What is FUD?

It is the intention of this entry to try and ascertain what the correct definition of FUD is.  It is evident that this term is thrown around much as of late and is a ‘catch all’ for many to group people that they do not want to deal with.  So, let’s start by getting the “official” definition of FUD.  No, we are not going to an Encyclopedia or dictionary…we’ll go to the place where the community defines exactly what the definition is…Wikipedia. According the the Wikipedia definition, FUD was first defined as “any kind of disinformation used as a competitive weapon.”  FUD then was applied to IBM and business practices.  Currently, it has become trendy to apply it to individuals. Later in the Wikipedia article, it goes on to state:

FUD can be used to offhandedly ‘smear’ criticism or legitimate debate, even in cases where the allegations are without merit or are merely implied; this tactic is often used in cases where the initial publicity surrounding claims of FUD is likely to vastly overshadow any subsequent retraction. Such an arbitrary usage is a general type of logical fallacy known as Ad hominem circumstantial

It is my opinion that this application of logical fallacy has replaced the actual definition of FUD in today’s society.  Today, people who see opinions and ideals other than their own gaining a public voice will immediately sling accusations of FUD toward the source…more often than not attacking the person or public voice that publishes them.  The gradual dilution of the actual meaning of FUD is part of the great divide that is prevalent in today’s online world.

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Mainstream Linux

I talk quite a bit about Linux going “mainstream” in this blog. The mainstream thought on Mainstream Adoption is that a “mainstream” thing is something that is familiar to the masses. According to the wikipedia, mainstream is:

  1. Something that is ordinary or usual
  2. Something that is familiar to the masses
  3. Something that is available to the general public

Linux has #3 down. I’d also argue that it is becoming “the usual” in quite a few areas of business and computing…so we partially have #1…but Linux will never be ‘ordinary’ as it’s only ordinary if you use it that way. #2 is where Linux hasn’t made complete progress. It’s well on its way to doing this.

I give this definition because I want to clarify that when I say I want Linux to “go mainstream,” I’m speaking of it becoming familiar to the masses. I don’t care about businesses or money or markets or anything else when I speak about the mainstream adoption of Linux. The reason I don’t care about Linux in business or the market value or channels of Linux service providers is because even if all of these things didn’t exist…Linux would still be there on my desktop…and if Linux didn’t exist, none of those markets, channels, or businesses that base themselves on Linux would be there. They are completely reliant upon Linux; but the opposite isn’t true. Therefore, I don’t care much about directions they want to see Linux go. Nor do I care about how much money Linux is valued at or how much money it can make people. I just want to see use of Linux spread. The more people that use Linux, the better off Linux will become…if not for more people that Linux will inspire to become active in projects then for making more noise if some piece of hardware (like a printer) doesn’t work in Linux. Perhaps if there are more voices in our chorus, people and businesses alike will have a harder time not listening to the music.

Despite my earlier notions that Linux and mainstreaming are a bad combination, I’ve switched to the school of thought that Linux becoming mainstream is a logical progression of growth. Especially considering that anyone using Linux doesn’t have the right to stifle this growth…linux is what linux does with or without our opinions and stances on matters. After all, open source is OPEN…for everyone…and if we’re speaking FOSS, then it’s free for everyone too. That means we don’t have a right to keep someone from using Linux nor do we have the right to keep Linux from someone…so mainstream, here Linux comes :)

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The Digital Divide in D Major

What constitutes private property? Is it a piece of land that no one has access to? Do you post a sign up that keeps people at bay? Or is it intangible as well…perhaps private intellectual property; some algorithm written on one line in a multi-million code line piece of software. Many have ideas on what constitutes a privacy and private property. For instance, social security numbers or credit card numbers are always considered private…they’re not given out to people or organizations without the consent of the holder of said numbers/cards. However, don’t be so sure that your information is safe.

As companies increase their business with technology, their information collection engine revs up and begins to go into overdrive. What sites do our visitors go to? What product would they be more likely to buy? What have been their last 10 purchases and would they like to see a product similar to it? This information collected is only on the outskirts of the real information such as SSN or Credit Card numbers but just the same it is information about you and about your habits.

Imagine this alternative look at information collection for a second. You get up one morning and open up your blinds…it’s a beautiful day. You slap on some clothes and begin to get ready for whatever it is you might do that day. You lay out a backpack and begin to get your things together…perhaps an ipod goes in with some ear buds…a pair of comfortable shoes in case you decide to go walking…a water bottle in case you get thirsty. Whatever you might need for a day out at a shopping mall or just plain out. Now picture a guy standing at your window where you drew your blinds snapping pictures of what you’re putting into your bag and writing down notes.

That would freak me out right away…but that is exactly what is happening to us online. We’re being studied and recorded every digital step we take. To me, this is definitely wrong…but to others, it is just normal. Odd how things can become normal after only a few years. Just the same, would you want someone standing over your every move in a certain area…recording everything you looked at, everything you touched or walked by…everything you might have expressed interest in? Probably not. This is the outskirts of the third digital divide.

The first digital divide was purely social-economic. It happened when countries that could afford the new fangled technology of the internet were spurring their economies with online purchases and online business. Countries that couldn’t afford to jump the bandwagon ended up eating its dust. This new digital divide though is political. This could be the third digital divideit could be the fifth…it just depends on who you talk to.

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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