elliot's blog

WMITA Unplugged Event - "Open Source is Winning"

Last night saw me taking a long-ish trek out to the West (near Telford) to present at a WMITA event. The event was held in a debating-style format, with me supporting the motion "This house believes that open source is winning". After I thought about it for a while, I realised I didn't really understand the motion, and spent my speech moulding it into what I would have preferred as a motion:

This house believes that those companies which make the most effective use of open source will be the ones which win.

Which I do believe. It was a fun debate with a nice bunch of people (mainly .NET programmers, which in itself was interesting), and I kind of "won": we had a vote for/against the motion before we started the debate, at which 31% were for, 31% against, and 38% didn't know; after the debate, for was up to 50%, against 31% and don't know down to 19%. If I convinced one person, I consider it a victory.

There is a report about the event online now.

The notes I used as the outline for my talk are attached below.

A computer scanner playing music/Are you being served? etc.

Has to be seen to be believed: ftp://ftpmirror.sectoor.de/private/ganjatron/scanjet-elise2.mpg

A remix of the theme tune to Are You Being Served?: http://www.scottcairo.co.uk/pilchard/tunes/served.htm

Pilchard has a whole range of other remixes/mashups at: http://www.scottcairo.co.uk/pilchard/tunes/index.htm

I've spent this morning listening to WFMU (mp3 feed; ogg feed), a New York freeform radio station (basically, the DJs choose what to play). It is awesomely eclectic. It's like listening to the record collection of a mad friend who's spent too long at car boot sales. Jason Elbogen, I salute you.

I really should have a music category...

Open source for normal people

The BBC ran an edition of its Click on open source on Saturday. The RealPlayer feed is available from the BBC website. It's fairly interesting, low-level stuff: you know, here's a load of free software ("free" as in beer) you can use instead of that expensive proprietary stuff. There's an interview with Mark Shuttleworth of Canonical (those folk behind Ubuntu) where he talks about space more than software, but reasonably interesting. (I find this programme quite quaint, as they still have a "best websites of the week" section, and it is very English and slightly patronising in places (if you're a techie).)

John Cage - super cool

Some fantastic footage of John Cage, that most endearingly controversial of avant garde composers, performing one of his pieces (Water Walk) on the American game show "I've Got a Secret" in 1960.

Here's some crazy mashups for my sis. Now them's what I call mashups. You might also enjoy these one minute or less remixes of various songs. My favourite is this version of Stagger Lee by Nick Cave. I also enjoyed Take One (a version of Dave Brubeck's Take Five). Or how about the whole of OK Computer in 45 seconds (wait for the hilarious ending).

Martin Denny performing Quiet Village. Class.

In fact, just go and read this fantastic radio station blog I stumbled across where these and many other nuggets came from.

Birmingham Poets Online

Yes, I know it looks like I've dropped off the earth, and I don't appear to be doing any technical writing or research (don't appear...aha, just you wait), but I have been spending a lot of my spare time writing poetry. Before you laugh, can I just remind you that it is a noble art form, intellectually challenging, and one which I find very engaging (I lose hours troubling over a rhyme or the right words to keep my iambic pentameter intact). OK, maybe not for everyone, but I am really into it at the moment (reading poetry as well as writing it).

Anyway, to my point: I've now got my own space on Birmingham Poets Online. I don't think it takes much to get on there, to be honest, but it's nice to be part of an (albeit small) literary community. Those of you who've been missing my poetry on here (not you, obviously, sis) can catch up with my latest works there.

Gardeners' Question Time

Update: If you can't be bothered to find it yourself, here's a RealPlayer feed of Sunday's programme. My question is about 29 minutes in.

Yesterday evening I went to a recording of Gardeners' Question Time at Birmingham Botanical Gardens (Nicola got me a couple of tickets, so I took along my friend Adrian). I have to confess I've never listened to a full episode myself, as I thought it would be pretty dry and uninteresting. But seeing it recorded live was very entertaining. I was impressed by the professionalism of the presenters (John Cushnie, Bob Flowerdew, Bunny Guiness, and hosted by one of the BBC weathermen whose name I can't remember). They seemed genuinely pleased to be there and treated all the questioners with great courtesy; and they recorded tight to schedule, with little need for retakes. They were also funny, particularly John Cushnie, who has a dry, quite dark sense of humour, and was comically blunt when faced with some of the questions (though still polite).

For a jape, I decided to pen a question and drop it into the "question pot". I didn't expect to get picked, but amazingly did. Adrian did a "facial groan" when they got us to go up to the front, but I think he enjoyed getting close to the action by the end of it. So (unless they cut it) my question will be on the end of this Sunday's (2pm, June 10th) programme. I won't give away what it was: you'll have to listen.

Drupal in the West Midlands

At OpenAdvantage we are starting to see more and more enquiries about support for Drupal. Often this will be from companies who've started using Drupal but need some work done on customisation; or a company that's seen Drupal in action elsewhere but lacks the technical skill for implementation. They are often looking for a local company to support their work, and ask for suggestions. I end up scouring the Drupal services page for UK companies, but it's not very often I see any West Midlands companies.

If you are a Drupal company based in the West Midlands region and are looking for consultancy work, please let me know in the comments so I can pass your details on. I've had enquiries from three different organisations in the past month, to give you an idea of the levels of interest. For the record, here's a list of compiled; note that these are not recommendations, just companies I know of who work with Drupal in the UK:

Check my new widget

Last.fm has released a new recent tracks widget (see the left-hand side of my about page). It is a definite improvement over my plain HTML Drupal module: this one will preview bits of the tracks I've been listening to. You lucky people.

Panorama programme on Scientology

A while ago, I wrote a blog entry about Scientology. This week, Panorama (a serious UK news programme) did an in-depth analysis of Scientology, including interviews with prominent Scientologists. The programme is available online. Quite frightening how they seemingly hounded and intimidated the presenter. The BBC bloke ended up completely losing his rag with the Scientologist by the end of the week.

I was interested to hear that Scientology is not classed as a religion in the UK, due to the fact that paying for their courses does not constitute worship. Also that the Scientologists interviewed denied parts of what I'd assumed were core beliefs of their faith (the stuff about aliens, thetans, and nuclear bombs).

Open Source Showcase at OpenAdvantage - line up

I've been putting together an event bringing together companies and enthusiasts in the West Midlands, where they will be doing short talks about how they're using open source. The full flyer is available at:


The event's at the NTi in Birmingham on the 20th June: please sign up through the link above. It's FREE.

I've now got a preliminary speaker list for this event, too (each talk will be a zippy 10 minutes):

  1. Richard Johnson, PixelPlanet Ltd.: Plone for corporate websites
  2. Ian Moore, Friends of the Earth (Birmingham): Edubuntu and thin clients
  3. Jake Stride, Senokian: Enterprise Groupware System
  4. Claire Wozencroft, C2B2: iPoint portal
  5. William Giddings: open source applications with Tcl/Tk
  6. Richard Zybert, Zybert Computing: Z1 Gem Server
  7. Dave Jones, XDM Software: Moodle

If you're interested in speaking, there are still a couple of spaces available. Drop me an email at my name (elliot) at my organisation (openadvantage.org) if you'd like to participate as a presenter. The aim is to hear about how companies and organisations are using open source, rather than sales pitches, but it puts your company in front of a crowd of interested listeners.

It's been great for me already, hearing about projects I wasn't aware of. It will be a good event. Unlike events like LUGRadio Live (which is great, by the way), this one will be focusing on West Midlands open source people and will include quite a few SMEs who make money using and producing open source.

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