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Interviews: Ask Tim O'Reilly About a Life Steeped In Technology 39

Today's interview guest is literally a household name: If you look at the shelves in nearly any programmer's house, developer shop or hackerspace, you'll probably see a stretch of books from O'Reilly Media (or O'Reilly & Associates, depending on how old the books are). Tim O'Reilly started out publishing a few technical manuals in the late '70s, branching from there into well-received technical reference and instructional books, notably ones covering open source languages and operating systems (how many people learned to install and run a new OS from Matt Walsh's Running Linux?), but neither Tim O'Reilly nor the company has gotten stuck in one place for long. As a publisher, he was early to make electronic editions available, in step with the increasing capabilities of electronic readers. Make Magazine (later spun off as part of Maker Media, which also produces Maker Faires around the world) started as an O'Reilly project; the company's conferences like OSCON, Fluent, and this year's Solid are just as much a manifestation of O'Reilly's proclivity for spreading knowledge as the books are, and those are only part of the picture, being joined with seminars, video presentations, and more. Tim O'Reilly is often hailed as a futurist and an activist (he was an early proponent of 3-D printing and hardware hacking, and a loud voice for patent reform) and he's got his eye on trends from global (how the Internet functions) to more personal -- like ways that physical goods can be produced, customized, and networked. So please go ahead and ask O'Reilly about what it's been like to be a publisher of paper books in an ever-more electronic world, as well as a visionary in the world of DIY and fabrication, or anything else on your mind. As usual, ask as many questions as you'd like, but please, one per post.
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Interviews: Ask Tim O'Reilly About a Life Steeped In Technology

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Mr. O'Reilly: Do you live a particularly technology-centric life? I don't see you wearing Google Glass in public, or bragging about driving a Tesla everywhere, or (so far as I know) living in a 3-D printed house, and you're still publishing "dead tree" books in quantity, but you clearly have a handle on what kind of cool tech is available. So I wonder how "high tech" your day-to-day existence is, and what that says about the maturity of some of the technology that looks good from a distance. Do you find us
  • Mr. O'Reilly,

    Being the classic technological guru that I expect you are, what operating systems do you prefer to run on your personal hardware (mobile, desktop, slate)?

  • by plcurechax ( 247883 ) on Tuesday August 05, 2014 @04:16PM (#47608723) Homepage

    What do you see or expect for the future of electronic-centric publishing?

    Are e-books going to be dominated by the established publishing companies tendency to try and extend their control over the works of their authors, and their customers, as demonstrated with the limiting of adopting due to DRM, and fear of digital piracy?

    Will there be a role for publishers, perhaps as curators and editors (in both senses of the word) of fiction and non-fictional works, separate from that of the retailers?

    Will authors be able to find an economically sustainable means of financing their writing (including any necessary research) that can withstand the perils of near-free proliferation of illicit unlicensed digital copies of their works? Or will authors have to have either patrons (sponsors) (e.g. literary awards' prize money) or employers (e.g. academics) who pay them to write, perhaps limiting most content to be "safe" or "salable" topics for the most part.

  • Still no plans to sell cover illustrations as posters, etc. ?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    When will we see the next edition of documentation for the X Window System []?

    • It's still at Version 11, correct? My O'Reilly X11 manual set, from before O'Reilly was mentioning the World Wide Web on their book covers, is for X11. Volumes 3 and 8 are the important stuff, for configuring the Tab Window Manager, using Fonts and setting Resources, etc.

      It's all still completely useful, actually. A NetBSD base install and the O'Reilly X11 manuals are all the docs you need.

  • by globaljustin ( 574257 ) on Tuesday August 05, 2014 @04:26PM (#47608783) Journal

    Mr. O'Reilly it's really cool that you're taking the time to answer our questions. Thanks much!

    My question: How can we make categorically better coding instruction books? What's the next step? I mean coding or programming in the general sense. Here on slashdot, the consensus is that the best coding language "depends on the job." In that environment, most coding tasks involve using an IDE and then editing specific parts of a codebase by hand. The language is a conduit to transfer information/instructions. Is there a way to instruct someone in the skills to find the right command quickly for most situations, regardless of coding language?

    So much of a coder's time is spent searching through stacks of code books **just to find "how to do..." one thing** they know they language can do, in my experience.

    Thanks again.

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      Google is the new coding books(everything books, really.). If you are just looking for examples or cut and paste of something someone has done before, you don't need coding books.

  • We hear so much about "Internet Years" and how the pace of innovation has increased so dramatically. Yet from the first TRS-80 to the end of the CP/M era was barely five years, and in that time a vast numbers of magazines and books were written and printed. Today, meanwhile, major software components like Moose, Perl's object-oriented makeover, have been around for over six years and still no O'Reilly book is yet on the horizon. In your estimation, is the major problem to new publications really the speed o
  • have been steep in technology since agriculture.
    mayhaps you want to be specific?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Out of all the books you have published, which one you keep in a prominent place on your bookshelf and why

  • Mr. O'Reilly, why didn't you join the Free Software movement back in the day and subverted the community with your Open Source initiative? SCNR
  • You've watched at least 4 decades of technology go past. You were watching it from one of the best vantage points.
    Does that upwards trend make you feel good about the future? As you know, the world can only fathom a dystopian future, lately.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Why do the last two O'Reilly books I bought have pages that look purple near the binding? Is it because your POD printing subcontractors use paper that has excessive amounts of optical brightening agents?

  • I've always been grateful that O'Reilly often (always?) offers DRM free books. The music industry has made it clear that they believe piracy is hurting the bottom line. Do you feel the same way about your ebook titles?
  • Can you share three things that any of us can do that will help keep the internet relatively open? There is a lot of chatter, and it feels like a lot of tilting at windmills. Can the legislature pass laws that will give too much power to corporations, thus limiting the freedom of the open internet? Or is this unrealistic fear-mongering? Is Voting enough? Is writing to your representative effective?

As of next Tuesday, C will be flushed in favor of COBOL. Please update your programs.