~e; open-sourced airwaves

From bc <human@electronetwork.org>
Date Tue, 5 Mar 2002 14:27:13 -0600

  [fascinated with this idea. wondering if the data will be read over
  the airwaves, or if the sounds of its code would be sent. it seems
  to be the former, but then again, both would be interesting, esp.
  if in the latter form, like broadband, the code could be grabbed
  off the airwaves and burned onto a CD or something. if possible.]

Open Source Is on the Air
By Kim Griggs

2:00 a.m. March 5, 2002 PST
WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- Listen up, Linux lovers, they're playing
your song.

For the past month -- and for the next 500 days or so -- Free Radio
Linux will transmit a computerized reading of the Linux operating system.

"We really wanted to develop something which was transparently about
audio on the Internet, which is why we came up with Free Radio 
Linux," said Adam Hyde, one of the website's creators. "What we 
thought we would do is build a speech bot that would read out the 
entire Linux source code, live over the Internet."

Website designers Adam Hyde and Honor Harger estimate the Linux kernel
contains 4,141,432 lines of code, and that it will take 14,253.43 
hours, or 593.89 days, to read it all.

Since its launch Feb. 3 -- the anniversary of the use of open source
as a term for freely published source code -- the response to the 
website has been, well, mixed.

"Just when I think I've finally, after much effort, understood how
navel-staring and just plain stupid the Linux crowd can get, they 
prove me wrong," says one Slashdot post.

"What a silly idea," says another post. "By the time their bot reaches
the first 'goto,' the kernel's code will have been rewritten a dozen 
times already. Are they reading the comments too? That should add a 
few more months :) If only they could wait until April 1st...."

Other posts have been grudgingly interested. "I can't help thinking
this is really cool in a sick sort of way, but you'd hope they could 
have used a text-to-speech that sounded a bit nicer...."

Hyde and Harger, the London-based New Zealanders who founded the Linux
site's parent, radioqualia, weren't aiming for audience ratings. "The 
way that radioqualia works is that we follow our own ideas, and we 
are very deliberate about that," Hyde said.

However, Hyde admits the website isn't meant to be taken entirely
seriously. "Distributing the source code via speech bot is a bit 
ridiculous. The only thing that it's going to be good for is to 
listen to, or if you want to you can sit down with a pen and paper 
for 589 days and transcribe the source code. So it's really been 
extensively parodied on that front."

But Hyde says that some of the criticism -- which the designers have
incorporated into the Free Radio Linux website -- misses the gentle 
fun the website pokes at both open source and the Internet.

"Open source has become a little bit of a hype in a way. It's a
marvelous doctrine. It's actually, at the same time, heralded as 
being the cure for everything," Hyde said.

Ditto the Internet, Hyde argues. "We talk about the Internet as being
the global medium, but really, when you look at it, radio is by far 
the most extensively distributed communications medium in the world, 
even beating telephones."

Radio waves, he points out, go out to space and never dissipate. That
cuts little ice with coders: "Excellent! Now those little green men 
out there in other planetary systems will receive something useful in 
the radio transmissions from Earth instead of endless daytime TV 
re-runs ... but how many thousands of years will it take to get 
there?" says a Slashdot post.

Hyde and Harger, whose project was commissioned by the Walker Art
Center, are unmoved. Says Hyde: "Some from the geek community really 
hated the project. They really thought it was a waste of resources 
and others were going, 'Wow, this is interesting. If this is art, 
then I kind of like it.'"

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