Geek Out, Friday

Aug 20, 2006
Kitulgala, Sri Lanka

The last week has been absolutely amazing, and yesterday ended it with a bang. Following a whole week of FOSS conferences (7 conferences or gatherings of some description) the LSF (Lankan Software Foundation) held the GeekOut as a wrap-up, for the geeks to get together and engage in non-geek activities, as well as a chance for informal discussion of many issues.

30 of us came to Rafters’ Retreat in Kitulgala, about 3 hours east (well, the way our bus driver drove!!) of Colombo.

The drive from Colombo was a bit of a surprise to me. The entire drive, the road was lined on both sides by shops, homes, small businesses, and other buildings. I had figured that once we got outside of the city, there would be stretches of emptiness, or perhaps farmland. But, it turns out, at least in this part of the country, it’s very densely inhabited.

We arrived in Kitulgala just as it started raining. (It has rained much of the time that I’ve been in Sri Lanka.) The bus is too large to actually pull in to the grounds of where we’re staying, so we parked across the street and down a bit, and started piling out into the downpour. We stood for a while up on the porch of a building there, waiting for the rain to slacken, but that didn’t happen.

Eventually we decided to make a run for it. We took off across the street in the rain.

About halfway across the street my backpack decided that it wasn’t zipped up properly, and came all the way open, spilling all of its contents into the street. Including my camera, cables, microphone, mic stand, and lots of papers. Everything except my laptop, in fact.

With the help of a bunch of the guys, we scooped everything back into the backpack, zipped it correctly, and hurried the rest of the way across. It seems that nothing is permanently damaged, except for most of the papers. Fortunately, there was nothing irreplaceable in the papers.

Shortly after arriving, we had some dinner. As with every meal since I’ve set foot on the island, dinner was amazingly good. The food here is sort of like Indian food, only rather different. It is fairly spicy, although at the hotel the tone it down a lot for the benefit of us soft-tongued westerners. At FOSS Enterprise, and here at the Retreat, they have been giving us the genuine article, and it is fantastic, if somewhat painful. 🙂

That evening we stayed up until 1 or so (the younger guys stayed up a lot later than I) talking about Open Source, local politics, the school system, and involvement in Apache.

Folks in “developing nations” (although more and more I wonder about this seemingly arbitrary division of the world up into categories, and the stigmas associated with it, but that’s a post for another day) *GET* Open Source in a way that we don’t in the USA. They understand that one of the core benefits of FOSS is the ability to have a local economy that isn’t beholden to Mr. Gates and Mr. Bush. By having a local software industry, they can make decisions that are in the best interest of their own nation, rather than being forced into particular decisions by multi-national corporations.

Certainly, the same is true of any industry, but software seems to be one area where huge percentages of the world are completely dependent on one company – Microsoft. And it represents a disproportionate percentage of national budgets, which increases as computers become more important in daily life.

To Be Continued … (Saturday’s writeup coming soon)