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jts

"Linux is illegal"

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I got a phone call. The guy assumed I was running Windows. I told him I was running Linux. All he knew was Windows and Mac and he told me I'm lying. I didn't know there were still people in 2013 who never heard of Linux.

Here is a comical conversation. Maybe it's made up, I don't know.

http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1351146

Her: What system are you running?

Me: Ubuntu.
Her: Huh? No, I don't mean the program, I mean your operating system.
Me: Ubuntu is the operating system.
Her: I think you're mistaken... I don't know of a system called "Ubuntu"
Me: It's a derivative of Linux.
Her: You're joking, right?
Me: Umm... no.
Her: But... Linux is illegal!
Me: Huh? Who told you that?
Her: My son. He works for tech support at Staples.
Me: There's nothing illegal about it, a lot of people use it.
Her: No, it's illegal! It's all hacker tools to crack passwords and break into servers! You didn't use my internet with that, did you?
Me: Yeah, but I'm telling you, it's not illegal.
Her: Oh no, what if the police find out? I'll be in so much trouble! They'll think I'm a hacker! I need to call my son!

At this point, she dials her son from her cellphone. But, he doesn't answer. She is becoming increasingly distraught, and I'm worried she's going to panic.

Me: If you'll calm down, I can prove to you that there's nothing illegal on my computer.
Her: Listen to me. How much did you pay for your Linux system?
Me: Nothing. It's free and open source.
Her: Exactly! Do you honestly believe that any legitimate system would be available for free?
Me: Have you ever heard of the open source community, or open source software?
Her: Yeah, my son mentioned it... He said it's like a cyber-community of hackers all over the world. They share virus programs and illegal software.
Me: Your son is seriously misinformed. They write, fix, and improve on software and redistribute it to make it better and help others.
Her: That's ridiculous! How would they make money?
Me: Same as you and I--Go to work.
Her: Not to mention, giving away software is illegal!
Me: No, giving away proprietary software is illegal. Free and open source software is software that people have written and decided to give away, and allow people to change and improve on.
Her: Don't lie to me. Do you really believe that?
Me: Well, it's true.
Her: Are you dumb? You think people just have the time to write programs without any monetary gain?
Me: Well, yeah.
Her: I want you to leave. I need to figure out what to do about this. I don't want to report you to the authorities, but I will not take the fall for this. If I'm going to be arrested, I'm telling them the truth.

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I just attended a BSides, reviewed on my blog here. Laurel and I have been members of two DefCon local chapters and we both were in a locksporting club in Ann Arbor. At BSides, I think that everyone's favorite talk was Jayson Street who is Blue Team by day and Red Team at night. (Laurel and I both got awkward hugs, not posted yet.) I gave a "Fire [Marsdhall's] Talk" about private security and I asked, rhetorically, how many in the room had never gained access to a computer without permission. Then I said that we do not hire police officers who robbed convenience stores just to try it. The consequence being that law enforcement - like Superman versus Lex Luthor - must play catch-up in a never-ending battle.

As for freeware, I am working on a blog post in reply to the video from Code.Org in which they say that in computers, we make work fun, showing people on skateboards in the office, sitting around socializing, playing ping pong while a woman says that her company has gourmet chefs and free food. Of course, this anti-capitalist (or at least non-capitalist) mentality blanks out on where these goodies come from. But deeper than that, and relevant to Open Source, is that programming is perhaps the purest example of people creating useful things for the love of the work - the incentives are all internal. We had this discussion here before about Mises and Rand saying that the creative mind does not work for the incentives offered by others, that true creativity is extra-market or non-market.

I am rereading The Fountainhead now, to gather exactly the pithy quotes, and one on my list is where Roark tells Keating that in order to be a man who gets things done, you must love the doing.

Open Source sounds wrong to people who do not love what they do. And I must confess that a while back, my brother asked me about some project or other and I said that it was a lot of work without any reward and I was not going to pursue it and he said, "That sounds like an animal response." Just to say, high minded as I might like to be, I have an animal to feed: it carries my brain around.

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