posted by Eugenia Loli on Wed 9th Feb 2005 21:13 UTC

"Aaron interview, Page 2/2"
5. Describe to us the actual ranch. Do you have animals, fields? How do the student cabins look like? How's the common room? Is the town far away?

Aaron Hillegass: The ranch is not as rustic as it sounds. The rooms are large with jacuzzi tubs and balconies. Yes, there are some horses, but we also have a swimming pool and miniature golf.

It is nestled into the woods on the edge of a stream, and our afternoon walks wander over several hundred acres of forest.

Town is pretty far away -- when you are at the ranch, you are at the ranch. It has been compared to a low-security prison, but I like to think it is much more comfortable.

The classroom is large and comfortable. It has a view of the gorge and the stream below. We have invested in 17" LCD screens and ergonomic work chairs so that a week in the classroom is as pleasant as possible.

6. Do you plan to write another book? If yes, on what subject?

Aaron Hillegass: I've found that teaching a topic for a few years enables me to write a much better book. Thus, I've been involved with two really good books ("Cocoa Programming for Mac OS X" and "Core Mac OS X and Unix Programming"), but I will never have that many titles to name.

Big Nerd Ranch does some consulting, and last year we helped two companies roll out applications that use Cocoa for their front-end and PostgreSQL for the back. In the process, we have found PostgreSQL to be a very mature and sophisticated database. Chris Campbell and I have written a brilliant course on PostgreSQL, and I hope that in a few years it will become a book.

7. I hear that there is no cellular reception in the ranch (which is a good thing for the most part). However, what kind of internet access is available? Is there WiFi/ethernet on student cabins?

Aaron Hillegass: For a while, we had a satellite link, and the internet connection would disappear on rainy days. I found that people concentrated better when the connection was down, but they complained bitterly.

Today, we have a T-1 line to the ranch and a wireless network throughout the lodge. There is an ethernet jack in every room. Your boss will not be able to call you, but he can send you email -- even on rainy days.

8. You have been a Unix, NeXT and now an OSX/Linux developer and instructor. How do you see the OS landscape in general, today? And what do you think it could happen in the future?

Aaron Hillegass: In my experience, a good piece of software takes ten years to write. You can ship something after two years, but it takes ten years before it is truly complete. I try not to use software that is less than ten years old. Cocoa, for example, is now over ten years old. Linux is over ten years old.

Given that there are now operating systems, databases, web browsers, and user interfaces toolkits that are truly mature, the general-purpose purpose tools are complete. In the coming years, we turn our attention to taking care of the needs of specific audiences.

Tivo, for example, is based on free software, but it is an operating system designed specifically for TV-watchers. That is why it is so reliable and easy to use.

Example: In the future, I believe there will be an AccountingOS specifically for accountants. It will be based on free software, but will include a fully integrated suite of applications designed for accountants. The development costs of AccountingOS will be covered by the American Accounting Association, and the hundreds of companies that make accounting software will simply disappear. Eventually, of course, AccountingOS will fork into TaxAccountingOS and AuditAccountingOS.

But, you shouldn't trust my predictions, when I saw the first web browser in 1992 (it only ran on NeXT computers), I said, "This is just dumb. It is like FTP, but I can only get one file at a time. Why would anyone want to use this...what did you call it?...'World Wide Web'?"

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