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Open Software at the Hillside Club in Berkeley
Sunday, November 21, 2004
expect typos: this is live.

Midway through this afternoon, I checked my gmail and found an invitation from Jeff Ubois to a meeting on Open Source a few hours later at the Hillside Club, which is less than a mile from my house. How could I resist? Now I'm sitting about 5' from the CEO of MySQL, a founder of Apache, the author of SendMail, the leader of BSD, and Kim Polese, now running a start-up to marry Open Source software with commercial enterprise. Here they are, in just that order:

Kim Polese -- 20 years in the software industry. went to cal. grew up here. her interest = applying cool software to solve problems. start-up reduces the complexity in conglomerates of open source components. Moving up the stack...honored and excited to be part of it.
    I told Kim I knew her only by reputation, but I was curious what it felt like to be the exemplar of woman-in-the-driver's-seat in Silicon Valley when she made her mark leading Marimba. (Kim was the Anna Kornikova of pre-crash Silicon Valley, the difference being that Kim had more than looks.) She said it made it awkward to engage with people publically, but that her goal throughout was to lead her team to success. Celebrity opens doors. She took it as a passing phase, ho-hum.
Kirk McKusick -- got into Open Source in the mid 70s when "I was plopped into an office with Bill Joy." Kirk could have been a single digit employee at Sun when Bill left to found it, but Kirk decided to study for his Ph D. Continued with BSDi. Linux vs BSD is secondary; the issue is Open Source. The Fortune 500 buys it.
    Things that make Open Source interesting: How do you organize it? Relying on volunteers who will do what they want to do. They're transicent. You need a structure that allows you to bring in new people and get them to move through it.

    What are the issues for Open Source today? Licensing is working pretty wall. The patent law is more problematic.
Erik Allman. Best known for writing SendMail. SendMail was a classic scratch-your-itch situation. We had a very open-source ethos at Berkeley. Erik's first computer was an IBM 1401. The IBM SHARE conference was hot stuff in the late 60s. This is not a new movement.
    The stuff that's really successful is infrastructure pieces developed by people writing software for themselves and their peers. You know the problem you're trying to solve. This doesn't work as well for apps. OpenOffice is nice but it doesn't hold a candle to MS Word.

    Open Source is not something separate and pure, apart from commercial osftware. The big things are hybrids. Apple builds things on top of open-source software. Linux, the poster child for Open Source, is heavily supported by HP and IBM.
Brian Behlendorf. While a student at Cal in '91, switched from physics to computer science. Set up a Gopher site (lots of time on his hands while doing maintenance for Haas School of Business) that also ran HTTP. Watched the scientists (Berners-Lee et alia) discussing the basics. Not Commie; just radical inclusiveness as the norm. Around '94, became the sysadmin for Wired. Was using the NCSA webserver. Sent in contributions to the code; no one heard back. Netscape was being founded. Nerds began trading software patches since the brains at NCSA had left to join Netscape.
    Rumor had it that Netscape was going to be charging $1000 a server for their code. Screw that.

    Brian came up with the name of the last tribe to fight it out: Apache. A colleague said it was a good play on words: they'd been trading patches. A-patch-ee.

    Soon, Apache had 65% market share. And kept it.

Marten Mickos, CEO, MySQL. Made the mistake of graduating (Hold it, says Erik: I graduated). In '97, after Marten had tried to discourage the founder of MySQL from getting into the Open Source business, the concept began to gain traction. Open Source has been able to stretch from extremely commercial to extremely noncommercial. Money is not the measure of everything.

Forking. The right to revolution. If I disagree with Linus Torwalds, I can build on his code and go in another direction. The good managers try to keep the team on path.

Brian explains the world to newbies:

1. GPL -- viral. Free as in freedom. Intended to build a larger and larger pool of free software.

2. BSD license school. Says this body of work has value -- and you'll give us credit as you go forward. It's a huge giveaway. For Apache, we didn't want anyone to have an excuse not to use it. As a result, Apache code has been incorporated into IBM, Sun, and other offerings. * * * Kirk: Plus People are encouraged to contribute code; then they won't have to put changes back in with every new release.

OSI -- Open Source Initiative. You can't restrict how people use code.

How Berkeley... The audience is starting to hurl pointed questions to the panel. Arthur Keller is asking about openness in general, e.g. voting machines with paper trails. Marten responds that trust comes from openness and that's the way the world is going. * * * Ray Bruman: Microsoft has almost lost control about security. Walter Mossberg is warning people in the WSJ not to use Windows without massive protections.... Why hasn't open source crushed them like a bug? Erik: Excel is hot. PowerPoint is a pretty reasonable tool. Word is a push. Programmers don't give presentations or run Excel what-ifs. OpenOffice -- all the documentation in still in German. In order for any Open Source to succeed, you need a critical mass of programmers. OpenOffice didn't have it.

Irony. How about Bernard Maybeck as inspiration for software instead of the current technocrats? No pattern language. Rather, a visionary whose brain synthesized beautiful design with his neurons. The software school of beaux arts.

Brian: What if automobiles came with the hood welded shut? Would people care?

The Hillside Club is a treasure. Some background:

Hillside club promoted idea of simple and healthy living
By Susan Cerny (06-30-01)

Berkeley Observed

Looking back, seeing ahead

In 1898 a group of north Berkeley women founded a club devoted to educating the public on the healthful benefits of living simply in homes designed to provide plenty of fresh air, sunlight and greenery.

The club was called the Hillside Club. The ideals promoted by the club were published in pamphlets and distributed to the public.

In reaction to the excesses of the Victorian Age, the club advocated that homes should be simple and free of unnecessary decoration; wood siding should be left unpainted to weather naturally; and interiors should be filled with handmade or homemade furniture and decorative objects.

The club believed that the benefits of country living could be developed in Berkeley, thereby creating a new kind of city that was in harmony with the landscape.

Writer and naturalist Charles Keeler, a great proponent of this “arts and crafts” philosophy and an important influence in the founding of the Hillside Club, wrote a book “The Simple Home” in 1904 that describes how to achieve such a house.

Architect Bernard Maybeck, whose name is associated with the concept of “building with nature,” designed his first “simple home” for Keeler at the top of Ridge Road in 1895.

The house was built of unpainted redwood, both inside and out, and all the construction members were left exposed. Soon the north Berkeley hillside was covered with unpainted wood-sided houses set in lushly informal gardens.

Even the neighborhood public Hillside School was designed in the rustic, back-to-nature style.

It was built in 1915.

It was covered with unpainted brown shingles and its wide covered porch was supported with posts of unpeeled redwood logs.

The children went to school in a building very much like the homes they lived in.

On September 17, 1923, a raging wildfire swept down from Wildcat Canyon destroying much of the early hillside neighborhood including the original Hillside School.

Only a few of the early homes north of the university campus still stand.


Blogger Harold Jarche said...

Sounds like a great opportunity to really find out what's happening in the OSS community.

I disagree with Erik's comments on Open Office. After 2 years of running both apps, my preference is OOo, as I always know what's going on with OOo and there is no weird code that puts in page breaks and strange fonts that you can't remove. I write a lot, and have found that I don't need Word's bells and whistles. The export to PDF function is a real bonus too.

I really appreciate your commentary from the various conferences that I can't afford to attend. Thanks!

4:41 AM  

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