Greg Hewgill (ghewgill) wrote,
Greg Hewgill
ghewgill

open source serendipity

Today I met Andy Hopper. Among many other things, he is currently head the Computer Technology Department at Cambridge University. In 1977 he invented the LAN in his Ph.D. thesis entitled "Local Area Computer Communication Networks". The amazing thing was that I didn't really know who he was, and he didn't know who I was, but he did know about one thing that I had done!

Way back in 1998, I scratched an itch and improved the VNC client to add a full-screen feature. That means if you were using VNC to view another machine that had the same screen resolution, you could go into full screen mode and view the remote machine screen without any extra annoying scroll bars. It also did automatic panning when you moved the mouse near the edge of the screen if the remote screen was larger than the viewer screen. I submitted the change to the VNC group (then at AT&T) and it was incorporated into version 3.3.2 R2. I believe that was my first open source contribution ever.

Fast forward to last year when I started at my current job. I noticed that all my cow-orkers used VNC in full screen mode to access remote Linux machines. I mentioned that I had contributed the original implementation of that feature, and everybody thought that was pretty cool.

Fast forward to a few hours ago. Andy Hopper was in our office talking with my boss and my boss's boss. The subject of VNC came up in passing and my boss said that I had done some work on VNC a while ago, and introduced me. I stood up and shook hands, and he asked what I had worked on. When I told him, he shook my hand again and thanked me as the Chairman of RealVNC because he knew exactly what I was talking about! We chatted for a bit about their current projects, which include two-way implementations for mobile devices.

It seems exceedingly improbable that I should ever have met him. I'm currently living in a country that's pretty much as far away as you can get from where he lives, and the only reason he's here right now is because he flew here. In his own single-engine Cessna 210, along with his family. He's got a live tracking device which uses GPS and satellite phones to send location updates in real time, which you can view on his live RTW trip position page. He arrived here in New Zealand two weeks ago, after having spent two weeks flying from Cambridge to Auckland. What an incredible trip.
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