The Cathedral and the Bazaar

Below is the opening chapter from the Cathedral and the Bazaar, an excellent book written by Eric S. Raymond in 1996. It attempts to explain how it is that thousands of people from all over the world can work on something as incredibly complex as an operating system kernel and end up with an excellent result. I read it many years ago and ran across it again today. Rereading the opening chapter encouraged me to read the entire book again. Note to those non-technical people reading this: CatB is not a technical book and is an incredibly interesting read for anyone interested in human psychology.

Linux is subversive. Who would have thought even five years ago (1991) that a world-class operating system could coalesce as if by magic out of part-time hacking by several thousand developers scattered all over the planet, connected only by the tenuous strands of the Internet?
Continue reading “The Cathedral and the Bazaar”

Advertisement fixes themselves…

A while ago I was moaning about how CNA’s website didn’t want to let me on with my never-before-heard-of-crazy-combo of Ubuntu and Firefox… It seems they’ve fixed that problem which probably also fixed the “telling Google to go away” problem. and

I wonder if that had anything to do with me? They never said anything. Probably because I’m such a big bully.


Ubuntu Gutsy Gibbon Release Party


Hi All

The “Ubuntu 7.10 – Gutsy Gibbon” Cape Town Release Party has been finalised.

The venue has been set as Cantina Tequila in the Waterfront. We’ll be
outside in the sun on the benches (which are undercover and heated in
case the weather gets crap).

Be there at 2pm for 2:30pm this Sunday (21 October).

Cantina Tequila is “under” the big flagpole in the waterfront facing the water.

If you *still* can’t find it you can give me (Jonathan E) a call on
082 xxx xxxx.




ps. Mail me arbitraryuser at gmail dot com to rsvp.

Arcade Controllers, Coffee with Pascal Dornier and my ALIX.

I just uploaded pictures from some of my recent escapades to flickr. Check my stream out here.

Controller ButtonsOf particular interest to general geeks are the pics of Lourens’ prototype arcade controller that we put together to test the hack-job we did on an old keyboard controller circuit. The wiring is messy as hell but it worked perfectly (once we’d got all the wires soldered in the right place). He’s planning on building a full cabinet soon, and soon we’ll be rocking teenage mutant ninja turtles… just like I did when I was 13! In case you’re wondering, he’s running this on MAME on Ubuntu and with a 1.8Ghz CPU. It runs flawlessly and he thinks he might even be able to get away with a 1Ghz cpu.

PascalNext up is breakfast with Pascal Dornier, the designer of the WRAP board and now more recently the ALIX. For those of you reading this who have no idea what a WRAP board is, it’s one of the best embedded computers on the market and it’s tiny. The ALIX is slightly larger but has everything, including vga and usb. Pascal is based in Switzerland and offered to fly to South Africa and deliver my ALIX personally. He also brought me Swiss Chocolate which was almost as sweet as the ALIX.

Mini AlixI haven’t had a chance to get the Alix up and running yet, but this weekend will be fun!

(ok ok, he didn’t fly here just to deliver my ALIX, there was some synchronicity involved too)

You can find out more about ALIX and her friends here.


The 10 Types Of Trade Show Visitors

So Frogfoot has a stand at Futurex and we quickly realised that there are 10 different types of attendees.

1. The “I know more than you” or the “My product is better than your product” visitor

These guys are fun. They stand a few meters away from your stand and then, once they’ve formulated their attack, they step forward and launch into a tirade about why what you’re doing is wrong or how what they’re doing in their garage is better. Some of them are the “Leading xyz gizmo provider and we’re launching next week” kind of winners.

2. The “You have breasts” visitor

I don’t have breasts… (shut it!) but we do have a girl who works for us. She does have breasts and there are many lonely men walking around at these kinds of things who obviously don’t get too see too many girls in the wild. They generally will talk to the girl until someone else makes it very obvious that they are no longer welcome.

3. The “I know nothing about techmologee, please teach me” visitor

People. If you don’t know how a computer works it is obviously not the best time for me to be explaining the intricacies of 802.11g. Also, you, lady who couldn’t operate a track pad, need to stop blaming our internet connection for yor inability to remember your yahoo mail password. I *promise* it has nothing to do with the hotspot.

4. The “Defend your product!” visitor

Similar to visitor #1 these guys chose to be as evasive as possible while constantly telling you how crap your idea is and how it won’t work. You usually get the idea that these are the guys who tried something similar a few years back that failed dismally but they remain evasive about who they are and what they do because they believe it adds an aura of mystique… mystique of course is something we all love… not.

5. The raving lunatic visitor

These guys are cool… well they were cool until the nutcase that lives downstairs from me appeared on the horizon. I quickly darted away and hid until he had moved on from our stand. Upon returning I learnt that he had mentioned how lame this trade show was. “Fishing Shows… that’s where the action is at…. They give out free caps and everything”. Thanks buddy. We care. Now go back to spreading your conspiracy theories and accusing me of “that clunking sound” at 4am.

6. The serial hoarder visitor

This is the visitor who goes from stand to stand not saying a thing, but collects every single brochure, pen, balloon and knick-knack available, quietly stuffing them into his trade show bag and moving on to molest the next stand.

7. The “I can’t grasp basic business concepts” visitor

These are people who can’t seem to understand why they would want to “do this hotspot thing”… even after you explain that they will make money.

8. The “Synergy” visitor

If you follow Dilbert you should equate the word “Synergy” with loathing and fear. Synergy is what marketing types refer to “symbiotic” relationships. The Synergists will try and explain why your company and their company should “work together”. They will find synergy even if they sell paint stripper and you sell internet.

9. The “I represent foreign money” visitor.

These are the types of people who try to convince you that you should contact them because they represent some people who have money. This could be complete rubbish or it could be our next meal ticket…

10. The Perfect Visitor

This is the great visitor. The guy or girl who realise how great our product is and see the value of it without too much explanation. They ask all the right questions and some even sign up right then and there.



Contrary to popular belief…

I’m just going to say this; I know that most of you who read this will already know it, but it’s still worth saying.

Mark Shuttleworth did not program Ubuntu. Ubuntu is a Linux distribution, and like all Linux distributions, it is a collection of a hundreds of software applications, written by a whole stack of open source developers, that all work together to make an operating system. All Mark did was have the vision to start a new distribution, and a stack of cash to make it happen. Yes, he’s a cool guy, but no, he didn’t program it.

I have this image in my head, which is the image I’m imagining some people have in their heads, of this geeky programmer dude frantically writing new features and bug fixes and and and… oh, and in my head, when he was done he used his casio keyboard to record the startup sound. This is not how Linux works.

It just dawned on me that perhaps the saddest thing about the success of Ubuntu is that some people don’t even know what Linux is, but they know the story of the dood who went to space and programmed Ubuntu.

ps. I am an Open Source evangelist and run Ubuntu pretty much everywhere.

Gutsy plain and simple…

A while back I decided to experiment with Ubuntu 7.04 (Feisty) AMD64 version. I have an AMD64 CPU obviously. It worked ok but there were numerous things that just sucked a bit, like having to run a 32 bit version of firefox to get flash to work, and my ATI drivers that were only available in the 32bit variety. (Notice the proprietary suckiness)

Anyways, I was having some wireless issues at iWeek and decided to upgrade to Gutsy (tribe 5).

The upgrade was pretty painless since I store /home on it’s own partition. Actually, it was very painless since I essentially have everything I used to have, settings wise, on this “new” machine. I got one gnome-panel moan about an app (cpu temperature monitor) that was in the panel but no longer existed on the machine.

Getting my wireless to work properly was a little bit of a bitch. For some reason ubuntu still hasn’t reaslised that the bcm43xx module *does not work* with HP Pavilion laptops. This means that the basic procedure to get it working again is:

* Blacklist dodgy driver

* Install ndiswrapper├é┬á & gtkhelper if you’re feeling lazy

* Install your old windows driver via the gtk ndiswrapper interface.

* Make ndiswrapper startup when the interface comes up (ndiswrapper -m)

* Reboot.

Everything seems to be working fine. Gutsy isn’t really all that amazing compared to feisty but it’s running nicely and I keep on noticing nice little additions that make me happy.

I tried the screens & graphics thing but I don’t have an external monitor to test with and I couldn’t get my built-in lcd to 1280×800 using that interface… I will track down whomever is responsible for that and see it’s a know bug.

Either way Gutsy is looking good. I know this is a cheesy comment to make, but I love the way open source works… nibble by nibble we get things better and better.

Nibble by nibble, as you probably know, is the prescribed way to eat an elephant!

Having said all that. I want a macbook, mostly because I want something small that I can flip closed and put it to sleep and then flip it open and have it awake. Suspending and hibernating continue to be elusive on my laptop. I must do some more googling.

(Since I was recently asked if we have Malaria in Cape Town I think it is prudent to clarify that we don’t eat elephants)

GeekDinner – Carnivorous Cantaloupe

Another successful GeekDinner is in the bag…

Last night around 70 of Cape Town’s coolest geeks converged on Krugmann’s in the V&A Waterfront and ate, drank and discussed geeky things like wireless meshes and selling wine on the interwebs. I’ll leave it up to more neutral people to say whether or not it was a success but I certainly enjoyed myself.

David Carman spoke about building a wireless mesh in Scarborough… his talk was excellent… I’m very interested in the technical elements of wireless communications but the thing that “got” me the most was the fact that they are providing internet access to kids in the township. I don’t care what authority you’re from and what laws you want to twist to “get your way”, but if you want to take Wikipedia away from underprivileged kids you’re going to have to do so after ripping the CAT5 cable out of my cold, dead hands.

Next up was Ian Gilfillan who essentially told us that, even though he is now an International MySQL superstar, he didn’t get rich doing so.

Alan Levin talked about peering… Alan is a great speaker who did his best to ignore Wizzy’s heckling. It’s comforting to know that we should soon have cheaper international bandwidth in this country, and morally reprehensible (what’s new?) that the government and Telkom have set it up in a way that it’ll still cost an arm and a leg because some irrelevant middle man has the “rights” to sell it at some archaic price as previously defined by Telkom. BMW X5 much? (Alan, did I get the corruption chain right?)

Johann Wegner of (our fabulous wine sponsor) was up next and talked about the challenges of selling wine online. His sidekick (what was his name), Sam Paddock, gave a more in depth technical discussion about how they actually do it. Very interesting…

Finally we had Aslam Khan telling us how wonderful PHP and Pretoria are. Actually, he talked about Behaviour Driven Development… a talk which for some reason the two non-technical people I brought along seemed to enjoy the most… perhaps because he used the dog.getBody().getTail().wag() vs dog.expressHappiness() analogy. Aparently non-techies like dog analogies.

I’d like to personally thank:

  • You guys for rocking up!
  • Antoine for hooking us up with sound and a projector.
  • SimplyAV, an excellent AV company that I would seriously recommend you contact if you need AV – (021) 782-5100.
  • GetWine for providing the Wine.
  • Krugmann’s for hosting us.
  • The other GeekDinner organisers.

Finally, just a little punt. These things don’t organise themselves and we’ve got it to the point that it’s actually quite easy to put together. PLEASE, if you have any inclination for helping us organise a future GeekDinner, sign up to the GeekDinner Planning list. We don’t mind if you lurk.

There’s also the announce list which everyone should join so that you know when these things happen. The list traffic is extremely low, about 1 email a month. Finally, for those of you who have succumbed, there is a Facebook group.

Cheers, see you at the next GeekDinner.



ps. The photos and the very bad recording (something went wrong) will be available some time over the weekend.