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Rasmus on Letting Go


Rasmus Lerdorf, creator of PHP, gives an interesting interview on FLOSS Weekly, Chris DiBona & Leo Laporte's open source podcast.  He talks about the origins of PHP, the challenge of letting go of control and how he helped make the development process more open.  This is a challenge for all open source projects (MySQL included) and there are good lessons to be learned here.

You can listen to this from the web or subscribe through iTunes.

Traps of Disruption


There's a good blog by a former tech analyst, who also happens to be my twin brother, called OnDisruption.  While I don't normally like to promote something as blatantly nepotistic (is that even a word?) as this, his blog doesn't cost anything to read so I don't think there's a conflict of interest here. 

His most recent posting is on the "Eight Traps of Disruption" and does a good job analyzing some of the common mistakes businesses make when they think they are being disruptive.  For those who lived through the dot com era in Silicon Valley, you may recognize a few of the examples.  For others, yes, it sounds crazy, but people really did make these mistakes.  And often to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.  It's often said that Open Source companies are disruptive.  But it's worth validating that against a Disruption Scorecard to see just how disruptive any particular business really is.  For it to be truly disruptive depends not only on the technology but also on the market, how entrenched the competition is, whether they are getting new customers and other factors.  While these are just my brother's views, I think they force you to do a better analysis than just the usual gut check. 

And for the truly cynical, there's a link to a Web 2.0 BS generator which generates ideas that sound an awful lot of the companies that lost money in the late 1990s.  (And the astute reader can probably find similar "mission statement generators" out there also.)

Red Herring: 15 Years of Linux


Red Herring magazine (yes, it still exists) has several articles in the August 21st issue commemorating the 15 year anniversary of Linux.  Linus Torvalds first posted information about his open source operating system on usenet just 15 years ago, the same year that the world-wide web started.  Perhaps it is no coincidence that Linux and the LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP / Perl / Python) have become the dominant platform for Web applications. 

Linux has continued to be the fastest growing server operating system in recent years.  According to Gartrer, it grew at 35% in 2005, to about $7 billion, outstripping the growth rate of Windows by a wide margin.  While Linux has not established itself on the desktop in any signficant volume, there are signs that even that could change as Ubuntu continues to grow quickly and as the strength of online applications trumps the need for desktop compatibility.  In other words, once all your applications are browser based, do you even care what operating system you're running? 

The issue has a number of excellent stories on Linux, it's impact in asia and profiles on companies such as Red Hat, IBM and MySQL as well as the "open source 2.0" up-and-comers.

Ten Questions with Marten Mickos


Uber-blogger Guy Kawasaki has continued his tradition of asking good questions of technical and business leaders in "Ten Questions with Marten Mickos".  Guy is one of the best speakers and authors in Silicon Valley.  His book "The Art of the Start" is a great resource for anyone thinking of starting a company.

He understands how to get things done and knows that inside the sausage factory sometimes things don't always look so good.  But he's not an armchair quarterback: Guy was chief evangelist at Apple (twice) and is CEO of Garage Technology Ventures which invests in early stage companies such as iStockPhoto, Kaboodle, SimplyHired and TripWire. Coincidentally, a lot of these early stage companies leverage open source technology. 

The best part of Guy's writing is there's no bull shitake.  I've also put links to a couple of other good postings from Guy's blog.

Greatest Software Written?


Charles Babcock over at InformationWeek has written a great cover story on "The Greatest Software Ever Written."  It's a bit like the articles in Rolling Stone on the "Top 10 Albums" of all times; the choices obviously reflect the experiences and preferences of the author.  So while I don't agree with all of his selections (Robert Morris' worm?) for the most part I think his logic is well founded and he has highlighted some amazing software. 

I won't give away his list (just read the article) but I will offer a "Top 10" list of my own.  This is completely subjective and I've precluded software that was developed when I was still in short pants.  So without further adieu...

10. Visicalc
Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston's Visicalc was the first "killer application" meaning people bought microcomputers just to run it.  For the first time, mere mortals could harvest the power of a computer without having to be programmers or use a mainframe timesharing system.  Sure Lotus 1-2-3 added more capabilities (graphics, macros and a completely crappy data management system) and Excel provided a modern GUI, but neither of those would have been possible without Visicalc. 

9. Unix & C
The combination of Unix & C ignited an era of efficient, modular and well-designed software. Ok, maybe that was more theory than reality.  Truth be told, there are many programmers who should not be allowed to use C.  Still, I remember reading K&R and thinking "wow" this is the right way to do system level programming.

8. Turbo Pascal
Software impressario Philippe Kahn knew a good thing when he saw it.  He bought out Anders Hejlsberg's PolyPascal and turned it into the most successful programming tool of its time. Borland's Turbo Pascal literally created the home hobbyist programming market.  It showed the power of an integrated development environment (IDE) that put programmer productivity ahead of compiler theory.  It also proved that software didn't have to be expensive to be good.  Kahn built Borland on the vision of "Software Craftmanship" with Turbo Pascal and later Delphi among the best examples of well-written, tight code that performed flawlessly. 

7. Macintosh OS
I agree with Charlie on this one.  The Macintosh OS really did bring computers to the masses.  I had a 512K "Fat Mac" in 1985 which I upgraded with a third party non-standard HyperDrive 10 meg hard drive and it was the cat's pyjamas.  While Windows has arguably caught up with the Mac UI in recent years, the Mac set the bar for usability.

6. 3D Shooters
Ok, this is a bizarre choice and many will disagree, but hear me out.  ID Software's Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and the slew of 3D shooters that followed provided a new immersive experience in gameplaying that changed the PC industry and arguably the entertainment industry.  Prior to this, computer games may have been generating a billion in revenue, but it was still a backwater of the industry. With John Carmack's 3D engines, these games became part of a more mainstream entertainment experience which is now as large as Hollywood.  I don't know whether this was a change for good or not, but it certainly had impact.  (And those who dislike 3D shooters, feel free to substitute Simcity and it's derivatives instead.)

5. Mosaic Browser
Without the Mosaic Browser it's arguable that there wouldn't be a Netscape, Internet Explorer or even the kinds of web sites that we have today. 

4. LAMP stack
While Linux clearly builds on the notions of Unix, it went even further to enable the development of the entire open source stack of Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP / Perl / Python.  Without the open source software of the LAMP stack, today's Internet-based applications and companies would not exist.  You can also look at it this way: Linus Torvalds, Linux and the LAMP stack have created the only viable alternative to the Windows monopoly ever. Linus Torvalds accomplished something that IBM, Apple and others were never able to do, despite the fact that they spent billions in the process.  Now that's impact! 

3. Google
Google's PageRank algorithm and more importantly their thousands of servers has become the starting point for finding information on the Internet.  While it's not perfect, it has become a hugely indespensible tool for coping with the volume of information that's available on the net.

2. Skype
Who would have thought that the a couple of hackers from Scandinavia could challenge the phone system?  Well since their previous product was Kazaa, you wouldn't want to underestimate their ability to create a sensation.  Skype sounds like a gimmick until you use it and realize that not only is it cheaper than long distance, it's better.  Way better.

1. Wikipedia
Better than any other software Wikipedia represents the power of collaboration and collective knowledge.  Wikipedia stands as one of the best examples of a hugely scalable system that has the potential to touch the lives of a billion people around the world. And isn't that the whole point?

Ok, every time you make a list like this, there are a few runners up that deserve mention.  These include: TCP/IP, Infocom's interactive fiction games, Visual Basic, Palm OS and arguably the most popular program (at least among programmers): Hello, world! But maybe you disagree.  Let me know your top 10 list.

And here are some links for those who are nostalgic.

Best of LinuxWorld?


Perhaps Linux has become so mainstream that a conference dedicated to it has become as superfluous as a conference on servers.  I was disappointed with LinuxWorld Boston earlier this year; no big announcements and traffic overall was light.  However, the program itself was quite strong with good keynotes and panel sessions.  Still, it had all the flavor of a regional conference.  Worth going to if you weren't going to make the trip to San Francisco. 

This week's LinuxWorld San Francisco, while certainly larger than the Boston event, seemed less interesting.  Aside from Lawrence Lessig, no really exciting keynotes or panels.  Novell had a big presence at the show, as did HP, but even Red Hat has pulled out of this event.  Perhaps LinuxWorld is played out. Or maybe I'm just sick of trade shows. We shall see. 

Arguably, the highlight of the show was my discovery of "Beard Papa's" cream puffs, one block from Moscone.  Who knew?

A Billion Page Views Per Day

While Web 2.0 is probably at least as hard to define as pornography (e.g. I know it when I see it) there's no doubt that it's growing rapidly.  By our estimates, more than 90% of all Web 2.0 sites are powered by MySQL including the likes of media darlings like YouTube, FaceBook, Digg, Wikipedia, Cyworld, Flickr and most of the social networking sites.  In fact, if you add in all of the sites using MySQL it's probably over a billion page views per day and doubling every six months. 

And if you don't like Tim O'Reilly's definition of Web 2.0, then you can always go with the more cynical view: anything that has rounded corners.

Folksonomy Blog


There's a new blog in town by MySQL consulting guru Nitin Borwankar.  Nitin's working on a few super secret startups and invariably they are using a lot of open source technology to create sophisticated tagging systems that create "folksonomies" or tagging systems that are developed in a collaborative fashion.  Sounds easy, but how do you map that in and out of standard MySQL?  Ahh... that's the question.  And Nitin has some practical answers borrowing from data warehousing techniques that help illuminate the way.  You may not always agree with how Nitin's does it, but its thought provoking stuff.  Especially if you're trying to scale out massive Web 2.0 applications.  This is leading edge stuff.

25 Year Anniversary of the IBM PC


Last Saturday was the 25th anniversary of the IBM PC.  For those who were into computers back then, this was a huge legitimization of the microcomputer.  Until that point, there was no big vendor involved.  The Apple ][ was successful and spawned the first "killer app" with Visicalc, and there were lots of hobbyist machines running CP/M or weirdo home grown operating systems.  But it wasn't until IBM's entry into the market that things really took off.  Don Estridge, led a team from Boca Raton to develop IBM's entry into the microcomputer market with a charter to go outside and use industry standard components, rather than work within IBM's own bureaucracy.  The result was faster time to market and the implementation of a de facto open industry standard.

I bought an early IBM PC, stripped down to a minimal configuration, so I could buy third party floppy drives, memory and a graphics card.  It wasn't my first computer (that was the venerable Apple ][) but it was a good machine with a keyboard you could actually type on.  Back then we measured CPU speed in megaherz rather than gigaherz and the PC had an IBM 8088 CPU running at 4.7 mhz clockspeed.  The floppies held 360K each, so the net result was that the IBM PC had a performance boost compared to other computers of its era.

One thing people tend to forget is how much the IBM PC helped ignite the intrest in "freeware."  Guys like Andrew Fluegelman pionneered the concept and soon there were hundreds of shareware and freeware programs available as alternatives to the high-end commercial software packages. Sure they didn't do everything, but they were in many cases "good enough."  And eventually companies like Borland, PaperBack Software and others came out with high quality software at affordable prices.  Those were fun times.

LinuxWorld Expo San Francisco


This week LinuxWorld Expo will convene in San Francisco.  MySQL has a booth there where we'll be showing off the latest new technology around the forthcoming MySQL 5.1 and MySQL Network.  We also have a reception Wednesday evening next to Moscone conference center at Jillian's.  It's a chance to meet MySQL developers, execs, customers, partners in a nice social context with beer, pizza and pool.  Hey, what more could you ask for?  But space is limited, so be sure to RSVP.