Wednesday, June 19, 2002

Eric Raymond at Armed and Dangerous has this comment on Glenn InstaReynolds' TCS column on "version fatigue". As always, ESR is on the money. I use Linux both at home and at work. Emacs is my text editor. OpenOffice is my word processor and spreadsheet. Opera and Mozilla are my browsers. I've been using various flavours of Unix since 1986 (I started to learn C on a Torch minicomputer at school) and I've actually got quite good at it. I cannot physically bring myself to use Windows for anything other than the most cursory tasks. The GUI is a horror, it is slooooow, counter-intuitive and above all, unstable. It is expensive. It breaks Internet standards (part of the Microsoft embrace and extend strategy q.v. Kerberos, C#, .NET etc ad nauseam). Did I mention it is slow? Mandrake 8.0 on a 350 MHz Pentium II runs like the wind. Windows 2000 on a 350 MHz Pentium II is like molasses in Antarctica. API's are far too mutable (by comparison, I am still using, in production software, code that I wrote over ten years ago). If I want to do fancy shmancy graphic design work, then I'll use a Mac (which, of course, is to all intents and purposes running Unix anyway). To paraphrase a comment a colleague of mine made nearly fifteen years ago: I don't know what operating system serious computer users will be using in ten years' time. But I know it will be called Unix.

Eric Raymond has been kind of a hero to me for a while. Although he's never met me, and no doubt has never even heard of me, he has been an influence on my career track. For a while, I was working for an organisation here in Costa Rica writing software with an explicitly libertarian ethic. What is libertarian software? Well, it looks and smells a lot like Open Source software, but with the added proviso that it should enhance personal freedom as well. I was working on encryption technology for web-based email. Other facets under development were things like PKI and secure digital banking systems. A lot of the ethos I brought to my work drew on ESR's 'The Cathedral and the Bazaar'. Nobody who experienced the growth of the Internet in the 80's/early 90's could fail to have encountered Eric Raymond. The fact I can do all that I want without having to befoul myself with that hideous piece of crap that is Windows is in no small way due to Eric Raymond. It's just really cool that he has a blog, especially one with an outlook so close to mine. 

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