Open Source in Action: LinuxCon 2012


I participated in a panel discussion at LinuxCon today with other journalists who cover Linux and open source goings-on, including our own Alex Williams. One of the questions that was asked was “What was the most important story for you this week?”

The answers from my peer journalists were interesting, and reflect the diversity in interest (and beats) between us all. From Google’s admission to using — and paying for support for — Ubuntu on the desktop, to Linus’s revelation of a Linux 4.0 release within the next couple of years, the things that piqued our various interests covered the spectrum of what happened this week.

When the question was posed to me, my immediate response was “The Hallway track”. For regular conference goers, this is a colloqualism to describe the ad-hoc conversations that spring up in the hallway between sessions. This is where conference participants most interact — both with one another and with session presenters. 

All this week I’ve overheard snippets of conversations between two or more impassioned interlocutors discussing kernel tuning, memory management, cgroups, containers, systemd, “fake NUMA”, and lots of other interesting technologies.

What has been most interesting, though, is the realization that this is open source development in action. Whether it’s witnessing an Amazon developer talk with a Rackspace developer, or a SUSE engineer talking with a Red Hat engineer, or a CloudStack dev talking with an OpenStack dev, the conversations are all focused, technical, and almost entirely without conflict. These are smart, talented people looking to solve interesting, complex technical problems.

The companies that employ these various folks may all be fighting tooth and nail for customers, but they’re doing so at a higher level in the “business stack”, and there’s plenty of room for each of them to satisfy customer needs in different ways. The technical conversations that occurred this week were all aimed at allowing those higher level business discussions to take place.

That is open source development. A diverse set of participants, sometimes with conflicting long-term goals, all working together to solve problems, create new and useful solutions, and hopefully have fun doing it. I didn’t see any acrimony or hostility this week, despite the presence of employees from companies that are fighting — sometimes bitterly — for the same limited set of customers.

As Jim Zemlin, the Linux Foundation executive director, observed in his opening remarks on Wednesday, while the suits were planning product roadmaps and business plans at VMware’s VMworld event, the folks who were actually solving problems were here with us this week, working together and kicking ass.

Open source is where it’s at.

Kippt, Pinboard Help Digg Users Find New Home For Old Data [Here’s How]

Screen shot 2012-08-31 at 6.45.50 PM

When Digg launched Version 4 in August 2010, users weren’t happy about it. Some called it a revolt. As Kevin Rose said recently in a Reddit AMA, the company made some decisions during the rollout that “went against its core” to stave off declining traffic. As the story goes, it wasn’t long before the layoffs started and Rose (and other execs) resigned from the company.

Betaworks acquired Digg in July and put its team in charge of the site. Six weeks later, the new operators launched a complete overhaul of Digg. However, while interest in Digg had remained (a surprising amount, according to new CEO John Borthwick), the new site removed user access to old data, i.e. everything they’d ever posted to the old iterations of the site, like Diggs, comments, articles, etc.

The new owners had focused on getting the new version up and operational (with less expensive infrastructure) instead, but they promised a rectification to the historic data problem in the near future.

Yesterday, the team did just that and actually seems to have gone beyond what is usually characteristic for new management or a deadpooled/acquired startup to do in terms of access to historic data. They launched the “Digg Archive,” a tool that lets users of the old site (i.e. before July 2012) retrieve their Diggs, submissions, saved articles, etc.

Digg said via blog post:

We believe that people own the data they create, so while we work to determine if and how this data makes its way into the new Digg, we wanted to provide a way for users to access their history. It took some digging through the old infrastructure, but the complete Digg Archive is now live.

While a number of companies allow people to export their data after big changes and other sites independently pick up the slack, Digg seems to be one of the few that has actually partnered with other startups to provide a home for its own data via automated importing.

The first is social and collaborative bookmarking site Kippt, a Y Combinator startup whose official launch we covered in June. Kippt enables users to organize links into lists, collect bookmarks and clips, add comments, and share content, etc.

Digg users can either go to the Digg Archive and enter user info (they’ll send you an email with a link/instructions or to, Kipp’s automated, custom importer. Once imported, the site archives them and makes them searchable.

Users can also do the same for Pinboard, a simple, no-frills web archiving and bookmarking service. To do that, download your Digg Archive file, login/create a Pinboard account ($9.88 fee if you haven’t), and import.

The archive also lets users download their historic data as JSON or CSV, too. Pretty good for exporting, however, it seems Digg users aren’t able to search data via the Archive, though that might appear soon. The Digg community never really seems too happy with redesigns (or anyone, ever), and from what I’ve seen, the same goes for the new, new (new?) Digg. But at least they’ve taken steps to make them happy/depressed with access to a data-walk down memory lane. Though most Digg users seem to have just moved on to Buzzfeed or Reddit or imgur.

Hey Vendors — It’s Too Early For An API Death Match


I am not one to argue with abundance. I am a big believer in the way we can create so much, all the time.

But I can’t stand an abundance of vendor one-upmanship and that’s just what I heard this morning at CloudOpen in a panel discussion about Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) v. Platform as a Service (PaaS).

The conversation quickly turned to APIs. From there, it fell into a talk about their vision of an API and why or why not there should be one or many APIs to connect to IaaS environments – specifically Amazon Web Services (AWS). There was not one user on the panel.

But more so, in the context of the discussion, it is too early for an API death match. There are still way too many unknowns about how third party service providers and enterprise clients will integrate data centers with PaaS, IaaS or both. To cement one API makes no sense now. Open infrastructures still need to be baked out. We do not yet know how deep a functionality they will offer. Google has not yet said a lot about its APIs. So why are we talking about this?

Citrix Peder Ulander and Cloudstack’s Joe Brockmeier said it well to me today — it takes a long time to make a decision about transforming your infrastructure. It’s a once in a decade decision. Right now — for most customers it’s not about the API. And it shouldn’t be. It’s first about getting the blocks in place and establishing better automation and orchestration. That’s the DevOps way — a cultural change that has to take place before we start deciding what is the holy grail of APIs.

Opscode’s Chris Brown started with this beauty: “Who has the best API and why?”

Brown was at one time the founding member, architect, and lead developer for Amazon Web Services (AWS) Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). AWS has been in the IaaS business longer than anyone else. Chris, a technically brilliant fellow, knows the answer to the question. Greg DeKoenigsberg who works as vice president of community at Eucalyptus Systems did point to how AWS lacks IT administration capabilities. He said Eucalyptus offers that functionality via the AWS API.

Only Eucalyptus has full access to the AWS API for companies to use in their own enterprise environments. AWS has the copyright on the API. So if you want to use it like Eucalyptus does you need to get AWS okay. And so far, they have not made it available like they have for Eucalyptus.

There were some great points, mind you, especially from Google’s Craig McLuckie who said it is too early to talk about one API to rule them all. He said we are still trying to figure out the shape and direction of what an API stands for in an infrastructure setting. People are over focused on APIs and API convergence as the cure-all for the cloud space. He said we, as a community, have not thought through the semantics differences of an API.

And that is in part because we still do not know what shape architectures will take across the market. It also ignores what enterprise customers will want to do.

Mind you, this has been an awesome conference. My friend Rich Miller compares it to the Gluecon conference. An apt comparison as the conversation is great here. But it’s that conversation outside the vendor bubble that makes it meaningful.

One thing is certain. The cloud market is not moving at a rapid pace. Users are giving things a try. But they are not committing in any mass way. Its going to be a long process. Most know little about an IaaS. They know even less about PaaS. So the talk about the best API is just a vendor conversation – a way to gain some advantage that is only relevant in a marketing context.

YC-Backed Private Photo-Sharing App Everyme Raises $2.15M From Tencent And Others


So you’ve got your photos on Facebook, and you’ve got them on Instagram, and on Path. But what about that stuff that you don’t want everyone to see? Just some people? That’s what group photo-sharing app Everyme is for. And it’s just raised an additional $2.15 million to get more people using it.

Everyme is Y Combinator-backed mobile startup that allows users to create groups for private photo sharing. The startup launched its iPhone app in April, and followed that up with an Android app and Instagram integration a month later.

CEO Oliver Cameron confirmed that Everyme has raised an additional $2.15 million in a Series A round led by Chinese Internet giant Tencent, with participation from its existing angel investors. [SEC filing here] Previously, it had raised $1.5 million from investors that include CrunchFund, Andreessen Horowitz, Greylock, Tencent, SV Angel, Dave Morin, Joshua Schachter, and Vivi Nevo. Everyme now has seven employees and is based in Mountain View, Calif.

Despite having what CEO Oliver Cameron called an “anti-viral” approach to photo sharing, Everyme has been able to attract users to the service. Unlike other photo apps, which typically send photos out to all sorts of social networks, like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, Everyme is all about ensuring that only designated members of a group can upload or see photos.

It now has thousands of families using the app, he said, setting up groups to privately share photos between them. Families are a typical use case, as are groups of friends who go on trips together and want to share photos together without having to aggregate them from multiple photo albums on Facebook or other social networks.

But it’s not alone: there are other group photo and messaging apps that have similar functionality — like, for instance, Quilt, which just launched a few weeks ago. That, combined with the kind of anti-viral nature of what it’s doing, could make it tough to acquire customers weary of yet another social network. But who knows? This is a YC company we’re talking about, after all!

biNu Socializes Its Feature Phone App Platform


biNu, a startup backed by Eric Schmidt’s TomorrowVentures, allows owners of feature phones and lower-end smartphones to access apps like Facebook and Twitter. Now the company is getting more ambitious on the social networking side.

CEO Gour Lentell tells me that it wasn’t really his plan to build a social network. Instead, biNu focused initially on making content accessible — whether it’s Wikipedia, the Bible, or a news site like TechCrunch. But users wanted to share and interact around the content, so biNu has been slowly adding social features over time, until the team realized that it was becoming “fully social,” Lentell says. A few weeks ago, the company launched its own social app on biNu home screen, and next week, it’s adding the last big piece, a news stream where you can follow updates from other users.

Lentell came by the TechCrunch office earlier this week to show me the app and its social features. Users can friend others, they can share photos, and they can send instant messages and SMS. It is, in other words, it’s optimized for a small screen and a slow wireless connection, but other it’s pretty much what you’d expect from a mobile social network — Lentell says that even though biNu is focused on emerging markets (such as East Africa), its users have “the same social needs and desires no matter who they are.”

There are other social services aimed at feature phones, such as mig33, but the real competitor may be Facebook, which is looking to grow on lower-end phones in emerging markets, thanks its acquisition of Snaptu. However, Lentell says that with the billions of feature phones in the world, “there’s a lot of ocean out there,” so he doesn’t think he’ll be fighting with Facebook for users anytime soon. In fact, as I noted above, biNu also offers Facebook and Twitter apps as part of its platform.

Lentell also notes that since biNu is based in the cloud, the service could eventually be made available other devices too. For example, someone might create a social account on biNu’s mobile app, but they could also log in and access their social connections (and other biNu services) when they’re on a desktop computer at an Internet cafe.

biNu says it currently has 4.2 million unique monthly users.

Disrupt Startup Alley & Pavilions: Sold Out!

TechCrunch Disrupt SF Sept 10-12

TechCrunch Disrupt is now one week away. We are excited to say that Startup Alley is now SOLD OUT. We have over 200 early stage companies joining us over two days on Monday and Tuesday. Thirty five percent of these companies are joining us from outside of the U.S.

On Monday and Tuesday of Disrupt, the audience votes for their “Audience Choice Winner” among all of the Startup Alley companies demoing on that day. The audience favorite receives the last spot to compete on the TechCrunch Disrupt stage as one of that day’s Battlefield contestants, and if chosen, will be eligible to compete in the Battlefield Finals for the $50,000 grand prize and coveted Disrupt Cup.

We are also sold out in the Brazilian, Mexican, Chilean, Argentinian and Israeli pavilions. Over 100 companies are joining us from these parts of the globe. The largest country based Pavilion is Brazilian with 38 companies from Latin America representing. We are excited to host these companies here in Silicon Valley and are sure that lots of useful connections will be made between them and companies here in the Bay Area. We are hosting online guides with details on all of these companies to facilitate connections at the conference.

For those who would like to attend please sign up here.

As always, if you are interested in becoming a sponsor, opportunities can be found by emailing us.

If you are a student and would like to come to Disrupt SF, all you have to do is email us with a copy of your Student ID and transcript. Email us and our Executive Assistant Greg Barto will get back to you as soon as he can.

500 Startups Accelerator Alum Tiny Review Becomes Tiny Post, Adds New Fonts And Filters

Tiny Post

Tiny Review was one of TechCrunch’s favorite startups from the third 500 Startups Accelerator class that graduated in February. Then it was touted as an “Instagram for Reviews,” allowing users to easily add text to images, and then link them to certain locations. Users could also share those photos out to various social networks, like Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.

But a funny thing happened: The founding team realized that their users weren’t just posting reviews — they were using the app to add funny text to their pictures, which may or may not have been linked to a location or business, and create memes out of them. So the startup pivoted a little bit to go after that use case, and re-branded as Tiny Post.

In addition to the re-brand, TinyPost has been working on ways to allow its users to be even more creative with their tiny, um, posts. The startup saw that users were loading photos that were previously augmented in apps like Instagram or Camera Plus. Rather than having users add filters elsewhere and then import them into Tiny Post, the team has added a bunch of filters of its own, so they can do that work directly within the app.

It’s also added a bunch of new fonts, and allows users to move text around in the photo. Previously, the default font was League Gothic, which was perfect for the meme-type images that users were creating. But a wider range of fonts will now allow them to express themselves in new and interesting ways.

Tiny Post was founded by Dick Brouwer and Melissa Miranda, and has five employees (and one baby!!!) based in Palo Alto, Calif. The startup has raised a total of $300,000 in angel funding.

The Value Of Your iPhone Drops Every Second, So Try This


The value of your current iPhone is going down as I write this very sentence. And according to Gazelle, current iPhone models traditionally depreciate about 25 percent a couple weeks before the next generation iPhone is unveiled. And guess what? The new iPhone is about two weeks away.

As Rafiki would say in the Lion King, “it is time.”

But what do you do?

Well, lucky for all of us, the guys over at ZDNet put together a nice little price comparison of all your various trade-in programs, which you can find here. The best deal seems to come by way of Amazon’s Trade-In program, which is offering up to $400+ for an excellent-condition iPhone 4S.

Unfortunately, most of those deals force you to return your current iPhone immediately. And who wants to be without their smartphone for a month?

Not I!

For this very reason, Gazelle is offering a cool deal (which ends today, so move now) that will lock in the current price of your iPhone, based on the condition it’s in. But — and this is a big but — you can keep your phone until October 1. That means that there’s a possibility you could get your new iPhone before you ever have to send your current one back. That, of course, depends on how well Apple meets demand, and how quick you are at purchasing gadgetry through a crashing site.

Or, you could just stand in line on September 21.