Linux, Open Source, and the Great Schism.

I’m relatively low key. I don’t get excited and shout alot. I don’t get worked up on politics. I’m not too exciteable. I REALLY don’t like ranting and raving about nonsense. I also hate the fact that when someone has a blog, that ranting is the most common thing done. I feel somewhat bad that this will be only my third entry, yet my second ‘rant’. But in the first case, I ranted in a way to defend open source, in this entry I could be seen as attacking it. If you’re still interested, please read on.

I can hear a Scorpions song in the back of my head…that silly whistling sound that permeates pores and seeps into the jellied slab of the mind. The winds of change (cliche I know) have begun to blow in open source. I noticed this quickly on a very specific day. It was November 5th, 2004 and Linux…not Linux worldwide…but one distro…got the ball rolling. Allow me to impart the specifics to you.

MEPIS Linux, a very solid and good distribution of Linux, announced on 5 Nov 04 that it was supporting The U.S. Military with free downloads and support via a community website called Mepislovers. This in itself is ok to almost any American but I cringed at this notion. I waited patiently for things to develop and had fear that somewhere someone wouldn’t take this offering very well. Less than a week later, it happened. On MEPISLovers’ (MEPIS official community site) main site they expressed concern over the decision to support the troops citing, “why not give free support to Iraqi(s) [families] as well?” This person was silenced immediately, as was I when expressing concern about how this person was silenced. I was Someone who had been involved with MEPIS Linux since it’s first public offering and someone that had a website recieveing 400k site views per month; I was silenced on the ‘official community’ website for MEPIS. This is the change I took notice of. I was censored. Odd, I had never been censored since discovering the internet in 1993. Didn’t matter too much but the thing that really really got me thinking is the fact that Linux had been categorized!By announcing that MEPIS Linux offered free stuff for the military they opened themselves up to criticism from its foreign users who didn’t agree with this decision. They had officially alienated some of their userbase! I cringed again. This isn’t the way open source is supposed to operate. I looked on the net for examples of what I had just seen but couldn’t come across any. This seemed (there may be other previous instances I’m not aware of) to be a new concept. I hoped it wouldn’t repeat itself. Flash forward to a few days ago.

The headline reads, “Debian Women: Geek feminists in action.” Give it a read through and you might see what I’m getting at. I’m not an anti-feminist and I’m not against women’s lib. I don’t take political sides…I try to stay as neutral as possible until I see an injustice such as the censorship of ideas. However, on this instance, an exception MUST be made. Linux is becoming more divided than I ever thought would be possible. Not just divided in distros…that part is ok because each one offers something specific to a niche of people. The difference now is that Linux is being associated with political situations and ideas…which is alienating others.

The Debian Womens group even went so far as to submit a BUG to the debain buglist on something they considered SEXIST LANGUAGE in documentation and instructions! A Bug! What kind of “bug” would this be?? It’s ridiculous to think that this would have been a ‘bug’ of any kind. But alas, some developers and maintainers even accepted this. What in the world is happening to Linux and open source if we are dividing ourselves in this manner? We’ve gone over 10 years without having these subdivisions…why start now? Remember that together, rope strands make a strong coil…but unstrung from the original cord, they are weak and will snap under small amounts of stress. I sure hope open source remains together as a strong rope.

The simple fact of the matter is that when open source started out…there were only handles…nicknames…with which people were known as. No one cared if you were a female or a male unless you were in an IRC chatroom (shout out to efnet! ;) ). What have we begun to do to ourselves? I’m sure there are others that have seen similar situations like these two happen across the web…if so, please let it be known here. Something has to be done before we fork ourselves into having “Gay/Bisexual Linux” or some sort of racial Linux that only certain people should ascribe to? This is a problem that has begun to seep into the very foundation of open source…and the fact that it is printed on newsforge means that people are accepting it.

Think about it everyone. If changes like this happens, Linux will suffer a huge setback. As an open source user it shouldn’t matter what sex you are or if you prefer apples to oranges. What should matter is that you are willing to sacrifice a bit of your spare time to further along whatever program or distro you support.

“A House divided against itself cannot stand” Abraham Lincoln, 1858

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  • dumb_noob

    good to see you are still around!

  • JustQ

    Derrick,

    I just knew about you, thanks to our mutual friend Mike (aka dumb_noob).

    I was very sick myself, & completely absent from all of the forums, we both frequented. But now, I’m slowly going back to my former life & have returned to visit forums & email friends.

    Hope, I can still call you that way.

    Sincerely,

    Alex

    PS. This comment’s completely offtopic, with your wonderful article, but I couldn’t find any way of contacting you. Sorry about that.

  • devnet

    Nice to see you JustQ…I emailed you during your fray away from forum life asking how you were. You were one of the only people I truly call friend from my MEPIS excursion. Glad to see you’re ok!

    Derrick

  • boot

    Gah! It is yet another religious war. It seems that Linux attracts those that enjoy strife and turmoil.

    While supporting the US military (IMHO) with a free distro (of any flavor) is silly and pointless, it also can attact new users because of that.

    Whilst some users are lost, others are gained. Those that are lost will move on to the amazingly buggy FC3, the well rounded Mandrake 10.1, or the down, dirty and incredably useful Slackware 10.0.

    As far as the “sexist bugs:”
    This group has no life. Rather than focus on the further development of Debian, they are complaining about minor web site issues and the “driving away” of female developers. Shananigans I say. While many developers are male, I’ve known quite a few female developers. They ALL (male and female) tend to remain behind handles and none seem to really care if the person behind the handle is male or female. Further, the computer science field is mostly male. So it stands to reason that a similar ratio would exist with distribution development. This myopic female empowerment group needs to focus on the big picture, rather than micro-manage debian langugage. What next? Should we call man pages, person pages?

  • http://linux-blog.org/index.php?/archives/27-The-Great-Schism-Continues-and-the-Rift-Grows-Wider.html Yet Another Linux Blog

    We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavoring to stifle is a false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still.? ~John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 18591It has happened again.? Just like water seeps into cracks in rocks and fre

  • http://linux-blog.org/index.php?/archives/86-MEPIS-Linux-Loses-Another-Support-Site.html Yet Another Linux Blog

    It seems that MEPIS is having trouble again. Some of you may recall a few bumps in the road in the past for MEPIS and the MEPIS community. Dotmepis.org however, set out to fill a niche for the MEPIS community by providing community developed packages

  • %

    :) Person pages instead of man pages, that was a good one…

    Getting back to MEPIS, I’m not saying that Donna was right in how she handled things. And I agree that it may have been a bad decision for MEPIS to donate to the US Army, due to criticism. But does that give permission to anyone to discuss it on a forum that must be kept to Linux discussion? As opposed to chitchatforums, etc…

    Your blog rocks, keep on going!!!

  • index.php devnet

    Yes…

    You normally would be right. However, if you notice in the forum thread I link to that I have pulled out the ‘forum description’ that Donna had during the time of the post.

    It states, “Here all registered users can create topics to talk about different issues. Freedom of speech is practiced here but be careful of what you post because this forum is open to everyone and abusive, offensive language will be edited or posts even deleted if they have no purpose in the topic except to offend others. This site and the forums are open to all people no matter what age, race, nationality, politics, sex or religion, so please remember that when you post.”

    In other words, she was warning those that came in to post to that forum that they needed to have thick skin. But her skin turned out to be rather thin now didn’t it?

    How is it again that someone criticizing a business decision is abusive and offensive language (especially when that business is not your own?). I could see it if Donna owned MEPIS…but that she doesn’t. So, it doesn’t make much sense now does it?

  • anonymous

    I think perhaps this:
    http://www.mepis.org/node/99 is what he was looking for. Comments Warren made a long time ago about the GPL, back when he actually communicated with us “common folk”.