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Open Source, Closed Mind

Wednesday 7 May 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

I support my fellow humans.

People come first; my God says this whole universe exists as a place to guide people to His truth. That puts me at odds with the majority of the human race, but I genuinely love people. That includes individual persons I encounter. Ask my neighbors whether I care about them. I’ll put that much on the line, at least.

One of the things I help them with most often is computers. I run a computer tech support ministry. That word “ministry” implies I am willing to do it for free, and I’ve done plenty of that. I like people and I think computers are a good way of meeting some limited human needs. I sort of like computers, too, but people come first.

I highly recommend to my friends that they use Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). I lump it all together because I am not an orthodox enthusiast of Open Source Software (OSS) alone. Despite the loud and voluminous blather about how virtuous Open Source is, particularly versus commercially produced software, there is plenty of moral failure in the OSS community.

The kind of person it takes to be really good with computers and software tends to make that same person poor in dealing with their fellow humans. Try to understand that this isn’t true with all of them, nor even a majority of them, but is a tendency that characterizes OSS development more, and more noticeably, than it does with commercial software development. Despite the huge overlap, with a great many people developing both kinds at the same time, the two communities tend to attract different people and it shows.

People who really like other people seldom get involved in software development. However much you might think I fail at dealing with people, I’m a lot better with humans and computers. The majority of developers will go along with the flow because they generally don’t care much either way. The dominant flow in commercial software is to make that money. Lie, cheat, steal if you can get away with it, but make that money. So commercial vendors will pretend to care about your needs and you’ll get the general feeling they’ll do something about serious complaints that affect their bottom line. OSS developers don’t have a profit motive. However, they aren’t much friendlier and tend to be more honest about their general misanthropy.

Commercial vendors put marketing first. Instead of putting marketing first, OSS puts the developer first. It feeds developer arrogance. Read any forum or mailing list where OSS developers hang out and you’ll be sickened by some of the vile hateful contempt they spew about their fellow humans. Not much by volume, but it seems to dominate the discussion by the sheer depth of it. There is precious little software development that puts users first.

In other words, neither commercial nor OSS holds the high ground. Simply free software varies widely and is harder to characterize. Some of it is annoyingly ad-supported and others are just crappy junk in the first place. But enough of it works quite well, and often better for general human needs, so I include it all as FOSS. Honestly, the best projects seem to involve one developer doing the whole thing, or maybe with a small circle of friends. But with the strict philosophical divide between OSS and commercial development, neither is morally superior by any means.

The only advantage is that with OSS, you can sometimes find ways to correct the misanthropic arrogance of the developers. In some few cases, individuals or small projects will do a great job of restoring sanity by forking or repackaging a project. But the bottom line for regular humans is this: FOSS is affordable and it generally gives you more control.

You have to know what you want in order to take control, but it’s easy enough to learn. I don’t promote Debian and CentOS simply because I believe they are superior technology or because they are somehow morally better. I support them because it’s easier to make those two meet common human needs than almost all the other stuff out there under OSS or FOSS, and certainly better than with any commercial software. As long as you understand what you are getting into, there are no surprises arising from believing the propaganda sales pitch from either the commercial cut-throats or the arrogant OSS advocates.

I’m here to help you make the most of what’s available.

(This post updates a previous post by the same title.)

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  1. Wednesday 7 May 2014 at 10:59 am

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