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[P]
Beyond simple activism

By John Milton in Op-Ed
Wed Jun 13, 2001 at 04:09:08 AM EST
Tags: Software (all tags)
Software

I care very deeply about the environment, and yet I don't recycle or commit myself to energy saving measures of any kind. I believe in free software such as Linux, but I rarely use it. I don't commit myself to either for the same reasons.


We all have issues we care very passionately about. For some it's the environment. For some it's free software. For me it's getting the studios to release all episodes of Pinky and the Brain on dvd. Passion often blinds us to the realities of our situation. We become zealots and forget the all-too-human nature of those we're trying to convert.

The problem is that activism doesn't work. Not in the traditional sense. Environmentalists have found this out the hard way. Theoretically, we could all save the environment a lot of damage by recycling, but how many people do? The problem isn't a lack of concern for the environment. It's just that most of those environmentally friendly actions are hard, and not very rewarding. Sure we get a feeling of pride from knowing that our car is more efficient and friendly toward the environment, but that doesn't quite outway the feeling we get from revving our engines.

Activism is the romantic side of fighting for a cause, but it's also the most impractical. The most successful forms of activism aren't what we traditionally think of. Shareholder activism and industrial ecology are two of the most successful varieties. In one, supporters buy stock in a company to sway internal decisions. In the other, activist work with corporations to develop more economical solutions to environmental issues.

McDonalds is a very good example of the latter. Although they were long criticised for their use of containers hostile to the environment, McDonalds continued to use them. It's hard to find a human who actually wants to destroy the environment, and McDonalds wasn't run by a circle of villians intent on destroying the environment. It was run by business men who used the most economical solution. That's where the environmentalists come in. Instead of picketing McDonalds, a group of environmentalists proposed a new container which was not only less expensive, but retained more heat.

I think that free software could learn some lessons from this. Don't fight the system. Subvert the system. The carrot and stick method is old and remarkably effective. Unfortunately, activism calls for the stick more than the carrot. In fact, the stick has been overused; it is effectively broken. Bill Gates and proprietary software have been burned in effigy far too many times. This has the negative effect of destroying the free software movement's credibility. The free software movement, like environmentalism, has often ignored practicality in favor of altruism. Those businesses that listened before are becoming wary.

First, we should be using shareholder activism. We need to establish a non-profit foundation to buy voting shares from proprietary softare companies. Then we can be sure that our opinions are heard on a level playing field. Linux already has gained support from the likes of companies such as IBM, but this is not an equal relationship. IBM sways free software. Free software does not sway IBM. If a company's only consideration is its shareholders then we must become its shareholders.

Secondly, we must be up front and honest with ourselves as to when Linux should not be used. Most of the world uses Windows. It is impractical to ask all others to use Linux, the flagship of free software. Asking a diehard Windows user to use Linux is akin to taking a corporate executive through a commune and crooning to him about how we can all live off the land. He may realise the technical advantages, but he's not going to just chuck the keys to his Suburban. Although he would be more efficient ecologically in a commune, he would be hard pressed to find any personal gain.

Linux is a tremendously powerful server OS. It is infinitely configureable and can be tweaked bit by bit for maximal performance. It can be used as a desktop OS, but that is not what is made for. Furthermore, Windows has millions of apps in contrast to Linux's few. I like linux, but I don't use it on a regular basis. Why? I have Photoshop, Opera, mIRC, and millions of other apps. I like Photoshop, and I want to use it on Windows. I wouldn't even use it on Linux if WINE were capable to the task. I could see no advantage to using it in a foreign GUI under emulation.

Linux will never gain a majority following on the desktop. That's not a wish or a desire; it's just a fact of human nature. There are far too many Windows apps available today. Furthermore, most computer users have worked very hard to gain a certain degree of proficiency on windows. They will only react with hostility if you attempt to forcibly take that away from them. Quite frankly, they shouldn't have to give up Windows. They have earned their ability to use that OS, often with jeers from the technologically elite.

Therefore, Linux is not the solution. Desktop users deserve their old worn-in shoe. It really isn't ever worth debating, because Windows will never fall from the desktop anyways. Anyone who cares to contemplate the sheer size of the the Windows-using population will realise how laughable Linux conquest is. I don't mean this as flamebait. It's just true. So, what does free software do. Take a lesson from industrial ecology. If the mountain won't come to you, infiltrate the mountain.

We must not only give users Windows, but we must give them a better Windows. The world needs a GPLed Windows OS. This is obviously possible. The WINE project is proof that the Windows api can be cloned. Many have come and many have failed. Freedows, Open Windows Project, and Alliance OS are all effectively dead projects. All made fantastic claims, and all failed to back them up.

About a year ago, I happened to find the ReactOS homepage. Here is a group of programmers with the goal of creating a WinNT clone. The thing that suprised me was that this group actually had code, whereas all the above-mentioned projects strutted out white papers about what they were going to do and then faded into oblivion. I downloaded the 0.0.15 source and gave it a try. It crashed marvelously. Occasionally, I would check back to the ReactOS homepage, but there didn't seem to be any activity. Obviously, I thought, another one bit the dust. Thankfully I was wrong.

The ReactOS team still hasn't made a WinNT clone, but they haven't stopped either. The 0.0.17 source was released February 9, 2001. There is no GUI, and it is not even very functional yet, but I'm putting my money on these guys for one reason. They don't shoot off their mouths about what their going to do. They don't print a thousand white pages. They just started coding and they haven't stopped yet. In fact, they seem to be sensitive to the death of other Windows cloning projects and have purposely avoided attention. Before you criticise their work, consider what the Linux kernel looked like at that release number. They've done some hard work. I only hope they will continue.

This is what free source needs. I mention this, because I can't code, but I'm hoping that those of you who can will be inspired to help the ReactOS project. If free source is to survive, we must really make the GPL viral. We must use Microsoft's embrace-and-extend tactics on their very own OS. No more nibbling at the empire. Let's make a direct attack. Together, Linux and a free Windows can form the perfect symbiotic relationship. One for the server, and one for the desktop. Two truly free operating systems.

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Poll
Free software
o should do everything you said 13%
o should make Inoshiro the official linux mascot. He's cuter. 16%
o you shouldn't have put a poll here you idiot. There's nothing to answer. You've just wasted rusty and Edna Graustein countless bytes of storage and bandwidth 35%
o shouldn't listen to you dude 27%
o isn't what I use 8%

Votes: 37
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Shareholde r activism
o industrial ecology
o ReactOS homepage
o purposely avoided attention
o Also by John Milton


Display: Sort:
Beyond simple activism | 59 comments (46 topical, 13 editorial, 0 hidden)
aack! (none / 0) (#1)
by John Milton on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 07:20:16 PM EST

I forgot to mention that another advantage of an entirely GPL windows over wine is that it would support windows binary drivers.


"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton


The design of Windows. (3.00 / 4) (#2)
by ucblockhead on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 07:25:37 PM EST

One huge problem (beyond the "Microsoft suing the pants of them" issue) is that most of the things that cause people to swear at Windows are design decisions. An OS that emulates Windows at a low level is going to have to emulate those stupid design decisions and will thus itself be an annoying OS to use. At best, they might get better performance and fewer crashes, but I suspect that even this is an impossible goal.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
I am not a programmer (none / 0) (#3)
by John Milton on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 07:29:20 PM EST

I wouldn't claim to be intelligent in this area, but Win2k is a stable OS that that runs windows apps. It's obviously possible. If Microsoft can do it, shouldn't free software be able to. I would consider this a challenge.


"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton


[ Parent ]
Stability isn't the issue (none / 0) (#11)
by ucblockhead on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 07:57:35 PM EST

I'm not talking about stability, but the millions of annoyances that inhabit all Windows systems. There's millions of 'em, and most can't be fixed without breaking existing code.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
billions (none / 0) (#29)
by eLuddite on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 09:40:32 PM EST

Zillions, even. Actually, who are we kidding? The 'n' in Win2K stands for 'nonillion' -- a million trillion if you're a brit, a one followed by 30 zeros if you're a yank, and 'simply better' if you're someone who has used both Win2K and Linux.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Don't hold your breath... (4.00 / 2) (#28)
by treetops on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 09:35:53 PM EST

It's obviously possible. If Microsoft can do it, shouldn't free software be able to. I would consider this a challenge.

Microsoft has been developing Windows since what, 1985? Granted, that was a ridiculously old version, but the fact that they have had 16 years of Windows development (not to mention work on previous systems, such as DOS) means that it's kind of hard to play catch-up. Especially when you consider how much Windows keeps changing.

Sure, we have free Unixes which were pretty good in only a few years, but Unix standards are well-published, a huge number of tools was already available (ie, the GNU tools), and large chunks had been written already (such as X11). There's no real counterpart of the GNU utilities for Windows (that is, there's no comprehensive set of clones of Explorer, IE, VC++, VB, etc.). Windows cloners have to wade through poorly-specified APIs and and write almost the entire system from scratch.

This is not a trivial challenge. As you yourself mentioned, the idea of a free Windows clone is nothing new. Most didn't succeed because they weren't headed by serious developers, which caused them to seriously underestimate the amount of work required.
--tt
[ Parent ]

I'm not (none / 0) (#30)
by John Milton on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 09:43:42 PM EST

I'm not holding my breath, but I'm going to keep checking back. Besides, I thought I'd point a few people in that direction. My article was about more than reactos too. I guess it was just the more controversial part.


"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton


[ Parent ]
By the way... (3.00 / 2) (#32)
by treetops on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 09:50:44 PM EST

There's work on an open source NetWare-compatible OS, called MANOS, which has the advantage of being written by ex-Novell types.

Largely irrelevant, but what the hell.
--tt
[ Parent ]

Disputing what you said before (4.00 / 1) (#34)
by John Milton on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 10:10:20 PM EST

It's already theoretically possible to build a distro of linux with wine that looks like windows. No one has tried, but it would be interesting. The main thing would be to add support for binary drivers.


"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton


[ Parent ]
So what? (3.50 / 2) (#12)
by Sunir on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 08:01:31 PM EST

GNU/Linux is popular. GNU/Linux had to emulate all the stupid design decisions from UNIX, and then it went ahead and made more of its own. Heck, half of the Penguin people are adamant X users, and X is a design disaster.

In general, people don't care if the OS is designed badly as long as it is workable. Good applications can insulate the users from the cruft, and (the much more common) badly designed applications distract the users from the cruft.

Windows does the job, so people use it. Simple as that.

"Look! You're free! Go, and be free!" and everyone hated it for that. --r
[ Parent ]

I get this second hand (3.00 / 2) (#13)
by John Milton on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 08:11:15 PM EST

I didn't see this on their homepage, but according to one page about reactos, their planning on adding some posix once they have it running. Of course, they have an uphill climb. You have to consider that they're at 0.0.17 release. It excites me because of the ambition. I don't know about the legal issues. Wine has never been sued that I know of. That's heartening.


"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton


[ Parent ]
photoshop, opera, mIRC? (3.00 / 3) (#6)
by xriso on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 07:44:15 PM EST

gimp, konq/moz, epic/bitchx/xchat/...

Yes, they aren't exactly the same. Perhaps not as good. But they are close, and they are getting closer.

I'd say, though, that Windows rules the desktop world because of games. Although, maybe we can get console platforms to start taking attention away from Win.
--
*** Quits: xriso:#kuro5hin (Forever)

Opera is available on Linux (4.00 / 1) (#22)
by treetops on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 09:14:40 PM EST

Opera 5.0 for Linux has been available for a month or so now. It's a fully stable version as well, not like some of their other ports. The only downside is that the free version has constantly displaying ads.

That being said, I still prefer Konqueror.
--tt
[ Parent ]

if you really want to change microsoft... (2.80 / 5) (#7)
by rebelcool on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 07:45:04 PM EST

Get a degree in business. Work your way to the top. Make changes. I've heard microsoft is a difficult company to get into.

The best way to subvert a system is from within it. There's really no other way. You can become a crackpot that firebombs their offices, but that really won't do anything other than make you look like a really big asshole (much like those ELF folks)

Unfortunately though, by the time you get that business degree, you may realize that microsoft is making extremely smart decisions as a business. There is a reason why they are #1, and it's not "dirty tricks".

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site

"dirty tricks"? (4.00 / 2) (#20)
by BehTong on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 09:02:47 PM EST

There is a reason why they are #1, and it's not "dirty tricks".

I disagree. Read the Findings of Facts in the DoJ's lawsuit against Microsoft. There are indeed dirty tricks they use to maintain their position.

However, I do agree with you that they have made very clever business decisions. Mr. Gates is a businessman, and a very good one at that. Perhaps not very ethical as far as business dealings are concerned, but that doesn't make him any less a good businessman. Some people may have quibbles to pick with MS as far as technology is concerned -- I too -- but you can't deny they are very smart business-wise.

Now if only there were more excellent businesspeople doing open source... (but perhaps that's a pipe-dream, sadly to say.)

Beh Tong Kah Beh Si!
[ Parent ]

keyword: "maintain" (none / 0) (#21)
by rebelcool on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 09:14:28 PM EST

They got to the top before the problems. It's hard to say exactly who was the decision maker in some of them (i doubt gates has a hand in *everything*..but being the head, he's a popular target). More likely, it was some overzealous manager trying to rise up in his placement within the company.

As for gates' ethics himself, it's hard to say, when compared to everyone's ethics during the early 1980's. Everyone stole from everyone else during those days.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

The rise wasn't all that clean either (4.50 / 2) (#47)
by error 404 on Wed Jun 13, 2001 at 11:27:25 AM EST

Microsoft got its real start when IBM was the Evil Empire and needed an outside OS in order to avoid more trouble with the DoJ. Remember, at the time, the idiots who think "The Web" and "The Internet" are synonyms thought "IBM Machine" and "Computer" were synonyms.

Microsoft was a monopoly (although on a much smaller scale, and piggybacking off IBM's hegemony - the PC was not the vastly dominant microcomputer that it is now) right from the start.

Microsoft isn't evil, it simply has interests that are not compatible with certain other interests. It is reliant on monopolistic practices. Microsoft has never done well in any competetive market(e.g. MSN and the contortions it took to get IE serious market share), so the rational focus is to prevent competitive markets. That may be bad for the industry as a whole and illegal, but it it the rational strategy for any company in Microsoft's position and with Microsoft's history.


..................................
Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase
- Donovan

[ Parent ]

Bad Strategy (4.00 / 6) (#14)
by ansible on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 08:12:23 PM EST

There are so many things wrong with the ideas presented here I don't know where to start.

However, I will say this. Even if the free software community wanted to "defeat" MS, copying them isn't the way to do it. You're allowing the "enemy" to define the terms and conditions of the conflict. Read Sun Tzu's "Art of War" for more on why this is bad.

Action, not re-action (pun intended) is the key to victory.

I certainly don't advocate the position that MS (or Sun or Oracle or IBM) is the Great Satan that needs to be defeated by the virtuous free software programmers. I have Linux and the applications I want. I find it quite useful as my desktop system. Windoze users can go off and do their own thing. I don't care about them. I don't care about winning any wars. I just care about good programs and good programming. As far as that goes, free software has already won the day, in my opinion.

My take (3.33 / 3) (#17)
by John Milton on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 08:21:08 PM EST

You're allowing the "enemy" to define the terms and conditions of the conflict.

The enemy is defining the terms. I want to take the ball away from them. I personally don't see the Microsoft as Satan. I'm a windows user primarily, and I want to continue using it. Unfortunately, Win98 will be the last Microsoft OS I voluntarily use. XP will dial out of my house every now and then, and dotnet will leave my personal information at the whims of Microsoft. This isn't a personal vendetta. I just want convenience.

Action, not re-action (pun intended) is the key to victory.

So far free software has only reacted to closed software. This is action.


"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton


[ Parent ]
I disagree (4.66 / 3) (#23)
by enterfornone on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 09:21:20 PM EST

Theoretically, we could all save the environment a lot of damage by recycling, but how many people do. The problem isn't a lack of concern for the environment. It's just that most of those environmentally friendly actions are hard, and not very rewarding.
I would argue that these things are easy and not very (personally) rewarding. However they are far more rewarding for the world at large. Anyone can seperate their glass and aliminium, but it doesn't make you feel as l33t as waving banners around your local McDonalds.

According to World Vision Nutrition and basic healthcare for everyone in the world would cost just US$13 billion a year extra. Here in Australia, we spend US$61 billion each year on gambling. That means if everyone on earth gave $2 we would end world hunger (obviously not everyone on earth has $2 of course). Yet rather than do this people would rather waste money and time trying to force others to give their share.

The world isn't going to be a better place when the activist force you to make it better. It will be a better place when everyone chooses to do their bit.

The problem with activists is that most of them don't care about making the world a better place. They care about making themselves look good in the eyes of others. Those who give to charity, recycle their garbage etc. aren't going to get any fame, but they are doing for more for the world than the banner wavers.

--
efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.

recycling and protestors (3.50 / 2) (#37)
by Delirium on Wed Jun 13, 2001 at 01:02:38 AM EST

I would argue that these things are easy and not very (personally) rewarding. However they are far more rewarding for the world at large. Anyone can seperate their glass and aliminium, but it doesn't make you feel as l33t as waving banners around your local McDonalds.

It depends - recycling in many areas is really not as easy as you might thing. Living in northwest Indiana, I was used to once a week recycling pickup along with the garbage (of plastics and aluminum). Now, living in Houston, there is no such pickup - the only way I can recycle is by taking the recyclables to a recycling center myself. And the closest recycling center to me is a 30-minute drive away, meaning a 1-hour round trip and the paradoxical waste of 2-3 gallons of gasoline and associated automobile emissions in my quest to save the environment.

This, and what you alluded to, are my major problems with environmentalists - a good deal of them are interested in showy things that make them feel l33t and righteous but really do very little good rather than in more mundane things that would actually make a difference. Protesting outside McDonald's is unlikely to positively impact the environment - but lobbying the city to institute a city-wide recycling program would have a large, albeit less headline-grabbing, positive effect.

[ Parent ]

How do you know? (3.40 / 5) (#44)
by jynx on Wed Jun 13, 2001 at 09:45:19 AM EST

but lobbying the city to institute a city-wide recycling program would have a large, albeit less headline-grabbing, positive effect.

"Less headline grabbing" is the key phrase here. If you contact you local environmental group you will almost certainly find that they are lobbying. In fact, the majority of compaign groups who participate in "direct action" (protesting) are primarily lobbying groups. However, lobbying doesn't grab headlines, and most people won't find out what they aren't spoon fed, so few people know about the hard work that goes on "behind" the protests.

--

[ Parent ]

I agree... (5.00 / 2) (#24)
by scriptkiddie on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 09:21:30 PM EST

I agree that activisim can get way out of hand. But I strongly disagree with your choice of examples.

First of all, recycling is exactly the kind of hard work writing ReactOS is - at least in that nobody's marhing down the streets with "Recycle!" signs. Recycling is another quiet city service, something that's necessary now and wasn't before. In my city, Seattle, recycling is actually economically successful as well as environmentally. The value of the goods recovered actually exceeds what it costs to conduct the recycling. It's as if ReactOS, through years of hard work on the parts of a few dozen progammers, had succeeded in making a better operating system than NT and have taken a majority of the marketplace.

Second is statement that Linux is never going to capture a majority of the desktop marketplace. Well, DUHHHH! It was never intended to. Linux is written by programmers, for programmers - there's no incentive at all to take over the world, whatever Linus might say. Furthermore, I couldn't care less how many other people are using Linux at the same time I am. It does useful things for me, and it is likely to continue doing so. So I keep using it. How is this an example of activism gone wrong?

I do have a great example of bad activism for you, fresh off today's Seattle Times. Two weeks ago, a white cop shot a black man on 23rd and Union street, more or less the focal point of the black community here (this is the corner where Ralph Nader ran his campaign operations for the state, by the way). In response, a group of Black leaders are calling for a boycott of Starbucks.

Now how, exactly, will this possibly affect the situation? Even if Starbucks were driven out of business (roughly comparable to Los Angeles deciding to stop going to movies instead of rioting after the Rodney King beating), there's just no way this could possibly help the investigation be carried out accurately or put pressure on the police. At worst, a few baristas might be laid off because of reduced sales.

What could be done? The first step would be to get the word out that there have been consistent irregularities in the behavior of the police when confronted by young, black suspects, that may be an effect of faulty training or ingrained racism. Although there have been a few newspaper editorials, all of them were written by white authors - that's not a particularly good sign that the black leaders know what they're doing.

Secondly, there needs to be an alternative proposal. Recycling didn't come to be after a bunch of greenies pointed out that the landfills are filling up, so we need to stop throwing things away altogether - it started when the green movement came up with a solution that would be acceptably to the majority of citizens. Perhaps a request of an independent investigation of the case (the FBI is involved, but hasn't been invited), coupled with a strong emphasis on recruiting black police officers and better race-relations training for those already there, would do the trick. But you can't propose the wholesale abolition of the Seattle Police Department any more than you can propose that Americans no longer throw anything away.

Finally, as I like to say, the one who writes history is the one who can spell. Independent media reports of what happened that morning have been downright unprofessional. If, once the investigation is over, a few members of the black community with a decent education in writing could put their story of what hapenned in print, it could be a very strong incentive to prevent this kind of episode from occurring again.

That's what all activism needs - an early, pervasive effort to make the issue itself heard (survival), a careful investigation of the options coupled with a realistic list of things that could change (inquiry), and a final, coherent analysis of what the situation is and what the final conclusions are (sophistication).

I agree with one thing (none / 0) (#45)
by John Milton on Wed Jun 13, 2001 at 10:26:49 AM EST

The examples I chose weren't good ones. I meant to bring up examples of activism that were hard for people to do. Sadly, I just picked the first one that came to mind. I should have resubmitted this one. It needed a better fleshing out, but I still think I raised some valid points.


"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton


[ Parent ]
Another thing... (4.33 / 3) (#25)
by scriptkiddie on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 09:25:05 PM EST

If you want an OS that actually has a chance at going for the desktop prize, check out AtheOS. It's similar to ReactOS, but only one guy is working on it, and he's managed to build a threaded microkernel OS with a working GUI and POSIX compatibility. Very cool.

I have (none / 0) (#27)
by John Milton on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 09:31:36 PM EST

I actually took the time to download it. It's a very promising OS. It reminds me of Beos, although the author says that's coincidence. I don't like the windowing style. I never liked it in Beos either. Other than that, I like it. The problem is that it won't have even as much application support as linux for a long time. I'm keeping my eye on it. I'll check back later.


"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton


[ Parent ]
too many broad, unsupported negative statements (3.57 / 7) (#33)
by zzzeek on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 10:02:55 PM EST

Such as:

Linux will never gain a majority following on the desktop. That's not a wish or a desire. It's just a fact of human nature. There are far too many windows apps available today. Furthermore, most computer users have worked very hard to gain a certain degree of profficiency on windows. They will only react with hostility if you attempt to forcibly take that away from them. Quite frankly, they shouldn't have to give up windows. They have earned their ability to use that OS, often with jeers from the technologically elite.
Has Bill Gates given you his own brand of KoolAid? A preference for Windows is now a "fact of human nature"? Is COMMAND.COM hardcoded into our DNA now? And there is no possibility of there being lots of apps for some other OS someday? Time Warner/AOL/Oracle/IBM might not decide to go full steam against MS someday and tilt the scales? Users effectively adapted from MS-DOS to Windows 3.1, then to Windows 95, plus back and forth from various Mac OS's, might they make the slight adaptation to corporatized versions of our beloved Gnome and KDE?

These corporations can still start initiatives to deliver alternative OS's through many channels that have not been monopolized by MS. Not just via desktop PC's with some AOL-like application (which could happen also), but also in PDAs, network computers, video games, kiosks, Tivo's-type devices, televisions, etc. Mac OS X might help too. Try to have some vision beyond say, 2 months from now. "Activism" is usually motivated by much longer cycles of change than the ones you will be exposed to via ZDNET, CNN and MTV.

Your negativity and defeatism with only vague generalizations to support it is unwarranted and not very constructive. I suggest you make sure you have taken all your Prozac this week before writing another article.



personal attack but..... (3.25 / 4) (#35)
by John Milton on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 10:26:27 PM EST

My point was that backwards compatability is very important. Most people don't like learning about computers. Computers make them feel dumb, and the smarter computer users don't make it any better for them. Those who have knowledge see to forget how hard it was to gain it. Most users are very afraid of change in their computers. Even moving the icons around agitates them. They have worked up a certain degree of knowledge, and they don't want to change to a whole other environment just because it's free source. What does free source mean to them?

All of the OS that you mention had some degree of backward compatability. The most successful processor is the x86 line. They are because no one wants to code everything over again. There is no reason they should have to either. Why reinvent the wheel? Backward compatability doesn't mean standing still. We have new instruction sets. We just support the older ones.

I haven't said anything negative. I've said a few realistic things. I think that having a free Windows would be beneficial for Linux. It would pull the game toward free OS. No one seems to have noticed my other point. That free software advocates should invest in software companies in order to sway them. Please don't take not hearing what you want for negativism.


"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton


[ Parent ]
shouldnt throw away Linux/BSD/et al either (3.50 / 2) (#48)
by zzzeek on Wed Jun 13, 2001 at 06:05:47 PM EST

The Unix flavors have better construction as OS's, they are able to take better advantage of the hardware as long as drivers are written. Windows is crap, and we all know it, it just has a slick front end and every commercial company in the world spends their whole budget making their programs not crash on it. Why should we bother *duplicating* a free version of it, like you said, who cares about free software? If they can buy Windows, why would they want to use a free version that is far less mature and has no support?

You want backwards compatibility, I think an app like Wine can go much further than it has so far. Its just too slow. I know very little of the Linux kernel beyond building it and configuring /etc/modules.conf, but perhaps a version could be created that includes Win32 hooks within it via the current Wine codebase (and would this improve its speed and useability)? Im sure the higher ups would vomit their entire lunches that day, but to me this would be a much more pragmatic compromise than rewriting yet *another* OS...and certainly a more useful kernel feature than the utterly pointless kernel-level HTTP server they built.



[ Parent ]
Funny you should mention... (4.00 / 1) (#50)
by Trepalium on Wed Jun 13, 2001 at 09:38:39 PM EST

Someone is indeed working on a kernel module for Linux that would implement some of the low-level NT/Win32 calls that are difficult or impossible to do without either nasty hacks or actual kernel code. And I think Linus actually said that it might be a good idea.
You want backwards compatibility, I think an app like Wine can go much further than it has so far. Its just too slow.
If you're talking about launch speed, most of Wine's performance problems lie in the fact that everytime you load a MS Windows program with the wine command, it's loading all the DLLs that program relies on. Once running, most programs run as fast as they would natively. There are ways around this, such as running wineserver in persistent mode before launching Windows apps (then only the first app's launch is horribly slow), but it does come with it's disadvantages (if a Windows program corrupts wineserver or gets it into some kind of inconsistent state, all future wine invocations will usually malfunction, etc).

[ Parent ]
Backwards compatibility is important, but... (5.00 / 1) (#51)
by Trepalium on Wed Jun 13, 2001 at 09:55:50 PM EST

The problem is how do you correct a design mistake that is being carried onward in the name of backwards compatibility. For years, mac users have criticised PCs for the amazing resource shuffling that we've had to endure. And despite Microsoft and Intel's best efforts to make IRQs DMA channels and I/O ports less important, many headaches are still caused by the allocation (or misallocation) of these precious system resources. It's my feeling that Intel, AMD and Microsoft should just bite the bullet and redesign the PC, dropping all the old backwards compatibility stuff, because although the transitition will be difficult, it will only get more difficult as time goes on. Apple made just such a transitition recently (actually twice, so far. Once from Motorola 68k processors to the PowerPC-line, and now changing from their classic kernel design to one that's based around BSD UNIX), and although it caused grief, pain and suffering, the end result was good for everyone, both users and Apple. I think we need to take a cue from them.

[ Parent ]
interesting definition of caring (3.90 / 10) (#36)
by Sven on Wed Jun 13, 2001 at 12:35:30 AM EST

I care about the environment too. I recycle whenever I can. It doesn't save me any time or money, but I do it anyway. I take public transport to work most days of the week. It takes about the same time as driving. It costs about the same in bus tickets as I would pay for petrol. Instead of being stressed by traffic I get stressed by nearly missing my bus. Overall taking the bus is no better or worse for me than driving. The only advantage is that by taking public transport I pollute less and don't contribute to traffic congestion.

If you care about the environment, why isn't this enough? You expect to get a "reward" to go along with it? The reward is simply that you're doing your bit to reduce pollution and make the world a bit more comfortable for everyone. If you need anything more than that, then perhaps you don't care as much as you think you do.

We must not only give users windows, but we must give them a better windows. The world needs a GPLed Windows OS.
The world needs people to look after the environment a hell of a lot more than the world needs a GPLed Windows clone. You, sir, have your priorities all wrong. <shakes head in disbelief>

S.

--
harshbutfair - you know it makes sense

Beyond exaggeration (insert passion here) (4.16 / 6) (#38)
by xdc on Wed Jun 13, 2001 at 01:11:43 AM EST

<chiming in with Sven>

I care very deeply about the environment, and yet I don't recycle or commit myself to energy saving measures of any kind. ...

Theoretically, we could all save the environment a lot of damage by recycling, but how many people do. ... It's just that most of those environmentally friendly actions are hard, and not very rewarding.

How can you say that you "care very deeply|passionately" about the environment, and yet not even take simple conservation measures that are well within your reach? I understand this apathy if you have only mild support of some abstract concept. But isn't it an over-exaggeration to claim deep and passionate caring for a cause that you are unwilling to make sacrifices for?

[ Parent ]

perhaps a bit of hyperbole (3.80 / 5) (#41)
by John Milton on Wed Jun 13, 2001 at 02:11:40 AM EST

I've tried recycling. It's hard to break old habits. Difficulties crop up, and there weren't any recycling centers near where I lived. I live in a rural area so buses aren't a practicality. My point is that the truly dedicated often mistakenly believe that everyone else can have that same dedication regardless of inconvenience.


"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton


[ Parent ]
It wasn't clear in the article, but I get it now. (4.50 / 2) (#43)
by xdc on Wed Jun 13, 2001 at 03:21:55 AM EST

Okay -- You've brought up a good point here. Unfortunately, your article appeared (to me) to imply that you were just being lazy/apathetic, so I'm sure you can see why I responded pointing out the inconsistency.

[ Parent ]
McDonald's foam containers really worse? (4.60 / 5) (#42)
by jbridges on Wed Jun 13, 2001 at 02:41:03 AM EST

http://www.epa.gov/opptintr/acctg/rev/8-16.htm
  • The most significant difference in manufacturing costs is due to material costs.
  • In post-production costs, installation and maintenance costs have no significance.
  • The materials are environmentally equivalent.
  • Life-cycle costs for paperboard exceed PS foam by ~$7 per thousand.
  • PS foam is favorable, except at annual production volumes below 3.5 million units.


And this nasty little report from Cato

http://www.cato.org/pubs/regulation/reg14n1h.html

With this quote:
McDonald's itself in a 1990 pamphlet concluded, "[I]f the plastic products [Franklin and Associates] studied were replaced with nonplastic alternative products, total energy consumption would have to be increased by 834.2 trillion BTUs, enough energy to heat 4 million homes...for one year." The same Franklin and Associates study concluded that polystyrene has a slight disadvantage relative to paperboard in terms of the volume (but not the weight) of solid waste generated, but that the production of paperboard yields almost 100 percent more in terms of atmospheric emissions and waterborne effluents. Moreover, chlorofluorocarbons have not been used in polystyrene production since 1988, and while polystyrene does not degrade, little does anything else in landfills, owing to the absence of air and light.


Keep in mind this is in reference to what McDonald's used to replace foam containers. They have since switched to coated cardboard instead of the coated paper (at least for BigMacs).



Hmm, I'm not sure which containers. (3.00 / 1) (#46)
by John Milton on Wed Jun 13, 2001 at 10:29:34 AM EST

Here's a good link. It adds some detail. I remember reading about the new packaging in an article on new methods of activism. That inspired me on this one obviously.


"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton


[ Parent ]
Linux dead on the desktop ? (3.00 / 3) (#49)
by sombragris on Wed Jun 13, 2001 at 09:35:21 PM EST

I liked what you had to say, especially the point you made re: shareholder activism. This is long overdue and I congratulate you on such an insight.

However, I strongly disagree with your assertions on the desktop value of Linux.

  • You say that Linux will never gain a majority following on the desktop. Let me tell you: who knows? 20 years ago users were willing to try PIP and SUBMIT with their CP/M boxes at their desktops despite the fact that CP/M was uglyeven for that time.

    Windows may appear to be friendlier on the surface, but once you fell in a pickle you will see all its ugly face, and, not like Linux, there is no turning back. Either reformat or reformat.

    Let's consider a case: a friend hands you a floppy disk for formatting, and warns you that the floppy was infected with a nasty virus. The fact is, only an unconditional format may drive the virus away. But how do you, Mr. Average User, know about the unconditional format? How would you tweak the Registry, or WIN.INI, or SYSTEM.INI, or AUTOEXEC.BAT, or whatever? Truth is, Windows is in fact more hostile than Linux.

  • The second thing in which I am in disagreement to you is that you say that Linux was designed primarily as a server OS. I might be wrong, but I do not think it was so. If I am correct, Linus designed the first kernel as a desktop application for a desktop computer (in fact, a terminal emulator, the quintessential client software on earth).
I am using right now Red Hat 7.1. With KDE 2.1.2, and XFree86 4.x, it gives me good looks, nice fonts, and excellent stability with thousand of apps. I will never look back to windows.

unconditional format (none / 0) (#52)
by Tachys on Thu Jun 14, 2001 at 01:54:35 AM EST

Is a unconditional format different then a full format?

[ Parent ]
Re: unconditional format (none / 0) (#53)
by sombragris on Thu Jun 14, 2001 at 02:53:34 AM EST

Yes, it is. From MS-DOS 6.x onwards, each full format procedure saves some info about the floppy's FAT and boot sector in case that the format was accidental. The accidentally formated floppy could recover its FAT and boot sector with the UNFORMAT command. The full format available in current Windows GUIs is equivalent to the MS-DOS command format x:, while an unconditional format is format x: /u when x: is the drive letter.

For more info you can type

FORMAT /?

at the command prompt.

After all, you have to go to the command line, even in Windows. Is the C:\> prompt "friendly"?

[ Parent ]

I was waiting for that (3.50 / 2) (#54)
by John Milton on Thu Jun 14, 2001 at 03:51:27 AM EST

I'm glad you mention shareholder activism. My plug for the reactos team at the end seems to have taken the brunt of attention. I think that shareholder activism could be very effective for free software. People could buy stock in a company and give their voting power over to an organization such as the FSF. The individual could possibly make money and free software would have a stronger say in corporate decision making.

As for the other issue, I don't think that Linux is entirely unsuited for the desktop. Some people however seem to demand that it be the only option. I think that there should be more than one GPLed OS. I also think that having a GPLed Windows would be beneficial to Linux.

As it stands, Microsoft uses their monopoly to continuously shift the rules. When the free software community reverse engineers one standard, Microsoft develops another one and makes it the new standard. So far free software has been on the defensive. If free software could embrace and extend Microsofts own operating system, it would be a blow to their primary base of support.

I know that the odds aren't favorable, but no guts, no glory.


"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton


[ Parent ]
Try Installing (none / 0) (#56)
by Tachys on Thu Jun 14, 2001 at 10:12:26 AM EST

Thing is I tried used caldera 2.4 desktop. The control panels were a total mess even worst then windows.

Well I download Mozilla, and I could not figure out how to install it. In windows just open and hit the install button. I could never figure it out so I gave up.

[ Parent ]
Re: Try installing (none / 0) (#58)
by sombragris on Fri Jun 15, 2001 at 12:24:30 AM EST

I suggest you to try Red Hat 7.1, Mandrake 8.0 or SuSE 7.2. These are both rock-solid and user friendly distributions with excellent installers. I encourage you to give it a try.

[ Parent ]
Try Debian (none / 0) (#59)
by mdavids on Fri Jun 15, 2001 at 10:53:45 PM EST

apt-get install mozilla

It doesn't get any easier than that.



[ Parent ]
Activism != Compromise (5.00 / 1) (#55)
by gbnewby on Thu Jun 14, 2001 at 09:46:43 AM EST

Your notion of activism is extremely wimpy. I'd call it "bitching," not acting. This reminds me of the quote, "it's too bad all the people who are really qualified to run the country are so busy driving cabs and cutting hair."

At the non-wimpy extreme (yes, this is a continuum, not a binary condition) is the attitude of EarthFirst!. The foundation is a term you should consider:

  • No Compromise

If you can't think of any issues on which you refuse to compromise -- things you care enough about to inconvenience yourself, take direct action, or otherwise get off your soapbox, you're an armchair activist, not an activist. As I said, it's a continuum, and I'm not pointing fingers. I simply wanted to point out that bitching about having a better desktop or what McDonalds should wrap its poison in is far different than alternatives that involve action.

In the current context, I suggest that wanting a friendly Linux desktop is fine, but an activist stance would, for example, involve refusing to use alternatives.



Related news (4.50 / 2) (#57)
by dennis on Thu Jun 14, 2001 at 12:42:56 PM EST

Today's Wired News has an article about a shareholder battle organized on the Net.

Beyond simple activism | 59 comments (46 topical, 13 editorial, 0 hidden)
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