LinuxWorld Canada Visionary Series – John 'maddog' Hall

While I was a tad late to this session by maddog, entitled “Free and Open Source Software: Back to the Future”, the part I did catch was very good. His first point was that, until the early 80's the only way you ever got software was with the source (even though it wasn't necessarily called “Open Source” at that time). Back then software was often owned by the purchasing entity on contract, instead of licenses like it is today. He went on to cover why software patents are evil and how they really stifle innovation. He made the point that in most cases, patents come after software has already been written and are the work of lawyers – not programmers. He explained that since large companies are able to build large stockpiles of patents, they are able to negotiate with each other and avoid problems…while the little nimble companies with no or few patents end up being the losers in the current system. He went as far as to say that given the choice between the Devil, George W. Bush and Patents that he'd pick the Devil. He also wondered why software (an art form in his opinion) has patents but neither music or painting does. He asked, “what if Beethoven had to redo the 9th symphony due to patent infringement” or “what if Michelangelo had to repaint the Sistine Chapel because someone claimed they had patented a brush stroke he had used”.
Finally, he covered some proprietary myths and some advantages of OSS. One example he used was that, Microsoft once touted to him that one of their products supported almost 50 languages. After congratulating them, he explained that, with OSS since anyone who finds a native language missing from a product can contribute to the project, it lead to the first ever word processor supporting Swahili…or all 18 official languages of India plus many of the local tribal dialects, plus – well, you get the idea. Overall a very good session – thanks maddog!

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