Kuro5hin.org: technology and culture, from the trenches
create account | help/FAQ | contact | links | search | IRC | site news
[ Everything | Diaries | Technology | Science | Culture | Politics | Media | News | Internet | Op-Ed | Fiction | Meta | MLP ]
We need your support: buy an ad | premium membership

[P]
Open source considered

By Nirvana in Op-Ed
Fri Jan 26, 2001 at 11:31:49 AM EST
Tags: Software (all tags)
Software

A piece of software is often promoted with the line "it's open source of course", and I often hear people saying that "I would use it, but it's not open source".

But are these valid positions to take?


According to the open source movement [this article is concerned with open source, not free software (although free software certainly shares some of the funding problems), to clear up any ambiguity], considering a piece of software someone has written, one should not use it unless one has the source code. The reasoning is that if one has a problem with it, one cannot resolve the issue without outside help. As far as I can see, although this is certainly a distinct advantage for say Google, who with a staff of highly trained engineers could easily tweak the Linux or BSD kernel to suit their requirements, its advantages in ensuring quality and reliability are far from assured. For example, in propounding the open source solution in John Goerzen's paper on the ethics of free [open source] software he says that the famous case of the USS Yorktown, that the 'problem behind all this is proprietary software'.

This claim is one that Mr. Goerzen fails to adequately establish. His arguments can be summarized as follows:

  • lack of peer review means that closed source software is intrinsically untrustworthy
  • the 'fact' that closed source means knowledge is not shared, something he says is unethical

By contrast he argues that from utilitarian grounds open source is better insofar as it tends to maximize the sum total of happiness, and, most specifically that 'free software is the most beneficial for the greatest number of people.'

To consider his first argument, namely that the absence of peer review makes closed source software untrustworthy, I would argue that in fact peer review is *more* rather than less common with closed source software. To take an example, Microsoft operating systems typically spend upwards of a year in external testing, whereas open source software tends to follow Eric Raymonds's famous Bazaar principle, where software is released little and often. The difference between the two can easily be seen. Anyone who used an open source OS and GUI environment, simply by clicking through each option. In my experience there would also be a considerable number of software crashes.

There are a number of reasons for this as I see it:

  • lack of money

    Since the open source movement is associated with software that is without price, there is little money to fund fulltime programmers, marketing to attract new people to the project, or commercial testing.

  • lack of direction (i.e. the ability to be able to say: 'Right, you get that bit done or you're fired')
For example, let us consider one of the top open source games, Freeciv, and its nearest commercial competitor, which is probably Alpha Centauri. In the making of Alpha Centauri, the software house would work something like this:

'We need x programmers, x video guys, and x voiceover artists.'

They will then hire those staff and the product will be produced. By contrast, the free equivalent works on a haphazard basis whereby that which is produced is determined by those people who happen to volunteer for the project.

Thus Freeciv is without any sound effects, video, etc., and also has inferior graphics, all of which detract from one's enjoyment of the game (not to mention that it exhibits one of the major problems with open source, namely lack of innovation). Indeed it is my contention that open source is a fundamentally incorrect model for software aimed at the consumer.

Characteristics of the consumer:

  • little or no programming knowledge (and therefore the so-called advantage of having the source code is no such thing)
  • low tolerance of technology for its own sake
  • little understanding of computers

For them, open source software holds no benefits compared to the leading commercial equivalents from Microsft and Apple. As such, the consumer Linux distributions I believe are doomed. The problems are:

  • insufficient funding. Open source businesses typically depend on business models that stand no chance of ever making any money. Because of the mistaken believe that making money out of software is somehow immoral (a bizarre belief, considering that everyone must make money to survive), they rely on 'donations', on selling services, and on limited and voluntary sales of products they could download for free. Although to a certain extent the market has wised up to this, as seen by the fact that Corel's Linux division was sold for a miserly 5million, I still believe that businesses like thekompany.com, and Nautilus, which rely on selling vague services or on giving the core product and charging for addons, it still persists.

    It is unfortunate for open source that this socialist tendency persists so much - Microsoft would not be able to afford produce the world's best word processor if they had given Word away and just charged for the thesaurus.

    Still further, the belief that making money out of software is somehow damaging is fundamentally misconceived. While closed source software has grown up, so to has the economy - high software spending is a *good* thing, not bad.

    The massive growth in the economy has been fueled by commercial companies making money, whereas open source ultimately aims at making all software 'free', which would undoubtedly be harmful.

  • inadequate product - whereas commercial companies such as Microsoft have armies of people employed in usability testing, the fact, as explained above, that open source can *never* match the resources of closed source means that the product will never be as advanced or as easy to use as the paid-for alternative [note that there are certain circumstances where open source can compete].

    The common reply to this is that absence of resources is not an impediment, since open source depends on volunteers, but this makes the fundamental assumption that there are enough people who would rather make software for free than make money making commercial software.

Thus:

  • the pool of volunteers or the quantity of their free time will never be large enough to build a 'complete' open source software ensemble
  • as explained above, commercial companies producing open source are not typically viable, and so do not have anything like the resources of the commercial sector with which to compete.
  • the lack of money and commercial incentive means that open source produces very little innovation, and so is always playing catchup
Having, I believe, debunked the myth that open source can ever produce a sustainable and complete consumer software ensemble, I return to one of the first arguments made, namely that closed source impairs does not allow people to learn.

This is a very flimsy argument, and I would in fact argue the reverse - at present colleges and learning schemes are heavily funded by profit-making businesses, but if open source succeeded these businesses would be redundant, which would in fact cause even greater damage to learning since this funding would stop.

Furthermore, the net result of this would be that people would be discourage from software production as a career, since it would no longer represent a profitable career path, and so they would probably pursue a career as a doctor or a lawyer. This would be a great loss to the nation, since the quality of software would decline, as highly intelligent students would go elsewhere.

In conclusion, I'm not arguing necessarily that open source is always necessarily inappropriate, but rather that for consumer software it certainly is.

In more specific cases, it might present a useful solution - for example, for high-end military applications or servers maintained by experts there are certainly advantages to an open system; however, these cases are relatively restricted - since I see little commercial potential in free software, these have to return to the roots of open source - to the limited number of highly dedicated hackers producing a small range of software (such as Unix kernels). It is here that there can be union between the two opposites - a movement that believes in free software, and those who make money out of it. Thus OSX represents a good example of the sort of project open source is ideally suited for - a defined Unix kernel is the ideal project for open source, in that it requires relatively few resources other than programmer time.

Sponsors

Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure

Login

Related Links
o Google
o John Goerzen's paper
o says
o free equivalent
o Also by Nirvana


Display: Sort:
Open source considered | 125 comments (89 topical, 36 editorial, 0 hidden)
You forgot about something (3.33 / 9) (#5)
by unstable on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 01:00:13 PM EST

Having, I believe, debunked the myth that open source can ever produce a sustainable and complete consumer software ensemble,....

one word....apache

but that is only the most widely used web server software in the world... that doesn't mean anything that its open source...does it? :)




Reverend Unstable
all praise the almighty Bob
and be filled with slack

Read it (4.00 / 4) (#9)
by Nirvana on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 01:03:28 PM EST

If you read the article you will see that I conclude that open source produces good server software. My point is about consumer software:

> > and complete consumer software ensemble,....

> one word....apache

Not consumer software.

[ Parent ]
What's "consumer software"? (2.66 / 3) (#12)
by spacejack on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 01:06:50 PM EST

I don't think Apache is. It's a developer tool. The only marginally successful consumer products I can think of are FreeAmp and Mozilla. Even those however are more useful as tools for other developers (i.e. Nullsoft, Netscape).

[ Parent ]
apache a developer tool? (3.00 / 2) (#32)
by Anonymous 242 on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 02:13:48 PM EST

It's [Apache] a developer tool.

I don't think that I've ever heard a web server described as a developer tool before.

The only marginally successful consumer products I can think of are FreeAmp and Mozilla. Even those however are more useful as tools for other developers

Perhaps, but then we also have to say the same thing about their closed-source counterparts. IE is undoubtedly more useful for MS (and other companies) as a developer tool than it is for consumers as a web browser.

[ Parent ]

sure (3.50 / 2) (#38)
by spacejack on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 04:39:15 PM EST

I don't think that I've ever heard a web server described as a developer tool before.

I would consider anyone capable of using Apache effectively a developer. I wouldn't necessarily call them programmers, but it's not like using Office or IE. The probablility that an Apache user might be capable of contributing source is much higher than an "Office" user would be.

Perhaps, but then we also have to say the same thing about their closed-source counterparts. IE is undoubtedly more useful for MS (and other companies) as a developer tool than it is for consumers as a web browser.

No.. most people use IE as-is, whereas my examples (Freeamp, Mozilla) most people use then through WinAmp or Netscape. Though I would consider Freeamp & Mozilla among the most polished of OS consumer apps I can think of.

[ Parent ]
IE as developer product and apache as consumer app (none / 0) (#52)
by Anonymous 242 on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 08:49:38 AM EST

No.. most people use IE as-is

This is disputable. I would contend that IE is much more frequently used in other products. Turbo-Tax, Quicken, MS Office, etc. all use IE for significant portions of the final work. It's getting to be difficult to find a productivity app that does not use IE in some significant aspect.

I would consider anyone capable of using Apache effectively a developer.

This assertion is just plain bizarre. Technically everytime I hit a website served by Apache, I am a user of Apache. The same is true for IIS, which is why it costs so much, being a per-user license. I'll grant that web-servers are not "consumer" software, but to say that anyone that uses Apache is a developer is simply lucredilous.

[ Parent ]

um (none / 0) (#65)
by spacejack on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 06:42:30 PM EST

"I would consider anyone capable of using Apache effectively a developer."

This assertion is just plain bizarre. Technically everytime I hit a website served by Apache, I am a user of Apache. The same is true for IIS, which is why it costs so much, being a per-user license. I'll grant that web-servers are not "consumer" software, but to say that anyone that uses Apache is a developer is simply lucredilous.


Um, meaning anyone installing or configuring Apache. Going to the website isn't using Apache any more than you're using Outlook Express if I sent you an email. Or that you're using Photoshop when you look at a jpg on a website.

[ Parent ]
consumers and developers (none / 0) (#71)
by Anonymous 242 on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 09:10:50 AM EST

Your analogy to from Outlook Express to a SMTP, POP, or IMAP server is apt. If you use Outlook in conjunction with such a server, then yes, you are a user of smail, imapd, sendmail, whatever. You analogy to Photoshop fails. Other apt analogies where what you consider developer tools are used by consumers would be Shockwave, Flash, and most Web-browser plugins.

Web servers, mail servers, file servers, print servers, etc. are not a developer tools, they are not what I would consider to be consumer oriented software, but neither are they used primarily by developers. My guess is that you have a false dichotomy of developer/consumer. A more appropriate dichotomy would be server side/client side combined with a somewhat orthogonal dichotomy of development tools/end user tools. The consumer catagory would be orthogonal to all of these dichotomies and refers to software that is most often purchased "off the shelf" or is targetted primarily toward end users. Some consumer products (such as MS Office and MS IE) are used both by developers (Intuit for example in the case of IE, Companies that write VBA apps in the case of Office) and consumers.

If we say that Apache is a developer tool simply because it serves content created by web developers, then in order to be consistant, we must say that word processors are development tools because they are primarily used to create content.

[ Parent ]

my last word (none / 0) (#75)
by spacejack on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 04:51:37 PM EST

Your analogy to from Outlook Express to a SMTP, POP, or IMAP server is apt. If you use Outlook in conjunction with such a server, then yes, you are a user of smail, imapd, sendmail, whatever. You analogy to Photoshop fails. Other apt analogies where what you consider developer tools are used by consumers would be Shockwave, Flash, and most Web-browser plugins.

What? You mean when we're looking at this page, we're just using Apache? I thought we were all using Rusty's app! Isn't that why we come here? :)

[ Parent ]
Devoper / end-user tools (none / 0) (#100)
by Michael Leuchtenburg on Fri Jan 26, 2001 at 01:56:57 PM EST

So what's vim? Or Emacs? They certainly don't easily fit into one of those categories. I used vim last night to write a college essay. I also used it to write a webpage and create a perl script. I'm using Xemacs right now to write Perl and to jot down a list of possible expenses.

So there's yet another false dichotomy. Oh-so-common, aren't they.

[ #k5: dyfrgi ]
[ TINK5C ]
[ Parent ]

Yes it is consumer software (none / 0) (#93)
by pin0cchio on Fri Jan 26, 2001 at 12:15:51 PM EST

I don't think Apache is.

I run WinApache and use it to share files when I can't get AIM filesharing to work (for example, when one of us is on gAIM/Jabber/Everybuddy/Quick Buddy or when I have to move files from one of my boxen to another over the network).


lj65
[ Parent ]
A word on innovation. (3.88 / 9) (#13)
by Spendocrat on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 01:07:55 PM EST

The whole deal about open-course software lacking innovation is one I've heard before (mainly on the BeOS mailing lists). It still puzzles me.

Perhaps this is a problem with our definition of innovation. Does innovation mean exclusively new features and new ways of doing things? If so, perhaps you can make a case for open-source software being largely non-innovative, though I think you can make that claim for thousands of non-open software products and developpers too.

However, I think that using such a limited definition for the term is somewhat disingenuous. Improving upon existing ideas, such as creating better implementations of existing products and adding additional features is also innovative, and is an area where Open Source type software excels. The oft repeated examples of great open-source software are still great examples, and can't be discounted just because they've been pointed to so many times.

Beer not speech (3.16 / 6) (#14)
by schporto on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 01:12:21 PM EST

There is an argument to be made about 1 factor with which closed source software will never be able to compete. Cost. There will never be a closed source product (like Word, Mac OSX, Windows2000, AutoCAD) that will be as cheap as their open source competitor (Star Office, Linux, there a some cad programs too I just can't think of them). And in this area (cost) it is up to the consumer to decide which is better. Yes the user may deal with more confusion, less usability, more oddities (I won't argue with that although I do disagree), but that consumer can make the decision of - "are these problems worth the $x?" (Yes I realize IE is free, however you generally only get it if you also bought you OS)

So in the case of say public internet terminals I think open source is entirely the way to go. Do you want your library (for example) paying $1100 for a computer with MS Windows, or $1000 for a linux based one? It may be only $100, but that is oh 2 hardcover books, or about 10 paper backs, or about 7 magazine subscriptions.

Or let's take a different example - a college freshman. Again we could save $100 and use free software and its associated quirks, or eat the $100 and don't have quirks. Do you have any idea how much beer $100 buys :)?

-cpd

Actual cost? (2.50 / 2) (#21)
by spacejack on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 01:25:52 PM EST

But it's all cancelled out by the time and/or salary. Open source packages are typically harder to use or the employees are more costly. Why doesn't everyone use GIMP? Why does ANYONE use Win2K? If open source alternatives were actually more cost-effective, the market would have phased out commercial apps already.

[ Parent ]
costs in context (5.00 / 2) (#26)
by Anonymous 242 on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 01:46:03 PM EST

In the context of a public library buying computers that are most likely to be used as telnet clients to the catalogue software and a web browser, there will be little (if any) additional overhead in terms of support for administering the boxes.

The downtown branch of my local library alone has 100+ Compaq's running Windows that are loaded with all of two applications, a telnet session and Netscape Navigator. Each of the branch libraries has at least two of these bringing the total number to over 200.

If one assumes $100 for a Windows license, the difference of price of $20,000 buys a lot of books.

And while, I will admit that Linux can be harder to set up, a plain jane install with X and at a limited resolution (I think they all are running 800x600) and Netscape on 200 identical boxes is likely to be easier and faster than loading Windows, etc. on the same gear. I won't even get into the cost of locking Windows down so that the users can only access the card catalogue or the browser.

In other applications, Windows certainly does end up less expensive once one factors in support costs. Not to mention that for some applications there is no solution available in the open source world (color matching anyone?). However, one also has to take into account costs of supporting Windows that Linux doesn't have. How much money was lost because of the homogenous MS Exchange environment that allowed Love Bug and Melissa to run rampant? Working in Notes shop, I missed out on those, but those (and similiar) incidents cost quite a few companies a whole lot of money.

[ Parent ]

Define Cost (4.00 / 1) (#27)
by schporto on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 01:48:31 PM EST

Maybe at your salary the dollar value of software is not worth the time invested. But at other's software the money is more important than their time.

I disagree also with the assertation that it is harder to use. But I will agree that it may be harder to learn. So now the deciding factor comes down to what your time is worth and how long it takes you to learn the new software. Expressed as
Salary (dollars/hour) * Time to Learn New Software (hours) < Cost (dollars)
If this statement is true then you should not purchase the software to come out ahead. So if I made $500/hour, and it took me 1 hour to learn a new OS and I already know the closed source OS there is now way it would be worth my while to use the free version I would in effect be losing $400. But if I made $6/hour and it took me 2 hours to learn a new OS then I come out $88 dollars ahead.

As for why closed source still exists - that is not merely dependant on it being cost effective. There are several other considerations too which are above and beyond the discussion here. Although a large part of it is prior knowledge. Closed source was extremely expensive at first. Your people all had to take computer courses. Retraining them would again be expensive.

-cpd

[ Parent ]
You Discount Two Things (5.00 / 1) (#49)
by Matrix on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 07:49:21 AM EST

There are two things you're missing here:

  1. FUD and marketing. Open source software generally doesn't have a giant, dedicated hype machine running the show. Office, for example, gets its default toolbars chosen by marketing to make displays impressive. Exactly the same as the layout of the QWERTY keyboard - it let salespeople type 'typewriter' really fast.
  2. The "no one ever got fired for buying IBM" syndrome. Many corporate purchasers or customers don't make the smart choice, they make the choice that is garunteed to preserve their job.

Oh, and you're failing to make the distinction between "harder to use" and "harder to learn". I'm much faster at common tasks with GNOME or WindowMaker than I am at those same tasks with Windows. However, it took me slightly longer to become comfortable with both of the above Linux UIs because they are more complex and powerful interfaces. After using Windows for the better part of five years, until last year, there are still some things it does that seem completely and totally illogical to me.


Matrix
"...Pulling together is the aim of despotism and tyranny. Free men pull in all kinds of directions. It's the only way to make progress."
- Lord Vetinari, pg 312 of the Truth, a Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett
[ Parent ]

Advertising (none / 0) (#95)
by pin0cchio on Fri Jan 26, 2001 at 12:25:40 PM EST

Why doesn't everyone use GIMP?

Because people don't know it's available for the more popular :-( operating system. WinGIMP is actually quite stable and usable, and it's well worth the half hour it takes to get used to all the menus being under the right mouse button.

Why does ANYONE use Win2K?

A typical fellow can't use Win98 because he doesn't want his computer to crash every two hours, and he can't use Linux, BSD, or UNIX because he has to run his Win32 legacy apps (read: proprietary OpenGL and Direct3D games).

Yes, there are loads of games on Linux86: just get TuxNES and a few ROMS (legal or illegal).


lj65
[ Parent ]
Problems with developing software for consumers. (4.12 / 8) (#18)
by hugorune on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 01:18:19 PM EST

I don't think that there is any reason why open source models can't be used for consumer software, but I think developers will need to listen to users more. Open source projects that work well seem to be ones where the developers are also users of the software. I don't think that necessarily means that all users must be capable o contibuting to the software development, but some degree of technical competence is often required because the developers tend to write software that satisfies their own needs.

This doesn't mean that consumer software cannot be written using the open source development model though. It just means that the developers need to understand the problems that a typical non-technical user faces when trying to use their software. Documentation needs to be done well and I think it also helps to have some form of discussion forum for providing technical support, which should include participation from developers. Users should be encouraged to feel part of a community even if they are not contributing code.

--
Phil Harrison
Problems with thesis (4.18 / 11) (#22)
by Anonymous 242 on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 01:28:32 PM EST

Nirvana fails to correctly address John Goerzen's contention about the absense of security in closed source software. As demonstrated in the recent Interbase fiasco, a backdoor can exist in closed source software and there is no way to detect or close it down. Once the Interbase code was opened up, the backdoor was found during the process of peer review. Nirvana, apparently misunderstands just what peer review is:

Microsoft operating systems typically spend upwards of a year in external testing

Testing is not peer review. Testing is testing, putting software through its paces and seeing if it does indeed do what it is supposed to do. Peer review, is the auditing of code by people that understand it. Microsoft might very well peer review the code for their closed source projects, but such peer review in insignificant in magnitude (and perhaps in quality as well, but that is another issue all together) compared to the peer review that the linux kernel goes through.

Even if Microsoft could internally match the peer review available to open source projects, we still have no assurance of security. If the Interbase developers can put in a back door, why can't Microsoft's developers? How do I know that a current (or former) developer on a Microsoft project is not reading all of my files as I type this?

Also, as I mentioned in my editorial comment to the original submission:

This paper fallaciously assumes (as many opponents of open source do) that only volunteer efforts are open source and then goes on to compare an entirely volunteer project with a commercial closed source project. The commercial/volunteer dichotomy is orthogonal to the open source/closed source dichotomy. A valid comparrison would compare a commercially backed open source project to a similiar commercially backed closed source project. A comparisson between Zope and a closed source application server or between IBM's web server and IIS might be more apt.

A valid comparisson to Alpha Centauri (a commerically funded closed source project) would be a commercially funded open source game. If there aren't any, the comparisson can not be made. Perhaps a better comparrison could have been picked. Open source Mozilla (backed by AOL/Netscape) compared to close source Internet Explorere (backed by Microsoft) might be a better comparisson. Open source OpenOffice (backed by Sun) compared to Microsoft Office would be another good comparrison. You can't compare apples and oranges.

Once you remove Nirvana's fallacious equating of open source projects with volunteer projects and see through the mistaken contention that peer review == software testing, there is no argument left to bolster Nirvana's thesis.

You're off track (3.00 / 3) (#25)
by spacejack on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 01:37:28 PM EST

Nirvana fails to correctly address John Goerzen's contention about the absense of security in closed source software.

This is not a big deal. Most consumer software isn't prone to back doors. And "Spyware" is generally considered bad for business these days. You're thinking about server software, developer tools; not consumer software. If you are talking about consumer software, then it's a very small niche of the consumer market.

[ Parent ]
how do you know? (4.00 / 2) (#29)
by Anonymous 242 on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 01:55:34 PM EST

Most consumer software isn't prone to back doors.

I certainly hope that you are correct in this, but to be honest, I have no way of knowing whether you are or not. And that is Mr. Goerzen's point.

You're thinking about server software, developer tools; not consumer software.

Firstly, the Interbase fiasco was in my mind because it happened recently. Back doors of different types have been found in numerous consumer packages. Most were found because this hacker or that hacker was curious about all the seemingly extraneous IP traffic on his or her box. Sure, one can say that "spyware" is bad for business, but how does one know if "spyware" is in place or not. How does one know if Windows reports the contents of one's harddrive back to Microsoft during online registration? How does one know just what the infamous NSAKey can be used for?

Secondly, the consumer/developer tag means nada. If the program is closed source, it doesn't matter whether its targeted at consumers or developers, there is no way for the consumer to verify that the program is free from back doors. If Interbase developers can put one into their database, then Microsoft could certainly put one into Windows, Office, IE, Flight Simulator, etc.

Lastly, before saying that I'm off track, how do you address my other contention, that Nirvana's comparrison is invalid?

[ Parent ]

re: how do you know? (3.00 / 3) (#35)
by spacejack on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 03:34:01 PM EST

"Most consumer software isn't prone to back doors."

I certainly hope that you are correct in this, but to be honest, I have no way of knowing whether you are or not.


Well how many back door fiascos have, say, Adobe had over the past 10 years? Or Electronic Arts? Nintendo? What did consumers lose here by opting for closed source product?

Sure, one can say that "spyware" is bad for business, but how does one know if "spyware" is in place or not.

Well there's ZoneAlarm for Windows. And of course, it only matters if your PC/console/pda is connected to the internet.

How does one know if Windows reports the contents of one's harddrive back to Microsoft during online registration? How does one know just what the infamous NSAKey can be used for?

I'm trying to argue pragmatically here.. but all of that sounds like babble and paranoia to joe consumer. True, someone may get seriously burned by something like that, (something that presumably couldn't happen if they had been using an open source alternative). But besides Office (an exceptional case where it has such a bad rep I refuse to install it ever), I can't think of any reason to fear any closed source apps I'd work with. Besides, people are used to viruses. In fact, IMHO, the days of moving around floppies & zip disks were far more dangerous than our present day internet communication. Anything valuable should be backed up. Period. If security is of vital importance then you need to take the appropriate steps to ensure your working environment is secure. Some people seem to think open source is a panacea for security. It's not. You need to know what you're doing, or get someone who does.

What other apps am I going to worry about? Paint programs? Games? 3D Modelling tools? Video editors? Music editors? CD players? Compilers? I'm just not so paranoid that I'm going to worry there's some back door inside every shrink-wrapped/closed source software package I use.

Office is the only glaring consumer app I can think of that is a real sore thumb. What that app needs is some competition. It's too bad those word-processor/spreadsheet, etc. apps are so boring.. probably why there aren't more alternatives, open source or otherwise.

[ Parent ]
Exactly (3.00 / 2) (#36)
by Anonymous 242 on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 03:38:26 PM EST

I think its funny that you disagree with my point and then acknowledge at least one close-sourced app that proves my assertion. If one (Office) exists, why should there not be more?

[ Parent ]
yet (3.00 / 2) (#37)
by spacejack on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 04:08:42 PM EST

People use Office regardless. Why didn't people switch to that Corel Office program in droves? Perhaps the odd Melissa event simply isn't all that catastrophic for most people.

But explain this to me. From an end-user perspective, how are Office and some open source equivalent different, security-wise? Are you contending that a Melissa-like virus never would have occurred if Office were open source? Otherwise, how is the experience different to the user? The bug/exploit/hole is noticed. MS patches it. Apply patch. Repeat.

[ Parent ]
no longer discussing the original assertion (3.00 / 1) (#53)
by Anonymous 242 on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 08:59:15 AM EST

The claim that Nirvana was attempting to refute is this:
lack of peer review means that closed source software is intrinsically untrustworthy

First, Nirvana completely mistakenly equates testing with peer review of source code which makes the presented argument against Goerzen's contention worthless.

Second, the fact that backdoors of one sort or the other have been proven to exist in more than one closed source package (some of which have been consumer grade products, comet cursor anyone?) proves that Goerzen's statement of theoretical security has a practical impact on the real world.

Third, that some people consistantly choose to use software that is buggy or has known backdoors is entirely irrelevant to this particular discussion. The discussion is not about popularity, the discussion is about security. Goerzen's (very valid) point is that in a theoretical sense, closed source software can never be as secure as open source software. That the vast majority of people do not care two bits for security does not lessen Goerzen's point.

regards,

-l

[ Parent ]

ok (none / 0) (#66)
by spacejack on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 07:56:54 PM EST

The claim that Nirvana was attempting to refute is this:
lack of peer review means that closed source software is intrinsically untrustworthy First, Nirvana completely mistakenly equates testing with peer review of source code which makes the presented argument against Goerzen's contention worthless.


Perhaps. But I think it would be more correct to say that an OS product with an active following may be safer and contain fewer bugs than an equivalent closed source product. Otherwise, you only need to look at Photoshop vs. GIMP to see that OS apps can easily have more bugs. (Of course, if design students suddenly couldn't pirate Photoshop, you might see a change :)

Third, that some people consistantly choose to use software that is buggy or has known backdoors is entirely irrelevant to this particular discussion. The discussion is not about popularity, the discussion is about security. Goerzen's (very valid) point is that in a theoretical sense, closed source software can never be as secure as open source software. That the vast majority of people do not care two bits for security does not lessen Goerzen's point.

Ah but it does. Where is the incentive to create great software if no one appreciates it? Linux, Apache, etc. get the attention they need because so many of their users appreciate the OS nature and the quality of the product. For people who simply use their software as a tool and have little interest in how it works, *interface* is the #1 feature above all others. Your heroic, obscure security patches will go unsing. But fix a palette so it snaps into place, and they'll love you. AFAIK, no Adobe product has had any kind of catastrophic back door that I can remember. So maybe I can pore through the GIMP source and verify that it has no back doors, maybe I can find/fix a bug or UI problem... nah. Not gonna happen.

In both cases there are significant incentives not to have back doors. GIMP for Win32 for example, I believe was ported by one guy. Now, IMHO, this guy should be given a medal. At the same time, it's possible he put in a back door. Probably not, because who wants that kind of a rep. But by the same token, Adobe knows how disastrous the discovery of a back door could be to them so they'll do they're darndest to find anything like that. And if anything slipped through, you can be sure they'd jump on it immediately if any customer got burned by it. It's in their interest to do so.

Beyond this however, you're just rolling dice. Maybe the chances are that Photoshop will blow up in your face down the road in a more costly fashion than GIMP will. But the chances are damn slim in either case, and the productivity one gets from Photoshop more than pays for its cost and long term risks. I may as well worry about getting hit by lightning every time I go outside.

[ Parent ]
Backdoors and blowing up (none / 0) (#72)
by Anonymous 242 on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 09:25:27 AM EST

In both cases there are significant incentives not to have back doors.

No, there are significant incentives not to get caught having a back door. Borland got away with a back door in Interbase for years. If they hadn't forgotten to take it out before making the program open source they likely would have gotten away with it for many, many more years if not indefinately.

Adobe knows how disastrous the discovery of a back door could be to them so they'll do they're darndest to find anything like that. And if anything slipped through, you can be sure they'd jump on it immediately if any customer got burned by it. It's in their interest to do so.

I think you confuse what is in my best interest with what is in Adobe's best interest. Two Microsoft products, Office and Exchange, demonstrate that the general public seems willing to use products that are acknowledged security nightmares. Apparently Microsoft's reputation has not seemed to suffer all that much from this being the case.

Beyond this however, you're just rolling dice. Maybe the chances are that Photoshop will blow up in your face down the road in a more costly fashion than GIMP will. But the chances are damn slim in either case, and the productivity one gets from Photoshop more than pays for its cost and long term risks.

Given that have been proven backdoors in commercial closed source products in the past, I think it is entirely reasonable to assume that there will be backdoors in commercial closed source products in the future. It some cases the security risk involved might be made up for by increased productivity. But how do you put a price on security. For the average consumer, this is not likely to be all that important. For businesses, this is of crucial importance. I would say that Outlook and Exchange through Mellissa, Love Bug, etc. have cost many companies far beyond the amount of money they saved by increased productivity and not having training costs for other mail/groupware packages.

I never contended that one must not weight the pros and cons of a given software package. My contention is that Mr. Goerzen had a very valid point that was not adequately addressed by Nirvana in his misguided tirade against open source software. Mr. Goerzen's point still stands, closed source software can never achieve the level security that can be achieved by open source software. For me, this doesn't make that much of a difference because I don't have a whole lot that can do me harm if it gets out. I can not assume that the same is true of all other individuals or all corporations. With closed source software, consumers (home and business) are absolutely dependant on trusting the vendor and many vendors have proved that they can not be trusted. With open source software, consumers (home and business) are able to audit the security of the package.

[ Parent ]

risk (none / 0) (#77)
by spacejack on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 05:14:34 PM EST

Given that have been proven backdoors in commercial closed source products in the past, I think it is entirely reasonable to assume that there will be backdoors in commercial closed source products in the future. It some cases the security risk involved might be made up for by increased productivity. But how do you put a price on security.

Probably with statistics.

For the average consumer, this is not likely to be all that important. For businesses, this is of crucial importance. I would say that Outlook and Exchange through Mellissa, Love Bug, etc. have cost many companies far beyond the amount of money they saved by increased productivity and not having training costs for other mail/groupware packages.

Many companies.. but most companies? That's the question. Not that it's easy to answer, but without any numbers, it's all pretty hypothetical.

[ Parent ]
Microsoft (3.33 / 3) (#33)
by schporto on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 02:26:50 PM EST

Global IDentifier. I believe that was the name. Every install is different. Linked to every doc you write and or modify. Found by some hacker. Not listed in known documentation prior to that. As far as I know Word is exactly what we're talking about here.

-cpd

[ Parent ]
GUIDs/UUIDs (none / 0) (#94)
by pete on Fri Jan 26, 2001 at 12:17:01 PM EST

I've explained this before, but...a GUID (as MS calls it) or a UUID (as the rest of the world calls it) is a convenient way of generating a guaranteed unique number (Globally or Universally Unique Identifier). If you have a linux box handy, just type 'uuidgen' and you'll see one. A UUID is created from several parts, including a timestamp, a random number, and a machine identifier, which is generally the MAC address of your ethernet card. MS did not invent the format of these; they just happened to use them heavily in OLE/COM. The first use I ever saw of them was in DCE. They are not a plot by MS, just an unfortunately insecure way of getting a unique number.


--pete


[ Parent ]
Still (none / 0) (#98)
by schporto on Fri Jan 26, 2001 at 12:53:40 PM EST

I didn't claim MS invented it. My point was that it was used in Office. These *IDs were unique to each machine/windows install. These numbers were then tied to documents. They were not defined (as fas as I know) in a public way. Thus consumer's were producing documents and emailing them around not realizing that these documents could (theoretically) be traced back to them. I don't claim the MS was tracking these numbers. Or that the NSA knew everyone's and was planing on hunting down terrorists with them. I merely claim that the public unknowingly could've been tracked. This was ment to refute the claim that this would never happen in closed source software. As another example of this I put forth Intel's chip ID stuff. Open source projects disabled these IDs. Closed source tell you they did but can you prove it?
-cpd

[ Parent ]
Consumers benefit without realizing (3.00 / 5) (#23)
by kovacsp on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 01:33:45 PM EST

Just because consumers don't appreciate something doesn't mean its useful. Consumers benefit from superior software every time it is used. Open Source software tends to be superior. Therefore consumers benefit from open source software.

Think about it this way: If all software were open source, do you not agree that it would lead to superior software everywhere? If not, please explain why.

Clarification (3.00 / 1) (#24)
by kovacsp on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 01:35:08 PM EST

Okay, that's a pretty bold statment. At the very least, OSS has the potential to be far superior to its closed-source counterparts. Nevermind the needless distraction called money.

[ Parent ]
I kind of agree with your conclusions,... (4.16 / 12) (#28)
by Simon Kinahan on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 01:51:16 PM EST

... but not with your argument.

First of all, I'd like to correct your view of what open source is all about. The essential point is that "closed source" software companies keep the source code as a trade secret, and sell the object code under very strict copyright conditions. It is argued that this reduces the utility of the software to everyone, as if the many people have the software, and many people have the source code, it will be faster, more secure, and less buggy than if a small development team, as in most closed source shops, does all the work, and everyone else has to come to them to get changes made.

There is no need for anyone to subscribe to bizarre socialist reasoning to accept this. You merely have to accept that the intellectual property rights of closed source companies give their shareholders monopoly profits by definition - the price of getting a piece of software is no its marginal cost, but a higher price because there is only one possible source - and reduce the quality, and increase the price of software for everyone else.

The controversy centers on quality. Is is true that open source software is better ? I'd contend that it is true for some projects and not for others.

The legion of open source MTAs are better than Exchange almost without exception. Linux's kernel is better than NTs for most applications, and FreeBSD's may be even better. Apache is a better web server than iPlanet or IIS. Ask sysadmins with experience in both open and closed source software and you'll overwhelmingly get these answers. Similarly most programmers prefer open source development tools to closed source IDEs. Give me bash over CMD.EXE any day.

However, Gnome and KDE are still pale imitations of Windows on the GUI front. Mozilla is getting to the point of being acceptable as a browser, but will never get IEs end user acceptance because IE just has a nicer user experience. Star Office and K Office have nothing on MS Office for friendliness or features.

There's a pretty clear, and frankly obvious, distinction here even if you disagree with some of my evaluations. Open source succeeds were the average user is also a reasonably able programmer, and fails were he is not. This should come as no surprise. People volunteer more readily when their own quality of life is improved by their work, but not for others, and even if every programmer in the world worked on Mozilla, if there were usability testing with end users, it would still be less usable than IE, even though it would be technically better.

There is an important point here: Having a highly distributed, volunteer development community is not an essential feature of open source, its merely the common habit. Open source projects, such as ghostscript and the Helix version of Gnome, do exist with development teams concentrated in one place and in regular face to face communication. It this habit of having "bazaar style" development which makes open source software hard to use. If you develop in a more "cathedral" way with payed developers, testers and UI designers, there is no reason why making the resulting product open source makes it unusable. This is, I think, the flaw in the essay's argument - there is a failure to distinguish open source from bazaar style development, which is facilitates, but does not require.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
Mostly agree with important exceptions (3.00 / 1) (#57)
by itsbruce on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 11:41:40 AM EST

However, Gnome and KDE are still pale imitations of Windows on the GUI front.

On GUI features or on system features available through the GUI? If you mean the former I simply can't agree. Gnome + any window manager offers all the GUI interface features of Windows and then a whole lot more - particularly if the wm is Enlightenment or Sawfish. Can Windows offer multiple virtual desktops, themable desktops (not just the graphics but also the window decorations, keypresses and mouse-click actions), launch programs to specific desktops? Does it offer multiple, configurable menu bars - or docks/wharfs? Does it offer anything like the Enlightenment pager? No.

You can make a Gnome+wm desktop look and behave almost exactly like a Windows box - or you can make it look like nothing anybody ever used before.

KDE is less flexible than Gnome but it still has the edge on Windows, being pretty much a windows clone but also with some of the options that Gnome offers.

If, OTOH, you're talking about the integration of system and GUI then you have a point. But then MS only have the one GUI (even if they do keep tampering with it) and the one way of organising the OS, so it's an easier job. Gnome and KDE are components, the designers don't know how the underlying Linux distribution will be organised - or even if it will be running on Linux, since both can be used on the other Freenixes or on commercial unices (I know I've heard of people running Gnome on Solaris). That means that they themselves can't integrate the system with the GUI - all they can do is provide the means. It's up to the distribution developers to do the integration. And some of them are doing a very good job - have you tried the latest versions of Mandrake or Stormix?

Open source succeeds were the average user is also a reasonably able programmer, and fails were he is not.

I'd make an important disctinction there: implementing open source solutions frequently requires a higher degree of skill (not necessary programming skill, though), using does not. Setting up Linux - or many things that run on it - is currently a bit much for the average user. But I can - and have - set it up for them and give them a desktop every bit as easy to use as the windows desktop they're used to - it can be an almost exact clone, even. That done, they have no problems using it or the office-style apps available.

and even if every programmer in the world worked on Mozilla, if there were usability testing with end users, it would still be less usable than IE, even though it would be technically better.

I disagree, mostly for reasons cited here but also because the Konqueror web/file browser, as bundled with KDE2, is at least as easily usable as IE (better in some places, lacking on some others). After trying out KDE2 at home I decided it wasn't for me and I'm mostly using Windowmaker - but I'm using Konqueror for most of my browsing.


--

It is impolite to tell a man who is carrying you on his shoulders that his head smells.
[ Parent ]
Some misunderstandings (3.00 / 1) (#70)
by Simon Kinahan on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 07:27:32 AM EST

When I criticise the open source GUIs, I'm criticising the overall user experience, not the range of GUI features or the access to system facilities. As you say, Gnome and KDE are components, and developers make use of them in whatever way they see fit. This is the problem, not an excuse. A good user interface provides the user with a coherent experience, where an understanding of the system as a whole allows them to make any change they need and to use any of the available tools. The Unix command line shells are a good example of a good user interface. There is a consistent analogy that allows the user to understand each tool if he has the man page and a knowledge of the problem domain. Windows and the Macintosh come much closer to meeting this criteria than either Gnome or KDE, and my contention is that it is precisely bazaar style development that creates these difficulties. There is no way to enforce, or even encourage, conceptual unity in the user interface across different components of the system.

As you say, implementing open source solutions in much harder than using them. But the development style makes them hard to use, too. With a very few exceptions, everyone involved in open source development is a programmer acting off their own bat. Very few are being paid, and even fewer are being paid by end users or anyone with access to end user feedback. Thus the systems that come out tend to be biased towards the needs of programmers, not end users. Thus there is noticeably more success when the users, too, are programmers, in the domains of core system services and development utilities.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]
Don't agree (none / 0) (#74)
by itsbruce on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 01:47:40 PM EST

There is no way to enforce, or even encourage, conceptual unity in the user interface across different components of the system.

But that would be true of any development environment where there is no central force to enforce one - and only one - way of doing things. It has nothing to do with Open Source. Commercial Unices have the worst of both worlds - a standard desktop with a limited feature set and poor GUI config tools. Surely, if Open Source is to blame, that wouldn't be the case.

Besides, having seen the way Mandrake and Stormix proved a consistent GUI user interface, I have to say that you simply haven't tried enough different systems.

Thus the systems that come out tend to be biased towards the needs of programmers, not end users. Thus there is noticeably more success when the users, too, are programmers, in the domains of core system services and development utilities.

In my previous post I cited specific reasons why I disagree with that quite strongly. I don't see any counter-arguments, just counter-opinions.


--

It is impolite to tell a man who is carrying you on his shoulders that his head smells.
[ Parent ]
Open Source vs. Closed Source (4.07 / 13) (#31)
by pb on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 02:10:08 PM EST

I think you're confusing a few things here; I'll start with Open Source, the concept, versus Open Source, the movement. The major difference between open source and closed source is that with open source, at least you have the source code available to you. You don't have to beg the original company and ask them how they implemented something and to please make changes; they might not know, care, or be in business by now. I just wrote a program for a company that uses almost entirely closed-source commercial software, but they asked me to give them the source code (on disk and in printed form) because the last time they were frustrated when they couldn't modify their last custom program, and ended up having to switch to a different software package instead.

Now, what companies in their right mind would do this? I mean, besides Sun, SGI, IBM, and basically anyone but Microsoft. Open source will be pretty important in the future, just to band companies together into supporting a common platform that no one dominates. That's what we call a "level playing field". The individual companies make money from custom solutions, hardware, support contracts, documentation, and any other added value on top of the base product; that's where the real money is anyhow.

If it weren't for Open Source, and the research labs at AT&T, and Xerox, we might not have the mouse, the GUI, ethernet, or Unix; I think you owe them a lot; they could have killed each and every one of these inventions by keeping them totally proprietary and not letting anyone else see them. Or by trying to dominate standards and charging huge fees, and creating many incompatible standards in their wake. The computer industry didn't even have a concept of "software piracy" until Bill Gates came along with his dastardly licensing schemes.

Currently the pool of Open Source software isn't only enough to create one complete ensemble of applications--it's enough to make two or three competing ones. You won't find just one office suite, or one desktop environment; if you look, you'll find many of them, and you can pick and choose amongst them. They are suited for different styles of work, because one size doesn't necessarily fit all. Also, there's a considerable amount of innovation involved; for example, thanks to The Rasterman, and E, both Gnome and KDE have complicated skinning mechanisms. The entire Unix tradition shares a rich history of innovation, and pioneered concepts used in many other programs and opereating systems, like the BSD TCP/IP stack. Meanwhile, Microsoft doesn't innovate at all, or if that's what they call innovation, then I don't want it.
---
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall

You forgot one reason why it's not a perfect idea (3.71 / 7) (#44)
by Pimp Ninja on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 07:58:10 PM EST

One of the things you said about closed-source software tending to be less effective at what it did, and the two examples you used -- Freeciv's sound and movies and graphics, as well as office software from Microsoft versus O/S software of the same sort --really hammer home something i've noticed about the whole O/S software concept. Namely the problem that only the 'sexy' parts of the project really get any attention.

One has only to look at the total failure of the Linux et al. community to come up with a viable replacement for X-Windows to see this in action. Faced with the prospect of rebuilding and reinventing a GUI framework that'd work on desktop systems, most programmers seem to simply shrug and think "Well, it works, so why bother?" and either go on refining the existing kludge, or go back to working on the latest fad in OS development. Hence the focus on filesystems, security, and networking layers. Which is not to say that those aren't the most important elements of an OS, but they are given nearly all the attention of the developer community, to the exclusion of a lot of other elements that are less 'sexy'.

For an open source project to succeed in the real world marketplace, it not only has to have the rock-solid base that most of them admittedly do, but it also has to have all the nuts and bolts in place - and the nuts and bolts aren't all that much fun to program.

Basically, as i see it, this is why O/S projects can't really compete yet - the structure of them has no framework for forcing developers to put their noses to the grindstone and churn out the code that, while it isn't all that pretty, and it isn't all that sexy, will make a project stand out head and shoulders above the products of a closed-source producer.

my .02, anyway :)


-----

If we demand from them without offering in return, what are we but better-
dressed muggers holding up the creative at the point of a metaphorical gun?


Excuse me? (4.83 / 6) (#45)
by itsbruce on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 09:02:35 PM EST

One has only to look at the total failure of the Linux et al. community to come up with a viable replacement for X-Windows to see this in action
  1. What should we take from Microsoft's total failure to come up with anything that begins to match the power of X, then? X is a modular, networked, hugely customisable GUI system. The Windows GUI doesn't begin to compare, neither in its featureset nor in its API. Windows Terminal Services? Don't make me laugh!
  2. There are several very promising alternatives to X under active development; Berlin, MicroWindows and Embedded QT being just three examples off the top of my head.
Which is not to say that those aren't the most important elements of an OS, but they are given nearly all the attention of the developer community, to the exclusion of a lot of other elements that are less 'sexy'.

Several reasons why this is simply not true:

  1. To many coders, myself included, it's the internal code that is sexy or not, not the interface. If I can find an elegant, efficient and compact way of doing something, that elegant solution is "sexy" to me, not the function of the code. I know this is true for many other people.
  2. Because open source projects are accessible to all, anybody can contribute and improve them. Because anybody can look at the code, the chances of someone with the right talents coming to work on a project that suits their temperament and skills is far higher than in the closed source world - there are no real barriers to them. Given the huge number of skilled developers now using and contributing to open source software, there's always somebody who finds a particular task "sexy". Some people get really turned on by writing drivers for multi-port serial cards. To each his fetish.
  3. Many of the people who code for Open Source projects, whether long-term project members or just users submitting a patch, are doing so not because they want to but because they need to. We use these products all the time for our daily work - we need them to function. An example: we have quite a few Netware 4 servers and I need the ncpfs tools to work with them. I found that some of the tools required numerical arguments that I found counter-intuitive. So I contributed some patches that allowed those tools to take mnemonic characters as arguments - the same characters that Netware uses, conveniently. The maintainer integrated the patches the same day and from that day on it's been far easier for me to perform certain regular tasks. It wasn't a sexy job, it just needed doing and I did it. That (rather boring) story is repeated countless times every day on countless projects.
  4. Contributing to Open Source projects is rewarding in itself. Take the example I gave above: I am able to get almost immediate feedback when I encounter problems with the tools. This means I don't get frustrated with them even where they are awkward to use. Where I have suggested improvements they have either been implemented (within a very short time) or I have been given good reasons why they shouldn't. When I submitted my own code, I was treated seriously. I never find myself in the position that we all find ourselves in with almost all proprietary products at some time: cursing the bugs for which there are no workarounds or patches, lamenting the important features that were ommitted or poorly implemented.
Basically, as i see it, this is why O/S projects can't really compete yet

Many open source projects are far ahead of their commercial rivals. I wouldn't pay you a penny for any of the commercial mailservers, for example. None of them are anything like as reliable or powerful or fully-featured as open source projects like Postfix and Qmail.


--

It is impolite to tell a man who is carrying you on his shoulders that his head smells.
[ Parent ]
Some agreement, to be sure... (3.66 / 3) (#67)
by Pimp Ninja on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 08:33:48 PM EST

There are several points in your post that i fully agree with - especially regarding bugs in commercial, closed-source software. That being said, i still see the vast majority of open source development being focused on fad-of-the-month projects, and not on the boring stuff that, while not glamorous, still gets the most use.

The example i think that best illustrates this is the ongoing search for useable financial software, billing solutions, and such, that seems to crop up on Slashdot and here every so often - While there are such solutions out there in open source land, they're few, far between, and generally not supported as well as their commercial, closed-source counterparts. And these applications - the nuts and bolts of business - are the ones that an IT manager could use to sway management of a corporation over to open source - if they existed!

Anyway, i think on a lot of other points, though, you pretty neatly skewered my comment. Well spoken :)


-----

If we demand from them without offering in return, what are we but better-
dressed muggers holding up the creative at the point of a metaphorical gun?


[ Parent ]
Of course, there's always a free software advocate (3.14 / 7) (#46)
by extrasolar on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 01:17:20 AM EST

Of course, there's always a free software advocate in the group. That's me :-)

In the very beginning, you ask a question as to if deciding upon using a piece of software based upon whether its open source or not is a valid position.

I do so everytime. The freedom to see source code, to modify and redistribute the software is something I take seriously. I won't replay the arguments, many of them are in the essay called <a href="http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/why-free.html">Why Software Should Not have Owners</a>.

Also, most everything that is Open Source is also Free Software, so I don't understand your statement about Free Software.

I would like to debate about your point about the evilness of companies selling software. Well, firstly I don't know of many people who has any problem with companies selling software. But there are some rights that we demand for any software we buy. And if they can't make a business on selling software, then that is their problem. I am not going to decide to purchase proprietary software because if we don't then they won't be able to further improving their software! Some of us could improve it ourselfs if they just made it Free Software.

Also, a lot of this article's arguments are afterfact. They take the things that are true right now, gives reasons for them, and then proclaims that it will continue to be true. But Free Software is evolving! It began for the users who are developing the software and might continue to those who simply use it.

theory (4.30 / 10) (#48)
by gregholmes on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 06:13:30 AM EST

It is all very well to sit around and theorize. Have you used open source in a business application?

Admittedly, outside of my desktop (GVIM, sed, etc.) I have only used it for an intranet search engine (htdig). But guess what? It is free, and it works. I've already changed the source twice (with the help of the very active developers on the mailing list), once to stop it from giving up on unresponsive servers, and a second time to produce a new template variable. I don't think I'm just going to email closed source developers, have them change the source and recompile for me, and ship the new executables (not affordably).

I'm sure we'd be using more except for politics.



Changes to code.. (3.00 / 1) (#56)
by BigZaphod on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 11:18:28 AM EST

"I don't think I'm just going to email closed source developers, have them change the source and recompile for me, and ship the new executables (not affordably)."


Believe it or not this does happen with commercial software. Admittidly, it usually takes a pretty big company to get this to happen, but it can. I worked for a large publishing company and the internal programming divison routinly got bugs fixed and patched in some pretty major software. Yes, they had a lot of clout, but as far as I could tell these bug fixes came out for everyone at the same time in the form of a public patch on their website. It just so happened that we were accelerating the process by finding and reporting major problems and then stressing that it was important to us to have them fixed (not just by e-mail, but by actually picking up the phone and talking to real sales reps. It's amazing what that can do..)

"We're all patients, there are no doctors, our meds ran out a long time ago and nobody loves us." - skyknight
[ Parent ]
As you say, it takes a lot of clout (2.50 / 2) (#62)
by itsbruce on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 12:38:33 PM EST

What if you aren't a big company? We aren't. I've several times had needed changes made to open source tools I use. But the commercial systems we use, can we get things fixed? You know we can't. I never want to be in the position of relying on closed-source software if I can ever avoid it.

What amazes and infuriates me is that some of my colleagues feel more secure with a product they have to pay for - even though we've been stiffed for tens of thousands of pounds by commercial companies for crap that was effectively useless.


--

It is impolite to tell a man who is carrying you on his shoulders that his head smells.
[ Parent ]
Still full of errors and ignorance (4.93 / 30) (#50)
by itsbruce on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 07:51:52 AM EST

To take an example, Microsoft operating systems typically spend upwards of a year in external testing, whereas open source software tends to follow Eric Raymonds's famous Bazaar principle, where software is released little and often.

I see you attributed the article to right person but you still made a major misquote: early and often. BIG difference.

Besides, what you don't understand is that the early-and-often release cycle is part of the testing process. Open Source software is continually under test. One of the main reasons for the frequent releases is because the developers are responding to bug reports and usability reports from users. Some key points about the OS development method:
  1. Bugs tend to be found quickly and to be fixed as soon as they are found. Contrast this with the closed-source method where you have to wait for the next version (or the occasional service pack) for a fix - if you are lucky (some bugs in Microsoft Office have been there since the earliest versions).
  2. Open Source developers keep their users informed. Each release typically comes with a complete list of changes made, bugs fixed and bugs that haven't been fixed. In addition, there is usually a summary of which features are fully functional and which still experimental, which are easy to use and which, in the developer's humble opinion, are a pig and need to be made easier.
  3. The way Open Source products are released gives users the maximum amount of choice. Many projects have a stable and a development branch, with new and risky features only in the latter. Those that don't usually have a recommended stable version, the most recent version that has all of the bugfixes. Either way, you always have the option to compile the code without the risky features (and with exactly the featureset you want) and the binary releases have usually been compiled with the safest options.

The combination of the above points means that people can use Open Source software with a very high degree of confidence because they know exactly what it can and can't do and they can choose exactly how safe-and-stable or risky-and-bleeding-edge they want to be. They also know that if they do find a problem - whether a bug or a missing/poorly implemented feature - they are likely to get a rapid fix for it.

Closed source never gives you that. Microsoft et al. are never honest about the bugs in their code or the features that don't work well (or at all). They always pretend their products can do everything and do it faultlessly - until they have your money, of course.

Anyone who used an open source OS and GUI environment, simply by clicking through each option. In my experience there would also be a considerable number of software crashes.

Then you're doing it wrong. That's not my experience at all. And you picked one area which shows the superiority of Open over Closed source very cleary. The Open Source developed GUI environments are modular, flexible, extensible and incredibly varied. You can mix and match to create your own unique working environment - I have several, which I can use according to how I'm feeling that day. And unlike a certain Other Operating System, I can choose not to use the GUI at all and still have all the power of the system available to me. The GUI on my machines is just another component and I won't be locked out of my machine if it does crash.

Since the open source movement is associated with software that is without price

Wrong. You can find commercial companies charging for open source products here, here and here, to give just a few examples.

lack of direction (i.e. the ability to be able to say: 'Right, you get that bit done or you're fired')

Not true. There are plenty of famously huge egos out there, marching their projects along in double-time (djb, anyone?). Do you really think there are no proprietary sofware projects that lack focus or drive? Which alternate universe have you been living in?

[snip description of typical consumer] For them, open source software holds no benefits compared to the leading commercial equivalents from Microsft and Apple.

Oh? You don't think typical consumers benefit from stability and reliability? It's true that many Linux distributions are packaged more for the expert user but this is changing? Mandrake, Stormix and Redmond Linux are all aiming at the non-expert. They have still have some ground to catch up - Microsoft and Apple have been doing it for much longer - but they're close.

The typical consumer doesn't have to take part in the Open Source development cycle to benefit from it. The whole point of Linux distributions is that you can have somebody else make all the difficult choices for you.

Because of the mistaken believe that making money out of software is somehow immoral

Completely wrong! This is a statement of pure ignorance. Open Source advocates will absolutely defend your right to make money from your software. They'll defend the right of anyone to make money from software. The whole point is that there not be restrictions on the way software is used.

they rely on 'donations', on selling services, and on limited and voluntary sales of products they could download for free

So could you kindly explain to me why Red Hat is due to go into the black this year, with revenues climbing over $22 million? Tell me, have you done any research for this story?

Corel's Linux division was sold for a miserly 5million

Corel was a basket-case company long before it became a Linux basket-case company. Corel is also not an Open Source developer - WordPerfect is a proprietary product.

It is unfortunate for open source that this socialist tendency persists so much

This is the motivation for your ill-considered rant, isn't it? You think you're fighting communism. For God's sake, calling people like Eric Raymond "socialist" is absolutely laughable. Many of the Open Source movement's fiercest advocates are libertarians!

Still further, the belief that making money out of software is somehow damaging is fundamentally misconceived

There is no such belief! That is to say, there may be people who think that but it absolutely is not part of the Open Source or Free Software philosophies. You have completely misunderstood the concept of "free" as used by either group.

Let me give you an example. Tin, the news client, has a license that forbids anybody to resell it for profit. For this reason, Debian puts the Tin package into it's Non-Free category, because restrictions have been placed on it's use. Do you get the picture? Because you are not allowed to sell Tin for profit, it is NOT FREE.

the pool of volunteers or the quantity of their free time will never be large enough to build a 'complete' open source software ensemble

Rubbish. Go have a look at the range of packages available for Debian. You'll find two complete desktop environments, a whole bunch of window managers and associated tools, several office suites, a whole bunch of end-user applications (wp, typesetting, publishing, development, scientific, mail, chat, browsing etc etc). And that's not all the apps available for Linux, just those that the Debian team have gathered and tested.

as explained above, commercial companies producing open source are not typically viable
  1. Explain Red Hat.
  2. Open Source projects don't have to be commercially viable. They just have to keep on producing the goods. Read this and learn something. The Debian project isn't supposed to make a profit and can't go bankrupt. It simply isn't going to disappear, leaving a bunch of customers up the creek, like so many commercial companies. Even if the project did end, I'd simply switch to one of the other projects. Last year I converted all my machines from Red Hat to Debian without a single problem.
the lack of money and commercial incentive means that open source produces very little innovation

Microsoft have never produced any innovations, forget all that "freedom to innovate" crap they used for the DoJ. Microsoft didn't invent any of the apps they produce (half of them they bought from the people that did), they sure as hell didn't invent the internet or browsers or the point-and-click windowing interface. Innovation is rare - and more likely in an Open Source environment where there are no barriers, where the tools are free, where the only limits are those of your own skills and energies.

Pretty much the whole of the Internet - tcp/ip, DNS, e-mail, all the open standards on which it is based - was developed by academics working in the same Unix-based research centres where the Open Source/Free Software philosophies were founded. What commercial, closed source company could ever have created an open system that works no matter whose hardware you're using?

Having, I believe, debunked the myth that open source can ever produce a sustainable and complete consumer software ensemble

You've done no such thing. You've simply given your own opinion, based on absolutely no familiarity with the subject and no research, as the long list of simple factual errors makes perfectly clear (OSX is NOT an Open Source project).

Your clearly have no idea of the actual extent to which Open Source software is used or how it is used or what range of Open Source software is available. You don't know how Open Source projects operate and progress, you don't understand their licenses or underlying philosphies. You have done no research to back up your thesis.

Ignorance isn't a crime, of course, and this is op-ed. But I don't think the way you represented this story was honest. You clearly read many of the posts criticising the first version, since you lifted facts from them to correct some of the factual errors in the first version. But you completely ignored the points made in those posts, repeating blatantly untrue statements about Open Source (e.g. you're not supposed to make money with Open Source software) even though you've been given plenty of pointers to the correct information.

This is a poor submission, poorly written and not at all researched. Do some research. Start here - but don't stop there. Write something based on real information and not supposition.


--

It is impolite to tell a man who is carrying you on his shoulders that his head smells.
Another Suggestion For The Author (3.50 / 2) (#51)
by Matrix on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 08:00:20 AM EST

Read the GNU Philosophy page. That's got a lot of information on the views of RMS and the FSF on Free and Open Source Software. There isn't that much difference between the two - IIRC, RMS' main objection to Open Source Software is that the term can be far too easily misused.

(Note that its still free as in speech, not free as in beer - I could sell copies of GNU EMACS if I was so inclined.)


Matrix
"...Pulling together is the aim of despotism and tyranny. Free men pull in all kinds of directions. It's the only way to make progress."
- Lord Vetinari, pg 312 of the Truth, a Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett
[ Parent ]

FreeCiv -vs- SMAC (3.66 / 3) (#61)
by clover_kicker on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 12:28:25 PM EST

The reason SMAC has good graphics is because someone had a lot of $$$ to throw at development.

I like RPGs, and I have bought a couple of shareware, closed-source RPGs over the last year or so.

(Check 'em out, Natuk and Avernum).

These two games were a lot of fun, good story, a little humour, nice game engine, and quite long. Good, solid shareware games that were well worth the cost of registering them.

But the graphics/sound just don't compare to games produced by big companies, because these small shareware guys don't have the $$$ to throw at art and sound. By your logic, they should have been multimedia extravaganzas, simply because they were closed source.


--
I am the very model of a K5 personality.
I intersperse obscenity with tedious banality.

Interestingly... (none / 0) (#79)
by itsbruce on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 05:33:21 PM EST

But the graphics/sound just don't compare to games produced by big companies, because these small shareware guys don't have the $$$ to throw at art and sound. By your logic, they should have been multimedia extravaganzas, simply because they were closed source

In this interview, Linus gives the opinion that shareware offers the worst of both worlds, with no source (unlike Open Source) and none of the finished polish of most commercial software.


--

It is impolite to tell a man who is carrying you on his shoulders that his head smells.
[ Parent ]
I don't think that's it (none / 0) (#121)
by Mantic on Tue Jan 30, 2001 at 09:02:52 AM EST

It's not $$$ it's the fact that artists aren't rabid coders. And only coders and those who seek the approval of coders bother with Linux and it's ilk. Y'see, Alpha Centauri doesn't have the greatest graphics of all time... I could do better myself and might even do it for a hobby, but not for some O/S I have no desire to install on a separate drive or partition. And that's what I'd have to do, since most, if not all, the tools that I use to do such work aren't going to run under Linux. You'll much sooner see me do work for a Mac or PC based project, free or not.

[ Parent ]
well... (none / 0) (#124)
by clover_kicker on Thu Feb 01, 2001 at 11:04:29 AM EST

>It's not $$$ it's the fact that artists aren't rabid
>coders. And only coders and those who seek the approval
>of coders bother with Linux and it's ilk. Y'see, Alpha
>Centauri doesn't have the greatest graphics of all
>time... I could do better myself and might even
>do it for a hobby, but not for some O/S I have no desire
>to install on a separate drive or partition. And that's
>what I'd have to do, since most, if not all, the tools
>that I use to do such work aren't going to run under
>Linux. You'll much sooner see me do work for a Mac or PC
>based project, free or not.

Then why do the shareware games I mentioned have comparatively poor graphics? Avernum is a Mac game ported to PCs, so by your argument the game should have spectacular art and sound...

--
I am the very model of a K5 personality.
I intersperse obscenity with tedious banality.

[ Parent ]
Starting off on the wrong foot (3.00 / 3) (#68)
by Brandybuck on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 11:50:34 PM EST

[this article is concerned with open source, not free software (although free software certainly shares some of the funding problems), to clear up any ambiguity] I hate to stop you right here at the beginning, but you're making a serious mistake. There is no difference between Open Source Software and Free Software. They are one and the same. Their respective "movements" may have different members, but the software is identical. Same thing, two names.

Except for the Artistic License, every single OSS license is also an RMS approved FS license. (The Artistic License is also a Free Software license, it just ain't approved by RMS) Now, before pointing out to me that Open Source has different goals and such from Free Software, understand that I agree with you. But that changes nothing about the fact that the software is still the same.

Not only does Free Software share some of the funding problems of Open Source, it shares *all* of the funding problems, because they are one and the same.

That's your opinion (none / 0) (#78)
by itsbruce on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 05:26:27 PM EST

There is no difference between Open Source Software and Free Software

Richard Stallman sees it differently.


--

It is impolite to tell a man who is carrying you on his shoulders that his head smells.
[ Parent ]
Free/OS software (none / 0) (#104)
by Ig0r on Fri Jan 26, 2001 at 03:32:42 PM EST

Free software takes the idea of Open Source and extends it to allow the user even *more* freedom than they would otherwise have had.
Open Source is just one subset of free software, and is the basic notion of freedom. Free software grants the rights to freedom of USE as well as freedom of SOURCE.
Read some stuff at www.gnu.org for more info.

[ Parent ]
Unfortunately gotta vote it down (3.66 / 3) (#69)
by seb on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 04:22:03 AM EST

-1 but not, I hasten to add, because I'm a mindless OSS advocate. I'd love to read some well-considered arguments about the topic, and the basic "good for hackers, bad for consumers" thesis is an interesting one, at least one which is backed up by contrasting server grade software (Bind, Apache, Linux) with the current state of the linux desktop (but I have little reason to doubt that the excellent effort by the Gnome and KDE people will bear fruit in this arena).

However, I largely agree with this posting. I don't think k5 readers would flame you for expressing any vaguely anti-OSS sentiment but they *are* well-versed in all the common arguments. Your thesis contains too many factual errors (e.g. your definition of 'peer review') and you add little to the debate as it has been thrashed out for the last 3 years.

Have you read the halloween documents? If not, I suggest you do - Microsoft's own view of how OSS threatens its business.

Grammar (3.00 / 4) (#76)
by dgay on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 05:03:21 PM EST

I have to vote this one down due to the large amount of grammar mistakes and type-o's. The argument is interesting, but the ideas aren't backed by facts - just opinions. You can't just go and say that consumers don't like it without getting into some detail.

My wife is not technical at all, but she loves gnucash and linux because it works (I installed of course) and it was $$free$$. The $$$ notion of open source software should not be overlooked....

I think this would have been good enough to have on the page if it was proof read a little better.



I must have too much time on my hands, 'cos... (4.61 / 13) (#81)
by mihalis on Sun Jan 21, 2001 at 12:29:25 AM EST

According to the open source movement [this article is concerned with open source, not free software (although free software certainly shares some of the funding problems), to clear up any ambiguity], considering a piece of software someone has written, one should not use it unless one has the source code.

That's not strictly true. If that is a view of some open source advocates, it is not the dominant view. The dominant view is that you are better off, overall, using an open source application, because someone can fix the application. Of course that may be you, or the original developer, but it might also be the clever kid next door who you let use your playstation 2 on your giant TV since he can always sort out your PC for you.

The reasoning is that if one has a problem with it, one cannot resolve the issue without outside help. As far as I can see, although this is certainly a distinct advantage for say Google, who with a staff of highly trained engineers could easily tweak the Linux or BSD kernel to suit their requirements, its advantages in ensuring quality and reliability are far from assured.

True enough. Although I disagree with your views, I know that success for Open Source is not asured.

For example, in propounding the open source solution in John Goerzen's paper on the ethics of free [open source] software he says that the famous case of the USS Yorktown, that the 'problem behind all this is proprietary software'.

This claim is one that Mr. Goerzen fails to adequately establish. His arguments can be summarized as follows:

lack of peer review means that closed source software is intrinsically untrustworthy

the 'fact' that closed source means knowledge is not shared, something he says is unethical

By contrast he argues that from utilitarian grounds open source is better insofar as it tends to maximize the sum total of happiness, and, most specifically that 'free software is the most beneficial for the greatest number of people.'

To consider his first argument, namely that the absence of peer review makes closed source software untrustworthy, I would argue that in fact peer review is *more* rather than less common with closed source software. To take an example, Microsoft operating systems typically spend upwards of a year in external testing, whereas open source software tends to follow Eric Raymonds's famous Bazaar principle, where software is released little and often.

As others have already pointed out, you missed the point here. If I was the top GUI expert at Microsoft, per review of my code would need to involve my peers reviewing my code. Testing is not peer review.

The difference between the two can easily be seen. Anyone who used an open source OS and GUI environment, simply by clicking through each option. In my experience there would also be a considerable number of software crashes.

This depends on which applications you're talking about. I do have one application that is unstable on my main machine - freeamp - and I know why (I'm using slightly out-of-date versions of some libraries it depends on). Also of course we know that Mozilla isn't mature yet and Netscape has had some problems. Other than that though my Slackware machines are quite stable (the gateway has an uptime of 99 days as it happens, which is a mail, shell and webserver).

By contrast my girlfriends Windows98 machine has had a lot of problems (I have had to use the restore CD twice to reset the hard disk), and my WindowsNT machine has crashed out completely several times this year. My experience is not at all uncommon.

Here you don't prove any kind of point, merely giving us one data point which is unconvincing when generalised into a sweeping conclusion, to say the least. For us to accept this kind of trash talk about open source software being generally crashy just with a little clicking, you would have to find some evidence. In contrast, I would probably want to cite some of these links.

There are a number of reasons for this as I see it:

lack of money

Since the open source movement is associated with software that is without price, there is little money to fund fulltime programmers, marketing to attract new people to the project, or commercial testing.

An opposing view :

Since the open source movement has a low barrier to entry and immediate feedback it pulls in increasing numbers of highly talented developers who start doing it as a hobby and end up finding jobs where they can do it full-time - Larry Wall, Brian Behlendorf, Alan Cox, Steven Tweedie, Donald Becker, Ted T'So, dare I say Rusty himself pretty soon, these are just the ones you and everyone else here will probably have heard of. I wouldn't be surprised if the free software community has more programming talent working in it, right now, than Microsoft has ever had (and I say this as someone who is fully aware of the might that Microsoft brings to bear on problems when it wants to).

lack of direction (i.e. the ability to be able to say: 'Right, you get that bit done or you're fired')

No! That's one of the best bits! I'm sure if the programmers at Microsoft fixed the stuff they thought was important Windows GDI resource leaks would no longer kill their mainstream consumer operating system.

For example, let us consider one of the top open source games, Freeciv, and its nearest commercial competitor, which is probably Alpha Centauri. In the making of Alpha Centauri, the software house would work something like this: 'We need x programmers, x video guys, and x voiceover artists.' They will then hire those staff and the product will be produced. By contrast, the free equivalent works on a haphazard basis whereby that which is produced is determined by those people who happen to volunteer for the project.

Or we could consider Daikatana. A-ha, a-ha, ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha.

Thus Freeciv is without any sound effects, video, etc., and also has inferior graphics, all of which detract from one's enjoyment of the game (not to mention that it exhibits one of the major problems with open source, namely lack of innovation).

By contrast we have a game using out-of-date game engine technology, badly, with inept plot devices, which is years late, has burnt millions of dollars in investor money for no apparent reason, and exhibits only tiny innovations over games like Doom and Quake.

Even so, I have to concede that games is one of the last frontiers for open source, I don't know if it will ever overtake the best commercial efforts. Nor do I feel my freedom threatened by market dominance in pure entertainment like I do by market dominance of key strategic enabling technologies like operating systems and network protocols.

Indeed it is my contention that open source is a fundamentally incorrect model for software aimed at the consumer.

Characteristics of the consumer:

  • little or no programming knowledge (and therefore the so-called advantage of having the source code is no such thing)
  • low tolerance of technology for its own sake
  • little understanding of computers

For them, open source software holds no benefits compared to the leading commercial equivalents from Microsft and Apple.

This is obviously wrong : consumers can get precompiled linux software at low prices which is often more than adequate (web, email, word-processing, simple photo editing etc) so just on price alone the option of using open source software gives them more options. Now, the fact that the source to these things they use is open gives them even more options. Options are good. Apple obviously agrees. IBM, Sun, Compaq, SGI all obviously agree. It seems that Microsoft is the odd man out here.

As such, the consumer Linux distributions I believe are doomed.

Open Source != consumer distributions. This is a bit of a straw man here.

Even if the idea of pre-packaged open source operating systems down at Fry's or Wal-Mart fails, that really doesn't tell us much about the whole movement. Slackware for example used to be just one guy working for Walnut Creek CD-ROM, and even now is only about four I think (Patrick, David, Chris and Logan). It's pretty hard for Microsoft to think down to that level. Very little promotion or advertising, mainly mail order products, yet here you have a Linux that works for a medium size server, a desktop, all kinds of things that the commercial, proprietary competition would like to charge you hundreds of dollars for. Even if Red Hat and Mandrake and TurboLinux and SuSE all went bankrupt simultaneously the community would pick up the major pieces and I'd continue to get a good OS for my needs very cheaply. Pretty doom-proof, actually.

The problems are:

insufficient funding. Open source businesses typically depend on business models that stand no chance of ever making any money.

Not only is this wrong, it's semingly ignorant, so I'll just try to ignore it.

Because of the mistaken believe that making money out of software is somehow immoral (a bizarre belief, considering that everyone must make money to survive), they rely on 'donations',

You must be talking about the FSF here, but not any of the other Open Source businesses I've ever heard of. It certainly would be a bizarre belief for businesses, but only the FSF (a charity) is founded on it. Other companies, say, Loki for example give away some stuff to inrease demand for their products. So does Microsoft.

on selling services, and on limited and voluntary sales of products they could download for free. Although to a certain extent the market has wised up to this, as seen by the fact that Corel's Linux division was sold for a miserly 5million, I still believe that businesses like thekompany.com, and Nautilus, which rely on selling vague services or on giving the core product and charging for addons, it still persists.

No, most open source companies are effectively consulting companies. They make money by doing things that customers ask them to. A few also try to make tangible products. None of these believe it's immoral to charge money or make profits, so I can't possibly agree with this either.

It is unfortunate for open source that this socialist tendency persists so much -

I don't mean to offend, but your argument is so far into the weeds here it's difficult to want to address any more points, but I'm going to try and just put across some well-known rebuttals. Not even the FSF is socialist. Richard Stallman foresaw a world perhaps there are less jobs overall for programmers, because of a reduction in totally wasteful duplication of effort, but for those that did work they would be prized consultants working with a growing body of shared knowledge and competing by skill against their colleagues.

Once you move away from there and look at, say, RedHat or TurboLinux, I don't discern anything vaguely resembling socialism.

Microsoft would not be able to afford produce the world's best word processor if they had given Word away and just charged for the thesaurus.

Donald Knuth produced (arguably) the world's best typsetting engine and didn't even charge for the fonts. Just one counter-example.

Still further, the belief that making money out of software is somehow damaging is fundamentally misconceived.

Yes, but almost nobodyhas that view.

While closed source software has grown up, so to has the economy - high software spending is a *good* thing, not bad.

I don't think this is true. How does it improve the competitiveness of, say the USA vs. China?

The massive growth in the economy has been fueled by commercial companies making money, whereas open source ultimately aims at making all software 'free', which would undoubtedly be harmful. "Undoubtedly"? More like completely open to debate at this point.

inadequate product - whereas commercial companies such as Microsoft have armies of people employed in usability testing, the fact, as explained above, that open source can *never* match the resources of closed source

Not proven

means that the product will never be as advanced or as easy to use as the paid-for alternative [note that there are certain circumstances where open source can compete].

The common reply to this is that absence of resources is not an impediment, since open source depends on volunteers, but this makes the fundamental assumption that there are enough people who would rather make software for free than make money making commercial software.

Plenty of projects show the power of all volunteer unpaid labor, however a lot of open source is now being written by people as their day job (e.g. at places like IBM, Sun and SGI) which is not something you seem to consider at all.

Thus:

the pool of volunteers or the quantity of their free time will never be large enough to build a 'complete' open source software ensemble

Not true, see above

as explained above, commercial companies producing open source are not typically viable, and so do not have anything like the resources of the commercial sector with which to compete.

Sun, IBM, Compaq, SGI, RedHat, TurboLinux ...

the lack of money and commercial incentive means that open source produces very little innovation, and so is always playing catchup

You would not have ex-Apple engineers forming Linux startups to do better desktop if they didn't think innovation wasn't viable in open source.

Having, I believe, debunked the myth that open source can ever produce a sustainable and complete consumer software ensemble,

well, no, I don't think so, but even so consumer software is not the be-all and end-all of open source nor closed -source

I return to one of the first arguments made, namely that closed source impairs does not allow people to learn.

This is a very flimsy argument, and I would in fact argue the reverse - at present colleges and learning schemes are heavily funded by profit-making businesses, but if open source succeeded these businesses would be redundant, which would in fact cause even greater damage to learning since this funding would stop.

I don't know what to make of this - I don't even understand what you are getting at

Furthermore, the net result of this would be that people would be discourage from software production as a career, since it would no longer represent a profitable career path, and so they would probably pursue a career as a doctor or a lawyer. This would be a great loss to the nation, since the quality of software would decline, as highly intelligent students would go elsewhere.

It is true that open source might create many less overnight millionaires a la Microsoft. If such people really became doctors instead that would not be a great loss to the nation however

In conclusion, I'm not arguing necessarily that open source is always necessarily inappropriate, but rather that for consumer software it certainly is.

I disagree with this, and whilst my rebuttal is pretty rushed, I think I've made it clear how completely you have failed to prove your point, at least to me.

In more specific cases, it might present a useful solution - for example, for high-end military applications or servers maintained by experts there are certainly advantages to an open system; however, these cases are relatively restricted - since I see little commercial potential in free software, these have to return to the roots of open source - to the limited number of highly dedicated hackers producing a small range of software (such as Unix kernels). It is here that there can be union between the two opposites - a movement that believes in free software, and those who make money out of it. Thus OSX represents a good example of the sort of project open source is ideally suited for - a defined Unix kernel is the ideal project for open source, in that it requires relatively few resources other than programmer time.

I have to ask, do you actually have any open source yourself?

I wanted to do a good job demolishing this piece, but without being rude or unfriendly. In the end I found the piece itself so fractured and difficult to follow (I must admit I hadn't finished reading it when I started replying) I fear my rebuttal adds "more heat than light". Also I know I've come over as hostile in places. Well I apologise for that.

Clearly when you scratch me, off comes the placid live-and-let-live covering and out comes a bit of a free software zealot, so I learnt something here. No doubt by now someone has written half as much and said twice as much. Oh well...

Cheers,

Chris

p.s. sorry if I mangled any quotes or formatting
-- Chris Morgan <see em at mihalis dot net>

Heh (none / 0) (#82)
by itsbruce on Sun Jan 21, 2001 at 08:44:51 AM EST

No doubt by now someone has written half as much and said twice as much. Oh well...

Well, yours is twice as long as mine but I don't mine is twice as meaty;)

Hi, Chris. Nice here, innit?

Bruce


--

It is impolite to tell a man who is carrying you on his shoulders that his head smells.
[ Parent ]
morning after (none / 0) (#83)
by mihalis on Sun Jan 21, 2001 at 09:32:39 AM EST

Well, yours is twice as long as mine but I don't mine is twice as meaty;)

Hi, Chris. Nice here, innit?

Yes, it's a great place. One disappointment - now I've had some sleep I re-read my piece to find I can now see in "Typo-Vision" (tm). As many times as I reread my piece last night, I'amazed that I left about one typo per paragraph! Not that that's anything to do with K5
-- Chris Morgan <see em at mihalis dot net>
[ Parent ]

My two cents (3.75 / 4) (#85)
by neillm on Mon Jan 22, 2001 at 02:43:45 AM EST

With regards to the 'success' or 'failure' of open source - I believe a lot of people forget where the perspective is coming from. Initially, software was for hackers. Not consumers. Your average computer user today may not have known the first thing about what a computer does about 5 years ago. In that sense, it made a lot of sense to have source code - and tinkering with it was inevitable. Today - it's a different picture. People are trying to sell the idea of open source. Is it the fault of the open source community that freeciv may not be able to compete with the commercial equivalent? Is it the fault of any open source contributor that the software they work on isn't as polished as the $100 version? Not in my mind. Open source is about hacking - from hackers - for hackers. If you don't like that, that's understandable. But it's not fair to judge the community on that basis.

Comparing freeciv to Alpha Centauri? (3.50 / 4) (#88)
by Orteko on Tue Jan 23, 2001 at 08:24:07 PM EST

Why compare FreeCiv to Alpha Centauri?

FreeCiv is the open-source clone of the ever popular Civilisation (The original, not CivII) which was brought out in the early 90's.

The graphics and gameplay in FreeCiv have advanced beyond those in Civilisation, and the only thing lacking is sound..

FreeCiv is not *meant* to be an open-source alternative to Alpha Centauri.. It's meant to be a free alternative to the original civilisation with the same great gameplay. (which it accomplishes quite nicely)

Well (none / 0) (#91)
by darthaya on Fri Jan 26, 2001 at 11:39:12 AM EST

I suppose the game industry has advanced way ahead of the level FreeCiv is at.

[ Parent ]
How does this point change your argument? (4.85 / 7) (#92)
by krlynch on Fri Jan 26, 2001 at 12:05:28 PM EST

I am quite surprised that no one seems to have taken exception with what seems to be one of your basic, but unwritten tenets: that the sale of software to consumers is where companies make most of their money. While this may be true of some companies, this is a puny minority of software sales, even for those products that are marketed to consumers. Most software packages sold to consumers (OSes and Office type suites) are not built for consumers; sales to consumers are simply a way to make a little more money on something that has already been built. Most sales of software are B2B (with games and educational software being the market segments where this is not true, I think).

More importantly, the vast majority of money made in the software market is NOT made on sales, but rather on support. Unfortunately, I don't have the figures in front of me right now, but this is precisely why companies such as IBM, DEC, and HP have realigned themselves as "software services" firms, and not "software production" firms, and most of the "Open Source" firms (such as Red Hat) that survived the Dot-Com bloodbath have also done so. While this is not technically an argument in favor of Open Source products marketed to consumers, I have to point out that the consumer market is generally speaking "overflow" from products marketed to other businesses.

So my question to you is: does this information change your conclusions? I would think that it has to ... not necessarily all the way to "Open Source will rule the future" which I personally doubt, but at least away from "Open Source is dead in the water" argument you seem to be making.

"Valid" depends on mindset (3.66 / 3) (#96)
by redelm on Fri Jan 26, 2001 at 12:33:13 PM EST

I fear we are being goaded since you don't seem to like OS much. You think Linux & the rest of OSM is just an unsustainable fad. I disagree, but alot depends on your software paradigms:

  • If you are looking for a "one-vendor" solution, someone big whose feet you can hold to the fire or at least is a plausible excuse for your failure, then OS may not be good for you. (Or it may -- RedHat)
  • If you never want to look at the source, modify it nor hire anyone to modify it, then OS may not be for you. (or it may because others have reviewed code).
  • If you are looking for big integrated apps then OS may not be for you.

    But if you are willing to do some work on your own to get what you want, OS gives you that capability. Closed source just gives you excuses. I'm frankly surprised that corporations haven't embraced OS more. Are they afraid of a little programming? M$ has made their brains go to mush. Aren't they afraid someone might notice?

  • communists and end users (4.00 / 4) (#97)
    by joto on Fri Jan 26, 2001 at 12:40:15 PM EST

    ...one should not use it unless one has the source code. The reasoning is that if one has a problem with it, one cannot resolve the issue without outside help.

    No. Thre reasoning is that if there is a problem with it, it is possible to resolve, even if the company holding the rights to it won't help you. If you can't code yourself, you can hire someone to do it for you. So this should work for end-users as well (if they have enough money, that is...)

    Characteristics of the consumer:
    little or no programming knowledge (and therefore the so-called advantage of having the source code is no such thing)

    Wrong, see above. Even if the consumer isn't rich enough to fund development by her self, she can try to convince a programmer-friend to help them. Or she can pair up with other users, and fund development of stuff they need together. With closed source, you are still at the mercy of one company, and if they won't help you, you can't do a thing.

    It is unfortunate for open source that this socialist tendency persists so much

    It doesn't. Open source has nothing in common with socialism. Free software has some paralells, but few free software people are really socialists. And in particular, RMS is not socialist. More typically, free software as well as open software is about libertarianism. Free markets! Free speech! But it is true that free software and open source appeals as much to socialists as it does to libertarians. Which to me means it is probably a good thing (I have yet to find someone opposed to free software on idealistic grounds (as opposed to just being afraid of losing money)).

    Anyway, what's wrong about having some socialistic views? Personally, I find it admirable, being willing and able to care for someone else than yourself.

    excellent post (2.75 / 4) (#99)
    by rebelcool on Fri Jan 26, 2001 at 01:46:59 PM EST

    excellent. ive been saying this for a looong time but noone opens their minds and realizes that while OSS has a place, its not the ultimate replacement, nor will it ever be for all these very reasons.

    COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site

    As a "Debian GNU/Linux" person (3.25 / 4) (#101)
    by exa on Fri Jan 26, 2001 at 02:23:12 PM EST

    Did you ever use Debian GNU/Linux? It does not seem that you have. There are hundreds of volunteers working on this free complete operating system with thousands of rock-stable software packages. I am one of them, and your words constitute a most lowly attack on my volunteer effort.

    Point by point, Mr. Corporate

    MC: To consider his first argument, namely that the absence of peer
    review makes closed source software untrustworthy, I would
    argue that in fact peer review is *more* rather than less common
    with closed source software.

    Exa: This is wrong. Look at how many bugs we've resolved and how many bugs Microsoft has.

    MC: Since the open source movement is associated with software
    that is without price, there is little money to fund fulltime
    programmers, marketing to attract new people to the
    project, or commercial testing.

    Exa: That is wrong, too. There are not many full time programmers working on open source projects, but that may change if people understand its value in protecting our freedom and support it. There are many viable business models and a host of probable government funding or incentives to create.... in order to accomplish what you say. There are already full timers. For instance, at Progeny Linux, people work on a Debian derivative and it's a real company with real full time workers.

    MC: For example, let us consider one of the top open source games,
    Freeciv, and its nearest commercial competitor, which is probably
    Alpha Centauri.

    Exa: Not a good pick. Games require a lot of artwork and is pretty much like making a movie. You really have to work very tight and high to make a good game. Most software is not like that. For instance GNU Make, is a tool we use everyday but it can be maintained with the volunteer time of a few people. That is how GNU packages and Debian system was built.

    MC: the pool of volunteers or the quantity of their free time will
    never be large enough to build a 'complete' open source
    software ensemble

    Exa: What are we then tiny brain? Have you not eyes, ears and an accompanying nervous system to perceive the fact that Debian and Red Hat are complete open source software ensembles?

    MC: the lack of money and commercial incentive means that
    open source produces very little innovation, and so is always
    playing catchup

    Exa: Insulting, but fortunately *wrong*. Incorrect Mr. Corporate: open source can create a lot of innovation. And for "consumers", too. Nowadays, many consumers *are* using free software without even knowing it. Here is an example. We're writing a very commercial digital angiography acquisition software. At one point, we have to write data to CD-Rs. What do we use? Mighty free software: mkisofs, cdrecord, etc. Another example for the "desktop" world: I'm using the GNOME desktop right now. I look at the bottom of my screen. Hmmm, I have panels of different sorts with a lot of useful "applets" which I can customize. I can't do that on Windows. This is innovation, and it has come from free software.

    There is more. Nowadays, computer scientists, like me, are interested in open source. Because we know that good science can only be made in the open. I know of 2-3 projects at Bilkent that are about to go GPL and I am proud of that. Research people are doing that already. For instance, AT&T released graphiz, a graph visualization tool, that we CS researches are using so often now. Talk about innovation. I'm about to write a very complete graph library and apps for it, which will include ideas from the latest research papers. That is the future, but look at the present and if you search good enough you'll find a lot of hard science that did go into open source projects. If that isn't innovation, then what is it?

    What you did is shallow criticism. There are more fundamental questions, and problems to solve about open source. YOU ARE NOT HELPING US by speaking like that.

    __
    exa a.k.a Eray Ozkural
    There is no perfect circle.

    Blinders on (none / 0) (#112)
    by Brandybuck on Sat Jan 27, 2001 at 09:08:37 PM EST

    Look at how many bugs we've resolved and how many bugs Microsoft has.

    Apples and oranges. How many bugs has Micosoft resolved? How many total bugs has Debian had?

    [ Parent ]

    I can give you a whole list of bugs (5.00 / 1) (#113)
    by itsbruce on Sat Jan 27, 2001 at 10:04:24 PM EST

    in Microsoft Office - particularly in Outlook (also OE) that have been there since the days of 3.1 and which still haven't been fixed. Some of the e-mail bugs are particularly stupid and would never survive in any open source mail client.


    --

    It is impolite to tell a man who is carrying you on his shoulders that his head smells.
    [ Parent ]
    Yep (none / 0) (#114)
    by exa on Sun Jan 28, 2001 at 04:23:12 AM EST

    That's what I'm talking about. Better peer review in Open Source. That's a fact even MS itself accepts.

    __
    exa a.k.a Eray Ozkural
    There is no perfect circle.

    [ Parent ]
    Why some people like Open Source/Free Software (4.00 / 2) (#102)
    by dvNull on Fri Jan 26, 2001 at 03:09:59 PM EST

    I have been using open source software for quite a while now. From Linux to Window Managers to XFree to aviplay to tuxracer and freeciv. I use it because I like the quality of 'most' of the free softwares. Considering that quite a bit of software such as games (especially games) requires a LOT of programming talent working long hours the open source/free games do not look as good, but the playability is always there. FreeCiv and Tuxracer are shining examples of that. Or even try using Crystal Space engine. Not the greatest but its getting there.

    But what really irks me at times is that when quite a few people say they dont anything which isnt open source, they mean they dont want to pay for anything. Which IMHO is not the meaning of 'free' in Free Software.

    I am willing to pay money for an Open Source solution as I am to pay for a closed source solution, as long as both work how I want it to. I'd prefer open source, cause then I can modify it to my needs and usually the quality of open source software is pretty good.




    If you can see this, then the .sig fell off.
    Responding to flamebait . . . (4.00 / 5) (#103)
    by hardburn on Fri Jan 26, 2001 at 03:27:36 PM EST

    This is obvious flamebait, and I don't know how it got past Kuro5hin's peer review process (kinda ironic, isn't it :). Still, to not respond or to just respond with the insult of "flamebait" would be too dogmatic, so, here goes.

    First, let me state that I hate Open Source. I love Free Software. Open Source is just a basterdized form of Free Software with looser definitions of what is a Free/Open license for the benifit of corperations.

    That said:

    According to the open source movement [this article is concerned with open source, not free software (although free software certainly shares some of the funding problems), to clear up any ambiguity], considering a piece of software someone has written, one should not use it unless one has the source code.

    "One should not use it unless one has the source code" is more of a Free Software argument then Open Soruce. Open Source says "You should have the source for practical reasons." The main founder of Open Source, Eric S. Raymond, has suggested to companies in the past that they should not Open Source their products because there were no practical reasons to do so.

    This is a far cry from the perhaps less pragmatic but higher morality Free Software group, who says "You should have the source because it's moraly wrong not to." While I personaly am not the purist Richard M. Stallman is (I still use Windows to play games and for work), I try to work twards the day when I am.

    As for "some of the same funding problems", it's not the problem that it seems. The Free Software Foundation (non-profit) has worked for 15 years or so. Cygnus (now part of Red Hat, but was always for-profit) worked for about 10 years (well before the hype of Open Source).

    These examples did not happen because they "depend on business models that stand no chance of ever making any money" as the article claims. Whatever you may think happens in theory, practice has already proven these ways of making money.

    Because of the mistaken believe that making money out of software is somehow immoral (a bizarre belief, considering that everyone must make money to survive) . . .

    This is just plian a lie. No one ever said it was immoral to make money off software. We have said that it is immoral to close the source. Please recognize the distinction.

    To consider his first argument, namely that the absence of peer review makes closed source software untrustworthy, I would argue that in fact peer review is *more* rather than less common with closed source software.

    I considered this as a potential argument (well before it was mentioned here, too) against either Open Source or Free Software. I dissmisted it because without the source, peer review is far more limited in its abilities. I only have to point to Linux kernel development to show why. At times, there may be more bugs (indeed, the number of actualy reported bugs may be increased due to its Open/Free nature), but they are fixed much faster. Plus, the bug fixes are less likely to cause new bugs (as Microsoft often does).

    the pool of volunteers or the quantity of their free time will never be large enough to build a 'complete' open source software ensemble

    But the volunteers tend to be much higher quality programers then those that are mearly cranked out of a University CS program.

    inadequate product - whereas commercial companies such as Microsoft have armies of people employed in usability testing, the fact, as explained above, that open source can *never* match the resources of closed source means that the product will never be as advanced or as easy to use as the paid-for alternative [note that there are certain circumstances where open source can compete].

    Most of the diffculty comes from installation. Windows would actualy have the same problem if it weren't for the fact that a lot of boxen comes with it already installed. Have you ever tried Mandrake's installation? I would say it's just as easy as Windows' installation but less flakey. Once installed, X + GNOME (or even KDE, now that it qualifies for Free Software) is at least as easy as Windows (if not MacOS), is more powerful, and less flakey.

    As for testing, how many people ran 2.4-testx kernels? No one really knows exact numbers, but a lot, to be sure. Even before that, people were running some very stable 2.3.x kernels. Your test group is no longer "those willing to spend ~$30 for Win2002-beta", but is now "your entire userbase".


    ----
    while($story = K5::Story->new()) { $story->vote(-1) if($story->section() == $POLITICS); }


    Consumer is not buying your arguments (4.37 / 8) (#105)
    by mami on Fri Jan 26, 2001 at 04:33:28 PM EST

    [some blunt language not intended as flame, but intended to make a point - the author should in no way feel personally attacked]

    Let's start:

    1. The main profiteer of open source code software are developers.

    2. Who told you that making money from open source code development is immoral ? May be you are a misguided victim of some ruthless pundits ? Has the spin made your mind going dizzy ?

    3. You can't expect to make money from open source code software, if you don't know who your consumers are and you don't know if they really need and want your product. The demand HAS to be determined truly by the consumer and not by the producer. Your example of a game package is the worst you could have chosen. There might be very few other applications, which hardly need to open up their source code than games. The need for games is producer-generated, the market easily saturated, the package not dangerous if buggy, peer review not really that necessary, a package, which is easily sellable in closed format. It's a product of leisure, not of mission critical importance in daily life. Any application, which is mission critical in the real world, an application where almost the whole world population might become dependent on (in the sense that we depend on the code as it produces an infrastructure we depend on in almost all of aspects in our daily lives), needs very well to be open, independent of what the consumer thinks about it, understands it or even realize his own dependency.

    4. As for your characteristics of the consumer:
    a. no programming knowledge - yes, and ..., do you understand the production process of Bisopropol Fumarate, how it works to reduce your blood pressure ? Do you want to deny yourself therefore the right to be a consumer of that medication and be able to search for all scientific documentation about it ? Don't you want to have it peer reviewed, tested, documented by independent third parties ? OK, be my guest, you don't get drugs anymore when you are enter the emergency room next time around. You are just too darn ingorant about biochemistry. (I am blunt and kidding to make a point - I certainly don't mean you personally and I don't want it to be considered a flame - I just try to express myself the way an ignorant consumer usually would do :-)).

    b. low tolerance for technology for its own sake - hopefully so, considering that even technology for a valid purpose _always_ results in unforeseen, complicating, negative impact on societies, which are very difficult to deal with after the technological innovation is a "done fact". Add to that technology developments without a defined purpose, you give up on a defined positive intent for society's sake from the beginning and give way to multiplying negative impacts. Why would you ?

    c. ...little understanding of computer... - well, would you close the code on DNA, physics, mathematics, chemistry, just because the average person has little understanding of it ?

    d. ...for them (the consumer) open source code has no meaning... that is thw wrong conclusion. Actually, I would argue, that I resent to give you even the power to decide on the consumer'r right to have the potential and possibility any time to inquire, examine, change, whistleblow, learn, cooperate in the development of software, it's my civil right, I want it guaranteed and just because I am ignorant as a programmer, doesn't allow the non-ignorant developer to take the consumer's right away to make their way from ignorant to knowledgable any time he decides to do so - without being harrassed if he decides NOT to do so, even. You wouldn't dare to say, to close all sources in other sciences, just because your consumer can't learn all of them at the time you think they should. That's a blunt description what I think is underlying your gentle statements.

    e.... no funding... - well, only when the application you are developing is not needed. And noone said, that it is in any way immoral to make money with your work, but it is immoral to allow for software to put mankind in dependency of a tiny group of developers, who cook up their soup and force the world to eat it, without knowing, if they haven't mixed up some ingredients and cause some major epidemic diseases with their "secret" recipies.

    f. ...unfortunate that socialist tendencies still persists in open source code still persists so much ... - May be you should get some clearance in your mind about the difference in socialism and social. The first develops into totarialism, the latter to a balance between freedom, democracy and equality. Open source code has a social element in that it opens the potential to be used and understood by any person in an equal chance, but it has nothing to do with socialism - and people who think it does, should go into politics, and not into software development.

    g. ...the lack of money and commercial incentive means that open source produces very little innovation, and so is always playing catchup... - no, any opening of scientific research results has always resulted in spikes of innovation, the more it is open the higher the chance one innovates. Yes, you need a commercial incentive too, but with regards to open source code that is just a matter of time til technology finds solutions to put a price on the open source code. And not every closed source code is immoral, as well as any company can decide any time to close its code when it seems it is absolutely necessary for survival. I doubt though that the sellability on the long run of that closed code is more to be counted on than on the open one. Most probably most companies will always offer an open version and an enhanced closed one, as long as they can't find other solutions.

    f. ...at present colleges and learning schemes are heavily funded by profit-making businesses, but if open source succeeded these businesses would be redundant... - apparently you can make this argument only under the assumption that open source code businesses will never be able to make profit. Well, future will tell, I would say that universities could save a lot of expenses converting their networks using OSS exclusively with the additional effect that many more students would get access and be incensed to get involved with software development.

    g. i>...I'm not arguing necessarily that open source is always necessarily inappropriate, but rather that for consumer software it certainly is... - No way. People need secrets, but not in science and technology. I don't buy closed source code.

    Best regards from an ignorant consumer.

    Open-source has hidden value in its IP-less nature (3.50 / 4) (#106)
    by Griffis on Fri Jan 26, 2001 at 07:46:37 PM EST

    I think you are right in saying that open-source does not have the money to compete with MS, nor the focus. But you forget that people not only choose open-source because its free, they also choose open-source because it gives you freedom. Freedom from what? Freedom from this evil beast we call intellectual property. Intellectual property is what is killing Microsoft because they center their business around it. In fact they even went to great lengths to fit their new platform .NET around intellectual property rights management systems. Everything from Whistler to WIndows Media Player 7 has been fitted with DRM. I can't blame Bill for this, he is only following the law, but following it straight to ruin. heheheh. This is because people will not want to be owned, they will not want MS servers dictating how many times they can watch a movie in their Media Player and they will not want to have MS servers installing secret dlls on their computer's to keep track of where you installed your latest OS. In short lots of people will flock to open-source simply to get away from digital right management systems. And yes DRM is a direct consequece of the messed up Intellectual property laws we have in this country. And you can be assured that those laws won't change soon enough nor drastically enough to save companies like Microsoft. And I only say this because I have never seen a congressman, except for maybe Orin Hatch, ever give a crap about what hackers have to say.

    The market is for the most part efficient. It will determine indirectly, how much people are willing to put up with intrusive DRM systems before giving up and going open-source. As a side-note to the revolutionaries out there: IP laws are open-source's biggest friend right now.

    As people flock to open-source, companies like MS will lose revenues and have less money to produce the high quality software that they are used to making ;P

    But is this a good thing if open-source indirectly causes companies like MS to produce crappier software? I say yes because it will just show that MS's software was artificially good, that it never had as much value as people thought it did, that it was built on a bubble funded by consumers who had no real choice.

    Taka no Dan no Griffis

    Open source has no benifit to the consumer? (3.75 / 4) (#107)
    by Anonymous 6522 on Fri Jan 26, 2001 at 08:51:26 PM EST

    I don't agree with the statement that consumers would derive no benifit from having the source code available. This is true in part. Most people can't program, and they don't have any interest looking at the code. They can derive indirect benifits from it, specifically in the area of security and bug fixes.

    Lets say that MS suddenly decided to open source Windows under a license similar the the GPL but they retained all rights to sell and distribute the full source code. This would allow people with the knowlege to fix bugs when they come accross them, patch security holes, etc. These patches could be distibuted by themselves, or the could be submitted to MS for inclusion in the next version of Windows. The consumer would benifit form this. They would have more stable software. MS would benifit because they would be getting free bug fixes. Everyone would be happy.

    I don't think that the above will happen, though. Many people already have invested time into projects for Linux, and MS is very protective of their source. A more likely situation would be vendors adopting Linux and adapting it to their needs. (This had already been done with Tivo)

    Open source can benifit the consumer, and I belive that it will make its way into consumer products. Although, consumers aren't going to buy something just because it's open source. They'll buy what's better,

    MicroSoft would not benefit. (none / 0) (#120)
    by Mantic on Tue Jan 30, 2001 at 08:21:07 AM EST

    Although you picked a prime example with lots of funds to put toward the job it would still be a poor investment of company resources. If patches must be reviewed in-house then they devote more man-hours to sorting through the garbage (and most everything that would be submitted is going to be garbage) than it would take to develop superior, and even coherently designed, software. Conversely, there's absolutely no way the company can certify the viability and safety of patches distributed in the wild, and it's a huge risk to the company's reputation if something related causes a problem (I still see references to Melissa and that wasn't even a dead opossum drawing flies by the side of the ol' information superhighway <G> compared to what malicious folks could do with an open source distribution (which would not protect the typical Windows user, since he wouldn't know malicious code until it bit him, much less how to fix the problem using the sources -- I rather doubt many supergeeks would be able to track through the sources of the Win9x/NT O/S for that matter).

    [ Parent ]
    Guys, guys... (3.80 / 5) (#108)
    by kagaku_ninja on Fri Jan 26, 2001 at 09:42:16 PM EST

    Do we need 8 different people posting 100 line manifestos, that deconstruct the original article line-by line, and all say basically the same thing?

    Let's communicate people. OK? Good...

    Nobody posted a manifesto (none / 0) (#109)
    by itsbruce on Sat Jan 27, 2001 at 08:33:05 AM EST

    Saying so is a discredit to the effort people put into replying to this story. There are quite a few point-by-point rebuttals, which is not at all the same thing.

    Let's communicate people.

    It's true that there aren't that many discursive threads in this one, though there are some. I think that's down to the poor quality of the story itself. If it had been a good story, making intelligent and valid points, there would have been plenty to discuss. As it is, it's extremely ill-informed and poorly thought/laid-out - but the points it does make, however lame, are ones that many found outrageous and so requiring a response.

    That's why this story eventually limped onto the front page, IMO. If there were many who voted this up because they agreed with it, they've kept very quiet. I'd say that the number of people who voted it up because of the points raised and answered eventually overcame the number of people who voted it down as ignorant flamebait.


    --

    It is impolite to tell a man who is carrying you on his shoulders that his head smells.
    [ Parent ]
    That may be so... (4.00 / 3) (#110)
    by jacoplane on Sat Jan 27, 2001 at 11:19:38 AM EST

    But at least having open-source software always a few steps behind commercial software ensures that innovation will occur. Because nobody will use commercial software if there are Free alternatives.

    And open-source software will keep getting better and better. Don't be so sure that these companies will all fail. I think Eazil & Helixcode (oops Ximian) have some useful things to provide to OSS, and even if they can't make it we will still have their source.

    good points on ease of use, etc. but... (4.00 / 3) (#111)
    by Bridge Troll on Sat Jan 27, 2001 at 05:42:40 PM EST

    Most of the Open Source movement is dedicated to providing a complete Unix based system. The GNU project, the granddaddy of Free Software, was started for this very reason. Since all versions of Unix, even the commercial ones, are hard, it stands to reason that their Open/Free counterparts should be also.


    And besides, pounding your meat with a club is a very satisfying thing to do :) -- Sleepy
    its a problem of wealth isn't it? (3.00 / 2) (#115)
    by aSkeptic on Sun Jan 28, 2001 at 01:24:49 PM EST

    its a problem of wealth isn't it?

    Open Source and so called "free software" are made possible and popular due to the etheral internet. Ideas can come by free of charge with great freqency here. This is not a new idea at all but free ideas have now got a more wide reaching sphere of availibity. All of us have recieved free councel from frends, associates, and advocates in person, books, &c. We have many ways to grade this information and the popular explaination is "you get what you pay for". This works well in the common understanding of capitalism from the purest degree "the reward reflects result of effort and work".

    To obtain free software (or pirated software too) is a task of little work. The software (if well known at least) is the product of time, effort, and dedication. All good software shows intent to be used.. Else why use it? Its nebulous to speak of software as "easier, simple to use". Software fills a need, we develop it to solve certain problems in our life. These problems range from "I want to try a cool new ideal tool" to "I'd like to make more than 60K per year". Can you see how bankrupt piracy is? This is why freeish software is in demand.

    Those who relate freeish software to communism have lost the point just as far as those who think freeish software is the only way to satisfactoraly understand and use a computer. We toil for more than personal enjoyment or financial growth. The bottom line is wealth and wealth isn't all credit and securitys (money.. mojo..). Wealth is anything that surely enriches an individual. Software is a kind of weath. Wealth in software has restrictions or licences which offer direction to how wealth is to be obtained that benifts both parties. A gift is every bit as wealth providing as a closed source software. Freeish software demands nothing except that it remain freeish. People who release freeish software expect to be wealthy from it because they are expecting some satifaction from sharing. People who sell closed source software expect to gain wealth because it does at least fill a need and fills their pockets with cash (which can be used for anything, preferably wealth). Much of the internet is immaterial. Even still it is something to be considered, cherished, enjoyed and shared. Paying someone the service of developing software is a way to get wealth. Developing software for free can result in weath too. I personally enjoy both. I really do.

    A few points on how wrong you are. (4.50 / 2) (#116)
    by Dion on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 03:56:58 AM EST

    Ok, I must admit that I found it pretty hard reading all of the article, as I see it as completely defective, and possibly just a troll, but let me take two points:
    • Peer review: You have never worked in a software company, I take it, there is NO peerreview in closed source companies, the public betas and testing you speak of at M$ is NOT peer review, it is blackbox testing and ineffective, if there is ANY peer review in a closed source company somewhere then I'll be very suprised.
    • Games: You have noticed that OSS games are substandard, fair enough, I started a game myself (NiL), that I never got around to finishing, so I know what you mean, but just because the OSS model doesn't work well for games it doesn't have work as badly for every other kind of software.


    ESR once said that one of the few places where OS makes no sense is for games, because games are mostly novelty items, produced soly to entertain, coding for 2 years to be entertained for a month is not good enough for many so there aren't many good OS games, where OSS really shines is for infrastructure (Operating Systems, important applications and utilities) the lower level some component is, the more likely it is that it would be a good choice to make it OS.
    For proof that basic components are Just Better as OS compare Apache with any other webserver.

    Demanding Open Source is a definite MUST if someone is to rely on that software and build on it, if the software is just a game or some other insignificant piece of entertainment, then it doesn't matter.

    The process of converting The World to OSS is the same that has been going on for years and years, in every piece of industry: When components are new, many different implementations exist and there is a great variety, when those components become better understood the number of implementations drop and people stop regarding the components as interesting and want something dependable that Just Works.
    OS is exelent for optimizing the latter phase, that is why the best webserver, kernel and script language are all OS, these components are well understood and there is little need for diversity

    Please don't let k5 turn into /. with this sort of trolling passed off as a valid article.

    any other webserver ... (none / 0) (#117)
    by Vague on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 06:26:16 AM EST

    For proof that basic components are Just Better as OS compare Apache with any other webserver.

    This may be of some interest. It compares Apache with Zeus Web Server, which has apparently been the fastest server for some considerable time. http://www.zeus.com/products/ws/articles/zeusvsapache.html.

    [ Parent ]
    Apache vs Zeus or Best vs. fastest (none / 0) (#118)
    by Dion on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 08:51:56 AM EST

    Bzzz!

    You are completely wrong, you get 0 points, lets see why:
    • if fastest is not the same as best: granted Zeus is faster than Apache, but that is completely irrelevant, almost any single machine running Apache can saturate any payable pipe.
    • if fastest is the same as best: Take a peek at TUX, the webserver that serves CGI (!!!!) faster than anything else can serve static files (even boa and khttpd).
      TUX is under GPL and it is currently the fastest webserver on the planet, it is tightly integrated with the Linux kernel, so don't expect to run it as anything else than a patch ontop of the latest kernel, but it is coming, soon:)


    I'd much prefer using Apache any day as most of what I do are webapps in Perl that run off databases, so around 90% of the CPU is spent in the DB and 9% is spent in Perl, I really don't care how much faster the last 1% can become:) and I almost don't care about the 9% of Perl time either:)

    [ Parent ]
    Open documentation and protocols more important... (4.00 / 2) (#119)
    by pacc on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 11:45:43 AM EST

    But with those counted for the chance that there is a working Open-Source implementation is pretty good so consumers may aswell say "I want Open-source".

    The actual programs don't have to be open-source if there's enough documentation to make sure any competitor can make a better product you can change to with no hassle. In a perfect world, a working open-source program and a commercial fullfeatured version if you really need it.

    Where the protocols are well defined open-source will prevail in the long run (Apache) but anywhere there's need for an artist's touch there will always be a niche for closed-source programs (games).



    Open source not good for developers (4.00 / 3) (#122)
    by cezarg on Tue Jan 30, 2001 at 09:28:05 AM EST

    I'm pouring gasoline over fire here but I'd like to debunk the myth that open source software helps developers. It is quite ironic but the fact that the source code is available usually means that developer documentation is nonexistent or out of date.

    Let's take the Linux kernel for example. Little documentation exists on how it works and it hasn't got a well defined interface. Third party books appear every now and again that discuss the kernel "design" but they tend to be out of date by the time they reach the shelves. Hence few people besides Linus and a few of his buddies can contribute anything useful to his kernel. Put that in contrast with Be or QNX. Both have closed source kernels with fully documented interfaces that are accompanied by code samples. I don't know that much about Be but QNX's messaging model is very clean and stable and the even though the kernel code is not publicly available one could still write a kernel that mirrors QNX's functionality based on the documentation alone. There are lots of examples on writing QNX drivers. Although the kernel code is not available, the driver code is obvious thanks to the excellent documentation of the kernel interfaces.

    Good up to date documentation is far more valuable than a heap of convoluted undocumented open source code that nobody dares to touch besides the first couple of original coders.

    My current project... (none / 0) (#123)
    by jugoo on Tue Jan 30, 2001 at 08:51:58 PM EST

    Hi all,

    I develop 3d animation software for the film/games industry. I am a one-man, wife-funded company whose claim to fame rests on the product he is developing now.

    I am pricing the product in two formats:

    1. Personal License (can be used by one person on one computer) -- $99
    2. Studio License (can be used thru out a film/games studio on any number of machines) -- $999

    With the studio license, I am offering complete, commented source code. Not with the personal license. I am doing this for two reasons:

    1. Film/game studios have programmers that write tools for artists and these can benefit from the availability of source code.
    2. The studio "execs" need to percieve gain in investing in the pricey studio license ($999) instead of the measly personal license ($99).

    The terms of use of the source code is: "You can do what you want with it but cant redistribute any part of it commercially or non-commercially. Bug fixes and as-is porting of the source code to new platforms must be returned to the developer to be passed to the entire community of users. New features, optimizations, improvements may not be reported to the developer".

    I have constructed the terms such that I wont see somebody casually hijacking my 1.5 years of hardwork while providing maximum benefit to the user.

    I would like your feedback on these terms and would like to know how I can improve it so that the following bottom line holds:

    "Give maximum benefit to the user while I make money for the next project"

    Thank you.

    Jagan.

    [ Parent ]

    One question... (none / 0) (#125)
    by DJBongHit on Tue Feb 13, 2001 at 05:23:32 AM EST

    New features, optimizations, improvements may not be reported to the developer".
    I'm curious as to why you don't want these reported to you... if somebody takes the time to improve upon your product, why don't you want to use their code? As long as you make them agree that, by submitting a patch, they relinquish the rights to the code to you, I don't see how you can go wrong by allowing this.

    ~DJBongHit

    --
    GNU GPL: Free as in herpes.

    [ Parent ]
    Open source considered | 125 comments (89 topical, 36 editorial, 0 hidden)
    Display: Sort:

    kuro5hin.org

    [XML]
    All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. The Rest 2000 - Present Kuro5hin.org Inc.
    See our legalese page for copyright policies. Please also read our Privacy Policy.
    Kuro5hin.org is powered by Free Software, including Apache, Perl, and Linux, The Scoop Engine that runs this site is freely available, under the terms of the GPL.
    Need some help? Email help@kuro5hin.org.
    My heart's the long stairs.

    Powered by Scoop create account | help/FAQ | mission | links | search | IRC | YOU choose the stories!