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Rob Fisher talking about Open Source Software

My next Last Friday of the Month speaker, this coming Friday (April 26) will be Samizdata’s own Rob Fisher, who has emailed me thus:

These are my notes for the ‘introduction’ section of my talk. I think this should give you a flavour of what to expect:

I am going to talk about open source software.

I am calling it “open source” but as we will see there are variations on that theme.

I will talk about the history because it tells us things about the motivations of the people who work on open source software.

I will also talk about the nature of software in general, to put open source in context.

I want to talk about what it is like to develop software, and to develop open source software and proprietary software. I have done a little of the former and a lot of the latter – developing proprietary software is my day job.

And I will tell you about how open source looks today, what kinds of software are open source, who is developing it, who is using it and how an open source project is run.

And I will talk about ways I think open source software is saving the world (from a variety of bad things that would happen without it).

I don’t have a grand thesis to share, no big new idea. What I’m talking about is mostly well known, but my aim is to provide an overview so we can think about what it all means in a broader economic sense, and I’ll share the few thoughts I have about that.

I am looking forward to this a lot, because I expect to learn a lot. I particularly like the sound of that “saving the world” bit.

This stuff is likely to be central to many of the most vexed political and legal arguments of the next few decades. Intellectual property gets ever hotter as a topic, as they continue to lengthen the number of years it lasts. And as “3D printing” gets into its stride, that is adding a whole new dimension of relevance to such arguments. Open Source manufacturing, anyone?

It is already clear from emailed acceptances that there will be a good turnout. There is room for it to be slightly better, but only slightly. Email me soon (go here and click on “Contact”), if you would like to attend.

9 comments to Rob Fisher talking about Open Source Software

  • Dave Walker

    “Break a leg”, Rob :-).

    Hope you have a piece in there on OpenSolaris. There’s still controversy about it…

  • Sam Duncan

    Well, I’m using it almost exclusively, less a few games and a proprietary video driver so that they work properly (AMD is opening up, but slowly). And most people are using more than they think.

    Sounds like a good talk, especially the history and context, because that really is interesting. “How an open source project is run”, too, because one thing I remember being struck by when I first entered the world of open source is that it’s not the chaotic free-for-all that outsiders – as I was then – assume. There’s a strong libertarian lesson in that alone. I wish I could be there.

  • Julie near Chicago

    It WILL be video-recorded and uploaded to YT so we Colonials can see it? It sounds fascinating.

  • Thanks, Dave, the whole subject of Oracle raises some interesting questions. Sam, “most people are using more than they think” indeed – understated, in fact.

    Julie – I don’t know about that. There’s probably a series of Samizdata posts in it, at least.

  • Brian Micklethwait (London)

    If Rob is agreeable, I could attempt (which is not the same as me doing it!) a sound recording.

  • chuck

    I’d also be interested in a video if you can make one. I work on numpy myself, but I suspect it isn’t high enough profile to make it into a talk like this.

  • Sceptical Antagonist

    I’m curious as to what Rob will say.

    My own experience of the ‘open source’ world – mainly from a user point of view – is less than complimentary.

    Whilst I think the idea should be commended, a lot of the implementations suck. Testing before release seems to be a foreign concept. Things that worked yesterday may not work today.
    There also seems to be abuse of the licensing model, making some useful tools useless unless you’re happy working for nothing. You can’t even write your own programs from scratch in some cases because of badly chosen (or deliberately obstructively chosen) compiler licences.

    The last twenty years of this (in my case) have proven extremely frustrating.

    Just my 2p.

  • Chuck, I have used numpy, though only really as a dependency of matplotlib.

    SA – not every open source project is a good one, I suppose. Perhaps later we can discuss specifics.