31 Jul 2002

Working for $0

Dave Winer writes:

OSCON, last week, has done its job and stirred the embers of the Great Open Source Debate of the 1990s. I found myself writing in an email yesterday: “Very little really usable software has come from people who are willing to work for $0. (I chose my words carefully, infrastructure is another matter entirely.) Further, it’s weird to say, as Richard Stallman does, that by coercing programmers to work for $0 that that’s freedom. To me it seems obvious that that’s slavery.”

My response, in an email to Dave:

I’m surprised by each of these sentiments: that we’re not writing usable software, that we’re not making money, and that it’s coercion (and thus slavery).

Some background on me. I work as a consultant using almost 100% Open Source / Free Software, providing new solutions and support for existing software. I contribute to The GNOME Project as release team manager and other things, and am president of the Sydney Linux User’s Group. So yeah, I really enjoy this stuff. :-)

I’ll speak mainly from my experiences with GNOME.

On the usability front, we’ve seen some massive improvements in our 2.0 release. It’s really hotting up. The Sun Microsystems hackers working on GNOME are pushing us towards 100% Section 508 compliance – we have the framework in place in 2.0 – which means that our accessibility support will be up to US Government standards. We have an awesome desktop environment, plenty of great apps (and a few first class ones such as the Evolution groupware suite). Yeah, we’re still playing catch-up, but in four years we’ve covered a hell of a lot of ground. It only gets better.

We’re making money, too. Plenty of GNOME hackers are employed to hack on GNOME. That’s a simple ‘software company pays programmer’ equation. The various OS/FS-involved companies are doing a good job of bringing in the dollars too (I don’t think OS/FS handicaps them very much at all compared to other service-based software businesses). I also earn my keep with OS/FS. :-)

The last point about programmers being coerced and thus enslaved is *very* interesting from a Free Software perspective. There are lots of reasons to work on OS/FS, so it’s hard to sum up why we do it. Linus Torvalds’ simple analysis “just for fun” is probably the most accurate.

Constructing cool software with a bunch of people across the planet, and being able to play with and improve it is *fun*! Sad as it may seem, I get a kick out of just helping this process along, in my role as release team manager. I’m not the greatest hacker in the world, so I help out in other ways. ;-) But I also do it because I think it’s a good deed (plus, I think it’s ‘right’, but I don’t think everything else is therefore ‘wrong’).

It takes all types. Some of the paid hackers do it as their job, some of them are pretty chuffed that they can be paid to do what they enjoy. Some of us have wives and kids and need a hobby, some of us find that we learn more from the practice of software development than the theory we learn at university. Some of us do it out of a sense of purity, some as an actively violent response to proprietary software. Some of us do it because we’re bloody good at it, some of us because we look up to those who are, and want to help them. In the end, I think most of us do it because it’s fun – if it wasn’t, we wouldn’t do it at all.


Don’t bother emailing a blogger. Link to them.

19 Jul 2002

Plan 9

So, I’m sitting in the main lecture room, watching Keith Packard, Jim Gettys and Rob Pike chatting about old school UNIX stuff. Plan 9 on the main screen, awaiting Rob Pike’s talk about “plumbing”. No idea what this is going to be about.

Okay, so it turned out to be a talk about an idea for contextual information passing without heavy user interaction. Kind of like post-processed, contextual URLs. Rob demonstrated clicking on filenames to open viewers, man page references to open man pages (good demo of the hyperlinkness of the system), and at the far end of sanity, turning UPS references into links to web information about your package (imagine clicking on text in your mail client or web browser and having the information pop up for you). Interesting stuff for consideration in GNOME.

File Selector

Largely unproductive workshop on this terminally controversial topic. D’oh.

18 Jul 2002

GNOME 2.0 Debrief

Besides having a stupid toilet seat without a VGA interface, the talk went well. Sounds like everyone is on the same page, both on the release team and hacker community sides. Very encouraging, looking forward to a lengthier discussion meeting tomorrow. I’ll put my magicpoint stuff online soon.


Sitting in thomasvs‘s GStreamer talk, listening to a summary of the project, its features, goals and existing applications. Looks awesome, and they’re way keen to bring on more developers to hack on plugins and applications. If you’re keen for more multimedia love on *nix, leap in!

17 Jul 2002


Sitting in Luis’ cube at Ximian’s Boston office. Bumping into all the Ximian dudes as they arrive for a leisurely start to their working day at… noon.

Caught the subway in with Luis, breakfasting on cinnamon raisin bagels with walnut and honey spread. Yum!

11 Jul 2002

Taking on a Small Planet

Rome, Boston, San Francisco. This trip is a two week mix of much-needed (and hopefully very disciplined) relaxation, romantic stay on the coast of Italy, lots of hard work on GNOME stuff, and the accompanying crazy live GNOME fun.

There won’t be much here in the next week, as I’ll be doing the relaxation and romantic bits of my journey, but I’ll be making very frequent entries when I start blogging the GNOME Summit in Boston – you might want to check my user page (jdub) for the ones that fall off recentlog.

Right now, I’m sitting in a free wireless area at Changi International Airport, Singapore. I was going to go for a tour of the city, but I have to finish off some work from home instead. C’est la vie. My legs are okayish, the left one is just weak, the right one feels like lead and has gone all puffy. Can’t squat or kneel very well. GAR GAR GAR!

So, I’ve decided that Singapore Airlines are pretty cool. They call various 747 models, “BIGTOP” and “MEGATOP”, have the little TVs in the back of the seat that you can cue up movies, audio and Nintendo games on, the food was great, and the flight crew were much nicer than the BA or Qantas ones I had when going to Spain. Their little TV feature thingy is called “KrisWorld”. Wacky.

Next stop, Frankfurt. Then Rome. And Pia! Only I have to wait and be patient because I’m still thousands of kilometres away. Grr. The combination of geography, physics, and withdrawal symptoms is killing me.

I’m attempting to combat this by checking out all the electronic toys available in the shops here. Such cool stuff! If only I actually had some money… This trip is putting a significant dent into funds I don’t even have. :-(

Brain tiring, hacking becoming mindnumbing. I think it’s time to go window shopping again.

Bulging Belgian Pants

thomasvs unexpectedly sent pants from Belgium, intended as a GNOME 2 release good luck charm. They didn’t quite make it on time (complications at this end, it seems), so became a wonderful release present. A little long, and a bit small around the groin, but remarkably close to my size. spiv shared with me (whilst I was taking them for their first walk to the shops) that he “generally feels uncomfortable in pants that have an obvious bulge”. Grr. ;-)

thomasvs: Despite my physical imperfections, I love the pants. Thank you! I had this idea of turning them into corduroy hotpants or shorts… ;-)

07 Jul 2002

Free Your Pizza

spiv and I have been enjoying some time in front of the oven and stove cooking dinner for our housemates. I’ve always loved cooking, spiv maintains that he doesn’t know anything about it (which is complete bollocks), and we both dislike cleaning after it… we’re hoping that at some stage, our less active housemates will realise this.

Tonight we cooked Tandoori Chicken and Potato Gourmet Pizza, and in true Advogato style, thought we should publish the recipe here. We’ve looked into the licensing and copyright issues, and whilst the “you must send the authors of this recipe a piece of your pizza” license sounds like a good idea, the soggy pizza envelopes might not. Besides, SharePizza sucks compared to Free Pizza.

Tandoori Chicken and Potato Gourmet Pizza


  • Pizza bases (more fun if you make them yourself)
  • Thinly sliced chicken breasts (we used a small double per pizza)
  • Tandoori paste (we used COTS parts, though I’d love to make it myself some time)
  • Thinly sliced small potatoes (four per pizza)
  • Crushed or whole pine nuts
  • Tomato paste
  • Cheese, but not too much on this pizza (if you’re like me, it will be hard to resist, but it’s worth it)


  1. Brown the chicken, mix in tandoori paste to colour the pieces.
  2. Fry the potatoes and some of the pine nuts. The pine nuts make it smell like popcorn. :-)
  3. Cover the pizza bases with a mixture of tandoori and tomato paste, and sprinkle with cheese.
  4. Top the pizza with potatoes, pine nuts, chicken and a small amount of cheese.
  5. Cook until cheese browns, and tandoori paste on the chicken blackens – don’t worry, it’s not burnt! :-)
  6. EAT!


Quiet. I’m going to be overseas for our release team debrief, the freeze, and the first weekly snapshot. Lots of cybercafe action, methinks. I’m glad the freeze will be occuring whilst I’m in Boston, for the GNOME Summit. Wheeee!


My doctor says I’m insane going overseas. Grr.

04 Jul 2002


Dude, did you try sweep? Works on PPC. conrad used to be the SLUG El Presidente, and is an All Round Cool Dude.


Got the 2.0.x
schedule and 2.1.x branching summary
done. Two rapid maintenance releases, and we’ll be most of the way to full-on 2.1.x development. The planets are aligning for some really cool stuff in GNOME 2.2, and I want to make sure that the release process works well for everyone.

Rome / Boston

Found my credit card in the mail, so the Rome/Boston trip is looking realistic – and it’s only seven days away! Have to get a bunch of stuff done for work first to satisfy both my employers and my self-directed frustrations. Stupid arthritic GAR is making it hard to concentrate and motivate. Not sure how well I’m going to be for the trip, but it would be insane to miss out on. Grr.

Normally I’d try and catch up with people overseas, but Pia will be there in Rome, and I really need to take a relaxing break. The GNOME Summit will be slightly more work-oriented (in a fun way) than farting around Italy with Pia anyway. ;-)


People back from busy-ness, various things happening. I’m writing up a plan for the next six months or so, what I want to achieve with SLUG, and the motivational sparks required to get it going. We’re in a
comfort zone of sorts, not realising what we’ve got, nor what we can achieve. All very laid-back at the moment, hoping to light a bonfire under that inertia.


Bit sore inside and out, really.