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by jcannon on November 08, 2007 03:14pm
Our own Hank Janssen gives the Channel9 team an update on the work that has been done to provide a native driver to SQL Server for PHP.
"SQL Team Says: "The SQL Server Driver for PHP (October 2007) Community Technology Preview (CTP) is designed to enable reliable, scalable integration with SQL Server for PHP applications deployed on the Windows platform. The Driver for PHP is a PHP 5 extension that allows the reading and writing of SQL Server data from within PHP scripts. It provides a procedural interface for accessing data in all Editions of SQL Server 2005 and SQL Server 2000 (including Express Edition), and makes use of PHP features, including PHP streams to read and write large objects."
Wow. This is cool. Need to find out more about this. What exactly is this thing? Why did we create it? What are the platform requirments? Is it open source? Who are the folks behind this? You know the C9 drill. Tune in and meet SQLPHP Program Manager John Bocharov and Microsoft Open Source champion Hank Janssen who answer a bunch of questions and provide good context about the thinking behind SQLPHP, history and future. Check it out.
by Sam Ramji on November 08, 2007 10:05pm
Back in Windows 95, Microsoft made a major contribution to accessibility to computers for people with vision and hearing impairments: MSAA, or Microsoft Active Accessibility. At that time it was an additional download, but from Windows 98 on this technology was built into the OS.
MSAA allows users to run screen readers, Braille devices, and other accessibility technologies that work across multiple desktop programs without requiring custom adapters for each program. Back in 2000, Rob Sinclair, now our Director of Accessibility, published the architecture for MSAA. It continues to be a core part of the OS in Windows Vista (detailed information here: http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms788733.aspx )
Why am I talking about this? It’s background for some work we’ve been developing with Novell to improve cross-platform accessibility experiences, which we’ve announced today – work by Rob Sinclair and Norm Hodne at Microsoft and Michael Meeks at Novell, along with our legal teams.
Update: See Michael Meeks' blog on the work here: http://www.gnome.org/~michael/activity.html#2007-11-09
The User Interface Automation (UIA) specification is an advanced accessibility framework, and we are releasing this to the community, including an irrevocable pledge of patent rights for anyone implementing the specification. Novell will build a Linux implementation of the UIA and an adapter to make it work well with Linux accessibility projects. This will mean an advance in interoperable accessibility.
We’ve already gotten great responses from the National Federation for the Blind in the U.S. and from Janina Sajka, the head of the Open Accessibility Work Group at the Linux Foundation.
It is great to see the industry coming together with specs, words, and code to build a better world for people with disabilities.
by Sam Ramji on November 09, 2007 06:59pm
Sam recently interviewed Daniel Lopez, Founder and CTO and Erica Brescia, CEO of Bitrock from their Spain headquarters. Daniel and Erica discuss their experiences and challenges developing open source applications and launching the BitNami project. BitRock makes open source software easier to use by providing a complete automated solution for Open Source Application Deployment.
by jcannon on November 20, 2007 02:19pm
Abstract: We have all run into cases where Windows fails to load for one reason or another. The problem may be hardware or a software failure, and the problem may seem to be irrecoverable. Yet often Linux can be used to help recover data that otherwise might be lost. Another application of using Linux recovery is in the creation of disk images for post-mortem analysis of security breaches. While such images are not created according to forensics standards (which usually requires special hardware) and would not be likely to be of help in legal cases, they are helpful in internal reviews following such incidents.
Note: This paper represents testing and documentation in a lab environment. User Account Control (UAC) is an essential security component to Windows and Microsoft does not recommend turning off UAC in production environments.
by jcannon on December 11, 2007 04:22pm
Abstract: This paper is written for a somewhat technical audience and covers how the identity management expectations differ between the Windows Server platform and Linux - and how Windows Server can be used to manage both. This paper assume that the reader is familiar with general Windows administration tasks, such as user management.
by billhilf on December 14, 2007 06:00pm
It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to blog. It is usually on airplane time that I do any blogging, and since I haven’t flown in a while, I guess that will be my excuse. I’m on my way to Asia, currently over eastern Russian airspace, which means I’m hours from anywhere, so I’ve opened my ‘blog ideas’ folder and there is literally a books worth of stuff in here so I’m going to cherry pick a few ideas that I think are worth connecting.
Over the past year, I’ve had this ‘six degrees of separation’ phenomenon stuck in my head (I think this idea originated in Milgram’s ‘small world experiments’). You’ve all heard about the ‘Six degrees of Kevin Bacon’ game, and it’s always fun to mind bend weird connections with movie trivia buffs. There’s a web site that does this now with IMDB data called the Oracle of Bacon. It’s been on my mind because of personal ‘degree connections’ in my personal and professional life – meeting a stranger at a wedding in California who sings in the choir with my cousin in a small town in Massachusetts; interviewing a guy for a job at Microsoft who, by random coincidence, had worked on some of my (horrid) code ten years ago and remembered my name from a joke I left in the comments above one particularly nasty function. The latter example only ‘clicked’ for this interview candidate after I told them *the same joke* in the interview: “I actually read that joke before in some old crap C code.” I told him that was my code. He blinked. We had about 30 seconds of weird vibe right after that.
We hear it again and again: ‘It’s a small world.’ – But when a series of these connections happen, you start to wonder and do some probability math*. I’ll save my own experiments for later, but it did get me thinking on how communities grow, shrink, expand, contract and (sometimes inexplicably) persist. It’s the latter part that I’ve been focusing on a lot: what keeps the degrees connected and why are some communities stickier than others?
I think a simple answer is enough ‘matter’ to create a gravity that keeps activity in some type of steady orbit. If there’s enough matter and gravity, not only does the community start to find critical mass to persist, it also creates the environment for further creation - in other words, hacking and incrementing the original theme. This is fundamental to the Architecture of Participation, as well.
If you can suspend disbelief just enough to agree that this ‘six degrees’ concept does happen on certain occasions, and that it can be intentionally fostered (ala MySpace, Facebook, etc.) - then I think that also suggests that one can create an environment designed for powerful connections and collaboration. It’s certainly not the only way to innovate ideas, but it is a proven method realized through online connectivity to other people.
Here’s an example. I play World of Warcraft (WoW), which is a massively multiplayer online role playing game; a sizeable community of about 8.5 million players. To say that it’s a popular video game is an understatement. In fact, ‘world of warcraft’ outpaces ‘open source’ in raw search volume if that’s any indicator ;) (see below)
world of warcraft
As it turns out, a bunch of other Microsoft employees play this game too. And we communicate about the game on an internal email alias. Some play on the same servers together, but most of the discussion is idea sharing, questions on items or skills, or general chat about the next patch. It’s a good list. Not surprisingly, a lot of these people are developers or testers or marketers or IT folks - so you get a range of experience outside of the game subjects, with a blending and morphing of ideas about the subject (the game) influenced and shaped by their domain of experience.
As you can imagine, I add little value here other than waxing about my mad skills as a warlock. But a few guys in the Visual Studio team wanted to use their product to make writing World of Warcraft Add-ons a lot easier (essentially, personally created UI extensions that can enhance the game experience). So they did and created a very cool Visual Studio shell for WoW. AddOn Studio for World of Warcraft is a free tool designed to bring a Visual Studio-like experience to building World of Warcraft Addons. The tool itself is based on the Visual Studio Shell, and it’s now an open source project hosted on CodePlex – licensed under the Microsoft Public License. It will make writing Add-ons for WoW significantly easier (and likely more enjoyable). Some key features include:
Here’s a bit on news about it and below is what it looks like
How is this related? It shows how ‘matter’ (in this case a game) created gravity (a gaming community) inside another community (Microsoft employees). As it turned out, there were some WoW players who develop Add-ons who were part of this community*. Some of these folks were in the Visual Studio group and wanted to use Visual Studio to enhance the add-on development experience. So they did. Then they shared this on the email list, for ideas and suggestions (the bug bash happened this last weekend). This ‘chain lightning’ effect will now continue through the broader OSS community. And this is for a video game -- think about the same framework for healthcare, where a community of machine learning experts working on anti-spam related algorithms saw the connection to HIV vaccine research and similarly are creating ‘matter’ with a community (codeplex) in an effort to continue the innovation. Hacking anti-spam algorithms for vaccine research and sowing it in a broader community.
Mark Granovetter's observed that it is "the strength of weak ties" that holds together a social network – and if this is true (which has been demonstrated in network modeling), then the combination of structured, formal communities with ad-hoc or weakly connected communities can be amazingly powerful. We often focus on one or the other (particularly in technical community discussions) and not the intersection, which is where I feel the magic can be created.
It’s particularly interesting to view this beyond the individual, to do this with a team, an organization, or an entire company. Not simply obvious ‘partnerships’ mind you, these are fairly formulaic (important, but well understood), but the intersection of non-obvious connections. In my experience, this is the real magic of community and open source, and I can think of many projects that evolved this way. However, it’s the right community that makes the difference – we often get locked up on other things and forget that the right people and the right forum make all the difference.
>>Picking up this blog again and I am returning from Asia, I sit down to settle in for a long haul flight, turn to my left and meet the stranger seated next to me – turns out he knows my wife’s cousin’s husband, they were childhood friends. I blink. Then (as a test) I tell him the joke I mentioned above – thankfully he’d never heard it before.
Until next time, game on.
* Kleinfield has an interesting paper that questions the ‘six degrees’/small world theories here. I love her term ‘intellectual furniture’
* Some of these folks have written more than 7 or 8 add-ons in their personal time, and there’s a load of other projects on Codeplex, from all sorts of people, which further mod, extend, and enhance playing WoW .
by jcannon on December 19, 2007 08:49am
I spend a significant amount of my time crisscrossing Microsoft, looking for (and advocating) interesting ways that our research and development teams are adopting open approaches in their work. It’s not terribly difficult - and, in fact, increasingly easy to find areas where sharing code, participating in community and collaborating with the commercial open source industry are part of what we do every day. As part of my role as an open source community & platforms lead, growing this list is core to my job. And in blogging more actively on Port 25, I'm excited about discussing and expanding this list out in the open.
That said, once in awhile something different comes along...and in my crisscrossing this weekend, something different popped for me. As a former web developer, I have a special place in my heart for the developer tools we offer to build web experiences. I can recall using FrontPage '97 to develop simple WYSIWYG websites (*WYSIWYG, admittedly, was on a journey then...still is) and patching together Imagemaps with hand-calc'd coordinates; the joy of Photoshop and installing Kai's Power Tools for the visual fun of it, or the pain of Paint Shop Pro and transparent GIFs circa 1996. Dreamweaver was doing some interesting things and Visual Studio was starting to get more and more web-centric. Ahhh, the days of Web 1.0.
Additionally, as a former IS major, I also have a special place in my heart for development on a budget. Those dispositions keep me acutely aware of what goes on with our Express products - and it caught my eye when I started skimming across the refreshed Express site.
A lot of folks aren't aware that Microsoft offers a free-as-in-beer line of development tools for application, game & web development. We call these 'Express' - and there are four editions: Visual Web Developer 2008, Visual C++ 2008 Express, Visual Basic 2008 Express and Visual C# 2008 Express. There is even a free version of SQL Server 2005 in Express which provides complimentary database services during development. They've been available for a few years, but they were recently rev'd with enhancements from Visual Studio 2008. With my job at Microsoft focused on open source so acutely, I figured I would take them for a test drive & see how easy it would be to get started. The real test, though? How easy would it be to start using this app if I was a Ruby, or PHP developer (Truth be told - I am not, nor was I during my development days) – but these are different times and those are popular choices. It’s a quick litmus test I’m thinking of using more often…because I do get asked frequently about Microsoft’s support of programming languages and frameworks beyond .NET.
Setup is straightforward - download, run the wizard & choose additional (free) documentation and development options like SQL Express. Click Next & you're set on your way. Note: you do need Windows XP or later to run an Express tool.
After VS Express is installed, the welcome center offers multiple ways to get started via community sample code, beginning programming resources, guided videos and relevant articles from a variety of online communities.
So I tried a quick test. In two-clicks, I went to "Help" and "Search" - and typed in 'PHP'. Here are the automatic & dynamically returned search results:
I immediately get source code samples to begin programming (from MSDN); SQL Server samples for data access and more from the Codezone Community and direct links into community forum posts. Right away, these are pretty useful tools to get started with.
Ruby is a very popular language - so let's try this one more time with 'Ruby':
Again, that’s not bad for a quick and dirty search. I get relevant programming articles, opinion pieces, sample code and more. It’s all hyperlinked out into the web, so I can easily jump-off and explore at my own discretion, or as I’m inclined to do…lose myself in a trail of links, only to recall my original point hours later. (Case in point )
The point I walked away with, in all seriousness, is that the spirit of Port25 is spreading at Microsoft & the proof is in the programming. It's exciting to see these offerings baked in from day one & I encourage you to take one of the Express offerings for a spin & post your feedback - what are your impressions?
On Port 25, I'll continue to highlight examples like this, and expand on my role at Microsoft and how we're working on growing the role of open source within Microsoft's DNA. For now, though, I have to dust off my copy of Jakob Nielsen's Designing Web Usability and wax nostalgic with some old friends.
by Sam Ramji on December 19, 2007 11:03pm
First, let me say thanks to Jeremy Allison and Andrew Tridgell for their decades of hard work and their optimism.
Back in March, Jeremy invited me to talk about Samba and Microsoft, and how we could work together. It turned out that our first opportunity to meet was actually at the annual Samba developers’ conference, SambaXP in Gottingen, Germany in late April. I spent three days there listening to the Samba Team's reports on work they were doing, their observations relating to Microsoft protocols, and at breakfast with Tridge, Jeremy, and other team members we established a potential roadmap for collaboration. Frankly, I think my commitments were viewed with disbelief by some but with cautious optimism by Tridge and Jeremy – as well as by Dan Shearer and by John Terpstra, a man of vision and entrepreneurial spirit.
I worked with legal and engineering teams at Microsoft once I returned from Germany, and over a few weeks in May I got consensus that we could help the Samba Team by delivering on the roadmap. This included donating software licenses (MSDN Premium subscriptions) to the core team, building a test bed and beginning to share testing tools, preserving the UNIX extensions in CIFS to ensure that the work Jeremy and Steve French were doing would continue to be compatible with Microsoft implementations, accepting Samba Team’s observed bugs in Microsoft’s CIFS implementation and vice versa, providing some technical support on CIFS questions, and sending Microsoft engineers to the CIFS Conference @ Google in September 2007.
About the same time, Tom Hanrahan of IBM’s Linux Technology Center and the OSDL joined my team at Microsoft. His experience in working with Linux – and with Tridge – made it clear that we could sustain the work required to support the roadmap. Apart from his three decades of software engineering and management, one of Tom’s greatest assets is his combination of patience and perseverance; we knew it would take time and progress would be slow, but worthwhile. We’re still early in the process of doing joint testing and engineering with the Samba Team, and have many milestones to achieve (for example, shared test suites & frameworks). Thanks to Tom’s work with key engineers and managers in the company, we have already made progress and are committed to the long term.
Based on the dialog we’d established with Tridge and Jeremy, when the European Commission published the terms that would satisfy them in regards to Microsoft protocols, I saw an opportunity to continue aligning our work with the Samba Team. The terms were good, but the Samba team wanted Microsoft to make some changes to fully conform with the existing practices of the Samba developer community. Jeremy and Tridge saw the opportunity as well, and thus began a 6+ week process of improving and correcting the agreement to arrive at terms that both dramatically expanded their access to protocol information and enabled the Team to continue developing Samba as they have in the past. Attorneys and technologists (always an odd combination) on both sides worked hard to refine the language and do so in a clear and cooperative way. The discussions were masterfully led by Microsoft’s GM of Protocol Programs, Craig Shank (ex-Lineo!) and Samba’s Andrew Tridgell.
Today the Samba Team announced that they’re satisfied with the agreement, and are taking a Work Group Server Protocol Program (WSPP) trade secret and copyright license. This will give them access to Microsoft specifications for the protocols in WSPP (such as file, print, and user and group administrative services) and allow the Samba Team to create, use, and distribute implementations. I expect that this will significantly improve the process of Samba development, and produce better quality interoperation between Windows and Linux/UNIX environments.
What this process has shown me is that if we focus on technology, and patient, diligent execution, we can make real progress together.
This is a historic moment, and one that I’m proud of. But it is only a moment, and now it’s time to get back to working on interoperability, one day at a time.
by MJM on December 21, 2007 03:49pm
When I introduce myself around here, I usually lead with the caveat: I am not technical. It’s true, I played around with BASIC as a kid, and, in high school, I tore apart a series of Apples in the generally vain attempt to understand how they worked. I even went to university to study electrical engineering and robotics. But I only made it two years in that because, when all was said and done, I simply wasn’t very good at the technical bits and bytes.
I grew up thinking I wanted to study artificial intelligence. Turns out, I was more interested in the “intelligence” than the “artificial.” Much to my parents’ chagrin, that realization led first to the study of philosophy and then to academia. Ultimately, I ended up in the law, where I spent the last 8 years.
About 10 months ago, I left my practice and joined Microsoft. Now, here I am on the Community Platform team at Microsoft, blogging on Port 25. If you are asking yourself why, I don’t blame you. I’ve asked myself that question more than once since I’ve been on board. :)
Most see open source as a technical phenomenon, and indeed it is one of the more important movements in software development of the last decade or so. However, it’s also a legal, sociological and, in many ways, a philosophical phenomenon. These latter aspects make “open source” a fascinating subject for someone with my background.
Bryan has blogged several times about the concept of “participation.” Participation – and the related ideas of access, inclusion and collaboration – are vital concerns in a world of rapidly increasing information and expanding access. When you also consider Bill’s recent blog about networks and “six-degrees of separation,” you can tell that participation and the community it engenders are constantly on our minds around here.
These concepts are fundamental aspects of open source and the focus of my job. As the open source research and policy lead, I examine how Microsoft can better understand and participate in the open source community and how, through its participation, Microsoft can create more opportunity for software developers and users around the world.
Thus, I’m pleased to announce a couple of our activities in 2008 that I hope will advance knowledge and understanding of how IT-based communities come into being and best grow and function.
The first of these is a paper award we will be sponsoring with International Network of Social Network Analysts (INSNA). This award will go to papers that focus on empirical studies of collaboration and collective development of software projects, including the development of open-source software. Related collective products like documentation, support, and design and studies that highlight important group processes and practices associated with robust software will also be considered. More information about INSNA can be found at www.insna.org. The site is undergoing a migration and revision, and the details of the paper awards will be posted in January when the new site goes live. The second activity is Microsoft’s sponsorship of the Computer and Information Technologies Section of the American Sociological Association’s (CITASA) pre-conference and graduate workshop on July 31, 2008 in Boston. This event combines a pre-conference on information and communication technologies (ICTs) and "Worlds of Works," building on the theme of the 103rd annual meeting of the ASA, and a workshop for 20 selected graduate students researching any aspect of the sociology of communications or information technologies.
The program will include a keynote address by the winner of the "Microsoft CITASA Port 25 Award," a series of presentations on ICTs and the sociology of work, especially in distributed and virtual environments, and a series of select student presentations of work-in-progress (on diverse themes within the sociological study of communications and IT) to both a general audience and to a mentor panel of well known and established researchers in the field. For more information, visit http://citasa.ist.psu.edu/pre-conference. These activities are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Microsoft’s open source involvement. From contributing code to developing concepts, Microsoft is actively engaged in open source, and is getting more involved daily. I am delighted to spend my time thinking about new ways we can learn about and participate in the open source community. Working with this team and many other people across Microsoft to change (as Bryan puts it) the company’s open source “DNA” is a lot of fun, and I can’t wait to see what we’ll do next. I anticipate and welcome your feedback as we continue to move forward, together.
by jcannon on January 10, 2008 01:57pm
It's going to be a busy couple months in the open source industry, with a number of influential conferences convening over the next six months to discuss the latest issues, advances and topics facing OSS. More on those later, but I wanted to get something quick up on one in particular that Microsoft is participating in - the MySQL User Conference in April. Folks may remember our sponsorship in 2007, (Bryan has a good read on this) - and I'm happy to continue this support and participation.
As part of our sponsorship, we've negotiated a discount for registration we can extend to our community. If you're interested in attending, register at http://www.mysqlconf.com and enter code: mys08micr. This will give you a discount of 10% against the cost of your ticket....we hope to see you there.
PS. Thank you to our friends at MySQL, in particular Kaj Arno for the continued support. (Kaj - thanks for the calendar ;))
by jcannon on January 25, 2008 06:58pm
Abstract: The Apache authentication module mod_auth_kerb allows Apache to authenticate users against a Kerberos KDC including one from ActiveDirectory. Kerberos itself can be fairly complex to set up. This guide will attempt to show the specific steps required to make this possible as well as discuss security limitations specific to the interoperability matters. This guide assumes a basic understanding of Kerberos V and that the Active Directory domain controller is properly configured prior to starting this process.
by Paula Bach on February 05, 2008 09:29pm
My last blog was about me traveling to Limerick and Toronto. I have now defended my dissertation proposal and passed. (Yay!) Here is a funny story. A week before the proposal defense I created my presentation and rehearsed it every day until the third day before when I began to get a sore throat. I don’t think it was from rehearsing the presentation or nerves or anything like that. Instead it was just a bug that was going around. Lots of students are sick at the end of fall semester. Anyway, two days before my defense I was getting a froggy voice, so I did not talk all day long. The day before the defense my voice was really raspy. The night before I worked on saving my larynx by gargling with salt water and any remedy I could find online. I woke up at 4AM the day of the defense and tried to speak a word. Nothing but a squawk came out. I had lost my voice. Because it is really difficult to get committee members together, the show had to go on. So at 9AM I stood up in front of my committee and a few fellow graduate students and began to squawk my way through the well-rehearsed presentation. It was not fun to look at the audience trying not to look disturbed at the sound of my voice.
Finally, after about the fifth slide, one committee member stopped me and asked the rest if they could just go into the discussion and skip the presentation. Everyone agreed and I listened to 5 professors, all of whom I respect a great deal discuss the merits and faults of my research. It was really an enlightening experience because I cannot think of another time when I will get five really smart people in one room discussing my research to make it better. In the end I came out with some ideas to rework my plan. The committee agreed that I was trying to do too much and advised that I choose one of the two parts. The first part, understanding FLOSS usability in general through the survey, observations, and interviews is almost done, and I have learned a lot, but the second part, designing a tool for CodePlex to support usability activities is not only more interesting, but also part of the agreement between IST and Microsoft. I came up with a new direction based on more literature I have gathered. The first exciting addition is the use of a theory to guide the design and research. I will use activity theory because it can handle people, both from an individual and social level, and artifacts. It also considers context and the dynamics of activities. Other HCI theories, for example, distributed cognition, handle people at the individual and social levels, and artifacts, but does not specifically take into account context and dynamics of activities. I am also using a methodological approach called action research. Action research is a practical approach to research where solving problems leading to intervention is a collaborative act between researcher and practitioner. I am a practical kind of researcher so this approach suited the project and me best.
I will be working with Microsoft UX people and the CodePlex team to integrate usability support for the CodePlex community site. I will also be working with a few projects hosted on CodePlex to help with the design.
by MJM on February 07, 2008 09:45am
In reading Jamie’s recent blog post on software and engineering excellence here at Microsoft, I got to thinking broadly about the impact of access on innovation. Obviously, the constant advances in software technology have not occurred in a vacuum. They are the result of people within and outside IT companies who have created, shared and borrowed from each other to create new and better products.
The expansion of the knowledge sources and markets through exploitation of internal and external options has been referred to as “open innovation,” and is described by Henry Chesbrough (who coined the term) in Open Innovation: Researching a New Paradigm as:
“Open Innovation is a paradigm that assumes that firms can and should use external ideas as well as internal ideas, and internal and external paths to market, as they look to advance their technology. Open Innovation processes combine internal and external ideas into architectures and systems. The business model utilizes both external and internal ideas to create value, while defining internal mechanisms to claim some portion of that value. Open Innovation assumes that internal ideas can also be taken to market through external channels outside the current business of the firm, to generate additional value.”
A couple of graphical representations I came across recently help make this clearer (from www.openinnovation.eu/openinnovatie.php). The first represents the traditional “closed innovation” R&D model:
In this diagram, the firm boundaries are represented by solid lines, indicating that the company’s ideas all come from within, and they are pushed out within the traditional market paths. Compare that approach to the “open innovation” model:
In this diagram, the firm boundaries are indicated with broken lines, illustrating the free flow of ideas into and out of the company throughout the research and development processes.
Thus, Open Innovation is at base the strategic modification and/or removal of traditional barriers to knowledge sharing and market access to maximize the values of ideas.
Such an approach is contrary to the traditional notion of siloed, jealously-guarded development. Traditionally, companies like AT&T, IBM, Apple and for that matter Microsoft have made billions relying solely on their own people and ideas. But in the interconnected world, a guarded approach to R&D is becoming less realistic and, more importantly, less productive. It is almost impossible to corral ideas when massive amounts of information can be transmitted easily and instantaneously almost anywhere in the world. And, even when it is possible, doing so deprives a company (and arguably society) of the immense power of collaboration.
Ah, there’s that word: “collaboration.” It’s the magic term of the new millennium, but what does it really mean when we get down to brass tacks (or better yet, dollars)? I came across a brilliant example of money-driven collaboration recently in the Innocentive website. This site matches “seekers” and “solvers” in an “Open Innovation Marketplace” and claims to have over 135,000 solvers in 175 countries over 40 different disciplines. The website promises cash awards of up to $1M for solutions to big, industry problems. This approach has been called “crowdsourcing” and “mob wisdom,” and it represents a fascinating, if extreme, example of the open innovation principle.
However, can a business survive solely on an external community for its new ideas? Companies such as Dell, Eli Lilly, Proctor & Gamble, Google, and Best Buy have reportedly turned to crowdsourcing for new ideas, but you don’t see them jettisoning their R&D departments. There’s still a lot of value to be gained from in-house research and development. The key is finding the balance and using multiple avenues of knowledge creation. As Joel West and Scott Gallagher point out “a central concern to open innovation is how to best use the internal R&D capabilities of the firm to maximum advantage…successful approaches will often combine a variety of approaches.”
In my next blog post, I want to look at the interplay between open source and innovation in software generally and discuss Microsoft’s approach in particular. That approach, like all attempts to harness open innovation, is open to critical analysis, but there are sound business reasons for it. I intend to make a discussion of those reasons an important focus of my blogging here on Port 25.
by jcannon on February 12, 2008 10:21am
Abstract: By many estimates, Apache is the world's most popular web server software, hosting more than half of active domains according to Netcraft. Typically, Apache is run on Linux or UNIX, but it runs quite well on Windows. This paper provides an introduction to running this software on Windows and provides a framework for understanding how Apache on Windows is fundamentally different from Apache on Linux.
Download Installing Apache on Windows
Note:This paper represents testing and documentation in a lab environment. User Account Control (UAC) is an essential security component to Windows and Microsoft does not recommend turning off UAC in production environments.
by Brett Shoemaker on February 13, 2008 11:31am
I continue to be surprised by the amount of weight given to downloads as a metric for OSS success. A topic Matt Asay also touched on recently over at The Open Road. Like Matt, I’m talking OSS at the product or company level (i.e., not OSS projects) and by success I mean sales.
For me, a high number of downloads only signals that people are willing to trial a product. Downloads do not equal actual use of the product, and trial is a far cry from success. If we take it as a given that consumers see value in the product, the company still has to convert those downloads into paying customers, and this challenge is where the problems of using downloads as an indicator of success become apparent.
The first problem is that not all downloads are created equal. If downloads are from commercial buyers who want to “try before they buy,” then increasing downloads is a good thing, whether open source or not (e.g., Microsoft’s Express Editions). However, if one’s downloads are largely by enthusiasts where no procurement channel exists, then the value of those downloads, beyond possibly generating demand for the product from the bottom up, is minimal when one is going after IT leaders who buy commercial products. It is the conversions that matter, and not the downloads.
Now, I realize that number of downloads will continue to receive attention as an indicator of success in open source. It is an easy metric to track, and while a less-is-more argument can be made in specific cases, I would rather see more downloads than not. That said, total downloads is still misleading.
Different products have different potential market sizes, so total downloads cannot be used to make comparisons across a number of products. Total downloads simply doesn’t provide a robust enough picture. It is the equivalent of saying that Company X is successful solely because it generates $250 million in revenue. Revenue doesn’t tell you anything about profitability, share, or rate of growth. Company X could be unprofitable with revenues declining at a rate of 20% a year. Revenue, like total downloads, is only part of the picture.
Sure, total downloads is worth knowing, but I am more interested the patterns and trends of those downloads. Are they steady/growing/declining? To what degree do they coincide with release dates? Etc. It is this second level of detail that starts to tell you whether a project is successful, not total downloads.
Hitting those total download plateaus, whether it be 25,000/month or 1,000,000 overall, is a great opportunity from a marketing standpoint to generate press and interest, but it doesn’t tell you whether or not an OSS product is successful or not. It’s just a small part of the equation.