Thursday, November 30, 2006


IT@Cork Conference

I had a day out yesterday at the IT@Cork 2006 conference. It was extremely well organised and very well attended - over 250 guests. The speakers were very varied: we had bloggers, entrepreneurs, IT managers, salesmen and Eddie Hobbs give us their views on life, technology and the state of the Internet. I'm not going to go into the plusses and minues of the speakers at this time (I'm sure it will be covered in detail elsewhere), but I will say that I thought Tony Kenny's presentation to be most insightful. He has implemented Open Source technology in a public sector organisation and has the bruises to show from it - particularly from his attempts to introduce open source desktop software.

Oh, yes: and we should all go out and buy gold. Now.

Apart from a chance to meet up with good friends and acquaintances, one of the benefits of attending conferences such as this are the insights you gain yourself as different topics are discussed. Here are some of my thoughts:

I think open source has a huge future within the software industry, but I am still somewhat sceptical as to how far the paradigm can reach. There are thousands of people around the world who are happy to challenge the big players by producing and debugging software in their spare time. My question is, however, how big this pool of talented programmers is? Like most things in life, surely the 80:20 rule applies? Systems like Linux and Firefox etc. get lots of eyeballs for sure, and as a result the software is really top class. I wonder however about other, less well known software programs. I've downloaded a few examples in recent months and I haven't been terribly impressed. Open source, surely, is only as good as the size of the software programmer ecosystem, and wouldn't you expect that this ecosystem, while large, is still limited in size overall?

I love blogging and I love the idea of it, but a revolution it isn't (yet at least). Some people speaking were carried away with the idea that the blog was the greatest viral advertising mechanism ever invented. A guy who mentioned paper brochures was shot down in flames by Marc Canter (entertainingly so, I must admit). Well hold on here a second... I heard somewhere that the number of blogs was at around 30 million at the moment. I doubt however that all these blogs are updated frequently. So lets say that 30% of all blogs are being updated somewhat frequently - that's about 9 million bloggers around the world. That's still a really small group of people! I get the distinct impression that most people still *don't know anything* about blogs, and even more, couldn't care less. At the conference at least two attendees - people involved directly in IT - asked me what a blog was. The problem I think, is The Chasm: the majority of people out there are non-technical, and will only engage in a particular technology when they see lots of other people doing it. Blogging has been an success amongst the early adopter community, itself not an insignificant percentage of people. But early adopters and conservatives tend not to speak to each other in the same language. This, in general, is an issue for all Web 2.0 technologies at the moment: the Chasm has to be breached, and no-one quite knows how to do it.

So, in essence, although I was somewhat underwhelmed by the Microsoft presentation yesterday, my feeling is that Microsoft has less to worry about than many people might expect. Microsoft has the ear of the CEO and the CIO. It is the incumbent. It crossed the Chasm years ago. Open source and Web 2.0 technologies have yet to make their impact amongst the conservative majority in the business field. That's not to say they won't sometime in the future, but I wouldn't yet be breaking out the bottles of champagne.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


The hacker who broke into Apple's iPod

Here's an interesting story of the Norwegian hacker, Jon Lech Johansen, who has broken Apple's iPod code, potentially allowing Apple iTunes music to be played on any MP3 player - a big potential threat to Apple's business model.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


Software copy protection

Here's an interesting posting from Phil Morettini regarding the use of copy protection in products. Essentially, copy protection was seen as "a bad thing" for quite a while, mainly due to the inflexibility of previous copy-protection solutions. Few customers liked them, so software companies factored piracy into their business models and managed accordingly.

Now copy-protection, in the form of license management is on its way back. Every time the software is used, a central licensing server is consulted first. Much more flexibility can be programmed in so it's not so blunt a solution any more. Worth a read.

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