Back from school, Funambol community grows

I haven’t been writing too much here because I was spending whatever leftover energy from my real job on myMBA project work. With that put to bed, it’s time to celebrate the end of two long years studying topics that I fell in love with. I feel so good, I’d start over (just kidding).

I have received satisfaction not only from school, but also from work. Funambol community is growing real fast, but it’s not just the pure numbers that rock. The quality of some contributions are just stunning. Recently, there has been a new release of the Funambol connector for LDAP, which now makes it easier to write DAO classes for different DirectoryServers. Also, Mailtrust developed a new special connector that syncs directly from server to server. For example, say you have your contacts in Google Mail and you also use an MS Exchange server, with Gnome Evolution on the desktop and an old syncml-based Nokia phone: before the Server-To-Server sync you would have to orchestrate the synchronization between the Exchange and Google accounts through the clients, being careful not to mess up. Now the S-t-S connector can take care of keeping all the accounts in the cloud in sync. That’s not the only scenario, there are more and all go in the same direction: empowering users of cloud based services to keep their data with them.  I think Mailtrust contributed s a very important building block of freedom in the cloud.

Get the facts of DRM, don’t buy CRAP

Did you think Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) can be good for society? If that’s your opinion, you better start looking at facts. Ars Technica reports that

Some Kindle users are angry because Amazon blocked them from their Kindle accounts, thereby blocking them from accessing their already-purchased media. Even if these stories are exaggerated, they once again highlight the caveats that come with DRMed media. You don’t own your content—Amazon does.

Do you think this sort of problem never happened before and it’s an exaggeration? Well, look again at facts because those tell a different story. When Yahoo Music ceased to exist so did the files that people bought. And to get music bought from iTunes liberated from DRM, people had to buy it again.

Facts say that DRM are constantly being used to extort money from customers, and to artificially create scarcity in order to inflate prices. DRM should really be called CRAP as in Cancellation Restriction and Punishment (or Content Restriction Annulment and Protection, if you prefer). Think better and don’t buy CRAP.

via Kindle owners find out about DRM’s ever-present threat – Ars Technica.

links for 2009-04-16

Don’t call it Scrum

Gianugo Rabellino has given me more food for thoughts about my research on Free/Libre Open Source software development and Agile/Scrum methods. His latest post contains a sentence that summarizes my key finding so far:

At the end of the day, this means that the customer is there – it just happens to coincide with the community as a whole.

Talking with my Funambol colleagues, the pragmatic agilists, and looking at Ross Gardler presentation below, I have the confirmation that the Pentaho guys are on the right track with Open Scrum. I also learned that it’s better not to use the word Scrum if it’s not The Scrum you’re talking about. With that in mind, I’m now focusing on best practices for communication between developers distributed around the world (more in latest posts).

View more presentations from Ross Gardler.

Mobile phone markets are designed to split our community

Apple’s iPhone biggest innovation is its mobile app store: for the first time it allowed installing software on the mobile device with the convenience of any modern GNU/Linux distribution. Like in Debian, Fedora, Ubuntu, installing software is just a matter of browsing a repository and click on a button. It’s such a good idea that now every mobile phone manufacturer has created its own mobile app store version. Nokia has Ovi Store, RIM/BlackBerry has App World, Android has its Market. I’m sure that more will come, also from the network operators.

Differently from GNU/Linux software repositories, though, these markets only allow non-free software. The manufacturers together with the network operators act as strict gatekeepers, allowing to reach the users only binaries signed with developers keys. Even if there are many free/libre software projects distributed on the mobile stores (Funambol, WordPress, and many other), the users cannot practically enjoy the freedom to modify the software autonomously because of tivoization.  So we have in our hands powerful computers, always connected to the network but its users are deprived of one significant freedom. The worst effect of these mobile stores is that they split our community, forcing free developers to choose between distributing their software while compromising their morality or not distribute at all.

Given the sad news about OpenMoko ceasing development of the new phone, it’s necessary to gather up and think of alternatives. Jailbreak and Cydia on iPhone is a start, and other phones will need similar liberation. But these are just short-term palliatives. In the long run, I hope we’ll have more OpenMoko-like devices, with full freedom attached.

I want my health data with me

The debate on health records data is starting also in US with the new federal government plan to spend $19 billion to spur the use of computerized patient records.

In Milan, where I live, the regional health system requires me to carry around a digital ID card that allows for doctors and farmacists identify me. Until now I refused to activate it though, because I don’t trust digital technology and engineers enough.  I’m not comfortable with the system. Yesterday I learned that I have to activate that card now and all my health records will be stored on a remote super-secure system. The complex security will make sure that only the relevant data will be showed to the appropriate actors, from the farmacist to the specialist doctor.

What concerns me is that all the data will be stored in the same place and only some software logic will be in charge of filtering who can see what and when. That’s scary. I prefer having to carry around my past exams when I walk from doctor to doctor. Why are we being forced to surrender all our health data this way? Wouldn’t it be better if they agreed on a set of standard digital formats and gave all the details to me, to carry on an encrypted memory stick (for example)?  I will resist until I can.

Funambol engineers apply iPhone ergonomics to cars

Check this out: Funambol’s R&D department just released a prototype user interface for driving cars. According to my colleagues that drove it in Redwood City, it’s so easy to use, even a caveman can drive it. The vehicle smashes driving age limit with “snap” finger-powered steering; integrates cruise control with Google Latitude to automatically get friend.  See it in action:

Full press release