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Editor's Note: Peace, Love, and Preciouss Secretss

Dec 29, 2006, 22:00 (7 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Carla Schroder)

By Carla Schroder
Contributing Editor

I was going to write a really neat peace on all the great things we have to be thankful for. Because you know as well as I do that even though our public discussions are usually contentious, we're all aware that we are well off and have a multitude of things to be thankful for.

My Sacred Eye Pee is Ripped Off

That was my intention. But now I can't, because Brian Proffitt, our esteemed, nearly-benevolent Linux Today overlord, stole my idea! That's right, the ratfink thieved my peace and love. We had a perfectly pleasant conversation before he left on vacation, I let slip my notion for today's Editor's Note, and then bam! all gone. I knew I should have protected my incredibly original, unique eye pee. So now I can't write about all the great things I though worth sharing.

It was some really great stuff, too, like how the GPL is proving its power over and over. No matter how people try to evade or distort it, they can't. The rules are so simple even a PHB can understand them: if you take, you must give back, and you do not get to control what your customers do with their own stuff. As Pamela Jones reported, it's not that certain businesses don't get the GPL. They get it fine- they just don't like it.

For the sake of your blood pressure and to keep some perspective, the next time you read some typical anti-GPL or anti-FOSS propaganda, or hear about some business that tries to pull a fast one, remind yourself that there are a sizable number of businesses who do not rip off Free/Open Source software; who contribute money, developers, hardware, and other resources to a large number of FOSS projects, and who contribute to schools, summer coding camps, non-profit organizations, and other great projects. These folks don't get the attention because they're not making anyone mad. They outnumber the wannabe scammers, so when you read about someone like this, hit the Contribute link so everyone can know about them.

Late Bloomers Rule

Another thought I was going to share was how awesome it is to be a late bloomer. I'll wager most of us computer geeks did not have a good time in high school. We were not jocks or cheerleaders, we didn't tool around in cool cars purchased by mommy and daddy, our bodies were developing a couple years behind the cool kids, and we had to work crap jobs for spending money. My high school years were the worst. If I could go back and do it over, I'd spend more time beating up the snooty kids and less time feeling like an outcast.

But then a funny thing happened. I went on to enter into a number of different careers. I had some lean times, but I did what I wanted, and it was always challenging and fun. Since I discovered Linux and FOSS I've had more opportunities than I could ever take advantage of. There's always something new and interesting, and more ways to make computers and other devices more useful. Meanwhile, those high schools stars that I used to wish I could push into a volcano had already hit their peaks and were on the downhill side of life. High school was it for them. Pretty pitiful to have nothing to look forward to after high school. As George Herbert said, "Living well is the best revenge." Now I'm pushing 50 and I have more things than ever that I want to do, both professional and personal. The fun is just beginning, and I wish my ole body would hold out for another century or two so I could make a serious dent in my to-do list. Robert Browning nailed it:

Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made

Bickering, Flaming, and Trolling, oh my!

It's easy to get the impression that the FOSS community is dominated by petty, contentious trolls who argue every nit, jot, and tittle to the death. While we have our share of such, don't forget that the folks who mouth off the most are not the ones doing the work. They're not coding, or writing howtos, or helping noobs, or helping business users migrate from closed, proprietary systems, or much of anything useful. Thanks to the Internet, a wee handful of dorks looks like a lot more. Folks like you and me don't have the luxury of hanging out in our mom's basements all days with nothing to do but flame as many mailing lists and forums as we can find. My grandparents used to tell me this poem, which I think sums it up perfectly:
A horse can't pull while kicking.
This fact I merely mention.
And he can't kick while pulling,
Which is my chief contention.
But most of the public FOSS fighting is more than mere hot air. A good deal of it is useful and instructive, like on the Linux Kernel mailing list. A good deal more of it is useful and instructive without the barbs typical to the LKML- check out the Asterisk lists, Samba, Apache, *buntus, Red Hat, Fedora, and so on and on. There is more rampant civility in the FOSS world than you'll find behind closed corporate doors. It's hard to grasp how different the two worlds are if you haven't spent time in both. I think it's because the motivations barely intersect- we're here because we want to be here, and we want to create cool stuff. Humans love to create and love to share; two deeply-inherent traits that are like dog doo to way too many corporate-types who see employees as generic, interchangeable modules, and customers as necessary nuisances.

In my own almost-humble opinion, if a business depends on keeping everything a Big Secret and using questionable ethical practices in order to stay afloat, it's already on borrowed time. There are very few truly original ideas, and good stuff that people want doesn't need to be scammed upon them. The most brilliantly original concepts are nothing if they are not well-executed. Anyway, the bread-and-butter of commerce is the everyday stuff, not the occasional Genius Inspiration That Rocks The World. Restaurants don't serve up anything we can't figure out how to fix for ourselves. Both Britney Spears (ick) and Lucinda Williams (très awesome) start from the same musical notes and words that anyone can use. Disney has been dipping into the same pool of classic literature (or "ripping off", if you prefer) that everyone gets to use since their inception. The giants of business have no secrets- Toyota, Coca-Cola, Mattel, Sony, Proctor and Gamble, General Electric, and so on and on. Coca-Cola's "secret" formula is pure hype- there's nothing there a competent lab can't analyze in nothing flat. And probably has.

Was I making a point here? I got lost. So that means it's time to wrap up.

It's Up To You Now

So there you have it, some of the things I was going to write about. Since I can't do it, perhaps some of you fine LT readers could discuss some of the things you are thankful for. While you're doing that, I'm going to nail Brian's desk drawers shut with my new power nailer. Peace and love that, buster. Bwahaha.


Wikipedia's entry on George Herbert
The full text of Browning's poem, Rabbi Ben Ezra