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

Andrew Pollack acpollack2 at gmail.com
Thu Jan 2 07:35:34 MST 2014


I've got a 15-year old document on the topic of IT and socialism waiting to
be updated, but in the meantime, as a contribution to our latest related
thread, here's another recent example:

In the last week or so (and it may have been mentioned here) various media
reported on how drug companies and others can track data from individuals'
apps as they google for symptoms, and treatment options, for various
illnesses. Using that data, a Big Pharma company could theoretically tailor
their output and product mix to shifts in illness type and location.

Obviously such data could be even more efficiently used as part of a
nationwide socialized medicine system, which could also use it for
democratic planning about provision of services. Instead in the meantime
the app data tracking, like other high-tech, large-volume data schemes,
will help tweak profit margins up.

In a socialized medicine system such indirect tracking of probable illness
patterns would be replaced with a consciously-planned system of data
warehouses and real-time view of illness patterns, number and demographics
of patients, and match them with provider and resource availability.

BUT

Instead we have a "system" in which data is fragmented among competing
institutions, sits in silos, or just isn't collected at all -- and all
because of the structure of the industry and our political refusal to take
advantage of that industry's objective socialization (the for-profit
megachains, the VA, Medicare's nationwide computer system, etc.). But
Obamcare actually takes us further AWAY from rational use of IT (as we've
seen with the sign-up fiasco). And the Rube Goldberg apparatus for
insurance sign-up is replicated in every sector of the healthcare
"industry." Sticking with the drugs example, we are in the midst of a
dangerous shortage of drugs commonly used in hospitals, at the very same
time that Big Pharma desperately looks for new or re-branded high-profit
drugs. The point being we KNOW, without fancy app-data-mining, where our
resources need to go. It's the profit system that stops use of existing
data, data whose manipulation doesn't require anything more powerful than
an Excel spreadsheet to calculate nationwide needs.

And I have to add that pro-DP pinheads like Michael Moore (see yesterday's
Times) are abetting this misuse of our social potential by urging tweaks to
what he himself describes as a system that just puts lipstick on a
pro-insurance industry dog.


On Wed, Jan 1, 2014 at 4:48 AM, Clay Claiborne <clayclai at gmail.com> wrote:

> ======================================================================
> Rule #1: YOU MUST clip all extraneous text when replying to a message.
> ======================================================================
>
>
> 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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