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 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 the RPMs for my installations before I could get access to, and more importantly, for my sons,

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.
Location: /usr/lib/jvm/java-1.6.0-openjdk-
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
.class .jar
application/x-java-bean;version=1.1.1 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-bean;version=1.1.2 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-bean;version=1.1.3 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-bean;version=1.2 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-bean;version=1.2.1 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-bean;version=1.2.2 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-bean;version=1.3 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-bean;version=1.3.1 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-bean;version=1.4 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-bean;version=1.4.1 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-bean;version=1.4.2 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-bean;version=1.5 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-bean;version=1.6 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-bean;jpi-version=1.6.0_50 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-vm-npruntime IcedTea
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 “” 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  These are the links to the recordings:

Day One:

Day Two:

And a great post on OSDC.


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.