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Paul Ferris -- The shot heard round the world

May 28, 1999, 20:46 (24 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Paul Ferris)

By Paul Gallegos and Paul Ferris

Call us idealists, but we are in the midst of a digital revolution. That's right, a revolution, brought forth by the New World of the Internet. We are pioneers, fighting for our own survival, for the freedom to choose a different way of thinking, for the creation of new open standards.

In short, the open source community is the next American Revolution. 223 years ago, the American Revolution began - borne of the desire to have changes made in the New World. The people asked for a different set of standards. They wanted to rid themselves of the old ones that had held for hundreds of years in the Old World. Rules that no longer could be applied to the New World. These new standards called for taxation with representation, a constitution, and government by the masses.

Try to imagine what our world would be like if we did not have these things. What kind of world would exist? The answer is not so far off; in fact, we live in such a world right now. The battleground has simply changed from an earthen landscape to digital one.

Like England before it, the monarchy from Redmond takes whatever it finds new and exciting and claims it as its own. If what it finds poses a threat to the monarchy, the perceived threat is extinguished immediately or absorbed into the domain. The monarchy dilutes all the major trade routes throughout the world by forcing a tariff upon the residents in the form of Windows licensing, even if we never need or have use for it. Our constitution, the GNU Public License, is heartily ignored by the throne, while the believers of Open Source Software are labeled as rebels, outcasts, and dissidents.

They even refer to their APIs as "Crown Jewels".

The foot soldiers of this war hesitate to be involved; business meetings and courtrooms are the preferred locations for battle. However, some of Microsoft's own talented individuals are rumoured to be on our side. And as any revolutionary will tell you, change must also come from within.

But just like the original Revolution, this digital England continues to fight by lining up its troops in straight lines, marching to meet the rebels in the field outside of town. The new Paul Revere, Eric Raymond, has sounded the call across the countryside with The Halloween Documents. In the meanwhile, General Torvalds is assembling his army from the countryside (and world) to pick off the Redmondians one-by-one by simply making better products. The rebels' army has grown from small, unorganized factions to organized bands such as Red Hat, Debian, and S.u.S.E. We appealed to others for aid in the previous rebellion, and this time is no different - now the supporters include Oracle, SGI, HP, IBM, and even Intel.

Other companies have come to recognize Linux's viability, despite the threats, the actions, and the missives from the ambassadors from Redmond. The supporters of the monarchy itself have begun to question its motivations and actions. Most of all, the rebels themselves now believe they have a chance.

That's all it took before - the belief that we, a tiny group of people committed to one cause, could win against the monarchy. We wanted our own form of government, our own set of standards, our own intellectual ideas.

Like it or not, the revolution is at hand. It is creating the same kind of controversy that a band of rebels in 1776 started. You can choose your side, Proprietary or Open-Source, and like the revolution from the past, the new digital revolution will forever influence the future of this new frontier of the Internet. It will be once again a melting pot for many digital cultures, and yes, it will have warring political factions that people will parody. But those same people will be envious of the freedom, looking in from the outside. They will look at our culture and dream. Not all of them will adopt our lifestyle but all will acknowledge its power and productivity.

Democracy has not replaced all other forms of government, and assuredly open source software will not replace other forms of software development. However, it will provide inspiration and a new level of civility in what would otherwise be a bleak and spiritless world of imperialists that pretend ingenuity. It will allow an operating system by the people, for the people. It will level the playing field for basic software that everyone needs.

The battle lines stand drawn, and Microsoft has clearly chosen its side. Yet, history provides us with a glimmer of hope here - England counts us as an ally to this day.

And what of the Declaration of Independence? Nothing more than a gathering of different factions that see this new world for its potential, groups that sign declarations and thrust them under the nose of the king. If LinuxWorld is not our Philadelphia, then what is? Time will tell, but we say that 1999 will go down in history as important: it will once again be the year of the shot heard 'round the world.

The Revolution has begun; yet it is no longer American, but Digital.

...

Paul Ferris and Paul Gallegos are footsoldiers in the Linux revolution.

Paul Ferris is a Unix Systems Engineer by day. In the evenings for the past three years he has helped support Linux via Internet Relay Chat.

Paul Gallegos is a Unix Systems and Network Administrator when he's not moonlighting as a Linux consultant. He has been advocating Linux usage in the workplace since kernel 1.x.