More On The Alternative

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I got some letters about yesterday’s article. 🙂

The piece really was a political/sociological analysis of a political situation.

Sorry, folks. This is a political situation. Call it Linux/open source/free software/P2Ping/whatever, they all represent a spectrum of belief which represents an ideological alternative to the regular capitalist/democratic system. Some forms of it are benign, but some are not.

Being an ideological beast, it acts like one, and it mutates like one, also. Among other things, it spawns more extreme offspring who take some of its points and carries them to their logical conclusion, and the results are sometimes bizarre.

For instance, it’s a pretty big mental jump going from a capitalist to a communitarian approach, and saying that it would be better for people to share the intellectual property they make to make it easily accessible to all rather than be bought and sold and protected.

It’s a much shorter mental jump to go from that to saying that protected content is a social evil, and another short jump to conclude that something should be done about that evil.

And many, many others short-circuit the whole process and think this ideology justifies being Robin Hood.

So when item one may be perfectly fine, its spawn may well not be fine at all.

Let me answer some of the major points raised by those who write:

How Do You Know Linux People Write Viruses and Steal Source Code?…

folks themselves, “Wine is still under development, and it is not yet suitable for general use.”

Mozilla is one desktop more often mentioned, but how long did that take to get version 1.0 out? Four years, and that was with Netscape/AOL financing most of the work. They fiddled while Netscape burned, and it’s not like the tide is turning back.

Another aspect of Linux which rather parallels some communist societies is its relative lack of concern for its customers, or rather, non-geek customers.

Much has been made of MS’s vulnerabilities. However, when you find the Linux “answer” to that is to force people to go into “root” to execute anything, that is no answer for Joe Sixpack. Joe Sixpack isn’t going to hire a system administrator to tell him what he can or cannot do; those days of computing are over. If he’s determined to click that file, he’s going to click that file.

If you look at MS’s vulnerabilities, you’ll see that the root cause of many of their sins is a desire to make life easier for the customers. Perhaps unwise, but understandable, and not necessarily evil or incompetent.

I don’t hate Linux. I’m just very skeptical it will ever amount to anything on the desktop, among Joe Sixpacks, and I’ve said why.

I could be wrong, but I’m at the “Where’s the beef?” point, and the only answer is that is a lot of beef rather than bull.

Speaking of evil. . . .

I Can Tell The Difference Between Bill And Beezlebub. Can You?…

A Good Letter…


A Good Letter

Here’s a letter from someone who rather disagreed with me, but it’s a good letter in that it helps to enlighten, clarify and further develop the points made in the initial article:

(Writer comments in bold italics, my response in plain text)

You’ve seriously misunderstood the open source movement. They don’t want coercion. For example several prominent open source people spoke up against
Napster, see here. See here
for Linus Torvalds’
> view on DRM in Linux (not opposed).

This describes the situation perfectly, and shows the proper response to that situation. One of the points in my article is that this sort of response isn’t happening enough in the trenches. What you noted here should be the standard response in the trenches.

The kind of people who write viruses or hack Valve aren’t the “open source community”, they’re just assholes.

I’d hardly disagree with that, but don’t you think the philosophy, fine as it is undegraded, inherently tends to attract such people?

There’s a big difference between “I want stuff for free” and “I made this, here, you can have it for free”.

Of course, but that’s a difference that often gets overlooked in the trenches.

The Valve hackers are the first and open source is the second.

The virus/hacker/cracker “community” have their roots in the BBS world which developed in the ’80s sharing pirated software (and viruses) and was separate and different from the UNIX/Internet/academic world that gave rise to open source. To the extent that the miscreants have an ideology it’s “information wants to be free” and suchlike rather than open source. They may use Linux but they don’t contribute much back, and they may confuse
their ideology with open source but very few actual open source/free software writers make that mistake.

I don’t disagree with you, but that’s not what is happening in the trenches, and that’s where the public image emerges.

Let me use an analogy. Pope John Paul II is certainly not in favor of pedophile priests. I don’t doubt most of the Catholic hierarchy is against them, too. Nonetheless, in the trenches, there was a pretty widespread tolerance of the practice.

That’s precisely the situation here. You basically quoted the Linux Pope and some of the cardinals to me. They did the right thing, but that’s not the problem. What they said isn’t coming through loud and clear in the trenches. That’s the problem. (It is possible that the reason why it doesn’t come through in the trenches is because there aren’t that many open-sourcers compared to Free Software and/or assholes around.)

And we’ve already had the big ideological split on whether all proprietary software is evil – people who believe that will tend to talk about Free Software rather than Open Source. See
. . . .

I’ll plead guilty to lumping all “non-proprietary” folks together in one category. Perhaps the “open-sourcers” are the right-wing law-abiding socialists in all this, and the radical revolutionaries are elsewhere. Nonetheless, one does not see the level of clarification/denunciation in the trenches that ought to be there, and your link above to the Free Software people, who describes non-free software as unethical and a social problem, rather makes my point. It’s a pretty small mental step from thinking something is evil to doing something about that evil. My sin is miscategorization, not misidentification.

Overall I thought your article was bonkers. I would argue about whether Linux is communist and whether it’s sensible to throw words like “terrorism” around but I suspect it might be futile to move from factual to ideological ground here.

I really don’t think you can argue that Linux is communistic (with a small “c”). That in and of itself isn’t bad or illegal; you could call a monastery the same thing, too. I don’t think it can work in the big, wide world, but I have no reason to oppose people who want to try to make it work.

However, does it inherently tend to spawn more extreme offspring? It certainly does, perhaps bastard children, but children nonetheless.

(One can say the same about capitalism and monopolism, too. I also think that if MS continues to dominate the desktop (which I have doubts about when PCs for the average person become consumer electronics products), eventually MS will either be broken up, or heavily regulated.)

In both cases, the answer is that is to challenge and disawow the extremists, and that was the point of the article.

Being Your Brother’s Keeper

This letter expresses a fairly common sentiment from those who believed pretty much what the writer believed, which was, “Don’t lump us in with the loons. We’re not like that.”

I don’t doubt it, and I didn’t doubt it before writing the piece. The problem is you effectively lump yourself in with the loons when they spew what they spew, and you don’t say the same thing to them.

Because they are your offspring (or at least claiming such). You can say they’re illegitimate or bad apples or fakes, and you may well be right, but they’re taking your concepts and doctrines and ideologies and using them to justify their behavior. And, too often, they go unchallenged.

To that extent, you are your brother’s keeper, if only to keep yourself. If they claim to speak for you, and they’re not, you have to make that loud and clear.

You can’t say “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” and that too often is just what happens. Too many people stay quiet when they take your name in vain.