Seek The Wisdom Of Our Elder Geeks

March 18, 2010

Cartoon image of middle aged geeky superman.

I think what needs to be acknowledged, is Open Source’s emergence from an earlier movement that was largely composed of renegade, left-wing, anti-establishment types. Since then, obviously this movement has expanded to include the mainstream corporate community. And from what I’ve just studied regarding this history, Open Source Software (OSS) established itself as separate from Free Software (FS), to assert a growing membership of business entrepreneurs and corporate interest. And this has come with considerable antagonism and upset from the Free Software Foundation (FSF) and related groups.

So of course, you are going to have the occasional clash between the two camps. However, newer members of OSS should not be surprised at all, when some participants reflect more of the original ideals of the FSF, including distaste towards the status quo, which of course includes the corporate world…as well as Republicans, Libertarians, and other right-leaning types. So whether one likes it or not, this *is* the history of Linux/FS, from which OSS sprung (or broke off, depending on whom you ask). This needs to be underlined (using Open Source loosely, to include *both* OSS and FS):

Open Source is *not* Google, as some would have us believe. Open Source is *bigger* than Google. In fact, it’s even *bigger* than all corporate entities of our struggling planet put together! In short: Open Source is *bigger* than capitalism!

In order to grow into a diverse group, you need to acknowledge that aspect of our origins. Ergo, do *not* expect every single member to be excited about the corporate aspect of OSS, and application of Linux to facilitate capitalist goals. Just so you know: in spite of this ideological rift, FS and OSS advocates do come together on various projects, when the purpose matches the ideals of the more liberal camp.

Be that as it may, Berkeley-LUG remains a very small group, for which such a low number could not possibly reflect much diversity. But as it grows under Jack’s leadership, please be aware that you will acquire more participants of a left-wing stripe, besides myself. That is: unless you allow pro-business peer pressure to drive them away.

Cartoon of angry OSS beans ganging up on one FS bean.

When I first joined, it was under the umbrella of Linux advocacy/Free Software. Some time later, Jack stated his wish to use the term “Open Source” in order to form a broader base of interest. Fine with me, however I was not yet aware of the serious ideological *rift* between the FSF and OSS communities. Only when I decided to learn more about how the term “Open Source” came to be, did I understand.

It is my impression that many of the newer advocates to OSS, are not aware of this ideological clash, and therefore blithely assume (as I had) that “Open Source Software” was simply a term to broaden our community of Linux and Free Software advocates. I have only recently learned: that is most definitely *not* the case. It will be a challenge to incorporate members of such opposed camps, but knowing your good character, I believe you are more than up to it. The payoff will be incredible, both personally and communally.

Now, while I am made to feel *alone* in my perspective, I realize that is far from the reality. *Many* anti-corporate Linux advocates live and thrive in Berkeley and surrounding regions. In fact, I am talking about our *pioneers* of FS, GNU, and open advocacy…all free and accessible to even the financially strapped: such is the *intent* of these forefathers. Allow me to employ the title “Elder Geeks” to these most generous and intelligent souls…both male and female, queer and hetero, and politically/socially progressive. BUT most definitely *not* Republican or right-wing, or even conservative (except perhaps if you include certain moderates in that circle).

These Elder Geeks tend to be largely anti-corporate, and frown on this latest phenomenon of the business world, where FS/OSS is utilized to build their monied empires. At least, this has been my observance over the years, of what Elder Geeks promote and practice. Granted, they may not project such a political *bias* as I do…just the same, they harbor distaste for the corporatization of things Linux. Which distaste may be enunciated w/o any sort of politics in mind.

These Elder Geeks are pioneers of programming, hacking, and free and generous sharing of their sofware and knowledge…to *anyone* who makes even half an effort to listen carefully, RTFM, and apply this knowledge to the real world (of cyberspace) effectively. So before you run off with fantasies of fat wallets dancing around your gifted cranium…give a thought to our Elder Geeks, and consider that perhaps (just perhaps) they have a *valid* reason for their distaste, outside of my own sharply political reasons for criticising Google, Red Hat, Sun, Oracle, et al.

It does not become such obviously talented minds to maintain willful ignorance of our history and OSS origins, and thus isolate and trivialize those not hell-bent on turning Linux into a financial Gold Rush.

Photo of tiny Linux penguin in a gold digger's pan.

Does it really benefit your education, to ignore the wisdom of our Elder Geeks, by never learning from them, exactly *why* they refuse to ride the corporate bandwagon? Do you really think that all their brilliant contributions that literally *created* and *shaped* this marvelous world of Free & Open Software you now enjoy, did not spring from a beloved philosophy *outside* the corporate empire?

I invite you to one of our Elder Geek gatherings, to kindly ask them their opinions about using FS/OSS in the corporate environment. Ask them their viewpoints on lucrative companies that utilize FS/OSS (including free operating systems), such as Google and Red Hat. Are there any for-profit agencies using FS or OSS, that they favor? Where should we draw the line between earning a living, and using Free/Open programs to earn that living?

Assuming you approach them with genuine interest and respectful regard (and knowing your character somewhat, I see no reason why you wouldn’t), they most likely will *not* chase you out of the room. :P

I’m certain they will be most pleased that younger OSS advocates even care to ask. So come to our next BUUG meeting, or the one after that, and learn valuable perspectives of our Linux Pioneers, what sorts of philosophies inspire them, and what their opposing views may be, regarding this latest evolution of OSS into the world of Wall Street.

Most sincerely,

Digital signature.

Ezekiel J. Krahlin
Old-school advocate of Free Software

Photo of huddling baby penguins.

Gaga For Google

March 16, 2010

Quoting Jack D:

But, Zeke, I personally think you are wrong in your attacks on Google. (I mean that in the friendly discussion way) Here is what I think of Google and Buzz in particular.

Fair enough. I am not interested in suppressing anyone’s opinions. Suffice it to say I am definitely against advertisements, and have always been, no matter in what form they appear, which of course includes old media such as radio, television, and billboards. I am certainly *not* interested in any sort of “service” that fine tunes their schlock to my personal “tastes” (as they perceive them). In fact, any ad that is particularly annoying or intrusive, inspires me to *never* buy that product, or use that service. (Not that I have much money to throw around in the first place, but you get my point.)

Before I continue my rant, let me iterate that I use Google simply as an *example* of what’s wrong with our cowboy capitalism…and that, even though Google is a far less nasty example (by a long shot) of American big business, it is nonetheless culpable to a considerable extent. But Google *is* just an example, and my criticism applies to a highly immoral system that is endemic across the board. Sad to say, bellwether voices like Upton Sinclair’s at the turn of the previous century, are still needed, likely even *more* so today, than back then…thanks in large part to the emergence of global slave labor, sweathouses, prostitution rings, hazardous workplaces…oops, I meant to say global “economy”.

I never fill out online subscription surveys honestly, as I choose to guard my personal information jealously…and don’t care how *responsible* and *respectable* the company appears, based on their legal contract. For one: I am not a wealthy person, not even middle class, financially speaking. Yet I get tossed at me, all sorts of enticing products that only remind me how low on the capitalist status rung I am. For example: automobiles, lavish vacations in faraway paradises, time-share condominiums, and cosmetic plastic surgery.

For another: I am homosexual. Yet I am inundated with titillating female erotica, in hopes of enticing me to purchase the intended product (viagra, anyone? propecia? dentucreme? salsa lessons?). Bad enough they presume I’m heterosexual, but they also make the crude assumption that I regard my fellow humans–females in particular–with vulgar wishes to violate their bodies. I don’t even regard males that way. (Of course I have my fantasies, but definitely without any violent overtones.)

Of course, if I reveal to them my homosexuality, they *might*, just *might* put a stop on sending me sexual material of a misogynistic nature…but I doubt it. When some promoters of erotica discover I’m gay, they may actually stop sending me vaginal/boob fantasies, and send something equally deplorable intended to titillate my *gay* proclivities. I do have standards you know…standards which are *not* valued in any real measure, by advertisement propagandists.

I find advertising the way we do it here in America, as a gross form of visual and mental pollution…and brainwashing, especially on the young. I sincerely question if those netizens who hold women in high regard (and who place great value in consuming as little as possible), will be sent via Google’s extensive filter logarithms, *only* such promotions that match these users’ ethics. And do they actually have surveys that *ask* its users what kind of products they *don’t* want advertised on their screen? In my case that would be (for examples): *any* sort of sexually-themed material (gay, straight or otherwise), *any* sort of automobile or products related to it, *any* kind of vacation offers, *any* edible product containing meat, poultry, seafood or food that is *not* ecologically sustainable, *any* ads that glorify our military prowess, or *any* religious dogma (especially from Christian nut-jobs).

Regarding our youth: advertising towards children is, IMO, disgusting. They are the most vulnerable to brainwashing than any other age group; and a society that is truly civil, would outright *ban* commercials targeted towards them. The very notion that a child should be made to feel worthless for lack of a pair of $150 sneakers, is more than absurd: it’s vile! And all those sugar laced cereals and candy bars only serve to undermine their health in a world already so stressful, that good health should be a top priority. Advertising by capitalist ventures rarely serves the betterment of humanity, as the profit motive obscures such lofty ideals. Instead, profit is the key motive, which cares not if its feverish grab for lucre destroys the lives of many good people, in the process.

But let’s move on to something other than the advertisement issue, such as privacy:

Google may indeed hold itself to high standards regarding privacy issues, towards its millions upon millions of advocates. Even so, there is the possibility of accidental data loss or theft…and the more their databases grow, the more unwieldy they become, and the more likely they can be compromised. We are all too familiar by now, with news reports of supervisors losing valuable and highly secretive data, by leaving their laptop behind somewhere, such as an airport lounge. Even the military has been guilty of this! So if even those agencies entrusted with the most valuable sort of security data, suffer such errors, why on earth should Google be excepted from considering such a possibility?

And what if Google goes under some day? Will data privacy be respected by whatever *new* agency acquires their resources? Some years back, I read about an online service that went bankrupt…and they also regarded the privacy of their user data with the highest protection. But the company that bought them up, did not. The data was therefore, seriously compromised, and the users who came to trust the former company, were up in arms, though ultimately, they could do nothing to secure their personal data. I do not recall the company in question at this time, but I’m sure it can be looked up with a little search-engine effort.

Either the advertising *or* the security issue ALONE, is reason enough to discredit whatever *good* companies like Google accomplish. I cannot embrace a system which requires extreme sacrifice of *some* in order to benefit *others*. And this is what our form of capitalism requires…one w/o a safety net, w/o universal health care, and w/o other socialized services that would allow capitalism to thrive, only minus the cruel sacrifice of so many innocent souls.

In the most general of ways, vulture capitalism–which *is* quite the American way–requires the sacrifice of hundreds of millions, perhaps billions of lives (by keeping them in dire poverty w/no hope for a decent life), in order to plunder their valued resources, that the first world may live in decadent prosperity. And Google is definitely *part* of that system, albeit a less virulent example than is typical. This in no way means that I do not consider that possibly, Google may become a big player in transitioning our nation into one that is more equitable to those poorer nations. In fact, they are far more likely to be, than our traditional, pre-Internet business.

Tell me: if Google offered you a free luxury condo in exchange for displaying neon advertisements on the moon (which could be clearly seen from earth), would you go for it?

For further and *extensive* information regarding criticism of Google, see: Criticism of Google

To whet your appetite, two brief excerpts:

–excerpt 1:

The policies and practices for which Google has been criticized include its use of others’ intellectual property, concerns that its compilation of data may violate people’s privacy, censorship of search results, and the energy consumption of its servers. Much of the criticism of Google pertains to issues that have not yet been addressed by cyber law.

–excerpt 2:

Privacy International has raised concerns regarding the dangers and privacy implications of having a centrally-located, widely popular data warehouse of millions of Internet users’ searches, and how under controversial existing U.S. law, Google can be forced to hand over all such information to the U.S. government.

In its 2007 Consultation Report, Privacy International ranked Google as “Hostile to Privacy”, its lowest rating on their report, making Google the only company in the list to receive that ranking.

–end of excerpts

I think Zeke’s comments that they are buggy is simply untrue

I have the advice of more than one techie who is expert in linux programming, that Google Gears is useless for speeding up one’s online applications (such as WordPress). I’ve concluded that I should turn *off* https mode (which WP’s own help page says definitely does slow things down)…it’s overkill, anyway…no one’s gonna try to sabotage my poor widdle blog!

I’ve played around with their online docs, iGoogle, and reader. I am not alone in my frustration:

–quote from [ Another buggy upgrade of google docs ]:

looks like they aer at it again, they seem to have releassed another buggy upgrade of google docs…

the scroll bars don’t work, in IE8 or Chrome

what happened to the save anc close option when you publish a document

why isn’t the tables pop-up automatically positioning itself so you can see all the options wihout having to constantly scroll up and down which you can’t do righ tnow with the scroll bars

what’s up with the giant header bars… they may look cool on a 24″ flat panel but when you are working on a
12-13 inch laptop it’s just a lot of dead/wasted space

what happened to open this link in a new window / tab option

and why are there so many formatting issues in IE8 or Chrome when it comes to text / tables being centered in a document.

–Quote from [ Complaints Pour in about iGoogle Home Page ]:

passions are running high among iGoogle users upset that their personal portal page to the Web has been altered in ways they don’t like and without any prior warning.

–Quote from [ Google Reader Seems Buggy as Heck/ ]:

Is it just me or is this new version of Google Reader buggy as heck? I’ve waited patiently for the bugs to subside, but it almost seems like they’re getting worst.

They mostly manifest as a ton of repaint issues. The list of feeds, for example, doesn’t show all of my feeds and frequently corrupts itself. I can see them all in “Manage My Subscriptions”, but the list is a mess. I’ve got 180 odd feeds, but I can’t imagine what it must be like for someone with a lot of feeds to try to use it like that. Worse, I can no longer create new folders because the drop down box showing the list of folders is also corrupted.

–end of quotes

But there *are* excellent alternatives, so I certainly am not lacking for useful and reliable cloud applications. For examples:

  • 5 Great Alternatives to Google Docs You Should Consider
  • You can use Google Watch‘s “” search engine, equivalent to Google, just minus the tracking and data gathering.
  • You can easily set up your own free home page with widgets that do the same things iGoogle provides. There are countless free web hosts out there!
  • And for a reader: well, you can use RSS on your browser, or plug them into that home page. For every application Google provides freely, there’s always at least one excellent alternative. For every *new* application they come up with, you can be certain that alternative non-Google solutions will be forthcoming.

Yes, Google is a company that tries to make money. If this is your reason for hating them; then there is nothing I can say that will likely change your mind.

I am not a hateful person; that term does not apply when someone questions the integrity of a system, or business, or policy. “Tries to make money” is too simple a copout for the matters at hand…which I’ve already described in this message. “Tries to make money” doesn’t take into account the vast sea of abuses so common with capitalistic ventures…if not directly, indirectly by virtue of the other resources required to build and maintain any corporation.

Just look at this most recent banking fiasco…was it simply a matter of “trying to make money”? How many people’s retirements and careers and stable home lives have been utterly destroyed by their just “trying to make money”!

capitalism does not necessary have to be at odds with freedom and openness

Of course not, but that’s how it started out, and it’s gotten *worse*, not better. We’ve just had the SCOTUS approve of corporations being able to spend unlimited monies for political causes. Let’s just see how *that* effects the next series of elections.

The very notion of a corporation being equal to an actual person, is morbid. Capitalism is essentially evil in its origin, and intent. And its advocates are seeking a return to the 19th century, where the average worker lived in poverty, and there were no laws against sweatshops, child labor, worker safety, intimidation, excessive work hours, ad infinitum.

Google *is* a corporation, and thus can potentially behave in all the worst ways allowed a corporation, if it so chooses…and still be perfectly *legal* within its defined framework. Because it does *some* good, does not mean that either corporations or capitalism is in essence, good.

The *only* way capitalism can work in a compassionate manner, is to soften it considerably with socialized programs. But capitalism itself is intrinsically evil; it can only be tamed like a beast. Unto itself, it does nothing *but* harm, and favors only the wealthiest elite…maybe less than 2% of the population.

I feel *no* mandate to maintain capitalism no matter what, even in a compassionate world. There are many other financial models that are perfectly fine *and* democratic, that we can apply w/o any sort of requirement to hold onto capitalism like a tobacco habit.

And I think that is precisely how things will go, as this world transitions out of old ways, and towards a world united, and dedicated to preserving all life, and fostering financial equality through COOPERATION, rather than competition. A good term for this system is “socialist democracy“.

So, in conclusion – Google creates/supports great open-source projects, promotes open standards across the web that enables innovation and provides really polished web tools that are a best of breed. I can hardly believe how limited phone calls and SMS messages were before I started using Google Voice.

True enough. I am not claiming that Google has not been a major innovator…I am only pointing out this “ga-ga for google” syndrome which tends to blind advocates from seeing both sides of an issue. Personally, I abhor cell phones…not for what they are, but how Americans use them. They constantly interrupt conversations, and intrude themselves often in the most irritating of ways. I cannot begin to tell you, how much it irks me, when I’m having a good conversation with someone, when suddenly their cell phone beeps…and they *expect* me to shut up immediately, and let their cell phone take center stage.

I understand that Europeans are far more respectful towards others, regarding their uses of cell phones. For one, they ignore their beeping cell phone, when engaged in conversation. For another, they keep them turned *off* when in a theater, at a symposium, or in other organized gatherings.

Cell phone companies have found a clever way to increase the cost of basic service at least fourfold! I do not make LD calls except occasionally (about 3x/mo.)…so I use a cheap service online, that charges me just 1 cent/min. anywhere in the USA. And international calls are also cheap, say 2 cents/min. to Great Britain, for example.

Otherwise, I use my land line for less than $10/month. Not many people call me, nor do I make many calls. But I have e-mail, chat, IM…all free, via cyberspace. So I don’t *really* need a telephone any more. In fact, I value my land line solely because it allows me dialup access to the ‘net! (Can’t afford high speed service.)

There should be lifeline cell phones for the low income and disabled…say, basic local unlimited service for $15/month. But the phone companies always beat down such proposals before they ever get off the ground. So I’m keeping my land line till pigs fly, and hell freezes over! Or to paraphrase:

“If you want my land line telephone, you’ll have to pry it from my dead, cold fingers!”

In sum: I have absolute confidence that innovative technology could go on perfectly fine with or w/o Google, or any other capitalist venture. After all, look how far the Linux/Freeware/OSS/et al communities have come so far, withOUT capitalism! Possibly *the* most successful venture born of the Free Speech Movement. Doing *so* much these days, to benefit the least fortunate among us, in a troubled world beaten, raped and terrorized by the beastly hands of Das Kapitalism.

My, was *that* a good rant; thanks for letting me vent!

Cheers everyone,

I can see Google sending you an e-coupon for Cheerios right now!

Open Source Can Do No Harm

March 10, 2010

I'm innocent I tells ya!

Note: Acronyms “FOSS” and “OSS” scattered herein essentially mean the same thing: “[free &] open source software”. There’s also FLOSS: “free/libre open source software”. And OS by itself, means “operating system”. And finally: Each illustration conceals a link to additional info.

Quoting goosbears:

AAMOF, Rick Moen wrote a wildly relevant essay entitled ‘INOLJ-OOW2.0C (Is Not On LiveJournal Or Other Web 2.0 Cults)’. Have Zeke K, Grant B, Larry C, and/or others of you heard of Rick or actually met him?

Yes indeed, and thanks for the link to one of Rick’s most informative essays, with which I fully agree. When I founded BUUG (Berkeley Unix User Group) in January 2000, Rick was one of the earlier participants. I have also had a number of thought-provoking and enjoyable e-mail conversations with Rick, on and off over the years. His linuxmafia site includes a page with links to his plentiful and most fascinating articles…dare I call him a “Unix philosopher”?

I’m definitely old-school re. open source and Linux, hence anti-coporate and anti-capitalist. So, Linux users such as myself, cringe over corporate hegemony, and do not necessarily see the business model as something worthy of adulation, let alone seeing the inclusion of Linux in the business world as a “success”. We are a nation that worships the almighty dollar, hence seeks to translate *anything* of value into profit. I see capitalism as ultimately, a failure, and therefore seek to promote goals that benefit humanity’s lot in life, over and above any sort of profit incentive.

Of course, there is some overlap, when you have companies treating their employees with respect and financial responsibility, such as Google and Red Hat. Though unfortunately, they are far the exception than the rule…as so sadly realized in our current economic downturn, which threatens to become the next worldwide depression, worse than the previous one. Now, *that’s* scary!

Video: The Next Great Depression

Do you Yahoo?

For me, Linux is one main answer to the computer jigsaw puzzle, in fostering a more peaceful, and less violent world…violence of which the greed for wealth is a formidable instigator. I do admire Mark Shuttleworth‘s lofty goal to provide a powerful operating system to even the poorest on this planet. For the same reason, I admire the OLPC project (One Laptop Per Child), originating out of an M.I.T. think tank. Amusingly, before I even heard of OLPC, I wrote a sci-fi fantasy piece about an uber-wealthy male who decides to give a laptop to every destitute child in the world. As it turns out, I wrote my piece several months after the OLPC project was announced to the public:

Parable of the Laptop Billionaire

(And I think that *most* Linux advocates would agree with me, it’s a real shame that OLPC eventually felt compelled to install Windoze alongside its own OSS version of Linux.)

Obviously, open source and Linux have matured tremendously in the last decade or so…and no longer can I simply assume that because they sprang from progressive and anti-capitalist ideals, they will always remain so. Now, we have a wide array of contributors, advocates, and even abusers. Republicans, Libertarians, Nazis and racists all use open source to achieve their ends (their web sites are everywhere; and I’m sure they use open source applications to enhance their pages with message boards, forums, chat rooms, surveys and the like), as do Democrats, Socialists, Green Partiers and the NAACP. And all shades between.

Therefore, if one is of a progressive or left-wing bent, one can no longer blindly support everything and anything that is open source. One must carefully discern each case in use, especially when speaking about corporations, government, organized religion, and the military (for examples). As for the philosophy of open source and free software, may I refer you to Richard Stallman’s “Why Open Source misses the point of Free Software“…and make it clear to my readers that I stand firmly in line with the free software advocates, as opposed to open source. Here’s an excerpt:

The main initial motivation of those who split off the open source camp from the free software movement was that the ethical ideas of “free software” made some people uneasy. That’s true: raising ethical issues such as freedom, talking about responsibilities as well as convenience, is asking people to think about things they might prefer to ignore, such as whether their conduct is ethical. This can trigger discomfort, and some people may simply close their minds to it. It does not follow that we ought to stop talking about these issues.

That is, however, what the leaders of open source decided to do. They figured that by keeping quiet about ethics and freedom, and talking only about the immediate practical benefits of certain free software, they might be able to “sell” the software more effectively to certain users, especially business….

As the advocates of open source draw new users into our community, we free software activists must shoulder the task of bringing the issue of freedom to their attention.

I am certain there is now a growing body of open source specifically geared towards the sabotage of a minority’s civil rights, for example; or towards the ruthless elimination of creative small businesses perceived as competition (another example, thinking here in the history-of-Microsoft mode).

Military use of open source

Open Source Marines?

Ergo, I make my official stand through this article, of my support *for* Linux and all open source that is used to assist, promote, and improve the human condition…and *against* its use to aid and abet financial greed and destructive ideologies.

Of which I include Libertarianism BTW, and which I see as a rapidly increasing threat to all humanity — global fascism if you will. Please read:

Ayn Rand, Hugely Popular Author and Inspiration to Right-Wing Leaders, Was a Big Admirer of Serial Killer

In fact, there were a number of Libertarians who helped me found BUUG..much to my dismay. (A main reason for my starting this group, was I felt lonely among a growing population of right-wing zealots, so assumed that forming a Linux group would attract liberal types. Times have sure changed! I predict that some day soon, we’ll see bumper stickers with slogan: “I hack for Jesus”. Maybe they’re already out there; I’ve never owned a car, so I don’t know.)

Discouraged by this, I quietly discontinued my participation after a year or so (with the feigned excuse of “family obligations”). Glad to say that I am back, and BUUG is more balanced ideologically, that is: with a good number of soundly progressive Linux and Unix advocates.

Berkeley Linux User Group is still a very young organization, and will take some years to expand and, hopefully, increase in diversity. But if I find that the membership is largely influenced by Libertarian advocates, I will be compelled to drop out, as the last thing I want is to support such cold-hearted dogma.

There also seems to be a cult-like tendency of some open source advocates, to never say anything bad about OSS, or its application. Else you will be labeled as “traitor” (or “counterproductive” or “spreading FUD” in my case). This ideology that open source can do no harm, is indeed a cultish attitude. Because all that open source is, is software whose code is free to view and alter, and often widely distributed at no cost. There is no rule of OSS that prohibits fascists, Nazis, or racists (for examples) from creating their own free programs. (Godwin’s Law be damned, I say!) Here’s your quote of the decade (by yours truly of course):

No longer can one blindly dive into the open source pool and assume with unquestioned confidence, that no sharks are about.

The toxic jaws of capitalism

FLOSS my teeth please?

So, open source advocates such as Berkeley-LUG can choose to become a cabal of Libertarian zealots (as seems to be the tendency of all OSS gatherings, these days), or expand into a diversity of members who share the common interest of open source, and advocate its use as a tool of compassion, rather than profit as their god. I specifically say “Libertarian” in lieu of other nihilistic credos, precisely because this is the main threat looming over the open source community. That is: the worship of corporate entities, rather than simply including them as but one slice of the OSS pie.

Regarding Larry C., the “Free Software Guy“:

Preaching the gospel of free software” exclaims his home page, at top. Now, I know his blurb was writ in good humor…nonetheless, there is a sort of zealotry sprouting from certain members of open source which attempts to unfairly censor others in that same community. This is mainly the ideology of Libertarianism, which habitually mocks and suppresses viewpoints from the old-school camp of liberals and progressives (who have these ridiculous notions of universal health care, living wage for all, and job protection…Ford have mercy!).

I have to cite Mr. C. as a living example of one who makes snap judgments against whistle blowers within the OSS community, precisely because he has found a personally rewarding (and dare I say, “profitable”) niche, and therefore great incentive to espouse the “open source can do no harm” ideology. This is not to say he is absolutely a hardcore Libertarian or Vulture Capitalist, but that he is likely influenced by such persuasions, as implied by his kneejerk attempt to squelch my particular voice, despite my strong record as an advocate of free and open software, especially Linux.

For the record, besides founding the Berkeley Unix User Group (a very social gathering BTW, per my intent), I’d like to point my readers to my two most recent online contributions towards open source and freeware:

Best PC security…at $0.00

That blog entry BTW, was my last contribution to the Windoze community, before I shut the door completely on Micro$oft products. In that essay, I show 100% free solutions to highly effective security and safety of one’s computer…for those who use a Windoze operating system. Originally posted February 2, 2009, it remains a solid piece of support.

My Letter to Ray Taliaferro

Posted Septermber 22, 2009, it is an e-mail supporting Mr. Taliaferro’s outrage against the expense and constant annoyances of Windoze seurity products, such as Norton. (Taliaferro is one of the most popular liberal radio talk show hosts in the country, been around for years.) I encouraged him to consider using a Linux OS, Ubuntu, and even invited him to our meetings at BUUG or Berkeley-LUG. Amazingly, he actually read my letter in full, on his next show…unfortunately, I didn’t stay up late to listen that night, and missed it. A neighbor called me the following morn, to relate the good news.

I have contributed numerous useful ideas and essays on behalf of free software and Internet democracy, since I first began BBS’ing way way back in 1984…including an original approach towards protecting your system from viruses and most other malware…in preparation for when this problem would take off. I was extensively quoted in 1988 by a technical journal called “Micro Cornuopia” now long defunct:

I have also created what is probably the first (and still only) full-blown ANSI animation story, “SallyJones”. Download it here, about the first truly intelligent, free-willed robot, in the image of a little, multi-racial girl:

(You need to run it in a DOS box or window.)

In case anyone would be interested in learning more about my viewpoints (political, social, etc.), I’ve kept an extensive record of my Usenet participation from 1997 to 2009:

Spilling My Guts All Over Cyberspace

Out of respect for Jack D., founder of Berkeley Linux User Group, I’ve posted my reply in the form of a blog entry, instead of the usual mailing list. This is because he prefers to keep politics, for the most part, out of his Linux advocacy group. But people are political animals, and Linux is right in the bullseye of the culture war between progressive and right-wing ideologues…thus it is inevitable that from time to time, strongly political issues will arise. And that’s not a bad thing; it is in large part, philisophical pondering about the influences of open source, and forming a new consensus about which direction(s) it should take.

Philosophy of the GNU Project

No GNU ideas.

And since any number of Berkeley-LUG participants frequently makes (what I perceive as) naive or simplistic statements with the assumption that no one differs in their viewpoints, I feel compelled to toss in the FLOSS ring, my own two cents. For example, this statement:

I have nothing to hide, so I don’t care if Google gathers information about my online activities.

That statement is so naive and without a moment’s introspection, I don’t know where to begin. (Wait a minute, yes I do: I began with the first line of this essay!) I found the video in question “The Cost of Free” provides an excellent analysis of why one *should* care about Google’s user database, as but one example of many companies’ accumulation and potential misuse or abuse of this information. Where even a harmless error or glitch in such databases can wreak devastating harm on a most personal and intimate level. What you don’t think you have to hide, may work against your best interests somewhere down the line, such as health status, or political opinion that may wind up destroying your career, or prevent you from getting employment, health care, or admission into the school of your choice. In a nutshell:

If you really don’t care what personal data is being gathered about you, and by whom, then why don’t you live in a glass house or, at least, keep the drapes swept aside, that all may view you 24/7?

Now, Google’s slogan “Do no harm” I find rather alarming. (Sorry to pick on Google so much, I know some are happily employed there, with excellent benefits and salary, but they are a big player in open source, and thus smack dab on the radar. No doubt there will soon be a Godwin’s Law against citing Google, like we have for any mention of Nazis…oops there I go again.) I become immediately suspicious of any corporation that uses slogan’s like “Do no harm“…it’s like saying “We are perfect, we can never do any wrong.” Such an attitude is hubris, and smacks of ideological pandering, similar to a *cult*. (Reminds me of the Hippocratic Oath: comforting are the words, but how many doctors or clinics genuinely *practice* this ideal, that is: forego obscene profit in order to heal the poor?)

Actions speak louder than words,” goes the old saw, and I’d say that, in Google’s case, this doubly applies. What is Google’s record in this matter of doing no harm? Not very good, I conclude. The following site, Google Watch, serves as Google whistleblower, and will inform you of their dark side. They include topics such as “Google’s book grab,” “Big Brother is well-connected,” “Mozilla evades taxes,” “Is Google God?” and “Creepy Gmail”.

But Google is just one among countless examples of the corporatization of open source. I for one, refuse to toe the corporate shtick, as it wants to be adulated as your real family, replacing true communities with Libertarian schemes where the almighty dollar reigns over all other considerations. There are some good things about Google of course, such as excellent employee packages…but should this excuse them from abuses which are widespread and destructive to our personal lives, and what remains of true community? Does any of the good they do outweigh the bad (such as their cooperation with China’s draconic censorship laws)? I leave it to each of you, to reach your own conclusion. Good luck!

Yours most truly,

Ezekiel (I couldn’t hack my way out of a virtual paper bag ) J. Krahlin

When using open source makes you an enemy of the state

Addendum March 14 2010: Liz at today’s Berkeley-LUG meeting kindly corrected me re. Google’s motto. It’s “Don’t be evil”, not “Do No Harm”. But I believe my point’s still valid, regardless of this minor faux pas. Cheers!

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