Monday, March 17, 2008

Wayan Vota's melodrama

Read the comments on this melodramatic post by perpetual OLPC critic, Wayan Vota: this is the end my friend: Negroponte says XP on XO in 60 days

I thought the comments by delphi and Jordan were good, also ThePete and TankerKevo (search for their names if short of time)

The FOSS movement seems to consist of at least two sorts of people. Those who would impose FOSS on everyone (lock in) and those who actually believe in democracy and freedom including the right of Microsoft to compete and not be locked out of the OLPC.

The former group are dangerous. They want to replace a bad thing (monopoly capitalism) with a worse thing (Communist Party Soviet Union style compulsion).

Wayan Vota has always said that the OLPC is a hardware project and not an educational project. He hates Negroponte. Now he is saying that because Microsoft might put Windows on the OLPC it is the end of the road of the OLPC as an educational project - even though he has always denied that it was an educational project in the first place.

At any rate his melodrama is technocentric - that the OS decides everything. It doesn't.

As a few commentators on the thread point out:
  • there are real problems with Sugar
  • all the constructionist software runs fine under Windows

9 comments:

Tom Hoffman said...

I don't get the impression that Vota is a FOSS advocate in the general case. Maybe I'm wrong though.

Bill Kerr said...

hi tom,

I see I didn't express myself clearly. I wasn't thinking of Wayan in that paragraph but referring to the mixture of purist, zealous comments on the one hand (horror, MS) and the democratic comments (shit happens) on the other, in the thread.

dephi quotes Mary Lou Jepson:
Microsoft has "had our hardware now for about a year," says Jepsen. "We decided that, as much as we embrace open-source at OLPC, it is about choice, and we don't want to exclude anybody from making software for our laptops."

There are other (a minority) of comments like this:
"I am so glad I sold my XO when I did. To let Microsoft get it's grubby hands on this machine is the final insult! Microsoft is not open source. Microsoft does not play well with others. BOOO BOOO BOOO!"

Most of the comments in the thread are thoughtful - accepting that boundaries become inevitably blurred and don't necessarily represent an abandonment of principle.

squidinkcalligraphy said...

I think the reasons behind this are practical. The organisation needs to move more units to remain viable. One way to do this is to make windows available. The main danger now is that it becomes useful as a general purpose computer thus increasing its value outside the school, thus making it more lucrative to steal. I really hope they get the security/DRM right, but windows isn't really known for its security. I personally don't think that there will be much demand for windows on it ultimately, since sugar has such well thought out educational apps (while windows has mainly business apps), and it really is an under-powered machine that will probably crawl under windows. But time will tell.

And anyway, we've heard it all before... There's been an on-again off-again relationship between MS and OLPC that I think is likely to get turbulent before too long..

Peter Rock said...

You say groups wishing to mandate FOSS are "dangerous" (in an extreme case I could perhaps agree with that), yet I find it interesting that you don't criticize those who believe proprietary software to be a form of "competition" and an exercising of rights associated with "democracy" and "freedom". Hands down, I find the latter mentality the much more "dangerous" one.

You must be irked by the "dangerous" happenings in Kerala, India.

Bill Kerr said...

hi peter,

a few different thoughts

I'm not sure whether you have read the comments in the vota thread or are just responding to something I said - in the context of the vota thread, of people taking the stance that if windows goes onto OLPC then that is the end (and there are some FOSS advocates agreeing with that) then I think something like what I am saying needs to be said

that sectarian, over zealous approaches are often counter productive - that drawing of rigid lines in complex matters (and the evolution of the OLPC is a complex matter), that lack of flexibility can be counterproductive - and the dogmatic thinking behind it creates a lot of problems - problems for the FOSS movement ( the superior geek priesthood mentality)

if you are saying that the mentality I allude to is something rare and unusual in the FOSS movement then I think I would disagree with you or at least would need to talk about it more with you - partly from personal experience

here's what I think - Shuttleworth gets it - that FOSS needs to be friendly and pretty as well as open and free

I'd prefer you don't setup straw man arguments about what I think about proprietary software or Kerala, India - focus on the context and thread in which my comments were made

lucychili said...

Danger is a tricky thing.

FOSS is about the opportunity to participate.

In very real terms Microsoft does use embrace and extinguish practices.

A current antitrust case is running between Microsoft and Novell regarding the way that Microsoft would not conform to a standard document format which would enable a range of application providers to interoperate.

The current ooxml process through the ISO standards body is a new generation of material which is not legally safe or technically accurate enough for other people to use.

Because this impacts opportunities for open participation there is caution from other technology participants, not just 'FOSS extremists', about information lockin.

In Australia there is also an extended risk for developers and users who interface with any technology which has DRM or TPM (technological protection measures) because with the new copyright law there is *no* permission for people to circumvent the access control even if it is their own data inside.

Microsoft technology is not inert.
It comes bundled with legal and business practices which do bear close consideration regarding dangers they might pose for future choices.

lucychili said...

swap

Microsoft technology is not inert.
It comes bundled with legal and business practices which do require close consideration regarding dangers they might pose for future choices.

Peter Rock said...

"hi peter, a few different thoughts I'm not sure whether you have read the comments in the vota thread or are just responding to something I said"

Hi Bill, the latter.

"in the context of the vota thread, of people taking the stance that if windows goes onto OLPC then that is the end (and there are some FOSS advocates agreeing with that) then I think something like what I am saying needs to be said"

It's unfortunate if Windows (for obvious reasons) is on the XO but I would not advocate purposefully building the XO secretively to screw The Microsoft Corporation, nor would I seek a law to prevent proprietary software from being installed on it. I would, however,
support laws that would force interoperability with free software
(should the current situation (i.e. proprietary wireless is what I've
heard) get worse).

"that sectarian, over zealous approaches are often counter productive - that drawing of rigid lines in complex matters"

I shook my head in agreement as I read this thinking you were talking
about F/OSS (i.e. emphasizing the '/'), but apparently you are not...

"(and the evolution of the OLPC is a complex matter), that lack of flexibility can be counterproductive - and the dogmatic thinking behind it creates a lot of problems - problems for the FOSS movement (the superior geek priesthood mentality)"

I can only infer you are talking about the difference between free software and proprietary software.

"if you are saying that the mentality I allude to is something rare and unusual in the FOSS movement"

The mentality I was pointing out is the mentality that accepts the notion that software owners have "rights" when in fact, under the guise of "competition", they have monopolistic privileges protected by unjust, mercantilist-inspired laws. Laws that actually stifle meaningful (i.e. fair/level) competition. The mentality I was pointing to is the mentality that believes proprietary software use to be an expression of "democracy" and "freedom". If it is, then this is an uninspiring definition of democracy and freedom.

"here's what I think - Shuttleworth gets it - that FOSS needs to be friendly and pretty as well as open and free"

You mean 'that software needs (...)', not "that FOSS needs", as FOSS
is already friendly. If it wasn't, it wouldn't be FOSS. Does
Shuttleworth see that software needs to be free as in freedom? I
don't know, as I've never spoken with him regarding the matter. I've seen a video recording amongst the panel of speakers and found drawn to believe he genuinely wants to develop a sustainable free software business model that respects the freedom of its users. Or do I give him too much credit? What has he told you or what have you seen/heard
of from him in regards to his philosophy/mission as an entrepreneur?

Mark Miller said...

I read this headline the other day (not the article), about it being "over" for OLPC because of allowing Windows on the XO. If it is about expanding XO's reach, because some governments/districts want to use Windows, then I think it's their choice. Negroponte has made his opinion clear about what he thinks of Windows. I didn't get a sense that he disliked it because of Microsoft's propensity to lock in users to their stuff, but more about how wastefully bloated their software is.

As for the downsides of Windows that have been discussed here, I think the customers are probably going into this with their eyes open. Surely there's been plenty of coverage on these issues. If they're still making that choice, then it's their choice to get themselves into it.

In terms of FOSS community support for the XO, that's another matter. It's their choice to withdraw support. Simple as that.

Personally I can't see why customers would want to go to Windows on it. I think the Sugar environment is more in line with educational objectives, because it was designed for it. Windows is more general purpose, less focused.