- Capitalism and Alternatives -

GNU/Linux; winning by co-operation, not competition.

Posted by: Gideon Hallett ( UK ) on June 03, 1999 at 15:16:03:

In Reply to: hope we dont dissapear off the edge posted by Gee on June 03, 1999 at 13:34:40:

: Qx: The corrupt donít tarnish the good Gee. The corrupt corrupted themselves and
: nobody else. Thatís an essential aspect of individual responsibility. As far as AOL/
: Netscape ďrunning to mommy Ē over the monopolistic behavior of Microsoft I would say
: that comment is rather reductionist and omits the behavior and manipulative planning of
: Bill Gates. He isnít sombody to admire and if you look at his history with Steve Jobs you
: may not admire him either. If you really wnat to break away from Microsoft then try
: Linux.

: many people are trying Linux, its the only valid mechanism against microsoft - to select otehr products. The existence of Linux shows how 'manipulayive' planning is not some allmighty bar to competition. Only the government with the force of law can do that.

Actually, Gee, if you view the software market as a whole, GNU/Linux would not exist in a capitalist environment; it has been developed as a non-profit, co-operative project from the start. The only reason it can "compete" with MS is that the people writing Linux stuff do so for no money.

One of the basic principles behind the entire movement is that driving the GNU project; the free and co-operative sharing of information:

"Why Don't You Move to Russia?"

In the United States, any advocate of other than the most extreme form of laissez-faire selfishness has often heard this accusation. For example, it is leveled against the supporters of a national health care system, such as is found in all the other industrialized nations of the free world. It is leveled against the advocates of public support for the arts, also universal in advanced nations. The idea that citizens have any obligation to the public good is identified in America with Communism. But how similar are these ideas?

Communism as was practiced in the Soviet Union was a system of central control where all activity was regimented, supposedly for the common good, but actually for the sake of the members of the Communist party. And where copying equipment was closely guarded to prevent illegal copying.

The American system of intellectual property exercises central control over distribution of a program, and guards copying equipment with
automatic copying protection schemes to prevent illegal copying.

By contrast, I am working to build a system where people are free to decide their own actions; in particular, free to help their neighbors, and free to alter and improve the tools which they use in their daily lives. A system based on voluntary cooperation, and decentralization.

Thus, if we are to judge views by their resemblance to Russian Communism, it is the software owners who are the Communists."

(Richard M. Stallman, "Why Software Should Be Free" 24/4/92)

If you want to see what would happen to a commercial competitor to Microsoft, look at OS/2 Merlin; a far superior OS to Windows 95; but not one that anyone uses because Microsoft has near-complete power over the commercial market; any PC manufacturer unwise enough to try marketing a non-Microsoft OS is usually threatened with higher licence fees by Microsoft.

The only way to compete with MS is to produce something that doesn't "compete"; in being free, the software cannot be undercut by MS.

Which is why Microsoft are trying to combat Linux by a) buying up hardware manufacturers and 'pushing' NT pre-embedded into hardware; they are trying to use their existing commercial links to force NT into becoming the de facto standard, despite NT's hopeless inadequacy as an operating system.

In addition, Microsoft are trying to spread FUD about "free" software; that it is somehow unsupported and poorly made (in fact, due to the fact that *anyone* can look at the source code, it is usually of far higher quality than Microsoft's closed source code.

The support argument is also untrue; there are ten times as many programmers working on GNU/Linux than there are on Microsoft products; because GNU/Linux programmers aren't paid; they do it for kudos and the love of coding; this means that any bugs which do turn up in a Linux app are usually fixed within 24 hours, not several months and a "service pack" the way MS do.

The final method that MS are trying to use to suppress freedom in the software market is that of "embrace and extend" (as explained in the now famous "Hallowe'en Document" that got leaked from MS last October; basically, MS take an open standard (like Java, or Perl, or HTTP) and add their own proprietory bits to it; until it won't run properly with the competitors' code; they then use their financial muscle to force this proprietory code into a position of market dominance; as they did with Internet Explorer; a bloated and unstable bit of software that will happily rewrite your registry.

So basically, Linux can beat MS not because it can out-compete MS, but because MS cannot compete at all; at least, not in the conventional sense of "competition".

And Microsoft is trying to use its monopoly in order to defend itself.

If it were just a question of free-market economics, there would be no competitor to Microsoft.


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