The goal of the Linux-Society (LS, dating back to the mid-90s as a professional club and tech-mentoring group) has been a purely-democratic Information Society; many of the articles are sociological in nature. The LS was merged with Perl/Unix of NY to form multi-layered group that included advocacy, project-oriented learning by talented high school students: textbook constructivism. Linux has severe limitations such that it is useless for any computer that will, say, print or scan. It is primarily used for webservers and embedded devices such as the Android. (Google is high-invested in it).

Technology is problematic. During the heyday of technology (1990s), it seemed it had the democratic direction Lewis Mumford said it should have in his seminal
Technics and Civilization.

Today, we are effectively stuck with Windows as Linux is poor on the desktop and has cultured a maladaptive following. Apple is prohibitive, and all other operating systems lack drivers, including Google's Android, an offshoot of linux.

In the late 90s there was hope for new kernels such as LibOS and ExoOS that would bare their hardware to programs, some of which would be virtual machines such as Java uses. Another important player was the L4 system that is a minor relation to the code underlying the Apple's systems. It was highly scientific but fell into the wrong hangs, apparently, and has suffered from having no progress on the desktop. There is a version, "SE" that is apparently running in many cell phones as specialized telecom chips, but is proprietary. SE's closed nature was only recently revealed, which is important because it is apparently built from publicly-owned code as it is not a "clean room" design it may violate public domain protections, and most certainly violates the widely-accepted social contract.

Recent attempts to enjoin into L4 development as an advocate for "the people" have been as frustrating (and demeaning) as previous attempts with the usual attacks to self-esteem by maladaptive "hacks" being reinforced by "leadership" (now mostly university professors).

In short, this leaves us with Windows, which is quite a reversal if you have read earlier posts here. But, upon Windows, we have free and open software development systems in the forms of GTK+ (the windows usually used on Linux) and the Minimal GNU Windows (MinGW and MSYS) systems. It is very likely this direction that development should go (that is, on Windows) such that s/w can then be ported to a currently-valid microkernel system that includes a driver system that can be adapted by hardware developers to reuse of their windows and apple drivers.

From a brief survey of L4, it appears that the last clean copy was the DROPS system of the early 2010s, was a German effort that used the Unix-like "OS kit" from an American University.

If we are going to be stuck on Windows, then it seems that a high level approach to free and open systems integration, such as creating fully transparent mouse communication between apps so that they can seamlessly work together as a single desktop (rather than deliberately conflicting). This would be very helpful for GIMP and Inkscape, both leading graphics programs that are strong in the special ways, but suffer from an inability to easily interrelate.

Another important issue is the nature, if you can call it that, of the "geek" or "hack." Technology is formed democratically but "harvested" authoritarian-ly --if I can coin a term that Mumford might use. Authority is plutarchy: a combination of aristocracy and oligarchy that is kept alive after all these millennia by using, or maligning, the information society as a part of the civilizing (or law-giving) process that embraces the dialectic as its method. Democratic restoration, that is to put humanity back on an evolutionary (and not de-evolutionary) track, I think, will require the exclusion of the "geek" from decision-making. As is, the free/open s/w culture attempts to give leadership to those who write the most lines of code --irrespective of their comprehension of the real world or relationship with normal users. We need normal people to somehow organize around common sense (rather than oligarchic rationalism) to bring to life useful and cohesive software and communications systems.

Interestingly, the most popular page on this site is about Carl Rogers' humanistic psychology, and has nothing to do with technology.

Friday, August 27, 2010

L4 Criteria: an open letter to David Sugar

David S.

Hi David,

I have been following the L4 operating system's slow growth, and there is now a runtime environment that includes a framebuffer and a windowing service.

I am attempting to continue my socially motivated input into computer/network growth by adding suggestions to the L4-developers mailing list that are much the same as my initial suggestions in 1989 when I was one of the very few socially-motivated engineers (actually, administrator, same thing!)

My first "demand" is a drop-in replacement for Linux, so that common Linux users will not notice much of difference, but L4 developers can develop and implement on one machine.  This "demand" specifically attempts to create a pathway for poverty-stricken Third-Worlders who have limited equipment, and especially youthful programmers in the first world who are continually being told that they are wasting their time because Bhopal owns computing.

Of the two, I think youth support is the more important from our perspective because it is nearby, and the youth, of course, are the future.  Today's youth are purely open-minded with respect to culture, thanks to the efforts of previous generations--that would be us!

What I want to do is to help guide the purely technical low-level programmers with high-level design so that they can now that the GNU-type freedom strategies do work, and do make money!  These programmers need to know that the corporations that they are developing systems for free for, are not necessarily God-like and all-powerful, and that there is computer and network democracy.

I want to focus first on the social aspects, but then quickly get to the nitty-gritty of the lower technical layers.  In my very successful implementation of layered models, I think the social aspect is, in fact, the top layer -- morality, if you will.  This would imply, I hope, that simply feeding the cell-phone monster with free code is not moral, systems morality means modeling a full system that supports every aspect of humanity in beneficially in efficient ways.

I also see transforming the culture to being multi-localist, where localist literally means local activism (I am still busy attempting to redeine nativism as native activism.)  The international nature of computing already supports this with the use of the term "locale" to mean internationalization.

All I am looking to do is create short lists of desireable things so that these things are necessarily included.  Linux has fit many of these criteria, but as a monolithic kernel, it has been unable to fulfil other needs, such as a path for hardware driver implementation that does not include re-compiling the kernel, something the vast majority of users cannot do.  L4 is also vastly more efficient in every way.

I am still using the banner of "ThinMan" as an data-centric open network VM that still seems to be the obvious solution only to me.  The derivation, a ubiquitous thin client, really is excellent marketing, and I own it so I can assure that it is used in the spirit of the public domain, or sector--democracy.

I hope you can find some time to list out criteria with me, as I don't want to be the only person doing this, for obvious democratic reasons.