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Management 'Scared' by Open Source 373

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the following-with-a-firm-push dept.
A discussion panel at EclipseCon exposed how managers are freaking out over open source. Apparently a disconnect exists between managers who set corporate open source policies and developers supposed to follow them, but who end up covering their tracks to make it seem like they are not using open source. Developers, though, end up using open source because of its ubiquity and not using it 'puts them at a competitive disadvantage because their competitors are.' And the Lawyers are in a panic.
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Management 'Scared' by Open Source

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  • by freedom_india (780002) on Saturday March 10, 2007 @07:35AM (#18298784) Homepage Journal
    1) Managers are under the mistaken impression that if i just use spring or Jakarta Commons, the company MUST open up the whole project in which it is used (like a proprietrary trading system) to Open Source.
    Many managers don't realize that just "using" Spring does NOT force you to open up your systems.
    You only need to open up if and when you modify Spring framework with your own code.

    2) Open source hacks is another fear they have: the fear that somehow using open source tools will make their client sue them.

    3) Leak Back: Managers fear developers, in their zeal to promote open source, will incorporate company's code into open source for 'benefitting' others. Much like SCO claimed. Developers are not fools.

    It requires a maturity level beyond that exists today and i don't blame them since these managers were brought up an era where you pay good money for good things.
    • Along the lines of #1, most folk I meet are fearful of the license issues in terms of "do we owe royalties or something?" Where I work, we use my public domain OSS projects, but we also use others (openssl, swan, the kernel, etc) and we have to be careful of how we distribute things. Fortunately, most of it is in source form which alleviates GPL/LGPL issues. But it's always in the back of our minds.

      Tom
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by paeanblack (191171)
        From the GP:3) Leak Back: Managers fear developers, in their zeal to promote open source, will incorporate company's code into open source for 'benefitting' others. Much like SCO claimed. Developers are not fools.

        Developers are not legal experts either. "Who retains what rights to which code" can become a sufficiently complicated question without bringing the umpteen F/OSS licenses out there into the mix. If the developers can duplicate what already exists in F/OSSland for less money than the legal team c
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by fourchannel (946359)

          "Who retains what rights to which code" can become a sufficiently complicated question without bringing the umpteen F/OSS licenses out there into the mix. If the developers can duplicate what already exists in F/OSSland for less money than the legal team can unravel the rights, then staying proprietary is the right decision.
          I bet a better decision would be to say "fuck it!", and let Humanity retain the rights to the code.
        • Nice one, Bill (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Bloke down the pub (861787) on Saturday March 10, 2007 @04:27PM (#18301578)

          The trouble is that answering their question can cost more than what incorporating F/OSS will save.
          Perhaps if you were distributing the code. IANAL(IAOSBDTP), but I thought internal use within an organisation doesn't count as distribution.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by pammon (831694)

      Managers are under the mistaken impression that if i just use spring or Jakarta Commons, the company MUST open up the whole project in which it is used (like a proprietrary trading system) to Open Source.

      Use how? What if one of the engineers needs a snippet of code, copies it from Spring, and incorporates it into their product without attribution? Suddenly, that company is legally vulnerable.

      You only need to open up if and when you modify Spring framework with your own code

      No, that is not correc

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by l0ne (915881)

        Use how? What if one of the engineers needs a snippet of code, copies it from Spring, and incorporates it into their product without attribution? Suddenly, that company is legally vulnerable.

        Oh, come on! The dev community has worked twenty years to get to the point where you can reuse existing code without having to copy and paste it. We were calling this inheritance if I'm not mistaken.

        Also, it's common sense that other people's code is other people's. If your developers are not intelligent enough t

        • by drsmithy (35869)

          Using an open source tool and modifying it are two deeply different things.

          Not while "linking" and "modifying" remain synonymous, they're not.

          Added to which, the GPL - probably the most popular OSS license - does not require "modification" to apply its restrictions, it merely requires "inclusion".

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Tassach (137772)
            A little reducto ad absurdum here... Suppose I release the following program under GPL:

            #!/usr/bin/perl -w
            use strict;
            Does that now mean that any Perl script that "includes" mine is now subject to the GPL? How big does an "inclusion" have to be to trigger the GPL? One line of code? Ten? One hundred?
            • by gnasher719 (869701) on Saturday March 10, 2007 @02:04PM (#18300744)
              '' Does that now mean that any Perl script that "includes" mine is now subject to the GPL? How big does an "inclusion" have to be to trigger the GPL? One line of code? Ten? One hundred? ''

              No matter what the size, it doesn't "trigger the GPL".

              Lets say I have written an identical two liner and published it, but without GPL, so nobody is allowed to duplicate it. What's the difference between including your code and mine? Each one is copyright infringement and treated identically. The only difference is that the person copying your code has one more way to make his copying legal (by publishing everything under GPL) which someone who copies my code doesn't have. But nobody can ever be forced to publish their code under the GPL.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by init100 (915886)

          No FOSS tool that I know of limits what you can do with its output.

          One category of programs that may cause such issues are lexical and syntactical analyzers (also known as lexer and parser generators), since they often include parts of themselves in their output.

          • by NickFortune (613926) on Saturday March 10, 2007 @11:16AM (#18299720) Homepage Journal

            No FOSS tool that I know of limits what you can do with its output.
            One category of programs that may cause such issues are lexical and syntactical analyzers (also known as lexer and parser generators), since they often include parts of themselves in their output.

            Got any examples?

            The most common lex and yacc tools distributed with Linux are Flex and Bison - or at least they were when last I had occasion to use such things. It's not true in either of those cases.

            Flex, if you look at its sourceforge page [sourceforge.net] is distributed under the BSD licence. So there are no problems with flex.

            Bison is more problematical, since it's released under the full GPL. The problem is acknowledged by the FSF [gnu.org]

            Some programs copy parts of themselves into the output for technical reasons--for example, Bison copies a standard parser program into its output file. In such cases, the copied text in the output is covered by the same license that covers it in the source code. Meanwhile, the part of the output which is derived from the program's input inherits the copyright status of the input.

            However the same FAQ entry continues:

            As it happens, Bison can also be used to develop non-free programs. This is because we decided to explicitly permit the use of the Bison standard parser program in Bison output files without restriction.

            So Bison isn't a threat either.

            Which tools were you thinking of, specifically? I'm sure the authors of such tools don't intend to lay traps for proprietary developers, and I expect they'd be happy to make the relevant changes if it meant wider use of their tools.

            Failing that, it would be a worthwhile exercise to publicise any such tools that are incompatible with proprietary development processes. As opposed to just going "Open Source! Be Very Afraid!" which doesn't seem to contribute anything of value to the debate

        • NMAP (Score:3, Informative)

          by brunes69 (86786)

          No FOSS tool that I know of limits what you can do with its output.

          NMAP [insecure.org] does.

          Try integrating NMAP with yoru commercial product. You won't be allowed to distirbute it if you use it's output to integrate into your own stuff.

          Check out their wacky addition to the GPL:

          * Note that the GPL places important restrictions on "derived works", yet * it does not provide a detailed definition of that term. To avoid * misunderstandings, we consider an application to constitute a * "derivative work" for the purpo

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by darkwhite (139802)
            "Their wacky addition"? Interesting.

            Please don't be obtuse. The parent poster was referring to running the program at development time, then incorporating its result as part of the product. The restriction you cite does not forbid that.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by drooling-dog (189103)

        Use how? What if one of the engineers needs a snippet of code, copies it from Spring, and incorporates it into their product without attribution? Suddenly, that company is legally vulnerable.

        That's basically a non-issue, because those "snippets of code" are out there and readily available to your developers whether your organization actually uses the software or not. You might as well argue that they shouldn't have access to any programming manuals, because they might appropriate some of the (copyrighted) example code.

        Open source licenses are more permissive than those for proprietary software in all respects that I can think of, including distribution. But no, you can't simply modify it and s

      • by g2devi (898503) on Saturday March 10, 2007 @10:48AM (#18299562)
        > Use how? What if one of the engineers needs a snippet of code, copies it from Spring, and incorporates it into their product without attribution?

        This is a valid concern, but it goes deeper than you think. It's been a few years since I programmed for Win32 and MFC, but back then, it was quite common for Windows programmer to google for hacks^H^H^H^H^H solutions to problems or copy code from book CDs to solve problems and to cut and paste them into code. In web programming, it's even more common to look for libraries or snippets that solve a problem rather than reinvent the wheel.

        Years of blindly clicking book-long EULAs or online EULAs that change silently on you without your notice have taught people that licenses don't matter and are things to be ignored. Most developers who do this don't seem to be aware of licensing issue and assume that if it's on the internet or if it came with or on a book, then it must be public domain and fair game. In a large number of case, this is not the case, and a stricter license ("you may use this code in non commercial code" or "you may use this code but not modify it" or even "this code is for demonstration purposes only, do not use it") is attached. Shared source muddles the issue further since it leaves you to SCO-like "you looked at the code so anything you write is contaminated" type lawsuits.

        This is what managers are really afraid of.

        What many managers haven't clued in on is that open source makes managing this concern easier because most open source software falls into 10 or so licenses that can be divided into three or so categories "share quid pro quo" (e.g. GPL), "library quid pro quo alike" (e.g. LGPL), "attribution" (e.g. BSD, MIT). So it should be easy to define a policy for them and provide a mechanism for new licenses to be added. If you enforce the policy to make your developers actually *look* at the license and *care*, there's little reason to fear and reason to be more confident than you aren't accidentally setting yourself for IP lawsuits from *non-open source* publishers since your developers will be avoiding those like the plague in favour of open source software of the appropriate type.

    • disempowerment (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ex-geek (847495) on Saturday March 10, 2007 @08:15AM (#18298940)
      I believe that another important fear is that of disempowerment. Open source is usually free of charge, which means that their budgets and thus their importance decreases. Also, there is no need for developers and IT staff to go to their superiors to ask and beg in the first place. They can just download, evaluate and use free software right away.

      Free software is also not advertised unlike commercial products, which means that managers can't even communciate, what is going on, to their kin.

      Compare: "I recently negotiated a licencing deal with <known software company> for <known software product>, which i deemed to be the best solution because of <list of buzzwords>"
      To: "Well, my IT guys implemented a working system on their own, using some software I can't pronounce and really don't understand."
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by motek (179836)
        Ahh... the moderation! This is rather silly, not 'interesting'. We weren't talking about IT, but development, in the first place. I have been running a software R&D group for a long while. In the long run, all costs are marginal comparing to personnel expense.
        And besides - if you really must see me as an evil person - the power to refuse somebody something is not much of a thrill. Comparing to the simple fact I can just fire him...

      • "I believe that another important fear is that of disempowerment. Open source is usually free of charge, which means that their budgets and thus their importance decreases."

        How many of us read this, and are saying "Hey, if they're worried about the consequences of reduced budgets, they can always throw me another $50k a year ..."? :-)

        Its not about budgets, and its not about power - its about managers who aren't really right for the job - because the JOB has changed.

        Look at it this way - 1st-rate peo

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rlauzon (770025)

      The main reason is the lack of knowledge. Period. (At least for the companies that I've worked for.)

      The people who makes these decisions are frequently ex-techies who don't realize that they have no useful knowledge anymore, simply because they've been living in management-land for so long. So they make decision based on simple rules. Back in the '80's, the rule was "no one got fired for going with IBM." Now, it's "no one got fired for going Microsoft."

      Time and time again, they choose to pay for ov

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Alex (342)
        No one could give me a clear reason why we chose to pay $75 per license for Office XP instead of going to OpenOffice for free.

        I use openoffice all of the time - and the answer to your question is "open office is only an acceptable replacement for basic users of office applications" - have you tried opening a complex spreadsheet in openoffice ? it'll take ages. On my 3 year old windows laptop similar spreadsheets open in 20% of the time in Excel.

        Openoffice is very good - but for a small % of users it is a v
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by rlauzon (770025)

          I use openoffice all of the time - and the answer to your question is "open office is only an acceptable replacement for basic users of office applications" - have you tried opening a complex spreadsheet in openoffice? it'll take ages. On my 3 year old windows laptop similar spreadsheets open in 20% of the time in Excel.

          Yup. Just did it. Opened quicker than Excel for me.

          Openoffice is very good - but for a small % of users it is a very poor replacement, 75$ is also a bargain for MS Office.

          I would a

          • I would agree that for a small percentage of users OO is probably a poor replacement.

            Please see my comment at http://linux.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=225968&c id=18299300 [slashdot.org]. I would submit that anyone who does even simple graphing in Excel is not a candidate for Open Office. Given that Office is predominantly a business application, and given that Excel is the primary component for business users, I think this means that Open Office is simply unsuited for business users.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by TobascoKid (82629)
              So because OO.org is not suited to some business users it's unsuited for all business users?

              Looking at your post, why are you using a spreadsheet to do that kind of graphing in the first place (even Excel)? You seem to be claiming that your particular use of spreadsheets shows that OO.org is not suitable for all business use, even though you are using it in a way that is non-representative of typical business use cases.
              • by multipartmixed (163409) on Saturday March 10, 2007 @10:56AM (#18299594) Homepage
                What the hell is wrong with using Excel to do graphing?

                I regularly generate reasonably complex CSV files with *nix tools, usually out of prof, truss, dtrace or syslog output. A couple of quick clicks in excel, up pops a graph which contains useful visual information. Why, just the other day I solved a multi-process race condition with a floating bar chart derived from a log file...

                Excel is really great for that sort of stuff, lots of built-in graph types you can quickly try, it understands things like dates and floats, and if you wind up with something really cool you can take a few more minutes to add some labels and colours and bang it into a PDF.

                Compared to what.. What other tool allow that? Hmm. I'm thinking here. Whatever tool that might be, it sure as hell isn't installed on my desktop and I don't know how to use it.

                So, in your magic neverland where Excel is not the right solution.. What is? And why should I spend time+money on it, when Excel already does what I want it to?

                (And, for the record, I use Excel '97...)
        • " have you tried opening a complex spreadsheet in openoffice ?"

          Yes.

          "it'll take ages"

          False.

          "On my 3 year old windows laptop similar spreadsheets open in 20% of the time in Excel."

          False again.

          You probably meant that open *Excel* spreadsheets on Openoffice.org took ages; that I admit. But open *openoffice* spreadsheets on Openoffice.org works just OK. On the other hand, trying to open Openoffice.org spreadsheets on Excel doesn't take ages: it takes forever.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by LaughingCoder (914424)

        No one could give me a clear reason why we chose to pay $75 per license for Office XP instead of going to OpenOffice for free.

        Here's a clear reason. Open Office is a toy. I am actually not a power user of Excel, but every time I try Open Office Calc (spreadsheet) it is very disappointing. Just the other day I wanted to graph 2048 data pairs contained in a CSV file. I am using a dual core machine with 2GB of RAM, and nothing else is running. In Open Office's spreadsheet program it takes 15 seconds just to

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by shaitand (626655)
          Funny you should mention that. I just got my first chance to work with excel in Office 2007. I can certainly say that it was a nightmare.

          I am not an excel user nor am I tied to a UI scheme. I am a frequent game player (each UI unique with different levels of quality) and also commonly use various new open source tools (again, many have unique UI's of various quality levels). I can truly say that I have never seen anything quite so horrid as the user interface in 2007. It took a full 10 seconds just to figur
      • by Dogtanian (588974)

        The only time non-Microsoft products enter the enterprise is when these people aren't part of the decision process. For example: our new PBX system runs Asterix
        Those feisty Gauls sure know how to get what they want.
      • by Presence1 (524732) on Saturday March 10, 2007 @11:23AM (#18299764) Homepage
        Lack of knowledge may sometimes be the cause, but not always.

        I use the OO apps every day on my machines. They are pretty good, the price is right, and I prefer to avoid the MS tax where possible. I also think MS Word sucks because it tries to do WAY too much for me (turn off all that crap, and just let me write!), and I think Excel 3 was the best version (very nice but still lean).

        Yet, in most recent software company I co-founded and served as CTO (building self-service web apps), we made a decision to use MS Office instead.

        Why? Compatibility. The business-side partners, while sympathetic to the open source cause, and certainly liking the price, were emphatic that they needed to frequently exchange files with suppliers and customers. I would have liked to make the case for OO, but I could easily find files in Word, Excel and PowerPoint that OO would fail to properly display or edit. So, with these inconvenient facts, I agreed that MS Office was the way to go.

        Am I disgusted with MS practices in making compatibility so difficult? Absolutely. But I still needed to make decisions based on the actual facts on the ground, not the ideal that OO will (someday) be fully compatible. We had a company to build and needed the best, most cost-effective tools to get the work done, even if we are being oppressed by a monopoly compatiility issue.

        A few years later, my current startup is in development and fabrication of high-performance composite products. We are starting out with OO, and compatibility is better, and MS Office is even more bloated, but I have a suspicion that the same decision will ultimately be made again.

        Either way, neither decision will have been made from ignorance, and certainly not from any kind of "nobody got fired for buying XYZ" attitude.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Kjella (173770)
      1) Managers are under the mistaken impression that if i just use spring or Jakarta Commons, the company MUST open up the whole project in which it is used (like a proprietrary trading system) to Open Source.

      To be fair, I don't expect a manager beyond a certain level to understand the complexities of libraries and linking and 'derived work' and patent clauses or whatnot. In particular not if they're entering into a legal agreement on the company's behalf, which is exactly what a software license is. I certai
      • "To take one example from a client that shall remain nameless. I needed an SQL tool to do my job, and the only approved tool was Query Analyzer. At the same time they were in a process of migrating to a new platform, and everyone issued new PCs had to be on the new platform. Unfortunately, they had not certified Query Analyser (and Enterprise Manager) for use on the new platform. Could I have it installed anyway? No, against policy. Could I downgrade to the old platform? No, against policy. Could they make
    • by ivan256 (17499)

      Managers are under the mistaken impression that if i just use spring or Jakarta Commons, the company MUST open up the whole project in which it is used (like a proprietrary trading system) to Open Source.
      Many managers don't realize that just "using" Spring does NOT force you to open up your systems.

      It doesn't help that they have salespeople from BlackDuck Software [blackducksoftware.com] reinforcing their fears. Theys guys come knocking telling CEOs, and CFOs (they're very careful not to make initial contact with the technical g

    • by dhasenan (758719)
      You don't have to release the source to your modifications of GPL code unless you distribute your modifications. If your company wants to roll out a heavily modified version of GNOME for internal use, the GPL allows that, and they don't need to share the source with anyone until they distribute the binaries outside the company.
  • Heard that (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tomstdenis (446163) <tomstdenisNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday March 10, 2007 @07:35AM (#18298786) Homepage
    When big enough companies use [or acquire companies that use] my software, I usually get a call from a manager or legal dept. Turns out big companies are not only scared of OSS but also public domain software. The idea that I give out something for anyone to use without license seems to scare them.

    It's like a fiver you leave on a bus for anyone to have, people are always skeptical if they can in fact take it.

    On the plus side, it's fun explaining the public domain to folk :-)

    Tom
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by teh kurisu (701097)

      I think I understand their concern. Technically you still have copyright over your works, as copyright is automatic, but it's what you do with that copyright subsequently that makes it de-facto public domain work.

      Also, it's not strictly true that you're passing it on without licence - you are entering into a verbal contract with your clients (which I believe is binding in most legal systems, but don't quote me on that) which gives them certain rights over your copyrighted work. A good lawyer would proba

    • Re:Heard that (Score:5, Interesting)

      by DRichardHipp (995880) on Saturday March 10, 2007 @08:44AM (#18299052)

      I've actually *sold* a few of licenses to the public domain SQLite [sqlite.org] library. Companies call me up and say they want to license the product. I carefully explain that no license is necessary and that they can use it forever for free for anything they want. But they still want a license. So I sell them one. So far, I've sold them cheap. Maybe I should charge more....

      This appears to be more of an issue in Europe where, apparently, the concept of "public domain" is less well defined than in the US.

      • This makes perfect sense though. Business want a paper trail that they can go back on if problems arise later. You may now say "no license is required...it's public domain". But what if 5 years from now, you decide to sue them for copyright infringement? How do they defend themselves without the paper trail? From a legal perspective, it's an order of magnitude easier to go back to the license and show that you're not infringing than to try to prove that your software used to be in the public domain 5 y
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by modeless (978411)
        I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you for the awesomeness that is SQLite, and especially for putting it in the public domain. It's been the perfect base for the C# application I'm writing at work (via the equally excellent and also public domain System.Data.SQLite wrapper [phxsoftware.com]). The public domain license means I can use it without worrying about maintaining lists of attributions (such as required with the BSD license, and which, as a lowly developer, I can't guarantee will remain with my code forever,
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Speare (84249)

      And then there's the guy in IT who uses the phrase "public domain" for things that are open sourced, licensed with sources, published in textbooks, or anywhere in between. Even if he knows the difference, he's poisoning the well by callously disregarding the important distinction of "the owner makes the source available" and "the source has no owner."

  • In Capitalist West management scared about your lawyer exposing code theft.
    In Soviet Russia KGB scared about not stealing enough code for you.
  • The license issues (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mi (197448) <slashdot-2012@virtual-estates.net> on Saturday March 10, 2007 @07:42AM (#18298808) Homepage

    And the Lawyers are in panic

    And for good reason. Just listening to all the talk on whether or not Novell is violating GPL (perhaps by simply partnering with another vendor - Microsoft) should make a lawyer's skin crawl...

    If more code was released under BSD-type license, we would've seen wider adoption.

    So, GPL was used to wrestle a few vendors into releasing their own code. And what? Who has looked into that code or used it for anything else? And how many other vendors have (foolishly) decided to avoid "open source" and come up with their own (usually inferior) re-inventions of the wheel, because of that?

    It is hard enough to use an outside solution because of the NIH [wikipedia.org] syndrome. Restrictive licenses exacerbate the problem...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by imroy (755)

      So, GPL was used to wrestle a few vendors into releasing their own code.

      I'm sorry. What did you just write? Give me one example of a company being forced to release previously proprietary software under the GNU GPL. One. I dare you.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by mi (197448)

        Give me one example of a company being forced to release previously proprietary software under the GNU GPL. One.

        Do a Google search [google.com] will ya?

        How about Cisco [infoworld.com] for example, uhm? Or Linksys [wi-fiplanet.com]:

        In June 2003 some folks on the Linux Kernel Mailing List sniffed around the WRT54G and found that its firmware was based on Linux components. Because Linux is released under the GNU General Public License, or GPL, the terms of the license obliged Linksys to make available the source code to the WRT54G firmware. As most ro

        • by LinuxDon (925232) on Saturday March 10, 2007 @08:27AM (#18298978)
          Quote: "I'm not aware of anybody benefiting from this open-sourcing, however, and this lack of benefits (from vendors being wrestled into releasing their "GPL-tainted" code) was my main point."

          There are a lot of people benefiting from this actually.
          Ever heard of http://www.hyperwrt.org/ [hyperwrt.org] and http://openwrt.org/ [openwrt.org] ?

          Now you can actually run a webserver on this device.

          Granted, you can create a discussion about the commercial value of it all, but it certainly has a very high educational value. Also, this code (with some modifications) could be used on other/similar devices as well.
          The way I see it, this is a big win. Instead of reinventing the wheel people can now start off with the already existing code. And I bet Linksys is actually selling more devices because of openwrt instead of less, so Linksys has won too.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by init100 (915886)

            Granted, you can create a discussion about the commercial value of it all

            I'd say it could have a lot of commercial value. After all, the WRT54 series is recommended all over the 'net just because of the moddability of the product and the community around those mods. This could certainly bring in more sales.

        • by imroy (755) <imroykun@gmail.com> on Saturday March 10, 2007 @08:27AM (#18298982) Homepage Journal

          Now, you could say, the open-sourced firmware was never proprietary to begin with somehow, but that's just semantics

          How is that semantics? I thought that was the whole point - PHB's are afraid of having to release all or part of their precious proprietary software. But that's not what happened with Linksys/Cisco and the WRT54G routers. It was a striped down Linux distro. Ok, they had to put it together, perhaps write some shell scripts. I'm not sure where the web interface came from. But did they have to release any super-secret proprietary source code? I doubt it.

          So really, has there been any actual cases of a manager's worst nightmare, the scenario that Microsoft has been FUD'ing us with for years - having to "open source" their internally developed software because a developer in some way used Open Source Software? That's what I'm after. And I don't believe it's ever happened. It's just FUD but the managers don't know any better.

          • by mi (197448)

            It was a striped down Linux distro. Ok, they had to put it together, perhaps write some shell scripts.

            Well, if that's all it was, why is OpenWRT [openwrt.org] offered as an example by another responder to my post? Apparently, some work was required to go from a "Linux distro" to "Linksys firmware" — and that work is now available to all because of GPL.

            And I'm not saying, it is bad. But it certainly is something, a "PHB" is justified to be concerned about.

            • But it certainly is something, a "PHB" is justified to be concerned about.

              Yeah, but so what? Do you think that the PHB somehow doesn't have to be concerned about the alternative, which is either licensing some proprietary solution (which, legally, is probably even more complicated to deal with) or writing it in-house from scratch (which, obviously, would be complicated too).

              In other words, there's going to be issues (licensing or otherwise) whether OSS is used or not, and I've yet to find any situation wh

          • by Bent Mind (853241) on Saturday March 10, 2007 @10:24AM (#18299456)
            It was a striped down Linux distro. Ok, they had to put it together, perhaps write some shell scripts. I'm not sure where the web interface came from. But did they have to release any super-secret proprietary source code? I doubt it.

            Just off the top of my head, it's been a while.

            They took the Linux kernel and patched to support a Broadcom wireless NIC. They then sold the compiled version as their own software. Someone found a bug in the interface that dropped them into a shell and discovered it was Linux. Linksys responded by offering the Linux kernel source without the patch. People complained when it didn't work and legal again was threatened. So Linksys rewrote the patch to use a binary blob. Nothing proprietary was lost.

            Open Source developers then used the patch and blob to reverse engineer a Broadcom driver for BSD, and latter, Linux.

            My memory of the events is hazy. I'm sure there is a Wiki article somewhere with more/better details.
        • by rbanffy (584143)
          "I'm not aware of anybody benefiting from this open-sourcing, however, and this lack of benefits (from vendors being wrestled into releasing their "GPL-tainted" code) was my main point"

          How about owners being able to modify their router firmware? There are _LOTS_ of mods for the WRT54G mainly because of this and the WRT54G enjoys part of its sales because it is so flexible.

          Hell. I have a modded one on my office.

          So, I am one who benefited from this.

          You can take my garbage. Tuesdays.
          • by mi (197448)

            How about owners being able to modify their router firmware? There are _LOTS_ of mods for the WRT54G mainly because of this and the WRT54G enjoys part of its sales because it is so flexible.

            Interesting. So, now I aware of the benefits — in this case. Cool.

            You can take my garbage. Tuesdays.

            I can, of course, but I don't have to. Unlike the poster who dared me to come with an example of something, I simply said, I'm unaware of something (else) — and you informed me...

        • Now, you could say, the open-sourced firmware was never proprietary to begin with somehow, but that's just semantics clearly, Linksys thought of it as proprietary and weren't planning to release the sources until the outside pressure made them do it.

          ALL code licenses are "just semantics", because all laws are "just semantics". Many companies have taken F/OSS code and pretended that they had the right to make it their own and were stopped by the legal copyright owners from doing so. They were in fact maki
          • by mi (197448)

            Now try to do what the GP actually said: find a company that first developed a piece of proprietary software, added a piece of F/OSS code to it, and was then forced to open up their original work as a result.

            Although such cases likely exist, I don't have to present them here, because I have not spoken of them. The case of Linksys being arm-twisted into releasing their code illustrates my point (not the GGP's apparent interpretation).

            That the arm-twisting may have benefited Linksys itself overall (as was

        • by Dogtanian (588974)
          Are you claiming that Linksys didn't have the option of paying damages to those whose code it had illegally distributed instead?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by mvdwege (243851)

      [...] all the talk on whether or not Novell is violating GPL (perhaps by simply partnering with another vendor - Microsoft) [...]

      Stop spreading FUD. Novell was doing more than simply partnering with Microsoft. They took out what amounted to a patent license in all but words, which would call into question their ability to distribute GPL code. The patent clause in the GPL is quite clear: if you have a patent license to code under the GPL, you must be able to transfer that license along with the code, or y

      • by mi (197448)

        Stop spreading FUD. Novell was doing more than simply partnering with Microsoft. They took out what amounted to a patent license in all but words, which would call into question their ability to distribute GPL code.

        Whether Novell was right or wrong, the truth remains — they had GPL-related troubles (and may have them again). Had they used BSD-licensed wares, they wouldn't have had these troubles. End of story.

        • by TobascoKid (82629)
          Had they used BSD-licensed wares, they wouldn't have had these troubles.

          They also wouldn't have had a marketable product. If you decide to distribute GPL code then you have to play by the rules. End of story.
          • by mi (197448)

            They also wouldn't have had a marketable product.

            Come, come... Certainly, you are not saying, that Apple's FreeBSD-derived MacOS is less marketable, than Novell's Linux-derived SUSE (or whatever)...

            If you decide to distribute GPL code then you have to play by the rules.

            Yes, of course — true of any license (and decision). The point is about the rules being too restrictive for some people.

            • by TobascoKid (82629)
              Certainly, you are not saying, that Apple's FreeBSD-derived MacOS is less marketable, than Novell's Linux-derived SUSE (or whatever)...

              The marketable bits of OSX are the bits that are proprietary. Seeing as Apple have (more or less) kept Darwin open then they could have just as well have used a GPL'd kernel (like Apple's own mkLinux).

              If Novell released NovellBSD, they certainly wouldn't be putting some slick propeietary UI on top of FreeBSD. Without that, why would you buy it? There's certainly nothing stop
              • by mi (197448)

                If GPL'd software is too restrictive then proprietary software would be even more of a straight jacket.

                I'm not comparing GPL'd vs. proprietry software. I'm contrasting GPL with BSD-license — the latter being far less restrictive.

                About the only reason that I can think of as to why the GPL would be "too restrictive" would be when somebody wants to exploit the works of one set of people solely for their own benefit and at the expense of another set of people.

                Tell me now, how is Apple's MacOS "at the

        • by mvdwege (243851)

          Novell bought GPL developed projects. To turn around later and blame the GPL for Novell's PR nightmare is stupid. There exists something called 'due diligence'.

          Mart
    • by rbanffy (584143)
      "If more code was released under BSD-type license, we would've seen wider adoption."

      If more code was released under BSD-type licenses, we would see a lot of proprietary software using such software and small contributions to the original, BSD licensed code, only where compatibility between the BSD core and their proprietary extensions is required.

      GPL-style is an economic incentive for corporations to act nice (help others or don't sell your "enhanced" version). BSD is no such thing.
      • by rbanffy (584143)
        "proprietary software using such code".
                                                                          ^^^^

        Preview is for sissies.
      • by mi (197448)

        GPL-style is an economic incentive for corporations to act nice (help others or don't sell your "enhanced" version).

        GPL is more of legal incentive, than an economic one... Hence the lawyers' worries...

        BSD is no such thing.

        Yep. BSD is not an enforcement tool.

    • If more code was released under BSD-type license, we would've seen wider adoption.
      No, we would not. *BSD OSes existed for a long time before GNU/Linux and they had a much smaller adoption. Then GNU and Linux came and we know the rest of the story. Why the difference? Because much more people are willing to contribute to GNU and to Linux because they are GPLed!
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        You're forgetting the BSD copyright issues. About the time Linux was becoming public, the various BSD releases had been held back to AT&T owned code, which meant you had to buy an expensive license to get your own copy. If you were a Uni, it wasn't bad, but for an individual, somewhat daunting. When they finally factored the last of the proprietary code out (during the 386BSD days), people were still worried that it wasn't really gone, and therefore waited for someone else to be the first to be sued.
  • by OffTheLip (636691) on Saturday March 10, 2007 @07:44AM (#18298818)
    Managers may be afraid of unknown open source packages but much of what they do is governed, managed if you will, by open source software. As has been said time and again here the internet and much of the global communication grid is dependent on open source offerings. It what they don't know that they fear. Nobody ever got fired for choosing Microsoft.
  • by thsths (31372) on Saturday March 10, 2007 @07:50AM (#18298834)
    I had a problem with the BSD three clause license once. If you every read commercial software documentation, there is usually a section full of advertising clauses for contributed software. But no, management deemed this not acceptable. Of course there was no time either to remove the BSD code, so we just left it there.

    On the other hand the leaking of GPL code is a reasonable concern. It happens all to often with common software such as MySQL. And you here statements such as "but if we use Perl, we are not linking against the MySQL code", which are dubious at best. Or "if the customer downloads the library himself, we are not responsible".

    Of course banning open source is not the solution. Actually most commercial software packages have some content of open source code (Windows has the BSD network stack, Matlab has BLAS, Adobe uses the JPEG library...). And even if you ban all open source software, you can still violate the license of a commercial package :-). The only solution is to be careful with what you ship, period.

    • by TobascoKid (82629)
      And even if you ban all open source software, you can still violate the license of a commercial package

      Which a point rarely made about proprietary software. Practically every piece of proprietary code comes with a different license, with an entirely different set of restrictions. It's a lot easier to make a misstep with proprietary software than it is with open source, and your risk of being taken to court (as opposed to just some public shame restricted to tech circles) is far higher.
  • by imroy (755) <imroykun@gmail.com> on Saturday March 10, 2007 @07:56AM (#18298852) Homepage Journal
    If people are wondering why managers are scared of Free/Open Source Software, just look at Rob Enderle's recent story [slashdot.org] posted here on Slashdot yesterday. Managers are the targets of these schill reporters (Enderle, O'Gara, Lyons) and their efforts are clearly working. We might not fall for their FUD, but managers and other non-techies do. And that's why they get paid.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by LinuxDon (925232)
      I don't know what kind of manager everyone has, but I can't think of any manager having the time to read such crap like Rob Enderle has produced.
      In my experience managers can actually be educated quite fast/well on open source if you know how to sell it to them. The main keywords are 'cost savings', 'reliability', 'significantly less downtime', 'scalability', 'flexibility', 'performance'.
      And big company's like Novell, IBM and RedHat selling opensource/linux make a very strong case.

      Actually, in my experience
  • FUD (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mapkinase (958129)
    I read the first sentence of the article, and it is clear to me that it is utter BS.

    If the company policy is closed source that is it. Managers are absolutely right to make sure that nobody uses open source in company products, because if somebody sneaks in snippets of GPL-protected code into their applications, that might have big legal ramifications.

    Said that, the company policy to use open source in their productsor not is another issue. That is up to particular company, particular circumstances. For som
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by wrook (134116)
      I'm not sure I read your comment right, but if I did I just can't agree with you.

      There are lots of places where you can legally use open source and Free software in a closed source environment. To cut that out of your arsenal is cutting off your nose to spite your face. Of course it depends on the license and what you are willing to give up. But as previous posters have said, you can use public domain software anywhere. You can use BSD licensed software almost everywhere as long as you don't mind tellin
  • Best Buy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Hadlock (143607) on Saturday March 10, 2007 @08:01AM (#18298870) Homepage Journal
    This amuses me greatly, as my good friend is a manager of a Geek Squad department and they're not allowed to use open source tools, although he frequently sees them being used (and lets it slide for obvious reasons). I forget the exact reasoning, but it does involve liability to some extent. Apparently stand alone geek squad "stores" in strip malls and the like are allowed to use "more advanced" tools for some reason.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by chill (34294)
      That's amusing. Wasn't it Geek Squad just had their pants sued off for distributing and not paying for internal copies of Winternals software? They licensed ONE copy and made it, and other tools, available on an internal FTP server for everyone.

      WTF then is the problem with FOSS? At least it would have made what they were doing legal. Or do they WANT to be criminal scum?
  • Truth (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jawahar (541989)
    People make money out of others ignorance.
    People make money by adding value to others.
  • I cannot think of a single company anywhere that is not at least using open source software. Hell, there is likely very few if any that do not at least use it indirectly "google search". Now granted
    developers within a company shipping a product should be trained in what you can and cannot use and under what circumstances. Soon here even java will be open source, so you will not even be running your application servers and custom code without a open source component.

    What we are talking about here is propriet
  • by natrius (642724) <niran&niran,org> on Saturday March 10, 2007 @09:14AM (#18299184) Homepage
    Manager: So you're telling me that someone already wrote code that performs a task we need done in our software, and they're letting anyone use it for free?
    Coder #1: Yeah, I think it's cool that—
    Manager: AIEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!
    [Manager faints.]
    Coder #2: That's the last project on SourceForge that we hadn't used yet. How are we going to get out of work tomorrow?
    Coder #1: Hmm... Wanna go grab a beer and start yet another Python web framework?
    Coder #2: You're a genius.
  • Look at the context of this post, it was a pannel discusion at a conference. It means they didn't have anybody to speak about something infromative so they got bunch of so called experts to talk about something "controversial" to fill the time. It treats the groups discused as monolithic morons. Developers, Managers and the always popular "Lawyers". We are "Freaking Out", "Scared", "in a panic" all very informative descriptions for how people deal with complicated problems. News flash! There are cluel
  • Developers, though, end up using open source because of its ubiquity and not using it 'puts them at a competitive disadvantage because their competitors are.'

    See the problem here? Using open source give an advantage in the minds of the developers, but not the managers? Why? Because developers' time are free for managers of most in-house IT dept! Developers' salary is fixed cost in the budget, once hired, a manager rarely have to justify it every year. On the contrary, developers viewed as having little

  • To me it seems more that these managers that are afraid of open source are just lazy and don't do what they are paid to do: to manage. Using open source in ones system or taking advantage of it by including it to your own software is not that hard. You just have to decisions. If I want to keep my application closed then I can make a simple rule: no GPL code or if GPL code really badly needed then contact the developer and check if it's possible to license the code in another license. In example in my own co
  • ... on sexual harrassment policies, or export regulations?

    One would think that if corporations have no difficulty "educating" employees on interpersonal relationships or export legal issues, that they would have someone from legal get up to speed on the various types of open source licensing and "educate" the managers and developers on the subject, and when it is required to include attribution comments (why not do that ALWAYS? Seems like it would improve the documentation).

    I suppose this is what keeps the
  • by mkcmkc (197982) on Saturday March 10, 2007 @12:14PM (#18300086)
    I guess I can understand being scared by the unfamiliar, but what really frightens me is proprietary software, or rather the licenses thereof. There's some really scary shit in there about what you can and cannot do, and the penalties for running afoul. Not to mention the stuff (which you may know as "software patents") that you only get to hear about after you're in trouble.
  • by walterbyrd (182728) on Saturday March 10, 2007 @12:41PM (#18300268)
    I'm surprised nobody has mentioned this before.

    The entire scox-scam is nothing but a small part of msft's ongoing fud campain. The entire scam will cost msft well under $100M - pocket change for msft.

    Now that the scox-scam is winding down, msft has bought a new bitch - Novell.

    Msft message to corrupt users is crystal clear: "F/OSS is a legal mine-field. If you even use linux you risk a lawsuit. If you substantially contribute to linux a lawsuit is nearly inevitable. If you even think about touching a F/OSS produce, you will be legally forced to open all of code." Msft has pounded on that message for years and years. Lots of msft shills scream hystical warnings, all kinds of fake lawsuits, fake studies from msft owned "think tanks" and so on.

    I think msft's fud campaign has been smart, and successful.

I find you lack of faith in the forth dithturbing. - Darse ("Darth") Vader

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