Maddog confirms participation in Latinoware 2011

Latinoware's participants cannot imagine having a Maddog-Free Latinoware. The godfather of free and open source software, the one responsible for sparking the first port of Linux outside the Intel's 386 processor family and one of the main visionaries in the IT industry is coming again to Latinoware where, again, he will be followed by a hurd of picture takers. Probably the main reasons Jon "maddog" Hall (president of Linux International and one of the leaders of the Cauã Project) always attracts crowds to his talks are, at the same time, his eternal evangelism words and the ability of opening the eyes of people for new and exciting opportunities with free and open technologies. In this interview, Maddog answers some thought provoking questions asked by his long time friend, the program coordinator of Latinoware, Cesar Brod.
Cesar Brod: People coming every year to Latinoware already expect your presence in the event and, as usual, you will have again a big crowd watching your talk. It is being now more than ten years since you first came to Brasil to talk about free and open source software. What do you believe people really get and what do you think people still don't get at all in relation to free and open source software?
Maddog: "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time." - Abraham Lincoln. I point out that the phrase "people still don't get at all" is a problem, because I to think that many people "get" some of the points of Free Software some of the time, but most people do not "get" all of the points all of the time.
For some people "Free Software" is something they can pull down of the Internet and use to solve their problems without having to pay a royalty or a license fee.  In many countries this argument has little pull, since they do not pay for a lot of their software.
For others, such as developers or enterprise people, Free Software represents software that they can get bug fixes or extensions for quickly so they can continue working.  Or use their own extensions to develop a better solution than their competitor.
For trainers and consultants it means that by studying the software and the source code to that software they can be just as expert in that software as the person (or people) that wrote it, and therefore command a premium for their services.
For governments Free Software represents a way to keep their brightest and best university-trained programmers in their own country instead of having them migrate other places where they can get good jobs developing software.  Free Software means potential longevity of a solution to the government's needs, and to maintain sovereignty over their own computing systems, safe from embargoes or privacy violations from another country's government.
I often try, in my mind, to extend the present day to the far future.  What would happen if we had seven billion people using our systems of today?  Would the queue at the help line be five days long, or only three?  Would I get 500 patches to wade through on "Patch Tuesday", or would the vendor also patch on Thursdays in the future?
For certain people, like myself, who have had the misfortune of seeing the computer industry evolve from one of service to one of products, and the luxury of having the time to look into the future to a day when we have to meet the needs of another five billion "desktop" users....we can see how computer products as we know them will fail, and software built on good service will be the key to delivering the next five billion "desktops".
CB: It seemed to us that believe in, and work with free software, that the Linux Desktop should pick up a lot faster. This hasn't happened yet.
However, in terms of mobile devices, we now see more of than running Android then any other operating system. Should we settle for it and
forget about Desktops alltogether?
MD: Note that in question one I kept putting "desktops" in quotes... I am a great admirer of Gene Roddenberry and of the various productions of Star Trek.  In Star Trek there were four main types of man/communication methods:
a simple tap to the communicator and you could "talk" to the main computer
a "personal log" device that you kept in your stateroom
a "workstation"
The "communicator" was typically for simple questions and simple answers: "How far is it to the nearest outpost?"
The personal log was for detailed planning.  You could see Captain Picard in front of his "personal log" at his desk.  It had limited input methods and limited output potential, but still better than arguing with some unseen computerized voice to get it to understand what you meant.  Note that this last issue was not fixed even with as sophisticated an android as "Data".
The "workstation" of Star Trek is a little harder to envision, but easy to understand when I point it out.  "Engineering" was a workstation.  "Navigation" was a workstation.  "Sick Bay" was a workstation.  "The Bridge" was a workstation. Yes, Doctor McCoy could fix simple things like a cut or a bruise while kneeling next to an injured person, but if it was serious the first thing he said was "beam me to sickbay", where he had the tools and mechanisms to do the job.
Seven-of-nine could answer navigation problems, but to do "real" navigation she went to a special "Navigation" room. Scotty could run the ship from almost anywhere, including the "emergency bridge" in Engineering, but you did not see him running extensive diagnostics from anywhere but engineering.  Nor did Captain Kirk normally run the ship from anywhere other than "The Bridge".  It was where they had everything they needed to do their normal (or emergency) work.
The point here is that "the desktop" is not a single device, exactly.  I think that computers will become smaller and smaller, use less and less electrical power for more and more computational and graphic power with better and better communication to the Internet until "desktops" will be no bigger than phones....but the software interface to run them and solve "real problems(TM)" will be more extensive than I can see with my 60 year-old eyes on a 3 inch by 4 inch screen.
Perhaps the screen size will be fixed by LED projectors (already being put in some phones), and projected keyboards will solve the "too tiny for fat-fingered people" syndrome....but the human interface design of how to use the device practically is still what we have to solve before the "desktop" gives way to the "phone" for "real problems". Now, will the "desktop" give way to the smaller, portable notebook/netbook?  Probably, but that will happen over time.
Other "device futures" I think are still up in the air.  I am not a big fan of tablets, but I can see where they may have some usefulness.  It might be more of putting a "Linux Desktop" into an "ebook reader" that will be the way to go.  After all, the "Nook People" would not have to pay a royalty for Linux, would they? Or perhaps the TV screen will become the output device of the "personal log" for a lot of people....but I still believe that we will need a multi-windowed environment to keep the average person happy, and that requires a bit more real estate than currently fits in my fat-fingered hand.
By the way, I often find it amusing that this question keeps coming up from the same analysts/pundits that usually have two or three monitors in front of them at their desks.  If the desktop was disappearing, please let them just use their phone screen for everything.
CB: A new business model is still being shaped by the so called cloud.  Now that your apps no longer reside in your own computer and you can use
all of the cloud offers for free (Facebook, Google Docs, gMail, etc) -  as long as you see an advertisement that is more and more targeted to
your profile - do you think people would still care about software freedom? Or should they?
MD: First of all, there are at least four versions of the "cloud", ranging all the way from "all the software (not) fit to use" to "bare iron in racks".  Again, I think there will be some people who will choose to use some of this software for some of their purposes.  Others will not. Gmail and Google Docs seem to be used by lots of people every day, and those people are happy with them.  Others have tried those products, and then moved away.
The more software functionality that is offered by "The Cloud", the less I like that particular answer for the long run.  When "The Cloud" offers me virtual machines or bare hardware hosting services, that is when I like "The Cloud" the most. The issue I have with "Software as a Service" (SaaS) or "Applications as a Service" (AaaS) has to do with the customer being able to get that tiny extension or bug fix in the time frame they need it.  If people think it is hard to get the attention of Microsoft or some other "product" company to deliver service, why do they think that it will be easy to get a service company to fix (or change) their product when billions more are using it?
Looking into the future again, would using "The Cloud" allow hackers to steal everyone's credit card information on the face of the planet at the same time, or would we have fixed that re-occurring problem by then?  If "The Cloud" were broken, would everyone's computer slow down at one time across the world, or just in certain geographic sections. I prefer having control of my software, and then simply deploying it on a platform (either virtual or real) with the service provider giving me some tangible, commodity thing I can measure such as CPU cycles, memory bandwidth and network bandwidth.
I would prefer running, if I could, my application on my portable device, and if that does not have enough CPU power or resources to run it on a local server, and if that does not have enough capability, to extend it out to "The Cloud", but that would be my choice, when I wanted to do it.  And I would like to be able to store my data where I want to store my data, how I want to store my data, when I want to store my data.  I guess I am a bit of a control freak, but then most good systems administrators are..benign, but controlling.
It would be nice if part of "The Cloud" was no further away than the basement of my building, so I could find the provider of that part of the services and confront them with my problem. In fact, I would (and do) prefer using the "cloud" as a temporary extender of services, an off-site backup medium, and for non-mission critical, but essential, services. I started out with a quote from Abraham Lincoln, and I will end with one from Sun Tzu:"Keep your friends close and your enemies closer." Maybe we will discuss these concepts with attendees at Latinoware over a couple of beers.

Originally published at Latinoware.

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