Category: Essays

It’s not about Open Source

Three days ago we celebrated 25 years from the birth of Linux. I have been an Open Source user for over a decate now and I consider myself lucky to be part of this awesome network.

Open Source gave me free access to applications that, have they been proprietary, I would need to pay good money or illegally obtain them. Open Source fueled my research when I was an undergrad computer science student and, later on, during my MSc and currently during my PhD endeavor. As a researcher it gave me the opportunity to be part of EU funded research projects and get paid to study what I love. As a freelancer it gave me the means to rapidly develop software and therefore deliver competitive, high quality and tested software to my clients. It also allowed me to do consulting work for a couple of amazing software development companies and startups.

Anyways, it was not until recently that I realized that it’s not about Open Source! I was invited as a guest speaker to an event of the Arcitecture Dept., Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. My mission was to present a short history of the free software movement / open source initiative and then present applications of open source to the arts / creative professions. I have never touched a similar area before so I tried to think as a creative professional (NOT easy, if you are a tech person!) and imagine how open source, open licenses and so forth could benefit my world.

After my experiment was over the following came in mind: Open Source helped the world get familiar with the concept of sharing the raw materials of a creation, plus know-how (if needed), allowing the community to take it to the next level. Initially, those creations were open source software and their raw materials the source code but, nowadays, we have moved past that. Books, music, video productions, hardware even games are being published under open licenses.

Supporting openness is a choice anyone can make. Following the philosophy of openness however is a whole different discussion. One that I will leave for another post 🙂

Happy birthday Linux! Happy birthday Open Source!

 

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Φέτος τα (31α) γενέθλιά μου με βρήκαν να υπηρετώ τη θητεία μου ( περισσότερα για αυτό σε επόμενο άρθρο 😛 ). Ο περασμένος χρόνος έφυγε πολύ γρήγορα και δαπανήθηκε σχεδόν εξ’ ολοκλήρου σε δουλειά. Δουλειά, που πλαισιώθηκε ευτυχώς από ενδιαφέρουσες προκλήσεις.

Την χρονιά που πέρασε είχα την χαρά να δω την Social Mind να μεγαλώνει κι άλλο και την ομάδα μας να αποκτά ουσιαστικούς δεσμούς εντός και εκτός γραφείου (στο τελευταίο θέλω να πιστεύω ότι βοήθησε αρκετά και η διοίκηση :P). Λειτουργώντας σε ένα περιβάλλον πλήρους οικονομικής, πολιτικής και, δυστυχώς, κοινωνικής αβεβαιότητας είχα τον φόβο ότι όλα τα παραπάνω μπορεί να έχουν αντίκτυπο στην παραγωγικότητα και / ή την λειτουργία της εταιρίας. Πολύ γρήγορα όμως διαψεύσθηκα και για αυτό, Άγγελε, Θεόφιλε, Θοδωρή, Ιωάννα, Πελαγία, Angel, Κυριάκο, Γιώργο, σας είμαι ευγνώμων. Αυτή τη χρονιά, παρόλο που η κατάσταση της χώρας βρίσκεται στην ίδια, αν όχι χειρότερη, κατάσταση επέλεξα να εμπιστευθώ την ομάδα μου και να μην αγχωθώ προκαταβολικά 😛

Εν όψη θητείας χρειάστηκε να απομακρυνθώ σταδιακά από κάποιες ομάδες τις οποίες αγαπώ ιδαίτερα. Το Open Coffee Thessaloniki, το οποίο παρά τα 9 χρόνια παρουσίας στην πόλη, συνεχίζει να αποτελεί ένα από τα πιο αγαπητά events αυτής. Είναι περίεργο να λαμβάνω πλέον το πρόγραμμα των συναντήσεων και να μην ξέρω από πριν τους ομιλητές αλλά με αποζημιώνει η άριστη δουλειά που κάνουν ο Γιώργος και ο Χρήστος 🙂 Ο Σύλλογος Αποφοίτων του Π.Σ.Π.Θ. υπήρξε η πρώτη ομάδα της οποίας έγινα μέλος το 2003 αμέσως μετά την αποφοίτησή μου από το Λύκειο. Πρόκειται για ένα από τα παλαιότερα σωματεία της πόλης το οποίο σήμερα αναβιώνει (κατά την άποψή μου) με έναν σύγχρονο χαρακτήρα διατηρώντας παράλληλα όλα τα ποιοτικά χαρακτηριστικά του παρελθόντος. Τέλος, το Open Thessaloniki, μια ιδιαίτερη ομάδα εργασίας συνεχίζει να λειτουργεί σχεδόν under the hood παράγοντας όμως ποιοτική και στοχευμένη δουλειά (με τη στόχευση να έχει επιτευχθεί αφότου αποχώρησα οπότε, ίσως άργησα κιόλας :P). Θέμη, Άρτεμις, Σοφία, Βασίλη, Κώστα, αναλάβατε πάνω στην ώρα!

Τον Αύγουστο του 2015 συμμετείχα στο πρόγραμμα Train the Trainer του Open Data Institute. Ανεξαρτήτως της πιστοποίησης, το συγκεκριμένο πρόγραμμα υπήρξε μια από τις μεγαλύτερες προκλήσεις του περασμένου χρόνου αφού αναγκάστηκα να λειτουργήσω σε ένα εντελώς διαφορετικό περιβάλλον εκμάθησης από αυτό που είχα συνηθίσει και να διδαχθώ αντικείμενα εκπαίδευσης για τα οποία είχα μέχρι τότε μαύρα μεσάνυχτα.

Σε επίπεδο προσωπικών στόχων μπορώ να πω ότι ήταν μια χρονιά αποτυχιών. Δεν κατάφερα να αυξήσω τον προσωπικό μου χρόνο, πράγμα που ήταν και ο βασικότερος στόχος που έθεσα στην αρχή της χρονιάς. Επίσης κάποιοι στόχοι για “πιο” υγιεινή ζωή παραμελήθηκαν. Για τα 32 αποφάσισα να μην θέσω συγκεκριμένους στόχους αλλά να αφήσω τα πράγματα που ήδη τρέχουν να εξελιχθούν. Πιστεύω πως θα είναι μια εξαιρετικά ενδιαφέρουσα χρονιά με νέες προκλήσεις και σημαντικές αλλαγές στον τρόπο ζωής μου, ελπίζω προς το καλύτερο 🙂

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Pro or against software patents? Think again.

Regardless of what you know about patents or the free software movement and whether you approve them or not, “Patent Absurdity” is a documentary you should definitely watch. Not because you will become an expert on the field but because, if you are like me, you read about all these legal fights between Apple, Microsoft, Google, and so forth and you wonder whether you or your company are likely to be sued for one of your software projects because of a “hidden patent” somewhere inside your source code.

The film is also available for download (free of charge) in various formats and qualities. In addition there is a section with subtitles in various languages.

Finally “Patent Absurdity, how software patents broke the system” makes special reference to Ben Klemens’es “Math You Can’t Use: Patents, Copyright, and Software”and James Bessen’s “Patent Failure: How Judges, Bureaucrats, and Lawyers Put Innovators at Risk”.

PS: I adore the part where Richard Stallman explains why Beethoven couldn’t compose productively nowadays. What’s your favourite part? Let me know by leaving a comment!

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Getting out of the swamp

Once upon a time there was a guy. A greedy guy. An excellent professional but greedy guy. Hardworking person, excellent professional… but greedy guy. Well you get the point.

Being all the above, as you might have imagined, led to a great deal of work. Hours of work on a daily basis. Hours of interesting work though. Not errands or other tasks that lead to self-destructive feelings. Just tones of interesting work 🙂

After following his work-acholic schedule for several months, one Sunday, completely out of the blue, he decided to give himself a break. He worked until 04.00, as usual, slept for about five hours and, when he woke up, got dressed, got inside his car, and left.

It was about 12.00 when he reached a nearby forest. He parked his car and entered. Wandered for a while and found himself standing on a glade. He sat down and ate a big sandwich he had prepared and drank a bottle of milk. Being not hungry any more, he continued his walk to the woods. He was now far away of his car but he didn’t seem to care. He kept walking.

It was about 17.00 when he reached a strange place. There were trees but also a lot of water. And mud. A swamp. He had heard that swamps can be very dangerous places. This swamp though, was strangely attractive. He wanted to enter. Explore it. A couple of movies came to his mind and he had a plot made up for himself at no time.

Without further thought he entered the swamp and started walking, to reach the other side. He was trying to have always a tree to grab in case he started sinking. He was doing well when the trees ended and only mud was ahead. He now had to make a decision. Either continue and have faith, or go back.

He then realized that the biggest part of his life was exactly like this walk in the swamp. Always trying to follow the safest path. No challenges. No risk. He felt predictable. Common. Annoyingly common. So he went ahead.

After a couple of steps the expected happened. He started sinking into the swamp. At first he impulsively tried to stay on surface but soon he realized he was only making things worse. So he relaxed and waited. After a couple of minutes he understood that by the moment he had stopped fighting he had not sank at all. Slowly he started to practically swim to reach a nearby floating piece of wood. A few moments later he had grabbed the wood and confidently was approaching solid ground.

It was almost 20.00 and the hardworking person, excellent professional… but greedy guy was sitting to the ground of a dark swamp, covered with mud and dirt, speculating on his experience. Suddenly, he had a revelation. He stood up and left.

Next day, our friend woke up, as usual, at about 06.00. Washed his face, dressed up and left for work. He stopped, as usual, to buy coffee and after that went to the company. There, he went straight to the manager and handed over his resignation. The manager, stumped, asked him what had provoked a decision like this.

“I decided to join the company as a partner” he said and smiled. I’ll come back next week to present my ideas to the boss. “You got to be kidding” said the manager. “For ten years you worked as an employee. I don’t see how you can afford becoming a partner. But even if you can. Why now?”. “I do have the money” said the so far hardworking person, excellent professional… but greedy guy. “As for your timing question… something happened yesterday, that made my day…

(Image courtesy of Wikipedia)

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