Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 23rd Feb 2007 17:38 UTC, submitted by anonymous
Debian and its clones Last September, some of the Debian Linux distribution's leadership wanted to make sure that Etch, the next version of Debian, arrived on its December 4th due date. Almost two months later, though, according to the February 17th Release Critical Bug Report memo to the Debian Developers Announcement list, there are still 541 release critical bugs.
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Member since:

Many developers are upset that Debian's two release managers are being paid to work full-time to finish Etch. Umm, last time I checked, people have bills to pay and they have to eat!

Except for developers-- who apparently live in boxes, survive on garbage and sleep after they're dead.

Seriously though, I think that this issue brings up on a small scale some of the questions about a world of only Free software that Stallman and FSF supporters have yet to answer adequately. Mainly: Will developers work for free, and if not, who will pay them?

Just to make it clear, I don't have a problem with Free software. I do, on the other hand, have a problem with the implications of the Free software only world that Stallman envisions.

Reply Parent Score: 5

Gnomonic Member since:

I think you are putting words into RMS' mouth that he didn't utter. There's nothing wrong in charging for GPL'ed software. And nothing wrong with paid developers.Nothing wrong with corporations, as long as they respect the GPL.

Reply Parent Score: 5

superman Member since:

Poor Linus, poor Red Hat.

Reply Parent Score: 2

molnarcs Member since:

Well, the above post may not be the longest, but it accurately answers the question - who was the idiot that modded it down?

Linus and RH are both very good examples of how free software developers may earn money. A company may need a feature that is not available, and it may sponsor a developer to implement it (some of the features of FreeBSD was developed this way). They can also participate in professional support and training, or work for a commercial Linux company.

Anyhow, if every software would be free software, that would mean a new arrangement or rearrangement of the way developers are being payed, but I don't believe that overall fewer (or more) developers will earn a living through writing software.

Reply Parent Score: 2

rayiner Member since:

Have you ever seen what the FSF charges for one of their "deluxe" GNU software distributions? The FSF has no opposition to charging for software, just to restricting the rights of users.

In any case, it should be borne in mind that most software is not sold as a product. Most software is created in support of other products. This balance is only going to shift more towards custom software as the commercial software market becomes saturated (honestly, who really NEEDS yet another version of Photoshop?) and more and more products have embedded software (what open-source project is going to write a free-software implementation of an avionics software package?) Also, while free software means there is less money for producing specific types of high-volume software, it also means that users of these types of software can have more resources to spend on more productive things. We use Linux and GCC at work, because it means we can avoid putting out the $$$ for a copy of VxWorks. That in turn means more of the money from our contract can be spent on hiring people to work on our main project.

Reply Parent Score: 5

Jody Member since:

Your point about paying developers is actually valid.

There are companies making millions off of supporting Linux but that money does not necessarily make it to any of the people actually writing the code, building packages, or fixing bugs.

According to the Inquirer, HP is making 25 million a year supporting Debian:

I can't speak authoritatively on if any of this money is getting channeled back to support Debian or not though, I am simply pointing out that there is nothing preventing HP from making 25 million a year on Debian and giving Debian squat.

I believe a large portion of money made on open source software ends up in the hands of the middle men due largely to the support model.

The best solution for companies building Linux is to also sell commercial support, but there must be a thousand companies other than RH offering paid support of Red Hat products. Sure they do bug fixes, but since they don't have to pay full time developers to contribute the bulk of the code, it makes it easy to undercut Red Hat's support prices.

A more direct model to support developers and support staff alike could offer huge gains, but most of these attempts have not really taken hold.

Some ideas on how better to do this could make for an interesting article/discussion.

Reply Parent Score: 4

chris_dk Member since:

Interesting indeed.

I'm not sure either that the free software model with support paying for the development is the way to go.

Reply Parent Score: 1

codehead78 Member since:

Don't remember where I read it but he did suggest a Software Tax at one time.

But we will never need to solve this problem. Open Source thrives in certain areas but in others it is always behind. Some software you pay for and it works. It needs no support. Search for your own reasons but the simple fact is that the GIMP will never be as good a Photoshop, not to mention the rest of the Adobe Suite. So a world of all Free software will only exist in Stallman's head.

There is still a problem of paying developers in the areas which OSS thrives. The best way I see is that companies hire devs just as they hire admins. They cooperate with a central managing body, like Apache or Mozilla, and all contribute to the software that they use. The benefit is that they could have distributed internal support between all contributors.

This is where is see Ubuntu going as a common base distro.

Reply Parent Score: 1

butters Member since:

I think you're missing the big picture here. Free software is a manifestation of the fact that users share many of the same requirements for what their computer should be able to do, and that nobody understands their needs better than the users themselves. I intend to show that users have yet to fully understand the role of software in their everyday lives, and that as they begin to realize its importance, they will in turn realize the importance of free software.

Computing has become less about providing an exclusive advantage--a leg up on the competition--than about bringing people and businesses together in a way that makes solving complicated problems easier. Computers began by solving problems we already knew how to solve, but faster. Today, computers solve problems that we had no way of solving before, providing insight into the nature of our world and the way we interact with one another.

Software is about people--what makes us the same, what makes us different, and how we can interact in a mutually beneficial way. It's time that the way we develop software more closely reflects the problems it is meant to solve. The first step is to conquer the problems solved by the preexisting paradigm. Honestly, these are not the kinds of problems that free software solves remarkably well. But without this as a starting point, we cannot leverage the power of our collective insight to solve problems that are beyond the capabilities or ambitions of conventional proprietary software development.

Make no mistake: the free software community doesn't relish the opportunity to create replacements for existing software. People rely on these products to create, manipulate, and consume information, yet their creators don't allow us to fully understand, improve, and extend these capabilities. They pretend to know everything we want to be able to do, and they pretend to offer to bring our vision to reality. But they only care about what we want, and they only offer to make it happen, so long as there's something in it for them.

Proprietary software only succeeds in an environment where people don't understand what they want out of it. When the desktop market began to blossom, people knew they wanted to be able to create documents and play games--not much else. Proprietary software vendors made it happen, and people were happy for a while. Then came the Internet and email. The proprietary software vendors made it happen, and people were happy. The same with multimedia a bit later.

But once people's most basic needs were addressed, we were faced with the question of where did we want to go from here? We began to realize that we didn't just want to create, manipulate, and consume information. We wanted to discover, explore, and share information. We wanted to work together on information, and we wanted to experience life as the pursuit of relationships amongst information.

Proprietary vendors are in the business of dominating the connection between the software that creates information and that which consumes it. So our natural desire to understand information--to become enlightened--is not of any particular business interest to them. The proprietary model of funding software has broken down, because software is no longer about their producer/consumer relationship, it's about participation. People ultimately want to participate in social and information networks that cultivate relationships amongst people and ideas. The want to feel like part of a community, and they want to realize personal empowerment through participation.

These are heady concepts that I believe will come to people in time as they work through their frustrations at the ways in which software limits their ability to satisfy their insatiable desire for personal growth. People are already starting to become furious at the rigid connections between the creation and consumption of media. The process of extrapolating this sentiment to all aspects of their ability to participate in our information-based society is only natural. Our initial attempts to right wrongs might not always address the root of the problem (e.g. piracy), but a true understanding of what it takes to protect our right to participate in information is inevitable and will lead the masses to free software.

Free software is not just a development model. It is a reflection of the way social networks have spontaneously assembled throughout the history of mankind. Freedom is what happens when we stop making excuses for our own ignorance and strive for the fulfillment we so desperately crave. Freedom is what happens when people are allowed to connect and participate. It is a path to progress, understanding, empowerment, and ultimately happiness.

Freedom is a notion that doesn't just exist in Richard Stallman's mind, it exists in all of our minds. Proprietary software will continue to provide a model for production and consumption, but only free software can fulfill our fundamental desire to participate in information.

Reply Parent Score: 3

kaiwai Member since:

Seriously though, I think that this issue brings up on a small scale some of the questions about a world of only Free software that Stallman and FSF supporters have yet to answer adequately. Mainly: Will developers work for free, and if not, who will pay them?

To fine tune that argument further - Will developers work on fixing bugs in software that don't interest them; in otherwords, will they fix a bug that doesn't affect them directly or indirectly? this isn't an attack on the programmers, just bringing up the old notion of self interest.

Its like communism; are you willing to work and give what you can and only take what you need? same goes with programming, for many, its an interest outside their full time occupation, so there fore, is there any incentive for them to work on things that don't affect them directly?

One idea which I like is the idea of bounty's for key bugs or features required - provide an incentive for people to work on the rather unglamorous parts of the software and receive a reward for their hardwork.

Money shouldn't be the only reward; for example, Sun could offer a free workstation, 3 year Solaris and developer subscription for someone who comes up with a replacement for the current sound API - the amount it would cost Sun? sweet bugger all; benefit to their customers; massive to the point that it can't be measured in dollars alone.

As for Stallmans world; its based on the assumption that firstly languages will get to the point that they'll be so high level that almost any man and his dog and contribute; it also assumes that the end user will advance in skills - 20 years of IT so far and I can assure you that the average end user is just as dense, if not more, than they were 20 years ago.

The other assumption is this; that those who work in large companies maintaining large amounts of infrastructure will have employers who are willing for their employees to spend part of the day working on an opensource project that helps their business - considering that the in vogue thing for managers is to scream outsource when in doubt, as if it were the panacea to all of lifes problems, I doubt the above secenario would happen as it would rely on a number of companies working together on the one project in co-operation rather than simply re-inventing the wheel at each company - that would require common sense, which many businesses lack.

Reply Parent Score: 2

dylansmrjones Member since:

20 years of IT so far and I can assure you that the average end user is just as dense, if not more, than they were 20 years ago.

Because the average user is receiving increasingly less education. There is however some changes on the way, and I can say for sure, that younger computer users are a lot more tech-savvy than the former generations. It'll happen - but it takes time.

The only problem I can see would be a lack of women in the IT-sector. Not that they don't exist - they do - but there are quite few of them.

Reply Parent Score: 2