If someone had told me a year ago that I would have dinner with people that have shaped the face of computing and Open Source tonight, I would have laughed. However, that is exactly what happened tonight (I mean, Thursday night). Each day at the O'Reilly Open Source Convention grows curiouser and curiouser. But, I'm getting ahead of myself. First the keynotes, then the attended sessions, then I'll talk about dinner.
The keynotes today were really a let down. The three Dysons ended up being only two, Freeman and George, since Esther was held up in Dallas. George kicked the keynote off in grand style by showing the opening of a Star Trek Next Generation episode where Picard explains to Riker what a Dyson Sphere is. It's hard to explain the emotion you get when it becomes clear that these characters of the future are talking about a theory penned by the physicist sitting in the chair on stage in front of you, Freeman Dyson. Everyone cheered and clapped.
Unfortunately, the rest of the keynote was Tim O'Reilly (and sometimes members of the audience) asking random questions for Freeman and George Dyson to answer. I was disappointed because that format requires the audience to ask really good open-ended questions and those are difficult to come by. I think I would have been much happier if Freeman (George spoke last year) would have been set free to discuss in detail his current interest in biotechnology or any other topic. As it was, there were just a bunch of random sounds bites that demonstrated the two men are brilliant but left me wanting more.
Bdale Garbee's keynote was also disappointing. I think r0ml ratcheted my expectations up too high (yes, r0ml was that good) and nobody was able to compete. Honestly, there were two things that I took away from Bdale's presentation. First, he said, "Big companies aren't generally participating in the Linux marketplace for philosophical reasons. it's business!" If you replace "Linux" with "Open Source" in that statement, it resonates perfectly with Microsoft's Shared Source Initiative's foray into Open Source. I just thought it was nice to hear someone not from Microsoft speaking so plainly. The second interesting thing in Bdale's presentation was the introduction to AMSAT and the fact that they are seriously considering launching a satellite to orbit Mars.
After the keynotes, stuck around and watched the Commercial OSS Business Panel. This was an interesting panel to watch and track all the different opinions on OSS and what the future holds for companies trying to turn a profit on it. I didn't take notes (should have) but it was very a entertaining debate. I'm amazed at how well Jason navigates the fairly hostile comments about Microsoft's endeavors in just about everything.
Then I attended a session about LTSP where Jim McQuillan discussed then demonstrated how they can boot a diskless Linux workstation connected to a central application server and run applications on that server. Jim did a great job with the talk and had hands down beat every other presentation I'd seen before then.
After lunch, I slipped into the session about writing books for O'Reilly. Nothing surprising to report there, other than I'm still very much uncertain about writing a book. Finally, I attended the Wine session, clarified what I thought I knew about Wine and listened to a bit of Microsoft bashing. I don't envy those guys working on Wine. I don't have the patience to create a binary compatible replica of the Windows APIs.
Now for the good part (jeez, it's already 4 AM). While Stephen, Jon and I were hanging out at the reception after all the presentations Larry Augustin swung by with Eric Raymond. If you don't know who those guys are, follow their links and read for a bit. Larry and Eric are very active in the Open Source community. Eric Raymond is also extremely critical of Microsoft's dealings with the Open Source community and Larry had brought him over to start a dialog.
Since it is so late, I think I'm going to save the details of the conversation (I've jotted as many as I could remember down) for a later blog entry. Suffice it to say that Larry and Eric joined Stephen, Jon, Pamela Roussos, a developer from Zend (who's name I don't remember), and me for dinner. We were at dinner for over three hours talking about all sorts of things related to Unix's history, Open Source, and Microsoft's relationship with the Open Source community. To say the conversation was fascinating would be a gross understatement.
I want to finish this blog entry up with a conversation I had at the end of the evening. After dinner we all went to the "free beer" party Novell was throwing back at the hotel. Late in the evening, Stephen and I started up a conversation with Kip Hampton who was just chilling out drinking a beer. Kip mentioned he had just finished his first book so he and I spent the next 30 minutes or so discussing what it takes to write a book. He provided a lot of insight into the awesome amount of effort it takes write a book. I stored away everything Kip said and was very appreciative for sharing his experiences.
Today it was more apparent than ever that it isn't about the technology, it's about the relationships.