Short Honk: NLP Tools

March 26, 2019

Making sense of unstructured content is tricky. If you are looking for opens source natural language processing tools, “12 Open Source Tools for Natural Language Processing” provides a list.

Stephen E Arnold, March 26, 2019

RedMonk and Its Assessment of IBM as an Open Source Leader

March 24, 2019

I read “The RedMonk Programming Language Rankings: January 2019.” The analysis was interesting and contained one remarkable assertion and one probably understandable omission. The guts of the report boiled down, in my opinion, to a reminder to job hunters. If you want to increase your chances of getting hired, know:

1 JavaScript
2 Java
3 Python
4 PHP
5 C#

But the surprising statement in the write up was this one:

IBM remains at the forefront of open source innovation.

Now the omission. If IBM is in the forefront, where is Amazon? The company has made an effort to support most of the widely used open source software. Plus, the company appears to be taking tactical steps to close or capture open source.

From my vantage point, Amazon is taking a more “innovative” approach to open source. Granted Amazon’s “approach” may be a milestone in the company’s enhanced walled garden approach to core software systems. IBM’s approach seems little more than Big Blue’s attempt to give back and convince the open source community that it is not the IBM of its mainframe heritage.

Stephen E Arnold, March 24, 2019

When Free Fails the Doers, the Dreamers, and the Disillusioned

February 17, 2019

My team and I worked for several “open source software companies,” before I decide to hang up my Delta Million Mile Club name tag. (Weird red tags those puppies are.)

I read “Free Labor of Open Source Developers. Is That Sustainable?” The question caused me to chuckle. The answer is fairly straightforward.

Nope. Not for individuals. For outfits like Amazon, yep.

Under specific conditions, open source software does “work”. Now “does work” translates as “makes money, delivers fame, and/or makes those participating [a] happy, [b] feel like the effort is sticking it to the “man”, [c] proves that a person can actually write code which mostly works, and/or [d] builds a psychic bond with a community.

Some big companies do the open source “give back” and “contribution” and “support” dance. For these outfits, open source software is a part of a business model. Usually the practitioners of this type of marketing and sales offer for-fee widgets, add ins, and digital gizmos. Then the customer who downloads and uses the open source code has the opportunity to use the software and [a] buy engineering services, [b] buy training, [c] pay for “enhanced support,” and/or [d] attend conferences for insiders. I find Microsoft’s embrace of open source amusing.

For individuals, a pet project can provide satisfaction and a job maybe.

The write up does a good job of explaining the idealistic roots of open source software. I must admit, however, that I do not drink alcohol, so the analogy “like free beer” does not make any sense to me. The roots of open source software seem to be anchored in a desire to have software which did not [a] cost money to use, [b] could be modified; that is, not put the users in handcuffs, and [c] was updated on a calendar often wildly out of sync with the needs of the licensees. Proprietary software meant “bad” and the new open source software meant good with hints of revolution and “I just can’t take proprietary software anymore.”

The write up reviews a popular paper about the economics of open source software. I did not spot a reference to a later study which suggested that large companies were the biggest adopters of open source.* If that research were correct, the reason boils down to [a] big companies want to trim their costs for proprietary software’s license fees, mandatory upgrades, mandatory maintenance, and contractual limits on what changes a licensee of proprietary software can make. The researchers pointed out that large companies had [a] the staff and [b] the money to make open source software work for their use cases.

Flash forward to 2016. The Ford Foundation’s Roads and Bridges** makes clear that software development performed for free has a built in flaw. Developers can quit. Dead end? Maybe. Large companies can step in and embrace the project and, of course, the community. Outfits using this method range from the Amazons to the smaller firms which allow employees to work on projects. The open source approach can be overwhelmed or a victim of abandonment.

I am not sure I am convinced that the open source community exists. There are factions and many of them are at war. Consider Lucene/Solr’s contentious history. I also am not keen on the simile comparing open source to a religious community. Once again there are fanatics, and there are those whom the fanatics would like to either [a] imagine roasting in hell or [b] actually burning alive after a presentation at an open source meet up.

Net net: Amazon has crafted a new chapter in the lock in playbook. The approach borrows from IBM’s FUD to the more New Age methods of being famous and getting a “real” job.

If you are tracking the world of open source software, the write up is a useful addition to one’s library of analyses. One suggestion: Keep in mind that “free” open source software is a lure in certain circumstances. Think of it as a form of digital phishing, particularly for marketing oriented outfits.

Stephen E Arnold, February 17, 2019

——–

Note:

* Diomidis Spinellis and Vaggelis Giannikas, “Organizational Adoption of Open Source Software,” Journal of Systems and Software, March 2012, page 666-682, and Stephen E Arnold’s The New Landscape of Search, June 2011.

** See https://www.fordfoundation.org/about/library/reports-and-studies/roads-and-bridges-the-unseen-labor-behind-our-digital-infrastructure

Ignoring Amazon: Risky, Short Sighted, Maybe Not an Informed Decision

January 15, 2019

I read “AWS, MongoDB, and the Economic Realities of Open Source.” The write up does a good job of explaining how convenience can generate cash for old line businesses.

The essay then runs down the features of a typical open source business model; namely, money comes from proprietary add ons, services, training, etc. Accurate and helpful is the discussion. Few people recognize the vulnerability of this type of open source model for companies not in a “winner take all position.” A good example is Elastic’s success, and the lack of success of other open source search systems which are in most cases pretty good.

The discussion of Amazon explains that Amazon is in the service business; specifically, the software-as-a-service business. That’s mostly correct. I have given two or three talks about Amazon’s use of AWS in the law enforcement and intelligence sector, and I have to be honest. Few understood what I was emphasizing. Amazon is a disruption machine. I call it the Bezos bulldozer.

The write up draws parallels with the music business case with which the Stratechery essay begins. I understand the parallel. I agree with this statement:

AWS is not selling MongoDB: what they are selling is “performance, scalability, and availability.” DocumentDB is just one particular area of many where those benefits are manifested on AWS. Make no mistake: these benefits are valuable.

The point of the write up is mostly on the money as well. I noted this statement:

…the debate on the impact of cloud services on open source has been a strident one for a while now. I think, though, that the debate gets sidetracked by (understandable) discussions about “fairness” and what AWS supposedly owes open source. Yes, companies like MongoDB Inc. and Redis Labs worked hard, and yes, AWS is largely built on open source, but the world is governed by economic realities, not subjective judgments of fairness.

There are several facets of Amazon’s system and method for competition which may be more important than the inclusion of open source software in its suite of “conveniences.”

At some point, I would welcome conference organizers, MBAs, and open source mavens to address such questions as:

  1. What is the ease of entry or implementation for open source services on AWS?
  2. What is the future of training developers to use the AWS system? Who does the training?
  3. What is the short term benefit to Amazon to have developers use open source and the AWS platform to create new products and services?
  4. What is the long term benefit to Amazon to have new products and services become successful on the AWS platform?
  5. What is the mid term impact on procurements for commercial and government entities?
  6. What is the shape of the Bezos bulldozer’s approach to lock in?

I was recently informed by a conference organizer that no one had interest in Amazon’s disruption of the policeware and intelware sector.

Do you think that the organizer’s conclusion was informed? Do you think open source is more than the digital equivalent of a gateway drug?

I do. For information about the DarkCyber briefing on Amazon’s policeware and intelware “play,” write benkent2020 at yahoo dot com.

Stephen E Arnold, January 15, 2019

Big Companies Launch Open Source Safe Data Initiative

November 21, 2018

Huge corporations usually do not support open source code, because it harms their bottom line. Qrius shares how some of the biggest tech companies are behind a new initiative for an interesting change of pace, “Facebook, Google, Twitter, Microsoft To Launch Open Source Initiative For Safe Data Transfer.”

Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, and Google have teamed up in an endeavor to make data transfer across various platforms easier and safer. The new initiative is called the Data Transfer Project (DTP) and it is an open source project that helps users seamlessly transfer data across multiple online services without facing privacy issues. It sounds like a fantasy superhero team up. How will the DTP will do:

“According to Damien Kieran, Data Protection Officer at Twitter, most of the online services we use right now do not interact with each other in a coherent and intuitive fashion. Formed in 2017, the DTP is expected to bridge this gap and introduce service-to-service data portability through its open-source platform.

The project is expected to roll out in phases, starting with ensuring data portability from one service to another with encrypted signups, said Steve Satterfield, Privacy and Public Policy Director at Facebook.”

The DTP is a great idea, because how many times do you need to upload, download, reupload, and change file formats with your data? Transfer fluidity across many platforms is a must, especially with mobile technology, but privacy is even more important as users share their data across a wider physical and digital expanse. There are also new data protection laws, such as ones introduced in the EU, and the DTP will hopefully write the necessary legal jargon to protect the user and prevent the companies from breaking the laws.

It is a great accomplishment that these four companies are working together. Hopefully it is for good and not the all mighty dollar.

Whitney Grace, November 21, 2018

IBM Lock In Approach Modified and Given New Life

September 20, 2018

I read “Alphabet Backs GitLab’s Quest to Surpass Microsoft’s GitHub.” The write up explains that Microsoft bought GitHub. Google invests in GitLab. Plus:

It’s the latest major deal in the so-called DevOps market. Broadcom Inc. agreed to buy CA Technologies for $19 billion earlier this year; Atlassian Corp. bought OpsGenie Inc. for $295 million; and Salesforce Inc. spent $6.5 billion to purchase MuleSoft Inc.

From my point of view, these are open source oriented deals.

These deals are part of a revitalization of the old school IBM type of vendor lock in. The way that once worked was:

Buy our big iron

Use our software

Use our preferred partners

Or

Good luck getting those mainframe puppies to behave.

Now the trajectory is to embrace open source, support anyone who codes something semi useful, add proprietary bits, and lock in the platform users.

In short, the lock in play is undergoing a renascence.

How about that open source credo? But where’s Amazon? If you want our take on Amazon’s tactics, contact benkent2020 at yahoo dot com and ask about our for fee briefing on this subject.

Stephen E Arnold, September 20, 2018

Changing How Electronics Are Done

July 18, 2018

I read “DARPA Plans a Major Remake of US Electronics.” The write up reports that the US government’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is funding activities to “radically alter how electronics are made.” The idea is to make an engineer skilled in the anticipated art to become more productive. If the funding generates innovation and applied research deliverables, “the effect could be to make small groups of engineers capable of feats that take 100 engineers to achieve today.”

There are some interesting observations presented in the write up. These are attributed to Bill Chappell, who is the DARPA directors for this initiative. The write up is important because the stated objectives are one that will allow some technical and process roadblocks to be removed; for example, acceleration of innovation, increasing productivity, and stepping up activity for open source hardware.

However, there are several ideas percolating in the statements in my opinion.

First, the US is not producing what we call in Harrod’s Creek “home grown electronics engineers.” In part, the initiative is to increase US activity. China and Russia, two cite two nation states, are creating more technical professionals. Now the US has to do more with less.

Second, big picture problems are not what some US projects accomplish. The way innovation works is to make incremental advances within often quite specific scopes of interest. This new initiative is more big picture and less improving the efficiency of an advertising server’s predictive matching in silicon or some equally narrow focus.

Third, the program suggests to me that some insightful US government professionals are concerned about the US electronics industry. The idea that technology from another nation state could create an unknown vulnerability is sufficiently troubling to warrant this big picture program.

In short, the failures of the US electronics sector have become a concern. One hopes that this project will address, in part, this significant issue. In my DarkCyber video news program to be released on July 24, 2018, I comment about the forthcoming Chinese made blockchain phone. I ask one question, “Does this device have the capability to phone home to the manufacturer? Could the device be monitored by an entity in the country of origin?”

Stephen E Arnold, July 18, 2018

Munich Migrates To Windows 10

March 28, 2018

Despite the superiority of other operating systems, Microsoft Windows still tops the list as a popular office enterprise tool.  Windows PCs have easy user interfaces, applications for easy management, and are understood at a near universal level.  It does not come as a surprise when Munich, Germany decided to implement a change to Windows 10, says Silicon: “Munich Approves 49.3 million Euro Windows 10 Migration Plan.”

Munich’s city council decided to spend over 50 million euros to migrate their computer system to Microsoft Windows 10.  This is the first major overhaul the city council has had since 2004 when they implemented a Linux desktop program.  Linux is the open source software of choice and the city council decided to use it to reduce their dependency on Microsoft.

The “LiMux” programme saw a customised version of Ubuntu Linux rolled out to about 14,800 of the city’s 29,000 users and LibreOffice used by more than 15,000, in a bid to reduce the government’s dependence upon Microsoft.  In 2012 then-mayor Christian Ude said LiMux had saved Munich more than €4m in licensing costs.  The rollout was completed in 2013, nearly 10 years after it began, but a political shift the following year saw leadership turn in favour of a return to Windows.

The transition back to Microsoft comes with a change in the city council’s leadership.  Dieter Reiter pushed fo have Microsoft license and he won.  The Microsoft Windows transition cost of over 49 million euros is only part of the 89 million euro IT overhaul that is in progress.  The IT overhaul also includes retraining and testing staff.

The Munich city council will not be migrating to Microsoft Office, which would incur an even higher price tag.  Munich will instead continue to use LibreOffice, because of the staff’s familiarity and the custom templates.  The city council also hopes to implement cloud application usage.

As with anything related to politics, opposing parties are critical of the return to Microsoft and say it wastes money.  Nothing new on that end and it only points to more organizational problems than a simple OS.

Whitney Grace, March 28, 2018

Open Source Panda Simplifies Data Analysis

March 20, 2018

An article at Quartz draws our attention to a potential alternative to Excel—the open source Pandas—in, “Meet the Man Behind the Most Important Tool in Data Science.” Writer Dan Kopf profiles Panda’s developer, Wes McKinny, who launched the Python tool in 2009. In 2012, Pandas’ popularity took off. Now, Kopf tells us:

Millions of people around the world use Pandas. In October 2017 alone, Stack Overflow, a website for programmers, recorded 5 million visits to questions about Pandas from more than 1 million unique visitors. Data scientists at Google, Facebook, JP Morgan, and virtually other major company that analyze data uses Pandas. Most people haven’t heard of it, but for many people who do heavy data analysis—a rapidly growing group these days—life wouldn’t be the same without it. (Pandas is open source, so it’s free to use.) So what does Pandas do that is so valuable? I asked McKinney how he explains it to non-programmer friends. ‘I tell them that it enables people to analyze and work with data who are not expert computer scientists,’ he says. ‘You still have to write code, but it’s making the code intuitive and accessible. It helps people move beyond just using Excel for data analysis.’

McKinney is inspired to improve data science tools because he likes to “empower people to solve problems.” In fact, Pandas sprung from his frustration at the limitations of available tools when he first came to embrace Python. See the article to follow the developer from his time as a high school athlete to his current, full-time work on Pandas and other open source projects, as well as more on Pandas itself.

Cynthia Murrell, March 20, 2018

Quote to Note: Facebook and Open Source As a Wooden Club

February 24, 2018

I read “Serverless & GraphQL.” Here’s the passage which caught my attention because I did not know about this use of open source as a wooden club:

And I don’t know how many of you know about some of the Facebook technologies and the patents and licensing issues that are around those- they had an interesting clause, if you sue Facebook, you lose the right to use any of their stuff in any of their products and some people were really scared about it.

That’s one way to earn a “like.”

Stephen E Arnold, February 25, 2018

Next Page »

  • Archives

  • Recent Posts

  • Meta