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An Invitation to Develop for the Future

TL;DR: Get started with OpenPOWER, help build a better future, and win prizes.

"I like things just the way they are. Let's keep computer architectures stagnant. Let's ensure that everything is powered by the same chip."


I have to confess: I never liked Monopoly. I'm not a fan of board games in general, but Monopoly has a "special place in my heart"; a place reserved for all those horribly brutish things (and behaviours) that shouldn't exist.

But how do we create a world where we are free from a "winner-takes-all-at-the-expense-of-everyone-else" mentality? In the world of software we open the source, we make projects inclusive, we remix each other's code, and we share.

So why aren't things like this in hardware? Why do we accept, even if tacitly, a world where we're "railroaded" into a single monolithic platform?

We shouldn't. But despite everyone's best intentions, it's often difficult to get started with something new and disruptive. As a result, we stick to the tried-and-true: the easy path. In order to get to a new technology, it is reasonable to need and expect an on-ramp and a bit of help. Ubuntu did exactly that by making it easy for anyone to install a free system and to help build and shape it in a friendly and inviting community.

And, in the way history sometimes rhymes, the fine folks at the OpenPOWER Foundation are making it easy to get started with hardware that is collaborative and forward-looking. We're offering free use of OpenPOWER systems and also prizes to encourage people to tinker and build interesting projects that showcase the values (and value) of an open hardware platform.

I encourage you to join, participate and learn. There are prizes to be won and a brighter future to build. Let's get started.

The Original Bug, and Choice

Don't you think *everyone* deserves freedom?

I do.

    “There is a crack in everything.
    That's how the light gets in.”
    - Leonard Cohen

If someone says or implies otherwise, you can tell them I disagree.

The Line That Divides

"You're crazy. That will never work!

Recently, Mark Shuttleworth gave a keynote presentation where he talked about entrepreneurship, lunatics, "things" that are on the internet, and the nature of modern software.

(Click the image above to watch Mark's presentation.)

Key takeaways:

  • Successful entrepreneurs and innovators live on the left side of the vertical line depicted in the graph. The curves on the chart represent the level of acceptance of an idea (or product) into society.
  • Do what is crazy now. If people already accept your idea, it's too late.
  • Products that create relationships with their owners are the most powerful.
  • The best early IoT business ideas are likely for toys and entertainment devices,
  • Snappy!

In my (time) travels, I've heard my share of "That's a crazy idea. It will never work." Since, most of my travels recently have been in support of Ubuntu on OpenPOWER, Mark's message struck a particular chord with me. The notion of a ragtag group of dreamers taking on a hardware monopoly seems by most to be "crazy". They think OpenPOWER is downright nuts!

I'm not concerned. In fact, I'm encouraged by this. I can think of two watershed events I've witnessed that support Mark's thesis . What seemed crazy in 1998 is now everywhere (Hint: AAPL). What seemed a fad in 1994 is now the fabric of modern communications (Hint: the Internet.)

The "sane" people in 1994 were betting on America Online (AOL) running on Disk Operating System (DOS), or a Graphical User Interface (GUI) shell bolted onto DOS, which I won't name. I vividly remember their passion for the status quo. Their vision didn't end well.

So, in 2016, do you think the idea of an alternative and open hardware ecosystem like OpenPOWER is a crazy one? Do you think it's crazy to be building Ubuntu for it?

The answer probably depends on which side of the line you ask.

Everyone Can Have a New "Datacenter" Right Now, Even You!

A (new) datacenter? Me? Really? Why would I want that?

Answer 1: Because if you're an individual, you have problems to solve that cannot be solved by consuming one more app from a store.

Answer 2: Because if you're a company, you have problems to solve that cannot be solved economically (if at all) by your current datacenter, which is probably out-moded, out-dated, and brittle.

Recently, I've been having discussions with people who follow tech (but who don't make it a full-time job) and one thing I've been hearing and sensing is that a lot of people don't quite get "cloud" and "OpenStack". I could even add Open Source to this list, but I'll save that for later.) This is not a slam, or a criticism of them. It's an observation, and it's a shame that it's this way.

These are bright people with real work they need to get done and real problems they would like to solve. They need to get on with things without additional cognitive load and with minimal expense. But, when they hear the constant drone of cloud jargon, their eyes glaze over and when they see that complexity they think they'll need a small army of consultants to help.

In the spirit of "Amplify(ing) the Signal" (my blog's title), what is the source of this noise and how can we filter it out to find the information, the signal?

The noise: I mostly blame the tech (marketing) industry for creating and perpetuating confusion and thinking that's acceptable behaviour. With a few exceptions, this is an industry that makes no attempt to simplify technical jargon and to describe solutions in easy and obvious ways. To do so would be to allow people to get on with their lives and simply "get things done". Horror of horrors!

But in this often "messy" world, there are a few beacons and heroes; people that are really trying to make the world better and to bring technology to everyone, without bias or prejudice.

This is exactly what initially attracted me to Ubuntu. Ubuntu brought the promise of free and open computing to me. With Ubuntu, I didn't need to spend hours or days configuring kernel this and driver that and typing gobbledegook on command lines. I simply popped in a CD, and was on my way.

Eleven years later, and Ubuntu has done it again. Allow me to present the signal.

Computers are no longer just your laptop, your desktop, your phone, tablet, or gadget. Computers are now collections of machines that are interconnected. Software is no longer an "app" that runs on your device. Software is a collection of programs that run on many computers, some of which you touch and hold and own and many of which you don't. Take your blog for instance. It's likely running on someone else's machines and consists of at least a front end (content management system), a database, and maybe some load balancing.

    Cloud: A collection of computers that you don't own or manage and that you control by issuing simple commands. In return, it provides computing services to you.

Sounds a bit like what we called a datacenter years ago, right? That's because it is. But, it's an improved datacenter. Simpler, more reliable, more scalable, more versatile, and much cheaper. These new datacenters are capable of running modern software. These datacenters can be in your home, your garage, your company, or in a building somewhere else in your city, or a faraway place. The can be in a combination of more than one of these places.

    OpenStack: A popular "flavour" of cloud computing that is free, open, and available to all.

We have reached a point in history where it is now possible for you to have a solution to your problem in your own datacenter that is based on an OpenStack cloud. If someone has already installed servers for you, then you can have your solution ready to go in less than 30 minutes.

Please watch Mark Shuttleworth, the founder of Ubuntu, show you how it's done.

It's worth watching the whole video, but if you only have a few minutes, then watch it from the point below where Mark sets up a blog hosted on an OpenStack cloud in less than one minute, with Juju.


If you have a little more time, then watch Mark demo how to build an OpenStack cloud in minutes, not in hours or days, with Autopilot.

Welcome to a simpler, more cost-effective, and more interesting tech world. I hope you will use these free and open technologies to get on with solving problems and making the world a better place.

And, I hope you will reject those in the tech industry that insist on keeping things difficult, confusing, and expensive. Or, as Mark would say...

No headcount, no consultants, no problem.

OpenPOWER in Two Clicks

Hello friendly Ubuntu developers.

Do you have software in a Personal Package Archive (PPA) on Launchpad? It just got super easy to build it for OpenPOWER!

OpenPOWER is the future. Future is now. You can be part of it.

Head over to Launchpad and do this.

Visit the main web page for your PPA. For example:

Follow the “Change details” link. Enable OpenPOWER by checking the box "PowerPC64 Little-Endian (ppc64el)"

More information can be found at the Launchpad blog here:

Thanks Colin Watson, and many other fine folks in Canonical including our wonderful sysadmins for making this a day to celebrate!

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