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Nothing left.

2024-03-02, post № 283

politics, #software

Apparently⸺I am consciously out of the loop⸺, hot in academia nowadays is reacting to the societally desastrous questions raised about the indivdiual and their rights in the advent of profitable NLP; inventing some notion of anonimity. A tough sell when for years one perfected methods to reconstruct uniquely identifiable traits out of anything which wasn’t true noise.

At FOSDEM’24, A. Kergon [1] claimed that telemetry would be necessary in the present day with free software (in the original MIT sense exempt of monetary obligations) extinct and open source fools running out of spending power. He postulated industry-accepted anonymisation practices may lead to a synthesis of keeping certain parts of the free software promise while alleviating the development burden for underfunded teams by supplying them with data about how to effectively allocate their resources.

When we have reached a point where open source is in its semantics being stretched wide enough to allow flat-out telemetry on the operating system level, I have to seriously ask: What is there left?

Free software existed for as long as it existed on the fringes: hardware support was for decades lagging five or ten years behind and has in modern times only been solved by including proprietary blobs directly into the kernel. Free software never interoperated well with the proprietary formats required to look into the fabric of reality, forever more banishing it to its fringes.
For years I have been silently lamenting the seemingly omnipresent and never-halting urge popular projects seem to feel to become lacklustre copies of profit-interestedly successful products: Gnome copies Cupertino, KDE copies Redmond. AppImage copies Remond in program distribution who copy Cupertino in software indexing which is copied by FlatHub, a joint venture of Gnome and KDE. Modern open source is barren of any invention, barren of any identity observable from within the product.
Interwoven with its identity is putting up with mediocre functionality kept alive by an intrinsically political, quenchless hope for a morally acceptable usage of computing.

And yet, with arguments to now cater to the usager incompétent (cf. 271, 265), demolishing this last pillar is entertained.

But who truly is this usager incompétent who installs open source? I claim they don’t exist: when Thunderbird, one of the larger projects which is available around both Redmond and Cupertino, proudly counts around eleven million users [2] [3], I claim the principals I thought to fractionally share are being abandoned for a group comprised of no one.

Free software is dead. There is nothing left.

Footnotes

  1. Alasdair Kergon: "Telemetry BOF". In: FOSDEM’24, 2024-02-04. Online: https://fosdem.org/2024/schedule/event/fosdem-2024-3737-telemetry-bof/ [accessed 2024-02-27]
  2. Allessandro Castellani: "Thunderbird: Why Visual Change Is Good". In: FOSDEM’24, 2024-02-03. Online: https://fosdem.org/2024/schedule/event/fosdem-2024-2728-thunderbird-why-visual-change-is-good/ [accessed 2024-02-27]
  3. Thunderbird project: "Installation Statistics". Online: https://stats.thunderbird.net/ [accessed 2024-02-27]
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