jaromil on Sun, 31 Jan 2010 03:11:06 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> philanthropic monopolies

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re all,

some time  ago, 2 years almost,  we've had a IoT  presentation in Waag
and in  my presentation i  mentioned "philanthropic bubbles"  among the
bad practices,  which spawned questions and criticism  in the audience
(at least from the reactions i've directly collected).

the  "philanthropic  bubble"  definition  is mostly  referring  to  my
experience of  the birth  and growth of  Ubuntu's egemony in  the free
software world, which i've also defined here previously as a "big fish
eating  all  the  aquarium":  Mark Shuttleworth  and  his  "God-given"
capitals have done  nothing else than forking Debian  and take all the
public  credits and  donations  for  having done  a  "Linux for  human
beings" (please note also the omission of GNU in there).

so  now  the  situation  becomes  clear  for  more  people,  what  was
predictable  with a  little bit  of information  on the  background of
Canonical ltd.  (and  even a linguistic etymology of  its name) is now
perceived by more and more  people: Canonical has created a cathedral,
a  centralised   regime  that  saturated  the   market,  a  monopolist
juggernaut for such a novel liberal market (deja vu?) and ultimately a
corporate entity that is not even intentioned to respect the integrity
of the liberal ideals it predates:


and a direct link, just in case it gets censored...


in addition  to Bradley M. Kuhn  arguments let me point  out also that
the   new  "software   center"  installation   interface   offered  by
Ubuntu/Canonical imposes a very  dangerous interpretation of "free" as
"gratis"  to  the wide  public  installing  software:  in the  italian
version that  is even translated as  "gratis" and not  "libero" so far
that our software  included in the distribution is  perceived by users
as "gratis and amateur level" in comparison to "professional" software
that  you pay  for. surprised  that after  all this  talking  about it
"free" is translated  as "gratis" by Ubuntu? go  see the discussion on
the  italian  ubuntu forum  on  this regards,  it  unfolds  in a  very
interesting  way as a  bully translator  negates all  possibilities to
change the  state of things referring to  undocumented discussions "he
had      with     other      translators"      on     this      issue:
http://forum.ubuntu-it.org/index.php/topic,331942.20.html  still stuck
at gratis,  and will  stay, without a  democratic process for  such an
important decision.  this new  software shopping application will give
no  hints  about  the  concept  of  liberty that  has  moved  so  many
developers  to put together  the many  GNU/Linux/BSD systems  that can
hardly survive today, it will just put besides software that "you have
to  pay"   with  software   that  "you  don't   have  to   pay".  see:

some people might argue this  unfaithful mutation is a viable tradeoff
to  make "Linux  usable"  (and the  GNU  out of  the  picture), but  i
sincerely believe the  rise of Ubuntu resolves in  a huge desaster for
us free software developers: it  is a deterrent for the sustainability
of many grass-root development communities (Ubuntu never redistributed
the wealth  and visibility it has  predated..)  while the  fact that a
GNU/Linux desktop is made solid is  still a simple task for a group of
artisans or  a small  *local* company, as  proven by the  many efforts
listed on http://distrowatch.com for instance.

so now ex-Debian developers and FSF enthusiast on the Canonical board!
have fun with your  philanthropist multinational, hope it feels better
than it does on this side of  the World. still i hope in a near future
it  will  be  interesting to  follow  the  fall  of such  a  "humanist
monopoly"; if it will ever happen, it will be the victory of community
ideals  and   diversity  over  monopoly  regimes.    After  all,  this
"internal"   conflict  in   free  software   becomes  more   and  more
unavoidable:  Ubuntu  won't ever  find  it  convenient  to follow  the
original ideals they are predating since they are looking for dominion
and not supporting an ecosystem.

arguably  Red-Hat (and  Fedora)  have  played a  more  honest role  in
establishing   a  multinational  business   company  than   Ubuntu  in
establishing a  monopoly "deus ex  machina".  however, once  again the
integrity of  the Free  Software Foundation, comes  at hand  and their
efforts  in  supporting  the  development  of  various  free  software
distributions  is  as  valuable  as  our need  for  alternatives  like
Gnewsense    GNU/Linux    http://www.gnu.org/distros/free-distros.html

personally  i've stopped  feeling frustrated  about all  this  since a
while now, having  decided to observe and document  this dynamic as it
unfolds, I'm  wondering what you  think about it?  arguably  you don't
even need to be using GNU/Linux to realise how well this story relates
to  many other  contexts.


- -- 
jaromil, dyne.org developer, http://jaromil.dyne.org

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