I’ve only been part of the FOSS community for a couple of years. But even in that short time I’ve seen a couple of witch hunts, and to be honest, they leave a bad taste in my mouth.
You might know what I’m talking about — someone releases a small piece of software to the community, maybe as a script or an installer program, but doesn’t give complete access to the full code.
Which is their prerogative. No one is beholden to release every line of code, every speck of every last text file. You’re free to code your own software and distribute it only as a binary, provided of course you’re not stepping on any license requirement in doing so.
Invariably however, some FOSS zealot takes immediate offense, and starts up the witch hunt. Suddenly every dependency or script command has an ulterior motive, and there’s a demon behind every door. Somebody cries wolf (“malicious” seems to be the word of choice) and now everybody is worried that they’ve poisoned their otherwise virginal system.
Case in point. Let’s review: An install and backup script, offered as a time-saver and convenience is suddenly an evil manifestation of The Dark Side, a spy, a poltergeist, a thokolosi with a mission to corrupt and destroy. Potentially, of course — it even says so much in the title.
In fact, nothing is ever proven, if you read the original thread offering here. Nobody ever picks apart the program and proves, beyond a reasonable doubt, that it was spying or prying or a minion of Redmond, working in disguise.
But by then the damage is done. There’s no point in continuing to offer something like that, and I can hardly blame the OPer for withdrawing his/her time-saver script when the community response is tantamount to crucifixion. To hell with that. Why bother?
But on the other hand, why bother trying to infect the Linux community with malware at all? You’d be stepping into a lion’s den just by trying. Ninety percent of FOSS users are far too savvy to fall for a trick that subverted their privacy or rights. And the other 10 percent have guardian angel geeks that make sure they don’t fall for that either.
No, there’s no point in trying to dupe the FOSS community into installing malware or spyware. You’d do much better to set up a simple Web site that stole credit card numbers from stupid Windows users. So accusing (not proving, either — just accusing) a simple backup script of kicking Richard Stallman in the shins is rather … petty.
And really, if the FOSS zealots in the Ubuntu community want to be purists, they should start by uninstalling the proprietary drivers for their video cards, or their network cards. You heard me. I double-dog dare you to yank your Broadcom wireless firmware because I know you won’t do it to save your life. God forbid you should live without Compiz, but death to anyone who doesn’t let you peek at their 16Kb bash script.
So why berate a community member over something as innocuous as a personal backup script, when you have the better part of the Nvidia corporation jacked directly into your kernel, looking for new ways to addict you to their product line? Who’s the demon now — the community member, trying to simplify a few menial tasks with an installation script, or a greedmonger international company with no soul and no moral obligation to do the right thing? I don’t know about you, but better the devil I know (through a few forum posts) than the devil I don’t know (except by its price tag).
So to review: Just because it’s closed source doesn’t mean it’s trying to steal your credit card number. Just because the author isn’t quite ready to go public with an invention doesn’t mean it’s a keylogger looking for your e-mail password. Stop trying to hang an albatross around the neck of a budding software developer by demanding s/he meet your personal criteria for freedom. Save your campaign for the genuine and legitimate dangers.
And before you cast that first stone, make sure your system is pure, clean and hand-coded from scratch. ‘Cause if you’re hacking away at another community member from the comfort and safety of the nvidia-glx package, then you’re not a zealot. You’re a hypocrite.