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Thursday, February 10, 2005 - 1:53amSanction this postReply
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I've seen many objectivists almost blindly defending MS for thir product , and label Linux and the FSF as somehow evil , without giving any concrete justification . Now I am in a moral quandry . I can definitely say that the anti-trust cases were unjustified , yet MS' labeling of the FSF , Linux , the GPL , and others does not hold water . My problem with defending MS as moral stems from the Halloween documents ( found here http://opensource.org/halloween/halloween1.php ) . For an analysis of Open Source , I'd recommend you visit this site : http://www.freeos.com/articles/4133/ .

I cannot defend ( in my view ) MS as fully moral , yet I have to defend it against unjustified attacks . Plus , I dislike it when MS makes emotive comments on your competitors with no real value . Contrast this with the article I just linked to .

Personally , I dual-boot . I use Windows for gaming and surfing , and Linux for all my work .

Your views ?



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Thursday, February 10, 2005 - 9:21amSanction this postReply
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There are so many things wrong with this situation that it's hard to know where to start, or to end. But here are a few thoughts.

 - A significant portion of Linux is, albeit indirectly, government funded. Some is funded by self-interested entities, but the rest is funded by those who believe they need to "give back" to society or some such. There are many programmers who do it for GNU's Marxist causes (make no mistake, GNU is an evil organization). On top of that, the whole Linux method (UNIX) was created by someone else, and merely cloned (and it is far easier to copy a technology than it is to create it). In an ideal world, that would not have been permitted. Companies like Red Hat, who for the most part merely bundle together other people's creations, profit from those creations, while the creators get nothing.

While the causes of Linux are mixed, there are a lot of immoral purposes behind its creation, and Microsoft is right to complain, particularly about the government-funded aspects.

 - I think Microsoft and its technology is a pragmatic pile of garbage. Yes they have built some useful tools - but the way they go about it technically is horrible. I mean, you can build the pyramids with human slaves, but should you? That said, I can't put all the blame on Microsoft: when they try to do the right technical thing they are beaten down by the government. So much of what they do nowadays is a calculation to prevent abuse by the DOJ that it's impossible to know what the company would really be in a better situation. So Microsoft, like Linux, is in part, a product of government evils.


So I'm not enthusiastic about either. I actually use both Linux and Windows at work. I prefer Linux when I am developing software because the platform is far, far superior to develop on, but of course there are some applications that, likely through obscene amounts of human sweat, work better on Windows.




Post 2

Thursday, February 10, 2005 - 11:20amSanction this postReply
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Shayne,

You write that "On top of that, the whole Linux method (UNIX) was created by someone else, and merely cloned (and it is far easier to copy a technology than it is to create it). In an ideal world, that would not have been permitted. Companies like Red Hat, who for the most part merely bundle together other people's creations, profit from those creations, while the creators get nothing." I think that's a bit confused.

For the first part, your assertion that "In an ideal world, that would not have been permitted" is simply wrong, at least in a Randian context. In her essay on "Patents and Copyrights," Ayn Rand explains why ideas do NOT constitute property except as embodied in copyrighted or patented works. In this case, the architecture copied by Linux had been released by AT&T into the public domain; the creators of Unix published papers claiming that it is the objectively optimal architecture for an operating system. As Ayn Rand wrote, if a scientist "cares to make his discovery public, claiming it to be true, he cannot demand that men continue to pursue or practice falsehoods except by his permission." Once the papers on optimality of Unix were published, to design an OS without these insights would have amounted to, in Rand's words, "practicing falsehoods." Microsoft also incorporated the Unix architecture into NT - Gates called NT a new implementation of the Unix design. All of Microsoft's current OS products are based on the same idea as Linux. See cygwin.com for a full GNU/Linux distribution that runs on current Microsoft kernels - it works just as well as distributions based on Unix or Linux.

As for Red Hat or Novell, they distribute Linux with the explicit permission of the creators. They add value by integration and support, and rightly profit from the value they add.



Post 3

Thursday, February 10, 2005 - 12:00pmSanction this postReply
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Adam,

You missed my points.

I realize that UNIX is in the public domain. Obviously if it has been released then there's nothing morally wrong with using it - in an *Objectivist* context or any other. My point was that I don't think that in a capitalist economy it would have been. And UNIX is not merely an abstract architecture, it's a specific implementation, whose API design (which is certainly not "optimal") should be copyrightable. So your main thrust above is quite off the mark.

I don't know what point you were attempting to make in bringing up the fact that NT is based on UNIX. I'm well aware of the details but don't see the relevance to my points.

And as for your last obvious point that misses the point: of course Red Hat has their explicit permission. I didn't accuse Red Hat of doing anything immoral. I just think the situation where Red Hat can profit, but the original developers of the software don't, isn't justice to the hard work of those creators. It's obviously not Red Hat's fault, and obviously those creators knew what they were doing, and that wasn't my point.




Post 4

Thursday, February 10, 2005 - 12:12pmSanction this postReply
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As Ayn Rand wrote, if a scientist "cares to make his discovery public, claiming it to be true, he cannot demand that men continue to pursue or practice falsehoods except by his permission."
In today's world of bogus patents, this deserves to be triple underscored, especially to Objectivists who blindly support today's patent system. And I'll note that the principle applies regardless of whether the discovery is public, and whether a solution is optimal or not. The fact that one man thought of something first does not give him the moral right to stop all those who thought of it second.




Post 5

Thursday, February 10, 2005 - 12:21pmSanction this postReply
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One of the first decent articles I ever wrote was Microsoft - Undeserving of Libertarian Praise, back in 2002. My conclusion:
From the start, Microsoft's business practices were ethically and legally unsound, they have built their current wealth upon a product that was essentially stolen from a competitor, and through the legal system they have used the State to destroy their victims. Microsoft does not deserve moral support from anyone, least of all Libertarians. They should be supported against anti-trust litigation, as should any company, but they should not be held up as an example of the greatness of capitalism.




Post 6

Thursday, February 10, 2005 - 7:25pmSanction this postReply
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A few corrections:

Torvald's wasn't paid to write the first versions of LINUX and many of the early kernel developers were the prototypical hacker types coding alone in their basements and bedrooms as a hobby and perhaps to help them learn more about OS's and programming. I don't know that any of them were paid by the government. Today, its a different story... many companies including IBM and Red Hat allow their employees to work on LINUX on the company's dime. The GNU tool set or some of the other programs and utilities that sit on top of the kernel may be a little different but I am unaware of any government programs that contributed significantly to LINUX or GNU or Open Source software. If anyone can find any references to the contrary, I would appreciate the correction.

LINUX was based on an OS called MINIX not UNIX. The current claim is that LINUX was written from scratch and that (pending an SCO law suit against IBM) it contains no proprietary UNIX code. However, LINUX is often refered to as a Unix Flavor and is build around many of the same design principles.

BTW, UNIX is a registered trademark and software must meet certain standards before carrying the name. UNIX is not in the public domain, however some variants are free. Most Free Software is not public domain; it is copyrighted and the copyright holders have simply given everyone permission to use the software. The BSD (Berkley Software Distribution) variations are the most notable example (Netcraft says BSD is dead, news at 11 ;-) "Public Domain" is a precise legal term meaning "not copyrighted".

There is no organization called GNU. GNU is an acronym that stands for "GNUs Not Unix" and is a set of tools and utilities that sit atop LINUX and gives us what some people refer to as GNU/LINUX. Stallman's group is called Free Software Foundation.

As for the developers not getting compensated for their work - other than the increasing corporate sponsorship, most Open Source developers release their work under a license called the GPL. It states that people can do what ever they want with the code as long as any changes they publish are shared freely and contain the same GPL licence. In other words - the developers want to be able to use any improvements and see the source code of any changes made by others. That is the payment they request under the GPL.

Even though it wasn't mentioned it should be noted that the Free Software movement led by Richard Stallman (RMS) and the Free Software Foundation (FSF) is not he same as the Open Source movement. Open Source is a more of a development style; Free Software is a quasi political movement.

pax

Abby Normal



Post 7

Friday, February 11, 2005 - 1:41amSanction this postReply
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@ Shayne

Being a programming student , I know that 99.99 % of the work on OS software is done by hackers ( real hackers , not crackers ) doing it simply for the fun of it . Nobody in the programming community could ever get enthusiastic about a project done solely for the "public interest" . I never could . Neither could my friends ( or rather , classmates ) .

AFAIK , the government's interest in Linux has come only very very recently ( as only for about two years , and that too in the form of shifting from MS to Linux , for purposes of higher control over their computers ) . And Red Hat , SUSE , etc. , charge not for software , but for support .

Any I think that Linux is the best example fo the fact that in an unregulated capitalist marketplace , a coercive monopoly cannot exist . Nor can even a non-coercive one , it if slacks on the job and does not continue delivering quality . Next time someone accuses capitalim of creating monopolies , you can point to Linux ( and the BSD's ) being the product of a completely laissez-faire system - the early internet .


My criticism of MS comes for two things . One if some of their business practices ( the spreading of , as they themselves call it , FUD , or Fear , Uncertainty , and DOubt , about their competitors without any real basis , and the use of surveys with a biased sample , etc ) . The other is their attempt to get competition outlawed ( in trying to get the GPL outlawed ) .


IIRC , Linus himself ( the creator of the kernel ) has said that the only reason he open-sourced the kernel was because he wanted help in it's creation and maintainance . In fact , he explicitly said that the reasons he open-sourced it for were selfish . His own words . He also sympathised with others in his position ( poor but brilliant students who could do great things and develop fantastic software if they had the means ) .



Post 8

Friday, February 11, 2005 - 9:39amSanction this postReply
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Any I think that Linux is the best example fo the fact that in an unregulated capitalist marketplace , a coercive monopoly cannot exist . Nor can even a non-coercive one , it if slacks on the job and does not continue delivering quality . Next time someone accuses capitalim of creating monopolies , you can point to Linux ( and the BSD's ) being the product of a completely laissez-faire system - the early internet .
I rather think it's a great example of the dysfunction of today's mixed economy.

It's pathetic when America's richest and most "successful" software company is struggling to compete with something cobbled together by a grab-bag of unpaid programmers. This is an indicator that what has been economically rewarded in Microsoft is not their technical or managerial competence.

It's even worse when those programmers have created something of great value to many businesses, and those business get to profit from it but the programmers get no financial reward in return. You can talk about how they did it for selfish reasons - but it makes no economic sense. At least some money should go to the value creators, fundamentally from justice, but also from the practical utility of having them be able to pursue what they have been successful at full-time, making it that much better (which is just one of the practical benefits of such justice).




Post 9

Tuesday, February 15, 2005 - 9:35amSanction this postReply
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LINUX certainly has its uses in the engineering community. Many EDA (Electronic Design Automation) compnaies are creating version of their software that can run on LINUX/PC platforms rather than the standard UNIX/SUN platform. The net result is software run times that are twice as fast at about 1/4 the cost with much greater stability than a Windows based system.

Ethan 




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