Science Addiction

A dormant blog by Devanshu Mehta

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10 Years of The Cathedral and The Bazaar

In May 2007, that seminal work by “Eric S. Raymond”:http://www.catb.org/~esr turned ten years old. _The Cathedral and the Bazaar_ is a book about the simple notion that in software development _given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow_. Six years after Linux came on to the scene and 14 years after Richard Stallman gave birth to the GNU project, Eric Raymond put an intangible, untested concept in to words and has arguably had a phenomenal impact on software and geek culture.

When I wrote my “95 Theses of Geek Activism”:http://www.scienceaddiction.com/2006/07/23/95-theses-of-geek-activism/ last year, I put in CatB as a required reading as thesis #12 (the order meant nothing!). It could well have been #1, because it was the book that, for me, transformed the open source model from a touchy-feely philosophy to a practical, viable and achievable ideal for software development.

When Richard Stallman introduced the GNU project, it was a philosophy. You stuck with the GNU model because you believed in truth, liberty, freedom and justice. The BSD and other licenses were less philosophically rigid and have hence been taken advantage of by companies. Apple based their operating system OS X on BSD but were not obligated to share their improvements with the BSD community. They could take, but did not have to share. The GPL aimed at changing that- sharing was a many way street.

Linux brought the truly bazaar-style development in to the (geek) mainstream- where every user was a developer and the code was _released early and released often_. These facets of Linux development were part accidental, part consequences of the GPL and part Linus’ genius. Of course, Raymond was the first to test and formally describe the theories behind the success of Linux and how to apply them to future projects. Raymond tested the bazaar philosophy on his own _fetchmail_ project and the book tracks his success with it.

* *CatB as a Manifesto*: This book changed the geek language. Phrases such as the one above about eyeballs and bugs or the fundamental ideas about how to treat your beta testers are now treated as obvious. Indeed, even Yahoo and Google use the idea of treating their users as insider beta testers for many of their products.
* *CatB and O’Reilly*: _The Cathedral and the Bazaar_ was the first book published in print (by O’Reilly) with an open source document license. This allowed the book to be copied and modified as long as the resulting work had the same license- a precursor to “Creative Commons”:http://www.creativecommons.org licenses.
* *The Open Sourcing of Netscape*: The open sourcing of the Netscape browser and the start of the Mozilla project at the end of the browser wars in the late 90s is largely attributed to this book. At the time, CTO of Netscape, Eric Nahn told Raymond, “On behalf of everyone at Netscape, I want to thank you for helping us get to this point in the first place. Your thinking and writings were fundamental inspirations to our decision.”

Eric Raymond first presented _The Cathedral and the Bazaar_ at the “Linux Kongress on May 22nd, 1997”:http://www.linux-kongress.org/1997/ in Würzburg, Germany. Ten years later, Linux is more powerful than ever, Ubuntu is ready for the desktop (says me) and the bazaar model is alive and thriving.

* Read “The Cathedral and the Bazaar”:http://www.catb.org/~esr/writings/cathedral-bazaar/cathedral-bazaar/
* About the “Netscape decision”:http://www.catb.org/~esr/writings/cathedral-bazaar/cathedral-bazaar/ar01s13.html
* Raymond’s ever-growing archive of “notes, comments, rebuttals and more”:http://www.catb.org/~esr/writings/cathedral-bazaar/ on CatB.
* Read Linus Torvalds’ fun, light and frothy autobiography about the heady young days of Linux “Just for Fun”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0066620732/galaxyfaraway
* And of course, there is the “The Circus Midget and the Fossilized Dinosaur Turd”:http://fringe.davesource.com/Fringe/Computers/Philosophy/Cathedral_Bazaar/Parody.html (don’t worry, it’s satire and it has a point)

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The Indian Climate Change Tipping Point (update)

For the second year in a row, “the ice stalagmite of immense importance to Hindus- the Shivalinga of Amarnath- has melted”:http://www.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=88957 completely at the beginning of the pilgrimage season.
Shivalinga at Amarnath taken by Mr. Gangadhar Tambe

Scientists say the melting is due to increased temperatures due to climate change and to the heat generated by increasing numbers of pilgrims flocking to the site, located at an altitude of 3,800 metres.

Last year, elements in the _Shri Amarnath Shrine Board_ had “replaced it with a crude fake”:http://www.sepiamutiny.com/sepia/archives/003495.html but “did not get away with”:http://www.dnaindia.com/report.asp?NewsID=1036492 it. “Sepia Mutiny”:http://www.sepiamutiny.com/sepia/archives/003495.html has great before and after photographs from last year. Read the rest of this entry »

Eating Seasonal

I’ve been reading a lot lately about food- eating seasonal, local, healthy and so forth. These goals are inter-linked. I checked if the place where we get our vegetables bought from local farms, turns out “they do when they can”:http://www.russos.com/home/home.html (in the summer). A little more Googling lead me to “Sustainable Table”:http://www.sustainabletable.org/ which is a phenomenal site about all the goals I listed above. Here’s a list of “what’s in season in which month”:http://www.sustainabletable.org/shop/eatseasonal/ in for many states in the United States.

Wobble and Clock

I walked by a “Brookstone”:http://www.brookstone.com the other day and saw this:
Wobble and Bob

Now this may seem like a totally random and totally acceptable clock to many people. These people are clearly not fans of the funniest cartoon on the Internet, a.k.a. “Weebl and Bob”:http://weebls-stuff.com/wab/ about the wobbling, oval shaped Weebl and sometimes his friend Bob. Now tell me the Brookstone folks thought up the name _Bob Wobble Clock_ without ever having seen Weebl & Bob!

To prove I am not crazy, or at least my form of madness is common, here’s “another blogger”:http://kenny.wordpress.com/2006/06/03/bob-the-ripoff/ who had the same idea.

Linux for President!

Marketing blogger Douglas Karr has an “interesting study up on his web site”:http://www.douglaskarr.com/2007/06/23/2008-elections-by-server/ about the operating systems that power the web sites of United States presidential candidates.

Let’s just say, Linux lies to the left of the political spectrum. Democrats are 90% open source, Republicans 30% and Obama is on FreeBSD. I have no idea if any of this means anything, but according to 73% of Internet history experts, cool, obtusely meaningless statistics are what the Internet was designed to propagate.

Radio Open Source Goes Silent

The “best radio show on traditional radio and the internet”:http://www.radioopensource.org/we-interrupt-this-program/ is going on a hiatus for the summer following a series of setbacks involving loss of many of the pillars that formed its financial support- UMass Lowell, WGBH and unnamed others. A last ditch fundraising effort kept them afloat for the last few weeks, but the Christopher Lydon and Radio Open Source are off the radio for now.

How ironic that this happened the day after “Internet radio’s day of silence.”:http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20070626-internet-radio-day-of-silence-hushes-thousands-of-stations.html

We’re Censored in China!

Good news, everyone- this site is censored in China! We must be doing something right…

Habeas Corpus and Other Quaint Ideas From the Past

While I admit that there may be some geeky fashions and some fashion geeks, here at Science Addiction I try to stay away from fashion. But this one is different.

See, back in the 20th century- and in fact, much earlier- there used to be a quaint concept called Habeas Corpus that was quite in vogue. Now, along with the dot-com boom (renamed as Web2.0) and the Y2K crisis (renamed as Daylight Savings bug), this idea from the past is making a come back!

It’s all Greek to me, you say. Well, it’s Latin, young Geek. Habeas Corpus, literally translated as you have the body.

In the legal system, in many countries around the world including the United States, it means that a person detained by the government has the right to seek relief from unlawful imprisonment. The United States Constitution specifically states that it shall not be suspended, unless there is a rebellion or invasion and the public safety requires it.
Read the rest of this entry »

xkcd: Blogging About My Generation

A brilliant comic from “xkcd”:http://xkcd.com for a Friday morning:

A Great Cory Doctorow Speech at USC

SciFi writer, activist, “BoingBoing”:http://www.boingboing.net editor, EFF evangelist and now US-Canada Fulbright Chair at the University of Southern California recently gave a talk to people at USC that covers many topics ranging from digital freedoms to science fiction that is “truly worth listening to”:http://uscpublicdiplomacy.com/audio/060830_doctorow.mp3 [MP3]. Of course, the greatest Cory Doctorow speech of them all is his “talk at Microsoft about why DRM is bad for business, bad for people, bad for artists and bad technology”:http://researchchannel.org/prog/displayevent.asp?rid=3302 (streaming video). The “text of that talk is also available”:http://www.dashes.com/anil/stuff/doctorow-drm-ms.html online.