The Quantum Graph

Month: June, 2012

Levantine Peace Through Data

Though a portion of us live in regions that don’t experience war, there are many others who live in a perpetual state of fear. One such area is the Levant. With the exception of Jordan, the Levant is always experiencing some kind of systemic violence. In Syria, decades of dictatorial rule have resulted in a bloody civil war that’s now spilling into Lebanon and threatening Turkey and Iraq.

The longest and most consistent battle in the region is of course centered in Israel/Palestine. As a result, there are some prominent, as well as lesser known groups devoted to achieving peaceful coexistence. Although a majority desires peace, political leaders in the area are mostly concerned with exacting cyclical, fatalistic revenge. War is what they know too well to let go of.

So, how might we realistically extricate ourselves from this sad reality? In other words, how might those peaceful organizations become more powerful than those warlike ones. If the 2011 Arab Spring (which is now the 2012 Arab Summer) teaches us anything, its that the Internet is an ideal platform for assembling lots of people. Facebook, Twitter and other services are excellent tools for spreading information – but beyond the raw broadcast capabilities they offer, its difficult to organize any sort of complex task. As a result, many people spill into the streets for protest, but very few actively work towards a goal.

Groups (NGOs, charities & foundations, green corps, concerned citizens) need an integrated, open platform that can:

  • Link up resources
    • Other people/organizations with related focus
    • Supplies – raw materials, tools, transport, capital
    • Information – news, academic/scientific papers, raw data, status streams (twitter/fb)
  • Structure operations
    • Who is where doing what, when, why and how?
    • Strategize, store findings, log and schedule activity
  • Scale with complexity – regardless of the amount of people/data in the network, it should remain simple to utilize
  • Withstand attempts at being shut down
  • Remain free and work with existing services through open APIs

The Levant suffers from not only sociopolitical crises, but ecological ones as well – the region is a microcosm of the world at large. As deeply rooted as these challenges are, there is no shortage of visionaries with a plan for how to make things happy and healthy once more. Those people need to unite not just in vision, but action. Then, true peace can much sooner replace our current state. Just ask Marley!

שלום ~ سلام

Why Free/Open Source Software is Better Business

In today’s software-laden world there remain two general release models: open source and proprietary. Open source implies that the code that makes a given piece of software run is available for programmers to read, edit and redistribute. Proprietary implies that such code is hidden. There is a plethora of different open source licenses that developers can release their works under, each dictating what a coder may or may not do with the source code in question.

In the business community there is a widely held conception of open source as a hippy ideology: share the inner workings of our favorite technologies and love will one day reign supreme. While this is true, even the most ruthless corporate execs should take a second look at the protection, recognition, robustness, interoperability and time/resource-efficiency that comes with free software.

  • Protection and recognition because open source licenses provide a copyright (or copyleft) for the work. If code is open, there is no incentive to reverse-engineer/create a copycat version under a different name.
  • Robust because open code is often well tested and improved upon by the community.
  • Interoperability because some open source licenses (such as GNU GPL) forbid linking to non-open software. Open source software also tends to adhere to open standards and APIs.
  • Time/resource-efficient because there’s no need to code the same module twice – if someone’s done the work and released it as open, you can use it.

Of course, the classic problem with open source is that it forces companies to be creative when it comes to making money. Although one can technically charge for open source software, this was more common practice in the olden days when distribution was often done using hard media such as floppies. Now that distribution is so cheap and easy online, open source tends to be free as in “free beer”. So, charging for licenses isn’t practical. Oracle charges $47,500 per processor running its flagship proprietary enterprise database – the company pulled in $35.6b in 2011. It’s currently locked in patent litigation battles with a number of tech giants.

For noospheer, we’re using a combination of licenses: LGPL for the database, API and GUI – FreeBSD for the quantum emulator. The first keeps the code open, but unlike the classic GPL allows for linking to proprietary software. The latter is considered ‘permissive’, and allows the code to be used in any context – even to be re-released as part of a proprietary software package.

Whatever the license, the future is clearly open. Here’s Linus Torvalds of Linux fame talking about startups and the advantages of open source.