El archivo que hackeó la RSA israelí

Parece ser que Mercé Molist está de vuelta. Y comienza publicando la historia del archivo que hackeó a la RSA israelí, el que a la postre, dió a los atacantes acceso a proveedores norteamericanos de defensa. Leyendo esto, uno se da cuenta de que Ghost in the shell ya no es ciencia-ficción futurista. No longer. Y se siente viejo.

Lovelace and Babagge VS The economy!

Just found this online-ongoing comic by Sidney Padua created to the Ada Lovelace day in 2009. She depicts a steampunk alternative past where Charles Babagge and Ada Lovelace got to build the difference engine … to fight crime!! LOL. Here the chapters. Don’t miss this one: Lovelace and Babagge VS The economy, where they fight against the economic crisis of 1837, which has uncanny similarities to ours.

Google Wave and the mythical man-month

«And this is the essential broader point–as a programmer you must have a series of wins, every single day. It is the Deus Ex Machina of hacker success. It is what makes you eager for the next feature, and the next after that. And a large team is poison to small wins. The nature of large teams is such that even when you do have wins, they come after long, tiresome and disproportionately many hurdles. And this takes all the wind out of them. Often when I shipped a feature it felt more like relief than euphoria.»

— Dhanji R. Prasanna (one of the engineers behind Google Wave), on how even the smartests fail to stick to the essential.

Jointly with this other post, they both draw a good story for any startup to hear.

Analysis of free software communities (III): activity and manpower

Disclaimer – this post is part of a serie: III, III (this one), IV and V.

  • Images: on the left, the number of changes to the codebase (commits) agregated by year. On the right, the number of developers with at least 1 commit that year.
  • Data: trunk from project repositories during the period 1999-2010.

Is it something we could extrapolate from the data there?

Certainly, not the number of features developed or bug fixes. It is even barely possible to compare activity between projects, as there are a high variability in terms of changesets: some people could send several little changesets and others just 1 big change, some project could have a special policy which affect the results (i.e.: make a commit formatting the code accoring to the style rules and other with the changes), etc. Some people could even argue that the language they are written in affects the number of changes (GRASS is written in C, gvSIG in Java and QGIS in C++) due to the libraries available or the semantics of every language. So, is it possible to find out something? Well, in my opinion, we can trace at least the following:

  • the internal evolution of a project.
  • how a project is doing in terms of adding new blood.

 So, let’s make again the exercise of finding out what’s happening here:


  • It calls the atention the curve of activity in the project: growth by periods (2001-2004 and 2005-2007) with local maximums in 2004 and 2007. Our hypothesis was that it was due to the way the project works: the developers here make changes both in the trunk and in the branch of the product to release (be it 6.4 or 6.5) at the same time, with a lot of changesets moved between both the trunk and the branches (so doing heavy backporting). In a recently conversation with Markus Neteler, he has explained me better how they work and I guess the rhythm we see in the graphics is due to that.
  • In terms of number of developers, GRASS has showed a continuous growth until 2008; since then, the number of regular developers stabilizes.


  • gvSIG shows an incredible high period of activity during 2006-2008 (4500 changesets by year and most that 30 people involved!). To understand the Gauss bell of activity, is needed to know the background of the project: gvSIG development has been led by contract, which means that all activities (planning, development, testing, etc) were led by the client needs who pay for it. Only recently, these processes have been opened to a broader community (firms and volunteers collaborating in the project within the gvSIG association). So, it makes sense that the beginnings had seen less activity (high phases of planing) and afterwards they got to agregate so many people in such a short period of time.
  • But, in 2010 it suffered a sudden stop in development (only 233 changes to the codebase were made, while a pace of 4500 changes were made during previous years). This decreasing in activity is highly correlated to the number of developers involved. It’s hard to say why it happens: could it be due to the efforts were directed to gvSIG 2.0 development? could it be due to the reorganization in the project and the creation of gvSIG asociation? Well, few can we said at this respect with the data available, further research is required to determine that.


  • Steady grow both in terms of contributions and contributors. 2004 and 2008 years determine two peaks of activity and people participating in the development. Our preliminar hypothesys was that it was due to the release of the first stable version and the release of 1.0, as well as become an oficial project of OSGEO. Gary Sherman has confirmed that in a recent post (history of QGIS commiters) and an interview (part1 and part2). Besides, he pointed out that in 2007 the project added python support for plugin development, which possibly was one of the reasons of the growth in 2008 and afterwards.
  • An interesting finding is that, every 4 years the project has doubled the amount of developers involved with a slower but steady growth in activity.
Well, hope these graphics have helped us to understand better how is the project activity and the manpower every project is able to aggregate around it. Next posts in the serie, will focus on the developers involved and the culture surrounding them. Looking forward to your feedback!

4 big ideas in sw development according to PragProg

I found interesting this serie of posts titled “4 big ideas in software development” according to Tim Ottinger and Jeff Langr. The serie was published monthly in Pragmatic programmers magazine:

Analysis of free software communities (II): adoption trends

Disclaimer – this post is part of a serie: I, II (this one), IIIIV and V.

Find below the statistics for mailinglist activity in GRASS, gvSIG and QGIS during the period 2008-2010. The first one shows data from the general user mailinglists for each project. Take into account that data for gvSIG agregated both international and spanish mailinglist due the reasons stated here.

The next one shows the same data (number of people writing and number of messages by month) for the developers mailinglists.

Is it something we could extrapolate from the data there?

Well, certainly not the user base. The data shyly introduce us the trends, not the real user base. The model we adopted to study the projects reflects just a part of the community -which is arguably the engine of project- but don’t take the data as the number of users for each project. For sure, each one of our favorite projects has more users than those participating in (these) mailinglists!

Anyway, here some food for thought:

  • GRASS: it smoothly decreases in terms of number of messages as well as people writing, which happen within users and developers. The tendency is not clear though.
  • gvSIG: the data shows a steadly increasing number of users participating in the mailinglists. On the other hand, although it is the project with more people suscribed to developer mailinglist, it shows the less activity of the three projects (in terms of # of messages in developer lists): few technical conversations seemed to happen through the mailinglists during that period.
  • QGIS: according to the data, a clear growth exists in the community. In the period in study (3 years) the number of users and developers participating in mailinglists has been doubled!
Few more can be said, hope the graphics are explicative enough! Looking forward to your feedback.

La (mal)venta de la cajas

«Colocar hoy quinientos millones de acciones del Banco de NCG, sin malvender a precio de saldo, no es realista. Es como poner en estos tiempos a la venta un piso y que se sepa que necesitamos el dinero en seis meses. Por eso se habla ya de descuentos por encima del 50 %.»

— Albino Prada, sobre la (mal)venta de las cajas

Léase con su contrapunto: “Loterías no sale a bolsa porque sería malvenderla