November 15, 2000

Open Source apps for Windows - can't we all just get along?

Author: JT Smith

- by Tina Gasperson -

The way Linux plays against Microsoft brings to mind images of the
American revolution. Closed-source guys are the redcoats and the
free software community is filled with upstart patriots. It's not too
difficult to imagine Richard M. Stallman dumping boxes of Windows CDs
into Boston Harbor, or Eric S. Raymond donning a tricorn
and navigating the Sacramento River in California with a boatload of
rebel coders in tow.

Stallman, founder of the Free Software Movement:
"Either toss the Windows out of your computer, or toss your computer out the
window!"

The opposition the colonists had for British monarchy was
understandable; after all, their personal liberties and safety were
at stake. Is today's software struggle worthy of the same level of
strife? Certainly not -- but if you examine the atmosphere of animosity
perpetrated at big discussion sites like Slashdot, it'd be easy to
come away with the impression that software's freedom fighters are
ready to fight to the death against the tyranny of King Gates.

Logically thinking, the hatred should only go as far as the
reciprocity of the conflict. So, do Open Sourcers only hate Windows
because closed source is against Open Source -- or has it become just
too exhilarating to engage in heated battle? There are lots of
developers working on GPL software for the Windows platform;
shouldn't we expect that these projects would be welcomed with open
arms by the free software community?

User "karellen" in a freshmeat
discussion about free software for Windows
: "opensource
on windows would certainly suck. Most windoze users are clueless
about how programs work, how an OS works. Windoze is closed-source,
badly written, it runs like shit and wastes a lot of resources."

Jeff Covey in the same freshmeat discussion: "I think of
it [free software for Windows] as enabling people in their unhealthy
habits; we should be moving people to GNU/Linux or *BSD, not
encouraging their use of proprietary platforms by giving them better
software to run on them."

Developers working on Open Source software for the Windows
platform say they don't get a lot of direct negative feedback. Bruce
Winter is the maintainer of Misterhouse, a perl-based
home automation system
that runs on both Windows and Unix.
His project is hosted by SourceForge,
a free resource for Open Source projects (for any operating system)
that is offered by VA Linux (the owner of Newsforge).

"Our mailing list (350 members) is one of the few places that
I have seen Windows and Unix users peacefully co-exist." says
Winter. "We have yet to have a 'Windows/Unix is better' flame,
even though the list members are split 50/50 between the two. The
consensus is that Unix is more stable and generally a better think
because it is free and open, but Windows is easier and currently
talks to more hardware gadgets."

Butch Landingin, originally the head developer for Squishdot, a
Slashdot-inspired weblog program that runs on Windows or Unix, agrees
that the two camps can peacefully co-exist. "Since I released
Squishdot, I have never received anything negative about Squishdot
working on Windows -- in fact, it is the OS platform I developed it
on -- although I made sure when I first released it that it did, in
fact, work on the Linux version of Zope," he says. "Maybe
the fact that Zope & Python communities have both Windows and
Linux users that have been working together pretty well for a long
time is one reason why there doesn't seem to be any (or at least
less) animosity against MS Windows OSes and software."

So, it is a fact that Windows and Unix can live in peace. Maybe in
some colonies, they just don't want to. But wouldn't it behoove an
Open Source software repository like Freshmeat.net to include Windows
applications?

"I think not encouraging Open Source software, even if it
were exclusively for Windows, is just plain goofy," says Winter.
"Lots of people, especially kids just getting started with
computers, don't have access to Linux yet. They won't have a chance
to learn unless we give them the tools and examples to start with."

Jeroen van der Zijp, head developer of the FOX
platform independent GUI toolkit
says, "I regret [that]
freshmeat [doesn't] list any Windows software, as doing so would
significantly increase traffic to that site, and probably expose more
Windows users to the bounty of software currently available under
Linux."

But Landingin responds, "They [freshmeat] are not the only ones
listing open source software projects -- there's Appwatch, Icewalkers
and a bunch of other sites offering a similar service that don't
limit themselves to unix/linux based open source projects. So it is
not really that critical if freshmeat chooses not to list MS-Windows
based projects.

"On the other hand," he adds, "I would
rather hope that they change their minds and that they choose to
include them in the future."

The dual-booting writer of this article, in a snit, "Must
reboot. Stinkin' MS."

It's all well and good to get along, but does the other OS deserve
it? And is that even the point? Landingin doesn't think so. "One
would find, especially in the corporate world, that it is the
prejudice against Open Source that we still have to struggle against
most of the time, even though big strides have been made in the past
few years. There is still a lot of open source evangelization that needs
to be done, and this kind of 'exclusivity' and prejudice
against MS Windows doesn't help in those efforts."

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