A Tangled Thread

4:45 PM -- Stefano Fornari and Jason Finkelstein have been busy lately. Tech support guys for the mobile open-source platform Funambol Inc. , Finkelstein and Fornari have had to respond to a deluge of emails on the Sync4j group on Yahoo! about Funambol v.3.0, which supposedly supports push email -- and could provide an open-source alternative to Blackberry, should the popular mobile email service be shut down as a result of the legal battle between RIM and NTP Software. (See Email Gets Open-Source Push.)

Suffice to say, so far, the Funambol solution has not been without flaws.

"If I can't set this up and get it running, we will have no desire as a company to pay for support," wrote one frustrated enterprise user attempting to set up Funambol v.3 for mobile email. (Ed. note: Names have been omitted as it's a members-only email thread.) "So by only receiving ONE answer to a number of questions I have asked, and it was an INCOMPLETE ANSWER, I am starting to lose inclination [sic] to go for the paid-for support option."

His complaints are echoed by a number of other Funambol users on the thread, all of whom are having trouble setting up their mobile devices for push email via the Funambol platform. A chastened Finkelstein responded, "I am embarrassed to say that you are absolutely right. Given the demand we had for the recent 3.0 release, and the several hundred tasks we had to address surrounding the release, we fell short on a few things."

These complaints are a part of the predictable hassle that comes with getting open-source software to run out of the box, as it were. But along with analysts' predictions of the high costs enterprises face in switching to alternative solutions from Blackberry, it's another powerful reason for business users to hope for a settlement in the RIM vs. NTP wrangle.

— Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung

jasonfinkelstein 12/5/2012 | 4:04:18 AM
re: A Tangled Thread Richard G First, I have to thank you for writing about Funambol again in The Martin Chronicles. We appreciate the attention... and, of course, the opportunity to respond. I am honored that you chose to quote me G I canGt say IGve ever been referred to as "a chastened Finkelstein". ;-) But, I have to point out that you left out the reaction of the initially frustrated enterprise user to my candid (albeit chastened) explanation. HereGs a paraphrased excerpt:

"Thanks for your response. I must admit, you have put my mind at ease. Knowing that improved documentation and more community support are forthcoming has encouraged me to continue using Funambol."

Another important point you left out G Funambol v3.0 does indeed support push email, but we have been crystal clear with the open source community, of which we are a part, that this release was a 1st beta release. The community understands very well that the GǣbetaGǥ release is the most bleeding-edge rev of the code and that there will be some bugs. In exchange for the most bleeding-edge rev of the code, the community is expected to help find bugs so that we can release the "stable" build back to the community as quickly as possible. In the stable release, the major bugs and many of the minor bugs that the community helped find will be fixed, the documentation will have improved, and the community will have become more knowledgeable so as to better support its members. It's a virtuous cycle and everyone in the community benefits from it.

So, to say that "complaints are part of the predictable hassle" that comes with open source is partially true. But, letGs make sure to put it in the proper context. The complaints and hassle are expected as part of a beta release, but over time, as the code stabilizes, the complaints and the hassle will diminish significantly and the community will have created a high quality product with exceptional functionality.

Jason Finkelstein
Funambol Community Manager
RBMartin 12/5/2012 | 4:03:30 AM
re: A Tangled Thread Jason, thanks for fleshing out the picture of what's happening with the Funambol development process. I will add that I've been impressed with the level of response from you and Stefano, and the user / developer community is clearly committed to Funambol as a platform for further open-source development of mobile applications.

Good luck and please keep us posted --
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