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back to article Open source - the once and future dream

For some, Oracle's $5.6bn purchase of Sun Microsystems was good news for open source. After all, a mega tech vendor has acquired a hugely popular open-source database product and project: MySQL. But at the same time, as the European Union's anti-trust probe wore on, costing Oracle's chief executive $100m a month, and MySQL co- …

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Socialism

...indeed created some marvellous pieces of technology: T34 (best tank of early WW2), Sputnik (first satellite), the An224 super-cargo aircraft, the excellent Mig29 and Su37 fighter planes.

The Mig29 is superior to America's main fighter, the F15 in terms of aerodynamics and vector-thrust missiles. The Su37 even more so.

BUT, we know that vastly superior capitalist electronics won the cold war and it manifests itself in excellent RADAR, ELINT and general intelligence capabilites that can acquire and shoot down a Mig29 before it can use its superior aerodynamics against the ageing F15. Also captialism has enough oil and spare parts to train pilots to highest professional levels.

I think Open Source is very similar - Linux, a lot of Unix tools like bash are simply vastly better than much of that commercial stuff - in some aspects. System admins love the "free" bash command line and it gives them great power.

BUT, the majority of users is non-technical, including those making the buying decision. They care about economics of using a computer by 95% of their workforce, and that's the non-techies. So windows, flash and ms office might be ugly under the hood, but that simply does not matter. Ergonomics matters, and in this aspect, commercial stuff is still vastly better than almost all open source products.

Actually, open source systems are most often a knock-off of commercial products, with a huge economics problem, like all kinds of socialism have. RedHat is one of the very small number of companies which make real money with open source, maybe the only one.

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Stop

cold war is over

You are right. People care about stuff that works and is save, for a fair price.

The development method with which proprietary software is being build, makes software unreliable and unsafe. I won't repeat the incredible number of (security) bugs in Flash and Windows here, we all know that.

So something has got to change, because clearly the "software industry model" is not capable of producing software that works and is save.

You talk about open source == socialism. I don't see open source that way. I actually see a free market and lot's of money, but only if the mind set changes a bit.

I see a future where you have software contractors, like in the building world. They get paid by the hour to produce a software product (build a building) for a customer.

An (software) architect makes a building plan and decides what blocks and bricks (think modular software libraries) he needs. A lot of the stuff will be ready to use of the shelf open source but some might not. Think about your convenient user interface. So together with the contractor they get these parts from other companies that produce them to the specification of the contractor and architect. These companies get paid by the hour (or a lump sum) to produce the open source software bricks.

Because everybody is paid by the hour to produce open source software, the price of the lines of code or software blocks goes down and the architect and contractor focus on what really counts namely the specific customers wishes. The software companies are finally released from complaining customers, because they only care about making particular software blocks to specification of architects and contractors. The rest is already open source.

No more help desk calls that stuff is not working and stressed programmers because the market is growing faster than they can code.

Everybody get's rich, well some more than others. Simple coders are paid the least, but they have an easy job and will have the ambition to become architects which earn more. And the role is more fun, since there you can interact with customers and be creative how to build what they want the cheapest way. Contractors are the guys that just manage the software production for a customer and are paid to how fast and efficient they can deliver.

That's what I'm already doing and customers love it. So I can only hope for you that you leave that cold war think alone and start to make some money.

The future is bright, the future is open.

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You don't get it

if you think FOSS is anything like socialism let alone communism. (and no, they're not the latter two are not the same thing.)

This is the 21st century not the 19th - things have changed.

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Grenade

Schmocialism

Would it be possible to have a debate about FOSS without resorting to tired analogies between software development and political systems? Is MySQL the T34 of databases? Is Windows the F15 of operating systems? Really, please stop.

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@joeuro

"BUT, we know that vastly superior capitalist electronics won the cold war "

WTF are you talking about? No-one "won" the cold war.

...besides which, I didn't see any capitalist electronics cheering when the Berlin Wall came down, I didn't see capitalist electronics driving tanks into Romania to liberate the population either!

The PEOPLE decided they had enough of living under dictatorship.

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@joeuro

Wow. The astro-turfing is getting faster and using longer words.

'RedHat is one of the very small number of companies which make real money with open source, maybe the only one.'

That shows your level of ignorance/astro-turfing - which IT industry are you looking at?

Anyway, go to go - currently replacing unusable Windows PC's with Ubuntu one's at a school. The makers of ActivBoards have seen the way the wind is blowing and their latest software was built to support Ubuntu.

The simple fact is that as MS software is removed from systems and replaced with FOSS the quieter, more reliable and more efficient the systems become.

You may be dreaming of making billions by merely printing CD's - unfortunately for you (and some companies that rely on the proprietary model) those days are over. It's now about supplying good quality, supported IT services to companies - i.e. having to work for your money. And FOSS provides us with a vast range of top quality code to be used as needed.

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Big Brother

Socialism

The list of military hardware would seem to imply that socialism == USSR.

The USSR was - IMHO - foremost a totalitarian system where power was in the hands of the select few. I seem to recall the definition of socialism being a system of government where the means of production are in public control. Taken at face value, wouldn't this mean that every democratic country is - in fact - socialist as in such countries power is - in fact - in the hands of the public ?

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Socialism

From what I understand, no. I agree about your assessment of the USSR, however, private companies, even in a democracy, are not under the control of the public.

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FAIL

*sigh*

Good work, mate, and good luck to all the kids at your school that leave with little or no experience of the OS that 95% of the entire planet uses.

You just keep on promoting your own agenda.

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Megaphone

No it's not socialism

As an unrepentant capitalist, reactionary, and free-market Tea Party enthusiast, I have to tell you FOSS is NOT socialism. The government is NOT running it, it is NOT attempting to take wealth from the productive classes and give it away, it is NOT restricting your freedom.

A better analogy for the current debate is to think of the closed source system as Mercantilism and the FOSS movement as free trade Adam Smith-inspired capitalism, though it is not precise.

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Happy

Title? Do you mean if I am a Sultan of Swing?

"...it manifests itself in excellent RADAR, ELINT and general intelligence capabilites that can acquire and shoot down a Mig29 before it..." -

It's OK with the title "Socialism" in the title, I hope, I would only add that Mig29 and Su37 were created partially to protect the An224s from RADAR, ELINT and general intelligence, joeuro, by the means of RADAR, ELINT and general intelligence.

And generally, looks like scientific and military circles are something internationally self-centered, not? Like they know something valuable for clan enrichment/in-reachment, when all known by the majority of others is when Spring comes.

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Something that needs to be expanded on ...

"Zemlin says that people who don't contribute today will eventually, pointing to how the Linux kernel has grown during the last 18 years. "The benefit of open source is you can collectively maintain open source...I think this is a temporal issue not a systematic issue.""

Ah, yes, the time factor. FOSS has time on it's side.

Corporations are ephemeral. Even large ones (see Enron, for a particularly egregious example). Microsoft, Oracle, HP and IBM have finite lives. They will not exist forever. They will eventually go away. This is reality, regardless of any other posturing.

FOSS, by its very nature, is here to stay. Unless it is banned by Governments world-wide ... Which, realistically, isn't going to happen (and even if it did, FOSS would hang out in the computing underground).

The only logical way to look at this is that FOSS *is* the future. You can either choose to start learning about it, or eventually you will be left behind. Your choice. Choose wisely.

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Linux

Please read the fine print!

Overall, quite an informative and useful overview.

However:

"Of the licenses, GPLv2 is the most popular for open source, but arguably, it's not the most "business friendly" - meaning companies can't alter code or keep their changes or make money off of them."

Sorry, but wrong, wrong and wrong!

First: by definition, one may obtain the code for open source software, else it is hardly open, is it? And once one has it, *especially* under the GPL, there is nothing preventing one from altering it. I believe that is in fact the major reason Mr. Stallman set about creating the GPL, to ensure ones right to do so!

Next: perhaps Mr. Clarke meant that companies may not keep their changes to open source secret? They may under the GPL, so long as they don't (re)distribute the resulting software.

Lastly: the bulk of Linux -- the kernel software that makes the hardware available to the rest of the programs in the operating system -- is, IINM, under the GPL, yet Red Hat and Novell, according to this very article, make millions of dollars a year distributing and supporting the changes they make for their particular variety of Linux.

Perhaps Mr. Clarke doesn't consider millions of dollars "money" -- thus his emphasis on the (to my mind arbitrary) $1 billion/year milestone?

In closing, after nearly 30 years of professional software development, I don't understand why $1 billion/year in revenue should be the primary standard for success of a product or a way of developing software. So why the repeated references to it as a goal?

In fact, the market for open source software is the only truly free market I have ever seen, and one of the most fascinating things about it has been the rationalisation of prices as compared with the more-or-less monopolistic proprietary software.

To me the more realistic standard would be market penetration: how many companies, given the choice of roughly equivalent proprietary and open source products, opted for the open one.

A factor not considered by Mr. Clark might have shed a bit more light: the economics of commodification of software once it is open.

Anyway, nice overview otherwise!

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@ bitmonki

"In fact, the market for open source software is the only truly free market I have ever seen"

Definitely the closest, yes. And isn't it ironic that FOSS is exactly the one that gets labeled as "socialist", "communist", and stuff like that? Quite telling of what type of "free market" the capitalists really want...

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Green Room Chatter

"That's because they are blamed for the project failures of the past and because IT has earned a reputation for being a cost center, not a center of savings."

The cultural shift ideally needed is for all to realise that without ICT is there no Massive Economic Activity at all, and everyone would be reduced to trading with the exchange of real and diverse goods for survival ..... One chicken for some chopped wood for the fire. And stupid man for all of his present supposed sophistication would not be able to hack that simple environment, which is always only just a Power Collapse away ...... therefore is IT ....the ONLY Real and Virtual Wealth Engine and that make Competent Programmers of Big Picture IT Products, ....... well, without them would you be cowering in Caves like in the Dark Ages with Partners, Ignorance and Fear, and thus are they extremely valuable, and especially the one who can Collapse Power Systems as easily as they can Secure them against Interference and Menace.

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Linux

Very Interesting Article!

2 points always interest me about FOSS though...

1. what percentage of programmers contributing in their spare time have full time paid jobs in firms selling proprietary/closed software? i.e. if all software became FOSS tomorrow would the economic model be self-sustaining?

2. there now seems to be a large degree of awareness in the business community about "free software" HOWEVER this has the trickle down effect that they then translate this to mean support and other professional time based fee should be on a lower rate than for traditional systems! i.e. the rather illogical "this software is free, why are you charging me to put it on my computer argument?"

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Jobs Halo

Fail

Linux game is over and it has lost.

Too diluted, too geeky. It will NEVER be anything other than a curiosity to most and a wannabe Holy Grail for those not wise enough to switch to Max OS X which is the closest thing to what Linux could have been if it hadn't messed up.

Server room fine. Desktop? lol

Sorry hippies. That's the reality.

Get a grip, use Mac OS X.

Deal with it.

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Troll

TROLL!

I can think of no other explanation for the complete crock of shit you posted other than that you are a troll.

I am typing this from a Linux desktop. Just because you don't know how to use it doesn't make Linux rubbish - it just makes you stupid.

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Jobs Horns

Apple ads

It seems the Apple marketing team are out in force tonight...

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@AC 16:50

We aren't discusing Linux, per se ... Rather, we are discussing FOSS. You know, like the BSD that forms the core of your Mac?

Welcome to our world, you FOSS hippy, you :-)

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Linux

The nature of free software

The nature of free software is that it simply doesn't require a corporate patron for it's continued existence. It doesn't matter what they conspciously consuming naysayers say. Linux will stick around as long as anyone is interested in using it or supporting it. World domination simply isn't neccessary.

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Flame

Really?!

I use Linux (Fedora) as a desktop machine and it is absolutely fine. My friends use various ones as desktop machines as well, from Ubuntu to Mint, and they also find it fine. Some family members are happy using Ubuntu for their emails, video, web and instant messaging.

I have tried OS-X, didn't like it. Too flashy, too sluggish. It just didn't feel right. And there is not enough software for it, and what there is doesn't run too well. Plus the hardware is expensive and limited.

So sorry gay boy. You and the rest of the 'oh but it's pretty' brigade are wrong. Stop shovelling your crap down peoples throats. OS-X isn't the holy grail you make it out to be.

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Stop

RE: Fail

I'm a Mac user and I strongly disagree with you. Linux is here to stay.

It's a useable operating system and (like OSX) seems based upon common sense and efficiency (unlike certain other OSs which still haven't got rid of horrors like "the registry")

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Re 20 thumbs down

Why? It's been long since I read such a fine piss of irony!

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Interesting

But sorry, religious arguments have very little traction out here in the real world. Have a nice time in Steve-land* but don't expect the rest of us to grease up and bend over.

*Or 4chan, or wherever it is that you've learned conversation skills.

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FAIL

Oh yeah?

OS X ~4%

Linux ~8-20%

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Neil Paterson

Use your real name, d*ckwad!

and DON'T call me a f***ing hippy!

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Ugh

So a few errors, A/L/GPLv2/3 are very popular because they guarantee participation from redistributors. Businesses gunning after Apache are working on the assumption that anarchy is better and the cost of self support is more painful than collaboration. Never underestimate the stubborn selfishness of some.

"donations to FOSS during the next 10 years" - Companies participating are rarely donating, they're not donating their time, their money or their code. None of that is true. Participation is not gifting, collaboration isn't charity.

joeuro - You _are_ aware that what your talking about is communism vs capitalism, not socialism. Especially since a) The military is a socialist endeavour in EVERY western country, b) RADAR was a war time advancement made by socialists. c) Capitalism requires a socialist basis to function, see Fed Reserve.

I support our new socialist overlords, they can't be nearly as thick as some of these lot.

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Paris Hilton

What the fuck?

"Meanwhile, 11,000 lines of code are added to the kernel each day" - HOLY SHIT!!!

Once upon a time the whole UNIX kernel was under 10,000 lines of code for *everything*. The 4.2 BSD kernel, the one that brought TCP/IP to the masses, was around 85,000 lines. That has pretty much all the OS features anyone needs, apart from NFS and the virtual file system concept.

What the fuck are the monkeys with typewriters contributing to the Linux kernel and is any of it doing anything worthwhile?

Paris icon because although she gives a little, it does a lot.

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Linux

Re : What the fuck?

It does explain in the linked article that 11000 are added, 5500 removed and 2200 altered and that core kernel code is only ~5%. Most of the new code is for drivers/processors.

It goes quite a long way to explain how each new release works on more and more hardware to the point where installing a modern distribution is now trivial on desktops, at least

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A very good question.

Bit like M$ Windows I suspect, only we can actually see the cruft in the source in the case of linux. I often wonder if it's actually time, just to tear it all down and rebuild it.

Most people are probably just assuming, heck, um... ok this bit is meant to do this, I think, and that bit, err... that... it all seems to be working pretty good so I won't go fuck it up.

I suspect a whole lot of it goes into device drivers but my god, who actually understands which bits can be taken our or rewritten?

It's easy for me to say this, but perhaps we don't need new features, just chucking out the old, I mean, wow, look at all the make options...

Tannenbaum appeared to have a great idea pushing microkernels, there is a certain beauty in the concept but pity they appear to be, by and large, so handicapped by overhead.

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Silver badge

a few points:

1) The number is wrong. While 11,000 lines of patches might be submitted on all mailing lists etc every day, nowhere near as much actually makes it into the kernel. A lot of what does get accepted is actually modifications and refactoring, not new code per se.

2) Lots of it is optional. It includes whole rafts of stuff for usb devices, flash drivers and support for tens of CPU architecture and over a hundred variants of those. There's support for 30-odd file systems (which all exist because they serve some purpose). Only a small amount of the whole code base actually runs on a Linux server, phone or any one device. The kernel code actually running on an Android phone is probably around 750k lines or so.

3) How many CPU architectures did 4.2BSD support? How many USB devices? Audio devices? Flash memory devices? How many different file systems? It's pointless comparing them.

4)The reason there are so many monkeys coding Linux is because there are so many variants and it is being used in all sorts of applications. A relatively small number are actually generating stuff that **everyone** uses.

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Go

Simple:

Drivers.

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Pint

Monkeys

Not just contributing to the Linux kernel, the monkeys are everywhere typing furiously with their typewriters.

Javascript is taking the role that once were of the servers. A browser is a (X)HTML renderer plus JS interpreter. Today a website (and I'm talking about all Google's services) needs JS to process some shite and create the element with some content. Then the browser renders the page. What's the matter with processing on the server and serving the content already processed? And see a JS code made by some monkey. Hell, it is as inefficient as it can be! Seems someone got the code and run into a deoptimisator!

And going back to the realms of real computing, nowadays nobody knows how a computer works, only a few know a bit of low-level languages (Assembly and C -- note, not C++ (I know C is not that low-level, but you get the point)) and computer architecture to know how to optimise the code.

Beer, cos today is Monday and my university classes are some hours apart.

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Hasn't the FAT patent expired?

A quick search hasn't found the date granted. And if it's for a utility, not a device, has Micro$oft remembered to pay the time-extension fees for it?

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Yes...

...I think he meant VFAT, the patent of which is still valid (ask TomTom) although the distinction between them is sort of lost these days with long filenames being the norm, so it's an easy slip of the keyboard to make.

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It's all bollocks though isn't it...?

Cause at the end of the day, most SME's (which make up the majority of IT Dept's) don't give a shit about the "ethics" or licence details - they want an application that works.

Most people don't care, and segregation between closed and open souce is one of the most pointless things in the world. The fact there is such a long article that doesn't really say much annoys me hugely.

If your looking for a free database, then naturally most geeks would think MySQL, Oracle One, SQL Server Express and maybe some other smaller FOSS players.

But at the end of the day, I'll pick which ever one integrates with the rest of my applications, management tools and is the easiest ot use.

Closed source companies charge per licence including support what a lot of the FOSS vendors charge for support - so it's not about money.

Oracle have their way of doing things. So does Microsoft. FOSS doesn't - it depends on what app it is, who developed it, when it was written, what licence it's under etc.

The biggest reason FOSS has grown has been down to the fact that a company doesn't need to build their CRM/appliance/management application from scratch - they can use someone elses for free, read up on it for a week and then tweak till it's perfect. Saved months or even years of work, saved the licence fee from Microsoft, Oracle, etc. and all they need to do is whack in a "some parts of this product are licenced under the GPLV2. As such we are obligated to provide parts of the source code upon request. Please write to ..... for a copy".

Some developers, and a few evangalists care - the rest of us just want the cheapest software that integrates the best. Open or Closed.

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Title Required.

>> Some developers, and a few evangalists care - the rest of us just want the cheapest software that integrates the best.

Your problem is that you believe the ethics and moralists crowd are ignorant of those facts. In fact it is the so called practicalists that are not being very practical in the long term that is causing the issues. Closed source is short sighted, unscientific, uneconomical, insecure and unownable.

You want TCO, it's not possible to own software that isn't FOSS.

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Boffin

Ballmer is the Beast of Redmond

Ballmer said that open-source software is "a cancer".

Yet his failure to embrace it is why Microsoft's Windows Phone is plummeting in market share. Microsoft is incapable of moving fast, because it develops every part of its proprietary software. If it used the Linux kernel, and put a proprietary interface on top (like Palm did), it would have its mobile OS to market much quicker.

Why is Microsoft developing an entire web browser? It could just take WebKit (like most others do), and put its interface on top. Get to market quicker. Save billions.

Microsoft's coming 'Windows Phone 7 Series' is going to fail in the market because of a lack of software. As the article said, a lot of developers avoid Microsoft, and will avoid Windows Phone, because of Microsoft's past nasty behaviour. With relatively few developers compared to Android and iPhone, Microsoft's Windows Phone will die a painful death in the market.

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Grenade

I honestly don't get the point of FOSS.

If you just want to donate your time and skills to the community, place your work in the Public Domain. It's as old as Copyright. It has no legal encumbrances. It requires no monitoring. It needs no stupid, stupid legalese-stuffed "licenses". And it means you are genuinely *giving* your work away, no strings attached.

The GPL—and all its bastard children and relatives—are just a way for the more egocentric programmers to *pretend* to give their work away with no strings attached, while ensuring they're forever seen and recognised to have done so. It's exactly the same as those Z-list celebrities who give money to charity primarily so that everyone knows that they're the kind of celebrities who give money to charity.

This is *self-publicity*, not selflessness. True heroes don't *demand* medals and recognition.

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Troll

GPL developers

simply don't want their work to be taken by some corporate entity who simply repackages it and then sells it as a proprietary product. They are simply saying "I am contributing this work to the community and if you make changes to it I expect you to contribute them back*."

I'm not sure why you find this idea so difficult to understand.

* Only if you redistribute your modified binaries.

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FAIL

RE: I honestly don't get the point of FOSS.

I couldn't tell you the name of the author of more than handful of pieces of OSS that I own. They definately don't do it for fame - otherwise applications would be littered with the developers name & photograph on every screen!

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Anonymous Coward

Academia

"... the more egocentric programmers to *pretend* to give their work away with no strings attached, while ensuring they're forever seen and recognised to have done so. It's exactly the same as those Z-list celebrities who give money to charity primarily so that everyone knows that they're the kind of celebrities who give money to charity.

This is *self-publicity*, not selflessness. True heroes don't *demand* medals and recognition."

This sounds like a definition of academia, where advancement is not through commercial success but through promoting one's own work whilst rubbishing that of those around you.

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Gates Horns

Because before GPL

People WERE "giving" their code to the community, and others were including it in their own products, patenting it, and then taking the rest of the community to court for "infringing" on their patent. See FAT.

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Linux

And the point of FOSS is:

To prevent anyone from taking whatever source code I put on the Public Domain, making a commercial product using my public domain source and releasing it as theirs, also closing the source of their version down in the process.

Making an obscene profit from a work they never paid to use, and negating the improvements (if any) to the rest of the public.

Well this is one point, there are many more, but you need to read the GPLv2/GPLv3 licenses.

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FAIL

It's not about giving the work away

Contributing to GPLed or other open sourced licensed software is not about giving your work away, it's about allowing others to benefit from your work whilst trying to ensure that any further modifications made are also available for others to benefit from as well.

Public Domain does not stop others from taking my hard work, modifying it slightly and monetarily gaining from it without me or others also gaining anything. It has nothing to do with me wanting to be selfless, it's about sharing with those who are also willing to share.

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Boffin

FOSS

@Sean Timarco Baggaley

As with Closed-source, FOSS comes in many flavours, and projects range from one-man hobby projects to huge _commercial_ projects like MySQL and Mozilla - neither of those two would have a chance if it the majority of the code came from amateurs, however gifted - nothing to do with publicity, just about paying the bills. To my mind, it is the ability to run a large organisation that matters most, not the source of the money. I also think that the question of "too many licences" is a red-herring. It is largely a response to the different funding models in use, and also to the threat of software-patents in different legal jurisdictions. The number of different FOSS licences is nothing compared to the number of different commercial licences, which no-one bothers to read - for the vast majority of consumers, the particular flavour of licence is going to be pretty immaterial too.

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FAIL

Re: I honestly don't get the point of FOSS.

People like you never do.

Consider it more along 'share and share alike', or is that too human for you?

0 out of 10, must try harder

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on not getting the point of FOSS

> True heroes don't *demand* medals and recognition.

Let me explain it another way. You've crafted a piece of software as a labour of love (or whatever) and you want someone else to download it off the net and claim that they wrote it? A lot of the various open source licenses don't demand recognition, let alone medals. But they are designed specifically to prevent unscrupulous and unethical behaviour, viz outright plagiarism.

Items in the public domain do not have any protections at all. Plus, most things in the public domain are crap anyway, although this is due in no small part to the release of the good stuff increasingly being put on the never-never, due to arbitrary extensions of the copyright charter.

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Anonymous Coward

Nicely put!

That's all I need to say ...

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