Command Line Heroes

Command Line Heroes Podcast

Stories about the people transforming technology from the command line up.

Gladys Perkins: The Pioneer Who Took Us To New Heights
Is the moon made of cheese? Of course not. But can a person walk on the surface? Not too long ago, we couldn’t answer that question. But with the help of Gladys Perkins, we soon figured out that we could send a team to the moon and have them safely land on its surface. There was a time when the United States was behind the Soviets in the space race. Everyone had their sights set on the moon. Andrew Chaikin describes NASA’s disastrous Ranger missions. Erik Conway explains how complicated the trajectory calcu...

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Roy Clay: The Entrepreneur Who Transformed an Industry
Roy Clay had to chase after opportunities. But landing a promising position wasn’t the finish line. Roy Clay pushed those opportunities beyond their mandate, transforming an industry in the process.Kathy Cotton recounts how few opportunities Roy Clay had growing up—but how, later, talk of his genius helped him get his break in the tech industry. Chuck House describes how Clay’s qualifications and experience were just what Hewlett and Packard were looking for. Bill Davidow explains how Clay made his mark at ...

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Dr. Clarence Ellis: The Developer Who Helped Us Collaborate
It’s not easy to learn how to use computers when you can’t actually touch them. But that’s how Dr. Clarence Ellis started his career of invention—which would ultimately lead to reimagining how we all worked with computers and each other.Martez Mott describes the “Mother of all Demos” that would inspire a generation of builders. Gary Nutt recounts working with Dr. Clarence Ellis at Xerox PARC, and the atmosphere at the coveted research lab. Chengzheng Sun and Paul Curzon explain how Operational Transformatio...

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Dr. Marc Hannah: The Computer Scientist Who Brought Worlds to Life
Sometimes an inventor designs a device for a specific purpose. Sometimes it’s to try something new. But successful inventions often shape industries beyond those they initially intended. Dr. Marc Hannah built an invention with far bigger effects than anyone could have imagined—like bringing dinosaurs to life, building liquid robots, and letting the Titanic set sail one more time. Raqi Syed gives some context on the evolution of special effects in the movie industry. Mark Grossman explains how the graphics w...

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Mark Dean: The Inventor Who Made the Computer Personal
Dr. Mark Dean has a superpower. He wasn’t born with it. He wasn’t exposed to high levels of radiation. It’s a power he learned from his father. And because of it, he was able to revolutionize the personal computer. David Bradley explains how in the 1980s, IBM had a reputation for building big, enterprise mainframes. No one believed IBM could make a competitive PC. But that’s exactly what “Project Chess” was tasked with creating. Tony Hey describes the monumental shift in strategy it was for IBM to enter the...

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Dr. Gladys West: The Mathematician Who Reshaped Our World
Aristotle and Eratosthenes are big names in geodesy. They got pretty close to measuring the size of the Earth. But the woman who got it done? She grew up a farmer, dreaming of something bigger. And her work changed how we see the world.Dr. Gladys West didn’t have much room for error in her quest for higher education. Marvin Jackson recounts the obstacles in her path—and the challenges she faced in her early career. Gavin Schrock traces how geodesy progressed before Dr. West, and how foundational her work wa...

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Jerry Lawson: The Engineer Who Changed the Game
Many of us grew up playing cartridge-based games. But there's few who know the story behind how those cartridges came to be. And even fewer who know the story of the man behind them: Jerry Lawson. Few people realized how his vision would change video games. Jenny List explains how before Jerry Lawson, a console could only play one game. Benj Edwards describes how Lawson partnered with a pair of engineers to design a console with swappable cartridges. Pong creator Al Alcorn recounts the FCC limitations on La...

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Command Line Heroes: Meet the Inventors
Inventors don’t always get the credit they deserve, even for world-changing breakthroughs.  Season 6 of Command Line Heroes tells the stories of ingenious inventors who haven’t been given their full due. These heroes did nothing less than create new industries, dazzle our imaginations, and reshaped the world as we know it.  The first episode drops on October 13, 2020. Subscribe today and sign up for the newsletter to get the latest updates....

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What Kind Of Coder Will You Become?
The 10x Coder is often positioned as a mythical developer who can always save the day. Saron and Clive investigate how much of that myth is grounded in truth.  Greg Sadetsky argues that coding is much like professional sports—some athletes are bound to be much better than those starting out. Brianna Wu and Bonnie Eisenman pick apart the myth by sharing how much they have had to clean up after supposed 10x Coders. Jonathan Solórzano-Hamilton recounts the story of "Rick," a self-proclaimed rockstar developer ...

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Where Coders Code
Home office. Corporate park. Co-working space. Funland campus. Coders expect options when it comes to their workplace. The relocation of the average workspace from the office to the home has revealed the benefits of working from home—but also highlighted its tradeoffs.  Saron Yitbarek and Clive Thompson continue their discussion of coding careers by considering workspaces. Mary Allen Wilkes shares her experience as the first developer to work from home. David Heinemeier Hansson argues remote work gives his ...

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Becoming a Coder
Command line heroes are software engineers, developers, programmers, systems administrators—coders. That variety in coding careers is almost as varied as the paths coders take to land their jobs.  Saron Yitbarek and Clive Thompson start the season by exploring some ways coders start their tech careers—some common, many unexpected. Many choose to start with a degree in computer science. But don’t underestimate the maturing bootcamp tracks, the mid-to-late-career switchers, and coders from outside the insulat...

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Introducing Season 5 of Command Line Heroes
After four seasons of epic tales about how command line heroes have shaped the tech landscape, we're tackling a new topic: the job itself.  Season 5 covers the job of being a coder. How coding careers begin. How the job is done. How it’s changed. And how coders are shaping its evolution.Clive Thompson, tech journalist and friend of the podcast, joins us for this 3-episode mini-season. Clive shares his insights from the over 200 interviews he’s conducted with coders: programmers, developers, software enginee...

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One More Thing with Steve Wozniak
Steve Wozniak (aka Woz) has had a tremendous effect on the world of hardware. Season 4 features many of the devices he’s designed, built, worked on, and been inspired by. But for Woz, what’s most important isn’t necessarily the devices he’s created—it’s how he built them.  Woz recounts how his early tinkering led to a lifelong passion for engineering. He started learning about computers on a GE 225 in high school. Soon enough, he was designing improvements to computers he wanted to buy—eventually defining h...

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Consoles: The Dreamcast's Life After Death
Gaming consoles are pioneering machines. The Dreamcast pushed the limits of what even consoles could do. But that wasn’t enough to guarantee commercial success. Despite that failure, fans say no other console has accomplished so much.  The Dreamcast was meant to restore Sega to its glory days. After the disappointing Saturn, Sega pitted two teams against each other to build a new console. Andrew Borman describes the Dreamcast as a generational leap in hardware. Jeremy Parish explains how big a departure its...

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Open Source Hardware: Makers Unite
People never stop tinkering. Hardware hacking didn’t disappear after personal computers became mainstream. But it did change. A new generation of artists, designers, and activists are banding together to change the world—with open source hardware.  Hardware hacking used to be expensive and time-consuming. Adaptable microcontrollers are making tinkering much easier. But even as the barriers to entry started falling, the practices around selling hardware have continued to veer toward secrecy. Ayah Bdeir, Alic...

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Open Source Hardware: Makers Unite
People never stop tinkering. Hardware hacking didn’t disappear after personal computers became mainstream. But it did change. A new generation of artists, designers, and activists are banding together to change the world—with open source hardware.  Hardware hacking used to be expensive and time-consuming. Adaptable microcontrollers are making tinkering much easier. But even as the barriers to entry started falling, the practices around selling hardware have continued to veer toward secrecy. Ayah Bdeir, Alic...

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Smarter Phones: Journey to the Palm-Sized Computer
Few could imagine what a handheld computer would look like—or even do. But a trio of visionaries saw where computing was headed. To succeed in this new frontier, though, they would need to create everything from scratch, and throw out the conventional wisdom on hardware.  Their creation, the PalmPilot, went on to break sales records. It showed the world what was possible and it helped people realize that the value in tech was shifting once again. But when the tech bubble burst and new competitors entered th...

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BONUS: Floppies
Moving from punch cards and paper tape to floppies wasn’t straightforward. Hear the story of An Wang, who pushed computer storage technology forward....

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Floppies: The Disks that Changed the World
The floppy disk was one of the greatest breakthroughs in computing. It helped spin up the software industry with a format that endured for decades. And in some cases, it’s conserved treasures once thought to be lost forever.  Before floppy disks came along, computing was weighed down by punch cards and magnetic tapes. Steven Vaughan-Nichols describes the magnitude of the changes brought by the floppy disk. Dave Bennet explains how the need for permanent storage, which was also easily mailable, led to the fi...

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Floppies: The Disks that Changed the World
The floppy disk was one of the greatest breakthroughs in computing. It helped spin up the software industry with a format that endured for decades. And in some cases, it’s conserved treasures once thought to be lost forever.  Before floppy disks came along, computing was weighed down by punch cards and magnetic tapes. Steven Vaughan-Nichols describes the magnitude of the changes brought by the floppy disk. Dave Bennet explains how the need for permanent storage, which was also easily mailable, led to the fi...

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BONUS: Personal Computers
Forrest Mims had a lot to say about Ed Roberts. Hear more stories about Ed's meeting with Paul Allen and Bill Gates, and the partnership they started....

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Personal Computers: The Altair 8800 and the Dawn of a Revolution
The Altair 8800 is why we have computers in most homes today. It was initially designed for hobbyists. But a few visionaries saw massive potential in this strange little machine—and worked hard to make others see it too. What they created led to so much more than anyone could have ever imagined. Forrest Mims tells us how his co-founder, Ed Roberts, planned to save their struggling electronics company. His idea? A microcomputer made for hobbyists. That computer led to a fateful phone call from Bill Gates and...

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BONUS: Mainframes
In the 1960s, Dartmouth saw the GE 225 as a massive opportunity for its students. Hear how a few faculty members and students made the mainframe widely accessible....

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BONUS: Mainframes
In the 1960s, Dartmouth saw the GE 225 as a massive opportunity for its students. Hear how a few faculty members and students made the mainframe widely accessible....

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Mainframes: The GE 225 and the Birth of BASIC
The computing industry started booming after World War II. General Electric’s CEO refused to enter that market. But a small team of rebel employees bent the rules to forge on in secret. They created the GE 225. It was a giant leap in engineering that pushed computing from a niche market to the mainstream—sowing the seeds for today’s tech industry. Before the creation of general-purpose mainframes, computers were often built to perform a single function. William Ocasio recalls how GE’s first specialized comp...

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BONUS: Minicomputers
The Soul of a New Machine is a bestselling book that almost wasn’t. Hear about the obstacles author Tracy Kidder had to overcome in order to bring his engineering classic to life.  If you want to read up on some of our research on minicomputers, you can check out all our bonus material over at redhat.com/commandlineheroes. You’ll find extra content for every episode....

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Minicomputers: The Soul of an Old Machine
They don’t fit in your pocket. But in their day, minicomputers were an order of magnitude smaller than the room-sized mainframes that preceded them. And they paved the way for the personal computers that could fit in a bag and, eventually, the phones in your pocket.16-bit minicomputers changed the world of IT in the 1970s. They gave companies the opportunity for each engineer to have their own machines. But it wasn’t quite enough, not until the arrival of 32-bit versions.Carl Alsing and Jim Guyer recount th...

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Introducing Season 4 of Command Line Heroes
No one ever said hardware was easy. In Season 4, Command Line Heroes is telling 7 special stories about people and teams who dared to change the rules of hardware and in the process changed how we all interact with technology. The first episode drops January 28, 2020. Subscribe today and sign up for the newsletter to get the latest updates and bonus content....

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The C Change
C and UNIX are at the root of modern computing. Many of the languages we’ve covered this season are related to or at least influenced by C. But C and UNIX only happened because a few developers at Bell Labs created both as a skunkworks project. Bell Labs was a mid-twentieth century center for innovation. Jon Gertner describes it as an “idea factory.” One of their biggest projects in the 1960s was helping build a time-sharing operating system called Multics. Dr. Joy Lisi Rankin explains the hype around time-...

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The C Change
C and UNIX are at the root of modern computing. Many of the languages we’ve covered this season are related to or at least influenced by C. But C and UNIX only happened because a few developers at Bell Labs created both as a skunkworks project. Bell Labs was a mid-twentieth century center for innovation. Jon Gertner describes it as an “idea factory.” One of their biggest projects in the 1960s was helping build a time-sharing operating system called Multics. Dr. Joy Lisi Rankin explains the hype around time-...

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Talking to Machines: LISP and the Origins of A.I.
Creating a machine that thinks may have seemed like science fiction in the 1950s. But John McCarthy decided to make it a reality. And he started with a language he called LISP. Colin Garvey describes how McCarthy created the first language for AI. Sam Williams covers how early interest in thinking machines spread from academia to the business world, and how—after certain projects didn’t deliver on their promises—a long AI winter eventually set in. Ulrich Drepper explains that the dreams of AI went beyond wh...

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Talking to Machines: LISP and the Origins of A.I.
Creating a machine that thinks may have seemed like science fiction in the 1950s. But John McCarthy decided to make it a reality. And he started with a language he called LISP. Colin Garvey describes how McCarthy created the first language for AI. Sam Williams covers how early interest in thinking machines spread from academia to the business world, and how—after certain projects didn’t deliver on their promises—a long AI winter eventually set in. Ulrich Drepper explains that the dreams of AI went beyond wh...

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Heroes in a Bash Shell
Shells make large-scale IT possible. They’re a necessary component to modern computing. But it might not have turned out that way without a lot of hard work from a developer at the Free Software Foundation named Brian Fox. Now, the Bash shell is shipped with almost every computer in the world. In the ‘70s, Bell Labs wanted to automate sequences of repetitive, complex commands. Chet Ramey describes how Bell developed several shells—but there could be only one officially supported shell for UNIX. Enter the Bo...

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The Infrastructure Effect: COBOL and Go
Languages used for IT infrastructure don’t have expiration dates. COBOL’s been around for 60 years—and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. We maintain billions of lines of classic code for mainframes. But we’re also building new infrastructures for the cloud in languages like Go. COBOL was a giant leap for computers to make industries more efficient. Chris Short describes how learning COBOL was seen as a safe long-term bet. Sixty years later, there are billions of lines of COBOL code that can’t easily be rep...

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Diving for Perl
Languages come and go. A few have the right stuff to rise to the top—and fewer stay there. Perl had a spectacular rise, a quiet slump, and has now found its place in the world of programming. Perl seemed destined to rule the web. Michael Stevenson and Mike Bursell describe how Perl’s design made it ideal for the early web. We hear from Conor Myhrvold about its motto: “There is more than one way to do it.” Elizabeth Mattijsen shares how—despite Perl’s strength—a long development cycle slowed Perl’s growth. ...

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Creating JavaScript
A mission to set the course of the world wide web in its early days. 10 days to get it done. The result? An indispensable language that changed everything. JavaScript was the underdog that won against all odds. Clive Thompson recounts the browser wars and how much the fallout influenced the future of the internet. Charles Severance explains how JavaScript went from a last-minute moonshot to the default web development language. Michael Clayton confesses he, like many others, underestimated JavaScript. And K...

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Learning the BASICs
Becoming a programmer used to require a Ph.D. and having access to some serious hardware. Then, in 1965, a couple of engineers had a radical idea: make it easier for people to get started. Beginner languages, like BASIC, burst the doors to coding wide open. Tom Cormen and Denise Dumas recall how BASIC changed everything. Avi Flombaum and Saron share tips on picking a first language in this new era of software development. And we hear from Femi Owolade-Coombes and Robyn Bergeron about how the next generation...

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Python’s Tale
A benevolent dictator for life steps down and changes the course of the Python language forever. Guido van Rossum’s “Transfer of Power” memo brings attention to the way programming languages evolve. In this episode, Emily Morehouse makes the connection between Python’s technical extensibility and its inclusive community. Michael Kennedy explains how Python is both easy to learn and powerful enough to build YouTube and Instagram. And Diane Mueller highlights how the Python community took the lead on so many ...

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Introducing Season 3 of Command Line Heroes
Command Line Heroes is back for Season 3. We’re exploring the epic history of programming languages and how communities affect their development. We're talking Python, learning about JavaScript, and diving into Perl. And that’s just our “Hello, World” for Season 3. The first episode drops June 25. Subscribe today and sign up for the newsletter. Head over to redhat.com/commandlineheroes to catch up on seasons 1 and 2. Check out all the additional content while you're there....

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Open Curiosity: NASA, Mars, and Beyond
The best and brightest took us to the moon with the computing power of pocket calculators. Now they’re taking us farther—and they’re doing it with the tech we’ve been talking about all season. Open source is taking us to Mars. The Season 2 finale takes us to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Tom Soderstrom shares how much JPL has gained by embracing open source. Hila Lifshitz-Assaf explains that NASA is solving some of their greatest problems with open software and crowdsourcing. And Dan Wachspress de...

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Bonus: Developer Advocacy Roundtable
Developer advocates play important roles in open source communities. We brought a few of them together to explain how and why they do what they do. Sandra Persing (Mozilla), Ricky Robinett (Twilio), and Robyn Bergeron (Red Hat) sit down with Saron to share what they’re working on, how they support their communities, and what they’re looking forward to in 2019. Meanwhile, Season 3 of Command Line Heroes is already in the works. You can be one of the first to learn about new episodes when they drop this sprin...

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At Your Serverless: Development Empowerment with Control
What does serverless really mean? Of course there are still servers—the basics of the internet aren’t changing. But what can developers accomplish when someone else handles the servers? Serverless computing makes it easy for beginners to deploy applications and makes work more efficient for the pros. Andrea Passwater shares how convenient it can be to abstract away (or remove from view) the infrastructure components of development. But as with any convenience, going serverless has tradeoffs. Rodric Rabbah e...

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The Data Explosion: Processing, Storage, and the Cloud
Big data is going to help solve big problems: how we grow food; how we deliver supplies to those in need; how we cure disease. But first, we need to figure out how to handle it. Modern life is filled with connected gadgets. We now produce more data in a day than we did over thousands of years. Kenneth Cukier explains how data has changed, and how it’s beginning to change us. Dr. Ellen Grant tells us how Boston Children’s Hospital is using open source software to transform mountains of data into individualiz...

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The One About DevSecOps: Evolving Security and Reliability
Bad security and reliability practices can lead to outages that affect millions. It’s time for security to join the DevOps movement. And in a DevSecOps world, we can get creative about improving security. Discovering one vulnerability per month used to be the norm. Now, software development moves quickly thanks to agile processes and DevOps teams. Vincent Danen tells us how that’s led to a drastic increase in what’s considered a vulnerability. Jesse Robbins, the former master of disaster at Amazon, explains...

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Fail Better: Embracing Failure
Failure is the heartbeat of discovery. We stumble a lot trying new things. The trick is to give up on failing fast. Instead, fail better. This episode looks at how tech embraces failure. Approaching failure with curiosity and openness is part of our process. Jennifer Petoff shares how Google has built a culture of learning and improvement from failure. With a shift in perspective, Jessica Rudder shows how embracing mistakes can lead to unexpected successes. And Jen Krieger explains how agile frameworks help...

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Ready to Commit: Contributing to Open Source
Looking to get into open source but not sure where to start? Are you a contributor trying to understand why only some pull requests get accepted? Or are you a maintainer who’s feeling overwhelmed? This episode looks at what it means to commit to an open source project. We follow our heroes as they progress through the roles of open source contributors: from finding projects and contributing to them, to building and maintaining thriving communities. Shannon Crabill shares how she got her start in open source...

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Hello, World: Programming Languages for the Polyglot Developer
Every new programming language is created to do something previously impossible. Today, there are quite a few to choose from. But which ones do you really need to know? This episode dives into the history of programming languages. We recognize the genius of “Amazing Grace,” also known as Rear Admiral Grace Hopper. It’s thanks to her that developers don’t need a PhD in mathematics to write their programs in machine code. We’re joined by Carol Willing of Project Jupyter, former Director of the Python Software...

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Press Start: How Gaming Shapes Development
Before the terms 'open source' and 'internet' were even coined—there were gamers. They created proto-open source communities, sharing and building upon each other’s work. For many programmers, gaming led them to their careers. In this episode, we explore the creative free-for-all of early game development over ARPANET. Game development brings together a massive mix of creative and programming talent. But while creating video games started as an open process, a lot has changed. Hear how you can get involved ...

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Introducing Season 2 of Command Line Heroes
In Season 2 of Command Line Heroes, we’re living on the command line, tracking the changes that shape the world of open source development. We’re discovering the origins of programming languages; mastering the art of making a pull request; learning about supercomputers, hybrid clouds, and more. Where does that lead us? Great heights and beyond. Episode 1 launches September 11th. Listen for free on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you do your thing. Drop us a line at redhat.com/commandlineheroes,...

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Days of Future_Open
Imagine a world where open source never caught on, where no one thought it’d be a good idea to make source code available to anyone. In this episode, we imagine this bizarre possibility. And we celebrate the open source tools and methodologies that got us where we are today. Join us as we wrap up Season 1, an almost 30,000-foot view of how the open source world came to be. Next season, we’re zooming in and focusing on the epic struggles of today’s command line heroes. Please let us know what you think of th...

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Crack the Cloud_Open
“There is no cloud. It's just someone else's computer.” Or server, to be exact. Big cloud providers offer a relatively easy way to scale out workloads. But what’s the real cost? In this episode, we talk about the battle in the clouds, where any winner is still very much up in the air. Major Hayden, Microsoft’s Bridget Kromhout, and others help us understand the storm that’s brewing and where that leaves open source developers. Please let us know what you think of the show by providing a rating or review in...

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The Containers_Derby
The rise of Container technologies opens a new frontier for developers, simplifying the movement of work from machine to machine. As Containers become more popular, though, a new battle emerges. This race is for the control of orchestration and involves the industry’s fastest, strongest players. Containers are one of the most important evolutions in the open-source movement and in this episode, featured guests Kelsey Hightower, Google developer advocate, and Laura Frank, Docker Captain and Director of Engin...

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DevOps_Tear Down That Wall
As the race to deliver applications ramps up, the wall between development and operations comes crashing down. When it does, those on both sides learn to work together like never before. But what is DevOps, really? Developer guests, including Microsoft’s Scott Hanselman and Cindy Sridharan (better known as @copyconstruct) think about DevOps as a practice from their side of the wall, while members from various operations teams explain what they’ve been working to defend. Differences remain but with DevOps, t...

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The Agile_Revolution
It's the turn of the 21st century. Open source software is changing the tech landscape. But new patterns of work have now become necessary. Developers search for a revolutionary approach that will allow open source development to flourish. A group of developers convenes at a ski resort in Utah to craft such an approach. What emerges is a manifesto that changes everything. Dave Thomas, one of the authors of the Manifesto for Agile Software Development, brings us back to that now famous retreat where the agil...

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OS Wars_part 2: Rise of Linux
It's the 1990s. The empire of Microsoft controls 90% of users. Complete standardization of operating systems seems assured. But an unlikely hero arises from amongst the band of open source rebels. Linus Torvalds—meek, bespectacled—releases his Linux O.S. free of charge. While Microsoft reels and regroups, the battleground shifts from personal computers to the Internet. Acclaimed tech journalist Steven Vaughan-Nichols is joined by a team of veterans who relive the tech revolution that reimagined our future. ...

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OS Wars_part 1
The O.S. Wars. The 1980s is a period of mounting tensions. The empires of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs careen toward an inevitable battle over proprietary software—only one empire can emerge as the purveyor of a standard operating system for millions of users. Gates has formed a powerful alliance with IBM while Jobs tries to maintain the purity of his brand. Their struggle for dominance threatens to engulf the galaxy. Meanwhile, in distant lands, and unbeknownst to the Emperors, open source rebels have begun t...

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Preview_CLH
Introducing a show about the developers, programmers, hackers, geeks, and open source rebels who are shaping our digital future....