Category Archives: Free Software

Articles about Free Software.

OCTGN is going cross-platform

I’ve talked a bit before about my favourite card-game playing engine on the net, OCTGN and the games I’ve developed for it. I just wanted to spread the news that the client is improving and even though there’s been few public releases since 3.1.0.10, this is because the developers were working on making the client cross-platform via Mono.

I know many Free Software enthusiasts are not crazy about Mono, but this was the only viable option for an app that was in MS dotNet, so this is definitelly better than the alternative as OCTGN is heads and shoulders above all other card game engines in my opinion, both for its usability and looks, but also for its natural support for a proper scripting language in the form of python, rather than no scripting or having an custom one that one needs to learn, like GCCG.

Good stuff.

A Kickstarter that I can support, and so should you.

I’ve made it no secret that I do not approve of the way most game developers are using kickstarter, that is, as a way to double-dip on their fans. I’ve also always said that something that is publicly funded, should be publicly owned as well, by which I mean that the end result should belong in the public commons, which at the moment means Open Source and Creative Commons for code and art respectively.

So to my grand delight I had the chance to put my money where my mouth is by supporting Haunts: The Manse Macabre. They are not only going to release the source as open source (under the BSD license) but also all the assets as creative commons.  This is great news, both for the culture, which will be able to reuse and improve on that base, but also for the game itself which will open itself to be extended by the public.

The game has already been funded, and now there’s a few days left to put some money towards adding more content, which makes sense to support given that we get to use it in the game as well as to make it part of the commons.

So what are you waiting for. This is the kind of game that needs all the support it can get. I do hope to see this become the norm in the future as well as the benefits to me us a supporter increase exponentially the more such games are made and passed to the commons, given how easier it will become to see more games built upon those foundations.

When the hell did that happen? The Nethernet liberates their source code.

Continuing with my reporting of the wacky antics over at The Nethernet (check the previous articles I’ve written on this)  I’ve just now noticed that they’ve apparently and silently liberated their source code under the Affero GPL. This is indeed good news and precisely what I was calling for when I they first declared that they’re shutting down the game 1 year ago.

It seems they had announced that they were going to open their source a few months ago but since I had stopped monitoring their blog since the new relaunch, I missed it. Since April which was their latest update, it appears that there’s been no more information forthcoming and the final release of the source was never properly announced. Put that down to the fact that they seem to have fired their old community manager1 and perhaps they have neglected to pick up his duties.

In any case, nobody seems to have picked up on this and doing a quick search online reveals no results. Looking deeper, it seems that the code has not actually been published on GitHub yet, even though the page about being open source currently exists and seemingly links to GitHub repositories. Those repositories do not exist however and it appears that I’m not the only one who has noticed this. I have no idea what is going on to tell you the truth. The forums are almost dead and the main devs of The Nethernet don’t seem to be taking much of an active role in their community (which is a pretty bad idea in the first place).

The only thing I can assume is that they are still preparing the code for an open source publishing but for the life of me, I can’t imagine what’s taking them so long. The original announcement was about 2 months ago and yet there’s been no progress yet. Unfortunately this also means that their community is slowly stagnating as there’s nothing new coming to the game, no events happening, no excitement from the ones who should be the most excited (the devs) etc. The more they wait before completing their move to open source, the more likely that they’ll simply end up releasing it after any and all interest in the game has died. It would be a sad tale indeed.

Anyway, I’m interested to see what, if any, will come out of this. Hopefully they’ll proceed with the code liberation and this very interesting concept for a game can finally be truly expanded through community effort and creativity.

  1. I just noticed that this is quite an old post. It seems that Burdenday is still active in the community on a semi-official role []

Ryzom finally free

European Retail box for The Saga of Ryzom.
Image via Wikipedia

Do you still remember Ryzom? the MMORPG that was closing back in 2006, was attempted to have its source liberated by the Free Software enthusiasts, got taken over by another company, which subsequently bankrypted and the whole thing stalled? Well it seems that finally, 4 years after the original suggestion was made, Ryzom has been released into the wild as a pure Affero GPL3 Free Software, assets and everything. Exciting!

I just got an email announcing this and even though it took a helluva long time to get this through, it’s nevertheless better than never. Since I’ve covered this subjects twice in the Division by Zer0 already, I thought I should at least announce this exciting development and finally close this chapter of the saga.

I am extremely glad that this has finally happened. I’m very interested if the liberation of the code will manage to re-energize a game which has been practically on life-support for the past 4 years (and wasn’t doing very well before that anyway). I’m interested to see if the first completely free software game which can arguably be called to be of commercial quality, will manage to make any kind of effect in the MMORPG area.

Now that the doors are open, it can be extended in ways that were never considered or followed due to cost constraints. The community can finally start fixing the bugs and then add custom content which can quickly be improved upon and replicated elsewhere.The Affero GPL license will make certain that the improvement made on the game and the code will be shared back to the community for all to enjoy.

The biggest problem is naturally that the game’s code and graphics will be quite dated by now as the game was initially released in 2004 and commercial development seems to have stopped since 2006. The good thing is that it’s now free nature will not require it to compete for price with the big commercial games and the bazaar development it will follow should hopefully allow it to challenge them for content. Still, the huge delay of 4 years and the understandable death of its community in this time will be very hard to recover.

Lets try it out and hope for the best.

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Richard Stallman is neither a leader nor a Messiah

An image of Richard Matthew Stallman taken fro...
Image via Wikipedia

It seem to be quite a common phenomenon that detractors of Free software will attemp to bring up Richard Stallman and specifically something he might have said at one time or another, most usually quoted out of context and with the most uncharitable intepretation possible. This is then used as some kind of proof for the sinister motive of Free Software. Here’s one such example:

Stallman has repeatedly said that he thinks that programmers are overpaid and that skilled laborers should do their jobs for free or for a pittance (and therefore unskilled management is the only way to justify large salaries from technology), and it isn’t too hard to draw the inference that the GNU license, the philosophy of which makes it much harder for coders to get paid for their work, is his way of acting on his opinions.

Notice how we do not get to see exactly what Stallman said or in what context. Rather, we get the quoter’s personal interpretation which basically asserts a specific set of outcomes which looks to be the worst possible. It furthermore  inserts a sinister motive behind the GPL which is really requires a huge stretch of the imagination.

This is pure rhetoric people, and it’s the kind that displays intellectual dishonesty which rivals the Barefoot Bum. I can’t avoid getting annoyed when such a stunning amount of bullshit is said with a straight face because I can immediately, subconsciously even, see the logical fallacies and attempts at misdirection.

However it is important to counter the basic point of anti-Free Software tirade.

Stallman’s words are not infallible

Even if we accept the absurd intepretation such as the above as being true, even if we accept that Richard Stallman has some sinister motive behind the conception of the GNU Public License, it would still not make it the driving idea behind Free Software. The reason for this is simple: Richard Stallman is not a Messiah. Yes, he is a very influential figure in the free software movement. Yes, he is the one who can be said to have started it all. Yes, he does really follow what he preaches. But that’s it!

The arguments that Stallman makes, stand on their own accord and not because Stallman said them. However the rhetoric above tries to imply exactly that: That because he said it, it must be a part of the free software movement. But we are not a pack of sheep. We do not blindly follow what Stallman or RMS or Torvalds says (atlthough you will certainly find some individuals who are like that, same as with any public figure). We look at the arguments each of them presents, judge them and then espouse or reject them.

Thus even if Stallman’s secret plan was indeed to “eliminate independent coding as a profession”, the people would modify and implement his core idea in a way that it wouldn’t achieve this result. This is because such a result would be against the best interests of the coders that embrace it. Of course such a sinister plot is absurd on its face and the free software ideology is embraced on its merits as one promoting greater freedom for users and developers.

It is then that people with an axe to grind against FOSS imply that we’re simply being naive and being led like lamb to the slaughter by promises of freedom. There is not argument to back this up however, only shaky correlation and misunderstood economics. But this serves only as a handy personal delusion for those who make these arguments as they are incapable of explaining why people would embrace an idea that they consider obviously evil. It can’t be that they’re missing something, it must be that everyone espousing it is either stupid or evil.

The ironic part is how the people making such accusation have a double standard when public figures from the SW development paradigm they support say obviously wrong stuff such as wishing to take all the fun out of making video games. But it’s ok to quote mine and misinterpret Free Software figures because, after all, you have a point to prove.

To summarize, Stallman says a lot of things, some of the objectionable. I disagree with a lot of what he says, much like I disagree with a lot of what Torvalds or Raymond say. I may disagree with less things that Stallman says than any of the previous two figures, but this very far from deciding that the uncharitable interpretation of a paraphrased quote mine is representative of the whole free software movement and its purpose.

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Does Free Software destroy the IT Profession?

GNU General Public License
Image via Wikipedia

A new commenter has opened a new vector of attack against Free Software in the comments of my article about manager’s dislike for IT Pros. There he tries to argue that the proliferation os Free Software and the GPL is harming the IT profession as a whole because now that anyone can write software and the combined efforts of thousands can create as much of a quality software as any capitalist company, the demand for expensive proprietary software is decreasing and thus less programming jobs can exist as there’s less opportunity to use state granted monopolies (i.e. copyrights) to make money.

The argument relies on what makes one a “Professional” and in the words of the commenter:

As for “giving many more people the opportunity to take part in the IT profession” — that’s just an outright lie. If you ain’t gettin’ paid, you ain’t a professional — and that’s by definition; go look up the word “profession” in a dictionary if you don’t believe it. All those coders putting stuff out for free? They aren’t professionals. Even if they lived up to what are laughingly known as professional standards (which they certainly do not), they wouldn’t be professionals.

This arguments sounds very much like the classic anti-piracy rhetoric from the Recording Mafias about how file-sharing is killing the music industry. But instead of file-sharing, the author here replaces it with Free Software. But the principle remains the same. When people can get something for free (whether that is free software or free music), they will not pay for it, therefore companies will not make enough profits, therefore there will not be enough jobs for people being paid explicitly to write proprietary code for sale.

But much like the music industry argument, the software industry argument is also flawed: Just because people cannot make money via the previous business models does not mean that nobody will ever make money. The Free Software business models are some of the newest experiments in money making, much like giving your music away for free is also a new experiment in making money. Both of them are not mature yet and there’s a lot of testing and trying to make them work, but there’s certainly a lot of people who do make money out of them and even better, there’s a lot more stuff being made.

And that’s the clincher really. When people complain that an industry is “dying”, they don’t really mean that less stuff related to that industry is being made but rather that those who were already using a particular business model cannot continue doing so. The original commenter’s problem is that those who were earning a lot of money by selling software cannot continue making as much or more. Why? Because free software outperforms them for a lower cost. In short the argument is that some people cannot continue selling less value for a higher price.

Of course they set it up so that it seems that it’s the poor wage-slave coder who is taking the hit by not being able to find a job or having their wages reduced. They completely forget to mention that it’s the consumers that benefit by being able to use a better quality product for a fraction of the price. In fact, the wage-slaves of the IT world have far more to fear from the Indian outsourcing companies than from Free Software which at least, when given enough critical mass, will allow far more people to work independently rather than in a wage-slave position.

Becuase this is the main way people can make money out of coding via free software. They do not have to sell their code, they only have to sell their services as a coder. They don’t build a program and then sell it, they are contracted to build and improve an already existing product which then everyone can enjoy. Taking a holistic view, this is overwhelmingly a positive result since rather than having people rediscover the wheel every time they want to sell something (and thus end up with many different programs offering basically the same functionality), you get people improving on what came before them; standing on the shoulders of giants and improving things for everyone that comes after them.

Another common argument to this point point that is brought is how people currently work: They build a program and try to sell it. by then pointing out that free software is gratis they assume that people will simply not build programs anymore. This is usually used in conjunction with games and to show why people don’t write free software games. This argument is simply taking the current system and asserting that this is the only way it can be. They ignore that the way people work is because of the way the rules of the game have been set which make one particular path,  “build and then sell”, as the most optimal to make money. But the rules of the game have not been set in stone and we can and should challenge them directly when they stop making sense.

If copyrights weren’t enforced on us from the dawn of IT, the current business models would not have built themselves around them. There would certainly be a demand for software and games and that would certainly have been fulfilled, only it would have been done in a different way. To take the way the software system has evolved because copyrights existed and assert that this is the only way it can ever work and the end of the world is nigh if we challenge this is simply absurd. Free Software proves this wrong.

Sure, the biggest software companies who are sucking at the tit of the state would suffer from it and possibly some programmers earning currently absurd salaries would have to scale down their demands to be in line with everyone else in the world, but everyone else would benefit. Better software for a fraction of the cost and a far wider tail for people to make a living on. The IT Profession would go nowhere as long as a demand for it exists.

In closing, one has to ponder how completely misaligned the ethical compass of scomeone can be, when they consider the voluntary act that thousands do for free – and for the benefit of everyone else – as something wrong, because it harms the greedy and for-profit acts of a few which are based on state violence and privilege and lead to a result where most can’t even possess the results. It shows how the way the system works can become so ingrained in the mentality of someone where they cannot even look externally at it and notice that if because of the way Capitalisms works a good act can be considered “bad” while a bad one becomes “good”, perhaps there is something inherently broken in the system itself.

UPDATE: Redditors have been providing some excellent arguments to support my point as well. Take a look.

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If you want my support, why don't you give me the code?

I just heard about the upcoming Diablo-contender game Grim Dawn which is still in its early development and has now dipped its feet into the concept of crowdfunding. That is a step in the right direction but I feel not enough to convince. You see, I’m a fan of Action RPG games (or more aptly called Diablo Clones) and I’ve even been playing Titan Quest the last few days as well but I see no reason to put my money on a game coming out 1 year from now just to “show my support.” Where is the mutual aid? Why are people asked to fund a company’s ventures but then expected to not receive any of the benefits any publisher or venture capitalist would get? Ownership.

When a publisher funds a game, they end up owning all the “IP” behind it. The copyrights, the trademarks, everything. The developer doesn’t get to keep anything, which is incidentally when developing companies go under, the actual team behind them cannot keep working on the settings they created. We end up with stuff like games truly deserving of a sequel simply disappearing. As such, it’s very worthwhile to try and get away from such a restrictive contract if possible.

However to jump from that to a concept of crowdfunding where you get to keep all the benefits and take none of the risks just strikes me as very unfair for those actually putting their money on the line. Not only do I give my money one year in advance, without knowing the quality of what I get or even if I get anything at all, but all I get is a license to play the game I funded? Does this seem  like a good deal to any you? Personally, I feel like a sucker.

If you want to crowdsource or crowdfund your ventures, then you’d better be willing to give something back to those who help you. And no, simply a license to play the game is not enough. You’d better give us the code in the form of free software. In short, if you do a public venture, it’s only fair that you create a public content. Not only will you then show that you are willing to meet those helping you half-way, not only will you ensure to those taking the risks (i.e. putting their money on the line) that they will get to keep whatever you started even if you get hit by a bus, but you also create a feeling of goodwill which will go a long way in making people willing to support you.

And not only that, but you will also get free support and development from the community you’ve become a part of.

The downside? If your game becomes insanely successful, you won’t end up swimming in money but with games like Diablo 3 coming out in the same year and you being a small-time developer, do you think that’s a possibility? You will still be able to sell your game just fine but you’ll simply have to find a way to give people a reason to buy. WIll that be dedicated online servers and scarce material goods? More likely. Will you end up losing the revenue from trying to sell a bunch of bytes? Sure, but then again, you got your money beforehand and those who want to support you will do so anyway, as they do with any free software project (of which many survive with substantial donations). Those who wouldn’t pay any money and simply play the gratis version are the sames who would pirate the game anyway.

Think about it. It makes sense to free your code if you go down this path. Think of the goodwill. I know for a fact that if you announced that the game would be licensed under the GPL, I’d already have given you my money and so would many others. Think of the free publicity from all the free software and open source related sites that announced this bold move of yours, from all those free software enthusiasts which now join your ranks of ARPG enthusiasts to spread the word of mouth. Think of freedom and the fact that your game will survive and continue to improve no matter the money.

UPDATE: I posted a link to this post on the official fora and an initial response seems to indicate that opening the source is impossible since the game is built over the proprietary Titan Quest engine. If this is indeed the case, it is very unfortunate as it takes the free software licensing just out of the table altogether. This again points out the problems with building a game on a proprietary engine or base. If the engine of the game was open sourced, it would have been improved and updated by the community and new ARPG built on it relatively cheap, creating a wealth of such games to play. See the Quake3 engine for example.

Also, it’s worth noting that GNU/Linux support is not planned.

EDIT2: Thread was closed, so even if you do want to argue a point, you now can’t. This personally does not fill me with any confidence.

In which I try to clarify LibCom for Stefan Molyneux

really really free market!
Image by Shira Golding via Flickr

Last week in a video from Freedomain Radio was posted in /r/Anarchism with the notice that its host, Stefan Molyneux – apparently an “Anarcho”-Capitalist of some renown – was honestly curious about some aspects of Social Anarchism, such an Anarcho-Communism or Anarcho-Syndicalism,  and wished that “someone competent” from that movement call him to clarify some of his contentions.

Although the fact that he didn’t understand some aspects about this very popular movement and for some reason couldn’t find out sources of clarification (although a wealth of information is at best, one internet search away) was immediately suspect, I decided to take him up on this “challenge” (Yes I do understand it wasn’t a formal challenge, I’m just using this word for lack of a proper alternative).

After some fiddling with the way to call-in1 I’ve finally settled to using Skype to call their landline number and soon it was my turn to speak. You can find the discussion here starting at 22:30 (I’ll post the Youtube vid when Stefan uploads it). I’m not nearly as glib as Stefan and thus you have to suffer through my thick accent and “umm”s as I’m trying to make my point (although hearing my playback, I don’t think I was as muffled as he claimed). Which is incidentally why I have not made any videos 😉

Unfortunately I must say that I was disappointed in the end. While Stefan proclaims his wish to understand the Social Anarchist movement, I got away with the impression that this is simple rhetoric to appear open-minded. I didn’t get the feeling that he was trying to clarify points he was not sure of, but rather throwing various concepts at me in an attempt to trip me up so that he can take over and proceed to claim intellectual superiority, as you will find out he did.

The points we discussed in rapid succession were:

  • Does LibCom discard Property Rights?
  • How can a society progress from Primitivism to LibCom?
  • How does  new industry get created?
  • How would a future LibCom society work?
  • How would you proceed to a future LibCom society?

Now each of these points, especially the last two, takes some explaining and I could only give the vaguest framework in all of the ~15 minutes I was on the phone (of which I spoke for about 7 at best). In the last one especially, arguably the most detailed and important part of Anarchist thought, I was given the whole of 1 minute before being abruptly cut-off mid sentence.

But what irked me most is that after being cut-off Stefan proceeded in a long-winded monologue in which he assumed ignorance of my part of what a LibCom society would look like and proceeded to claim superiority and attack my presumed ignorance of both the details of the future and of how Free Markets really work.

Needless to say he didn’t make any arguments I couldn’t counter, only that I didn’t get a chance. In fact, I found out this way of kicking off your caller and then making a closing statement without allowing a rebuke as a low trick which doesn’t really raise my perception of Stefan a lot. If he really didn’t have enough time for me, then just leave it at that. Don’t silence your opponent so that your argument goes unchallenged.

So here I’m also going to take the opportunity to address what Stefan said after I was disconnected:

1. You need to think in some detail.

Here Stefan made the assumption that I didn’t have any details on my ideas other than some vague concept of “Strikes and so on”. This is in fact quite far from the truth and such an impression was only given due to the short amount of time I was given to express them and the constant switching of subjects which was not allowing me to elaborate more on any one of them. Anarchists have about 150 years of political theory and needless to say that everything that needs it, has been described in as much detail as possible. Further than that, we also have around 100 years of actual, practical experience in social struggle and revolution which the theories have taken into account and been modified accordingly (which is the reason for example why social anarchists reject reformist tactics).

On the opposite side, AnCaps have at best 60 years of theorizing about a future Utopia of free markets and absolutely no idea how to get there. Stefan boasted about his 1 year of thinking about this, which is practically nothing in the larger picture of things. And this is why I was trying to explain that it’s not worth spending so much time visualizing the perfect AnCap world, when you don’t have the progression tackled first.

2. You need to work within the system before you criticize it.

The gist of this argument was basically that unless one is an enepreneur or capitalist, they don’t understand the system and thus they should refrain from criticizing it. Here Stefan considers that since his experiences in this have convinced him of the superiority of the Free Markets, then it’s obvious that someone who criticizes them must not have enough experience to make an educated criticism.

Of course he realized the trap he put himself into, when he admitted that he could also be called on criticizing the government while not being a politician. He attempted to get out of this by claiming he has enough experience in working with the govt and being educated by them that he can now make an accurate criticism. However he misses the point that Anarchist and all other critics of the Capitalist system have as much of “peripheral” experience of the Capitalist system and the markets as he has of the State. We too have worked for Entepreneurs. We too have had to suffer “market discipline”. We too have been educated and propagandized ad infinitum by a system which treats Capitalism as the natural state of affairs. The indoctrination towards this is as big, if not bigger than the indoctrination towards Statism.

And thus Stefan’s contention can be turned back upon him. If he wished to support the system, he should try becoming a wage-slave on a third world country to see how privileged he is currently. Or he should take an unskilled job at a MacPosition  to see how superior the entepreneurs and bosses really are. There’s lots of experiences that Stefan has not lived in order to judge Capitalism as a good system, Experiences which the Anarchists and other Socialists have lived through, which is incidentally why the movement was started: From experiencing the true nature of the system as the majority of the world does rather than the privileged few.

He also did a grave mistake of pointing out programming and web developing as an example of the free market (that one should experience). A mistake that undermines his own position as an “Anarcho”-Capitalist. You see the environment he works in, is a peculiar one because it differs from a capitalist system in some very important variables. The most important one, is that the workers own the means of production. Programming languages are free. Web Servers are free. Replication is free. The only cost one has to start their own business online is the small cost to get a hosting plan, and most often than not, not even that2!

As such, to point to the internet as a free market paradise is to concede that a truly free market can only work via Socialism, much like Mutualists have been claiming for ages. In fact, what Stefan sees and is inspired of, is the kind of thing Tucker was seeing in the 19th century, when the land was free and people could start their own homestead or business at very small upfront cost and retain it. However, this is not Capitalism, as much as Molyneux would like to redefine it. Not only that, but actual Capitalism constricts such a development as it is inherently destabilizing to it. It happened in Tucker’s age and it is also happening3 now in the internet.

In closing, I came out of this discussion disillusioned. For all of Stefan’s proclaimed wish to understand and speak with the other side, it seems to me that he only wishes to score some easy points with his internet audience. If he wasn’t, he wouldn’t have been so eager to kick me off his show with vague suggestions of a one-on-one talk without even bothering to learn who I am! It seems to me that instead of actually understanding what I said, he was all to eager to misrepresent Social Anarchism and cover that by continuously repeating his “wish to understand.”

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  1. Blogradio’s builtin call-in feature sucks in GNU/Linux. I don’t know why this is so but calling via it, the voice reaches me as if in slow-motion. /rant []
  2. All because of Free Software naturally []
  3. or at least, the Powers That Be are working towards it. See Patents, Copyrights, Net Neutrality etc []

Interoperability my arse!

Windows XP Running On Linux
Image by paradoxperfect via Flickr

Roy says it best about the new Windows 7 installation. Once more, for all their rhetoric, Microsoft’s actions show yet again that they don’t care about interoperability or playing nice with anyone else. All they care is maintaining their desktop monopoly and part of that tactic is not making it easy at all to setup a dual boot setup.

While in 2001, when XP came out the excuse “Only hardcore geeks use GNU/Linux so why should MS even consider them” might have had some basis, 8 years later, when desktop GNU/Linux is more than viable through distros like Ubuntu and where it is quite likely that people might consider trying this other OS while wanting to keep the Windows option open, it fails to convince.

This is nothing other than the same ol’ spiteful, monopolistic tactics on behalf of MS. This capability, to install multiple OS’ without screwing up each other has existed for ages so it’s obviously not rocket science. As such, MS’ refusal to implement it can be nothing but deliberate.

And if that’s not enough, we now have GNU/Linux users defending such actions! So now, among the atheist appeasers, Women “feminist” appeasers we have to add GNU/Linux appeasers as well. If Microsoft apologists were not enough. Of course, that there are those who would sell-out to MS in order to get ahead in the marketplace is nothing new, but plain users? Those who are the ones getting the most annoyance out of such tactics? Why do they feel the need to apologise  for MS?!

Here’s some of the classic excuses (and my counter) you’ll see on why this isn’t really a problem, move along, nothing to see here:

GNU/Linux users are a small minority. Most desktops will be Windows only so why should MS even implement a dual-boot consideration?

Because even though GNU/Linux is small, it is also showing accelerating growth and even a small percentage of desktop users, when seen on a global scale means quite a few million people. People who will all be inconvenienced when they need to upgrade their installation or repair/reinstall it when it will (eventually) break down.

Because MS has been blabbing about “interoperability” for the last few years and they need to be called on their bullshit at some point. Their rhetoric has never been honest and their actions prove it again and again.

They didn’t really make it hard to install Windows 7. It could have been far worse.

Gee thanks…

Should  we be thankful that Microsoft doesn’t go out of their way to prevent GNU/Linux installations now? Should we praise MS for not making our task more difficult than it already is? What kind of fucking stupid slave-mentality is this? “Golly thanks for using lube while screwing me in the ass, sir!”

And you know what? They did make it harder than Windows XP. Slightly so but nevertheless true.

You don’t stop criticizing someone when they act less evil than they could have been. You stop criticizing people and corporations when they stop being evil.

Pfah!

All you need to do is hack #1, #2 and #3.

Which is obviously something all people who’d like to try out the system can do right? No, of course not. And MS knows this and they know it will further reinforce the perception that GNU/Linux is only for hardcore geeks. You know what the regular user will say when you mention hacking the goddamn boot loader? “Huh wut? No thanks”. Which will mean that it will always require a power user (and perhaps more than that) to simply set it up (and then again and again when Windows invariably breaks down and requires reinstallation).

Compared to the possible scenario where Windows acted like an OS of its generation and recognised that “hey, there are other OS’ out there, perhaps we should be considerate to those of our users who might be dual-booting”, and have Windows autorecognise the MBR is taken, and provide sensible options on how to work with it that a simple user can follow, you know, like GNU/Linux has been doing for what, 8 years now?

Of course it is better to make it seem as if only IT nerds can setup and maintain a GNU/Linux installation alongside Windows 7, even when they difficulty has nothing to do with GNU/Linux and everything to do with MS’ refusal to play fair. Thus they can keep their ignorant audience locked in and happily continue spreading their FUD, only they have some appeasers from the GNU/Linux camp on their side as well who will make their point for them by saying stuff like “Oh it’s easy. Just reinstall Grub and then hack the bootloader“.

Other OS’ and even some particular GNU/Linux distros are worse than that.

A Tu Quoque is a logical fallacy. If other OS’ are doing even worse, then they are worthy of even heavier condemnation. And about those GNU/Linux distros that do it (see Moblin, IPCop etc), you do know they are meant for a single OS installation right? You do know that Moblin is for netbooks which are unlikely to have a dual-boot while IpCop is a firewall right? Don’t you think it’s just a tad intellectually dishonest to bring those up as examples of such faults?

You wouldn’t would you?

So while there can be other who can be just as bad, if not worse than MS, this does not constitute an excuse of any kind, especially since they hold most of the desktop market and their actions are clearly deliberate. And if Free Software OS’ are doing this without having a reason to do so, then you can always change it by contributing or even convincing the developers of the errors of their ways.

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If someone fights unfairly and you nevertheless win, it doesn't mean they don't deserve condemnation

Image representing Mozilla as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

I have been a fan of Techdirt for a few years now but as Masnick becomes more and more rabidly pro-“Free” Market Capitalism,  I start to reconsider. I keep seeing articles which seem critical of one action only because it opposes the free market, not because of any utilitarian argument.

The latest post commenting on the recent siding of Mozilla with the EU anti-trust action against Microsoft is the latest such example of this trend. Within, the author complains that such a move is obviously wrong as well as misguided as obviously there isn’t a monopoly since Firefox has managed to gain market share. In the same breath however, he also mentions that the original instigator, Opera is an “also-ran”.

Basically what Masnick is saying is that if a complaint is made by someone who cannot gain any market share, it’s because they are not good enough. But if it’s made by someone who managed to gain a foothold, it’s disingenuous. Whatever happens, there can’t be a monopoly issue brought up at all.

Anyone can easily see the fallacious reasoning here. The truth of course is that Microsoft is not simply abusing its market position to stiffle innovation on the browser space1 but it has been doing so aggressively and for a very long and well documented time.

Firefox managed to achieve market acceptance despite Microsoft’s monopoly on the space. When the new browser came out, it didn’t even register on the radar until the first major grass root advertising and word-of-mouth campaigns started. Even though it was vastly superior to any of MS’ offerings, its growth was slow and tortured, owning mostly to the fact that most webpages were “optimized” for IE and flat-out refused to work with Mozilla based browsers.

Not only that but the fact that MS bundled IE with their OS2 made any viable alternative difficult to discover. Why would most normal users even consider looking for an alternative browser which most of the time couldn’t access their banking portals? Many times. even when you put an alternative browser on one’s desktop and advised them to use it, they wouldn’t because it was not what they were used to. This is how deep the IE conditioning had gone.

There is no more striking example than what Techdirt dismisses quickly: Opera. Almost everyone will tell you that for a long time before even Firefox got conceived, Opera was the undeniable leader in features, standards-implementation, speed and basically all there was in a browser. And yet, it didn’t even make a dent in the market share of MS. Techdirt, the stalwart defender of innovation for some reason does not even wonder why Opera didn’t make it but rather assumes that it must have been because they were not good enough or something. In other words the classic  selective view of reality that annoys me so much about Free Marketeers.

Of course Firefox managed to compete, in the same way that GNU/Linux managed to compete, by being adopted immidiately by the Free Software movement who then went had to fight uphill for every percentile of market share. The reason they achieved it is because of their distributed nature, philosophical backing and knowledge of technology which allowed them to be unaffected or quickly overcome many of the hurdles in their way. Does that mean that the competition was fair? Not at all. It was stacked against them on every turn. But they persevered.

Opera unfortunately had neither a huge community behind them, nor the budget required to raise awareness of its existence which is why then, and still now, it still can’t get market share, even though it is still considered by many as one of the better browsers. However, were MS Windows to come bundled with Opera and IE and ask the user which one they wanted to use, then things would have been much much different. Most people who didn’t know either, would give a try to each and stick with Opera overwhelmingly.

The author also brings as examples of competition Google’s Chrome and Safari, both of which don’t sustain his argument in the slightest. The only reason either of those managed to achieve any market share is not because of any innovation but because of the popularity of their respective distributors. Apple has a well known fanatic fanbase and a considerable market share in the OS, for which they also bundled their own product. Google did a smart marketing campaign but overall Chrome, even though an inferior product from all others, gained share because it’s suggested in the front page of the most popular search engine.

And with all this, IE still stands at ~70% even though it’s the worse of them all and Microsoft has done practically no marketing whatsoever about it and only a half-arsed effort to improve their own offering (mainly by copying popular features). If that does not give you a very clear hint that something is amiss, then I do not know what will. Everyone must strive infinitely more to achieve even a single market share percentile while MS without doing anything can still enjoy a monopolistic percentage.

So yes, Firefox has managed to crack MS iron grip on the browser but that is not because a monopoly “obviously” doesn’t exist but rather despite this very clear, for all but the Free marketeers, monopoly. Just because they have managed to a degree to overcome the mountain of challenges posed by the anti-competitive business practices of MS does not mean that these practices should be left unpunished.

If you play a game and you opponent is obviously cheating but you nevertheless manage to defeat him by playing fair, does it mean that they do not deserve condemnation and punishment? Of course they do. You do not punish them only when you lose, you do it regardless – not out of spite or revenge – but as a lesson and a warning for the future. Leaving them unpunished simply gives the incentive to cheat the next time as well.

But the view of Techdirt is more inane than that. When you play with a cheater and you lose, you’re just a sore loser. If you win, then they couldn’t possibly have been cheating could they?

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  1. mainly because it was in their best interest to have apps based on the OS or an OS-locked browser instead of a multiplatform browser []
  2. After they hastily made it an “integral part” of the OS during the Netscape anti-trust case, in order to claim that they couldn’t remove it []