Friday, June 22, 2007

Have you cake and run windows too!

In reference to this

Some people are for porting Linux apps to Windows, some people are against. Pretty straight forward, right? Well I can't tell anymore. Take a look at Nikolaj's "rant", and then take a look at Aaron's rebuttal. I think they're both right, and I don't think that's a conflict. For anyone not following along, Nikolaj thinks porting Amarok to windows is good because of X and Aaron thinks he should be more concerned with Y.

I'm a Linux geek, and proud of it, but for some reason, I'm posting this from windows. Granted, I've got putty and an X server running, so I've actually got access to all of my linux/KDE stuff on my other workstation. I'll also ignore the part about me really wanting to use OpenBSD instead, but not having the guts to go all the way. There are a couple things I need windows for here at work, and they're non-negotiable and like a pizza special, there are no substitutions allowed (believe me, I tried). Damn I love pizza.. with mushrooms, and ham, and green peppers.. oh and the cheese all over the place.. wait, where was I?

Right, so what I'm trying to say here is that I want to be able to run KDE natively on windows because I can't run it natively in Linux, and X forwarding (especially across platforms) isn't perfect. This is a very practical reason to port Linux only apps to windows. Of course, Aaron is somewhat sidestepping (or maybe de-emphasizing is a better word?) the practicallity issue by taking the higher road and bringing ethics into the picture.

Finally, a chance to use one of my favourite movie quotes...

"Yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should."
I think that makes Aaron's point pretty well (and if I'm lucky, he'll confirm or deny that..).

Should people port Linux apps to windows to make my personal life better? Sure, why not? (hey, isn't that both Nikolaj's point, and Aaron's question?)

Should they do so at the cost of the whole open source movement? Ok, that's a bit dramatic, but it makes the point I think.

There sure seems to be more at stake here than just the apps. My question is this: are Linux and other free(dom) platforms really at risk as a result of this? Worst case, it stays the way it is - which some elitists would love. Well, I guess it could be worse than that, but the elitists would still love it. Of course, without money on the line, all we'll ever have is anecdotal evidence for or against that opinion. (And of course, with money on the line, we get skewed results.. damn)

To put it plainly, I don't think having all of KDE available to windows users will hurt Linux or any other free(dom) OS.

Personally, I prefer a vision of a future where the OS is a commodity, and what people really care about are the apps, or even better, the functionality of the apps. Give people the freedom to choose their OS with no strings attached (unless you're counting financial cost, in the case of windows). THAT is a noble cause, in my mind.

To put this in terms of popular licenses (disclaimer: I'm not trying to imply their license preferences).. Nikolaj puts forth a practical commercial license, and then Aaron rebuts with the GPL.. and now I raise them both, with BSD. As I've hinted at in a previous post, I tend to favour imperfect total freedom over perfect partial freedom. Especially in this case, where we're talking about either doing something, or debating at length why not to do something (while everyone sits around looking funny). I say just do it. If nothing else, it'll make for a great movie one day ;-)

And finally, to directly respond to Aaron's challenge to Nikolaj, "...provide some sort of game plan for how it won't." How about somebody good at planning come up with this plan, while someone good at programming comes up with a port. First one to finish wins.

If this is all too heady and philosophical for you (and because I have no other logical reason to point out this link), I suggest you do as Steve Yegge suggests, and go write your own compiler. According to him, it should take you a life time to finish. And in his usual style, it'll take you a while too read too. Sounds like a perfect distraction from "big questions" like these. ;-)

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