Closed Open Source

This is going to be a technology rant. I’m just warning you.

Apple is streaming today’s meeting. To quote Apple:

Apple® will broadcast its September 1 event online using Apple’s industry-leading HTTP Live Streaming, which is based on open standards. Viewing requires either a Mac® running Safari® on Mac OS® X version 10.6 Snow Leopard®, an iPhone® or iPod touch® running iOS 3.0 or higher, or an iPad™.

This really, really, irks me! What get’s me is that line that Apple’s HTTP Live Streaming ‘is based on open standards’ but one is required to use an Apple product to view the stream! So, once more, Apple takes open standards and puts their own spin on it and then requires people to use only their products. In other words, the close the ‘open’ standards and make them proprietary! So, they have cut out all Windows users and all Linux users that don’t have iPads, iPhones, or iPod Touches.

Now, one solution is to just not view the event. And that’s true. I know I won’t be. But that’s not the issue. The issue is about closing ‘open standards’. Just like Apple’s issue with using Adobe Flash on the iPad (that it’s not open), and now they close other ‘open standards’. If that is what Apple is going to to with open source, I wouldn’t open it up either! If they are just going to take others property, that has been freely offered to the community with the stipulation of it being free, and then spit shine it and charge people for using it, then I would just keep my stuff to myself (if I was a developer). In fact, their whole OS is based on open systems (UNIX and FreeBSD). Once more, they take free, open source systems, throw out the very essence of what ‘open source’ stands for, package it with their own technology, and then sell it and whine and complain that Microsoft is evil for doing what exactly? Oh! That’s right. The exact same thing! Sheesh! ‘Hello pot! This is the kettle!’

This is not just limited to their OS, but some of their apps on the server use Open Source (the ‘Open Directory’ is based on OpenLDAP ‘the most widely deployed open source LDAP server’) and then, you guessed it, put their own spin on it, and want people to pay for it. Now, granted, they charge a lot less than Microsoft, but it’s still more expensive than free.

I used to be a huge Apple fan. I have sold their products to many people. At one time I thought their stuff was the best on the planet. But the fact that they take open source, tweak it, and then charge for it is appalling.

I guess I’m just too far in the Linux camp. I like the whole community feel of Linux. I like the whole ethos of Linux. The idea that the whole is better than the single. That if one suffers, we all suffer. That takes all of us to move forward. That if one of us succeeds, we all succeed. I love the fact that Linux OSes are built in just this way. They take technology freely given to the community, tweak it, and freely give it back to the community! Whether this is Debian, Fedora, openSUSE, PCLinuxOS, Ubuntu, etc. Now, I know that some of those distributions have commercial paths (Fedora = Red Hat; openSUSE = SUSE) but they still have the free versions available. What is mostly sold in those versions is support. This is especially important if you area business looking at long term goals. Furthermore, I don’t have a problem with this. Support is an essential part of any tool (and that is what technology is). If something breaks down, you want to be able to contact someone for some help.

I have found that the biggest hurdle that Linux has going for it is familiarity and investment. That is, sometimes, a Linux OS takes some getting used to (but, who are we kidding? If some people are coming from, say, Windows 98SE to Windows 7, there will be a huge learning curve). But for the average person, this really isn’t an issue. It just takes a week or two and the person is fully capable of using it.

What I mean by investment is just that - hard earned money spent on applications or data (music, movies, games, etc.) that can only be played through, say, iTunes or Windows. That’s a huge issue. But, again, when it comes to upgrading from one OS to another (say from Windows XP to Mac OS X 10.6), those Windows apps will not work on the Mac. And vica versa. Your Windows formatted iPod will not work with your shiny new Mac. You will have to reformat the iPod and loose all of the data stored on it because Apple doesn’t keep your music on their servers so you can sync it. That’s only done through iTunes.

Now, there are work-a-rounds for both of those issues with a Linux OS. For Windows games and other apps, there are a couple of great apps - Play on Linux or Wine. Neither of these solutions work a hundred percent of the time, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.

Concerning the iPod issues, the Windows formatted iPod will work on a Linux OS ‘out of the box’, as the saying goes. However, music purchased through iTunes won’t work. It’s locked down through Apple (In fact, it’s not really even your data. You are limited to how many computers that can be ‘authorized’ to play them). The only way around this is to burn the songs onto a CD in the cda format through iTunes. This format makes your music capable to be played on any CD player. But you lose all of the metadata - no titles, no artists, no album art, etc.! You will then have to import them to your Linux (or other OS) system and rename them all (if that’s as important to you as it is to me).

The best way around this last issue is to purchase your music from somewhere like or Both of those places allow you to purchase music in mp3 format. This allows you to play them on any operating system, music players, and (most) smart phones. And it’s your data. You can put it on as many systems and players as you want.

This last episode from Apple just furthers my growing disdain for them. I try and steer people away from them as much as possible. But, given that the other alternative that most people know about is Microsoft, Apple is the lesser of two evils.

Okay. I’m better now. Thanks for listening.

In the Love of the Three in One,

Jack+, LC


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