Like most members of the male species, and particularly the geekier types, I love gadgets. Complex ones are great, but sometimes the greatest satisfaction can come from simple things that just work really well. Here’s a couple of recent buys for me that fall into this category that I thought I’d share. Joby Gorillapod When we’re on holiday I often spend time trying to find places to put the camera so we can do a timer shot with us both in the picture, and when you’re in forests and up mountains finding a level spot is tough.
I picked this story up via Matt Asay and it pretty much summed up the frustrations I’ve had in the last 10 years when talking to certain people about open source - particularly when I was involved in business software. Peter Gyorgy, CIO of GE made this comment in a recent panel discussion: “I think open source is great for own internal playground type of things but if it’s running vital mission critical applications - networks running on open source for example - then that is a huge, huge risk to the organisation,”
I have to hand it to the guys at the Clan of the Gray Wolf, who are doing a 1,000 song Rock Band marathon for the charity Childs Play, all streamed live on the Internet. Presumably this is linked with the fact that Rock Band itself recently crested the 2009 target of having 1000 in-game tracks - and a month earlier than their deadline. . At the time of writing they’re 46 hours in which given that they’ve tackled 615 songs so far, represents not quite two thirds of the way.
I never seem to have very much luck with couriers. I remember the very first time I ever had to have something delivered by courier, it was in fact my very first PC from a company called Multiplex (long since deceased), in 1991 - the days when you really had no choice but to mail-order to get a PC. It was a searingly sexy 386 33Mhz with 14″ CRT VGA monitor (take that EGA / CGA losers!
I’ve already posted about my experiences with Git and Mercurial, the end result of which was a vastly increased respect for Git but a basically confirmed preference for Mercurial, based on ease of use, platform consistency and resilience. Mercurial’s conversion tools are really quite good - the core tools worked fine but I was impressed by hgsubversion’s speed and that it seemed to just work, in both initial conversion and pulling subsequent updates.
I always find Matt Asay’s blog an interesting read - even if I don’t always agree with him, his posts on open source are always thought provoking. Today he was talking about how Wikipedia’s contribution rate is falling and how that has parallels in open source; that the community is no replacement for a centralised, focussed team. He’s right on the core point - at the heart of every successful open source project there’s always a core team (or individual), and in the really influential ones, that team is usually funded - Mozilla is famously bankrolled almost entirely by Google, the Apache foundation has many, many sponsors including Google, Yahoo and Microsoft, Eclipse has IBM, and so on.
One of the things I love about open source is that there’s a huge amount of power in the idea that you can use, and indeed co-operate on, a whole ecosytem of generalised, robust, re-usable components, and then combine, configure and supplement them into something that is greater than the sum of its parts - into a final result which concentrates on being extremely good at a particular task. There was a time that to create something awesome in a particular space, you’d either have to buy in lots of expertise or you’d have to invent it yourself, before you ever got to the interesting bit that mattered.
My wife & I loved playing Left 4 Dead. Sure it only had 4 campaigns and became repetitive after a while (but we still logged 30+ hours on it), but there was just no other game like it. Not only was it the best co-op experience I’d ever had, defly encouraging real co-operative play (rather than just feeling like you happen to be in the same game at the same time) without it ever feeling forced, but it was also without doubt the best zombie apocalypse simulator ever.
What a difference a few years can make. For a long time, Microsoft was seen as public enemy #1 of those who liked to promote, produce and consume open source (I’m deliberately not describing it as a ‘movement’ here - that implies political motivations which I assert that only a vocal minority have). It was entirely their own fault of couse; blustery, really quite bizarre tirades from the only two CEOs their company has ever had cemented their position as the McCarthy’s of the modern era.