In late August, Joe Atzberger joined Equinox Software’s rapidly growing Software Development team. Since 2007, Joe had worked for LibLime as a developer on Koha (another open source library automation platform), specializing in system integration.
Joe has also worked as a Technical Specialist supporting INFOhio K-12 libraries and their migrations on SirsiDynix and MultiLIS platforms. Before that, Joe worked as a technical consultant for private and government clients, and in radio broadcast satellite-feed automation.
Joe has degrees in both English and Computer Science from Ohio State University, and came by the library world naturally: both his parents also love books, have English degrees, and his mom is a Reference Librarian.
So we asked Joe a few questions…
What is important about open source software?
Conceptually, the most important characteristic is that you are free to make OSS work and work better, for you. A given proprietary vendor’s product may prove to be insufficient (or downright hostile!) to your intended usage.
Even with the products that work well, you may want to change a small piece of the layout, fix a persistent bug, or add a tiny feature. But without the source, you do not have recourse to even examine the cause of the problem. Even if you have access to the source and can write the code yourself, in my experience, you usually cannot get the vendor to incorporate material extensions to their code, even when supplied to them for free!
You may not be able to use your modified software in production without compromising support agreements, and when access to source is predicated on a cumbersome NDA, you can’t share the changes with others either. What a waste!
Both kinds of software may be yours *to use*, but OSS is *really* yours.
Where do you see open source development in the next ten to fifteen years?
Everywhere. There are two interesting directions right now: distributed version control and Open Data.
Distributed version control systems (DVCSs) will continue as the development mode of choice, and also become the de facto standard (like SVN is now). The difference is that DVCS tools allow you to control your “unofficial” working codesets with the same kind of tracking and intelligence provided by a VCS for the central repo. In fact, your working repo is otherwise as complete and authoritative as the “main” one.
Expect to see more OSS tools built as tools around Open Data, like MediaWiki around Wikipedia, or ‡biblios.org around ‡biblios.net. Just because Open Data allows itself to be harvested/copied doesn’t eliminate the value of a main repository, acting as the distribution channel for changes and additions. In many respects, the value of that repository is increased by its redistribution.
For code, DVCS makes the copies full, fleshy, lively ones, instead of just shadows, mirrors and archives. It will be interesting as the same principles continue to affect Open Fata, where access is as good (and often better) than a copy.
Honestly, I think it is easier to project what will happen in OSS software than it is to say what will happen during the same period with libraries!
When you get stuck on a problem how do you solve it?
Break it down into smaller pieces. Rethink my approach, often with feedback from other folks. Sometimes it is worthwhile to just put it down for a while and come back to it with a fresh mindset. And of course, as a last resort, read the manual.
What do you keep on your desk?
Laptop, large external monitor, and a pile of random other junk.
What do you do to chill out?
I garden, cook, volunteer for a local LPFM station, and like to go see my friends’ bands play out. Like seemingly everybody at Equinox, I also play video games [well, not everybody — Ed.], with particular focus on zombies, FIFA, GTA and anything that friends have worked on. I plan to help convert some local bands’ masters to playable Rock Band tracks in the next year, since it would unify a lot of major interests in one fun project.
Do you have any pets?
I have two young cats, brothers and litter-mates, Cassius and Sonny.