Back in the late 90’s I developed what has become a life long interest in Open Source software. I met, over the internet, the Open Source evangelist, Bruce Perens. Bruce is considered one of the founders of the Open Source software movement, and was the person who announced and explained to the world the concept “Open Source”.
We formed an Open Source incubator in 1999 called The Linux Capital Group. The concept was to develop a series of startups to develop and commercialize various strands of Open Source software. Our inaugural startup was Progeny Linux Systems. I was one of the founders of this company along with Ian Murdock, the original founder of the Linux distribution Debian (a concatenation of Debbie, Ian’s wife at the time, and Ian’s first names).
Based in Indianapolis Progeny developed and upgraded many aspects of Debian and went on to provide Open Source consulting to companies across the US. Our biggest customer was Hewlett Packard (“HP”). Progeny built out HP’s Open Source capability over a period of years, employing about 15 Open Source software programmers.
Progeny, despite the large amount of software it developed, never managed to brand itself separate and apart from its largest customer, HP, and consequently it closed its doors after about 8 years. Many of its alumni went on to larger and far more exotic positions in the Tech sector e.g. Ian Murdock became the VP for Cloud Computing at Sun Microsystems. The Debian distribution itself is freely available on the internet, robust and very widely used. In fact it is the 3rd largest community distribution on the planet. You probably use it or a derivative of it daily.
We started a couple of other Open Source companies through Linux Capital; one was in the field of encryption; another was a certification authority. Neither caught fire, primarily because Linux Capital ran out of money. Despite the lack of commercial success of most of these Open Source startups, I learned valuable lessons, and were I to have the opportunity, I would do it all again.
What did I learn? I learned that a group of motivated individuals who have a common cause (such as creating a free Operating System) can collaborate and work together, donating their time and efforts, and the result can be enduring and can change the world.
Over the past few years my wife and I have become interested in Sustainability. Sustainability is a big word and it encompasses a whole variety of things from sustainable development, sustainable building, sustainable agriculture, sustainable consumption, energy generation, fresh water, food, as well as many social and economic aspects. I like Wikipedia’s simple definition …. “sustainability is improving the quality of human life while living within the carrying capacity of supporting ecosystems.”
So how do we practice sustainability in our everyday lives?
Apart from having a certain political outlook, we try to do practical things….like grow an organic garden….lots of fruit trees and many different types of vegetables. We find this healthy, relaxing and it retains our connection with the soil. We try to limit our consumption to minimize our ‘footprint’. I try to reuse things rather than always purchasing something brand new. And we have set the stage to build with hempcrete in California – the first permitted hemp construction on the West Coast.
We use energy efficient appliances. We believe that economic development does not have to mean pollution and environmental degradation. I guess it’s an overall ethic where we believe that we should act responsibly and that each of us has planet stewardship obligations (that’s a bit of a mouthful).
What are you doing to ensure you leave the world a better place for your children and those that come after you?
My wife and I have a large organic garden that we’ve built and added to over the years. It continues to develop and get more interesting each year.
We have approximately 75 fruit trees, including guava, peach, pomegranate, plum, avocado, fig, lime, blood orange, lemon, grapefruit, loquat, pear, tangerine, and macadamia.
We also grow a lot of herbs and vegetables, both in summer and winter; everything from lettuce, mustard, garlic, potatoes, Japanese eggplant, beetroot, strawberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, zucchini, peppers, beans, chard, cilantro, acorn squash, etc. Some are grown in raised beds. Many are grown in our regular soil. Here are some photos –
My avocations include reading, travel, carpentry and physical exercise. My wife and I have traveled extensively over the years and try to get in one or two overseas trips each year. Her family lives in Germany and mine live in Australia so we visit those places pretty regularly, but increasingly we like to visit third world countries, particularly those with cultures different from ours.
Recently we spent a couple of weeks in Panama and included in that trip was quite a bit of time living at a howler monkey preserve in the mountains, completely off the grid, in a bamboo hut in the jungle. It was fantastic. The monkeys, one of which draped himself around my wife’s neck adopting her for the duration of our visit (it was hard to leave), are highly intelligent, mischievous, affectionate, and noisy.
We met some of the local indigenous tribe, the Bugle, and traded for some local hats woven out of a particular species of Palm native to the area.
Meeting the local indigenous folks was depressing. Their living conditions were minimal; the men spend most of their time laying around in the village drunk on locally brewed corn alcohol….what the locals call (roughly translated) “fruit of the witch”; the work is done by the women; most of the adults are both illiterate and speak only their indigenous language. Some of the younger folk at least speak Spanish.
Without fluency in Spanish there’s little hope for them to break out of their cycle of poverty. In all, a pervasive sense of hopelessness…..not that different from indigenous peoples in many other parts of the world. Trading with them, as we did, is at least a way of according them ordinary human dignity.
It was a similar experience, though the living conditions are less harsh in Panama, to parts of Zambia, Zimbabwe and Swaziland in Africa. The way to connect is by trading/bartering with them. Below are a couple of photos from Panama.