Friday, October 14, 2011

Departing Giants

October of 2011, the history will remember you as the month in which two pioneers of modern technology passed away. First Steve Jobs departed and withing a few days Dennis Ritchie too.

I've never been an Apple fan, let alone a customer. And I don't see that changing anytime soon. However hold a deep respect for the man Steve Jobs was. I used to think that he's some rich guy running a tech company. Listening to his 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University was life altering for me to say the least. Not only it changed how I saw who Steve Jobs was, it taught me to "stay hungry", "stay foolish" and more.

If Steve Jobs was soaring high above there, Dennis Ritchie (dmr) was the giant whose shoulders he stood on. 'Dennis Ritchie' might not be a household name as 'Steve Jobs' is, but his legacy is far more vast. He made C. He co-created Unix.

C is not just a programming language, it's the programming language which paved the way for all the programming languages we have today. Without Unix, there would be no Linux and no Mac OS X. It's easy to overlook Dennis Ritchie's contribution to modern computing, but without those, computers and software would be a lot different today. You can read Herb Sutters post about why dmr's work considered "doing the impossible".

I used to tell my friends in other fields that our field has the privilege of living heroes and pioneers. Sadly, the times seem to be changing. With giants such as Steve and Dennis gone, it falls to our generation and ones to come, to carry on the good work. With that thought in mind, I'll mark this post my own little tribute.

Good bye, Steve... Good bye, Dennis... And thank you.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

My talk at Refresh Colombo - September

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I did a talk on infrastructure scaling titled "Building Internet-scale Applications - The Beginning" at this months Refresh Colombo on 22 September. Refresh Colombo is a community of technology enthusiasts & professionals in Sri Lanka who meet once a month to talk about interesting things. The audience ranges from students, enthusiasts to alpha geeks.

My talk ran longer than I'd have thought, and I hope it was interesting. Just for information I'm linking the slides and video here. Before you check the video I apologize for my voice. If I sound like I'm saying things like "you" where I should have said "you'd" that's my voice. It has nothing to do with the fine folks who did the recordings.

Here are the slides hosted at Slideshare.
If you have a Slideshare account you can download the PDF there. For those who without here's another link (via Dropbox).

Here's the video hosted in Refresh Colombo YouTube channel. My talk starts at about 06:50 into the video.

Next months Refresh is on 20 October. Drop by.


Friday, August 26, 2011

Let's call it a revolution or just evolution

20 years ago on 25th of August, 1991 a student in Finland posted a message in an Internet newsgroup about a hobby software project he'd been working on. Among other things he mentioned,
...just a hobby, won't be big and professional... ...and it probably never will support anything other than AT-harddisks...

History went a long way to prove that guy wrong, and in the process so many others as well.

Exactly 20 years later to the hour, I'm sitting in front of a computer powered by the same software, writing this post about what Linus Benedict Torvalds was writing about back then: Linux.

This post will reach you dear reader, after going through numerous services, servers, routers and many other technological gadgetry powered by the very same software. It is also quite possible that you might be reading this on a gadget (computer, mobile phone, reader, etc.) powered by the same software. And at the moment when you read this post Linux will be silently powering things from wrist watches, refrigerators to nuclear submarines and super computers. It will also be powering the most of the Internet among other things. Today Linux is silent, powerful and ubiquitous. Today my friend, Linux has won. It has been the foundation stone of a greater change for better in the course of our civilization.

The Free & Open Source Software (FOSS) movement is in full flow. Individuals and companies enjoying the benefits of successful FOSS projects like Linux, Apache, Firefox, etc. are starting to think of it as a part of life, a way of thinking. As I type this, somewhere out there is a new computer user learning computer basics, a hacker coding the next big thing; FOSS eco system is ever evolving and developing. As we all reap the benefits of the technological advancements and software freedom, we also take that inspirations to other fields and disciplines. We debate, we write code, we make sure that humankind is not condemned to keep re-inventing the proverbial wheel. And this is why Linux and its success, as big as it is, is still bigger than Linux itself.

Yes mates, while you read this post Linux is making friends for you in Facebook, Twitter and other social media services, it's making clouds for you on Amazon, Rackspace and other places, it's showing off your photos in Picasa, Flickr and others, it's hosting your code in GitHub, SourceForge and elsewhere, it's delivering your email with Gmail, Yahoo and other places, it's running your businesses, small ones to multi-billion dollar enterprises, it's making phone calls for you, it's playing your TVs, it's washing your cloths, and way more things I can possibly fit in to a book let alone a meagre blogpost. The best thing about Linux though in my opinion is none of the above. That wonderful thing is, who makes Linux work. The community; it's that person, the other one, everyone else, us,... yes, you and me.

During the span of two decades a revolution has been happening. When some change happens over that kind of a time period we could rather call it evolution than revolution. Whatever you call it, aren't you glad you are part of it?

You go, Linux!

PS: I consider myself privileged to be a part of the Linux (& FOSS) community for about 10 years. My years with Linux were long and fruitful. I found a living, learned a lot, not just technical things. It generally made me a better person. In short, I thoroughly enjoyed the ride and I plan to continue doing so for years to come.