On Novell Open Audio

I was worried when I first heard about Novell Open Audio because based on their past performances I felt there was a real danger Novell would goof this up and produce a series of gutless, infomercial-type marketing clips complete with poorly written scripts about boring products that people do not care about. However I really liked the concept as Novell in general is just terrible at getting any type of message across. Just take a look at a few of their product pages and ask yourself what exactly is Novell trying to communicate about these products based solely on the information presented onscreen (and what is the deal with paragraphed sized hyperlinks?).

With this in mind the first show (or two) were a little sketchy. It did sound like there was a subtle script at play in the first few interviews. Ted Haeger (the show lead) seemed to know a little too much about the products in question and the topics of conversation appeared to lead a little too nicely from one to the next. What kept me listening however was the topics covered, they were genuinely interesting and covered the broad range of Novell’s product line from Suse to Groupwise.

Over time Ted has gained in confidence (it seems like he has left scripts behind) and the inclusion of co-host Erin Quill has also added a degree of dynamism to the podcast. As the shows have progressed I’ve also begun to realise Ted knows a lot more about the products and topics in question than your casual podcast host thanks to his prior work at Novell. The people interviewed have been also been great. I could honesty listen to Jeremy Alison bash Microsoft all day and I just wish they didn’t have to censor his language. What has also added to the shows ‘street-cred’ has been Ted’s involvement in other open-source activities like GUADEC and LugRadio. This has helped transform the podcaster’s image from potential corporate puppet to slightly alcoholic jet-setter (which deep down we all want to be).

One thing that I would really like to hear is more aggression (some would say crankiness) from Ted or someone else as the audio paints an altogether too rosy image of Novell and its products. Let’s be honest, this is a company that has gone from monopoly to minority in the server business and has made making stupid decisions that ruin a great product into an art-form.
Hearing from Jeremy Allison and Nat Friedman about Samba/desktop Linux is great but it is only half the story. The law of averages (and past business decisions) implies there are some real idiots working within the company and I would not mind hearing from them too, even if it was the sound of silence followed by some uncomfortable microphone dribbling.

Also what about asking some more prickly questions like:

  1. Why is it that years after Novell’s purchase of Suse managing Linux/Samba in eDirectory/iManager so painful? (and don’t say OES fixes this, it only goes half way)
  2. What is the future of Border Manager and why has it taken so long for the Border Manager team to get their act together and properly support Linux?
  3. Why does it seem like Yast development has crawled to a halt? It is the one feature that draws me to server-grade Suse yet it hasn’t undergone significant change for years.
  4. When Novell ‘open sources’ a project is that their P.R. friendly way of giving it the kiss of death? Both Hula and iFolder have been ‘open sourced’ and both projects seem to be in the process of dying on Novell’s over-stretched vines (just checkout their mailing lists and home-pages to see what I mean).
  5. I am all for Novell open-sourcing products but why not serious ones like eDirectory, Groupwise and Netware? (An O/S Netware would make a fantastic NAS operating system)

Novell Open Audio is a great podcast to listen to if you are even slightly interested in corporate Linux and/or Novell. It would help if a cranky, Dvorak-like character would stick his head in once and a while just to stir up the beehive. Apart from this Ted and his crew seem to be doing a good job of keeping the podcast on an even keel and clear of the washed out and confused messages that seem to surround the rest of Novell’s corporate communications.

UPDATE: I have been told by a friend that Novell actually used to sell Netware NAS software called NetDevice. There is only passing mention on it on the Novell website. There is a few articles on the Web but it looks like it either tanked or was quickly pulled (or both). Looking at the quoted price in this article my guess is they did not sell many copies.