Free Software, Open Source, and al Qaeda

The Islamist Attack on Intellectual Property, by Thomas Lifson,” RealClearPolitics, 28 February 2006,

Shortly after I commented that leveraging (“exploition”) is a normal part of politics, I was enraged at a particularly dishonest form of leveraging in the world of patents. Such is life.

Tom Lifton notes that some Islamist, somewhere (he doesn’t bother to cite, opposes the idea of “intellectual property”

It becomes clearer with every day that the Islamist faction within the Muslim world has an idealized vision of society entirely at odds with foundations of American society, and with the values of modern civilization. Free speech (including cartoon speech), religious pluralism, or female equality are only starters, important though each of these principles may be to us.

Recently, I was reading an Islamist website and discovered the following logo in an advertising-like box:

“Oppose Intellectual Property”

Of course, “intellectual property” isn’t mentioned in the U.S. Constitution

What is mentioned is the “exclusive Rights to their respective Writings and Discovers” for “authors and inventors” “ To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts,.” Unlike actual property that is diminished by sharing, “intellectual property” is an artificial, temporary, government-granted monopoly on an abstraction. There is no “value” (that is, moral) issue associated with it. Rather, like the ability “to establish Post Offices and post Roads” that immediately precedes it, the exclusive Rights is a utilitarian device of the Congress to help economic growth.

To me, this article seems like a stealth attack against free software and open source software. I won’t go into the difference between “free” and “open-source” software, except to note that the free software crowd is more ideological while supporters of “open source” are more pragmatic. I used both for my thesis and my blog.

Both are part of the same decentralized tradition, that helped America win the cold war against the Soviets, Britain win the culture war against the French, and blogs win the 2004 election against the mainstream media.

Fighting against this people-power, against both the free software and open source movements, against the British newspapers and American blogs, are the monopolists. From the monopolists’ last gasps in the media to continuing political power, they seek to concentrate power for themselves.

Such behavior is natural. As are attempts to bolster their power by conflating people-power with al Qaeda. But it’s still sickening.

Defending 4GW Against MountainRunner

Last May I defended 4GW against . Now Mark of ZenPundit blogs that Matt at Mountainrunner has joined the fray:

Generational warfare is based on technology and tactics. The Napoleonic shift a radical change in how and why wars were fought. With his destabilizing impact on the nature of the state system at the time, how was what he did not 4GW? Generations of warfare are best described through technological and tactical changes. The Revolution in Military Affairs of Napoleon is remarkably similar to the RMA today, but with some aspects in reverse (professionalism -> amateurism -> professionalism). Fourth Generation War has ‘happened’ before and throughout time. It is how and why wars are fought. It simply does not offer anything new.

I respond:

“Generational warfare is based on technology and tactics. “

Specifically, tactics. A 4GW can be fought with atom bombs or knife-cutters. A 3GW can be fought with horse cavalry or tank cavalry.

Currently there are 12 comments, with Wiggins (who was recently linked to by Tom Barnett) and Federalist X participating as well.

Read the rest

A.3 Open Source and Free Software

Note: This is an excerpt from a draft of my thesis, A Computer Model of National Behavior. The introduction and table of contents are also available

A.3 Open Source and Free Software

According to the Open Source Initiative, the license for open source software,

“…shall not restrict any party from selling or giving away the software as a component of an aggregate software distribution containing programs from several different sources. The license shall not require a royalty or other fee for such sale.”

The proliferation of open source software means a wide collection of powerful software applications are freely available. This has allowed the author to develop the software for this thesis with high quality tools. Without these programs, the cost of development would have been much higher, and much of what has been accomplished would have been cost prohibitive.

The following open-source applications were used in the building of the model. They are grouped by category, and a short commentary follows each category.

Apache HTTP Server
MySQL Database Server

Apache and MySQL were the base over which almost everything else was built.
Commonly used together, the world’s most popular web server according to Netcraft and the world’s most popular open source database according to the vendor were invaluable. They allowed the author to leverage his experience to rapidly build the tools needed for this thesis. They also ensured that the thesis was platform independent. Development occurred mostly on a Windows XP home desktop, while the final simulation was run on 4-way Xeon industrial server machine.

Programming Languages

PHP was used in conjunction with Apache to build web-based tools for this thesis, especially Mapper and Merge. Additionally it served as the basis of the content managers. Perl was the language of choice for the simulation itself, as well as MapMaker and numerous small tools.

Content Managers

Geeklog served as a machine-independent journal for development and ad-hoc change control mechanism. With Geeklog, the author was able to comment changes, make back-ups of key functions, and track his progress through time. phpMyAdmin is a visual front-end written in PHP served through Apache for the MySQL database server.

Text Editors

Jext and syn replaced Microsoft Wordpad and Microsoft Notepad respectively. Jext’s color highlighting and careful selection of fonts and colors make it a friendly environment for coding. Syn is able to open and search very large files quickly, and it becomes especially important when examining large log files.

Office Suite, or OOo, is composed of Writer (word processor), Calc (spreadsheet), Impress (presentation), and Draw (illustration). OOo has very good Microsoft Office import and output filters. It also has an open and simple file format, while allowed reports to be generated quickly by custom written scripts. Every component of OOo has been used during this thesis.

Image Manipulation
The Gimp
Image Magick

The Gimp assisted in basic image editing, such as cropping screen captures and preparing images for display. Image Magick, through its Image::Magick module for Perl, was critical in allowing images to be drawn from a computer program. The maps and dials used in the reports, for example, were written with Image::Magick.

File Management Utilities

Zip is a windows port of the GNU zip utility for unix-like systems. It was necessary for the operation of OOOlib with minimal changes, and was incorporated into dhaOOO. 7zip is a visual compressed file manager similar to Winzip. It proved to be the most user-friendly and stable compression tools with compressing files larger than a gigabyte.

Mozilla Firefox

OOOlib is a small utility for generating documents from a Perl program. It is the basis for dhaOOO. Mozilla Firefox is a web browser that was used to view Merge and Mapper. Wikipedia is an open source encyclopedia used for reference in the writing of this thesis.