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Dwight Merriman Part III: Vendor Lock, Forks & Desktop FOSS

Editor’s note: This is the final installment of a three part series focusing on an interview with Dwight Merriman, co-founder of MongoDB. Part one was published last Monday as From DoubleClick to Database. Part two was published on Wednesday as Why MongoDB Embraces Open Source.

MongoDB’s Dwight Merriman and I were about thirty minutes into our conversation at All Things Open. Lunch time was approaching and I was definitely hungry. Merriman was getting a little antsy, ready to wrap it up, but there were a few more things I wanted to talk about first.

MongoDB Dwight Merriman ATO
MongoDB co-founder Dwight Merriman giving his keynote address at this year’s ATO conference.
Click to enlarge
“You said something today in your keynote address that I’d never thought about and it resonated with me,” I said. “A lot of our readers are users of open source, but not necessarily developers, not necessarily involved in the business end of open source. They run Linux. They maybe have a website or two — something along those lines.

“You mentioned how much easier it is putting together a project with open source because you can take from here and there. You talked about modularity. I’m thinking that’s not a lot different than the Linux home user who’s using modules and just doesn’t think of it in that way. He’s got his operating system, he’s got his word processor, he’s got his spreadsheet program…”

There really wasn’t a question here, just an idea to throw out for comment.

Microsoft: GPL or GTFO

One of the issues this week that has had the FOSS press all atwitter — literally and figuratively — and has had a lot of smart FOSS people uncharacteristically swooning is the fact that Microsoft is “open sourcing” .NET and other software (For example, .NET is released under the MIT license, whatever that may be).

One subtext here, of course, regarding the misplaced euphoria by some begs the question, “Is Microsoft trustworthy?” The answer is clearly, “No. Absolutely not.” Despite the fact that Redmond has been playing nice with FOSS lately, we should not trust Microsoft any farther than former CEO and Stasi agent look-alike Steve Ballmer can throw a chair.

Larry CafieroLarry Cafiero

Larry Cafiero, a.k.a. Larry the Free Software Guy, is a journalist and a Free/Open Source Software advocate. He is involved in several FOSS projects and serves as the publicity chair for the Southern California Linux Expo. Follow him on Twitter: @lcafiero

ATMs Might Go Linux, MS DOS Source Released & More…

FOSS Week in Review

Is Microsoft reading your Hotmail?

Last week we learned of the arrest of Alex Kibkalo, a Microsoft employee who’s charged with leaking an unreleased version of Windows 8 to a French blogger. According to Wired, during the course of an internal investigation in Redmond, an unidentified source approached Steven Sinofsky, who was then president of Microsoft’s Windows Division.

“The source gave Sinofsky a Hotmail address that belonged to the French blogger (also not named) and said that the blogger was the person who had received the leaked software. Microsoft had already been interested in the blogger, but apparently, after the tip-off, the company’s security team did something that raised alarm bells with privacy advocates. Instead of taking their evidence to law enforcement, they decided to search through the blogger’s private messages themselves. Four days after Sinofsky’s tip-off, Microsoft lawyers ‘approved content pulls of the blogger’s Hotmail account,’ the court filings state.

“By trolling through the Hotmail email messages and MSN Messenger instant message logs, Microsoft learnt how Kibkalo and the blogger pulled off the leak, says Federal Bureau of Investigation special agent Armando Ramirez III, in an affidavit filed in connection with the case. Microsoft handed over the results of its investigation to the FBI in 2013, and Kibkalo was arrested on Wednesday.”

This, of course, created quite a stir among privacy advocates. So much so that the folks in Redmond on Thrusday announced a change of policy when it comes to riffling through people’s Hotmail accounts. They’re still going to do it, but in the future the company will publish stats regarding its breaking into people’s free Hotmail accounts. In other words, we’ll know just how much they do it.

Open Source Hardware Gets CES Cred

At last week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, we again had the opportunity to witness how much the ideas behind open source are changing industries outside of software. I say this because open source hardware was much in evidence at this year’s event.

The press is taking note. In their coverage of CES, Adweek posted an article on an impressive mobile 3D mapping device being made by Occipital.

“All of this is made possible because Occipital is participating in a trend of open source hardware which is changing the way that startups operate. They focus on creating a stable piece of hardware and rely on the development community to extract its full potential for practical application.”

Christopher Clark talks about open source hardwareChristopher Clark talks about open source hardware
Christopher Clark, Director of Information Technology, SparkFun Electronics
This is a trend with the potential to eventually change hardware as radically as the various open source licenses have changed software. Indeed, it’s already making changes — and the concept isn’t just being adopted by small startups either.

Christine HallChristine Hall

Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

Google Disses Flash, DRM Comes to HTML & More…

FOSS Week in Review

Google wants to do away with Flash?

The day after our own Christine Hall expressed the opinion that Adobe’s Flash “isn’t going to go away anytime soon,” mainly because the Google ad business is hooked on it, we find that the Mountain View company might very well be trying to push Flash out the door. On Tuesday, CNET reported that Google has released a free beta of Google Web Designer, a tool for building animated HTML 5 ads.

Votes Tallied on the GPL and the NSA’s Spying

Yikes! We got behind in looking at the results of the polls we run here on FOSS Force, which means we’ve got some catching up to do.

What was your opinion on the GPL?

Back on June 30th we asked you, “Which of the following best describes your thoughts about the GPL?” The poll’s been active since, though for most of that time it’s been buried in the article What’s Your Take on the GPL? back in our archives. We took it down just this morning.

In this poll we offered the following options as answers:

MIT Reviews Aaron Swartz, Google’s 100 Million Takedowns & More…

FOSS Week in Review

USPTO shoots down Apple patent

There seems to be more than enough tit-for-tat to go around in the ongoing patent battle between Apple and Samsung. If we wanted to be snarky, we’d say we haven’t seen this much legal maneuvering since the last days of the Beatles and the “sue me, sue you blues.”

Microsoft Reorganizes, Big Brother in Iran & More…

FOSS Week in Review–Part 2

Now that we got last week out of the way, let’s look at what happened this week–or at least news that came to our attention this week…

You can now actually own digital comics

Digital rights and anti-DRM activists should be a little happy to learn that a major player in the comics’ world has decided to make actual ownership of its comics possible.

What’s Your Take on the GPL?

Most of us come to GNU/Linux and FOSS for reasons other than the GPL. Some, perhaps, first installed Linux only as a way of tinkering or just to have a look at a PC running something other than Windows. Others, maybe, grew tired of Microsoft or constantly dealing with the “blue screen of death.” The need to breathe new life into a computer that had grown obsolete by Redmond’s standards brought others to discover Linux. Then there are those who came for the free beer.

Opening Pandora’s Box

I first placed music online in 1996, a WAV file recorded through a microphone to promote the sale of an album I had under license on my indie BeanBag label featuring Georgie Fame and Van Morrison. I cheered for other music industry executives like Larry Rosen of GRP Records when he launched Music Boulevard online around 1997. I licensed songs by Jesse Colin Young (founder of The Youngbloods) to music publishing expert Bob Kohn’s for a cash advance against future royalties that had us partying like it was 1999.

Dave BeanDave Bean

Dave Bean is an Internet Radio pioneer who has worked for Musicmatch Internet Radio,,; and currently as a Music Curator for Internet Radio at As an owner of independent record labels, he was one of the first to license songs to eMusic and iTunes.

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