'F/OSS' Archives

“Reinventing Smalltalk, one decade at a Time”  2

Cat.: Then they fight you..., F/OSS
09. September 2005

Sam Ruby posts the slides from his FOSSSL keynote entitled, “The Case For Dynamic Languages”.

The slides make the case as well as slides can. I especially liked this bullet on Macro-performance vs Micro-performance:

Modest hardware running Perl can easily saturate your bandwidth

Similarly powerful arguments all the way through…

History Repeats Itself  27

Cat.: Then they fight you..., F/OSS, Rails
22. August 2005

Jason Hunter (Jason Hunter), a renowned Java evangelist an the author of two highly popular books on J2EE technology (Java Servlet Programming, and Java Enterprise Best Practices, ) posted an interesting blog entry last week: The Innovator’s Dilemma: It’s Happening To Java. The “innovator’s dilemma” that Jason is talking about is expressed as follows: “you can listen to customers, provide them with what they want, but still lose out – because a cheaper, not-as-good but good-enough competitor comes in and eats your market.”

Kind of reminds me of the days when I was shopping for my home audio system. I used to visit lots of high-end shops, where knowledgeable sales personnel would engage me in detailed demos of various components, but at the end of the day I would walk across the street to some of those cheap outlets (Circuit City etc.) to see if I could get same or similar components for less.

The dilemma Jason is referring to is specifically related to Java. Here we have an exorbitantly expensive platform, that, ten years after its launch, had reached a point where it is too complex to be able to be used in any meaningful, let alone feasible fashion. So, in a way, we could say that the situation is similar to what was happening to the mainframes 15 - 20 years ago, when the businesses reached the end of their rope and realized that they need to adopt a more disruptive technology.

Jason’s thesis is that Ruby on Rails is this disruptive technology. Java is now being perceived as a sitting duck, similar to how mainframes were the sitting ducks of the early nineties. And similar to how client/server technology came about and claimed the market share traditionally reserved for the mainframes, RoR is today poised to eat into the Java’s market share (hence the ‘disruptive’ epithet).

One of the strongest arguments he makes about RoR’s threat is this one: “In programming these days, cheaper isn’t about price, it’s about mental effort.”

Now, anyone who’s ever tried to develop a web application using the J2EE frameworks, and then tried to to the same thing using RoR, will undoubtedly agree that RoR requires significantly less of a mental effort. And thus, RoR is significantly cheaper.

Ironically, it was this same quality that made Java so attractive 10 years ago. Due to the fact that Java was so much simpler than C++ (so much so that in its early days Java used to be called ‘C minus-minus’), it made huge inroads into the development community’s mind share, and overtook C++ as the language of choice when it comes to developing applications. Lowering the cost of software development is obviously a strong driving force in motivating the adoption of the new technology.

The mood in the Java camp nowadays is really strange. As is to be expected, the prevailing sentiment is the one of huge denial. This is similar to the mainframe crowd sentiment 15 years ago.

But the odd thing is that the same people who tend to shrug off RoR’s threat to Java seem to be at the same time working frantically on proving that Java can be concise too. Ironically, they are attempting to introduce simplicity into the Java platform by adding new features to it! This leaves an open question: since when is bloat to be regarded as simplification?

In the final analysis, it is extremely significant that a number of top-echelon Java evangelists are jumping into RoR heads first, and are buying into it hook, line and sinker. The worrisome aspect of all this is that, once RoR takes off and hits the mainstream, who’s going to do the new development? Most of the existing development workforce hadn’t managed yet to make the transition from procedural to object-based approach. The full fledged OO nature of Ruby, coupled with its dynamic nature, may prove to be too big of a challenge for the average application developer out there.

How to Miss OSCON  6

Cat.: F/OSS
03. August 2005

Hating myself for missing OSCON, I slipped away for a little R and R. If you have to miss the most important gathering of the year, this is a pretty decent way of doing it:

The Millenium Force

Standing a staggering 310 feet tall and reaching speeds of a remarkable 93 mph, the $25 million Millennium Force giga-coaster was the tallest and fastest roller coaster in North America when it debuted in May 2000. This steel monster looms over the Cedar Point skyline beckoning guests to take the ride of their lifetime.

Riders travel up the amazing first hill at a 45-degree angle in sleek blue, red or yellow trains that offer tiered seating for optimum viewing. Once at the top of the mammoth structure, passengers zoom down a 300-foot-long drop at an outrageous 80-degree angle - that’s almost straight down! From there, riders encounter overbanked (extremely banked, but not quite inverted) turns, dark tunnels, towering hills and lots of “airtime.” The wild journey covers 13 acres and 1.25 miles of brilliant blue steel tubular track.

Anyway, my first order of business since being back has been to catch up with the conference. The blog coverage has been outstanding; there’s two different aggregators. Matt Raible’s notes are especially well done. He’s covered Dave Thomas’ Facets of Ruby, Kathy Sierra’s Creating Passionate Users, and David H. Hansson’s Ruby on Rails - Enjoying the Ride presentations so far and he’s still going strong it seems. David was awarded the Google/O’Reilly “Best Hacker of 2005″ award, which is well-deserved, IMO.

I really hope the Paul Graham Keynote makes its way over to IT conversations and/or into an essay. It seems he has F/OSS / business on his brain and the stuff coming out of his mouth is pure gold:

What business ought to be getting out of open source isn’t the software, but the process.

Open source (and blogging) has a Darwinian approach to enforcing quality. The audience can communicate with each other and the bad stuff gets ignored.

On the web, the barrier for publishing your ideas is even lower than spouting them in a bar: you don’t have to buy a drink and they let kids in.

Business can learn about open source in the same way that the gene pool learns about new conditions: the dumb ones will die.

That’s what I’m saying bro’!

Guns, Germs, and Open Source  Comments Off

Cat.: Then they fight you..., F/OSS
16. July 2005

A colleague of mine had suggested on numerous occasions that I read the book, “Guns, Germs, and Steel“, by Jared Diamond. Wherein the author explains that the rise of Western civilization was due largely to a series of lucky developments that turned out to be so disruptive when introduced into other environments that there was just no chance of their old ways surviving.

Tim O’Reilly recently pointed to a bout scheduled for this years OSCON where Byron Sebastian, CEO and Founder of SourceLabs, will go toe to toe with Bob Sutor, VP of Standards at IBM Corporation, on whether F/OSS is to the Enterprise as Guns were to the Incas.

The format is interesting with Sebastian taking the extreme position of “open source takes all” and Sutor the position of “protracted struggle between proprietary and open source enterprise software”. It’s interesting to note that they couldn’t find anyone to champion the “proprietary takes all” scenario.

I’m not able to attend this years OSCON but I’m hoping this debate makes it’s way onto IT Conversations. If anyone attending wants to live blog the debate for lesscode.org, it would be much appreciated.

Perl, Python, PHP, LAMP get mad play on Gillmor Gang  6

Cat.: Then you win., F/OSS
09. July 2005

I just had a chance to finally listen to the latest Gillmor Gang

UPDATE: I goofed and ended up listening to the June 2004 episode. It’s still an excellent episode–and one I don’t remember hearing last year–but is not nearly as timely as I had thought.

… with Mitchell Kertzman, a venture capitalist with Hummer Winblad Venture Partners. He talks about an investment that’s in progress. I’m just going to dump out a whole segment from him because it’s great stuff:

We are actually in the process of making an investment in a company where open source is a key part of their plan in two ways. The first is, that they are building on top of the so called “open source commodity stack” — that’s everything from x86 processors, to Linux OS, to the whole LAMP aggregation of core software stack.

So I think one of the huge breakthroughs–I’ve been running software companies before I did this for 30 years–and in my experience in running software companies that deal in enterprise software you may have a product that you sell to an enterprise customer but you had to drag around this expensive platform with you.

So if I want to sell my software to a customer, I might be selling them my software for a few hundred thousand dollars but in order to run it they might have to buy some expensive Sun servers and some Oracle databases and some application servers and the cost of that stack meant that you were pulling a boat anchor around with you. The commodity stack, with its performance and quality these days, means that software companies don’t have to do that anymore.

You don’t have to spend .5 million dollars of your first round of financing to buy the infrastructure you need to build and test your products. And it also means that you can sell your software to customers without the incremental costs.

The company we’re looking at, and all companies we’re looking at now are taking advantage of the lower cost to market of the commodity stack.

I think that’s a huge development in software..

The Money understands why less code is important, that’s a Good Thing, even if you don’t think you need it.

Mitchell goes on to talk about why Java isn’t looking as attractive as it once did when the hype machine was in full swing and the world was a different place:

When I first started doing this, everyone was doing J2EE backends. … We still have companies that are doing J2EE backends but the questions that are being asked lately are very interesting. When Java was first being developed, the portability of Java was a huge part of its attractiveness. The write-once, deploy-anywhere was extremely compelling. The interesting thing, if you stop and look now is that Linux essentially has made that, ummmm, almost moot. There are now really two environments: there is .NET and there is Linux. And so the portability of Java, since, according to Microsoft, it doesn’t have a place in the .NET environment, therefore if you’re non-Microsoft you really have one environment that you’re deploying to (if you look into the future). So it does raise the question of why you need to carry this JVM around with you if you don’t need portability.

And then the other interesting question is that, Java was useful when, uhh, if you consider that multi-tier or distributed application architectures used to communicate essentially for years by communicating binary data. Today, applications are really communicating by passing text back and forth, you know, XML or HTML, and Java isn’t particularly good at text processing so there’s an interesting development in [looking] at the scripting languages–at the P part of LAMP - PHP, Python, Perl, which are very good at text handling. This company we’re investing in is taking advantage of that.

So I think we’re in an interesting period of evaluation on Java.

Ahh man, this whole damn episode is amazing. I’m not transcribing the whole thing, just go listen to it.