Daily Archives: November 3, 2006


My interest in applying open-source to education dates back to February, in one of my first postings: Letter to Robert J Stevens, CEO, Lockheed Martin.

I was first approached about participating in a conference at Indiana University on October 1st, and accepted the invitation on October 2nd. I’ll be writing about the conference itself shortly.

In order to prepare for the conference I met with several IBMers who work in the area of education, including some members of the Corporate Community Relations (CCR) team. While my previous efforts as an open-source volunteer had been in the area of humanitarian assistance, the preparation for the conference, as well as the conference itself, made me think more about education and open-source, and so I decided a couple of weeks ago that going forward I would focus my efforts on what I call open-education, by which I mean the use of open-source technology both to provide education and also to assist educators and educational institutations in their vital work.

I made that decision because working on open-education means I get to work with two groups that mean a great deal to me:

  • I respect no group more than our clergy and educators. Our clergy tell us why we should strive to make ourselves and the world around us better; our educators provide us the education to do so.
  • I have found that no group is more fun to work with than open-source folks.

So by working on open-education I get to work with members of both these groups.

I have also come to appreciate the importance of education to IBM. As a business education is worth hundreds of millions of dollars of income to IBM each year, most of which comes to the division of which I am now a part, Systems and Technology Group (STG), our hardware division. Promoting and supporting education is also fundamental to CCR’s mission; IBM spends more on education than in the area of humanitarian assistance and to other non-profit organizations. Education is also important to IBM Sales and Distribution (S&D), IBM Software Group , IBM Global Services, and IBM Research. Indeed, my letter to Lockheed’s CEO was prompted by my experience in the “IT Academy,” a cross-divisional IBM effort that works with high-schools in the “tri-state” area: New Jersey, New York and Connecticut.

I have just started an internal IBM wiki so the interested IBM groups can share information. It can be found at Education wiki (accessible only inside IBM). I have also started working as much as time permits on supporting IBM’s business activities in education.

I plan to spend the forseeable future working in the area of open-education, both as a business issue to IBM and as the main part of my personal voluntary efforts.

Towards that end most of my posts going forward will be about open-education and open-source. I will begin by trying to provide some education myself, by writing intensely about WordPress in a variety of ways in the weeks to come. I will use the Category “word-press” to mark such posts.

I will write of other topics, but I hope the focus on education will be evident. Don’t worry Smart Guy #5 (Tom Friedman); I’ll still read you column each Wednesday and Friday and post on it as I see fit.

I started the post with following introduction, but it got so long I’m putting it here by way of background.


I’ve been working part-time for several months with the members of IBM’s Corporate Community Relations (CCR) team. They are the folks responsible for IBM’s philanthropic activities. They do this in support of IBM’s commitment to be a responsible corporation.

The CCR team approached IBM’s open-source team almost a year ago. They were interested in enlisting IBMers with open-source skills to volunteer their skills as part of IBM’s On Demand Community. Initially they were seeking to work in an area known as Humanitarian-FOSS, at first in support of the Sahana project that I have written about earlier in these pages.

I was joined in my efforts a few months ago by Rob Eggers, a fellow member of IBM’s Linux Technology Center, several hundred folks who as a team are part of IBM’s efforts that support Linux; see Linux at IBM.

I made one modest contribution to the Sahana effort, in the form of the HumanitarianFossMailSampler, a summary of the first 1500 or so postings to a key mail list, humanitarian-ict yahoo group, a group that includes many members of the Sahana community.

As a programmer I would like to participate in the Sahana effort. But the reality is that my area of expertise is compilers and programming tools, and I don’t have the LAMP skills that are needed to work on Sahana.

Rob has been engaged for some time as a part of a small group working on the “logistics” module. He has recently enlisted another volunteer with LAMP skills from the LTC to help in this work, and I am comfortable that work will make good progress.

Our group worked entirely inside the firewall until mid-September, when I made a decision that on my own time in my role as a volunteer, I would start blogging intensely to see what would happen.

2 Giants in a Deal Over Linux

Today is a beautiful day here in Chappaqua:

Backyard view, November 2nd

It was made even more beautiful when I read the lead story in the Business section of the New York Times, a story about the most notable event in the open-source and Linux arena in recent memory.

SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 2 — Microsoft acknowledged the influence of the Linux operating system on Thursday by striking a deal with Novell, a longtime rival, to ensure that Novell’s version of Linux could operate together with Windows in corporate data centers.

In an industry known for strange bedfellows, the two companies said they were collaborating on technical development and marketing programs. They also took steps to ensure that Microsoft’s intellectual property was protected as it modifies its software to work with the operating system Novell acquired in January 2004, known as SuSE Linux.

Steven A. Ballmer, the chief executive of Microsoft, said that the companies began discussing the collaboration in April, but that Microsoft had been getting pressure from its largest corporate customers far longer.

“I certainly recognize that Linux plays an important role in the mix of technologies our customers use,” Mr. Ballmer said at a news conference here announcing the partnership. But he added that Microsoft would continue to push Windows over Linux to customers, endorsing SuSE Linux only if customers insisted on using it.

The partnership, according to industry analysts, is driven by both competitive and customer considerations. Linux and Windows are increasingly used on corporate server computers powered by the lower-cost microprocessors from the personal computer industry.

Analysts said Microsoft’s move might well help its fast-growing server software business by reassuring corporate technology managers that they could make continued investments in Windows and Linux. Both proprietary Windows and open-source Linux have made strong gains in corporate data centers, not so much against each other, but by supplanting costly machines that run commercial versions of the Unix operating system and sometimes, mainframe computers.

Richard Sherlund of Goldman Sachs said, “Microsoft doesn’t have to like Linux, but C.I.O.’s want Windows to play well with Linux.”
As part of the agreement, Microsoft said it would not file patent infringement suits against customers who purchase Novell’s SuSE Linux.

Stuart Cohen, chief executive of the Open Source Development Labs, said that aspect of the deal could further increase acceptance of Linux among corporations. The risk of lawsuits by Microsoft had been a lingering fear among Linux developers because Microsoft executives have been highly critical of what they said was the Linux world’s careless disregard for intellectual property rights.

“Microsoft customers are going to run a lot of Windows and a lot of Linux, and today Microsoft is saying that’s O.K. and there will not be resistance from Microsoft,” said Mr. Cohen, who leads a consortium that promotes the adoption of Linux.

Matthew J. Szulik, chief executive of Red Hat, said the announcement was recognition by Microsoft that Linux is now a “core component of information technology infrastructure” and an effort by Novell, a “weakened and vulnerable” Linux company, to gain ground.

Mr. Ballmer, though, disputed the notion that Microsoft’s announcement was in response to Oracle’s arrangement with Red Hat.

“We’ve been working on this deal for a long time,” he said, calling Oracle’s deal “just a service agreement” with Red Hat. “You get no covenant not to sue if you chose Oracle.”

Microsoft and Oracle are the two largest software companies in the world, competing in databases, programming tools and some business applications. Yet Oracle’s fundamental business is corporate database software, while operating systems are Microsoft’s core franchise.

“As of last week, Oracle essentially got in the operating system business,” Mr. Beach of CIO magazine said. “This is Microsoft’s response.”

Microsoft plans within weeks to introduce the first major upgrade to Windows in many years. In the meantime, some customers have defected to Linux to reduce their dependence on Microsoft’s development schedule and to cut their costs.

Open-source software, which developers are free to modify and redistribute, is seen as the antithesis of proprietary software like Windows. Linux companies like Novell make the bulk of their revenue from support and service for Linux, not the initial sale.

Especially notable is the following:

As part of the agreement, Microsoft said it would not file patent infringement suits against customers who purchase Novell’s SuSE Linux.

Stuart Cohen, chief executive of the Open Source Development Labs, said that aspect of the deal could further increase acceptance of Linux among corporations. The risk of lawsuits by Microsoft had been a lingering fear among Linux developers because Microsoft executives have been highly critical of what they said was the Linux world’s careless disregard for intellectual property rights.

Here is the Novell press release: Microsoft and Novell Announce Broad Collaboration on Windows and Linux Interoperability and Support. Companies Also Announce a Patent Agreement Covering Proprietary and Open Source Products.

This is indeed a historic announcement — Microsoft’s endorsement has made Linux better.

Microsoft has acknowledged what we in the Linux and open-source community have known for some time. Linux is ready, willing and oh so able for use in the data centers of our largest corporations, where it can now compete head-to-head, package-to-package, program-to-program, and developer-to-developer with the best that Microsoft has to offer.

This is good news indeed. As best I can tell it is bad news only to the Microsoft bashers. They will have to move on. I’m hoping they don’t look for another company that in their view needs some bashing, but that they sit down at their terminals, open up a bash shell, and start coding, to make Linux even better, and so even more competitive with Windows.

Notable too is the following:

Microsoft plans within weeks to introduce the first major upgrade to Windows in many years. In the meantime, some customers have defected to Linux to reduce their dependence on Microsoft’s development schedule and to cut their costs.

The Windows release cycle is now close to being measured in decades, while during the near decade since the last major release of Windows the Linux development and release cycle has advanced so far that now a new production-ready release of Linux appears every few weeks.

I run Suse 10.1 on my self-built Linux box at home. I’ve been a fan of SuSE since the day many years back when I visited the Suse booth at a Linux conference and asked if they knew about Jikes. They said it was new to them. So I told them about it and they said they would take a look and would most likely add it to their next release, as indeed they did.

This was before Suse was acquired by Novell. It’s still a great product. The only loss I’ve noticed is that Suse used to come with a wonderful manual that was very well-written and quite technical in nature, while the current paper manuals are very pedestrian.

The announcement also reduced the ranks of Linux opponents, a point I’m confident is fully appreciated by Jonathan Schwartz. It’ll be interesting to see what he has to say about the announce in his blog. His most recent post, on October 31, is “Q1. and do Operating Systems Matter?” Indeed they do, Jonathan. Indeed they do.

[Note, as is always the case, that the postings on this site solely reflect the personal views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views, positions, strategies or opinions of IBM or IBM management.]

On the escape velocity from obscurity

I have written in earlier posts that to blog is to labor in obscurity. But now I feel much less obscure, thanks to this letter that arrived in my inbox at 10:46 PM, 2 Nov 2006:


thanks so much for the nice blog entry on my talk. you captured both
the substance and the spirit of my visit to the temple
it was a bit weird reading the blog and finding that you updated it
just in case i read it. well, i did and thoroughly enjoyed it.
it was good to meet you.

On Oct 31, 2006, at 12:46 PM, David Shields wrote:

> https://daveshields.wordpress.com/2006/10/31/kaddish

Ari L. Goldman
Graduate School of Journalism
Columbia University
2950 Broadway
New York, NY 10027


To paraphrase the last words of so many of the classic cartoon shorts of the 40’s and 50’s, “That’s it folks!” I have official confirmation that I have written a good blog post from a Professor of Journalism at Columbia University [2], a journalist who worked for two decades as a reporter for the New York Times, and a man who instantly knew the namesake of this blog when I mentioned its name. [3]

I no longer consider myself to be laboring in obscurity, and so can say on my first day of non-obscurity, “Hello world!”

A new blogger must come to appreciate the burden of laboring in obscurity. But since blogging is so personal I think each blogger gets to define what it means to escape from that obscurity.

I expect many bloggers would settle on a total number of views, while others would pick a certain number of average views per post.

But I measure my escape from obscurity by a velocity.

The escape velocity from the earth’s gravitational field is 11.2 km/sec. [4]

I sent an e-mail to Professor Goldman at 12:46 PM on October 31st. As best as I can tell no one read the post for the first day or so. However, I received his gracious response at 10:46PM on November 2nd, so it took exactly 58 hours to hear back from him. By Yahoo Maps I see it’s just over 35 miles by car from my house to his office, for a round trip distance of 70 miles in 58 hours, an average velocity just over one mile-per-hour. [5]

That is my blogger escape velocity — one mile-per-hour. Slower than a walk, faster than a turtle. Worked for me.

Thank you, Professor Goldman


1. See footnote [1] in Posts. I “unclaimed” Tom’s blog so the entries would be visible in case he looked beyond the Kaddish post, in the hopes he might tell Tom Friedman about this blog.

2. As I have previously mentioned, in the first post in this blog, I attended a NASA-sponsored course at Columbia in the summer of 1965. As part of the course I had access to the computer facilities, and one of my earliest efforts at programming was to write some code in FORTRAN to work out some of the exercises in Richard Bellman’s classic work on dynamic programming.

3. A. J. Liebling also worked for the New York Times, but for much less time than Professor Goldman. One of A.J.’s jobs was to report on high-school basketball games in Brooklyn. A.J. didn’t travel to Brooklyn — he had he thought better things to do — so he phoned up to get the score and wrote his story from that. An alert New Times editor noticed that almost all such games were refereed by “A. Ignotio” — Italian for “unknown” — and when A.J. confessed his sins he was fired on the spot.

4. Wikipedia is metric, while we in the U.S. still aren’t. For example, when we were investigating elementary schools for our first child, one guide told us in the hall in great detail that their school was teaching students the metric system, starting at the kindergarten level! As we neared the door of a classroom I heard a teacher say, “Two feet of snow in Chicago yesterday…. ” We moved on to visit another school.

5. I learned when speaking with Professor Goldman after his talk this past Sunday that, while his office is on Broadway, he lives on 116th street. My oldest daughter Alison went to nursery school at the Columbia Greenhouse, which is also located on the same block. Notable class parents included Telford Taylor, Columbia Law Professor and the Chief Prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials, as well as Roland Betts, a friend since childhood of President Bush and also the founder of the Chelsea Piers complex on Manhattan’s West Side. Indeed, he got into that because his daughter loved to skate, and so he bought the Sky Rink near Penn Station when it was facing bankruptcy. Betts is a Yale graduate and is currently the head of Yale’s Board of Overseers, Yale’s governing body. He worked for the first few years after graduation as a teacher and then school administrator.

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