Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Larval Mode: Linucon 2004

I have this sisyphean hobby where I write articles based on discussion panels I attended at various SF conventions. I post those articles on my website. Writing an article often requires listening to a tape recording of a panel and transcribing large portions of it. Why would I do something so pointless? More about it next time. For now, here is a synopsis of an article I wrote on the "Larval Mode" panel from Linucon 2005. (Linucon was a joint science fiction and Linux convention.) The links point to the various parts in the article where the highlighted topics were discussed.

I think the name Larval Mode comes from the Hacker's Dictionary where it means the state of being a novice programmer or techie. An open source ideological leader Eric Raymond and "one of the unsung heroes of the internet" John Quarterman were the panelists. They did specifically for a group of high school students who travelled to Linucon.

Here are some key points they talked about. The old semantic rift between hackers and crackers. What are crackers up to these days? How are they different from the old time crackers?

The conversation veers from computer criminals to terrorists, and from there to open source warfare.

Why is open source software so poorly documented? What's lacking in the open source software documentation: it's not details, it's motivation. Better than a well-documented program: a self-configuring program. How Eric Raymond wrote such a program. During a lull in conversation John Quarterman talks about risk management.

How did the two famous panelists got where they are today? What are the two paths to fame and ability to influence people? Eric Raymond claims he found the easy path.

What happens when government mandates new technologies? Knowing Eric Raymond's views, one can easily guess the answer: nothing good.

Economics of system administrators, and other bundled goods, or why the total cost of ownership of Linux systems is lower than that of Windows systems.

Disruptive technologies, from transistor radios to internet. Disruptive technologies usually lead to a better product, but not always. For example, blogs are taking away the power from the conventional media sources, but John Quarterman can't help but see the downside of that.