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Every time I hear of another great open source project shutting its doors, I hold my breath in hopes it will be forked. Sadly though, this isn’t a great plan for all projects. Sometimes these projects are rich in users but poor in developers. In this article, I’ll explore this issue and what can be done to keep open source projects funded.

Historically, open source projects that benefit businesses or education can find a means of funding. Distros such as Debian, receive funding from individuals, organizations and even businesses that have a vested interest in seeing the distro’s development continue for years to come.

Smaller distros based on Debian often lack this option as they don’t hold the same level of perceived importance to those in a position to help financially. These distros and related open source projects tend to rely on direct donations.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this is a failed funding model for smaller projects. Unless a project is used in education or the enterprise space, odds are it’s going to be labeled as a hobby project at best and go without the needed funds to help it grow.

Think about how many desktop-ready projects you’ve seen that ask for donations via some sort of payment button. If you look carefully, you’ll notice it’s more than just a few projects. The problem is that there’s no incentive to contribute financially, so most people won’t bother. Clearly there’s a need to offer users a sense of urgency as to why they should consider contributing what they can afford for the software they use.

One of the latest efforts to fund Open Source software and community Linux distributions is Patreon. What’s cool about this funding tool is that it works for anything that has a community willing to fund it. From podcasts to software, the sky’s the limit. Two of my the best examples of this are Elementary OS and Ubuntu MATE.

Now I must disclose that I’m both an Ubuntu MATE user and also a financial contributor (be it a small contribution). Both projects are successfully bringing in funding for their specific projects. However, this is where Elementary OS and Ubuntu MATE separate in terms of their goals.

Elementary OS is looking to use Patreon to fund the hiring of developers for the distro’s continued development. On the flip side, Ubuntu MATE wants to fund their basic server hosting costs, and if there is excess, perhaps reward their community contributors with the extra funds.

Moving beyond the project’s goals according to their perspective Patreon pages, the Milestone Goals are also setup differently between the projects. Ubuntu MATE explains straight away that their Milestone Goals are centered around the project’s server needs and a server for running Discourse software for community interaction.

By contrast, Elementary OS appears to be equating their Milestone Goals to that of wage earning levels. While I like and understand their pledge goals, I found their Milestone Goals to be confusing. My issue isn’t with them wanting to earn money to hire developers or even to simply compensate one for their time. Since I work as a freelancer, I understand this. What I find confusing is how a Milestone Goal that equates a financial level of earning equals an incentive to contribute?

Not to be cold, but when I contribute to Ubuntu MATE, I do so because I want to make sure each month their server(s) are running. Heck, I’d like to see them even get to a point to where they’re compensated for their time investment as well. But with Elementary OS, we’re changing gears from their mission statement “let’s accelerate our development” to “minimum wage” and “a below market salary.” To be clear, if I ran Elementary OS on my PCs, I would be contributing financially. It’s a simple matter of principle for me. But their Milestones Goals have me feeling quite content using other distributions instead.

If you’re going to setup a funding campaign, lose the guilt trip. Explain to me as a potential funding source how my money is going to be used not what wage level it might become eventually. Frankly, no one cares about that. What they do care about is how contributed funds turn into bug fixes or new features.

Each Milestone Goal needs to reflect a positive change that comes about as each goal is realized. Alluding to wage value is both highly ineffective and a huge turn off for anyone reading it. Evolve this into something beneficial to the end user and success will surely follow.

The challenge that any Linux project or Open Source software looking for Patreon funding must juggle is how to keep people excited about contributing their hard earned money month after month. When dealing with end users outside of the enterprise space this is painfully difficult to do.

Look at what failed projects such as Linspire and Xandros did. What did they do poorly and where did they shine? By studying these examples carefully I believe projects such as Elementary OS can learn from their mistakes going forward.

Funding bug fixes is best left to those Open Source projects centered around business and education. Frankly, it’s rare for home users to be very motivated to fund bug fixes outside of WINE gaming or WINE small business applications. If you want to motivate someone to make a sustainable monthly contribution, there better be clearly defined benefits outside of bug fixes.

Option 1 – Faster Development. Contribute and the developer will commit to a release cycle of [insert time period here]. In situations where speedy development isn’t feasible, Patreon contributors could narrate a short behind the scenes screencast to show us what is being done each week.

Option 2 – One time funding to keep the project alive. Going with a one time funding approach, perhaps done every six months or so…depending on the frequency needed. I can think of audio and video editors that would do well with this approach. I’d contribute myself, because the idea of these projects disappearing would impact my daily work-flow.

Option 3 – Access to a special feature. Deciding on the special feature to offer is tricky, but having one available would go a long way to making a monthly contribution seem more palatable.

Trying to find a balance between passion for an Open Source project and being able to support oneself financially from it is tricky. I firmly believe it’s more difficult for desktop specific projects as they’re not as likely to garner support from businesses willing to sponsor them.

My hope is that some of the points made within this article inspire those projects out there looking to fund their continued development by offering unexpected value in addition to the project’s existing features. Remember, unlike proprietary software, Open Source must position itself differently in order to realize ongoing revenue.

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Open Source Alternatives To Google

Is it feasible to drop Google for a period of time in exchange for unfettered open source alternatives?

When I first pondered the notion of such an idea, I figured I must be losing my mind. Drop Google? The search giant, regardless of how well-intentioned it may be, has an octopus-like hold on the Internet – its tentacles are everywhere.

Oddly enough, though, it turned out to be easier than I expected. Let’s look at the mindset, software choices and habit changes needed to make this idea doable.

Dropping Google

Considering Google’s contributions to the open source world, why would anyone want to stop supporting such a company? Well, the problem with Google is that despite their support of open source developers, their track record with privacy concerns is spotty.

Perhaps even worse, the fact is that we are becoming entirely too dependent on Google products over those from smaller vendors. Everything from document management to revenue generation is almost entirely tied to Google these days. Ask anyone using the Web regularly and the odds are huge they’re using at least one Google product.

So when we think of dropping Google products, we’re really saying that you’re going to be changing your natural behavior when using your computer. Can open source software seriously meet this challenge head on?

It turns out that it really comes down to one thing: software.

The software lineup

Which specific tools and applications are viable options to replace their Google-powered counterparts? After much searching, I ended up with a compilation of known open source applications and one tool that is just another search engine.

Face it, just because we’re trying to break the Google habit doesn’t mean that starting a new search engine from scratch is in order. Instead let’s use existing open source solutions and see if they have what it takes to replace their Google-based counterparts.

Chrome replacement: Initially I looked into Chromium, but found that it’s still too much of a Google product. So clearly that wouldn’t work. Finally after many hours hunting, I settled on Firefox from Mozilla. Yes, Firefox uses Google search by default. Luckily this can be remedied easily by simply switching to something else for handling search queries.

Google search replacement: Don’t shoot the messenger folks – no, technically DuckDuckGoisn’t an open source search engine.

But after looking into managing my own search engine, I decided that DuckDuckGo might be the best alternative to Google after all. In addition to offering a great API, DuckDuckGo does something very important that Google does not. DuckDuckGo doesn’t track you. They also don’t collect any privacy-harming “cookied data” on you, either.

Gmail replacement: I honestly thought I was out of luck finding a Gmail replacement. Luckily it turns out a trip to SourceForge was all that was needed. I found an open source Webmail solution called Roundcube.

Everything you could want from a webmail client from threaded email to multiple sender identities is available within this software package. The only thing I found missing was a list of hosting companies supporting Roundcube, and perhaps indications of spam filtering. Apart from these quibbles, Roundcube looks awesome.

Google Reader replacement: At first I figured I was going to be subjected to a desktop RSS client to replace Google Reader. It turns out that this wasn’t going to be a problem at all. There’s a Web app called NewsBlur that not only feels like a true Google Reader replacement, it’s also open source and imports content from your existing Reader account. How’s that for awesome functionality?

Google Talk replacement: Finding a replacement for Google Talk was brain-dead simple, I just needed to install Ekiga! Using Ekiga is a natural fit as it supports open protocols like SIP and will work on both Linux and Windows.

The only downside I could find is getting other people to install it. Without the second party making that installation happen, you’d be have only a number of short one-way conversations.

Google Docs replacement: This replacement was perhaps the most difficult so far. Sure, one could stick to the proprietary route and use one of the countless alternatives in the collaborative space. But the idea is to use open source software as the alternative. After extensive searching, I finally located something called the “TeamDrive extension” for Open Office.

The good news is that TeamDrive is supporting the open source office suite Open Office. It would also stand to reason this will be carried over to Libre Office in the future as well. The bad news is that the extension itself is freeware – it’s not open source at all. Surely we can give kudos to the extension developers for selecting Open Office rather than Microsoft Office, right?

Open Source Openstack Cloud Platform Turns 3

On July 19th, 2010, the CTO of NASA joined with Rackspace to announce a new effort, known as OpenStack.

Three years later, OpenStack is much more than just Rackspace and NASA. Today OpenStack is supported by 231 member companies, including some of the biggest names in technology with HP, IBM, Dell, Cisco, Intel, AT&T and Comcast.

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The OpenStack project started out with just two core pieces, the Nova compute project from NASA with 9,000 lines of code and the Swift object storage platform, which had 20,000 lines of code. Over the last three years, the project has added new projects, including the Horizon dashboard, the Glance image storage service, the Keystone identity service and the Quantum networking service, among others. In total, the project has well over 600,000 lines of code today.

On the Rackspace side, one of the key leaders from the early days of the effort onward has been Jonathan Bryce. Bryce is also a co-founder of the Rackspace Cloud and currently serves as the Executive Director of the OpenStack Foundation. The OpenStack Foundation was formed in 2012 as a way to help push the open source effort forward in a vendor-neutral multi-stakeholder model.

Bryce told Datamation that in the last three years, he has seen an astounding community emerge around OpenStack.

“The community and collaboration of our members is a true success story in the technology industry that has created opportunities for organizations and individuals around the world,” Bryce said.

Another key figure in the growth and evolution of OpenStack is Mark Collier, who helped to found the effort and is currently the Chief Operating Office of the OpenStack Foundation. At Rackspace, Collier worked as the VP of Business and Corporate Development.

Collier told Datamation that three years ago when OpenStack got started, he didn’t expect things to be where they are now.

“We believed strongly in the idea of a fully open cloud platform that was started by users with a strong ecosystem around it, but had no idea how fast that ecosystem would come together or how many users would be interested in just three years,” Collier said. “We certainly didn’t expect to have over 1,000 developers, that’s pretty unheard of in open source.”

“That told me the idea was very powerful,” Collier said. Now we see the more people visit chúng tôi from Beijing than any other city, and Japan interest continues to be very strong as well,” Collier said. “Considering the project was started by two organizations in the US, that definitely surprised me.

“The power of open source really is universal and global,” Collier added.

Challenges

The rapid growth of OpenStack has not come without its fair share of challenges.

“We are constantly striving to manage this accelerated growth to enable the hundreds of changes that come into the same code base on a daily basis and dozens of events that happen each week,” Bryce said. “We’re constantly thinking about what’s next, how to scale, and how we continue to make OpenStack an attractive community for the brightest minds and innovators to come together and build the future of computing.”

In the beginning of the effort, it was possible to know everyone that was involved in the community, but that’s no longer the case.

“We just have to trust in the model and values of the community, and pitch in wherever we can to help preserve that and grow the platform’s reach,” Collier said. “From the Foundation perspective, that means prioritizing, but as long as we stick to our core values we will do the right thing for OpenStack.”

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Datamation and chúng tôi Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

Openstack Set To Tackle Open Source Federated Identity In The Cloud

Federated cloud identity and authentication is coming to OpenStack.

The OpenStack open source cloud platform started out with only two components: Nova Compute and Swift Storage. Nova originally came from NASA and Swift came from Rackspace.

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Over the course of the last two years, OpenStack has expanded beyond NASA and Rackspace and has been embraced by many large tech vendors, including IBM, HP, Dell, AT&T, Cisco and Intel among others. As OpenStack participation has grown, new capabilities have been added, including most recently the Cinder block storage project and the Quantum networking project. Cinder and Quantum both debuted in the recent Folsom release.

For the next major release of OpenStack, codenamed Grizzly, Federated Authentication is likely to be the next key component that will come to the open source cloud platform.

“Everyone wants hybrid clouds,” Joshua McKenty, founder of Piston Cloud and OpenStack Board member told Datamation. “There are a couple of stumbling blocks on the road to hybrid clouds that OpenStack needs to address seriously, the biggest one being federated authentication.”

McKenty explained that for federated authentication, OpenStack will be taking the same approach to development as the project took for the Quantum networking component. For Quantum, networking and Software Defined Networking (SDN) vendors were assembled to figure out was needed and to actually develop the technology.

“I’m taking the same approach with authentication and identity now, rounding up the identity management vendors and getting them to chime in,” McKenty said.

Identity is not an entirely new capability for OpenStack. The Essex release that debuted in April of 2012 introduced the Keystone Identity Service. The idea behind Keystone is to provide authentication across all of the core OpenStack components.

“Keystone is really a middleware framework in the same way that OpenStack is middleware framework for building clouds,” McKenty explained. “Keystone is a middleware framework for connecting to authentication systems.”

“What I really need is my internal authentication system bridged out to the public cloud and also connected internally to my private cloud environment,” McKenty said.

He added that there have been some pieces, including (Security Assertion Markup Language) support for Single SignOn, that have been built for Keystone, though he noted that it’s still immature. Work still needs to be done on ActiveDirectory integration as well as Kerboros oAuth and ACLs that span both public and private networks.

“There is a bunch of work that needs to be done, in the same way that Quantum was definitional as well as then aspirational,” McKenty said. “The strategy is to get the people that understand authentication involved and then work with them to define what the future of virtualized authentication looks like.”

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at chúng tôi the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

5 Open Source Tools Every Digital Nomad Needs

So you consider yourself a digital nomad. You live your life on the go and every tool you use is geared toward that lifestyle. You need to be mobile, agile, and as efficient as possible. These choices are never so apparent as when you wind up having to use a tool that doesn’t make your on-the-go nomadic tendencies as fluid as need be. But don’t think for a second that the only tools you can get are proprietary software. In fact, there are plenty of open source tools that can help you achieve nomad nirvana. And because these tools are open source, they have no associated software cost, making them even more appealing to those attempting to carve out a living in a non-standard fashion. What are these tools? Let’s dive in and find out.  

Nextcloud

We’ll start off with a tool you’ll probably need to enable collaboration as a part of your daily grind. Even though you might have chosen to go solo, chances are at some point you’re going to have to work with others. On top of that, you’ll probably want a cloud server that isn’t directly tied to Google, Apple, or Microsoft. So why not have your very own cloud solution, one that gives you full control over every aspect? That solution is

WordPress

Part of your digital nomad existence is probably spent blogging. And what better blogging tool than the world’s most popular solution,

Scribus

At some point, you’re going to need to create PDF documents. But you’re a digital pro and converting from a LibreOffice .odt file to a PDF doesn’t give you enough control. Instead, you need the power of a full-blown desktop publishing software title, such as

Calibre

Speaking of books, if part of your digital nomad life is that of an author, you’ll want the right tool to convert your manuscripts into publishable ebook formats. The single best tool for this job is

Orbot VPN

There may come a time when you’re going to need a VPN, especially in certain countries or regions around the world. This requirement might also come about when you’re unsure how secure a local area network is. Why trust that to corporate solutions that’ll cost you money? Instead, opt for the TOR-based VPN solution,

Conclusion

So you consider yourself a digital nomad. You live your life on the go and every tool you use is geared toward that lifestyle. You need to be mobile, agile, and as efficient as possible. These choices are never so apparent as when you wind up having to use a tool that doesn’t make your on-the-go nomadic tendencies as fluid as need be. But don’t think for a second that the only tools you can get are proprietary software. In fact, there are plenty of open source tools that can help you achieve nomad nirvana. And because these tools are open source, they have no associated software cost, making them even more appealing to those attempting to carve out a living in a non-standard fashion. What are these tools? Let’s dive in and find out.We’ll start off with a tool you’ll probably need to enable collaboration as a part of your daily grind. Even though you might have chosen to go solo, chances are at some point you’re going to have to work with others. On top of that, you’ll probably want a cloud server that isn’t directly tied to Google, Apple, or Microsoft. So why not have your very own cloud solution, one that gives you full control over every aspect? That solution is Nextcloud . With the latest release, Nextcloud includes more tools than you’ll probably need as a digital nomad. In fact, once you have this cloud-based server up and running, you’ll find most everything you need is at the ready. And with Nextcloud 18, you’ll also enjoy a fully featured office suite included, so you can take care of all your writing and collaboration tasks within a single web-based tool. The only caveats to using Nextcloud is that you’ll have to pay for hosting the service and, depending on your skill level, you might have to hire an IT outsourcing company like BairesDev to get the server up and running. So even though you’re not going to be paying a single dime for software, you do have to host that free software chúng tôi of your digital nomad existence is probably spent blogging. And what better blogging tool than the world’s most popular solution, WordPress . However, I’m not talking about making use of a chúng tôi subdomain. Instead, why not install the open source WordPress blogging solution on that same host that houses your Nextcloud? WordPress is actually an open source blogging server tool that is the same backend/frontend used on chúng tôi In fact, because you’d be hosting it yourself, you’ll enjoy even more features found on the free site. This allows you to install any one of the thousands of WordPress plugins and themes, so you can customize your blog site to exactly meet your chúng tôi some point, you’re going to need to create PDF documents. But you’re a digital pro and converting from a LibreOffice .odt file to a PDF doesn’t give you enough control. Instead, you need the power of a full-blown desktop publishing software title, such as Scribus . With Scribus, you can create professional-quality PDF documents with ease using CMYK colors, spot colors, ICC color management, and more. With this desktop layout software, you can generate everything from pamphlets, flyers, and novels. If you have a need to get seriously creative with your page layouts, this is the tool you’ll need.Speaking of books, if part of your digital nomad life is that of an author, you’ll want the right tool to convert your manuscripts into publishable ebook formats. The single best tool for this job is Calibre . With Calibre you can easily convert MS Word files, open document format, PDF, and HTML files into either .EPUB or .MOBI files that can then be uploaded to any of the digital bookseller sites. And for those that really like to have full control over how their ebooks look, you can use the built-in editor to make changes to those manuscripts in real-time. But Calibre isn’t just a converter. With this tool, you can also organize your own book library and even serve that library up over a local area network.There may come a time when you’re going to need a VPN, especially in certain countries or regions around the world. This requirement might also come about when you’re unsure how secure a local area network is. Why trust that to corporate solutions that’ll cost you money? Instead, opt for the TOR-based VPN solution, Orbot VPN . Orbot VPN is a free proxy app for Android, that allows other apps on your phone to use the network more securely. Because Orbot VPN works as a standard mobile app, it’s incredibly simple to use (so you won’t have to turn to that IT outsourcing service). The only caveat to using Orbot VPN is that network connections do tend to be a bit slower than usual. However, when anonymity and security are key, that lack of speed won’t be an chúng tôi only scratches the surface of the tools you’ll need as a digital nomad. But as for those tools you can use that have open source options, this list will go a long way to getting you started. With a foundation tool like Nextcloud, you’ll find that adding a few more pieces to the puzzle will perfectly round out your nomad toolkit just fine.

Bi Vendors Get Smart Around Linux, Open Source

As Linux steps beyond the limits of technical applications, business intelligence (BI) is one area that’s leading the way. In a rash of recent BI announcements at LinuxWorld and elsewhere, many vendors are developing new business models, while consciously giving customers a choice between Linux and other operating systems–and in some cases, between commercial and open source implementations, too.

Even outside the issue of underlying OS, BI is a hot spot right now for software and services, anyway, according to some industry statistics. For instance, in one recent study–conducted by CompTIA with research firm TNS Prognostics–VAR customers said they expect their business will grow by at least 40 percent in these five areas: BI (8 percent); wireless networks (8 percent); network security (12 percent); managed services (13 percent); and VOIP (13 percent).

At the same time, the list of vendors issuing recent announcements of BI products for Linux–and often, other OS–ranges from large enterprise providers such as SAP and Oracle to BI specialists such as Business Objects, JasperSoft, Pentaho, and Actuate.

For example, at last week’s LinuxWorld show in San Francisco, JasperSoft unveiled the first “Professional” editions of its JasperSoft Server and Analytics business intelligence solutions. Both products, previously available in open source versions only, operate on Linux along with Sun Solaris, IBM AIX, and Microsoft Windows, said Nick Klawans, JasperSoft’s CTO, during an interview with LinuxPlanet.

For its part, ERP vendor SAP used LinuxWorld to display a line-up of BI products which encompasses the Linux-based BI accelerator, together with its underlying, “OS-agnostic” NetWeaver middleware platform.

“Businesses want to make rapid decisions. The accelerator ‘turbo-charges’ NetWeaver, letting customers do very fast indexing and querying.”

So why is BI heading into Linux, anyway? By and large, vendors point to customer demand. “The key thing is to provide users with a full range of choice,” according to Hearn.

For its part, JasperSoft, by the way, is also planning an HP-UX edition of its BI server, along with Professional–as opposed to open source–iteration of a third BI product, known as JasperReports.

On the Linux OS side, both vendors now certify their products for Red Hat and Novell SUSE distributions only. “We’ve been pretty market-centric with certification. But we’re not on a hook with a contract-bound SLA (software license agreement). Pick your favorite distribution. A lot of people are successfully using our software with Debian, for example, doing their own development,” Klawans told LinuxPlanet.

Vendors’ decisions around platform support also hinge strongly on the skill sets of their targeted sets of customers.

According to Hearn, SAP chose Linux as the platform for its accelerator precisely because, as an ‘optimzation’ for NetWeaver, the product is used directly by IT departments, as opposed to end customers.

Desktop BI is a different matter, though. Moreover, many businesses still rely heavily–or even entirely–on Windows at the network level, said Nick Halsey, VP of marketing at JasperSoft, an open source start-up formed from long-time BI software firm Brio.

Halsey added that reliance on Linux is particularly strong among SMBs, one of JasperSoft’s target markets with its trio of open source BI products.

“We’re also completely embeddable,” according to Klawans. JasperSoft’s BI software has been embedded into products from companies ranging from Open Country to IBM’s Rational business unit.

In fact, SMBs are just the sorts of customers traditionally served by VARs. Consequently, JasperSoft recently signed up as a member of Novell’s PartnerNet program.

JasperSoft is also aiming the offerings at nontraditional BI users in large enterprise settings–people other than the business analysts who’ve historically been BI customer mainstays.

On the whole, Halsey expects that JasperSoft’s moves around Linux and open source will help to expand the market for BI products and services.

Indeed, open source software is already soaring, even beyond Linux implementations, according to some industry analysts. In a recent study of more than 5,000 developers in 116 countries, industry research firm IDC discovered that open source software is being used by about 71 percent of developers–and that it’s already in production at 54 percent of the organizations hiring these developers.

The rise of open source is also spurring new business models among providers, according to Dr. Anthony Picardi, IDC’s senior VP of Global Software Research.

Business requirements will shift from acquiring new customers to sustaining new ones, and the competitive landscape will respond by placing a stronger emphasis on cost savings, “sustaining innovations” for customers, and extending mainstream software to “new market segments that are willing to pay only a fraction of conventional software license fees,” Picardi wrote in a recent report.

As a locus of industry growth, BI seems to be one area where new business models are cropping up fast.

With its new Professional line-up, for instance, JasperSoft has started offering 24-by-7 support. “For [the] open source editions, though, support is only available during business hours,” Halsey told LinuxPlanet. Open source customers can pay for support on a per incident basis.

The JasperSoft execs also cited recent changes in JasperSoft’s product release and commitment schedules. For open source products, the company will now put out about two or three new software releases per year, although support will only be available for the two most recent releases.

The Professional edition, on the other hand, will revolve around a nine-month release schedule.

“The primary difference is the commercial license,” Klawans said. “ISVs who are developing products want a less hectic schedule with longer-term support commitments.”

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