For those on this side of the Atlantic and therefore not in bed, many of the OSDN sites were down all morning including Slashdot, Freshmeat and most importantly for me, Sourceforge. Sourceforge occasionally has some downtime, something that some people moan about, but since they provide a ton of bandwidth and facilities for free (except for the optional yearly subscription that I happily pay) I say we can’t complain. However this time, absolutely everything was offline, CVS and Subversion servers, their own cached site, everything.
A few weeks ago I posted a rant about how companies keep way more code to themselves than makes any rational sense, under the pretense of protecting their competitive advantage. I asserted that in a large number of cases, what they’re keeping to themselves is actually exactly what everyone else is also developing internally, and also keeping to themselves in the hope that it’s worth something. Result - a ton of duplicated effort that is worth very little.
Firefox 3 is about to hit Release Candidate 1 any day now, and beta 5 is supposed to be pretty stable now, and since it can co-exist with Firefox 2 on Windows (not on OS X or Linux, mind) I thought I’d give it a try. And hey, it’s pretty damn cool. Outwardly when static you won’t notice a great deal of difference - the back / forward buttons are a little more compact, the icons are a little flashier in places and you have quite cool things like one-click bookmarking on the location bar (the little star icon - it’s gold when you’re on a bookmarked page already, outlined when you’re not), but otherwise just feels like Firefox 2, which is no bad thing.
They’re not announcing the results officially until tomorrow, but it appears that enough countries have changed their votes since September 2007 for OOXML to become an ISO standard. Some of the key ‘switchers’ responsible include the UK, Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Japan (all from No to Yes) and France (from No to Abstain). We need document standards to preserve business data over long periods and thus as a core principle it’s a good thing to have an ISO standard used by Microsoft Office, the dominant business office suite - and for good reason, it’s been a great product over many years.
Open Season is a podcast about open source issues, weighted towards the practical rather than the philosophical, and as such I tune into it regularly. Some are better than others, but I found the latest Episode 13 quite interesting for a number of reasons. They had an analyst from RedMonk on board this time, which was fascinating - RedMonk are (AFAIK) the only research firm that release their results openly rather than charging a few thousand for detailed papers, so they’re quire interesting.
Holy cow, the EC has now fined Microsoft a cumulative figure of £1.27bn (~$2.6bn) for what they say is the worst case of non-compliance with antitrust / competition law in 50 years. Even when set against the quadzillion dollars Microsoft makes every waking second that’s a pretty robust kick in the knackers if I ever saw one. The latest round covers the period where MS finally opened up some specs about desktop interoperability, but charged competitors disproportionate royalties to use them - supposedly because APIs now represent ‘significant innovation’ if you’re Microsoft, although in my opinion an API spec represents about as much innovation as my next shopping list.
I reprised my former role as ‘wizened business software guru’ last night by giving a presentation to my local developer community on Hibernate, the Java-based object-relational mapping system (ORM). I really like Hibernate; not only has it got an enormous amount of features, and performs really well, but it’s also built on very sound design principles. As someone who has used several ORMs in the past, and written a couple of my own going back a decade or so, I can appreciate the thought that has gone into it.
I often wish I could post more here about the work I do. It’s an unfortunate fact of the industry I work in that ‘innovation’ often also means ‘secrecy’, and such things generally go against my innate nature - I like to think of myself as a sharer of knowledge, an active participant in a global intellectual cauldron that spawned the open source development approach, among other things. When I find something out, I generally want to tell people - I want to show it to them, and have them pick it apart and give it back to me with a bunch of Post-It notes attached telling me all the things I did wrong and how I could make it better.
Big news today - Microsoft’s top executives have held a press conference, stating on record that they will be opening up access to APIs and protocols associated with Windows and related technologies to an unprecedented level. That means, among other things: It will publish full API documentation for Vista, Windows Server, .Net, SQL Server, Office, Exchange, Sharepoint and such It won’t sue open source developers working on non-commercial projects over patents It will charge “reasonable and non-discriminatory” royalty levels over patents for writers of commercial software implementing Microsoft APIs and protocols They will allow developers to plug-in new document formats to Office One of the key factors here is what “reasonable and non-discriminatory” royalty levels actually means - after all, non-commercial outfits aren’t a direct competitor for Microsoft’s core business customers, the offices which require that their infrastructure is provided by professional, commercial outfits.
I talked a few days back about my preferred Eclipse plugins, and that my chosen Subversion plugin was Subclipse. Subclipse has been going for many years which is why I instantly gravitated to it without really thinking about it, but David was good enough to recommend in the comments that I should take a look at an alternative: Subversive. Since Subclipse has been working just fine for me it took me a while to get around to doing it, but I finally did today.