Saturday, March 28, 2009

Whither the Talking Moose?

Back to the Golden Age: OSS Ecosystem Fueled by the Internet, New and Better Development Tools

By Kevin La Rue, November 30, 2005

Lately, I've been feeling a little nostalgic about what I call the "golden age" of consumer software innovation in the late '80s and early '90s. Back then I was cutting my teeth at a medium-sized Mac software publisher called Silicon Beach Software that had a few early successes and that also saw a fair number of applications plied by smaller developers wanting Silicon Beach to publish their software.

As a product manager, I recall my excitement at the number of cool software applications that were hitting the scene, be they commercial, shareware, or freeware. Innovation was happening everywhere around us as both big companies and one-man shops were looking at their crystal balls trying to figure out what the next "killer app" would be. Anyone remember PageMaker, SuperPaint, MORE, QuickKeys, HyperCard, Morph, or Printshop? And who could forget that adorable sage, the Talking Moose?

Just when I'm lamenting that the "good ol' days" are gone, I look around and realize that, if anything, the pace of software innovation has gone stratospheric. The open source community - fueled by online collaboration, advancements in development tools, and open standards - is out-innovating and surely outproducing even that beloved golden age, driving desktop Linux adoption forward.

You can't read a tech magazine or RSS feed today without seeing a discussion of the strides that the open source software (OSS) movement is making or its potential to reshape the computing landscape. Much of the OSS buzz comes from highly visible projects like Firefox (www.getfirefox.com), GIMP (http://gimp.org), and SugarCRM (http://sugarcrm.com), which have done so much more than provide great alternative software choices; they've opened people's eyes to the kinds of quality software that can be developed communally.

A glance at SourceForge (http://sourceforge.net), a large repository of open source software projects, recently showed more than 100,000 collaborative projects underway. That's an incredible number, and a testament to the Internet's power to support sustained communication between a like-minded community of people.

Besides the OSS ecosystem fueled by the Internet, innovation is being stoked by new and better development tools arriving on the scene. Tools like Kdevelop (http://kdevelop.org) are popular, as are commercial environments like Sun's Java Studio (http://sun.com/javastudio), Real Software's REALbasic (http://realsoftware.com), and Revelation's OpenInsight for Linux (http://revelation.com).

Innovation is also sped along by a communal vibe that application data types really should be based on open standards because it's the right thing to do. Despite differences in GUI or feature sets, data can and should be shared effortlessly between platforms.

Who gains from all this innovation? At the end of the day, we as computer users gain the most. We get more choices and a larger stable of innovative, nicely polished software applications that ultimately are critical to the widespread adoption of desktop Linux. In fact, after more than three years of running desktop Linux, I can say I'm totally satisfied except for one thing: I miss my old buddy the Talking Moose.

PS: this is a reprint of an article written for an open-source publication when I was with Linspire. Just found it on the Web!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Midway Madness

It had been nearly a year in the planning (Thank you Marie Weir!), but the day had finally come - the Cub Scout "camp-out" on the U.S.S. Midway aircraft carrier.

Whoa. This ship had seen action in Korea, Vietnam, the first Gulf War, and boatloads (pun intended) of missions without public name. A serious boat which, when fully loaded, had more than 4,500 soldiers on board. The boat that help evacuate Saigon. The boat that fired the first missile on Baghdad. The boat that took on Pack 621 (and survived!). Now those are some impressive credentials. ;-)

We stepped on to the decks (they call it "mustering") about 4:45 on a Friday. Pack 621 fielded nearly 40 souls. Giddy kids and giddy adults. Once on board the hanger deck with our gear, there was an orientation talk by the docents and then bunk assignments before dinner.

Mustering...

Bunks were 3-high, but we were only allowed in the bottom two (wise rule for us old guys). The kids were loving it, but all I could think about was (a) how narrow the height and (b) how the h*ll I was going to squeeze into the middle bunk! It's harder than it looks, though with practice...

Yummy... generic food served by the hands of those who shall remain nameless!

Eating in the galley was a big thing for me; I dunno why. There was just something wicked cool about having a steel tray with slop on it, slopped on by unseen men with their sloppy gloved hands. Food never tasted so good, despite the mechanical smell all about. I'm told the room we ate in used to be a weapons assembly room.

During the first night, we were able to fly simulators, tour the ship in a neat scavenger hunt which included the "crypto" room, visit the Admiral's planning room and visit both the flight deck control tower and the ship control tower. One dealt with the planes; the other with all other matters of ship & fleet.

The Crypto Room w/ pneumatic pipes carrying messages of import

Map of Baghdad - looking at first strike targets, Day One of Desert Storm

Overnight was a late one. The boys were so stoked about chatting with one another and cruising around the dark ship with their flashlights ("but we were only going to the head!"), that when I finally fell asleep at 1am (lightweight), many were still up. And... there's rumors about some dads exploring some places that I can't and won't retell on the open Internet! ;-)

The next morning we got up early, mustered with all our gear to the hanger desk again, ate heartily, heard stories of the Midway's role in the evacuation of Saigon, cruised around on the flight deck, and then "drove" some more simulators. The boys were ecstatic as near as I could tell.

All told, I would heartily recommend the Midway, both as a tour and as an overnight destination. At $85/camper it wasn't cheap, but how many of us can say we've slept on a freakin' aircraft carrier!!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

The Business Swarm

I've always approached trade shows at face value: hang out a shingle and roll the dice as to who swings by to see what ya have to offer. Then maximize that encounter.

Oh sure, set some meetings (trying to limit the number who are trying to sell YOU) but also spend time fully focused on what's in front of you too...

Take the WPPI and PMA shows I just attended. Back-to-back Las Vegas trips; one end-user focused and the other more reseller/trade partner oriented. The former was a friendly rollicking fun show with people genuine in their hunger to learn more. Sales were pretty much snap decisions. The latter was slower, and one whose success will likely be measured in the days and weeks to come.

I met with some many resellers this week looking for ways to expand their business (hey, software is high margin, says I!). Also spent some time with some cool guys from Peachpit who are maybe interested in penning a book about Nik Software tools. Canada continues to dominate my radar too. I call this the "swarm approach:" take all comers.

All of this will take some work to close or otherwise derive benefit from. Well... guess that's why they pay me the BIG BUCKS! ;-) LOL