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Morality of Linux

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Phlegmak
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Forgive me if this has been discussed before.

So what's the Objectivist stance on Linux? Linux, which I'm using at this moment, is a freely available operating system. You can download the CD images, burn them to CDs, and install the OS, all for $0. So far, I've used Linux on my computer for a little over a year, and I've paid $0 for it.

Note that this isn't a technical discussion.

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Linux is an operating system developed by shared efforts of programmers world wide.

They were not forced to make it, its a good operating system, and you're not forced to use it.

Perfectly moral.

PS: I use Windows. I'm just not an o/s bigot.

Edited by Greebo
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So what's the Objectivist stance on Linux? Linux, which I'm using at this moment, is a freely available operating system. You can download the CD images, burn them to CDs, and install the OS, all for $0. So far, I've used Linux on my computer for a little over a year, and I've paid $0 for it.

If the owner, or owners, of the O/S make their product freely available to anyone, then you can use it for free. It's their problem how they'll make money off it, or even whether they want to.

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I agree with the two posters above. It is the PRODUCERS decision who to distribute their wares. If they do not request financial payment, then so be it.

Capitalism is not centered around money, but trade. Ie, "trader principle". So, the thing you give in return is 1) adherence to the GLP license (or whatever license they are using; 2) you are "advertising / promoting" their product by using it and talking about it, such as you have on this board.

This leads to, hopefully, more people and companies becoming aware of it, and a small percentage will fully adopt it perhaps, 1) contribute their time, money and resources to help the linux project. 2) Some may choose to pay for help, support and guarantees for x-years of updates (Connical, makes of ubuntu, does this.)

Also, some firms, such as MySQL, get acquired by for-profit companies for millions of dollars.

I hope this helps.

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So what's the Objectivist stance on Linux? Linux, which I'm using at this moment, is a freely available operating system. You can download the CD images, burn them to CDs, and install the OS, all for $0.

Actually there are commercial versions of Linux (eg, Red Hat Linux). But to answer your question, I agree with the earlier posts that state it is okay to let others use the OS for free. As the most recent one said, they get something from it by having some of the users donate time or money to further developing the OS.

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  • 1 month later...

I've been using Linux for eight years. Probably the best platform to learn programming on, easily the worst platform to use if you actually like third party proprietary software. Because of all the distributions, you have forks of gnome, forks of gcc, forks of the kernel in the form of patches, and third party application developers have a constantly moving target to distribute to, thus they won't and will never bother unless this division changes. I'm also sure I can prove a lot of it pretty immoral if I dug up all the subsidies given to various Linux projects, hell look at OpenBSD and their NSA grants. Free software my ass.

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Probably the best platform to learn programming on

Well, actually that depends on one's context. For example, I plan to be a hobby developer and use .NET and Visual Studio Express Editions. Mono and Wine have come a long way since they began, but not enough to change the fact that Windows is the best platform to learn programming on when one has such plans.

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I would think that there is enormous mutual benefit gained by many of the people that make Linux freely avalable are easy worth the investment of time and labour. They get their ideal OS, and not only that they to utilise the work of thousands of other programmers that are constantly working to improve it. Sounds very beneficial to all to me.

Id definetly agree that for most purposes Linux is the best platform to develop on, especially for pretty much anything but .NET. There is just so many great applications to use and a huge wealth of support that is usually built in (or easily to install). Even Common Lisp , which is only more recently gaining a lot more popularity again has at least one great application (clisp).

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Collectivism is the [allegedly] moral idea that a given collective group , as opposed to the individual is the standard of moral value. Ie that a collective is the basis of morality, to which individuals must be sacrificed as they are of no moral relevance, as opposed to the alleged rights of the collective(s) which is held as the base of all morality simply because it consists of many and not the one.

However the situation I describe where countless individual programmers working together in order to derive mutual benefit from each others work is in no way collectivism. It may be a collective effort, ie an effort to acheive one or more goals engaged in by a group, but that is in no way equivalent to collectivism. It is the efforts of individuals working together for their self-interest to acheive mutual goals. Sounds like its either invidualist (ie many individual working together in their rational self-interest in return for benefits) or at least morally neutral in that some of them may be working on Linux for recreation and wish to share their work due to generosity or the such.

I see no sense in which it is collectivist however. In what way is the rights of the collective being preached over the individual, in what way are invididuals being comprised to the collective? Or any of the other defining characteristics of collectivism.

Sure some of those that contribute to Linux beleive that it is their duty to contribute to the wider state of Linux, but that is a minority viewpoint as far as I can tell. Most of those that contribute to Linux show no indication of doing so out of a collectivist morality. If you think it is collectivist, then put up some evidence or shut up.

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So what's the Objectivist stance on Linux?

There is no "Objectivist stance" on Linux, because Ayn Rand never said anything about it.

Other posters are right in saying that Linux is perfectly moral.

I'm also sure I can prove a lot of it pretty immoral if I dug up all the subsidies given to various Linux projects, hell look at OpenBSD and their NSA grants. Free software my ass.

I've never heard of subsidies given to Linux projects - if you know of any, please let me know. BSD and its derivatives are NOT Linux, they're BSD. Linux and BSD are both Unix derivatives.

Well, actually that depends on one's context. For example, I plan to be a hobby developer and use .NET and Visual Studio Express Editions.

Have you tried programming outside the Microsoft ecosystem? i.e. have you tried real programming? :smartass:

Edited by BrassDragon
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However the situation I describe where countless individual programmers working together in order to derive mutual benefit from each others work is in no way collectivism. It may be a collective effort, ie an effort to acheive one or more goals engaged in by a group, but that is in no way equivalent to collectivism.

This reminds me of The Fountainhead when Roark said he doesn't work in committes because there is no such thing as a "collective mind" so I would disagree both with this assessment as well as the assessment that there is "no Objectivist stance" per se. I believe this aspect of TF shows that Ayn Rand would have disapproved of any "Open Source" efforts.

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This reminds me of The Fountainhead when Roark said he doesn't work in committes because there is no such thing as a "collective mind" so I would disagree both with this assessment as well as the assessment that there is "no Objectivist stance" per se. I believe this aspect of TF shows that Ayn Rand would have disapproved of any "Open Source" efforts.

You're wrong, both about how Objectivism works and how open source software works.

Objectivism is defined as "the philosophy of Ayn Rand." There is nothing in Ayn Rand's philosophy that states that working on a committee is immoral, including the quote you cite. A broad claim about the morality of all committees, in all contexts, is impossible to make. To be more specific, not all committees function on the premise that there is a "collective mind." Depending on your definition of "committee," committees are practically a necessity of industrial society; groups of people must collaborate and make decisions together to make certain kinds of progress, and to do so is a good thing.

As for the second issue: Open source software is as individualistic as software engineering can get. Software is extremely complex, and programmers in corporations, who write closed-source software, work on highly collaborative teams. Open source software allows individuals to customize code to suit their needs; it is when these individuals choose to contribute their changes back the the community that open source software grows.

So even if you'd been right about committees, you'd still be wrong in comparing that to open source.

Edited by BrassDragon
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As for the second issue: Open source software is as individualistic as software engineering can get. Software is extremely complex, and programmers in corporations, who write closed-source software, work on highly collaborative teams. Open source software allows individuals to customize code to suit their needs; it is when these individuals choose to contribute their changes back the the community that open source software grows.

The development of Linux is controlled by Linus Torvalds (an individual, not a "collective mind"). Changes are made to Linux because programmers and companies submit their own customizations, which may or may not be approved for inclusion in the production kernel.

As for a programming environment, I prefer Linux over Windows. I tend to think Windows is better for end user activities like browsing the web or typing a document. But when it comes to getting "real" work done, such as programming or setting up a server I think Linux is superior. I will say, however, that if you are very new to programming it would probably be better to learn on Windows with .NET and then later move to Linux. That's because I think Linux is more complex and assumes the programmer really knows what he's doing.

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The development of Linux is controlled by Linus Torvalds (an individual, not a "collective mind"). Changes are made to Linux because programmers and companies submit their own customizations, which may or may not be approved for inclusion in the production kernel.

I would just add that the kernel project, headed by Linus Torvalds, is only one of many projects that go together to make a working operating system.

As for a programming environment, I prefer Linux over Windows. I tend to think Windows is better for end user activities like browsing the web or typing a document. But when it comes to getting "real" work done, such as programming or setting up a server I think Linux is superior. I will say, however, that if you are very new to programming it would probably be better to learn on Windows with .NET and then later move to Linux. That's because I think Linux is more complex and assumes the programmer really knows what he's doing.

I think Linux is better for end user activities :-) :D

For people new to programming, I would highly recommend Python. You can use it on Windows or Linux. To get started, go here: http://www.python.org/doc/current/tut/tut.html

That said... us geeks should start our own thread rather than hijack this one if we want to talk about what tools we prefer and so on. I would encourage anyone replying directly to my comments here to do that.

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This reminds me of The Fountainhead when Roark said he doesn't work in committes because there is no such thing as a "collective mind" so I would disagree both with this assessment as well as the assessment that there is "no Objectivist stance" per se. I believe this aspect of TF shows that Ayn Rand would have disapproved of any "Open Source" efforts.

What are you talking about? The majority of work done on Linux is not done by a committies, but individuals or groups working together. I repeat though, that doesnt make them collectivist, or immoral committes.

Also what on earth would lead you to beleive that Ayn Rand would disapprove of Open Source? What the fact that is not primarily geared around profit? Well gee nothing in any of her works condemns that as such.

About the only real influence "committes" may have is that certain Linux based distros are governed by such. Remember, Linux is strictly speaking a KERNEL not the Operating System. One man such as Linus may be able to govern that, but it would take a committe to effectively manage the direction of an OS based around that kernel I would suspect. And that need not be a bad thing, I just suspect its too much work for one guy to manage.

As for us nerds ( I think geek is too negative a word in this context) taking over the thread, look in the Software section you should find a thread about whether Linux/Wndows is better for programming, even if I have to start one in a few minutes :D

Edited by Prometheus98876
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Open Source says that you do not own the work of your mind. Anything you produce (as an individual or a group) MUST be shared FOR FREE with everyone else in the world who wants it. I fail to see how that could ever be in-line with Objectivist principles.

Edited by KevinDW78
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Open Source says that you do not own the work of your mind. Anything you produce (as an individual or a group) MUST be shared FOR FREE with everyone else in the world who wants it. I fail to see how that could ever be in-line with Objectivist principles.

Um, no. No one ever said it "MUST" me shared for free. People do it because they want to. They release code, others can improve the code or write more code on top of it thereby making the application better for them.

You'll find that most of the oss people are very serious when it comes to copyrights.

It's true that some licenses force you to publish every modification you make for free, but thats the choice of the original author of the code you're using. It's their work and their choice.

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I would equate it to the idea of gift giving. Releasing code to the open source community is not to make others happy(though this may be a byproduct), but rather to make the giver happy. There is a justifiable sense of pride in saying, "Look what I have created. The project now functions better, and more efficiently because of me."

The product of the mind can be given away in a voluntary exchange if the giver so wishes. Open source is about as far from coercive altruism as you can get.

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Open Source says that you do not own the work of your mind. Anything you produce (as an individual or a group) MUST be shared FOR FREE with everyone else in the world who wants it. I fail to see how that could ever be in-line with Objectivist principles.

That would all depend on which license you use. What you are referring to is releasing the software to the public domain, which is not necessarily the same thing as open source, it's just a subset of it.

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That would all depend on which license you use. What you are referring to is releasing the software to the public domain, which is not necessarily the same thing as open source, it's just a subset of it.

From www.opensource.org:

Open source is a development method for software that harnesses the power of distributed peer review and transparency of process. The promise of open source is better quality, higher reliability, more flexibility, lower cost, and an end to predatory vendor lock-in.

What is predatory vendor lock-in? It has an anti-Capitalist ring to it.

One of our most important activities is as a standards body, maintaining the Open Source Definition for the good of the community. The Open Source Initiative Approved License trademark and program creates a nexus of trust around which developers, users, corporations and governments can organize open-source cooperation.
bold mine

From the same website's Open Source Definition:

1. Free Redistribution

The license shall not restrict any party from selling or giving away the software as a component of an aggregate software distribution containing programs from several different sources. The license shall not require a royalty or other fee for such sale.

I guess this isn't exactly like public domain, but if I read this right: you are allowed to make money from the sale of a program/code, but you can't make money on how someone else uses that code after they buy it from you?

2. Source Code

The program must include source code, and must allow distribution in source code as well as compiled form. Where some form of a product is not distributed with source code, there must be a well-publicized means of obtaining the source code for no more than a reasonable reproduction cost preferably, downloading via the Internet without charge. ...

5. No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups

The license must not discriminate against any person or group of persons.

What does this have to do with software standards?

6. No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor

The license must not restrict anyone from making use of the program in a specific field of endeavor. For example, it may not restrict the program from being used in a business, or from being used for genetic research, or from being used by a socialist activism organization.

bold mine

So those are parts of what defines Open Source, according to the "community-recognized body for reviewing and approving licenses as OSD-conformant."* I don't know anyone involved in this initiative, but the "good of the community" and anti-discrimination sections above don't give me warm-and-fuzzies about it.

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It has an anti-Capitalist ring to it.
Many people associated with the open-source movement, and many who champion it are anti-capitalists.

Open source itself is different from the various open-source movements and ideologies. There are people who release their code and open-source for rational reasons. These can be directly commercial reasons:like people who want to get widespread adoption for the first few versions; or people who release the code and are happy to have others use it and add to it, but make their money from consulting etc. based on that code; or, people who are adding to some project as a hobby; or people who are contributing because they support some cause (e.g. writing encryption software that Chinese can use to circumvent their government).

There are many open-source developers who are also anti property-rights in principle.

And, then, there is the simple fact that 90% of open source might as well be free because nobody would pay a dime for it.

As for Linux, it is an indirect grand-child of government intervention. AT&T developed UNIX, but ended up giving it away for free because of government regulations. Cannot blame Linus for this, but without anti-trust regulation, LINUX would probably not have existed in its current form.

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Open Source says that you do not own the work of your mind. Anything you produce (as an individual or a group) MUST be shared FOR FREE with everyone else in the world who wants it. I fail to see how that could ever be in-line with Objectivist principles.

Actually, that is not inherihently part of Open Source. It certainly isn't a part of the Open Source software I will make. The licence I will keep ownership of my work but grant others the right to use that work to help with their work. That is the case for most Open Source software.

So those are parts of what defines Open Source, according to the "community-recognized body for reviewing and approving licenses as OSD-conformant."* I don't know anyone involved in this initiative, but the "good of the community" and anti-discrimination sections above don't give me warm-and-fuzzies about it.

That also isn't inherihently part of Open Source. Many Open Source projects, including the ones I will make, don't include such principles.

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