Open Source people -
"Think of Open Source as a party where everyone is invited," read one of the
first messages about Linux that I can remember reading. If you can make a
contribution, then you're a member of the community, regardless of
once-important details like physical location or chronological age. David Vessey
is a perfect example of just how irrelevant those two categories are when it
comes to giving back to the community.I first encountered Vessey last week, when he sent us an announcement
for Tub Thumper, a Web-based BBS he created using PHP and MySQL. Similar to
forum software like phpBB and vBulletin, Tub Thumper provides all the
parts one would need to assemble a simple, easy to use discussion site that
administrators can easily manage, and modify to suit their unique requirements.
And I have to admit that I really loved the name Tub Thumper. It's actually
the second moniker to be affixed to Vessey's BBS software, which started life as
MyForum. In his announcement, Vessey wrote: "Around the beginning of July, I
started thinking that the name MyForum was getting old and wasn't all that
original. After about a week of looking around the Internet at Greek symbols, or
asking people I knew for a name, I finally came up with Tub Thumper, which is a
British expression for ranting and raving, or something along those lines. From
my personal experience, this is mostly what people used BB software for."
I asked Vessey if he wouldn't mind submitting to an email interview for this
column. His response was, "I'm just a 15 year old Canuck who spends WAY too
much time in front of computers." Fifteen! I can't quite remember what I was
doing when I was 15, but I know for sure that it didn't involve creating
software, free or otherwise. Or much of anything else with computers (yes,
personal computers existed when I was 15, thank you) for that matter.
On the verge of starting the 10th grade, Vessey's geographical location is
the East Coast of Canada, on Prince Edward
Island. "Cold and snow in the winter, good and hot in the summer," and
that's just how he likes it. "I couldn't see myself living anywhere outside of
the Maritimes, the weather's nice and there's barely any crime."
His first encounter with a computer was in the fourth grade, when a group of
teachers pooled their money to buy a 386 that chugged along at 33MHz, running
Windows 3.1 from its 30MB hard drive. Not long after that, his school set up a
computing lab stocked with machines powered by 486 processors ("Which are still
being used at the school," he adds), running that same version of Windows. The
family computer arrived during Christmas 1998, and that's when Vessey's interest
in computing really took off, starting with Web design and eventually leading to
PHP and MySQL.
Vessey describes his introduction to the Open Source and Free Software
communities, and the events that eventually led to the creation of Tub Thumper:
"I first heard of [Open Source] when my cousin set up Slackware as a router at
the local Community Access Site -- a government funded Internet cafe, basically.
server sounded really cool at the time."
"The time when I really got interested was near the end of the 1999-2000 school
year. We were learning about databases, and how to make them in Claris Works
(don't make me re-live that...). Anyway, I had made a database, and since I was
into Web designing -- I only knew stuff like HTML/CSS then, and was attempting
to learn ASP -- I wanted to put the database I had made on the Net.
"So, since I thought ASP was the best thing since sliced bread, I go out to find
out how to use a database with it. Or at least TRY to find out. I eventually
gave up on ASP, and finally found out more about PHP/MySQL. While reading the
installation instructions for PHP, it was giving me all the instructions on how
to compile it, which sounded like a really cool thing to do. Also, at that time,
MySQL was only a demo for Win32. Those are the two main catalysts that led me to
discover Free Software and Linux."
This summer, Vessey worked at the Farmers' Bank of
Rustico, an historic site at Hunter River, Prince Edward Island. Founded by
Father Georges-Antoine Belcourt in 1864, Farmers' Bank is believed to be the
very first credit union and community-based bank in North America, serving as a
blueprint for thousands of similar institutions across the continent. With the
proceeds from that endeavor, Vessey plans to buy a computer of his own -- a nice
Away from the computer, you'll find Vessey in his role as Petty Officer 2nd
Class in the Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps, an affiliation that has
obviously fostered his affinity for sailing. "I love sailing, even though I
don't do it that often. It's even more fun when you have no idea what you're
doing and you flood the boat. :)" Through the RCSCC, David has honed his skiing
and marksmanship skills through biathlon, competing on the national level last
year in Canmore, Alberta.
When I asked him what he likes most about Open Source and Free Software, his
answer was refreshingly straightforward: "All the free stuff." Thanks to a
family member with access to a T-1 and a CD burner, getting his hands on the
latest versions of the free stuff wasn't a big problem. "I've also found OSS
better than their commercial counterparts," he adds.
More about David Vessey
Mail reader: "I use Mozilla Mail, and linuxmail.org."
Text editor: "Quanta+ for major work, vim for everything else."
Operating System: "Mandrake Linux, gonna try Debian.
Snack food: Milkfuls and Humpty Dumpty party mix."
Bands: "Tantric and Creed. Can't do any coding without one of them on my playlist. :)"
TV shows: Titus, That 70's Show, The Family Guy.
Vacation spot: "Don't know, haven't gone on a vacation yet. :)"
Favorite person: "The traditional Mom and Dad, I guess. :)"