About

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.




Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Forced upgrades in the historical context

The point of Internet technology when it became public in the early 90s was to eventually provide all people with free or nearly-free information exchange and possibly telecom-type services.  The economic growth of the 90s was such that corporations seemed beneficial (for the first time in history) and there was no reason not to accept good will from the information corporations (such as Google, and now FaceBook) as free software services.  (Obviously, the services are not completely free as they include advertising, but some are such as Google Docs.)


Recently, there has been a rash of forced upgrades among these free-ish services that actually reduce the usability of the services.  Gmail is an example, to be followed by Google Docs, and very soon FaceBook will force users to the Timeline format even though the majority has stuck w/ the list of "threaded" discussions that it began with.


I believe that this is "our" fault because nearly all the early web software was put into (versions of) the public domain for free use, and, at a certain point, we allowed proprietary corporations to replace volunteer managed free software with privately held free services.  We asked for this when we allowed corporations to provide our free infrastructure; they control us because we comply as part of being "nice."


The problem has come to terms now that these forced upgrades are apparently pushing us backwards.  I believe that corporate process of throwing all the talent on the street in favor of robot-like sycophants (esp from other countries w/ ancient oligarchies) that began in earnest a decade ago with the destruction of the North American information technology industry has assured that corporate developers would reach the limits of their ir "creative" and "technical" abilities sooner or later.  It has been later, but it is now; there have been no significant benefits in half a decade and no epiphanies in a decade.


Around the middle of the last decade, I realized that the problem is not technical, but psychological.  We had been relying on leadership that insisted on calling itself "hacks" when the entire human race views hacks as computer criminals -- the leadership would not change to adapt to this obvious perception problem.  I know that means that the entire "free software" leadership suffers from what is called "concrete thinking," a serious personality defect with obvious symptoms.  We followed lunatics, and we cannot extricate ourselves.  If we succeed in replacing corporate free services w/ free software it will be as a solo effort, and of course that is not realistic nor even the point of free software.


I think a third problem is that we are not willing to deal with these problem people, not just in technology, but in everyday life.


6 comments:

Gregory Benison said...

I think that there have always been de facto forced upgrades even with the most free of free software, because programs eventually become obsolete and unsupported and it just becomes impractical to continue using them (I could get the very first version of Emacs running on my machine if I really wanted to, but I suspect it might be a hassel.) The difference with forced upgrades and online services is how suddenly it happens and with how little user control.

Gregory Benison said...

I think that there have always been de facto forced upgrades even with the freest of free software, simply because programs eventually become so obsolete that supporting them is impractical. (I probably could get the very first version of Emacs running on my machine if I really wanted to, but I doubt it would be simple.)

What's different about the free online services is how suddenly the forced upgrades can come, and with how little user control - a recipe for a bad experience.

Gregory Benison said...

I think that there have always been de facto forced upgrades even with the most free of free software, because programs eventually become obsolete and unsupported and it just becomes impractical to continue using them (I could get the very first version of Emacs running on my machine if I really wanted to, but I suspect it might be a hassel.) The difference with forced upgrades and online services is how suddenly it happens and with how little user control.

john_van_v said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gregory Benison said...

I'd be cautious with language about trying to control service providers - interestingly, free software as originally conceived was never about controlling software authors but rather about limiting the ways that those authors can control their users (i.e. "you can't copy this program", "you can't modify this program", etc.) So I certainly wouldn't want to pass some sort of rule requiring anyone running a free service to keep it running, unchanged, in perpetuity. Just like the GPL stipulates "no warranty", if I set up a free service, I'd like the freedom to stop running it at some point if I no longer can and/or want to.

There do need to be standards for how people interact with online services. Standards for privacy, standards for control over data, and yes standards for changes and upgrades. These are complex issues that will require lots of thought as the world becomes more cloud-based. Thanks for this contribution to the discussion!

JohnBessa said...

Thanks, Gregory, for the feedback. There certainly is a rights issue, but, in my opinion, I think the S/W people should lose their "right" to force upgrades. They should sand by their product and fix it rather than dump it and install a whole new product, which is what an upgrade usually amounts too, such as with FaceBook. They are out of control and need to be controlled because they lack self-control.