Open source catalyst

Doghouse – Subutai

Article from Issue 210/2018

Be a catalyst and help others break the bonds of proprietary software.

Over the past 50 years, I have worked for many companies and was a consultant for many government agencies and nonprofits. Since July 2017, I have been the CEO of OptDyn, the creators of Subutai open source peer-to-peer cloud software. I wrote about Subutai in the February 2018 column and thought I would add an update.

While the cost of creating a business or even launching a new product for an existing business has gone down over time, it is still amazing how much it costs and how long it takes.

In chemistry, there is a term "catalyst," a substance that speeds up a reaction often without actually taking part in the reaction itself. Platinum is a catalyst that is often used in fuel cells to allow the hydrogen and oxygen to fuse together, releasing electricity with a byproduct of water.

Open source is another catalyst, allowing companies to start up without needing huge investments in cash to buy closed source development tools, library licenses, databases, and other components to the overall solution.

Open data and open culture are both additional catalysts for business, lowering the costs and speeding up the ability of fledgling companies and products to come to market.

You have to be careful, however, of the difference between "free" as in beer and "free" as in freedom. Often the thing that starts out "low cost" limits what you can do later or has hidden costs that become visible as the use increases.

In physics, Newton's laws of motion state that a body at rest tends to stay at rest and a body in motion tends to stay in motion unless they are acted on by some outside force. The shorthand name for this is "inertia."

We have inertia in the software world also. The law seems to be written: "People who use some particular software will continue to use that particular software unless some outside force makes them use other software." People use a particular piece of software because they are familiar with it and how it works, and even if there is another piece of software that is demonstrably better, they still stick with "the software they know."

What does it take to make them break the mold and go to another piece of software? Perhaps the software company that made the software goes out of business or the person has to pay the price of an upgrade (forced by an incompatibility with a new version of the operating system).

Of course there is also the social effect – all of the person's friends use one make of software and that person wants to fit in, to be able to show their friends what they learned or ask questions about problems in hope of getting an answer. Or they want to use software that is very expensive, to fit into a certain crowd.

If you are reading this article, then you are probably someone who is outside of the realm of inertia and who has found your catalyst a long time ago in free software.

Despite the use of the "cloud," there are still a LOT of local machines used, or should we say "not used." Many machines that are in our homes, offices, and schools are not used as efficiently as they might be, and therefore we use more commercial cloud resources than we might otherwise use.

This is a good time to investigate the use of Subutai open source peer-to-peer cloud software. Set it up on your own machine and help others in your community (whether it be at school, work, or home) to use the resources you already have for CPU, memory, and storage. It does not cost you anything and could save you a lot of money.

You can download it from If you wish to buy or sell resources you need or have extra, you can do that at one of the Subutai Bazaars on the net.

Subutai uses a lightweight digital currency called GoodWill to buy and sell resources. You can also earn GoodWill by doing a number of other activities, such as writing Subutai Blueprints.

Blueprints are files that tell Subutai how to run programs, and allow people to run these programs by clicking on the Blueprint name just as you might click on any other application that you have on your system. Blueprints are not very hard or time-consuming to create. A Blueprint for Mattermost (an open source clone of Slack) took only three hours to create.

There may be a good business in helping people use their own machines more efficiently, or helping them move their application to a cloud model that allows them to use resources from anywhere. Go to the Subutai website and learn how to write a Blueprint.

The Author

Jon "maddog" Hall is an author, educator, computer scientist, and free software pioneer who has been a passionate advocate for Linux since 1994 when he first met Linus Torvalds and facilitated the port of Linux to a 64-bit system. He serves as president of Linux InternationalÆ.

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