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Computing, along with all other aspects of Information Technology, is frequently considered to be one of the major challenges we face - but the power it gives to people means that it must also be one of the answers.  Clearly, a great deal needs to be said here...

Here are a  few quick links.


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  • Does computing give power to the people or power to the owners of the IT systems?

    • Good question!  Do you want to try answering it?

      For me, it is precisely considerations of power which lead me to commit, as far as I am able, to supporting the Open Source movement in computing.  Apple are very willing to sell me a computer, but then they have complete control over what programs I can run on it - their products are easy to use and convenient, and most of the time they are fairly reliable, but this level of control over what I can do is an unacceptable trade-off for me.

      Microsoft provide a more open environment: anyone can write a program to run on a Windows machine.  But they control the operating system, so they control the machine; they determine what gets fixed, and when those fixes get applied.  They also control what information about me and my computing activity gets stored and reported.  And, if I want a reliable and supported system, they control when I have to upgrade my hardware.

      Open source, on the other hand, gives power to the people.  It's my computer: I decide what software to run on it.  And I can check every line of that software, to ensure that it is not doing anything I don't want.  If I don't like what is on offer I can change it or write something completely different.  And with RISC-V (pronounced 'risk five') we are starting to see open source hardware become a reality.  And, of course, open source has been shown to produce better quality results, faster and cheaper, than the closed source model which big business prefers - which is why the majority of servers powering the Internet are running Linux (even those being provided by Microsoft), the majority of super computers run Linux, and the majority of smart phones run a cut-down version of Linux.

      In short, open source computing gives power to the people, closed source computing gives power to multinational companies.  That's (a very brief form of) my answer, anyway.  But I am interested in how you see it.

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