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What is Open Source? 322

Posted by michael
from the if-you-have-to-ask dept.
s390 writes "The Inquirer is running an article by Olliance about "What is Open Source?" It appears to be the first of a two-part series for managers about how to engage with the open source community. The writers seem to know their material. Are they on target or have they missed something important? Do PHBs really need to read this sort of introduction to get comfortable with the idea of using Linux and other open source software?"
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What is Open Source?

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  • The thing I see is (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BoomerSooner (308737) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @01:07PM (#6285813) Homepage Journal
    everyone seems to think just because something is Open Source it is default GPL'ed.

    Antitrust kind of fell into this trap (worst computer movie ever!).
  • Maybe (Score:5, Funny)

    by T40 Dude (668317) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @01:08PM (#6285824)
    they should ask SCO ?
  • by cK-Gunslinger (443452) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @01:09PM (#6285837) Journal

    .. no one can be told what Open Source is.
    • by roman_mir (125474) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @01:18PM (#6285938) Homepage Journal
      Oh, you mean we need to pop some pills and find out for ourselves?

    • Open Sores? Yuck! reference to Fox Trot comic: http://smilingirl31.tripod.com/comics/foxtrotlinux .gif
    • by MxTxL (307166) <mlutter @ g m a i l.com> on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @01:58PM (#6286376)
      This is your last chance. After this there is no turning back. You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your Windows environment and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep Open Source goes... Remember, all I'm offering is the truth, nothing more...
    • Bah, there's so many Matrix/Jedi/Magic references here... Forget all those pop-crap 'reinterpretations', here's the real thing:

      Source Te Ching - The Source and Its Power (by Lao Stallman)

      That which cannot be compiled, is not the True Source.
      That which must be NDA'd is not the Open Source.
      The code is the Source of all things, great and small.

      Ever desireless, one can see the mystery. Ever desiring, one sees the manifestations.
      These two spring from the same source but differ in name;
      this a
  • by SkewlD00d (314017) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @01:10PM (#6285845)
    Enough said [fsf.org]. theRegister: RTFM!! Must be a slow news day.
    • by antis0c (133550) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @01:52PM (#6286310)
      Funny, seeing as Free Software and Open Source are two entirely different things. They each have their own foundations. The Free Software Foundation [fsf.org], and the Open Source Initiative [opensource.org].

      FSF, GNU, GPL and all that was started by Richard Stallman, RMS from here on. Open Source, OSI and the Open Source Definition was first drafted by Bruce Perens. They are very similar in nature but have a lot of differences in the details. There FSF focuses primarily on GNU GPL and LGPL, The OSI and OSD are more broad, and do include the GPL under its terms, but also a variety of other licenses. The OSD sets up a moral standard, with 10 (originally 9) Sections to define a set of common guidelines a license must have to be considered Open Source.

      The philosphies of these two men differ slightly. Where as RMS believes ALL software should be free and no commercial software should exist, Bruce Perens believes both can co-exist and co-mingle for the greater benefit of both. If you've ever seen the movie Revolution OS, they talk a good amount about the differences between FSF and OSI and GPL and OSD. Bruce Perens is even quoted as saying that the major difference is RMS believes all software should be GPL, and anything that isn't hurts the GPL. RMS doesn't seem such a 'great leader' after you get into the details. Granted, he's done a lot of good things, I hear the non-jews had a good life in Nazi Germany too.

      So, yes, RTFM indeed.
  • by Sheetrock (152993) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @01:11PM (#6285850) Homepage Journal
    Which means that Open Source needs to be carefully pitched to them -- commercial, closed source software is how business has been done for thirty years, while free software is still kind of a wierd new hippiesh thing (although having big-time companies like IBM embracing it helps.)

    It's like the saying goes; when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like it needs a pounding. Nobody ever got fired buying Microsoft, whereas Open Source seems like a gamble... even moreso now with the bogus SCO lawsuit. Calmly and rationally explaining to the people that make the procurement decisions at your company that free software is a valid alternative and explaining why is necessary, because by default they're going to want to go with what they've always went with.

    • I think big business, care mutch about the warranty (even if the EULA say the program is guaranteed to do nothing) and support (+2 hours of phone menus) then anything else. That is why we need big companies to suport and warranty linux, like IBM and redhat. Small business and home offices should be more confortable with using linux, if they had a little push like those reviews and introductions arround.
      • Big business does not get support direct from the vendor except in rare cases.

        I know of one company that contracts IT to CSC, at £1200+/box/yr plus £40/call plus £80/relocation. (IE moving the box accross the room or accross the world.)

        They think it's worth it because it gives them known costs, support who know the business (although that bit backfires a bit...), someone to blame when things go wrong (penalty clauses and SLAs) and all the other things that make them com
    • by brejc8 (223089) * on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @01:22PM (#6285990) Homepage Journal
      A friend of mine who works at an unnamed Swedish company was very much for open source software, but when his managers were thinking of buying software they allways went for the medium-small sized companies reather than the large sized or open-source. The reason was that if they programs didn't work purfectly they could put pressure for the companies to fix it. If they refused they would bury them in legal threats and colapse the company and move on. Thus not many companies would refuse to fix bugs and solve problems.
      Interestingly the concept of the company fixing its own problems as they hold the source was just unthinkable. No manager would give themselves more work no matter how much money it would save.
      • by TopShelf (92521) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @01:36PM (#6286150) Homepage Journal
        That's an interesting point that many people overlook - just because IBM supports Linux doesn't mean that IBM makes a good partner for smaller businesses.

        A couple years ago I was part of a vendor selection process for a WMS, and one the three contenders (EXE) basically eliminated themselves by not demonstrating that they took customers of our size (~$200 million) seriously. I sent them data to use for our scripted demo weeks in advance of our visit, only to have their technical sales rep get back to my voice mail with initial questions at 5:30 p.m. the day before we were to arrive - and by that point I was already on the plane. The demo, obviously, turned out underwhelming.

        Their functionality was top-notch, but all the signs were that we'd be a small-ish customer to them, and hence not worthy of focused attention (read: flunky implementation consultants among other issues). A major component of any software purchase decision has to be the potential relationship between the customer and vendor, and how well the customer feels they'll be treated going forward...
      • The reason was that if they programs didn't work purfectly they could put pressure for the companies to fix it. If they refused they would bury them in legal threats and colapse the company and move on.

        I find that kind of interesting, if not slimy. Most software includes some type of "provided as-is license". This would seem to indicate that a customer doesn't have a lot of legal ground to stand on regarding buggy software. Custom contract work is probably a different story.

        Has anyone actually sued (and won) a vendor for buggy software? I'd be interested because Quicken on the Mac, though far more useful than Gnucash, crashes quite often. Intuit has acknowledged this, but provided no fix. Guess they think I should be grateful they didn't write info to my MBR....

      • My experience at the company I work for has verified what your friend's Swedish company does. Big companies are going to be unresponsive to bug reports and feature requests because big companies by nature move slowly, are ponderous, and not as nimble as smaller ones. The same, interestingly, is also true of groups within companies.

        The only reason big companies will be responsive to requests is if the company doing the requesting is also big (i.e. a very important client). This makes perfect business sense: It is much more important to make sure a client that spends $10 million on your products each year is happy versus a researcher at a university that spends $1 thousand.

        Your other point about companies fixing bugs in OSS since they have access to the code is also right on. It is not always easy to fix bugs in code, especially if the code is non-trivial in size or complexity. It takes time to learn the code well-enough to solve bugs in it, unless they are glaringly obvious. So the time that may be saved by reusing open source code must be weighed against the time it takes to learn that code if a company intends to make fixes to it.

        Finally, I think most companies do not understand open source licenses, and because of this ignorance, they are afraid that by using open source code they will have to give away all their proprietary code. The threat of this alone is enough to make any company afraid.

        At the company I work at, open source proponents would need to convince the high ups at the company (CEO, CIO, etc.) about the safety and utility of open source, and once those guys made a decision to use it, they would make it a possibility for group managers and individual developers to explore open source solutions to use in their projects.

        Peaceful regards,
        Devin

      • by Cereal Box (4286) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @01:53PM (#6286323)
        Interestingly the concept of the company fixing its own problems as they hold the source was just unthinkable. No manager would give themselves more work no matter how much money it would save.

        See, you have the misconception that simply having access to the source means you can fix problems in an acceptable amount of time. If you've ever had to pore over a massive project you'll realize that you could spend a couple days trying to track down and fix a problem that is preventing you from finishing your real work or you could simply send a problem description off to the guys who originally wrote the code (and who you're already paying for), and they'll probably be able to fix the problem far quicker than you ever could. THAT is the reason closed-source software is so appealing. If you have a problem with a piece of code you bought you can tell them "hey, I've got a problem, I'm paying you, get on this problem and fix it for me ASAP or we'll be re-evaluating our business relationship with you." With open source software, you might get lucky with helpful developers and you might not. You never know. What you do know is that you don't have the ability to really push open source developers to fix problems for you, and that's a major drawback.
        • If you want to be able to put pressure on Free Software developers, then you have to have a business relationship with them. This is no different than what happens with commercial software vendors. For example, let's say you purchase a software package, and then decide that you are going to skip an expensive upgrade cycle. With commercial vendors the most likely response to "fix this problem, or else" is "it's fixed in the next version that will be $XXX to upgrade your licenses."

          With Free Software you

          • However, if you are truly worried about support, the simple answer is to purchase a support contract from the vendor of your choice. Not only will your support contract likely cost you less than licensing commercial software, but if you feel your vendor isn't giving you adequate support you can purchase support from someone else.

            You're saying that you can buy a support contract from any number of organizations? Forgive me for sounding less than enthusiastic about that prospect. If I buy support for prod
            • You're saying that you can buy a support contract from any number of organizations? Forgive me for sounding less than enthusiastic about that prospect. If I buy support for product X from company Y, yeah they're my only option, but they make product X and the guys who coded it are intimately familiar with it. They have specialized knowledge of it.

              It's no different in the Free Software world. Free Software doesn't spring forth from the mind of Zeus fully grown, some hacker writes it. Most of these hacker

        • The Open Source option is just that, an option. It is not the end-all, be-all of software paths for a company to follow. But it should still be looked at and given a chance. The people who can benifit from Open Source the most are large companies who already have programers on staff. The programers can learn the project and start fixing bugs/adding features to it without the need to deal with all the corporate politics that are involved with B2B. This way you can put pressure on a person to get the job
        • See, you have the misconception that simply having access to the source means you can fix problems in an acceptable amount of time. If you've ever had to pore over a massive project you'll realize that you could spend a couple days trying to track down and fix a problem that is preventing you from finishing your real work or you could simply send a problem description off to the guys who originally wrote the code (and who you're already paying for), and they'll probably be able to fix the problem far quicke
        • "you could spend a couple days trying to track down and fix a problem that is preventing you from finishing your real work or you could simply send a problem description off to the guys who originally wrote the code (and who you're already paying for), and they'll probably be able to fix the problem far quicker than you ever could."

          This point does have merit, but I suppose you're talking about problems with small to mid sized companies. Big ones (Like Microsoft, IBM, Novell, etc.) aren't going to fix you

        • I was going to point out that reliable, accountable support is available for many open-source software packages too, from vendors ranging from IBM and RedHat down to the self-employed geek down the street that runs his own consulting business, but I realized you had a point.

          When a commercial support organization for an open-source application gets a bug report, they can analyze the source code to gain an understanding of the app design, troubleshoot to the best of their understanding, and consult the origi
  • by Faust7 (314817) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @01:13PM (#6285888) Homepage
    On Slashdot? This has to be the grand-slam heavyweight champion of trick questions.
  • Hush! Hush! (Score:5, Funny)

    by LX.onesizebigger (323649) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @01:15PM (#6285908) Homepage

    As someone who hopes to graduate with a Bachelor of Business Admin and a Bachelor of Science (CS) and has an interest in OSS, my thoughts on this:

    Hush! Don't tell them! OSS will be a comparative advantage to some of us. Don't ruin that!

    (TWAJS)

    • by zogger (617870)
      You nailed it. It's a HUGE economic and practicality advantage in most cases for businesses. If they can maintain their competition (somehow) to keep using the expensive buggy stuff, they can pull ahead quickly. And even better if they completely "get it" and share back, they'll have the help and interest in their products they deserve, their business will do better, they can make more money and pay the help and stockholders more..on and on. I'm amazed that businesses still cling to that which just costs an
  • GNU's definition (Score:3, Interesting)

    by plj (673710) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @01:16PM (#6285914)
    The article seems to be pretty concentrated to OSS community. But how about GNU's definition [gnu.org] of OSS?

    Personally, I think its the license, which answers the question.
  • Sorry (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BillsPetMonkey (654200) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @01:18PM (#6285931)
    But on theinquirer, this is preaching to the converted, and the linux side banner "blindingly easy" betrays a lack of objectivity in approach. I'm not trolling, but this article won't be noticed by the people who really need to see it.

    In the area of marketing the "linux zealot" tag is our own worst enemy and unfortunately that's what this will be labelled.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Chances are a PHB will have heard some of the anti-OSS FUD that's going around and this article takes no steps to address that. A semi-technical sceptic PHB will dismiss this article.
  • Not obvious (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jad LaFields (607990) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @01:19PM (#6285945)
    As a someone who is relatively new to /., the 'geek scene', and alternative software, I'd just like to point out to many people I don't think that OSS is a very simple, obvious concept. I haven't finished reading the article yet, but I think the idea of explaining OSS simply to 'non-geek' people is a good one, considering the "if you don't know what it is, figure it out yourself, we're not pandering to anyone" attitudes I've seen every once in awhile. Well, off to finish reading...
    • Self-Reliance (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Bame Flait (672982)
      Although I posted offtopic flamebait above, I'm moved enough by this post to respond seriously.

      Businesses have a problem these days when it comes to software implementation - people aren't very good at it. This is typically (in my experience), because they have a hard time finding the right people who are expert in implementing software (which in many businesses, is at least as challenging as developing it). This difficulty is compounded when you have to deal with third-parties, which are notoriously u
    • Re:Not obvious (Score:5, Informative)

      by Milo Fungus (232863) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @01:59PM (#6286385)

      Agreed. As a greenie geek I spent a lot of time just getting up to speed. To save you some Googling (which is a great way to learn about OS/FS), let me post some links for you. These were articles that I've found particularly helpful.

      Some of these weren't around when I was getting into things. Creative Commons came a bit later. Most of my earliest reading was from GNU. You've already found Slashdot, which is one of the best resources for learning about FS/OS, especially as it relates to current developments.

      One word of caution: FS/OS is a religion. People can be very zealous about their views on it. Be careful as you formulate your own opinions, which will likely change over time. When in doubt, choose a more moderate approach. (If you're interested, my personal views can be found here [joeysmith.com].)

      I hope this is helpful. Well, off to more reading myself...

    • As a someone who is relatively new to /., the 'geek scene', and alternative software

      Welcome. Hope you like it here.

      I haven't finished reading the article yet, [...]

      It's quite obvious you're new. Noone here really reads the linked articles. Just read the headline, maybe skim the summary and then post either a "Fuck M$"! post or make a 1. [Headline] 2. ??? 3. Profit! joke. That's how it works here.
    • I'd just like to point out to many people I don't think that OSS is a very simple, obvious concept.

      It depends upon how they were brought up. When you've spent your whole life being told "software must be controlled by the author", then it's very hard to grok the concept of open source software. If you don't understand the concept of source code, then understanding the difference between proprietary freeware (IExploder) and open source freeware (Mozilla) is very difficult.

      Although I'm not as old and decre
  • open source is fun (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tuffy (10202) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @01:20PM (#6285959) Homepage Journal
    Or, perhaps less simply, it's the notion that writing code for its own sake can be worthwhile - both to the writer and to everyone else.
  • So.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by zapfie (560589) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @01:20PM (#6285967)

    What is Open Source?

    Open Source is patient. Open Source is kind. It does not envy.

    It does not boast, it is not proud

    It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered

    It keeps no record of wrongs

    Open Source does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth

    It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres

    • ...and its nose should pant, and its lips should curl, its cheeks should flame, and its brow should furl. Its bosom should heave, and its heart should glow, and its fist be ever-ready for a knock-down blooooooooow.
      • This release includes the beta nose. I'm still working on the lips. I had to remove the heart because it didn't work right for anyone but me, still looking at that.
    • Thank you for the list of things to avoid saying to a business-person when trying to sell them on linux.

    • Looks like a riddle... So, going by your criteria...

      What's patient, kind, not envious, not boastful, not proud, not rude, not self-seeking or easily angered, not prone to record-keeping of wrongs, leans to truth instead of evil, protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres?

      I know! It's a HOOKER!

  • assumptions (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thoolihan (611712) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @01:23PM (#6286001) Homepage
    The author assumes some things. High Quality? Some software is. OpenSSH for starters. However, anyone who's spent some time installing packages on various GNU or BSD systems knows there are some really awful projects out there too.

    Now that I think about it though, thanks to the Java version of ICQ, I think closed source still holds the worst app of all time record...
    -t
    • Quality? Not. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Animats (122034) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @01:52PM (#6286305) Homepage
      High Quality? Some software is. OpenSSH for starters.

      Only some of the time. One big problem with open source software is that there's only so much attention to go around. High-profile projects like the Linux kernel and Apache get that attention. But once you get past the top 25 projects or so, attention is limited and quality becomes spotty.

      The biggest problem is mid-level open source software that's useful but contains some major design error. It's almost impossible to fix such things. Those projects don't get the attention needed for a major rewrite, and the "patch" approach doesn't generate a redesign.

      CVS is a good example of this. It's a basically good idea, implemented badly. CVS is a client/server system with a database back end. But the client/server system is ad-hoc, as is the database system. CVS clients look for specific text messages coming back from the server; there's no proper client/server protocol, not even error codes. The "database system" is just a collection of data files, lock files, and status files, which can get out of sync.

      "Subversion" was written to deal with these issues. When it's done, it will do about what CVS does, but hopefully better. That indicates a failure of the patch-based open source process. CVS couldn't be fixed within the process; it was necessary to start a new project and rewrite.

      Below the projects that are marginally successful is the dark underside of open source, the thousands of dead and moribund projects on SourceForge. The SourceForge people like to boast about how many projects they have, but for most of them, they're just providing free hosting for trash.

      • Excellent post. Wish I could mod you up.

        People (well, Slashdot "people") tend to automatically associate "open source" with "quality". Yes, in theory the more eyes you have looking over code and the more people you have making fixes and enhancements will yield an optimal product. But, like you said, few projects are high-profile enough to receive such attention.

        One point you forgot to mention is the tendency for open source projects to splinter off, creating confusion and lack of standardization. Ever
      • Re:Quality? Not. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by CERonin (630207) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @02:15PM (#6286560) Journal
        Below the projects that are marginally successful is the dark underside of open source, the thousands of dead and moribund projects on SourceForge. The SourceForge people like to boast about how many projects they have, but for most of them, they're just providing free hosting for trash.

        The "dark underside" you refer to exists regardless of the development model. I can't tell you how many projects I've worked on in the "real" (read "commercial") world that went exactly nowhere. The difference, of course, is that these "real" projects (and, occaisionally, a career or two) would die a quiet death in a shallow grave in a cubicle, rather than in public on freshmeat.

        IMHO, the mortality rate for OS projects is just about right. And try not to think of failed projects as "trash". Think of it as rich loam, the vital compost that will spawn new (and possibly) better OS software. Or not ;)

      • I think you only read the part of my comment you quoted. If you'll read the rest, you'll see I'm saying that there are a lot of bad-half finished projects out there in the ports and packages sections of the various distros (along the lines of your CVS rant).

        Regardless, I'll add that since this is supposed to be for business managers, quality is important. Sometimes the opensource community has it(apache, openBSD, Grub), sometimes it doesn't. However, many hobbyist and slashdotters are big on opensource
      • Re:Quality? Not. (Score:3, Informative)

        by bullestock (556584)
        Below the projects that are marginally successful is the dark underside of open source, the thousands of dead and moribund projects on SourceForge. The SourceForge people like to boast about how many projects they have, but for most of them, they're just providing free hosting for trash.

        True, and SF has recognized this - they have recently announced that they will start purging projects with no activity.

    • The problem isn't always "quality" but "completion". I'm always running into programs versioned at 0.4 and 0.9-beta all the time. Even on the better distrobutions. Personally, I'm tired of half-finished programs being distributed as workable solutios when they aren't. The worst is what look like good and usefull programs that have been abandoned by their developers.

      "But you could finish it yourself", some of you are saying. No, that I can not do. I am not a programmer. I have not written a program s
    • This made me squirm a little:
      Open Source software has the following characteristics, some of which are not usually found in legacy commercial software:

      # Control resides with the user
      # Highly stable
      # Proven security
      # End-User input to evolving functionality
      # Excellent quality
      # Highly flexible
      # No or reduced License Fees
      # No vendor lock-in
      # Self-determined upgrade path
      # Can run on less expensive hardware
      # Very cost-effective
      # Freedom of vendor choice
      # Fast development cycles
      # Ongoing evolution.


      Wow, all op
  • PHB? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Does it make me more or less of a geek that I thouhgt "Player's Hand Book" before "Pointy Haird Boss" when I read PHB?
  • by Neophytus (642863) *
    Open source is any source that is available. open source software is whatever you want it to be
  • Missing the Point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Delphix (571159) * on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @01:31PM (#6286093)
    While I read slashdot daily, and have an appreciation for Open Source software, I think a lot of you miss the point. I work for a company that builds 3D simulations. For years we used IRIX. SGI was simply the best graphics rendering stations you could buy. We still have some fridge sized boxes, an old Octane, and a couple O2s sitting around.

    However, we've moved to Linux. We use Red Hat 7.2. Why? Because Open Source is great? Beacause we're giving back to the community? No. Because Linux allowed us to reuse all our simulation code that was built using Unix interoperabilty on more modern hardware, cheaper. We can go grab a GeForce4 Ti 4600 off the shelf, get a 8MB Buffered IDE HD, and Dual Athlon chips and they'll eat those O2s / Octanes, and even the old fridge sized Onyx. Slap six of them together and you've got a six channel renderer. We did have to change our IG software. We were using Performer, now we use a third party developed renderer.

    For years our the company that developed our renderer has supported both Linux and Windows. Now they only support rendering on Windows. They still support the API for Linux though. So now we're looking three options:

    1) Devoting time to developing our own Linux based renderer.
    2) Continuing to use their API on Linux, but to control chanels on Windows boxes.
    3) Converting the simulation over to Windows and dropping Linux.

    At this point option 1 is pretty much out. While we have the in house skills to develop an IG, it would take several years to build something to meet our requirements (needs texture paging, terrain paging, must handle terrain sizes in excess of 2GB, etc).

    Option 2 looks attractive because it's the least work. And will probably be what's implemented in the short run.

    Option 3 will probably be our long run solution as we've had some trouble with nVidia and ATI drivers on Linux. While they do work in most cases, they don't seem quite as robust as their Windows counterparts. Ie with the Quadro cards...

    Now if you go back and read over these things, what we considered in deciding what to use were:

    1) time
    2) cost
    3) ease of implementation

    You'll note we never said anything about Open Source. When we first moved to Linux we looked at Open Source issues. We use open source development tools. GCC, GIMP, ImageMagick, Glade... But it had nothing to do with the fact they were open source. If they had been sold to us like IRIX was and performed the same functionality we would have bought them.

    We're interested in shipping our product, making $$$, and that's what managers are concerned with. The debate over whether or not we use Open Source software is irrelevent. The questions that have to be answered are how it would impact cost, time to delivery, learning curve. The other thing is, you shouldn't expect businesses to go out and just switch to Open Source because you wrote a persuasive article. If there is a system in place, it probably won't be replaced until it's necessary to do so. It's that whole cost thing again. Why replace something that's been paid for that works until it's necesary to do so.

    If you answer that with anything other than it will make the company more $$$, or increase productivity, etc... you won't get very far with the suits.
    • Just a little side note here:

      We did have to change our IG software. We were using Performer, now we use a third party developed renderer. For years our the company that developed our renderer has supported both Linux and Windows. Now they only support rendering on Windows. They still support the API for Linux though.

      But I'll bet the company that developed your renderer now has their hands in Microsoft's back pocket.

      For years, Unigraphics [ugs.com] (currently owned by EDS), was available on RISC-based Unix workst
  • Open Development (Score:3, Insightful)

    by eadz (412417) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @01:33PM (#6286115) Homepage
    is what open source is really about. I have seen quite a few "Open Source" projects - code released under the GPL - that have been closed development and absolutly useless as an open source project because of this.

  • by The Bungi (221687) <thebungi@gmail.com> on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @01:34PM (#6286131) Homepage
    That most interesting of human endeavors whereby some people give away the fruit of their labor and get nothing in return. The idea here is that "closed software" is an anathema to human freedom and therefore clashes with the pursuit of life, liberty and well-cooked apple pie.

    A theory formulated by people who came to age trying to screw universities out of what they considered their own personal property, which was then somehow extrapolated to the real world and subsequently swallowed in extremis by a few technically capable idealists and several million people looking for a free ride who contribute absolutely nothing but "believe" and therefore are part of the "community".

    The resulting movement (and its derivatives) can be thought of as the technological version of the catholic church during the depth of the medieval era - in both structure and radical "join us or die" behavior.

    Along the way they convince themselves that "some day" they'll make a buck on giving away stuff, and when they don't (which is the most common result), they blame the government, the system, the corporations and the weather for being "unfair".

    Basically.

  • by jcsehak (559709) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @01:42PM (#6286219) Homepage
    One misconception I had was that open source meant you had to give the product away for free. This was even reflected in version 1.0 of the Open Source Music License I wrote (that I based on the GPL). But that's not so! You only have to give the source away, not the end-product. And you don't even have to make it available for download, you need only sell people CDs of the source for the cost of the media.

    Open source isn't so much for the benefit of the end-user as the developer. Or rather, other developers. So it's just as easy to make money on an open source project as a closed one, as long as someone else doesn't take your code and make their own version that better and cheaper. So for MS, open sourcing Word would be a bad idea. But for a musician like myself, "better" is relative. So making your music open-source does nothing but good.
    • One misconception I had was that open source meant you had to give the product away for free. This was even reflected in version 1.0 of the Open Source Music License I wrote (that I based on the GPL). But that's not so! You only have to give the source away, not the end-product. And you don't even have to make it available for download, you need only sell people CDs of the source for the cost of the media.

      Actually, this isn't exactly accurate either. You only have to provide the source code to those who
      • You only have to provide the source code to those who have access to the binary code.

        That's true - I forgot about that; thanks. I've been giving away my binaries for free, so I've been giving making the source available to everyone. I think you're right in that you have the option to not give away the source until it's requested.

        I wonder if I play a GPL'd game over the web, does that mean I have access to the binaries, and therefore have a right to the source, even though I can't get the binaries - It

    • Having gone and taken a look at your Open Source Music License" [rootrecords.org], I disagree with your definition of what "source" means as pertaining to music.

      The way I see it, any audio recording of a piece of music IS the end product. It's a performance of the 'source', which is the words and notes that comprise the music itself.

      Even copyright law makes a similar distinction -- the copyright of a song pertains to the chords, lyrics, printed sheet music of a song; the phonographic copyright pertains to recordings of th
  • The Answer: James Brown

    The Question: What is 'What it is'?

  • by Pettifogger (651170) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @01:52PM (#6286306)
    I don't know why it hasn't been pointed out yet, but the people who wrote this article are with Olliance, which is *selling* open-source services. Now, before you light your torches and get your pitchforks, I use Linux on a daily basis and do what I can to evangelize the movement. I also have a small collection of aging but much loved Macs. There are no Microsoft products in my household. But as someone who works in business, the first thing I noticed is that this is a sales pitch. Nothing wrong with that, but I know that many others in the business community will see a bunch of red flags because of it.

    I think the biggest reason keeping businesses from switching is inertia or fear of new things. Everything sort of works right now (if the system goes down, the CEO and/or Board of Directors blames IT, not management) but if management makes a switch to something else entirely and it doesn't work, they're going to lose thier jobs. Trust me, software decisions aren't just based on price, stability and features. Even though Microsoft products sort of work most of the time, they're still beating the fear of the unknown.

    For this reason, I really think that Linux/OSS should be pushed on the desktop level. When consultants, like Olliance, come in to install OSS at a company, I think they should put up fliers offering to install Linux on employees' *home* computers, too, if they bring their boxes in. I think one of the greatest unrealized benefits is Walmart selling inexpensive Linux boxes in its stores. That reaches a lot of people, even executives. When they see that it's stable and working and not "scary," it will become viable alternative. Finally, I think some kind of gimmick, like maybe using Linus' birthday as "Linux Day" where everyone who uses it goes to the Mall or somewhere with a bunch of CD-Rs burned with a distro and gives them away to anyone who wants it. The media might even be persuaded to cover something like this. It would spread the costs of producing discs and distribution out over a lot of people. People regularly share their music, why not operating systems, too? I don't know if that would work, but something needs to be done to get OSS onto as many desktops as possible. That's where the real battle for hearts and minds is, and if a CEO (or other high exec) has Linux at home and loves it, you know what will happen at his/her business shortly.

  • Sometimes what is most obvious to one person is most unobvious to another. OSS is - to Slashdotters - as obvious as water and sun. To managers, it is a contradictory concept and much of the education has to come in the form of explaining why it is "free". Much of the counter arguments to OSS try to leverage the natural paranoia of business people (GPL virus, OSS patent liability, TCO, etc. etc.).

    The simple truth - and this is obvious to any neutral observer - is that the Internet changed the dynamics of the software industry by removing all the previous barriers to organization and communication. What used to require a large organization to produce can now be economically (and this is the key) produced by random professionals in their spare time, by tiny teams working on thin margins, and by organizations who would otherwise do nothing special with the code anyhow.

    The key questions about OSS ("who pays?") have been asked before, about the Internet, and we now all know the answers: everyone pays, a little, but since the technology required is so very, very cheap, it comes down to rewarding people's time. And it so happens that for many developers, the product is its own reward.

    Software only represents a slice of any business's operation, and whether OSS is free or cheap makes little difference. However, when software is expensive (think SAP or Oracle), it eats so deeply into the business that little is left for other investment.

    Managers need first to learn that large swathes of the software landscape are now completely in the domain of "as cheap as air", and only foolish people will still pay for something that their competitors get for nothing.

    Managers need secondly to learn that this process keeps on moving. One by one the bastions of commercial software will become commodity items. The businesses with the capacity to be pioneers will always benefit. The rest will follow when the technology curve flattens out and moves into the "general market" and then "late adopter" phase.

    OSS is simply a slice of a standard S-shaped technology curve. It's the same curve that drives Moore's Law, and indeed, one can say that software cost has a half-life. One could even estimate this. Allow me to state "Heironymous' Law" of falling software costs: every 18 months, software products fall in cost by half, eventually reaching effective zero.

    Which is why we can now get databases, office suites, Beowulf clustering software, etc. etc. etc. for the cost of bandwidth.

    Patents, by the way, are a brake on this technology curve, and this is IMHO why those of us who love and feel this curve hate patents so much. Technology wants to be free.
  • Perhaps... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tadrith (557354) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @01:57PM (#6286372) Homepage
    ...corporate managers would be more willing to work with things such as open source, when the open source community stops referring to them by childish names.

    While the attitudes represented here on Slashdot assuredly are not indicative of many who contribute to open source, it's silly to think that the attitudes that frequently show themselves here do not get back to these people. Many of them do read sites such as Slashdot, and until the community can manage to present itself in a respectable manner, and in a way that's acceptable to corporate culture, I don't think widespread adoption will take place.

    There's definitely promise in open source, which is why you see companies like IBM and Red Hat attempting to put a polished corporate face that people can associate with on Linux. They're trying to bridge the massive gap between the way corporate managers think, and the way your average Slashdot reader thinks. However, the community has a loud voice... and unfortunately, frequently all that comes out of it is sarcasm and snide comments. These companies can only do so much.
    • Re:Perhaps... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by RatBastard (949)
      The other issue is that businessmen/women don't give a damn about Open Source, save for ownership issues of anything designed in-house. Why? Unless the point of teh company is to develope software, they are not interested in getting at the source code. They are interested in a solution that works and will be supported by a vender of some sort.

      The theology of Open Source is meaningless to them.

      and I tend to agree with them. I'm not aprogrammer. I don't care about the source code. I couldn't find a tr
    • Agreed. As a manager, I find the attitudes of a lot of Slashdotters to be off-putting. Look, for example, at the synopsis at the top of this page, which equates my profession with a well-known Dilbert character. The message is that I am too stupid to understand the virtues of open source software. This is not an effective technique to win admiration from the people who write your performance evaluations.

      (For the record, my team runs Linux on 85% of our servers.)

  • OSS superset of FS (Score:4, Informative)

    by dh003i (203189) <.dh003i. .at. .gmail.com.> on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @01:58PM (#6286382) Homepage Journal
    OSS is not the same thing as FS. There are connections between the two of them, but they are not the same thing.

    At it's most basic level, FS is concerned about the freedom of users. Users should have certain freedoms. See the FSF's Free Software Definition (FSD) [fsf.org]. The FSF has also published an article describing what they think FS (Free Software) is better than OS (Open Source) [gnu.org].

    OSS is more about a development model than user and developer freedoms. The freedoms it ensures to the user and developers are geared towards that development model. See the OSI's Open Source Definition (OSD) [opensource.org] (OSD).

    Summarily, OSS is a superset of FS, FS a subset of OSS. Anything that is FS is also OSS; however, many things that are OSS are not FS. The FSD has a stricter definition than does the OSD, thus many licenses that the FSD deems too restrictive are acceptable under the OSD. For example, the OSI considers the APSL (Apple Public Software License) to be OSS, but the FSF does not consider the ASPL to be FS.

    A relevant quote from the FSF's webpage:
    The fundamental difference between the two movements is in their values, their ways of looking at the world. For the Open Source movement, the issue of whether software should be open source is a practical question, not an ethical one. As one person put it, ``Open source is a development methodology; free software is a social movement.'' For the Open Source movement, non-free software is a suboptimal solution. For the Free Software movement, non-free software is a social problem and free software is the solution.
    • by dh003i (203189)
      Something I forgot to mention. Despite the fact that both of these groups have slightly different ideologies, in real-world terms, they both agree -- for the most part -- on what licenses are acceptable, which means that individuals from the two movements can and do work together to accomplish common goals (as most of their goals are common).

      It is rather like two different groups of individuals who support the right to choose regarding abortion. One group may support that right because of ideological reaso
  • ok (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BigBir3d (454486) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @02:06PM (#6286474) Journal
    Do PHBs really need to read this sort of introduction to get comfortable with the idea of using Linux and other open source software?"

    Do you want your boss to understand what you need?

    In case you didn't notice (which I am assuming you didn't since the question was asked), your boss won't sign off on a huge shift in company policy without understanding the situation. I am talking more than the "blah blah cheaper" or the "blah blah security" arguments.

    Managers respect calm, cool, intellectual evidence. Spitting (side effect of excitement in some geeks), poorly shaven, long-haired, smelly, hippy looking guys, espousing the socialist aspects of open source (that is what it sounds like to most un-informed mgmt types) get nowhere unless they are preaching to the choir.
  • Open Source (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonvmous Coward (589068) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @02:17PM (#6286577)
    Open Source: The re-writing of already released software in order to avoid paying for it.

    Man I hope people are in good humor today.
    • Re:Open Source (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The MS platform is a hell of alot more tainted.

      If you make something good for an MS platform, you'll end up competing with them unless your bought out. Every MS internally started venture (excluding Directx) has failed. MS has a tendency to buy the cleap clones and attempt to rewrite history.
    • Mostly because I agree that a lot of open source projects exist for that very reason.

      But I'm also a cynic.
  • The term "Free Software" is better than "Open Source Software". Open Source has one obvious implication: that you can view the source. Free Software can be taken to mean either free as in speech, or free as in beer: at least there's a 50/50 chance someone will get it right off the bat. Aside from that, as the FSF has said, once the user understands "Free Software as in speech, not beer", s/he won't get it wrong again. Not so easy with OSS.

    The FSF is not entirely happy with the term "Free Software", precise
  • by phorm (591458) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @02:37PM (#6286796) Journal
    All IMHO of course...

    The OS concept is basic in the idea that you can view and/or modify (assuming that you have the skills) the functionality of a program being provided to your or your company. In many cases, it also means that the software itself may be free, and will permit personal modificatins, etc.

    The OS community as a whole is a combination of people who fall into one or many categories:
    a) With a goal to improve IT as a whole, by providing software to the global community that is without strangling license terms, hidden bugs/tricks, or other nasties
    b) People that simply want to test their skills, and believe they have something to offer out to the world. The bored, the haxors, those that like to code in their free time.
    c) The code-hippies - "code wants to be free", open-source is like free-love and such individuals tend to be highly anti-capitalism or anti-corporation.

    Whilst I realize that many people may take offense to the "hippy" remark, you must understand that a lot of the reason the hippy era is looked down upon is because corporate culture one. The concept of "sharing information" for the betterment of everyone is something that has been around long before either hippies, coders, or Open Source - but it's something often quite common to all. I see us as a group with slightly radical ideas, but something real to offer that is becoming increasingly valuable as the corporate noose tightens on the world.

    Many projects are (in most ways) free, and are a way of saying to the world, "this is my contribution. Value it, find use in it, and see that there is another way. If you can, take what we have given to you, improve on it, and give it back to the community."

    Truly, I doubt that a roomful of OS geeks could get together and agree wholly on anything, but we could co-exist with the knowledge that at least at some level - we share a common cause and common roots. OS is quite possibly one of the few contenders left to give a little hopefulness to an increasingly corporate world, so let's hope we succeed.
  • Bold claims (Score:3, Interesting)

    by stinky wizzleteats (552063) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @03:48PM (#6287593) Homepage Journal

    From the article:

    Open Source software solutions exist for virtually all types of business applications.

    Don't get me wrong. I am a very big proponent of Open Source software. Not only do I think it is a good idea, I honestly think that it is very good for humanity as a whole. My only problem is that that statement is somewhat misleading.

    While the basic office application suite is just reaching a maturity level where it can be plausibly considered a viable solution, business applications consist of a lot more than that, and often include very specialized industry-specific niche software. A PHB is going to read that statement, look at whoever handed them the article (it must be printed for the PHB to read it, so all this is happening in meatspace), and ask them if there is an open source version of the real estate accounting software they use. Those of us who have seen such software will immediately realize that we are not talking about a speadsheet, nor a Quicken clone, but a very complex and full featured accounting package some oddball company with no competition writes for that particular industry. It will be buggy, bloated, and incredibly expensive, but it is often the only tool to do certain things that particular business needs.

    Furthermore, there are certian generalized types of business software, most notably document management, groupware, and workflow that don't (to my knowledge) have effective open source solutions. (Part of the reason I am risking a troll mod in writing this is to find out that I am wrong, so if you know something I don't, please reply!)

    The way I see it, the Open Source approach to these sorts of problems is to put the problem solver closer to the problem. Rather than pay $80000 to some screwy outfit in Nevada who happens to write the world's only accounting and office managment package for veterinarians, you hook up with the local Linux guru who knows something about PHP, MySQL, etc. and have him develop a database solution. This leverages the flexibility and power of Open Source software and results in a fairer and more responsible arragement between the providers and consumers of technology services.

    If that business model is what we are all about (as Open Source people), don't we need to sell that idea to PHBs?

  • by TheLastUser (550621) on Tuesday June 24, 2003 @04:21PM (#6288034)
    What is programming?
    How can a cursor be moved across the screen?
    What are computers?

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