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13Nov/090

Microsoft unveils new open-source initiative if you can’t beat them, join them!

Seems to be the new Microsoft strategy. After coming to the spotlight recently for donating around 20.000 lines of code to the open source community, ( to help windows run on Linux virtualization platforms ), they have now started a new open source foundation CodePlex, not to be confused with their open source code sharing web site of the same name. Their new foundation it seems is an effort to get more commercial companies to participate in open source ventures. As they state on their FAQ page: “We believe that commercial software companies and the developers that work for them under-participate in open source projects. “Sounds familiar. Isn’t that exactly what Microsoft did with its own open source submission? As taken from the blog of a Linux kernel developer about Microsoft’s Hyper-V kernel drivers code submission: “ Over 200 patches make up the massive cleanup effort needed to just get this code into a semi-sane kernel coding style ( someone owes me a bit bottle of rum for that work ! ) Unfortunately the Microsoft developers seem to have disappeared, and no one is answering my emails. If they do not show back up to claim this driver soon, it will be removed in the 2.6.33 release. So sad… “The open source community is one of instant feedback and continuous change, where projects continually get forked and die out. Microsoft just jumped into the deep end of the pool. Their new foundation is aimed to be an organization much like Mozilla, Gnome and KDE, however one which caters to a much broader spectrum of software projects. Another citation from their FAQ, which seems almost satirical, Poe’s law could have come in here: “Specifically we aim to work with particular projects that can serve as best practice exemplars of how commercial software companies and open source communities can effectively collaborate.” The cojones! While the foundation does include members of the open source community, it is questionable how much experience Microsoft could possibly have gained about collaborating with open source communities during its singular code dump which it failed to maintain.

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8Nov/090

Google acquires reCAPTCHA

reCAPTCHA, another one of the internet’s most innovative projects in now in Google’s grasp. Not only is reCAPTCHA an effective device for security against spam, it also manages to accomplish a mission, to convert a large volume of printed literature to text. While most such services automatically generate distorted letters, making them difficult for anyone but a human to discern, reCAPTCHA goes about it differently. With reCAPTCHA, every time you prove that you are a human you are effectively helping the process of digitizing printed documents. Instead of using better and better algorithms to generate better distortions which can only be recognized by humans, reCAPTCHA instead uses portions of scanned documents which failed to get recognized by the OCR    ( Optical Character Recognition ) algorithms used to digitize it. Many times these can easily be recognized by humans. With the support and resources of Google behind reCAPTCHA, it is possible for the project to reach an even higher gear. With all Google services using reCAPTCHA, and with more resources from Google to make reCAPTCHA more easily available and implement able, it is bound to see an increase in adoption. Projects such as Google Books and Google News search already use reCAPTCHA to help in digitizing a great volume of scans of old books, magazines and newspapers. Word by word, reCAPTCHA aims to digitize a large part of past documents which right now only exist in print, making more and more of our history index able, searchable, and accessible to a greater public.