[RndTbl] Census now available to Linux users

Sydney Weidman syd at plug.ca
Sat May 20 10:31:54 CDT 2006

On Tue, 2006-05-16 at 13:54 -0500, Gilbert E. Detillieux wrote:
> According to John Lange:
> > For those of you not also subscribed to the PLUG mailing list, Syd
> > Weidman points out that the census web site is now open to Linux:
> > 
> > http://www12.statcan.ca/IRC/english/advisory_e.htm

As the person whose name was attached to this observation, I feel
obliged to explain why I thought it was an important development, in
spite of my overall agreement with Gilbert's very articulate and salient

> This shouldn't be about recognizing Linux as another alternative OS, but
> rather about supporting open standards.  It shouldn't matter at all what
> OS is being used, as long as the browser itself is W3C compliant, has
> sufficient encryption technology in it, and has a supported JVM.  If they've
> coded their web site to those specs, and tested with a few different
> browsers and system platforms, that's all that should matter.

Publicly controlled (de jure) standards are simply unimportant (to those
who make decisions) in a world which is a de facto monoculture. They
only understand that "it works for me". Recognition that there is
diversity is the first step to understanding why standards matter: yes,
partly because standards support healthy competition amongst providers
of end point hardware/software, but also for social and ethical reasons:
because standards allow democratic participation from the broadest
spectrum of persons. If there simply are no alternative endpoints -- no
actual diversity -- competition is non-existent and in practice,
ultimately impossible. In such an environment, enforced standards are
(unfortunately but perhaps correctly) seen as a wasteful drag on certain
companies' private innovation. 

I celebrate that users of GNU/Linux have been officially recognized by
the government because I see it as representing a step forward in
awareness. Hopefully, this recognition will eventually lead to a greater
understanding of the importance of public (or at least standardized)
networks, whether they are networks of roads, wires, or ideas. After
all, a standard is simply a network of agreement about ideas. Public
education, for instance, lays a base of common understanding -- a
standard -- which functions like a network in the sense that it enables
communication between diverse individual "end points". I don't think it
is an overstatement or alarmist to say that civilization depends on such
networks for its continued existence.

If you want peace in the world, build connections, not barriers. Public
networks (of all kinds) allow this to happen. Having our government
recognize GNU/Linux users is indeed just a tiny step toward achieving
that much broader goal.

> The census web site also has another problem/limitation in it.  I'm
> currently between two homes, so I had to complete a census for each home,
> but only mark myself as a resident of one.  For the other, the number of
> people currently living there is 0 (zero), which you can indicate on the
> paper form, but which the online form does not accept.  I ended up having
> to mail in the paper form for that one.

That's a pain. A FOSS alternative (as opposed to mere standards
conformance) might have enabled you to have discovered this "feature"
and submit a bug report well before census day :-)


Sydney Weidman <syd at plug.ca>
Prairie Linux User Group

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