Thursday, December 07, 2006

Star Struck

Star Struck

*** Note: Image used without the permission of Usenix or the people who are represented. Which means I'll probably get sued :)

LISA stands for "Large Installation System Administration" (I think, and am too lazy to confirm). It's a conference for IT professionals. A large conference -- I think they reported 1100+ attendees this year.

This is my second year going. The first year I went to San Diego. And I pretty much hung out with some other folks from University. We didn't do much at the conference nor meet any new people. I enjoyed having them to hang out with.

This year's been a bit different. There are some others from University here, but I've been sort of being a loner. Nothing against them; they're both great people, but I've been trying to take more advantage of the conference. I've met some people through the #lisa06 IRC channel. I've tried to actually talk to people I don't know (I really have a hard time with that). I've spent more time around the hotel and the conference than I did last year.

As I've gone through the conference, it's been amazing to me the people who are here. It's been cool when you have someone point out to you that "that guy helped write RRDTool/MRTG" or "that person co-authored super special book on FreeRadius", or "that guy started GoogleTM in his basement". People that, the population at large, would have no clue about (I actually would be one of them, though, once they've been pointed out I'm sort of star struck).

What amazes me, though, is a lot of these people who are involved in writing Free/Open Source Software. Again, I'll spare you the technical details, but ultimately, they began writing their software because they had something they needed to do and there was nothing available that could do it. So they wrote it, and, believing it might prove useful to other people, they released it and said, "here's the code, do what you like with it, modify, improve it The only thing I ask is, if you do that, and you give the improved software to other people, you must include the source to what you did along with it, because that's what I did". (That's a very simplistic, and probably flawed, explanation of the GNU General Public License , but there are other Free/Open Source licenses to choose from).

Now, I'm NOT one of these people that believes that Free software is the be all and end all panacea to the world's problems. But they have made a significant contribution to the way the world interacts....

The internet would be a very different place. People would communicate in different ways (granted, we might actually talk to one another, but still). Science would probably be farther behind if they didn't have access to inexpensive servers because they can use free Linux versus very expensive OS licenses from Sun, IBM, Microsoft, etc. I could go on, but I know you'd rather I didn't.

Anyway, it's been cool to be able to hear these people speak. Hats off to the people who are more interested in helping people than making money!

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