Open-Source Stupidity

, , , , , | Working | August 19, 2020

I am an industrial automation technician in a manufacturing plant and, as such, I write programs for our different systems. We have one of those “know it all” engineers who loves to tell me how to do my job but doesn’t have a clue what it’s about.

As an analogy, he’s a biology engineer and doesn’t know how to use a hammer, but because he adds windshield washer himself in his car, he figures he can tell a mechanic how to repair the transmission.

We get a new machine. It comes all assembled with its own control computer with the program/software they developed. We’re talking a half-million-dollar machine.

The engineer comes to me while the supplier is installing the machine.

Engineer: “Go with them and see how the program is made. It might be helpful.”

Me: “Why? It won’t be of any help. It’s their program and it’s locked. I can’t do anything to it.”

Engineer: “Yes, you can. We bought it.”

Me: “What you bought is the user’s license for it.”

Engineer: “Yes. We have the license, which means that you can modify the program in it.”

Me: “When you get Windows or any other OS, you buy a license. Does it gives you the right to alter it?”

Engineer: “Well… yes, when I install Word or something else, I’m modifying it. We have other machines of the same brand and you program them. Just go and look up their software to get how they program it so you will be able to modify it.”

Me: “That’s not the same. I can’t modify their program because it’s locked, write-protected. I can’t open it without the proper password. It’s their intellectual property. Their copyright. I have no right and no way to even access it. I can install Word but I can’t modify it.”

Engineer: “Yes, you can; we bought the license.”

Me: “The operation license. Not the source code.”

It took me close to half an hour of arguing to make him understand the difference between a proprietary software and an open-source one, or a machine you buy blank and program the way you want to. Even then…

Engineer: “I’ll ask them. Come with me. They’ll tell you.”

Me: “You go on. I have something to finish here first.”

I didn’t follow, and he never talked to me again about it. I guess “they told him.”

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