Will Open Source survive the economic crisis

Will it ?

Conventional logic would say, Yes ! I mean, Open Source is free, right ? Everyone should infact be only using Open Source in an economic crisis.

Well, Andrew Keen doesn’t think so and he’s on Slashdot right now for thinking the way he does. Now, Andrew is entitled his opinion and all that jazz, but, seriously, I think the article is a load of bull****.

The reason Andrew’s thought process doesn’t make sense to me is because he completely and conveniently has chosen to forget the very reason why Open Source even exists. Andrew thinks opensource is for making money and since money is scarce these days, it will not survive. And he’s confusing web 2.0 with opensource.

For the lazy ones, I’ll summarize, Andrew says that the tough economic times that we’re going through will spell the end of the “free” web 2.0 days. That we won’t be seeing any websites providing free services anymore. Fair and square.

He also goes on to say that Open Source is free labour and since it is free, it won’t survive the economic downturn either.

The hungry and cold unemployed masses aren’t going to continue giving away their intellectual labor on the Internet in the speculative hope that they might get some “back end” revenue. “Free” doesn’t fill anyone’s belly; it doesn’t warm anyone up.

Now, first of all … praise where its due. That’s a nice headline you’ve chose for this post Andrew. I mean, Copywriting-101 … Nail it with the headline. But, I don’t think you took the rest of the class, because the rest of your article is full of half baked assumptions that come through pretty clear.

OpenSource is not Web 2.0 and while Web 2.0 does use a lot of opensource at it’s core, they’re both different. Web 2.0 also doesn’t mean making a website and then giving away the services for free. Free services have always been a part of the web and will be.

Web 1.0 or whatever they called it back then was about the Internet finding it’s feat and Web 2.0 has been about cleaning up the house, making the designs plain and simple, making sure the visitor can find what they’re looking for and giving the visitor a reason to pay and come back again. Flickr, 37signals and smugmug are Web 2.0. Sure the 1.0 guys made mistakes, but then that was 1.0 – IT IS EXPECTED 🙂

Now, coming to OpenSource. Andrew, my man, you really have to understand that people don’t contribute to OpenSource for the money. Sure, some people do. But, that’s not how opensource survives. It survives because it has a community. You know the kind, where like minded individuals come and discuss ideas and stuff. Well, in the 21st century, they code, apparently !

A lot of these opensource contributors actually like to code. Not, because they get money out of it, but because they like to … well … code. And make friends in the process. Now, friendship is a weird concept. Give stuff away for free and make friends doesn’t actually endorse the idea of OpenSource but then people who get the idea of OpenSource … just do. And that is the power of it. It doesn’t change the world but it goes a long way towards it.

Did I tell you that it is free ? Does it make sense now ?

The problem with your theory is that it goes beyond any logic I’ve heard about or can think about. Oh wait, there IS NO logic in your theory.

T-Mobile G1 – World's first Android based Phone Launched

Finally !! The world’s first Android based phone has been launched by T-Mobile. Called the G1, the phone has apparently been made in collaboration with HTC.

Why am I so excited about it ?

Well, apart from being a pretty decent phone, this is also the first phone in the world to be based on an open platform, Google’s Android project. That has to be a big deal, right ?

The last bit about being based on an open platform might not be relevant to the vast majority of people using any phone, but for a techie like me and for the millions of other people who value their rights, it is a big deal. And I’ve realised it only after using the iPhone.

Let me make one thing clear. I LOVE my iPhone. But, I should also make clear the fact that I am not a big phone user. I am on the phone about 20 mins a day and the rest of the time, I use the iPhone more as a mobile internet and music device. And the iPhone doesn’t disappoint me in that capacity. I use it to read/reply to emails, catch up on my RSS feeds, browse and have even used it to remotely setup my brother’s Linux box.

I have jailbroken my iPhone and use it that way to install third-part applications which Apple would have never allowed otherwise. I hate the fact that the phone is so closely bound with iTunes. That I cannot use the application of my choice to control my data that is on the device.

I hate the fact that I have to go throught the Apple AppStore to get any applications I want to install on it. And the applications in the AppStore are also controlled by Apple, of course.

I still love the iPhone, the device. It’s the artificial iTunes ecosystem that Apple has created around the device, is what I don’t like. Because, it takes away from me the freedom to do what I want with a gadget I’ve paid money for.

And for that reason alone, I think Android is a big deal.

Android is an open source operating system for mobile devices. Sure, the carriers will be restricting the software when they sell the phone, but that’s ok. As long as the underlying OS is free, as long as the ability to put applications on it is free, as long as I can use it the way I want, I’m willing to put my money on it.

Google is not going to control the Android marketplace, which is the equivalent of the iTunes AppStore for Android devices. Any developer will be able to offer his/her applications for the Android platform without the fear of them being rejected on flimsy grounds.

The iPhone has managed to bring the focus on the mobile web and it is for platforms like the Android to take it further.

Canonical Offers Sale of Proprietary Codecs for Ubuntu

Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, has decided to offer it’s users the option of purchasing proprietary media codecs. It doesn’t matter if the users purchase their copy of Ubuntu, download it or bought a computer pre-installed with Ubuntu.

There is an animated dicussion going on about this news at slashdot and other places.

Canonical has definitely opened a can of worms with this move and we will have to wait and see how the open source community in general reacts to this decision. This decision to sure get a lot of attention by the opensource community.

Canonical, it should be made clear, is not going to develop proprietary codecs. Canonical is only streamlining the process of installing those codecs and charging a small amount for it. Most of the actual codecs are developed by a company called Fluendo and the DVD playback is being offered through a version of Cyberlink’s PowerDVD software.

I should clarify that Fluendo and Cyberlink have both been making the said software since a long time and Linux users have always had the option of purchasing PowerDVD or Fluendo’s media codecs.

Software codecs and DRM are a touchy issue. It is sad that a user with legally purchased media cannot play it on a computer, unless he/she also purchases software to play it. Sad but true.

Ubuntu has also always offered a way for users to easily install most media codecs, for free, using a relatively smooth process, but depending on your country of residence, that could have been illegal. Now, all Ubuntu is giving to its users is an option to, instead, purchase those codecs legally and be able to enjoy whatever media they own or come across on the Internet.

Ubuntu is not stopping the users from downloading illegal codecs and using them on their machines. The open nature of the operating system is still there. The option of purchasing this software just makes it easier for the non-geeks and paranoids among us to be able to enjoy the benefits of Linux without getting bogged down by the technicalities.

Legal codecs on Linux also make it simpler for system integrators to offer a decent out-of-the-box multimedia experience. The geeks among us who are used to the free and open nature of Linux can still download and install whichever codecs they want, legal or not.

I think this is a win-win situation, and not a compromise, for all the parties involved – Canonical, Ubuntu and the users.

I know there will be always be purists who will rally against Canonical for this decision and I’m sure the company is ready for some flak, but if Linux has to compete with Mac OS X and Windows, they had to make a start somewhere and this looks to be the right way to go.

FUSE: Filesystem in Userspace

According to wikipedia, a filesystem is:

is a method for storing and organizing computer files and the data they contain to make it easy to find and access them.

It is the filesystem which provides us the abstraction of folders, directories and sub-directories that we use to store files on a computer. Infact, it is the filesystem only which lets us store and retrieve any data that we store in a computer.

Filesystems are usually a part of the kernel, the heart of the operating system and the code runs in a privileged mode known as kernel mode which means that only the operating system has access to that code. That is also the reason why developing a real filesystem is usually the domain of highly talented kernel developers.

FUSE changes all that. FUSE, which stands for “Filesystem in USErspace”, provides an API (application programming interface) for anyone to create their own filesystem, which runs like a normal user program. If all this is confusing you, don’t worry, cause you don’t really have to worry about these details.

How is FUSE useful for you ?

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