Blogger: Joe Niski
The week started with this stimulating interview with Grady Booch, in which he makes a case for examining the larger implications of what we do while deftly avoiding taking a stand on any of the issues the interviewer tossed his way. He also put in a good word for Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility. After reading the interview, several events of this week seemed to fall together under the broad theme of ethics, ideology, and pragmatism in the wide world of software.
First, Eric S. Maskin shared the Nobel Prize in Economics with Roger B. Myerson and Leonid Hurwicz for their work on mechanism design theory (started by Prof. Hurwicz). In 2000, Maskin co-wrote a compelling paper on why software patents are more likely to stifle than stimulate innovation. At the risk of oversimplifying, he shows that the software companies, users, and innovation in general all benefit from the free exchange of ideas and plenty of competition. It's a quantitative argument about an issue that typically flames the ideological passions of programmers and ISVs - how refreshing!
By mid-week, the US Patent Office rejected much of Amazon's patent claim for one-click shopping. While bloggers are alternately rejoicing and compulsively analyzing the legal fine points, it's nice to see a little common sense coming from the USPTO - even if it's the result of a challenge.
And today, Canonical released version 7.10 of Ubuntu Linux. After trying numerous versions of numerous distributions on my aging no-name laptop, I've been having a lot of fun with 7.04 - it's the first Linux I've been able to get working with multiple monitors. While Ubuntu is known for its ease of installation and use, it's also looked down upon by some Linux and open source purists for some of the tradeoffs made in the distribution. One of these is an admirably pragmatic way of providing closed-source software - a "restricted" repository that integrates with Ubuntu's software-management system, but is separate from the primary distribution. It honors the the OSS ethos, without limiting users' freedom of choice in the software they install.