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Venture capitalist and erstwhile open source entrepreneur Peter Levine thinks it's dumb to try to emulate Red Hat.

In a TechCrunch post, Levine insists it's almost certain we won't "see another Red Hat" as "the odds are long and the path is littered with the corpses of companies that have tried the support model."

Levine is right, of course. But then again, we already knew this. 

Redmonk's Stephen O'Grady argued back in 2006 that we wouldn't see another billion-dollar open source company like Red Hat. Indeed, it has been a long, long time since

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anyone has mustered a serious attempt to emulate Red Hat like-for-like—the one exception being Hortonworks.

It turns out there are other open source-friendly ways to build "open source businesses," making the Red Hat model just one of several different ways to build a business around open source. Which, perhaps, helps to explain why it's virtually impossible to find any significant open source company that leads its marketing with open source as a differentiator. Yes, including Red Hat.

Value, Not Open Source

Red Hat led the charge to sell open source as a means, rather than an end. Back in 2008, I interviewed Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst and CTO Brian Stevens, and both were quick to position Red Hat Enterprise Linux subscriptions as value generators, not a matter of cost savings or even open source freedom.

This isn't to say Red Hat downplays its open source message; it's just more nuanced about doing so.

Back in May 2000, open source was a primary marketing message on the website. But today you won't find open source mentioned on its home page. Instead you'll find pointers to Big Data, an anti-patent pledge and the usual links for partners, customer case studies, etc.

Red Hat is selling value, not open source. However, if you search for Red Hat on Google, the company largely advertises its open source credentials, as Twitter's Chris Aniszczyk points out:

But for those who find their way to its website, Red Hat does what every other software company does—it attempts to sell the value of its products.

Where Are The Red Hat Protegés?

As for companies trying to be "The Red Hat Of...", each of them has abandoned open source as the leading marketing message.

In 2010, SugarCRM's main landing page prominently advertised itself as open source. Today? Not a single mention.

My alma mater, Alfresco? In February 2009, Alfresco declared itself "the open source alternative for Enterprise Content Management." No mention of open source on the home page today.

The same goes for Acquia, the Drupal company (see 2009 vs. today), and most every other significant company that sells support or software around an open-source project.

"But those are fake open source companies!" you might say. Okay... how about JBoss? That company was open source and proud of it back in February 2006, just before it was acquired by like-minded Red Hat. And even after the acquisition in February 2008, Red Hat's JBoss division continued to maintain the website with its open source branding. The website got a significant refresh in May 2012, but it still continued to feature open source. But what about today? Well today, JBoss' home page doesn't even mention it's open source.

This is not meant to criticize Red Hat's whitewashing of open source from its websites. It's just not marketing open source as its primary differentiator as it once did. 

Open Source Is A Means, Not An End

The biggest companies making serious money with open source don't even bother to pretend to be "open source companies." They're companies like Twitter, Facebook and Google, which have offered significant contributions to open source without expecting to make a dime from selling open-source software directly. This isn't too different from most of the companies mentioned above, either, which provide value—including proprietary software—around open source. 

Levine's primary thesis—"combining open source with a service or appliance model is producing staggering results across the software landscape"—is well-known. It's not new, and it's one big reason that open source companies don't bother selling open source as their primary differentiation anymore, and haven't for years. 

Levine is right in a trivial sense—there will never be another Red Hat as a "company peddling open source support as its primary value"—and wrong in the much more profound sense: There will be other "open source companies" making as much as or dramatically more than Red Hat. Open source will be central to their value, but it won't be what they sell

The only surprising aspect of Levine's article is that he still has entrepreneurs promising him they'll be "The Next Red Hat." Maybe he needs better deal flow.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.


Flappy Bird is the latest weirdly addicting game to captivate mobile users. The reason is simple, if not straightforward: In the guise of a cartoonish time-waster, Flappy Bird offers some of the most punishing, hardcore gameplay you can imagine. And it's sucking in players by the millions.

Flappy Bird rakes in a reported $50,000 per day through in-app ads and at the time of writing, it holds the coveted number one slot in the iOS App Store. In the latest manifestation of the game's strange success, players are flocking to social media to post their high scores (mine is 4).

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A search on Instagram for the hashtag #flappybird yielded 826,956 “game over” screenshots.

Flappy Bird seems really simple, and it is: tap the screen to avoid obstacles (Mario-style green pipes) and keep your pixelated bird in flight for as long as possible. Hit anything and your bird drops to the ground. Game over.

The physics are lifted straight out of a Mario Bros. underwater level, but Flappy Bird is nowhere near as forgiving as that classic. The gameplay is a psychologically punishing blend of ruthless difficulty and incredible simplicity.

Flappy Bird actually picks up its torch from a long line of similarly unforgiving, albeit more obscure, games. Flappy Bird just turned over 50 million unsuspecting casual mobile users into bonafide hardcore gamers. This ain't no Candy Crush Saga.

Flappy Bird’s Punishing Lineage

Everything about Flappy Bird is derivative, from the Mario-style sprites right down to its “one strike and you’re out” gameplay formula. The interesting part is that those unoriginal components are remixed into a very simple product that has even the most casual mobile gamers absolutely hooked.

But simple and easy aren't at all synonymous. Flappy Bird offers a brutal flavor of gameplay that rewards extreme precision and little else. The game is randomly generated anew each time your bird thwacks into the game over screen, so you can’t just memorize a level sequence to improve.

Flappy Bird, unbeknownst to most of its addicts, distills the formula for a hardcore game right down to its core. Precision and permadeath are the only two constants; screw the first one up and it'll rapidly reward you with the latter.

“Permadeath,” a staple of only the most hardcore gameplay, is exactly what it sounds like. There are no saved games, no rush of relief at reaching a safe checkpoint and knowing your progress won’t be lost. Permadeath, like Flappy Bird, offers players no safe harbor at all—and that’s part of its twisted, addictive calling card.

Cheating Death Is Not An Option

In Flappy Bird, there is no boss, no treasure chest, nothing to play for at all, save your own burning psychological drive to not screw it up. It requires a fascinating exercise in mental exceptionalism paired with a powerful suspension of disbelief—namely, ignoring the fact that, at some point, you will indeed screw it up.

Flappy Bird, in all of its ripped-off glory, calls to mind some of the most challenging games ever made. In the infamous “roguelike” genre, which has its roots in the ancient ASCII game Rogue (1980), the player is tasked with wending through a randomly generated virtual dungeon until one fatal misstep leads to—you guessed it!—permadeath. Later, 2009's Demon's Souls earned its place as perennial entry on lists of the hardest video games ever made.

Plenty of games are really, really hard and keep gamers coming back for more, though most, like the Monster Hunter series, reward players for honing their skills to razor-sharp precision over time. Flappy Bird is decidedly more masochistic, a mass un-kickable bad habit perpetuated via internet virality.

Flappy Bird’s unpredictable popularity is no doubt fueled by the core tenets of those ultimate hardcore games that gamers love to hate (and in turn, love). The natural social media pop-up communities for viral phenomena serve as a Web-wide commiseration platform, adding fuel to Flappy Bird’s unlikely, perhaps undeserved fire.

But like so many brave hardcore gamers before us, we persevere: tap, tap, tapping our way toward the unobtainable— and inexplicably loving every second of it.

When you start a business, a lot can fall through the cracks if you’re not careful. You’ve got to make sure that you’ve got your products and services set up and ready to go, your business registered with state agencies so that it’s legal, and then you need an idea of how you’ll get customers in the door or to your site. It can be a lot to remember! Here are ten things you absolutely should know before you launch your business:

1. What You’re Selling. A lot of businesses try to offer too many types of products or services to appeal to a wider audience, but that rarely works well.
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Instead, zero in on a handful of things you can deliver well.

2. Your Business Strategy. Starting a business without at least a rough business plan will only set you up for failure. You need to know your competitive advantage and how you’ll market your business before starting.

3. Your Competitors. If you don’t know who you’re competing against, how can you get a game plan on how you’ll win over more custom

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We've covered several programming languages now, but we haven't really gotten into database development yet. Although NoSQL is hot, SQL (structured query language) isn't going away. Different databases (such as Oracle, MySQL and PostgreSQL) use different variations, but the idea is to have a unified system so that a developer can move from database to database with a minimum of relearning.

If you're not quite sure yet what a relational database is or why someone would use one, check out our

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ef="">guide to database terminology. Otherwise, let's dive into some books for beginners, and one for experienced database developers.


Practical PostgreSQL

Practical PostgreSQL

Practical PostgreSQL from O'Reilly Media is designed to introduce the SQL beginner to PostgreSQL. The book is focused on Postgres running on Red Hat, but has many lessons applicable to other environments.

W3 Schools SQL Tutorial

Love 'em or hate 'em, W3 Schools has tutorials on nearly every Web development subject, and SQL is no exception.

Oracle Database 10g Express Edition Tutorial

This Oracle Database 10g Express Edition tutorial introduces Oracle's SQL database using its free version.

Build Your Own Database Driven Web Site Using PHP & MySQL

Sitepoint PHP and MySQL book cover

If you're planning on learning MySQL along with PHP, you can check out Sitepoint's Build Your Own Database Driven Web Site Using PHP & MySQL by Kevin Yank. The first 168 pages are available as a free PDF if you're willing to fork over your e-mail address. However, you can find much of the material on the Web in this series of tutorials by Yank.

You can find more resources for learning PHP here.

SQL Performance Explained

SQL Performance Explained

For the more advanced practitioner, there's SQL Performance Explained. In the words of the publisher it "It avoids unnecessary details about database internals but highlights the one topic that is most often neglected: proper indexing." It's available as an e-pub, or as a continually updated website called Use The Index, Luke.



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Location based social network Foursquare celebrated 10 million registered users yesterday but how are businesses and organizations using the platform? I wrote a year ago next month about the incredible potential offered by Foursquar

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e accounts for organizations: following a Foursquare page as a user is like opting-in to view the world through the lens of that organization's geo-annotations. It can be awesome. (My favorites? History Channel and Eater.)

Are businesses getting into it? For one perspective on that question, I extracted some data from the 128 most recent Foursquare Pages that have been created. The 128 most recent Foursquare Page holders have added 728 tips in 311 cities so far. They've amassed a total of over 8,000 Foursquare followers and they came in with some social media experience as well: those organizations already had an aggregate of over 800,000 Twitter followers. Above, a map of all the metro areas around the world that new Page holders have added tips in. Below, more stats.


The 128 Newest Foursquare Page Account Holders...

Their success on Twitter before joining Foursquare...

  • 17% didn't have linked Twitter accounts at all or have zero followers there
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