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I've been struggling for some time now, particularly since it became obvious that Jackson was set to rule against Microsoft and that neither side was prepared to make a deal, to come up with what I would consider the appropriate "remedy" for Microsoft. I think that just about everybody on this board agrees that the standard ideas thrown around (fines, regulation, various "structural" remedies, even opening the source to parts of code) are flawed. And there's a simple reason behind this general agreement; while the anti-trust trial has spelled out in great detail what illegal actions have gone on in the desktop software industry, they have failed to answer the question why.

Yes, Microsoft has played dirty tricks in the past, but so have many other companies, even those in competition with Microsoft. There are no angels here. On the other hand, if we agree that clean, fair competition is impossible, we should be happy to see the government step in and take control of the situation. But I don't think anyone here is comfortable with that solution.

On this message board, I've been a participant in a curiously three-way argument on this subject. Two groups of participants are polarized into the two classic categories: the rough-and-tumble darwinian free-market supporters, and the rule-of-law fair-play government supporters. But the new Open Source movement has introduced a third component; a pseudo-libertarian, pseudo-communistic, "live-free-or-die" individualist group. A group whose focus on the other two can be summed up as "a pox on both your houses."

Where has this third group come from? Today's software industry is deeply under the thrall of big business. In all the remedies I've seen, either Microsoft remains in control, or the government takes control. In either case, the anti-trust trial is ultimately pointless with respect to many of the people who lean towards the third group, people whose lives are dominated by the organizations in control of the software world.

And yes, I do mean their lives are dominated. The key is today's notion of intellectual property. As a professional in the software industry, everything I do at work, the code I write, the designs I build, are someone else's property, not mine. And it's not just the written form of these concepts, but the concepts themselves. In effect, the very thoughts in my mind are owned by someone else!

And, I argue, we can see here the ultimate reason why the software industry has become so dirty, the answer to the question "why". Ownership of this type of intellectual property gives ultimate control to the owner. While intellectual property has always been around in other forms, it has always been tied directly to physical objects (a new layout for piston cylinders in an internal combustion engine, the design of a coffee percolator, even books and movies have always had a direct relationship to the physical media in which they reside). But this doesn't work with software. You can't take a hash table algorithm or task scheduler and point to the physical object which it has made possible. Software describes a way of doing something, not a thing in itself. It has no physical limitations.

Today, Microsoft owns the way that most people communicate with personal computers. Any remedy which leaves that control in Microsoft's hands is pointless. Any remedy which transfers that control unto the Government is equally worrisome. And if Microsoft is just broken into small pieces, eventually one of those pieces will gain ownership of that intellectual property and become the next Microsoft.

In the end, the problem is not with who owns this property, the problem is with the property itself. The success of the Open Source movement is due solely to its concentration on dealing with intellectual property in a different way, one which does not allow any one group to own the way in which people or machines communicate with each other. I don't know that this is the best way to treat IP, but I do know that it is superior to treating purely conceptual property as if it were physical property.

In the end, this anti-trust trial can only be a pointless waste of time. At best, it will simply shift the pawns around on the board, when the game itself is flawed -- either some individual company is going to own everything, or the government is. The notion of intellectual property itself is going to have to be changed, or we're going to find that the Open Source group will ultimately overrun this entire industry.


John
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The success of the Open Source movement is due solely to its concentration on dealing with intellectual property in a different way, one which does not allow any one group to own the way in which people or machines communicate with each other.

Ahh, but it does leave all the power in the hands of one group -- the "Open Source" group. As you identified earlier in your post, this is one of the three distinct groups debating the issue. I submit that this group is no more likely to "improve" things than any other group, and perhaps less likely because the members of the "Open Source" group typically don't pay much attention to the needs of non-technical computer users (as distinct from computer lovers or hackers.)
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Quite eloquent John. Spoken like a true
candidate, (and not even a "detractor").

Well Said.

DJ
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ptbb wrote:

Ahh, but it does leave all the power in the hands of one group -- the "Open Source" group. As you identified earlier in your post, this is one of the three distinct groups debating the issue. I submit that this group is no more likely to "improve" things than any other group, and perhaps less likely because the members of the "Open Source" group typically don't pay much attention to the needs of non-technical computer users (as distinct from computer lovers or hackers.)

I've said nothing about "improvement"; neither does the government, or even Microsoft. All three groups are talking about freedom. Microsoft wants to "retain the right to innovate", not "retain the regulation to improve" -- if all that was at stake here was satisfying the needs of non-technical computer users, the government could just run a study and require Microsoft to adapt their products to support that study.

No, the question here is not the support of consumers, it is the freedom of producers. Microsoft controls production today; and regardless whether they retain this control or the government takes it, it is the control itself which is the problem.


John
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PietrzakFool wrote:

the rough-and-tumble darwinian free-market supporters

Sign me up! ... no, wait, I'm already a member.

But the new Open Source movement has introduced a third component; a pseudo-libertarian, pseudo-communistic, "live-free-or-die" individualist group. A group whose focus on the other two can be summed up as "a pox on both your houses."

The Open Source movement: big business (Red Hat, Caldera etc.), having found a way to finally get product without paying for it; the ultimate shafting of the exploited developer. It's not "pseudo-libertarian" or "pseudo-communistic", rather, open source must have Marx cringing in his grave. Imagine, companies whose product is created, developed and maintained by people who don't have to be compensated for their efforts. Can heaven be any more perfect?

As a professional in the software industry, everything I do at work, the code I write, the designs I build, are someone else's property, not mine.

If you work for an employer, yes. So why not go into business for yourself? Afraid to take the risk? Got a family to support? The decision to leave the world of legitimate empolyment for the uncertainty of self support isn't an easy one to make. The fear sits in the pit of your stomach and gnaws at your insides. Twelve years ago I left a nice fat database administrator job at a local medical center to work on my own teaching Aikido and helping individuals and small businesses with their computing needs. It took me six years just to get back to the income level I was at when I left the hospital. Would I do it again? You bet; the freedom of being out from under an employer's yoke has been more than worth the effort.

While intellectual property has always been around in other forms, it has always been tied directly to physical objects (a new layout for piston cylinders in an internal combustion engine, the design of a coffee percolator, even books and movies have always had a direct relationship to the physical media in which they reside). But this doesn't work with software. You can't take a hash table algorithm or task scheduler and point to the physical object which it has made possible. Software describes a way of doing something, not a thing in itself. It has no physical limitations.

I would argue that this reasoning is pointless. Where is it written that intellectual property must be tied to some physical object? And is a computer program really any less physical than say, a car? You can point to a car and say 'see? there it is'; I can point to code displayed on a screen and say the same. Where's the difference? Intellectual property is intellectual property regardless of the form it takes.

Today, Microsoft owns the way that most people communicate with personal computers. Any remedy which leaves that control in Microsoft's hands is pointless. Any remedy which transfers that control unto the Government is equally worrisome. And if Microsoft is just broken into small pieces, eventually one of those pieces will gain ownership of that intellectual property and become the next Microsoft.

Excellent summation of why this whole anti-trust morailty play has been a farce from the beginning. This action was instigated by Microsoft's competition. After having been beaten on the field, they went crying to 'big brother' who decided to step in and defend junior against the bully down the block.

The notion of intellectual property itself is going to have to be changed, or we're going to find that the Open Source group will ultimately overrun this entire industry.

And this is perhaps the greatest danger to the developers of the worlds' software. As long as designers and programmers can be duped into providing their services free of charge, big business management types are going to be laughing up their sleeves at the gullability of the masses.

All in all John, good post.





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>Intellectual property is intellectual property regardless of the >form it takes.

'Intellectual property' is a government-granted and government-enforced monopoly on ideas. The US constitution, as you may know, explicitly grants Congress the power to grant IP rights - obviously, this was felt to be necessary, as opposed to physical property rights, which were pre-existing and self-evident. Specifically, Congress *may*:

"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"

I personally have doubts that a 95-year (!) copyright period promotes more than it impedes, at least in certain areas. Some things are inherently more useful if unowned. Other things won't be produced at all if they aren't owned. The open-source argument is just that some software falls into the first category.
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IP is a dicey area these days with patents being granted on every dime-a-dozen idea somebody with enough money for the filing fee comes up with. But I think there's a significant difference between Patent and Copyright protection. If you write a book about, say, LTBH investing, it's reasonable for you to copyright the work and expect the government to prevent anyone else from copying your words and selling it as their own book. But if you tried to patent the "business process" of LTBH investing, or event the idea of writing a book about LTBH investing, you ought to be run out of town on a rail.

The Open Source movement tries to do away with both forms of IP, and that's a mistake. Without copyright protection for people who write software, eventually nobody with any talent will write it. Funny, but maybe this explains the Open Source movement's strong dislike for Bill Gates - he was the first person to publicly crusade against "open source" twenty+ years ago when he wrote his open letter to computer enthusaists saying they shouldn't priate software.

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JMHawkins: Funny, but maybe this explains the Open Source movement's strong dislike for Bill Gates - he was the first person to publicly crusade against "open source" twenty+ years ago when he wrote his open letter to computer enthusaists saying they shouldn't priate software.



I couldn't agree more. I have always called open source the hippies revenge for exactly the reasons you state. The Homebrew Club wanted to make (what was it? Basic?) "open source." I'm sure there are still tons of people at Harvard who are pretty P.O.'d they never copyprotected "VisiCalc." I have little doubt in fact that this is the movement that bought us Lawrence Lessig, that dubious "friend of the court" who was so helpful to Jackson (i.e.- Jackson was Lessig's marionette.)

Good luck to open source, just don't use the Justice Depratment (those suckers) to exact your revenge on Bill Gates. It's not his fault the guys at Harvard Business School (of all places) didn't have the sense to protect their inventions. Their gifts to technology were symbolic victories but complete business screw ups. I thank them all for their contributions but if they wanted to get paid, they should have been much more practical.
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The distinction between copyright and patent is, indeed, important and often missed. The current patent situtation is a mess.

>Without copyright protection for people who write software, >eventually nobody with any talent will write it.

Why?

Yes, this was the exact argument in Bill G's letter from 1977:

"Who can afford to do profesional work for nothing? What hobbist can put 3-man years into programming, finding all bugs, documenting his product and distribute for free?
...
Nothing would please me more than being able to hire ten programmers and deluge the hobby market with good software."

However, there are ways to make money from software production besides selling rights to use the software. It is the most profitable if you can manage it, but not the only sustainable model, and maybe not the best for end-users.
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Thermopile wrote:

The Open Source movement: big business (Red Hat, Caldera etc.), having found a way to finally get product without paying for it; the ultimate shafting of the exploited developer. It's not "pseudo-libertarian" or "pseudo-communistic", rather, open source must have Marx cringing in his grave. Imagine, companies whose product is created, developed and maintained by people who don't have to be compensated for their efforts. Can heaven be any more perfect?

Heaven's just not the place it used to be. Big business (Red Hat, Caldera, etc.) who attempt to "sell" Open Source software soon realize the new realities of being part of this market. Red Hat's package manager, "rpm", released under the GPL, quickly became the industry standard, and is now in use by all of Red Hat's rivals. The award winning company Mandrake began simply by selling a repackaged version of Red Hat's own distribution, and this is completely legal; Mandrake is now one of Red Hat's main competitors.

In the Open Source world, you can't "own" software in the sense of controlling other organizations' use of the software you are using. The original authors may not be getting compensation for their work, but you aren't going to get much from it either.

In the end, if Red Hat aims to survive simply by selling Open Source software, they will die.


So why not go into business for yourself?

Ok, yes, I have been thinking about it. (In fact, I left my previous employer specifically in order to get myself out of under the restrictive conditions of my contract, in order to prepare to market my products in my own way.)

Actually, I've found something curious in the last year and a half; that it is not necessarily true that you should find an employer who will pay you to do the things you enjoy. In the software industry, if someone pays you to do the things you enjoy, they will take those things away from you. You have to make sure that you don't write the software you enjoy at work if you want to use that software for yourself.


I would argue that this reasoning is pointless. Where is it written that intellectual property must be tied to some physical object?

Classically, the idea of property is that the owner controls a physical object to the exclusion of all others. If I take your property, I have it and you no longer have it. Doesn't work with ideas; if I take your idea, we now both have your idea.

And is a computer program really any less physical than say, a car? You can point to a car and say 'see? there it is'; I can point to code displayed on a screen and say the same. Where's the difference?

My car is sitting in my garage. It allows me to move great distances much more quickly than I could walk; therefore it has intrinsic value. If you should take my car, you would gain that ability to travel and I would lose it; your ownership of the physical form of the car denies others the intrinsic value of the car. The control of both the physical form and, therefore, the value of an object is what is classically understood as property.

Here's a piece of code displayed on your screen:

#include <stdio.h>
int main(int argc, char *argv[])
{
printf("hello, world!\n");
}


Go ahead; point to it and say, "see, there it is". I wrote it; but if you take it, I won't lose it. Software that prints "hello, world!" will function for both of us, and can do so at the same time. I do not lose the intrinsic functionality of the software when you gain it.

Thus, the physical form of software and the intrinsic value of software are not one and the same. Perhaps you are trying to say that the specific photons currently lighting up your screen are the intellectual property, but that is not what is understood in the industry. If I had a license on that software, it would legally follow that software through all its various forms and copies, from photons on a screen to magnetic particles on a disk or pits on a CD or even pencil lead on a piece of paper. Heck, it even includes the thoughts in your own head.


...this is perhaps the greatest danger to the developers of the worlds' software. As long as designers and programmers can be duped into providing their services free of charge, big business management types are going to be laughing up their sleeves at the gullability of the masses.

It works both ways. SGI has decided to throw its weight behind Open Source; they have already provided their journaling file system, and are apparently starting towards having Linux certified to the defense industry's C2/B1 security level. These things, once opened to the public, cannot be retrieved. IBM has provided help to the Apache group, and delivered a Java environment, as well as providing support for Linux and other Open Source products across their entire range of hardware. Companies are making the choice of giving up exclusive control over software to gain secondary effects (support, goodwill) from users.

Open Source is not a 100% gain for business, nor a 100% loss for software developers. Businesses can gain a great deal of functionality from Open Source software developers, but at the cost that they have no control over those software developers. They cannot control the future development of the software (unless, of course, they pay someone to develop the software in a particular direction, but then we aren't talking about getting software for free, are we?).


John
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John,

You have fallen prey to the fallacious assumption that Judge Jackson's ruling is the gospel truth. Unfortunately for your arguments, it's totally lacking in substance and consequently is headed straight to a shredder called the U. S. Court of Appeals.

Norm.
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John-

Incredible post BTW

Does the thought of Henry Ford patenting his assembly line, had he thought of doing it, help to support your case in any way?

Technically, it was this intangible idea that made Ford what it was. Suddenly, masses could afford what only the rich ever dreamed of before.

I understand your argument to say, basically, that previous notions of ownership wouldn't include such abstract products as 'method'. Apparently they didn't. Ford's idea of mass assembly quickly became the basis for the American Industrial Revolution. We beat Japan not only because of superior physical rescourses, but the fact that we were a nation of assembly line factories and had the mindset toward that sort of production. Re-tooling for production of the machines of war was a fairly simple endeavor.

Seems to me, if Henry had attached a legal hold on the assembly line technique, he'd probably have a national holiday on his birthday.

(Apologies for my ignorance in the event that Mr. Ford didn't really 'invent' the process. This board is startin' to scare me with all the stuff it knows!)

:)

k
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I should have said Germany, not Japan.

Forgot about that Enola Gay thing.

k
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>>However, there are ways to make money from software production besides selling rights to use the software. It is the most profitable if you can manage it, but not the only sustainable model, and maybe not the best for end-users. <<

Sure, software was written by professionals for decades before 1977, but it was simply an adjunct to selling either hardware or services. You could pirate IBMs OS/360 all you wanted, it wasn't any good without the IBM big iron to run it. Same with business software - you couldn't really run it yourself, you needed the service contract with the folks who wrote it. The programmers working for IBM, DEC, and Control Data all got paid - the other things their companies sold were worthless without the software.

Problem is, in that model, writing software is a cost center, not a profit center. And business mentality is to keep cost centers on a short leash, spend only the minimum dollars necessary on them. There really isn't much room for Microsoft's $2B or $4B or whatever it is per year R&D expenditures on software in that model.

Of course, both the software-sells-hardware and software-sells-services models are trying to make a comeback these days. ASPs (that's Application Service Providers, not Active Server Pages) are trying to make a business of "renting" software to companies for a monthly fee, and most of the various hand-helds have dedicated software who's only purpose is to sell the hardware. Microsoft has irons in both those fires.

Open Source doesn't fit either model very well though. How do I, as a programmer, earn my daily bread writing open source software that only makes money for somebody selling a hand-held device?
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khalou wrote:
"Does the thought of Henry Ford patenting his assembly line, had he thought of doing it, help to support your case in any way?
...
Apologies for my ignorance in the event that Mr. Ford didn't really 'invent' the process. This board is startin' to scare me with all the stuff it knows!)"

Pssst. Hey K. Just between you and me, Henry Ford stole the concept of the assembly line from (hold onto your seat) from the meat packing industry in Chicago. The meat packers of Chicago (remember all those old western movies about driving herds of cattle, they were on their way to Chicago) were already using the assembly line for processing cattle. Throw a carcass onto a hook. Push it down the line. Slice open the carcass. Push it down the line. Gut the carcass. Push it down the line. Clean out the carcass. Push it down the line. Proceed with the first cut of meat. Push it down the line. Then the next cut of meat. Push it down the line. Continue down the line until there is nothing of value left on the carcass.

On a related note. Some muckraker wrote a book called the The Jungle that exposed the the lack of cleanliness of this industry. It was a scathing expose on the meat packing industry. The funny thing about this incident was (if I remember correctly) Theodore Roosevelt invited the author to the White House. At the White House, Teddy Roosevelt praised the author and gave him some sort of commendation. However, Teddy Roosevelt was praising the author about the efficiencies that the author described in his book, not the scandal of dirty meat. As the story goes, the author was dumbstruck because the President totally misunderstood his book and the author could not get a word in edgewise with Teddy Roosevelt.

I think my memory is clear on this. I'll shut up now.


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"Just between you and me, Henry Ford stole the concept of the assembly line from (hold onto your seat) from the meat packing industry in Chicago."

Also, the idea of interchangable parts, i.e. the ability to get a replacement sparkplug from storage instead of crafted for your engine, was originally (or so the american textbooks proclaim) by the gun companies. I think S&W in particular.

Rob Nelson
ronelson@vt.edu
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I knew it.

You people are encyclopedias.

I will never again assume I know anything again until I've heard it here.

BTW, was it really the Germanic Barbarians that eventually caused the downfall of Rome?

Was Mickey Mouse really originally to be called Mortimer Mouse?

Were dinosaurs really reptiles or birds?

Did man evolve? Or was he created?

Is it better to hold the Ketchup bottle at an angle and be patient? Or is the upside-down, beat the bottom method more efficient?

Why are we here?

Is it true that you can tune a piano but you can't tuna fish?

What's 'terminal velocity'? Specifically?

Why are there interstate highways in Hawaii?

Can fairy tales come true if you're young at heart?

What do you call those two lines that go from your nose to your upper lip?

If you put a baseball mitt on your head, does it fit like a glove?

How can a dog dream about chasing rabbits when they've never seen one?

Do rabbits dream about being chased by dogs?

If your knees bent the other way, what would a chair look like? (I stole that one from Ghallager. Apologies.)

What's a sphygnomanometer?

If Bill Gates were president, could the United States be considered a monopoly?

Is life as we know it just your perception of a chemical spill in an unknown universe, consisting of unknown compounds that provide a millisecond of perception frozen in time to include a memory of past and an anticipation of a future that never existed until some moron wipes it up?

DO YOU EAT THE VEGETABLES FIRST TO GET THEM OUT OF THE WAY FOR THE MAIN COURSE, OR DO YOU EAT THE MAIN COURSE FIRST AND GIVE THE VEGGIES TO THE DOG, OR DO YOU MIX AND MATCH 'TILL THE PLATE IS CLEAN, OR DO YOU REC THIS POST SO THE MORON WILL SHUT UP, OR DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE LAST QUESTION AND REALIZE THERE'S NO HOPE AND GO OFF IN A REFLECTIVE COMMA, OR DO YOU...

apologies all around...

k




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"Is it better to hold the Ketchup bottle at an angle and be patient? Or is the upside-down, beat the bottom method more efficient?"

Actually, due to the unique shape of the bottle, if you hold it upside down and hit your palm against the number 57, it comes out fairly quickly.

Rob Nelson
ronelson@vt.edu
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PietrzakFool wrote:

Heaven's just not the place it used to be. Big business (Red Hat, Caldera, etc.) who attempt to "sell" Open Source software soon realize the new realities of being part of this market. Red Hat's package manager, "rpm", released under the GPL, quickly became the industry standard, and is now in use by all of Red Hat's rivals. The award winning company Mandrake began simply by selling a repackaged version of Red Hat's own distribution, and this is completely legal; Mandrake is now one of Red Hat's main competitors.

So a whole industry springs from the well of Linux. Many companies compete with each other for a share of the, according to you and other Linux advocates, a rapidly increasing pie. It makes no difference whatsoever where the revenue comes from, if the industry is to survive, the revenue will have to come from somewhere. Now these companies, be they RedHat, Caldera, SGI, IBM, Dell or whatever are supporting Linux for one reason and one reason only, to sell more product. It doesn't matter that the Linux OS doesn't generate the revenue directly. The fact is, owners of these companies are getting fat off the labor of all the open source programmers who aren't making a dime from their efforts.

My car is sitting in my garage. It allows me to move great distances much more quickly than I could walk; therefore it has intrinsic value. If you should take my car, you would gain that ability to travel and I would lose it; your ownership of the physical form of the car denies others the intrinsic value of the car. The control of both the physical form and, therefore, the value of an object is what is classically understood as property.

My program is on my disk. It allows me to solve very complex differential equations much more quickly than I could with a pencil and paper; therefore it has intrinsic value. If you should take my disk, you would gain the ability to quickly solve complex differential equations and I would lose it; your ownership of the disk, and therefore the program, denies others the intrinsic value of the program. By taking the disk, you now control the physical form and therefore, the value of the object, in this case the program (property).

Your classical definition of property has gone the way of Newton's laws of motion in light of Einstein's theory of relativity. Classical property can be thought of as a special case of a much broader range of phenomena that must now be considered property.

Open Source is not a 100% gain for business, nor a 100% loss for software developers. Businesses can gain a great deal of functionality from Open Source software developers, but at the cost that they have no control over those software developers.

Offsetting the lack of control are the zero wages and benefits paid and given to the developers of the product.

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khalou: "Why are there interstate highways in Hawaii?"

That's a good question, khalou, but what I really wanna know is: what happened to the chickens !!








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After having been beaten on the field, they went crying to 'big brother' who decided to step in and defend junior against the bully down the block.

I can't help myself. I just have to add to this analogy. As the mom of many, I've noticed that all too often, the one that cries the hardest gets comforted, but the "bully" often was no more guilty than the "victim."

There have been some excellent insights in this thread, including the reminder that open source codes tend to favor the techie over the non-technical user.


As far as the argument concerning the ownership of "intellectual property" goes, there will always be inequities. Writers of books and magazine articles often give up the copyrights to their work in the effort to get published or, in some cases, to other production media. Technical writers are in the same position relative to the company that employees their talents as code writers.

The statement And this is perhaps the greatest danger to the developers of the worlds' software. As long as designers and programmers can be duped into providing their services free of charge, big business management types are going to be laughing up their sleeves at the gullability of the masses.... really hits home. After all, those writing for closed organizations are at least taking home a paycheck--and often a pretty good one compared to people in other fields--for their efforts.

rositze

When I read this, I couldn't help feel that



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John,

You have fallen prey to the fallacious assumption that Judge Jackson's ruling is the gospel truth. Unfortunately for your arguments, it's totally lacking in substance and consequently is headed straight to a shredder called the U. S. Court of Appeals.

Norm.


Thank you, Norm! and praise the Lord (or Hallelujah, whatever fits.) These "opinions" have no basis in legal finding. If the appeals courts are still working sanely, to the shredder it truly will be.
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"The fact is, owners of these companies are getting fat off the labor of all the open source programmers who aren't making a dime from their efforts."

What about the programmers who are making more than a dime off their efforts? ;)

And like somenoe else said "I don't care if Microsoft innovates, their job is to MAKE ME MONEY!!!" Why should anyone care how any other company makes money, as long as it's not illegal?

Rob Nelson
ronelson@vt.edu
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khalou wrote:

Does the thought of Henry Ford patenting his assembly line, had he thought of doing it, help to support your case in any way?

Certainly, it is along the same lines. For instance, Mr. Ford would presumably want to hold such a patent in order to compete more effectively against other auto manufacturers. However, the idea of an assembly line is a powerful concept that applies to many fields, and much of the industrial might of the 20th century US was built on this idea. Restraining people from using this idea could have slowed the growth of the nation substantially.

Apologies for my ignorance in the event that Mr. Ford didn't really 'invent' the process.

Actually, it doesn't really matter if he invented it or not. Many large corporations with a large stable of intellectual property (including MSFT) have been able to acquire that property from outside the organization.


John
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JMHawkins wrote:

(On software as an adjunct to hardware)
Problem is, in that model, writing software is a cost center, not a profit center. And business mentality is to keep cost centers on a short leash, spend only the minimum dollars necessary on them. There really isn't much room for Microsoft's $2B or $4B or whatever it is per year R&D expenditures on software in that model.

Yes, so? I'm interested in what is produced by all this effort. On the one side, you've got a minimalist effort that, as you imply, probably does as little as possible to satisfy the user. On the Microsoft side, you've got a company that sinks huge amounts of money into creating pretty icons and animated help systems, while the software becomes laughably unreliable and bloated. Both sides are making (faulty) assumptions about the users. Because neither side is being driven by users.


Open Source doesn't fit either model very well though. How do I, as a programmer, earn my daily bread writing open source software that only makes money for somebody selling a hand-held device?

How do you earn your bread writing software any other way? Someone has a need, and you fill it. The difference in Open Source software, is that it is always some user who has the need; whether that user is herself a programmer, or a novice, Open Source software development is always driven by user requirements. (I've heard someone use the phrase "you eat your own dog food", i.e. the writers of the software use the software themselves.)

People writing software for a hardware company create what the hardware company wants, which may or may not be what the end user really wants. Equivalently, people writing software for Microsoft create what Microsoft wants, which may or may not have anything to do with what the end-user wants. Microsoft doesn't have to compete for the consumer's dollar, and can therefore ignore the consumer.


John
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Thermopile wrote:

So a whole industry springs from the well of Linux. Many companies compete with each other for a share of the, according to you and other Linux advocates, a rapidly increasing pie. It makes no difference whatsoever where the revenue comes from, if the industry is to survive, the revenue will have to come from somewhere.

I agree.

Now these companies, be they RedHat, Caldera, SGI, IBM, Dell or whatever are supporting Linux for one reason and one reason only, to sell more product. It doesn't matter that the Linux OS doesn't generate the revenue directly. The fact is, owners of these companies are getting fat off the labor of all the open source programmers who aren't making a dime from their efforts.

Remember, the notion of "support" here is different than what business normally means by "support". These companies are supporting a product they don't own. As a user of Linux, I benefit by having so many companies trying to help me with my OS. But it is still my OS. If I don't like IBM, I can switch to SGI and still use all of Linux. You can't switch between Apple and Microsoft and hope to keep all of your applications, but I can switch from Linux on Dell x86 machines to Linux on Compaq Alpha machines, and have little trouble in running all of my software. I don't have to depend upon some corporate owner of the operating system to support my needs, because no corporation owns my operating system. I do.


My program is on my disk. It allows me to solve very complex differential equations much more quickly than I could with a pencil and paper; therefore it has intrinsic value. If you should take my disk, you would gain the ability to quickly solve complex differential equations and I would lose it; your ownership of the disk, and therefore the program, denies others the intrinsic value of the program.

Ridiculous! Come on, Thermopile, I've always admired your ability to tear my arguments to shreds. You're normally the one person on this board who can use my own logic against me. But this is just silly. Not only is a software program not inextricably tied to a disk (or any other form of media), this is not at all what Microsoft or the rest of the industry describes as intellectual property. Microsoft doesn't license disks; it licenses software. Nobody talks about the phsyical media representing a software program, because it's obvious that the physical media has nothing to do with the intrinsic value of the software.


Offsetting the lack of control are the zero wages and benefits paid and given to the developers of the product.

Really? So, the users of the software, are they receiving no value from that software?

One of the things consistently pointed out by all parties on this message board is that Open Source software has been written mainly for the use of the software developers who wrote it. We now have a budding industry, bending over backwards to support the users of Open Source software, who in the main tend to be the writers of Open Source software, since they wrote it for themselves in the first place. Who's getting the last laugh here? ;)


John
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I wrote:

My program is on my disk. It allows me to solve very complex differential equations much more quickly than I could with a pencil and paper; therefore it has intrinsic value. If you should take my disk, you would gain the ability to quickly solve complex differential equations and I would lose it; your ownership of the disk, and therefore the program, denies others the intrinsic value of the program.

To which PietrzakFool replied:

Ridiculous! Come on, Thermopile, I've always admired your ability to tear my arguments to shreds. You're normally the one person on this board who can use my own logic against me. But this is just silly. Not only is a software program not inextricably tied to a disk (or any other form of media), this is not at all what Microsoft or the rest of the industry describes as intellectual property. Microsoft doesn't license disks; it licenses software. Nobody talks about the phsyical media representing a software program, because it's obvious that the physical media has nothing to do with the intrinsic value of the software.

You're missing the point John. I agree that value of the product has nothing at all to do with the form of representation of the product. Value, intrinsic or otherwise, is tied to functionality. In the case of your car, it's value lies in the fact that it can be used to transport you from A to B quickly. If I remove the battery from your car, it's value to you as a transportation device drops to zero. Conversly, the value of my program is tied to the fact that it lets me perform complex calculations qucikly. Remove my disk and the value of that program, relative to me, drops to zero.

What you seem to be saying is that I can always get another disk containing the same program. This implies, of course, that more than one copy of the program exists. Suppose, however, that I had the program custom designed and built. The author subsequently met with an untimely demise and I never bothered to back up the original. You come along and take my disk. You are now in sole control of the value of that program.

You mentioned that If I take your car, it's intrinsic value is lost to you. Well, take a cab or bus or trolly or train; or buy another car.

My point is that from a property standpoint there is no difference between a car and a program. The value of each is measured by what they do, not what they are.


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>My point is that from a property standpoint there is no >difference between a car and a program. The value of each >is measured by what they do, not what they are.

You're being purposely obtuse; use value, market value, and production cost are all different things.

If I loan you my car, the car is less useful to me.

If I give you a copy of my software, my own copy is still just as useful; in fact, it's probably *more* useful - it may be easier for us to share files, for example.

This is a fundamental difference between cars and software.


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This board is startin' to scare me with all the stuff it knows!)

I hear you. And what about the posters that make things up?

Randall
Al Gore's daddy invented the assembly line ;)
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khalou wrote:

Does the thought of Henry Ford patenting his assembly line, had he thought of doing it, help to support your case in any way?



Just for the record, Henry Ford couldn't have patented "mass production" per se but he could have and might have patented his own machinery. "Mass production" isn't patentable but certain technology that he created to advance the industry would be. I'm not sure what Henry Ford did about that but if I recall most of this technology was taken from somewhere else, he just put it together in a way that made it work for automobiles and then largely anything else. I'm not sure what he did or didn't patent re: his machinery but I just thought I'd add he wouldn't have been able to patent the entire concept. (Although today I'll bet he would have found a lawyer who might have tried.)
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Thermopile: "My point is that from a property standpoint there is no difference between a car and a program. The value of each is measured by what they do, not what they are."

mearl: "You're being purposely obtuse; use value, market value, and production cost are all different things.

Thermopile is correct and, while I'd not be so rude as to accuse you of being "purposely obtuse", you're wrong. As a matter of fact, your words have reinforced Thermopile's point.

mearl: "If I loan you my car, the car is less useful to me."

Because the car transports you conveniently from one point to another. You don't lose because you don't have a car, you lose because you no longer have access to the transportation that car affords you.

mearl: "If I give you a copy of my software, my own copy is still just as useful; in fact, it's probably *more* useful - it may be easier for us to share files, for example."

Your software is "useful" only because it enables you to perform tasks more easily and conveniently than you otherwise could; or because it enables you to enjoy something that you could not otherwise enjoy.

If you have a new formula for calculating the number of widgets relative to atmospheric emissions and you give that formula to a friend, you both benefit; but a formula is not "software".

If you have a VCR recording of the latest performance of LaBoheme or the the last KISS concert, you can make a copy and give to a friend. You can both enjoy it, but a recording is not "software" (arguably).

mearl" "This is a fundamental difference between cars and software."

There is no difference. Both exist because of someone's intellectual production; both are commodities; and the usefulness of both are dependent on consumer perception.

You have just reinforced Thermopile's point.




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Thermopile wrote:

...Remove my disk and the value of that program, relative to me, drops to zero.

What you seem to be saying is that I can always get another disk containing the same program. This implies, of course, that more than one copy of the program exists. Suppose, however, that I had the program custom designed and built. The author subsequently met with an untimely demise and I never bothered to back up the original. You come along and take my disk. You are now in sole control of the value of that program.


Ok, I see your point. But look at what it took for you to come up with a situation where you lose all trace of a program, while I gain it: (a) No-one else has an extant copy of the program on any form of media. (b) The author(s) of the program is (are) unavailable. (c) I retain possession of the software such that I do not allow you to have a copy of it. You have to struggle to make this case in the face of one unassailable fact: it costs practically nothing to copy software.

You can't get away from this fact. It changes everything. It wouldn't cost much to give every computer on the planet a copy of your software. Linux exists because it cost Linus Torvalds nothing to give copies of his software to everyone who wanted one. And in doing so, he never had to give up his software to anyone.


My point is that from a property standpoint there is no difference between a car and a program. The value of each is measured by what they do, not what they are.

And my point is that, while value is measured by what they do, property has classically been represented by what they are. I don't own the ability to move at 65 MPH on the highway, I own a particular Honda Accord.

On the other hand, ownership of a disk or any other physical media means nothing with respect to software that media may contain. Microsoft doesn't own a particular copy of Microsoft Word, it owns Microsoft Word -- the software, in all forms and all copies across all media. Otherwise, it would be unable to control access to Microsoft Word.

To treat software as property, you have to keep track of the users of the software, because the software itself has no physical form you can track or contain. Thus, the scarce resource that Microsoft controls is us, the users of software.


John
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I didn't think he was wrong, per se, but he had missed the point of the previous post he was rebutting.

Of course, things have value because they're useful and because people want them.

However:

Some things become less valuable to individual users when used by two people at once (like a public cattle grazing land); some more valuable (like most software); and some cannot be shared in this way at all (like cars).

The question raised is whether software is a Manufacturing industry or a Service industry.

Anyhow, this is rapidly having less to do with MSFT (as opposed to Microsoft. :) A long and interesting analysis on this topic I mostly agree with is at

http://www.tuxedo.org/~esr/writings/magic-cauldron/magic-cauldron.html

(Fair warning: the author of that text is a Linux evangelist and flaming libertarian).


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Open Source is not "a pseudo-libertarian, pseudo-communistic, "live-free-or-die" individualist group". It's just plain, old business types like myself who are trying to wrench control of _OUR_ business plans away from Microsoft. We use MS applications, but we don't wan't MSC making our business plans. That's our job. MSC interferes everytime they ambush another application or OS developer and wreck another enterprise. MSC has been criminally interfering with our businesses (BTW, IBM and Intel are typical of the hundreds of thousands of members of the Open Source group), and many of us are pleased to see the end in sight for MSC gangsterism and Word macro email viruses. This argument has nothing to do with the "Horatio Alger success story" of Bill Gates. He wasn't a Horatio Alger at all - he organized an immoral enterprise. There's a big difference. The problem with running an immoral enterprise is that increasing numbers of people get angry at the wrong-doer. The result is always messy. How messy can it get? Well, there's a great movie out called "Titus", and it's Shakespeare's take on how immoral people run the world. If you want to see the modern version, whole nations filled with immoral enterprises, go visit Bosnia or Kosovo or Senegal. That's what this whole argument is about. It's not about Windows vs Linux on the desktop. And this whole rant is really just a movie review.
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mearl:

he question raised is whether software is a Manufacturing industry or a Service industry.


At its best, software is a service industry. At its worst, it's an extortion racket.
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mearl: "The question raised is whether software is a Manufacturing industry or a Service industry."

Perhaps. But, if so, I think that's the wrong question, because the software itself is neither.

The intellectual property owner may decide copies of it may be manufactured by another company. Companies that do so would be part of the manufacturing industry.

Other companies may exist to service manufactured copies. They'd be part of the service industry. And the owner may authorize one of those to service the product.

The same person/company that owns the intellectual property software may form a company to produce and service it. What difference does it make?

Software is an intellectual property that, once produced and sold, becomes a commodity just like any other.








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PietrzakFool said:
>>On the one side, you've got a minimalist effort that, as you imply, probably does as little as possible to satisfy the user. On the Microsoft side, you've got a company that sinks huge amounts of money into creating pretty icons and animated help systems, while the software becomes laughably unreliable and bloated. Both sides are making (faulty) assumptions about the users. Because neither side is being driven by users.<<

and

>>people writing software for Microsoft create what Microsoft wants, which may or may not have anything to do with what the end-user wants. Microsoft doesn't have to compete for the consumer's dollar, and can therefore ignore the consumer.<<


Rubbish. Your anti-Microsoft bias clouds your arguments. To claim Microsoft ignores the user and doesn't have to compete for the user's dollar is, well, ignorant. Sorry to use such a harsh word, but it fits. Perhaps "willfully ignorant" is better (adn it implies you coud will yourself to stop being ignorant too). Microsoft changes its products in ways it thinks will make customers like its products more. You may disagree with their conclusions, perhaps you even fall into a category of users Microsoft has choosen to ignore (remember the old saying you can't please all the people all the time? Well, maybe you're on the short end of the stick), but to claim they ignore all their customers is absurd at face value.

Now, you never did explain how I earn money writing Open Source software. If I add some new wizbang feature to linux so that some random hand held company can sell more of their devices, maybe they'll pay me, but they won't pay me much because anything I add to linux immediately becomes available to their competitors, right? So my work loses much of its value because it cannot remain exclusive to the company that pays for it. In some communistic ideal of a world, exclusive rights to something (also called property rights) is a horrid evil, but in the real world it's an economic necessity.

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JMHawkins: Now, you never did explain how I earn money writing Open Source software. If I add some new wizbang feature to linux so that some random hand held company can sell more of their devices, maybe they'll pay me, but they won't pay me much because anything I add to linux immediately becomes available to their competitors, right? So my work loses much of its value because it cannot remain exclusive to the company that pays for it. In some communistic ideal of a world, exclusive rights to something (also called property rights) is a horrid evil, but in the real world it's an economic necessity.

GREAT post, JMHawkins. I too am waiting for the answer to the question of how they make money but it's so very obvious. Either they don't or they make it through sales, service and support. But you can't nail them down on this one at all. They just keep "redefining" software as if no one gets what it is. (We get it, we get it.) Then if you question their (very) abstract revenue model, you get told, well we don't want to make money anyways because software is all about "sharing" and making the world a better place (shrug.) Yeah right, easy to do when you're working on your company's dime.


It's a business, it's a social revolution, it's a floor wax, its a dessert topping! (Good God.)
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>Now, you never did explain how I earn money writing Open Source software.

Fair enough; excuse me for some quoting from the piece I mentioned earlier. There are lots of reasons to give away software - for some of these, it may make sense to open-source as well.

#1) Cost/risk-spreading. Example: Apache webserver. (>50% market share). Most programs are custom-written for specific companies. In the case of Apache, many ISPs wanted a simple, customizable, reliable, royalty-free webserver. It was cheaper to pool their efforts for the core of the server than to outsource or buy, given that they would otherwise have had to write the whole thing themselves.

#2) Loss-leader. Eg., give away client software to increase the value of proprietary server software. (Navigator, IE, RealAudio).

#3) Widget frosting. Give away software to make the hardware it runs on more valuable (and thus, salable). (Device Drivers. Intel's funding of the port of Linux to Itanium. CPU vendors paying Cygnus to add gcc compiler support for their chips.)

#4) Service-leader. Sell support and integration services for your free software. Sure, anyone could, but who would sensible people buy support from? (Most Linux vendors).

#5) Accessories. Use free software to push associated non-IP goods - documentation, or T-shirts. (O'Reilly Publishing).

I could come up with more, but there are a couple, anyway. I could name profitable businesses with all these models. And now I'm going to shut up and get back to work. Really, I am...
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JMHawkins: "Now, you never did explain how I earn money writing Open Source software."

Earn money??? Why on earth would you want to earn money? <grin>

sera: "It's a business, it's a social revolution, it's a floor wax, its a dessert topping!"

<grin> Say it's a truffle and I'll throw in with them!

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Mearl, I neglected to thank you for the link you provided earlier.

Thank you.



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Your remedies are "that Microsoft stays in control or the government takes control"? This statement doesn't make sence. They are not just in control of how we communicate with our computer but how our programs communicate with the operating system, how the programs communicate with each other, how your computer communicates with other computers, how your software is written, how you send email, how you share information within your business, ... They have a hand in every concept that has anything to do with a computer and if they decide that the new concept should be a service of the operating system then what could have been a new competitive industry with thousands of new jobs and bursts of creativity will become nothing but another revenue stream for Microsoft. If the government takes control of Microsoft they will not be controlling all of those items mentioned above. They will be controlling only a single company and allowing other smaller companies to compete in ways that they could never do before. If the government does its job right then you will see new operating systems, new compilers, new software suites, and much better hardware driver support for other systems.

Jeff
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> At its best, software is a service industry. At its > worst, it's an extortion racket.

Ouch! That is so wrong it is frightening. First let me note that some of the software I have written is part of products available through the Free Software Foundation. Some is part of for profit products from companies that I did not work for, other companies paid me to write software for them, and finally, in a few cases the government paid me (or actually the company I worked for) to write software for them, some of it with explicit agreements that it would be open source or even public domain. (On the other hand some is still classified, which is probably the most restrictive form of control over software...)

The reason that there is a constant tension here is that there are three issues here. First, software wants to be free. A single telephone is useless, if you connect it to other telephones, it becomes a useful tool. As each telephone is added to the network the value of the other telephones increase. In fact very soon the incremental value to the owners of other telephones from providing someone new with a telephone far outweighs the value to the owner of the new telephone. This same economic mechanism holds with most computer software--the benefit to each user is increased by additional users. (The total benefit increases as the square of the number of users.)

So it can be, and often has been the case that the owner of a piece of software gains more benefit from giving their product away than they can ever gain by selling it. This force is so powerful that there are some areas where trying to sell the software is completely counterproductive. Let's take Adobe Acrobat as a non-controversial example. Acrobat is a nice product, and Adobe makes money selling it. But the Acrobat reader has always been free, and Adobe has gone to considerable lengths to give away versions which will integrate with all popular browsers and so on. If Adobe did not give away and support for free the readers, content providers would not buy and use Acrobat. The same holds true for JBC (Java Byte Code) interpreters, etc.

Second, software engineers, programmers, technical writers and all the others needed to produce software like to eat. Many of them as with all artists like programming much more than eating, but they still need to hold body and soul together. There are many approaches to doing this, and as I said above, I have tried several, and will probably try a few more. For example, I have yet to try shareware or crippleware.

Third, and this is where all the grief comes in, there are idiots who think that the advantage that they can gain from making incompatible software can result in a profit. Microsoft, aka "The Evil Empire," not only believes this, they use very predatory practices to permit themselves to keep trying. Has Microsoft ever made a dime of net profit from Internet Explorer? No, they have used it as a loss-leader weapon to maintain their OS monopoly. Microsoft has used that OS monopoly to fund huge wastes of money creating incompatible products that never flew in the marketplace just to try to create a new monopoly. An interesting case in point were the attempts to provide e-mail that did not conform to the RFCs. See the discussion above: email software that conforms to SMTP is so much more valuable than email software that doesn't. It doesn't matter what "wonderful" bells and whistles you offer--it will lose out. (And even those companies, such as AOL that provided "gateways" to and from the rest of the Internet found that the benefits of transparent access to users outweighed any benefits from keeping "their" users captive.

So if anyone can convince Microsoft that all the cases where they have been forced by market pressures to act like adults are really an expression of a general principle rather than a bunch of exceptions, everyone, including Microsoft shareholders will benefit. (I just downloaded a free reader from Microsoft that recognises ALL Microsoft Word file formats up through Word 2000. Hallelujah!!! Now I can read archival documents without Word trying to "fix" them for me. Of course, this is a case similar to Acrobat above. By releasing this Microsoft makes it more likely that people will buy their new version of Word. I certainly wouldn't upgrade to Word 2000 without this--or a gun to my head.)

If Microsoft, with or without court pressure was to make their operating system code available open source, and perhaps even release it into the public domain, they would gain such a huge long term benefit that the only limit on the stock price would be ignorance. (Could Microsoft make up the "loss" of revenue from Windows by increased application revenues. Sure, but don't ignore the additional benefit of lower costs of production.

So what was wrong with the quote above? Well, no one has ever succeeded in making software into an extortion racket, although they keep trying. Microsoft's power in this area is entirely due to the fact that it has several products which have -- presumably through quality, become the market standard.
At that point it is the inertia of the marketplace which keeps the "standard" product on top.

But software at its best is a means of communciation. As people come to understand that the closest analog to software is a motion picture, the process for producing and distributing software will become more rational. "Easter eggs" have always existed as a response to those who try to impose anonymity on the creators of software. In the future, I suspect that we will reach a point where no one is willing to buy--or even accept for free--software that
is not signed by the authors.

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By George (er John), I think you've got it. I am not a software professional but I do have a professional, intellectual and financial interest in the outcome of this case. There does appear to be "right" on both sides but no real point to the case. It is a bit like lining up a football team against a baseball team for a good game of "scrugmuffin". The rules haven't been made up yet so we don't know what it will look like. We can be pretty sure though that it won't be pretty.
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By George (er John), I think you've got it. I am not a software professional but I do have a professional, intellectual and financial interest in the outcome of this case. There does appear to be "right" on both sides but no real point to the case. It is a bit like lining up a football team against a baseball team for a good game of "scrugmuffin". The rules haven't been made up yet so we don't know what it will look like. We can be pretty sure,though, that it won't be pretty.

Horatio
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"To claim Microsoft ignores the user and doesn't have to compete for the user's dollar is, well, ignorant."

"Microsoft changes its products in ways it thinks will make customers like its products more."

I agree with the first sentence I quoted. However, I think that John was implying that, rather than change products in ways that improve the customer's experience, they make changes that make it less beneficial to the user to choose something else. To use a bad example (but my brain's kinda fried, and I can't think of anything else at the moment) it's like putting more nicotin in your cigarette, so that you don't stop. Or at least, that's what I think he's saying.

In some ways, I'd almost agree. It is a pain to move away from .doc format, regardless of the editor itself. Just the simple fact that your editor doesn't read/write .doc files by default makes it such a pain. However, I don't think that that's Evil(TM), just that it's evil.

Rob Nelson
ronelson@vt.edu
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"I too am waiting for the answer to the question of how they make money but it's so very obvious. Either they don't or they make it through sales, service and support."

I have made money myself thru service and support. I spent $1.99 for a copy of a Red Hat CD, then installed it on a computer and turned it into a gateway/web server. But that's just me. I know other people who got hired specifically to write open source software. But that's neither here nor there. Who cares, as long as it keeps coming.

Rob Nelson
ronelson@vt.edu
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eachus: First, software wants to be free.

This line kills me, I'm sorry but was it Freud who asked "What does software want?"
(I personally think it yearns for Cuban cigars.)

eachus: Has Microsoft ever made a dime of net profit from Internet Explorer? No, they have used it as a loss-leader weapon to maintain their OS monopoly. Microsoft has used that OS monopoly to fund huge wastes of money creating incompatible products that never flew in the marketplace just to try to create a new monopoly.

Sounds like what you're all trying to do. Maybe I'm missing something but your entire "open source" revenue stream is dependent on a "loss leader": your source code.

Anything that takes this many pages (and this many people) to explain how your going to make money strikes me as an incredible con job. Sorry, I wish you all luck, anything that opens up markets is OK by me but this "movement" really requires and incredible suspension of disbelief. It's not that we don't "get it." I think we get it a lot.
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JMHawkins wrote:

Your anti-Microsoft bias clouds your arguments. To claim Microsoft ignores the user and doesn't have to compete for the user's dollar is, well, ignorant. Sorry to use such a harsh word, but it fits. Perhaps "willfully ignorant" is better (adn it implies you coud will yourself to stop being ignorant too).

Now, don't be shy, tell me what you really think. :)

Microsoft changes its products in ways it thinks will make customers like its products more.

And...? That's it? This one sentence encompasses everything I was ignorant of? Do you have any evidence to back up this claim? In what way is Microsoft penalized if it doesn't actually change its products in ways that the customers like. Just what alternatives do Microsoft's customers have?

My argument is that Open Source is succeeding because consumers are hungry for an alternative, and the software industry is just not giving them alternatives. Whether or not Microsoft is to blame, certainly Microsoft has benefitted from the lack of competitors. Why strain yourself to help your consumers when you know that they're going to pay you no matter what you build?


If I add some new wizbang feature to linux so that some random hand held company can sell more of their devices, maybe they'll pay me, but they won't pay me much because anything I add to linux immediately becomes available to their competitors, right? So my work loses much of its value because it cannot remain exclusive to the company that pays for it.

The question is what is valuable to you. Because Linux is open, you can create a derivative of it to power your handheld and avoid building an entire OS by yourself. This is a significant advantage in getting your product to market; moreover, your users benefit by not being locked in to you for support of your OS, giving them additional reason to choose your product. You do lose closed-source licensing, but is that so bad? If you had licensed your OS from Microsoft or Palm, you still wouldn't have been able to profit from it yourself (barring kickbacks from those OS producers). If you tried to write it yourself, I doubt greatly you would have been able to build something on the order of either Linux or Windows.

If we've learned nothing else from the trials and tribulations in the software world in the last decade, it's that economies of scale matter. Microsoft has leveraged it's scale to dominate the industry. Linux has leveraged the Internet to create another giant support base. If you're trying to tilt at both these windmills, you're not likely to get far.


John
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>>In what way is Microsoft penalized if it doesn't actually change its products in ways that the customers like. Just what alternatives do Microsoft's customers have?<<

Ah, so here is where I think your bias gets in your eyes. If we are talking about OSes, well there's Macs, Linux, some junk, er offering, from SUN, even OS/2 is still around. You even make this case yourself:

>>My argument is that Open Source is succeeding because consumers are hungry for an alternative, and the software industry is just not giving them alternatives<<

So, which is it? Is Open Source an alternative, or is there no alternative? Can't have it both ways, even if that's how the gov'mnt wants it with their case<g>. Additionally, Microsoft faces competition from versions of Windows it sold years ago. Your copy of Win95 will never "wear out" so you never have to replace it if it meets your needs. Why would you plunk down $89 for a copy of Win98 if it wasn't any better than Win95? Of course, if it comes pre-installed on your new machine that's not an issue. But, if it really didn't matter what Microsoft added to the next version of Windows, why would they spend billions on adding it?

What is valuable to me? As a hardware vendor, the competitive advantage my hardware has over my competitors is valuable. The software that makes it run is valuable too, but no more so than the plastic that goes into the case - unless that software is what gives me a competitive advantage. Open Source ain't going to give me that. But third party usage of open source isn't what I'm talking about anyway. I'm talking about developers creating/writing/improving the Open Source code itself. If I'm a programmer - the kind of guy who can write operating system code like file systems, security protocols, network stacks, resource managers, common UI elements - how do I make a living in Open Source? I can't make hardware, I'm a lousy salesman, my personality ain't fit for a service rep, all I can do is write kernel level code. Who's going to pay me for a free good?
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Has Microsoft ever made a dime of net profit from Internet Explorer? No, they have used it as a loss-leader weapon to maintain their OS monopoly.


I think reality was they created it to enhance their OS offering. As for profit/loss - it's the same reader, right? (in reference to Acrobat Reader..)

I am missing a link between IE and using it as a loss-leader to maintain OS monopoly. I am yet to see user who switched OSes because of the browser.

email software that conforms to SMTP is so much more valuable than email software that doesn't.

SMTP stands for Simple Mail Transfer Protocol..when you want to add value to it you have to break compatibility and hope that the value you add will be useful enough for people to expand the standard or to create another one...

See the discussion above: email software that conforms to SMTP is so much more valuable than email software that doesn't. It doesn't matter what "wonderful" bells and whistles you offer--it will lose out. (And even those companies, such as AOL that provided "gateways" to and from the rest of the Internet found that the benefits of transparent access to users outweighed any benefits from keeping "their" users captive.

I respectfully disagree. SMTP does not support 95% of functionality you can get in Outlook or any other modern reader/mail server...as for AOL - check out their latest subscriber revenues - I am sure they'll disagree with you..

Anyway - you've got so many points you're trying to make that you got me lost and confused...

-Oleg
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"It's not that we don't "get it." I think we get it a lot."

Sera, it's been demonstrated to you more than once (I'd say many, but I realize not all demonstrations may have been credible) that people do and have made money off of Linux. In fact, Compaq had 25% of the 19% of servers sold this last year with Linux on them. VA Linux tripled their revenue. Red Hat increased their revenue. Many other linux-oriented companies increased their revenue. Many linux-oriented *people* increased their revenue.

Why do people think you don't get it? I think it's because you are shown many examples and still ask "for one real example". What does it take to qualify for a real example?

Now, I'm being serious here. Yes, there's sarcasm above. But I really would like to know what would make any of the above demonstrations credible in your eyes. For real.

Rob Nelson
ronelson@vt.edu
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Ahh, but it does leave all the power in the hands of one group -- the "Open Source" group. As you identified earlier in your post, this is one of the three distinct groups debating the issue. I submit that this group is no more likely to "improve" things than any other group, and perhaps less likely because the members of the "Open Source" group typically don't pay much attention to the needs of non-technical computer users (as distinct from computer lovers or hackers.)


It is a sad indication of the state of the industry that open standards (as opposed to open-source, which is a subset of open standards), have been relegated to a 'group'.

It should be foremost in the minds of everyone in the industry, particularly players like M$ who have such a powerful say in what users use.
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JMHawkins wrote:

So, which is it? Is Open Source an alternative, or is there no alternative? Can't have it both ways, even if that's how the gov'mnt wants it with their case<g>.

Ok, this is getting silly. Half of the people who support Microsoft on this board complain that Open Source will never fly because it doesn't reward producers for their work, while the other half maintain that Open Source products demonstrate that competition in the market exists.

Yes, definitely, Open Source products are performing the same tasks as some of the products Microsoft sells, and many users can now choose between Microsoft's products and Open Source products. So yes, they are alternatives, competition is occuring. But this is not competition in the free market; it has been amply demonstrated that you can't expect to survive in the market against Microsoft, so these people are doing the next best thing. They write the software; they distribute the software; they maintain and update the software. They simply don't ask for a fee for the software. The designers make their money in other ways. Because, simply put, if you do try to market your software, Microsoft will destroy you.


But, if it really didn't matter what Microsoft added to the next version of Windows, why would they spend billions on adding it?

What, exactly, have they spent all this money on? The big news in Windows 2000 is Active Directory, which is an improvement, but isn't an earth-shattering innovation. No, Microsoft's big push has been to merge the Windows NT and Windows 9x lines, to create one single operating system -- that is where the big money is going. Does that help users? I'm not sure, but I do know that it will help Microsoft pull together it's users more tightly into a single platform that will cost them ever more to switch away from.

It is of value to Microsoft to spend money on those things which keep users tied to its product. Other than that, it really isn't important for them to do all that much more to their products. Consider that Microsoft has huge stores of cash, investments in other companies, etc. They just don't have much reason to plow all that money back into their core products any more.


I'm talking about developers creating/writing/improving the Open Source code itself. If I'm a programmer - the kind of guy who can write operating system code like file systems, security protocols, network stacks, resource managers, common UI elements - how do I make a living in Open Source? I can't make hardware, I'm a lousy salesman, my personality ain't fit for a service rep, all I can do is write kernel level code. Who's going to pay me for a free good?

If your work is of no value, you won't get anything for it. If you can't do anything else of value, you're SOL, my friend. The question Open Source developers have been trying to answer is not "how do I make money if I give away my code", but rather "how can I get anyone to use or even see my code when the software world is dominated by Microsoft." Generally, most of the people writing Open Source code seem at least somewhat talented, and not hurting for employment. But they are constrained by the realities of this market. So they go around the market, and give their creations an audience whether or not Microsoft likes it.


John
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PietrzakFool wrote:
"Ok, this is getting silly. Half of the people who support Microsoft on this board complain that Open Source will never fly because it doesn't reward producers for their work, while the other half maintain that Open Source products demonstrate that competition in the market exists."

I'll probably regret posting this reply, but here goes.

So PietrzakFool, which half do I fall into? I hope that I haven't, in the past, given the impression that I thought that LINUX (A) wouldn't fly and/or (b) demonstrate that competition in the market exists. I must admit that I have supported MSFT on this board, not that I am a defender of MSFT, but I didn't like the unfair shots against MSFT. MSFT is a business, a company, after all, not a person, and MSFT is not solely Bill Gates. I don't feel that MSFT is the boogeyman that many make it out to be. It's just another company. Call me naive if anyone likes.

In the past, I thought that I have said that LINUX (the operating system) is a viable alternative, but that it will be a niche player in which it will co-exist with other NOS and PC OS. I don't think LINUX (the operating system) will drastically change the world or kill MSFT, nor come close to mortally wounding MSFT. But that's my opinion. Many here have said that they do not believe that W2K will dominate the server market (print, mail, firewall, web hosting, processing, ftp, file, etc.) Do you believe that W2K will become dominant with servers as with Windows for desktop?

May I pose a question to you: Is it possible that Open-Source and LINUX may be re-defining the software market? That the software market (that you are so concerned about) may be changing right before your eyes and you do not see it. Is it possible that the software market may be evolving into a scenario like the following:

In the near future, the software market will be composed of four lines of products. Line 1 is the Apple line in which they provide their hardware with their softare. Line 2 is the MSFT line in which consumers can choose to purchase MSFT OS and the MSFT software that runs on MSFT OS. Line 3 is the Open-Source Line headed by LINUX and the fee for support community. Line for 4 is for the customized, miscellaneous, hybrid OS and software from UNIX for coporations to PS2 boxes in homes to the one-in-all toaster with built-in satellite connection to the internet for watching the pre-market shows on CNBC while looking at the toaster. Could the software market be naturally evolving into this state without influence from governemnt regulation?

You yourself have claimed that MSFT business model will fail. Will it fail utterly or fail to some extent? Will it be natural (market driven) or will it be induced from the DOJ or government regulation? If MSFT business is inherently doomed to fail, how come you are sweating?

I don't think that Intellectual property is really the root of current dilemma while software, as you have suggested. Intellectual property is a nebuleus, like pornography. I can't describe, but I know it when I see it. Rather, the current dilemma with software is distribution. How much does it cost, who can buy it, who needs it, how can I sell it, how can I advertise it, how can it be given to people, how much should I sell it for, do I own what I buy or do i own the license? Questions like this seems to me the central theme from all sides of the argument.

In the scenario that I have painted above, the software market will be mainly composed of 4 smaller sub-markets. Within these sub-markets, a method of distribution will involve such that you will eventually shop for distribution and not software. So instead of shopping for a Apple Imac versus a Dell with Windows98, you will be shopping for an inclusive software and hardware Imac versus a set of software with OS from MSFT or a set of software with open-source LINUX OS or tailor choose your own PC.

Would this world be acceptable to you? It is not like that we in a struggle for life and death with MSFT, are we?
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>>Why do people think you don't get it? I think it's because you are shown many examples and still ask "for one real example". What does it take to qualify for a real example?<<

Show me three dozen software engineers who write Linux code who have become millionaires through their Open Source code-writing efforts. That's money paid to folks for writting operating system code, not for writing setup packages. Microsoft has a few thousand who fit that category. Other "closed source" software companies have them too.

That's the "one real example" we're looking for. I realize Red Hat, Compaq and a bunch of other vendors have made money selling stuff based on Linux code. The question we're asking is - how do the guys who write the code make money? If they don't get paid, eventually they don't write any more code. Someone mentioned Red Hat figured out how to get suckers to write code for free - that's the argument we're asking you to rebut(or is that rebutt? Where the spell checker on this thing?).

Sorry for being grumpy today, must be the weather...
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eachus: "First, software wants to be free."

Sera: "I personally think it yearns for Cuban cigars."

No, no, no, no!

It craves truffles. <moannnn>





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Ah, shades of the NC (Network Computer)!

>>The question Open Source developers have been trying to answer is not "how do I make money if I give away my code", but rather "how can I get anyone to use or even see my code when the software world is dominated by Microsoft." <<

So Open Source is not a solution to the problem "What would consumers like to buy" but rather to the problem "why does Microsoft sell so darn much software?" Just like the NC was a solution to the problem of people buying stuff from MSFT instead of from Sun/Oracle/IBM/Novell. But I'm happy to accept that, if you can't beat the competition on their own turf, try like hell to change the playing field. But should you really try to claim it's all in the name of the "consumer" when it's really just trying to find your own competitive advantage?

>>If your work is of no value, you won't get anything for it. If you can't do anything else of value, you're SOL, my friend.<<

Now this is the point I'm trying to get at. If my skill is writing OS code, and that skill is of no value to the Open Source movement, then I'm not going to be particularly motivated to use my skill. Now, if no one with skill in writing OS code is willing to write it for Open Source, how will it get written? We've seen some hobbyists of varying skill levels (some quite high) contribute to date, but if Linux is to advance, it will require continued input from dedicated professionals. The question I keep asking is - how is writing software - the hard stuff that really matters, not setup programs - how is that of value to the Open Source community? I don't want to put words in your mouth, but from your response should I assume you don't have an answer? Give me a business plan - pretend you're trying to recruit me to your Linux-based startup and you need me to write code. What's the selling point?




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"Someone mentioned Red Hat figured out how to get suckers to write code for free - that's the argument we're asking you to rebut(or is that rebutt?"

Red Hat employs a few dozen of the more prominent kernel hackers, such as Alan Cox, and some of the less prominent GNOME hackers. Since I'm not privy to who they hire, perhaps you can email someone there.

Linus Torvalds, original inventor of Linux and de facto code maintainer, now works for Transmeta. His contract includes a clause devoting so many hours/week toward developing Linux.

Before I research 3 dozen entire people...tell me, are those valid? They've been brought up before.

"If they don't get paid, eventually they don't write any more code"

Prove your point. Name some people who have written important programs, not gotten paid, and stopped working on the programs. Preference to programs that affect people as opposed to true niche products.

Rob Nelson
ronelson@vt.edu
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>>Before I research 3 dozen entire people...tell me, are those valid? They've been brought up before<<

Fair enough. Linus himself is an interesting case. Does he count? Hard to say, because his Transmeta deal is obviously due largely in part to his "celebrity" status, rather than his pure code writing skills. Of course, as far as I can tell so far, "celebrity" is about all the currency the Open Source movement has to offer programmers. Do something to get noticed, and parlay that into big bucks somewhere else. I guess part of what I'm asking is - is that it? Is that how Open Source pays the people who actually write the code? By celebrity status?

I'm not saying (at least not yet<g>) that that's invalid, I'm just trying to figure out if that's the deal. On the other hand, if it's celebrity status that matters, how many slots are there open? Linus, the guy from Red Hat you mentioned, how many others?

One of the reasons I asked for three dozen is that it takes more than a handful of dedicated folks to write all the software the world wants these days. The closed source market we've had has produced plenty of incentive for people to dive in and ply their skills. I'm skeptical of the Open Source movement because I don't understand how it will provide that same incentive. I'm not asking rhetorical questions here, as far as I can tell, this is the heart of the matter.

So, Linus and Cox count, sure. But you have to come up with others too, they're not enough by themselves. The proprietary software market employs (employ implying they get paid) hundreds of thousands. It has made tens of thousands very well off.

>>Prove your point. Name some people who have written important programs, not gotten paid, and stopped working on the programs. Preference to programs that affect people as opposed to true niche products<<

I would maintain that the vast majority programs that affect people have been written by people paid to write them. Please give me a list of non-niche products that really affect lots of people that are freeware. Here's my competing list of "for profit" programs:

MS Windows
MS Office
Solaris
Oracle DBs
Lotus Notes
Lotus 1-2-3 (oldie, but it mattered once)
Word Perfect (ditto)
dBase (ditto)
AutoCAD
Navigator (they sold it for $50, remember?)
MS C compiler
MS Basic/Visual Basic
Borland development tools (when they existed)
etc.

I doubt 2% of the people who worked on those programs would have done so if you told them they'd never get paid for it. I can't prove that, but I'll assert it and further assert anyone who disagrees with me is being (to reuse a phrase from earlier) willfully ignorant. Personally, I myself quit one company when it started missing paychecks. So did every other decent person there, because we all found jobs elsewhere. This isn't Star Trek where replicators give us everything we need for the asking. We need to feed, clothe, and house ourselves. That's what a job is for. Hobbies are for enjoyment. I assume you don't go to a doctor who is really an Accounts Receivable clerk doing weekend appendectomies for fun?
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JMHawkins wrote:

Now this is the point I'm trying to get at. If my skill is writing OS code, and that skill is of no value to the Open Source movement, then I'm not going to be particularly motivated to use my skill. Now, if no one with skill in writing OS code is willing to write it for Open Source, how will it get written?

But it is being written, as Linvocates will be all to happy to point out. I don't believe a lack of talent will be something the open source movement will be suffering from any time soon. It will probably take a few more years until the programmers developing this stuff wake up and realize they are being exploited most shamelessly. For now though, bragging rights and ego gratification will probably be enough to carry the movement along. I suspect that most of the open source developers are relative young'ns that haven't got a lot to worry about on the making a living front. Hip didn't die out at the end of the sixties, it just went into hibernation for a few decades only to resurface in a new guise. After all, isn't the open source movement really just an electronic commune?
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"No Software Companies" does not mean "No Companies Paying People to Write Software."

>90% of software development effort *TODAY* is never sold. Think about that.

Your assumption that somebody is scamming somebody is based on the delusion that software production is like automobile production, and it isn't. Not even a little!

I believe it was Eric Raymond (who became a multi-millionare following the recent VA Linux IPO) who commented: "The funny thing is, the suits think *they're* exploiting *us*!"

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"Linus himself is an interesting case. Does he count? Hard to say, because his Transmeta deal is obviously due largely in part to his "celebrity" status, rather than his pure code writing skills."

Linus was hired to port Linux to Transmeta's chip. I believe it's called Mobile Linux, or something equally cheesy.

"the guy from Red Hat you mentioned"

Red hat employs more than one coder. I believe they employ at least 3 prominent kernel hackers and 6 GNOME hackers. Unfortunately, the only one whose name I remember is Alan Cox.

"Please give me a list of non-niche products that really affect lots of people that are freeware."

Until recently, Sendmail was an entirely free program. Now it's been commercialized, in that there is a free version (Sendmail) and a commercial version (Sendmail Pro). Perl is another important program (language even) that has played a big role in the growth of the web. Perl is and has been free.

Rob Nelson
ronelson@vt.edu
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>>> In the end, the problem is not with who owns this property, the problem is with the property itself. The success of the Open Source movement is due solely to its concentration on dealing with intellectual property in a different way, one which does not allow any one group to own the way in which people or machines communicate with each other. I don't know that this is the best way to treat IP, but I do know that it is superior to treating purely conceptual property as if it were physical property.

John -

I guess I'm missing your point.

I write custom software for a living, and make a very good living doing so. To be honest, it's never occurred to me that it was unfair for a company to pay me to develop software for them.

When a company pays me money to solve a problem, it's because that problem hasn't been solved adequately by software solutions already available to them. Now, I certainly have the option to go off on my own and develop software solutions and sell those solutions, but marketing and sales and general business just aren't my thing. I like to write code and create solutions, and doing it on other people's dime gets them solutions and makes me a living.

Software development is the easiest thing in the world to get into. You don't even need a formal education, if you're good enough at what you do. Yes, there are cash barriers to selling that product once you create it, but the world is literally full of money at the moment, just dying to get into the business. Application development may very well be the cheapest business in the history of civilization. Give me a PC and a compiler, and get outta the way.

But I'm not interested in writing for the good of mankind - if I weren't getting paid, I'd never write another line of code, except for my own use. And I'm not interested in building shrink-wrapped software. So, I sell my services and abilities to companies who need those things, to get the money I want. It only seems fair to me that if they define the problem and they foot the bill for development that they end up owning the solution. After all, if I buy a car, it belongs to me. Why shouldn't the code they pay for belong to them?

Steph
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Open Source doesn't fit either model very well though. How do I, as a programmer, earn my daily bread writing open source software that only makes money for somebody selling a hand-held device?


Easy. Work for a hardwny as a developer, freelance or otherwise. It's a win-win-win-win situation!

Win - The hardware distributor who saves heaps on licensing costs for whatever MSFT bloatware they decide to slow down the device with. They also get a feature-set customised for their particular device. The more opoular the device is, the greater the hardware company's share of profits - high margins!

Win - The programmer who gets to do new stuff, and have the name of the hardware manufacturer on his/her CV.

Win - Open Standards remain in place, increasing the 'network effects' of such devices.

Win - Microsoft is nowhere to be seen. Huge reliablility gains.
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Dsheehy -

What exactly do you do for a living? Groundskeeper? Waiter? It can't possibly be in the computer industry, because your complete inability to grasp the business makes it clear that your exposure to the business must be from very far away.

All you idealists out there who think Linux and open source are the answer aren't just missing the boat - you're missing all the possible boats, forever.

Linux is very nice. However, it's not an enduser PC platform, and has at least 5 years of development time ahead of it to get there, if it ever will. The average computer-illiterate consumer can't just buy a copy and slap it on the Gateway they just bought and be off and running (and on the Internet). It's technical and it requires technical know-how at the moment to install and keep running properly.

The thing that created the consumer PC explosion is this country was the demise of DOS. Any Fool can go out and buy a PC, take it home, and have it running and be connected to the 'net in 10 minutes. Contrary to what Linux advocates will tell you, the average consumer isn't getting more PC literate, and they don't =want= to be more PC literate - any more than they want to be more microwave literate. They just want it to work, and they don't want to have to twiddle around in the innards to get there.

And there's a business problem with Linux that nobody ever wants to talk about. Yeah, it's cheap. Yeah, you can do anything you want to it, because the source is there. Of course, if you do that then you're married to the technical people who changed it for you forever. You don't dare ever let them go, you probably can't duplicate your successes easily to other implementations, and the software you've developed for your custom operating system may very well not be functional anywhere else.

Those sound like small problems to a technical person, and in reality, they =are= small problems. Problems that can be overcome with good management, good documentation, and good controls. Of course, in all my years in the business I've never ever once been at a company that had all three, at the same time, in every place they needed it.

On the other hand, using some standard flavor of UNIX or whatever other operating system you buy shrink-wrapped off the shelf guarantees you an endless supply of geeky types who can work with it and develop on it for you. The world is full of AIX gurus and developers - and AIX is AIX is AIX.

Linux isn't going to be a truly viable product until it meets those challenges, because it won't sell to non-techincal consumers and it won't sell to large IS shops as anything other than a curiousity. Those two places are where the money is and where the trends are created.

Steph
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jc19401 wrote:


May I pose a question to you: Is it possible that Open-Source and LINUX may be re-defining the software market? That the software market (that you are so concerned about) may be changing right before your eyes and you do not see it.

Actually, I'm pretty sure that this is what I've been saying all along; that the current system doesn't work, and that therefore people are defecting from it and choosing to work on Open Source products. Open Source does involve writing software for monetary gain, just not in the way it's been done before.


In the near future, the software market will be composed of four lines of products. Line 1 is the Apple line in which they provide their hardware with their softare. Line 2 is the MSFT line in which consumers can choose to purchase MSFT OS and the MSFT software that runs on MSFT OS. Line 3 is the Open-Source Line headed by LINUX and the fee for support community. Line for 4 is for the customized, miscellaneous, hybrid OS and software from UNIX for coporations to PS2 boxes in homes to the one-in-all toaster with built-in satellite connection to the internet for watching the pre-market shows on CNBC while looking at the toaster. Could the software market be naturally evolving into this state without influence from governemnt regulation?

Uhm, I think what you just described is not the future, but the present. Apple is the last of the old-guard PC makers still using the old PC marketing system, Microsoft does things in the standard way, Open Source is the new kid on the block, and everybody else is sort of marginal right now. I think this situation will continue to change, rather than remain in this form.


I don't think that Intellectual property is really the root of current dilemma while software, as you have suggested. Intellectual property is a nebuleus, like pornography. I can't describe, but I know it when I see it. Rather, the current dilemma with software is distribution. How much does it cost, who can buy it, who needs it, how can I sell it, how can I advertise it, how can it be given to people, how much should I sell it for, do I own what I buy or do i own the license? Questions like this seems to me the central theme from all sides of the argument.

Again, I disagree. If the notion of IP were so "nebulous" right now, how come you are paying Microsoft for each software packages and following all the rules of the EULA? (Or is it perhaps that I'm the only person in the world who seems to bother with licensing agreements? That would explain a lot of things...)

Behind all your questions about costs, licensing, distribution, etc., lies the incompatibility between the incorporeal nature of software and the concrete nature of today's licensing. Microsoft's business model is so appealing because they don't really have manufacturing costs, but you're paying as if you've received a manufactured product. You're paying "per-unit" for a thing which can't be measured in units in the first place.

Software is a process, not an object.


John
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JMHawkins wrote:

I'm happy to accept that, if you can't beat the competition on their own turf, try like hell to change the playing field. But should you really try to claim it's all in the name of the "consumer" when it's really just trying to find your own competitive advantage?

The one thing I'd like to point out is, changing the playing field is pointless if consumers continue to support the original system. For some time now, consumers have continued to support Microsoft against all comers. But the Open Source movement is gaining consumers by leaps and bounds. I'd say that, regardless of whose name it is in, that many consumers are happy to see this movement occuring.


Now this is the point I'm trying to get at. If my skill is writing OS code, and that skill is of no value to the Open Source movement, then I'm not going to be particularly motivated to use my skill. Now, if no one with skill in writing OS code is willing to write it for Open Source, how will it get written?

Wrong question. If your skill is writing OS code, it's quite obvious that your skill is of value to the Open Source movement. Coders like Linus Torvalds and Alan Cox are nearly pop-heroes today. IBM, SGI, Compaq, Red Hat, VA Linux, and others are grabbing up Linux kernel hackers as fast as they can, in order to get in on the Linux revolution. If you show that your code is important enough to be added to the core distribution, you'll find you're hot property today.

Besides, the existence of Linux itself is proof that people with skill in writing OS code have been, and still are, writing that code.


John
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What exactly do you do for a living? Groundskeeper? Waiter? It can't possibly be in the computer industry, because your complete inability to grasp the business makes it clear that your exposure to the business must be from very far away.

Ummm, I develop interactive media content for ecommerce and advertising.

OK, my exposure to the business is very far away. Sure. My father was lecturing in computers way back in the '60s, and is a technological innovator. My family is full of scientists. I've been around technology my whole life. I have predicted things that would happen in the industry up to 10 years before they happened.

All you idealists out there who think Linux and open source are the answer aren't just missing the boat - you're missing all the possible boats, forever.
Linux is very nice. However, it's not an enduser PC platform, and has at least 5 years of development time ahead of it to get there, if it ever will.


Ha! Who said it even had to be an 'enduser' OS? It is a great server OS. That's enough to cripple MSFT's chances of ever dominating the server market.

MacOS X will be the OS that consumers actually choose.

The average computer-illiterate consumer can't just buy a copy and slap it on the Gateway they just bought and be off and running (and on the Internet). It's technical and it requires technical know-how at the moment to install and keep running properly.
...
And there's a business problem with Linux that nobody ever wants to talk about. Yeah, it's cheap. Yeah, you can do anything you want to it, because the source is there. Of course, if you do that then you're married to the technical people who changed it for you forever.

How is this any different to Windoze, which is notorious for requiring armies of MSFT "trained" support and helpdesk people?

Once it's going, Linux requires less maintenance.
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Steph writes:
**
And I'm not interested in building shrink-wrapped software. So, I sell my services and abilities to companies who need those things, to get the money I want. It only seems fair to me that if they define the problem and they foot the bill for development that they end up owning the solution. After all, if I buy a car, it belongs to me. Why shouldn't the code they pay for belong to them?
**

Sure, it should. No argument. It, might, though, make sense for them to open-source it.

Since software *isn't* a car, it doesn't cost them anything to give away the software they paid for - it might even be a win.

Let's say you write a billing application for FoobarCo. Suppose they take the copyright (which they have, having paid you for it) and put this software under the GPL. This can be bad, in that their competitors might get useful software for free. It's also good, in that one of those competitiors, YoyoCo (or better yet, non-competitor using the same software - a different industry or market) might pay you to add a feature that FoobarCo would like but didn't need enough to pay for.

FooBarCo wins because they got the benefit of some of your work that they didn't have to pay for.

YoyoCo wins because they got most of what they wanted for free.

You win because YoyoCo wouldn't have hired you at all unless most of what they wanted was already open-source. If you think this is likely, in fact, you might offer FoobarCo a reduced rate on the inital work if it's to be open-sourced afterwards.

Open-sourcing the application *increases* your value. (This is the business model of Digital Creations with their Zope web-database system).


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Steph (youngsl) wrote:

To be honest, it's never occurred to me that it was unfair for a company to pay me to develop software for them.

Never occured to me, either. I am all for companies paying software developers to develop software. This, in fact, is extactly the way most Open Source programmers make a living, even if all they do is create Open Source software!

No, the problem I'm describing is not with the creation of software, it's the distribution and sales of software. We have defined the software product in such a way that we attempt to regulate and license "units" of software. But there is no such thing as a "unit" of software, in normal use any program will morph and bend and flow, copied off of floppies or CDs into a hard drive, from the hard drive into memory, from memory into the processor, with possible offshoots finding their way into a graphics accelerator card cache or a sound card wave table. The running program will consume input and excrete output, perhaps even spawn child processes. :)

As such, Microsoft has over time had to concentrate on the one concrete, stable, fixed element of a software program: the user. Because the software itself is not a physical good, you are required by license to pretend to the best of your abilities that it is a physical good. You can keep a backup copy of the software around, but no more than one. If you give the software to someone else, you must destroy your copies of the software. You must do everything in your power to help along the make-believe world that you acquired a specific physical object, not an abstract description of a process for your computer to perform.

The Open Source movement may not be perfect, but it does have a much more rational view of intellectual property. You can treat software as it really is: a set of instructions, not a physical object. I expect that the industry in general will grow, that more companies will make more money, once people stop fooling themselves about what software really is. In any case, the software development work will still need to be done, and therefore programmers will still need to be hired.


But I'm not interested in writing for the good of mankind - if I weren't getting paid, I'd never write another line of code, except for my own use.

To be completely honest, it never crossed my mind to write for the benefit of mankind. I'd probably get it wrong even if I tried. I'll give you good odds that no Open Source programmer has had the good of humanity in their mind when they write their code. They are writing software for their own use! But it costs nothing to let other people use your code. So why not Open Source it?


John
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Well done, YoungI!

(YoungI's entire post can be seen at http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?id=1180128006624065&sort=postdate. Time reading it will be well-spent.)

Young1: "Linux is very nice. However, it's not an enduser PC platform, and has at least 5 years of development time ahead of it to get there, if it ever will."

Precisely ... and for precisely the reasons you've given.

YoungI: "Of course, in all my years in the business I've never ever once been at a company that had all three, at the same time, in every place they needed it."

True not only of "the" business, but of any business.



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>>>Ummm, I develop interactive media content for ecommerce and advertising.

>>>OK, my exposure to the business is very far away. Sure. My father was lecturing in computers way back in the '60s, and is a technological innovator. My family is full of scientists. I've been around technology my whole life. I have predicted things that would happen in the industry up to 10 years before they happened.

Sorry, that background wasn't clear from your statements, particularly the ones ignoring the costs of "burning Microsoft to the ground".

>>>Ha! Who said it even had to be an 'enduser' OS? It is a great server OS. That's enough to cripple MSFT's chances of ever dominating the server market.

Well, there has to be some enduser OS, and it's clear from Apple's inability to do business that the Mac OS isn't it.

>>MacOS X will be the OS that consumers actually choose.

Only if Apple pulls a Microsoft and fixes it so there are no other choices.

>>>How is this any different to Windoze, which is notorious for requiring armies of MSFT "trained" support and helpdesk people?

>>>Once it's going, Linux requires less maintenance.

I don't know who needs an army of trained Microsoft people for PC support. Most of the consumers I know just buy their E-Machine, plug it in, and go.

As for Linux requiring "less" maintenance, I suppose that depends on your point of view. From mine, anything that's a step backward technically, requiring skilled labor to add peripherals, for example, doesn't require "less" maintenance.
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>>> Open-sourcing the application *increases* your value. (This is the business model of Digital Creations with their Zope web-database system).


Open-sourcing =can= increase your value, but it's not a given.

It's true that if you're prepared to operate some version of a software house the open-sourcing might help you turn IS into a profit center. I'm not opposed to that at all.

But here's the thing. If your business is proprietary enough to need custom software, I'm not sure it makes good business sense to give away your solutions. And to be honest, most of the companies I deal with aren't prepared to go into the software business anyway, for all kinds of reasons. So, they get nothing out of giving their source away.

Steph
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>>>The Open Source movement may not be perfect, but it does have a much more rational view of intellectual property. You can treat software as it really is: a set of instructions, not a physical object. I expect that the industry in general will grow, that more companies will make more money, once people stop fooling themselves about what software really is. In any case, the software development work will still need to be done, and therefore programmers will still need to be hired.

So, in this scenario, where's the incentive for a Microsoft to put 5 or 10 years of R&D into Windows 2000? Who pays the costs associated with a long term, incredibly complex development project, and where are the profits for the company who foot that bill?

To be honest, I follow your arguments and even agree with some of them, but I'm unable to see how open source can supplant the license-based schemes currently in use. Operating systems and major applications are simply too cost prohibitive to develop if you can't sell the resulting product. Where does a Microsoft or even a Red Hat make money in this scheme?

And how does it benefit the consumer? With 4.5 million Windows 2000 clones running around on the market or for free, where does the user go for support? How can they guess or know which applications will run on their cloned operating system? Where will the quality controls come from, to protect the consumer?

For my money, even as a techie, I want something I can at least buy support for - especially if I'm a business. And I definitely don't want to be married to the single techie who did the customizations. I'd really rather pay money for a shrink-wrapped version than pay forever and ever for a customized one. For that reason, I try very hard to steer my own customers away from customizing purchased software. It's almost always cheaper to change the way you do business
than it is to change the software and support the changes.

>>>To be completely honest, it never crossed my mind to write for the benefit of mankind. I'd probably get it wrong even if I tried. I'll give you good odds that no Open Source programmer has had the good of humanity in their mind when they write their code. They are writing software for their own use! But it costs nothing to let other people use your code. So why not
Open Source it?

Let me put it to you like this - if you're Microsoft, and the option is selling a million copies of
Windows 98 at $99 bucks, or giving it away, which would you do?

Steph
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youngsl wrote:

As for Linux requiring "less" maintenance, I suppose that depends on your point of view. From mine, anything that's a step backward technically, requiring skilled labor to add peripherals, for example, doesn't require "less" maintenance.

Well, of course, the opposite tack (taken by, for example, by Microsoft and especially Apple) is to limit people's choices to just those peripherals that have been pre-programmed into the operating system. I guess for you, the most technically advanced machine would be one in which you could never add any peripherals at all.


John
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This kind of thread is why I come here. I still don't understand a lot of the abbreviations, but I think I get the 'open scource' vs 'intellectual property' thing.

As I see it, open scource programmers are sort of like novelists. They put lines of symbols together in strings that benefit the consumer in the most positive way possible. Once it's written, it may be duplicated a million times and sold to a million people.

How does an author make any money on his (her) books when copies can be passed around for free? Because they're priced reasonably enough that the average consumer doesn't mind paying for their own copy. So it's volume.

I don't see that Open Scource is being marketed to this degree yet, but remember, books used to be only for the highly intellectual and very few copies of any one book existed. There were very few authors as the market couldn't support too many. Nowadays, there are thousands of people that make a living publishing their words. Some are millionairs.

I wonder if this helps. I'm too ignorant of the particulars to even imagine how, though.

k
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Steph (youngsl) wrote:

So, in this scenario, where's the incentive for a Microsoft to put 5 or 10 years of R&D into Windows 2000? Who pays the costs associated with a long term, incredibly complex development project, and where are the profits for the company who foot that bill?

Good question. I'm still dubious of the W2K product myself, I'll have to see just how good it is. I know it has a significant amount of new code, and comes along with Active Directory, but just how different from NT is it? I agree that, even with the ridiculous amount of cash available to Microsoft, there hasn't been much reason for them to plow that money into their OSs (except for attacking the server market). (Actually, now that I think about it, wasn't 2000 originally scheduled for the desktop market as well, but they gave up on it? Windows ME is just going to be an upgrade of the existing 9x technology? It just doesn't pay for them to be putting major efforts into the desktop right now.)


To be honest, I follow your arguments and even agree with some of them, but I'm unable to see how open source can supplant the license-based schemes currently in use. Operating systems and major applications are simply too cost prohibitive to develop if you can't sell the resulting product. Where does a Microsoft or even a Red Hat make money in this scheme?

First, you're too late to say that an operating system is too cost-prohibitive to develop; Linux exists. Major applications, both closed and open, certainly are appearing for Linux as well. As for a Microsoft or a Red Hat making money, in the long term I don't see either business plan as making much sense. Raw distribution of software is just too easy for either company to command the prices they've been getting forever. Red Hat has the right idea, though: service is key. In fact, I'd point to IBM and VA Linux as the way to make big money on Open Source -- they are both providing complete hardware and software solutions, using a number of the popular distributions, and providing a variety of "mini-communities" hosted on their facilities and advertising their services. VA's efforts with Source Forge are particularly interesting, they've captured a huge amount of the existing Open Source development on their infrastructure. It's almost a captive audience for VA, containing the most important people across the entire movement.


And how does it benefit the consumer? With 4.5 million Windows 2000 clones running around on the market or for free, where does the user go for support? How can they guess or know which applications will run on their cloned operating system? Where will the quality controls come from, to protect the consumer?

To answer these questions, simply take a look at the PC hardware industry. Open Source means open standards; software becomes a commodity, and therefore multiple providers can create compatible software. If one distributor or author isn't giving you what you need, dump them and get another. Pay quality people to give you a quality solution. This is, in fact, what Caldera is trying to base themselves as; they've decided to keep themselves at arms length from the rest of the Linux crowd, offering their services directly to business with software that they have certified internally. And, of course, the *BSD os groups (which have added features to allow you to run Linux applications easily) have all stated their goals to produce software in a less radical, more methodical manner.

Again, I must stress my belief that consumers are best protected when many producers must compete for their business.


For my money, even as a techie, I want something I can at least buy support for - especially if I'm a business.

Well, then you should like Linux. For example, you can purchase support from LinuxCare, one of the leading Linux support providers. Red Hat and the other distributors all offer support for their distributions, and hardware providers like VA Linux support their products. (I believe IBM and Dell currently subcontract their support to LinuxCare, but I may be wrong about that.)


I'd really rather pay money for a shrink-wrapped version than pay forever and ever for a customized one.

And you're saying you only pay once for a Microsoft product? You never upgrade, you never have to call for service, you never have to work around bugs or hardware incompatibilities or missing functionality? I envy you.


Let me put it to you like this - if you're Microsoft, and the option is selling a million copies of Windows 98 at $99 bucks, or giving it away, which would you do?

Hey, I'll grab the cash and run. Probably won't make any friends, but I can worry about that later. :) 'Course, it's only a matter of time before someone else realizes that I'm making a ridiculous profit and undercuts me with an equivalent product...


John
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>>> Well, of course, the opposite tack (taken by, for example, by Microsoft and especially Apple) is to limit people's choices to just those peripherals that have been pre-programmed into the operating system. I guess for you, the most technically advanced machine would be one in which you could never add any peripherals at all.

Sort of. First of all, the most technically advanced machine would use =all= available devices on demand, whether those devices live inside the case or not. For example, I want all the speakers in my house integrated into my computer on demand, as well as the TV and the VCR.

True hardware object orientation and interface are a long way off, but within reach. Why have speakers for my speaker phone, stereo, TV, PC, etc - shouldn't one set, configurable, be adequate? That's the simplest possible example at a pretty gross level.

Second, the most technically advanced machine would configure itself for new peripherals on demand, including finding and loading appropriate drivers and making appropriate selections for sharing resources when no dedicated resources are available.

Yes, I want to be able to configure things myself - but I also want the operating system to be truly smart enough to do it for me, if I can't or don't want to do it for myself.

Steph
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khalou wrote:

This kind of thread is why I come here.

Me too! ;)


As I see it, open scource programmers are sort of like novelists. They put lines of symbols together in strings that benefit the consumer in the most positive way possible. Once it's written, it may be duplicated a million times and sold to a million people.

Actually, this is an important analogy, both where it matches software, and where it departs from software. Both novels and software are, in the purest sense, information which can be represented in various ways. (Novels, just like software, are commonly represented both electronically and on paper, translated into different languages, easily copied, etc.) The main difference is that, where a novel is normally meant to be a static work of art, a program is a description of an action, a description which an automaton can actually follow to perform an action. Programs are therefore constrained in ways that novels are not; and yet, they are in a way also greater than any novel can be.

In a real sense, licensing a software program is like licensing one of the proofs in trigonometry or algebra. You're getting control over not just a way of computing numbers, but one of the fundamental ways of dealing with the entire world around us.

For the majority of personal computer users today, Microsoft owns the fundamental ways they deal with their personal computers.


John
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John -

>>>I'm still dubious of the W2K product myself, I'll have to see just how good it is. I know it has a significant amount of new code, and comes along with Active Directory, but just how different from NT is it?

That's a difficult question to answer. From my point of view, they're significantly different - but I don't use my machines the way the "average" user probably does.

>>>(Actually, now that I think about it, wasn't 2000 originally scheduled for the desktop market as well, but they gave up on it? Windows ME is just going to be an upgrade of the existing 9x technology? It just doesn't pay for them to be putting major efforts into the desktop right now.)

W2K has shipped a desktop version, for "business" applications ("Pro"), and that's what I'm running. I'm exceedingly pleased with it as a development platform. It's far more stable than '98 and '95, and it's easier to configure (in my opinion) than NT was. '98's plug and play is there and improved. The install process is also vastly improved over NT's, as are the help system and the available system maintenance tools. Far more configuration and compatibility issues are resolved automatically than was true with NT. All of my '95/98 software runs fine. There are lots of other issues that make it a good upgrade choice for the way I use my machine.

However, the "business" release is a fancy way of saying that some of the high end gaming devices simply aren't supported yet. To be honest, I just don't see what most endusers would need or want with it. But as a development platform, it's killer.

I've got W2K server in its various flavors, but haven't done anything with Active Directory or networking yet, so I can't really comment on those products.

>>>First, you're too late to say that an operating system is too cost-prohibitive to develop; Linux exists.

Well yeah, but you can't claim that Linux sprang into existence from concept to code in any reasonable amount of time or without significant financial investment. How long have various flavors of UNIX been around? That's a pretty steep development cycle for any product. And a whole lot of the Linux product isn't exactly original - it's not like there hasn't been an incredible amount of corporate money and corporate effort dedicated to creating a mature Linux product - if, at least, you want to argue that Linux is mature.

>>>Major applications, both closed and open, certainly are appearing for Linux as well. As for a Microsoft or a Red Hat making money, in the long term I don't see either business plan as making much sense. Raw distribution of software is just too easy for either company to command the prices they've been getting forever.

It's always been true that pirating software has been easy, but MSFT surely makes a ton of money in spite of that. To date, none of their anti-piracy schemes has been particularly effective, but theft doesn't seem to slow down that sales curve much.

Any software company would be nuts to not be developing applications for Linux. It's clearly going to be a contender, even if it's not the anti-MS "answer". That said, Linux still has significant problems to overcome before their market presence is significant enough to argue that their open approach is having a real impact on the software market. And "closed" applications for Linux don't further your argument - those closed applications are just Office again.

>>>Red Hat has the right idea, though: service is key. In fact, I'd point to IBM and VA Linux as the way to make big money on Open Source -- they are both providing complete hardware and software solutions, using a number of the popular distributions, and providing a variety of "mini-communities" hosted on their facilities and advertising their services. VA's efforts with Source Forge are particularly interesting, they've captured a huge amount of the existing Open Source development on their infrastructure. It's almost a captive audience for VA, containing the most important people across the entire movement.

Service is key, but you can only deliver service if you've got the revenues to support good service. Even among organizations that charge for service and support, those departments are rarely profit centers. In well run ones, they generally almost break even.

And here's the thing that confuses me - Red Hat is all about open source, meaning that one of the drawing cards is easily customized operating systems. How do you "support" that kind of environment?

>>>To answer these questions, simply take a look at the PC hardware industry.

I don't buy that as an answer. Peripheral manufacturers have a vested interest in providing drivers and being compatible with the products that own big market shares. When real standards cease to exist, because all these gurus are out here selling customized operating systems as The Answer to the world's woes, what standards will exist?

I see the whole thing as a big shell game, to be honest.

>>>Open Source means open standards; software becomes a commodity, and therefore multiple providers can create compatible software. If one distributor or author isn't giving you what you need, dump them and get another.

How does that differ from the software market as it exists now?

>>>Again, I must stress my belief that consumers are best protected when many producers must compete for their business.

Now that I agree with. Competition is good for every industry that I can think of off the top of my head. But I don't see what that has to do with replacing licenses with open source.

>>>Well, then you should like Linux. For example, you can purchase support from LinuxCare, one of the leading Linux support providers. Red Hat and the other distributors all offer support for their distributions, and hardware providers like VA Linux support their products. (I believe IBM and Dell currently subcontract their support to LinuxCare, but I may be wrong about that.)

As I've said, Linux is a great tool. I'm just not prepared to take my clients there until it's a bit more mature.

>>>And you're saying you only pay once for a Microsoft product? You never upgrade, you never have to call for service, you never have to work around bugs or hardware incompatibilities or missing functionality? I envy you.

Nope, I'm not saying that at all. I'm saying that my previous version is always upgradeable to the new version, if I'm willing to put up the hardware to handle it. However, my Linux operating system that's been customized by some hot shot "consultant" to work better with the hot shot software he installed on his way out the door might very well not give me that upgrade path. And if he's written his software "solution" around his OS customizations and failed to document it, I might succeed in upgrading only to find that my multi-million dollar software solution doesn't run.

The truth is that I don't really want an open source operating system. I'd really rather deal with a known quantity, even a bad one, than one with no real controls. The OS is just too basic to everything to be playing around with too much nightmare customization.

To be honest, I'd rather pay money for W2K than get a Linux knockoff practically for free. That's terribly closed-minded and conservative, I know, but you'd just have to have been down as many dead-end upgrade paths as I have to understand why.

All I can tell you is that the "let's customize this shrink-wrapped package" has always been a mistake. From my point of view, there are really only two choices - buy or build. And if you choose "build", you'd better be prepared to go into the software business, because that's what the "build" option really means in the long run. But the worst of all possible choices is to try to buy =and= build. You always end up orphaned by the vendor, so upgrades are out, and you always end up inextricably married to the employees or consultants who did the customizations for you. And no matter what, you end up paying big, big bucks for the privlege.

In my experience, it's always cheaper in the long run to change the way you do business than it is to customize the commercial software to fit the way you do business.

If you doubt that statement, find the nearest SAP or Oracle Financials implementor and ask him what the single most common cause of implementation failure is.

>>>Hey, I'll grab the cash and run. Probably won't make any friends, but I can worry about that later. :) 'Course, it's only a matter of time before someone else realizes that I'm making a ridiculous profit and undercuts me with an equivalent product...

Sure, and that's the way business works. If you don't stay ahead of your competitors, you're yesterday's news.

Steph
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. Programs are therefore constrained in ways that novels are not; and yet, they are in a way also greater than any novel can be.

I think I know what you mean. Way back in '79 or '80, I went to Control Data Institute to learn programming. Basic, RPG 2, Fortran, & Cobal. I remember the freedom of the various languages. The trick was to use subroutines and if/then stuff to produce programs that would perform the criteria of the assignment with the least amount of lines of code. (Memory was at a premium in those days) Some were geniuses at it. What I couldn't get below 2 pages, they were doing in 1/2 a page. (There weren't many of them doing that, mind you.) But I understood the beauty of the minimalistic goal.
Bare efficiency isn't necessarily the mark of a great novelist, but to those potential programmers, it was an art.
Never made the jump to what you people are doing nowadays, though. We had 'IBM' cards and magnetic tape drives. The year I graduated, all that stuff was becomming obsolete. Probably should have tried harder to get into the industry. By now, I'd have something more than questions to offer this board, not to mention the fact that, with all that Y2K crash hype, I'd be a millionaire working on Y2K compliance solutions. Ah, the lamentations of a misspent youth.

;-)

k





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"W2K has shipped a desktop version, for "business" applications ("Pro"), and that's what I'm running. I'm exceedingly pleased with it as a development platform."

It looks like a great development platform from what I've seen of it. However, it's still like NT. It's confusing to most end users, regardless of the power behind it. We use 98 cause people have it at home. It's that simple.

Still, it's an improved product that doesn't seem to have any major drawbacks. It still lacks the consumer-friendliness of the 9x line tho.

"And "closed" applications for Linux don't further your argument - those closed applications are just Office again."

It depends. The mentality of Open Source, I think (and I seem to be in the minority and it's why I don't wish to associate myself with the Open Source Evangalists that knock on your door and spread the word like a bad Jehovah's Witness), goes deeper than applications. Applications, schmaplications. Who cares? What's the important part? The data format. I want to be able to view, create, edit, and migrate my data in any system. Word 97 format, what's that? I want "spreadsheet", "word processor", and "presentation" formats, not formats for different versions of software. I think what *really* needs to be open is data formats. XML is cool, cause it's a start. Just needs to follow thru.

So, if it's Office, I don't care. As long as I can take the same file and read it in WordPerfect, or AbiWord, or even *shudder* vi. In that sense, closed apps don't matter.

Don't believe me? Oracle 8i, DB2, Informix-SE, and Sybase are all popular databases for Linux. OpenMail seems to be doing real well. Plenty of other apps, from CodeWarrior on up (I might be doing a review of ColdFusion soon, in fact) are supported and making a profit.

So, I agree when you say companies are crazy to not develop for Linux, but I think you're wrong that closed apps don't count. Closed data doesn't.

"Even among organizations that charge for service and support, those departments are rarely profit centers."

I beg to differ. IBM's service division is their big money maker, and tends to cover the PC sales that never brings in good money (if it's in the black, that is).

"And here's the thing that confuses me - Red Hat is all about open source, meaning that one of the drawing cards is easily customized operating systems. How do you "support" that kind of environment?"

I see Red Hat as more offering a transparent OS. Or at least wanting to. They want the OS choice to be immaterial, and want you to choose Red Hat's expertise at getting your applications up and running. If that means customizing the environment, so be it, but I think it's more along the lines of "support is easy cause we can see what's broke".

"However, my Linux operating system that's been customized by some hot shot "consultant" to work better with the hot shot software he installed on his way out the door might very well not give me that upgrade path. And if he's written his software "solution" around his OS customizations and failed to document it, I might succeed in upgrading only to find that my multi-million dollar software solution doesn't run."

I agree. But hasn't this happened to you on Windows before? I now there are differences in all their opsys's that kill old applications, nothing you can do to get around it. In fact, we have scheduled for tomorrow an upgrade from WinFrame to MetaFrame because an upgraded app doesn't work on WinFrame any more. (Yes, the guy who got the upgrade is a complete idiot for not asking whether it would work on winframe or not. Regardless, it's our job to do the upgrade tomorrow. Just using it as an example)

The potential's surely higher, but I don't think it's used as much. If anything, what are compile-time options in Linux tend to be run-time options in Windows. While Linux's kernel is more modular than windows, the parts that are modular typically require a recompile whereas the modular parts of windows require changing a value in the registry and rebooting, for example.

"In my experience, it's always cheaper in the long run to change the way you do business than it is to customize the commercial software to fit the way you do business."

Yes and no. Sometimes, radical changes are needed for the software. Even if it's cheaper monetarily to change the process, the human resistance factor sometimes grabs you by the balls and won't let go ;)

Rob Nelson
ronelson@vt.edu
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Well, there has to be some enduser OS, and it's clear from Apple's inability to do business that the Mac OS isn't it.

That is just so funny. Apple have had real problems doing business lately - they can't even keep their systems on the shelves long enough to gather dust!

>>MacOS X will be the OS that consumers actually choose.
Only if Apple pulls a Microsoft and fixes it so there are no other choices.


No, I'm talking about FREE CHOICE. Something Micro$oft would not know about. pretty much everyone who uses a Mac today is doing so out of definite free choice. There is so much FUD, manipulation and pressure from MSFT and PC boxmakers, so many lies told about the Macintosh. You are perpetuating them yourself.

MacOS must be pretty good if people are willing to 'buck the system' and choose it in the face of all the "Ooooo, it's incompatible, and ooooo there's no software" BS that comes from the WinTel side.


I don't know who needs an army of trained Microsoft people for PC support. Most of the consumers I know just buy their E-Machine, plug it in, and go.


Hmmmm. you obviously haven't been to a university lately. the support staff for the Windows labs are in so much demand. It's crazy.

Windows costs a lot more to maintain. At my University, it took one person to maintain the same amount of PCs as there were in the Windows lab. The Windows lab took three people to do the same job - and the Mac labs were used more!

MacOS is just way easier and more productive for the average user.
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PietrzakFool wrote:

No, the problem I'm describing is not with the creation of software, it's the distribution and sales of software. We have defined the software product in such a way that we attempt to regulate and license "units" of software. But there is no such thing as a "unit" of software, in normal use any program will morph and bend and flow, copied off of floppies or CDs into a hard drive, from the hard drive into memory, from memory into the processor, with possible offshoots finding their way into a graphics accelerator card cache or a sound card wave table.

Extending your logic then, I suppose novels, songs, movies; in fact, anything that isn't made of iron and steel, that can be encoded and distributed via a computer no longer can be defined as products. How is a novel different from a computer program in regards as to whether or not it can be defined as a product? Lest you have images of hard bound books in your head, let's limit the discussion specifically to ebooks. How about music created, stored and licensed for playback via the internet; product or not? Suppose I make a movie using my Mac movie studio and choose to license it for viewing via the internet. Am I licensing a product or not?

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Congratulations! You've just argued for open standards

Sort of. First of all, the most technically advanced machine would use =all= available devices on demand, whether those devices live inside the case or not. For example, I want all the speakers in my house integrated into my computer on demand, as well as the TV and the VCR.
True hardware object orientation and interface are a long way off, but within reach. Why have speakers for my speaker phone, stereo, TV, PC, etc - shouldn't one set, configurable, be adequate? That's the simplest possible example at a pretty gross level.
Second, the most technically advanced machine would configure itself for new peripherals on demand, including finding and loading appropriate drivers and making appropriate selections for sharing resources when no dedicated resources are available.


What you have just described here is IEEE.1394, otherwise known as Firewire. developed by Apple, it is now an open standard.

It is designed to do exactly what you say. There are already heaps of breat stuff available. Check out the firewire loudspeakers which enable you to hook up your Hi-Fi to a computer network. Check out all the video cameras that use it. Check out the fact that it is being incorporated into HDTV as a connectivity standard.

It's not as far away as you think!
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It depends. The mentality of Open Source, I think (and I seem to be in the minority and it's why I don't wish to associate myself with the Open Source Evangalists that knock on your door and spread the word like a bad Jehovah's Witness), goes deeper than applications. Applications, schmaplications. Who cares? What's the important part? The data format. I want to be able to view, create, edit, and migrate my data in any system. Word 97 format, what's that? I want "spreadsheet", "word processor", and "presentation" formats, not formats for different versions of software. I think what *really* needs to be open is data formats. XML is cool, cause it's a start. Just needs to follow thru.

Yes, XML is very cool. It think the use of XML is a real saving grace for the new versions of Office. Without that, they'd be less than nothing.

I just pray that it is kept 'open' by MSFT, and they don't try to pull XML*Plus or anything like that!
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Steph (youngsl) wrote:

True hardware object orientation and interface are a long way off, but within reach. Why have speakers for my speaker phone, stereo, TV, PC, etc - shouldn't one set, configurable, be adequate? That's the simplest possible example at a pretty gross level.

Yes, that's true. Still, in order to achieve this you need either to make sure that absolutely everyone conforms to some manner of having their peripherals announce their presence and capabilities to connected computers (which I don't see happening any time soon), or computers which are absolutely brilliant about guessing what objects are in your house (you'd have to give it eyes and hands, I guess, because that's what I have to use to flip switches and connect leads on my speakers/TVs/radios/etc.).

I agree that where possible, a computer should be able to figure things out by itself, but I'm not willing to constrain my choices to just those things it can figure out by itself. We need industry to create better, more recognizable and controllable peripherals, but until that happens I'm still willing to provide the computer with the information it lacks by myself to get my equipment working.


John
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>>>It looks like a great development platform from what I've seen of it. However, it's still like NT. It's confusing to most end users, regardless of the power behind it. We use 98 cause people have it at home. It's that simple.

Actually, I think the interface is far more similar to '98 than to NT. However, they've moved things around quite a bit, so for a person who's accustomed to either NT or '98, it takes a bit of getting used to.

>>>Applications, schmaplications. Who cares? What's the important part? The data format. I want to be able to view, create, edit, and migrate my data in any system. Word 97 format, what's that? I want "spreadsheet", "word processor", and "presentation" formats, not formats for different versions of software. I think what *really* needs to be open is data formats. XML is cool, cause it's a start. Just needs to follow thru.

I understand your point and even agree. I find it annoying to have to have a filter to open a Word document in WordPerfect, and then lose parts of the formatting anyway.

But here's the thing - if you buy into the open source arguments, one doesn't come without the other. I think standards are wonderful, as long as they're standards and not legislation, but I think open source for OSes and applications is unworkable. I haven't seen an argument yet that gave me pause in that position.

>>>Don't believe me? Oracle 8i, DB2, Informix-SE, and Sybase are all popular databases for Linux. OpenMail seems to be doing real well. Plenty of other apps, from CodeWarrior on up (I might be doing a review of ColdFusion soon, in fact) are supported and making a profit.

Oracle, DB2, Informix and Sybase are all popular databases, period. Since their business is data access, it would be defeating the purpose (and killing their business) to make that data difficult to get to.

As to the others, heck, maybe you're right. I'm just mystified about how a company can afford to make a 10 year commitment to developing an operating system and then make a profit not selling it.

>>>I beg to differ. IBM's service division is their big money maker, and tends to cover the PC sales that never brings in good money (if it's in the black, that is).

But IBM's service division includes their extremely profitable consulting services, if I'm not mistaken. And as to covering IBM's PC sales, well, that's not much of a stretch, is it?

>>>I see Red Hat as more offering a transparent OS. Or at least wanting to. They want the OS choice to be immaterial, and want you to choose Red Hat's expertise at getting your applications up and running. If that means customizing the environment, so be it, but I think it's more along the lines of "support is easy cause we can see what's broke".

Again, that's where I have something of a problem. A transparent OS would be heaven, but that transparent OS just doesn't exist, yet. And it gives me the terrible creeps to think that I'm going to be handling clients who've not just failed in their customized software implementations but screwed up their OSes doing it.

Of course, as my husband would say, it's just another billing opportunity. I guess I'll just voice my useless warnings to my clients, they're ignore me as they generally do, and then I'll get paid twice - once to do it their way and once to fix it. I just hate to do business like that, though. It seems to me that there's plenty of money to go around without having to watch people make junk out of their operations to get it.

>>>I agree. But hasn't this happened to you on Windows before?

Well, no. Oh, not that I haven't had upgrade problems with OSes and applications, I've had many and spent many hours and lots of money correcting the problems. You can't upgrade an OS without creating some problems for yourself.

But what I haven't had is a customized OS where I couldn't get the answers easily or cheaply because the problem was completely unique to my installation.

Now, as I said before, this is actually a fairly simple problem to solve and work around. All you have to have is good development control, great documentation, and tough, knowledgeable management. So, how many IT shops have you seen that actually had those prerequisites?

>>>The potential's surely higher, but I don't think it's used as much. If anything, what are compile-time options in Linux tend to be run-time options in Windows. While Linux's kernel is more modular than windows, the parts that are modular typically require a recompile whereas the modular parts of windows require changing a value in the registry and rebooting, for example.

Oh, I think it will be used far too frequently, and sometimes without the customer being aware of it. Experienced consultants have made an incredible amount of money over the years cleaning up messes left behind by big name consulting firms who were clearly little more than theives - satisifed to provide either incompetent service, or create situations where they thought the customer would have to be married to them forever.

I'm reminded of a major client I had who, because of security, was convinced by a consulting company to buy a =custom= network OS and implementation - and I mean custom in the sense that it wasn't TCP-IP compliant. I'm sure the guy who sold that one is still floating around on his yacht, laughing all the way to the bank. And these weren't small companies, either - you'd recognize both the client's name and the consulting company's name. Granted, management should have known better - but you know, that's why people hire us.

Now I'm off on another rant. These are really different issues. I'm just paranoid about open source operating systems because I've seen so many abuses and incompetents over the years.

>>>Yes and no. Sometimes, radical changes are needed for the software. Even if it's cheaper monetarily to change the process, the human resistance factor sometimes grabs you by the balls and won't let go ;)

Oh, we've all had customers who insisted that it had to be called a doohickey instead of a widget, because that's how they've always done it. [shrug] All you can really do is tell them the truth, give them the best advice you can, and then watch them throw money.

Steph
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>>>Yes, that's true. Still, in order to achieve this you need either to make sure that absolutely everyone conforms to some manner of having their peripherals announce their presence and capabilities to connected computers (which I don't see happening any time soon), or computers which are absolutely brilliant about guessing what objects are in your house (you'd have to give it eyes and hands, I guess, because that's what I have to use to flip switches and connect leads on my speakers/TVs/radios/etc.).

No doubt about it - you have to have good, workable standards to get there. But we're not going to have standards until companies believe there's money in complying. We'll get there, but it will be because of profit motive.

Although at the way hardware prices are coming down, I'm beginning to believe that the answer is smart peripherals rather than PCs.

As to the interfaces, well, that's one of the places I think we'll see a real revolution over the next 10 years. We're accustomed to thinking of the bus in terms of our PC, and that's gonna have to change.

>>>I agree that where possible, a computer should be able to figure things out by itself, but I'm not willing to constrain my choices to just those things it can figure out by itself. We need industry to create better, more recognizable and controllable peripherals, but until that happens I'm still willing to provide the computer with the information it lacks by myself to get my equipment working.

Depends on who you are, obviously. I don't mind doing my own configurations, because I can. But you know, 200 million people in the US don't know an IRQ from a motherboard. Going back to technical intervention just isn't going to cut it on the consumer side. Business can afford a certain amount of it, but even they need to minimize it. Nobody can afford to throw away a day configuring a workstation anymore.

Steph
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Steph (youngsl) wrote:

...as a development platform, it's killer.

Ok, I guess I'm going to have to try and come up with a copy of it. (I've got a couple of applications I need to be able to port from Linux to Windows and vice-versa, but I've been holding back on getting a true Windows development system.)


Well yeah, but you can't claim that Linux sprang into existence from concept to code in any reasonable amount of time or without significant financial investment.

Sure I can. Linux was, in fact, written as new code from the ground up. It conformed to specifications (like POSIX) that were years in the making, but the os code itself "sprang into existence from concept to code" in just a couple of years. Linux would have been in trouble if it had had to rely upon any commercial code.

I was using Linux to run software I was developing as far back as 1994.


And a whole lot of the Linux product isn't exactly original - it's not like there hasn't been an incredible amount of corporate money and corporate effort dedicated to creating a mature Linux product - if, at least, you want to argue that Linux is mature.

Number one, there hasn't been an incredible amount of corporate money and corporate effort dedicated to creating a mature Linux product. Linux is a volunteer effort, and was a viable development platform even before version 1.0 was released. It's stable, it's feature-packed, it's got a large suite of applications -- I'd say that Linux is about as mature now as anything out there today.


Any software company would be nuts to not be developing applications for Linux.

Y'know, it's wonderful for a guy like me to hear things like that. Five or six years ago, I constantly had to justify to people why I was "wasting my time" with Linux. At my previous job, my boss would just laugh at me when I suggested we should be targeting the Linux platform with our product. She's not laughing now...

(BTW, would you consider Microsoft to be a software company that is nuts?)


And here's the thing that confuses me - Red Hat is all about open source, meaning that one of the drawing cards is easily customized operating systems. How do you "support" that kind of environment?

Red Hat is all about Open Source, but that does not necessarily mean customizing operating systems. Certainly, if you want to customize it, I suspect Red Hat will support you, but only if you pay for the expertise used (i.e., you'll be employing some of their experts). So if you don't want to pay someone, don't customize.


I'm saying that my previous version is always upgradeable to the new version, if I'm willing to put up the hardware to handle it. However, my Linux operating system that's been customized by some hot shot "consultant" to work better with the hot shot software he installed on his way out the door might very well not give me that upgrade path. And if he's written his software "solution" around his OS customizations and failed to document it, I might succeed in upgrading only to find that my multi-million dollar software solution doesn't run.

Steph, I have only one thing to say: you've gotta fire this "hot shot." He's obviously not helping you any. Hire someone who knows what he's doing, uses standard Linux tools and practices, and documents his work. There are certified Linux software engineers out there, try one of them. You just aren't going to get very far if you keep hiring flakey employees.


John
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>>>Ok, I guess I'm going to have to try and come up with a copy of it. (I've got a couple of applications I need to be able to port from Linux to Windows and vice-versa, but I've been holding back on getting a true Windows development system.)

I installed it the day it went gold - took half an hour. I've rebooted once since then, because I went out of town for a weekend and didn't want to leave it running. I've crashed plenty of apps, and taken my development environment out several times, but the OS is sold.

Perfect? Nope. Microsoft has done a few of it's usual annoying things. But definitely better. Much better.

>>>Sure I can. Linux was, in fact, written as new code from the ground up. It conformed to specifications (like POSIX) that were years in the making, but the os code itself "sprang into existence from concept to code" in just a couple of years. Linux would have been in trouble if it had had to rely upon any commercial code.

I wasn't implying it relied on commercial code. I was implying that it relied heavily on other unix systems. Hey, I didn't write it - you may very well be right that it's entirely original. I gotta say, though that that's the first time I've heard that assertion.

>>>Number one, there hasn't been an incredible amount of corporate money and corporate effort dedicated to creating a mature Linux product. Linux is a volunteer effort, and was a viable development platform even before version 1.0 was released. It's stable, it's feature-packed, it's got a large suite of applications -- I'd say that Linux is about as mature now as anything out there today.

If you buy the assertion that all the development of all the unix family of products has contributed not at all to the development of Linux, then you're probably right.

Um... weren't there some seriously hotshot unix gurus involved in Linux?

I'm not going to argue with you about the maturity of Linux. It clearly depends on where you're standing how mature it is.

>>>(BTW, would you consider Microsoft to be a software company that is nuts?)

Microsoft has always made at least some business decisions that I thought were nuts. I've never understood why on earth MSFT wasn't delivering applications to every possible platform they could get into. Sometimes I think they really miss the boat. I suspect they think they can starve the opposition, but in the case of Linux, that's clearly not going to happen.

>>>Steph, I have only one thing to say: you've gotta fire this "hot shot." He's obviously not helping you any. Hire someone who knows what he's doing, uses standard Linux tools and practices, and documents his work. There are certified Linux software engineers out there, try one of them. You just aren't going to get very far if you keep hiring flakey employees.

Hey, I would never have hired him to begin with. But the world is full of customers who have no experience with these choices and are relying on hired guns to guide them in the right direction - and the world is full of "consultants" who are nothing more than thieves.

Unfortunately, these are the very clients who can't afford those kinds of mistakes. A big company knows how to take care of itself - it's the little guy who's going to be seduced by the price and led astray by some creep who're going to get screwed.

These little guys have to have technology, but they can't afford too many experts. Not that you can't victimize clients with any product - clearly you can - but open source creates one more easy place to steal from them.

That's no excuse to not use Linux or open source or anything, for that matter. I'd simply be reluctant to recommend it to a client who couldn't afford or didn't already have his own in-house talent.

Steph
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Thermopile wrote:

Extending your logic then, I suppose novels, songs, movies; in fact, anything that isn't made of iron and steel, that can be encoded and distributed via a computer no longer can be defined as products.

Actually, let's take it a step further; novels existed before computers, before movies, before books, even before written language. As a relatively modern example, I believe the Old English story Beowulf was an oral tradition for some hundreds of years before it was ever written down in any form. It was only encoded as human memory, and was quite literally distributed by "word of mouth".

We can, then, describe intellectual property as "property of the mind", in that a human mind is both necessary and sufficient for that property to exist. You've gotta have a person somewhere in the loop, but even if that's all you have, the property continues to exist.

Therefore, if you want to control a piece of intellectual property, the only logical point of control is the person in contact with that property. The various licensing choices for novels, music, movies, and software involve not ways of controlling the property itself (which is ultimately impossible) but restraining the people associated with that property.

So people start distributing MP3s on the internet. What does the music industry do? The logical thing, sue the Universities where the majority of people currently passing around music are. Because you can't keep control over the music itself, but you can get control over the people using it.

So people start copying software? Do a deal with the hardware providers, to ensure that every person who buys any new hardware pays for the software whether they use it or not. (Just try getting a refund for the software that comes with your new computer, you can't do it.)

The difference with Open Source software is simply that it controls people in a different way. The software is the same, but you have a different set of freedoms and restrictions in using it. And, it's my belief that this set of restrictions works better with the true nature of software.


John
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"But here's the thing - if you buy into the open source arguments, one doesn't come without the other. I think standards are wonderful, as long as they're standards and not legislation, but I think open source for OSes and applications is unworkable. I haven't seen an argument yet that gave me pause in that position."

That's why I love and hate the "Open Source Movement". I think there are great parts (open the data) but you get branded a fanatic for agreeing even in part with it. That's why I noted above that I try to distance myself from it ;)

As far as OS's and applications go, I think it's a "been there, done that" kind of deal. Many OS's and applications are open. Butt o think that they should eliminate everything closed is insanity.

"I'm just mystified about how a company can afford to make a 10 year commitment to developing an operating system and then make a profit not selling it."

This leads into your next statement....

"But IBM's service division includes their extremely profitable consulting services, if I'm not mistaken."

Consulting's a service, right? If *I'm* not mistaken, IBM basically gives away the OS on their big iron and as/400's, charging the customer for maintenance and consulting services only. If IBM (I've Been Moved) can do it, I think anyone can ;)

"Now, as I said before, this is actually a fairly simple problem to solve and work around. All you have to have is good development control, great documentation, and tough, knowledgeable management. So, how many IT shops have you seen that actually had those prerequisites?"

You listed 4 things. Choose 3. You have an IT shop ;)

I dunno what you do for a living, but I'm in IT support, working for a consulting house. We regularly customize the OS to improve the customer's experience. And this is with NT, Novell, and Unix solutions. Most are just simple registry key-type settings, or parameters in a text file...but you'd be amazed how the change of one setting can bring down an office for days until it's fixed ;) That was my only point.

"Oh, I think it will be used far too frequently, and sometimes without the customer being aware of it."

Hmmm, as part of the "open source movement" I've seen it infrequently. But that's just me. I'd like to see some stats one way or the other, really.

"All you can really do is tell them the truth, give them the best advice you can, and then watch them throw money."

Yep. If nothing else, it's good job security - cause you know they're gonna call you back to fix it *your* way after they're proved wrong.

Rob Nelson
ronelson@vt.edu
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Steph (youngsl) wrote:

Experienced consultants have made an incredible amount of money over the years cleaning up messes left behind by big name consulting firms who were clearly little more than theives - satisifed to provide either incompetent service, or create situations where they thought the customer would have to be married to them forever.

I'm reminded of a major client I had who, because of security, was convinced by a consulting company to buy a =custom= network OS and implementation - and I mean custom in the sense that it wasn't TCP-IP compliant. I'm sure the guy who sold that one is still floating around on his yacht, laughing all the way to the bank. And these weren't small companies, either - you'd recognize both the client's name and the consulting company's name. Granted, management should have known better - but you know, that's why people hire us.

Now I'm off on another rant. These are really different issues. I'm just paranoid about open source operating systems because I've seen so many abuses and incompetents over the years.



And these abuses and incompetents you've seen over the years, they've been mostly associated with Open Source products?

Come on, Steph, you're projecting your fears onto open products without warrant. Sure, people can abuse open software, but people can abuse anything. You can't convince me that just because the software has the word "Microsoft" stamped on the box it came in, that it is somehow magically more resistant to con artists and flim-flams.

Products like Linux are able to get the job done. That's all anyone can ask of a piece of software. When software alone can start recognizing an abusive employee and work to counteract that person's activities, it will probably be smart enough to get the job done without any employees at all...


John
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Steph (youngsl) wrote:

I wasn't implying it relied on commercial code. I was implying that it relied heavily on other unix systems. Hey, I didn't write it - you may very well be right that it's entirely original. I gotta say, though that that's the first time I've heard that assertion.

Well, now you know. The general public license is basically in complete opposition to the licensing restrictions of most commercial code. If any commercial products had snuck into Linux, we'd have seen lawsuits flying years ago, not to mention that the more radical elements of the movement would have defected to other open products.


Um... weren't there some seriously hotshot unix gurus involved in Linux?

Yeah... if you count the fact that they made their names by creating Linux. Linus Torvalds, Alan Cox, and so forth are the cream of the Linux crop, but not because they had gained a reputation elsewhere first. :)


Hey, I would never have hired him to begin with. But the world is full of customers who have no experience with these choices and are relying on hired guns to guide them in the right direction - and the world is full of "consultants" who are nothing more than thieves.
...
That's no excuse to not use Linux or open source or anything, for that matter. I'd simply be reluctant to recommend it to a client who couldn't afford or didn't already have his own in-house talent.

So recommend them to get in-house talent. You're telling me that you feel safer with clients getting consultants for Microsoft products than for Linux? That, somehow, the Microsoft brand name has kept the thieves away?


John
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Rob -

>>>Consulting's a service, right? If *I'm* not mistaken, IBM basically gives away the OS on their big iron and as/400's, charging the customer for maintenance and consulting services only. If IBM (I've Been Moved) can do it, I think anyone can ;)

I don't think it's quite that simple. Note, if you will, IBM's past failure to capture a truly significant chunk of the PC and PC OS market in spite of their domination of other parts of the computer field (at that time, anyway), and in spite of their extensive service department and consulting services. The failure of OS2 might be the best example.

As far as IBM giving away operating systems and tools, there's at least some truth to that. Course, they don't give away hardware, and they sure don't give away support.

But the issue is really different in the PC world. Small business and private consumers make up a huge share of that market, and the tolerance may not be there for high priced support contracts. I'm not arguing that it's not a better value, just that consumers tend to think that they shouldn't =need= expensive support if the product's good.

I think in some ways, that's a much easier sell to medium and large businesses who are used to those kinds of realities than it is to small business and private consumers.

>>>I dunno what you do for a living, but I'm in IT support, working for a consulting house. We regularly customize the OS to improve the customer's experience. And this is with NT, Novell, and Unix solutions. Most are just simple registry key-type settings, or parameters in a text file...but you'd be amazed how the change of one setting can bring down an office for days until it's fixed ;) That was my only point.

I do application development, project management, various kinds of design, and all kinds of advising on a consulting basis. And yes, we customize too, at the level you're talking about.

But you know, that's really not the same class of thing, from my point of view. Changes to the registry are relatively easily carried over in upgrades - my registry came over complete, with no problems, from '95 to '98, for example. One of the purposes of the registry is exactly that - to centralize and facilitate control.

It's also true that if you do too much of even that kind of customization and your applications aren't prepared to deal with changes in the environment then you can get yourself into big trouble. Other applications that change the environment, for example, can make you tear your hair out.

I guess I'm saying that there are customizations and then there are CUSTOMIZATIONS, but either kind is going to make life unpleasant if you're not controlling your shop well.

>>>Hmmm, as part of the "open source movement" I've seen it infrequently. But that's just me. I'd like to see some stats one way or the other, really.

Well, to be fair, a lot of my personal conservatism on the subject has to do with the number of messes I've gotten hired to clean up. I don't have much faith in consultants, experts, and trained, certified techs - too often, clients get sold the coolest solution instead of the most workable one or the one that makes the most business sense.

So, I tend to be resistent to too-rapid change. Not for myself. Heck, I always do betas for OSes and development platforms, and I love the latest and greatest hardware and software toys. But I'm slow to recommend the flavor of the month to my clients, because I want them to succeed, and I want them to bring me back next time - preferably for something new and interesting instead of to reimplement the solution that didn't work right last year.

[g] In other words, I'm conservative with the client's money and time and not with my own. I figure that one of the things I get paid for is to figure out what works so they don't have to.

>>>Yep. If nothing else, it's good job security - cause you know they're gonna call you back to fix it *your* way after they're proved wrong.

Yeah, although I don't find that much consolation. To be honest, I've got all the work I can handle without having to make work. I'd much rather do it right than do it over. [g] The hallmark of a lazy programmer, I suppose.

Steph
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>>>And these abuses and incompetents you've seen over the years, they've been mostly associated with Open Source products?

Not at all, and I didn't intend to imply that was the case. My professional interaction with open source products has really been minimal to date.

All I was trying to say is that with the abuses and incompetence already in the industry, it seems to me like open source =may= tend to exacerbate the problem instead of being part of the solution. I'm by no means sure that's the case, it's just one of the things I worry about in making recommendations to my clients.

>>>Come on, Steph, you're projecting your fears onto open products without warrant. Sure, people can abuse open software, but people can abuse anything. You can't convince me that just because the software has the word "Microsoft" stamped on the box it came in, that it is somehow magically more resistant to con artists and flim-flams.

Hey, I don't argue that at all. It's clear to me that I have a bias, and perhaps it's an unreasonable bias. But you know, it doesn't cost me or my clients much to be cautious, right now. With lifecycles shortening at the rate they are, waiting five years to move to that arena won't really make any difference in most cases.

Again, this is personal experience - but I can't think of any clients who've been damaged by waiting another lifecycle to kick over to the latest and greatest. For most companies, particularly small ones who can't afford a lot of risk, a conservative, one-step-behind-the-bleeding-edge is generally a better solution. They have business problems, and I try not to add technology problems to complicate their lives.

>>>Products like Linux are able to get the job done. That's all anyone can ask of a piece of software. When software alone can start recognizing an abusive employee and work to counteract that person's activities, it will probably be smart enough to get the job done without any employees at all...

[lol] I dunno whether to pray for that day or dread it.
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>>> So recommend them to get in-house talent. You're telling me that you feel safer with clients getting consultants for Microsoft products than for Linux? That, somehow, the Microsoft brand name has kept the thieves away?

I always recommend my clients get in-house talent, if they can afford it. They need to be able to support their own day-to-day operations without having to chase down contract labor.

And yeah, I do feel safer =right now= recommending Microsoft products over Linux. I don't think the MSFT name keeps the wolves out, but I do think that there's more talent available, and that generally you need less talent to keep things running on a daily basis. If nothing else, the knowledge base is incredible, as is the talent pool.

It's clear to me that Linux is a viable product, but for lots of reasons I'm in no hurry to push clients in that direction. Since most of them are already Microsoft shops, there's not currently much utility for the small company to convert. That may very well change in the next few years, but for the moment, it still looks like the safest bet.

Steph
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youngsl: Yeah, although I don't find that much consolation. To be honest, I've got all the work I can handle without having to make work. I'd much rather do it right than do it over. [g] The hallmark of a lazy programmer, I suppose.

Steph


Not at all! It's the hallmark of a responsible business person (and I'd bet a successful one.) I have read all these threads and am most impressed with this discussion. The day that Steph OK's Linux for small to mid-level businesses is the day I'll think of it more as a "solution" than just busy work (sorry) for disgruntled techies.

Pietzak, I totally respect your efforts and your interests, as well as your intellect. I do not feel however that Linux is a viable OpSystem for the long term. (Believe me, the day I do is the day I will invest in it.)

I also read Robert Stillman's manifesto for GNU (thanks for the link, ptbb.) That guy should, imho, should be exposed for either the half-wit or snake oil salesman he is.

I think there's a huge gullibility factor out there that's being bought into just to "get back" at MSFT. I pity the people who donate to this cause; expect for the fact that the knowlege and dicipline they gain will likely be very useful (no knowlege is truly wasted.) But as a viable business solution- no way.

JMHO.
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"The day that Steph OK's Linux for small to mid-level businesses is the day I'll think of it more as a "solution" than just busy work (sorry) for disgruntled techies."

Must it be Steph? I got a call today about providing support for a small hospital that has a Linux server that they need help with. To dissuade the "see, it needs help!" remarks, they have it installed but want help setting up some monitoring software and customizing the reports.

"I also read Robert Stillman's manifesto for GNU (thanks for the link, ptbb.) That guy should, imho, should be exposed for either the half-wit or snake oil salesman he is."

Richard Stallman. He may be nuts, but he just gives credence to a saying I'm sure we've all heard...Some of the smartest people I know are the dumbest people I know. He's a genius, but sometimes it goes off the deep end just a bit.

"But as a viable business solution- no way."

Since you seem to have more faith in what Steph says...do you not think that it has to have some potential as a business solution, if he thinks it's insane NOT to port programs to it?

After all, Steph didn't say never use it...he just said he wouldn't recommend it to the small businesses he works with.

Rob Nelson
ronelson@vt.edu
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Stephanie (youngsl) wrote:

All I was trying to say is that with the abuses and incompetence already in the industry, it seems to me like open source =may= tend to exacerbate the problem instead of being part of the solution. I'm by no means sure that's the case, it's just one of the things I worry about in making recommendations to my clients.

Ok, I'll accept that, so long as you accept that, being as I've used and supported open source for years, I personally disagree. I can confirm that Linux is good software. And that humans are humans, regardless of software. There are certainly niches now (firewall, print serving, mail serving, file serving) where Linux has proved its usefulness in business of all kinds for years now. I believe that it is a useful product for many purposes.


...you know, it doesn't cost me or my clients much to be cautious, right now.

Well, Linux is ten year old technology at this point. :) Caution is good, but I don't think it is necessarily an argument against giving Linux a try...


John
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Sera wrote:

Pietzak, I totally respect your efforts and your interests, as well as your intellect.

(sigh) That always seems to be as far as I ever get -- "John, I respect you for your mind..." :(

;)


I think there's a huge gullibility factor out there that's being bought into just to "get back" at MSFT. I pity the people who donate to this cause; expect for the fact that the knowlege and dicipline they gain will likely be very useful (no knowlege is truly wasted.) But as a viable business solution- no way.

What is a viable business solution today? If you want to create software for a desktop solution, generally it's to go to work for Microsoft, or put together a business plan such that Microsoft might be interested in buying you out. If you're interested in writing software for the categories Microsoft controls (for example, let's say you're an operating systems programmer, and would like to create a different OS than Microsoft is providing), what do you lose by going open source? It's not like you were going to have a viable business intruding on Microsoft's turf in the first place.


John
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(PietrzakFool's entire post is at http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?id=1180128006624102&sort=postdate.)

PF: "It's not like you were going to have a viable business intruding on Microsoft's turf in the first place."

Now that's an interesting statement, John.



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"I totally respect your efforts and your interests, as well as your intellect."

(adding a comment that I heard too many times during my younger days)

"... but, let's just be friends."

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh......

Have a Foolish Weekend!
DarrelPr
(A proud employee of MSFT but speaking strictly on my own behalf.)






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That always seems to be as far as I ever get -- "John, I respect you for your mind..." :(

Remember, John, I was about to slap you in my P-box and it was Sera1 who told me to calm down. I think her exact words were that you are "smarter than a grape." I took her advice.

Randall

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Sera wrote:

Pietzak, I totally respect your efforts and your interests, as well as your intellect.

PietrzakFool: (sigh) That always seems to be as far as I ever get -- "John, I respect you for your mind..." :(

;)


lol. cute.


Sera: I think there's a huge gullibility factor out there that's being bought into just to "get back" at MSFT. I pity the people who donate to this cause; expect for the fact that the knowledge and discipline they gain will likely be very useful (no knowledge is truly wasted.) But as a viable business solution- no way.

PietrzakFool: What is a viable business solution today? If you want to create software for a desktop solution, generally it's to go to work for Microsoft, or put together a business plan such that Microsoft might be interested in buying you out. If you're interested in writing software for the categories Microsoft controls (for example, let's say you're an operating systems programmer, and would like to create a different OS than Microsoft is providing), what do you lose by going open source? It's not like you were going to have a viable business intruding on Microsoft's turf in the first place.


John


Let's see, the ones I see today are people who write custom code to interface with Unix, Oracle and API's. I see people who have started their own companies to write games. I know a few gaming programmers and then there's the Mac world, the very creative side of the use of computers. I also see a phenomenal vacuum there to be filled in decent applications for the Windows and Mac OS, from good fax programs to better word processors, things that people would be willing to pay for.

John I don't doubt your insights and your feelings of being shafted by MSFT, I just find the whole Linux -GNU ideology, business model disturbing. And believe me, it is not because I'm not open minded to a MSFT alternative (I was a Mac user forever and I'm totally mercenary about my investing.)

Here is what troubles me:

1.) The Hatred of Copyright. The "movement" cites Beowulf (sounds anecdotal to me but none-the-less) the only other example I can think of is The Bible. The bible is given away free but what does the church depend upon for its source of revenue? Cult-like devotion and "service and support" (for the soul.) Please don't anyone take this as anti-religious. I'm not. I'm looking at the business model only. Churches also are "free" but demand an unparalleled level of devotion and "tithing", it is also a fragmented market (by the way.)

2.) The concept that "software wants to be free": No, the internet wants to be free. Software wants to be protected. No one should put energy into something they don't even own and expect a return. If they do, for social value or whatever devotion or social satisfaction they derive from their effort, expect to be rewarded only by good will, charitable donations and, well, social satisfaction. Someone will come along and find a way to take your “free product” and make a buck off it. Oh, ok, wait. Linux advocates say they will be able to make a buck off it…How? Sales, service and support. Therefore you have an even more, imo, obnoxious business model where the only thing that is truly “open” is the amount a customer will have to open his/her wallet when they get dependant on the thing. That labor will be available on the open market, somehow keeping the “cost” of labor competitive? Well…that would be either the consulting business (a business with very little “quality control”) and a business heavily dependent on the screw-ups of others. Pricing, here, is also an open-end game.


3. Free/cheap labor- Sounds like an agrarian economy to me. Forever dependent on either slave and/or migrant worker. Because agriculture is “open source” (you can get those seeds anywhere). Except for the ownership of private property (the farm) – a concept “open source” advocates deplore- revenues are completely and forever dependant on either automation or low wages. Or worse, corporate ownership and government subsidy.

4.) The barter/”collective” economy. Again, back to the nobody owns it routine. Well, than what you are doing is bartering your talent/labor for something else in return. It sounds as I stated before (in my original posts) like a third-world barter economy. Sell your goods at the bizarre and get any price the market will bear. Since there seems to be a distain for hard currency here and since nobody owns it; welcome, you've just joined “the collective”.

5. FinallyThe Manifesto. I'll let this “humble” document speaks for itself.

To quote Richard Stallman himself, (who as ptbb pointed out: lives in his donated office at MIT and he supports his mission with donations and a $1 million MacArthur Scholar prize grant.):


“I am asking computer manufacturers for donations of machines and money. I'm asking individuals for donations of programs and work. “

“GNU will remove operating system software from the realm of competition. You will not be able to get an edge in this area, but neither will your competitors be able to get an edge over you. You and they will compete in other areas, while benefiting mutually in this one. If your business is selling an operating system, you will not like GNU, but that's tough on you. If your business is something else, GNU can save you from being pushed into the expensive business of selling operating systems.I would like to see GNU development supported by gifts from many manufacturers and users, reducing the cost to each.

“If anything deserves a reward, it is social contribution. Creativity can be a social contribution, but only in so far as society is free to use the results. If programmers deserve to be rewarded for creating innovative programs, by the same token they deserve to be punished if they restrict the use of these programs.

“The reason a good citizen does not use such destructive means to become wealthier is that, if everyone did so, we would all become poorer from the mutual destructiveness. This is Kantian ethics; or, the Golden Rule.* Since I do not like the consequences that result if everyone hoards information, I am required to consider it wrong for one to do so. Specifically, the desire to be rewarded for one's creativity does not justify depriving the world in general of all or part of that creativity.”

[* Sera here, I can't tell you how much I loathed Kant. The “categorical imperative”. What total B.S. I still couldn't get one college professor to coherently explain what this was. Kant, the only philosopher who was truly and totally full of it.]

"Won't programmers starve?"
"I could answer that nobody is forced to be a programmer. Most of us cannot manage to get any money for standing on the street and making faces. But we are not, as a result, condemned to spend our lives standing on the street making faces, and starving. We do something else.

But that is the wrong answer because it accepts the questioner's implicit assumption: that without ownership of software, programmers cannot possibly be paid a cent. Supposedly it is all or nothing.
The real reason programmers will not starve is that it will still be possible for them to get paid for programming; just not paid as much as now.

Restricting copying is not the only basis for business in software. It is the most common basis because it brings in the most money. If it were prohibited, or rejected by the customer, software business would move to other bases of organization which are now used less often. There are always numerous ways to organize any kind of business.

[Sera here: OK, like what?]

Probably programming will not be as lucrative on the new basis as it is now. But that is not an argument against the change. It is not considered an injustice that sales clerks make the salaries that they now do. If programmers made the same, that would not be an injustice either. (In practice they would still make considerably more than that.)

[Sera: need I really show the Marx parallel here? What is this "Das Gnu?"]

Stillman posits: "Don't people have a right to control how their creativity is used?"

Stillman answers: "Control over the use of one's ideas" really constitutes control over other people's lives; and it is usually used to make their lives more difficult.

Ok, Sera again. I'll let this document speak for itself. I don't think my commentary is at all necessary.

I do have one question though:

Stallman again:

“Schools will be able to provide a much more educational environment by encouraging all students to study and improve the system code. Harvard's computer lab used to have the policy that no program could be installed on the system if its sources were not on public display, and upheld it by actually refusing to install certain programs. I was very much inspired by this.

OK, I'm curious. So, why did Harvard itself stop this policy?


It's early, please forgive any typing and formatting errors. I an just putting this out there with my morning coffee. For what it's worth.

Sera

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Remember, John, I was about to slap you in my P-box and it was Sera1 who told me to calm down. I think her exact words were that you are "smarter than a grape." I took her advice.

Randall


rofling!
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(Sera's entire post can be seen at http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?id=1180128006624106&sort=postdate. It's worth reading!)

You're on a roll this morning, Sera! <grin>

Sera: "The concept is that "software wants to be free": No, the internet wants to be free. Software wants to be protected."

Good point, Sera ... although I might contest even that, depending on the definition of "free Internet".

Sera: "No one should put energy into something they don't even own and expect a return. If they do, for social value or whatever devotion or social satisfaction they derive from their effort, expect to be rewarded only by good will, charitable donations and, well, social satisfaction."

Another good point. Further, there's the old concept of the right hand not knowing what the left's doing, the prohibition against "publishing good works".

Frankly, I think this whole "movement" is born of the old adage, "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach". Unfortunately, often what they teach is the very thing that rendered them unable to "do"; and animus against what they perceive to be the reason for their failure in the marketplace.

That is, I think, one of the great failures of our educational system.

Something worth remembering, I think, is that when any successful "product" is brought to market, successive changes (adaptations/iterations/incarnations) follow until there's market saturation of what's perceived to be a perfected product. Then someone "builds a better mousetrap".

That is, given free market rein (or reign) and absence of authoritative intervention that's what happens. And it all happens in the marketplace, not in "institutions of higher learning".

In twenty years, the landscape of "information technology" will probably have changed beyond recognition if the "gummit" keeps it's grubby little hands in its pockets.

If it doesn't and history is any indication, we'll probably all still be using basically the same products; and a housing with a "new" color will be a big deal.