Sponsored by Reblaze, creators of Curiefense
Justin Dorfman | Richard Littauer
Brian J. Fox
Hello and welcome to Committing to Cloud Native Podcast! It’s the podcast by Reblaze where we talk about the confluence of Cloud Native and Open Source. Today, we have an amazing guest with a long history of open source in the space and that is the legendary Brian J. Fox, who is the Co-Founder of Orchid, a blockchain company that started in 2017. Also, he created the Bash Shell and he was the first employee of the Free Software Foundation. Brian shares the story of how he ended up at FSF, his thoughts on the success of Bash after all these years, which includes running on Mars currently. We learn everything he did before he Co-Founded Orchid, he tells us all about Orchid and how it works, his thoughts on the open source movement and where he sees it going, and more about the value of cloud companies. We also find out Brian is a bassist in a band, so if you want to find out more go ahead and download this episode now!
[00:01:51] Brian tells us how he ended up at the FSF.
[00:05:08] Justin wonders if Brian thought Bash would still be around and he tells us it’s running on Mars in the helicopter.
[00:07:08] Richard brings up that Bash is on Windows and asks Brian to talk about how that happened and what his reaction was.
[00:09:00] At some point Brian left FSF and went to Orchid, and Richard wonders how that started. Brian fills us in on all the things he did in between FSF and Orchid.
[00:14:01] We learn how Orchid works and its physical infrastructure.
[00:18:51] Brian tells us about the protocol being strictly peer to peer, and he explains more about the Orchid network and the bandwidth.
[00:22:11] Justin asks if Brian still seeds or if he has enough users where it’s just kind of self-sustaining. Brian mentions OXT which is the name of the Orchid cryptocurrency.
[00:23:36] Richard is curious and wants to know what Brian thinks about open source as a movement in the last two or three years, where does he think it’s going, and how does he think he’s leveraging that in Orchid in as best a way possible to make sure the success of the system that he’s building.
[00:27:57] We find out from Brian that he’s all about problem solving and the architecture that goes into the problem solving and it’s about the expression.
[00:29:40] How does Brian thread the line between being an open source diehard and I run a capitalist firm.
[00:32:33] Justin does a U-turn to the conversation and goes back to the VPN industry and wants to know Brian’s thoughts on the current market of traditional VPN’s that are not crypto powered.
[00:33:33] Brian tells us how he deals with requests from law enforcement agencies.
[00:35:54] We end with Brian telling us where you can find him online, he tells us about his band Chillpoint that you should checkout, and he leaves us with thoughts on cloud companies not going away.
- Executive Produced by Tzury Bar Yochay
- Produced by Justin Dorfman
- Edited by Paul M. Bahr at Peachtree Sound
- Show notes by DeAnn Bahr at Peachtree Sound
- Transcript by Layten Pryce
[00:01] Richard: Bash is awesome, I use bash every single year as it is.
[00:03] Justin: I do too, it's always open.
[00:05] Richard: So I'm also just incredibly grateful for your work.
[00:07] Brian J Fox: Thank you guys so much. I use Bash all the time and I just want to quickly say that the people who provide documentation and instructions on how to use these tools that have been around a long time, they are doing a fantastic service and NixCraft is one of those. You should check them out if you can online.
[00:26] Richard: Hello and welcome to Committing to Cloud-Native, the podcast where we talk about the confluence of the cloud and open-source. Today, we have an amazing guest with a long history of open-source in this space. Super excited to have him on. Before I introduce our guest, I want to make sure that the audience knows who was talking. I'm Richard Littauer, I'm your normal host and then we also have Justin Dorfman, the other normal host. Justin, how are you today?
[00:57] Justin: Normal.
[00:57] Richard: Yes, me too, just totally normal, just in no way exceptional or interesting.
[01:02] Justin: I'll be honest. I'll be honest, Richard, I am a little nervous because who we have on right now is a legend. So go ahead.
[01:10] Richard: Yes, but he hasn't done that much, right? Like Brian J. Fox, he's smiling right now. He's just a normal guy, right? Wearing a black t-shirt, got glasses on.
[01:18] Brian J Fox: Yes, I would say of the three of us I am definitely the most normal.
[01:21] Richard: That's true. That's true.
[01:22] Justin: Could be.
[01:23] Richard: Audience, you can't tell I'm wearing a pizza for a hat, not true. Brian has a long history in this space. He's the co-founder of Orchid, a blockchain company, started in 2017, but he's also done a lot more than that. So he created the Bash Shell. He was the first employee of FSF, otherwise known as the Free Software Foundation. That's about where my brain just stopped and was like, wow, I don't even know where else. How did you end up there? How did that happen?
[01:54] Brian J Fox: How did I end up at the Free Software Foundation?
[01:56] Richard: Mhmm.
[01:57] Brian J Fox: So, I was excited about working with computers and I started writing some software on an Apple two computer around, I don't know, 1980, 1981 and I was teaching a gifted and talented; I'm ancient, by the way, I'm about a million years old.
[02:14] Richard: He looks like it too.
[02:15] Brian J Fox: Yes, I do. I appear quite old. I'm just kind of a bent-over, decrepit old man. I was teaching gifted and talented seventh and eighth graders and the language that they were learning, I was doing some computer stuff with them, and the language that they were using was called terrapin logo and the terrapin logo software was somewhat broken and I used to delve in there and fix it in the Apple two, you could break into the monitor and make changes to your running software by actually just patching the code live. So I was doing that one day and the owner of the Terrapin company saw me doing that and said, wow, would you like a job? I said, sure, why not? And I already had relationships at the MIT AI lab, Marvin Minsky was a family friend and I went to school a few years ahead of his youngest twins, Henry and Julie Minsky, who are still great friends of mine by the way, wonderful human beings.
[03:12]So anyway, I started working for Terrapin and the two other guys that were working at Terrapin were also grad students at the AI Lab. So there was a lot of overlap between things that were happening at the artificial intelligence lab and this job I was doing, and I wrote a full-blown version of Emacs for the Apple two called A-Macs. It was an 80 column editor with dynamically loaded libraries and printing modules and multiple languages. It was free. It was pretty full-featured and I was very excited about it and I wanted to show it to my, then at that time hero Richard Stallman, because he had written Emacs and Emacs to me was the embodiment of how to think about software architecture. I could see from using the program, I could kind of understand the architecture behind the way in which it was built and I thought that was super elegant. So that kind of made me want to write a version of Emacs, so I did that and then I ran over to the lab and I saw Richard Solomon coming down the steps and I said, Richard, I have to tell you something. He said, what? He didn't know me at all. I said, I wrote this complete version of Emacs for the Apple two, and it's called A-Macs and it's got all medics completion and everything, it's super good and he says, well, I don't think I'm a good distribution point for that and then left.
[04:25]He kind of had completely missed that I was saying, you're my hero and I tried to emulate you and thought that maybe I was talking about distributing software. So the guys I was working with a Terrapin about six months after that said to me, you should talk to Richard Stallman, he's trying to start this free software thing and I think it fit in really well with that. I said, well, he didn't really want to talk to me when I talked to him the last time, but I'll try. So they had told Richard that I was coming over. So, I came over and Richard said, I hear you're a real wizard and we'd love to have you working in the free software foundation. I said, that sounds exciting and Richard and I hit it off pretty well and then I started writing software for the Free Software Foundation and that's one project I knew that started.
[05:06] Richard: Wow.
[05:06] Brian J Fox: Yeah.
[05:07] Justin: Did you ever think Bash would be still around when you were first developing it were usually like, oh, this is going to be a game-changer or is it just like, ugh, I have to do this task?
[05:20] Brian J Fox: Software doesn't really have a good shelf life just in general and that was true in the early eighties that was still true. So I never thought that any piece of software I wrote would have any longevity at all and I'm super surprised to find out that many pieces of software I wrote have some longevity and of course, Bash is the most famous of those and is now available on multiple planets as well as basically every computer that exists on the earth today.
[05:49] Richard: Is Bash running on like on Mars right now in like one of the rovers?
[05:54] Brian J Fox: It's running on Mars in the helicopter, yes.
[05:57] Justin: Nice.
[05:58] Richard: Cool, okay, that's awesome, you're literally in multiple planets, that's really cool.
[06:02] Brian J Fox: Yes. Yes. Interplanetary software, yes, that's pretty good. I never really thought that it would have this lifespan and I think it's just the nature of the very specific thing that Richard and I and others were doing with this project Canoe I did, this completely free version of a Unix replacement that was completely free. I think it's just because of that, that this piece of software has this longevity. If I wrote a brand new piece of software that delivered brand new functionality, then I think it would have some lifespan and other people would then take that and improve upon it and make something even better or different. But in this particular case, we were trying to recreate a legacy system and it had to be perfectly matched to the legacy. It had to be a hundred percent backward compatible. So we could add things to it, but it had to be a hundred percent backward compatible and when that happens, when we delivered that it became the defacto standard. So all the software that came before that uses the shell to do stuff, continue to rely on the shell and that's why it's been around 35 plus years.
[07:07] Richard: So I know that it's now on windows, that was announced in 2016. Can you talk a bit about that story, how that happened?
[07:14] Brian J Fox: I don't know how that happened. Well, what I think really happened was Bill Gates left the scene, stopped kind of pushing hard on what he was pushing hard on and he's a relatively proprietary guy and his successor was kind of proprietary and then third guy came along and he's realized the modern world is not really looking to stick with only proprietary solutions and they realized that free and open-source software is important, which is why Microsoft did their version of helping free and open-source software by for example, buying, GitHub and delivering the PowerShell, which is...
[07:51] Richard: Classic.
[07:51] Brian J Fox: Yes.
[07:52] Justin: What was your reaction when you heard that? Because for me, I remember where I was, I was at my desk when I heard this and I was like, how did this, what, like, to me, it was just like a total shock. How did you deal with it?
[08:07] Brian J Fox: I was kind of like, well, it's about time. I mean, for the previous 20 years, we had a Cygwin, which was basically a Unix-like environment that you could run on a windows machine and it was just mildly painful to get set up and to use and to try to get it to interoperate with all the other windows stuff. So when Microsoft started making noises about embracing open-source, it made sense to me that one of the first things they would do is kind of take the staple pieces of software and make sure they were running on their own.
[08:41] Richard: You mentioned Bill Gates changing his mind, which I kind of have to ask, Richard Stallman is obviously a very controversial figure today, some of the stuff he's done in the past few years totally sucked and various; it's like not someone I even want to talk about anymore. I'm kind of ashamed I share his first name. So at some point you left FSF then you moved on and you started working on Orchid. I'm curious how that started.
[09:06] Brian J Fox: So I did not move from FSF to Orchid. There were about 30 years in between and believe it or not, I've done other things since then. So here are some things that I've done since then. So I moved to California from Boston and I continued to work for the Free Software Foundation, writing software for Project Canoe and championing open-source and free software. And then I started to travel around and hang out with all these people that I'd met at MIT in different parts of the world and I did that for about five years. Then in '95 I had come back and a friend of mine wanted me to work with him at Wells Fargo and I resisted quite strenuously and then eventually got convinced to. So I then wrote the first version of Wells Fargo's online banking and Wells Fargo was the first bank to go online here in the United States and after they didn't get ripped off immediately, other banks went online, which was great. In the course of doing that, I realized there were no good tools for building database-backed websites. We wrote that in C and you wanted to change the color of something, the designer would say, I want to make that thing be a darker blue and you would get into the C code and change the color in the C code of the thing that's going to make the web page.
[10:18] Richard: Wow. What year was this?
[10:19] Brian J Fox: '95.
[10:21] Richard: Wow. Okay.
[10:22] Brian J Fox: And then in August of '95, I wrote programming language for programming the world wide web called Metta HTML and it was a HTML compliant language, meaning that the text of the language looked like HTML, could look like HTML and you could have, but it was functional language like Lis-Pro scheme, so you could have functioned calls and do all these things. It was executed server-side, not client-side. This was so early on that some browsers didn't support the table tag. I mean, it was like that, like we had the blink tag [Inaudible10:56]support. So this language would allow you to do things like define a function calls table that looked like an HTML side called table and you could just pass it through for browsers that supported that or you could turn it into a bunch of pre-statements and make and draw a beautiful ASCII table.
[11:16] Richard: Polyfills before polyfills.
[11:18] Brian J Fox: Yes, exactly, exactly.
[11:19] Justin: Did you talk to Tim Berners-Lee about it or did the W3C know about it or did you work with them?
[11:26] Brian J Fox: W3C knew about it, they had started to do some server-side scripting stuff. Everybody was busy writing Apache and I talked to the main guy who was working on Apache at the time in the lab and I was like, hey, look at this cool thing that I've got, this should just be a module inside Apache and he's like, yes, I'm working on something else. I don't really want to do that right now. I was like, oh, okay, fine. So, then I made a web server [Inaudible11:50]all this stuff to kind of cover that and then several companies, this was the mid-nineties, mid to late nineties, so several companies made their gigantic tens of millions at the time that was a gigantic number, tens of millions of dollars building products using this programming language. It was pretty well received and worked pretty well. And I was interested in start-up companies. So around 2000, I started a company that works with start-up companies and invest in them and that was called the ACORE group and it is now called The Opus Logic but basically, it's an extension of that. We invest in start-up organizations and we provide technology to those start-up organizations and take out equity.
[12:30] Justin: Got it.
[12:31] Brian J Fox: Then in 2017, I had this idea and I drew something on the board and the idea of basically was I had a friend who was living in China and he couldn't get to Wikipedia and I was like, you should be able to get to Wikipedia. He's like, well, every time I use a VPN, the great firewall of China just closes it down. And I was like, well, maybe you can just use a VPN that I set up at my house. Why don't you do that? And I thought, well, the general case of that is we can have a network of participants and people who use services will pay for them and people who provide the services will get paid and it's all just a peer to peer network sitting on top of our physical network infrastructure that we have. So now what we need is a way to smuggle bits back and forth so nation-states like China, can't see the data that's being moved around. And the great firewall of China is a fantastic IT project. It employs the most people and they spend the most amount of money on it and they're very technically savvy. There's nothing schlocky about what China does there, but they do allow certain types of traffic to go back and forth. For example, peer-to-peer zoom calls are allowed to go back and forth. So imagine if I package up all the data inside my zoom call.
[13:43] Richard: Are we doing that right now? Is this data going to China at the moment? I mean, we're using Riverside, but basically, I'm just curious.
[13:50] Brian J Fox: Well, Riverside is owned by China, edit that's false.
[14:00] Richard: So how does Orchid work then if you're bundling stuff in Zoom calls, or do you have a fake Zoom call proxy that you're just sending everything through or what?
[14:06] Brian J Fox: No, I said zoom call, but actually just think of any other protocol that's not proprietary. For example, WebRTC is an example of a protocol that'll let you do these things back and forth. So you can put interesting bits of data in there, but you could put interesting bits of data in any kind of thing. See, the network internet protocols are packet-based, which means that they're discreet. You put a bunch of data in a packet and then you send the packet out and then eventually somebody receives the packet and if you have good sequencing, so you know which packet comes first and which packet comes second, you wait until you have the packets all put together and then you have this bundle of stuff. So I can actually use email as an internet protocol, it's just very slow.
[14:46] Richard: So email is super inefficient?
[14:47] Brian J Fox: As a method of doing packet network communications. It's actually rather efficient for moving conversations back and forth.
[14:54] Richard: Yes, my mom loves it, works great.
[15:00] Justin: You have like some sort of infrastructure for this project for Orchid. What are we looking at? Are you full cloud, your hybrid? What are we looking at?
[15:11] Brian J Fox: Okay, good. Let's talk about Orchid for a minute. So, one of the drivers was to allow access to what we like to think of as the free internet from behind restrictive firewalls, that was one driver for doing it. Then that wasn't really the only reason it was like, oh, wow, there's a bunch of, this is the way that the internet used to be back in the late eighties and early nineties before we decided to go with DNS and have a whole bunch of centralized stuff. The internet was really just a bunch of people connected over DSL or dial-up or whatever we have in order to do peer-to-peer communications on things. First protocol we had for sharing information like that was FTP and the very next thing was Gopher and Gopher was exciting because you could look up and see what information somebody might have and then go get that information from them. That was amazing. But you had to know how to get to the person's place. It's kind of like the way tourists today, you have to know somebody's onion address to get to their server.
[16:11]So then of course people invented the DNS protocol, which was a dynamic name lookup, and it allowed you to name, give your nice logical name and then all these servers could know the address associated with that name. Well, that was great, but that was also the end of what I would call privacy and the internet the way we knew it. And then the way it is right now at my house I have Cox cable and Cox knows my name, my address, my social security number, my credit card number, and every single website I visit and I don't think that's really Cox's business, number one. And number two, even if I totally trust Cox in every way, shape, and form with that information and that they're going to do their best job to protect it, some nation-state or some bad hacker comes along from Russia, for example, hacks into Cox and takes all the data because all of this data is stored in one central location. So now they know all my information and they know yours too Justin and yours too Rich, and they know everything right. And this has already happened time and time again, just take a look at all the, I mean, we only hear about it when it's a credit card hack. Like, oh my God, at Target, all the people who've ever used a credit card at Target and I'm like, oh, that's not me. I'm not one of the 50 million people who had their credit card stolen. Of course I am. I mean, everybody, I think everybody in the United States and many other countries have had their information compromised.
[17:37] Justin: Absolutely. I think even for ISPs they have retentions for, if someone needs to check, like if they get a warrant to check someone's internet history, which is just really creepy, but that's what Orchid is like doing.
[17:51] Brian J Fox: I mean, that's really the point. So it was big news when Apple said to the FBI, no, we're not going to help you break into this phone. We were all like, yay, they're our champions, they're protecting us. But the point is they could have helped them break into the phone, they have that technology. So if they know how to break into the phone, other people know how to break in the phone and that's what happens when you have a cell phone, everybody who wants to can kind of tell where you are and who you talk to.
[18:20] Justin: Yes, it's a freedom...
[18:22] Brian J Fox: Yes, it's the nature of these network devices.
[18:24] Justin: Yes, it's the payoff, the contract you make.
[18:27] Brian J Fox: Yes. So, we, the humans that use these convenience features are in the habit of trading our privacy and our agency for convenience and it's a very short-sighted view in my opinion. So an Orchid network and an Orchid-like network is an excellent way to combat that and still deliver convenience.
[18:49] Justin: So is it strictly peer-to-peer or are there servers that you need to run to kind of, if there's not someone on the network, how does that work?
[18:59] Brian J Fox: So the protocol is strictly peer-to-peer. If you're asking, did we seed the network with some servers, so that was some nodes that are running Orchid protocol? The answer is, yes, we did do that, that's definitely a good way to get started, but that's not the ultimate way in which this works. The more people that use Orchid, the more people provide services for Orchid and the more people get paid. And so this whole thing was just an ecosystem to have the method of payment to incentivize peer-to-peer to communications. So I'm kind of excited about it still.
[19:29] Richard: Yes, it is super exciting. I think what Justin is trying to get at, how is this related to cloud technologies? Because that's kind of one of the things we're interested on here, we're about committing to cloud-native. What I'm hearing is you built a super awesome protocol for sharing bandwidth between users and basically to allow for like another way of doing VPNs and then you also have a cryptocurrency that's built on top of that protocol, which incentivizes people to actually share their bandwidth. It's very similar to me to protocol labs, which for instance is going around and sharing data and you have like a content-addressable system and then you have a crypto on top of that, which incentivizes people to use it. Does that sound accurate?
[20:04] Brian J Fox: I think that's very close. I'm going to make a slight change to that, which is the Orchid network is really a way for computers to participate in a network and to buy and sell services from each other. And bandwidth happens to be the lowest hanging fruit easiest thing to sell, it is a wasting good. Everybody has extra bandwidth, nobody is on a hundred percent of the time using up every little bit of bandwidth that exists on the planet. So that just happened to be the low-hanging fruit, but selling compute services, selling CPU time, use of memory, the use of storage, all those things are completely reasonable things to do inside the Orchid network. And there are other networks that are out, other protocols that are coming out that are also doing that. I'm an advisor to Acache network and Acache is fabulous. I love what Acache is doing and I love the supermini, which is a small device that any person can put in their house and it can run various protocols, various blockchain protocols.
[21:03] Richard: So ideally at some point, this would actually replace a lot of the cloud computing stuff that we currently have, right? Because cloud computing is based around the idea that I have a lot to run, I'm going to run into someone else's servers, largely one of the big four, but you're saying was, well actually, why don't we just have everyone running stuff all the time and we could just find a way for people to incentivize and pay for that and then have it run on their local computers.
[21:23] Brian J Fox: Sure. I mean, I pay for my use of AWS. Why wouldn't I be happy to pay less for my use of your computer? And the fact is that the protocol allows for, like IPFS, for example, allows storage across a wide number of nodes. So my data is automatically backed up. So I don't have to trust that Richard will always have his computer on and it will always be working well and it'll never run out of disc space or anything. He's just one of the participants in this network and he gets paid accordingly to the amount that he participates.
[21:55] Richard: What's also interesting about IPFS is a lot of the early nodes are actually backed up by AWS [Inaudible21:59]because that's one of the ways of seeding the network. It's like, well, let's just have the cloud run it for a while.
[22:04] Brian J Fox: Right, no problem with that. Those are useful machines as well.
[22:09] Justin: Do you still seed or do you have enough users where it's just kind of self-sustaining?
[22:14] Brian J Fox: I can't tell you how many users we have, not because I don't want to.
[22:18] Richard: On purpose.
[22:19] Brian J Fox: No, because I don't want to, but because I literally cannot do that. I don't know how many users we have. I can tell you how much OXT it moves back and forth, that I can tell you but I can't tell you the number of users. I don't know that answer. I don't know anything about the network utilization except for how much OXT moves around.
[22:40] Justin: What's OXT?
[22:41] Brian J Fox: OXT is the name of the cryptocurrency, the Orchid cryptocurrency.
[22:45] Justin: Got it. Got it.
[22:46] Brian J Fox: It's an ERC 20 token, which means it's based of an Ethereum.
[22:50] Justin: Okay, great.
[22:51] Richard: If I can take a step back, what I love about this conversation, Brian, is that there's just so much. You've been around for so long, you've done so many things that like, I don't even know where to start asking questions because I'm just like, wow. Even IPFS, Bash is literally IPFS in the sense that it's running on another planet. So, like, way to win there. [inaudible23:09]good for you, you win. What's really interesting to me is that you started out at FSF and then you've also gone on and had this long chain of things. You built languages that were early compilers for websites. You were around as we saw the dot com come and the dot com go, then you were around for cryptocurrency rise and now you're an investor, you're an ecosystem level thinker. What I'm curious about now is what do you think about open-source as a movement in the last, like two or three years? Where do you think it's going and how do you think you're leveraging that in Orchid in as best a way possible to make sure the success of the system that you're building?
[23:51] Brian J Fox: So free software and open-source, once again, like this internet stuff used to just be the way things were. I mean, software is an expression, where as humans, all we do is manipulate symbols. We don't do anything else and we're really good at it. We're good at pattern matching and we love it, that's what we get stuck doing. I think I can break someone's brain by giving them unsolvable patterns in some way. I think that's like a possibility, don't do that, but I think it's a good idea, but don't do it though. We're basically pattern matching semantic machines when, for the technical people in the audience who know what a byte is and what a memory location is. If I take a memory location and a computer and I put the number 65 in there, what does that mean? Does it mean the number 65? Does it mean a pattern 0001 0001? Does it mean the letter a, the small letter a? What does it mean? Does it mean some dots on a screen? It's only what we perceive it to mean and just what we're doing right now, sitting here in front of a computer, we think we're talking to each other and we are but the symbols are coming in, we're just interpreting these signals to mean something.
[25:05]I'm just looking at some dots on a screen and Richard's nodding his head and you can hear my voice and it's all just electricity. But as people, we map it into our human experience. So that's number one. So then think about that as you write computer software, really all you're doing is expressing some idea and computer software, the beauty of it for me is in the architectural design, is in how you craft your thoughts to encapsulate the solution to a problem. This is not very different from what mathematicians do when they make mathematical proofs. They craft their thoughts in order to give an articulation of a solution to a problem. Mathematical formulas are not secret, they're open, they're free, they're open source and in fact you cannot patent a mathematical formula.
[26:00] Richard: I didn't know, it makes sense.
[26:02] Brian J Fox: You can patent a process, but you can't patent a formula. So why can we even think about patenting software, for example, or making it be secret? What is the advantage of making it be secret? Where nobody else knows how to do it, but in fact, the instantiation of this thing we're looking at where we're doing this video call, it's the idea of this and the execution of it that makes this thing valuable, not the code that went into it because now that I've seen this, I can write code that will do this. The hard part was thinking of this, right, was thinking that this could be a real experience that we could use. And then wow, now that I see that it can happen, large numbers of people are capable of writing software that can do this. So what's the advantage in slowing them down? Am I really going to keep my thing proprietary? Is there a good business reason for that? I think not. I think there's not a good business reason for that and all I'm doing is slowing down the advancement of this technological field, which in this case is slowing down the advancement of semantical understanding and the way people interact with each other. So I don't want to be part of that. So everything I do is free and open-source.
[28:01] Brian J Fox: For me it's about problem-solving and the architecture that goes into the problem-solving. So sure that is software at scale. I mean, you can't have software at scale without that kind of problem-solving mentality. Literally it's about the expression of a solution and the other thing is like, physicists do this and mathematicians do this and I think that people who are not just academics, but people who are into this kind of problem-solving space do it a lot. The idea is what is the general problem that needs to be solved and what's the general solution for that and once we have a general solution, then you can start to do things, which is why we have computers. They are general purpose computing devices and we use them, everybody nowadays uses them for everything. They don't think about it. If you put your beverage in the microwave and you push the beverage button, the last thing you think about is what language was used to write the software that operates my microwave. I mean, you just don't think about it and most people don't think about the programs that they run on their computers, which are extremely valuable in their lives for communicating with other human beings and for discussing and sharing ideas.
[29:05] Richard: It's great that most people don't have to look at the abstraction of their microwave. It's great that they can just press a button and go. A lot of that's partly because there's been a proprietary company that's figured out how to make the microwave and how to sell it to people. We use a system of money where money is used as a way of saying, I put this amount of effort in, and if you want to not have that effort, you can buy this thing. I know that you're a capitalist in some sense, you have a venture fund, all that is using these weird levels and balances for using money to control how information flows. I'm how you thread the line between being an open-source diehard information should be free, why am I just slowing people down and I run a capitalist firm? I know that's maybe a tough question, I'm just curious how you do that.
[29:50] Brian J Fox: I don't see that there's any conflict at all. I mean, just think about this. You have a guy mow your lawn, there's nothing proprietary about that. He does some labor, he gets paid. There's nothing proprietary about it. If you asked me to think about your problem, that's fine. I'm going to think about your problem and you should pay me for that. You're going to get a solution to your problem. That doesn't mean that you're going to be the only guy in the world getting the solution. So thanks for contributing to the solution, to that problem, that's very useful. And the only reason why you would want to be the only guy with the solution to that problem is if you wanted to prevent other people from having that solution, which I philosophically disagree with and I don't think it's good for humanity and I don't even think it's good for your business. You're a brand new start-up and you've got this great idea, you think that cars should be able to fly and that's your thing and you're going to make the car that flies and then everybody will want a car that flies and everybody will have to buy your car.
[30:48]The truth is for you to succeed in your business you need an ecosystem. You need a large number of people to believe that flying cars is a good thing. You need choices in that ecosystem so people who have a lot of money can buy the expensive version and people who have a small amount of money can buy the cheaper version. You're not the guy who can make all those things at once because you're a start-up and you have to focus on a specific target market. So what you really want is for this to be a valid market and for you to be a useful player in that market. Well, you've got first-mover advantage and that's really important. You're going to be one of the guys solving this problem. If you can take that information about how to solve this problem and give it away to everybody, you will create this massive ecosystem in which you will be a major player. And if you don't do that, your business may fizzle and die because not enough people can buy your product, because your product is super expensive, or the people who would give you a lot of money, you've targeted them, you haven't made a product that really fits the masses. It's only fit this smaller group of people, and you're only getting a small amount of money. So it's better to create an ecosystem than it is to try to have your own specials proprietary niche solution.
[32:01] Justin: I want to make a quick U-turn and I want to go back to the VPN industry. I watched a lot of YouTube, most of the shows I watch, they're all sponsored by VPNs. I hear mixed reviews about VPNs, they are scummy, they are lying to you, they're not completely encrypted, whatever. I'm not naming company names, but just a lot of money goes towards YouTubers to promote the VPNs. What are your thoughts on the current market of traditional VPNs that are not crypto-powered?
[32:37] Brian J Fox: The issue I have with traditional VPNs is you have moved the centralization issue that I talked about for the ISP and I will mention names like Cox, for example, we've moved from the centralizing of your information at the ISP to the centralized area of your information at the VPN. So the VPN now knows who you are, your social security number, your credit card number, and every website you visit and they're susceptible to the exact same issues that the ISP was susceptible to. A nation-state comes along and steals all the information from the VPN and now all that information about me is in somebody else's hands, perhaps in somebody's nefarious hands. So that's the downside of a VPN. It doesn't solve the problem.
[33:26] Justin: Right, it just basically makes it someone else's problem, in a sense.
[33:29] Brian J Fox: Exactly.
[33:30] Justin: Now, how do you deal with requests from law enforcement agencies? Is it just like a, hey, we there's nothing we can do?
[33:39] Brian J Fox: If the police come, if some government agency comes to the board of Orchid, which I'm on the board of Orchid and says, give us all the information you have and all your users, I say, okay, I'm done now. I don't have any information on my user, I can't help you. They're not my users, I created a protocol, Orchid created a protocol and people use that protocol. It would be like going to the internet protocol organization and saying, give me all the information on your users, they can't, they don't know who users are. They just created this protocol that users use, but they don't have a list of users. They can't see who's using the protocol. I mean, this was one of the; very early on, I was very clear on this, the idea was to create a complete open-source solution that stands on its own and doesn't even need a company. There should be no company involved in the execution of this plan. The only company that we needed was we wanted to put a group of developers together and get them focused on solving a problem.
[34:46] Justin: And make really cool bunny illustrations.
[34:51] Brian J Fox: Yes, I will tell the honest truth, I had nothing to do with the bunny illustration.
[34:58] Justin: I like them. I'm saying those costs money.
[35:02]: Richard: So I like the idea of just not having things about users, not tracking that and just building better protocols for people to share and I do see in the future at some point, I mean, this will replace cloud if it's done well, right? So a lot of the cloud stuff now is basically run by large companies like Google, Amazon, and it doesn't need to happen, it could also be run by users. That doesn't mean that the cloud space is going away, oh, listeners, it just means that it's going to be a different end point that you're hitting. We're always going to still need to have how to do a software at scale, how to figure things out, and how to have good VPNs or how to use things currie fence to make it work. But Brian, I love how you talk about ecosystem level and I think it's really important message that just needs to be hammered home. Every time I hear it, it's like, yeah, of course, why don't I say this every day?
[35:46]We are running up on time and I want to make sure people have the ability to listen to you further than this podcast. So where can they find you online, on the web, other podcasts, tweets, Twitter, what do you do?
[35:57] Brian J Fox: I tweet very rarely. My Twitter handle, I think is Brian J. Fox or Brian John Fox, I'm not sure. I think it's Brian J. Fox. I never Instagram. If you see a band called Chill Point Band, chillpointband.com, if you see a band called Chill Point Band playing somewhere, then go there and talk to me, I'll be playing in that band. I'm a bassist.
[36:16] Justin: Oh, nice.
[36:18] Richard: Sweet.
[36:19] Justin: I didn't know that.
[36:20] Richard: Covering all the bases. Nice.
[36:23] Brian J Fox: Oh boy, edit, get rid her that joke.
[36:25] Richard: I'm not sorry. Listen, I did want to say one thing though, you were talking about cloud companies, not going away. We have television content and the world pays a lot of attention on television. They watch TV shows and that they watch that and then streaming content providers came along like HBO and Cinemax and so forth and people started watching those streaming content providers and then new television stations appeared, which were streaming stations, streaming content, but content made for television. Then YouTube came along and as Justin pointed out, he watches a lot of YouTube. I also watch a lot of YouTube. There's a lot of content on there that I find interesting and it's like I get my on-demand streaming television fix. But TV didn't go away and I appreciate the fact that somebody makes Game of Thrones and I get to watch that and I don't think that individuals have the wherewithal or the incredible skill sets to gather the skillset together, to make something like Game of Thrones on YouTube. Maybe I'll be proven wrong in the future. I'll be very happy about that, but it means there's room for both. As long as the legacy providers pay attention to what's happening in the motion and the world around them and try to keep up with that and move forward that way, then the legacy providers will still be providing some value and people will use them as well.
[37:49] Justin: Great point.
[37:49] Richard: As a consultant who works within that ecosystem, I'm not sure exactly how much I can say, but I'm making a language right now for a series that you may be able to get in the streaming service. I appreciate that it's not going away and no individuals cannot do everything because I know nothing about lighting. I can make a language for your creatures, but that's about it.
[38:07] Brian J Fox: Oh, that's great. I'm excited.
[38:10] Richard: It's kind of fun. I'll let you know what it is when I can, NDAs are important.
[38:15] Brian J Fox: Fully understood.
[38:16] Justin: Richard's a boss. He's a language guru.
[38:19] Richard: Bash is awesome. I use Bash every single day as it is. So I'm also just incredibly grateful for your work.
[38:24] Brian J Fox: Thank you guys so much. I use Bash all the time and I just want to quickly say that the people who provide documentation and instructions on how to use these tools that have been around a long time, they are doing a fantastic service and Nick's Craft is one of those. You should check them out if you can online.
[38:43] Justin: Yes.
[38:43] Richard: That'll be $14.95. Excellent. Thank you so much, Brian.