Somehow Amazon’s Open Source Fork of ElasticSearch Has Succeeded

Long-time open source advocate Matt Asay writes in InfoWorld:

OpenSearch shouldn’t exist. The open source alternative to Elasticsearch started off as Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) answer to getting outflanked by Elastic’s change in Elasticsearch’s license, which was in turn sparked by AWS building a successful Elasticsearch service but contributing little back. In 2019 when AWS launched its then Open Distro for Elasticsearch, I thought its reasons rang hollow and, frankly, sounded sanctimonious. This was, after all, a company that used more open source than it contributed. Two years later, AWS opted to fork Elasticsearch to create OpenSearch, committing to a “long-term investment” in OpenSearch.

I worked at AWS at the time. Privately, I didn’t think it would work.

Rather, I didn’t feel that AWS really understood just how much work was involved in running a successful open source project, and the company would fail to invest the time and resources necessary to make OpenSearch a viable competitor to Elasticsearch. I was wrong. Although OpenSearch has a long way to go before it can credibly claim to have replaced Elasticsearch in the minds and workloads of developers, it has rocketed up the search engine popularity charts, with an increasingly diverse contributor population. In turn, the OpenSearch experience is adding a new tool to AWS’ arsenal of open source strengths….

As part of the AWS OpenSearch team, David Tippett and Eli Fisher laid out a few key indicators of OpenSearch’s success as they gave their 2022 year in review. They topped more than 100 million downloads and gathered 8,760 pull requests from 496 contributors, a number of whom don’t work for AWS. Not stated were other success factors, such as Adobe’s earlier decision to replace Elasticsearch with OpenSearch in its Adobe Commerce suite, or its increasingly open governance with third-party maintainers for the project. Nor did they tout its lightning-fast ascent up the DB-Engines database popularity rankings, hitting the Top 50 databases for the first time.

OpenSearch, in short, is a bonafide open source success story. More surprisingly, it’s an AWS open source success story. For many who have been committed to the “AWS strip mines open source” narrative, such success stories aren’t supposed to exist. Reality bites.
The article notes that OpenSearch’s success “doesn’t seem to be blunting Elastic’s income statement.” But it also points out that Amazon now has many employees actively contributing to open source projects, including PostgreSQL and MariaDB. (Although “If AWS were to turn forking projects into standard operating procedure, that might get uncomfortable.”)

“Fortunately, not only has AWS learned how to build more open source, it has also learned how to partner with open source companies.”

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Red Hat’s 30th Anniversary: How a Microsoft Competitor Rose from an Apartment-Based Startup

For Red Hat’s 30th anniversary, North Carolina’s News & Observer newspaper ran a special four-part series of articles.
In the first article Red Hat co-founder Bob Young remembers Red Hat’s first big breakthrough: winning InfoWorld’s “OS of the Year” award in 1998 — at a time when Microsoft’s Windows controlled 85% of the market.
“How is that possible,” Young said, “that one of the world’s biggest technology companies, on this strategically critical product, loses the product of the year to a company with 50 employees in the tobacco fields of North Carolina?” The answer, he would tell the many reporters who suddenly wanted to learn about his upstart company, strikes at “the beauty” of open-source software.
“Our engineering team is an order of magnitude bigger than Microsoft’s engineering team on Windows, and I don’t really care how many people they have,” Young would say. “Like they may have thousands of the smartest operating system engineers that they could scour the planet for, and we had 10,000 engineers by comparison….”

Young was a 40-year-old Canadian computer equipment salesperson with a software catalog when he noticed what Marc Ewing was doing. [Ewing was a recent college graduate bored with his two-month job at IBM, selling customized Linux as a side hustle.] It’s pretty primitive, but it’s going in the right direction, Young thought. He began reselling Ewing’s Red Hat product. Eventually, he called Ewing, and the two met at a tech conference in New York City. “I needed a product, and Marc needed some marketing help,” said Young, who was living in Connecticut at the time. “So we put our two little businesses together.”

Red Hat incorporated in March 1993, with the earliest employees operating the nascent business out of Ewing’s Durham apartment. Eventually, the landlord discovered what they were doing and kicked them out.
The four articles capture the highlights. (“A visual effects group used its Linux 4.1 to design parts of the 1997 film Titanic.”) And it doesn’t leave out Red Hat’s skirmishes with Microsoft. (“Microsoft was owned by the richest person in the world. Red Hat engineers were still linking servers together with extension cords. “) “We were changing the industry and a lot of companies were mad at us,” says Michael Ferris, Red Hat’s VP of corporate development/strategy. Soon there were corporate partnerships with Netscape, Intel, Hewlett-Packard, Compaq, Dell, and IBM — and when Red Hat finally goes public in 1999, its stock sees the eighth-largest first-day gain in Wall Street history, rising in value in days to over $7 billion and “making overnight millionaires of its earliest employees.”

But there’s also inspiring details like the quote painted on the wall of Red Hat’s headquarters in Durham: “Every revolution was first a thought in one man’s mind; and when the same thought occurs to another man, it is the key to that era…” It’s fun to see the story told by a local newspaper, with subheadings like “It started with a student from Finland” and “Red Hat takes on the Microsoft Goliath.”

Something I’d never thought of. 2001’s 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center “destroyed the principal data centers of many Wall Street investment banks, which were housed in the twin towers. With their computers wiped out, financial institutions had to choose whether to rebuild with standard proprietary software or the emergent open source. Many picked the latter.” And by the mid-2000s, “Red Hat was the world’s largest provider of Linux…’ according to part two of the series. “Soon, Red Hat was servicing more than 90% of Fortune 500 companies.”
By then, even the most vehement former critics were amenable to Red Hat’s kind of software. Microsoft had begun to integrate open source into its core operations. “Microsoft was on the wrong side of history when open source exploded at the beginning of the century, and I can say that about me personally,” Microsoft President Brad Smith later said.
In the 2010s, “open source has won” became a popular tagline among programmers. After years of fighting for legitimacy, former Red Hat executives said victory felt good. “There was never gloating,” Tiemann said.

“But there was always pride.”
In 2017 Red Hat’s CEO answered questions from Slashdot’s readers.

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Python’s PyPI Will Sell ‘Organization Accounts’ to Corporate Projects to Fund Staff

Last year Python’s massive PyPI repository of pre-written software packages had 235.7 billion downloads — a 57% annual growth in its download counts and bandwidth. So now Python’s nonprofit Python Software Foundation has an announcement.
Their director of infrastructure said today that they’re rolling out “the first step in our plan to build financial support and long-term sustainability of PyPI, while simultaneously giving our users one of our most requested features: organization accounts.”

Organizations on PyPI are self-managed teams, with their own exclusive branded web addresses. Our goal is to make PyPI easier to use for large community projects, organizations, or companies who manage multiple sub-teams and multiple packages.

We’re making organizations available to community projects for free, forever, and to corporate projects for a small fee. Additional priority support agreements will be available to all paid subscribers, and all revenue will go right back into PyPI to continue building better support and infrastructure for all our users… Having more people using and contributing to Python every year is an fantastic problem to have, but it is one we must increase organizational capacity to accommodate. Increased revenue for PyPI allows it to become a staffed platform that can respond to support requests and attend to issues in a timeframe that is significantly faster than what our excellent (but thinly spread) largely volunteer team could reasonably handle.

We want to be very clear — these new features are completely optional. If features for larger projects don’t sound like something that would be useful to you as a PyPI maintainer, then there is no obligation to create an organization and absolutely nothing about your PyPI experience will change for you.

We look forward to discussing what other features PyPI users would like to see tackled next…

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Hobbyist’s Experiment Creates a Self-Soldering Circuit Board

Long-time Slashdot reader wonkavader found a video on YouTube where, at the 2:50 mark, there’s time-lapse footage of soldering paste magically melting into place. The secret?
Many circuit boards include a grounded plane as a layer. This doesn’t have to be a big unbroken expanse of copper — it can be a long snake to reduce the copper used. Well, if you run 9 volts through that long snake, it acts as a resistor and heats up the board enough to melt solder paste. Electronics engineer Carl Bugeja has made a board which controls the 9 volt input to keep the temperature on the desired curve for the solder.

This is an interesting home-brew project which seems like it might someday make a pleasant, expected feature in kits.

Hackaday is impressed by the possibilities too:
Surface mount components have been a game changer for the electronics hobbyist, but doing reflow soldering right requires some way to evenly heat the board. You might need to buy a commercial reflow oven — you can cobble one together from an old toaster oven, after all — but you still need something, because it’s not like a PCB is going to solder itself. Right?

Wrong. At least if you’re Carl Bugeja, who came up with a clever way to make his PCBs self-soldering…. The quality of the soldering seems very similar to what you’d see from a reflow oven…. After soldering, the now-useless heating element is converted into a ground plane for the circuit by breaking off the terminals and soldering on a couple of zero ohm resistors to short the coil to ground.

It’s an open source project, with all files available on GitHub. “This is really clever,” tweeted Adrian Bowyer, inventor of the open source 3D printer the RepRap Project.

In the video Bugeja compares reflow soldering to pizza-making. (If the circuit board is the underlying dough, then the electronics on top are the toppings, with the solder paste representing the sauce that keeps them in place. “The oven’s heat is what bonds these individual items together.”)

But by that logic making a self-soldering circuit is “like putting the oven in the dough and making it edible.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

As GitHub Retires ‘Atom’, Open Source ‘Pulsar’ Continues Its Legacy

In June GitHub announced they’d retire their customizable text editor Atom on December 15th — so they could focus their development efforts on the IDEs Microsoft Visual Studio Code and GitHub Codespaces. “As new cloud-based tools have emerged and evolved over the years, Atom community involvement has declined significantly,” according to a post on GitHub’s blog.

So while “GitHub and our community have benefited tremendously from those who have filed issues, created extensions, fixed bugs, and built new features on Atom,” this now means that:

– Atom package management will stop working
– No more security updates
– Teletype will no longer work
– Deprecated redirects that supported downloading Electron symbols and headers will no longer work
– Pre-built Atom binaries can continue to downloaded from the atom repository releases

Fortunately, in 2014 GitHub open sourced the code for Atom. And according to It’s FOSS News:

A community build for it is already available; however, there seems to be a new version (Pulsar) that aims to bring feature parity with the original Atom and introduce modern features and updated architecture….

The reason why they made a separate fork is because of different goals for the projects. Pulsar wants to modernize everything to present a successor to Atom. Of course, the user interface is much of the same. Considering Pulsar hasn’t had a stable release yet, the branding could sometimes seem all over the place. However, the essentials seem to be there with the documentation, packages, and features like the ability to install packages from Git repositories….

As of now, it is too soon to say if Pulsar will become something better than what the Atom community version offers. However, it is something that we can keep an eye on…. You can head to its official download page to get the package required for your system and test it out.

Like Atom, Pulsar is cross-platform support (supporting Linux, macOS, and Windows).

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

New Hampshire Set To Pilot Voting Machines That Use Open-Source Software

According to The Record, New Hampshire will pilot a new kind of voting machine that will use open-source software to tally the votes. The Record reports: The software that runs voting machines is typically distributed in a kind of black box — like a car with its hood sealed shut. Because the election industry in the U.S. is dominated by three companies — Dominion, Election Systems & Software and Hart InterCivic — the software that runs their machines is private. The companies consider it their intellectual property and that has given rise to a roster of unfounded conspiracy theories about elections and their fairness. New Hampshire’s experiment with open-source software is meant to address exactly that. The software by its very design allows you to pop the hood, modify the code, make suggestions for how to make it better, and work with other people to make it run more smoothly. The thinking is, if voting machines run on software anyone can audit and run, it is less likely to give rise to allegations of vote rigging.

The effort to make voting machines more transparent is the work of a group called VotingWorks. […] On November 8, VotingWorks machines will be used in a real election in real time. New Hampshire is the second state to use the open-source machines after Mississippi first did so in 2019. Some 3,000 voters will run their paper ballots through the new machines, and then, to ensure nothing went awry, those same votes will be hand counted in a public session in Concord, N.H. Anyone who cares to will be able to see if the new machines recorded the votes correctly. The idea is to make clear there is nothing to hide. If someone is worried that a voting machine is programmed to flip a vote to their opponent, they can simply hire a computer expert to examine it and see, in real time.

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