Connect the dots, because they are all drawn on the same sheet of paper: Open Access, Open Source, and Open Spirituality (of which Christian Mysticism participates).
In Christian Mysticism we have a devotion to truth. We care about people, as empathy is the primary expression of truth between people, and we are disentangled from the results. We aren’t worried how it turns out because here in the Realm of Shadows, not much really matters that much. Let God have His way, just participate willingly. We strive to clarify the mysteries.
Both Open Access and Open Source avoid hiding anything. As much as possible, all gates and barriers are removed. There’s no elitism, per se, just active minds which see the truth of some things better than others. Everyone can participate because you never know when the next genius will come along and make something huge of the truth someone else finds. I will say empathy is too often utterly absent in Open Source, but at least it’s open.
Granted, there are certain natural barriers. To get on the Net, you have to have a device and some form of signal routing. That’s the new paper and ink, the new TV and radio. Most research also requires resources not possible for most of the folks who can best use them, so we have institutions that pool resources and people. No one’s happy about how this is working out right now, but there is no easy answer. It’s changing, though, even as we speak.
Compare that with any institution or entity that operates along the lines of controlled access. Government? It’s desperate to control outcomes by limiting information, hiding anything it believes will cause the results to come out “wrong.” More than that, it will manufacture lies to create a false impression. Churches tend to do the same thing, though not always knowingly.
In Open Access, Open Source and Open Spirituality, we see the birth of a new civilization. You could easily see the fundamental openness in other intellectual threads, movements or whatever you want to call them. Open Politics is just getting started, but it’s really hard for people to swallow a form of activism which has almost no core beliefs. Something like the Occupy movement fails and succeeds at the same time. It fails to accomplish anything measurable and is nearly impossible to define, yet the impact of people coalescing around a rather amorphous goal is both more subtle and more powerful than anyone can measure.
This is what’s behind Open Spirituality — your theology isn’t the point. The unity of the Spirit is not something you can define in human terms because it is rooted outside the human realm and the intellect. Its power and impact is not easily measured in human terms until you suddenly realize so much has changed behind the shadows, it’s a whole new world.
(Note: I realize the term “Open Spirituality” has more than one meaning, and is used as a cover for some pretty cerebral stuff that is not actually spiritual. That’s more of Open Religion, which is a different thing entirely.)
After my disappointment with Lenny and Squeeze, I’m pleased to announce Debian Wheezy is really worth the time and trouble getting it set up. While I thought about writing up an install guide, it’s just silly to duplicate the efforts of others. You can read the official guide here. It’s not simplified, but it’s good enough. It’s not simple to install, but it’s brutally simple to keep it working once installed. I’ll be glad to help people with questions.
Debian reflects some element of the future cultural shift. It’s wide open, generic, and about as trustworthy as Open Source can be. Almost anything you really need to do can be done with it. It bears the feel of things like the Occupy movement, the Open Access future, and all the things I warn God is unleashing on this world. It’s here. You can join it or be left behind.
On Facebook the other day someone posted a link to an article about why youth are leaving evangelical churches. The writer was a bit reactionary, trying to tell churches to stop being like the
Purchase Purpose Driven or emergent stuff. That’s fine, but both are wrong. The newer stuff is all wrong because it doesn’t break completely from the past, and is often nothing more than an extension of what the evangelical reactionaries were doing already. The difference is PD and emergent are more honestly mercenary, which is the hidden core of the Post-Enlightenment version of Christianity. (Anything older is more about elitism.) You see, the youth are leaving because they are leaving the old dying culture of Modern America. Even pointing to Post-Modern misses it, because it still drags too much baggage from the Modern Age. It’s Western Civilization itself that’s dying here. So the youth are leaving it all behind and the Modern American churches belong to that Modern and Post-Modern Age.
I take the same line as a lot of other Network Age thinkers. We know blowing off copyright only creates trouble while the Old Guard still have a monopoly on the use of force. So we skirt the edges. If I get a music file you want, I’ll share it directly, not in one of those notorious file-sharing setups. Or I’ll tell you how to get your own copy legally, which is much better, so you can listen to your MP3 version at will. That’s how things will be for the future, the DIY of tomorrow. But we all agree if someone produces a piece of software and refuses to maintain and support it, they have no legitimate right to keep you from using it. If you can find a copy of “obsolete” software, then find a serial key and use it, provided you can get it to run (hooray for DOSBox, FreeDOS and WINE). There are multiple communities out there keeping this stuff alive. It won’t be advertised, but if you really need it, just ask someone who knows. Sharing anonymously or between friends is the way we handle it until the Old Guard are no longer in charge.
For religion in general, and Christianity in particular, Open Source is the future. All the current structures in place, regardless where or how they started, are all aimed at control and milking us. They might believe they want good things for us, but they are so deeply deceived about the very ground on which they stand, they just don’t see how badly they are hurting everyone. Maybe it wasn’t too bad way back right after the Enlightenment, but they never stayed true to principles. Even the most democratic of churches are now so deeply mired in insider controls and systemic barriers to full participation, and utterly unaccountable, that it has to go. The youth are leaving, and the institutions will collapse, shrinking steadily, because they’ve refused to consider the intellectual assumptions on which they are built. Mysticism is a good fit for where they are going now.
Welcome to the future; it’s here.
If I can get the Senior Editor’s attention, this article will be posted at Open for Business in the next day or so. My readers here get to see it first.
I remember my first encounter with a computer was in high school calculus, an Olivetti Programma 101. It was actually part of our curriculum to program the arithmetic steps for summations. A decade later, I was learning DOS on a military computer. Not the underlying technology; I became the training guru for our Enable office suite. I also wrote all the automation scripts in Enable for the forms we had to process. I still use a copy of Enable O/A on my XP laptop.
I also wrote a lot of other instructional material in the military because my superiors said I had a knack for it. Then I got hurt and left the military. Back home, I started writing a book, but the pile of papers quickly grew out of control. When I got a battered old DOS machine, the writing became more serious. As better computers fell into my paltry price range, I found distracting all the newness of Windows and graphical office suites. Going back to college a second time, I encountered WordPerfect in the computer lab and fell in love. I still run a copy of WP 6.1 on my XP laptop; nothing compares to Grammatik, but I can’t afford the more recent versions.
At some point, I discovered Linux. I can recall the thrill of getting my mouse to work when I stumbled across a RedHat 5.0 book with the disks in the back. I always thought Another Level was a great desktop, if lacking the highly integrated functions of Windows. I surfed with Netscape Navigator 3.06 for several months before I discovered updates. Nor can I forget buying Applix 4, then the thrill of getting my hands on the retail box of WordPerfect 8 for Linux. Despite the occasional crash with it on RedHat 6.3, I thought it was wonderful. Applix 5 was cool, too. I still have the boxed sets for WP8, Applix 5, and RH 6.3, but no hardware old enough to run any of it. Then I became really unhappy with font rendering, and it was a major issue over the next few years. Xfree86 4.x came as a real relief.
I was still working on that book, but progress was slow because I was eternally distracted with usability issues. I knew it could be better, and the Open Source community kept promising it would be better. I kept believing.
Meanwhile, I got involved in volunteer computer assistance work. Not so much tech support but I focused on user training. I could fix hardware and software issues, but I spent the vast majority of my time helping people understand what computers could and couldn’t do. I always took the line people were the reason computers existed, not the other way around. I’m not into the joy of computing so much as how it makes some jobs quicker and simpler. Computers have always been just a tool. For someone aspiring to write and teach, it was my best and most important tool, but never more than just a tool.
Over the years, I’ve discovered far, far too many of those most capable with computers were the least capable with people. In the commercial software world, you don’t have to care about the customer, only convince them you do. When it comes to dollars, you have to respond to user input to some degree or lose those dollars. There are people in management and marketing who understand this, and won’t hire developers who don’t at least work toward producing software they can sell to the consumer. In Open Source, the roles are reversed. The coders are demigods and those who serve as management and marketing are dependent, and much closer.
Meanwhile, the user is totally left out in the cold by both types of software production.
I understand the sociology of the software market, how it can both lead and respond to business at the same time. I understand the necessity of both standardization and competition, and how people as a whole get used to whatever dominates the markets they work. It’s no mystery to me Microsoft seems to tolerate a certain measure of piracy simply because it keeps them dominant. It’s basically free advertising at the grass roots level. Just because you have a better idea in terms of how computers themselves work does not mean it’s better in terms of how people work.
You see, users seem to think support is important. They’ll sacrifice some things to get that. It won’t matter how pure and elegant the technology is if they can’t get help with things they don’t understand. That is pretty much my whole mission in volunteer work. It’s always a compromise; I help the user negotiate the possibilities. For example, commercial software companies often provide fixes it seems they never bothered to advertise. Open Source seldom offers fixes to the stuff that gets your attention, only full replacements — “fixed in the next release.” That is anti-user. Too often, that replacement comes with too much relearning of new habits, or a whole range of new breakage. While that’s true to some degree from both sources, Open Source seems almost hostile to user input on the issues.
Very few Open Source project managers understand the concept of stability of a product and fixing the good features already included. Once users incorporate software into their work routine, they don’t want significant changes. They aren’t computer technicians, and cannot be techies if they are to accomplish anything else. It’s enough work just getting used to computers as part of the routine; computers cannot become the whole routine. Wholesale replacement had better be far better than the previous stuff, and not any significantly different in how it works. Users don’t care what constitutes techie habits. They want technology harnessed to their habits. They’ll compromise, but frequent wholesale changes is not compromise, it’s user abuse.
Open Source is the worst about that sort of abuse. Too often intermediaries (distributions) have full replacement control serving entirely different agendas from both the developers and users. Getting the projects to talk to distros is nearly impossible, except when they both agree you have to replace everything. In addition, it’s not just backward compatibility, but there are the maddening complications of getting a new version without having to change everything else. I can replace something the size of Nano editor without much trouble, and older libraries compile newer versions for quite some time moving forward, but the whole desktop? Moreover, the entire system of Linux software provision shifts constantly with vast numbers of players, so that trying to keep track of it is impossible if I am to have any time left for helping people, which is the whole point.
Right now, the very most stable distributions aim only at the corporate server market, not the user desktop. Why do you think people still keep trying to run MS Office 97 on their newer versions of Windows? What they use most needs to change least once it does a respectable job of meeting their needs. It’s the same reason MS Security Essentials is now a dominant anti-malware product; it’s the least intrusive while getting the job done. You simply cannot make high security a priority if it’s too much work. If you want people to use the stuff, keep it within their attention channels. Otherwise, stop pretending the world needs what you have.
It’s bad enough the commercial world is loaded with anti-user behavior. For some years, I’ve used the free email service offered by GMX.net, based in Germany. Excellent stuff and support is great, if you don’t mind chatting with them in German (I don’t mind). I’ve only needed support twice over the years. So why does their UK/US branch, GMX.com, stink so badly? You can get a free account, but the service can be very unreliable, and support response is almost non-existent. They seem to have taken a cue from Yahoo on this, but without the advantage of being so popular and not nearly so usable. There are others; Sega seems to hate their customers, and Sony Entertainment tried to defend their rootkit ploy. Yes, the gods of commerce too often want that total control which intrudes deep into the user’s personal life. Still, if it gives them what they want, people will use it.
The accountability for commercial software comes in the transaction of sales. The consumer has leverage. Accountability in Open Source depends entirely on the random character development of the folks who write the code. The user has no leverage. You count yourself lucky if the worst you get from someone is, “Write the code yourself. I don’t care what you want.” If we could write our own code, we’d have no use for your project, Sir. The problem comes when the common trend of development departs significantly from user need and expectation. Even when Open Source developers decide to listen, too often they leave themselves open only to those who already love the same things. It’s almost incestuous in that sense, because common users find the whole system utterly closed to them. The developers and fanboys are in their own world. The barriers to entrance are excessively high, and the insiders become prickly when users aren’t willing to invest that much. Insiders don’t understand that we’d like to use our computers, not have sex with them.
Therefore, we have a very large community deluded into thinking they can sell Open Source on what they value, as if the world should only rightly value the same things. Open Source developers seem to expect reprogramming users should be as easy as computers. It doesn’t work that way, and the arrogant snippy comments on places like Slashdot demonstrate why there will never be a Year of the Linux Desktop. Demanding every Internet user get a “net user’s license”? It defines the elitist snobbery that makes Macheads look reasonable and friendly.
Telling me I should be bowing-and-scraping grateful because it’s given away freely, and the source code is open for inspection, doesn’t mean much if I can’t use it. Have you ever heard of Google? They try to straddle the line dividing Open Source and commercial profit. If the service or software they offer free is a pain to use, their advertising share goes down. While Open Source typically is not ad supported, most ordinary users really don’t see the difference. Google has something to lose, but Open Source is by nature wholly unresponsive. Sometimes you can get the developer to respond to a genuine bug report, and I’m grateful for those projects. Some of the project managers actually like people, and it’s why they do what they do. Timothy Pearson’s Trinity Desktop Project merits honorable mention on that score. The good guys are always woefully under-supported.
I’m very grateful for VLC, FFmpeg (which I use on the Windows CLI), GIMP, Notepad++, Cygwin for my CLI fix, Vim, The Sword Project, and many other heroes of Open Source. Each project includes folks who respond, either by fixing things, describing workarounds, or reasonable explanations for things. They are accountable, either directly or through their fan base, which works just as well.
So I still use some Open Source software, but I gave up on Linux. When KDE 4 came out, and the developers refused to listen, I started losing interest. When GNOME 3 came out and the developers became hostile to user input, I gave up. XFCE? That’s where I got that snobbish quote above about “code it yourself.” Minimum expectations of computer users require a fully integrated desktop experience, but none of the other desktops on offer comes even close to that level of integration. There are fans for just about every window manager and desktop, but those people have in common almost nothing with ordinary users. For a brief period, I could sell people on Linux, but that was at the end of KDE 3 and GNOME 2, when it seemed developers realized they had to compete for their place on the user’s desktop. That has gone now.
I don’t care if all the new kids on the block are all about the smartphone interface. There are millions of us yet needing to get work done, not simply consume a stream of bytes as entertainment. Windows 8 could easily become the next ME/Vista debacle so long as there are people who do work on their computers.
I’ve spent countless hours with clients and while you can play amateur analyst all you like about what makes people tick, real people will change if what you offer is actually better for their needs. A significant portion of my clients switched to Ubuntu 10.04, but they refuse to use 12.04. Current Linux offerings are no better on any of the measures users notice, and are steadily getting worse. It has nothing to do with what the developers and fanboys think is good stuff; real users want what they want. I don’t try to tell my clients what they want. I do my best to listen and give them what they ask for, including many things I think are utterly stupid. They are in the driver’s seat; it’s their hardware, time and money. I don’t sell Linux any more.
For myself, I finished the book but outgrew it. Instead, I’ve written several more and published them. My budget is nearly zero most of the time; my hardware is nearly all donated, and the software I use came with the hardware or someone gave it to me. I’m using a significant amount of abandonware, lovingly maintained for download by fans from yesteryear. After testing an awful lot of different software and different methods, I discovered for my own use things haven’t gotten that much better since WordPerfect 6 for Windows. Yes, display and interface have improved with later releases, but actual function for writing is not any better, certainly not quicker and simpler. However, my publisher insists on Word format, so I use OpenOffice as the last step in processing books for submission. LibreOffice is not the same as OpenOffice in terms of my experience, nor the same as the commercial offerings. I did rather enjoy the predecessor, Star Office, and still keep a copy of 5.1 and 5.2. Libre is not easier for me, requires way too much work getting it customized for my needs, and offers display problems that distract me and seem only to get worse with each release — ghosts, misalignments, freezing elements, etc. I don’t have them in Apache-OpenOffice.
Abiword is coming along nicely, might get there in a few more years, and Calligra Suite shows promise. If someone ever makes Kmail so it’s not buggier than all other mail clients in existence, and it’s possible to use it on Windows, I’d love to switch. The concept is marvelous. I’m keeping an eye on that stuff, but I don’t really expect much, because the entire KDE project has been the buggiest nightmare ever to intrude on my dreams. From what I can see, the distance between new features and debugging grows exponentially. Jumping to GNOME 2 from KDE 3 was a real let down, but it was the least painful alternative. Now, all the Linux alternatives are too painful.
I’m through testing Linux. If anyone ever builds something like INX and keeps it relatively current, I’ll make sure I can run that on at least one computer I own. I’m sick of what the graphical desktop has become on Linux, a sentiment I’ve long shared with at least a few dozen people with whom I’ve chatted. Unfortunately, it seems none of us is a developer. Again, there’s always the gap between Open Source users and developers. And I don’t have time to build it up from Debian or anything else; I have work to do.
Sure, I’d be glad to review newer versions of the commercial productivity software I use, but I can’t afford them. I’ll stick with what does the job for me, and I have an awful lot of stuff I need to write.
Accountability is the eternal question; it can be addressed from many angles.
My faith asserts we are all accountable to God. If there is one thing I will seek verbally in holding your feet to the fire, this is it. Even to the point I would rather deemphasize talk about God Himself if that would get you to listen, I want to press this issue. Go ahead and ignore my religious expression. If there is anything about which I would even approach being an activist, it is in promoting moral accountability.
Naturally, we’ll argue about how to derive the ground of understanding what is and isn’t morality, but I dare say most people know when something they see lacks accountability. I’ve moaned about it missing from the Open Source software community, and Linux in particular. I invested many good years Linux, promoting it myself. Frankly I feel very much betrayed, because Linux is not what I was promised by those who promoted it, and for all I can tell, they were supported by the very people who give us what Linux is. What remains is a significant collection of projects in Open Source are not simply unaccountable to users, but range between elitist dismissal of user input, all the way to very open hostility to user input. There is no sense of “customer service” because the Open Source way makes the developer god, unaccountable to anyone else.
“Code it yourself, the source is open,” they say. If we could code it ourselves, we would have no need of your projects. But we do need them, and you refuse to provide what we need. Instead, you let people lie on your behalf and we invest our time and energy, and it comes up short. So now I tell people, “Windows is bad, and Mac is worse, but you are more likely to find something you can use when you stick with the established commercial stuff.” Naturally, I do use some Open Source software, but I run it on Windows, because there are a few projects which seem to hold themselves accountable to the users. Sadly, those projects are not pivotal in whatever Linux is when you try to use it. I go so far as to say my God is angry with this abusive attitude from the people who make Linux a viable alternative, because they are making it less viable, being in many ways far worse to the user than Microsoft and Apple and all their snotty, smirky selling of users to the highest bidder. In the process, MS and Mac at least do respond just a little to loss of reputation and money. The leverage is small with the big corporations, but with Open Source, it’s just about zero.
This is not about what software I recommend, but I’ll offer this much: Opera and Chrome browsers (Opera especially for email), GIMP photo editing, gVim for text and HTML markup, Cygwin for CLI software, and VLC Media Player, FFMPEG for media conversion, PySol and jShisen for games, and the rest depends on what you seek. Some of those do require dedication to learning them, because they aren’t easy, but they work exceptionally well, offering a level of control which makes me comfortable. They do it for me.
But the church can be even worse about accountability, and that’s why I spend more time with my Savior outside the institutional religious organizations than inside. They have become unaccountable on the very most important things I face every day in my faith. In what God demands of me they want no part. So I am accountable in warning you to be aware most churches will in one way or another abuse your trust; they certainly have abused mine. While a great many Christian people tend to be rather nice, and they try to do what they sense is good and right, when you raise certain issues their souls slam shut, and no amount of facts and spiritual persuasion can help them understand they are clinging to something not at all in Scripture. The details are elsewhere on this blog, but if you need my response to specifics, ask.
I rather expect rejection of accountability from government. People who like having power over others are not good people. Good people don’t want power over others, and accept it only with the greatest reluctance. Good people try to avoid having to exercise power they hold legitimately, because they have a powerful sense of moral accountability, and the burden is weighty, indeed. But we look at the world around us with holy cynicism and don’t expect much, even as we make the clarion call to consider better things. But it’s an old saw: We expect sinners to sin.
It’s when someone claims the moral high ground we are most rightly skeptical.
You won’t catch me claiming that ground. I will confess a desire to stand there, to live there, but I don’t pretend I own it. What I do have is my experience with things, and that’s all I can offer. Yes, I will claim I am standing in a place where I do reap some serious benefits of moral probity, however limited it might be. I recognize a certain Law binding on my behavior and I see the blessings of that Law in my life. Hey, it might work for you. Maybe just a sliver is all you can use, but that’s okay with me. I can only assert how it works for me, and even to the shedding of blood I’ll cling to that.
Yet time and time again, it always seems to boil down to accountability. Answer that one great moral demand, and it seems a lot of crap dries up and blows away.
A part of my soul burns right now with the messages of Haggai and Zechariah, as they are our current study in house church. I’ve summed it up as, “Just think what God will do if you will only obey.” Zechariah in particular spins out these marvelous visions of grandeur, even to the point of eclipsing the reigns of David and Solomon. While he certainly meant this literally, more importantly was the insistence God would do it on one level or another. What God does in Heaven does not wait on us to participate, but what happens here on our plane of existence most assuredly is conditioned for us by our level of participation with His plans.
There remains a great deal of human history yet to be written, and so very much of it will be what it will be. A certain thread of it all remains what God has planned all along. But His plans include a vast amount of room for those who choose to participate knowingly and willingly. His glory will shine, but there is plenty of room for us to turn and face that glory and bask in its glow. No one can explain in any detail what that might turn out to be, not without a specific word from God, but we can know in general His glory welcomed into our lives will certainly bring massive changes hard to imagine.
In the process of pursuing my own portion of that, I find myself sharing in a lot of things I never expected. Oddly enough, I now understand the roaring anger Jesus felt when cleansing the Temple. The Shepherd’s heart understands not every sheep in the flock will make a proper sacrifice for the altar. It’s hard to characterize in concrete terms what that means, but in a broad general sense, the shepherd must care for a lot of those who simply aren’t going to make it. Even if you know precisely who they are in advance, you cannot in good conscience, in seeking God’s glory, offer them any less good opportunity to graze in green pastures and drink the still waters. You still have to carry that rod and staff on their behalf to protect them from however much harm you can deflect.
I apply this in every sphere of my life. I try to make room for the idiots who will never get it. Yes, at times I get tired of it, but I am angered most when others offered a chance to take up the staff don’t quite understand their personal vision of efficiency has no place in the Kingdom.
Let’s take a familiar example: computer software. God appoints that certain people will receive the gift and calling to understand how to make computer software. Only some precious few will ever hear the shepherd’s calling in it. Most will not. Most only want to know what’s in it for them. We who hold the shepherd’s heart understand that; we aren’t the least bit surprised. All the more so when the very same talent making people so good at working with computers tends to make them so bad at understanding people. So we have a huge load of code jockeys who try to program people by how they write their code, trying to force people to fit some ideal which favors their private vision of what computers are supposed to do.
This lack of interest in what the rest of the world would like to have is why coders seldom get into management positions. You can’t sell that purity of computer perfection to ordinary humans. So we have software companies who hire coders and pay them to do things the coders would rather not do. Meanwhile, the burning vision of coders drives them to things like Open Source software. How nice that so many projects out there are available for free downloads — if it happens to meet your needs. Getting Open Source coders to consider what average computer users actually want is harder than pulling teeth. All the more so when the project in question swells in size, requiring larger numbers of coders to work together. Unless the project management can keep them under a good humanitarian direction, they will create perfect software almost no one likes to use. Sure, people like them will love it, and they’ll be convinced of their own greatness. Meanwhile, the rest of the world ignores it because it’s contrary to their needs and purposes.
Open Source people as a whole don’t understand because as a whole they aren’t responsible to anyone who understands people. The incidence of shepherd’s hearts among Open Sources coders is negligible. And it makes me angry, because God says anti-shepherd attitudes make Him angry. Granted, the profit seeking exploiters of the merchant culture isn’t that much better, but the resulting software does tend to meet human needs. What do you suppose is the likelihood of ever having a software culture based on the shepherd’s heart? People who love people tend not to write software. Yes, there are other ways to look at this, but I am a prophet of God and it’s my job to warn humanity God is not pleased. There aren’t many software projects, commercial or free, which please God.
If someone ever does create a software project with a shepherd’s heart, that’s what God would run on His computers.
If you imagine your divine calling requires having control over the activities and behavior of others, you are lying to yourself and listening to Satan.
I run Scientific Linux 6 on my computer, and I am an advocate for Open Source software in general. However, there is a moral horror which seems ineradicable among the fanboys of Open Source software: They are determined to reprogram users just as they do computers. This is the single greatest evil, and they are spitefully arrogant about this demand. If there is anything keeping the masses of computer users from adopting Open Source, this is it. If there is anything which makes Open Source commercially viable, it’s business people who understand and tame this awful beast. Scientific Linux is a clone of the very successful Red Hat Enterprise Linux. It is as close as anyone comes to making something competitive with the monopoly OS, but is more for business use, and not consumer home use. Ubuntu used to come close to the consumer market, but has been hijacked by wild-eyed fanboys and their touch-input obsession, so there is really no consumer Linux that gets any kind of press except Android. If you run a simple workstation, you’ll have to learn quite a bit to duplicate what you already have with Windows.
That Microsoft is now doing utterly foolish things is another story. The point is there are billions of desktop systems still in use, and almost nobody is reaching out the owners, especially from the Open Source community. Real people, the masses, don’t take well to reprogramming; you have to meet them where they are.
But it’s just as bad with religion.
I’ve worked the mainstream church angle professionally. I’ve analyzed it professionally, and it’s broken. Very badly broken. As I’ve often noted, it’s completely out of touch with its roots in the First Century churches. Their claims of fidelity are manifestly false, but like the Open Source fanboys, blind to anything which doesn’t make them happy and excited. Fanboys don’t actually use computers the way ordinary computer owners do, and have no valid concept for their use patterns. So it is with virtually everyone really involved in religion. The serious fanboys and fangirls of religion aren’t getting people connected with God. There are a thousand reasons why this is so, but the one thing I point out here is that old issue of remaking believers from the outside. Lots of good talk about giving the Holy Spirit control, but only when He operates in narrowly defined parameters.
If you call my computer ministry number, I’ll do what I can to assess your needs within the limits of your wishes. I’ll try to help you grapple with what is actually possible and choose whatever options make you happy. I won’t tell you where to find your porn sites, but I’ll tell you how to avoid having your system hijacked when you visit the ones you find. What you end up doing with your system is your business. I don’t pretend to know what an average computer user does or ought to be doing; just tell me what you want to do and we’ll work on it. When enough people tell me what they want to do, I get a feel for general needs and can prepare those things in advance. At the same time, I am sure I don’t know it all, but I have a good idea how to research the things you ask when I don’t already know.
If you call me for religious guidance, you’ll get the same deal. I know what most people need, but I won’t pretend to tell you what you need. I’ll tell you what I know about and you can work out your own salvation. If you want to work with me on a regular basis, I’ll tell you what I can and cannot do. Overlap as much as makes you feel comfortable with God, and the rest is really between you and Him. This is how I stay out of court, out of jail for most of the things we read about crazy pastors in the news, and how I avoid a lot of other embarrassing heartaches. I don’t have satellites to launch so you don’t need to watch your purse. I’ll never be famous, thank God. I have no intention of remaking you to suit my tastes, or cloning myself in you. For all of this, I have a burning sense of divine approval.
What I will be is faithful to the calling, and realistic about what you and I can share.
Pardon me while I walk my talk.
I have to eat my words. The previous post in this space was about the joys of Cygwin, a POSIX emulator which made it possible to run something like Linux on your Windows machine. Except it suffers the same limitations of all Open Source projects.
That is, it’s developer centered. You see, most commercial software development pretends to meet the customer’s needs. It often does, because people tend to buy the software that keeps these companies running, and not buy the stuff they don’t like too well. But at least the customer does get some of what they seek, even if there’s a near monopoly which so colors their thinking on the matter, they tend to avoid getting too wild in their demands. In the process, the developer has to do what the managers tell them, regardless what developers may think is best. In Open Source, no one tells the developer what to do.
Not even the user. There is seldom even the slightest pretense of meeting user’s needs, and too often open hostility to even hearing from users. That’s the way of Open Source, though you still get the same lying sales pitch by way of the fanboys that you would from paid advertising executives who work for the commercial software firms.
A couple of months ago I was quite happy with CentOS 6 on my laptop, but then there came an error in the file system. It was fixed easily enough, but my research indicated this was a well known flaw in the Linux kernel at the time Red Hat selected their sources, and which CentOS has no choice but to use, as a derivative. The flaw has to do with hibernate mode on laptops.
Given that and some other stuff in the background of my life, I simply restored my Win7 installation from backup. Well, things in the background have changed again, as well as losing my interest in the graphical Internet. Windows does text mode poorly at best. Even when the tools are ported (if they are) it’s not the same. I need that text mode stuff now, and I can’t get it from Cygwin or other porting mechanisms.
So I’m fixing to try Xubuntu 12.04. Not the best of all worlds, but probably tolerable. If that fails, I’ll find something else. Or maybe I’ll just post a goodbye message tomorrow and leave it at that.
Seriously. I’m not a happy camper, and I’m getting really tired of what I can do with what I can afford when it comes to computers and the Internet. All OSes suck.
Update: As of this update six weeks later, I’ve been using Xubuntu 12.04 and it’s okay. It required a bit of doing to chase down a decent theme and the old Trench window decorations, but it’s all tolerable.
This is the last time I’ll address this issue, because everyone knows the KDE developers and fans aren’t going to listen anyway. However, I’m pretty sure what follows is the sentiments shared by everyone the developers and fans are trying to ignore.
Obviously your minds are closed. For those who pretend you don’t understand, it’s only possible because you don’t want to understand. I’d use foul language but it won’t help you understand, so I’m going to state things clearly once and for all, and then you can stop pretending you care. Let’s start by defining the terms:
good software Good software is software that does what I want, the way I want to do it. Since no one can read my mind, there is obviously a certain amount of compromise between my internal standard of perfection and your standard of perfection when writing and packaging the code. Thus, “good software” is that which most closely approximates what I would have if I could write my own.
better software Better software is good software with fewer bugs. Better software does what it’s actually supposed to do according to claims and promises.
When KDE 3 reached a certain point in development, it became the ultimate for an awful lot of folks, on an awful lot of Open Source operating systems. I won’t try to nail it down to details; it hit the great middle ground of what a vast stretch of humanity actually wanted. It had a huge fan base. This despite being very buggy at times. Everyone I knew who liked it agreed with me if the developers would stop adding new features and just fix the bugs, we’d think we had died and gone to computer heaven. We were that much in love with it.
Then you developers just dropped it. We were heartbroken. You stopped fixing it and started crafting all these really new features we didn’t want and couldn’t use. You took something great and screwed it up completely. Many of us who loved KDE 3 hated 4; hate it still. I can’t pretend I know an actual count, but I have read more reviews of both KDE 3 and 4, and comparisons, from more sources than almost any human I know, plus a very large amount of personal comments. What the developers and current fans don’t get is that a really large portion of us will not ever like what you did, adding all these new features we utterly hate, and dropping the ones we really liked, and changing the underlying nature of how it works to something we refuse to touch.
Don’t ask for a list. That’s just an excuse to avoid the primary issue that you don’t care what we need. Not only did you never deliver on the promises of KDE 3, but you dropped it and moved so far away from it we wonder why you bothered to keep the same name.
KDE 3 was good for a thousand individual reasons, and we loved it as a whole. KDE 4 is different enough it might as well be everything we hate. We don’t care what you think is “better” or “improved”. The only “better” we would accept is “less buggy”. If you don’t understand how KDE 4 is not as good, we have to question your intelligence.
But the simplest answer is this: You don’t give a damn for what we KDE 3 fans liked about it. If you did, you would try to understand. Since you don’t, stop pretending you care. You are infuriating, nauseating, and your attempts to sell something which actually cripples our machines as some imaginary improvement is considerably worse than lame. I’ll type it one more time, slowly, so maybe you’ll understand:
KDE 3 was good because it came close to what we wanted. KDE 4 is bad because it’s so far away from what we wanted, it’s worse than no GUI at all.
I can already anticipate one intellectually dishonest response: “People hate change.” When “change” means fixing bugs, improving the underlying libraries, or making elements of the interface more consistent and not filling up the error logs with gigabytes of background chatter, we love change. When “change” means you promise to show us the moon, then board up our house with us inside, no we do not like it. I can’t imagine where you get your information from, but whomever told you it was good and right to arrogantly presume to re-engineer your users by attempting to force upon them changes in their computer habits, it’s time you went back and took a few courses which would help you understand why computers exist. If we are approaching Skynet, it’s time we hunted down every computer geek and shot them dead. If you understand computers exist to serve human needs, then perhaps you won’t be so arrogant. KDE 4 is not a Desktop Environment; it’s a cellphone UI. We want our desktop back. We liked KDE 3 because it came closest out of all the offerings to meeting us where we lived. KDE 4 is no better than GNOME 3, and the KDE Project has become more abusive and insensitive to users than the GNOME Project. Even Macheads get more respect from their supplier than you offered us.
All I’ve done is distill the complaints of literally hundreds of people who bothered to comment at all. Therefore, if you find you agree with the above rant, you may steal the whole thing and copy at will, posting wherever you like and sign your own name. More than anything else, I want folks to blast this message in-your-face with the idiots who keep pretending they just don’t understand, as if there could not possibly be a valid complaint with KDE 4.
Addenda This is an aging post someone linked somewhere. I just wanted to note I’ve already reviewed the Trinity Desktop Project, and love the idea.
She waited patiently, her paws crossed as she lay in the small patch of sun available in the fenced yard. Once each week, he walked past on the newly paved street which had replaced the gravel. In her mind, the road served the single purpose of bringing this beloved stranger into her utterly boring life. Sure enough, at roughly the same time as always, she spied a lone pedestrian in a neighborhood which saw precious few people walking anywhere outside their own yards.
His fast stride carried him to her. For just a few moments, she was fully alive, as he stroked her through the fence, then tossed the ball she had carefully dropped between the wrought iron bars. She chased, caught it, and turned to see him receding down the street again. She would wait another week for this golden moment.
On today’s long walk, the man debated in his mind which operating system he hated most. He spent much of his working hours working with computers. There was none he liked, only a few he could tolerate, and most he simply despised. The corporate products were often closer to what he wanted in general terms of usability, but always riddled with security holes. The Open Source stuff was always more secure, but also always a patchwork of multiple projects. Most ran forward at breakneck pace in development, always new and shiny, always broken in some new way. Every day another project folded, and three others sprang up to grab the limelight. It was utterly chaotic, and a wonder anything worked at all.
He loved BSD for it’s simplicity and stability, but it was one of the worst about rolling heedlessly over user complaints. You were lucky if you ever got a curt, “Code it yourself.” That was the Open Source developer’s excuse for ignoring anything he or she found boring. But he typically ended up running some clone of Red Hat simply because it didn’t change dramatically, nor was it dropped from support, for pretty much the life of the hardware on which it ran. It was worth it compiling his own extras from source, despite the cascading dependencies on some items.
Thaddeus Eyrie was just your average aging ghost writer. He loved writing, but had gotten rather tired of the massive job of correcting some of the increasingly imbecilic prose, nowadays the worst there could be outside of an urban middle school. Lately had taken fewer jobs, and spent more time fooling with the operating systems and software with which he did his writing. Not that it mattered, since his veterans’ pension ensured he wouldn’t starve.
But Thad was just so tired of the constant changes in both the commercial closed source world, and the even greater changes in Open Source. He would have gladly stayed with the the likes of Debian Etch, but there was no hardware available for such ancient software. And the last time he actually liked FreeBSD was version 4.8. It was a good thing he didn’t take himself too seriously, or he would have stopped working altogether.
He was doing the background research for a stock article on businesses and Open Source software. The best comments and quotes came from obscure blogs and such, and he was chasing links late that night. At one point, he ran across one titled Electronic Rune Stones which mentioned a new project for business oriented software. The writer was being coy, apparently because it hadn’t been released at that point. So he went through the long process of scanning the archive on the blog. As always, some links were dead, but he found one tantalizing lead linked back to a previous post on the same blog. He got a “404 Page Not Found” error, and noticed the newer posts used a different format. He tried guessing what the older article might be, but still got the 404, even after trying various possibilities.
On his final incantation, he was distracted with a light flashing outside the window. Apparently his fingers slipped from the home keys, because he turned back just after he hit ENTER and saw the most hilarious typo. All he managed was a single bark of laughter, because he caught his breath when, instead of the same 404 error, he hit a page which was itself a simple instantaneous redirect.
His browser displayed a very plain FTP directory on some server which didn’t have a domain name, only the IP address. Among the interesting folders displayed there was the odd name “bread”. It opened for him, and he saw a collection of files. It took a moment for him to recognize he was in the top of an installation disk tree. Poking around a bit more, he realized it was an OS project of some kind, rather like FreeBSD in layout, with some of the same names, but seemed incomplete.
With time to kill, he downloaded the whole tree to a fresh folder. It was just a bit larger than a typical CD, so he used a DVD. Turning to the one machine not already running something, it was one he picked up at some office supply auction. It was specced with about the most generic hardware possible, and he figured it offered the best chance to work. Upon rebooting with the DVD in the tray, he was treated to a an ASCII art logo announcing this was “Bread OS 1.” Then came a series of text screens with one script handing off another. He took the default for what was called a “standard workstation.”
It was the final screen of text above the “commit” button that caught his attention. In essence, it warned him the installer would give him a very generic micro kernel and just precisely those driver modules which matched his hardware. One option was to allow the machine to then rebuild itself on the first reboot. A highly scripted process would recompile and optimize all the libraries, then create a macrokernel for only the hardware on his system, plus the bare necessity of function calls needed for common software used on a standard model workstation for most offices. It would periodically check for changes in the code based and rerun this process as needed. There was a warning the machine could not access any networking interfaces while the system files were open to rewrite. The computer would reboot and mount the system files read only.
The other option was to use the system immediately, and it would simply run the rebuild during idle time, mostly overnight. In two or three days of typical use patterns, it would be finished, and demand the user allow it to go into rewrite mode, then reboot.
Leaning back with a smile, he dared to hope. If this thing would actually run and do anything useful, it was the holy grail of ordinary computer users long frustrated with Open Source development which made the developers utterly unaccountable demigods. Yet it was Open Source, ostensibly trustworthy, and if it worked, exceptionally secure in basic concept.
He could afford to wait. He chose the option to rebuild immediately. Sleep came easy that night.