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Re: <nettime> Goodbye Classic ?
Benjamin Geer on Fri, 9 Nov 2007 10:52:50 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> Goodbye Classic ?

On 08/11/2007, Garrett Lynch <lists {AT} asquare.org> wrote:
> it's a good point however, open source may be a vast improvement on
> proprietary software / programming but it too creates issues as it
> develops, functions phased out, replaced or redefined are a fairly
> regular thing in php, cgi, java etc.

Sure. The curatorial skills involved in preserving computer-based art
may involve programming. Using Free Software at least ensures that
this will be possible, should there be a curator willing and able to
do the work involved.

In this respect, computer-based art is no different from any computer
software. In general, software (whether Free or proprietary) needs to
be maintained in order to survive. In the Microsoft-centred world,
there's more emphasis on backwards compatibility, because customers
don't want to be told that they have to buy new versions of all
their programs when they update their operating system. Microsoft
has bent over backwards to try to maintain binary compatibility
between versions of Windows, to ensure that ancient programs will
still run on its newer operating systems. But this comes at a high
cost: internally, Windows is an awful mess (there are some delightful
well-known horror stories about this[1]), and this makes Windows bugs
and security issues more likely, as well as making life difficult for
people writing new programs.

In the Free Software world, social factors make programmers care more
about clean design (everyone can see your code and you don't want to
be embarrassed by it in public, and more people will want to join
your project if they can make sense of it). This is one reason why
backwards compatibility is more often sacrificed. It's assumed that
every program has a maintainer (or a group of maintainers) who will
update it as operating systems and programming languages change. Those
changes are normally announced well in advance, so maintainers have
time to update their code. Generally this works fine. Even the fairly
insignificant Free Software projects I started nearly ten years ago
are still being maintained, mostly by other people.

Thus free software places a greater burden on programmers to maintain
their code. Microsoft has tried to take more of this burden off
the shoulders of programmers, by making Windows carry more of it.
I think it's a poor trade-off, because it's made Windows itself
unmaintainable, and the resulting bugs in Windows are bad for everyone
who uses it (e.g. because the anti-virus software that you need in
order to protect yourself against all the viruses that exploit those
bugs takes a big bite out of your system resources and your wallet).


[1] http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/APIWar.html
(see the section "The Two Forces at Microsoft" as well as the links to
Raymond Chen's blog)

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