Excited about EclipseCon Europe

>> Monday, October 31, 2011

Ten years ago, we were burning the midnight oil getting Eclipse 1.0 ready to release.  I offer you proof

Me stuck behind server rack. Yes, I'm wearing COWS shirt.  Please don't judge me.

Today, we're working hard to polish our presentations as we celebrate ten years of  Eclipse at EclipseCon Europe.  I'm excited to have the opportunity to attend EclipseCon Europe, this will be my first time :-) 

I've been preparing two presentations over the past few weeks.  The first one is called Migrating to Git: Rethinking the Commit.  Here, I'll talk about the process we used to convert our large and historic CVS reposository to Git, the problems we encountered, how our development processes changed, and what advice we can offer other teams that are contemplating this migration.

Image ©venegas, http://www.flickr.com/photos/venegas/5549123/ licensed under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Image ©spool32, http://www.flickr.com/photos/spool32/5045502202/ licensed under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The second talk is a light-hearted look back at the past ten years.  I received an email from EclipseCon Europe this morning that stated.  "After the Stammtisch, a couple of long-time Eclipse enthusiasts present Has it Really Been 10 Years?."  Long-time enthusiasts?  Okay, that made me feel old.  Anyways, in this talk John Kellerman and I look back at the the last ten years and discuss what what we expected when Eclipse was released as open source, the response we received, what mistakes were made, what surprised us.  Fair warning: I have uncovered some embarrassing pictures from our past Eclipse family.  I'll be using this occasion to showcase them.  If you have any interesting pictures to share, email me and I'd be happy to include them :-)   My understanding is that a Stammtisch involves beer so I think people will be in the right mood when they walk into the talk.

Last but not least, I invite you for to go for a run or walk each morning at 7am.  We'll meet in the lobby of the Nestor hotel.  Sign up for EclipseCon exercise here

See you soon!


A history of lizard wrangling and other software stories

>> Friday, October 07, 2011

I've been thinking a lot lately about open source history.  I'm in the midst of preparing material for a presentation that John Kellerman and I will be giving at EclipseCon Europe about the history of Eclipse. Last week an interesting video crossed my twitter feed.  It was a talk by Mitchell Baker on the history of Mozilla.  Mitchell is the Chair of the Mozilla Foundation and Mozilla Corporation and has been involved in this community for many years.  Her title is Chief Lizard Wrangler.  That's the best job title I have ever heard.  Well, being called an astronaut would be fun too but you get the idea.  According to Wikipedia, she's a also skilled trapeze artist.  I like learning about people with interesting hobbies.

In the video, she talks about the history of  Mozilla, which started in 1998. She describes the tension between Netscape the corporation and Mozilla the community.  For instance, the belief in the Mozilla community that commit rights should be earned and voted on by your peers, not just assigned based on your employer.  It's a really interesting to learn about the conflict in those early years at Mozilla and how they worked so hard with very few resources to be where they are today.

One of my favourite lines from the talk is that "Technology alone does not change people's lives.  Our opportunity in the browser is to have a product that touches people." Also, she states that the problem with a lot of open source projects is that they are irrelevant to the marketplace and don't treat their users very well.  For instance, calling a user stupid isn't going to make their life better.  "You need to make a product that is elegant and beautiful and powerful under the covers but that people love."  Mozilla has a bit of a different outlook that the Eclipse community because their flagship product Firebox is used by everyday consumers.  Eclipse components are consumed by developers in the form of open source packages that the coordinated release provides, but at the same time many people consume components in commercial products that build upon our open source offerings.

Some other memorable lines "UI is always the most contentious issue".  Well, at Eclipse we never argue about UI.  Wait....hmm..maybe...this bug has a few contentious comments.....

This talk really resonated with me.  Eclipse and Mozilla are two well known open source communities with different histories but ultimately both are very successful.  I highly recommend taking the time to listen to it.

Happy Ada Lovelace Day from Ottawa!


Hacker History

>> Monday, October 03, 2011

I recently read the book hackers: heroes of the computer revolution by Stephen Levy.  It looks back at the cast of characters that were involved in the early years of computing, starting in the late 1950s until the 1980s. The word hacker in this context doesn't mean someone that was breaking into machines for malicious intent, but rather someone who is breaking new ground in software and hardware.  The book is divided into three sections.  The first third of the book concentrates on people writing software at university labs such as MIT, the second third describes people making their own hardware in Silicon Valley computer clubs in the 1970s, and the final third looks at the beginnings of the PC game industry in the 1980s.

Interesting things I learned.

From xckd
  • LISP was invented in 1958.  Old school.
  • People used to single-handedly write a game and and then sell it to a game company such as Broderbund or Sierra On-line for a royalty on sales.  Like 30% of sales. A best selling game could make a young developer very very rich in a short period of time.
  • Silicon Valley used to be called Silicon Gulch. Silicon Valley sounds classier.
  • Bill Gates sold an early version of BASIC to a computer club which then copied it and distributed it to their members for free.  He then published a letter in a club newsletter that stated "As the majority of hobbyists may be aware, most of you steal your software."...."Who can afford to do professional work for nothing?"   A young Bill Gates writing about piracy in 1975. History repeats itself.
  • Early hackers spent days, weeks even months on end in the lab without showering.  They also didn't date much.  Coincidence? No.
  • The process to bring the Apple II to market and the interactions between Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were pretty interesting.
The book also talks about  the "hacker ethic", which underpins many things that we see in current open source communities today.  From the book

"Information should be free.
Mistrust authority--promote decentralization.
Hackers should be judged by their hacking, not bogus criteria such as degrees, age, race or position.
You can create art and beauty on a computer.
Computers can change your life for the better".

This book looks at the technical advancements that these hackers implemented, but is also interesting to see the culture as these nascent communities evolved. Also, it also describes the first computer conferences and magazines. It's also interesting to note the incredible passion and effort that these hackers dedicated to their  professional endeavours often had negative repercussions in their personal lives.

Anyways, if you are interested in reading about early computing history, this is a great book.   The first computer that my Dad (yes it runs in the family) brought home in the early 1980s was an Osborne , so I felt rather nostalgic reading about the this time period.
Source wikipedia


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