Chad Perrin: SOB

16 October 2008

GNU/Linux vs. Open Source Software

Filed under: Geek,Liberty — Tags: — apotheon @ 02:53

In some respects, the worst enemy of open source software — the ideals, the commercial success, the mindshare, the development success, and the widespread use of open source software — is GNU/Linux.

While I’ve had similar thoughts in the past, the reason it came to me in this particular manner today is pretty simple:

I was reading a few entries in a (well-written) Weblog I had not visited recently. Some of what I read related to open source software development. I looked at the categories listing for that Weblog and saw that there was no general-purpose open source software category — but there was a Programming category and a GNU/Linux category.

When your focus is on “GNU/Linux”, and you mostly equate “GNU/Linux” with open source goodness while doing your best to minimize or ignore the rest of the open source world, you look to people still working and playing in the closed source world like a religious fanatic. Worse yet, you are basically falling into the same “everything’s a competition” trap that is endemic to the closed source world; you are, in short, shutting out a lot of open source software as though it was in some kind of competition with your GNU/Linux world. Unfortunately (and people are only now just beginning to wake up to this fact), that’s endemic to the controlling, copyleft aspects of the GNU/Linux phenomenon.

When I see some GNU/Linux monotheist complaining hypocritically about the way many MS Windows users don’t seem to realize or acknowledge there are other OSes out there than those offered by Microsoft, and the way many MacOS X users don’t seem to realize or acknowledge there are OSes out there other than those offered by Microsoft or Apple, I have to laugh — because the alternative is to cry.

As an unabashed advocate for copyfree over copyleft, I’ll argue the benefits of copyfree licensing and the detriments of copyleft licensing until the cows come home under the right circumstances. When I’m arguing with someone who thinks that “that GPL stuff is for hackers, and that makes it untrustworthy”, though, I’ll still argue the merits of open source as a whole (in addition to pointing out the misuse of the word hacker to refer to a malicious security cracker) and pretty much leave the bickering over open source paradigms out of it. I might recommend PC-BSD instead of Ubuntu (for technical as well as licensing reasons), but I’ll also happily defend Ubuntu against spurious, fallacious arguments from the pro-Microsoft, pro-Ballmer, pro-DMCA crowd. Why, oh why, must the GNU/Linux types so often ignore the existence of any open source world outside of the mainstream GPLinux collective?

All original content Copyright Chad Perrin: Distributed under the terms of the Open Works License