About me: My name is Solène Rapenne, pronouns she/her. I like learning and sharing knowledge. Hobbies: '(BSD OpenBSD Lisp cmdline gaming internet-stuff). I love percent and lambda characters. OpenBSD developer solene@.

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Dear open source developers

Written by Solène, on 09 September 2021.
Tags: #life

Comments on Mastodon

Dear open source and libre software developers, I would like to share thoughts with you. This could be considered as an open letter but I'm not sure to know what an open letter is, and I don't want to give instructions to anyone. I have feelings I want to share about my beloved hobby: computers and open source.

Computers are amazing, they do stuff, lot of stuff, at hardware and software level. We can use them for anything, they are a great tool and we can program our tools to match our expectations, wishes and needs, it's not easy, it's an art but also a science, we do it together because it's a huge task requiring more than one brain time to achieve.

We are currently facing supply chain issues at many levels in the electronic industry, making modern high end computers is always more complicated, we also face pollution concerns and limited resources that will prevent an infinity of computers.

I would like to see my hobby affordable for anyone. There are many many computers already built and most of their parts can be replaced which is a crazy opportunity when you compare this to the smartphone industry where no parts can be changed.

As people writing software used by others, it is absolutely important to keep old computers useful. They were useful when they were built, they should still be useful in the future to some extent.

Nowadays, a computer without network access would be considered useless but it's not. But if you want to connect a computer to the Internet, facing continuously increase of network attacks, one should only use an up to date operating system and latest software version, unfortunately it's not always easy on old computers.

Some cryptography may require regularly increased minimum requirements, this is acceptable. What is not is that doing the same task on a computer requires more resources over the years as software grows and evolves.

Nowadays, regularly, more operating systems are dropping support for older architectures to only focus on amd64. This is understandable, volunteer work is limited and it's important to focus on the hardware found in most of the users computers. But then, by doing so they are making old hardware obsolete which is not acceptable.

I understand this is a huge dilemma and I have no solution, maybe we should need less operating systems to gather the volunteers to maintain older but still relevant architectures. It is not possible obviously, volunteers work on what they want because they like it, you can't assign contributors to some task against their will.

The issue is at a higher scale and every person working in the IT field is part of the problem.

More ? §

Some are dropping old architectures because there are no users. There are no users because they have to replace their hardware with a more powerful new hardware to cope with software becoming more and more hungry of resources. They become so because of people writing software, because companies want to do unoptimized code to release the product with less development time implying a cheaper cost, with the trade-off of asking customers to use a more powerful computer.

The web become unusable on old hardware, you can't use the world wide web anymore on old hardware because of lack of memory, lack of javascript support or too much animations using the CPU that you can't disable.

When you think about open source systems, many think "Linux", and most people think "amd64". A big part of the open source ecosystem is now driven toward Linux/amd64 target, at the cost of all the OS / architectures that are still in use, existing, not dead.

We could argue that technology is evolving and that those should make the work to stay in the race with the holy Linux/amd64 combo, this is a receivable argument as open source can be used / forked by everyone. But it would work so much better if we worked as a whole team.

Thoughts §

I just wanted to express my feelings with this blog post. I don't want to tell anyone what to do, we are the open source community, we do what we enjoy.

I own old computers, from 15 years old to 8 years old, I still like to use them. Why would they be "old"? because of their date of manufacture, this is a fact. But because of the software ecosystem, they are becoming more obsolete every year and I definitely don't understand why it must be this way.

If you can give a thought to my old computers when writing code, thinking about them and make a three lines changes to improve your software for them, I would be absolutely grateful for the extra work. We don't really need more computers, we need to dig out the old computers to make them useful again.

Thank you very much dear community <3