Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Russia and a National OS. Just another bureaucratic mess?

In response to this post on Slashdot regarding the Russian ideal to mandate everything:

Possibly similar to what I see in the United States. Schools force kids to read great books against their will, rather than ending up with well educated kids, just a lot of kids that really hate to read and will likely not pick up another book once they are out of school.

What is going to matter is implementation. With the reading example, it is intended that kids end up reading really good books, but it comes down to the teacher that often has the biggest influence on what a student ends up with, and how they appreciate it.

Standardization and organization for efficient use of resources to develop a base infrastructure, I believe, is one of the few legitimate purposes of government. Allow for free market competition, but standardize public education and government offices to use an open standards and basic system tools so everyone can play nice. This will expand opportunity for the private sector / free enterprise to build upon these tools. Both the public and the private sector can have influence on the future development and auditing of the tools so that bugs get fixed and if necessary, forks are made.

The problem you identify already exists with Windows. The difference with Linux is that open standards make it much less of a hack job to implement interoperability. Building tools on Windows has you at the mercy of the closed tools you use. If an API is buggy or needs to be changed in some way, you are not allowed to. A free base system gives people options and proprietary software developers on their toes.

If Russia is going to fork Fedora and say "screw it" to the GPL and close source it because they feel like it and make one system everyone will be taught, and stop developing it once it is "good enough", then it will be a disaster. I get the impression that is not their plan; honor the GPL, get help from Red Hat as necessary to train their own developers, become an equal partner with respect to the community and provide upstream contributions, keep the source open and available to the public. This will provide new opportunity in many ways for all people, not just Russia.

I understand where you are coming from, which what encouraged me to respond, but the Russians have never been so insidious or oppressive of its people as Microsoft has been to its user base, unless you think gallop polls are the heart of democracy and liberty... then who knows. A national OS based on Linux is like collecting taxes to build roads, not telling people where they have to drive. Private sector can have their tour buss and taxi cabs, but let that be far different than gated highways mandating police escort.

My feeling with regard to user apathy is to look at the above situation and think "who cares if I get where I need to go?", not to mention all the other great advantages of not having to do any work or remember how to get places.

It isn't the standardization that is the problem, so much as the centralized control of such standardization that creates problems. I am certain the Russian government is going to do a better job of oversight with regard to enabling the Russian people to get the most out of their computing experience than Microsoft.

I look forward to when the United States will consider catching up with the times, but I don't expect much from a country that still regards Ricardian Economics as God's Will... but that's another issue. :)

As far as any perceived irony of Russia and China embracing Linux:

Even worse case scenario, Russia and China want total control over their country, and where they may not be able to have control, the most important thing is to ensure that others DON'T have it. Software freedom will ensure that Microsoft isn't a dictator, and in "oppressive" countries like Russia or China, I am sure their leaders are the first and best to recognize a regime hell bent on global domination and control. Have it their way, they would take credit for giving Microsoft the idea in the first place.

Americans have been spewing their Liberty, Freedom, and Democracy rhetoric so long without any thought to the meaning, they wouldn't know a dictatorship if it kicked them in the face, stole their money and replaced it with "notes" depicting people that used to know what those terms meant.

Too subtle?

Woot to Russia. I look forward to seeing where this goes in many respects.

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