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Archive for December, 2007

Beatnik CEO

Red Hat News | A Message From Matthew

“The only people for me are the mad ones. The ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved. Desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow Roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue center light pop and everybody goes awwwwww.” — Jack Kerouac

After almost a decade of leading Red Hat, I have decided to transition my CEO and President role for the personal reasons I have already discussed. It’s my privilege to continue serving this great company in the role of Chairman of the Board. Red Hat will be in the capable hands of a world-class executive team under the leadership of Jim Whitehurst as President and CEO.

My first week at Red Hat, freshly hired as a writer in the Brand Communications department, Matthew Szulik passed along to my group a Kurt Vonnegut short story, Harrison Bergeron, as inspiration/fodder for a video we were trying to make. A few days later, it was suggested that Matthew had said in passing that it didn’t have to be a video, it could be a very short one-act play, if that was a better way to tell the story we were trying to tell. That story we had to tell, more or less, was the emergence of open source software as a ubiquitous, robust, mature, sustainable successful technology that had already changed the world and the best was yet to come.

I read the short story and, honestly, being new to Red Hat and “tech writing,” I was utterly and completely baffled. The letters W-T-F? crossed my mind a few times. I wondered if I was being hazed.

But being paid to read and think about Kurt Vonnegut? For my job? Sure, I’ll do that. Thanks, boss.

I spent the next week re-reading Vonnegut, reading up on “the open source movement” and trying to figure out how to write a one-act play, and yes, it seemed odd to me, I admit it. But there was something obviously great about it, too. Maybe it was the blend of being trusted with a difficult, important task, provided with actual intellectual inspiration instead of a pep talk, all the while being ardently encouraged (badgered?) to come up with something completely new. You should always feel that way at work, right?

Shortly after that, Vonnegut passed away, and Matthew eulogized him in a company-wide email. That was also pretty cool. Very cool, actually.

That’s the story I will tell when I tell people about Matthew Szulik.

Thanks to Wikiquote, I found another Kerouac quote I half remembered from 20 years ago that seems fitting tonight.

Dig it:

What is the feeling when you’re driving away from people, and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? -it’s the too huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.

Open Source Moon Rocket

NASA Ares I Moon Rocket – Open-Source Contract With Boeing – Popular Mechanics

The “brains” of the Ares I rocket that will send four astronauts back to the moon sometime in the next 12 years will be built by Boeing, NASA announced today—but the specifications will be open-source and non-proprietary, so that other companies can bid on future contracts. The avionics unit will provide guidance, navigation and control for the launch rocket, which will carry the Orion crew vehicle into Earth orbit.

Mark Webbink On: Intellectual Property

Download this video: [Ogg Theora]

This week, former Red Hat General Counsel, Mark Webbink, discusses his views on Intellectual Property.

And don’t miss Mark’s latest Walking With Elephants post, Half A Loaf, about the Microsoft settlement in the EU.

Mark Webbink, former Red Hat General Counsel discusses software patents, their absurdity and the business climate and “judicial activism” that helped create them.

Patent Troll Haiku Contest

Patent Troll Tracker: Patent Troll Tracker Haiku Contest Results

Genius since age twelve.
Invented on boss’s time.
Ridiculed on web.

— Random Examiner

Stand up for OGG

(X)HTML5 Tracking

Have your say.

Copyright Reform Roadmap

Public Knowledge Proposes Six-Point Program for Copyright Reform | Public Knowledge

The six points are:

1. Fair Use Reform. The existing four-part legal test for fair use should be expanded to add incidental, transformative and non-commercial personal uses of content. In addition, Congress should provide that making a digital copy of a work for indexing searches is not an infringement.

2. Limits on Secondary Liability. The 1984 Sony Betamax decision by the U.S. Supreme Court protecting a manufacturer of technology from liability as long as the technology has “substantial non-infringing use” should be codified.

3. Protections Against Copyright Abuse. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) should be expanded to deter copyright holders from filing frivolous requests that material be taken down from a web site. Congress should provide legal relief for legitimate users of a work should copyright owners overstate their rights.

4. Fair and Accessible Licensing. Congress should simplify the Byzantine world of obtaining rights to use a musical work, and should require broadcasters to pay performance royalties as satellite and Internet radio do.

5. Orphan Works Reform. Congress should limit damages for the use of works for which a copyright can not be found after a good-faith search. In addition, competitive visual registries should be established to protect visual artists and photographers.

6. Notice of Technological and Contractual Restrictions on Digital Media. Copyright holders should be required to provide clear and simple notice to consumers of any technological or contractual limitations on a consumer’s ability to make fair use or other lawful use of a product. There would be legal consequences if that notice isn’t followed.

Nature Releases Human Genome Research Under Creative Commons License

Shared genomes : Article : Nature

Although Nature and the Nature journals are built on a business model funded by subscribers and other sources of revenue, various initiatives have been implemented to enhance the accessibility of the research papers published in these journals.


In the continuing drive to make papers as accessible as possible, NPG is now introducing a ‘creative commons’ licence for the reuse of such genome papers. The licence (see allows non-commercial publishers, however they might be defined, to reuse the pdf and html versions of the paper. In particular, users are free to copy, distribute, transmit and adapt the contribution, provided this is for non-commercial purposes, subject to the same or similar licence conditions and due attribution.

Check out this new Creative Commons Comic

Sharing Creative Works – CC Wiki

Sharing Creative Works is a new comic about Creative Commons. It aims to explain the basics of CC licensing as simply as possible to a general audience, including children. To make remixes and translations as easy as possible, the artwork is in SVG format and the script is plain text.

ODF Dutch T(h)reat

Dutch open source vote could sideline Microsoft – Computerworld UK – The Voice of IT Management

The Dutch parliament is set to discuss a plan to mandate use of the Open Document Format at government agencies, a move which observers have said could infuriate Microsoft.

The proposal, to be heard on Wednesday, is part of a wider plan to increase the sustainability of information and innovation, while lowering costs through the reuse of data. Implementing the plan is expected to cost €8.45m (£6.08m) between 2008 and 2011.

“The Progress of Science and Useful Arts”

If sotware patents ended tomorrow, would anyone still innovate?

Short version: You betcha. – Telling the Truth About Software Patents and Innovation

How often have you heard it said that “patents foster innovation?” That phrase rings true in pharmaceuticals, where investment requirements are enormous and failure common. But does it also apply in areas such as software? Does it really take the promise of a legal monopoly to motivate a typical founder or CTO to innovate? And what about the advantages patents give big companies over emerging ones, simply because the former can credibly threaten expensive patent litigation while the latter cannot?

I’ll talk about the negative impacts of software patents another time. But today I’d like to make the case that patents are irrelevant to software innovation, based on my 25 years of representing hundreds of startups, the largest number of which have been either pure software companies or other ventures whose value lay in the software at the heart of their businesses. That history tells me that if patents were to disappear tomorrow, the process of innovation wouldn’t skip a beat.

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