Speaking of Standards…

I just want to toss this out to all the Windows people who think Windows is a standard and poo-poo Linux for not working with that standard.  Let’s talk about what a standard is both in the mechanical and computer world.

A standard is what enables interoperability.  A great example is the phillips head screw.  The cross at the top has standard sizes.  The cut of the threads ensure that every screw tightens when rotated clockwise and loosens going counter clockwise.  Even the sizes of the screws are fairly standardized.  This means dozens, hundreds, of manufacturers are able to produce screwdrivers which are able to fit and turn the screws, screws that act like any other screw, and holes which fit the screws.  Simply put, standards are separate of implementation.

Microsoft’s software, just because it is widely used, does not make it a standard because it fails the interoperability test.  Microsoft uses this wide usage to prevent interoperability.  IE, their implementation is what causes problems.

Linux, or more precisely, Open Source Software, operates on standards.  Because of this it enables interoperability.  There is proof of this that every single person who eschews OSS as little compared to Microsoft’s pseudo-standards.

This web page.  This web page was written in and presented by open source weblog software written in an open source language served up by an open source web server running on an open source operating system.  But it isn’t just this web page or this site.  The vast majority of web sites are running on open source operating systems with open source servers.

In fact most services that people take for granted on the internet are founded on open source software.  Typing in a domain name instead of a number like to get to a web page?  That’s called Domain Name Service and the most used in the world, BIND, is open source.  Email shuffled hither and yon by SMTP servers.  Sendmail, qmail, Exim, Postfix are all open source and drive much of that activity.  Web pages?  As mentioned most are served up by open source web servers, Apache.  The wide spread proliferation of the internet, the usefulness it has to most people in the modern world is founded in the concept of interoperability based on standards to which the implementations adhere to and not the reverse.

So here’s thought exercise I want all of those Windows fans who think open source is some fringe, ill-conceived and poorly written software that has little impact on their day-to-day routine nor worth their consideration.  Imagine where you would be, right now, with no email, no web.  No instant messengers, no plethora of downloadable files at a moment’s notice.  Imagine all the conveniences there are from having your machine networked with billions of others across the globe, gone.  Sobering thought, isn’t it?  Aren’t you glad that open source software adheres to standards and allows all comers to interact with it?  Yeah, keep that thought in mind the next time you feel like telling someone running something other than Windows to “use the standard.”


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