Peace, Love, and Linux

It's about free code, man. Free, as in speech. Can you dig it?

This past summer marks the 40th Anniversary of one of the most important events in American sociology: the Summer of Love. If you’re too young to remember, or if you skipped American history, or if you don’t listen to classic rock, the Summer of Love saw Hippies, Yippies, and all sorts of disaffected American youth converge on the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco to form an alternative society and to experiment with sex, drugs, and new forms of music and art.

It was “far out, man,” but also tumultuous, as counterculture collided with the 1960′s establishment.

In the late ‘60s, many lawmakers, politicians, and police attempted to quash the Hippie movement in Haight-Ashbury and other cities around the country by threatening to and actually throwing large groups of young people in jail.

Four decades later, the “radical” Open Source movement — it’s about free code, man — faces similar struggles against Corporate America. For instance, just this week, Microsoft rattled its saber (once again) and not-so-subtlety threatened Open Source vendors and users with patent violation litigation. Like tear gas, Redmond’s riot squad — counsel — unleashed Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD) to quash Open Source adoption at major corporations and in the public sector.

When challenged and libeled, the Hippies chose to increase awareness of their cause through unique demonstrations (such the famous “Be-In” and the spontaneous street anarchy of sub-groups such as the Diggers) and the use of public media. Unfortunately, the media of the late 1960′s was not nearly as sophisticated as today’s, and there was no Internet to fall back on to freely disseminate information. Television news of the day failed to capture the true essence of the Hippie lifestyle in incessant 30-second sound bites and film clips, and instead of the peaceful, artistic, and harmonious crowd they wanted to be recognized as, Hippies were perceived as unclean, depraved young people who eschewed jobs and wanted to escape from responsibility and the Vietnam War.

While certain aspects of the Hippie movement survive in modern times — rock music and modern art come to mind — the culture left no enduring legacy. In the fall of 1968, the Diggers staged a mock funeral for the Hippie movement in Haight-Ashbury. By 1970, the San Francisco neighborhood became a distorted, crowded, homeless-infested mockery of the free love and enlightened enclave the Hippies tried so hard to create.

Of course, the Open Source movement isn’t advocating free love and psychedelic drug use, but the similarities between it and the Hippie camp are obvious — beside the long-haired advocates. Like 1960′s counterculture, Open Source has its roots in youth and academia, and Open Source asks people to “Turn on, Tune In, and Drop Out” in its own way: “Turn on to Open Source software and make the best use of hardware you can. Tune in to the options you have with Linux, Open Source, and open standards, and make these systems interact harmoniously within existing computing environments. Drop out from closed and proprietary solutions.”

So what can we do to elevate our cause? Like the Hippies and the Be-Ins, we can host installfests in our own little Haight-Ashbury, be it among groups of curious friends, at user group meetings, or even at the company you work for. Burn copies of Ubuntu, Fedora, and OpenSUSE for everyone who is curious about Linux, and help get Linux up and running on more computers. Tell everyone you know what Open Source can do — be a helpful Open Source program system or a complete re-architecture of IT infrastructure.

And just to inspire you, I’ve adapted a popular song from 1967.

If you’re going to LinuxWorld Expo,

Be sure to wear a Fedora in your hair.

If you’re going to LinuxWorld Expo,

You’re gonna see some open solutions there.

For those who come to LinuxWorld Expo,

Summertime will be an installfest there.

In the streets of San Francisco,

Software vendors with Penguins on their wares.

All across the nation, such an Open Source sensation.

Computing with options,

There’s a whole generation with a new explanation,

Computing with options, computing with options.

(Repeat)

It’s about free code, man. Free, as in speech. Can you dig it? Far out. Right on! Power to the people.

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