What I’ve learned in 15 years at Red Hat


[image credit: https://goldenageofgaia.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Spock-shades.jpg%5D

In September 2003, I was asked by Gus Robertson to consider joining Red Hat – essentially to kickstart the Red Hat office in Singapore/ASEAN. I was at that time running my own open source consultancy – Maringo Tree Technologies.

I did try to get Red Hat to acquire MTT, but that did not go far. Red Hat had just done a JV in India and was not looking to do another even as an acquisition so soon. In any case that JV was subsequently bought out fully by Red Hat in 2005.

I started at Red Hat as the Chief Technology Architect. I would not say that Red Hat was my dream company to be at, but most everything I did before was all about Free and Open Source Software.

Time Before Red Hat (yes, there was)

I had no direct interest in the notions of software licensing (see this post about the Singapore Ohio Scientific Owers’ Group from 1982 – yes, predates establishment of the venerable Free Software Foundation). Even my 1989 MSEE thesis (link to PDF) was about creating software but I never did consider the licensing of it because lots of it was given to me or copied from USENET newsgroups.

I, together with Greg Hosler, Mathias Koeber, Ng Hak Beng,  and a bunch of others, set up the Singapore Linux Users’ Group in 1993. That was about when Red Hat itself was setup. I was fortunate enough to have been in situations where I could help drive the conversation and technology forward. I helped by distributing diskettes of Soft Landing Systems, Yggdrasil, Slackware etc either via the LUGS or directly. I was more concerned with getting the code out there and people benefitting from it. LUGS even created our own distribution in 2000 called EasyLinux.

I wrote up some how-tos – IP Masquerade, IP Alias, DialD, and lots of other stuff – I can’t recall what else – but suffice to say, these efforts were unexpectedly “rewarded” by shares being offered when Red Hat was planning on an Initial Public Offering.

I recall receiving an email from Red Hat and eTrade in 1999 (unfortunately, I can’t locate that email) in which it said that I was being given some shares (I don’t recall how many) to acknowledge the contributions made to the community. The only reference to the thinking at Red Hat about this is in an article in the Linux Magazine of November 15, 1999.

July 1999: The Community

It was clear that Red Hat wanted all the open source developers who had made its success possible to participate in its public offering. Red Hat would be nowhere without the hackers, and the company knew it.

Red Hat Director of Technical Projects Donnie Barnes spent three weeks scouring the Internet, digging up all the contributor lists to all the open source projects he could find. Red Hat then had to craft a letter to this list of developers. The SEC has a complex set of rules about what companies can and cannot say when they offer shares to the public. If a company doesn’t stay well within the rules, the SEC can –
and regularly does — withhold permission to proceed with an IPO.

“I’m sure they have very important and well-researched reasons for implementing each and every one of these rules,” Young said. “But to the companies who have to negotiate these rules on their way to a public offering, they appear designed solely for the purpose of ensuring the mental collapse of anyone who attempts to navigate through them.”

For example, the SEC-imposed quiet period “was one of the more bizarre notions to a salesman like me,” Young said. “How can you sell shares in your company if you are not allowed to promote your company for three months before your IPO or for a further month after your IPO? This letter to developers could describe the offer, but not mention any reason why anyone should want to accept the offer. That would be
promoting the shares in the quiet period — a big no-no according to the rules.” Red Hat ended up with a letter which, while legally acceptable, was “sufficiently badly worded to end up alienating a significant percentage of the developers we mailed it to,” Young said.

The SEC has a set of rules governing who is eligible to purchase shares in an IPO. First, you must be a U.S.-based taxpayer to buy IPO shares that are listed on an American exchange. This eliminated about half of the developers on the list from participating in the offer, according to Red Hat.

The SEC also has a set of rules designed to protect the public from scam artists who use public stock offers to con inexperienced investors out of their money.

“In effect the SEC deems IPO offers to be extremely high-risk investments, and therefore buyers of shares in IPOs must prove that they are experienced investors who can afford to lose the money they are being asked to invest,” Young said.

Unfortunately a significant percentage — about 15 percent — of the developers to whom Red Hat offered shares were either students or otherwise inexperienced investors by the SEC’s standards.

“And of course this offer was not being made by the SEC — it was being made by Red Hat and E*TRADE. So when members of the development community that we had extended the offer to found themselves declared ineligible, they initially naturally blamed Red Hat and E*TRADE,” Young said.

The final result was that well over one-fifth of the developers on the list were interested, eligible, and able to participate in the Red Hat IPO.

(extracted from http://www.linux-mag.com/id/348/)

I accepted the shares from Red Hat and I guess I was part of the 1/5th.

For the record, I think I did sell the shares later (along with the shares that I later received from VA Linux when they IPOed). It was a very nice gesture on both Red Hat’s and VA Linux’s part and I am thankful.

When Red Hat offered me a position in 2003, I was very aware that this is a business that is trying to do the Right Thing.  While I was trying to figure out the value of such a move, I was provided with the relevant employment documents to sign. In one of them, a particular paragraph stood out for me.

In the Red Hat Code of Business Conduct and Ethics (a PDF from https://investors.redhat.com/corporate-governance/governance-documents), this paragraph was pivotal:

Participation in an open source community project, whether maintained by the Company or by another commercial or non-commercial entity or organization, does not constitute a conflict of interest even where you may make a determination in the interest of the project that is adverse to the Company’s interests.
(from the bottom of page 2 of the PDF)

I did not, then, have to think twice. I signed.

With that stoke of the pen, my tenure at Red Hat started officially on 8th September 2003. I still had Maringo Tree Technologies and I had to find a way to exit it and eventually I did.

Fifteen years is a significant amount of one’s lifespan to be spent with a single entity (assuming a 30-40 year work career). Red Hat is the 7th organization I am with: CSA Group (1st job, employee, Singapore), Microsoft (intern, employee, USA), Sembawang Media (management Singapore), Brokat (technical management Singapore/Germany), Inquisitive Mind (co-founder/management/technical Singapore) and Maringo Tree Tech (founder/management Singapore),

Each stint provided experience and exposure to different aspects of the business/technology world. Perhaps the most challenging was to be your own boss at Maringo Tree Tech. While the time spent at MTT was relatively short, I am proud of what I was able to achieve. I suppose the work at MTT  was the lead-in into Red Hat for I had approached Red Hat as my own business even though, technically, I was an employee.

The thought process that says that the place you are employed is your own business, instead “it is just a job”, is a very powerful and empowering mental state. I want to make open source wildly successful and I was using Maringo Tree Tech as the vehicle to make that happen. When Red Hat came knocking on the door, it made immense sense to me that I should hitch on the Red Hat branding to drive my conviction forward.

I, had, at the back of my mind (and perhaps still valid today), that should I ever decide to part with Red Hat, I will still be doing the exact same thing but under a different label. That would be just fine.

What does 15 years at Red Hat mean for me? First, it is testimony that it is a growing organization and will continue to define how technology should be created, curated and consumed. That, the pursuit of fiscal goals has to be in congruence and cadence with ensuring the health and wealth of the commons. The commons comprise people from around the world who, once empowered by technology, are able to display and benefit from their talents and skills that can only but move the needle forward positively.

My early years at Red Hat were spent making sure the ONE product we had, Red Hat Enterprise Linux (2.1 and 3) were being made available to customers. I was tech support, sales, order entry, delivery person, spokesperson, evangelist, keynote speaker, community pointman and the go-to-for-everything-open-source-and-Red-Hat in South East Asia person.

It was not until late 2004 that Red Hat decided to re-draw the sales organization for Asia Pacific in creating an APAC HQ in Singapore for sales and marketing, Red Hat Brisbane to be the APAC engineering HQ, and to create six regions within APAC (ASEAN, ANZ, India, Korea, Japan, China). This change meant that we will have new Red Hatters focused on the selling of products and services but who might not have cut their teeth in free/open source software but were from the dark side, aka, proprietary software vendors. This is a necessary “evil”, but something that can be managed with the right amount of training and exposure. That was what happened when Red Hat University was setup in 2006 and I was asked to head that up for APAC, or more specifically the Sales College (which was the only college under RHU in APAC then).

I think, my time with the Sales College and especially in running the week-long Sales Boot Camp, was a very important personal challenge. Through the Sales Boot Camp, I helped transform a whole lot of open source migrants to become champions of open source. Not all of them got to their open source a-ha moment, but those who did, were sold on it. They could not do anything else as the fact that we are not shortchanging our customers by promises and handwaving but with solid and independently verifiable technology was not something to be walking away from.

In the meantime, our product portfolio started to grow. JBoss came on board in 2006, Qumranet in 2008, Makara and Gluster in 2010, CEPH in 2014, Ansible in 2015 and CoreOS in 2018 just to name some major acquisitions.

My sales quota in 2003 was US$100k and Red Hat’s revenue then was about US$126.1 million. Today, 2018, revenue is at US$2.9 billion. That’s a whopping 23x growth in revenue in 15 years. In the 60 quarters I’ve now been with Red Hat, every quarter has been better than the previous.

While the business grows with a plethora of products and service, where in the scheme of things does Red Hat understand how the open source community of projects are faring? These projects become open source products that our customers consume (via a subscription). The incredibly fine balance of open source projects and open source products is something that I’ve speak about because there is still an insufficient appreciation of what an open source project is when it become a product that a corporate entity has to be held accountable for.

Wtih the fine balance of project vs product, it is just as important to be able to gain insights into the open source projects that feed into the products. This was what lead me to start an internal project “Prospector” project in 2012. In 2017, Prospector became part of the CHAOSS Project of the Linux Foundation. Much work continues to be needed and I am working on many fronts to make that happen.

Which in a meandering way, brings me to today, 8th September 2018.

What would the next 15 years bring? What I know for sure is that it will be based on a widely distributed and decentralised world built on free/open source software and open hardware.

This will be a world that will bring the remaining unconnected 3+ billion members of the human family into the digital world, The tech flavours of today (AI, Machine Learning, Distributed Ledgers), having been built on free/open source software, will blaze the trail into new applications to better the human condition and the planet’s health.

The future is so open and bright, I need shades!

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My updated GPG keys: 0x61AFA27B


I have just updated my GPG keys.

The fingerprint is: 0x61AFA27B

And my public key is:

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You can check my keys at any of the key servers. Here are two:

a) https://keys.fedroraproject.org

b) https://pgp.mit.edu

I am updating my keys to 4096 bits and that is the reason for doing it now.

You can also use keybase.io if you prefer – this still has my previous key, and it will be updated to the new one.

Seeking a board seat at OpenSource.org


I’ve stepped up to be considered for a seat on the Board of the Open Source Initiative.

Why would I want to do this? Simple: most of my technology-based career has been made possible because of the existence of FOSS technologies. It goes all the back to graduate school (Oregon State University, 1988) where I was able to work on a technology called TCP/IP which I was able to build for the OS/2 operating system as part of my MSEE thesis. The existence of newsgroups such as comp.os.unix, comp.os.tcpip and many others on usenet gave me a chance to be able to learn, craft and make happen networking code that was globally useable. If I did not have access to the code that was available on the newsgroups I would have been hardpressed to complete my thesis work. The licensing of the code then was uncertain and arbitrary and, thinking back, not much evidence that one could actually repurpose the code for anything one wants to.

My subsequent involvement in many things back in Singapore – the formation of the Linux Users’ Group (Singapore) in 1993 and many others since then, was only doable because source code was available for anyone do as they pleased and to contribute back to.

Suffice to say, when Open Source Initiative was set up twenty years ago in 1998, it was a formed a watershed event as it meant that then Free Software movement now had a accompanying, marketing-grade branding. This branding has helped spread the value and benefits of Free/Libre/Open Source Software for one and all.

Twenty years of OSI has helped spread the virtue of what it means to license code in an manner that enables the recipient, participants and developers in a win-win-win manner. This idea of openly licensing software was the inspiration in the formation of the Creative Commons movement which serves to provide Free Software-like rights, obligations and responsibilities to non-software creations.

I feel that we are now at a very critical time to make sure that there is increased awareness of open source and we need to build and partner with people and groups within Asia and Africa around licensing issues of FOSS. The collective us need to ensure that the up and coming societies and economies stand to gain from the benefits of collaborative creation/adoption/use of FOSS technologies for the betterment of all.

As an individual living in Singapore (and Asia by extension) and being in the technology industry and given that extensive engagement I have with various entities:

I feel that contributing to OSI would be the next logical step for me. I want to push for a wider adoption and use of critical technology for all to benefit from regardless of their economic standing. We have much more compelling things to consider: open algorithms, artificial intelligence, machine learning etc. These are going to be crucial for societies around the world and open source has to be the foundation that helps build them from an ethical, open and non-discriminatory angle.

With that, I seek your vote for this important role.  Voting ends 16th March 2018.

I’ll be happy to take questions and considerations via twitter or here.

The Value of being Heard and Consulted


Some of you would know that I am employed by a company called Red Hat since September 2003, it will be nine years with the organization. That’s longer than I have been with any of my startups (Inquisitive Mind and Maringo Tree Technologies) combined. In many ways it is not about Red Hat per se, but about Free Software (and Open Source for that matter) and how the culture of Red Hat very much reflects the ethics and ethos of the Free Software movement.

Yes, Red Hat has to earn its keep by generating revenues (now trending past US$1 billion) and the magic of subscriptions which pegged the transfer of significant value to the customers by way of high quality and reliable software and services, ensures that Free Software will continue to drive the user/customer driven innovation.

All of this is not easy to do. When I joined Red Hat from Maringo Tree Technologies, I went from being my own boss, to working for a corporation. But the transition was made relatively easy because the cultural value within Red Hat resonated with me in that Red Hat places a very high premium on hearing and engaging with the associates. I was employee #1 in Singapore for Red Hat and my lifeline to the corporation was two things: memo-list and internal IRC channels. Later as the Singapore office took on the role of being the Asia Pacific headquarters, we hired more people and it is really nice to see the operation here employing over 90 people.

But inspite of the growth in terms of people, the culture of being heard and consulted is still alive and thriving. It is a radically different organization which will challenge those joining us from traditionally run corporations where little or no questions or consulting is done and all decisions are top down.  I am not saying that every Red Hat decision is 100% consulted, but at least it gets aired and debated. Sometimes your argument is heard, sometimes it is accepted and morphed, sometimes it is rejected.  I think this interview of Jim Whitehurst that ran in the New York Times is a good summary.

Change and Opportunity


Change and evolution are hallmarks of any open source project. Ideas form, code gets cut, repurposed, refined and released (and sometimes thrashed).

Much the same thing happens with teams of people.  In the True Spirit of The Open Source Way, people in teams will see individuals come in, contribute, leave. Sometimes, they return. Sometimes, they contribute from afar.

Change has come to Red Hat’s Community Architecture and Leadership (CommArch) team.  Max has written about his decision to move on from Red Hat, and Red Hat has asked me to take on the leadership of the group.  We have all (Max, myself, Jared, Robyn, and the entire CommArch team) been working hard over the past few weeks to make sure that transition is smooth, in particular as it relates to the Fedora Project.

I have been with Red Hat, working out of the Asia Pacific headquarters based in Singapore, for the last 8 years or so. I have had the good fortune to be able to work in very different areas of the business and it continues to be exciting, thrilling and fulfilling.

The business ethics and model of Red Hat resonates very much with me. Red Hat harvests from the open source commons and makes it available as enterprise quality software that organizations, business big and small can run confidently and reliably. That entire value chain is a two way chain, in that the work Red Hat does to make open source enterprise deployable, gets funnelled back to the open source commons to benefit everyone. This process ensures that the Tragedy of the Commons is avoided.

This need to Do The Right Thing was one of the tenets behind the establishment of the Community Architecture and Leadership team within Red Hat. Since its inception, I have had been an honorary member of the team, complementing its core group.  About a year ago, I moved from honorary member to being a full-timer in the group.

The team’s charter is to ensure that the practises and learnings that have helped Red Hat to harness open source for the enterprise continues to be refined and reinforced within Red Hat.  The team has always focused on Fedora in this regard, and will continue to do so. We’ve been lucky to have team members who have had leadership positions within different parts of the Fedora Project over the years, and this has given us an opportunity to sharpen and hone what it means to run, maintain, manage, and nurture a community.

The group also drives educational activities through the Teaching Open Source (TOS) community, such as the amazingly useful and strategic “Professors Open Source Summer Experience” (POSSE) event.  If the ideas of open source collaboration and the creation of open source software is to continue and flourish, we have to reach out to the next generation of developers who are in schools around the world. To do that, if faculty members can be shown the tools for open source collaboration, the knock-on effect of students picking it up and adopting is much higher. That can only be a good thing for the global
open source movement.

This opportunity for me to lead CommArch does mean that, with the team, I can help drive a wider and more embracing scope of work that also includes the JBoss.org community and the newly forming Cloud-related communities.

The work ahead is exciting and has enormous knock-on effects within Red Hat as well as the wider IT industry.  Red Hat’s mission statement states: “To be the catalyst in communities of customers, contributors, and partners creating better technology the open source way.”

In many ways, CommArch is one of the catalysts. I intend to keep it that way.

Open Source Java all the way


I am really pleased to see that the IcedTea project doing so well that for all the sites that need Java enabled in the browser, icedtea is more than sufficient.  It used to be the case that I needed to download from java.com the RPMs for my installations before I could get access to http://www.dbs.com, http://www.cpf.gov.sg and more importantly, for my sons, http://www.runescape.com.

I’ve just moved to the latest Fedora 15 on my Dell Vostro V13 laptop and my well-worn practise, check that I could get access to DBS, CPF and runescape. And they all worked.

How does one know if Java is installed on the machine?

Start the browser (Firefox or chromium), type in “about:plugins” in the URL section.  On Chromium, you will see among other plug-ins, a section that says:

IcedTea-Web Plugin (using IcedTea-Web 1.0.2 (fedora-2.fc15-x86_64))

The IcedTea-Web Plugin executes Java applets.
Name: IcedTea-Web Plugin (using IcedTea-Web 1.0.2 (fedora-2.fc15-x86_64))
Description: The IcedTea-Web Plugin executes Java applets.
Version:
Location: /usr/lib/jvm/java-1.6.0-openjdk-1.6.0.0.x86_64/jre/lib/amd64/IcedTeaPlugin.so
MIME types:
MIME type Description File extensions
application/x-java-vm IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-applet IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-applet;version=1.1 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-applet;version=1.1.1 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-applet;version=1.1.2 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-applet;version=1.1.3 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-applet;version=1.2 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-applet;version=1.2.1 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-applet;version=1.2.2 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-applet;version=1.3 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-applet;version=1.3.1 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-applet;version=1.4 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-applet;version=1.4.1 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-applet;version=1.4.2 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-applet;version=1.5 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-applet;version=1.6 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-applet;jpi-version=1.6.0_50 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-bean IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-bean;version=1.1 IcedTea
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application/x-java-bean;version=1.2.1 IcedTea
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application/x-java-bean;version=1.3.1 IcedTea
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application/x-java-bean;version=1.4.1 IcedTea
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application/x-java-bean;version=1.4.2 IcedTea
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If that section does not show up, you do not have Java enabled for the browser. In which case, in Fedora, for example, you can choose the Add/Remove Software option, search for icedtea and install it. Once the icedtea is installed, you should restart your browser in order for the browser to pick up the new plug-in. That’s it. Open source Java FTW!

Managing open source skepticism


I had an opportunity to speak to a few people from a government tender drafting committee on Wednesday.  They are looking at solutions that will be essentially a cloud for a large number of users and have spoken to many vendors.

I was given an opportunity to pitch the use of open source technologies to build their cloud and I think I gave it my best shot. I had to use many keywords – automatic technology transfer (you have the source code), helps to maintain national sovereignty, learning to engage the right way with the FOSS community, enabling the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs and preventing vendor lock-in.

By and large, I think the audience agreed, except for one person who said “yeah, now it is open source, but it will become proprietary like the others”. Obviously this person has been fed FUD from the usual suspects and I had to take extra pains to explain that everything that we, Red Hat, ships is either under the GNU General Public License or GNU Lesser/Library General Public License.  The GPL means no one can ever close up the code for whatever reason. I am not entirely sure I managed to convince that member of the audience. In a lot of ways, this is the burden we carry as Red Hatters in explaining our business model and how we engage with the FOSS community etc.

Glad to have participated in the Cloud Workshop in Penang


I am pleased to have spent two days at the National Cloud Computing Workshop 2011 held in Penang, Malaysia April 11-12 2011. Targeted at the Malaysian academic community, it offered some insights to the initiatives that the various universities in Malaysia are undertaking on rolling out an academic cloud that is being set up with a fully accountable Malaysian identity and access framework.  I think this bodes well for their plans to push for a Malaysian Research Network (MyREN) Cloud that is hoped will be a way to encourage the collaboration of both faculty and students in sharing knowledge and learning. I was particularly pleased to have been invited to speak about cloud technologies from a Red Hat perspective as well as to introduce the audience to the various open source collaboration and empowerment work Red Hat is doing from the Community Architecture team. When I mentioned, during my talk, about POSSE and Red Hat Academy as well as “The Open Source Way” and “Teaching Open Source“, I could sense a level of interest from the audience in wanting to know more.  And true enough, the post-talk q&a focused a lot on “how can we take part in POSSE”.  Looks like it is going to be a few POSSEs in Malaysia this year! Let the POSSE bidding process begin!

On day two, I was invited to take part as a panelist with some of the other speakers to discuss the future of cloud in Malaysia and to throw up suggestions and ideas about what they could be targeting. One of my two suggestions was to first create a “researchpedia.my” as a definitive wiki-based resource that brings together the various research activities in Malaysia in the private and public universities as well as public-funded research institutions. The key is in a site that is wiki-based so that there are no unneeded bottlenecks in updates etc and helps with keeping the information current.  The second suggestion to the audience was to consider the various Grand Challenges and see if any of them are interesting to be picked upon. What is needed is to aim really high so that at least you will land on the moon if you miss. Aiming only to land on the moon may result in you landing in the ocean!

Overall, I think the organization was good. I am looking forward to the presentation materials of the speakers to be made online and to the next event!

Cloud for Academics


I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak from both a Red Hat and an open source presective about cloud technologies to the academic community in Malaysia.  

Clearly there is a lot to convey and I am hopeful that they have an appreciation that they can and are welcome to participate in cloud-related projects.  I hope that they’ve understood that projects such as Delta Cloud and related projects that they could direct their students (undergrad orgrad) to participate.  
For the benefit of all, here are some links that would be good to explore:
I was also asked about what Red Hat does for academics and was a prefect shoe-in to introduce both POSSE and Red Hat Academy.  Hopefully I will be run a POSSE in Malaysia really soon.

True Leadership and The Open Source Way


I live in the Free and Open Source World. A lot of what the FOSS movement’s ethos and principles are quite core to me.  I think this webinar featuring Charlene Li is a required viewing.  Remember, this is not about technology.  It is about how you should do things, how you should be authentic and how you should consider the notion of leadership.

This is a model that applies very well in daily life, including politics. Yes, politics. If you want to gain trust of the population, openness, authenticity and honesty are very important.  Lessons from The Open Source Way are very useful and appropriate as my country prepares for the upcoming parliamentary elections (likely to be on April 30, 2011).

NASA’s inaugural Open Source Summit


I missed the live streaming of the NASA OSS Summit but it is mostly all captured and available on ustream.tv.  These are the links to the recordings:

Day One:

Day Two:

And a great post on OSDC.

Enjoy.

Taking the higher ground


I am disappointed with the kinds of ad hominem attacks being made at the person from the PAP who is being labelled as the PAP’s youngest candidate to be introduced this time around.

It is one thing to comment on how the MSM covered her introduction with a “Ring”-like photo on the front page – the criticism is about how the MSM made the classic editorial mistake of a bad photo, and it is another to do character-assassination which seems to be what is being done. Give the lady a chance. Everyone deserves a chance. Yes, even though I will never vote PAP, I will still want to hear them out.  I am sure she has some sincerity and clearly would want to serve. She says that she has been working on the ground in the Ulu Pandan area for 4 years. Kudos to her then.

The vitriol that is being made is with regards to her husband being the principal private secretary to Lee Hsien Loong (the Prime Minister). That there is nepotism and/or cronyism in play could be a fair comment; but that is a field that is well oiled with the ruling party, so one should not be surprised.

The scenario that would will disappoint my fellow citizens will be if she is grouped in the GerrymandeRed-Constituency-scheme and that GRC does not get contested. In that case, she walks into parliament without being actually voted in.

Remember – in 2006,  only 34.27% of all voters VOTED for the PAP who went on to get 97.6% of seats in parliament! An unaccountable parliament could again be in place in 2011.

So, let’s take the higher ground. Let’s show the world that Singaporeans are fair and passionate people.  See Cherian’s post on this topic.

This is what thought leadership is an example of!


I am pleased to see this note by Michael Tiemann, President of Open Source, Inc.  As 2011 opens up, I would not be surprised to see the CPTN Holdings LLC, begin to play the game that their founders want – to go after people, groups, projects that might infringe software patents. It is universally agreed that software patents are an abomination (and by someone no less than Bill Gates). I am troubled that all of this maneuvering will continue to confuse and complicate FOSS development.

Interesting to see me quoted


I was pleasantly pinged by someone who said that I was being quoted in an article saying: “The best moment for me was the launch of Fedora 14 (and subsequently Red Hat (NYSE: RHT) Enterprise 6) along with the deltacloud.org efforts,” wrote Harish Pillay in the TuxRadar comments, for example. “They augur well for 2011 and beyond.”


Well, it is true.  DeltaCloud is very critical so that corporates will not be straddled with the “mother of all lock-ins”. I cannot emphasize that enough. As more entities contemplate moving more of their operations to the cloud, it is crucialthat the cloud service provider provides a fully documented means to ETC (Exiting The Cloud).

National Convention for Academics and Researchers, Hyderabad, India


I had the distinct privilege of attending and speaking at the National Convention for Academics and Researchers 2010 in Hyderabad on December 17 and 18 2010. The event was held at the Mahindra Satyam Technology Center, an enclave of low-rise building that helps one get away from the horn-tooting noise of a typical Indian city. The settings were a pleasant park-like environment.

I arrived at the location at about 10:30 am on Friday Dec 17 and I was greeted by the nice cool weather (I reckon with a daytime temperature of about 20C).  There were about 4 low-rise building housing the conference auditoriums.  I particularly like the fact that those buildings were named after legendary Indian centers of learning like Nalanda  and so on.  Interestingly, I am not able to located a map that shows the names of those buildings (and the Mahindra Satyam website is horribly broken when viewed on Chrome but OK on Firefox).
I participated in a few of the talks, with my own contribution during the FOSS and Education session (sadly, there are no online references to the session – the site has not been updated; probably will never be). For what it’s worth, here’s my presentation.
I spoke for about 15 minutes and touched on POSSE, TOSW and threw out an invitation to the audience (90% of whom where faculty) to consider participating in a future POSSE to be run in India and thence to help run POSSEs themselves.  All I can say is that I have an overwhelmingly positive response and I think we have our collective hands full in making this happen in 2011 in India.
We need to urgently figure out how to scale POSSEs in 2011/2012 and I am inclined to look at the TEDx model to ensure consistency, quality and value.

FOSS.in Day 2 and feeling sick! Really sick!


Day two of the very last FOSS.in started a little late for me.  I was developing a cold, a really bad cold.  The one thing I always carry with me when I travel is vitamin C.  This time, I completely forgot it (all my fault, not The Wife’s). I have found that if I take at least 1000 mg daily, when I travel, I am functioning well and given the usual timezone challenges etc, I do not fall sick.  But that was not the case this time.

I decided that I will take a slow start to day two and fortunately, my colleagues in Red Hat India had arranged for interviews with a couple of journalists in the morning.  That suited me fine.  This meeting was to be a the Oberoi Hotel at 10:30 am, I found my way to the place well ahead of time (not wishing to be stuck in traffic for no good reason).  It was good that I did this, as the cold that was developing was really getting to be annoying and I was really glad that the concierge (a Mr Amit) at the Oberoi offered me at no cost a couple of paracetamol tablets. I took that with a couple of cups of hot tea with ginger and honey and I was slowly beginning to feel better, just in time for the journalists.
All I can say is that it was nice to be able to chat with the journalists, who, thankfully, understood Red Hat and it’s business, which gave me then the time and energy to explain why nurturing and growing the open source community is just as critical and foundationally important for the long term growth of the commercial open source business like Red Hat.
The interviews were over by about noon and that allowed me enough time to fight the noon Bangalore traffic and arrive at the FOSS.in venue by 1:30 pm.  After gulping down a nice vegetarian lunch (I guess all they had there was vegetarian lunches), it was time to proceed to Hall C for the Fedora MiniConf.
I must say that I was really pleased to see a number of people (40 perhaps) who began to fill out the auditorium, which I think is the smallest of the three auditoriums a the centre.  Rahul Sundaram, the team leader of the Fedora Ambassadors in India, kicked off the session and invited Amit Shah to speak about Fedora Virtualization: How it stacks up.  I enjoyed Amit’s talk and learned a few things about kvm which was nice considering that Amit is a core contributor to KVM! His talk was followed on by Aditya Patawari who spoke about “Fedora Summer Coding and Fedora KDE Network Remix“. The contents were good but I think Aditya needs to do a little less pacing on the stage for it tends to be distracting. A key lesson from Aditya’s talk, to me, was the need to greater modularization of packages without a massive penalty in the metataging of the package system.
The third talk, IMHO, was the most fun for me. As someone who has been spending most of his editing time using vi, with the occasional foray into emacs, this talk, by SAG Arun, entitled “Exploring EMACS in Fedora – tips and tricks, packaing extensions” was indeed refreshing. I think I shall now make the $EDITOR in my machine to be emacs instead of vi!
I realized that the GPG keysigning that I wanted to run was not going to happen (as I had only gotten one participant) and that my cold, that was being held back by the earlier paracetamols and ginger/honey tea, was now coming back with a vengeance.  Added to that, I now had to catch a flight to go to Hyderabad for another event – the National Convention for Academics and Researchers. So, reluctantly, I had to cancel the GPG keysigning. The next time then!
I got into the car and arrived at the really nice Bangalore Airport and when I got out of the car, there was a clear and distinct chill in the air which caused me to shiver. And boy was I shivering.  It has been a long time since I felt that bad, and it did not help that the temperature outside was around 16C and all I had on was a t-shirt and jeans and a really bad cold.  I am not sure if the shivering was due to the cold or to a fever which I felt I was having. I managed to make my way through the customary security and checked in and found a pharmacy.  The on-duty pharmacist recommended a fairly strong medication (in the form of tablets) that contained both paracetamol and anti-histamines. All for 200 rupees. Nice. That was OK but I really wanted to know if I was running a fever and asked the pharmacist if she could just take my temperature.  What she said was that “that would be considered a out-patient and we will have to charge you”. Huh? Just the temperature, ma’am. Nothing more. I told here, “that’s fine. I will figure this out”.
As the flight I was taking to Hyderabad would not be serving any meals (hey it’s a budget airline), I figured that I better get some grub in before taking the medication and the flight. The airport’s offerings of food was nice, the environment really posh (yes, I am a sucker for well laid out airports) and it made for the miserable cold/shivering situation a lot better to manage.
The flight on Jet Airways, was on time and arrived into Hyderabad about 1.5 hours later, again on time. Nice flight, nothing spectacular.  All I could feel was that the cold was making me feel weak and tired.
I did not know what I was to experience at Hyderabad Airport – it’s my first trip there. This was a spanking new airport! What a pleasant welcome for a weary traveller. Like the Bangalore airport, this Hyderabad airport is also built
on land some 30-40 km away from the city center and accessible via a set of multi-lane highways. Nice.  Eventually, about 1.5 hours after arriving into Hyderabad airport, I was safe in the hotel and took a quick shower and crashed out. I needed to get out of this cold/flu/crappy feeling. Sleep will help.

FOSS.in day 1 and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 launch


FOSS.in in Bangalore (their Xth edition and allegedly their last), started off “in true FOSS.in style” – an hour late [this was what the MC said at the very beginning and is not an editorial comment from me.]

I listed to Danese Cooper, CTO of Wikimedia Foundation, deliver the openin keynote and I did learn a significant amount of details about Wikipedia.  Here are some nuggets:
  • Wikipedia is the 5 largest site on the planet in terms of traffic
  • They have about 450 servers serving out the Wikipedia pages
  • The data center is Tampa, Florida and in Amsterday, Holland.
  • They are looking for a 3rd data center somewhere in Asia – possibly in India or Singapore (any takers, National Library Board perhaps?)
  • They have about US$20 in revenue mostly from sponsorship and donations 
  • Are fiercely independent and are not looking for help or funds that can be construed as being biased
  • Have optimized their MySQL instance as well as many other tweaks to make the site extremely responsive.  As an aside, I think they are not even using Akamai for content caching.
  • When their site goes down for any reason, they will get calls from BBC, CNN etc as Wikipedia has become a key resource.
Danese’s talk lasted about 45 minutes followed by a lively Q&A session.  Watch the video when I get a chance to post it.
The FOSS.in day 1 was a good time to connect up with a whole lot of new folks.  OLPC’s Manusheel Gupta, an independent technologist, Arjuna Rao Chavala, Wikimedia’s Alolita Sharma and Eric and a whole slew of Fedora volunteers (for the Fedora Miniconference happening on Thursday).
The next talk I attended talk “Hardware Design for Software Hackers” by Anil Kumar Pugalia.  I thought it was a good talk focusing on using only open source tools (like avr, kicad etc) to create hardware that can then be fabricated and deployed.  It was a fun talk I felt.
 
Took a break from all of these talks and went over to Hotel Leela where Red Hat India was holding the launch event for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.  It was nice to see the RHI folks there. They had in excess of 1,100 registrations to attend the event and if we give a 50% attrition rate, that was still a number greater than the capacity of the ballroom.  So to a packed audience, Red Hat’s story was told in 4 parts and I think it was an overall success.
Looking forward to day two of FOSS.in

Participate in this info-comm survey


I think this survey, being run by the Nanyang Technology University and the Singapore Computer Society could use responses from across the world, not only Singapore.  So, please consider participating and making this survey results useful. Although I am not directly involved with the survey per se, I will post results from it here on this blog (and yes, I am trying to get the raw data on a CC-license).

Fedora 14 launched in Singapore


Fedora 14 was officially launched on November 29, 2010 at the Singapore Management University.  The event was jointly held with the launch of the Open Source Software for Innovation and Collaboration Special Interest Group of the Singapore Computer Society.

About 60 persons attended the event.  Here are some photos. The presentation I did about Fedora is here.
What the Fedora Ambassadors and I showed during the event was the following must haves:
a) Xournal – this is really useful tool to help with the mundane task of “editing” a PDF.  Many a times, I have been stuck with a PDF form that needs a simple signature.  It is criminal to have to print out the PDF, sign it and then to scan and PDF it.  Xournal should be nominated for a Green Award for Software if there is one.
b) NetworkManager‘s ability to share out the network: I used a 3G USB dongle (Bus 006 Device 003: ID 12d1:1001 Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd. E620 USB Modem) on the laptop that I was using for the launch.  I connected to the 3G network, then got NetworkManager to create a shareable wifi hotspot. This little capability is extremely understated. With the amount of devices around you that are wifi-capable, this ability of a Fedora machine to be able to become a wifi-hotspot is extremely useful.  Yes, you can do tethering with cell phones (atleast the Android 2.2 phones), but this being a standard capability of a Fedora box needs to be publicised.
c) Virtual Machine Manager: What demo is complete if youdo not show virtualization? And the fact that virtualization is built-in in Fedora means that you can now go about experimenting, using, breaking, fixing, updating various other systems.  This alone changes how we consume technology and how we can easily transition to the cloud.
It was an overall fun event.  I hope to see an increased participation by more folks in the Fedora community in Singapore.

Being part of Community Architecture


It is time to tell the world that I have the distinct pleasure to become part of the Community Architecture team within Red Hat. This is indeed both an exciting as well as a deeply challenging opportunity.  Exciting because it means I get to continue to engage with some of the brightest minds within Red Hat who are chartered to think about how the FOSS community has to be kept alive and well. A thriving FOSS community will help continue the amazingly rapid innovation that happens which Red Hat can then bring to enterprises.  Red Hat bringing the innovations from the community to enterprises ensures that everyone wins by added engineering and QA/QE that is added so that deploying FOSS in mission critical systems become a no-brainer. Equally important, the investments by Red Hat on the additional QA/QE flows back out to the FOSS community.  All of this is the core of what has come to be termed, The Open Source Way.

I have a lot of ideas as does the team. We need to build a thriving community of FOSS contributors in Asia Pacific (APAC in short).  For too long, APAC has been a net consumer of FOSS and contributors are few and far between.  I am hoping that with the added focus I now can bring to this space on a full-time basis, that the number of people contributing code, documentation, testing, new ideas etc from APAC countries will see an increase. It has always been my belief that smart people are evenly distributed around the world.  Why we see pockets of contributors is largely a function of connectivity and opportunity.  With the connectivity equation becoming moot, we need to foster opportunity.  For that, I am gung ho and ready to make the plunge.
My initial target group will be the Fedora, JBoss and DeltaCloud communities. Onward ho!