When software licensing is like a cork in a bottle of wine

By | 16th February 2018

21 years ago, I was still working in the wine trade. At the time, the vast majority of wine was sealed with a traditional cork. Wines at the cheaper end of the market would often use agglomerate corks (bits of cork glued together). Some wines were starting to use artificial corks, but they were often difficult to open, so not seen much any more.

The other alternative was to use a screwcap, but historically this hadn’t been used for quality wines so was seen as a poor choice. Improvements had been made, and by the mid-1990s screwcap vs cork  was a lively debate. As I left the winetrade, it was generally considered that screwcap was acceptable for wines to be drunk young, but cork was better for anything that needed to be aged.

Last year, I had dinner with a winemaker from the Clare Valley in Australia. All wine from Clare Valley has been sealed with screwcaps since 2000. I repeated my assertion of screwcap being fine for wine being drunk young, but not so suitable for wine to be aged. His response was, “We’ve been doing this for nearly 20 years. How much longer do you want to wait?”

He was right, I was wrong.

What has this got to do with software licences? Less than a year after I left the wine trade, the Open Source Definition was published.

I’ve always avoided open source software due to the following reasons:

  1. Poor documentation
  2. Ugly User Interfaces
  3. Poor support
  4. No guarantee that any project will continue

Twenty years ago, I’d have been right. Now, you could argue that number 4 on my list is still valid, but then you could say that about proprietary software too.

It’s time to change my mind.

I’ve been working on a couple of projects using the excellent Metabase dashboard product. I’d been frustrated that SAP haven’t found a replacement for the flash-dependent SAP Dashboards (aka Xcelsius). Their Lumira is an excellent product, but there’s just so much of it and it costs too much for people who just want to present data in an easy to understand fashion.

Metabase can be simply embedded in a web page and can be deployed on most operating systems. You can even use it to send out dashboards by email or Slack on a schedule. Users can view the dashboards or interactively navigate the ‘questions’ to find out more.

A simple test installation can be done in a few minutes. Dashboards can be created without knowledge of SQL, but you can use SQL if you prefer.

The documentation is very good, the user interface is a thing of beauty. Free support is available through a forum, but premium support can be purchased (I’m here to help too).

Don’t forget, the licence is free, so no limit to the number of users who can connect. I should soon have a cloud server ready to share for demonstrations.

If you’re interested, please contact me to discuss further.

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