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Government The Almighty Buck Linux

The Billion Dollar Kernel 289

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the that's-a-lotta-dough dept.
jesgar writes "The Linux kernel would cost more than one billion EUR (about 1.4 billion USD) to develop in the European Union. This is the estimate made by researchers from the University of Oviedo (PPT), whereby the value annually added to this product was about 100 million EUR between 2005 and 2007 and 225 million EUR in 2008. The estimated 2008 result is comparable to 4% and 12% of Microsoft's and Google's R&D expenses on whole company products. Cost model 'Intermediate COCOMO81' is used according to parametric estimations by David Wheeler. An average annual base salary for a developer of 31,040 EUR was estimated from the EUROSTAT. Previously, similar works had been done by several authors estimating Red Hat, Debian, and Fedora distributions. The cost estimation is not of itself important, but it is an important means to an end: that commons-based innovation must receive a higher level of official recognition that would set it as an alternative to decision-makers. Ideally, legal and regulatory frameworks must allow companies participating on commons-based R&D to generate intangible assets for their contribution to successful projects. Otherwise, expenses must have an equitable tax treatment as a donation to social welfare."
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The Billion Dollar Kernel

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  • by Archangel Michael (180766) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @11:55AM (#31260108) Journal

    /pinky to mouth ....

    • by Pojut (1027544) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @11:56AM (#31260116) Homepage

      "Frikkin' kernals with frikkin' lazer beams in their frikkin' code!"

      -The truth behind Linux's security

    • by billstewart (78916) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @04:13PM (#31263812) Journal

      Back in the mumblety-80s, standard Bell Labs* Unix licenses came in binary and source versions. Binaries were cheap, source more expensive, universities got discounts so it was nearly free to them. At one point the US Government wanted a license that would give them unlimited rights to the code, because that was what they got for software that they'd paid to have develop, and their contracting bureaucrats insisted strenuously that they wanted that option for Unix as well. The Bell Labs Obnoxious Licensing Lawyers thought about it for a while, decided ok, and gave them a price - One Billion Dollars. The government bureaucrats said "ok, thanks", checked the box on their forms saying it was available, didn't actually order it :-)

      ...

      * Actually, depending on the year, it might have been Bell Labs, or Western Electric, or various parts of AT the bureaucracy you ordered Unix from changed over the years.

  • That 1 billion would soon seem like chicken feed!

  • It would be cool if companies involved in open-source development would not have to pay taxes for related activities.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ircmaxell (1117387)
      I agree. I do disagree with one line in the summary tho,

      Ideally, legal and regulatory framework must allow companies participating on commons-based R&D to generate intangible assets for their contribution to successful projects

      Why should it be limited to successful projects? Since this is open source, even a failed project can be hugely beneficial to society in terms of code, ideas or even just experience. Plus, who would declare success? Would a "successful project" be one that gets 1000 downloads

    • Companies involved in open-source projects generally intend to profit from it. It's not a charitable donation but a marketing strategy.
    • The government should provide operating systems as a public service. That would make a whole lot of sense.

      • If the government was in charge of operating systems, we'd still be using govdos 5.0...
        • Not in charge, just pay the bill, not the Bill.

          There are many ways for effective Open Source promotion cmp. Google Summer of Code.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mi (197448)

      It would be cool if companies involved in open-source development would not have to pay taxes for related activities.

      A Linux-powered missile targeting-system? An OpenBSD-based content-filter? A NetBSD-server running identity databases?.. FreeBSD traffic-shaping? Are you sure, you'll approve 0-taxes for all of those — and the "related activities"?

      Seriously, as if tax-code is not complicated enough (to the point of harming the economy just by the complexity itself) — exactly by the people like y

  • by GigsVT (208848) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @12:01PM (#31260200) Journal

    Something based on lines of code like COCOMO is probably not a good estimate for a kernel. Kernel debugging is harder for one. Many of the drivers required some level of reverse engineering as well.

    I'd say every "Kernel line of code" is probably worth 10 lines of code in userspace, if not more.

    • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @12:12PM (#31260316)

      I'd say every "Kernel line of code" is probably worth 10 lines of code in userspace, if not more.

      Why? Because you think there's some fundamental difference between low level and high level code?

      Papayas don't need to be ripe to be useful. Green papayas can be pickled and be just as tasty as sweet ripe ones. The only differentiation is the time of picking.

      Why would you give bonus points to the early pickers just because you don't understand the pickling process?

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @12:16PM (#31260376)

        Papayas don't need to be ripe to be useful. Green papayas can be pickled and be just as tasty as sweet ripe ones. The only differentiation is the time of picking.

        What in the fuck are you talking about.

      • Yes, I think there's some fundamental difference between low and high level code.

        Lemme 'splain. Let's say I'm writing sexygrep, which takes the search regex from a computer-connected fleshlight.

        In any case, I can code it, try to compile it, fix any compile errors, and try to run. Then I fix any logic bugs/crashes. Repeat until satisfied (or tired out from testing).

        If I'm writing kernel code, I'm a lot less casual about it. The edit-compile-test loop is a *lot* longer, for one. But more importantly, there's

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by FlyingBishop (1293238)

          Actually, I would say 10 is low. Every bug at the kernel level will be responsible for several orders of magnitude more bugs in userspace. It's not just a question of implementing to spec, it's a question of implementing to spec in a manner that is clear and consistent to every developer using the system.

      • by Blakey Rat (99501)

        Ah, there's the bad analogies we all know and love!

    • I'd say every "Kernel line of code" is probably worth 10 lines of code in userspace, if not more.

      Brooks, in The Mythical Man-Month, said that compiler coding is about three times as hard as normal application programming, and OS coding is about three times as hard as compiler coding, so your estimate has good precedent.

  • by billrp (1530055) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @12:09PM (#31260274)
    ...if developed off-shore
  • ...but in order to make comparisons with Google, Microsoft or Apple, you have to add many, many lines of code. If you start to include the OSS equivalent of the standard installation of windows XP + MSOffice + Visual Studio: Linux + GNU + Firefox + GNOME/KDE + various drivers + open office + Eclipse ... you get much much more code. I think that more man-hours have been invested in the regular Ubuntu install than in the premium XP install.

    But please, don't use dollars as a metric for that. As soon as any
  • Ramifications (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Verdatum (1257828) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @12:19PM (#31260408)
    Wait a minute...Am I allowed to write off my FOSS development as a charitable donation on my taxes? Am I allowed to charge the $50 an hour I think I'm worth? I'm sure this has been asked before, but it's the first I've ever actually thought about it...
    • Re:Ramifications (Score:5, Informative)

      by dylan_- (1661) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @12:32PM (#31260574) Homepage

      Am I allowed to write off my FOSS development as a charitable donation on my taxes?

      You'd need to check local laws, but I doubt it: charitable donations are usually only deductable to a registered charity. Mind you, if your local LUG is a registered charity, then you probably could...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by vlm (69642)

      Wait a minute...Am I allowed to write off my FOSS development as a charitable donation on my taxes?

      My friend the electrician informs me that when a church gives him a receipt for installing an outlet or whatever, he gets to deduct his labor on his taxes as a gift to the church. Its not such a bad deal for him, if he has nothing better to do at that time, assuming that the church gets the parts donated from a store or the church pays for the parts. Technically I guess he's increasing his liability insurance premium by the value of his gift, and he has to drive his truck to the church, so its not all gra

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by GigsVT (208848)

      No. Donations of time or labor aren't deductible.

      • As far as I know, in the US at least donations of labor are not tax deductible. Btw the whole idea of deducting charitable contributions strikes me as a bit weird. If you are donating something to charity, why would you want (or be allowed) to pass that cost onto the rest of the taxpayers?
        • by GigsVT (208848)

          Because Christians wanted it.

          • by BobMcD (601576)

            Because Christians wanted it.

            That's rather inflammatory, don't you think?

            Would it not also be true that the majority wanted it, and the democratic process put it into action?

            Or are Jews, Muslims, Scientologists, etc are completely opposed to tax breaks? No, no, you're right, it was probably those damn meddling Christians!

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by jeffmeden (135043)

          Ostensibly, because charitable contributions benefit everyone and therefore the government should encourage them in the only light-handed way possible, i.e. by not taxing them. Certainly, there are more political answers as to why it has come to be like it is.

          You could look at it another way, a charitable contribution is almost necessarily a 'gratis' contribution, as in you receive no quantifiable return for your donation (outside of things like a 'gift' with marginal value). Therefore, it's as if you nev

          • Isn't it just the case of being generous with other people's money? Another way to look at it, I am due to pay you $100, say for some services provided. I receive the services, but I pay you only $50, and I give the other $50 to charity. I am not donating my money, I am donating your money. Say you are the government and the services are whatever services our taxes pay for, roads, law enforcement, public education etc etc.
            • by jeffmeden (135043)

              Somewhere there is a form letter for this

              You are trying to rationalize the US IRS Taxation System. Your Attempts will fail because...

            • by jeffmeden (135043)

              Let me take one last serious swing at this. The US Federal tax system is basically one giant charity to begin with. Your federal taxes do NOT (except in very convoluted ways) end up paying for things like police, fire, safety, roads, bridges, etc. Those things are all paid for using State Income Tax (where only some deductions are allowed), and [City|County] [Income|Property|Sales] taxes (where no deductions are allowed.) So the feds say "if you give it to some other charity, the portion of tax you woul

        • If you are donating something to charity, why would you want (or be allowed) to pass that cost onto the rest of the taxpayers?

          In theory, it is meant to reduce the amount of power the government has. If you don't believe that your tax money is being spent well, you can reduce the amount that you pay and have other organisations benefit from it. Unfortunately, it's open to abuse; people can take away money from the state educational fund and instead donate money to an educational trust that caters for children from their own background. Churches, in particular, benefit. The separation of church and state prevents direct funding

        • by rwv (1636355)

          If you are donating something to charity, why would you want (or be allowed) to pass that cost onto the rest of the taxpayers?

          If I give a charity a hammer that I purchased yesterday from the hardware store for $10, the charity has gained a net benefit of $10, and I have lost $10 from my annual income.

          The reasoning is that the $10 hammer that I gave to the charity provides a 100% benefit to the charity, whereas the comparable amount of taxes would provide a 15-30% benefit to the taxpayers. In economic terms, as long as the charity can demonstrate it's performing a service that benefits the taxpayers, giving me the choice of wher

        • by amorsen (7485)

          If you are donating something to charity, why would you want (or be allowed) to pass that cost onto the rest of the taxpayers?

          Think of it this way:

          If you spend an hour doing programming for your favourite charity, that's simply an hour with no income and therefore you don't pay taxes.

          If your charity doesn't need programming but does need something else, you can spend that hour working your regular job, but suddenly you can only give the charity maybe 2/3 of what that work is worth -- the rest goes to tax. This makes it more attractive to do things you're fairly bad at for the charity directly, instead of doing what you're best at

        • If you are donating something to charity, why would you want (or be allowed) to pass that cost onto the rest of the taxpayers?

          Because not all of us subscribe to the theory that all money (or productive output) belongs to the government and that anything we keep is taken from our masters?

          A tax deduction is not "passing on" a cost any more than not buying a hamburger is taking money from McDonald's.

    • Am I allowed to write off my FOSS development as a charitable donation on my taxes? Am I allowed to charge the $50 an hour I think I'm worth? I'm sure this has been asked before, but it's the first I've ever actually thought about it...

      I don't see why not. Charge the open-source project $50 an hour, and then donate your salary to offset the cost of hiring you. Of course, that's a lot of paperwork for no net gain... and it only works if the FOSS is a registered non-profit.

      If you're asking "can I work 40 ho

    • by amorsen (7485)

      Am I allowed to write off my FOSS development as a charitable donation on my taxes?

      Only if you claim the (fictional) income first. If you then donate the code to a registered charity, you should be able to pull it off. Best case you'll end up not paying taxes for the fictional income.

      It's a bit easier to just not claim the fictional income, isn't it?

  • Quote 'The cost estimation [implies] that commons-based innovation must receive a higher level of official recognition...." I don't think that is how the US system works, which is by market recognition. It doesn't matter how hard you work or how much money you put into it; what matters is if people buy it. That assumes, somewhat naively, that people are "rational economic actors" and that companies like MS and GOOgLE don't have massive FUD machines (aka marketing)
  • by pavon (30274) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @12:24PM (#31260474)

    Ideally, legal and regulatory framework must allow companies participating on commons-based R&D to generate intangible assets for their contribution to successful projects. Otherwise, expenses must have an equitable tax treatment as a donation to social welfare.

    This doesn't make any sense to me. Since the code has been released as open source, it isn't really an asset of the company that wrote it anymore than it is to anyone else who uses it. It isn't something that could be liquidated to pay off debts, and allowing them to specify it as an asset on their balance sheets seems like just another way to distort the books and confuse investors. I don't see any good coming out of that.

    Secondly, I don't see the point in letting them receive tax deductions for their contributions. They made these contributions because it was in their best interest to do so regardless of the tax status. And while it is nice that their contributions help the community as a whole, they themselves are helped by contributions that others have made. If they weren't taxed on the later, why should they get a deduction for the former? Open source is already provides economic and social benefits to those that participate in it's development - government wealth distribution is not needed in a system that already does so inherently.

    Finally, even if I did agree with these goals, I don't see how having an estimate of the cost of the kernel as a whole would help - what matters are the specific contributions of the company and there are better ways to figure that.

    • by dwandy (907337) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @01:33PM (#31261498) Homepage Journal

      I don't see the point in letting them receive tax deductions for their contributions. They made these contributions because it was in their best interest to do so regardless of the tax status. ... government wealth distribution is not needed in a system that already does so inherently.

      The basis for copyright is that the public wishes to increase the amount of work in the public domain. Copyright is a deal between creators and public whereby the public believes that there will be more works generated (and end up public domain) by giving a temporary monopoly to creators. The key in the deal, however, is not to reward the creator, but to generate works for the public domain.*

      I would suggest, therefore, that giving (tax) incentives for open source software is in line with this policy. People who contribute to open source are giving up their monopoly rights and their work is available immediately for remixing into new works**. Since time is money I would suggest that anyone who is willing to give up their monopoly period should be rewarded.

      This isn't a unique concept: Corporations get all kinds of special and additional tax deductions for various activities such as R&D. We do this with the same line of reasoning: we want more R&D, so we provide an incentive so we can reap the rewards.

      Lastly, it should be pointed out that the level of incentive (how rich is this program) should be inversely proportional to the duration of copyright. In other words if copyright lasts longer I've given up more by immediately making it available for remixing and should therefore get a greater incentive. If copyright is short than I haven't given up much and should require less incentive.

      * perpetual copyright extension has killed this, but that is another topic.
      ** Yes, it's not public domain, but they no longer have a monopoly on the distribution of the work.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bzipitidoo (647217)

      I don't see the point in letting them receive tax deductions for their contributions.

      It's as much or more about showing F/OSS some respect, not just money.

      Do you think F/OSS is good? A worthwhile endeavor? A benefit to society? And, so, we could use more? I presume yes to all that. Then how do we get more? Strengthen intellectual property laws even more? Change nothing?

      The likes of IBM help develop F/OSS because it is profitable to do so. It helps them sell hardware. But F/OSS is under constant attack from monopolists who fear it as a threat to their way of business and the sys

  • What would be lovely is if I could get tax credits for committing to open products that further help mankind in my spare time!

  • Did they factor in two-hour lunch breaks and the afternoon nap? I guess this calcultion was something to keep amused with as the day goes by.

  • Salary (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JohnFluxx (413620) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @12:28PM (#31260520)

    31,000 euro for a _kernel_ developer?? Probably closer to 3 times that. I know it's an average, but do you really think the maintainer of a memory system, or the scsi stack, etc are worth less than 6 figures?

    • On average and probably not full time. Considering kernel hacking is probably (on average) 1/3 of a full job, it's not too bad.

      • You usually make the calculations assuming a full time basis. If it's otherwise it'll be reflected in the man-months and that's where the scaling occurs.

        As pointed out by others, some places have a much lower cost of living than the USA.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by hibiki_r (649814)

      If said kernel developers were actually working in Oviedo, the city where they researched this, 31K is more than most would ever make. Your typical graduate in his first local programming job gets 15K at best. 30K is a top level salary over there. Last summer, no local company ever came close to offering me half of what I make in an affordable town in the American midwest.

  • No, what you'd get for a billion Euros is that many lines of code. No idea if the code would be any good. But usually when managers are fixated on the LOC, you get lots of LOC, not necessarily GOOD or FAST code. Just lots of it. Been there, seen it, upchucked, many times.

  • by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted@@@slashdot...org> on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @01:22PM (#31261332)

    An average annual base salary for a developer of 31,040 EUR

    What kind of silly number is that? I am 100% sure there is no single person who earns that little... is there?
    Definitey not with all the taxes included. That would result in 2299 EUR a month (plus 1.5 months of holiday and christmas bonus.)
    Or about 1250 EUR net money on your bank account. Or just below 8 EUR (net) an hour.
    As a programmer?? Just... Silly.

    That wouldn’t leave you with much, after apartment, food, phone/internet and basic clothing & co. With a bit bad luck (in a big city), you couldn’t even pay for a car. (= expensive fuel)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MartinSchou (1360093)

      With a bit bad luck (in a big city), you couldnt even pay for a car

      Depending on the big city, a car isn't a good investment anyway. Quite a lot of the large EU cities have excellent public transport options, respect for cyclists and parking that costs close to that of renting a studio flat ...

      Essentially you can pretty much compare most large EU cities to that of Manhattan. You can own a car, but unless you work outside the city it's a waste of money

    • As a programmer?? Just... Silly.

      No, as a kernel architect, who, to gain parity, are smart enough not to make the mistakes Linus did in his early years. So that you'd wind up with a 2.6.3x kernel at the end, not a 0.9, 2.2, 2.4 or 2.6.0x.

      Since the Linux guys are all busy, they'd probably have to go raid Sun for developers - I don't think the world is lousy with experienced unemployed kernel architects. You might be able to divvy up the work among architects and grunt programmers, but at least double the es

  • by iwaybandit (1632765) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @01:33PM (#31261502)
    The last that I've heard is that Spain faces some fiscal difficulties, they need to raise some revenue.

    Though the study only considers the kernel, a starting point has been established. Downloading an entire operating system for free (other than ISP charges) denies the state the revenue from sales/VAT tax that would have been paid on shrink-wrapped product. The downloader receives benefit from the download similar to the benefit received by someone who purchased the shrink-wrap product. Should the downloader be taxed similarly to the tax-paying purchaser?

    Now that a value is placed on something that is free, it is ready to be taxed like any other product on the market. What I wonder is, did U of O undertake the study at the behest of the government.
  • Is that street- or dealer-value ?

Today's scientific question is: What in the world is electricity? And where does it go after it leaves the toaster? -- Dave Barry, "What is Electricity?"

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