So the Gang of Four decided to actually produce a regular episode of Bad Voltage for the first time in, like, a month, so I decided to resurrect this little column making fun of them.
I am actually supposed to be on vacation this week, but for me vacation means working around the farm. I was working outside when the heat index hit 108.5F so while I was recovering from heat stroke I decided to give this week’s show a listen.
Clocking in at a healthy 75 minutes, give or take, it was an okay show, although the last fifteen minutes kind of wandered (much like most of this review).
The first segment concerned the creation of NextCloud as a fork of OwnCloud. I’ve already presented my thoughts on it from Bryan’s Youtube interview with the founders of NextCloud, and not much new was covered here. But it was a chance for all four of them to discuss it. One of the touted benefits of the new project is the lack of a contributor agreement. I don’t find this a good thing. Note that while I whole heartedly agree that many contributor agreements are evil, that doesn’t make them all evil. Take the OpenNMS contributor agreement. It’s pretty simple, and it protects both the contributor and the project. The most important feature, to me, is that the contributor states that they have a right to contribute the code to the project. I think that’s important, although if it were lacking or the contributor lied, the results would be the same (the infringing code would be removed from the application). It at least makes people think just a bit before sending in code.
Bryan made an offhand mention about trademarks in the same discussion, and I wasn’t sure what he meant by it. Does it mean NextCloud won’t enforce trademarks, or that there is an easy process that allows people to freely use them? I think enforcing trademarks is extremely important for open source companies. Otherwise, someone could take your code, crap all over it, and then ship it out under the same name. At OpenNMS we had issues with this back in 2005 but luckily since then it has been pretty quiet.
While there was even more speculation, no one really knows why the NextCloud fork happened. Some say it was that Frank Karlitschek was friends with Niels Mache of Spreed.me and wanted a partnership, but OwnCloud was against it. I think we’ll never know. Another suggestion that was been made is that it had to deal with the community of OwnCloud vs. the investors. Jono made the statement that VCs don’t take an active role in the community, but I have to disagree. My interactions with 90% of VCs have been an episode of Silicon Valley, and while they may not take an active role, you can expect them to say things like “These features over here will be part of our ‘enterprise’ version and not open, and make sure to hobble the ‘community’ version to drive sales, but other than that, run your community the way you want.”
One new point that was brought up was the business perception of the company. I think everyone who self identifies as an open source fan who is using OwnCloud will most likely switch to NextCloud since that is where the developers went, but will businesses be cautious about investing in NextCloud? The argument can be made that “who knows what will set Frank off next?” and the threat of NextNextCloud might worry some. I am not expecting this to happen (once bitten, twice shy, I bet Frank has learned a lot about what he wants out of his project) but it is a concern.
It is similar to Libreoffice. I don’t know anyone in the open source world using OpenOffice, but it is still huge outside of that world (I did a ride along with a friend who is police and was pleasantly surprised to see him bring up OpenOffice on his patrol car’s laptop).
It kind of reminds me when Google killed Reader and then announced Keep – seemed a bit ironic at the time. If a company can radically change or even remove a service you have come to rely on, will you trust them in the future?
The segment ended with a discussion of the early days of Ubuntu. Bryan made the claim that Ubuntu was made as an easier to use version Debian which Jono vehemently denied. He claimed the goal was to create a free, powerful desktop operating system. All I remember from those days were those kids from the United Colors of Bennetton ads on the covers of the free CDs.
The next piece was Bryan reviewing the latest Dell XPS 13 laptop. My last two laptops have been XPS 13 models and I love them. They ship with Linux (which I want to encourage) and I find they provide a great Linux desktop experience.
I got my newest one last year, and the main issue I’ve had is with the trackpad. Later kernels seem to have addressed most of my problems. I also dumped the Ubuntu 14.04 that shipped with it in exchange for Linux Mint, but I’m still running mainline kernels (4.6 at the moment). I’m eager for Mint 18 to release to see if the (rumoured) 4.4 kernel will work well (they keep backporting device driver changes) but outside of that I’ve had few problems.
Battery life is great, and the HiDPI screen is a big improvement over my old XPS 13. The main weirdness, for my model, is the location of the camera. In order to make the InfinityEdge display, they moved it to the bottom left of the screen so that the top bezel could be as thin as possible. It means people end up looking at the flabby underside of my chin instead of my face at times, but I use it so little that it doesn’t bother me much.
The third segment was about funding open source projects. It’s an eternal question: how do you pay for developers to work on free software? The guys didn’t really address it, focusing for the most part on programs that would provide some compensation for, say, travel to a conference, versus paying someone enough to make their mortgage. Stuart finally brought up that point but no real answers were offered.
The last fifteen minutes was the gang just shooting the breeze. Bryan used the term “duck fart” which apparently is a cocktail (sounds nasty, so don’t expect it on the cocktail blog). There is also, apparently, a science fiction novel called Bad Voltage that is not supposed to be that great, and the suggestion was made that the four of them should write their own version, but in the form of an “exquisite corpse” (my term, not theirs) where each would right their section independently and see what happens when it gets combined.
All in all, not a horrible show but not great, either. It is nice to have them all back together.
I’m eager to see how Bryan manages the next one, since he is spending 30 days solely in the Linux shell. How will Google Hangouts (which is what they use to make the show) work?
Curious minds want to know.