February 29, 2004
@ 11:17 PM

"I am a recent graduate of the Software Engineering program at the University of Ottawa and I am looking for a full-time job beginning in January 2004. If you are hiring, please take a look at my resume."

Ryan says that I am a damn capitalist, but I am still absolutely happy to help if he needs a paid job in this industry. That's my whole point.

Categories: Other Stuff

February 29, 2004
@ 09:44 AM

Of course my letter to Aiden is prompting some opposition.  It may be worth noting that a very large proportion of the code that I write ends up being public and there's more stuff brewing as we speak. There is little need to educate me about giving. I am an educator. Sharing insight and therefore sharing manifestations of that insight in form of source code is my mission and part of my business. But this is not the business my clients are in and neither is it the business of most of the thousands of developers I am honored to speak for at conferences each year. Their business is about being paid for writing software. If they weren't paid, I wouldn't be paid. My job description is to figure out fundamental stuff and use my natural "understand very complex things thoroughly and rapidly" skill that I was luckily blessed with, so that I can explain those things to them and they can focus on solving customer problems. My free stuff helps my customers and is also playing a marketing role for me an my company. Our free stuff is a calculated investment. We can and do attach a number to it. dasBlog is a freebie for others but represents a significant investment that's worth several tens of thousands of Euros. It's not free, at all.

We support a project that brings us some indirect value. However, we do not in any way force any code republishing requirements upon the folks who'd like to reuse our code (we have a strict "no GPL" policy; our code is BSD licensed). We don't depend on a community of volunteers to turn dasBlog into a dominant blogging tool that we can benefit from by commerically supporting it. We believe that if we wanted to benefit from the software directly, we would have to rearchitect and rebuild it (or at least restrict ourselves to newtelligence contributions) and then sell it as a fully supported commercial product. My personal sense of respect and fairness tells me that I will not and should not exploit the others guys that have contributed to the free version of dasBlog. It's their hobby and their work is their work. I think a company like Red Hat, which is a public company (which did yield a significant "going public benefit" to their founders) and is profiting from the work of countless unpaid volunteers and enthusiasts, is a very clever, but deeply unethical entity.

I do believe in giving and I do believe that there is value for the community at large in sharing insight through source code. But we don't share the view that software is free or should be free. Someone pays for it. We have an investment in software that is free for others to use, MySQL has, HP has, IBM has, Sun has and - believe it or not - even Microsoft has. We do that as part of a well thought out and well understood business strategy.

I understand open source. I do open source. I do so because I am aware of what it can and can not do for a company. I think I have a pretty good understanding on what's going on in this business. If it becomes the norm that the people providing outsourcing, system administration, hardware, and consulting make orders of magnitudes more money than the creative force, the software engineers and architects who are envisioning and building the foundation for this industry, something is stinking. And it stinks a lot already.

Also, if you say that I am confusing "free software" and "open source". I am not. "Open" is the political argumentation line, "free" is the economic argumentation line of the same thing. If this sort of confusion exists for mostly everyone and one of the most often repeated line in OSS arguments is "you don't understand the difference", then that's caused by the simple fact that these terms are simply two angles of looking at the same story. The OSS "eco-system" only functions because both is true. 

Matthew, selfish is not the one who wants to get a tangible reward for his work. Selfish is the one who denies that reward.

Categories: Other Stuff

February 27, 2004
@ 01:09 PM

Dear Aiden, 

I think you remember the conversation we had recently at this software conference in Dublin. You came up to me and told me how the stuff I was talking about was mostly useless, because it is closed-source, people need to pay for it and that companies charging for software are evil anyways – especially Microsoft. Unfortunately I don’t have your email, but I am sure this will reach you.

First, I would like to thank you for the interesting conversation that developed and to make sure that none of what was said just fades away, I’ll tell you here once again what I am thinking about what you do, what you think and – most importantly about your future. 

When I was 21 – like you now – I was also at university and was pursing a computer science master degree. Back then, I was very enthusiastic about programming and creating stuff that mattered. And thought that I was the best programmer the field has ever seen and everyone else was mostly worthless. And I did indeed write some programs that mattered and made a difference. The program I spent some 3 years writing in Turbo Pascal from when I was 18 was for my father’s business. Because the business he’s in requires a lot of bureaucracy, he and my mother spent about 2-3 daily hours on average doing all of this stuff by hand. When I was done with my program and he started using it, that time went from 3 hours to about 15 minutes a day. That was software that absolutely improved the quality of life for the entire family! And his friends and colleagues loved it, too. I didn’t sell many licenses at that time (I think I had 3 customers), but each one was worth 1500 German Marks and that was a huge heap of money for me. I mean – I was living at my parent’s house, getting a monthly allowance of 120 German Marks and worked as a cable grip for a couple of TV stations every once in a while – maybe 2-3 times a month. And if I ever had 400 Marks per month I could really consider myself massively rich at the time and for my age, because I had very minimal additional expenses. So 4500 Marks on top of that? Fantastic. Where did the money go? I can’t really remember where it all went, but I guess “lot of partying” or “Girls, Drugs and Rock’n’Roll” would be a reasonably good explanation. Hey, I was 21 and that’s what one is supposed to do at that age, right? 

That was in 1990 – let’s fast forward to 2004 and you. All software that you and your father could possibly be interested in has already been written. That’s probably not true, but it’s hard to think of something, right? Ok, the software may not run on your favorite operation system and may cost money, but what you can immediately think of is likely there. So where do you put all your energy? Into this absolutely amazing open-source project you co-coordinate. I mean, really, the stuff that you and your buddies are doing there is truly impressive. There are a couple of things I’d probably do differently in terms of design and architecture, but it works well and that’s mostly what matters. And you do make an impact as well. I know that hundreds of people and dozens of companies use your stuff. That’s great. 

However, I start to wonder where your benefit is. You are – out of principle – not making any money out of this, because it is open-source and you and your buddies insist that it must be absolutely free. So you are putting all of that time and energy into this project for what? Fame? To found a career? Come on. 

If someone installs your work from disc 3 of some Linux distro, they couldn’t care less who you are. The whole fame thing you are telling me only works amongst geeks. The good looking, intelligent girl over there at the bar that you’d really like to talk to doesn’t care much whether you are famous amongst a group of geeks and neither does she even remotely fathom why you’d be famous for that stuff in the first place. I mean – get real here. 

So once you get your degree from school, what’s the plan? 

Right now, your university education is free like in many places in Europe and you have plenty of time to work on your degree without too much financial pressure. Over here in Germany things are a bit extreme in that it is not uncommon that folks spend 6, 8 or even 10 years (!) in school until they finally get their masters degree. So you may not have to think about this much now and you probably don’t. But let’s talk about it anyways. 

When you leave school, your parents will – honestly – be keen to get you out of their house. They’ve spent 25 years of their life being parents and now that they are in their early 50s, they want to enjoy their life and I am sure that your dad is keen to play with grandchildren – but just every once in a while. So you’ll have to take care of yourself.  

How so? Well, you need to get a job that pays. And you’ll probably want to have your own car, your own apartment and if you really want to have a family you will have to be able to support it. All of that only works with money. Where does it come from? If you believe that the result of your own work must be free for everyone – who’s going to pay for it?  

No –  in the end you are going to settle for a job that pays for your house, your car and your wife and children. You’ll be a developer and, eventually, architect or project manager who produces software for money. That’s your core skill and that’s what you invested 6 years and more of your life into. That money will either come from some internal budget of the company that you work for as a “corporate developer” or it will come from the clients that license the software that your company produces. In the end, there’s got to be money in your pocket. I know that’s not very romantic and has very little to do with the “free software is love” sort of thing, but it’s inevitable. Romantic is what you can get out of that money and that’s a decent life with a house, a car and a family. 

Yes, I know the argument. Software is supposed to be free and the money is made out of supporting it. Look around you. Read some industry magazines. Who exactly is making money out of “free”? IBM does, HP does and the large consulting companies do. They rake in the big bucks. But do they make the money on open-source software? No, they make that money on outsourcing deals, running data centers and selling hardware. That’s not the side of the IT business that is at all concerned about creating software that you want to be in. That is the side of the IT business that runs software.  

Where money is made from creating software, software isn’t free. Either the software is paid for directly or it is cross-subsidized from budgets elsewhere in a company that also sells hardware or consulting services.   

The whole thing about “free software” is a lie. It’s a dream created and made popular by people who have a keen interest in having cheap software so that they can drive down their own cost and profit more or by people who can easily demand it, because they make their money out of speaking at conferences or write books about how nice it is to have free software. At the bottom of the food chain are people like you, who are easily fooled by the “let’s make the world a better place” rhetoric and who are so enthusiastic about technology that writing open-source – or any source for that matter – is the absolutely best imaginable way to spend their time. It doesn’t matter whether you love what you are doing and consider this the hobby you want to spend 110% of your time on: It’s exploitation by companies who are not at all interested in creating stuff. They want to use your stuff for free. That’s why they trick you into doing it. 

And I sure understand the whole altruistic aspect of this and the idea of helping people to have better lives through free software. There’s a saying that goes: “If you are 20 and you aren’t a communist you have no heart.”, but it continues “if you are 30 and you still are a communist, you lack rationality”.  

In the end, Aiden, it’s your choice. Do you want to have a car, a house and a family when you are 30? Do you love being a software engineer at the same time? If so, you literally need to get a life. Forget the dream about stuff being free and stop advocating it. It’s idiocy. It’s bigotry. If you want to put your skills to work and you need to support a family, your work and work results can’t be free. Software is the immediate result and the manifestation of what your learned and what you know. How much is that worth? Nothing? Think again.


With best wishes for your future


Categories: Other Stuff

February 26, 2004
@ 06:40 PM

If Sun were actually to open-source (that's a verb now, is it?) Java as IBM demands, IBM would finally own it. They've got more resources and they'd throw them at the problem, easily taking away the leadership in the Java space. Sun would just be sitting there, watching in disbelief what happens to what used to be their stuff. That's really what IBM wants and I am amazed how clever they are about it.

So, let's assume Sun would fall for it. Then there would be a core Java environment that's open-source and the J2EE (the stuff that really matters) implementations would still be closed? How much would that be worth? So the next logical call is to say "let's open up all those J2EE app servers and related infrastructures, too." And there we have IBM making WebSphere a freebie they throw into projects (isn't that done, anyways?) and killing off most of the software revenue models of their competition while happily buzzing along with their huge global services operation and their server hardware business.

Of course that's just an evil conspiracy theory.

Categories: IT Strategy

February 25, 2004
@ 02:05 PM

Of course, there is really no unanimously agreed-upon definition of what’s absolutely fundamental to SOA – or even what SOA really is. But I think there are four things that most people agree on and I think I there’s even a fifth:

To me, the first four core principles are:

·         Explicitness of boundaries [read: there’s stuff that is explicitly public and the rest isn’t],
·         Data exchange governed by an implementation independent message contract,
·         Compatibility of behaviors through negotiation of capabilities based on policies and
·         Service autonomy.

Number five is:

·         Locating and binding to a remote service is always indirect [read: the most important design pattern is the factory pattern]

I hear that there's quite a bit of amusement among the more senior Microsoft folks (and people like me) that there’s a lot of "reinventing COM" going on. It’s not that there’s a push into that direction. It just seems to happen. All of a sudden folks are playing with (differently named) variants of monikers, class factories and all those things. Say what you will, the IClassFactory indirection is great thing to have – one place to find a service, one place to configure a proxy, one place to sneak in a mapper/wrapper that makes the actual service you talk to look like another service.

(Note that I don’t mention SOAP here. Must a service use SOAP? How about services that fall back to something without angle brackets because their respective policies indicate that they can?)

Categories: Architecture

February 15, 2004
@ 08:27 PM

I am currently writing the speaker notes for a service-oriented architecture workshop that Microsoft and newtelligence will run later this year. I was just working on the definitions of components and services and I think I found a reasonably short and clear definition for it:

One of the most loaded and least well defined terms in programming is "component". Unfortunately, the same is true for "service". Especially there is confusion about the terms "component" and "services" in the context of SOA.

The term component is a development and deployment concept and refers to some form of compiled code. A component might be a JVM or CLR class, a Java bean or a COM class; in short, a component is any form of a unit of potentially reusable code that can be accessed by name, deployed and activated and can be assembled to build applications. Components are typically implemented using object-oriented programming languages and components can be used to implement services.

A service is a deployment and runtime concept. A service is strictly not a unit of code; it is rather a boundary definition that might be valid for several different concrete implementations. The service definition is deployed along with the components that implement it. The communication to and from a service is governed by data contracts and services policies. From the outside, a service is considered an autonomous unit that is solely responsible for the resource it provides access to. Services are used to compose solutions that may or may not span multiple applications.

Let me repeat the one sentence that made me go “damn, I think now I finally have the topic cornered”:

A service is strictly not a unit of code; it is rather a boundary definition that might be valid for several different concrete implementations.

Categories: Architecture | Indigo

Barbie is giving Ken the kick.

Categories: Other Stuff

Tiago is already disappointed about my talk tomorrow. Easy! It's not entirely dumbed down. ;)  

Categories: EMEA Longhorn Preview

On our 4 hour taxi ride from Portoroz in Slovenia to Zagreb in Croatia, I decided to make some significant changes to my Indigo slide deck for the tour. David Chappell called my talk an “impossible problem”, mostly because the scope of the talks we are doing is so broad, ranging from the big picture of Longhorn over Avalon and WinFS to the Whidbey innovations and I am stuck in the middle with a technology that solves problems most event attendees don’t consider to have.

So I took a rather dramatic step: I dropped almost all of the slides that explain how Indigo works. What’s left is mostly only the Service Model’s programming surface. For the eight slides I dropped, I added and modified six slides from the “Scalability” talk written by Steve Swartz and myself for last year’s “Scalable Applications Tour”, which now front the talk. Until about 20 minutes into the “new” talk, I don’t speak about Indigo, at all. And that turned out to be a really good idea.

As I’ve written before, many people who attend the events on this tour have no or little experience in writing distributed applications. In reality, the classic 2-tier client/server model where all user-code sits on one tier (let it be Windows Forms, VB6, ASP or ASP.NET) and the other tier is the database does still rule the world. And, no, the browser doesn’t count as a tier for me; it’s just a “remote display surface” for the presentation tier.

Instead of talking about features, I now talk about motivation. Using two use-case scenarios and high-level architectural overviews modeled after Hotmail and Amazon (that everybody knows) I explain the reasons for why distributing work across multiple systems is a good thing, how such systems can be separated so that each of them can scale independently and what sort of services infrastructure is needed to implement them. And it works great. Once I have the audience nodding to the obvious goodness I can continue and map the requirements to Indigo features and explain the respective aspects of the service model. The flow of the talk is much better and the attendees get more and immediate value out of it. If I weren’t so time constrained I would probably map it to Enterprise Services (now) and Indigo (future) all in the same talk and also show to do the transition. I am sure that I can do that sort of talk at some event this year.

Lesson learned: Less features, more why. With the majority of developers the challenge isn’t about showing them how distributed systems are being improved; it’s about getting them to understand and possibly adopt the idea in the first place.

Categories: Talks | EMEA Longhorn Preview | Technology | Indigo