The reformation at your fingertips: gnu/linux and open source – part 3

The fact that representatives of open source and closed source increasingly see themselves as parties in a kind of software war is also made clear by the somewhat clumsy but quite practical software war map, a kind of strategy map of the current conflicts. On all fronts there is opposition to “emperor bill” fought. This is not only about the development of software, but also about propaganda from both sides.

Microsoft’s propaganda against the gpl has already been mentioned (clash of civilizations). In the context of the antitrust proceedings against microsoft, other means were used to. A 1998 article in the la times describes a plan by microsoft to improve its image:

According to the documents, local pr agencies will start submitting comments to the media next week, with more releases to follow in the coming months, including glowing testimonials from microsoft partners, consumer surveys and studies to show the company’s impact on the economy of each region.

Letters to the editor should be solicited from successful entrepreneurs in the respective region. Comments are to be submitted by freelance journalists and possibly a “people’s economist” will be written, according to a document. The authors are to be paid by charging their costs to “microsoft as out-of-pocket expenses”.

Through such campaigns, widespread business and consumer support is exchanged, supplemented by microsoft’s usual ad campaigns and sponsorship events touting its “freedom of innovation” is pointed out. While microsoft’s grassroots project set off a small storm of protest, authors john stauber and sheldon rampton note in their new standard work on the public relations industry, “trust us, we’re experts!”1, to:

“A year later it went unnoticed in the computer press when several articles discussed an ‘open letter to president clinton from 240 economists’ that appeared in the form of full-page ads in the wahshington post and the new york times. The ads were paid for by a non-commercial think tank called the independent institute, based in california.”

The letter from experts criticized the antitrust case against microsoft, saying it endangered the u.S. Economy and was merely a move by competitors, not desired by microsoft consumers. It later came out, among other things, through a new york times report, that microsoft was the institute’s gross financial backer and had paid the full price of the ads.

“An open operating system can mutate”. Microsoft’s propaganda isn’t always as easy to see through as in this double-page ad.

This form of propaganda about third parties is very popular with large corporations, especially because it is particularly difficult to provide clear proof of origin. The independent institute claims z.B., it wouldn’t make any difference that microsoft paid for the pr – that doesn’t change the truth of the allegations (and because it’s so unimportant, it doesn’t have to be published).

“Think tanks” like the ii are rented rather than paid for a specific ie: one “donates” regularly and receives for it in mutual agreement “free” propaganda. The cato institute cares z.B. To declare in parallel passive smoking harmless, to declare global warming a myth and to defame antitrust procedures as unamerican.2 the tasks of the tanks included not only advertising campaigns, but above all “studies” with predefined results and eloquent comments addressed to the media. In its use of the tanks for propaganda purposes, microsoft is no different from other gross corporations, even in the it industry, as stauber and rampton demonstrate.

Bashing microsoft

The open source community is often unaware of these connections, yet they are not adequately covered by either mainstream or alternative media outlets. Compilations of microsoft’s misconduct also exist in rough numbers, but quality selection always takes time and effort. So it can be explained that many comments critical of microsoft are based only on the feelings of their authors. These are then just displeasure statements of the form: “whoever uses such a junk operating system is to blame, with linux this would not have happened.” a better technical organization of the discourse would be already possible with today’s means – this is proven by z.B. The campaigners for a cause that is no less controversial in the usa, the theory of evolution: as an addition to the corresponding newsgroup talk.Origins, there is a fact portal on the web that sums up all the main arguments and discusses them in detail.

Propaganda and ideologies

“No sympathy for microsoft” – the radicalization of parts of the linux movement can also be seen in the iconography, which here is based on the music group kmfdm.

A certain immaturity cannot be denied to large parts of the linux community. Because the operating system is so comprehensive and at the same time, because of its market position, represents a kind of counterculture, it magically attracts users who have an elitism that they can proudly display after learning the system. Arrogance when discussing with “unworthy” is the consequence. And then there are the “script kiddies”, who use linux because they don’t like the destructive aspects of the system “hackens” irritate — correspondingly destructive in their communication.

Even the founder of the pro-linux weblog slashdot, rob malda, recently had to vent his displeasure with linux users in an editorial. “Linux will never be accepted as a mainstream operating system”, malda explains. “The reason is simply the users.” as an example he cites a message board about an hp scanner that is not supported by linux. “The people at hp are assholes”, writes “muttley”, and: “stupid bill gates cock lu***er!” “hp=horse pecker” (pecker=penis), adds gary. And so on. Some proudly declare to have expressed their opinion also by email to hp. The majority is quite civil in tone, but a small minority is doing considerable damage to the reputation of the operating system. Whether these users also exist in a comparable proportion under windows does not really matter, because microsoft does not need a lobby above itself. This problem can also be solved by a better, “more official” organization of the linux lobby.

Propaganda and ideologies

Microsoft opponents at the “ritual microsoft manual burning” in holland

Just how emotionalized the debate already is was made clear at the dutch hackers at large conference in august 2001. As a small fubnote of the conference program, there was the hint “ritual microsoft handbook burning, tonight 22:30 at the fireplace near matenweg.” there, a considerable group of ms opponents gathered to let microsoft publications of all kinds go up in flames in front of cameras. Proudly, participants documented the burning on the web, z.B. On the trier ccc website. Of course, the books that were burned were not literary works. But the fact that open source supporters use the symbol of book burning to make themselves heard is not only a sign of questionable historical ignorance, but also a symbol of self-righteousness and fanaticism. This provides microsoft not only with ammunition for the pr battle, but also with a load of weapons to boot.

The extremist and the dogmatist

Where there is talk of weapons, eric s. Raymond, one of the most prominent “evangelists” of the open source community, not far from. On his home page or in emails, he will not mude to point out his right, guaranteed by u.S. Interception, to bear arms. Because guns are raymond’s favorite hobby after hacking. With pleasure he describes, one click away from his linux papers, his first contact with a firearm, reports with many photos of pushes with the geeks with guns, the hackers with guns. At a push track in colorado, raymond happily explains, there are potholed cars with dolls sitting in them “in poses of fear and death”. Next to them are signs like “this woman has tried to sue dragonman operator of the land for child support”, or “caught stealing from dragonman – shot on 1. February 1992. They did not get far – they are still in the car!!!”.

Uzi fan: eric raymond (front) with comrades during pushes

His fetish would probably not be a problem for most linuxers (at least in the usa) if raymond did not often link it directly to his role as one of the most cited open source advocates. Every email, including those to journalists, is signed with as radical a libertarian quote as possible, such as:

“America is in a stupid phase. It is too late to work in the system and too early to deport the bastards.”

After the attacks in new york and washington on 11. In his article, raymond, like many others, called for the preservation of civil rights in the inevitable reaction. Since those rights, according to raymond, include bearing arms, he noted: “it is indeed arguable that the lawmakers who disarmed all non-terrorists on the four planes so that the hijackers could not be stopped bear some of the moral responsibility for this disaster.” if everyone carried concealed weapons, this could not happen. The whole thing was distributed to several media outlets, some of which published it with the signature “eric raymond – open source advocate” published.

Raymond actually plays a central role in the public presentation of gnu/linux alongside richard stallman. The two are quoted so often that they are known in the community only by their initials, esr and rms. Esr and rms hold opposing positions on many ies: while stallman puts the ideal of free software above all else, raymond cares only about open source code. What others did with it must be left to them, even if this means to distribute formerly free software only in binary form. He insinuates stallman, preferably “prohibit proprietary software” to want (which is a contradiction, since copyright itself is a privilege guaranteed by the state).

Stallman tends more to leftist views, as he documents on his homepage separate from the gnu project. The fact that esr plays such a rough role in the community at all is probably also due to the fact that stallman’s idea of the “pure doctrine” free software has already pushed many developers in front of the head. Proprietary software is too “condemn” and should not be bundled with open, proclaims the gnu pope. His hard-headed fight for linux instead of exclusively “gnu/linux” has put off many gnu fans who find the longer name unwieldy and unnoticeable. When asked if a survey of gnu and linux developers could solve the problem, he replies: “it is clear that a survey would only tell us what people know and what they don’t know, not what is right and what is wrong.” those who were scared off by it are not needed anyway, because they don’t support the gnu project “understand”.

Propaganda and ideologies

Richard stallman, the holy ignuzius in the church of emacs, condemns proprietary software and considers linus torvalds a traitor to pure doctrine

He unfailingly takes action against apostates, among whom he now counts linus torvalds: “it is contrary to our goals and our fundamental views! Torvalds says non-free software is legitimate, he even writes it in his job at transmeta.” although the gnu kernel hurd, a replacement for linux, is progressing only in baby steps, rms believes that ultimately linux will be defeated.

That extremism and dogmatism are not always so far away from each other was shown at a push meeting of the geeks with guns: together the software revolutionaries esr and rms shot at cardboard disks with human silhouettes.

Linux as a new chance for europe

The problems of the linux lobby do not change their importance. For many linux developers the work on the open operating system was always just a leisure activity. Linus torvalds himself had to deal with nagging professors while working on the project. Historic is his newsgroup discussion with minix creator andy tannenbaum from holland – “be thankful that you are not one of my students. You didn’t get a good grade for such a design :-)” wrote tannenbaum. To which linus replied: “well, i probably won’t get good grades without you: i just had an argument (completely unrelated to our discussion) with the operating system lecturer at our university. I wonder when i will finally learn :)” linus always emphasized that he developed the system in his spare time on his own computer.

It is sad that universities work like this, and almost every computer science student can sing about the lack of practical relevance in the lectures. From the usa comes the suggestion to create a “master of fine arts” for software development, where an autodidactic learning process should be in the foreground. But a very different factor is crucial: children must start early to understand a computer as more than just access to programs written by others. A windows installation on daddy’s pc is of little help – the only programming language included: qbasic for dos.

Many prospective computer scientists have only rudimentary programming knowledge when they start their studies, often only fragments of sorting algorithms that are still floating around in their memory, once programmed on 286s in turbo pascal in a tedious and largely useless way. There is hardly any reason not to introduce computer science as a regular subject in all european schools. Here, too, the decisive factor would not be a theoretical approach, but a playful, joint approach under certain conditions (learning the shell, getting to know the text editor, writing the first programs, etc.).) – whereby the students could always bring in projects themselves.

The use of linux software in education will create a long-term stable user base for open source software and thus be beneficial to the entire infrastructure. Anyone who learns as an 11-year-old that the source code of almost any relevant program can be changed at any time will hardly want to give up this knowledge and the associated ideology as a 19-year-old.

But acquiring adequate computers costs money, which is notoriously lacking in education, and education mandates are already difficult to standardize nationwide because of state sovereignty. Such an educational program would give europe a massive head start in the field of software development.

Not only in schools, but also in administration open source software could draw lots for a real revolution. Instead of using crude niche solutions or mass-produced commercial products, officials could draw on a pool of solutions organized via the internet that could be adapted to specific needs, depending on the task at hand. Every innovation immediately benefited all civil servants free of charge — and, when it came to standard problems, industry and private individuals as well. The security aspect is of course also crucial: protection against data theft and destructive viruses can only be guaranteed in an open system environment.

These reasons support the argument that it should be inadmissible in principle for the state to use non-free software when free alternatives exist. Such a law is planned z.B. Argentina: “the public administration, decentralized organizations and companies, in which the state holds the majority, will exclusively use free software on their computer equipment”, according to the law, where free is defined in the sense of richard stallman. In this whole this is probably not yet feasible in europe, but with an addition like “whenever possible” probably quite. In particular, it could be ensured that any software project in which the state directly or indirectly invests money must be available in source code and under a free license.

If europe sticks to its current laws and does not make any new advances in the area of education, it will no longer be able to win the it race with the usa. Linus torvalds was and is no albert einstein – there are many people like him, they need the call, and one should try to create a climate in which innovation in the software field can flourish. With the current approaches, the state has the least to gain from all developments in the free software sector.

However, the habituation of children and young people to microsoft products, the granting of software patents, laws such as the dmca and the sssca, and anti-hacker measures passed in an anti-terrorist rush, threaten free software and free speech at the highest level. Europe must not make the mistake of repeating american mistakes here. An information society lives from its hackers. It was not intended to punish them, but to guide them along the right path.

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