Monthly Archives: January 2010

iPad, iShmad

I was just having a conversation with a colleague over Twitter on the merits of iPad and Apple’s A4 SOC that powers it. I, for one, am not an Apple fanboy. He is, so it makes for good fun. So when he’s glowing over the “fascinating” A4 chip Apple is producing, it’s easy fodder to point out that there are many SOCs out there that pretty much do the same thing. And I’m inclined to believe the pundits and I don’t think it really is that fascinating at all unless you find good power management fascinating.

The main reason I’m not an Apple fanboy is because of Apple’s strategy of locking in the developer. If I could build iPhone apps from my Fedora Linux laptop, then I’d be all over it. But I can’t, and as the CDT Mac crowd knows, I don’t have a Mac to use as a development environment for iPhone or CDT, and I’m not interested in putting my own personal finances towards one. There’s nothing on the Mac I can’t do using Windows or Linux, so I can’t justify it.

Now, aside from the incredibly crude yet funny activity on Twitter about things the name ‘iPad’ reminded people of, I found the iPad keynote to be a bit of a yawner. Yes, it looks like a nice manifestation of the tablet format we’ve been speculating about, but that’s all. It’s nice. It certainly isn’t revolutionary, unless you count being successful in the tablet business as revolutionary, and there still isn’t proof that’ll be the case. Mind you, if the fanboys put their money where their collective mouth is, it should be a slam dunk. And that’s the credit I do give iPad, it does validate the tablet form factor.

The big difference now compared to when Apple did launch it’s revolutionary iPhone is that there is a lot of other noise in the tablet space right now and even similar product announcements (Similar products that is, nothing compares to the hype machine behind Apple’s announcement). Check this article for a list of 9 iPad alternatives. All fine devices in their own right.

I think Android makes a great competitor for Apple’s mobile devices. I am an Android fanboy because I can develop Android apps on my Fedora laptop and my Windows machines at home, and yeah, if I had a Mac, I could build Android apps from there too. They give you a pretty good SDK to work with on any platform you like.

I’m also keeping an eye on Moblin as Intel enters this arena. It should enable a similar development experience, although purely native instead of Android’s Java/Native stuff I have to jump through. And it is real Linux which lets me use the same SDK to build desktop Linux apps.

So Apple fanboys, enjoy the show, go put your money into the coffers at the church of Steve Jobs. I’m just glad it isn’t the only show in town.

Doug’s Open Source Manifesto

I’ve done a lot of thinking lately about why companies should invest in open source. We complain about the “takers” as an Eclipse committer community; you know, the companies that take advantage of the hard work we put in never to see that hard work reciprocated. Complaining doesn’t help. We need to be able to sell them on the need to contribute. Yes, need, and I think I am starting to understand the whole thing. So here’s my “Open Source Manifesto” for what it’s worth and I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below. You may know all this already, or maybe I’m totally off base, but we need something like this.

Open Source Software is an Asset

I wonder if anyone has counted up the number of lines of code of software that sits out in the interweb free for use by anyone, restrictions or not. Companies go through to great lengths to protect their proprietary code as they would any other asset. Well all that open source software out there is also your asset if you chose to use it. Protect it, manage it as you would any software you have available for your product. And you can bet it’s worth much more than any software you have or could ever build in house.

Open Source Developers are Business People

Sure there are a lot of projects that are run by hobbyists or students, but the biggest projects, the most important projects out there have far more corporate employees contributing and managing them than not. And for the most part, they’re easy to deal with as good partners in business can be. Depending on how you participate, you can have much more influence on open source projects than you think, sometimes even more than you have over internal projects.

Influence by Contribution

This is the key to successfully managing the asset. If you want influence on an open source project, you need to contribute to it. And the math is simple. The more you contribute, the more influence you have. But you don’t need to go crazy and fully take over a project to be successful with it, and for the most part you don’t want to. Open source projects are quite open to contributions. Take advantage of that.

Take your place in the Community

One of my biggest thrills in open source is working with great developers from other companies. You may be tempted to fully control a project, but if you want to benefit from some of the greatest minds in our industry, you need to let others drive the boat once in a while too. Understand your place in the community and how the things you do influences it, both good and bad, and make good decisions about how you participate.

Have an Open Source Strategy

Don’t just wing it in open source. Part of being able to acquire influence on a project is building up respect and trust with the rest of the community. If you are a fly by night organization that jumps in with big plans without having a track record, it’ll be hard to achieve that. Invest in open source with a long term plan in mind. Come, stay a while, build up the trust, and you will be rewarded at the end of the day.

Don’t compete with Open Source

If you have a product that competes with an open source offering, or maybe offers something similar just a little bit better, don’t kid yourself. Sooner or later the open source offerings will become better than yours. Again, it comes down to the investment and the fact that there’s more corporate investment going into open source than you can do yourself. And if there isn’t now, there will be. The momentum is unstoppable at this point.

Understand your value proposition

At the end of the day, customers are looking for good value in their software purchase dollars. They don’t care how you built that software or even if you did. They just want you to be the best supplier of that software in the business. Sure, they’ll threaten that they can get good open source software for free, but if you focus on making their adoption of that software easier, provide things that the community doesn’t, you can add value, lots of value. Open source projects focus on source code. A good software company knows there’s more to good software than just good code. There’s lots of room to make money here, and in turn it should be easy to justify the investment you do make in open source.

Well, that’s all I can think of for now. But I’d like to continue evolving this manifesto into something all us open source contributors can bring to the companies out there and help them justify making the same investment in open source we are, to join in the fun and the profit.

CDT Needs a GDK too

A lot of people who come to the CDT have used Visual C++ in their lives so we strive to make certain aspects of the CDT familiar to them. That requires taking a look every now and then to see what things are like over there, and with the free Visual C++ Express, it’s interesting to see how the other side lives.

I sauntered over to the Visual C++ Express web site and I guess it’s been a while since I’ve been there, or maybe it just struck it differently than it has before. The web site promoted Visual C++ Express as Simple, Fun and Easy to Learn. We can argue whether VS is simple and easy to learn, but it was the Fun part that hit me as a great idea. This section highlighted Game Creators GDK, Game Development Kit. I can see how that would attract VC Express’s target audience, prospective future full Visual Studio edition customers.

We need something like that for the CDT. We need to make the CDT Simple, Fun, and Easy to Learn. Get the kids to use it and when they become future prospective clients of CDT vendors, they’ll be quick to adopt their CDT based tooling. First we need to fix some of the major usability issues with CDT. A lot of CDT users will argue that it’s not particularly Simple and Easy to Learn and that needs to be addressed.

But the Fun part comes from using the CDT to build something fun. And as Microsoft has figured out, game development is fun. I’ve already started looking at what would be needed for a GDK for Android and there are a few open source components that can go into that. And make it cross platform for Windows, Mac, and Linux and it’s variants like Moblin and I think we could have a GDK for the CDT that would be a great injection of Fun into Eclipse.