Sunday, July 03, 2011

The price of freedom

Do we really want openness? With some things yes and with others no, I would say. Sometime back, Eric Raymond wrote a book called ‘The Cathedral and the Bazaar’. The cathedral meant a closed system like the Microsoft PC and the Bazaar was referring to Open Source. In some respects, this was true. Microsoft never shares its source code. Although now they are opening up a tad bit lately.

The issue is larger than this. Imagine if Microsoft were to open up Windows code, there would be so many versions of Windows in the market, like Linux distros, and we wouldn’t know which one to choose. For this brief facility, Microsoft charges us, albeit a little too much. There are several other reasons also why we pay them.

Think of this. Nobody writes OS’s anymore, except some users or groups and big companies. The majority of people using the OS are plain users and not techies. So it’s the duty of the OS writer(s) build security into the heart of the OS. Open source can be dangerous in the hands of a criminal, although the blame also squarely lies on Windows which is also so easily breakable.

My point is this: Look at Apple. Not so easily penetrated by bad eyeballs. But the other side of the paper prompts us with this question, ‘Can a bunch of techies sitting somewhere in the valley dictate which part of the software or hardware should be closed?’ After all what happened to freedom? To choose what a person needs. If the person is a qualified nerd, yes. Else the best option is to stick with the vendor limited by their vision, but have no sleepless nights.

The internet is open. But look at the spam, viruses and what not harvesting in the undergrounds. A user could easily fall prey to his rookie-ness. On the other side there are so many useful applications that we could take advantage of. Freedom comes at a cost. Are we ready to pay the price?

Let me know your thoughts.


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