Open Source: The peaceful revolution
Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) has gone from being a futurist movement to a fundamental part of business and technology. Unix-like operating systems such as Linux are installed on 71% of infrastructure however that number is flipped in the realm of desktop computing. The main reason for this is how the two technologies have specialised in their strengths over time.
For Windows, Microsoft has done well to invest in their OEM relationships, creating APIs like .NET and DirectX and investing heavily in development resources to support their platform. For Unix-likes, engineers of all walks of life and experience contribute their work to the collective in project repositories — some do it to learn, some for work, some to leave their mark and others simply because of passion.
Pragmatism dictates the choice of industry standard in any business, regardless of how much effort is spent polishing products and creating business relationships with vendors — you can’t fight production staff’s actual experience with the tools. In the case of great Free and Open Source Software — tools that an engineer designs don’t always meet the needs of other users.
If I can get away with a few generalisations… I would say that proprietary software such as Microsoft Windows and Apple MacOS seem to be doing much better than open source in the realm of media production and experiences. This is why it’s so popular on the desktop with gamers and audiovisual producers in particular. FOSS seems to do better for utilitarian and cost effective requirements. On top of Free and Open Source Software powering almost three quarters of the internet, the Android operating system talks to the phone hardware using a modified version of Linux. Android, however, is definitely not a Linux operating system much in the same way that Apple MacOS is not a variant of BSD, even though it uses a modified version of BSD’s code.
Apple have cleverly positioned MacOS, and previously OSX, as the media production platform of choice. There are incredibly powerful and easy to use software tools that you can only use on their operating system. Due to Microsoft exclusively developing DirectX for Windows, a similar result has occurred in gaming. There are great efforts to develop and port games to the alternative, OpenGL. Most notably Valve’s Steam having a presence on Linux in recent years. This still can’t beat the history of investment and an ongoing coordinated effort between software and hardware engineers to implement DirectX API’s.
Adobe’s Photoshop and other software are standard industry tools that many people are taught to use by educational institutions and workplaces. To this day, Adobe appears to have no intentions to port its software to Linux, which has left the platform with a vacuum in the space of media production. All these factors locking the Linux platform out have undoubtedly been great for sales of Apple and Microsoft based workstations in homes, schools and offices around the world.
The music, film and video game industries are some of the biggest in the world — with a lot of room to grow in the future. One report estimates the video game industry alone will go from 2018’s $131 billion to $300 billion by 2025. The biggest cost to developing video games is the manpower required — some of the larger productions can require thousands of people working simultaneously to elaborately craft and perfect that one virtual world. I have been dabbling with video game development for 8 years now and it’s clear to me that some serious innovation is needed to address the manpower problem in order to allow not only independent game developers to flourish but to reduce the amount of manpower, risk and capital needed to create something throughout the industry.
So far I haven’t committed nearly enough resources as I would like to development on Manifold, a hybridized 2D/3D raster and vector tool that aims to reduce the time and skills needed to produce 3D assets. Technologies like machine learning unlock functionality like uploading a simple drawing of a horse and getting a fully painted animation ready 3D horse. It’s my hope that as I get my new company off the ground in 2020 I’ll be able to find revenue streams to pay myself a wage for working on my projects and actively contribute back to other open source software that I use such as three.js and node.js. With time, I hope to develop an audience around my other project Kamigen.
Kamigen started out as a game however the need to produce a world of lore and art led me to restructure that side of things into a webcomic that I work on and publish new pages to regularly. I’m currently using Adobe Illustrator to create the comics however it’s my hope that within the next 24 months I will be able to migrate to using Manifold.
All my projects rely on the work of others to thrive, from Kamigen and Manifold benefiting from the documentation and WebGL API that three.js provides to my website generator Kettlefish needing Pug.JS to create HTML files. I’m grateful to stand on the shoulders of giants and hope to become like them one day. I don’t know if my company will ever generate millions in revenue, but if it improves the lives of others and gives the open source movement new capability with digital media and games either through my products or just my source code— I’ll be a lucky man indeed.