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“And what follows the debt binge? The hangover.” August 30, 2007

Posted by Sacha in Finance.
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In Barrons, a very good summary of the current embarrassment on the financial markets, by Jacqueline Doherty:

IN EVERY BUST THAT FOLLOWS A BOOM embarrassing details emerge showing just how eager the players were to participate in the insanity. In the current bust, these revealing nuggets are buried in the lending commitments of some of the largest pending LBOs.

Over the past three or four months, bankers have committed to lending LBO targets about $300 billion to fund buyouts. Their plan was to sell the loans to institutional investors. But demand for leveraged debt has evaporated in the recent market turmoil, even as yields on existing leveraged loans have risen.


From SUNW to JAVA: SUN comes to the rescue of under-50-year-old-housewives? Not quite. August 29, 2007

Posted by Sacha in JBoss.

JCP-QMSo that’s it, SUNW decided to start leveraging their Java brand: they have updated their NASDAQ ticker symbol from SUNW to JAVA. To be frank with you, I thought this move was a rather “shy” one (read: weak). I mean, SUNW has always tried hard to act as the clean “referee” that – unlike Microsoft – builds an healthy open standard-based ecosystem around Java. So now, what do they do? They damage this “Peace of the Braves” by using the “Java” brand as their ticker symbol. That’s probably the most optimal way to get all of the negatives without getting any of the positives. Really, who cares about SUNW’s ticker symbol? Snore…

So, why did SUNW do that? As hinted by Jonathan Schwartz:

the number of people who know Java swamps the number of people who know Sun

Hum, Jonathan, you might want to review the methodology that has been used for this survey. Specifically, who did you ask? Middleware developers, CIO and Gartner Analysts? Or did you ask the “under-50-years-old-housewives” group? Because if you asked the former groups, I bet you got a one-to-one match between Java and Sun. Now, if you asked the later category, I am pretty certain they didn’t know much about Java in the first place, except maybe if they are the proud owner of a Starbucks “frequent drinker” Card. But, do you really really care to educate that group of people at the cost of upsetting your ecosystem? If you really really want to leverage the Java brand, rename “Sun Microsystems” to “Java Microsystems”. You own that brand, so do something real that justifies breaking this subtle equilibrium you’ve built over the years, not a quick-and-dirty something under the carpet.

Ok, I am slightly making fun of Jonathan Schwartz’s decision here and I probably shouldn’t: he is a smart guy. As such, I cannot believe he was just bored and decided to make such a move simply to educate “the masses”. Au contraire. I think that by doing so, SUNW is sending a clear signal to the first group of people, the IT market, that says “the rules of the game are about to change”.

First of all, SUNW is making it clear that they intend to further leverage Java, and probably not only its brand. Jonathan Schwartz is clearly trying to re-focus a big chunk of SUNW’s value around its software business. Still, when you look at their results in the Java space, that’s not brilliant. Truth is that it is difficult to be the referee and to win the match at the same time. And that is probably what SUNW is currently realizing. They have had no success whatsoever with any of the (numerous!) Application Servers they released into the market up to now in spite of the fact that they’ve made significant investments in the software field (including the acquisition of SeeBeyond). Is it paying off? My bet is that it is not. And SUNW is trying to find ways to accelerate their software clock. However, they probably don’t think they can accelerate the time of their payout without changing the rules of the game. That includes the branding of Java, for sure. But that might also include the way they intend to release future versions of the Java Platform (both SE and ME).

When you actually look at the kind of license SUNW proposed to the Apache Foundation for the Harmony project and the imbroglio it created, it is embarrassing. They are not respecting the JCP rules they have themselves defined. They hide behind their finger by using cryptic legal arguments which merely adds to the embarrassment.

And SUNW is sufficiently versed into the JCP rules to understand that if they don’t abide by their own rules, the JCP EC will most probably use the ONLY real power it has: to vote down a spec. Which, in that case, means to vote down the next SE JSR. Given that SUNW doesn’t seem to care about that threat, my guess is that they might be prepared to pull Java out of the JCP. They might keep the JCP running for the non-strategic/non-platform specs, but not rely on it for Java itself. If they want to be the only implementation in town, what do they need a standard for? They could just go the MSFT way and implement-first (with the gentle help of the OpenJDK community, wink, wink) and publish the resulting APIs after. Much less costly, with the same ability to monetize its JVM with OEM (thanks to the GPL). A priori at least.

So let’s see what SUNW’s next moves will be. They’ve clearly put a dot on the map by breaking the long-standing Java equilibrium. We need to see where they’ll put their next dot so we can draw a line and see in which direction it goes.

Jonathan, are you really ready to pull the plug and live with the consequences of that choice?



MSFT Open Source licenses: the future big OSS divide? August 29, 2007

Posted by Sacha in JBoss.
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GGBAs you’ve probably heard, MSFT recently submitted two licenses to the OSI for approval: one reciprocal license (or copyleft license, the “Microsoft Community License“) and one permissive license (or non-copyleft license, the “Microsoft Permissive License“).

While this might just be for show, one thing retained my attention: both licenses, and not just the reciprocal one, are incompatible with the GPL. I was certainly not expecting to see MSFT make buddy with anything FSF-related, but still, that incompatibility sounds too much like a “feature”, especially given that even the permissive license is incompatible – which is pretty extreme, in my view.

So why is that? Let me propose a theory. Let’s say MSFT was willing to OSS some of their technology (some parts of .Net for example?) While they would certainly want to leverage that opportunity to the max (growing a community, new projects and extensions around this codebase, etc.), they would certainly hate to see their IP leveraged for and by any competitors (Linux, EE, Java, etc.) Well, what would be the easiest way to do eliminate the possibility of such “abuse”? Just create a big license-divide between the “good FOSS” (MSFT) and the evil communists (everybody else) and make sure you cannot legally cross that gap.

I guess we will see…



Prefer the copy or the original? August 27, 2007

Posted by Sacha in Cars.
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Had a discussion with Marc on whether it is possible these days to have a performant & nice looking car that’s also eco-friendly or if we necessarily have to drive an ugly car to compensate the irresponsible attitude of some.

So Marc brought to my attention the newest Lexus hybrid models. But for whatever reason, I didn’t feel anything special when I looked at it (yes, sometimes I do). But I couldn’t really explain it… Then I found this article from Jeremy Clarkson and I think there is no need to add anything else.

Move on.

Car Tuning August 27, 2007

Posted by Sacha in Cars.

I love cars. I mean, I love nice cars, not just tin boxes.

One thing that has always amused me (and sometimes horrified) is the hobby of “Car Tuning”. Don’t get me wrong, I am not talking about companies that tune cars as a real engineering matter (ABT, Sportec, Oettinger and others), no, I am speaking about the drag queens of tuning.

Anyway, I knew car tuning could be ridiculous, but I also thought being ridiculous didn’t kill. Well, It seems I was wrong.

Nothing To Report (aka I love Summer Time) August 9, 2007

Posted by Sacha in JBoss, Moved from JBoss.org.
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This year, I have been following the advice from my Zen Teacher on how to properly relax: take three weeks off in a row. I was usually taking 2 weeks but that didn’t work for me: I was spending the first 7 days to try stop thinking about work and the last 7 thinking about my restart. 3 weeks worked like a charm! Still, this week, when I checked my e-mail, I felt a bit anxious: “Did a drama take place in my absence?”. Nothing! Nada, rien, nichts! It could not have been quieter. Well, let me state that more accurately. It is not that nothing took place;it is just that traditional non-events took place, and that, in some sense, is very reassuring. I guess I wasn’t alone in taking some time off. So, let me go through some of the best non-events I found in my inbox.

First of all, the winner is certainly BEA with yet another wagon of rumors concerning its possible acquisition. This one has been going on for years, much like a good old Summer Soap Opera. BEA is certainly the most-frequently acquired company. Except it rarely happens. Anyway, something tells me not everybody took some time off this Summer at BEA [1, 2, 3]. Anyway, we will see

Second on my list is Novell with IBM. They made a HUGE announcement: Novell will package (and resell support for) Websphere Children’s Edition with SUSE Linux. Damned, that’s big news! But wait… wasn’t that reactive move already announced 10 months ago… Maybe somebody screwed up in their PR department and re-issued an old announcement…. Well, let’s be fair, I know that some evil minds might criticize that alliance a bit too fast by saying this is very much the wedding of two lousy products. That would indeed be an over-simplification. Websphere Children’s Edition is, it seems, growing very fast and SLES is number two on the market (even if SLES worldwide sales would equal RHEL sales in Antartica, that would still makes it a #2 — formally at least). Anyway, if you want to look different, now you have the choice: you can either opt for a nose-piercing or for a SLES/Children’s Edition bundle.

And last but not least, Oracle. Oracle is still arguing that Unbreakable Linux is not a fork of RHEL. Damned, that is starting to be embarrassing… Someone needs to go there and explain to Larry how it really works, maybe he *really* thinks this is not a fork… Look, he somehow has an excuse: he has been busy fishing in Spanish waters in the last few month, so maybe he didn’t give full attention to this issue. Now that he is back, it might be a good time to sit down with him.

To be frank, I am slightly exaggerating: some important news indeed took place in the IT space during my holidays, but that didn’t impact our business too much…