For the greater good, let's do it the hard way

I wasn't planning on this being my 2024 resolution. I am not overly certain why I made the title. Must have felt like it last night. Nevertheless, this is the mood I'm in right now, at the end of 2023 going into 2024.

Many things happened this year. A lot that I dislike. From climate change getting worse.. maybe mainly just climate change. I made an observation at work. That at least in tech, we are always looking got an easy way out, despite if putting an extra day or two makes a huge difference for everyone else and you to a lesser degree. Too often of my proposed fixes are shot down by managment saying it is too time consuming and risky to the business. Need to run a web app but don't want to properly engineer fast paths? Go AWS and scale to the moon. There's some hardware feature on the devboard that'll boost your business 10x? Too bad there's no integrated software support. From the standpoint of a startup that can't afford the time to do things right or a small business that needs to keep itself upfloat at all cost, <insert incompetent JavaScript developer joke here>. I can somewhat understand that. However, this is where us open source developers should come in and deus ex machina the way out of this mess.

I find myself in these situations more and more as the end of the year approaches. Some TTS engine I use ran unreasonably slow on the GPU. It annoyed me for weeks then took half a day to figure out why - upstreamed the 1 line fix. Then I wrote the 1st TTS engine that takes advantage of the RK3588 NPU, instantly made it 6x faster then the CPU, at lower power use and have a path towards 30x. With some collaboration with strangers on the internet, We're able to run a chunk of the LLaMA 2 language model on the RK3588 NPU. Approaching the same speed as a CPU, just needs a small push and I can overcome in no time. etc, etc..

Not being complacent. I probably saved the world hundreds of kWh of electricity and months of paid developer time, just with what I built this year.

In my opinion. The fact that me, a single person, can do all this in my spare time, after work, exercise, time with family and gaming, is a sign that there's a lot of low hanging yet high impact problems out there. In various fields. But we are not tapping into. At the same time, there are heaps upon heaps of real world problems in dire need of solving - all can be improved these low hanging fruits.

  • Government and corporate surveillance
  • Climate change
  • Rampant consumerism
  • The ever growing wealth gap

Imagine what could happen if just another 100 of us, spending a few hours a week at solving impactful grunt work. Maybe someone fixed a JavaScript framework so it works on Firefox. Or maybe someone joined a local community group and helped the farmers to setup their website. Or even just someone who's good at reading documents, finding out a mutex is held for too long and fixed it. Saving a pile of CIs running trying to replicate the bug. You won't know what's your impact until you actually do it. And no one know what comes after - usually these come is series - maybe it's something that can change your life for the good.

I think we, developers, epically the open source variant, are in a unique position to do something about seriously problems and make actual impact, with these low hanging fruits. So let's do it. Let's not take the easy way out. Let's do it the hard way. Let's do it the right way. Let's get our hands dirty and build. Let's read the f**k-ing menu. We will make a difference. But only if we choose to act.

To quote myself:

Paid developer time is extremely expensive. So the most we OSS devs can do is not to donate money, but do donate our effort.
Too bad goverments doesn't count this towards tax deduction.

Or, in my favorite quote from Rick and Morty:

Now, lemme Deus Ex Machina this and let's go home
Author's profile. Photo taken in VRChat by my friend Tast+
Martin Chang
Systems software, HPC, GPGPU and AI. I mostly write stupid C++ code. Sometimes does AI research. Chronic VRChat addict

I run TLGS, a major search engine on Gemini. Used by Buran by default.

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