Biofuels and Open Source

I am in Chicago this week working with a client on 1.3.0. I really like Chicago (go Sox), and we actually have more OpenNMS clients in this city (5) than in any other place. We’ve been working with the new SNMPv3 feature and so far it’s been a hit.

When traveling I often find myself alone for dinner, so it’s “Table for one” time once again. I usually bring a book and this trip I’m reading one called ”Biodiesel Power” by a friend of mine named Lyle Estill. I’m sure it will be a big success, since right there on the first page of the Acknowledgments is yours truly. It changes the whole tone of the book for the better. Really. (grin)

I’ve worked with Lyle since 2002, and I’ve seen his dream to bring biodiesel (diesel fuel made from vegetable or animal fat) to the area move from experimentation on his farm to a 3 acre facility aiming to produce one million gallons a year.

The reason I bring this up is that he faces a lot of the same issues that we face. It’s funny the number of parallels between our efforts. They are both community driven, they are both totally new business models, and they face the same issues of “newness” that we do.

For example: when I bring up biodiesel I sometimes hear “we’d have to transform all of our agricultural production capability to growing feedstocks to produce enough biodiesel for our needs”. The actual amount of feedstocks we would need to produce is still an unknown, although large, number, but the argument seems to go that if we can’t produce ”all” of our energy needs with biodiesel, we shouldn’t produce ”any”, even though moving to other fuels would help the problem considerably.

I run into this with OpenNMS. Some people say “If OpenNMS can’t do ”everything” this expensive commercial application can, then we shouldn’t use it for ”anything”” and they keep on paying. If OpenNMS can do 80% or 90% of the other application, then perhaps it is worth looking at reducing the reliance on the commercial app by moving some things to OpenNMS, or perhaps developing the missing functionality to get rid of the commercial app altogether.

In other news, we released 1.3.0 this week, and it is a really nice piece of code. There are some little bugs that need to be cleaned up, but I think we’ve definitely moved up the functionality ladder quite a bit. Next week is our first Developer’s conference, and the week after that we’re in The Netherlands for LinuxWorld, with LISA soon after.

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