The Force of FUD

Posted by Jim Jagielski on Wednesday, December 22. 2004

Sometimes it seems that you can't get away from the "debate" about the validity of Open Source. Just yesterday my wife and I were doing some last minute Christmas shopping and we stopped off at a TGI Fridays (a TGI Friday's!) for a quick bite to eat at the mall. As we were mulling over the menu, 2 people were seated at the table next to ours; a 30-something guy in a tie and a 20-something guy in jeans. As Eileen and I placed our order and enjoyed our 1st sip of some good beer, I could overhear the conversation going on next to us: "Yeah, but what happens if some guy over here makes a change and then some guy over there makes another change? You get chaos." "Nah," I thought to myself. "Can't be talking about distributed software development in a collaborative environment. Gotta be something else." "In 20 years," the guy in the tie says, "we'll see that the way Microsoft has been doing it has been the right way all along." Crap. Now I'm hooked. Despite my sincere intentions to have a nice lunch with my wife, I find myself straining to hear every word of this conversation. It's becoming obvious that what I am overhearing is just the latest phase of what has no doubt been a long discussion between the 2. I get the distinct impression that the guy in the tie is some middle manager, either directly or indirectly over the guy in the jeans. Mr Jeans is simply nodding, as one who knows that it's pointless to argue or debate. But this simply encourages Mr. Tie. "No, there is simply no control at all over the whole process. It's a game; an experiment," says Mr. Tie, as if simply making statements provides sufficient proof to their validity. Eileen holds my hand and smiles. She knows I'm chomping at the bit to get involved. Mr. Tie is one of the typical people for whom FUD works perfectly. They are concerned about making not the "right" or "correct" decision, but rather the "safe" one (with "safe" being how they define it). They can't be bothered to look into the facts, or do some research on their own, or even to trust those who they hire and who know the facts better than they do themselves. Instead, they get their information from the local newspapers and "business journals" which provide the depth of a dime. Our local newspaper, The Baltimore Sun, used to have a "technology reporter" whose articles seemed to always revolve about how (1) Microsoft, despite problems, was always the best decision and (2) High speed internet connectivity via your local cable company was Nirvana. Local business and technology papers and journals were little better. Mr. Tie was either unwilling to understand the basic concepts of Open Source or else he was simply *unable* to. In the first case, facts are irrelevant, since they will be ignored anyway. In the 2nd case, facts are useless, since they simply bounce off the gray matter they are intended to infiltrate. With those unwilling to understand, FUD works by providing the barest minimum rationale required to validate their belief; "why take a chance?" For those unable, FUD works by solidifying the mindset which prevents any other concept from taking root. It's like fertilizer for weeds, preventing the grass and flowers of Open Source from germinating in the field of technology. Yet despite all this, we should still continue the fight. As Eileen and I were leaving, I stopped off at the table. "Excuse me, I'm sorry to interrupt, but I couldn't help overhearing your conversation. I'm afraid that your argument is based on some common misconceptions and inaccuracies about Open Source. Here's my card; please don't hesitate to contact me if you'd like to understand it a bit more." I'm not holding my breath, but you never know...
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Subversion Observsion

Posted by Jim Jagielski on Sunday, December 19. 2004

As many people know, the ASF is migrating, with vim and vigor, away from CVS towards Subversion (SVN). For me the migration is bitter sweet, like throwing out that old, comfortable pair of shoes for a new pair. Although I don't consider myself a CVS expert by any means, I knew my way around it and was able to use it without even thinking (some people claim I do too many things without thinking, but that's a whole different entry). Now with Subversion, for the casual user, you can just s/cvs/svn/ and get by pretty well; but with a super cool utility like SVN, that's hardly doing it justice. For example, due to the expense of branching and tagging, it's been avoided like the plague; with SVN this incredibly useful (no, make that *required* ) capability is cheap and encouraged. One of my goals for the holiday break is to really *read* the Subversion book. In the meantime, I'm just enjoying playing around with it. I just wonder how long before we see robust and seamless SVN suport in various tools, like XCode? Hopefully sooner rather than later. (PS: Yes, the title is supposed to be that way)
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LOTR and Ruby

Posted by Jim Jagielski on Thursday, December 9. 2004

Previously, I wrote about the Lord of the Rings Symphony and promised (or threatened) a review. Although scheduled for 2 hours, the event itself ran closer to 2 1/2 total, including a relatively short intermission. Even so, at no time did the concert drag. The structure was pretty nice, with 6 movements, matching the books themselves, with the intermission after the 2nd movement. While the music was being performed, drawings and sketches from the storyboards were displayed on a large screen, matching the music to the events of the movie. The 3 soloists performed quite well, but one, Susan Egan, was exceptional. The selection of music was perfect and enjoyable, even to those (like my wife) who have never seen the movies. Even if you didn't know the story, the music described the moods associated the LOTR, and was complete in itself. If you have the opportunity, by all means, see the show. And now for something completely different; despite my best intentions and my true desire, I simply can't get into Ruby. It's just laziness on my part, I know, because it is in many ways a much better language than my usual choices, but I still find myself doing more and more with Java/PHP/Perl/Python and less and less with Ruby. Most of the times I find myself starting development in Ruby, but before too long redoing it in Python. I'm still a proceduralist at heart, but dang it, sometimes OOP is just the right decision.
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The Music of Middle-Earth.

Posted by Jim Jagielski on Tuesday, December 7. 2004

I'm a big Tolkien fan. Now I'm not a loon about it; I don't go around speaking Elvish, or wearing fur on my feet, but I am a voracious reader of anything Tolkien related, I greatly enjoy the History of Middle-Earth volumes and can debate with the best of them the significance of a wizard's staff. And I love Bored of the Rings as well. So you can imagine my joy to learn the Lord of the Rings Symphony was coming to Baltimore. This symphony distills 11 hours of music from the movies to a ~2 hour concert, providing a very cool "review" of the work. Here in Baltimore, the BSO is handling the music, with help from the Baltimore Choral Society and The Maryland State Boychoir (MSB). The latter is especially cool since my middle son Tim is in the MSB and is one of the selected members of the MSB chosen to sing. Last night they had the orchestra rehearsal, and it was impressive to say the least. Tonight is the dress rehearsal and a performance, with another performance tomorrow night. A full review will be coming.
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Tech Hanks

Posted by Jim Jagielski on Monday, December 6. 2004

Reading Steve Loughran's blog entry about Polar Express 3D got me off my duff to finally write about a topic which I've been hesitating to bring up. The reason is because it makes me sound very cranky. First and foremost, I have nothing at all against Tom Hanks. I think he's a good actor, but I can also think of several other actors who are much better masters of the craft than Tom, yet have no awards to show for it. So this isn't a rant against Mr. Hanks at all. But couldn't they find somebody else, anybody else, to put those shiny little stickies on their face and be Santa. Or the young boy? I mean come on now, 5 parts? I had hopes that CGI and other movie related tech would expand the opportunities for struggling actors, not tighten the noose. Of course, maybe Looker had it right all along... So maybe every actor out there better watch out. :-)
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