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I found an old Linux writeup

May 9, 2019

"Linux is only free if your time has no value." - Jamie Zawinski

A long time ago, before the internet broke the print publication business, people used to buy or subscribe to magazines which were delivered to their home or work mailbox.

Magazines and software were two different types of publishing. Whereas a print magazine can write a patch to a previous issue in their next issue, software developers had to issue an errata bulletin while preparing for the next release, which was usually sold at an upgrade price, if you were lucky.

I hadn't made the connection when I relayed this PC Magazine article to friends and visitors via my web page in 1997, but the emergence of Linux as a viable alternative to Microsoft Windows was a critical moment in computing history that many overlook or don't understand. Many things are possible with the open architecture that Linux provides, but the same things are possible with closed architectures given the proper dynamics.

Free things are necessary for the functioning of society, however, there is no motive in a money driven society if everything is free. Computer people know this as bootstrapping. Nothing happens without memory, and a CPU can't operate without a program counter and special memory called registers. If you know the history of computing, disk space is an optional premium that we happen to have a lot of, but the invisible tollbooths are always cause for concern.

Because modern Linux is 'proprietary to freedom', you need months or years of learning and training to start doing the basic tasks to modify the system; this used to take hours or days. It's not a Wrath of Khan flashback; I've been using this term for the past decade. If you are a Linux developer, I hope you see how the increasing number of standards that underpin today's Linux-based systems are not sustainable moving forward. What led Google to make Linux proprietary in this way by creating the complex Android system? Proponents of 'make it faster, better, cheaper' usually find they can do two out of three at most. I ask you to think of the state of computing today within the constraint of this observation. (Have you tried to obtain the dependencies to attempt to start to understand how to compile AOSP lately?)

There is a buzzword I use with myself to verify that I'm doing the correct thing, and it's that I attempt to practice "aspirational computing". If you remember a harshly misinterpreted quote from SCE's Ken Kutaragi explaining the unexpected USD$599 launch burden of his PlayStation 3 system, what you may notice is that there is always room in a market for a premium product that people will strive to earn, even if it's in a dollar store. There is very little room for compromise when a customer who has something on the line thinks they haven't or aren't getting their best deal. (If you're rich, look in a dollar store some time. If you're poor, look at the rich person in your dollar store and hand them the $1 calculator. Note that currency is published for a reason.)

If you aspire towards more complexity, then maybe you are happy with the irreparable status of many systems upon which we are asked to depend. If what you're depending on isn't working for you, work for yourself to earn your upgrade. That's what the Linux spirit used to be. If you're into GNU, capitalism, or whatever, what you'll find is that what works for you usually works for others; this is a compatibility thing. Because HCI is what excites people, consider it from that perspective. Don't aspire for infinite (free) simplicity, just aim for affirming every 'yes' in your assessment. Be cumulative, but know your place. Linux is an ecosystem, not an operating system.

Yes, I'm overweight and tall, and I won't try and explain yin and yang, but I will note that it is the most convenient and efficient elements of a design that bring me the most joy, and they are usually found in the smallest details. If you can find how to subscribe to PC Magazine today, please let me know. MS-DOS starts itself and Windows 3.1 in 1 second, so some might say I have some work to do.

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