I first ventured online back in the late 1990s and started to build a presence in 2000 with a (now defunct) website devoted to watching and talking about independent films. The site went through several incarnations which saw it transform from a static collection of pages, hand carved in HTML, to a single WordPress instance. It’s been an interesting ride and one that has taught me a lot. Running the site has also given me the opportunity to see a variety of innovative, original and truly excellent films that I would otherwise be unaware of.
This blog, Lightly Seared on the Reality Grill, reflects the rest of my blogging and provides a place for me to randomly interject on whatever subject happens to catch my interest at the moment. The name of the blog was lifted from a GCU in Iain M. Banks Matter – it struck me as appropriate in a whole range of ways that I am probably best not discussing.
Professionally I am an IBM i developer, primarily in RPG and SQL but I have been known to dirty my hands with other languages and tools as well. If you want an integrated and reliable business environment, the IBM i (which has also been known as the iSeries and the AS/400 in previous incarnations) really is unbeatable.
Outside of work, my technology preferences veer towards Linux (or GNU/Linux if you want to be properly accurate about these things) which provides an exceptional level of both stability and flexibility and openness.
The more time I spend using Free and Open Source and Free software (FOSS), the more convinced I become that this is the right way of doing things – not only on a technical level but also on a political and economic level as well. Proprietary software locks you into a platform, which becomes increasingly painful to move away from, and forces you to remain dependent on a single supplier. This combination of pain and dependency allows the first (or biggest) supplier into a market to behave like (and become) a monopoly, stifle innovation and gouge the consumer.
FOSS, on the other hand, encourages openness. This allows developers to innovate on the basis of the best ideas already out there rather than having to constantly reinvent other people’s wheels. The openness of FOSS development also means that you can know what your applications are doing and, if you’re not happy with any of it, easily identify the people responsible and ask for improvements.
You can also submit improvements, of course, and I still find it surprising that so many businesses continue to fail to recognise the time and cost savings that this simple fact can accrue.
Possibly more important is the fact that FOSS projects tend to be very keen on adopting open standards and it is the adoption of open standards that protects you, me and everyone else from being locked into proprietary monopolies. For a long time, I tended to think about open standards in terms of data formats – if my data is in an open format, I will always be able to find a program that can handle it. But the more I look at the rise of walled gardens online, the more convinced I become that open standards need to be aggressively promoted as the only way to connect to the internet.