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Red Hat's Max Spevack On Defending Linux Freedom 91

Posted by Soulskill
from the swords-may-or-may-not-be-involved dept.
TRNick writes "How can developers who are working for free protect themselves and avoid getting exploited by business users of Linux? TechRadar has an interview with former Fedora project leader Max Spevack to find out how his new role as manager of the community architecture team is designed to help. Quoting: 'About two-thirds of the Fedora packages are maintained by community people, and if we didn't have that community, that chunk of work would either not get done, which would significantly harm Red Hat's entire value, or would have to made up by more [paid] engineers. The challenge on the flip side of that is to make sure that everyone in the Fedora community feels valued, that everyone who contributes can be proud of the way that Red Hat uses their code.'"
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Red Hat's Max Spevack On Defending Linux Freedom

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  • MS... (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Look! Max Spevack's initials are MS! He obviously secretly works for Microsoft! Spy! Spy!

  • After all, in the past you'd get paid top dollar for the kind of stuff that you can now download for free and businesses use that in order to gain a competitive edge

    Case in point: google. They use open source software to drive their whole business, are valued in the tens of billions and give back a pittance of that to the open source community (ok, they do a good PR job so it looks like it is a lot more but it really is but a small fraction of their take).

    It has come to the point where if you are 16 or 17 and wondering what career to follow computational biology looks like a *much* better path than IT, and besides it has less risk of being outsourced.

    The Cathedral had its shortcomings, but so does the bazaar.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Your point sounds right, but has a fatal flaw: The contributions by the community, although used by the business, are still free to be used by the community.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jacquesm (154384)

        Yes, but that won't get you any bread on the table now, will it ?

        There is absolutely no renumeration for the people that code up all that really neat stuff and the businesses that take that hard work and profit of it (and profit of it in ways that would have been considered impossible until not that long ago) are under no obligation whatsoever to share the profits.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          True but selling software is an inherently flawed business model anyway, that requires extensive propping up by the law and heavy investment in anti-copying technology. It is an industry held together by tape and bubble gum, which is why most software companies have been moving toward other business models, like selling support or selling indemnification against patent lawsuits (or just becoming patent trolls, in the case of smaller companies).

          One way of solving the issue is to integrate open source dev
          • The question is though, does that paid researcher have to know-how or motivation to devote to the drudgery to build something like matlab from scratch. As long as the answer is 'no', and I think you'd agree with me that in many cases it is (i.e. insufficient technical knowledge, or would rather spend time doing actual research instead of designing a tool to let him research), there will be a market for proprietary software. Its the classic case of specialization. A research specializes in his problem domain
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            "selling software is an inherently flawed business model anyway"....erm, last I checked some dude going by the name of Bill Gates was worth $50B and that's from selling software.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by hairyfeet (841228)
          Which is one thing that has always bugged me about companies like RH. Now with Ubuntu it is different since they haven't tried selling it, but RH makes good money off of RHEL so my question is this: if the guys contributing all that code to Fedora are doing a good job and really helping to make RHEL a better product, then why the hell don't they give them something? A t-shirt,or even better a free copy of RHEL so they can see where their code is going. It just always struck me as kinda sucking that someone
          • Well first of all, Red Hat employs a lot of Fedora developers (like me), which is certainly worth a lot more than a lousy coffee cup.

            Secondly your premise is wrong: Fedora developers - those not employed by Red Hat - keep working on Fedora despite not getting any rewards. Why is that? Well, some work for reputation instead of money. A large number work for other companies who benefit from the mutual sharing of code. The vast majority, however, don't work for / on Fedora at all. They work for Ubuntu, GNOME, Apache, and a thousand other upstream projects, and we in Fedora and Red Hat package up those projects. (Packaging, while an important activity, is only a tiny part of the process of writing free software).

            Rich.

          • even better a free copy of RHEL so they can see where their code is going.

            Its called CentOS.

          • by ozphx (1061292)

            A long time ago some arrogant fucker decided that he would release a bunch of code under a license which valued his initial scratchings at "Everything ever based on this code". These poor guys have accepted that cost.

            These "contributions" are payment for the code they are using. No tshirts for them.

          • by chromatic (9471)

            [If] the guys contributing all that code to Fedora are doing a good job and really helping to make RHEL a better product, then why the hell don't they give them something?

            How about source code under an OSI-compliant license?

        • Bread on the table (Score:5, Insightful)

          by DrYak (748999) on Sunday November 23, 2008 @10:45AM (#25864691) Homepage

          Yes, but that won't get you any bread on the table now, will it ?

          In it self : No. But...

          A. in the long it leaves you more money to spend on bread as you won't have to spend it on opensource stuff. Programming used to be a job reserved to an elite which had access to the proper (and expensive) tools. Nowadays, hack together some mid-range machine for a couple of hundred bucks, slap your favorite Linux distribution for free, and voilà you have all the tools you need to code.

          B. working on opensource projects both trains your skill (in coding, but also in other useful project managing skills) and increases your portfolio with examples of projects to show to potential future employers. As they are F/LOSS instead of NDA-covered, you can freely demo them and even show a quick tour around the code(*).

          Thanks to F/LOSS development, during interview you're not anymore trying to persuade your future employer that you could be a good developer if you got hired, you're showing them your past projects to persuade them that you've been indeed good and that they need to hire you.

          F/LOSS projects put an end in the eternal catch-22 problem of employers wanting people with lots of practical experience behind them and people have a hard to get a first employer in order to have the opportunity to gain experience.

          And then with *that* portfolio maybe you'll get hired for a pay that will bring the bread on your table :

          Either working for some company on proprietary NDA'd software (if that doesn't pose any major ethical problem to you)
          Or working as a paid engineer to develop F/LOSS solutions for some company (hired at a Linux developers shop, at an industry which develops its own tools for its specific niche and have no real intention on making profit on the softwares itself, etc.)
          Or even, maybe your project is so good that you start getting paid to continue your so-much appreciated GPL'd project.

          --

          (*): I have actually been contacted and received propositions from people who saw my work on GPL'd code on projects to which we were both contributing.
          Ok, I don't have a typical CS background (I have graduated in Medicine and then in Bioinformatics). But nonetheless it illustrates that because having a nice portfolio to show is important when trying to get hired, working on opensource project is good because it makes more things that you can show.

          • by ozphx (1061292)

            Just what commercial package isn't avaliable cheaply to learn on?

            To get started as a .Net/win32 coder: OEM windows licence ($15) + Visual Studio Express (Free)

            Fifteen bucks. Hardly an insurmoutable barrier.

            Similar shit goes on with companies like Adobe / Autodesk / etc / etc. Theres always the "educational" version, which is cheap as hell/free.

            • You aren't exactly allowed to sell your work if you use educational/demo software under their EULAs, and things were a lot more expensive in the recent past (100 dollars for the educational version, a lot of money to a high school student).

              • by ozphx (1061292)

                VS Express can be used commercially. Doesnt integrate with TFS, but a hobbyist will probably be using SVN. Actually scratch that, a hobbyist will probably not be using change control - and will be asking online "How to recover source from binary?" ;)

                I figure even a thousand bucks in software is pretty minimal compared to the amount spent on the rest of a proper education in your field of choice. Thinking back on how much I spent on textbooks while studying engineering (including the mandatory $250 epic writ

                • Oh don't get them started on textbooks. One "insightful" freetard already claimed selling software is a flawed business model propped up by copyright laws, and the cost of distributing commercial software once it's written is exactly $0 (just like books, I'm sure)

                  I think you're right about cost of software being irrelevant though. When you consider all the other things we pay for in our lives, most of which are quite far from being "open", and what good software empowers us to do, I don't see what's wron

        • THat's the point of GPL software. It levels the playing field for all companies and individuals.
    • by bsDaemon (87307) on Sunday November 23, 2008 @10:24AM (#25864581)

      In terms of your life's work actually contributing tangible benefits to man kind, computational biology is going to outstrip "IT" anyway. I don't think that decreased financial incentive is really going to be the kicker there.

      Plus, you know, more chicks in bio.

  • Six Month Cycles (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sanat (702) on Sunday November 23, 2008 @10:03AM (#25864469)

    Even though a six month cycle seems brutal (Max's own words)it does permit a developer to finish and even polish his/her code because the next release in 6 months is just not that long of time span to wait.

    I shudder at the code I have seen in other distros that was not quite ready but had to be included because the next release would not be for a another year or longer so we have to go with what we got now... regardless!

    Fedora and its community members should be congratulated for their work in the Linux arena.
       

  • Red Hat (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    RedHat has to walk a fine line. They spend a lot of money developing a solid distro and want to make money supporting it for business use. Centos takes their work and gives it away for free. Obviously legal under the GPL but doesn't seem very fair to me.
    • by maxume (22995)

      It's entirely fair. They new the score when the started doing it however many years ago and figured they could make it work.

    • It is perfectly fair. Red Hat does not make its money selling software, it makes money selling support for that software, as you stated. CentOS gives it away for free, yes, but guess what? You can get RHEL for free also, the sources are on Red Hat's FTP servers, assuming you have the skill to compile the distro (which is not as hard as some might think it is). Red Hat is not even obligated to do that under the GPL (they must only make the sources available upon request from the people they distribute RH
    • by Nursie (632944)

      And redhat has paid for the development of exactly how much of what it puts into RHEL?

      Don't get me wrong, redhat are a fantastic driver of FOSS software and do put a lot in, but your point about CentOS isn't really valid. Redhat build on a whole heap of stuff they get for free (Linux Kernel, GNU tools etc) and then make money selling them and their support services.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by init100 (915886)

      IIRC, Red Hat doesn't actually mind people making and distributing RHEL rebuilds. People that are unwilling to pay for a support contract are not customers that Red Hat is interested in, so they don't mind them going to CentOS instead. It is also better than having them go to Ubuntu, because with a CentOS deployment, if they change their minds later on, migrating them to RHEL would be a piece of cake.

      • IIRC, Red Hat doesn't actually mind people making and distributing RHEL rebuilds. People that are unwilling to pay for a support contract are not customers that Red Hat is interested in, so they don't mind them going to CentOS instead. It is also better than having them go to Ubuntu, because with a CentOS deployment, if they change their minds later on, migrating them to RHEL would be a piece of cake.

        Spot on. That's the primary reason that we started using CentOS over some other distros for our new Linu
  • ...free standards are what's going to make it work. Free standards make machines talk to each other. Free software allows us to see what they're saying. There seems to be a lot of debate about the source of the code. But the source of the code isn't going to matter much if the standards are abused. Why isn't anyone talking much about this? Flash made a huge landgrab with their proprietary software - look, I tried Gnash on YouTube and that site whines about it - yet few are willing to take youtube to t
    • Flash made a huge landgrab with their proprietary software - look, I tried Gnash on YouTube and that site whines about it - yet few are willing to take youtube to task for not being compatible with gnash.

      Specially given that now Youtube is part of the Google familly, that Google has always immensely gained from opensource and that they have often been ready to spend some coins helping opensource projects (FireFox comes to mind), we have to persuade Google to start supporting the gnash developer's effort.

      And this should make sense as it would give them more support for their own web product (the same way supporting Firefox for their web product made sens).
      Gnash could open more easily a market of cheap Asian

      • What about HTML 5? Isn't that a viable choice?
        • by DrYak (748999) on Sunday November 23, 2008 @12:52PM (#25865661) Homepage

          What about HTML 5? Isn't that a viable choice?

          That's the best ever choice for *future* websites.
          The problem is that right now, the top most popular video websites don't use HTML 5's video tag (nor HTML's Object tag with a widespread video codec as content type).
          To gain popularity you have to support them now. And now means supporting flash.

          Also Flash seems to be still popular for casual-/mini-games too. (Javascript+DOM+SVG or +Canvas doesn't seem to catch up that much).
          A portable game console with support for flash and access to endless casual entertainment on sites like newsground would be a killer application for Gnash (for example on the Pandora).

    • I have actually gotten youtube to work with swfdec. At the moment youtube is not working, again, which might be becuase of the latest flash update, but hopefully the swfdec team will catch back up.
      • Hmmm. Thanks for the tip. BTW, has anyone been following the java 7 thing? I hear that Java 7 will provide support for the 64 bit Linux. I want to use it on Hulu. Let me know.
  • "The challenge on the flip side of that is to make sure that everyone in the Fedora community feels valued"

    FAIL
  • '...About two-thirds of the Fedora packages are maintained by community people, and if we didn't have that community, that chunk of work would either not get done, which would significantly harm Red Hat's entire value, or would have to made up by more [paid] engineers...'

    I wonder what the community has been up to to-date after having abandoned Red Hat years ago because of RPM hell.

    I understand RPM and the tools that manage it are a lot better than what they used to be in the years gone by.

    Question: Does Red Hat now ship code that just works of am I out of luck when I visit flash rich sites like http://youtube.com/ [youtube.com] and java rich sites like http://games.yahoo.com/ [yahoo.com].

    • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Sunday November 23, 2008 @10:32AM (#25864627)
      "Question: Does Red Hat now ship code that just works of am I out of luck when I visit flash rich sites like http://youtube.com/ [youtube.com] and java rich sites like http://games.yahoo.com/ [yahoo.com]."

      You should give Fedora 9 a try, it has out of the box swfdec (which is 95% there in terms of flash, should not be long before it is 100%) and OpenJDK (which is 100% there in terms of Java support; the only issue I ever had was an applet that actually tried making direct sound system calls to the Windows sound system, no joke, which one can hardly blame OpenJDK for). I was skeptical at first, as these were not too solid in Fedora 8, but after 6 months of using them, I am thoroughly impressed. Also, assuming you are not on an unsupported configuration, you can always add the yum repo. for Adobe's proprietary flash, which is a pretty basic RPM install that integrates with the automated updates.
  • by westlake (615356) on Sunday November 23, 2008 @10:21AM (#25864573)
    "How can developers who are working for free protect themselves and avoid getting exploited by business users of Linux?

    .
    The better question for Red Hat might be "How many developers can continue to work for free in the present economic climate?"

    Expecting volunteers to carry 2/3 of the load for Fedora seems a bit much.

    • "How can developers who are working for free protect themselves and avoid getting exploited by business users of Linux?

      . The better question for Red Hat might be "How many developers can continue to work for free in the present economic climate?"

      Expecting volunteers to carry 2/3 of the load for Fedora seems a bit much.

      I think for Geeks Economic Climate is not important factor!

    • Expecting volunteers to carry 2/3 of the load for Fedora seems a bit much.

      Ummm... How much of Firefox was coded by volunteers? Apache? Linux itself? I'm sure if you look at most OSS projects 1/3 being employed to work on it is a large amount compared to most.

    • An even better question is why that effort is even necessary. There are no other operating systems outside of Linux in which software distribution requires armies of volunteers to constantly reduplicate each others work.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by spevack (210449) *

      Expecting volunteers to carry 2/3 of the load for Fedora seems a bit much.

      We don't *expect* volunteers to maintain 2/3 of Fedora's packages. That is just what the numbers ended up being, and they flux often as different people either adopt or orphan packages depending on their circumstances.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by burnin1965 (535071)

      The better question for Red Hat might be "How many developers can continue to work for free in the present economic climate?

      A better question would start with some research to understand who the Fedora developers are and who pays them if they are paid. Basing a question on the same tired falsehood that open source developers are unpaid geeks living in their parent's basements is rather tired and dated.

      If the linux kernel contributions are any clue only 15% of contributors are unpaid. And I'm sure they ha

    • by init100 (915886)

      How many developers can continue to work for free in the present economic climate?

      You sound like Andrew Keen. This has already been discussed to death [slashdot.org] in a previous thread.

    • Hopefully, any developers dropping out due to having devote time to commercial projects will be offset by contributions by bored newly un-employed programmers.
  • How can developers who are working for free protect themselves and avoid getting exploited by business users of Linux?

    Lets see probably 85%+ of all hosting companies around the world that use Linux as hosting packages to make money off probably don't give back to the community in any way other than using their warez.

    Now question; how do you or the develoeprs working on these projects define exploited?

  • a bit of context (Score:5, Informative)

    by spevack (210449) * on Sunday November 23, 2008 @12:10PM (#25865359) Homepage

    I was thinking "I'll just check Slashdot and see what's new today" and all of a sudden I saw my name on the front page. I thought "what on earth am I doing on the front page of Slashdot? I haven't given an interview in quite a long time."

    I realized that the interview was from Linux Format UK (at the end of the article), and checking my records, I can see that it a summary of an interview I gave at LUG Radio Live back in July.

    • by Suzuran (163234)

      This is like coming in to your office on a Monday and finding a CNN news crew waiting in your lobby.

  • With your host, Soulskill.

    Seriously, two stories stacked together on the front page today - one going on about the hardships of free software developer/vendors and the dollar value of their products "racing to zero". Then, the other story which skipped over an entire interview with Max Spevack about all sorts of interesting things related to Fedora and RedHat - and cherry-picked one comment about how RedHat would die without the community as the point of focus.

    I need breakfast now because this is making me

    • by Yfrwlf (998822)
      Cherry-picking is the point of news sites though. They felt that those points were news worthy, and you disagree and that's fine. I have to say though, there's certainly truth behind the value of OSS racing to zero. The only thing you can do really is make money on paid programming or support, and on trying to squeeze the freedom in some way from your customers so that you are seen as being a necessity. But, the reality that the software is free and that users want freedom, so they don't want to have to
  • ...instead of releasing RPMs and having to support a single distro, software programmers would be free to release one type that was supported by all distros. That cross-distro format may actually be RPMs, but until at least one format is made compatible with all the major package managers, life will continue to be hell for Linux users. The number of websites offering Linux source code only, or straight-up boring binaries so that there are no automatic updates with the user's system updates, is very high b
  • So a lot of fine people give a lot of their very valuable time to get Fedora going - for FREE!, so that RedHat doesn't have to spend a pretty penny hiring people to do that.

    So far so good!

    But then RH has got RHEL, which they won't as much let anybody use for free or make available as free download... Where is the download link for RHEL, Max ? The same RHEL that benefits from community contributions. Instead community is left to only use Fedora!

    And no, don't say CentOS! That's somebody else's effort develope

    • by Yfrwlf (998822)
      Red Hat is simply Fedora stable of course with some extra non-free software thrown in. It would be nice if Red Hat released their own stable version instead of letting CentOS do that, but I guess they just don't care to. Where's the problem though? Just download CentOS? Yes, it's silly that it's on a separate website, but, I don't see why that's such a huge deal to you.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by blitzkrieg3 (995849)

      Again, Where is the download link of RHEL ?

      ftp://ftp.redhat.com/pub/redhat/linux/enterprise [redhat.com]

    • But then RH has got RHEL, which they won't as much let anybody use for free or make available as free download... Where is the download link for RHEL, Max ? The same RHEL that benefits from community contributions. Instead community is left to only use Fedora!

      RHEL is a for-pay product. It gives you the right to use Red Hat servers to get your packages from. I think it also gets you a bit of support. But mostly, RHEL is about getting packages from RH's servers.

      Seriously, if you don't want to pay. Go
  • ...and their apparent total lack of consumer support, I have plenty of. What introduced me to the idea of free/low-cost/open-source software in the first place was the fact that there was little or zero fiscal outlay initially. I could start using the software /immediately/, and on as many machines as I wanted. If I needed support i could pay for it via a premium rate phone call, which I'm fine with as long as the help is relevant and swift (which most of the time, it is). What I do object to, is forking ou

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