Archive for the ‘off my usual topics’ Category

Open Source Is Driven By Profit, Not by Egalitarianism or Selflessness

July 21, 2009

Some fellow commenters at distrowatch operate under the childish delusion that open source is some kind of equalizer against corporate interests. Nothing could be further from the truth. As I pointed out earlier this morning, most of the changes to the Linux 2.6 kernel have come directly from corporations or people who work for them.

Corporations don’t do this with any other intention but to further their own self interests. Whether they do it to make Linux work or work better with their hardware or to make more general improvements in some area, they’re doing it because it affects their bottom line. IBM, Oracle, HP, Intel, and so many other companies have become big players in open source because they can monetize it. If there were no profit potential, they wouldn’t be as involved as they are.

Sun Microsystems were very candid and upfront about their reasons for licensing their software under various open source licenses. They did it to sell support and hardware. They didn’t have the best possible business model for monetizing their open source software (hence the sale to Oracle) but they were very clear that open source had everything to do with trying to expand their business and much less to do with some sort of selflessness or egalitarianism (though some of their people tried to suggest otherwise).

I think where some people really miss the boat in trying to distinguish between open source and proprietary software as it relates to corporations is that these are two separate coins rather than two sides of the same one. Companies exist to make profits whether they participate in open source or keep their own code closed up. Neither side is really about “control” or oppression, but about maximizing revenue streams and keeping costs low. In that sense, there’s zero difference between closed and open source shops except the part about whether their code is obtainable or not.

Companies are no different from the individuals who work in them. Everyone gets up and goes to work because there’s something in it for them. Everyone. That includes “selfless” types like monks and nuns because they, too, are working for some kind of reward whether it’s financial or spiritual, in this world or in the next. A nun gets up in the morning for the same reason a tycoon does. There’s no difference. Take away profit or spiritual rewards and both will find something else that will provide them with more than their respective starting points. People always do what’s in their own self interest, and only sacrifice their own interests when that’s actually in their interests to do so.

Open source is only egalitarian in the sense that anyone can participate and (usually) the best ideas end up rising to the top. That doesn’t change what I wrote above about self-interests. Lone wolf programmers who contribute do so to fill their own needs or for back-patting that accompanies doing things which benefit others. Those are rewards. Without them, few sane people would bother.

While there are many open and closed projects driven by lone wolves, companies involved in open source or closed source drive most of the innovation in the software world and are the leaders in the direction things go. Not because they’re inherently evil or controlling, particularly in relation to “ambitionless” or “selfless” (ha) individual programmers, but because they have the resources to drive innovation and are driven to do things the market — their customers — desire. Nothing at all to do with controlling customers, but filling others’ needs and trying to create more demand.

It’s time for the proponents of open source who use these vapid arguments against “corporate interests” to stop making fools of themselves. Open source would be a joke were it not for corporate interests and the resources they’ve poured into making open source better.

It’s also time for me to shake the dust off my feet at distrowatch. Those who want to worship RMS can do so if they choose. I appreciate the contributions he’s made to free/open source — I’m posting this from within emacs running Linux with all the usual GNU-age accompanying my current distro (despite my attempts to replace as much of it as possible with BSD/MIT-licensed alternatives). But, as I wrote yesterday and asked again this morning, he can’t be the father of something that already existed before you people say he fathered it.

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Think about it.

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Separation of Church and Software

July 19, 2009

Warning: If you’re easily offended, don’t bother reading below this paragraph.

I saw in my distrowatch feed that Ubuntu Christian Edition has a new release. Last I’d heard — and I openly admit I haven’t paid close attention — the project was dead. So it’s kind of like Lazarus rising from the dead.

After seeing the screenshots, I can see that my blog is likely unreachable by people using UCE because of my profanities. Fuck. That’s reason enough for me to recommend others stay the hell away from UCE!

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My bad words no doubt trigger such filters, but I bet embedded video of or even links to Fox News Channel hotties (un)crossing their legs and showing panties won’t. Don’t whine to me about the link. Would you want O’Reilly over that? I’m only making a point about the ineffectiveness of filtering software and how relative things — some of the content on “safe” sites (the above link is pretty tame compared to what else I could’ve linked) can be more offensive to some people than a few bad words– are.

I’m not against parents taking steps to protect their kids from things they shouldn’t hear or see (we do that, too). I think the effectiveness of filtering software is very debatable and not a replacement for supervision. To make it a central part of a “remix” or operating system under any guise is a bit flimsy. Ultimately it restricts the user(s) from desired data. The famous example of blocked searches for breast cancer because of the word breast is the tip of the iceberg. And, ultimately, it can be defeated by using more clever search terms.

Filtering software is no match for a fourteen year-old boy’s impulses no matter how devout he and his family are. He will find the content he wants whether it’s sexually arousing or instructive in the manufacture of small explosives. A filter is but a speed bump, a minor obstacle.

How does use of such software make anything Christian or Muslim or Jewish or even Satanic? It just makes life a bit restrictive and cumbersome. That’s all.

I’m also not against people believing whatever they want. I think there’s a disservice to humanity when people join together over axioms, things they can’t prove or measure, particularly when those axioms have been used throughout history as reasons to separate humanity (which seems anti-thetical to Ubuntu’s raison d’être, which is a wider and more humanist view of the world) through war and oppression. Jihad is crusade is jihad. It doesn’t really matter which religion is being pushed if it’s at the end of a blade or the barrel of a gun. You can’t separate the good from the bad in history; it’s patently dishonest to brush aside inconvenient parts of the story to paint only a rosy picture. With every religion comes fundamentalism, and with fundamentalism comes crimes against humanity — it’s historically inseparable whether the religion is Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, or anything else.

One more thing about history. The ugly brown wallpaper shown in the UCE screenshots I saw had a common (mis)representation of Jesus. Such art, whether painting or statue, makes Jesus to be WASPy, much the goyim. For its Son of God series, the BBC commissioned an artist to come up with a more historically and culturally accurate portrait. Somehow, even if there were no copyright issues I don’t think the UCE people would use such a representation. Even if they’ve never seen him to know the difference.

I don’t know how many people use religious-oriented versions of any operating system. I don’t know if the people drawn to things like UCE or Islamic remixes are up to no good. I presume most of them are devout and sincere, fine and upstanding members of the wider community of man. Hopefully these things aren’t being used to further divide people, beguiling the weak and impressionable with promises of another, better world if only they make this one hell for any who oppose them.

I’d like to think that with technology and the Internet the world is growing closer together rather than further apart. Just as science and technology have dispelled many myths and legends, science and technology can do what most religions have promised but none has delivered: a better world for all people, in the here and now.

Skanky Garofalo Can’t Crack Blowfish on 24

March 17, 2009

Morris O’Brian, husband of Chloe, turned on Jack Bauer to save Chloe from 15  years in prison and agreed to crack “Blowfish 148” encryption on last night’s episode of 24. This is at least the second time in which Blowfish is cracked on the show. The first time it was cracked with the help of a “proprietary algorithm” but they started out with a list of  “nicknames, birthdays, pets,” etc., anyway.

Last night I chortled when Morris announced to the special agent in charge of the DC field office that the designer of the algorithm left a backdoor. Janeane Garofalo, who’s unbelievable in her role as an FBI agent (I’ve seen no female agents in the Bureau with commie red star tattoos on their hands; let alone characters anything like the IRL mouth-breathing skanks of Garofalo’s ilk), had been stymied by the encryption and needed either Morris or Chloe to crack it for her. Imagine that. I was unhappy to see Gar0falo in the series at all but I guess she was available and cheap following the cataclysmic flop of Air America. Seeing that she couldn’t crack Blowfish might help me sleep easier at night. Heh.

Maybe “Blowfish” just went over casual viewers’ heads as they were impressed that Morris could crack it in just a few seconds and learn that Jack was visiting a US Senator after being accused of murdering a federal witness. I don’t know why writers and producers don’t just make up names for algorithms and techniques and programs, but it gave me a chuckle — not as deep as seeing Garofalo working for the FBI but a good one nevertheless.