bring unexpected and valuable opportunities.

Corporate Citizenship: Reinventing Education

Former IBM CEO Lou Gerstner commits IBM to improving education over a decade ago;
current CEO Sam Palmisano honors that commitment.

I started blogging in early 2006. My first post is about
education
. This is part of my volunteer work, done on my own time and my own dime.

I have published more than 400+ posts to date. Most are about open-source and/or education.

Highlights:

Other Volunteer efforts:

Resources

Thank You!

Andiamo!


Afterword: I had an hour-long discussion with Isabel Wang last Friday, as one of her recent blog posts helped inspire me to start the The Women In Technology Project. She said, after I had spent a few minutes describing some of IBM’s philanthropic activities, that learning about them had changed her opinion of IBM, and she now helder IBM in much higher esteem.

Notes:

1. Mozart was a prolific composed, though the world lost an unknown amount of wonderful music due to his death before the age of forty. His manuscripts were ordered in the form of the Köchel catalogue, a monumental piece of scholarship, and his works have ever since been identified by their “Kochel number,” usually abbreviate with the letter “K”. For example, the The Marriage of Figaro is K. 492.

I used K. 2007 in the title of the presentation as it was first given in 2007. I used “Divertimento” as my wife’s favorite piece of music is Mozart’s Divertimento, K 364.

The WordPress Sandbox Theme

One of the advantages of WordPress is that it supports and uses Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) technology.

The most obvious example of CSS can be found in the list of “themes” a WordPress blogger can find via Dashboard->Presentation->Themes. You can try out various themes. If you find one you prefer to your current theme, then you can change the appearance of your blog by the press of a web button.

For example, you can see different themes at the Fallen Soldiers and Chay Project sites.

A few days I started a new project, Python Bytes. Wanting a very clean appearance for this project, which will explore the programing language Python, I searched through the current inventory of themes.

I settled on one I hadn’t seen before, as I was stunned by its simplicity when I first tried it out. Indeed, it is the theme closest to what I take as the gold standard of simple, unadorned, effective web site design: apache.org.

It was “Sandbox-10,” written by Andy Skelton and Scott Allan Wallick.

Well done, Andy and Scott! I suspect you are programmers at heart, and also folks who like to live a simple, default life. Kudos to you.

I learned later, as you can by yourself, that much of the simplicity derives from the design goal that this theme is both useful out of the box, and is also a good starting point for customization. See Sandbox Friday.

I have purchased the CSS upgrade option, and plan to explore it in the future, but for now I have many things to write about, notably the k12openminds07 conference, and so will attempt to avoid the temptation to diddle, fiddle, and twiddle.

Indeed, I will try to show my example my belief that things are best when kept simple, and so will see how far I can go with just the default Sandbox options.

A Woman in Technology: Pamela “PJ” Jones of Groklaw.net

I have just posted Woman in Technology: Pamela “PJ” Jones of Groklaw.net in the Women In Technology Project.

I expect there will be many more such posts, and I hope most of them will be written by women who are themselves women in technology.

Fading Fall

I’ve lived in or near New York City for over four decades.

These past few weeks have brought the most glorious Indian Summer I have yet seen — day after day of unusually warm weather for the last six weeks or so, weather that I have enjoyed while working on my back porch.

But I can sense those days will soon end, as I found it necessary this morning to wear a coat and hat, and also needed a small space heater to warm my hands, so I could work outside, where there is a slight breeze and the temperature is currently just fifty-five degrees:

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Brrrr…

Things are always better out in the open, whether it be outside the house, or outside the firewall, or in a school, or at a conference, or working with the open-source and open-technology communities.

Here’s a photo showing today’s traffic so far:

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WordPress TWWP Blog Stats, Friday, 1PM EDT, 27 October 2007, the day the invitation to PJ was sent.

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