open season interview with mark shuttleworth

Just listened to this interesting interview about Open Source project management, virtualization, Ubuntu. A couple quotes:

If you want your open source project to succeed…you absolutely have to have modularity.
–Matt Asay

He was talking about modularity that encourages developer participation – and they went on to talking about Open Office and the problems with their dev structure that drive developers away.

What i’m personally very interested in is how we collaborate efficiently… How do we improve the flow of collaboration? So that’s something we spend a lot of time working on within Ubuntu.
— Mark Shuttleworth

Lovin’ it.

Original Audio Source

new laptop bag

I got a new laptop a week ago, so I needed a new carrying case. The magnetic button on the top might have been a bad idea. Next project is a neoprene-ish bag for the older laptop.

A couple more pics on flickr.

PostgreSQL Conference Fall 2007 – talk descriptions are up!

I just finished updating the Talks page for PostgreSQL Conference Fall 2007. There are so many great folks giving talks — Neil Conway, Josh Berkus, Robert Treat, David Fetter and Robert Hodges are all flying in. It’ll be great to see Josh, Robert and David again! I’m excited to meet Neil and Robert, both of whom I’ve heard great things about.

PDXPUG will be represented by Mark Wong and David Wheeler. Mark will be talking about performance, building on a talk he gave last year to PDXPUG on performance and TPC benchmarks. This conference talk will be focused on practical tools one can use with PostgreSQL. David’s talk will be about his recent work with Ruby on Rails and PostgreSQL. David was kind enough to give PDXPUG’s very first talk, about PL/PgSQL.

We also have Webb Sprague from Eugene, OR coming out to talk about PostGIS. We’re hoping to get him out for user group meetings some time. Eugene is about two hours away from Portland, so we occasionally have visitors (hi Andrew!) to PDXPUG and PerlMongers from there. And of course Joshua Drake will be there.

Another great thing about having this conference at PSU is that members of the database reading group folks will be sure to attend. And our favorite relational algebra teachers will certainly be there.

As of today, we’ve almost filled up our event space! So if you haven’t registered yet, register now.

Coders for software engineers

I read this article about computer science education this morning –

Software Engineering and the Cause of the CS Enrollment Crisis

I propose that our current undergraduate computer science programs are designed to produce coders for software engineers.

Yeah. This is so true! I immediately thought of Shelley Powers’ comments about what we should do with computer science curriculum:

Break up the computer science programs, split the participants into specialized fields within other disciplines, and stop spending all our time on talking about Ruby and how cool it is.

(btw, I don’t mind talking about how cool Ruby is.)

So much of programming for a business is finding solutions for real-world problems. And you need to do that cost effectively. There’s a lot of “value engineering” in there, rather than perfection. And for me, I think there’s often way too much emphasis on correctness for correctness sake, in education and in the user group circles.

Here’s another choice quote:

It seems to me that the cause of the student’s disdain for “programming” and for the decline in CS enrollment lies there. As civil engineers need armies of construction workers to build their designs, and as mechanical engineers use armies of factory workers to produce their designs, so do software engineers use armies of programmers or coders, people who are explicitly not software engineers, to produce their designs. Few students go to college to become construction or factory workers. Why should it be surprising, then, that few Western students want to go to college to be the Information Age equivalent workers?

and a final point about creativity:

Computer scientists do not need to write good, clean code. Science is about critical and creative thinking. Have you ever read the actual source code for great programs like Sketchpad, or Eliza, or Smalltalk, or APL 360? The code that I have seen produced by computational scientists and engineers tends to be short, without comments, and is hard to read. In general, code that is about great ideas is not typically neat and clean. Instead, the code for the great programs and for solving scientific problems is brilliant. Coders for software engineers need to write factory-quality software. Brilliant code can be factory-quality. It does not have to be though. Those are independent factors.

Hell yes! I feel like so much of my computer science classes sucked the fun out of computers. The most fun I ever had in class was showing people how to use makefiles in the lab. By which I mean, not fun.

Fun was tracking down the exploits and then the crackers who broke into our servers, getting all the evidence together and talking to the FBI. And after that, learning about ways to monitor the system that wouldn’t be detected by intruders, but would immediately tell us someone just managed to get elevated system privs. That was engaging. I did that work as a junior in college, but a first year CS student. And I learned something I’ll never forget about operating system privileges and system administration (thanks, Steve).

What about the third term of my Intro to CS class? Or my software development class? I was bored. I did the homework as fast as I could to get back to my real job.

participation in open source, any worse than the rest of the industry?

tech gender gap

One criticism I’ve heard about my article is that I should have addressed the computing industry as a whole, rather than targeting Open Source. That the problem of women participating is much more general.

I chose to write about Open Source because that’s my community. I installed Slackware in 1995 and learned about operating systems from a Linux command prompt, years before I took a class about it. When I worked at Intel, and there were a lot more women in my systems administration group (about 20%) than I saw on the Linux Kernel mailing list, the Cricket developers list or BugTraq. That’s part of where I formed my opinion.

Here’s a little graph showing the number of bachelor’s degrees granted in computer science. We’ve had a 15% drop in degrees granted since 1985. I wonder what we were doing right in the early ’80s.

There are other resources: FLOSSPOLS, salary studies that show gender breakdowns. I’ve also read figures on conference attendance and observed the difference in open source and system administration conferences. I do admit that I have not seen studies that directly compare open source participation to closed source participation.

How about you? Anyone out there have a study they can refer me to?