Last call for ….

I haven’t posted anything in a while on this blog, and now I made the decision that this will not change: it is unlikely that this blog will be updated anytime soon. The reason is actually twofold:

I’m working full time as an Open Source/Linux consultant these days – and after work I do not really have the time nor the energy to invest even more time into Open Source (besides the Fedora packaging).
Company’s Blog
I was successful in convincing enough people in our company to start a blog – and I blog there since then, so when I get home I usually already have blogged about whatever comes to my mind.

That means effectively that you will not receive any more new posts here. It hurts my heart and kills kittens, but you can remove the blogfeed. @planets where I might still be listed at: please remove this blog feed as well.

However, if you *do* want to keep up with my thoughts: credativ’s company blog is working quite nice these days. Btw., in case you don’t know, credativ is an Open Source/Linux company and the one behind the Open Source Support Center (OSSC) and the Open Source Support Card (yeah, “catchy” names, I know). They are focussed on Open Source support (Linux-Support, PostgreSQL-Support, etc.) and have offices in DE, UK, US, etc. So the general topics are pretty close to this blog. If you look close you will recognize my style: short italic introduction, eye catcher on the upper right side, special headline markings for Howtos and Short Tips, and so on. Also, the categories are quite the same, and it is actually available in German and English. Also, I am not the only person writing there – one very active PostgreSQL developer keeps blogging there, if I want it or not. πŸ˜‰

However – it is a company blog, so you will (!) find information regarding the company itself, or newest marketing things. You are warned!

So this is it: the last post. Thanks everyone for wonderful years full of blogging, discussions, news, Howtos and good tips. So long, and thanks for the fish! πŸ™‚

What is “The Linux Community”?

Fedora is often called a non-community distribution because it is heavily supported by Red Hat and Red Hat has Veto rights in the board. Also, together with claims that Ubuntu is no Community distribution either it raises the question who and what defines the word community in this regard.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, a popular Linux blogger (definitely worth reading), stated today that the Linux community is dead. It died because distributions like Ubuntu and Fedora are influenced/controlled by commercial background and because the Linux Foundation introduced a new board of directors filled with people from big companies – which was nothing surprising, btw., but that’s not the point here.

If you share this point of view, what does community mean? When is something a community, who are the members, and maybe even more important: who are not? When is something not anymore a community?

Let’s start with the answer I read in Steve’s thoughts: non-free software inclusion is unacceptable inside The Community. Also, projects under the “control” of a non-democratic organization are not part anymore of The Community.
As a contrary example Steve mentions gNewSense, an Ubuntu based spin off only including Free Software.

Interesting – but not my point of view: The Linux Community is not a homogeneous group of people who are all equal! The Linux Community is far from that.
It consists of different individuals and of different groups. Several individuals share the same way of contributing to The Community, yes, but there are numerous ways to contribute. And that’s what forms The Community: contribution.

Following this thought, you can split up The Community into several parts: the developers who contribute code (obvious the center); the power users who contribute bug reports, howtos, packages and help (like I do); designers; interface experts; lawyers; journalists; documentation writers; people who coordinate events; people who spread the word, etc. In general: people who invest time and skills (or money) to push the idea of FLOSS or the FLOSS itself. So far about the individuals.
But there is more (and I think Steve would disagree here): some things are not contributed by individuals – they are contributed by organizations. And you can split up again: universities with FLOSS teaching schedules; companies sponsoring hardware; companies providing hardware specs; companies sponsoring events or donating money; foundations managing the legal background; companies developing the software; development organizing projects, etc. In general: every organization of any form which invests time and skills or money to push the idea of FLOSS or the FLOSS itself.

Think about Red Hat at this point: they organize, pay and support the Linux eco system in almost every way imaginable. They develop kernel code, Gnome code, X code, they bring up new programs and ideas, they write high quality howtos, sponsor events – and they even buy source code from others and release it under free licences. With all these contributions Red Hat is a quite big member of the community.
Is it worth more than other Community Members? Judging from the code definitely more worth than people like me who never contributed significant amounts of code. Judging from the “Linux to the desktops” point of view however the situation changes because Red Hat never really targeted the desktop for a long time and still has trouble finding the balance between Gnome and KDE (read: there is hardly any balance).

And now, what is a Community Distribution? Because according to Steve Fedora isn’t a Community Distribution…
This question equals if you think that there must be pure democracy inside of the Community Distribution. If you agree to that point of view than you’re left with Debian.
However, I cannot share this point of view. I gathered experiences about cooperation in communities in many different forms: political, environment protection groups, student groups, several forums, some wikis – and of course the Wikipedia. And out of these experiences I learned that democracy is not the most productive solution in every case. Of course it is in very many cases, especially these were you are forced to live and act together with others. The daily live shows that without democracy in the states we would be doomed.
But democracy might not be the solution of choice every time for creating something together with a set of volunteers. Wikipedia is the most prominent example: real democracy (despite the fact that it is impossible) would simply not work there and would harm the project massively. And no one would argue that Wikipedia is not a community.

So I do not see the democratic attempt as a must. It is good that some distributions pick it up, but not every one has to follow. Of course, a project totally controlled from above wouldn’t be better, but that’s out of question. No, there are enough intermediate solutions, and Fedora takes one of these ways.

As a result, the term “The Linux Community” applies to much more things as Steve said – and it is certainly not dead. Yes, The Community has changed over time, and it will continues to evolve. We might see even more companies, or maybe more artists or interface gurus or documentation ninjas.
But that’s ok, because everyone can join every time – as long as he/she makes him/herself to a real community member in the way all the others do it: by valuable contribution.

Fedora Project Structure

kOoLiNuS has a good post related to the Fedora Project: it shows an organizational chart of the structure of the Fedora Project he found at Wikipedia’s “Fedora Project” page. The author of that image is Nicubunu – well done, I like the design! And it shows pretty clearly who is where and where to ask in case of problems or questions.

Fedora Project organizational chart

Search machines and Wikipedia – discrimination…

Search machines are the usual tool everyone uses to find data in the internet. On the other hand, the Wikipedia is one of the typical places where you can find information (I do not judge now the quality of the information, that can be done somewhere else). So how are they connected? Which search machine delivers which search result?

The “Hommingberger Gepardenforelle” (german only, sorry)-test indicated already that MSN does not list the Wikipedia as soon as Google or Yahoo do. So I decided to take another test:
I took 500 featured articles of the german Wikipedia, and fed their titles into four search machines with different engines: Yahoo, Google, Seekport and MSN. I then checked the first ten pages if there was a link to the Wikipedia. If the link was on the first page, I gave 10 points, if it was on the second page, the search machine got 9 points, … – I think you got the idea: maximum 5,000.
What you have to keep in mind: the articles I took were the 500 oldest: that means that these are the longest existing still featured articles of the wikipedia (sometimes a featured article can be deselected). The advantage in this case is that these articles are around for a pretty long time and that every search machine had already more than enough time to index them.

The result is interesting, but not surprising:
comparison picture

So: what does it mean?
Well, Google is the Wikipedia-most-friendly – not surprising since it is somehow well known that google likes Wikipedia. They offered servers some time ago, for example. Yahoo is on the second place, close to Google, which is also not surprising since they works together with the Wikipedia Foundation. The third place belongs to Seekport, which is also close to the other two places. And MSN is the Wikipedia-least-friendly search machine, which is not surprising in a way since MSN has it’s own encyclopaedia which they probably prefer.

Without knowing the details of the ranking and rating algorithms of the search machines someone can only guess, but it is pretty clear that MSN heavily discriminates the Wikipedia compared to other search machines. Other questions come up know: who is also discriminated by MSN search? Other competitors like instant messengers? Other competitors like business software vendors? Other office suites? There can be also a hidden discrimination: imagine that you could not find howtos or something over MSN as long as you are searching for competitors software. And what is with the MSN desktop search? Does the desktop search also discriminate other things which competite with Microsoft?
And what is with opinions? Are they discriminated?

This means something for the Wikipedia, and it is nothing good: With MSN the Wikipedia falls behind the first pages, and is often listed somewhere in the back – if at all. Since the upcomming Vista will have MSN as standard search we will see the fall of Google to somewhere in the ranges of the usage of firefox today: used only by these who are willing and able to change the default settings, and this is a minority compared to the rest default-users. This has happened several times before with other companies which were attacked by the monopolist, and there is no reason why that should change this time.
Additionally there are rumors that Yahoo could be bought by Microsoft – with the result that soon Wikipedia should list Wikipedia in a similar way as MSN does.

So after Vista has spread over the most computers the Wikipedia will become more and more invisible since no one will find it through search results anymore. Sure, as with Google there will be quite a lot of people who are already used to the service and will continue using it, but no one can say at the moment how many these will be, and how big their influence will be – I’m just afraid that it will not count so much…

The conclusion: here is an advice for anyone using MSN (search) and likes Wikipedia: don’t use MSN. Or, to be political correct, you can also send the MSN team a mail that you don’t like their kind of rating and ranking in case of the Wikipedia and ask for other discriminations – would be the first time the monopolist would move πŸ˜‰

A visit, an evolution and a 3.0

Today a guy came over to visit me and to chat a little bit – he is new in town, an exchange student like I am here, and I shared some experiences and got some stories about south east asia back πŸ™‚
The technical interesting part began when I wanted to give him a taste how my home town where I normally study looks like: I showed him some pictures from the realted Wikipedia article, and it turned out that he never heared of Wikipedia before – that’s surprising because he is after all a nature science student who seems to use the internet a lot. Ok, it turned out that he never heard of Linux also, but that’s not surprising.
But that Wikipedia was unknown to him shocked me a little – Wikipedia is the biggest and easiest example for “Free as in free speech”. No other project is so well known even to non-techies. Well, I hope he will have a second look at it…

Besides that I found two interesting articles today. The first one is about the evolution of Fedora Core, my preferred Linux distribution. It’s nothing special, but nice to read, gives a good overview, and reminded me of what I was feeling/doing, when I was at one of the stages of Fedora Core.

The other article is linked in this evolution page: it is a link to thoughts about Gnome 3.0.
I asked myself some times if the gnome folks will have a brake like KDE, or if they are going to have incompatibilities between gnome 2.x and 2.(x+2) – and I always wanted to know what their long term vision is. Well, here is a first draft.
It is not suprising that the long term vision is similar to the visions of other desktops: full integration of personal information management, better management of documents and objects, more shine multimedia integration.
Beyond that some aims remind me of some KDE 4 aims, which is again not surprisingly because both are Open Source desktops, both are similar in a way, and both have similar problems. One of them is real multimedia integration, another one is developing to a plattform instead of a set of chosen software. And both plan to bring the desktop experience to Windows. It is a brave step to attack the dictator in his own palace…

It is nice to see that the gnome folks are developing their ideas and visions also – that can only help KDE 4 through comparing, rechecking, working together at same aims, and evolving in a friendly competition.

Keep on the good work πŸ™‚