Re: An open letter to the open source community (Oct. 2)

Attempts to paint software created using open source techniques as insecure or technically deficient have generally not succeeded.

As a result, those who have a vested interest in the failure of open source licensing and community development models have engaged in non-technical fear campaigns based on ignorance. Sometimes such campaigns take the form of sponsored analyst reports which contradict what IT managers can see with their own eyes. Other times they emerge as unsubstantiated attacks, or threats which are not acted upon. And sometimes they involve subtle changes of mindset, such as characterization of open source as a technology.

It is the uncritical repetition of such campaigns that forms the source of some of the media mistrust that I have seen within the open source community.

You have tried to be balanced, but you must also be aware that not all journalists share such objectivism. I am thus somewhat surprised at your reaction to the request that trust be earned, rather than simply bestowed upon anyone who can get a media badge at a trade show.

There are indeed reporters who have reputations for fairness, and they earn the respect of not just open source users but the public at large. However, as you well know, there are still many instances where advertisers and clients are given uncritical soapboxes for their world views. Since the nature of open source projects means that there is little marketing money behind them, it’s no surprise that their opinions are not taken into account at such pay-to-play media outlets. Compounding the problem are writers who see open source threatening their “”beats,”” and reflect such threat in their own output.

Having said that, even reporters making an attempt at fairness can display bias in the interest of attracting attention, such as is demonstrated within your own letter. That you would have a headline asking readers if they should be scared of using Linux, even if the body of the associated story is “”no,”” is to sensationalize the issue far beyond merit.

This is, after all, just software. It’s not SARS or the Middle East or gun control. I can’t think of any circumstances under which people should be scared of using software. Concerned? Sure. Cautious? Of course. But your headline proved to be, quite literally, a case of fear-mongering.

Open source users have become sensitive — maybe too sensitive — to fear-mongering, because it has generally become the last bastion of those who are themselves afraid of the advances open source. There are many vested interests who are battling the spread of techniques that put the power to control IT in the hands of users rather than suppliers. Open source folks are confident they have the right idea, of course, but most also believe that all they need is a fair hearing.

It should be of no surprise that you encountered such mistrust. The antidote is simply the gaining of respect — not by parroting one side or another, but through fairness and critical thought. In that I sense that you and I are in full agreement.

Evan Leibovitch
Linux Professional Institute

Re: An open letter to the open source community (Oct. 2)

I think you are on the right track. I would be disappointed if this was otherwise. One has to be like a scientific investigator, and do their best to sanitize arguments of emotion on the SCO issue. There are those who own intellectual property and have worked hard for it, and those who do not own any such thing and might not understand the difficulty of trying to protect them. I am certain that all intellectual proper owners are keeping an eye on the SCO actions, and any legal decisions, and cringe when they ponder whether there is truth in this matter and the consequences to such a thing, either way.

This is clearly a double-sided issued, no matter in which camp one stands. In 1987, I’ve played with a commercial version of SCO UNIX. Though I can’t remember exact details of the O/S, except that it was tedious to install, it ran well on the XT I had owned then. So, a few years back when we started using Linux in our business, I was wondering what happened to SCO in comparison (without having the time to investigate). Now I know. As an intellectual property owner, I can only say that it would be wrong for a free-for-all stake-of-claim to any intellectual property of SCO, if SCO does establish ownership of it. I guess everyone has to consider the possibility that free O/S software might be history in the future. We can only hope that if SCO “”wins,”” that all small businesses and individuals can have access to a flavour of Unix that is inexpensive.

Anthony R. Sukdeo

Re: An open letter to the open source community (Oct. 2)

As someone who came into this industry as an “”outsider”” and keeps part of that psychology intact, I have always had a problem with this ongoing religious war.

I find that this industry is not immune from the same problems as health care, politics and other arenas. Sides are chosen and it turns into a war of attrition.

I have constantly argued internally, then been able to enforce the policy as CEO, that we are agnostic insofar as we use the tools we need, to make products customers want at prices people can afford. There are good things about Microsoft products and not-so-good things. This doesn’t make Solaris, or Java or even Linux the cure or replacement. I often shake my head at people almost engaged in fistfights over the Windows versus Linux issue. To me it’s like a Swiss Army knife versus a log-splitting maul — different tools, different needs. I think most of the problem arises when you try to have one side or the other “”win””.

The “”geek”” community that is so violently anti-Microsoft was the same community that couldn’t have cared less if ordinary consumers used PCs. It took Microsoft to get PCs into every home, and to do that meant compromises and some dubious business practices. I am convinced that had not Bill Gates and crew moved things in this direction, the geeks would have tried to keep computing to themselves.

You are so right — everyone wants to use the media to promote their religion, but nobody wants the media to report their sins.

Robert Gagnon, CEO
Frozen Dirt

Re: An open letter to the open source community (Oct. 2)

I applaud you for publishing this story.

Gabriel Ahad
Director of Communications and Marketing, Canadian Internet Registration Authority

Re: Appetite for destruction (Oct. 1)

I enjoyed your editorial on the recent computer desruction event in Ukraine.

But that brings me to a minor beef – your use of the phrase “”the Ukraine””. You wouldn’t have written “”the Canada”” if the event had occurred here. So why “”the Ukraine””?

It’s been suggested ( that “”the use of the definite article in English before the name Ukraine is awkward, incorrect and superfluous. Writers who care about good style in their English grammar and the correctness of their language will always avoid the use of ‘the Ukraine’ and use only the simpler and correct ‘Ukraine.'””

You care about good style in your English grammar, right?

Thanks for letting me vent, and keep up the good work!

Alex Turko
Legal Counsel
Financial Services Commission of Ontario

Re: Appetite for destruction (Oct. 1)

How about a monitor ‘pinata’ using golf clubs for the sticks? It would take care of two frustrations at once.

Pat Potratz
DBA Group

Re: CCRA loses data on 120,000 Canadians in server theft (Sept. 30)

Well, well, well.

First of all, how come a laptop was used as a server? Are they short on servers? When an entry level server starts with $900?

And encryption would slow down operations? It makes you wonder what qualifications those guys from IT have.

At the company where I work, all the financial and HR data is encrypted and on our servers. And if the CFO or the VP or whoever else with rights to those particular databases needs to access them from home or wherever else in the world, they can do it through our VPN.

Their access time, length of access and operations are monitored by the IT department. The next day, they are notified about this. Only when they sign these reports is the database modified definitely.

If they don’t, we know whose password was stolen and we can take it from there. If they get their laptops stolen, I couldn’t care less. All the info is still on my servers, and no security breach has occurred. If we can do it (and a lot of other companies are doing it also), why can’t CCRA? Are they stupid or are they lazy?

Alexander T. Petrusa

Re: Can’t we all get along? (Sept. 23)

Reading your recent article, you got me thinking about how inkjet printer manufacturers are now building their printers with “”smart”” cartridges — even on the least expensive models. A small chip is embedded into the disposable ink tanks, supposedly to allow the printer to be able to “”meter”” the remaining contents. But let’s face it: in this day and age of almost non-existing computer profit margins, manufacturers are always looking for new ways to generate revenue. Enter the era of the disposable printer. They take a loss on the sale of the printer, and then they’ll make it up by the price of the consumables.

One doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that by the time I purchase my second replacement ink cartridge, I could have purchased a new printer — and it comes with a cartridge!

Call him an environmentalist, or an entrepreneur, but someone thinks this whole ink cartridge thing is a rip-off, and creates a startup company selling kits to allow you to refill those expensive ink tanks and cartridges at a fraction of the cost of replacing them. The printer manufacturers catch wind of this, and realize they might actually be losing money for each new printer they sell, now that their customers can get their “”fix”” elsewhere.

So the printer manufacturers call an emergency meeting to discuss what to do. They consult with their legal counsel, but after concluding that patenting ink wouldn’t stand up in court, they consult with their engineers and devise a way of rendering the ink tanks and cartridges useless once the factory supply of ink has been spent. This reminds me of the old Microsoft debate: What if your car would only run on Microsoft gas?

Anyway, the inkjet printer manufacturers aren’t the first to try something like this. Xerox, I believe, was one of the pioneers in this arena, with their photocopiers and laser printers.

Keep ’em coming (your fine articles that is).

Mike Morneau

Letters to the editor must include the writer’s name and company name along with an e-mail address or other contact information. All letters become the property of Editors reserve the right to edit submissions for length and content.

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