Paw Prints: Writings of the maddog

Oct 31, 2009 GMT
Jon maddog Hall

I just got back from a three-conference trip, Futurecom in Sao Paulo, "I FÓRUM DE SOFTWARE LIVRE DE DUQUE DE CAXIAS" in the city of Duque de Caxias, a community of Rio de Janeiro, and Latinoware in Foz do Iguassu, Brazil. Each conference was interesting in its own way.

Futurecom is the largest telecommunications show in Brazil. Having been put on for many years in Florianopolis, this was its second year in Sao Paulo.

A large trade show floor, with large booths, many of whom had bars of different sizes and food offered to attendees. It has been a long time since I have been in an event of this size and style. Red Hat Software had a booth there for the first time.

The Futurecom staff were very nice to me. I had met with them the month before in their offices in Curitiba, Brazil where they had taken me to lunch at a country club as we talked about Free Software and its implications. They also coordinated the tickets for all three conferences so I did not have to fly back and forth between Boston for all three, and which (I hoped) made the tickets less expensive for each conference.

I gave a talk on "Open Telephony" and why it was important to the telephone industry. It was interesting to me that although the people there had heard of Linux, heard of Android and Asterisk, they came up to me afterwards and told me that I had put a new light on what Free Software really meant for their businesses.

Another highlight of the trip was the chance to talk to several vendors about various projects I am working on, and to get their commitments to help support the projects. I will write more about those projects next week.

At Futurecom I got a chance to be on a TV show called Roda Viva, a show where four journalists asked me questions about Free Software and I answered back. It was a bit like being in an electric chair waiting for execution, facing the four journalists and taking questions from both them and a live audience, since the show was broadcast live over the Internet. A live audience was also behind me, and I addressed some of them during breaks in the live show. During one break I asked the audience "who does NOT use Free Software", and to their credit most people did not raise their hand. One brave soul did, and to him I asked "do you live on the moon?", which got a good laugh from the audience. The audience (other than this one man) knew that today it is almost impossible to use the Internet, use embedded devices, use servers of any kind without using some type of Free Software. It was a trick question, and most of the audience knew it.

Another question that generated some audience response was when I talked about the money that left Brazil due to software license fees paid to companies outside of Brazil. One of the interviewers interrupted me and told me that a study showed that for every dollar that left Brazil, twelve dollars were generated inside of Brazil. I answered that for the most part those twelve dollars could also be generated by Free Software services, in much the same way, and the thirteenth dollar would also stay inside of Brazil to generate even more jobs. Since a about a billion "thirteenth dollars" leave Brazil every year for proprietary software, that is a lot of jobs that could be generated inside of Brazil with that "thirteenth dollar".

While I later was told that my answers were very good, and that I represented Free Software well, some of the questions kept coming back to my political positions, and whether I was a Republican or a Democrat.

I personally feel that the Free Software movement is not politically based, but economically based. I believe Free Software is good for the economy, and any political party should be happy to endorse it. Therefore it is not an issue of the "left" or the "right". Unfortunately I think some of the interviewers saw a chance to create controversy, and the questioning got off-track.

If you would like to see some of this show, it is on the Internet in various formats, and you can probably Google for "roda viva" and "maddog" and find it.

After that I went to Duque de Caxias. This was an event put on by a government agency that was trying to create jobs for people, and had embraced Free Software as a way of doing that. Of course this is of high interest to me, and I remember wishing that they would have been at the TV show to tell the Journalists what Free Software was really about.

Duque de Caxias is not a wealthy part of Rio de Janeiro. They are also not the slums, nor were they currently suffering the gang wars that some parts of Rio de Janeiro were suffering (I saw a video clip of a police helicopter fall flaming from the sky). But the mayor and the city fathers were working hard to educate and give jobs to their citizens, and I have to congratulate them for that effort.

Alessandro Silva, an old friend, was my host in Duque de Caxias, and they treated me very well.

I also enjoyed going to the gigantic farmer's market that started close to my hotel. I bought a dozen bananas for about .5 USD and a dozen carrots for about the same. I enjoyed them as snacks over the next two days, but I had to leave about half the bananas in the hotel room when I left. I hoped the maid enjoyed them....

The conference was a single track in an auditorium, but they had a lot of Brazilian Free Software people there. One speaker that particularly impressed me had brought a young man who had started out as a volunteer in their program, taught himself Free Software, started teaching Free Software in the program, and was now attending a university studying computer science. This young man had a lot of poise, and as he told his story I saw the same pride I have seen in a lot of young people who have picked themselves up by their bootstraps to create a career for themselves.

In addition, there was a good presentation by João Fernando Costa Júnior, the publisher of the Espirito Livre Intitative, an online magazine produced completely and very professionally by Free Software with contributed articles. They are planning a "Free Software" issue for November 8th, 2009, and their site is at

After the meeting was over a few of us went to have some beers at a local university hang-out close to my hotel. What I had intended to be just one beer and an early bed-time turned into quite a few beers, some scotch (too much scotch) and a gift from the bar owner of an "Antarctica Beer" bottle-cooler with two penguins on it. I was told that the slang for this device is called a "bottle condom", but we will not discuss that here, as this is a family blog.

The next day I left for Latinoware, taking the rest of the scotch (too much scotch) with me.

Latinoware was even better than ever, with the facilities getting a facelift from the organization (PTI) that is the main sponsor. Most people went on the traditional tour of the hydro-electric plant (truly awesome) or the waterfalls (a natural sight that is also truly awesome), but I concentrated on doing some work and taking some bows for the now-infamous TV show which had been broadcast on national television the night before.

I will now also thank all of my "Tweeter followers" for "re-tweeting" about the show so a lot of people at Latinoware knew about it, including the governor of the state, who gave a talk at the Opening of Latinoware, and said that everyone "should be a maddog for Free Software".

A special treat this year was the presence of Fred Brooks, whose book "The Mythical Man Month" I read when it came out in 1975.

Fred was also the manager for creating OS/360 and the lessons he learned from that project was embodied in that work. Besides that, he was trained as a mathematician and physicist who (like a lot of us back at that time) was "sucked into" that magical field of "computing" before we really knew what it was.

During the planning for Latinoware, I was recruited to help Fred find a good way to get his visa to visit Brazil. Since Cesar Brod, one of the planners knew that I had visited Brazil so much that immigration has a revolving door for me, Cesar referred Fred to me, and I gave him sage advice.

Because of this I was lucky enough to have Fred seek me out at breakfast on the first day he was at Latinoware. He wanted to make sure that Linus was still active as the architect of the Linux kernel. I assured him that Linus still held that role, but there were many people that he relied on and who did a lot of work besides Linus. Fred understood that, but wanted to make sure he did not say something wrong in his talks.

It turns out that Fred is still active in research, and is also teaching at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

I had misplaced my hard cover edition of his book (or it was "borrowed" from me and never returned), so I purchased two copies of his book before I left home (reprinted in an anniversary edition, but soft-bound) to have him autograph them.

When I mentioned this to Cesar Brod, he said that he had not brought an English version of the book, but did have a Portuguese version, so I traded him one of my English versions for a Portuguese version. Then I found out that Cesar was the person who had translated the book to Portuguese, so I had him autograph that one too. Now I have a good way to learn Fred Brooks classic in Portuguese.

Speaking of books, I participated in a book launch at Latinoware. Almost a year ago some Brazilian Free Software people wanted to write a book covering Free Software, and they asked me to write the forward for it. The book was finished in time for Latinoware and we had a book signing party. More impressive is the fact that these authors and the organizations sponsoring the book, "Comunidade SOL Software Livre" and Fapeam, were giving away copies of the book to organizations so everyone would know what free software is.

The book's title is "A Revolução do Software Livre" and the authors are:

  • Alexandre Oliva
  • Cezar Taurion
  • Christiano Anderson
  • Jansen Sena
  • Marcelo Ferreira
  • Paulino Michelazzo
  • Pedro Rezende
  • Pedro Mizukami
  • Rubens Queiroz
  • Tiago de Melo (organizer)

and of course, yours truly.

Finally, on the last day I was at Latinoware, a young friend of mine, Eduardo Bergmann, told me that he had tried to talk to Dr. Brooks, but could not find him.

I invited Eduardo and another friend of mine, Felipe Augusto van de Wiel to breakfast the next day, and we sat with Dr. Brooks while Eduardo asked him questions and we all listened. I think that both Eduardo and Felipe were a little fascinated as Dr. Brooks and I exchanged stories about people like Maurice Wilks, Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper and other early computer pioneers that we both knew personally.

Later that day I had an uneventful trip back to New Hampshire, loaded with books from both the book signing and two special copies of "The Mythical Man-Month", and lots of memories.

Carpe Diem!

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