[linux-elitists] Linux Journal, April 1994 - November 2017

Andy Bennett andyjpb at ashurst.eu.org
Sat Dec 2 06:48:42 PST 2017

Hi peeps,

> http://www.linuxjournal.com/content/linux-journal-ceases-publication
>   Linux Journal Ceases Publication
>   Dec 01, 2017 By Carlie Fairchild
>   EOF

Thanks Rick! That's really sad to hear.

> Columnist Kyle Rankin also has a valedictory column, here:
> http://www.linuxjournal.com/content/so-long-and-thanks-all-bash

We've won on so many fronts, but we've also lost our way. It would have 
been unthinkable and scandalous even a decade ago for a presenter at a 
Linux conference to use Powerpoint on Windows, but you only have to count 
the Macbooks at a modern Linux conferences (even among the presenters!) to 
see how many in the community have lost the very passion for and principles 
around Open Source software that drove Linux's success.

That really succinctly sums up how I've been feeling about the Linux 
community for the last 8 or 10 years. By 2007 we were doing so well on all 
the platforms. Even I'd moved from my IRIX and Windows desktops to Linux.

There were usable Open Source alternatives for almost everything you could 
need and even games were starting to be a thing!

Then the smartphone revolution happened and we completely lost our way. In 
many ways I feel similar to how things were in the early '90s; let alone 
the late '90s when ESR was writing his essays about how to change the 
economics of it all.

These days it's taken as a given that proprietary apps on the most popular 
platforms are the only option. People don't design protocols and build UIs 
on top of them anymore: they build monolithic, proprietary, architectures 
for niche use cases, none of which overlap or work together in a meaningful 
way. Data is locked in to whichever app wrote it out to the file^W cloud. 
...and good luck trying to get your hands on the actual underlying file at 

Of course, I feel bad. I blame myself. I was just a young whippersnapper 
when I discovered Linux in the mid '90s. All the contributors were older, 
cleverer people than me. I assumed that I'd take my place amongst them 
eventually. ...but I didn't (and still don't) contribute enough. I fought 
for Open Source at work and I coached company lawyers on the intricacies of 
the GPL, but I never had a big project that I cared about with a community 
around it.

I work in a pretty forward thinking place right now. People talk about Open 
Source a lot and we're encouraged (strongly) to Open Source everything we 
do. ...and it does actually happen for pretty much everything. ...but 
people don't know what it means. They fetishise Amazon and their 
proprietary products without the hindsight of having lived thru' the MS and 
IBM monopolies before them. They think that if it's a "microservice in the 
cloud" then it's "reusable" and, of course, they all have Macbooks of one 
form or another.

They're not your sterotypical brogrammers either; it's the most diverse 
place I've ever worked. It's multidisciplinary in a big way and, as a man, 
I'm often (almost always) in the minority (by a small margin) in meetings: 
and we've got nearly 800 people. However, the approach to software is one 
that I recognise from the brogrammer ethos: use Open Source but don't 
really understand or value what it is, why it's important, how it was built 
or how to build your own things in that powerful, generic and reusable way. 
Hack away until you've covered the narrow scope of a particular "story" but 
don't look for any simplifying abstractions that might give you more than 

What to do?

The arrogance that got us from "underdog" to where we needed to be is not 
appropriate anymore but, somehow, we need a strong vision with strong, 
opinionated leadership; someone who can hold standards; technical, moral 
and philosophical, high whilst still being liked by the many.

A few years ago I thought we had a narrow window to reclaim the handheld 
ecosystem. I thought that colour e-ink would be our opportunity to be able 
to make a fully open platform. The battery requirements would not be 
onerous and the graphics engine couldn't be expected to have amazing 3D 
rendering capabilities. It could be made from off-the-shelf components and 
realistically compete with any custom platform from a big manufacturer.

It seems that colour e-ink has been longer coming than I anticipated. 
Perhaps that's a good thing because I don't know of any projects seriously 
looking to do something like that since OpenMoko. Maybe we'll have our day 
again but it's not clear that there's the community in place to compete 
with, say, somthing like CityMapper either on the technical front or the 
political one.

Open Data that would power such a thing is still in its infancy. Perhaps 
that's where we start?


andyjpb at ashurst.eu.org

More information about the linux-elitists mailing list