Pastebins are incredibly useful. But most of the public pastebins are not suitable for sharing within a company (think code fragments, log messages etc.) and most private pastebins are either ugly (except hastebin!), hard to setup/maintain and usually forced to be behind the firewall (for security).
For years, free/libre/open source software (henceforth referred to as FLOSS) have proclaimed, year after year, how that year is the year of Linux, or the year that open source will become mainstream, or the year that open source will finally take off etc. But it never has, at least traditionally speaking. Linux based desktops haven’t penetrated either the enterprise or consumer markets; with a few notable exceptions (Apache httpd, for instance), most FLOSS products — be it office software like OpenOffice, multimedia software such as Gimp or Inkscape — remain popular with economically insignificant niches. And yet, this year, more than ever before, open source forges ahead with its silent victories.
Consider the following shifts:
- all the top brands of the day — Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon — they ALLstand tall on the shoulders of FLOSS giants.
- Contributing software back to the open source community is becoming increasingly common, even expected. Take a look at the GitHub repositories of Twitter and Facebook, or the various Google projects. In fact, when screening engineering candidates, I often look for and encourage people to talk about their open source contributions.
- Most of the activity around “big data” and “cloud computing” is being driven in large part by FLOSS, whether it is the Hadoop-powered ecosystem or the Xen/Linux powered Amazon Web Services.
- Given the current smartphone landscape, it is highly likely that Android will become ubiquitous on tablet devices and a variety of consumer smart phones. Already, Android has more search mindshare than Linux, despite the fact that Linux is part of the Android stack.
- If you start a software company today, I would bet that you will find yourself bootstrapping almost entirely using open source software. The entire development process — from the GCC compiler toolchain, to the build systems, to the scripting languages, to the version control systems, to the code review systems, to the continuous integration systems — everything is dominated by FLOSS products. Good bug trackers and enterprise Wikis are the last bastions but it is just a matter of time.
I’ve had a chance to see the enterprise software market up close and increasingly find more and more open source everywhere I look. FLOSS has not arrived, it has taken over.
The Social Network is rather like a fast paced documentary. The content, production value and background scores were great. I really enjoyed the bit around the Harvard boat race — a nice piece of whitespace in the movie :) But this post is not about these aspects; rather I wanted to make a few observations about the several tiny tid-bits of open source sprinkled throughout the movie.
- wget makes several appearances in a short segment of the movie where Mark is scraping the Harvard intranet for the seed data for various precursors to Facebook. To my relief, everything I saw seemed very real and plausible unlike, say, the hackery mumbo-jumbo in Matrix or (gasp) Swordfish. Nonetheless, I did not see (and have not seen) any evidence that Mark Zuckerberg is the programming genius that most reviews and synopsis claim. Of course, programming genius has no correlation with being successful (read: being the youngest billionaire)
- The usage of Emacs, Perl and curl were also faithful. The emphasis should be on Zuck’s intuition about the idea and his ability to prototype quickly. The technology itself was something any script kiddy could have come up with.
- Zuck is shown running KDE 3 on his workstation. Again, the attention to detail is impressive. KDE 3 was around the same time as the early years of Facebook development.
There were a few more things, but I saw the movie several weeks ago and the details are fuzzy in my head. Meanwhile, if you are interested in the veracity of the movie’s substance, I found this Gigaom post useful.
Over the past few years, Google has open sourced several projects that provide some commonly used building blocks in any large software project. Some of them I was aware of since when they were launched (like protobufs), while others I discovered only recently. I couldn’t find any location where all the projects were listed together and combing through Google Code looking for them was painful, so I’m putting together a list myself. Hope some of you find it useful.
- protobufs: Platform agnostic messages. Critical for any distributed system. Note that protobufs only provide message serialization/deserialization (for various languages). An important missing piece is an RPC framework built on top of them. There are several projects attempting to build one using protobufs, but none of them are robust or mature enough for production use.
- style guide: The importance of a style guide is probably understated. It is not about what is the “right” style — it is about consistency. While people may have different opinions, if everyone follows the same style, the code becomes much more readable and maintainable. Google maintains style guides for C++ and Python.
- config flags: Another important building block for all command line programs.
- logging: Self-evident. Google’s logging library supports various log levels and other useful macros.
- core dumper: A very nifty library — it allows you to dump core from within a running application. Extremely useful for debugging production systems.
- perftools: An extremely useful library for measuring and monitoring performance of programs. By simply linking against perftools, your application gets a much better malloc, heap checking, visual CPU profile of various routines (via graphviz), visualization of memory usage etc.
- googlemock: A framework to quickly build mock objects — useful for testing.
- googletest: Google’s C++ unit testing framework, built on top of xUnit. Integrates well with googlemock.
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list. There are numerous other open source projects from Google, some of them probably much more bigger and visible than the ones listed above — such as Wave, Go, GWT etc. If there’s a project that is a software building block that I missed out, do chime in the comments below.