16 Aug 2006
For her last birthday, I buyed an old G3 iMac for my girlfriend. I planned to upgrade it with RAM and a bigger harddrive.

Long story short, I did it, but it was a hell lot of work and unexpected problems. And maybe I even would have messed something up badly, if I didn't find this excellent website. Some guy explains every little step in upgrading an old iMac in detail. And just for the model I bought on eBay. There are a lot of models out there, but his page only deals with the one I bought! With pictures of each step even!

How crazy is that guy?

Well, it seems that a lot of people are that crazy. Nobody predicted the bottom-up content revolution of the internet before it was born. There seems to be altruism everywhere and all it took to unleash it was to give people tools to do it: HTML and a network.

But there is another interesting, related phenomena that these days few people, at least few non-it-technical people, know about: People also build software and share it for free. Nothing. Nada.
It's called Open Source. For instance, this pages are hosted on a server that runs on Apache, which is a great, complex software, and totally free. It generates income for my Webhoster, so there are a lot of interesting economic implications there, which I haven't found the time to think over really.
My point is, there has been more and more free software made available in the last few years. Heck, even this PolyPager tool I wrote to make my webpages is free for everybody, and it uses free tools itself.
I realized this once more in the project I am currently involved in at the University of Osnabrück. We're a small team of students with no budget creating a quite powerful software for scientific experiments. We're using so many great software tools that I can't even list all the great stuff these tools are doing for us.
Here is a short list of the tools themselves (in no specific order - almost all of those have been developed in the spare time of thousands of smart people, the others are developed by companies for public use):
I think that most people haven't understood how great this is: These tools are really powerful. You can start a whole company with tools that cost you nothing. All you need is your head (and a computer, and internet and so on, admitted, but you get the point). This has not been true 15 years ago. It has been true 10 years ago, but almost exclusively for web applications. Now there is free software for almost anything. For a quickly-googled example: I am no expert in Computer-Aided Design (CAD), but I know it's an engineering method used in industrial development and it requires complex and expensive software. Well, here is a software that does it for free (notice the pictures that show what you might design with that software).

Now, you might argue over the motives that lead to so much sharing of worth. You might say that much of it isn't altruistic at all, but showing off skills or trying to lead the pack by defining the standard software. Agreed. There are many motives.
But I think there are a lot implications that we're not thinking about enough. What does this mean for progress? For ecomomic growth? For globalization? (For instance: Do we share to much knowledge with, for example, China?) For culture? (What does a copyright imply? What licence models should we have?) For patents?

There are some people debating all this, but considering the implications Open Source has on the economy (already and in 10 years), there is far too less debate.
# lastedited 01 Sep 2006
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