Who Am I

Who Am I

Hello, I am Arthur Peters, age 26. I am now living in Portland, OR and going to Portland State to get a master's degree in Computer Science.

My Open-Source Theology

Tux, the Linux Penguin

I am a die-hard believer in free software. I have been using exclusively Linux on my own computers for a while now. I still administer my families Windows system, but I don't like it. It would be much easier if they ran Linux. Proprietary software always seems to be harder to work with because, although there are in some cases fewer bugs, there is nothing to do about the ones that many that still exist. You can call the company sure, but the likely hood that they will send you a patch to fix the problem is almost nil. However, with open source software if a bug rears it's ugly head there is hope for a quick fix. If the project is actively maintained you can contact the maintainer and he may well say "damn your right, I'll have it fixed in a week" or failing that you can find a fix yourself. This situation makes true fixes to bugs much easier to obtain and speeds the stabilization and improvement of the software because as users report bugs and the programmers fix them the software, of course, improves. Also there are often many, many programmer working on a project and more eye and brains make the development faster.

This is in stark contrast to the proprietary situation in which a relatively small group of programmers works on often more than one project at a time and when a user contact the company for help they invariably end up talking not to a programmer who could actually fix the problem, but a "customer service representative" who probably has never seen the source code for the program in question. This means that they can often only provide work-arounds not true solutions.

There are also a number of moral and idealistic reasons that I believe free software is right way to do things. Comertial software is generally very expensive. For a bottom of the line computer, buying Windows can almost double the price of the machine. This is crazy and for people with very little money it could either prevent them from getting a computer or make the computer an even greater financial burden than it would be otherwise. Open source software has prove useful for making very cheap computers, also due to the international nature of the developement community it is (in many cases) easier to translate an open source package into another language since the developer's may well have already set up hooks to allow it. This can help the generation in poor countries, which may well speak little or no english, gain access to the advantages of computers and the internet.

As Benjamin Franklin wrote:

As we enjoy great Advantages from the Inventions of others, we should be glad of an Opportunity to serve others by any Invention of ours; and this we should do freely and generously.

This is a sentiment that has been all but lost in this capitalistic, dog-eat-dog world. I think the free software community has already helped bring back a little bit of this altruistic, thoughtful additude. Also if you think about it you will realize that so many things that are useful or important to the human race were created by people who were just doing it for the joy of creating, the joy of helping others, or merely because they wanted to make life easier on themselves. Isn't it self-centered not to do your best to give something back? Wouldn't the world be better if everyone did give back what they created freely and generously?