BarCamp Kenya!!!

barcampLA 4: Richard Stallman
Going to talk about free software - a point that's often lost. Some people prefer to talk about "open source software", avoiding the ethical issues.

The Four Essential Freedoms
  • Freedom 0: Freedom to run the program as you wish
  • 1: Study and change the source code
  • 2: Freedom to distribute copies (help your neighbor)
  • 3: Freedom to distribute modified copies (help the community)

Non-free software keeps the users divided and helpless. Divided because they can't all use it, helpless because they can't change it.

Why are these four freedoms essential?
  • Freedom 2 is essential to leading a moral life. [Why? I guess because you should help people if they ask. -ed] If your friend asks for a copy, and you aren't supposed to give it to him, you should give it to him anyway. If you have to do wrong to someone, do it to the developer who deserves it, because they asked you to accept an agreement that violates Freedom 2. But not accepting that agreement in the first place is even better than violating it (ie use free software.)
  • Freedom 0: you must reject software that restricts your ability to use it. But this depends on Freedom 1, because if you can't study the source you won't know how it might be restricting your usage or doing other evil things (eg spying on you.) "There are lots of proprietary software developers and they're all evil."
  • You can imagine what he thinks about DRM.
  • You can't trust software that doesn't come with source - Microsoft built backdoors for the US government into Windows. And even if it's not intentionally doing evil, it'll have bugs.
  • The result of these four freedoms is democracy.

Now he's talking about how the OS popularly known as Linux is actually GNU software plus a kernel. And complaining about how Linus isn't a free software advocate and talks about "open source", thus not supporting social solidarity. He actually says "GNU/Linux", as in "GNU slash Linux".

barcampLA 4: Amazon EC2 / S3
Guy from Elephant Disk is here, they're one of EC2+S3's biggest users. They only use it for non-real time stuff right now. He's terrified of stories about companies that use EC2 as their only web servers.

  • EC2 instances have no persistent storage - need to code your own persistence solution.
  • No static IPs - need some sort of dynamic DNS client.
  • What happens if Amazon pulls the plug or changes something crucial? No SLA.
    • AWS is actually showing up in Amazon's financials. Helps assuage fears of it disappearing.

Companies built on EC2
  • RenderRocket
  • The AWS forums have lots of good examples and feedback
  • Many more companies using just S3

Some companies have started to wrap services around AWS (e.g. RightScale) - check the partners page of AWS.

But: if you have something that parallelizes well, need scalability on demand, and can deal with the constraints, AWS is the shit. "AWS is the perfect startup environment; my credit card loves AWS."

barcampLA 4: is an activism engine - a social network, a community-edited site, and a game with achievement points. Contribute and learn about goals and tactics; recruit other activists; earn gold stars. Been around for a year now.

I've been wondering for a while how social network sites could be leveraged into real-world action - bingo! What an awful name though.

Man, two good talks in a row. Psyched.

barcampLA 4: personal unit tests
Taking a concept from software development and applying it to your life: test small parts of the system constantly. These tests should:

  • Be fixable within 1-2 hours after figuring out you failed the test
  • Test steps, not ends ("did I study Spanish for 20 minutes today?" not "am I fluent in seven languages?")
  • Test what, not how (don't really get this one)
  • Be as easy as possible, or you won't do it. Pencil and paper? Spreadsheet? whatever
  • Be answered every day. But you can create tests that have a time period longer than one day, e.g. "have I talked to my mother in the last seven days?" - you do it once, and then it's a freebie for the next six days

Goal is mindfulness - being aware of different areas of your life. Good areas to include are things like: health, community, relationships, work, finances ... but avoid introspection. "It's so much easier to lie to yourself about things that are just in your head ... I decided to only test things that someone else could verify if they happened to be there."

Guy (I think his name is Ted) tracks what % of tests he tracks every day, and has a goal of hitting at least 50% every day. Has gradually trended upwards over time, best day was 73%. He makes his test results public, with a changelog.

"Personal unit tests are a way to discover if you're kicking ass."

Q: "How do you know if you've covering enough areas of your life?" A: "The simple answer is you don't."

My favorite BCLA4 talk so far.

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