As I've already mentioned, I'm giving a presentation on the Linux Business Conference in Portorož, Slovenia. At the time of writing I am without a (free) access point, so I'll cover the whole two(+1) day conference in one post which will be posted post festum. It's a cross between my notes on random observations, so it's rather chaotic.

For the impatient, here's a quick summary:

All in all the conference was not bad, although for my taste it was too technical and too business-oriented. But being the only lawyer on board, that was to be expected. It was quite well organised but it did strike me odd is that there were so few attendants (77 or so I overheard). My presentation on "Open Standards and Open Formats (in the Public Administration)" went OK, not brilliant, but OK. Also, meeting Jon "Maddog" Hall was quite inspirational.

For a detailed day-by-day review, read on.

Day -1 (Sunday, 27th of September):

The day before, my folks were kind enough to drive me to Portorož. Otherwise I'd have to take the train to Koper and a bus or taxi from there to Portorož. Currently I'm on our boat docked in the Marina Portorož (actually situated in Lucija) refining my presentation and cooking. I'm having baked beans with spuds and majoram -- neither the most fancy meal in the world nor the best I can cook, but it's nutritious enough for today ;)

For quite some months there's been RC 44's popping up all over the marina and today it's as busy as ever! The teams are training and I even saw both the boats sailing under the UAE flag -- Sea Dubai and Team Aqua -- leave port together. It's quite interesting to see that only four teams (out of twelve) have the skipper, owner and flag of the same nationality -- namely the Austrian, one Slovenian, the Polish and the Spanish. Amongst the big names there's also Russel Couts as the skipper of Oracle's boat, under the US flag. I hope I'll be able to sneak away from some of the lectures tomorrow and/or the day after to catch some of the action.

Today I sleep on my mother-ship, but early in the morning I'm moving to the hotel. It's ever so comforting to feel the sea rock you back and forth in a sturdy wooden boat.

Day 1 (Monday, 28th of September):

Woke up at 6:40, shaved, dressed, locked up the boat and went on my way to the hotel. On the way I ate an apple and a (cottage) cheese burek.

Next time I really should check the hotel on the map first. I managed to walk from the marina all the way to the end of Portorož, just to realise that the hotel in question is actually in Lucija. Meaning I had to go almost all the way back to the marina :P

The conference room is rather smallish and I honestly thought there will be more participants here then on the student conferences, where we usually had about 200 people. The sad truth though is that there's only about 70 participants here and at 9:00 (when the opening speech should have already begun) there's were about a good dozen people sitting here, but later on it filled up.

I have still to find an working access point, but at least I can plug in my borrowed laptop into the power socket (there's very few of them though).

Random observation: ThinkPads outnumber other laptops about 4:1 right now ;)

9:10 Success! The conference AP is working! :D

9:15 Actual start with introductionary "thank you"s from the organisation team to the sponsors, participants etc.

9:20 Short opening speech from the minister of education, science and technology, Joszef Gyorkos

He mentioned the following results that the government achieved:

  • finance of COKS, common COKS repository, is good practice also in IDABC
  • FOSS usage in public administration
  • SiO? – FOSS usage in schools (e.g. Trubar)
  • Authentication and authorisation in academic IT systems based on FOSS
  • support of localisation of FOSS
  • ODF (v 1.0) obligatory standard for communication inside the public administration

Random observation: There's very few people in this room who are about as old as I am and I only know one or two OJo Also the ThinkPad to other brands ratio has dropped to about 2:1 :P

9:30 Jon "Maddog" Hall gives his speech on "It is not the cost, but the value".

The most important points he said are: Economics of mass production works wants to reach about 70-80% of the market and achieve this by meeting 70-90% of their needs. In turn this means, that less then a half of the market is met (0.7 * 0.7 = 0.49).

Closed source software creates software slavery.

This is why FOSS matters. Working by reusing code, business can make specialise

Proprietary software cannot serve everyone because there's too many users per software engineer (any more).

80% of all software written today is not pre-packaged, production software, but written by e.g. sysadmins, made for embedded systems etc.

Some statistics: viruses, worms, spam, crashes and software not working like the user would want to costs 5 USD per day/person. Which in context of how many computers we use today, is considerable (i.e. millions)!

Cost does not equal value! Cost is what you pay for it, while value is what you get from it. There's a considerable difference already if you have software localised to your language, not to mention a specialised interface and features!

Don't open the source of an already existing project! There's not much gain and a lot of pain for the developers. The best idea is to start a new FOSS project. The easiest to migrate are back-ends and services (e.g. databases, mail servers, web servers etc.), which are hidden from the end user.

It pays to write FOSS as well: a friend of Maddog's used to make proprietary software and sold 2 licenses a month and 60% of the customers signed a maintenance contract. When he started offering his product as FOSS, he got 2000 downloads per month, but still 60% percent of them signed a maintenance contract!

Projects that are not maintained any more, don't necessarily need to be dead. If a project has reached what it's supposed to and do it well, there's no reason to add new features just to introduce new bugs!

Project Cauã:

  • Users need to have just what they want and need …there's no need to grandma and grandpa to have a full system together with web servers, if they only want to use e-mail and browse the web!
  • Free wireless mesh.
  • Make new jobs for sysadmins for smaller/specialised tasks and training them.
  • Lower cost of computing.
  • Reduce environmental concerns
  • All that without governmental funding.

…I will write more about Cauã when it becomes public. Expect a separate post in a few weeks or months.

Adam Jollans, IBM talks about "Linux Inside from Desktops to Mainframes to Clouds".

The only OS that spans from embedded systems all the way to supercomputers. It supports multiple hardware platforms, the skills and resources are shared, meaning analysis and solutions can be speedily applied. It has affinity to virtualisation via Xen, KVM etc. It's very flexible and developed in an open community. This also makes them perfect for mainframes and cloud computing. In both Linux is leading. Linux on desktop is an uncertain future.

He mentioned the Open Cloud Manifesto as a cool thing.

…need coffee …badly …now! XD

I skipped the next few lectures to polish out my own presentation, but in hindsight I'm a bit sorry I didn't attend those. I'm saying "a bit" because during that time my presentation didn't improve much, but I had the chance to chat with Maddog and some other attendees and lecturers, where I learnt more about the project Cauã, how it compares (and his thoughts on) OLPC and a lot of other topics. It turns out that Maddog himself also loves sailing.

I also met Toshaan Bharvani, who suggested that I should rather concentrate (in the future) on legal consulting for IT, specialised on FOSS instead of aiming directly for being a FOSS attorney. So we talked a bit about that and it actually makes more sense, because most legal work in IT and FOSS is not done in court, but already between the clients themselves (and their lawyers). Talking to Toshaan made me look a bit more optimistic about the possibility of making a living as a lawyer for the FOSS community.

My own lecture went OK-ish, I guess. People were already tired, so I tried to shorten my presentation as much as possible. The feedback during the lecture was mediocre (i.e. a lot less then I'm used to on Cyberpipe's POT), but later I heard that all potential feedback and questions could have come from the lecturers of those presentations that I missed and they apparently didn't want repeat themselves. Anyway, it was not my best one, but it wasn't bad either.

There was a quite interesting lecture from an IT guy from the Supreme court. He explained how in the Slovenian courts not only do they use OpenOffice.org, Firefox and Thunderbird on the desktops, but also run (almost) all servers and services on GNU/Linux. This enables them, amongst others to automatically fill in static data (e.g. court, case ID) and provide drop-down menus with only relevant choices (e.g. defendant's name, address, object in question) on these OO.o desktops, by checking the databases and using XML to convert to ODF. Also in all their tenders they demand for (at least) weekly commits to their own SVN server and that open standards are used, that it runs on FOSS implementation and that the solution depends on no closed source library.

In the evening we all went to a local pub where there were snacks and general merrymaking. It was interesting to see what everyone's poison was and debates on how who hacked what in his young days were not uncommon. It was interesting to see different approaches by different people. In general it was quite fun.

Day 2 (Tuesday, 29th of September):

In my hotel room, the system that opens and closes the bathroom sink's drainage was broken. But after a quick look I managed to find the lever under the sink to open it. Self-service breakfast was OK. I also noticed what's the difference between a four star (where the lectures were held) and three star hotel (where I was staying) – the first was only serving tea that I wouldn't drink personally, while the latter was serving tea that I wouldn't offer to my worst enemies. …this being said, how do you tell a tea connoisseur from a tea drinker wannabe? In such cases the latter drinks tea, while the former orders a cup of coffee :P

Today I skipped most of the lectures because a) most were too technical for my taste and b) I had quite a nice time chatting with Toshaan, Maddog and others. Toshaan and me even explained to Maddog what barley coffee is and he actually drank a cup ;)

My notes of the closing round table:

Closed source vs. FOSS, running on Linux. Closed source is easier marketable, easier accessible to passive users because of that, while the client has to find a FOSS projects. But FOSS is technically usually better and a lot more flexible and offers longevity. Although it's odd, clients still think that more money = better solution. One of the admins said that IRL some of the closed source solutions that run on Linux are usually a better choice (for them), because its user/admin interface is more user-friendly and it's therefore easier to introduce to a new admin (you don't need to teach him the CLI and your custom scripts). Another admin said that just choose the solution that fits you better -- whether its open or closed -- but in any case make sure you have support/help for it. Maddog: at the end the only people that really need FOSS are the end users, unless they want to have severe problems when the closed source solution would stop being supported. If FOSS went away, the software vendors will gladly switch back to the selling closed source. The risk of closed source software is on the shoulders of the end-users. The best solution is to keep (or make) it possible for companies to make money with FOSS. Otherwise the proprietary big players will fight FOSS. If you give them the option to make money with FOSS, they will work with FOSS.

Distro war on a more professional level …I won't even try to summarise it for obvious reasons ;) The most interesting thoughts on this topic were though that GNU/Linux has a very nice feature that it has layered support -- you have the commercial support (e.g. in enterprise distros), you search for help on user forums and IRC channels etc. and (admin's favourite) you can at the same time also access the developer who wrote that solution.

Problem with closed source software is that no-one but its maker can see the quality of the code. It's not uncommon that closed source software is so ugly written that its own developers are ashamed of the mess, but cannot change it (because the management wouldn't approve it and) because it would break the code where other hacks hold it together. With open source you can see the quality of the code.

My idea that the big business opportunity in the world (and even more so in the EU) is for SME's to provide specialised solutions and services that base on open standards and open source was met with mixed feelings. What I imagined is that because big proprietary solutions (e.g. whole office suits, groupware like Lotus Notes) never completely meet the customer's needs, SME's could specialise on tailoring FOSS solutions and offering support to their clients on exactly what they need. There's no chance that a multinational software company needs the same features in a groupware solutions then a small building company or a school. IMHO this is a big market niche. But as I said, some disagreed with me.

hook out → already back from the conference and studying

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