This past summer I had the dreaded conversation that software developer parents have with their 13 year old children. No not about the birds and the bees. It was the programmer conversation… My 13 year old is a runescape gamer– part of a community that is 5 million users strong for a single on-line game! It bothers me that he spends time on a game when he could be playing outside. Granted he is active in sports, the combination of Web, Playstation and media content dejour causes me to constantly say things *are* different today. The discussion started with me telling him that runescape is a Java app. “What’s that?” he replied. So I downloaded NetBeans onto his computer. Then I showed him how to build a simple Java app and then run it in the JVM on his PC. His first exposure to programming at 13… I was 18 when I was exposed to FORTRAN IV on punch cards.
I’m waiting to see if my son picks up from being “on” the code as a user and embraces being “in” the code as developer. He is pretty savvy already. He has taken full advantage of Google Pack (always free – no trail versions or spyware). I asked him what tools in Google Pack are most applicable to his school work. Hands down he uses the office productivity suite called StarOffice the most. My son is getting along nicely with his PC and the free software he uses on a daily basis. I’m waiting to have the virtulization discussion with him next, but let’s wait and see if he wants to be “in” rather than “on.”
Not to be left out my twin 10 year old daughters wanted to be “in” on something that they do not understand. There is a great research project called SCRATCH being driven out of MIT that enables elementary school children to create games, interactive media and animated stories via drag and drop programming. With a little investigation I discovered the engine behind this tool is an open sourced LAMP stack. My twins are now programming away using this fabulous tool to expose young children to programming. I suggested my son experiment with SCRATCH as a precursor to NetBeans.
So in a weekend I was able to expose all 3 of my children to programming via free and open source software. That made me think why wouldn’t the same apply to novice adults and businesses. Free and open source software enables one to experiment with no entry barriers other than a person’s time. A computer is a barrier but pubic access to computers at libraries and university locations is widespread. I did a search on the web to see what free and open source stack I could find related to storage. I was able to find a product called FreeNAS. Granted this product has some limitations, but I’m sure someone will enable a commercial viable product around an open sourced os using commodity hardware. In fact, FreeNAS won an Info World Bossie Award along with some other recipients…
My son teaches me every day that things are different than when I was a youth. Land line phones no, Wireless Web-based devices yes.
He is right… things are changing.