[Marxism] What’s So Important about Open Source & Linux?

Clay Claiborne clayclai at gmail.com
Wed Jan 1 02:48:36 MST 2014


This is the outline of a talk I gave about a decade ago but it may be
useful in setting context for the present discussion. Note, it didn't
all start with Stallman.

>
>   What’s So Important about Open Source & Linux?
>
> 1.
>
>     Information Technology and Human Social Development
>
>     1.
>
>         As technology has developed, it has driven the development of
>         society and as it has moved from stage to stage so has the
>         locus of wealth & power.
>
>             1.
>
>                 First came domestication of animals and slavery and
>                 their possession was the measure of wealth and power,
>
>             2.
>
>                 Then, with advances in agriculture, it was the
>                 ownership of land that took center stage, with feudal
>                 societies run by landlords holding sway.
>
>             3.
>
>                 But advances in technology more and more brought
>                 manufacturing to the fore, hence the Industrial Age
>                 and the domination of Capitalism.
>
>             4.
>
>                 At each stage, the ways to store and distribute
>                 information has played a crucial role
>
>             5.
>
>                 Now Information Technology is playing a dominate role.
>                 That’s why IT companies have gotten so big so fast.
>                 That’s why Bill Gates is the richest man in the world.
>
>
>     2.
>
>         So here we are at the leading edge of the 21st Century and
>         what we loosely call IT is clearly playing a dominant role.
>         Bill Gate’s vision of a computer on every desk has been
>         realized, and most of them are running his software.
>
>     3.
>
>         Most commercial software is proprietary software. That means:
>
>             1.
>
>                 It is owned by the copyright holder
>
>             2.
>
>                 Licensed to you under very strict conditions and
>                 generally at great costs
>
>             3.
>
>                 The inner workings of the software are a closely
>                 guarded secret
>
>             4.
>
>                 The software is designed to benefit the producer
>                 rather than the user
>
>     4.
>
>         One effect of this is that one company has been able to
>         establish monopoly status with it’s operating system allowing
>         it to:
>
>             1.
>
>                 In effect extract a tax or ransom from everyone else
>                 far out of proportion to it’s contribution. When I
>                 built computers around 1990 the average system costs
>                 over $3500 and the Windows OS cost about $60.
>                 Technical innovation and market competition have
>                 driven down the costs of hardware so that today a much
>                 more powerful computer can be had for less than $600.
>                 But when it comes to the Windows OS, that is a
>                 different story. The newest Windows XP Home Ed can
>                 cost you $120. In the decade of the ‘90’s the price of
>                 the MS Windows OS as a percentage of the total system
>                 cost has risen more than 10 times This increasing tax
>                 has held back economic advancement throughout the
>                 world, and has hurt most those that can afford it the
>                 least.
>
>             2.
>
>                 Use it’s monopoly position to stifle innovation get
>                 away with delivering buggy product.
>
>             3.
>
>                 Extract more taxes for fixing the bugs by marketing
>                 them as ‘upgrades’.
>
>             4.
>
>                 Use it’s secret knowledge of how it OS works to give
>                 it a leg up on the competition in the area of
>                 applications software. Also thru the use of bundling.
>                 Many of you are old enough to remember when
>                 WordPerfect was the leading word processor and Lotus
>                 123 was the leading spreadsheet.
>
>             5.
>
>                 Use it’s presence on almost every desktop to promote
>                 certain on-line services while stymieing others
>
>             6.
>
>                 Attempt force proprietary systems onto the Internet
>                 and turn it into a private preserve.
>
>     5.
>
>         Computers & Networking
>
>             1.
>
>                 Computer store and process information. Networks allow
>                 computers to communicate, and just as information must
>                 be communicated to be useful, networking proved to be
>                 the killer app for computers
>
>             2.
>
>                 In the beginning M$ largely ignored networking. A Utah
>                 college professor named Ray Noorda set his class to
>                 developing a networking system, purchased a Unix
>                 license from AT&T and turned it into the core of
>                 Novell Netware. For over a decade Novell Netware was
>                 far and away the leading networking system. Noorda
>                 left Novell in 1990, became and early supporter of
>                 Open Source and founded Caldera, one of the first
>                 Linux companies.
>
>             3.
>
>                 Latter M$ took dead aim at Novell with it’s own
>                 proprietary MS Network, and in large part because of
>                 it’s control of the desktop was able to largely
>                 supplant Netware.
>
>             4.
>
>                 Still M$ pretty much ignore other important
>                 developments happening under their noses. Namely Unix
>                 and the Internet.
>
>
>     6.
>
>         Unix & Internet both started in 1969
>
>             1.
>
>                 *1969 was quite a year*
>
> First trial flights of Concorde took place
>
> Hells Angeles destroyed the Rolling Stones concert at Altamont Speedway
>
> Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young opened at Fillmore West.
>
> Woodstock happened
>
> Nixon became President and began "Vietnamization" in Southeast Asia
>
> A quarter million people marched on Washington to protest the war
>
> Stonewall riot in New York City marked the beginning of the gat rights
> movement
>
> Angela Davis lost her teaching job
>
> American Indians occupy Alcatraz Island
>
> Colonel Gaddafi becomes Libyan leader
>
> Neil Armstrong walked on the moon
>
> Midnight Cowboy won the Oscar for Best Picture
>
> and Sesame Street was born
>
> *And the Internet was born.*
>
>
>             1.
>
>                 UNICS was developed at Bell Telephone Laboratories (1969)
>
>             2.
>
>                 Was developed in revolt of propriety OS provided by
>                 hardware vendors
>
>             3.
>
>                 AT&T made the source code very cheap and so it was
>                 widely used, especially by universities.
>
>             4.
>
>                 Because of 1956 Consent decree, which resulted from
>                 the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, AT&T provided no support
>
>             5.
>
>                 As a result it became user supported with a strong
>                 tradition of Unix user groups and user written and
>                 supported code
>
>             6.
>
>                 This also resulted in better innovation and support
>                 than any vendor had supplied.
>
>             7.
>
>                 Unix also begat the Internet, which started as ARPANET
>
> 1.
>
>     1957 the USSR launches Sputnik, in response the DoD forms Advanced
>     Research Projects Agency (ARPA). Also the RAND groups is formed
>     does important research into packet switching
>
> 2.
>
>     1969 ARPANET is started with 4 nodes – UCLA, Stanford, UCSB and U
>     of Utah. The computers had 12KB of ram and AT&T provided the 50Kb
>     lines
>
> 3.
>
>     Very Important – Designed to operate without any central control
>     so as to be resistant to nuclear attack.
>
> 4.
>
>     By 1971 ARPANET had 23hosts, 1973 becomes international with hosts
>     in London and Norway added.
>
> 5.
>
>     1982: DCA and ARPA establish the Transmission Control Protocol
>     (TCP) and Internet Protocol (IP), as the protocol suite, commonly
>     known as TCP/IP, for ARPANET. DoD adopts TCP/IP as it’s standard.
>
> 6.
>
>     1982: EUnet (European UNIX Network) is created by EUUG to provide
>     email and USENET services
>
> 7.
>
>     1982: EUnet (European UNIX Network) is created by EUUG to provide
>     email and USENET services
>
> 8.
>
>     1982: EUnet (European UNIX Network) is created by EUUG to provide
>     email and USENET services
>
> 9.
>
>     1984: Number of hosts breaks 1000, dns introduced.
>
>10.
>
>     1987: Number of hosts breaks 10,000, 1989: Number of hosts breaks
>     100,000
>
>11.
>
>     1990 ARPANET ceases to exist. Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
>     is founded by Mitch Kapor
>
>12.
>
>     By July 2002, there are over 162 million hosts.
>
>     7.
>
>         The birth of GNU & Linux
>
>             1.
>
>                 At first businesses, including AT&T didn’t take Unix
>                 seriously
>
>             2.
>
>                 As Unix developed and became more popular AT&T saw the
>                 profit potential and tried to regain control
>
>             3.
>
>                 They forbid universities from using the source code
>                 for teaching
>
>             4.
>
>                 This motivated Andy Tanenbaum to write MINIX as a
>                 teaching tool.
>
>             5.
>
>                 In November 1974 the government filed a new anti-trust
>                 suit against AT&T, resulting in the 1984 breakup into
>                 the Baby Bells.
>
>             6.
>
>                 AT&T now free to get back into the game, sharply
>                 raised Unix license fees.
>
>             7.
>
>                 So Richard Stallman founded the Free Software
>                 Foundation and it’s GNU (GNU is Not Unix ) (recursive
>                 – a programmers thing) which has given us a wealth of
>                 free unix software.
>
>             8.
>
>                 1991 Inspired by Tanenbaum’s MINIX, a graduate student
>                 at the U. of Helsinki by the name of Linus Torvalds
>                 writes a very primitive unix kernel and posts the
>                 source code to the Internet inviting comments and
>                 suggestions. He calls it Freenix, but his friend, who
>                 runs the server doesn’t like that name, so he changes
>                 the directory name to Linux.
>
>
> 2.
>
>     What is Open Source?
>
>     1.
>
>         What is source code?
>
>     2.
>
>         Source code is what the computer programmer actually writes,
>         usually by typing into a text editor or word processor in a
>         specific computer language like C++ or Basic. Then this text
>         is worked on by other programs like compilers and linkers to
>         create the actual program or machine code that the computer runs.
>
>     3.
>
>         You can think of the source code as a sort of recipe for the
>         software. Just like you can eat a cake. You may like the cake
>         or not like the cake but you don’t know what’s in the cake and
>         how it was made unless you can get site of the recipe. The
>         cake could contain a poison, just like Windows could contain
>         Spyware, but it will be very hard to find this out if you
>         don’t know the recipe. You may be able to make a better cake,
>         or at least one more to your liking, but you’ll need the
>         recipe so that you can adjust the ingredients or the cooking
>         time or whatever. Otherwise you’d better eat what you’re
>         served and like it.
>
>     4.
>
>         The source code for Windows is on of M$ most closely guarded
>         secrets. Most developers, even within M$ can’t gain site of
>         it. That’s one of the reasons their products are so poorly
>         designed.
>
>     5.
>
>         The Linux community takes a very different attitude towards
>         source code, all the source code is freely available, hence
>         the name Open Source.
>
>     6.
>
>         This allows a number of things to happen:
>
>     7.
>
>         Everyone can see how a program works and what it does.
>
>     8.
>
>         Users can actively participate it improving the software and
>         fixing bugs.
>
>     9.
>
>         Programmers writing new software and learn from others and
>         ‘steal’ as much code as they like so as to not have to
>         reinvent the wheel.
>
>    10.
>
>         When I first got into Linux it took me a while to figure out
>         how an operating system could be so sophisticated and stable
>         and still be free. I always assumed that a big complicated
>         program like Windows would require a big complicated company
>         like M$ behind it. What I have since learned is the limits of
>         a big complicated corporation with all it’s infighting and
>         competition.
>
>    11.
>
>         Eric Raymond compared to two styles of organization as the
>         “Cathedral and the Bazaar”
>
>    12.
>
>         Another saying we have in the Linux Community is ‘Given enough
>         eyes, all bugs are shallow”
>
>    13.
>
>         The Linux community is a worldwide community. It is the first
>         major OS NIH (US). The core developers come from all over the
>         world.
>
>    14.
>
>         Linux would not be possible without the Internet. At the same
>         time, Linux is essential to continued freedom of the Internet.
>
>    15.
>
>         More and more software contains spycode. Governments are
>         trying to channel peoples access. Companies like M$ are trying
>         to privities it. Linux is the best defense against this.
>         Example I run a proxy for Google on my website to give access
>         to people in China.
>
>
>    16.
>
>         The GNU GPL: (Copy-Left)
>
> “The licenses for most software are designed to take away your freedom
> to share and change it. By contrast, the GNU General Public License is
> intended to guarantee your freedom to share and change free
> software--to make sure the software is free for all its users. This
> General Public License applies to most of the Free Software
> Foundation's software and to any other program whose authors commit to
> using it.
>
>
> When we speak of free software, we are referring to freedom, not
> price. Our General Public Licenses are designed to make sure that you
> have the freedom to distribute copies of free software (and charge for
> this service if you wish), that you receive source code or can get it
> if you want it, that you can change the software or use pieces of it
> in new free programs; and that you know you can do these things.”
>
>    17.
>
>         In the Open Source community you will often hear people talk
>         about 2 kind of freedom . Free as in beer, and Free as in
>         speech. The second is the most important. As you might have
>         noticed a lot of Open Source software is sold, and many of us
>         are in the business to make money.
>
>    18.
>
>         But what Linux does represent is a new way of doing business.
>         One in which companies co-operate. One that is characterized
>         by openness. Linux and Open Source also represent a new way of
>         handling intellectual property. One that has applications in
>         many other areas.
>
>
>
>



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