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W0CHP Ham Radio & Tech Musings

Freeloading Complainers

I have been intimately involved with Free/Open Source Software (“F/OSS”) for a very long time. Not just as a user, but as an evangelist, architect in massive-scale corporate environments, and most importantly, as a contributor and developer.

The fascinating thing to me, is how ham radio and F/OSS are so closely aligned. They both embrace openness, community, camaraderie, experimentation, freedom, hacking, home-brew/DIY, and so much more. Or at least, they used to.

You see, one of the things that really graded on me over my many, many years contributing to the F/OSS cause and community, was the development of what I call the “freeloaders”. These are the people who don’t care to understand and appreciate the core values, benefits and spirit of F/OSS…

When I first started in the F/OSS world, these freeloaders really didn’t exist. To even know about free software, you had to be a true hacker, know how and where to SLIP into a server, and join the esoteric community of software hackers in the first place. It was not a place for “users” (freeloaders) or the community at-large.

But things changed. Not necessarily for the worse, but mainly for the better (and some of it kind of shitty). Freeloaders (users) were inevitable. In fact, they were a goal as we evangelized the use and propagation of F/OSS. But some of them have proven to be true freeloaders, selfish and worse yet, complain about the (free) software. These are the Freeloading Complainers: the double whammy.

I’m not cool with that. Especially coming from ham operators, who should truly value the spirit of ham radio and F/OSS. Unfortunately, there is an alarming amount of freeloading, complaining ham radio operators out there, bitching and moaning about Free and Open Source ham radio-related software.

Here’s the bottom line, before I use a prime example of a ham operator who fits the Freeloading Complainer bill perfectly:

If you don’t like how a F/OSS solution works/operates/looks/feels/etc., pull up your little girl panties, and learn to code and contribute, just like many of us did and still do. Those who bitched and moaned about F/OSS back in my early Usenet and F/OSS days, would be crucified, publicly, and rightfully so.

Onto my case in point/example freeloading and complaining ham radio operator

Shit, and here I thought that I was the king of bitching and moaning. Well, I always try to qualify my bitching. But this fuckin' guy; what a gem…

W4JEW, wrote an article in early fall 2020, bitching and moaning about the ever-popular, useful and venerable, F/OSS Pi-Star software; a true gift to the ham community, written and given away by Andy Taylor, MW0MWZ.

Let’s rip apart W4JEW’s commentary, shall we?

Pi-Star is incredibly feature-rich but, let’s face it, the UI needs help. It’s been largely unchanged since it’s inception. Sure, new functionality has been added to the distribution and the UI was extended to allow users to configure new settings, but the rest? Yawn…

So get off your yawn’y ass, code up the improvements, and submit them upstream. Take some fucking initiative. Don’t know how? Learn. Real hams and hackers love to learn new things. Welcome to the world of F/OSS! facepalm

Sorry to be so critical. I’ve been working in the IT world for 25+ years. I stare at a computer screen every day and encountered incredible UI designs (i.e. the top of the heap) and HORRIBLE UI designs (i.e. the bottom of the heap). Pi-Star falls somewhere in the lower half. It’s functional, but there’s just so much more that could be done to make the user experience better.

This is my favorite part. Guess what, I also spent 25+ years in IT and in almost every facet/discipline of IT, left countless legacies, made an incredible living (and had the luxury of retiring in 2019…while in my 40’s), and was sought-after by huge corporations, head hunters, etc. I went from nothing to a CTO. I worked at some of the largest corporations in the US, designed, engineered and architected some of the largest-scale environments during the time…most of which were F/OSS solutions. At the same token, I was actively involved with myriad F/OSS projects1 to give back to the community, share improvements with others, and keep my skills sharp. What has W4JEW contributed? Likely nothing, judging by his commentary. The change W4JEW mentions here would take me 30 mins, tops.

Moreover, “IT Guy” W4JEW’s website doesn’t have a valid SSL certificate:

W4JEW sucks

However. I have an A+ SSL Labs Security Rating on this very site:

I don't suck

Really Freeloading Complainer “IT Guy?” But I digress…

Pi-Star’s web interface looks absolutely abysmal on a mobile device! There’s no good excuse for it either. It’s not that making improvements isn’t possible. Either it’s not a high priority for them, or they just don’t care.

Again, do it yourself, “Mr. 25+ years in IT”. A true hacker would.

Why can’t Andy Taylor and team build something like Pi-Star Mobile into the main Pi-Star distribution? There’s absolutely no reason he can’t. He just hasn’t.

I’ve got good news for W4JEW: He can join the team and do it. Anyone can. I have… I’ve contributed patches and Pi-Star code to Andy. Why doesn’t W4JEW? It’s a lot more eloquent than complaining about a gift given to him, for free. He claims he’s an “IT guy”. IT guy doesn’t mean jack shit to me. You’re either a hacker, or you’re not. I’ve worked with (and fired) countless “IT guys” who were as useless as they come.

This “IT guy” is one of the many people who just don’t get it. There is myriad F/OSS running his hotspot, all of which are gifts from wonderful hackers and hams. Instead of taking initiative, giving back, and writing some code and contributing it, he whines about it and looks for another (free) solution. This is a classic Freeloading Complainer, folks. I have zero sympathy and tolerance for these people when they encounter issues with their F/OSS solutions. A true hacker would troubleshoot the fuck out of it and figure it out (then share).

I know I’m being hard on this guy. I’m sure he’s a fine fellow. But he, and others need to understand the spirit of openness, hacking, and software freedom; while at the same time, being grateful, giving back, and better yet: both.

Look, everyone has a personal itch they want to scratch. That’s actually the foundation to countless F/OSS projects. They are gifts. Want a piece of software to change so that fit your personal needs? Stop freeloading and complaining and scratch the itch your damn self. I have.

  1. F/OSS software/projects I was/am involved with:

    • Apache HTTPd
    • Slackware Linux/GNOME.SlackBuild
    • FreeBSD Ports
    • MacPorts
    • Pi-Star
    • InfluxDB/Telegraf
    • pfSense Firewall
    • WeeWX
    • WordPress Plugins (in fact, one of my plugins was used as the basis for the most-popular and most-downloaded WordPress Plugin)
    • Tons of other code and sundries written by me and made freely available to the masses.
    • I’m sure a host of others that I can’t remember right this moment.