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By Jack Ganssle

Road Rage

Published 6/11/2003

A friend recently flipped off a tailgater... who promptly passed him, jumped on the brakes, and caused an accident that cost Bill a few thousand dollars. Dumb, huh?

My son has his learner's permit. In class he's learning "defensive driving", but I'm trying to teach him mind reading. Sometimes you can just tell a driver is itching to suddenly switch lanes without signaling or even properly checking for other traffic. Know what will, or might, happen and you gain an extra second or two to react.

But above all, I want him to understand that aggressive driving is just plain dumb. Maybe you'll gain a few seconds - max - but the cost is high. Death and disfigurement. Maybe only a nicked fender, which will push insurance costs up. And, above all, an increase in the sum total of on-the-highway anger. Road rage.

In my writings I flirt with another sort of rage - the anger of the software community over just plain silly stuff. Read any of the comp.lang groups and you know what I mean. An article on this site titled "Forth Sucks" was meant to twist the tail of the Forth community. It sparked some great dialog, as I'd hoped. It also swamped us with an unprecedented amount of angry email.

If I ever say anything nice about Microsoft my inbox gets jammed with mail from angry developers who feel personally insulted. So far I've received two death threats over quite innocuous comments about that company. Last I heard Microsoft hadn't raped anyone's daughter. what's the fuss?

News flash: disagreeing is good. Threats are bad.

(To be fair, my recent ESP article titled "How Microsoft Saved the World" caused a flood of very well reasoned emails, no threats, and lots of good dialog).

Now an EE Times article (May 27) reports that SCO is under attack by the open source community. A major denial of service assault shut down their web servers for a time in early May. They are getting threats of drive-by shootings at their corporate headquarters, and have found postings of personal info about the company's officers on web sites

To those perpetrating such madness I say: act like grownups. Succumbing to blind rage is totally unacceptable. Linux is, after all, just an operating system. SCO, wisely or not, is taking legal action against what they perceive to be their competition. They aren't putting poison in your coffee, seducing your spouse, or burning down your house.

SCO claims to have found chunks of their proprietary, copyrighted code buried in Linux. To date the exact nature of such code isn't being revealed. If the allegations are true, though, this casts a cynical slant on a segment of the OSS community. Is it possible that, in an effort to make a truly open OS, some authors stole copyrighted code?

Though perhaps there's no formal link between the OSS community and privacy advocates, plenty of crossover exists. Taking strong stands on privacy issues in this connected world is, in my opinion, a high moral ground. Yet are some of these supposedly honorable people actually posting confidential info about SCO's officers online?

SCO's legal actions are an interesting twist in the open source battles. Ethical? That really can't be known till we discover more about their claims. Any reasonable person knows that Linux is not going to suffer in any substantive manner from the action. The worst outcome is a judge mandating a rewrite of the affected sections of code. Why are people so up in arms?

Road rage, software rage, they're both symptoms of the inner child that adults must outgrow or suppress. If I decide to send a threatening email or flick off a driver then I'm the bad guy.

Chill.