Linked by David Adams on Mon 16th Aug 2004 17:44 UTC
Editorial I read something in one of the comments for an OSNews posting a couple weeks ago that sent me thinking. It wasn't an original or profound thought. In fact, it's a rather commonly-held opinion that happens to be quite misguided. It's an opinion summed up by the "open source = communist" meme that gets thrown around in thousands of flamewars all over the internet. In this essay, I will explore why this idea is wrong and demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of economics.
Order by: Score:
@David Adams
by Lumbergh on Mon 16th Aug 2004 18:14 UTC

open source = communist

So you decided to write a long article because of a troll?

Anyway, the company that I'm contracting with and worked for 6 years ships linux on our embedded and non-embedded devices. I know we've saved tons of money from not having to pay licensing fees and have actually tweaked the kernel on occasion for some very specific things we wanted to do.

If you want to make money off of open source learn how to add value to the lower-level open source software stack that is already there. Keep your code proprietary if you want. We do.

I can already see the trolls...
by Kick The Donkey on Mon 16th Aug 2004 18:22 UTC

Nice article, David. I can see you put a lot thought, time, and effort into it. Very good points, indeed.

But I can already see the anti-gpl trolls coming out:

Its not open source that communist, its the GPL that is.

Just making a prediction...

So what if it's communism?
by Wind Maker on Mon 16th Aug 2004 18:35 UTC

Westerners' horrific idea of communism is resulted from the constant propagandas. If you really know what communism is, you won't be so scared of it, because there is nothing to be afraid of, communism is simply concerned with improving the well being of the whole society, which is a good thing.
Plus, you shouldn't be sared of it, because it won't work anyways any the the shadow of human nature.

Communism vs Marxism
by Daniel de Kok on Mon 16th Aug 2004 18:37 UTC

Communism claims that society is evolving, with some kind of historical inevitability, toward the common person having more freedom and power.

That actually is marxism, marxism described history as an inevitable process working in a comparable sense as Hegelian dialectic. Calling that communism obscures the fact that there are anarcho-communists and communist that think along the lines of marxism.

For some people it is as bad as confusing "hacker" and "cracker" ;) .

Trolls
by Anonymous on Mon 16th Aug 2004 18:40 UTC

It doesn't matter whether this is just a response to trolls. The fact is, there are many, *many* of those trolls and they're insanely annoying. Any efford to fight them is good.

Sigh
by Err on Mon 16th Aug 2004 18:43 UTC

Wasn't hugely impressed by the article starting out effectively saying "Either you agree or you don't understand economics dummy".

But millions of people are employed planting and harvesting, and the tractor will put them all out of business! And the cotton gin will put all those people picking the seeds out of cotton plants out of work! And mechanical looms will put all those weavers out of work! Oh the humanity!

They WERE put out of work, and things got VERY VERY hard until alternative industries came along to provide jobs.

This is a ludicrous comparison anyway. If you take money out of the software industry, salaries decrease, number of jobs decrease, and most importantly the incentive to actually join the industry starts to fade away. This is already happening, with people choosing to study subjects with better future prospects, software engineers shifting career, etc.

The article's author is right when he says that the total economy isn't going to notice this bleeding away of talent, but that doesn't mean there's no effect. If I magically removed all but 2 of the world's car designers then we'd start seeing a lot of very similar cars (Already do IMHO). Likewise if there is a large reduction in the number of people programming original code, and there are a lot less decent programmers around than people think, then innovation will actually slow down.

The open-source phenomenon (For licenses that allow redistribution) will actually REDUCE innovation. An effect which will be nicely masked by a vast number of slightly modified variations on available stock code.

If, for instance, I gave a class of English Literature students an assignment to write a play about a Scottish King, in an old English style I'd end up with unique plays. However if I also said they could insert as much Shakespeare as they like, and get full credit for the bard's words, how many variations on Macbeth would I get?

Inaccuracy of Marx
by Jeffrey Drake on Mon 16th Aug 2004 18:56 UTC

"For the sake of clarity, let's leave the failed experiment of Soviet "Communism" out of this for a moment and focus on the theoretical (and apparently impractical) ideas proposed by Marx and other early 20th century philosophers."

Marx was not a 20th century philosopher, looking here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Marx He died in 1883. Never lived a day in the 20th century.

v sigh
by Mike on Mon 16th Aug 2004 18:58 UTC
v Bill gates is communist
by Future on Mon 16th Aug 2004 19:01 UTC
Re: Inaccuracy of Marx
by undeadpenguin on Mon 16th Aug 2004 19:04 UTC

Um... "Marx and other early 20th century philosophers." does not necessarily imply that Marx was alive during the 20th century; it just means some people with similar thoughts to him (see the word "other") lived in the 20th century. And even so, who the hell cares? Why do you feel the need to nit-pick over 17 years??? Geez...

Re: Inaccuracy of Marx
by Daniel de Kok on Mon 16th Aug 2004 19:08 UTC

Well it implies that that Marx lived in the 20th century because it says "and other", but the writer probably refers to Lenin, Trotsky, and alikes. I agree that it is a bit nitpicking ;) .

Open Source itself is not equal to communism, however some of the prevalent OSI licenses are. That's a huge part of the problem. Most people equate the GPL and OSS, which is unfortunate.

The GPL, and it's little sibling, the LGPL are both communistic in approach and intent in the purest sense of the word. They not only engender a community based approach to software, (If you modify/use it, you must contribute your efforts back into the community), they also prevent a 3rd party from using derivative works as anything but GPL.

Other OSI licenses, are in fact very good alternatives. MIT/X11, BSD, and others benefit everyone, but do not have the clauses that make the Communism accusation so bloody accurate when applied to the GPL.

I'm speaking for myself, and for example, I use PostgreSQL, and have made commercial contributions on behalf of corporate users to PostgreSQL, whereas I avoid MySQL like the plague, for this very reason. I cannot risk the intolerance of the GPL license that applies to the MySQL client libraries.

Well Formed Article
by Nathan O. on Mon 16th Aug 2004 19:09 UTC

This was one of the best pieces of journalism I've seen in a while. Some people have had doubts about the quality of this site's content lately. Obviously, there are good articles and bad ones, and they add up to a good quantity of content. It's easy enough to weed through the articles that suck.

I also think the author is dead on. The current software industry is unsustainable. Do you think that, in 20 years, people will be buying a new version of Windows and a new version of Office, because their computers from 2020 are too slow and don't have enough features?

Besides that, the author is right that consumer companies would rather deal with open source, free software than liscensed software. You spend less time overseeing your liscense count, your software can be tweaked in any way you need (for a price), and you get to actually work one on one with the people who develop the software you use, as opposed to some company writing some software they hope you'll like enough to buy.

Good Read
by z1xq on Mon 16th Aug 2004 19:13 UTC

Thgis is a well thought out, well concieved, and well written piece.

Innovation is key but...
by Ikshaar on Mon 16th Aug 2004 19:14 UTC

"The open-source phenomenon (For licenses that allow redistribution) will actually REDUCE innovation."

Hmm, I think you are confusing innovation and dividends ;)

Yes open source allows dozens of project/distributions to be create with only limited changes, usually tailored to one goal or another. It's adaptation, here it increases distribution as these software can be distributed to more people who could not afford other software.

So instead of a handful of employees who have access to the sources code, and can innovate, now thousands or millions have. Will they innovate ? Probably not ... not all at least. But among them, some might have ideas.

Also, an example of good closed source developpement is the game industry. Competition exists therefore good games and innovation is coming...

So my point is innovation come from competition... even if open source would fail to create better products (which I don't believe), competition forces closed source developper to do even more. If closed source software was truly superior, they would not be afraid of open source.

long article..
by Jonas Lihnell on Mon 16th Aug 2004 19:23 UTC

I must say you took lots of words to say something so obvious.

Linux is not another unix, may be it's no longer developed by only pioneers, but there are still pioneers there, and the license makes it possible for pioneers to pick up at any time.

Haven't seen it
by Smartpatrol on Mon 16th Aug 2004 19:28 UTC

"Open source software has been a tremendous boon for the thousands of small and medium sized businesses that have been mostly shut out of the enterprise software markets, both as producers and consumers."

I haven't found this to be true. Microsoft is very competive in this arena with their Small Business Server Suite. Cheap and easy to setup, cheap and easy to maintain not to mention 9 times out of 10 a logical upgrade from existing small business systems.

Re: Sigh
by Devon on Mon 16th Aug 2004 19:29 UTC

--- "If you take money out of the software industry, salaries decrease, number of jobs decrease, and most importantly the incentive to actually join the industry starts to fade away. This is already happening, with people choosing to study subjects with better future prospects, software engineers shifting career, etc."

Wait... why is this necessarily a bad thing? What if all those workers and saleries going to some other new area results in some great economic boom?

Just like the industrial revolution. Had to suffer the pain to get the gain, but it was worth it in the end.

Intellectual property
by Bryan Cantrill on Mon 16th Aug 2004 19:36 UTC

While there are some valid points raised, this diatribe largely misses the mark. The conclusion pretty much shows the author's cards:


Many people today who are fighting for intellectual property rules because they think it promotes innovation and progress may actually be actually hammering nails into innovation's coffin.


With conclusions like this, the author is saying that he does not believe in the notion of intellectual property -- proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that the author has never owned any. Those who "are fighting for intellectual property rules" are doing so because they own intellectual property -- they are not "hammering nails into innovation's coffin" because they are the innovators. And, I hasten to add, plenty of open source developers also fight for intellectual property rules -- just look on LKML for the latest accusations that some new Linux-based gizmo violates the terms of the GPL by not providing source code...

Open source does not mean that we abolish the notion of intellectual property, and the author does an enormous disservice to open source by making that implication.

markets change
by christian paratschek on Mon 16th Aug 2004 19:43 UTC

just a few days ago, the ceo of one of the 5 austrian mobile phone providers complained that the low tariffs are ruining his business and he had to sign off 200 people because of the low prices and that was bad for these people yadda yadda yadda.
i thought: what the hell does this guy want? 200 people unemployed is bad, hell yes. but there's 8 million austrians who can use their mobile phones at really low prices, a lot lower than 3 years ago. they spend less money on their mobile phone bills, that means less money for him, but also they have more money to spend on other stuff. and these 200 poor workers will find other jobs in these other sectors.
you can't reject capitalism when it's not working your way.
and it's the same with software. an office suite for 500€? come on! an operating system for 170€? yeah, of course. i see microsofts profit margin and i see that something is dead wrong. they suck away money that all the companies could put to good use for other stuff.
calling linux "communist" is just dumb. whoever thinks that, has absolutely no knowledge what communism was, what marxism was, probably not what a democracy is, a dictatorship and what capitalism means. these people are just throwing around with words that they don't understand. this may sound arrogant, but i, for one, have studied history.
regards,
christian

GPL is communism? WHAT???
by Devon on Mon 16th Aug 2004 19:53 UTC

The idea that the GPL is communistic in any way is rediculous! Viral, maybe, but not communism.

The GPL is a way for software authors to protect their code FROM communistic ideals. It is a way to be sure ones code is kept in the software industries most extream example of capitolism: free and open source software.

Why are there still so many people that don't see the parallels between the current proprietary software industry and communist Russia? They want to be the sole producers. They will provide the goods, and the consumer will accept them. FOSS on the other hand allows anyone to participate. As in the capitolist economy, everyone has the oportunity to make great software and reap the benefits. We can all be producers and consumers. Code changes hands like money being invested and just like that money, has the oportunity to bring great returns in the form of additons and improvments from the rest of the community.

Communism: Everyone gets the same thing, want it or not.
Capitolism: You get out what you put in.

Think about it.

RE: Ikshaar
by Err on Mon 16th Aug 2004 19:55 UTC

Also, an example of good closed source developpement is the game industry. Competition exists therefore good games and innovation is coming...

This is a terrible example. The games industry is currently living off pretty graphics and sequels to successful titles. There is practically zero innovation aside from in the field of graphics engines. Anything that is truly innovative, or not from certain genres, is sidelined as being too risky to develop.

Roll on the next first person shooter/driving game/god sim. Let's just keep chewing that cud instead of searching for greener grass.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed the article, I just happen to think that sharing source code is pretty irrelevant. Ideas and algorithms are the only thing that needs to be open, IP for source code is perfectly justified. IP for algorithmics is not.

RE: So what if it's communism?
by Anonymous on Mon 16th Aug 2004 19:59 UTC

If you really know what communism is, you won't be so scared of it, because there is nothing to be afraid of, communism is simply concerned with improving the well being of the whole society, which is a good thing.

I don't think the fear is, "Oh, no! What if we end up in an ideal utopia?! That's sooooo scary!" The problem isn't what will happen if people succeed in making a perfect communistic society. The what has people scared are two basic problems with the "communist revolution":

A) Any "revolution" is going to scare people. People fear change, and often with good reason. Revolutions an civil wars are among the bloodiest and most brutal conflicts people get into. Likewise with economic revolutions; even when the end result of the revolution is a transition into a better situation, the transition itself is always messy.
B) When the revolution is done, you're most likely going to end up with a tyrannical government, or, at the very least, a terribly inefficient bureaucracy. That's pretty much just the way things work. Like you said, "it won't work anyways any the the shadow of human nature". "Ideals" which ignore human nature aren' harmless. The most monsterous of human actions are committed in persuit of such "ideals".

Both questions apply to the OSS debate. If the whole of software development were to go open source, the questions to be faced are A) How can we make the transition, and B) In what state does that leave the software industry?

Personally, I think the best solution is to maintain a world with both open source and closed source software. Both have strengths and weaknesses, and neither are, in themselves, a problem. What I really want to see is A) Open standards and B) a thoughtful review of the concept of "intellectual property" (perhaps a concept that doesn't fine 12 year olds millions for downloading a couple CD's or throw college kids in jail for downloading photoshop to learn how to use it)

Okay
by Smartpatrol on Mon 16th Aug 2004 20:01 UTC

"i see microsofts profit margin and i see that something is dead wrong. they suck away money that all the companies could put to good use for other stuff. "

Riddle me this Batman! Who or what made Microsoft what it is today? I will give you the answer...consumers like you and me. Want to talk expensive software? take a look at the licensing cost difference between NT and Novell circa early 1990's for roughly the same functionality and you will see why Microsoft is as big as it is today and why Novell and others went into obscurity. Novell and other companies chose to maintain the old expensive software lock in business model rather than compete head to head with Microsoft on price vs features/performance.

Re: Free Can Mean Big Money: The Open Source Economy
by Deletomn on Mon 16th Aug 2004 20:10 UTC

(Note I'm in the middle of reading the article. But I thought I should mention something)

David Adams: The financial/managerial class has its own value system, based mostly on the necessity to monetize the company's assets. Firms have a responsibility to maximize the return on their investors' money, so every company asset must be leveraged to its utmost. This means that if you have developed a program that can be sold for $1,000,000 to four people in the world or $100 to three million people, it is your solemn duty to keep the price at $1,000,000, even if that means that 2,999,996 people who need that software will have to go without. And at that price, you must keep your company knowledge absolutely secret, advancing the state of the art be damned.

Actually... In that case most intelligent business people would go the other way. You know... 4 x $1,000,000 = $4,000,000 vs 3,000,000 x $100 = $300,000,000. That's a $296,000,000 difference.

Re: Err
by Ikshaar on Mon 16th Aug 2004 20:11 UTC

Err:But here you switched to rentability question... Of course, game industry is here to make money ... of course, Doom3, Half-life 2, Warcraft3 are sequels. Some sells millions of copy so may be not your kind of game, but there is a public for it and that's all it matters. But if you want to argue about "real" innovation, what is innovation for you ?? give us an example of (recent) software innovation ... Windows did not innovate in the last 10 years...assuming win95 was innovation (!!), except for eye candy.

Close source developpement is not the necessary mean to innovate. Possible sure, necessary no.

Re: Okay
by Devon on Mon 16th Aug 2004 20:12 UTC

"i see microsofts profit margin and i see that something is dead wrong. they suck away money that all the companies could put to good use for other stuff."

"Riddle me this Batman! Who or what made Microsoft what it is today? I will give you the answer...consumers like you and me. Want to talk expensive software? take a look at the licensing cost difference between NT and Novell circa early 1990's for roughly the same functionality and you will see why Microsoft is as big as it is today and why Novell and others went into obscurity. Novell and other companies chose to maintain the old expensive software lock in business model rather than compete head to head with Microsoft on price vs features/performance."[/i]

You just defeated your own argument. Whats different between MS's reluctance to leave the old system of high profit margins and lock-in behind and that Novell and others previously? If it was the wrong choice then, why is it not now?

@smartpatrol
by christian paratschek on Mon 16th Aug 2004 20:14 UTC

well, that's probably true. and yeah, i have an original win95, win98 cd and xp home that was bundled with my laptop at home. it's also my money, pal. :-)

but i didn't talk about history. i talked about the situation today. microsoft earns unbelievably much money with their monopoly on windows and office. and this situation will change. change is just natural.

btw: great article, maybe a bit long, but very well thought out!

regards,
christian

human nature?
by hmmm on Mon 16th Aug 2004 20:40 UTC

I suggest if we want to understand human nature we take a hard long look at psychology. It shows us how humans behave and why the behave the way they do.

When we think about this on not so much an elementary level we find that most people behave according to their environment and past experiences and knowledge/memories.

Most people will behave in the socially accepted appropriate manner for any situation. If it is socially acceptable to spit on the homeless they will not feel bad or look down on other doing it. They might even partake themselves.

There were experiments that show that over 60% of the population will do what they are told by authority. If that authority is not just and honorable the actions of their population might become just as corrupt. Nazi Germany comes to mind.

There are experiments that show that some people will be cruel to lifeforms they consider lesser than themselves, or have come to believe they belong to a subordinate group, including other humans. Slavery.

All of these actions depend on the environment and beliefs held by their society, not by their education, etc.

Then when we look at social psychology we find that the Fundamental Attribution Error says that society often blames the individual for their situation (such as being homeless/jobless) when society is often responsible for creating the environment that lead them to these problems.

So when we put it all together we find that a lot of these problems are caused by capitalism, or the scarcity of resources, at a fundamental level. And would be remedied by a more equal distribution of wealth and a caring society that would not allow any individual to do without.

I believe that a society can be transformed/constructed into one that encourages everyone to participate and be productive in an entertaining manner. With a little creative thought our jobs could either be automated or made into something that more closely resembles play. And with a little care and compassion for your fellow citizen you will find that there are enough products for everyone to have what they need and most of what they want. IP can be duplicated to an extent with modern technology that everyone can have every song, movie and book ever created.

deoxy.org/endwork.htm

Another thing to consider is how much time (the most valuable limited resource we have) is wasted in lines at the store, making trips to the bank, paying bills, taxes, counting change, waiting in rush hour traffic, etc. All this time, collectively, could be put to more productive means if we did away with currency. But then society might not be as fair as it is today where CEOs are driving around in $100k vehicles and the average physicist or computer scientist has trouble finding a job in their field.

@Devon Big difference
by Smartpatrol on Mon 16th Aug 2004 20:40 UTC

You just defeated your own argument. Whats different between MS's reluctance to leave the old system of high profit margins and lock-in behind and that Novell and others previously? If it was the wrong choice then, why is it not now?

1. Microsfot has little to no competetion
2. Were talking tens of thousands vs hundreds of dollars. Modern Example: compair Oracle Database software lock-in vs Microsoft SQL Server Lock-in for a medium sized database.

I own MS Office 2003 Small business version and i feel it was worth every cent of the $200 i payed for it. I am not trying to defend Microsofts pricing schemes $500 for the Professional version seems kind of steep until you analyze what you are getting. I didn't need all the application in professional so i opted for Small business version.

Hoorah!
by Smartpatrol on Mon 16th Aug 2004 20:52 UTC

"I believe that a society can be transformed/constructed into one that encourages everyone to participate and be productive in an entertaining manner. With a little creative thought our jobs could either be automated or made into something that more closely resembles play. And with a little care and compassion for your fellow citizen you will find that there are enough products for everyone to have what they need and most of what they want. IP can be duplicated to an extent with modern technology that everyone can have every song, movie and book ever created."

Great idea! to bad its based on the assumtion that everyone will contribute in an equal manner and is of equal ability. Hence the reason true Socialism on the large scale doesn't work. Hence the reason for imperfect capitalism where everyone more or less has an equal opourtunity to succeed or fail. It is at this level where OSS will be put to the litmous test will it suceed becasue it is functionally better then competing products? or becasue it is free(as in speech).

re Hoorah
by Anonymous on Mon 16th Aug 2004 21:04 UTC

"It is at this level where OSS will be put to the litmous test will it suceed becasue it is functionally better then competing products? or becasue it is free(as in speech)."


Who says its either or?

Why not both

Re: Big Difference
by Devon on Mon 16th Aug 2004 21:07 UTC

1. Microsfot has little to no competetion

Thats a matter of debate actually, and depends on the particular market and market segment. Even in segments where they don't, that cannot last forever.

2. Were talking tens of thousands vs hundreds of dollars. Modern Example: compair Oracle Database software lock-in vs Microsoft SQL Server Lock-in for a medium sized database.

When you are competing with free, hundreds may as well be tens of thousands. ;)

Fact is, actual amounts don't matter. All that matters is that the cost of software is being artificially inflated. Thats what Novell and others did then giving MS their "in", thats what MS is doing now. How long until FOSS or cheaper competitors take that "in"?

I own MS Office 2003 Small business version and i feel it was worth every cent of the $200 i payed for it.

And at one time many corporations probably felt the same way about their $10,000 dollar software too. ;)

Would you feel the same way if others where selling equivilent software for $19.95? Or gving it away as a free download? Software is nothing. It has no intrinsic value simply by existing like material goods do. It costs nothing to reproduce. The only value that a program has is the value we artificaly assign it.

@Bryan
by Anonymous on Mon 16th Aug 2004 21:09 UTC

"...the author is saying that he does not believe in the notion of intellectual property -- proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that the author has never owned any."

How come I keep hearing this? Is it truly inconceivable to people (@sun.com, heh heh) that an artist, programmer, singer, etc. with worthwhile IP might not think they have the right to a monopoly? What, frankly, do the two have to do with each other? One is a moral question, the other is a career. If all artists thought they had a right to IP, it would more likely indicate bias than wisdom: do they agree so completely about things that *aren't* in their best interest?

I am an information anarchist because I can't find a philosophical basis for intellectual property claims, and because I don't believe in tacit consent. Therefore, I deny that I've ever given up my right to do whatever I want with any idea, no matter how it gets into my head. How does my being a programmer and having what the U.S. considers "IP" affect my thinking? It shouldn't, and it doesn't.

Yes, I understand this would destroy the GPL too. Whoopee. I don't make moral decisions based on what I would *like* the outcome to be. I further deny that government has any business 'promoting' the economy. How does that protect my rights? Do I have a right to live in a prosperous country? A right to stable grocery prices? All we've accomplished is a nation full of families that don't have even one month's spare living expenses in the bank.

Sematics
by Bill Sykes on Mon 16th Aug 2004 21:12 UTC

"even enforces, sharing rather than hoarding"

could be

even promotes, stealing rather than producing

Try reading a little Ayn Rand. May I suggest the Voice of Reason. Most peoples heads have been so filled with this altrusistic socialist prattle for so many years now that they are close to being willing to slit the wrists of thier fellow men to help in the world population problem.

world population problem?
by hmmm on Mon 16th Aug 2004 21:22 UTC

Is it true that the human brain is the most powerful neural network in the world?

When put in the proper environment, one that is mentally healthy and educates, the human brain writes its own software that makes it extremely valuable to society because of its ability to innovate. So how can it be a problem to have access to too many of these supercomputers?

Or is the value of a supercomputer not worth the cost of shelter, food, education, supplies and medical care to take care of a human? Is it cheaper to build machines that outthink people? And when it becomes cheaper should we just do away with this world population problem because its not economicly viable?

Yes, bring on the Ayn Rand... I want to hear some examples.

@Devon
by fore on Mon 16th Aug 2004 21:23 UTC

"And at one time many corporations probably felt the same way about their $10,000 dollar software too. ;)

Would you feel the same way if others where selling equivilent software for $19.95? Or gving it away as a free download? Software is nothing. It has no intrinsic value simply by existing like material goods do. It costs nothing to reproduce. The only value that a program has is the value we artificaly assign it."

Devon, you're so hopelessly confused that I almost don't have the heart to respond, but here goes.

Who the hell are you to DECIDE whether that $10,000 piece of software that that company bought with their OWN MONEY was "worth it"? Why in the hell else would they buy it? Can't you even fathom for a second that people and businesses are not lemmings that need to be "rescued" from "artificially inflated" prices? They BOUGHT IT. They paid the MONEY. Because it saves them TIME and MONEY and that makes them more efficient which means they will earn MORE MONEY. It's so goddamn simple. A business DOESN'T BUY THINGS THAT COST MORE THAN THEY WILL EVER EARN. You don't run a business this way.

SOFTWARE is TIME. And TIME is MONEY. Time has value--tangible, real, value. Businesses thirty years ago bought billing and tracking computer systems because it's CHEAPER than DOING IT BY HAND. That's the whole point of every software purchase--it enables business to be faster and more efficient.

Do you have any idea what the world was like before software? People did business with paper, telephones, checks, and signatures! How barbaric! Payroll, taxes, banking, financial markets--all done with paper! Computers have absolutely REVOLUTIONIZED business. Don't think for a second that software purchases are to make managers or CEOs feel better. Or to make secretaries feel self important or give their wrists a good workout.

Software has VALUE.

Why in the hell else would we be having this discussion!!??

OSS is Capitalism at work
by rrupp on Mon 16th Aug 2004 21:27 UTC

The notion that OSS is anti-capitalist (and therefore communist? strange logic!) is completely bogus. OSS exists because there is a limited market for software that people or companies will actually pay for, but there is a lot of production capacity out there in the form of talent and ideas. Those two facts along with the ability to collaborate with people pratically anywhere makes it happen.

@Devon
by Smartpatrol on Mon 16th Aug 2004 21:28 UTC

And at one time many corporations probably felt the same way about their $10,000 dollar software too. ;)

I am sure they did LOL!

Would you feel the same way if others where selling equivilent software for $19.95? Or gving it away as a free download?

I predict Microsoft would compete by creating a better product or a better value. Seriously what better motivation to create something better than MS Office then to make some cash doing it? I use postfix and think it is the best Open Source mail programs in existence. What do you think would make it as good as MS exchange faster, a "Good job" and a thanks for the free stuff! to Wietse Venema or a two million dollar venture capital investment into Wietse's work.(Wietse if i had the money i would hook you up! ;)

Software is nothing. It has no intrinsic value simply by existing like material goods do. It costs nothing to reproduce. The only value that a program has is the value we artificaly assign it.

Well you discount the wages to coders, R&D, Marketing and god knows what else that goes into creating something like MS Office. Granted i am sure that MS turns a profit on the investment shortly after they release a software product such as Office. However I don't resent Microsoft for making money like many people here seem to do.

Re: Sematics
by Devon on Mon 16th Aug 2004 21:30 UTC

"even enforces, sharing rather than hoarding"

could be

even promotes, stealing rather than producing


The problem is that he was reffering to information and ideas. Intangables that can be shared without loss and to which you cannot apply the principals and morals of material goods.

Besides, the author has chosen to share his code. How dare you presume to deny him his intellectual property rights!

Re: @Devon
by Devon on Mon 16th Aug 2004 21:45 UTC

I predict Microsoft would compete by creating a better product or a better value.

Exactly, because you can't inflate the value of software like that, as you yourself pointed out with the Novell example above. Thats really all I was saying.

Seriously what better motivation to create something better than MS Office then to make some cash doing it? I use postfix and think it is the best Open Source mail programs in existence. What do you think would make it as good as MS exchange faster, a "Good job" and a thanks for the free stuff! to Wietse Venema or a two million dollar venture capital investment into Wietse's work.(Wietse if i had the money i would hook you up! ;)

Wether or not software ends up being free or just cheaper is imaterial to the discussion. The point is that there IS somthing wrong with MS's masive profits, and the rebuttle you posted served only to disprove itself.

Software is nothing. It has no intrinsic value simply by existing like material goods do. It costs nothing to reproduce. The only value that a program has is the value we artificaly assign it.

Well you discount the wages to coders, R&D, Marketing and god knows what else that goes into creating something like MS Office. Granted i am sure that MS turns a profit on the investment shortly after they release a software product such as Office. However I don't resent Microsoft for making money like many people here seem to do.

Oh of course to develope the software costs money, but the problem is that MS grossly inflates prices beyond the cost of development and a modest profit. Also, development costs have nothing to do with the intrinsic value of the software itself. The software itself is mearly information. The developer of a program can choose to share it for free, or for a cost, but the cost you pay is nothing more then the cost of providing it to you and/or a license fee to make use of their intellectual property.

If it is...
by Anonymous on Mon 16th Aug 2004 22:11 UTC

If open source and the GPL is communism, then communism is not that bad.

unclear future for OSS
by avih on Mon 16th Aug 2004 22:37 UTC

Eventhough the author tries to show both sides of the coin, he unfortunately misses the 'metal' itself. The programmers that actually produce the OSS apps.

No one denies the benefits of using OSS. However, for one to get something for free, usually another has to give something for free. And that's where the current OSS equation breaks. OSS developers are percieved (and actually are) by the current economy as free labor. From the devs point of view, some of their labor goes for idealism, for the community for and the advancement of technology/knowledge in general. That's a good thing, but it's not something they can go to the grocery with.

For the equation to hold firm, the beneficiaries need to give something back. And that usually doesn't happen. Everyone enjoy using software for free, but when talks about contributing/paying back arise, then all the excuses in the world are being used. For the equation to hold, people should have a MORAL. And as far as i can tell, most of them (us?) don't. And that's very unfortunate. It just won't hold, and i say it with much grief.

For example, I've been leading more than one OSS project (all VERY successfull, albeit small in scope) with hundreds of thousands of users. On some i had donations links. Let me tell you something. I got $NULL, zero, zilch, nothing. Not even a single $. and I desperately needed some, as i was unemployed for more than a year (I do have a proper job now though, pretty demanding, but nevertheless a good one).

That's why i don't think it can hold for long. Eventhough i (and many more) will continue to write OSS applications for the reasons stated above, the occupation of programming is going to loose it's attractiveness (which is from the financial point of view usually), less programmers will walk the earth, hence, less OSS apps will be written, and software companies will rule the earth again. It would be interesting to see how this overshoot effect will develop.

But one thing i can say: The current equation can't hold, as it's a terribly unbalanced one.

RE: @Devon
by Nick Phillips on Mon 16th Aug 2004 22:39 UTC

On the subject of Postfix, someone said:

What do you think would make it as good as MS exchange faster, a "Good job" and a thanks for the free stuff! to Wietse Venema or a two million dollar venture capital investment into Wietse's work.(Wietse if i had the money i would hook you up! ;)

I've got news for you: go google for "IBM Secure Vmailer".

Re: @Bryan
by Bryan Cantrill on Mon 16th Aug 2004 22:43 UTC


I am an information anarchist because I can't find a philosophical basis for intellectual property claims


Do you agree that the government should have power to promote the progress of science and useful arts by securing (for limited times) to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries? If you disagree that government should have that power, fine; but recognize that you are diasgreeing with Article 1, Section 8 of the US constitution -- not to mention the British Common Law from which it was derived. I think that most people -- and probably even most people in the open source movement -- are not interested in a constitutional amendment to repeal intellectual property rights. My point is that you (and others like you) do the open source movement terrible harm by associating your extremist views with it...

OSS and money.
by Cheezwog on Mon 16th Aug 2004 23:07 UTC

This is slightly off topic but...

One thing that's bugged me about donating money to smaller open source projects is the lack of information you get back.

I've donated money to a number of projects and get an email back saying 'thanks' about 20% of the time. And that's it.

You cannot get information about how much money others have donated, about how the money is being spent (living costs or materials/time etc), how it's being invested etc.

It's important to me that I get some feedback, for purely selfish reasons. I would like to invest in the one that has the most investor interest so the cumulative money is more likely to guarantee the continued interest of the developers. Often there are a number of projects with the same focus, and it really does not matter to me which succeeds, I only want a good result. And while money alone cannot create good software, a little research shows that it is a potent motivator for OSS programmers.

Most private companies will provide much more information on their finances than any sourceforge project. I appreciate that most projects will not have an accountant, but I would still appreciate *some* information.

Re: Devon (IP: ---.client.comcast.net)
by drsmithy on Mon 16th Aug 2004 23:13 UTC

The GPL is a way for software authors to protect their code FROM communistic ideals. It is a way to be sure ones code is kept in the software industries most extream example of capitolism: free and open source software.

No, it's a way to ensure *someone else's* code is *made open source*. The BSD (or equivalent) license will keep code available no matter who uses it.

The GPL isn't about *your* source code, it's about *their* source code. That's the whole point of it - to create *more* open code, not preserve code that's already open.

It's all about property
by Joakim Lundborg on Mon 16th Aug 2004 23:24 UTC

Communism gets it name from everything being owned together, or by none at all if you wish. Material property is abolished. This is the essence of communism, not the historical materialism that David Adams makes a scornful recapitulation of.

Capitalism is essentially about amassing capital, i.e. property, and for this to be possible strong property rights are necessary. The aggressive strengthening of copyright and patent laws we are seeing in the US as well as in Europe is capitalism trying to strengthen its position in the information sector - companies and capitalists wish to be able to amass information in the same way as they can amass material property.

Free Software is the abolition of intellectual property (although of course it is manifested through laws supposed to uphold it). Anyway, software is shared in very much the same way as normal property would be in a communist state. Competition is replaced by cooperation, and innovation will thrive. And we all know it does, this is not a utopian dream, it is right there on your desk, life-controlling governments not included.

Obviously, in a otherwise capitalist economy, material areas will still be run in a capitalist fashion, and that is the real reason that businesses work with open source, i.e. Red Hat doesn't produce a linux distribution, it produces the service of making computers work with linux on them. This way free software can still work in the capitalist system, and this is obviously good because the life-controlling governmental power of capitalism is put to good use, providing the world with good software for free.

I think the really interesting question is what it would take to apply Free Software ideals to new areas, instead of doing it the other way around. Projects like wikipedia and filesharing is pushing the border, OpenCores is crossing it. What is next?

Too many
by So so on Mon 16th Aug 2004 23:28 UTC

"so". You use the word "so" too much. So.

Good article!
by clausi on Mon 16th Aug 2004 23:33 UTC

In fact, one of the best I've ever read on osnews, as far as I can remember.

Thank you!

@ avih:
I'm sorry about the lack of finacial support. On the other hand, someone may have used one of your projects, decided to contribute, too, and you'll be using his project one day.

Concerning the unbalanced equation: I had a similar thought when I read about an institution saying that Open Source saved the organization lots of dollars, but wasn't willing to provide their existing old but ported Unix application back to the community as Open Source. If I remember correcty, it was a canadian institution about weather forecasting.

However, if one day developers will become a 'scarce' good, prices (and earnings) will rise again, and new people will learn coding. That is meant by the expression 'invisible hand'. On some markets, it actually works.

What if GCC were BCC?
by QuantumG on Mon 16th Aug 2004 23:40 UTC

Suppose Stallman had put off the creation of GCC and gone with a BSD licensed compiler available at the time (assuming there was one). This isn't that far fetched BTW, he never sat down and wrote a windowing system, he went with X which is licensed almost identically to BSD. When GCC first become popular it was a shock that a free C compiler was available. People downloaded (or more commonly got Stallman to send them a tape) it and honestly didn't think it would work. When they found it wasn't all that bad they made modifications and sent them back to Stallman. To be honest there wasn't a lot of this going on until people started to realise how easy it was to port GCC. All of a sudden a company could make their own UNIX clone to go with their custom hardware. There was a real market for UNIX clones and if your hardware was good you could make a lot of money. So people would port GCC to their hardware and sell it. If GCC had really been BCC then there is no way those companies would have contributed their port back to Stallman. They would have simply compiled a binary and put it in their distribution. If someone asked for the source code they'd say "oh, it's just BCC with proprietory modifications" and no, you can't have the source code to those modifications. But because supplying source code (or distributing anything) was such an effort back then it made sense to make Stallman do all the distribution. So you just contribute your changes to GCC back to Stallman and if anyone wanted the source code with your changes you'd just point at him. When someone would send their tape to Stallman he'd pack it with not only GCC but GNU Emacs and all the other GNU source code. Which of course people would make their own changes to and possibily contribute back to Stallman. So filling this market need of a free C compiler really exposed a lot of people to the GNU project and it was possible because Stallman wrote GCC instead of using some BCC that may have been available.

yes, but is it islamic
by bearded_wallah on Mon 16th Aug 2004 23:42 UTC

possibly a more relevant discussion is to consider what islamic societies and doctrines make of the economics (or lack thereof) of open source "works". many people might be surprised at how similar free-market liberal christian-democratic (in the european sense) economics is to islamic economics and jurisprudence on intellectual property.

RE: Re: Sematics
by Bill Sykes on Mon 16th Aug 2004 23:46 UTC

"The problem is that he was reffering to information and ideas. Intangables that can be shared without loss and to which you cannot apply the principals and morals of material goods.

Besides, the author has chosen to share his code. How dare you presume to deny him his intellectual property rights!"

First off Mr. Adams used the word enforce in relation to sharing. That doesn't sound like choice to me.

Secondly an idea is very tangible if it wasn't poeple wouldn't pay for it. A block of wood with out an idea is a stick. With an idea it can become a piece of valued art or a custom peice of furniture. If that peice of furniture is unique enough in function then the design (idea) can be patented.

In the world today the new wood is 0 and 1's, bits and bytes with out ideas software is just ether.

Since material goods are of finite quantities on this planet, I would think that people who are truly for the common man would be all for the protection of ideas through intellectual property rights since this is about the easiest and fastest way for a common man to empower himself.

Of course some one should be able to share his idea with the world for what ever value he chooses to place on it. But sharing and enforce are two words that just shouldn't be used together.

Re: Open source software
by g salter on Mon 16th Aug 2004 23:50 UTC

Open source is a logical evolution of a world dominated by closed source software. It allows individuals and companies to create new products faster, most significant advances in civilization have happend through group co-operation (the development of the computer and the internet, the human genome project). Group co-operation is the way nature works best, sure, it is possible for, say, an Eddison or a Henry Ford to succeed, but with concepts like open source, many more people can develop new applications.

As far as some closed source companies like Microsoft complaining, I think that Microsoft is being hypocritical as they achieved world domination in the browser wars by giving a software application away for free (Internet Explorer), so they have absoloutliy no credibility in saying that free software is bad. (they have used that tactic themselves). As far as giving the source code away, well, nothing is stopping Bill Gates from giving his software away (except Bill Gates), it should be up to the software creators/owners to give it away under any lisence arrangement they feel is suitable.

Re: QuantumG (IP: ---.hay.kbs.net.au)
by drsmithy on Mon 16th Aug 2004 23:52 UTC

If GCC had really been BCC then there is no way those companies would have contributed their port back to Stallman.

Why not ? Other companies (eg: Apple) contribute back modified BSD-licensed code.

So filling this market need of a free C compiler really exposed a lot of people to the GNU project and it was possible because Stallman wrote GCC instead of using some BCC that may have been available.

You have failed to show any causal link between GCC being GPLed and not BSD-licensed, and people being exposed to open source software.

v I see no reason for this
by Bill Sykes on Mon 16th Aug 2004 23:55 UTC
re: drsmithy Apple?
by QuantumG on Mon 16th Aug 2004 23:58 UTC

Yeah, now that it's hip and groovy. Around the time GCC was written it was common practice to take BSD code and make a proprietory fork. Look at the UNIX history tree.

The causal link between GPL vs BSD and people being exposed to free software (note, there was no freakin' "open source") is pretty blatant, if you asked for the GCC source code you got the entire GNU collection.

v re: Bill Sykes
by QuantumG on Tue 17th Aug 2004 00:03 UTC
Re: QuantumG (IP: ---.hay.kbs.net.au)
by drsmithy on Tue 17th Aug 2004 00:15 UTC

Yeah, now that it's hip and groovy. Around the time GCC was written it was common practice to take BSD code and make a proprietory fork. Look at the UNIX history tree.

Most proprietry unixes had (and have) their own compilers.

The causal link between GPL vs BSD and people being exposed to free software (note, there was no freakin' "open source") [...]

I'm calling it "open source" to avoid confusion between with "free" as most people understand it and "free" as open source advocates use it.

[...] is pretty blatant, if you asked for the GCC source code you got the entire GNU collection.

I think you missed my point. What's the difference between getting a tape full of GPLed software and a tape full of BSD-licensed software ?

grad students do all the work anyway
by Anonymous on Tue 17th Aug 2004 00:32 UTC

Which is better. Research and development conducted in a closed proprietary environment or an open peer reviewed academic environment. If its the former than why do so many Corporations farm out their R&D to Universities?

Open source
by Kevin on Tue 17th Aug 2004 01:18 UTC

Open source is good, but you don't want to have it take up too much of the industry. Keep in mind that spending stimulates the economy. Corporations buying software, like spending and investing during a recession, is a good thing. It may not seem like a good thing to them or at that time, but it helps to stimulate the economy which mill lead to more people having money to buy there products etc.

In my opinion opesource is good for keeping companies from selling their product at an over inflated price and to keep the industry innovation. From an economic point of view, it's better to have many customers at a lower price than a few at a higher price even if you make the same ammount of money. 10 customers pay $100 is better than 1 paying $1000. Money changing hands is vital to a healthy economy.

Re: RE: Re: Sematics @Bill Sykes
by Devon on Tue 17th Aug 2004 01:22 UTC

First off Mr. Adams used the word enforce in relation to sharing. That doesn't sound like choice to me.

It certainly is! You think that IP owners don't have a right to enforce they're choices on how their IP is licensed? It is entirely their choice wether to enforce it or not.

Secondly an idea is very tangible if it wasn't poeple wouldn't pay for it. A block of wood with out an idea is a stick. With an idea it can become a piece of valued art or a custom peice of furniture. If that peice of furniture is unique enough in function then the design (idea) can be patented.

An idea is completely intangable. Its rediculus to state otherwise. For instance, if I have an idea for a new type of encryption algorithm, what exactly is that idea made of? To be tangible, it must be some form of matter. What would that be? Enlighten me please!

Software is no more tangible then an idea.

In the world today the new wood is 0 and 1's, bits and bytes with out ideas software is just ether.

A very appropriate analogy, as ether in the context you used it in is a non-existant substance. Since when did the concepts of 1 or 0 become tangible? What form of matter is software made from?

Since material goods are of finite quantities on this planet, I would think that people who are truly for the common man would be all for the protection of ideas through intellectual property rights since this is about the easiest and fastest way for a common man to empower himself.

So would I. I guess then that you do not consider yourself a common man? You seem to quite vigorously trample on those rights.

Of course some one should be able to share his idea with the world for what ever value he chooses to place on it. But sharing and enforce are two words that just shouldn't be used together.

Your view of mankind is far too ideal. Im afraid this moral utopia where IP rights need not be enforced does not exist. You may not like enforcment of IP rights, but the right to enforce them exists for a reason, and the nature of mankind leaves little chance that this will ever change.

Child in africa
by child on Tue 17th Aug 2004 01:41 UTC

Child in Africa needs food, education and health. AND a free OS AND access to information. Lot of those countries are very very rich but also very very much exploited by a few who keep their monopoly - sounds familiar?

Maximize the return on investment
by Russian Guy on Tue 17th Aug 2004 01:59 UTC

Firms have a responsibility to maximize the return on their investors' money, so every company asset must be leveraged to its utmost. This means that if you have developed a program that can be sold for $1,000,000 to four people in the world or $100 to three million people, it is your solemn duty to keep the price at $1,000,000, even if that means that 2,999,996 people who need that software will have to go without.

Well, first if all, for that example to work, it should be $1 (not $100) to three million people. Change it.

Secondly, that example is wrong: maximizing return on investment means selling a program for $1M to four people AND for $1 to 3 million people, making:

$4,000,000 + $3,000,000 = $7,000,000

How one can do that? Well, get to American business school to learn that.

Want examples? Here they are: Microsoft Windows XP Home for $50 (OEM) and XP Pro for $150 (OEM).

More? Red Hat Advanced Linux Server for $1,500/year and Red Hat Workstation for $300/year.

Even more? A car with manual and stereo or same car with automatic and CD for $2,000 more (hint: in many cars auto and stick have same production cost, or auto even cheaper).

These all are examples of slight variation of the same product targeting different customer groups.
Oh, yes, almost forgot: Red Hat Linux for $14,000/year for really rich folks who could afford IBM mainframe to run it on.:)

See, it is easy: you charge every customer as much as he/she can pay. Not more, but not less. This is business. The one the author has very naive understanding of.

++++++++++

As for other observations in the article, they are mostly good and interesting. For example, the observation of Socialism built on promise of Communism and ended as a corrupted state governed by the 'servants of the people.'

Now, ask yourself where did you heard about 'stewards' and 'gentle dicators.' Oh, right: in relation to Linux, Linux kernel, OpenSource projects.
Thes 'stewards' promise eternal happines of working for community. They are paid, directly or indirectly, by for profit corporations. They preach volunteerism but sure don't make money flipping burgers after volunteer work promoting OpenSource.

It smells very much like Soviet Union and OpenSource will end like it did.

Do not expect free society at the end: just 'stewards' selling themselves to the higher bidder and trying to take biggest piece of community pie with them.

is that true?
by anonymous on Tue 17th Aug 2004 02:05 UTC

based on the article's title. I ve searched and read the following:
http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserversystem/facts/default.mspx
i am wondering why dont microsoft migrate all BSD servers running hotmail services to Win2003 mainframe?
further, if META researches have clear proofs about prices as comparing between linux and microsoft servers, that means linux is just for students and IT knownledgable users only. Becoz if they use linux with a service like RedHat/ Suse then it costs them than microsoft does?
just few lines about this comparission.
cheers

Proprietary vs. Open Source? No, I don't think so...
by Jason on Tue 17th Aug 2004 02:09 UTC

I think all that Open Source has done is make it clear that different business models are required. The article seems to me to stay within the old paradigm.

The writing on the wall says SERVICES loud and clear. IBM knows it (and is profiting big time from this knowledge) and you can bet that Microsoft knows it. When Microsoft has milked the last dollar out of being "just" a software company they will wield their mighty organization towards Services. .Net is the beginning of it...

There we have the complex truth
by retal on Tue 17th Aug 2004 02:11 UTC

Thank you for your article, I very much enjoyed it. I thought I myself had a broad vision about the subject but you clearly showed me more depth.

a little more on topic
by hmmm on Tue 17th Aug 2004 02:16 UTC

I agree with this article 100%. Free software makes things more efficient. And its good to have both free and proprietary software to keep our economic bubble inflated. IMO, it really sucks when our bubbles burst.

The best thing for the economy would be to cooperate. Be quiet about the benefits of open source when you talk to other countries around the world and recommend the most expensive commercial stuff. Then only use the free stuff internally or give away the proprietary stuff / allow rampant piracy to improve your economy. Use intense propoganda and rhetoric to convince everyone around the world how horribly insecure the free/oss stuff is and how good the expensive stuff is. Its really that simple. Wanna work together? I'll endorse an agreement like that where us here in the USA all get free CDs of MS XP/Longhorn/Office and OSX in the mail like AOL with a EULA that says we can use it if we agree not to tell anyone outside the country about our little secrets. ;)

Profit motive
by Secret Squirrel on Tue 17th Aug 2004 02:42 UTC

"This means that if you have developed a program that can be sold for $1,000,000 to four people in the world or $100 to three million people, it is your solemn duty to keep the price at $1,000,000..."

Huh? So it's preferable to earn $4 Million vs $300 Million?

You can sell free software...
by Victor on Tue 17th Aug 2004 03:20 UTC

I don't know why people think it's not possible to sell free software...

AFAIK, you could ask for some money to do the developing (just like it is done today), and after it done, you would just give it with the source code and all. Just like most softwares are made today, except that the source code would be avaliable to the community.

Victor.

basic economics
by bruce coston on Tue 17th Aug 2004 03:44 UTC

1. price falls to marginal cost, 0 for good software after distribution.
2. with monopoly -istic power, Quantity finally sold falls to (n-1)/n of what it otherwise would, ie 1/2 for a monopoly.

Re: You can sell free software...
by drsmithy on Tue 17th Aug 2004 03:52 UTC

I don't know why people think it's not possible to sell free software...

Because your first customer can turn around and give away - or even resell - your product to anyone and everyone.

AFAIK, you could ask for some money to do the developing (just like it is done today), [...]

This is selling a *service* (your programming skills), not the software.

[...] and after it done, you would just give it with the source code and all. Just like most softwares are made today, except that the source code would be avaliable to the community.

So how do you make money when all of your customers only need to purchase a single copy of your software ?

A few additions.
by dpi on Tue 17th Aug 2004 04:13 UTC

Hmm, well. I find it funny how piracy is mostly left alone. An analysis on why piracy happens would be one which fits right in this subject and i think, will add to the discussion.

Some people in the FLOSS camp argue that piracy is stopping open source adoption. Which could be one of the reasons why they're against piracy.

<< [...]

Often these conflicts do not bump up against each other too much. The software producers need an environment in which they can create software (they need to be paid, be provided with desks, computers, etc) and the managers need the producers to have a product to sell. It's a symbiotic relationship. But engineers often bristle at management's lack of interest in funding inventive new research and instead packing useless bells and whistles into the existing products because sales and marketing think it will help make more money. And managers often decry programmers' love of technology for technology's sake and seeming lack of interest in the financial well-being of the firm

[...]


>> Brilliant, the relation between the *NTJ and the *NTP described.

<< This is a ludicrous comparison anyway. If you take money out of the software industry, salaries decrease, number of jobs decrease, and most importantly the incentive to actually join the industry starts to fade away. This is already happening, with people choosing to study subjects with better future prospects, software engineers shifting career, etc.

>> I agree, but the world doesn't end there. Did the world end during the industrial revolution? Not during any revolution. The article emphatised that point.

<< The open-source phenomenon (For licenses that allow redistribution) will actually REDUCE innovation.

>> You have not argumented why. So i ask you: Why?

<< Well it implies that that Marx lived in the 20th century because it says "and other", but the writer probably refers to Lenin, Trotsky, and alikes. I agree that it is a bit nitpicking ;) .

>> No it ain't nitpicking if you dig futher into the subject. Which arguable is related to the subject (Stallman got inspiration from Kant IIRC).

Those you name were all "late" ''anarchism'' (rather more "authorian anarchism" or "state communism") philosophers. The philosophy of anarchism on which communism and marxism are based on started in the age of Enlightenment, far before the 20th century. Immanuel Kant was one of the important people who influenced the movement in the early stages. In Europe. You can find influences from that in important, early American philosophers and other important people. Like Jefferson and Twain for example. There's some fine history on this on websites like Wikipedia for example.

<< (If you modify/use it, you must contribute your efforts back into the community)

>> Nope. If you modify or use a GPL application you don't have to contribute your efforts back: if you don't distribute your binary you don't have to distribute your source. This opens the possibility to get sourcecode, hire a developer, and keep the source in-house. That is, if that software benefits your business. Hence what you state ain't a proposition. The GPL or any decent article about it explaining it will explain this more in depth.

<< Close source developpement is not the necessary mean to innovate. Possible sure, necessary no.

Someone mentioned games in that thread. Well, the entertainment industry is not necessary ''meant'' to innovate either. Look at movies, and you see various old recipes used for years if not decenia. The standard hero-movie goes like this: Main character male, strong and reasonably intelligent. He has a quest, a target. Then there's the female character who is beautiful. She aids the main character, fills in an important piece of the puzzle, or in fantasy movies she's gonna get rescued. Then there's the evil bastard as enemy who does things we don't accept in our society. The target involves his defeatment. That's just one of the many recipes of the average thriller or police movie. If you check out fantasy, western or whatever you like you'll find out similar. You're even able to find similarities in various genres. As example i find the Fifth Element and The Matrix good ones in this case, cause it fits in perfect and people tend to have seen these, but there are many other ones and one who has seen movies the past years is able to recognize that recipe in.

If you look at a random movie and analyze aspects like this, and you have seen quite some movies, you have a high chance ending up with a deja vu. Point is: many people don't see it from such point of view, and it doesn't bore or bother them! When it does to the masses, new recipes are found out. Repeat. Repeat. Yeah there are movies which are different from the standard concept. For example slightly, or just very different while it is alike on other layers. When you look at movies the past 20 years you'll notice some which are highly respected and different than the status quo, and some which started a whole new trend. Those movies aren't called "Virus". In the game industry you can notice that too. Here's one obvious example: "Dune 2". RTS games started from Dune 2 or maybe even a predecessor (afaik Dune 2 was the one which started this genre). Now, on that concept lots of games are based on. And lots of games are based on the concept of FPS. It sells. The similarities between various games of the same genre sell. Same or similar subject sells. Same or similar interface sells. If the interface is totally different, well, see the criticism on GIMP and Blender.

<< ...the author is saying that he does not believe in the notion of intellectual property -- proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that the author has never owned any.

>> Excuse me but i find this extremely funny because when i ignore the definition of IP and read it literal you are saying that the author doesn't have brains! Intellectual property is what's in your brains. Knowledge. Everything else is artificial. Who says you "own" something when i copied it? The copier "owns" it too then in the literal sense of the word. It is just that the law doesn't agree.

The GPL was a reaction to these very laws. Stallman understood that a more liberal public domain or public domain-like system wouldn't work because he experienced that before proprietary software flourished.

But what i am wondering about: how do you respect the jobs of those who pirate your software, or about anyone? What do they get back from the society except money? You get IP _and_ money but the housekeeper gets only money. From that point of view IP is an addition afaik.

<< AFAIK, you could ask for some money to do the developing (just like it is done today), and after it done, you would just give it with the source code and all.

>>> Yeah, but the interesting thing is that if you run a company which specializes in X (e.g. DVB or VoIP) and you pay one to develop GPL code then your competitor is able to use that software as well. For the cost of 0. While you invested in it. If the software is BSD licensed the competitor can even add functions and sell that software in binary form without giving the contributions back. Wouldn't be their core business though. Well, do you as competitor want to give them that possibility? Or do you rather want them to see to contribute to your software as well so that you both invest to improve it, improving the company and the service thus [i take it for granted] improving people's life? What people still don't agree on is wether GPL or BSD or something else is better for the progress of society [in such situation]. In case by case, i'm rather pragmatic on it.

Nice
by Anonymous on Tue 17th Aug 2004 04:20 UTC

That was a great article.

Open Source can swing both ways
by Roberto J. Dohnert on Tue 17th Aug 2004 04:58 UTC

The company I work for does develop on top of Open Source OS's such as Linux and FreeBSD. We keep 100% of the code proprietary which has bought us the wrath of local LUGS and yes IBM employees who think because we developed for Open Source operating systems we need to give that code away and Open Source it. We got letters on how we can be sued and this, that and the other for developing closed source programs on the Linux platform, which is a load of crap. Im not a big fan of the Open Source community in itself, I think the whole 'Windows must die for Linux to thrive" rhetoric has gotten very old, I do like Linux, I do like FreeBSD but what turns me off is the Open Source community and how they try to make migrating to Linux as easy as reformatting a hard drive and installing Linux, its not that simple and in a lot of cases that I have seen Linux is not worth the trouble. All of my Microsoft customers love the quality that Microsoft provides in their products and they like their products and have no interest in Linux or Open Source. We did a pilot test with Linux over a year ago with a local school system, they decided to stay with Windows. I did presentations for them, showed them the benefits of Linux/Open Source and proprietary solutions. What I hated about that is that yes, a lot of my open Source zealots that work for me tried to make it out as tho its something against Linux and that organizations that stay with Microsoft have "sacrificed their users freedom", its not that at all. I was even put on review because they went to my boss and told them that I did a lousy job and didn't push hard enough for a Linux migration.

Hi,

As the owner of 4Front Technologies - the company that
makes proprietary Open Sound System (http://www.opensound.com) and the GPL'ed XMMS (http://www.xmms.org) I have a lot of experience with being:

1) A pure software shop - hence not having hardware to sell
2) A really small company - hence not having any services arm

XMMS makes us 0 dollars. We cannot find anybody who'll pay us to add bells and whistles to XMMS and neither can we find
any corporate entity that will pay us for XMMS support - not that XMMS needs any 7/24 technical support.

Open Sound System is our bread and butter product - yes it's
binary-only (but not proprietary - OSS is available under
GPL'ed drivers in Linux and BSD drivers under FreeBSD) and
because of OSS sales we can make a small living (we're not
rich) and pay programmers for XMMS a salary (which has all but ceased because OSS isn't selling that well).

If someone running a pure software shop with developer's salaries to pay, electric/equipment/rent bills to pay has anything useful to inform us about the merits of going 100% GPL'ed/Open Source, I'd be happy to listen to them.

Right now if we open sourced our Open Sound System drivers, we'd lose all means of making any money even the meager sales that we have would be gone because people would just download OSS sources, compile and be done with it. OSS
product is very well designed and needs little customer support. If people wanted support, they'd probably rely on
IRC or USENET and get answers for free. That would pertain to companies as well.

So once again, if you are running a company and have employees and rely on software sales please tell us how one can make a good business plan out of having 100% open sourced products.

Please don't give me MySQL, Trolltec or CodeWeavers - they all have dual licensing and binary-only products to make ends meet. We also have dual licensing. I'd very much want to make 4front big like IBM or HP or Novell.



best regards
Dev Mazumdar

Think before you write to much.
by Dodo on Tue 17th Aug 2004 05:07 UTC

There are 2 things i find very wrong about your article.

1: It's WAY to long. Who would want to read all that just about what you think?

2: You make is sound like communist=bad. If you want to prove that something is good, doesn't mean you should kick down something else.

Rise of the Linux
by Anonymous on Tue 17th Aug 2004 05:07 UTC

A tad bit off topic...

Microsoft NT preety much spelled the death of proprietary closed source UNIX systems, Microsoft NT based systems are dominant both at work and in the server market.

GNU/Linux over a couple years has become a convergence point between many former, and current, proprietary UNIX venders: Novell, Sun (Solaris), IBM (AIX), Hewlett Packard (HP-UX) (who merged with Compaq[Tru 64]), SGI (IRIX), etc.. All these companies have contributed to Linux and free software.

I hypothesize in five years the majority of these companies operating system business will be in Linux, Why?

It is expensive and foolish to continue to develop your own proprietary UNIX operating system, when a free one (GNU/Linux) is just as good or better than theirs, why would customers continue to buy your proprietary and expensive system?

Another reason is because no single one of these enterprises own's Linux; joint development between them will help counter act the Microsoft's dominancy over the software and operating system industry.

@ Dev Mazumdar
by dpi on Tue 17th Aug 2004 05:24 UTC

XMMS makes us 0 dollars. We cannot find anybody who'll pay us to add bells and whistles to XMMS and neither can we find
any corporate entity that will pay us for XMMS support - not that XMMS needs any 7/24 technical support.


Ehm first of all excuse me to talk while you didn't ask me to. Hehe ;) but since i like XMMS and the upcomming XMMS2 (yeah and libvisual!) i reply and hope its somehow usable.

I think Blender is an interesting example although it ain't a company anymore. The main developer is still earning money through Blender though by selling a book about it. He did some marketing for it and it was afaik a success.

Also look at PowerDNS. I don't know what they're earning or how it works, but they put their software in the GPL. Before that they put it under free for non-commercial usage with only a small fee for commercial usage. I believe they're under contract basis with some other company for whom they develop the software.

I also think a company simply ain't what you are looking for. What you're looking for is a software-only company who's making money of their software and (!) has a similar market as you have. MySQL AB doesn't have a similar market, since people make money using MySQL. How do people make money using XMMS? It is mostly an end-home-user application; that's something different than say GIMP, Blender, Maya or applications like Ardour. Plus there are many alternatives to XMMS available.

One thing you could do though is adding a webpage devoted to features and implementations, for a donation. A sort of bounty hunter program like Mozilla, Qmail and other have on regards of finding vulnerabilities but then for features. If there are features interesting for corporate users, then you could add these to the list. Frankly, i doubt such exist, and the end-home user market isn't where money is to be found.

As for OSS, having sound on a system is considered a commodity. Any decent multimedia OS does this and with OSes like BeOS (free beer) or Microsoft Windows (comes with a lot of software and features, actually) it is just there, included.

So i find it pure logic that: ALSA has been developed and are used and that you're only making a bit money from people still using a proprietary Unices. Cause for those it ain't much money for what you offer. But for an ordinary home user it is, especially since there's already OSes which do it for free.

So maybe you'll have to develop a new application which is more niche and sell that, but i wouldn't put my stakes on the end-home-user market. That's just me though.

PS: Frankly i doubt this website is actually the place for your question...

@dpi
by Dev Mazumdar on Tue 17th Aug 2004 05:49 UTC

Thanks for your email. You do bring up very valuable points. However there are couple of things that I still need to ask:

1) You say: How do people make money using XMMS? It is mostly an end-home-user application; that's something different than say GIMP, Blender, Maya or applications like Ardour. Plus there are many alternatives to XMMS available.

The question, is why did AOL pay 40 million for Winamp?. Why won't any Linux company buy XMMS from us?. Becuse it's gpl'ed no need to pay the developers?. XMMS is still the king of all MP3 players for UNIX. If some one pays us to add DVD support, we'll do it tommorrow. Xine and Mplayer are good but don't have the features of XMMS.

2) You say: Frankly, i doubt such exist, and the end-home user market isn't where money is to be found.

But if everybody is pushing Linux for the desktop, surely there is money to be made doing Multimedia stuff?. But maybe linux will never be a home-user's desktop - maybe it's only a corporate desktop. How can MS make soo much money from home users?

re: Can people running companies please respond?
by hmmm on Tue 17th Aug 2004 06:29 UTC

I don't run any companies, but I have a few ideas..

As I see it ALSA is replacing one of your revenue streams, because you didn't open source it.

So in that situation what I would do is offer to improve ALSA drivers or port your OSS stuff over to ALSA and put up a simple, elegant website that offers to add enhancements to the current ALSA/OSS drivers, like having a page for each soundcard with an easy to use form and payment system that allows anyone like me to pay via paypal or maybe even visa/mc for the hardware we are using and request features like bug fixes and specific options to be coded by you and added to the kernel for everyone.

Then I would be more willing to contribute payment, even if I didn't need any new features, just because I know the money is going to improve the products I use instead of just into some company's pocket.

XMMS needs some work, but it works fine for me. However, when I go to the xmms.org website I don't see any easy payment options. How do I know you even want donations?

I have a friend who donated $20 today to a GPLed project he doesn't even use because it implemented an algorithm that fascinated him and they offer a paypal link on their homepage. Imagine if 100 people from around the world did this every day.

When I finally do start a company I will offer a similar scheme instead of expecting to be paid for the code I'm writing. I'll just make it easy for someone to pay me if they like the project and direction I'm heading in and maybe setup a storefront for extra income. But I won't ever make it commercial, intrusive, annoying or requiring payment in any way, because I care more about my crappy code than money. And I could really use some money right now, too.

yeah
by hmmm on Tue 17th Aug 2004 06:35 UTC

maybe a bounty system where you offer to port each specific OSS driver to the ALSA components that you find are lacking for a price to the community. So if everyone pitches in they can pay you like $10,000 or whatever the going rate is for an SB driver that is lacking some features. List out the specific features and your price and work with the people who would like to pay you to do it instead of hack through it themselves, like me.

@ Roberto J. Dohnert
by Lumbergh on Tue 17th Aug 2004 06:41 UTC

Wow, you have the exact same kind of attitude I do towards open source and seem to be in the exact kind of situation i'm in. We're 100% proprietary on top of open source. If some GNU dweeb tried to tell me that I should open source my software I would tell him to shove it where the sun doesn't shine. You also share my exact same sentiments towards open source in general. I like linux/BSD and open source in general, its just a lot of the idiotic nutcases that go around preaching that I wish would just walk in front of a bus. I guess most of them are just kiddies or something that don't know their ass from a hole in the ground...probably the same dweebs that think that communism "hasn't been tried right yet".

@ Lumbergh
by hmmm on Tue 17th Aug 2004 06:51 UTC

Am I one of those idiotic nutcases?
Anyone think my comments are not helping?
I can stop spouting off my nonsense if its just stupid. Walking in front of a bus might be a bit harder. ;)

another point...
by christian paratschek on Tue 17th Aug 2004 07:10 UTC

a point that everybody seems to miss in tis discussion is: linux (and all the other opensource-programs) are "the big leveller" in the software-industry. microsoft dominates that market with a monopoly, and ibm, sun,novell, hp & co HATE that.
with linux, these big companies can work together on the same projects without hurting each other. sun releases the code for star office, openoffice evolves and ALL the big companies are happy about it. novell, ibm and the others get a free competitor for ms office. they can dump lots of money into it without having to fear that sun ever takes it away from them.
<P>
so, the rise for opensource-programs is just natural. it will happen, because<BR>
a. every it-company except for microsoft is happy about it and supports it
b. the prices for software go down, which is good for customers
c. open source software brings open standards, which, again is desired by ibm, hp, novell & co.

regads,
christian

xmms
by hmmm on Tue 17th Aug 2004 07:16 UTC

Oh, there's the donation button, at the bottom of the webpage.

I'd suggest moving that up someplace more visible, but not distracting from the real content. And there's a GPL project called greenshift that could be integrated into xmms that I would be willing to improve. I wrote a bunch of deltafields, particles and color maps for g-force, but didn't want to continue contributing to the project because there were some restrictions on the output I didn't agree with. Greenshift has no such restrictions, so it could be used by audiophiles like myself to create videos to our music, scripting it with the changes, etc. I'm just too busy with other things to put much effort into porting this project to work with xmms/linux and don't even know if its possible.

But I'd be happy to contribute additional deltafields, colormaps and particles and make donations when I can afford it if we'd like to see xmms compete head to head with those visualizations and audio players on OSX and winamp.

I know this software can be customized to be very cool and stylish if we limit the deltafields, colormaps and particles to very specific settings which I'm more than willing to contribute to your project with the hope that it will help increase your donations. ;)

@ Dev Mazumdar (1)
by dpi on Tue 17th Aug 2004 07:35 UTC

<< The question, is why did AOL pay 40 million for Winamp?. Why won't any Linux company buy XMMS from us?. Becuse it's gpl'ed no need to pay the developers?. XMMS is still the king of all MP3 players for UNIX. If some one pays us to add DVD support, we'll do it tommorrow. Xine and Mplayer are good but don't have the features of XMMS.

>> Well if you buy a company or application and get the developers behind it with you you have the people who know the software best at your command and that is an incredible important "side" effect in some situation. For example, it could save the cost of hiring developers to get up to the same level as the original developers know the code. The newbies will start with a spaghetti-feeling and it takes time till they're on the same productivity level as the original developers.

I can think of a few possibilities why AOL (Timewarner now) did this but i'm not very into it.

First of all, it is important to find out what happened with Winamp after AOL bought Nullsoft. In this one can find partly the answer why AOL bought Winamp. Justin Frankel, a lead developer of Winamp, made some notes on this in interviews.

One thing i know that did happened is that "bloat" got added in the sense of AOL Instant Messenger bundled, and other things. Things i always removed when i installed a new Winamp version. IIRC this was optionable in later Winamp versions. Something similar happened with Netscape and ICQ. That's marketing.

So we have 3 examples where AOL bought a software company: Netscape (Netscape Communicator and more), Mirabilis (ICQ) and Nullsoft (Winamp and more). In all the 3 situations the software was popular. The software got caught up by the public. Only Winamp is still popular; when AOL bought Netscape it wasn't very popular anymore since it lost the browser war by then and ICQ basically lost the IM-war from MSN quite a while ago. What they did however is using the popularity of the application for their marketing purpose. It would be shortsighted to think that it is only to market AIM. There's more: Brand recognition / "AOL develops cool software" and possibly more aspects i'm not able to think of. Speaking of brand recognition: "AOL Instant Messenger" has brand recognition itself; the application name XMMS doesn't.

XMMS is very popular in the Linux (and BSD) world as well. But relatively, Linux is not popular. Also, do people really think they're able to buy XMMS and/or its developers? Or pay for a certain feature? I wasn't. More important, do the right people know this? Why don't you add this to your website?

(Btw, MPlayer has a XMMS plugin and XMMS has a MPlayer plugin.)

<< But if everybody is pushing Linux for the desktop, surely there is money to be made doing Multimedia stuff?. But maybe linux will never be a home-user's desktop - maybe it's only a corporate desktop. How can MS make soo much money from home users?

>> Multimedia is a rough subject with a lot of divisions in which some money is made right now even in the Linux segment.

As i said, i'm not confident there will be large commercial opportunities for the home-end user desktop market in a direct manner (Software <-> Profit). Especially not regarding commodity applications. This is partly due to piracy, partly due to a wide variety of open-source applications available including commodity ones. I think it'll rather be Software <-> Service <-> Profit and consumers do like services too. I have not researched companies like Lycoris, Libranet, Lindows and other distributions aiming for the home-end-user market; that might be of interest for you as well as for me to gather more information on the commercial possibilities in the home-end-user market so that we're able to argue on it more rationally.

[Imagine XMMS is able to play DRMed audio and video. This would cost you money, but when XMMS has a sort of minibrowser together with a slick website as interface for that content it maybe does have a potential market. You sign a deal with the content providers and use a subscription service. You start with the most popular content to lower the costs; later you add others on basis of popularity. That's an example which currently ain't available in Linux. Only a few Linux distributions are able to play WMV/DRMed content: TurboLinux and Connectica IIRC (I'm positive on at least Turbolinux not sure on the other. There are at least 2.). If such service is a plugin it is afaik okay with XMMS and the other company (e.g. MS) regarding licenses. In short: a unique service. What i don't know is wether there's a market for this.]

@ Dev Mazumdar (2)
by dpi on Tue 17th Aug 2004 07:36 UTC

Since we're discussing MS now anyway, that's a complex subject to discuss. MS basically had no big competitors for the desktop. They were like the only big player and stopped BeOS from growing into the market via arguably dirty tactics. MS bundled Windows with new computers using smart OEM deals which benefits the OEM to sell a computer with Windows hence they do prefer to sell it in such way because it delivers them money. Windows is also an OS while XMMS is a multimedia application so the compare is off. How would you force such with OEMs? Windows comes with both a XMMS-like program (WMP) as well as a sound driver (or via the vendors driver from their CD or website); such is normal in this world: BeOS has it, IRIX has it, MacOSX has it. Hence its a commodity. Since people are used that this Just Works and doesn't cost money how do you think you're able to market this while it costs money? You'll have to add something unique to the software if you ask me. That's not to say the software ain't good now. Anyway, what MS also did right in their way, is shoving new versions up to the public. As a last note, i'm really wondering how much MS is really getting from home-end-users which are NOT OEM deals. I'm wondering because of piracy. In short, MS basically benefitted from: the PC hype, new PCs mandatory + MS Windows OEM deal. Arguably, MS benefited from companies like Intel who helped pushing PCs to the masses. Not to note how they shoved people Office up which is besides Windows one of their main profit points. But that's a very short version on this complex piece of history.

4 more examples. Ask yourself wether piracy is a problem in these situations, who the market is, why the customers pays for the service + application, where the competition is, how money is made, and what the scarce parts of the software and/or service is:

* DirectFB isn't very popular. The person behind DirectFB works for a company named convergence(.de) who are in the DVB business IIRC. He develops DirectFB for them, and DirectFB is OSS yet not popular. It has some awesome features though, mainly great performance. This ain't: DirectFB <-> Consumer this is rather DirectFB <-> Company + Service <-> Consumer i think.

* WineX for example aims for gamers. They're using a subscription service. CodeWeavers and Transgaming have one interesting thing in common: those who pay have the power to vote on what the next feature is. In theory, that means the most popular feature is the one to be next supported making the majority happy thus adding value for the majority when the next version comes out for which they pay. But WineX doesn't have much competition while the software solves a major problem (games on Linux); as i said, multimedia players have. This makes such a model harder for you.

* By supporting CodeWeavers you support WINE since changes to WINE are given back (WINE is LGPL). IOW: by supporting a proprietary piece of software you improve the quality of an open one. This model ain't uncommon and you actually are using a similar one with OSS and XMMS. CodeWeavers aims rather for corporations than for home-end-users though. They got paid by Disney for Photoshop support. It's apparent because a corporation is interested in running Lotus Notes via WINE / CrossOver while no home-end-user is. And Lotes Notes is one application people would love to see support for; actually some appear to be ready to pay heavily for this (based on some comments in the Codeweavers Lotus Notes entry).

* GStreamer. I don't have a clue about the company behind it but you might find it interesting since they're in the multimedia sector.

1 and 4 are alike (Software <-> Service <-> Customer) and 2 and 3 are alike (Software <-> Subscription / Control / Scarcity <-> Customer).

So if people know it is in their advantage to support your company financially aka "buy the product" (indirectly by paying for something from which they reap the benefits and directly by controlling what the next feature is) i think you have a chance. For one, you might be interested in the websites of the above projects to learn how these work in an interactive, informative, clean and user-friendly way. Such way seems mandatory to me, especially when you keep in mind that more new people are switching to "Linux". Those aren't by definition techies.

IMO, it would be interesting for you to research companies like the above ones and find out how their models work. I have no clue wether Transgaming is commercialy succesful or not. Such information is also important, ofcourse.

RE: Dev Mazumdar
by Edward on Tue 17th Aug 2004 09:52 UTC

Personally - And this is my take from an end-user, casual (audio) developer point of view - the reason nobody is buying open sound system is because there's better (free) options around.

OSS has been surpassed by ALSA, and beep-media-player has overtaken XMMS. Why? In both cases, they offer things I want. XMMS has refused to update to GTK2, and gnome-vfs, and bmp has, or will. It's the same with OSS and ALSA.

Back in the day, I probably would have paid for a binary version of OSS simply to get software mixing on my sound card... (assuming I wasn't using Windows as my primary OS, and that I wasn't a poor student) but now, at a limit of eight channels, when I get it done in hardware on my USD$40 soundcard? Not a chance.

Want to make some money? I know a bunch of people who are gagging to get off the Windows platform for audio, but the driver support and application support simply isn't there. Sign some NDAs with companies and write some good binary drivers, and write some nice libs for audio application developers.

And for crying out loud, switch to ALSA already. Hell, port it to other platforms if you think they want it. But get with the program. I want real 5.1 sound, digital out, and an API that lets me use every one of the two million transistors on my sound card, and OSS doesn't deliver.

Check out the kalsa tools by Matthias Nagorni at http://www.suse.de/~mana/kalsatools.html . This is an excellent of example of what I can do with ALSA can do, and what requires a lot of screwing around in OSS to achieve.

I understand that having been developing OSS for so long, you're probably very unhappy at watching all that code go to waste. Well I'm sorry, but you are a bussiness in a capatilist market, and the market is clearly saying they don't want your product anymore. Take a hint, and move on - while you still can.

Open Source Business plans
by clausi on Tue 17th Aug 2004 10:04 UTC

So once again, if you are running a company and have employees and rely on software sales please tell us how one can make a good business plan out of having 100% open sourced products.

Economists would answer: There is no such plan.

Reason: If you're selling 100% Open Source Software at a price greater zero, your competitor could fork and sell at your price minus a dollar. Then, you'll need to reduce your price by two dollars to not loose customers. The competitor will be forced to do the same for the same reason. You both end selling your software for a price of zero dollars.

Of course, this makes the usual assumptions: customers act economically, the market is perfect (No information asymetries, network effects, etc), and no transaction costs.

Gibberish on Captialism and Communism
by chemicalscum on Tue 17th Aug 2004 12:00 UTC

There has been a lot of gibberish written in this thread on capitalism, communism and their relationship to free and open source software. It would take me too long to deal with it in any serious manner. Therefore I recommend that anyone interested in reading a well argued article on this question, from an autonomous Marxist position, read the following:

James W. Lindenschmidt, From Virtual Commons To Virtual Enclosures: Revolution and Counter-Revolution In The Information Age

http://www.commoner.org.uk/09lindenschmidt.pdf

hey Err think about what you said
by gha on Tue 17th Aug 2004 12:18 UTC

Err think about what you said about the games industry, find me an example of a completely original FOSS game that can compete with a commercial one of a similar platform (RtCW doesn't count obviously, since the engine was given away.) Valve came out of nowhere, some really bright guys who got FUNDED to produce great work, full time.

Nice Article, great points, but...
by Josefu on Tue 17th Aug 2004 12:47 UTC

There's a lot of non sequiturs in there. Communist, Marxist - who cares? Everything compares with something in some way or another and anoyone's selective comparisons can be applied in any way at all so perhaps to avoid easy derision it's best to avoid such comparitive terminology which is, at best, just someone else's opinion, not fact.

I am all for knowledge sharing and open-source software, but I hesitate to back it all the way when I ask myself how people who develop software 'for free' make their money. Again I hesitate when I think of differences between 'software' and 'language' - Perl and MySql are languages, not software. If I write a paper on biogenetic engineering in English should the people who invented English get all the credit? In fact, who invented it, and why is it what it is today? - do you see the paradox here? Yet, true, Perl and MySql are relatively new languages and their owners can be traced - and paid - at will. There are many fuzzy lines to iron out. Or bring into focus, if you'd rather.

If one wants to make any sort of accurate analogy at he must strip away all surrounding polemic and look at the machine, the creation itself, and what it does for those who a) made it and b) use it. Everything between is most often just case detail and, more often than that, pure whining about 'the money that could have been made through failed consumer-habit forecasting', or as many say in another word today, 'losses'.

I'm very glad you brought basic economics into the picture - when the smoke clears, no matter the terms of the battle, it's always what's put into and removed from the economy that counts. The most basic truth of all is that a company must cover its production costs to survive - anything beyond that can be considered profit. How that profit is made is more important than how it is spent. If a company earns a huge profit rift through illicit means or for reasons that have little to do with the quality of its product, yet spends most of it on protecting itself with pre-lobbied gun-enforced government laws - well, it's the first part that matters the most. The rest is just delaying tactics to keep 'the enemy' - or a felling brought about by the natural balance of a fair and open market - at bay.

Yet don't get me wrong here. I also think that the opposite - production and innovation in return for next to nothing - is wrong. If you make something that saves me time and money, I owe you for at least your work, and I shouldn't at all feel bad about giving you some of what I've saved. The innovative should be the ones to take the cake. Now, how to set up that sort of exchange?

Re: Article
by Matt Grab on Tue 17th Aug 2004 12:50 UTC

Thank you for the article. It was very well presented. It definitely is thought-provoking. While in some areas it seemed to get conclusions that weren't supported by what you just said, I agreed with much of what you said.

It's important to take a thorough, critical look at what open source software means in light of closed-source software.

I don't necessarily care what the difference is between the two. I just want a fair price. High volume distribution of software - be it open or closed source - is a way to reduce the cost of software. It's code re-use to the extreme.

Unless M$ decides to share the benefits of it's good fortune by not making a 400% profit margin, then there is no plausible way for consumers to get low-cost software, other than free software.

I would be happy to pay for another proprietary OS if I thought it would be around long enough to be useful - and if I thought I wasn't going to be creating the next M$.

It's hard to have your cake and eat it too.

It's hard to have clear answers as to what is going to happen. It's hard to put other's needs above our own.

We'll see what happens!

Matt

RE: Nice Article, great points, but... By Josefu
by Edward on Tue 17th Aug 2004 13:24 UTC

Perl and MySql are languages, not software.

At this point, I couldn't be bothered reading any further, since you clearly have no idea what you're talkinga bout. SQL is a language, but MySQL is software.

All Intellectual Property Is Theft
by Sphinx on Tue 17th Aug 2004 13:39 UTC

I heartily embrace and welcome my comrades in code socialism. Power to the people right on!

Re: Open Source Business plans
by Jason on Tue 17th Aug 2004 13:45 UTC

Economists would answer: There is no such plan.

I think Red Hat would disagree with you. RHEL is available in source RPMs and White Box Enterprise Linux is a distro built off of the SRPMs.

The reality is that Red Hat has a business model that other companies are adopting (e.g. Pingtel). It's about SERVICES. Red Hat provides enterprise customers with service and support.

SERVICES!!!

Cheers

RE: dpi
by Err on Tue 17th Aug 2004 14:24 UTC

"<< This is a ludicrous comparison anyway. If you take money out of the software industry, salaries decrease, number of jobs decrease, and most importantly the incentive to actually join the industry starts to fade away. This is already happening, with people choosing to study subjects with better future prospects, software engineers shifting career, etc.

>> I agree, but the world doesn't end there. Did the world end during the industrial revolution? Not during any revolution. The article emphatised that point. "

And I didn't say the world ended there either. I said the comparison was ludicrous. Programmers are both the creators of an end product AND the resource used. In the industrial revolution the amount of cotton/wool produced remained the same, or improved, while the number of workers became smaller. However if the number of programmers is reduced then the resources available for original software creation are also reduced. Hence these are two completely different things. OSS is not a revolution anyhow, more of a suicidal self-help manual.

"<< The open-source phenomenon (For licenses that allow redistribution) will actually REDUCE innovation.

>> You have not argumented why. So i ask you: Why? "

I explained it with my little Shakespeare example. Seems easy enough to follow to me.

RE: Sigh
by Ben S on Tue 17th Aug 2004 14:30 UTC

This is a ludicrous comparison anyway. If you take money out of the software industry, salaries decrease, number of jobs decrease, and most importantly the incentive to actually join the industry starts to fade away. This is already happening, with people choosing to study subjects with better future prospects, software engineers shifting career, etc.

Now that's ludicrous. Personally, I'd rather have my software written by someone who loves software rather than someone who loves money. I was in Computer Science during the boom -- I saw a lot of no-talents go through a CS degree because they wanted to make big bucks -- not because they were any good at writing software. Not surprisingly, they were the first ones against the wall when the bubble burst. Talented people who like to write software were retained because they were good at what they do, and there will always be a market for talent.

So if we have fewer people joining the industry -- GOOD. It leaves more room for those of us who love the work. As the author points out -- the industry itself will not go away, it will only shift focus, from the production and marketing of proprietary software to the leveraging and modification of open-source software for specific needs, and the support of that software.

Well
by Anonymous on Tue 17th Aug 2004 14:49 UTC

Thank you. This was an amazingly well written and balanced essay.

Economic Efficiency
by Turkey on Tue 17th Aug 2004 15:09 UTC

Summary: open source increases the efficiency of the economy; therefore, it is arguably beneficial to society. Moreover, it is more likely to transform the software industry than be stifled by protectionists (not that they won't have a go trying).

Think of it another way: if you wanted to drive from New York to Los Angeles (the great American road-trip) and had to stop at a toll station every two miles, would that be a good thing? What if most of your money was spent on each company's CEO's private jet rather than maintaining that road?

Now consider the inefficiencies of the proprietary software industry where every program, utility and tool costs upward of $20. Consider the effect of software patents where every company has to license patents from everyone else before writing "hello world" - how is that beneficial?

It's not a surprise that the USA and the EU want broad software patent legislation, given their anticompetitive policies on global trade.

Re: Re: Open Source Business plans
by clausi on Tue 17th Aug 2004 15:11 UTC

I think Red Hat would disagree with you.

I don't think so. Those services you mentioned are goods on their own; complements to, but independent from software sales. The original argument is unaffected even if RedHat bundles those contracts with software.

The original question by Dev Mazumdar, however, was about a business plan that relies on software sales. If he would have asked about a business plan that allows a company to make money with Open source products, well, there was a good article with a nice graphic over at newsforge or its related journals. Unfortunalty, I can't find it anymore. ;)

The point, however, is: You can't sell Open Source software, just complements to it (mostly services), or products produced with the software (i.e. content).

@ Dev Mazumdar
by Smartpatrol on Tue 17th Aug 2004 15:33 UTC

XMMS is still the king of all MP3 players for UNIX. If some one pays us to add DVD support, we'll do it tommorrow.

Thanks for illustrating my original point oh so well (the original modded down rebuttal to RMS posted in July That David felt the need to write a 9 page article to refute). From my point of view you guys have done your part for free software. By contributing the excellent XMMS application. It seems to me that any further work or other developed applications are almost expected to be made available at no cost. The glaring truth, as it has been pointed out by others on this thread that there is a cost associated with developing "free as in speech" software. So why shouldn't personages such as yourself get paid for your work? Why should you be made to feel guilty by trying to charge for something that you spent a lot of your time and effort to create? I honestly do not know what the solution to your problem is however perhaps a proprietary DVD decoding plug-in sold for a resonable fee would help. Assuming that the plug-in is better than whatever else is out there.

"It is expensive and foolish to continue to develop your own proprietary UNIX operating system, when a free one (GNU/Linux) is just as good or better than theirs, why would customers continue to buy your proprietary and expensive system?

Dude, spend some time with Commercial Unix in a real data center at a real company and you will know why Linux doesn't cut the mustard at this time. Don't get me wrong I have great hopes for Linus's baby but at this time Linux can't play where the Big Iron plays for many reasons. As a Unix SA i will not recommend a Linux solution for anything other than simple services DNS,Basic webserving etc..

RE Ben S
by Err on Tue 17th Aug 2004 16:29 UTC

Talented people who like to write software were retained because they were good at what they do, and there will always be a market for talent.

Very true, the industry was/is carrying some dead weight. However my point is that there are very talented programmers, and potential programmers, leaving the industry because they see better prospects elsewhere. The very things that make them talented programmers make them valued employees in other areas. The untalented ones aren't jumping ship, because they don't have as much hope of getting into those different careers.

Personally, I'd rather have my software written by someone who loves software rather than someone who loves money.

That's all very nice in some future utopian society, but in the world we have today people need to earn money. Mortgages, children, living expenses, etc aren't cheap in western societies. If the software industry can't match salaries with other industries then talented individuals are going to look elsewhere when choosing their career.

In fact the likely prospect (IMHO) is that the industry will have less talented programmers than in the past. People who can glue together a few libraries to solve a problem, but would have no idea how to go about writing something from scratch. Code reuse will level the talent playing field somewhat, unfortunately that new playing field is at a level below what we have now.

The "Real Programmers" got displaced by assembly language, assembly by fortran, with the future forcing on us cross-platform languages that remove any requirement for hardware knowledge whatsoever. The industry has been dumbing down the skill requirements for programmers for decades. Some would say that's a natural progression in any industry. Others that the extra productivity of "worse is better" offset the downside of not at least trying to seek perfection. I'd agree that the pioneers in a field usually require greater talent than those that come after. It doesn't mean I have to like witnessing the birth of fast-food style programming.

@clausl
by Anonymous on Tue 17th Aug 2004 18:19 UTC

The point, however, is: You can't sell Open Source software, just complements to it (mostly services), or products produced with the software (i.e. content).

I think that is a narrow point of view and what I referred to as "old paradigm". The point is hardly worth even mentioning because it has no currency in a free market. Companies do like Red Hat have a successful business model by selling licensing/support agreements with their freely available software (my reference to White Box Enterprise Linux). The author of the article obviously comes from an academic background and it shows!

Cheers

Right you are, Edward, I flubbed there. SQL, not "MySql", Now read on if you like. There are many other interesting comments here as well : )

...and by the way...
by Josefu on Tue 17th Aug 2004 18:55 UTC

Thanks for the article, it was a great read.

@ Ben S.
by WP on Tue 17th Aug 2004 18:57 UTC

---
Personally, I'd rather have my software written by someone who loves software rather than someone who loves money.
---

Personally, I'd rather have my software work and be of high quality, and could care less about the motivations of the developer.

---
So if we have fewer people joining the industry -- GOOD. It leaves more room for those of us who love the work.
---

Provided those who love the work turn out a quality product, I heartily agree with you. Happy developers may be better ones, but not necessarily.

I think many in the so-called open source "community" disparage financial motives as inferior to pure "love of it" motives, when it really depends on the individual. Most proprietary developers put out a product they believe has the quality to sell. Unless that developer has leveraged an unfair monopoly, an inferior product won't sell. Though the software market works somewhat differently than others, market demand still acts as a self-corrective mechanism.

I don´t get Linux . .
by Anonymous on Tue 17th Aug 2004 19:19 UTC

Where is the innovation ?
Where is the smart stuff ?
Where is the applications that you simply must have ?

I mean, most of the Linux desktops I have seen have a start-button ( like Winxx)
OpenOffice and StarOffice looks a bit like . . . ( MS Office )

As some have said, time is money. Who will spend a large amount of their time developing free code. ( You live on welfare or at your parents house ? )

Check out : http://www.apple.com/macosx/tiger/ and try to find any software for linux that is as smart and clever as this.

Alas . When a person grows up and move out of the family´s safe house, very few things in life is free. Food, your dvd, condoms..... nada

You should pay for quality.

@BRYAN CANTRILL
by fotn on Tue 17th Aug 2004 20:03 UTC

I do not know where to begin so I'll start anywhere (mainly because I thought Sun was one of the "Good Guys" - Oh well...

1.) Bryan, do you understand that the reason why MS is so hated is not because they made money its because they "crossed the line"... and its getting worse (MS announced they expect to file 3000 patents this year - and we all know how these will be used).

What I am saying in the statement above is [profit vs. greed], [moderation vs. extreme], etc. This can be phrased in so many ways but since you work for Sun I would say [business w/ethics vs. business w/o ethics].

Do not doubt for one second that if Sun were to begin to employ some of the tactics that MS used they would not be quickly "isolated". Remember the articles in the last months about Sun "joining the Dark Side".

You and many others employed in corporations seem to take it for granted that there IS an "idealism stack" (on top of generic "civilization" stack) that allows your company to stay in favor while others are shunned.

All moderate F/OSS people want is that you at least look like you are trying to be ethical and fair and provide value-added services/products. And one of the areas that influences this in moderm times is IP - there's no way around that.

So when someone comes out with a position on IP, do not close your mind and look at it simply as that because it is not. Before IP-as-business took off, the same kind of "fairness" that F/OSS advocates are seeking were easily handled by laws that simply do not translate to the information age.

Think about it, is not better relations with regular people/developers (vs. corporations) one of the main reasons why Sun is concidering OSSing Solaris. Yes ultimately its the bottom line - but the point implicitly expressed by Sun in going this route is that YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE "MEAN" ABOUT IT.

Loosely tranlated as "we do not have to hoard (in the author's words) to succeed". This is the "ideal" that many OSS advocates seek and unfortunately, just like in many movements, its the extremists and zealots that are heard as they make the most noise.

I am surprised that you do not understand this. Also for someone who is so obviously educated and IS knees deep in the market I am surprised you do not understand why the author ended the way he did.

You are also a not-so-good instatiation of people who selectively pick out statements out of context in order to come out superior or make an unfounded/uneeded point as you did on your two posts, the former mentioned and this one:

I am an information anarchist because I can't find a philosophical basis for intellectual property claims

From my understanding, this gentleman (as he explicitly stated) says he is for IP on solutions/implementations (algorithms) to a problem vs. an idea to a solution (a.k.a ideas).

Using Sun as an example, he (and I) would advocate Sun patenting how the download/update app. (& methodologys, architectures, etc.) that comes w/Netbeans keeps NB up-to-date vs. a patent on "keeping local/remote software up-to-date by downloading up-to-date components from another computer or location".

The reason he ended (seemingly) so strongly on the side of F/OSS is not because he hates proprietary stuff, but because there is a VERY HEAVY slant towards the later (proprietary)by corporations that is more dangerous than most understand.

What makes it so dangerous is not the "old" tactics of MS of intimidation, heavy-handedness and the like. No, the new/next genration invloves going to the source, the "fountain of youth" itself A.K.A The Government/Congress/Parliament/TheMachine - what ever you choose to call it.

Dangerous in the sense that some of the measures that they are calling for will make the US scale back on certain fields (as a consepquence of the law vs. lack of resources) while our competitors as speeding ahead (China, Korea, Europe?, etc).

Have you ever had a Eureka moment? Think that that "idea" would/could have been "not yours" despite that you did not need ant "external stimulation" to come up with it. This is what many people that side with you debate FOR without realising that the law already somewhat protects this (not particular example) and is constantly being challenged multiple times a year by those who want to see it approach the absurd situations I have mentioned.

I'll end with the following from ??? company:
=============================================
1) Focus on the user and all else will follow.

2) It's best to do one thing really, really well.

3) Fast is better than slow.

4) Democracy on the web works.

5) You don't need to be at your desk to need an answer.

6) You can make money without doing evil.

7) There's always more information out there.

8) The need for information crosses all borders.

9) You can be serious without a suit.

10) Great just isn't good enough.

@clausi
by Dev Mazumdar on Tue 17th Aug 2004 20:14 UTC

The point, however, is: You can't sell Open Source software, just complements to it (mostly services), or products produced with the software (i.e. content).

OK so you are saying that the only way a small shop can be viable in an open source business model is:

1) You provide services (support/custom programming).


This basically means that in order to have viable support contracts, you need to have sh*tty software but that everybody absolutely needs - because the point at which your software becomes very good and needs less support and can be easily modifiable by the customer, out go your revenues.

2) You provide content

Content doesn't equal software creation. A website like OSNews or Slashdot haven't created software that every website in the world has a need for. Gimp or PHP or our OSS drivers on the other hand are examples of software used to display/create content.

So back to my question, how does a 5-man company create products that they can sell in an open source business model.

The traditional model (proprietary/binary-only) allows a 5-10 man company to sell software and be successful. Look at all the utlities for Windows - Winzip, Winamp.


best regards
Dev Mazumdar

@Bryan
by Anonymous on Tue 17th Aug 2004 20:33 UTC

Yes, I disagree with the constitution. Not sure what terrible harm I'm doing OSS though... In the absence of an amendment (not holding my breath!) the GPL is safe. Do you just not want to be associated with me? That's a bit harsh, I think. Commercial software doesn't mind associating with info anarchists, as long as they pay full retail price! I abide by the GPL - I just don't think I *have* to, nor that IP should exist.

@Edward
by Dev Mazumdar on Tue 17th Aug 2004 20:56 UTC

Well I'm sorry, but you are a bussiness in a capatilist market, and the market is clearly saying they don't want your product anymore. Take a hint, and move on - while you still can.

The current "capitalistic" market is all about Give-me-everything-for-free - started by Netscape and followed by Microsoft and now Linux. Where will it end?. Why isn't hardware free like in the mobile phone industry? You can see this happening outside the computing industry - it's called Walmartization.

It's an aberration because in traditional capitalistic markets, you compete on price and quality and product. But when price approaches 0 you don't care about quality or features. If today, Hyundais, Yugos and Kias were given free to everybody who wanted a car, Toyota/Ford/Honda/GM would probably go out of business. The only ones having a business would be repair shops or customization shops - I can imagine: "MTV - Pimp my Yugo!"

The point is again, apply open source rules to any other business outside software - eg Arts, Medicine, Law, Sports, etc and see if the model stands up. If it stands up, I want to hear about it. I want to see the Medical industry go open source - see what happens then.


Best regards
Dev

PS: Edward, our OSS drivers are superior to ALSA in every way (Please don't spread FUD about OSS not support 5.1 audio or other limitations - you are biased and there's nothing I can do about it). If ALSA drivers would have a price of $40 you'd be our customer - I guarantee it. Tell you what, just delete snd-pcm-oss and snd-mixer-oss in ALSA and this way you'll never have to deal with our shi*ty products.

It's small business that employ most of the poeple, and drive most of the economic growth in both the US and Canada. It tends to be the larger companies that can put up with the overhead of things like of-shore development, etc.

Truth of the matter is that, the more we rely on big companies, the more likely that we (the people) are going to get it in the back. Adam Smith realized this.. He considered big business and big government to be equally problematic (and almost identical). In both cases you've got a centralized command structure making decisions that don't necessarily have anything to do with local needs (or, for that matter the interests of anybody other than members of the command structure).

@Err...
by fotn on Tue 17th Aug 2004 21:51 UTC

I am not sure which country you are from but I can tell you that what that guy is talking about is not "utopian" as you put it, its the difference between a job and a career.

If you live in the US its very difficult to understand a career mentality because, I guess, capitalism is so ingrained and pervasive that thinking outside the box is difficult.

Just to clarify the difference between the two. The "job" mentality is that of "I want to own a house by 35, 2 cars by 28, make management (middle) between 25 - 30, have enough money to do xyz with my family and kids... " etc, etc, etc.

There's nothing wrong with that except notice, except for the position (salaray bracket also works) there is nothing really mentioned about the job as the "driver" of how your future manifests and how it will be played out in relation to it.

So for a person like this - just to give very vague examples (I do not have the data on hand) - at a time like this (US economy, 2004) they would be looking at Nursing (+ the various asistant positiosn), Bioinformatics, Genomics, Nanotechnology, etc.

On the other-hand, career-oriented people choose for the love of some aspect of that field(research, marketing, production, etc.).

Before I get flamed, YES there are people which do that in the US but they are in the minority. "Careers" here are when one selects a field/job, and rises through the ranks (or at least stays in that job position for a signicant ammount of time) THEN that has been their career.

In the bigger, theoretical, picture, these are actually syntactic differences because the same person could land up in the same job using both criteria.

However the mentality they bring to the amrket place is significanlty different. A person who is-career oriented would hang onto their career longer even if better prospects exist.

Different people will have different "breaking points" with some leaving earlier than others, but generally speaking career-oriented people will tough it through better (less grouchy, maintain optimism, etc.) and longer than average the job-oriented person.

As I am from a developing nation I can tell you first hand that the "ideal" he talks about is "very real". Even whilst already in high school (15/16/17) many will have made up their mind (and they change very seldomly) that they want to be a Geologist, Doctor, etc.

Also, the career factor was in an article I read recently about off-shoring. One thing that was mentioned about/by some of the Indians involved was that working long hours was not uncommon, VOLUNTARILY. Yes, I did say VOLUNTARILY because the jobs are their passion.

So instead of, say, rushing out @ 6pm to watch WWF, Alley McBeil, The Practice, Survivor, etc, these guys stay at work AND code --- because it is "fun" and they are actually "entertaining themselves".

So to these guys, instead of looking at the situation like "giving away money for free to the company", its more like they do not have to set aside other dedicated time for working on their "hobby/passion" (like I see many people do at StarBuks/Barnes n' Noble) as many in the West would see it, they can do it on the company's time.

That is why education in various countries around the world, at a pre-Master's level, is better than UAS. Its a cultural thing. Thus all the vouchers and scholarships are not going to help as long as the culture does not advocate thinking.

Thinking, that's the key (.vs learning, income, poor class, upper class, etc.). USA uber-consumerist society has created an environment where one who does not use their brain (no - I am advocating dictatorship of education or education standards) can actually feel comfortable with that sad fact.

But those in certain positions do not want THEM to think otherwise they would be able to realise that the "MATRIX truly does exist... " ;-]

To show you how much of it is culture .vs resources/motivation(monetary or otherwise), I will once again turn to my country in Africa:
***Former British colony (English official language)
***According to CIAFACTBOOK, literacy 90 - 95 percent
***If you go to even the remotest rural areas, families are eating 2 meals a day (something they do not have to if they stopped sending kids to school, buying them books, and uniform), taking classes under the tree AND writing the same Cambridge General Certificate of Education examinations (~=Advanced Placement classes in USA) as somebody at a private school in Britain

The reason why USA schools surpass foreign schools as you approach "Bachelor" level education and beyond is because it increasingly becomes resource intensive which to these contries translates to UNAFFORDABLE.

With the advent of F/OSS, the scales have changed and the results should be obvious observable within the next 10 - 15 years.

Drivel
by Smartpatrol on Tue 17th Aug 2004 22:13 UTC

"Truth of the matter is that, the more we rely on big companies, the more likely that we (the people) are going to get it in the back. Adam Smith realized this.. He considered big business and big government to be equally problematic (and almost identical). In both cases you've got a centralized command structure making decisions that don't necessarily have anything to do with local needs (or, for that matter the interests of anybody other than members of the command structure).

If i had a nickel for every time i have heard this drivel.. Big government has nothing to do with big business. Your argument applies to big government only. Big business in a free economy is regulated by supply and demand and open competetion. The few instances where we were subject to monopolies were due to inherent lack of competetion based on the design of the industry i.e. AT&T circa 1980's. I don't feel Microsoft should be compaired to AT&T's monopoly since competetion existed and still exists. Consider this take the largest corporation as an example, General Motors then lets just focus on the Automobile manufacturing portion of what they do. Count up all the people that have jobs on the assembly line then add up all the derivative jobs created just from that one industry like Cars dealerships,mechanics, parts manufacturers,parts stores,Tire companies, Tire sales outlets, car insurance companies, state DMV workers, Gas companies, gas station owners/workers etc.. All these people have jobs becasue GM makes Automobiles. The same example applies to the IT industry. And i will say it again doing what RMS suggests by making big corporations "smaller, weaker, and easier to keep in their place" and watch the world economy suffer...economics 101!

PS: XMMS VJ framework
by dpi on Tue 17th Aug 2004 22:51 UTC

One thing all "Linux" multimedia players lack is a good framework for visual effects, features for VJs, and visual effects themselves. I'm not talking about amateur or home VJing (AVS for Winamp aims for that), rather on (semi-)professional VJing on parties and festivals.

Libvisual is trying to become a standard framework for the various multimedia players, but it won't be able to deliver a kind of (semi-)professional framework for VJing in the short timespan. In software like this tons of features can be implemented like alpha blending, mixing, sound analysis, etc to become Good Enough for commercial selling. I heard Pixelshow is pretty good as visual effect itself but its for MacOSX and i don't know how it is in regards of sound analysis or mixing or any other more advanced feature.

This applies to outsourcing overseas, as well. There are many applications of the points in this article. Very insightful.

Not too long, either - it was interesting and held me through the length of it.

@ Smartpatrol
by dpi on Tue 17th Aug 2004 23:07 UTC

<< Big government has nothing to do with big business. Your argument applies to big government only. Big business in a free economy is regulated by supply and demand and open competetion.

>> You disagree a government are the ones who decide wether an IP law should be implemented or not? Ofcourse they can be dependant on the government who implemented "lots of laws" (== big) to protect their business and in some cases they _are_. Software patents are a good example.

Also for example at least here in NL it was the _government_ who regulated the monopoly of the phone company, the energy companies and the railway company. That is on regards of infrastructure that IP though.

Free Software is communistic...
by Anonymous on Tue 17th Aug 2004 23:10 UTC

in that it puts the "revolution," as it were, above the individuals who partake in it. That is the individual programmer does not matter. In my opinion, Stallman's aesthetic is very Soviet.

@ Dev Mazumdar
by clausi on Tue 17th Aug 2004 23:38 UTC

This basically means that in order to have viable support contracts, you need to have sh*tty software but that everybody absolutely needs.

The argument is wrong. It just needs to be complex software: Look at SAP or Oracle where associated services cost a lot of money. So, software is a money maker when it must to be adapted to the individual situation of a business client (without the option to automatically customize it).

My conclusion is still valid: One needs to stay proprietary if the software should be sold for prices over transaction costs (to finance the fixed costs of developing an application) or one needs to find related streams of revenue (service, content, or double licensing, or a product split).

@clausi
by Dev Mazumdar on Wed 18th Aug 2004 00:58 UTC

You are right!. I actually didn't mean to write "sh*tty" software but complex software.

Another finding is that do what the Dot-Com guys hoped to do: give free stuff in open source and pray that once you get to critical mass, pull out the rug and force every body to pay up. I already see this with JBoss, MySQL, TrollTec, CodeWeavers - none of them could make a living doing 100% open source.

If VC money starts flowing into Open Source the way it did for Dot-Commers, it may lead to an interesting boom.



best regards
Dev Mazumdar

@fotn
by Err on Wed 18th Aug 2004 01:26 UTC

I'm from the UK actually, not USA, but most of your arguments still apply.

As a counter-example I'll use the nursing situation in the UK.

Reason I chose nursing as an example is because this is what we call a vocational career. People have this genuine love of helping people, and they choose nursing as the means to do it. They work their way through the ranks throughout their working lives. In short their career defines, to a large extent, who they are (Military careers might be another example).

However we currently have a situation in my country where salaries are sufficiently low as to be prohibitive, working conditions are poor enough to be excessively stressful and public respect for the profession is decreasing. This has resulted in significant numbers of good nurses becoming disillusioned and leaving the profession. Recruitment is also becoming increasingly difficult.

People are willing to put up with worse situations if they are doing a job they love, but there are limits beyond which they cannot be pushed and be expected to continue. OSS has the potential to cause a similar effect in the software industry.

What I don't want to see (And none of us have 20/20 foresight) is the software industry reduced to the point where the only available options are to be a wage-slave for the large corporations, or program in your spare time after work. The problem is that this is exactly the shape I see OSS starting to take.

@Err
by A nun, he moos on Wed 18th Aug 2004 02:37 UTC

Roll on the next first person shooter/driving game/god sim. Let's just keep chewing that cud instead of searching for greener grass.

I've been reading this a lot. I'm sorry to say that's it's utter crap. Innovation doesn't mean finding new genres, it's in the way those genres are implemented.

You don't say that movies suck because they're all either drama, comedy, action, horror or sci-fi, right? Then why would you claim that a driving game (for example) cannot be innovative?

The problem is that you're using an adjective (innovative) that better suits productivity software. Games are entertainment - we don't necessarily want them to be innovative (or original), we want them to be entertaining. A very original game can also be boring (i.e. SimEarth) or only mildly entertaining (i.e. Black and White), while a derivative of a derivative game (i.e. Counter-Strike) can be incredibly addicting.

I'm sorry, but if you think inventing whole new genres is so easy, why don't you go ahead yourself?

It is true that there is a creativity crisis in the video game industry right now, but it has little to do with finding new genres, it has to do with the fact that, more often than not, it's management and marketing that call the shots on creative issues (including choice of subject matter).

Meanwhile, check out Fable, coming soon on the Xbox. That looks like an innovative and fun game...

ww
by www on Wed 18th Aug 2004 03:32 UTC

haha so, what if it is communist as it obviously will become eventually (the GPL) not open source, silly!


There is NOTHING wrong with communism. There has never been a true governmental communist country ever anyway

the economics
by bruce coston on Wed 18th Aug 2004 04:23 UTC

1. price falls towards 0 for good software because its support and marginal costs are 0.

2. with imperfect competition quantity tends toward (n-1)/n at equilibrium.

2 matters when talking about monopolies but software monopolists will follow their sefish interest and also make the software worse, necessitating greater support costs and thus higher marginal costs and more profits.

RE: Haven't seen it
by jype on Wed 18th Aug 2004 10:44 UTC

You will, of course, notice this small fact:

http://www.netcraft.com/survey/Reports/200408/byserver/index.html

One can argue that because free and open source software that is subject to constant auditing and testing from numerous users, who can actually contribute security fixes, this kind of software is much more secure. The price tag is also quite acceptable and you can get good professional support almost for free, too, depending on how much hurry you are in.

@Err
by fotn on Thu 19th Aug 2004 17:02 UTC

Thanks for the response.

Just to clarify, when I said many people now (in USA) are choosing nursing I was actually using that as an example of being job-oriented b'coz - if you ask them - that is one of the few job markets that IS growing and is projected to continue to grow for the next several years.

The starting wage is also generally higher than any other non-professional, non-office job. So this was actually an example of people choosing jobs vs. careers.

However, I still got what you said and I agree with it - I do not want a programmer equivalent of a nurse with their bills on the mind as they give me my medication or such.

The bigger problem though (or equivalent) is people who introduce market and business strategy into code. A good example is MS.

MS advocate DRM at such a low level that it difficult to tamper with. Good on the surface, right? However to me this smells of bad understanding of systems concepts (here I am talking generic "system" vs. just software systems). I am talking System Architecture (to some extent, Engineering as well) to be more precise.

Summarising what I mean in as little as possible, if you have a system that is inherently dynamic (rain/sun, night/day, good/bads moods, lifecycles, death/life, recycling, chaos/order, etc.) and you try to build something within it that is VERY fixed, when that thing falls it falls HARD.

This is summarised in the Bible as "if you have a house founded on sand (bad foundation - conceptually, materially, etc.) when the rain comes it will be washed away, and yet otherwise if it is founded on rock".

To me, in a dynamic system, "rock" is BEING dynamic, not fixed. When a dynamic entity "crashes", it is a softer "crash". However, not to worry because since it is dynamic "rebooting" (patch, fix, modify, update, recover, etc.), it will be easier if not only practical.

Try "rebooting" something that is buried knees deep inside your microchip. If all the DRM is in software, then it will be just as easy - if not easier - and faster to fix than the hacker that that hacked into it.

ASIDE: This relatively long I may post it to my blog.

PS: So what do you think?