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User Journal

Journal Journal: Getting a Bigger Tent: Free Software's End Game

On the morning of September 11th, 2001, in the middle of one of the
happiest time of my life, on the most beautiful morning that I can ever
remember, and while sitting in my sun lit office, I can remember as
if it happened this morning, the email on my GNU desktop was ringing
and ringing. I looked over and saw 117 messages in my in-box which
normally has nothing more than a dozen overnight posts, thinking that
this is weird. I opened my mail and saw a message subject, "Holly Cow -
The World Trade Center was just hit". I opened the message thinking,
"not again", and shaking my head.

The message said that all the TV stations are off the air. I turned on
my television capture card, and indeed, all the stations but Channel 2 was
off the air. 4,5,7,9,11,13,21,25,31,41 and 45, where all gone. I watched
the North Tower burning on Channel 2, when the second plane hit the south
tower, while reading mail and corresponding with friends the whole time.
I remember my friend Billy Donahue writing that it's raining paper in
his neighborhood accorss the river in Brooklyn. So I put the video on
record, and ran out the door towards the disaster. When the first tower
collapsed, I was stunned,
not by disbelief, but fuming with more emotion than I could process.
Anger, depression, confusion, and frustration were all simultaneously
competing for my attention. I just wanted to be closer and to help, but
all entry to Lower Manhattan from Brooklyn was blocked off that morning.
There was no way in until later.

The Towers were a great symbol of hope and pride. Those who
never had the experience of seeing them on a glassine like harbor,
almost as if they were floating on the water, glimmering sunlight, can
never fully appreciate the loss to our city on that day. Our heart and
souls were tied to the symbolism of the towers. Constantly exploited
for their imagery and thrill, New Yorkers had come to identify with
the Towers in a very personal way.

The civilization which would attack our city, and strike at the spirit
of New York, leaving dust and a fire ball, destroying without a trace
thousands of individuals, is an organization which strikes at New York's
great message for the world: Through Liberty and Freedom Springs Hope
and Opportunity. New York is a wide tent, which stretches out it's arms
to all, the womb of Freedom for people of all races and ethnic groups,
the worlds greatest symbol of Freedom.

Those who attacked us, attacked the foundation of freedom, and the
progress only possible through inclusion. They are exluders. We,
as New Yorkers, are includers, and we can never forget that.

Free Software, at it's best, is a tool of inclusion. Free Software
is the best hope for a future of enabled individuals, communities
and industry. Like all legitimate movements of freedom, Free Software
faces detractors with proclamations of efficency and effectiveness.
But we should all know that the only proven efficacy for societal
growth and prosperity, is a heavy dose of freedom.

226 years ago, on the soil of my home town, in Brooklyn, in August of
that summer of 1776, our city was called upon to stand up for the budding
freedom of the American Colonies, as the stage for the first and largest
battle of the American Revolution. As we mark this this summer I can't
help but recalling that through the cooperation, and spilled blood of
both our town and the French people, we eventually overcame the bleak
outlook after the defeat of that day, to bring forth to the world a nation
of peace, freedom, and tolerance. From that day forward,
my home town was became the home of multiples of peoples and nations,
unlike any place before or since.

It is my hope that today, Brooklyn and the City of New York, can
again find themselves as allies in the cause of freedom with this great
nation of France. Free Software is the only way of assuring a future of
prosperity, and security for all the peoples of the world. Only through
the freedom to associate, to come together and collaborate in solving
our problems can we hope to assure that these wonderful tools which we
use for our expression, our industry, and our education, continue to
remain as free as our press and our governments.

Our job as users, marketeers, promoters, and programmers of Free Software,
is to assure the creation of the widest possible tent. We welcome all
individuals to participate with Free Software. We welcome them to code,
and to use Free Software to enrich their lives. We hope they can find in
Free Software the freedom to express themselves and to become fulfilled.

While it is central to the business plan of every proprietary closed
computing system to entangle the user, and to limit the use of digital
tools, for Free Software, the essential goal is the opposite. Our goal
to provide Free Software is for everyone. Our goal is to be empower the
individual through our software, regardless of peoples wealth, background,
or ethnicity. We offer everyone a stake in the future, a future which
promises to be filled with digital communications, and increasing
dependency on computers for our daily living. Digital devices are the
future for education, entertainment and all of our information needs.

The mass murderers who attacked my city, a city of immigrants, tolerance,
and fruitful co-existence, these murderers are believers in ethnic
purity and religious autocracy. They attack us out of fear of our
open door, of our tolerance, and of our freedom. In the same vein,
those who use software to exploit people, to manipulate them , and to
limit our potential as a civilization, these are individuals who wish
to autocratically decide what we can read, what we can listen to and
how we share. They abuse their copyright monopolies and are attempting to
prevent the private ownership of computers and software. They strike
with ferocity at Free Software. They intend to undermine our freedom
and our open markets. They jail us for reverse engineering our systems,
alter formats to limit our access to their systems, spread lies about
the benefits of our products, and then they wrap the entire process in
the flag, claiming that they are the righteous victims. These copyright
monopoly tyrants claim that they are threatened, and weak. They cry
that they need government protection from the public with wiretapping,
forced contacts, and police action. And we as a free people are standing
here together, shoulder to shoulder, to say that we are not going to take
it anymore.

It's the responsibility of every Free Software user, and every Free
Software developer to encourage individual empowerment by demanding a free
platforms for our communication infrastructure. We must reach out to the
disenfranchised, those of us who, through circumstance are left out of
the main stream economy, or who are marginalized by racism, or national
origin. We should reach out to those who have not had the opportunity
to fulfill their true potential. Individuals and nations which live
in poverty and disease, and the children in our cities, and around the
world, can only be guaranteed the opportunity to improve their lives and
their legacy if they can live in freedom. Proprietary software models
can never provide for us the freedom necessary for self empowerment.
And government policies, such as the American Digital Millennium Copy
Right act, can only be used to further exploit all of us, especially the
poor. It prevents free trade and fair competition. It limits economic
growth and it is stifling creativity. All non-free software systems
prevent participation by all, reserving the benefits of development and
publication to a few undeserving software firms, movie produces and
music distributors, at the expense of our economy and political freedom.

Nearly every economist worth of their title will admit that the driving
force behind economic growth is not through corporate giants. It is
small and medium size businesses which drive the economy. Individual in
their local areas employ more people and generate more wealth, than Ford
or Sony. These hard working and creative people produce the goods and
services which drive our free economy. How can we expect the budding
graphic artists, book seller, and industrialists to develop our future
economy without providing the opportunity to create and exploit new
technologies in their communities. In fact, all the major industries
of today originated as small businesses at great risk to the individual
businessmen. Our car industry sprang forth from creative experimentation
in barns across the West. Our airline industry developed from adventurous
mechanics who learned from each others failures and successes. Our media
giants sprang from small time movie produces and radio broadcasters. And
each of these success stories underline the need for education, shared
experience, and free competition.

Isaac Newton correctly observed that his insights and brilliance was
only possible because of the knowledge learned by his colleagues and
predecessors. Mankind's unique ability to create is actually grounded in
our ability to adapt new applications onto existing ideas. Shakespeare,
by the standards that todays media mongrols would have us to believe, is a
theif. He lifted ideas and stories from Marlow and writers before him.
And yet, Shakespeare is clearly unique, and simply reused the material
around him for form new creations. Jazz music, and rap similarly reuse

We stand here today at the infancy of the digital communications
revolution. Can we have any doubt that in the future nearly all music,
literature and works of non-fiction will by available mostly through
digital means? Under these conditions, can there be any doubt that our
ability to reuse the cultural materials all around us will be badly
impaired if we continue to be dependent on software models designed
to exploit us? How severely impaired will our means of creating new
material be? How suppressed will be our economic growth? Econocmic growth
is dependent on invention and creativity. We must protect our freedom to
innovate. We must protect the rights of others to utilize our innovations.
We must protect the rights of others to improve on our innovations.

There exists, within the ranks of the computer industry, people who feel
that their advanced education or experience, entitles them to an exclusive
part of the future digital economy. This idea is especially prevalent
within the Unix world. Running big iron on large systems continues to be
a focus of these users. They are sharp with their tongues in defending
their perceived territory within IT. So poor is the reputation of
these individuals in the larger business world, that Microsoft targets
them when speaking to IT managers. They have a marketing campaign promising
to help you to get rid of Unix and those expensive and obnoxious Unix
professionals. Failure on the part of Unix companies to market and enjoin
the common user is one of the major reasons for Microsoft's success. As bad
a Microsoft's products have been at entangling the users, opening security
holes, and forcing upgrades on businesses, the Unix vendors, with superior
infrastructure, have refused to even compete. This philosophy of computing
controlled from on high is a business failure. Every time proprietary systems
make generally available a programming architecture, may that be HTML,
Javascript, or even VBA, users swell from the rank and file to exploit
these technologies to generate new ideas and businesses.

So while we must assure freedom, we must assure freedom for as many
people as possible. In New York, we developed a new kind of GNU/Linux
organization. As a reflection of our city, we are determined to create
as big a tent as possible for everyone. Our goal is Free Computing
and Digital communications for all. On the beach front of the digital
revolution, we need to forge new advanced positions in elementary school
education, in the university system, in business, publishing, in the
arts and in the home. We have used a number of tools at our disposal
to attempt to push this agenda forward.

First, we have tapped our local community of Free Software developers
to give their time on a volunteer basic to make inexpensive classes
available to the public. In addition we have started a marketing
campaign targeting the public school system in an effort to place Free
Software into schools to give young children a change to learn how to
program and to use the Free Software tools needed for arts and music.
Thirdly, we are are lobbying our congressional leaders, by going door
to door with petitions and buttons, lobbying for the needed Fair Use
protections of personal property and communications media. And finally,
we have an effort underway to fill in the gaps for small business in
regards to providing complete solutions for their business needs.

This has been very hard work. But our members have worked very hard to
bring all these programs to life. Our organization might very well be
the most active local Free Software organization in existence. When the
recession which followed the destruction of the World Trade Center in
NYC began to grip our region on the heels of the economic blow of the
Dot com bust of the previous year, things got tough. But NYLXS responded
by being tougher. Today we are seeding fertile ground for which will lead
the local, national, and global economy to even higher ground than even the
boom boom days of the late 1990's. But to do this, we must be committed
to broad freedom, and we must be prepared to work hard.

The choice is laid out before us. We can continue as we have, and hope that
things turn out well, not just for Free Software developers, but also the
general public, or we can start to redouble our efforts and work harder.
Freedom to create, communicate and develop are a fundamental human needs.
It is the foundation for tolerance, mutual inclusion and political freedom.
No one knows better than the French know the cost of preserving this freedom,
as this nation was the battle ground for freedom for much of the last century.
And it is probable that no land has had more blood spilt on it for this goal.
Free Software is not even asking for the ultimate sacrifice of generations
past to assure freedom, but only requires you to act in your own self interest
with the pen and keyboard. Join us in New York in forging this new world, a
world of freedom and tolerance and mutual respect.

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