Open Source and the Yoke of Oppression
Sep 19, 2003 4:31 PM PT
You might have been given the impression from reading another column published on this network that all of the open-source community is openly against Microsoft and wants you to move right away to GNU or Linux software.
The simple truth is that the open-source community was and is quite happy doing what it does on its own without interference from the proprietary world. That is the absolute and undeniable truth. Some analysts do not wish you to see that truth and will do what they can to fan the flames. I don't buy it, and in fact I am always disappointed when I read such pieces, for they ignore a fundamental reality.
That reality is that the open-source community has been quietly and happily developing software infrastructures from freely available sources that were never stolen from anyone. We have been doing this for reasons that some people cannot fathom. We survive on the reputation of the products, not the reputation ascribed to the community by any analyst.
No Hidden Motives
We in the open-source community do respect people pointing out problems when they have no agenda, no axe to grind, no hidden motives. To avoid the semblance of a hidden motive, I will openly declare that I both use and develop from free software and open source -- and do it for my own personal use.
I am biased toward free software and open source, and I am regularly critical of Microsoft -- and with good reason. Microsoft has made a mockery of the justice system in the United States. The company has bought and paid for a settlement with the government that no other monopoly has ever been able to achieve.
This is some sort of sick joke being perpetrated on the people, and is not -- in my opinion and by my own admission -- anything that I can accept as fair, just or even remotely acceptable.
That was not what originally drove me to use GNU and Linux. In my computing history, I was a user of BeOS, Mac and BSD. Linux is but a logical progression in that chain. I like computing, and I enjoy things that do not insult my intelligence. The idea that computers should not insult the intelligence of their users seems to escape Microsoft.
The fact is that Microsoft has decided to crash the party. I dare say that the company would toss us out of its parties, so why does it expect to be allowed into ours without repercussions?
I ask you this: If you were having a nice backyard get-together with friends, would you allow a few hundred gate-crashers to come in and take over the party? Well, now imagine if the gate-crashers suddenly started spreading rumors about the hosts, saying malicious things. You would toss them out on their ears and not really be too concerned about their treatment, wouldn't you?
I do not deny that I do not like Microsoft, but that doesn't mean I hate the company. It simply means that, given the company's actions, I choose instead never to work with it. It has made a moral choice to fight against freedom, and although that is the company's right, I don't have to accept working with it.
Yoke of Oppression
I and many others see an openly hostile bias in the media toward our community coming from publications that keep trumpeting the idea that our community is somehow criminal for not wanting anything to do with proprietary vendors.
Microsoft and Sun have both openly continued to fund the efforts of the SCO Group, which could not reach profitability at all if not for its supporters' continued backing.
The whole thing boils down to the fact that Microsoft and Sun are afraid of open source. However, we in the open-source community are liberating ourselves from the yoke of oppression. If people who support Microsoft would simply realize that, they might understand the open-source community better.
Not a Religion
We are not a religion, although we might advocate free philosophy. We are not a cult, although we adhere to the rules of a meritocracy. Meritocracy means that you are qualified to do your assigned role.
Why should that bother anyone except those who are not qualified? Obviously, it does bother some people, or certain people wouldn't try to use it as a weapon of some sort.
Maybe if those who are using Windows software tried open-source software or wanted to build something on their own, they might come to understand why we do what we do. Can you imagine having to hire a plumber to change anything in your bathroom? Can you imagine how much the economy would suffer if there were no do-it-yourself industry?
I dare say that it would suffer far more than from the amount that plumbers lose in business to do-it-yourself projects. The laws of supply and demand simply mean that proprietary companies must come to grips with the idea that they cannot be all things to all people.
I love free software and open source because it gives me freedom. I don't have to rely on any one person or company. I am free from vendor lock-in agreements. Goodbye, single source. Hello, driver's seat for my development.
Chuck Talk is a business manager at an Internet technology company. He has worked at Network Associates, Elron Software, Globeset and Pervasive, and has been using GNU/Linux since Red Hat 5.2.