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Linux and Open-Source PDF Print E-mail
Written by Kurt Palmer   
Sunday, 04 August 2002
The Industrial revolution, between the years 1760 and 1820 in Europe, marked an end to economic production hinged on cottage industries and handcrafting, instead industries and economies would thrive or fail depending on their ability to use the high technology of that time.  Thanks to a thought-provoking BBC documentary series by James Burke called Connections, I no longer believe that the proper term for this effect is revolution, but evolution, our progression from one form of high technology to another, however the unprepared/unperceptive will always view this as revolution.

Know your enemy and know yourself - Sun Tzu 500 BC

I have always found that the greatest advantage I have when advocating the use of  Linux versus Windows, is the knowledge of both operating systems, their advantages and disadvantages.That leaves me in the position of being able to decide just how much of the advantages of one system to present over the other.  It is always best to carefully analyze the role that open-source software will play in a proposed venture and be sure that it's position is not overstated, but accurate  and accentuated.

Modify your advocacy style depending on your audience, take the example of a company that desires to update their infrastructure and they are being actively courted by some large multinational company promoting their proprietary solution, try promoting the costs and benefits of using Linux and open-source tools.  Make note of the fact that use of open-source tools will immediately negate the cost factor of purchasing a proprietary product, also mention it's lower Total Cost of Ownership and what it means for the company’s long-term expenditure and productivity.  In other words, before trying to promote the obviously superior features of Linux to the company’s Executives, try speaking to them in their language, that is, cost savings, productivity increases and increased profits.  Save the lecture on the features of Linux for the CTO/CIO  who should understand and appreciate your use of the appropriate technical jargon.

War is to attack the enemy's strategy - Sun Tzu 500 BC: Offensive Strategy

A common tactic used by some proprietary solution providers is that of FUD - Fear, Uncretanty and Doubt.  This is used to discredit the open-source movement, by making vague and inaccurate statements.  One such statement is that, there is no easy access  to companies willing to write software for and support that platform.  This statement is very false and is easily refuted by the evidence of small ISV's (Independent Software Vendors) and enterprise application development companies now writing, porting and supporting Linux.  You can begin to list a few of these :-

IBM, SAP, RealNetworks, Adobe, and Sun

It is therefore very important to keep abreast of the advances in Linux/open-source issues that will assist in furthuring your position.

Make FUD your friend, use it to describe your view of other operating systems.  For example, mention the fact that with the advent of the AI64 platform, most existing 32-bit applications will require costly porting and upgrading to take full advantage of the benefits provided by a 64-bit processor.  This simply means that most closed-source (proprietary) systems are nothing more than legacy applications, while Linux and most open-source tools are 64-bit clean, and require a simple re-compilation to migrate an application from a 32-bit platform to an AI64 architecture.

...occupies the field of battle first and awaits his enemy is at ease - Sun Tzu 500 BC: Void and Actuality

Always try to be aware of companies that are in the midst of an upgrade cycle, and now have to pay very high license fees.  Make contact with them before public discussions or meetings are held to introduce your position first, thereby having the ability to advocate your position unopposed.  I have often noticed, that I tend to remember points that have been conveyed with a calm and clear voice, rather that the noise of a ranting fanatic.  Listen closely to your opposition and rebut (calmly), his most damaging points first.

In closing, I must state that one point that needs to be addresed, is the general lack of support for Linux in Jamaica.  Although I am slowly but surely hearing of a few companies offering support, and hope that with the addition of at least one multinational IT organization, this lack of support excuse will shortly no longer be used as a reason for avoiding open-source tools.

I have made the parallel of business advocacy with some of the teachings from The Art of  War by Sun Tzu, as it will aid those who are responsible for debating this position of open-source advocacy.  My view is that the Information Evolution has led to the Open-Source Evolution (the open sharing of intellect) and depending on how Jamaica approaches this phenomenon may determine if we are one of those who will see this as a revolution.

Kurt Palmer ( This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it ) is a Jamaican currently working as a Unix System Administrator for a major Internet Services company in New Jersey, USA.


Linux Advocacy, Joe Barr

Linux Advocacy mini-HOWTO, Paul L.  Rogers

Sun Tzu on the Art of War, Translated by Lionel Giles, M.A. (1910)

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