Too Busy For Words - the PaulWay Blog

Mon 28th Aug, 2006

The Weekend Marathon

It's been a long weekend. It started at about noon on Friday, when a chemical spill in a nearby building forced the evacuation of our building as well. This didn't inconvenience me too much because I was packed and ready to meet Chris Smart for our drive up to the SLUG meeting. We had decided to accompany Pascal Klein - Chris on kazoo, Rainer on tenor crumhorn and myself on steam-driven ukekele - as he'd been invited to speak of the cornucopia of wonders available to the artist in Open Source Software. I was also keen to see what SLUG meetings were like, after having heard a few playfully sly remarks about how disorganised CLUG meetings are.

Pascal had already arranged to stay with Jeff and Pia, so the rest of us had to book somewhere to stay for Friday night. Thanks to the miracle of the Internet, we booked a place not far away from the IBM building (a half-hour train-ride and walk away) through Wotif. It was Glenferrie Lodge, which is basically a step up from a backpacker's hostel or YHA lodge; the three were all in the same room (one queen and two bunks), but we got a hot breakfast and only payed about $60 per person for it.

The SLUG meeting was ... interesting. They do seem more organised: people were recording the meeting on video and audio for, I assume, later streaming to people not able to attend. They have a 'SLUGlets' talk for people newer to Linux in the second half of the evening, in parallel with the second, more technical, talk. Other than that, they didn't particularly seem more organised or disciplined than a CLUG meeting. All I mean by this, just in case you're firing up a ball of pitch to launch at me, is that we all have pretty good meetings and we're both as welcoming as a Linux Users Group can be, in my uneducated opinion.

Afterward we had dinner at a somewhat pricey but suitably delicious nearby Indian restaurant. I managed to spend a pleasant half hour treading on people's toes and have Conrad Parker call me an idiot, as a result of me playing somewhat of a 'Devil's Advocate' role in my arguing of my "One Frickin' User Interface" opinions, which I share and take inspiration from Hugh Fisher. The conclusion we agreed on was that, while it was a pity that there was wasted effort in Open Source Software as people reimplement various wheels because the other wheels are not in their favourite programming language, GUI or network protocol, this was a necessary thing to have software that evolves and moves with the times. The alternative is to have software that is written to a standard dictated by a single body, and we can see where that's got the proprietary software world...

(I do think it's significant that a lot of projects are specifically trying to reduce duplicated effort - look at Mark Shuttleworth's talk at LCA 2006. But I concede that to lock everyone into programming for one standard may be too high a price to pay; and it may still not avoid the problem of incompatible people or concepts. Sometimes you need a Thunderbird and a Mutt, so to speak. I also liked the Wikipedia article Not Invented Here's observations on duplicated effort in the open source community: ego also plays a part in it, sometimes.)

Aaanyway, we stumbled back to our hotel after midnight. After a night not punctuated by anyone snoring, we enjoyed our hot breakfast and headed on through the wilds of Sydney to Pia and Jeff's place. We arrived in time to help with some T-shirt folding - I particularly liked the moment three of us returned with all the packing bags to find the younger members of the team on their knees folding T-shirts industriously. It looked so like a sweatshop I wish I'd taken a picture. Unfortunately, a delay in the compiling of the address and order lists meant that we had to leave before the main bulk of work could begin.

My personal thanks go to Chris Smart for driving us hither and yon, in the ugly and unpleasant weather of Friday and with my erratic directions through the more confusing bits of Sydney with an outdated map. It was also really great to have a long time to talk politics, religion and software with Rainer and Pascal and Chris. I think we all had a great time.

I got home, answered a few bits of mail, tucked into bed and slept for thirteen hours. Then I helped Nick get his MythTV system working on Sunday (a feat at which I was only partially successful), bought a set of drawers on wheels to fit under my new desk, and went to Kate's sister's place for dinner. It feels like I need another weekend to recover from that one.

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