2.02.2009

Copyleft and other high-minded dickery.

I'd like to thank the Arizona Cardinals for making Sunday night rather more interesting than I thought it would be. But no team that takes a laydown late in the season because they've already clinched the playoffs deserves the trophy.

Then again, a Super Bowl party attended exclusively by geeks is already going to be sort of interesting. Last year a number of my friends specifically had a party on that day where no one was allowed to watch the Super Bowl; some of whom were quite smug about it in a way which ironically brought back memories of High School and the sorts of attention those of us who spent the lunch period playing Magic: The Gathering attracted from certain assholes.

One thing I discovered on Sunday: Adding a splash of a good brown rum to a gin and tonic is a recipe for deliciousness. My recommendation? Hurricane Rum and either Hendrick's or Plymouth Gin.

But I'm not here to talk about booze or football.

My top-left sidebar now sports a button advertising my brand spanking new Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 3.0 licence. This replaces the Attribution-Non-Commercial generic 2.5, which is still attached to my template, but that's a different story.

But yes. Open Source.

It's not a new concept. I'm not just discovering it. But while I've always been well aware of it and believed in it philosophically, I've only recently been vindicated in practice.

I think that sentence makes sense.

My use of Windows had always been cyclical. Which is to say, I install it fresh, it runs fine for a while, then it starts to decay. Sometimes I make the seemingly costly mistake of losing the disk that says "do not lose this disk" on it. Right below "Do not make illegal copies of this disk."

But in spite of that, Windows is, by design, mostly a free OS.

You will never hear a Microsoft employee admit that, or the dude behind the counter at CompUSA, but it's gospel truth. The only times that MS is absolutely counting on you to pay money for their flagship product are at release and when you buy a new system. All other times, they'll shake their fists and act outraged at piracy, and do all of their Windows Genuine Advantage bullshit, but they know damn well that they'd run out of marketshare damned quickly if you couldn't get a free Windows cd from your friends whenever the fuck you wanted. And in order to have the market for preloaded software on new PCs cornered, they need everyone to have a good reason to be in the habit of using their software. So they complain, they beat their chests, but ultimately don't actually manage to effectively prevent their software from being pirated.

Hell, the premature "leaking" of the Windows 7 Beta was more or less transparent.

Because basic economics dictates that given the choice to pay for a good or service and not pay for it, the marketplace will absolutely not pay for it. So if pirating Microsoft software isn't as easy or easier for the average consumer than switching to something different, there would almost certainly be more turnover.

Because there is, in fact an alternative. And I'm using it right now. Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid Ibex. "Linux for Human Beings" as they call it. At its core are three philosophies.

  • software should be available free of charge

  • software tools should be usable by people in their local language and despite any disabilities

  • people should have the freedom to customize and alter their software in whatever way they see fit
It's great stuff. And what's even better? Built into the system is a catalog of free software for just about any purposes. If I wanted? I could grab a professional-grade CAD program the likes of which would otherwise cost hundreds of dollars.

It's pretty fucking rad.

But that's not even entirely the reason why I feel the need to blather about it here. I mean, most of you are probably using Firefox or Chrome to read this site by now, and they're both open source. The concept has made some inroads into the mainstream. But it goes far beyond that, philosophically.

A stones throw away from here, in Cambridge, MA, is a group called DIYbio. A group of self-proclaimed "bio-hackers" who by providing expert advice and resources as well as saftey procedures and, eventually, an entire open bio lab, seek to make the FUTURE open-source. Check out their pending projects. It's fantastic.

I got to the site from grinding.be, a website dedicated to cateloguing and looking out for the onset of the future. from biohacking to self-surgery to art to sex and dozens of other fields. I would look at this post in particular. If indeed there are those to whom the way we live, the way we love, the way we fuck are acts of violence I say START THE WAR NOW.

Open-source doesn't merely extend to technology, though. In fact, one organization that embraces the concept is Fair Foods, inc, which has been providing surplus perishable food to Boston's inner city areas at a dollar a bag for over twenty years. The head of Fair Foods regards herself primarily as an inventor, and Fair foods and its distribution model her greatest invention. And it's absolutely open source. They're working overtime at the moment to bring their operation to a level of prominence (and up-to-code-ness) necessary to be noticed by the Obama administration's promised public service initiatives. It's grassroots anarcho-socialism at its finest.

What's the point I'm making in all of this?

Fuck the big box stores that cut deals to operate tax-free in your neighborhood, then cut and run once the deal dries up. Fuck the corporate software companies that are more interested in cornering a market than producing a quality product. Fuck the Food Bank executives who make six figures and never seem to adequately do the job they were purported to be doing-- namely, you know, feeding the hungry.

The Future?

It's Open Source.

Embrace it, motherfuckers

2 comments:

  1. Fair Foods is an awesome idea, it is the case that things are changing, can't wait to see where everyone foes with it.

    I kind of like the copyright zen habits put up a few months ago Open Source for sure but with no codicil at all. You don't have to attribute if you don't want, he basically said "I release my copyright on this content".

    Nice to see you writing again Wombat.

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  2. It's wonderful to see you writing again. When you write about Boston i wish I had stayed there

    If I were doing the 25 things Facebook meme my hatred of gin would be in there somewhere. Change that to vodka and I have had that. My new drink is plain seltzer, vodka and any kind of herb tea

    In one of my blog's incarnations I had a creative commons open source

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