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10+ Years in the Same Company, Focusing on Free Software

Roy Schestowitz

DECADES ago somebody told me that changing employers very often is a sign of weakness. Several times later I’d hear the same thing, which follows common sense. Loyalty to an employer or devotion to some particular path shows both a careful choice (of employer) and persistence rather than adventurism. The same goes for housing or residency. Some people move from place to place very often, having to relearn locations of things, spending a lot of time on paperwork, having to meet new people (and losing touch with old friends and colleagues).

When it comes to my current employer, this past week marked 10 years of me working there. There were better times and worse time, both for myself and for the employer.

For the first time in my life I can say that I’ve worked in the same company for over a decade. For just over a year (or about 2 years) I’ve been able to say that I’m the most “senior” (in terms of duration) regular employee there, sans the founder/CEO, who established the company way back in 1998. In a sense, this also means that when I joined the company (with about 20 people in it back then) I was the “latest recruit” and all those people whom I joined are now gone, except the CEO. It’s an interesting situation to be in.

Will I work another 10 years in the same company? It’s hard to tell. The thing I do like about it is that it respects my freedom of expression (it tells off Microsoft when they try to cause issues by phoning the CEO!) and software freedom in general. I realise that many people are forced to use Windows, at least sometimes, and not everyone is permitted to work from home all the time. I’ve worked from home for 14 years now.

Letter From Anonymous on Windows Going ‘Open Source’

The other day I was sent an anonymised E-mail from someone who entertained the possibility of an “open” Windows/Microsoft — a notion that I reject for realistic reasons. Here is the full discussion.

Defining the Cause

Friday October 25, 2013

Hi Roy,

A like to share with you a thought and hear what you think.

By some twist of faith, how many Linux users are pushing for Linux over Microsoft? That would be a lot, right? But, as long as Linux users are pushing for Linux, you know they forget that Linux was “proprietary” too. So doesn’t it make a whole lot more sense, to do the SAME to Windows and make it “open source” too, just like GNU did for Linux?

This is not an accurate account of history. Linux Torvalds chose the GPL for his kernel, which was only briefly licensed as proprietary (it was obscure at the time). This is similar to MySQL. Windows cannot be compared in an apple-to-apple fashion by warping suppositions.

Here are some reasons for it, although not in much order or cohesion. I’m just rushing this to get it out. Please don’t be offended, just consider the possibilities of where this leads for the cause, okay?

If Windows become “open source”, shouldn’t that be a good thing? Don’t we want to see more corporations becoming “open source” free providers?

We want to maximise freedom, for freedom’s sake. If Windows was able to use deceiving labels to perpetuate control over users, that would not be a good thing.

Is the battle of Linux overshadowing GNU? Which isn’t about a kernel, as so much for being “open source code” to be a lot more important, right?

Maybe that SCARES Linux developers? Why would anyone want to use Linux if Windows was made “honest” by releasing ALL of the “open source” code?

It’s not just a problem of honesty and the “battle of Linux” can be viewed as a battle for GNU/Linux, however “battle” may be defined. Advocacy perhaps, given the context.

Haven’t Linux enthusiasts pointed out that Gnu/Linux is trusted more for being “open source”? But the same could be true if Windows did the same!

It’s not just about trust. There is more to it than that.

Are we fighting for “open source” code or against proprietary code? Or is that we just loath and hate anything about Microsoft? Hopefully, we will realize, the main real reason why Microsoft become hated, for using “proprietary code”.

Microsoft is not hated for this. Based on my experience talking to people, ethics are the problem, business ethics in particular. The framing of advocacy as a “fight”, or the choise of pro- or con- (for or against) is quite arbitrary; if you are for something, one can always portray you as being against something, or vice versa. Bias guides language.

Proprietary code is locking in vendors, people and society.

And it is not just about lock-in.

Of course, Linux is designed a bit differently than say Windows. Windows has made it easy for novice, no need to learn “terminal”. But, it always had a clumsy dependency to backup plenty of DLLS versions for instance. Which is just ridiculous! It takes a Chinese hackers to offer the only unofficial tool to actually trim and reduce the WinSxS bloatware.

Windows had and still has competition which makes it easier for novice users to embrace computing. There are suppositions above that I cannot accept, so I cannot reply to them.

You know, “open source code” would be the BEST thing for Windows and Microsoft. That’s not as scary as it seems, because the real reason Linux despises Windows and Microsoft, is for the lack of interoperability, vendor lock-ins, and shoddy development, that has comes to be known as mostly vaporware branding in the world!

Microsoft has already tried openwashing. It also created some proxies that try to make Microsoft look “open”. I don’t think these have been effective as people very much distrust those proxies and many detest Microsoft even more for trying to infiltrate the philosophical rivals. sometimes derailing it from the inside.

But, all of this could be eliminated, if Microsoft adapted “honesty” as their policy by supporting and releasing “open source” code under GPL3 or GPL4 (coming soon).

Honesty, tenets, etc. have been tried by Microsoft marketing already ( still has some Web pages to that effect). The same goes for “transparency” (for example reports on surveillance requests compliance). If everything Microsoft ever released was re-licensed GPLv3+ (unlikely as they incorporate bits of code from other parties), that would not mean honesty. Malicious features like DRM (for Hollywood) and perhaps back doors would still be in there.

I am beginning to think, it was NOT Linux that matters at all for whom without having “open source” code, Linux would had remain proprietary. The only reason Microsoft is proprietary, is related to it’s CEO, “Bill Gates”, who pushed the business into a market monopolizer for profiteering, right?

Gates is no longer the CEO and Linux would not have become popular if it remained proprietary (BSD was already ahead). There were other forces in industry pushing for proprietary, even predating Gates.

Didn’t he advocated and pushed that software freedom by taken away for the sake of profits? This works against an open free society, it is evil, it is immoral and that’s the pain, misery and suffering we are having to cope and deal with here from the very beginning.

The same practice is embraced by the medicine ‘industry’ (oligopoly), where generics are being kept away for the sake of profit (more people die, but large corporations make more money). India seems to be the only country that is eager to fight against this, at least sometimes.

What is to prevent the same thing from happening with Linux now? Won’t some rich corporation take it over, once it matures into a rich profitable market? We (creators and developers) do all the work and they (proprietary owners) take over, right?

The GPL does not quite allow this. Linux can be forked if this happens and all the developers then work on the fork.

So what is important here, is the push for “open source code” more than anything else. But tell that to Linux users who bash Windows a lot, instead of realizing there will always be another proprietary around the corner to replace Microsoft. Maybe that would be Apple OSX. Maybe, it might even come from China or Taiwan!

Windows is being replaced by Android to a large degree. Android is a free/libre system for the most part. Taiwanese companies and Chinese companies (RPC) use Android a lot. The notion of ownership is different when licensing is copyleft-leaning.

How much longer will it be before Ubuntu or Linux gets bought by proprietary rich corporation like Microsoft? But, if we got Microsoft to use GPL3, maybe a GPL4 is required, to become “open source” this would INSURE GNU life of living!

These are unlikely — if not impossible — scenarios. There are other risks — urgent issues like software patents. Using these, for example, Microsoft is believed to be already making billions of dollars from Android sales.

The open source community is no less human like the rest of us. There will be temptation to swing back to proprietary. So it is just better to get all public businesses to ditch proprietary code all together, once and for all.

Swinging back to proprietary or “semi” proprietary (like “half” pregnant) is a real issue these days.

The same can be said for freedom, as a democracy cannot be both ignorant and free at the same time! When you fail to demonstrate adequate concern for the freedom of others, you embolden and empower those who want to take yours away.

The same applies to “open source” code. If we don’t insure it for everyone, there will be others who will want to push “proprietary” code.

Now, imagine how the world would had been improved differently had Microsoft not been proprietarized. All the best ideas and software code could had been shared freely with everyone and a more open free society.

Microsoft was proprietary from the start, not proprietarized, except when Bill Gates fished other people’s code from the dumpster, as he himself admitted.

Which is greater to have, your freedom or wealth? What good is wealth if you have no freedom? In comparison, if you have freedom, you can do anything.

Which is greater to have, your health or wealth? If you have wealth, you need it to afford healthcare, but you still may not obtain health. However, if you have your health, you can always earn wealth.

Now you diverge.

Which is greater to adapt in society, proprietary code or open source code? If you use proprietary code, nobody else can build upon it. If you use open source code, and it’s kept free for all, then everyone can contribute and build upon it.

The same can be said for society, as an open free society who strives with self-determination will thrive as a people. As compared to a tyrannical totalitarian society that is reduced down to a few possibilities.

That’s why Linux isn’t or shouldn’t be the focus. GNU must be the spotlight by insuring Windows is made “honest” to release the source code. It may even help fund GNU to discover all the infringing code used in Windows. What is it, 70 million lines of code there?

GNU/Linux is not the sole area to focus on. Ethics and justice are important, Free software is the means to reach the higher goals.

The only people who have something to hide, are those using proprietary code! What is Windows hiding? We should have the legal right to know, if there are backdoors built in. We should have the right to correct the source code, for mistakes, design flaws, to let everyone improve it.

Someday sooner, we will realize by releasing our freedoms, so that profits can be given away to a few will be viewed as both illegal and immoral. It puts the rich and wealthy first, and makes the society hindered, handicapped, crippled and censored.

Secrecy in code — as in anything in life — harbours misbehaviour. Richard Stallman foresaw the applicability to computer programs.

Feedback? Feel free to interject. I especially enjoy a rebuttal.

When is the new TechRights site going to be up and running?

Did you like any of the ideas for the documentary video?

Waiting to hear!

The scope of Techrights expands because GNU/Linux has outgrown the “advocacy” stage and our enemies are no longer just tech companies. A documentary video needs to be short in order to be viewed by many, or split into chunks because people have become too lazy (of overburdened by information overload) to sit through a full-length film.

If you want to write a guest post for Techrights (highlighting some of the above points), please go ahead.

For those who are not aware, I have been redesigning Techrights with Drupal. Statistics: Over 10% of Visitors Use GNU/Linux

4 days before the end of this month 2013 stats 2013 stats for OS

Identity Verification and Car Navigation Source Code Released

Carnav Android

IT IS the end of an era as another project comes to an important milestone. I was preparing a lot of code for upload last week. I wanted to wait a while, at the very least until I had also uploaded the accompanying papers. A 2011-2012 Technical Report [HTML, PDF] about Identity Verification and “Car Navigation Through Computer Vision Methods With Rudimentary Implementation Under Android” [HTML, PDF] about Car Navigation have been uploaded. Due to some server error I am still trying to gather all the code for the former in order to upload it. But that too will come soon.

SH Property and Libre/Open Source Software

ONE of my clients, SH Property, recently had the site redesigned. As I do architecture and programming for a living in a field which is very competitive, I often have to depend on tools that lower down the costs. The means by which I rebranded the site at the domain level only required Apache redirects, which sure saves a lot of money. It is worth noting that Libre/Open Source software was used almost exclusively to build the site and the previous logo/header/banner (when it was called SJ Property Investment), for instance, was created using the GIMP. It was temporary. Here it is:

SJ Property Investment

While Libre/Open Source software usually costs nothing to acquire, it’s far from impossible to make a living with it; services and skills — requiring manpower — are the real scarcity.

Still Doing FOSS (Free/Open Source Software)

ALTHOUGH it’s premature to make predictions or statements of intent, it seems possible that I will add to my existing jobs and in the process move down south near London. I was on vacation there a couple of years back, but otherwise it’s just a place that I visit every 2-3 months. One employer of mine is based there, so I might move there permanently.

Techrights is still my love and passion, so I have no plan to cease promoting Free/open source software (FOSS) in that site. In all my jobs I deal with FOSS and all code that I produce is — as ever before — free for inspection, reuse, and sharing. FOSS encourages better coding and it improves solidarity in our society.

With ‘Cloud Computing’ You Can’t Keep Your Data Under Your Control

Propeller in 2008
Propeller in 2008 (I was ranked higher at some stages)

THINK before you touch Cloud Computing. The term “Cloud Computing” is vague and broad. It refers to all sorts of things and it’s malicious in the sense that it tends to take both data and control away from the user. That’s why I call it “Fog Computing”, avoiding marketing euphemisms.

Many people gradually take their computer activities online (e.g. photo sharing, news readings) and there is always risk when there is a mediating party either between peers or between a producer and a peer. This mediator offers a so-called ‘cloud’ or a Web platform under which people engage in some activities. This gives the mediator/intermediate enormous control and makes all parties dependent upon this mediator, e.g. for advertising, lifeline, costs, features, and data.

Yesterday I received another reminder of why I must not ever trust so-called ‘clouds’ or Web platforms that store my data in some mysterious proprietary form and give me no access to this data (except data slices that are presented as Web pages, not raw data).

So, what’s it all about?

AOL has money to spare in order to buy the Microsoft-funded Arrington with his rag while at the very same time AOL betrays a vast community of existing users at Propeller (good treatment to few bloggers, but not for a site with like a million members). Well, AOL has just killed Propeller with no prior warning. I have been on this platform for over 4 years and submitted about 24,000 stories there. It all vanished overnight without warning (none that I saw), just an apology. The whole site was shut down. The Webmaster appears to have also blocked the Web Archive a couple of years ago.

Propeller shows why social networks and Fog Computing are a risk. One day you just can’t access your messages, submissions, etc. It’s just like that and it’s not a violation of the terms of service. The mediator (AOL in this case) is allowed to do this.

So yesterday I asked, “Can #identica and #twitter guarantee that they won’t just suddenly announce shutdown one day? What about #reddit #digg #facebook etc.?” I wrote this as part of my Fog Computing cautionary tale. “Has #identica yet implemented a feature for exporting one’s entire user history in a way that makes it displayable/usable? And #twitter,” I asked.

“I’m not a tech person,” replied a peer, “but would assume it should be possible to transfer into own status net app (I believe it is free/libre)”

My reply was that the “first thing I did when I joined #identica was check I could export just in case. At the time there was no such option.”

As far as I know, none of the Web platforms I’m on allows me access to my own data in a form that I can interpret without access to a server I neither own nor control. If that does not scare you, wait a few years. No Web site lives forever and life of a Web site is often just a matter of money; it doesn’t need to make sense to keep it alive, it needs to make money to keep it alive.

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Original styles created by Ian Main (all acknowledgements) • PHP scripts and styles later modified by Roy Schestowitz • Help yourself to a GPL'd copy
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