[opensource] Re: ntSig Event Tonight

Nick Dimiduk dimiduk.1 at osu.edu
Fri Oct 28 10:35:33 EDT 2005

Jim Dinan wrote:
> By all means, let's start a flamewar!  :)  And, I don't disagree with 
> you, but ...

flamewar bad... discussion good!

> There is a fine line to be walked between being pro- Open Source and 
> anti- Microsoft.  There was a time when open source was all about GNU 
> and the foaming-at-the-mouth purists - and they're still out there 
> fighting the good fight, but the tone of the movement has shifted from 
> breaking down barriers to community building.  Open source now coexists 
> across a wide array of heterogeneous platforms and a wide variety of 
> computing lifestyles.

I doubt there are many OSS groups left who define themselves using the 
MS name.  I think the last 5 years have shown a strong push away from 
the realm of focused GNU and into a more hap-hazard place where code 
exists in the public domain with little restriction.  The "by the 
community, for the community" mindset remains.

> That being said, MS has historically had the most abysmal business 
> practices in the industry.  They have also taken an aggressive stance 
> against the open source community and against the adoption of open 
> source and open standards software.  Despite this, I don't think we 
> should react in kind.  In fact, this sort of treatment from Microsoft 
> should even be taken as a compliment - it validates the fact that we are 
> out here and strong enough to be considered their _competition_!  Not 
> everyone gets this kind of recognition from the world's largest software 
> vendor.

It is a mistake to think of MS defining itself in terms of OSS in the 
same way the opposite is a mistake.  MS is a company.  Companies, in a 
capitalistic economy, have a single responsibility: making money.  Just 
as any company who existed on the fore-front of the commercialization of 
a new and lucrative product/service, MS has used any means necessary to 
make money for its shareholders.  The "underhanded" tactics used in its 
beginning are little different than the actions of railroad companies, 
automobile manufactures, oil companies, etc.  The software industry is 
not a regulated industry; until regulations are put into place with the 
interest of the consumer in mind, the default business laws allow the 
company to make money through any mean necessary.  Any means includes 
both the exploitation of software patents and the release of code and 
protocols to the open source community.  Also, please don't think MS is 
the only software company trying to make a profit.

> We do have lots of members who don't run Linux - and we're not the Linux 
> club so IMO this perfectly is fine.  I want these guys to feel welcome 
> too and I don't want anyone to feel pressured to switch.  There is 
> nothing to be ashamed of if you need Office and/or you just need your 
> machine to work.  I'm guilty too - WoW only runs in Windows (although I 
> do cringe every time I see that bootup screen on my monitor).  There is 
> a host of great open source alternatives for windows out there: firefox, 
> thunderbird, openoffice, gaim, etc...  Imagine no advertising on your 
> desktop!

I, too, run an OS not released under the GPL.  As I speak, I compose 
this message in Thunderbird running on my Apple powerbook.  OSX 10.4; I 
even paid for the upgrade.  Why?  Why not?  I like the environment and I 
like the challenge of porting OSS code onto the BSD userland [1].  Not 
to mention the greatly improved OSS development tools, tweaked by Apple, 
available in the 10.4 release.  Also, there is a WoW client for mac... 
Though I have run WoW via Wine in linux/x86.

Video games aside, OSS has been, from its beginning, about choice. 
People should get to choose what software they want to run and what 
protocols that software uses.  If they choose to run windows and coLinux 
[2], that is their choice and am sure not going to tell them they can't. 
  They are free to do so, as I am free to do so.

> The main reason I posted this was that I've had a chance to meet 
> Anthony, the president of ntSig and he is genuinely open minded about 
> open source and has expressed an interest in trying to collaborate on 
> events and let people know about some great new opensource technology. 
> Personally I am really excited about this.  I would really like to see 
> our club getting out there and speaking to as wide a variety of 
> audiences as possible.  I wonder, will ntSig have a parallel debate on 
> their mailing list?  Something along the lines of "open source is a 
> bunch of smelly, anti-private industry, anti-moneymaking, software 
> anarchists."

ntSig is (was) a good group.  I was a member for about a year... I 
simply no longer had anything to gain by being a member (wow, I won a 
copy of Visio, too bad I can't run it).  By they way, you can attend any 
OSU club's events even if you're not a member [3].  They have 
historically had it together a bit better than us in terms of hosting 
events.  Of course, they also have historically enjoyed corporate 
sponsorship.  I think our groups could work together very well, 
especially if our members give talks about new OSS technology at their 
meetings.  They are, after all, the New Technology Student Interest 
Group (or something like that).  The next competition they host for 
developing a web services project using C#, submit your entry using mono 
and apache's axis.  Show their members that other options exist if you 
don't have the $2500 to buy VS.net.

> If we're going to reach out to the community with free - as in freedom - 
> software the first step will be to gain their trust.  Alex, you said 
> 'uninformed' and I think you hit the nail on the head.

Freedom good!
-Nick Dimiduk

[1] http://www.gentoo.org/proj/en/gentoo-alt/macos/index.xml
[2] http://www.colinux.org/
[3] That comment reminds me of the time I sat in on a sociology club 
meeting.  I was ill-informed as it turned out the club was actually the 
Organization of Minority Students in Criminology and Sociology (OMSICS). 
  This was slightly uncomfortable, seeing as how I'm a white male.  They 
offered me cookies, though!  See? Bridging the gap!

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