Monday, March 23, 2009

Open Source Technologies

Today I attended a conference on the state of Open Source technology--the Global Open Source Colloquium, sponsored by SD Forum, a Silicon Valley-based organization for technology entrepreneurs, and Microsoft, among other sponsors. From all reports by participants, ranging from industry analysts to venture capitalists to CEOs of open source companies to developers, Open Source is alive and well, especially in this downtrodden economy where price for value is more important than ever. I was excited to hear the CEO, Michael Doyle, of Medsphere talk about using the VA Hospitals' Vista Open Source electronic medical record software to adapt to the greater world of hospitals out there. Combined with the fairly dramatic incentives in the Obama budget for hospitals to get going on the EMR, we may actually be able to see progress soon. I certainly hope so.

The other big success story mentioned numerous times was Sugar CRM, clearly a value-oriented alternative to and growing at a whopping 20%+ annually, which is basically unheard of in this economy. But folks still need to sell. Something.

The issue has always been: how to make money with Open Source so that reinvestment and growth can occur and so investors will want to put their dollars into the stew. The answer seems to be in hybrid, partial, and mixed Open Source models. Build something proprietary on top, in the middle, or on the side and charge for that. Training, service, and hardware are not the way to go--thin margins and great uncertainty prevail. Outside of the US, revenues are driven by governments' need to cut costs. Standards on everything from contracts to who does what when are still a bit squishy but everyone agreed, creating community is the most important thing about Open Source. Loyal believers can make an app grow and grow fast. The key is looking at that what to do and how to charge as free downloads begin to move up the charts fast. After all, all this work does take $$$s to develop and maintain.

My take away: Many VCs will shut their doors this year. The ones who are left are likely to look at companies differently than they have in the past and hopefully, will abandon the herd mentality and choose ideas on their merits. Open Source technologies, especially creative plays on them, will have a shot at getting funding and growing into what will later be their natural place in the ecosystem.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

I Like Feeling Productive!

I feel so fortunate to be living in Northern California with farmers' markets close by, overflowing with fabulous local produce. I usually go to the Temescal Market on Sunday morning because I like the low-key atmosphere, the long lines for a personally brewed cup of organic coffee (I rarely stand in it but I like seeing it), and lots of parking since it's in the DMV lot. I arrive in my Prius and load up my reusable bags and trot over to my favorite vendors.

Spring is on the way and I can tell. Winter squashes are no longer the mainstay and artichokes, asparagus, and butter lettuces are in abundance. I am almost always seduced by the allure of fresh food at the market. I therefore overbuy. To avoid my husband's sarcastic comments, I then spend Sunday cooking "for the week." Today I listened to James Brown, Mariza, and Angelique Kidjo, and cut up beautiful blood oranges, red onion, and fennel (great with a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper to be eaten alone or mixed with baby lettuces). I then moved on to lovely red chard, starting with my standard approach: some minced garlic cooked for a couple of minutes in olive oil ready for the cleaned chard stripped from the chunky stem. I usually throw in a handful of raisins, some hot pepper flakes, salt, and pepper, and a hearty lemon squeeze. So delicious. And so simple.

On to an Aisan noodle dish--adapted from Everyday Cooking on PBS. My niece, Margot Olshan, is a regular chef so I watch every chance I can. I also go to her restaurant--Margot Cafe and Wine Bar in Stamford, CT-- every chance I can. Really delicious!! The noodle dish is so easy and good cold (I'm thinking lunch tomorrow): soba noodles for 7-8 minutes in boiling salted water, remove to a bowl, and use the same boiling water for 6-8 ounces of cut green beans for 7 minutes. Remove to the bowl. Add some diced silken tofu, a couple of minced green onions, and a quick sauce of 3 tablespoons of soy sauce, 2 tsp. of sesame oil, a pinch or so of sugar, and 2 tbsp fresh lime juice. If I have any fresh cilantro, I throw that in, too. Really great after a night in the fridge. Meanwhile, I've been cleaning and cutting cauliflower (the white, orange, and green "spacemen" types), turnips, carrots, sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts, red and orange beets. So easy. Mix with some olive oil, thyme, salt & pepper and roast in a hot oven for 45 minutes. Roasted veggies are good as a side dish, as a main dish, or in salads during the week.

In the middle of the afternoon, I took off for a charitable event--a tasting of fabulous desserts to raise money for Rubicon Programs, who've helped over 1000 people find jobs. My host is writing a novel, in fact two at once. I became depressed because I am not as disciplined and don't feel I've done anything significant lately. But I got back , hit the kitchen, and felt productive again. Forgot to mention the delicious curried cream of broccoli soup from Jane Brody's Good Food Cook Book, one of my faves.

Work. Yes. A good feeling. Yes. Ready for the week. Yes. Nutritious and tasty. Yes.