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Geeks in the Age of Lock-down (and After Quarantine)

Posted in Free/Libre Software at 6:08 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

What if “remote work” comes to mean “remote from home” (i.e. in some remote office)?

Rain Wilson: Works from the office; works from home

Summary: Technology is in a state of rapid transition; let’s make sure we’re left on the right side of it

THE PANDEMIC is being exploited by just about every business and businessperson. Mostly for publicity stunts, cuts, erosion of workers’ rights and so on. Almost everyone has witnessed a plethora of examples of this and in Daily Links we’ve included many (e.g. airlines that invite workers to ‘resign’ after receiving generous ‘bailouts’ for the Board and shareholders). It’s horrific and it hits people who require on-site access the hardest. Some jobs cannot be done from one’s home. It’s simply impossible. Also, particular businesses might never see resumption; when they shut down for quarantine — whether they realised it at the time or were mostly in denial about it — they were shutting down for good. Some workplaces will only ‘open’ to initiate a shutdown process. Many office spaces won’t be rented or attended again. Many places will become mostly or entirely vacant, even a lot of shopping malls. The dining (eating outside) business will collapse. Some ethnic groups will be hit very hard by this, depending on the country…

“Over the past month several people volunteered themselves to intern for us; it’s about truth and justice, not just “nerd stuff”…”We would be wrong to assume all our readers are geeks. Many are, but not all. Quite a few are EPO workers, a good proportion of our regular readers are on GNU/Linux and BSD, but there are also aspiring geeks who aren’t necessarily technical but are very interested in the ways computer/digital activism can bring about justice. Over the past month several people volunteered themselves to intern for us; it’s about truth and justice, not just “nerd stuff”…

So, even though we don’t know the demography of readers, it seems safe to assume many are geeks (but not all). And many nations start speaking about “reopening” (going back to work now or very soon); we’ve been observing news reports about it and the latest projections are presumption of the German football league (with no on-site spectators) and cancellation of the British (English/Welsh) one. But forget about sports… media likes to obsess/speak about non-essential things that help sell ads and gambling.

What does it all mean for geeks?

Not just Free software geeks…

“At the end of the day what will matter isn’t necessarily whether one writes Free or non-free (proprietary) software but what kind of software.”Not just computer geeks…

Not just GNU/Linux enthusiasts…

Well, right now a lot of businesses are forced to implement contingencies, transitions, migrations etc. In the education sector it’s stuff like online learning, which necessitates more technical people than teachers, janitors, administrators and so on. Budget is also a big factor.

Like we said yesterday, this downturn is favouring Free software. People won’t pay $1000 to Adobe or Microsoft just to get something ‘done’ at home. Many people are uncertain about their income and savings (or debt). Frugality becomes a survival skill. Usually, in the traditional economy (say goodbye to that economy), businesses were getting ‘blanket’ licences for all workstations — licences that workers instantaneously lose when they leave the employer. Who wants to take that risk? Who wants to merely rent when it’s possible to truly own and even participate with Free software? The learning curve and experience are better exploited with continuity (like using the same software for several decades, not having to retrain except when there are version bumps).

At the end of the day what will matter isn’t necessarily whether one writes Free or non-free (proprietary) software but what kind of software. Also, for remote work things may improve. System administrators rarely need physical access to anything, especially nowadays when there are remote switches (digital controls for as much as power-cycling one’s servers).

It seems reasonable to assert that automation will become a big thing; in a sense, it already is. That includes robotics. A lot of things which people used to do and machines can do instead will become more alluring, not just for financial reasons but also “health and safety”. Scripting skills may come in handy. Let’s take Techrights as an example. We’re at a point now where IRC logs are mostly an automated process, backups are almost 100% automated, monitoring is automated (with remote screens and actions associated with events that trigger them), and overall it makes us a lot more efficient. Usually, the main thing getting in the way of productivity is the remaining ongoing work that we’ve been investing since last summer. The technical debt is gradually being paid off. We’ll become a lot more rapid later this year; productivity keeps improving.

“We’ve been noticing growing levels of sheer resentment against Bill Gates with his puff pieces being spread senselessly in the corporate media.”In summary, now is the time for adaptation and efficiencies of all sorts; online purchasing — whether we tolerate it or not (privacy erosion is one factor) — will gain traction, but people will have less money to spend, so where possible people will just share stuff, download things, and keep a distance from other people. Introvert geeks may feel like they’re becoming more “normal” and demand will increase for people’s whose technical skills help lower expenditure.

Things won’t just get back to the way they used to do. There may be attempts to give us an illusion that the crisis is “over”, but we already know that coronavirus is a seasonal thing and there may be further mutations, depending on how successfully the mutated derivatives spread (contagious diseases are more “successful” ones from the microorganism’s perspective).

We’ve been noticing growing levels of sheer resentment against Bill Gates with his puff pieces being spread senselessly in the corporate media. People find out, even belatedly, about Bill’s obsession with depopulation (that obsession came from his father, who is still alive but clinically demented). Bill is not a geek. He never was. Unlike his father, he’s a failed/failing lawyer. He didn’t finish college (a degree in law) and he was arrested several times because he cannot obey the law. He got in trouble for technical sabotage not only at Microsoft but also in college. Bill is connected to high power from both sides of the family (his parents, as we covered before), so privilege rescued him from lifelong trouble as a juvenile in some cell. He was screaming like mad at his mother and he’s cursing again, seeing that many members of the public loathe him (and paying a billion dollars to media/press can’t make alternative reality ‘stick’). He’s telling to himself that all his “haters” are just “conspiracy theorists”, lumping every critic of his with some fringe group. Nice PR tactic you got there…

True geeks don’t do what Bill did; they don’t write open letters to strongly condemn collaboration and they don’t invest in some of the world’s nastiest corporations for profit. How much money does Bill need? He’s not giving anything away, he’s just hoarding more while disguising it as “charity”. Greed is like a mental condition — a chronic obsession with monetary gain (usually compensating for a lack of something) that most geeks don’t find appealing anyway. The money is all gone when one dies; just ask Paul Allen what happened to his money and that infamous yacht. You want to know a real geek? RMS. Richard M. Stallman. MIT had him removed to distract from real pedophiles.

“Writing non-free software is not an ethically legitimate activity, so if people who do this run into trouble, that’s good! All businesses based on non-free software ought to fail, and the sooner the better.”

Richard Stallman

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