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a jumble of thoughts and feelings about practicality and libre software

As I’ve written this, the thing I’ve struggled with is that everybody thinks they are being practical.  I’m sure the FSF thinks absolute freedom is the practical thing to do.  Sometimes I think the drawing a line in the sand is the practical thing and the Democrats could certainly take some queues from the FSF.  I wish I got paid by the words typed and not by the words submitted! (oh wait, I wish I got paid!)

Now, let’s talk about ethics. Let’s get one thing clear, aside from the fact that libre OSes (Linux, BSD, OpenSolaris, etc), I don’t care what you do.  The FSF is hung up on ethics; that proprietary software is somehow unethical.  Bollucks.  What is unethical is Apple locking people out of iTunes (Re: Palm) and tax payer money going to Microsoft or Apple.

It’s not just about ethics. I’m not super concerned about privacy, but mostly that’s because I don’t think people should be concerned about what they do…but clearly they have to be with the current legal climate in our country.  However, knowing that hackers would change grades or siphon funds, it’s pretty important that the IRS and any government agency handling large amounts of money have a secure system and libre does not guarantee security, but at least there are cases where you can guarantee security.  You can *never* *guarantee* security on a proprietary system.  Sure you *can* trust them. Diebold, Microsoft and Apple have given me no reason to trust them.

I’m happy to discuss the public money thing or the ethics thing, but what I want to talk about is practicality.  The main thing is Hulu. I was very intrigued by Boycott Novell on FLOSS Weekly, but the analogies between me and either Jono or Roy go back and forth.  I think it would be too difficult to follow for anyone that hasn’t listened to the interview.  If you want me to make a post about it, please let it be known.  Back to Hulu.  Recently there was a stir on identi.ca and the various omb offshoots about the Hulu desktop client coming to Linux.  The FSF crowd decries the proprietary software is bad; that it pollutes libre software.  Photoshop not being on Linux is one of the things Pete (and others) decry about Linux.  Others say the same thing about Final Cut Pro.  Perhaps if some of those people came to Linux they’d start helping the GIMP team, or maybe they’d start using OOo instead of Word.  The ecosystem is everything and the Linux ecosystem is one of libre software.  Yes, there is Flash and Opera and potentially Photoshop or Final Cut, but 95% of the software people use on Linux (or BSD or OpenSolaris) is libre.  How can this possibly be a bad thing?  Now, some smart people have argued that’s it’s a bad thing because people depend on it and then people won’t develop a libre alternative. I respect some of those people, but it’s simply ridiculous.  Linus did not start Linux because of some whack-off obsession with freedom.  My using a proprietary wireless driver does not make me want a libre one any less.

As I said at the beginning, this post was supposed to be about practicality and the upshot is I think having proprietary software available for Linux is simply practical.  The agnostics are never going to be sold on the religion of freedom. Stop trying to convert them.  Fighting the war of freedom is not a practical war. There are winnable wars.  We should fight the war against marginalization.  We should fight the war against unnecessary government spending. We should fight the war against monopoly power.  We should fight the war of availability.  We should fight the war of access.  If we fight the appropriate war, we will win.  Freedom is simply destiny.

Help me help you.

Several things are coming up and I need to know how best to help you and the Madison community.
October 20th is the next MadLUG meeting.  We don’t yet have a topic.  We could do something on Python or have a bit of a state of the union and really figure out what we want to do with the LUG.  LUG attendance has really been pathetic.  Should we move to Saturday meetings like they have in Milwaukee?

November 1st is the next Open Everything event.  We do not have very many people signed up.  We want to have this event in Pewaukee at a fabulous location, but if people don’t sign up, it’s not going to happen.

November 13th-ish we are going to have Open Music Madison.  We don’t have a firm date, because our 1st choice of venues fell through.  It looks like we may have to charge $5 a head.  I don’t like it, but doing something is better than waiting to have the perfect event I say.

If you have ever been to an OE Madison or to a MadLUG meeting, please leave your thoughts or e-mail me directly at douglasawhREMOVEFORREALZ@gmail.com

Creative Commons FTW…oh wait

I like to think I walk the walk, not just talk the talk.  You know, I don’t go downtown unless I must, I bike to work.  I buy organic foods. <rant>I use GNU/Linux and don’t sit behind my Mac talking about how great FOSS is (yeah, I’m calling you out).  I believe in compromise and personal priorities, but recently I’ve gotten more and more frustrated by people not getting out of their comfort zones and making excuses.  Personal priorities are often excuses.  If you don’t believe in FOSS, that’s fine, but don’t claim to like it and then not actually support it.  It’s like saying how you love the earth and then driving 30 miles to work. It’s CRAP (I’ll keep this family friendly, but, um crap isn’t exactly what I want to say).

But hey, I’m not a zealot. I’m really not. I just don’t want people fooling themselves and (potentially unintentially) fooling others. </rant>

That’s not the point though.  Last night we were talking about how “hippie” people were.  Look, I’m more comfortable with the word socialist than 99.9 or so people in this country.  I’m pretty left, but I’m way too angry to be a hippie.  I said, hey, I listen to punk and metal, not hippie music.  The retort was that I listen to “open” punk which is pretty hippie. I like the fact that people are accusing me of listening to Creative Commons music.  I do, actually, that feels like a great compliment…but is it true?  Now, I’ve been a Last.fm user for over 4 years, so there’s a lot of legacy data out there, but let’s take a look.  In the last 7 days, 3 of my top 15 artists were Creative Commons…only one over the past three months though and none in the last six months or the last year (unless you count NIN…sure, let’s count them).  If you look at the all-time stats, Severed Fifth (Jono Bacon’s “band”) rolls in at 347.  Holy Pain and Predator both roll in at 444.  And since we’ve been counting NIN, they roll in at 76.  After finishing the post (before publishing) I realized there might be a couple of other bands in the top 500 and sure enough Gråsuggorna and No Se both roll in at 304.  Obviously, this is all subject to change.

Also, I should note that many people believe that -NC (non-commercial) is non-free and by a strict definition it isn’t.  I, on the other hand, am much less cozy with -ND (no derivatives).  I’ve been meaning to post a blog on the -NC topic, but suffice it to say that while I believe in copyleft and freedom in software, software is a tool. Art is art…unless it’s marketing.  There’s a time and place for marketing, but let’s not confuse the two.

Back to the point, even though NIN is so high *because* of their new Creative Commons albums, it’s also so high because of a large back catalog of non-Creative Commons stuff.  Essentially, there are five bands in my top 500 (all in the lower half). This maks for some convenient math; 1%.  This hardly qualifies me as listening to “open” punk.  By the same logic, I listen to rap. Though there are only 4 bands (unless you include Limp Bizkit and maybe others), The Beastie Boys (88), Eminem (69), Dr. Dre (357) and Cypress Hill (226) have a *much* higher average. I have a total tracks played number so I could do some other stats, but I don’t want to beat this to death.

The point of all of this (including the rant) is to challenge us all to do a better job.  Fighting the good fight takes a lot of energy.  It takes energy I often don’t have after a long day at work.  We need to encourage each other and work together.  Is there something I can do to help you migrate to GNU/Linux? Is there something I can do to help your Creative Commons’ music?  Since we need all the help we can get, I guess I’ll work with you Mac fan boys too.

One last thing for music fans and Apple fan boys alike. If you think audio editing is just for the fruity among us, come see Tom Ray of Lorenzo’s Music give a presentation on audio editing in Linux on August 18th.  I’d love to give you guys and gals some more links, but like usual I’m running up against bed time and a long to-do list.