Why I'm smarter than an Open Source surrender monkey

Why I'm smarter than an Open Source surrender monkey

Summary: Many Open Source advocates have turned into Open Source pragmatists. That doesn't mean we've surrendered. We've evolved.

TOPICS: Open Source

Many Open Source advocates have turned into Open Source pragmatists. That doesn't mean we've surrendered. We've evolved.

It came to my surprise last week when a fellow Open Source advocate and DATAMATION contributor, Bruce Byfield, called yours truly and my ZDNet colleague Adrian Kingsley-Hughes out in his piece Tech Pundits Surrender: The Retreat from Free Software and Open Standards.

What set Bruce off? Well, he seems to think that as a group, "Tech Pundits" are collectively giving up on Open Source and Open Standards under the auspices of pragmatism and convenience.

In my case, he was jarred by my piece Why I've been throwing Open Standards Under The Bus.

First, let me begin with my background in Open Source and Open Standards so that we understand where my frame of reference with the entire subject lies.

I began my foray into Open Systems as early as 1987, when I worked on NeXT machines at college. At summer jobs I installed and fixed Altos XENIX and SCO UNIX machines for local systems integrators. I became HP-UX certified and did a lot of Sun workstation work on SPARCs on Wall Street in the early 1990s.

In the mid-1990's I began to familiarize myself with Linux distributions such as Red Hat, Slackware and Caldera, and started to use it more and more on the desktop.

In 1999 I started writing for the fledgling print publication Linux Magazine. Over the course of nine years and ninety articles, I was promoted to that magazine's Sr. Technology Editor.

During that time, I also as a full-time systems integrator deployed numerous Open Source and Linux-based solutions for Fortune 500 companies and for State and Federal Government agencies.

In July of 2001 I also built and launched one of the most popular food discussion websites in the entire world, eGullet, which in two days will celebrate its tenth birthday. I built it entirely on Open Source technologies such as Apache, PHP, Perl and MySQL and it ran entirely on Linux.

To the best of my knowledge, it still does.

Since joining IBM in the summer of 2007, I have also continued to work extensively with Open Source technologies, in addition to other enterprise technologies such as virtualization and Mid-Range and Enterprise systems such as AIX and the zSeries mainframe.

So when I say I've been around the block a few times with Open Source, you can be assured that is true.

Enough with the history lesson and let's get back to Byfield's piece. Firstly, none of this has happened overnight and I take issue with the entire notion of "surrendering" to proprietary systems and closed standards.

To Byfield's credit, in his article he notes that I have been developing the idea of Open Source pragmatism for several years.

In fact, I have. I have also called for new thought leadership in Open Source as well.

I will re-iterate a very important point from that 2009 article, which still holds true today:

Those of us who are Open Source evangelists use Open Source software because it is practical and useful to do so, not due to an inherent ideological need to do so.

So yes, while it pains Bruce to hear it, I've bought a Macintosh. And I'm probably going to buy another one soon. Gasp!

I also like using the Mac as a general-purpose desktop better than my Linux boxes, or for that matter, my Windows VMs. Proprietary.

I like using my Ubuntu Linux box better for sysadmin and desktop virtualization-type stuff than I do on my Mac. Open Source.

I also use Microsoft Office on Windows and the Mac. Proprietary. I use Microsoft Project and Visio on Windows. Proprietary.

I use Apple's iMovie and Aperture on the Mac and their iWork office suite on my iPad. I've also been messing around with Adobe's CS5. Proprietary.

I also prefer to use Chrome as my cross-platform web-browser on all of my platforms that support it, using it exclusively over Safari on the Mac and Internet Explorer on Windows, although I dabble in Firefox because I need it for certain intranet apps at work. Open Source.

I use GIMP and Audacity on the Mac and Linux for simple photo and audio editing. Open Source.

I use Adium and Pidgin for instant messaging on the Mac, Linux and Windows. Open Source.

I use Calibre for managing my eBook collections for my Kindle and my iPad on my Mac, Windows, and Linux boxes. Open Source.

I have an Android phone running CyanogenMOD 7. Open Source.

After returning it in late April, I recently bought a used Motorola XOOM from my Tech Broiler colleague Scott Raymond (who could not resist the urge to buy a shiny-new Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1) because it finally runs Honeycomb 3.1 and I like how GMail is implemented in it. Open Source.

Um, well sorta. Google hasn't released the source code to Honeycomb yet.

And so on, and so on. Did I make these choices because I had religious attachments to platforms and ideologies? No, I picked applications and systems that I liked to use and that worked for me.

The reality is that many of us Open Source advocates out of necessity and sheer practicality have become hybrids. We use what is convenient as well as what is useful. We do not distinguish or evaluate the merits of software or technology on a purely religious basis.

We've evolved into new life forms, leaving the purists such as Byfield to wage battles that no longer have any meaning to us.

These battles, such as Free Software and GPL versus the world, or whether or not Apache's OpenOffice.org or the Document Foundation's LibreOffice should be accepted by the community at large as the leading Open Source office suite only have real meaning to folks like Byfield.

I will not belittle the people that want to fight these battles. Perhaps the outcome of these wars will shape the landscape of Open Source and they may even need to be fought, but they have no bearing on how people who actually use this stuff conduct their lives and their businesses.

Actor Maurice Evans playing the role of Dr. Zaius said it best in 1968's "Planet of the Apes", but to make a point in this article I'll paraphrase it.

"I have always known about the Open Source advocate. From the evidence, I believe his wisdom must walk hand in hand with his idiocy. His emotions must rule his brain. He must be a warlike creature who gives battle to everything around him, even himself..."

As pragmatists we will take what comes out of this social Darwinism and open warfare in the Proprietary, Open Standards, Open Source and Free Software arena and consume what we believe to be good solutions for ourselves and for our customers.

Like "Caesar" in the soon to be released Rise of the Planet of the Apes, we are a new, advanced species which the purists on both sides of the fence are frightened of. We are the hybrid evangelists and Open Source pragmatists.

And I have no doubt whatsoever that we shall rule this industry and become the dominant IT life form on this planet. Scared yet? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

Topic: Open Source


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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  • monkey

    See this photo of a frightening sense
    • free is free, good is good

      often free is good, or good enough.
      sparkle farkle
      • RE: Why I'm smarter than an Open Source surrender monkey

        @sparkle farkle - free is an illusion. Even if not paid upfront in cash, there is a cost.

        Also, the economy works by people making and selling things. You give it away (or reduce its value) only if you want to cause an economic upset.

        The Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.

        EVERYTHING has a cost associated with it.
      • RE: Why I'm smarter than an Open Source surrender monkey

        @HypnoToad72 & @TANSTAAFL <br><br>Really? free is an illusion? Like free speech?<br><br>Apache's free, tell me what the cost of apache is to me? It's much better than IIS which does have a cost of money and effort. Apache is in essence a tool that is free for companies to use.. they don't spend money on it and they make profit off whatever it is their company does.. So how does that upset the economy?<br><br>You clearly don't understand opensource.. open source is profitable, I witness it everyday. Most of the internet runs on it. Cheers.
      • Re: TAANSTAFL

        But if people are willing to pay that price (which might not be monetary) and nobody is being forced to participate, why do you care?
        John L. Ries
      • RE: Why I'm smarter than an Open Source surrender monkey

        @rich.b<br><br>Apache is free?<br><br>Really?<br><br>Most of the Internet uses FREE software, such as Apache, Linux, etc...?<br><br>Really?<br><br>Companies that use open source software don't pay salaries? They don't pay for training of employees? They don't pay for support contracts? They don't pay software such as Oracle, cPanel, and a myriad of other packages (and pay dearly)?<br><br>My point on Oracl, et al, is that these run on "open source free" foundations but they are themselves extremely expensive.<br><br>I am familiar with a healthcare system named Epic, it runs on Unix....Oh but it ain't free. The hardware requirements alone cost over $1,000,000 bucks (that is with six zeros). It could in theory run on a "free" OS but then there would be no support, no support what-so-ever. It uses a DB called Cache, try pricing that out sometime.<br><br>So fine, you can have your OS for free, you can have your web server software for free. But someone has to operate it, maintain it, update it, configure it...and they ain't gonna do it for free.<br><br>And what do you think the salaries for these people are?<br><br>Ever look at the salaries for an Oracle DBA? Yeah, in the upper $90K or higher.<br><br>Do you know what the salary for a Unix Administrator is? In the neighborhood of $90K and higher.<br><br>Free isn't always free, oh except for small mom-and-pop sized operations (yeah, like my own). But they again, I suppose my time programming, configuring, updating, and such does have some value.<br><br>In the end there are many surveys that demonstrate that open source does not save money, it just doesn't. That being said, there are definitely some advantages to open source solutions. The technology ecosystem is massive and there are lots, and lots, tons and tons of opportunities for open source, for profit, and hybrid licensing types.
      • RE: Why I'm smarter than an Open Source surrender monkey

        @sparkle farkle There's an old saying. That saying goes "you get what you pay for." No truer words have ever been spoken.
      • RE: Why I'm smarter than an Open Source surrender monkey

        @JoeHTH said, "You get what you pay for."

        In the pat, I used Linux a LOT - RedHat, Mandrake, Suse. Although it was free, I usually bought mine, largely as a gesture to the company. However, on the basis of your argument, my Linux was better than the free version, even though it was the same. You better find a new argument! ;-)
      • RE: Why I'm smarter than an Open Source surrender monkey


        You are going to pay people to configure/maintain your software whether it's open source or paid proprietary software. Those costs are the same for both. It's the up-front cost of the software that is free.

        And those "mom and pop" shops pay for installation, maintenance, upgrades, etc. whether they buy software or use free Open Source software.
      • RE: Why I'm smarter than an Open Source surrender monkey

        @HypnoToad72 and fr_gough
        So what is the cost of a smile then ?
        A friendly "hello there" ?
        Ah. Now I remember. The price is SILLY COMMENTS !
  • Why I Don't Use Linux

    Because basically I don't have to. I get Windows "free" on every PC or server I purchase. It does everything I need. I know how to make it do just about anything I ever need and most software is generally cheap or free. I can program in all the languages that run on the PC (.Net in all its versions, C, Javascript, Java, "DOS", etc,). I typically don't need to hunt for the answers.

    If I moved to Linux, I'd need to look up just about everything. It might not take long, but it would take time. How do you delete a file permently? How do you recover from issues? What if the DVD drive won't open? I'm not lazy, just not into learning how to set up a printer on another machine.
    A Gray
    • RE: Why I'm smarter than an Open Source surrender monkey

      @A Gray
      I would say having used Windows since what 3.1, Linux is a piece of cake. I have done all the looking up to get Windows to work. I still use a command prompt to get IP information on a Windows system. I have not had to look up anything to get Linux to work on the systems I use or admin. You have the believe that Windows is free, please provide what info you got that from.
      • RE: Why I'm smarter than an Open Source surrender monkey

        @daikon <br>I agree that using a Linux PC these days is no more difficult than a Windows or Mac PC. Anyone complaining about "searching through forums for answers" has not used Linux recently.<br>However what IP information is not available when you check the "status" of your network connection on Windows? Example: Wireless Connection --> right click --> Status and you have your IP address right there
        • Checking your status

          Either way, you have to know what to do. So, at least in this case, the two are equally easy (or hard).
      • &quot;Searching through forums&quot;

        @waasoo <br><br><i>Anyone complaining about "searching through forums for answers" has not used Linux recently.</i><br><br>So, you're saying I didn't spend an inordinate amount of time within the last six months researching and then manually updating xorg.conf on CentOS, Mint and Ubuntu because the GUI on all of those flavors didn't even list my monitor's resolution as an option?<br><br>Phew! Glad to have that time back. Thanks!
      • RE: Why I'm smarter than an Open Source surrender monkey

        @daikon You use a command prompt to get IP information? You actually thought to SAY that in a response to someone? So does my grandmother. I would say having used Windows since 3.1 and Linux varieties from Slackware to Ubuntu, that you are wrong.

        I have never had to edit an xorg.conf file to get a 3 button mouse to work on Windows. I have never had to enable SCSI emulation to get a DVD drive to work.. shall I continue?
        • Linux vs Windows

          Nowadays there is no xorg.conf, at least on Debian. The OS comes with drivers for most cards. I had never heard of having to emulate SCSI emulation. The kernel comes with a driver, for example, for connecting a cable modem through USB. In Windows you have to download and install it. (You might need this if your network card stops working, until you get another.)
      • RE: Why I'm smarter than an Open Source surrender monkey

        @daikon Linux CAN be a piece of cake to set up. If you own some hardware that is not supported by the drivers included in the distro, mostly wifi, that's where the headaches start.
        I have 2 laptops running Mint, one was a piece of cake, answer 2 or 3 question let it do it's thing and be done. The other, an older (2006) Fujitsu-Siemens with an Atheros wifi, was a pain. I still have not been able to get it to work, ended up buying a wifi dongle. And that is where the searching through forums comes in:
        I had to compile the drivers, thanks to the Ubuntu forum I was able to do it. Now every time the kernel is updated, I pray that the compilation runs without errors. Why do do I have to recompile the drivers?
        Juergen Hartl
        • Recompiling drivers

          I guess you have to do it because the manufacturer doesn't do it for you.

          Is the kernel ever updated in Windows?