Bruce Perens came down from the mountain

I have often heard the open source phenomenon (if you want to get pedantic with me about open source vs free software, start by blowing it out yer ass: I’m going to be pragmatic about it and use the two interchangably) compared to religion, but last night was the first time that I had this almost religious open source experience. In spite of all the grudges I have against organised religion, this experience was altogether quite a pleasant one.

The reason for this was the impressive oratorial performance of one Bruce Perens. Bruce is in town (namely The Netherlands) to speak to some important people so he generously took the time to speak to some of us humble hackers here as well. Click below to continue reading…

His presentation took place in an auditorium of the Technische Universiteit Eindhoven and the social get-together beforehand took place at the Eindhoven house of gracious host Lionel Elie Mamane.

In short, Bruce is able to communicate very effectively to non-hackers (i.e. normal people) about the dangers of closed standards, closed software and the addiction software model, i.e. locking clients in with your proprietary software and non-standard formats. His charisma goes a tad farther than this however. I found myself nodding along at almost everything he was saying at one point. After vigorously slapping myself around with my 3.8 kg Linux-running laptop, I was back to my usual cynical self.

His message can’t be ignored however. Bruce says that open source can be killed quite easily: it would take some very large and powerful company (for instance, uhm, Microsoft), an incredible collection of software patents (a collection that’s owned by said large and powerful company) and wider acceptance of software patent legislation. Now all three factors are already in place in the US. The third is about to be implemented in Europe unless we do something about it. Think about this: such a large and powerful company with a suitably scary software patent portfolio could sue and very effectively shut down open-source hackers everywhere. Where is your invincible open source then?

So, Bruce fortunately did not preach just doom and gloom. Bruce, you see, has a plan. And all had to agree, this is a good plan. Open source has to make itself a crucial and significant part of the world economy. It can do this by infiltrating governments and large organisations. If it does this effectively, legislation that endangers its continued existence and economically advantageous deployment will have great difficulty being passed. Bye bye stupid software patents.

This plan is not as far-fetched as it seems. Bruce (his ears must be very red by now) has also worked out how one should go about implementing this plan. It all makes such sense! As per usual, he has made the whole shebang public at It comes down to leveling the playing ground for competition between open and closed source by making sure governments and large corporations know the advantages and disadvantages of both, especially with regards to open standards and not getting locked into any one vendor who will later ride you for every IT cent that you have *very evil snigger*. So, it’s not a one-sided bashing of closed source and pushing of open source. It should make sense to any reasonable-headed person. Go read it. Call up your local politico and discuss this with him.

If we all work hard to stay informed about the issues and to inform those around us who might otherwise not be so interested, the future could be a more pleasant place than I expect.