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Has Open Source Lost Its Halo? 277

Posted by Zonk
from the master-chief-awol dept.
PetManimal writes "Open-source software development once had a reputation as a grassroots movement, but it is increasingly a mainstream IT profit center, and according to Computerworld, some in the industry are asking whether 'open source' has become a cloak used by IT vendors large and small to disguise ruthless and self-serving behavior. Citing an online opinion piece by Gordon Haff, an analyst at Illuminata Inc., the article notes that HP and IBM have not only profited from open-source at the expense of competitors, but have also boosted their images in the open-source community. The Computerworld article also mentions the efforts by the Microsoft/Windows camp to promote open-source credentials: '[InfoWorld columnist Dave] Rosenberg is more disturbed by the bandwagon jumpers: the companies, mostly startups, belatedly going open-source in order to ride a trend, while paying only lip service to the community and its values. Take Aras Corp., a provider of Windows-based product lifecycle management (PLM) software that in January decided to go open-source. Rosenberg depicted the firm in his blog as an opportunistic Johnny-Come-Lately. "I'm not impressed when a company whose software is totally built on Microsoft technologies goes open-source," said Rosenberg, who even suspects that the company is being promoted by Microsoft as a shill to burnish Redmond's image in open-source circles."'"
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Has Open Source Lost Its Halo?

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  • by geoffrobinson (109879) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @04:05PM (#18028624) Homepage
    I wish I had know about that.
  • Halo? (Score:4, Funny)

    by 68030 (215387) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @04:06PM (#18028654) Homepage
    The first thing that crossed my mind upon reading the headline was that some previosly open-source game to rival Halo had gone closed source or the development team walked away..

    Silly context, always breaking things.
    • Yes, halo (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mandelbr0t (1015855) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @05:49PM (#18030462) Journal
      For me, the fact that OSS is no longer considered a grassroots movement is a good thing. Now we can actually make the distinction between OSS and FOSS. OSS is an important concept, and it's been around since the beginning of Unix. OSS simply means that source code is included with the license. If you want to show integrity, OSS is the way to go. It allows your client to independently verify your work. Given the amount of spyware and rootkit stories we hear, you'd be silly to trust any ISV who *didn't* provide source code with their product. But you can still have your client sign an NDA, use a license that prevents redistribution, etc. OSS was and still is a workable business model.

      FOSS is still a grassroots movement, and will continue to be. The reason is simple; FOSS builds on concepts of OSS to perform a public service. FOSS is about freedom, which requires integrity in addition to a whole bunch of other grassroots goodness.

      So no, OSS hasn't lost it's halo (assuming it ever had one) because it's always been about openness and integrity. If it weren't, it wouldn't be OSS.
  • by cOdEgUru (181536) <cherian@abraham.gmail@com> on Thursday February 15, 2007 @04:11PM (#18028722) Homepage Journal
    Can and Will an article that started off with chewing out Open Source vendors who ignore its values and end up bashing Microsoft.

    Didnt mean it as a flame..it was just funny reading it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I'm with you. If there was an ability to mod an article, "FlameBait", this would get my vote (and confirmation upon meta-mod). Please, give me a break. I hate M$ just as much as the next *NIX geek, but give me a break. There's two ways to slice and dice this, and they both reek.

      Boo Hoo, OS is making $$$: Businesses are making money of open source. OK? So? What'd you think a FOR_PROFIT company would do with it? At least they didn't M$ it: Embrace, make it proprietary, and then lock everyone out of us

  • by stratjakt (596332) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @04:12PM (#18028744) Journal
    I know Tivo pisses some people off, while at the same time they are sort of a poster child for "what linux can do".

    I mean, they follow the letter of the GPL - I can get the source - but since the kernel must be cryptographically signed to execute on the device, this source is useless.

    But the GPL never said anything about me being able to hack my device. Tivo is just like any other corporation in that respect, they don't want me adding functionality, they want me to pay for it.

    They've taken from the community, made a good deal of money, and really have given nothing back, and really don't have to.

    The GPL, and OSS in general, really isn't about giving back. It's about taking advantage of the altruism of others. I don't mean that in a negative way either. When I set up linux on old hardware as a router, I was doing the same thing. I've never released the firewall scripts I tweaked up, or even told anybody upstream of a couple of bugs I've fixed for myself. Tivo, and for that matter, IBM, HP or Novell all have the same rights that I do.
    • GPLv3 (Score:5, Informative)

      by tepples (727027) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .selppet.> on Thursday February 15, 2007 @04:20PM (#18028878) Homepage Journal

      But the GPL never said anything about me being able to hack my device.
      That's what GPLv3 intends to fix. If TiVo wants to use new versions of the GNU userland after the move to GPLv3, TiVo is going to need to quit with the lockout chip business model.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        That's not "fixing" it. That's breaking it.

        The software monkeys of the FSF have no right to impose hardware restrictions on a manufacturer. How are they any better than the requirement for HDCP on an HDMI-compliant device?

        Oh, right, because they care about "freedom."

        rms's "freedom" is just another kind of chains. If TiVo's business model is so abhorrent, then someone ought to build a better TiVo-esque device and market it.

        See how far you get on your "we're Free as in Freedom!" line.
        • Re:GPLv3 (Score:5, Informative)

          by Knuckles (8964) <knuckles@NoSpAm.dantian.org> on Thursday February 15, 2007 @04:49PM (#18029374)
          FSF have no right to impose hardware restrictions on a manufacturer

          Yeah, and they don't. They just say "you cannot use my code for that".
        • If someone wants to build a better box, then do it. As far as the GPL3, it is a voluntary license. The same argument that you made for a better Tivo can be made for the new GPL.
        • by bky1701 (979071)

          The software monkeys of the FSF have no right to impose hardware restrictions on a manufacturer.

          Did you miss the memo? They own the code for the core parts of Linux, except the kernel. If they want to make it so all computers that use GPL code have to have a purple llama on the case, it's fully within their legal right to do that. So far as moral right, I would say it is their duty, not right, to keep the code from being made useless.

          rms's "freedom" is just another kind of chains.

          The GPL* is chains, to

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            The GPL* is chains, to keep companies from using the code in a way that hurts the overall community. Same with the BSD. Same with most anything not public domain. Yet I am sure YOU don't public domain your code, right? So stop with the appeals to emotion.

            BSD "keeps companies from using the code in a way that hurts the overall community"? What crack are you smoking? You can do pretty much anything with code licensed under the BSD license. There isn't even that obnoxious advertising clause in the more commonl
      • Re:GPLv3 (Score:4, Informative)

        by nuzak (959558) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @04:51PM (#18029406) Journal
        > If TiVo wants to use new versions of the GNU userland after the move to GPLv3, TiVo is going to need to quit with the lockout chip business model.

        So is gcc now going to apply the GPLv3 to its output?

        Whether you like GPLv3 or not, Linux isn't changing its license. TiVo has nothing to be concerned about except that maybe they'll be locked out of the HURD.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mrchaotica (681592) *

          What part of "userland" do you not understand? TiVo almost certainly uses more GPL software than just a kernel, you know!

          • by nuzak (959558)
            > TiVo almost certainly uses more GPL software than just a kernel, you know!

            It hardly seems like the sort of thing they're going to have to keep extremely current, and I hardly imagine they're losing a wink of sleep over it.
          • by Sparr0 (451780)
            But it is unlikely that the non-kernel parts of the TiVo operating system are important enough to protect.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        Linux cannot be released under GPL v3, ever. It's irrelevant to TiVo.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MBCook (132727)

      Are you sure TiVo has never made patches to the kernel that got accepted? I doubt it, I'm sure they have caught and fixed bugs. But even if they didn't, we (as users) get the benefits of them using Linux. Using it cut the development time, cut the price of the box (no OS to develop or license), and reduced bugs (compared to if they had to write their own OS).

      And let's not forgot all those people who have hacked their TiVos to do neat things, basically with the implied blessing of TiVo. In fact, I believe t

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by stratjakt (596332)
        Tell me how I can hack my Tivo to do neat things?

        Tivo didn't give any implied blessing, Tivo locked down the Series 2 cryptographically to prevent me from copying off the shows I recorded, and making the only conduit the slow and broken TivoToGo. 2 hours to copy a half hour show, I'm glad they take the time to encrypt it on the fly for my protection.

        Let me reiterate: Tivo saw hackers doing neat things, based largely on the openness of linux, and locked the system down to prevent it.

        The only "hack" I can p
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by nuzak (959558)
        > Are you sure TiVo has never made patches to the kernel that got accepted?

        They've made modifications anyway. Get them here [tivo.com].
    • by Kjella (173770) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @04:55PM (#18029498) Homepage
      If you were talking about the BSD license, you'd be right. But you have missed the entire intention of the GPL, which isn't to help the upstream (though that is also usually an effect) but to guarantee that those downstream can continue to modify that code. If you do one very simple search-and-replce you see that is true:

      "But the GPL never said anything about me being able to hack my [software]. Tivo is just like any other corporation in that respect, they don't want me adding functionality, they want me to pay for it."

      That applies to any software company. If the intention wasn't for me to be able to modify the Tivo's software, why the hell should I bother with anything OSS? Print out the source and frame it?

      Linus has way too much faith in the general purpose computer and that "the best technology wins", and that whatever smart thing Tivo does he can just include in his mainstream kernel. For now that's true but the day you computers come with TCPA and his unsigned kernel doesn't get to touch any mainstream media, it's a dead duck as far as the general public is concerned.
  • are forced to reinvent it. The corollary to this is that those who do not understand economics, are eventually forced to "reinvent" it.

    • by Tackhead (54550)
      > are forced to reinvent it. The corollary to this is that those who do not understand economics, are eventually forced to "reinvent" it.

      ...poorly.

      Paradoxically, those that do understand the GPL, are also prone to reinvent it... just as poorly.

  • The bigger picture (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Everybody has been in such a rush to get OSS adopted by the world at large that we're losing sight of what made it so great to begin with... A community effort, for fun, to hack, to be free. Not so we could be taken advantage of. This is what I have feared for years and it looks like the "movement" is getting hijacked.
    • by Anthony Baby (1015379) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @06:16PM (#18030934) Homepage Journal
      I think it was inevitable, and here's the reason: Eddie Van Halen, punk rock, hip-hop, horror movies.

      Open Source is a pop culture phenomenon. Linux wasn't its first attempt at stardom, but it was a major smash hit. Everybody in the world has Linux. If you lived in the suburbs you were issued it free along with samples of Tide. Open Source was rebellious. The neighbors hated when you played it loud, and mom and dad didn't much care for the new friends you were keeping.

      Open Source got big just from that one breakthrough, and they earned all these new fans. There were a bunch of people were screaming "Hey man! I knew Open Source before Linux! GNU man! FreeBSD!!!" And yeah, we the new fans said, "Hey that sounds cool, but I'm really into this Linux. Richard who? Was he the original singer?"

      We outgrew that for the most part as Open source got really influential. Soon it was everywhere, but like Metallica, Open source wasn't getting the respect it deserved. All of us in our campy t-shirts, messy hair, and our hard-earned pennies; yet we still couldn't get Linux in the stores. We got zero air-time. It sucked. But we didn't care, the music was pure.

      Then suddenly, Open Source became cool, and everyone started doing it. They copied it. My sister asked to borrow my copy. IBM put out cute ads mentioning Linux as a principal influence. We got our own books and magazines. We were recognized, and we the fans shared much of the credit. But what about the original Open Source? Well, it matured. It got a little pretenious... a little fat, and somewhat... boring. Like hip-hop, it's so pervasive in everything that it doesn't merit being discussed separately. What's so special about a drop D tuning? What's so controversial about a bloody death scene in a horror movie when ever TV dramas feature them? Open Source got commercialized; watered down in the hands of suits who just don't get it. Sure, they get it. Buy hey man, they don't get it! We were doing it first, man! They're just copying the sound and the look, but it's got no passion, man!

      And that is the death of Open Source as a movement. After a while, movements lose steam. Not because no one cares anymore, but because they aren't seen as a challenge to contemporary conventional wisdom. If closed source was the thesis, and Open Source was the antithesis; then what we have now is the synthesis. The only people who should care about Open Source not being appreciated as a separate doctrine are those that still want to focus all astronomical talk on how the earth orbits the sun. We know already.
  • by Fortissimo (45876) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @04:15PM (#18028776)
    OK, help me out here. A few years ago weren't the open source folks crying that no one was taking their clearly-superior products seriously? Now a few large companies are utilizing it and promoting it and taking it seriously, and we're still crying? Hmmmmmm.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Knuckles (8964)
      We aren't. Some "journalist" is trying to drum up page hits.
  • Not really (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheMeuge (645043) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @04:15PM (#18028792)
    It's not that it's lost its halo, it's just that it has realized its usefulness. The fact that companies make money off open-source technologies doesn't mean that open-source is bad. Anyone who thinks that is doing the entire open-source community a great disservice.

    We don't live in a utopian communist state. Progress is driven by self-interest, and I am happy that companies make money using open-source technologies, because it not only affirms the essential role of OSS in the marketplace, but also provides incentive for support and adoption of OSS by those who were previously skeptical.
    • Re:Not really (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Reverse Gear (891207) * on Thursday February 15, 2007 @04:28PM (#18029010) Homepage
      I agree, it is a good thing that businesses use OS software and that money also get involved in this.

      To me the example of how Daniel Robbins, the man who made Gentoo Linux and did a fantastic job at it, ended up with a huge depth because he put all his time aside for the development of this OS stands as a very good example. He ended up being hired by MS for some kind of Open Source analyzing group because they offered to pay his depths for him if he would accept the job offer. Thankfully Daniel Robbins and his family was able to life a life with few enough expenses to make Gentoo a living project that when he left the project was able to live on and is still thriving.
      I remember how the we as a community tried to raise the money to pay Daniels depths, we were able to raise something like 10000$, but having devoted all his time for Gentoo for years his depth was 20 times that high.
      It is great when companies hire developers and pay them for doing what they do best, instead of Microsoft being able to hire the best guys of the business to do nothing valuable, because they have to make a living somehow.
      So lets get more money flowing in the Open Source community and lets have more paid developers, I have a hard time seeing the evil in that.

      A side note is that Daniel the way just on his way back as a Gentoo developer after he left Microsoft again, as far as I understand because he did not feel he was really listened to.
      • by Skadet (528657)

        pay his depths for him
        Do you mean "debts", as in, he owed people money? Or is this some new-or-foreign word I've never heard of?
  • by Jooly Rodney (100912) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @04:17PM (#18028816)
    Recent developments with Novell aside, if software companies open their software (under a real Free license), their reasons for doing so and their relations with the community aren't really that important. That's the whole reason we have Free Software licenses -- so that users and independent developers don't have to worry about the behavior of the companies that put out the software. You can trust the GPL, even if you don't trust SoftwareVendorReleasingGPL'dSoftware.
  • by WED Fan (911325) <akahigeNO@SPAMtrashmail.net> on Thursday February 15, 2007 @04:18PM (#18028826) Homepage Journal

    I think its a case of "bad apples" spoiling the good ones.

    Whether fair or not, a lot of open source projects come across as being incomplete, UI nightmares, geek-tool-only, and large organization unfriendly because of support issues.

    Not every open-source project is that way, but when I worked at HP that was the case. You mentioned open-source and managers would run to update your file as a trouble maker. When you got a manager to approve a demo, you'd have to work twice as hard to explain why this was a good alternative, why the weird UI wasn't an issue, and how the tool was self supporting or support could be done easily "in house". However, if you hadn't told the manager that it was "open source" and that it was "off the shelf", you could get by without the massive sales job.

    Why?

    Because too many open source projects are:

    • Too geek centric ("screw the user", "RTM", "VI is the only way")
    • The UI is too far afield of the normal MAC/PC (win) style the user is familiar with (remember, "screw the user")
    • Incomplete - perpetual beta or worse, perpetual alpha (when it's complete it is going to be so much better than office)
    • Another monster without a support agreement - (Well thats a value add, but then most OSS don't have support plans you can purchase)

    It's a perception problem. No matter the platform, OSS has an image problem that may be rightly deserved.

  • by analog_line (465182) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @04:19PM (#18028852)
    ...I could care less if the company cares about the community or its values, and that's the point.

    The only good argument from a business perspective for open source is that if you use open source software you are not going to be held hostage by a licensor that alters the deal when your business is wedded to the IT infrastructure they provide. As long as the open source license these "bad" open source companies release it under is really an open license that allows you to modify and redistribute the code, that's all that matters. I don't have to care why the released the source. It just doesn't matter.
    • If a company release some useful free software, it is extremely useful if they also accept the leadership role for the further development that come naturally with being the initial developer. Without such a natural leader, the project development may splinter into competing projects, duplicating each others efforts, and maybe eventually wither away.

      If the company accept the leadership role, their success will largely depend on adopting some of the values of the free software community.
    • As long as the open source license these "bad" open source companies release it under is really an open license that allows you to modify and redistribute the code, that's all that matters.

      And, just to add a rebut to the "Predatory Open Source?" article, releasing your work under an open source license is very different from giving away compiled binaries that will only run on your OS.

      An open source release may commoditize a market and may be a competetive action for the company performing the release, howev

  • BS (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Cyberax (705495) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @04:20PM (#18028870)
    Half of his arguments are BS.

    For example, Eclipse had killed JBuilder and Symantec Cafe (?) not because it was free but because it was so much better. GOOD commercial Java IDEs are still alive and kicking - see IDEA (http://www.jetbrains.com/) for example.

    Apache Derby is hardly ever used outside of small embedded databases. Everyone uses Oracle/Postgres/MySQL/...

    A lot of GOOD commercial products exists and successfully compete with their OpenSource counterparts. For example, Tangasol Coherence (http://www.tangosol.com/) beats JGroups and JBoss Cache.
    • FTFB

      IBM released Eclipse for free, and it's killed off all the commercial Java IDEs out there. Sure, the source is available - but why isn't that seen as predatory? The net effect has been the same.

      giving something away for free to create value for something else is absolutely predatory, that's why Internet Explorer and Active Server Pages where declared illegal in 1999, MS was split into two companines by the DOJ, and the use of windows carries a mandatory prison sentence to this day.

      • by Cyberax (705495)
        IE has never been illegal. It's BUNDLING with a commercial product is illegal.

        IBM sells WebSphere bundled with Eclipse-based IDE but so do a lot of other companies (including JBoss - a direct competitor of WebSphere).

        I see zero problems with companies going out of business when their products are kicked out of market by open source products. Companies should WORK HARD to maintain competitive advantage over open source programs, and not just increase product version and bill customers for 'upgrade' (see: JBu
  • by 0racle (667029) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @04:20PM (#18028882)
    Heaven forbid people make money on building products around a free piece of software while working within the guidelines of use and distribution of that software.
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @04:20PM (#18028884) Journal
    From the linked article: IBM released Eclipse for free, and it's killed off all the commercial Java IDEs out there. Sure, the source is available - but why isn't that seen as predatory? The net effect has been the same.

    Well, tomorrow if IBM decides to change the fee structure and demand an arm and a leg or it thinks it should change the file formats to keep the competition out or decide to drop support for some API to maintain an advantage... Guess what? There is nothing to stop the customers/competitors to take the ball run circles around IBM. That is why Open source is not all that predatory.

    Sometimes some people get a profound insight and that produces a view point that is strikingly different from the crowd. This article mimics the symptom, "being radically different from the rest" but without a cogent underlying argument that is the hallmark of a "profound insight".

  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @04:20PM (#18028894) Homepage Journal
    Who cares why they open their source? As long as they release the source code, without restrictions that prevent the public from changing, revising, executing and redistributing it, people in the public can do whatever we want with it.

    If selfserving companies (what other kind is there?) find it in their interest to open their source, then I welcome them joining the open source "movement". More source needs to be opened in the selfinterest of its originators. And more selfserving companies opening source will help convince others how its in their interest, too. Which will release more source.

    What needs to die is the idea that open source is some kind of ideal. It's an engineering collaboration technique. It's like object oriented design. There are OOD ideologues, but they're harmless and lost in the roar of people using OOD to solve real problems. Some people are still arguing about the ideology of file vs project variable scoping. But practically no one lets that get in the way of writing code with well-defined interfaces for other code. Let's see open source outgrow the ideology, and just remain a stable way to produce and use software.
  • by leereyno (32197) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @04:21PM (#18028904) Homepage Journal
    Exactly what part of "competitive marketplace" does the author not understand?

    Ruthless and self-serving behavior is how businesses compete. No one is in business to help their competitors. No one who has to deal with the realities of the business world gives a rat's ass about the ideologies behind Free/open source software. The only thing anyone cares about is whether open source provides a better solution than the alternatives, or provides a similar solution at a lower price. IBM helps and promotes open source projects because these projects help IBM. This isn't altruism, but quid pro quo.

  • by rolfwind (528248) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @04:22PM (#18028924)
    the knowledge and wisdom that being self-serving can help the community but the main motivation is that you are helping yourself. (Not that this works 100% of the time, hence laws&regulation.)

    But isn't this same philosophy driving Open Source essentially? People give to the whole because they know it is cheaper to maintain and they get more (features, reliability, freedom, what have you) out of it than going closed source?

    I am not so much bothered by big companies jumping in for their own benefit than a company like SCO and Microsoft behind it, who aren't satisfied with a piece of the pie, but want the whole pie, even if it means destroying the existing community - and those are the players that really aren't involved in the first place.

    IBM has a right to try to make money and if there business is good enough that they entice people to spend that cash, they deserve it. Otherwise, it makes no sense for IBM to be in Opensource in the first place. And they have contributed enough to be seen and acknowledged as a general benefactor.
  • The gist of this article from what I could stomach seems to be financial analysts whining that some companies are releasing their general purpose software as open source, causing their competitors to drop prices on competing products, lose market share, or have to move onto other products. There may also be a whine in there about vendors not being able to sell their application server for a million dollars and then professional services to actually make it, you know, work because the competition is using o
  • From the linked article that is not slashdotted: (The other one is) In effect Open Source has become a free pass for all sorts of competitive actions that would once have been--at a minimum--roundly criticized. I don't argue that (for the most part) such actions should be universally deplored or prohibited. It's part of the way today's software world works, and in many ways it provides direct advantages to IT customers. However, don't mistake it for altruism--and thereby get all shocked and disappointed whe
  • Has the luster of true heros, who will run into a burning building to save a stranger or volunteer to be the mother/father/brother/sister of someone in need, been tarnished because millionair ball player lay claim to the title?
  • It never had a Halo (Score:5, Interesting)

    by starseeker (141897) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @04:34PM (#18029112) Homepage
    Not to sound like Stallman here, but there have always been two camps - those who think software should be Free as in "we should be able to do what we want with the code for moral/ethical reasons" and those who see practical benefits as in "when people can do what they want with the code everyone benefits."

    I would expect most businesses are part of the open source camp, not the free software camp, and open source was always pragmatic. That's WHY it appeals to people where Free doesn't - because there's a definite concrete benefit.

    Businesses as they exist in the US are by and large about making money, not upholding principles. Some businesses do both, but look at Google ("do no evil") and how they delt with China. Capitalism has its limits, and one of them is being socially aware - awareness of community responsibility and discharging that responsibility is always a short term loss for a long term gain (i.e. pay more to properly dispose of waste, lose the profit you could have gotten by keeping the $$ and dumping it in the river, but long term preserve the environment and the health of the people around you, avoid litigation and community ill will). Capitalism sucks at long term anything, which is why government needs to be different from and independent of corporations. That's why framing the free/open proposal as "you get a benefit/save $$ from doing this" rather than "you're morally obligated to do this - it's the ethical thing" is effective. It just so happens that releasing free software has immediate benefits AND benefits society, so PR can say the company is doing both. Sure, the ACTUAL reasons they did it might not deserve a halo, but getting outraged over them not being "genuinely committed to the ideals of Free Software" is as pointless as it is futile, in the business world as it exists today.

    If people do the right thing, it's not very helpful to wonder if they did it for the wrong reasons. How can we know for sure, and what could we do about it even if we did know for sure and don't like their reasons? Insist they do the wrong thing?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by grcumb (781340)

      Not to sound like Stallman here, but there have always been two camps - those who think software should be Free as in "we should be able to do what we want with the code for moral/ethical reasons" and those who see practical benefits as in "when people can do what they want with the code everyone benefits."

      Or, to put it more simply, those two camps consist of those who focus on the cause, and those who focus on the effect.

      It only find it unfortunate that some people think they can get to the effect with

  • by Pojut (1027544) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @04:36PM (#18029148) Homepage
    You know how people usually think when they see a company is "non-profit" that instantly makes them somehow better?

    The same thing holds true for open source.

    Note that I fully support open source (and would contribute if I could program anything more complicated than "hello world") and encourage others to use it...regardless, that still does not mean that open source is all green pastures and trippy skies.

    The motivation to do something merely for the sake of doing it is fantastic...on the other hand, the potential of making millions and millions of dollars (or losing it, for that matter) is one hell of a motivater too. Granted, certain software companies are motivated in better ways than others, but there is something people often forget:

    Just because a programmer works for a major software company does not mean they don't take pride in their work the same way an open source programmer does.

    A corporate programmer is a whore. An open source programmer is a slut.

    One does it for money, one does it for pleasure. The one doing it for money gets pleasure out of it, just in a different way than the one that is not motivated by money.

    (To quote the great George Carlin on the subject of prostitution: "Selling is legal...fucking is legal...why isn't selling fucking legal?"...gotta love those multiple-meaning jokes:-))
    • You know how people usually think when they see a company is "non-profit" that instantly makes them somehow better? The same thing holds true for open source.

      You're right, most people do assume open source developers are instantly better, just like most people assume being a non-profit instantly makes them better. Both are, of course, incorrect.

      A corporate programmer is a whore. An open source programmer is a slut.

      Most open source coders get paid (by a corporation) to develop open source code. Why is

      • by Pojut (1027544)
        I'm not denying the commercial nature that Linux has taken, however I can assure you that Linux development comes more from the community in general rather than major software companies such as Microsoft, Apple, Novell, Norton, etc. yes I know most of those companies have little to nothing to do with linux, but you get the idea...There are far more corporations working on closed-source software than those that are working on open source software.
        • I'm not denying the commercial nature that Linux has taken, however I can assure you that Linux development comes more from the community in general rather than major software companies such as Microsoft, Apple, Novell, Norton, etc.

          The Linux "community" is mostly made up of developers working at different companies. Not all that many of them are hobbyists, and those hobbyists don't have the time paid developers do. Where I work we contribute to Linux OpenBSD, Apache, Snort, MySQL, and hundreds of other p

          • by Pojut (1027544)

            People fix things in Linux because they use Linux to get things done, usually at work.

            I know what you said makes complete sense, but it humours me anyway:-)

            Really? What makes you think that? A huge number of companies do both, including everywhere I've ever worked. Writing some closed source application that runs on Linux often means you have to fix some bug in Linux to get the best results.

            What makes me think that? Nothing really...always made sense to me though considering more buisneses and consumers

            • What makes me think that? Nothing really...always made sense to me though considering more buisneses and consumers use closed-source software compared to open-source...90% is a rather fat piece of pie, you know...

              I think you're confusing using software with developing software. Most companies use software, open and closed source. A few companies develop software. Some might develop exclusively closed source, but so much mainstream software includes open source components that someone works on. That someo

              • by Pojut (1027544)
                OK, my slow mind is finally understanding what you are saying... Doy
                  -_-;;
  • ...some in the industry are asking whether 'open source' has become a cloak used by IT vendors large and small to disguise ruthless and self-serving behavior.

    Open source software is a more efficient development model that provides added benefit to users. It is a feature. It is a big feature, but that is all it is.

    These reporters seem to have bought into age old propaganda that open source is about a bunch of communist hippies getting together to sing songs and code selflessly for the good of the world.

  • by Bluesman (104513) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @04:39PM (#18029194) Homepage

    It's great when Linus Torvalds releases Linux as open-source, even though it's systematically destroying the competitive market for mid-level Unix OS's, because he's a nice, altruistic guy.

    It's not as good when Sun and IBM open-source their Java IDE's, because it destroys the market for Java IDE's, because they're laaaarge corporations, and are only doing this to weed out smaller competitors.

    And it's eeevil when someone open-sources something on a Windows platform, because they obviously are only doing it for the publicity, regardless of whether they have competitors or not.

    But then again, Sun and IBM are directly competing with Microsoft, the most evil of all. And open-sourcing on Windows might mean more software gets ported to Linux.

    But wait, we should ignore this benefit, because, again, these are laaaarge corporations and aren't part of the community. Nor are they completely altruistic, because they make money.

    But I really do like Eclipse and Java.

    (Damn it, I'm confused! Who am I supposed to hate here?)

    Oh yeah, Microsoft SUCKS!
  • Is it perhaps the same as:

    "maximising shareholder value"

    which is something that company directors are required to do by law??

    (They are here. YMMV.)
  • by sdedeo (683762) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @04:42PM (#18029254) Homepage Journal
    I think people who are bashing the article because "hey, they're obeying GPL, what's the problem, companies are ruthless profit-making machines" are right in one sense, but I think are missing the point. The point is that GPL was originally intended to be a rather utopian project. Richard Stallman had ideological and moral goals in creating the GPL, and I think that people are correct in saying that the ruthlessness of the market has figured out ways to subvert that (see, e.g., the TiVo issue discussed above.)

    I think it's an important lesson for programmers and activists in the years to come. Look, the basic point of GPL was a rather radical one: the intellectuals and programmers who held the skills necessary to build the software wanted to wrest some sort of control over their work from the bosses and use it to promote rather radical anti-capitalist ideas such as freedom-to-hack, etc. etc.. I think in many ways that goal has not been realized, and I think people who try such things in the future have to realize that you can't achieve such goals by clever licensing alone. The market will find a way.
  • by pyite69 (463042) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @04:43PM (#18029270)
    One of the big benefits of the GPL is that it helps businesses to protect themselves from bad vendor behavior.

    No, it is not a panacea. Anyone who thinks so will get what they probably deserve. However, it is certainly an improvement over what vendors of, say, closed-source accounting and CRM packages are able to do to their customers.

    Of course, there will still be slimy business behavior - that is what capitalism is all about.
  • NEWS FLASH (Score:3, Funny)

    by nobodyman (90587) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @04:46PM (#18029318) Homepage
    Hold on now. You're telling me that, all this time, HP and IBM participate in open source game for their own financial gain ? How can this be?

  • by iamacat (583406)
    It appears that open source is good for business, so we'll see a lot more of it in future. Even if the source is for a visual basic app talking to SQL server, you can still fix bugs in it when the vendor is no longer around. I don't think GPL is good for business in consumer apps, where users can not afford support or even want someone to poke around their computers. But I do believe more fair licensing is good for business there, and we'll see companies advertising that as an advantage of their product.
  • I want:
    1) To have the source code to the application
    2) If I can't, at least conform to open standards

    I don't care if it isn't free as in beer, or promoted by a shill company, or coded in BF [wikipedia.org] by the devil himself. If I can tweak it that is good. If it interoperates, that is good.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by elcid73 (599126)
      I'm actually the other way around for most software:

      I want:
      1) To conform to open standards
      2) To have the source code to the application

      If it interoperates, that is best, If I can tweak it, that's something I can do if I get really bored.
  • by Eric Damron (553630) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @04:53PM (#18029432)
    Is open-source software being used by vendors to gain advantages? I assume that's what was meant by "ruthless and self-serving behavior." Although I don't agree that gaining an advantage by releasing code to the world under the GPL can realistically be classified as "ruthless" it is self-serving. There is not much that a large corporation does that isn't. They exist, after all, to make a profit for their stockholders.

    But let's look at what may be driving big corporations to embrace open-source: Microsoft.

    Really, what choice do they realistically have? Microsoft uses dirty and illegal tactics. They leverage their monopoly products to such a degree that even large corporations know that they can't compete. Microsoft doesn't realize it but they are their own worst enemy. They are like the unsuccessful parasite that kills its host and therefore dies also.

    The only choice the IT industry outside of Microsoft has is to ban together in a common strategy to slay Goliath.

    Given Microsoft's continued anti-competitive tactics I agree. We should all work together to make Microsoft irrelevant. Don't support them in anything that they do. Don't use technologies that they develop. Let the Mono project die. Don't support it, don't use it. Use free (as in speech) technologies to generate active web pages. Never use ASP.net.

    The first link was Slash dotted but I have a few comments about the second. It states:

    "Imagine, if you will, that it's the late Nineties. A certain software company based in Redmond, Washington has recently released Visual Studio 97--thereby bundling together many of its development tools for the first time. Now imagine that the company decided to release those tools for free."

    Microsoft has released some tools for free (as in beer) and have even allowed companies to view their source code with strict "no compile, "no altering", non-disclosure restrictions but this is not the definition of open source.

    Free software as defined by the Open Source community is not about money. How long will it take for people to "get it?" Free software is "free as in speech." Is that so hard to grasp? It is free of restrictions of any kind except that the user may not apply new restrictions upon it. At least that was the intent. Microsoft and Novell may have found a patent loophole in the GPL v2 license. (The slime balls) But this loophole will be closed in GPL v3.

    Asking the question : What would the reaction be the author states:

    "I think we all know the answer to that one. As James Robertson over at Smalltalk Tidbits, Industry Rants notes: "...had Microsoft released Visual Studio as free software 10 years ago, that almost certainly would have been seen as predatory behavior."

    Not if they had released the source code under the GPL. Again, keeping the source code proprietary and releasing only a free (as in beer) executable is a very different thing.
  • by bitspotter (455598) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @05:04PM (#18029672) Journal
    If Free and Open Source Software is getting so trendy that evil corporations are actually releasing code under bona fide licenses that grant broad user and developer freedoms, I'd tend to say that the opposite: open ideals are forcing corporate greed to lose some of its horns.

    Microsoft Shared Source? No. Mysql? Sure. Tivo? Partially (it's essentially a GPL kernel and FOSS OS on top of a proprietary BIOS and hardware design).

    Don't compromise the licenses, and don't let anyone get away with branding themselves "open" short of the licenses, and we will continue to see sociopathic business interests kept to a modicum of user accountability.
  • by Triv (181010)
    ...somebody set the Evil Bit.

    --Triv
  • by Doug Dante (22218) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @05:26PM (#18030048)
    I was just remarking the other day how I'd like to remove all of IBM's edits from apache so that it's less stable.



    I've never used DotNetNuke [dotnetnuke.com], which is basically a Microsoft friendly rip off of PHP-Nuke, but the mere fact that it exists and that "Microsofties" are using that as free software to make their lives better just pisses me off.



    And all of the "improvements" that Sun has made to OpenOffice.org [openoffice.org]? C'mon, we all know that it started as Star Office, and even though it's free and it does a great job, I just hate telling everyone about how it allows them to do everything that they need without buying Microsoft office. The stench of corporate influence makes me gag as I make great reports with awesome graphics. I wish that they'd just stop developing it.



  • Isn't this what we were all saying for years would happen, and that it would be a good thing? Once you filter out the commie-talk about how awful "self-serving behavior" is, you're left with "businesses are benefitting from open source at the same time as they're driving it. Some businesses are run by bastards, but what's new?"
  • by Rumble (6258)
    Gratis Open-source Killer-app Destroys Demand for Expensive Inferior Products

    So according to the articles:
    some companies are embracing open source and are profiting from it -> that's evil
    open source is gaining mainstream acceptance -> that's evil (linux is still cool, right?)
    microsoft shop decides to go open source -> that's even more evil than just being a MS shop

    The Open Source Movement becomes less revolutionary and exclusive as its success increases. Reducing the rebellion factor perhaps? some
  • Imagine, if you will, that it's the late Nineties. A certain software company based in Redmond, Washington has recently released Visual Studio 97--thereby bundling together many of its development tools for the first time. Now imagine that the company decided to release those tools for free. What do you think the general reaction would have been? Applause for Microsoft's generosity? Or widespread condemnation for using its market power to make such a transparently anti-competitive attack on other makers of
  • by pandrijeczko (588093) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @06:02PM (#18030668)
    Nothing that IBM, HP or any other company is doing with Linux at a commercial level adversely affects me, Mr Grass Roots Linux user, in any way whatsoever. If anything, the fact that those companies are using it so heavily means that an old bloke of 45 years of a age like me, who's into a bit of programming, scripting and general mucking about on Linux and UNIX, has some useful skills that may put a job my way more readily if I ever need one.

    Even in my current job, working as consultant/engineer for a business telecoms company who has already migrated their core telephony platforms onto Linux and is phasing out commercial UNIXes for Linux on our telecoms-related application servers, I get the freedoms to experiment with Linux on our platforms at a level that would be impossible on Windows.

    Away from work, I can use Linux to build low cost solutions for friends, family members and "friends of friends" with small businesses. I've built them web servers, file servers, firewalls and multimedia centres, secure in the knowledge that I am doing so entirely legally without owing any corporation one penny for a software license.

    Even more, I can trundle along to any one of a number of evening Linux computer clubs within driving distance of my house. As someone who "grew his computer teeth" on the Amiga and the BBS scene of the late 80s/early 90s, I've definitely got a feeling of the hobbyist, grass roots movement that just wasn't there in the early days of Windows. And I know of absolutely no Windows computer clubs anywhere, let alone in my area.

    And finally, Linux and Open Source has made my computing time fun again. I'm not in a position where I'm "forced" to use a piece of overpriced commercial software that doesn't do half of what it should do. I use MS Office for what I need it to do - hell, I even quite like XP now I've stripped it back to the classic Windows desktop view and stripped out all the stuff I don't need it to run. I can play all my favourite games on it, write a few documents I need to and then switch over to one of my Linux boxes when I've had enough of it.

    So David Rosenberg perhaps need to remove those spectacles that only let him see the corporate view of the world and look a bit closer to home because the grass roots movement is still very much there.

    And many thanks to Linus - he was right, I am "having fun"...

  • Losing its Halo? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Qbertino (265505) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @06:05PM (#18030716)
    OSS losing its Halo? Couldn't care less. Bunjie keeps coming up with new Halos. IRRC Halo 3 is allready in the works. ...
    Puns aside. WTF is this about? If IBM and Co. are making huge amounts of cash on OSS I'd say good for them and all of us. If I get Sun and IBM sending Netbeans and Eclipse into battle over who can build the best all-free IDE and they're making money on it I'd say we have a win-win-win situation here. And if it's just that opinion leaders such as OSS geeks tell their bosses to buy stuff from Sun and IBM because they rock - all the better.

    Shrinkwrap software only business is over. People yearn for paradise which is a standardized operating system free and flexible enough to deal with any useage scenario. Currently it looks as if this is going to be some unix variant. The situation described in TFA emphasises exactly that: OSS will take over. Get with the programm.
  • by Petersko (564140) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @07:04PM (#18031616)
    I work in a fairly large IT shop in an industrial company. Today was our annual "IT Town Hall". During the question and answer portion of the proceedings, the question came up:

    "Have we thought about what our policy is regarding Open Source software?"

    The answer was short and simple. "Our policy is to use the software that works. If we have an area that you believe can benefit from Open Source, make a case for it."

    Simple enough. The truth is that we licence software from Oracle, Microsoft, Sun, and many other companies, and nearly all of it is closed source. We have some OS stuff around, but we don't pick software because it's free. Our direction must always be to solve business problems. And if the closed source product is better at that task, we're fine with paying for it.

    The quasi-religious attitude towards open source that you find in many places isn't present here. If it works, we use it.

    We don't see a halo. Just tools that we might or might not be able to use.
  • by petrus4 (213815) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @10:38PM (#18034044) Homepage Journal
    I don't believe that the negative attitudes that I've seen as being so prevalent within the "Linux community," affect Open Source as a whole. Some of us think that the attitude among the BSD developers of refusing to try and dictate downstream use is a much more enlightened way of thinking...and in my own mind, the only real reason why anyone associated with Linux thinks that dictating downstream use is a good thing is because Stallman thought it first, and they've swallowed his ideas whole...not because they've actually bothered to think about the consequences of it.

    I've said before that with most of the little people associated with Linux, there isn't a problem...they're just doing their thing each day, maybe contributing patches to a few different projects here and there, and generally living quietly and agreeably. The "leaders" of the "community" on the other hand, are people who I really wish would crawl into a hole in the ground somewhere and die, to be honest. (Bruce Perens, I'm talking to you, among others) That also includes a number of ACs I've had replying to me on here recently who don't even have the basic courage to put their name to what they write, and then expect others to care about their opinions.

    I've realised that one of the main differences between Linux people and the BSD developers is actually posessiveness. The gift culture that ESR wrote about doesn't actually exist with Linux. The BSD people *do* give away their work, genuinely and completely, with no strings attached. The GPL on the other hand encourages an attitude which basically says, "We wrote this, but we'll let you use it...but on the other hand, we don't ever want you to forget that we wrote it, and we also want you to know that we feel that because we wrote it and you are using it, you are forever beholden to us, and we have the right to dominate you in more or less any manner we see fit."

    I want to suggest to Jeremy Ellison and a few of the Debian people in particular that maybe you're nowhere near as high minded as you think, but that in fact, you're actually a group of extremely selfish, controlling, mean-spirited human beings who get off on the fact that writing FOSS under the GPL allows you to superficially appear to be altruistic when in fact you're the complete opposite.

    BSD developers use the BSD license to completely give away software without stipulation in order to benefit other human beings. *Some* GPL developers at least use the GPL to write software which they can then try and use to *control* other human beings...because they have the attitude that if people who use said software start doing things they don't like, the access to the software for said users will be removed.

    You can try and justify this as much as you want, (and doubtless you will) but I think it sucks, that you're completely rotten human beings, and that you're made all the more rotten by the fact that you try and make out that morality is something that you actually are concerned about. You're confusing your own morality with a desire to control what it is that *other* people do. Although again, that's merely an idea that you picked up from the usual source...the root of most of Linux's fundamental problems: Richard Stallman.

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