Linux wins the race for sport technology developers

Linux and open source win the race against Microsoft for Kinetic, a start-up business that develops sports performance technology.

Co-director of the company, Rob Shugg said he uses Linux wherever he can to save money, and attract the quality developers and community support required to create powerful tools and applications.

"We started the company with our own savings and some money from Business ACT's Knowledge Fund, so there was no way we could afford anything else, but in truth, we never even considered buying any software, everything we needed was available on Linux," he said.

"We use Linux where ever we can."

Shugg said that all Kinetic's network infrastructure runs on Linux with Samba, Subversion and quite a bit of Python to automate backups.

Kinetics' flagship performance analysis product, GymAware, is an Apache mod-Python Web application with a MySQL database back end.

"We give our developers free rein in setting up their development environments and they are currently using Eclipse," Shugg said.

"One of our guys is into Ruby on Rails so we got him to build our report engine in rails just to try it out. It uses SOAP modules to interface to our main application."

"We find that both these frameworks or languages are ideally suited to the Web. They are fast and fun to develop in. In fact one of our real challenges is in speccing out features fast enough to keep up with them."

Shugg said that although Kinetic uses a few Microsoft desktops for some business applications and for testing aspects of GymAware on VMWare virtual machines, he does not see any advantage to using proprietary software.

"All of the positive experiences I have had in my professional life have been through open source software," he said.

"The support from the open source community is far more helpful than any paid support program. I have had people like Andrew Tridgell happily spend a couple of hours with me to solve some problems, on another occasion we had a MySQL developer phone us from Finland to discuss our setup. This is pure gold that Microsoft and others just can't compete with," he said.

Shugg also believes that using open source attracts top quality developers, and people who are in it for the joy of programming.

"This is critical for a cash-strapped startup," he said.

Shugg said that using Linux is more secure than Windows and it also enables Kinetic to tweak applications in a way that would not be possible if he were to use proprietary software.

"So far we have had no security problems. We keep our firewall and servers up to date with the latest patches, which is very easy on our Debian systems and we use Firefox for browsing. I don't understand why anyone would ever choose to run a Windows server, given its track record," he said.

Shugg said the fact that there is a pseudo-religious debate about the virtues of open source is great.

"It shows that there are millions of intelligent people out there who strive for quality, community and elegance over market domination and revenue," he said.

"In fact, I am constantly inspired at the scope and elegance of open source software. I often like to just sit and watch my screen during a kernel compile as the work of hundreds of brilliant, generous people scrolls up my screen. It's just mesmerizing."

Kinetic currently consists of four people- two directors and two developers.

The directors cover everything from sys admin, testing, firmware, hardware and mechanical development right through to vacuuming and washing up. The developers primarily focus on the Web application and some of the Palm development. Contractors are also employed on occasion.

"However, we are always on the lookout for passionate developers and there is tons of work to do," Shugg said.

"With increasing revenue growth we expect to be able to afford to put on new staff soon. We would be looking for Python and Ruby people with a flare for Web apps," he said.

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Dahna McConnachie

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