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The Greatness of Git

When Linus Torvalds says he is going to work on a side project he doesn't think small and he doesn’t work slowly.

When he created “Git,” the software source control and collaboration system that runs Linux kernel development, he started writing code on a Sunday (April 3, 2005) and emerged just a few days later with a new revision control system that today is regarded as one of the best pieces of software ever written (second, at least, to Linux, of course).

Andrew Morton said when introducing Linus to speak about Git to an audience at Google, Git is “expressly designed to make you feel less intelligent than you thought you were.”

Software Freedom Law Center Founder and co-author of the GPL Eben Moglen said during a keynote panel at LinuxCon last August: “Linus was presented with a nasty weekend once upon a time and out of it came Git. Another brilliant achievement, you understand. A work of superb design that is going to change the software industry and the world...because one man had one itch one weekend that was really biting, and he had to invent something. And he’s a brilliantly inventive man and scored another hole in one.”

Git had to be great in order to support the unmatched rate of development that Linux requires. Today, the Linux community applies more than five patches per hour to the kernel and to date has written more than 15 million lines of code. The sheer size of Linux development has made the project one from which others have borrowed both collaborative development lessons and and tools - like Git. Today Git is used by the Linux community, as well as developers working on projects that range from Ruby on Rails to Android to Perl and Eclipse, and many more.

The popularity of Git is also resulting in it becoming part of the technology vernacular, with businesses based on Git flourishing.

Consider GitHub. This is an amazing code repository that uses the Git revision control system and has become one of the most popular places to host and collaborate on software. This service is being used by more than a million people to store over two million code repositories.

Could Git also be getting into publishing? Maybe. Wired.com reporter Bob McMillan recently took GitHub for spin, publishing his story about the repository in the repository. 

“GitHub was originally designed for software developers...But nowadays, it’s also being used to oversee stuff outside the programming world, including DNA data and Senate bills that may turn into laws and all sorts of other stuff you can put into a text file, such as, well, a Wired article.”

He might have gotten a little more than he bargained for with all the collaboration, but his experiment demonstrates its power.

GitHire is another new online application and service that builds upon Git for finding the world’s best programmers. GitHire will crawl Git repositories, find and rank programmers based on their code and reputation and provide employers with a short list of the world’s best talent most relevant to their needs. If you’re a software developer and doubted it before, code is most definitely the new resume.

There are a number of other examples, as well as native Git for Windows, Git implementations in other languages, tutorial businesses based on Git, and more.

The measure of truly great software development is use. When others use it and build new projects and/or businesses from it, you know it’s truly great. This is the essence of Linux and open source software development. By writing the best code and sharing it with the world, everything gets better, faster, and there becomes even more new ways to collaborate and share.

 

Need a Job? New Study Says Learn Linux.

No one disputes that that tech jobs are fueling the economy in the U.S. and around the world. The U.S. President said in his recent State of the Union address that there are twice as many openings in the science and technology sector as there are people to fill them. But where exactly are these jobs? And, who exactly is landing them?

Today, we have new data that helps us understand where are the tech jobs and that tells us we need more trained people in the most profitable and rewarding areas of tech.

The first-ever Linux Jobs Report released today surfaces two of the most lucrative areas in the tech jobs market - Linux development and Linux systems administration. Eighty-one percent of recruiters surveyed for the report say hiring Linux talent is a priority in the year ahead. And, 63% percent will hire Linux talent over candidates with other skill areas.

A NYU Professor recently said "code is the literacy of the future" (CNN: Computer Geeks King in Job Hunt). We agree. And, we believe that Linux is an important currency in that future. It powers the Internet. It runs Google, Facebook, Amazon, Twitter and millions of other Internet technology companies. It runs the world's supercomputers, data centers, smartphones, financial institutions and stock exchanges, and the list goes on. It's no surprise that with its widespread ubiquity that today there is also growing demand for talent to support it. In fact, when the Linux Jobs Report survey respondents were asked why hiring Linux talent was a priority in the year ahead, most reported their companies are growing, increasing their use of Linux and requiring in-house expertise to support the OS.

But the Linux Jobs Report also finds a wrinkle in an otherwise positive story: Linux and open source developers can be hard to find. Eight-five percent of those surveyed say that finding Linux talent is really difficult.

Google, Facebook, Amazon, Qualcomm, IBM, Intel and hundreds of other companies who rely on Linux to support their businesses, especially their highly-valued data centers and embedded systems, are paying big bucks to find and retain Linux talent. The Linux Jobs Report shows that nearly 1/3 of the companies surveyed are giving pay increases to these professionals that are above the industry norm. Dice's 2012 Salary Report backs this up, showing that Linux professionals have seen salaries go up by 5% over the last few years, while tech professionals overall have seen just a 2% increase. The 15% bump in bonus payouts to Linux professionals just solidifies the point.

It's become glaringly obvious that students and mid-level career professionals who can confidently write Linux code can also write their own ticket to long-term job security. It’s a really good time to know Linux.

Getting involved in open source projects and understanding the open development model are more important than ever, and the good news is that the “University of Open Source” is open to everyone. There are no entrance exams, no admissions counselors, and no student loans; all you need is a connection to the Internet. And, it doesn't matter where you live or what your local economy is dictating. In a world that is flat, Linux and open source software development is a global opportunity for job seekers working anywhere, any time.

Looking for a place to start? Check out Jon Corbet’s guide on participating in the Linux kernel community. We also invite you to check out our Linux training courses, which are taught by leaders from the Linux and Linux kernel communities.

Get all the results from the Linux Jobs Survey and Report by downloading it here: http://www.linuxfoundation.org/publications/linux-foundation/2012-linux-jobs-report

 

Zuckerberg is Spot on with “Hacker Way” (but The Linux Community Already Knew That)

Facebook filed its IPO last week , which is big news in and of itself. However, what struck me most was the letter from Mark Zuckerberg to potential investors that puts an exclamation point on something that the Linux community has been practicing for years: first - don't do it for the money, second maintain the hacker way. And, the money follows.

Zuckerberg points out that Facebook wasn't started to become a company. It was a cause. It was an idea -- to connect people. Linus Torvalds had a similar idea 20 years ago when he started Linux as a way to collectively develop software. Linus kicked off the project “just for fun” and has repeatedly stated that his motivation behind Linux is solving interesting problems with code.

In the letter, Zuckerberg clearly demonstrates how he and his company have been inspired by the core principles that Linux and the open source software movement started twenty years ago.

Just take a look at these statements:

“People sharing more — even if just with their close friends or families — creates a more open culture and leads to a better understanding of the lives and perspectives of others.”

“Hacker culture is extremely open and meritocratic. Hackers believe that the best idea and implementation should always win — not the person who is best at lobbying for an idea or the person who manages the most people.”

“The Hacker Way is an approach to building that involves continuous improvement and iteration. Hackers believe that something can always be better, and that nothing is ever complete. They just have to go fix it — often in the face of people who say it’s impossible or are content with the status quo.”

“We think the world’s information infrastructure should resemble the social graph — a network built from the bottom up or peer-to-peer, rather than the monolithic, top-down structure that has existed to date. We also believe that giving people control over what they share is a fundamental principle of this rewiring.”

Sound familiar? Zuckerberg’s interpretation of the “hacker way” could be cut and pasted from the daily workings of Linux kernel development for the last two decades:

"Code wins arguments."

"Quickly releasing and learning from smaller iterations."

"The best idea and implementation should always win."

Linux is the quintessential example of the hacker way. As an example, if you don't think that code wins arguments, post some bad code along with the best-crafted argument in the world to the Linux kernel mailing list and see how it goes.

Linux is the fastest moving collaborative software project in the history of computing; it releases every three months and in small iterations with literally thousands of code changes in every release.  In fact Linux is often a leading indicator of things to come.  Virtualization technology, high performance computing, and more are often developed in the open first in Linux and then productized by companies later.

Of course, Facebook wasn’t just inspired by the hacker ethos. It is built on hacker code itself: Linux and a wide variety of open source technology. In fact, the economics that come with having open source software at its base makes Facebook’s filing even that much more compelling. Without the cost and flexibility advantages of open source, Facebook would be tied into proprietary contracts that would impede its ability to add users without the need to generate significant revenue. Before open source it was simply too difficult to scale, and the risk of your costs rising without your control was just too great. Zuckerberg made a brilliant decision -- albeit inevitable -- when he built Facebook on Linux using open source components. Would this IPO even be happening had he written Facebook as a Windows application?

It is no coincidence that one of the greatest entrepreneurial success stories of the last decade is deeply rooted in one of the greatest technology innovations of the last two decades: Linux and open development. Facebook is a great example of code + ethos that is driving great things.

 

HP Releases More Details on the Open Sourcing of webOS

This morning, HP gave further details of its contribution of the webOs platform to the open source community. I find these details and the timeline associated with the release to be positive developments, both for Linux and for the wider mobile markets.

The WebOS stack represents a rich set of components that combined together create a comprehensive platform for mobile devices. The highlight of today’s announcement has to be the open sourcing of Enyo, the application framework for webOS. This is a powerful framework that app developers can use to build applications that will work across different platforms including iOS, Android, webOS and so on.

Companies announce open sourcing products and projects all the time. There are several decisions HP executives made in this process that I think signal they are on the right track:

  • webOS is moving to the mainline Linux kernel. This saves any device maker service and support costs since it will eliminate much of the custom code those companies need to support. They have committed considerable resources to working with the upstream project, which will insure their Linux investment will last.
  • Open sourcing Enyo, instead of keeping some components closed source, will ensure that the complete stack is available with no lock-in by HP. While this enables competitors to literally take the R&D HP has invested in this product and use it to target other platforms, it also ensures that device manufacturers and app developers can make full use of the whole stack; thus increasing the changes that webOs may be adopted and used in products.
  • By using the Apache 2.0 license, HP has smartly decided to use a standard and well respected license, instead of something unique, niche or proprietary. Everyone understands the terms of the Apache license, thus cutting down on the requirements for education or promotion.
  • By using and contributing to core upstream Linux projects, HP is hedging its investment. Contributions of code that make Linux more power efficient will not only help them in mobile but also in the data center where power and cooling are central costs.

While there are clearly other open source solutions in the mobile space with Android and Tizen, choice is always good in technology. By using a mainline kernel, this announcement is also good for Linux, since any work HP and others contribute to webOS (think power management, device driver support, etc) can end up benefiting all Linux users. And by “all” I mean all, not just those using a phone running Android. Since server and desktop Linux users also use the mainline kernel all can benefit from this work.

Will webOS be successful? That of course remains to be seen. I will be watching, like everyone else, for announcements of device support. But by making smart early and crucial decisions like this, the project has a much better chance of succeeding.

 

From CES: Will HTML5 Threaten the Closed World of the App Store?

Last week I attended the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. A few years ago CES was not on my calendar as a “must-attend” show. While there has been Linux in play in consumer devices for many years, only in the last few years has Linux become a fundamental building block of virtually all major consumer electronics segments, from mobile phones to televisions to stereo equipment to automobiles. CES is now an event I simply can’t miss.

This year I was struck by the shifting nature of software ecosystems. On one hand you had Steve Ballmer and Steven Elop repeating over and over how Microsoft and Nokia will be the "third ecosystem" to Apple and Android’s already successful ones. I find it ironic that what Ballmer means when he says he wants “to build the strong third ecosystem in the smartphone market” is that Microsoft and Nokia really want to be well, Microsoft and Nokia again. Except this time in third place. We all know that the rise and hold of Microsoft’s desktop domination was driven not by technology superiority but by the “ecosystem,” the availability of applications and peripherals supporting that operating system (OS), and only that OS. Microsoft and Nokia would like to return to that world with their mobile platforms. As Elop said, “We believe the industry has shifted form a battle of devices to a war of ecosystems.”

But are they too late? Will ecosystems really matter as much in the world of HTML5?

Let’s be honest. HTML5 is really just another way to say “the Internet,” and when it comes to breaking "ecosystem" lock in there have been fewer better mechanisms than the Internet. With HTML5, developers can target multiple platforms with their applications, making silo’ed app stores less important than they are today. Imagine a world where developers can use new tools to publish their apps to the Android, Apple, Amazon and “whatever else” store with one click. No 30 percent revenue share if they don’t want it. No proprietary programming interfaces. That is the promise of the Internet.

AT&T has made a huge bet on HTML5. Even Apple promotes HTML5 and touts that every Apple mobile device, every new Mac, every new version of Safari, will support it. As they say, "These web standards are open, reliable, highly secure, and efficient. Standards aren't add-ons to the web. They are the web."

A new developer survey out this week shows three quarters of developers are planning HTML5 projects. And, why wouldn't thye? The promise of "write once, run everywhere" has always been incredibly alluring for any developer who wants the widest possible market for her or her apps.

I believe that HTML5 will be begin to be very important in 2012 and will make great strides in leveling the playing field away from the largest two mobile ecosystems. I also think it will help Android, since Android on other devices, like TVs, are also prone to application ecosystem fragmentation. As Wired Magazine says in their discussion of ecosystem wars in the (Android) television market, “This trepidation around rallying around a common platform is troublesome for consumers, who ultimately just want to use apps that work.”

HTML5 could deliver that experience and fuel a truly open mobile world where ecosystems won’t matter quite so much. Of course the hardware vendors must support and enable those standards, and to do that they must see it as in their best interest. They must embrace HTML5 as a way to enhance their platform and reduce the costs of building and supporting a software ecosystem. While some see closed app stores as a way to differentiate and generate revenue in a tight margin business, I personally feel that the wisdom of the Internet, along with vendor opportunities for revenues (such as in-app transactions) will win. Only time will tell.

 
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