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Ask Bruce Perens About Linux and Open Source 403

A lot is going on these days, ranging from the endlessly amusing SCO soap opera to plenty of mostly positive news about Linux and Open Source adoption by both corporate and government users, not to mention an increasing number of commercial applications being ported to Linux. And, of course, LinuxWorld is right around the corner. Bruce Perens is certainly as appropriate a person as any to help us get a handle on the current (and possibly future) state of Linux and Open Source. We'll send him 10 of the highest moderated questions, and post his answers as soon as he gets them back to us. As usual, one question per post, please, and don't bother asking questions that can easily be answered with a couple of minutes' worth of online research.
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Ask Bruce Perens About Linux and Open Source

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  • Bruce? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by James A. A. Joyce ( 681634 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @12:50PM (#6551760) Journal
    What do you feel is the greatest threat to the open source movement? Is the threat corporate, legal, self-inflicted, or a mixture of both?

    (Oh, and FP.)
    • Re:Bruce? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      What should we, the Linux Community do to respond to this endless barrage of FUD and ruthless attacks from that corporate giant in Redmond?
  • by leandrod ( 17766 ) <l@d[ ] ['utr' in gap]> on Monday July 28, 2003 @12:52PM (#6551778) Homepage Journal
    Are you aware of any background moves by the major players in this farce that could bring a speedy resolution? Or, do you have any hopes for a speedy resolution?
  • by ( 562495 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @12:53PM (#6551788) Homepage
    What is the future of SCO Linux Licensing. Will large corporation fall for it, just to be on the safe side? Or are the corporation going to avoid using linux, till the final outcome of the saga.
  • For the desktop... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JeffTL ( 667728 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @12:53PM (#6551790)
    In all honesty, what is the best overall desktop operating system at this time, and what do you think will be the best overall desktop operating system in a year? Two years? Five years?
  • Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dark Lord Seth ( 584963 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @12:55PM (#6551806) Journal

    Isn't Mr Perens a slashdot regular himself or something? Wouldn't that more or less defeat the whole purpose of holding a slashdot interview, then send him the question he can read himself and then making him answer them while he could have answered them by just replying?

    • Re:Why? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ichimunki ( 194887 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @01:53PM (#6552367)
      It does seem a bit odd to ask interview questions of a guy who reads the site regularly, but given that he is one of the Free Software community's leading lights, I think a formal interview makes sense... and here's my question:

      Whenever the topic of Free Software (or Open Source) comes up outside Slashdot, we only seem to hear a few names (not that this is all that different from proprietary software news where the number of recognizable names is possibly even smaller)... In your opinion, other than RMS, ESR, Linus, and yourself, who's out there that's really saying good stuff about Free Software? Who is not only doing interesting stuff, but talking about it in a way that keeps you interested past the sound bites? If the four of you were, um, somehow "unavailable for comment" for an extended period, who from the Free Software community would you hope would take up the reins of being in the public eye and doing spokesperson-like things?
    • by kaltkalt ( 620110 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @02:03PM (#6552452)
      If we did a "post questions for bruce perens and he'll answer what he feels like here" thread, it would be a total mess. He'd feel obligated to answer a lot of questions, and that would mean short answers for nearly everything. Doing it this way, with the highest modded questions being given to him, and then giving him time to respond, is the best way to do it. Besides, it's the way all slashdot interviews are done. I'm sure we've done plenty of official interviews with people who read slashdot regularly (in fact, didn't one of the DoJ lawyers admit to reading slashdot quite often?). Only the best questions (i.e. mine) should be given the time to be modded up to +5 and then sent off for answering. Letting the interviewee pick the questions lets them censor themselves, and that's not good... in fact that's bullshit. "hey bill gates, read this thread and answer the questions you want!" Would you expect any good questions to be answered (even though bill, unlike bruce, is probably adverse to most of our questions... hostile witness if you will).
  • Turning the tide (Score:5, Insightful)

    by daeley ( 126313 ) * on Monday July 28, 2003 @12:55PM (#6551808) Homepage
    In recent weeks, we've seen a concerted attack of FUD regarding open source in general but Linux in particular; all signs point to this being but the first in a series of new battles. I think it's been too easy for a lot of people to scoff at SCO's brazen and seemingly suicidal behavior, mistaking what is in fact a serious threat.

    With that in mind, what are some ways you think open source/free software users and organizations can counter these attacks and, much more importantly, attack back?
  • BSD (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 28, 2003 @12:55PM (#6551814)
    If Linux development is supremely messed up by SCO, do you see the BSDs picking up, and taking over where Linux once did?
    • Better Question. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Malcontent ( 40834 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @04:14PM (#6553395)
      If the adoption of Linux is slowed down by the SCO lawsuit in the US do you think it will impact the competitiveness of US companies VS foreign ones.

      I think this suit has the serious potential to harm the US economy by preventing US companies from adopting cheaper and better technologies. A the same time that US industries are delaying or scaling back their open source plans Japan, China, India, and most of Europe and South America seem to be speeding ahead. What does this mean for American industry and the economy in the short, medium and long term.

      I would love to hear your views.
    • Re:BSD (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Arandir ( 19206 )
      It's important to remember that Linux got a huge boost in popularity when BSD was being sued by USL. It was the wrong lawsuit at the wrong time.

      As a FreeBSD user, I'm still ambivalent in the attitude towards BSD gaining popularity via the SCO FUD campaign. One part of me thinks it's great, but another part is embarrassed to be profiting at a friend's expense. It's not "fair" that people will be choosing BSD based on the childish rantings of Daryl McBride. But neither is it "fair" that people choose Linux j
  • Wag the dog (Score:3, Interesting)

    by stratjakt ( 596332 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @12:56PM (#6551821) Journal
    The political/ethical/moral spin that everyone wants to put on open source adds an unnessesary, IMO, emotional baggage in a field that should be directed by logic and the right tool for the job.

    We see softwares of various levels of Free shoehorned into tasks they werent created for, or arent suitable for.

    When will software choices be made by virtue of technical merit, and not political views?
    • When will software choices be made by virtue of technical merit, and not political views?

      When computers choose the software for us, of course ;)

      Just kidding. It's more likely to be economics that chooses.

    • Re:Wag the dog (Score:4, Interesting)

      by lordcorusa ( 591938 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @02:14PM (#6552530)
      I agree with another response to this post that it is not a question, but a bit of rhetoric, and should thus be excluded from the interview.

      However, I would like to point out that much of the "political/ethical/moral spin" attributed to open source may in fact not be "emotional baggage", but simply another level of non-functional software requirements specification.

      For example, when I choose software, one of the first things I look at is license. I typically choose software with a free/open license (if available and adequate) over software with a proprietary license, even if the proprietary software happened to have a slightly larger feature set, slightly better performance, etc... That is not to say that I would never choose a piece of proprietary software, just that it has to have an *extremely* compelling feature for me to do so. Fortunately for me, virtually all tasks I do with software can be performed adequately by open source software.

      I don't consider my choice to be an emotional one, I consider it to be a rational one. By choosing OSS, I guarantee that I am free from licensing/auditing issues, that I will not suffer unduly from an orphaned product or be forced to upgrade because of vendor lock-in, that I can more easily diagnose/fix bugs, etc... These are all what are known as non-functional software requirements.

      Perhaps you have had no training in the engineering side of computer science, but there are two overall kinds of software requirements: functional and non-functional. Functional software requirements are the kind you clearly prefer, however not all software requirements can be boiled down to the cold, hard logic and math needed by functional requirements. You cannot specify non-functional requirements numerically, nor can you define them with predicate calculus, but they are requirements which have benefits, costs, and rationals none the less. When gathering software requirements, you ignore non-functional requirements at your own peril.

      So take care the next time you accuse people of making emotional decisions. Perhaps you simply are not looking at all of the layers of their decision-making process.
    • Re:Wag the dog (Score:4, Insightful)

      by rgmoore ( 133276 ) * <> on Monday July 28, 2003 @02:19PM (#6552572) Homepage
      When will software choices be made by virtue of technical merit, and not political views?

      What makes you think that software will ever be chosen exclusively by technical merit? Even if you exclude "political issues" there will always be factors like price that will have significant impact on decisions about which software to use. And neglecting the importance of those "political issues" (presumably mostly licensing) is extremely foolish. The ability to modify software and use it legally in the way that you want to is a very important real-world consideration, and deriding it as a secondary political question is a mistake.

      Or, to put it a different way, people will make decisions based on technical merit rather than political views when those political views are no longer a relevant factor. Since they currently are and are likely to remain so for the forseeable future, the answer is no time soon.

  • Civil Disobedience (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ( 262540 ) <chris_carr@slash ... m ['car' in gap]> on Monday July 28, 2003 @12:56PM (#6551825) Homepage

    A while ago IIRC you cancelled plans to demonstrate a technology which would have run afowel of the DMCA in defference to the wishes of your then-employer HP. Now that you are no longer with HP, do you plan to go ahead with it?

    I'm not trying to goad you on, mind you. Breaking the law is a serious business and if you have reconsidered, I certainly won't think any less of you.
  • by Marx_Mrvelous ( 532372 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @12:57PM (#6551833) Homepage
    Putting the current SCO thing aside, what do you think about software producer liability? Microsoft recently made a big deal about increasing how much they'll "protect" their customers, but that's mostly a PR stunt. Do you think that there will be a major court case incolving IP that "slips" into software, and that it might change people's trust in Open Source software?
  • by DarkBlackFox ( 643814 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @12:58PM (#6551836)
    What do you think is the biggest hinderance to open source adoption at this point? Is it the lack of a central structure for support (e.g. people seeking support for Microsoft products go to Microsoft, a single solid entity as opposed to numerous communities and organizations of open source), or is it simply because there are too many choices out there? Do you think open source will eventually become organized enough to have a single representation, such that there is one massive repository of information for all to use?
    • As long as people can get proprietary software they're already familiar with for free (illegally), then they have no motivation to look for legally free alternatives.

      I'm not Bruce, but that's my opinion. :)
  • by defile ( 1059 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @12:58PM (#6551839) Homepage Journal

    Seriously. Because we can't. That thing's demented.

    • apt-get install aptitude

      Much better front end also what I do a lot is search the package archive on the web site and use apt. dselect sucks and just about everybody thinks so that is why there are better tools out there now.
  • by flea69 ( 667238 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @12:58PM (#6551851)
    Based on the ability of most users out there, especially in the corporate world (I work in tech support). Is there any chance of Linux EVER replacing Windows on the desktop?
    • I work in support as well. I don't think there is any chance of Linux replacing Windows on the desktop overall. I think we'll gain some converts with NGSCB comes along, but not many. There are just to many applications only avail. on Windows, and people are used to how Windows works. I agree with Tim O'Reilly, who is basically saying that the next generation of apps are going to be internet based, and Linux is on the forefront of that. He often refers to and Google as examples of heavily used "ap
    • by An Onerous Coward ( 222037 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @01:49PM (#6552324) Homepage
      After watching my Mom struggle with various Windows offerings, I think the question should be rephrased, "Based on the ability of most users out there, is there any chance that we'll ever have a truly intuitive computer interface?"

      Right now, I don't think there is one, even for someone who understands the concepts of files, directories, and applications.
    • by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @02:13PM (#6552526) Homepage Journal
      I'm more concerned about the opposite -- if there's ever going to be a headless distro that works without graphics card, sound card and keyboard attached, to better capture the NON-desktop market. As it is now, you either have to buy a pre-installed server, use a workstation as a server, or roll your own distribution. All three are needlessly expensive methods of getting Linux servers up.

    • by ablair ( 318858 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @05:33PM (#6553915)
      "Is there any chance of Linux EVER replacing Windows on the desktop?"

      And is there any chance of Macintosh ever replacing Windows on the desktop? The answer, as virtually everyone but the most mislead Mac zealot knows, is No. But unquestionably Apple has the user experience & terminal tools down pat; if Apple dosen't have a hope, how can Linux?

      They obviously have a system that's "good enough" - what else does it take? What can Linux learn from Apple's experience trying to break into the mainstream?
  • by kmak ( 692406 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @12:58PM (#6551852)
    Sure, to slashdotters, we all know what it means, but how would you explain the Open Source movement to someone that isn't so technically inclined?

    What would you tell them that would, say, change from Linux to Windows?
  • by spuke4000 ( 587845 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @12:59PM (#6551862)
    I have been wondering for a while how sustainable open source is. It seems like there is a great open source solution for every possible need: OS, Web Server, database, etc. If these tools get widely adopted, and push the commercial products out of the market, will they be shooting themselves in the foot by making many, many developers unemployed, thereby destroying their own developer base? Or do you see a situation where open and closed (ie free and for-profit) software exist in equilibrium?
    • by RevMike ( 632002 ) <revMike@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Monday July 28, 2003 @01:15PM (#6552001) Journal
      Uber-Geek ESR already wrote an excellent tract on this subject - The Magic Cauldron [].

      One of the key points is that very few developers are involved in developing "commercial" software. The vast majority (maybe 95% or more) do implementation and custom development for in-house projects.

      If OSS were to eliminate "commercial software" completely, these jobs would still need to be filled, and since less budget would be spent on licensing, more money would be available in corporate budgets to fund custom development.

    • by twitter ( 104583 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @05:03PM (#6553719) Homepage Journal
      I have been wondering for a while how sustainable open source is.

      Oh sure you have. In 1976 Bill Gates put it better. [] It's "Sharing is bad and if you don't pay me money, there will be no software." It's shifted to "free software will never make a working kernel" and "free software will never make easy to use software." and finally, "free software must be stollen to work." Get with the program, you are way out of date. Free software has produced many working kernels, losts of software that's easier to use than comercial software and shows no signs of slowing down.

      A few snake oil salesmen have gotting rich does not disprove doctors earn a living or even that you can make a living selling snake oil. People earn a living making things work, not writing one size fits all, must be replaced every two years, standards ignoring, buggy, software. These people will continue to earn a living when Microsoft and friends are just a bad and seemingly unbelievable memory, like national news anchors talking about blow jobs in the White House.

      Your question should be reversed and asked elsewhere. "Given the colapse of so many closed source shops, like Netscape, Lotus or SCO, how stable is your firm? Are you going to be here in five years? How can you keep your market when your users are co-operating to make software that works better than the stuff you sell? What do I have to gain from developing software for your platform again?"

  • by Telex4 ( 265980 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @01:00PM (#6551868) Homepage
    Bruce, we all know you're very active on the political side of hacking, and we also know that as a community, hackers aren't especially active. Given that a hacker who reads Slashdot cannot fail to be aware of the many issues that we face, and their gravity, what do you think hackers and geeks as individuals can do to be useful, and as a related question, how do you think the hacker community can best respond to the threats of the DMCA, EUCD, copy protected CDs, Palladium, and other digital rights issues?
  • Smaller projects (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dze ( 89612 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @01:00PM (#6551871) Homepage
    What are your favorite smaller open-source projects that not everyone may have heard of, that you feel should be better known?
  • Unasked Questions (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 28, 2003 @01:00PM (#6551875)
    Are there any questions you think people should be asking you, that they never do?
  • by Shackleford ( 623553 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @01:01PM (#6551881) Journal
    Mr. Perens, you have stated in an interview that one of the main reasons that open source software has taken off recently is because of economic reasons. Many companies are indeed adopting open source solutions. However, there are many that are not. I recall speaking with an individual who said that no matter how often he tried to inform people that open source is a good idea, they were not convinced. What is the reason for this? FUD, perhaps? And how can one successfully convince people that open source solutions should be adopted?

    I believe that you can do well at advocating the use of open source software. So, how can it be done?

  • by Jon Abbott ( 723 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @01:01PM (#6551886) Homepage
    With regard to Apple and their adoption of open source, do you think that their contributions to open source projects have been generally one-way (i.e. only Apple benefits) or two-way (everyone benefits)? Do you think they should be more open, or are you happy with how they currently contribute to open source projects?
    • by JoeBuck ( 7947 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @03:17PM (#6553032) Homepage

      Speaking as a very small part of the GCC [] team, I am very happy with a lot of the work Apple is now contributing: they have a sizable compiler team now and are contributing all that work back. Some of Apple's team are long-time gcc hackers, others are well-known C++ gurus, who can work almost full time on free software thanks to Apple picking up their paycheck.

      In particular, gcc 3.4 will have precompiled headers (this work was contributed by Apple).

    • by ablair ( 318858 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @05:22PM (#6553814)
      Certainly many (in fact, most) OSS-savvy IT industry workers I have come across think Apple is merely using open source for a free ride. Certainly Bruce Perens thought so [], and Richard Stallman very pubicly rejected [] Apple's licensing efforts and questioned their intentions. The Free Software Foundation even boycotted [] the company. These comments have reinforced IT scepticism of Apple Computer and acceptance of Apple technologies in this field remains close to nil. ZDnet's Evan Leibovitch points out many problems with Apple's (lack of) efforts in Open Source's Black Hole [], problems which still remain more than 2 years later.

      Your question is good because it would be interesting to see if Bruce's opinions on Apple are still the same, and does he now think the company is genuine? Has it given back a sufficient amount or is it paying lip service only?
  • HP (Score:5, Interesting)

    by golgotha007 ( 62687 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @01:03PM (#6551897)
    Hi Bruce,
    could you please tell us a bit about your experience working with HP? I am interested if you were able to share your views on open source with the HP execs. What were their thoughts about it?

    Do you see open source becoming more accepted by large corporations or will it remain largly popular with the developer/hobby crowd?
  • Further steps... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bryam ( 449040 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @01:03PM (#6551899) Homepage
    Hi Bruce:

    Recently Open Group ask to you for develop one Open Source Strategy []. Which others groups/enterprise do you like/wish to contact you for similar task?


  • Linux in 10 Years (Score:5, Interesting)

    by suwain_2 ( 260792 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @01:05PM (#6551921) Journal
    Where do you see Linux in 10 years? Will it be a completely ubiquitious OS, used on every computer? Will it just dominate one market? Will it fade away? Or will it be outlawed? There are people who will have you believe any one of these scenarios; which do you think is most likely, and why?
  • How do you see the future of OSS development affecting Microsoft? Do you have any predicions on how they will tailor marketing, propoganda, FUD, what have you? I personaly see OSS taking off in both the Desktop and Server market and I'm very curious as to how you think MS will react? This is not a troll in any way. I'm very interested in how the future or the Tech industry is going to play out.
  • by JimCricket ( 595111 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @01:08PM (#6551938)
    Open source really turns the business of software upside-down. Some open source-related companies have done well, others have not. In your opinion, which business models are the most appropriate?
  • Linux on the Xbox (Score:3, Interesting)

    by preric ( 689159 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @01:12PM (#6551977)
    What's your opinion of the Linux scene revolving around Microsoft's Xbox?
  • Ham radio (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lxy ( 80823 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @01:12PM (#6551979) Journal
    I recently learned that you are a ham radio operator. I think both the open source community and ham community share very similar views on most issues. Do you see any ways the two communities can benefit each other?
    • by nomadic ( 141991 )
      I recently learned that you are a ham radio operator. I think both the open source community and ham community share very similar views on most issues. Do you see any ways the two communities can benefit each other?

      Do you really want to get two groups of people with that much sexual magnetism together? The resulting condensation of machismo might create some sort of irresistable sexual vortex, drawing women irresistably in.
  • Why? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonamused Cow-herd ( 614126 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @01:13PM (#6551986)
    Bruce, Assuming that governments and corporations form the foundation of the adoption base (considering that many people would first come into contact with free software at work, and then later be comfortable enough to use it at home), and noting also that governments and corporations are not generally that money-conscious (meaning that the "free"-ness of free software is not a large selling point over win32), then

    What incentive do you think GNU/Linux and other free software offerings give these entities to use free software? What functionality does it enhance in practical terms for both governments and corporations? (and security doesn't count; it's not like the penguin is devoid of known holes, and under a whole lot less scrutiny than Windows)

    And finally, if the functionality/effectiveness differences between free and closed OSs really are as minor as they seem at first corporate glance, what path do you think the Open Source community should take in regards to making free software distinctive and superior?

    All the best,

    PS (to all slashdot flamewar-starters) -- No, I don't like Windows. Yes, Linux might well be the second coming (ra ra ra, join the hurd (hoho mildly clever)). It's for the sake of argumentation and making a point. Now, go ahead and subject me to the Spanish-Linux Inquisition

    Slashdope 1: Do you worship only one Linux?
    Slashdope 2: You mean GNU/Linux!
    Slashdope 1: Erm... yes. Well, do you?
    Me: I suppose so.
    Slashdope 1: Not good enough! Send him to the --- comfy chair!

  • by Oswald ( 235719 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @01:14PM (#6551995)

    It would seem that hardware manufacturers taking (financial) interest in open source may be the force we need to counter-balance entrenched Big Software. Econ 101 supports this idea, as lowering the total cost of owning computers should result in more being sold. Having IBM and HP (maybe Sun?--they seem conflicted) on board is great, but there are a lot of hardware companies that still don't get it. Obviously, companies like Intel and AMD and ATI and NVidia have to weigh the benefits of actively (and monetarily) supporting Linux and other open source against the problems it might cause in their current business arrangements (read: don't want to piss off Micrsoft).

    The question(s): Do you think their current lukewarm (at best) support represents enlightened self-interest, or are they missing the boat? Is there anything the community can do to improve the returns for companies that do jump on the bandwagon?

    • Econ 101 supports this idea, as lowering the total cost of owning computers should result in more being sold.

      Beware any argument based on "SubjectX 101", especially if it's economics on Slashdot! Come on now, don't be so naive.

      Currently, hardware is the main cost, and lowering the cost of software won't make much difference. No more hardware is sold for every bit of software you get... esentially it's the introductory package, so the OS, and very few even know that they're charged £100-200 for Wind
  • What if SCO Wins? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by suwain_2 ( 260792 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @01:14PM (#6551996) Journal
    While I think we all know how absurd SCO's claims are, suppose they win. Where will Linux go? Overseas? /dev/null? Will it be rewritten from scratch? Or will people simply buy licenses willingly?
    • by An Onerous Coward ( 222037 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @01:57PM (#6552399) Homepage
      One point: If SCO's licensing scheme becomes ubiquitous, Linux is dead anyways. SCO doesn't have the right to distribute Linux under anything but the GPL (unless their ridiculously expansive concept of "intellectual property" stands up in court, which it won't). Nobody will work on Linux just to increase SCO's revenues, and we all know how well they maintain their own Unix offering, so they won't be doing it in house.

      The legal alternatives, I guess, would be HURD or the *BSDs. Maybe a GPL'ed fork of one of the BSDs.

      I'm confident of one thing. If SCO wins, the current community will be brushing off their old copies of MINIX before contributing to SCO/Linux.
  • by Phat_Tony ( 661117 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @01:15PM (#6552008)
    What do you think the net influence of Apple's OS-10 is on Linux?

    There are reports of people fleeing Linux to OS 10 because they still get *NIX but with a more easily usable/configurable software suite, but on the other hand, Apple's contributing to open source, manufacturing another hardware platform for Linux, and generally providing another alternative to Redmond.

    So, is the competition good for Linux, or not so much?
  • by Shackleford ( 623553 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @01:16PM (#6552014) Journal
    Mr. Perens,

    I recall reading an article that was posted on Freshmeat [] that said that the open source development community should only work on developing the more popular open source software projects. It was said that the projects on sites like Sourceforge [] with low activity levels should just be abandoned so that open source software that stands out will be get the most attention and so it will be more likely to be considered superior. What is your opinion on this? Do you think the Open Source Community should rally behind the big projects?

    You're here on Slashdot where, as you know, you have the opportunity to tell much of the community what to do. Here's your chance to direct us. :)

    • ...because otherwise you'll very quickly get the "developers do what they want because they want to write this specific software, not to server some big political goal", albeit with a few exceptions like GNU.

      But I imagine many OSS developers have many programs they want to develop, both big and small. And in that respect I think the question is very good - is it the big projects or the small projects that push software forward? Where is the work most likely to bring out good results?

  • Cross-licensing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Random BedHead Ed ( 602081 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @01:19PM (#6552043) Homepage Journal
    Hi, Bruce. The guy who founded Microsoft - I forget his name - recently commented that open source and free software suffers from its inability to cross-license its technology.

    I see cross-licensing as the product of a broken patent system - if patents were given out only for truly original and non-obvious inventions, cross-licensing would be very rare. But along with the litigation that necessitates it, it's a fact of life. How much of a threat to GNU/Linux do you think the inability to cross-license presents, and do you think it might create a barrier to its use?

    • Re:Cross-licensing (Score:3, Informative)

      by Cyno ( 85911 )
      I think GNU and the FSF threaten the current state of the patent system and the concept of cross-licensing in general. Capitalists are so inefficient. OSS just shows the masses an alternative. Its like taking out the middle man, only in this case, the middle man is lawyers, store owners, merchants, CEOs, Marketting departments, etc. Just about everyone besides the developers themselves.

      So naturally everyone loves/hates it.
  • Economy (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 28, 2003 @01:20PM (#6552054)
    How has the open source movement been affected by the current economy, in particular by the outsourcing of development jobs overseas?
  • Bruce:

    You've surely noted that others are indirectly jumping on the Linux FUD wind blowing out of SCO.

    Sun's McNealy, for one, has been insinuating that Linux is a risky proposition (compared to the clearly legally-unencumbered Solaris UNIX which Sun owns outright). At first, this just seemed like slams against IBM (the old: my UNIX is better than your flawed UNIX), but Sun's AIX attacks seem to have given way to suggestions that Linux and Linux users are endangered by the SCO situation.

    Have Slashdotters and the Linux community generally given Sun a free ride on this and who else do you think have been shameless opportunists here? Who else deserves some of the vilification that SCO is getting?
  • Not Another SCO... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by suwain_2 ( 260792 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @01:23PM (#6552081) Journal
    Suppose I work at Microsoft designing Outlook, and then dabble in programming for Evolution when I'm at home. What's to stop me from thinking I'm doing the OSS community a favor and slipping some of the newest Outlook code into KMail to give it a new feature?

    Sure, I'd be legally liable if MS found out I did it, especially if it was deliberate. But what should/can be done by OSS project leads to ensure that all code others contribute is entirely legal?
    • by ewhac ( 5844 )

      what should/can be done by OSS project leads to ensure that all code others contribute is entirely legal?

      Well, first of all, if all the symbols are in Hungarian notation, it's a fairly safe bet it's tainted code. No competent, sane programmer uses that style.

      Second, a port of code from Outlook to KMail would introduce a bug, not a feature.

      And finally (a serious answer), there is no way for OSS project leaders to determine by looking at it if a piece of code labors under copyright or trade secret re

  • by Liquorman ( 691815 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @01:26PM (#6552099)
    /. readers are all aware that Linux and Open Source apps can be greatly customized and thus can be a better fit for many corporate computing situations as opposed to MS's "standard" install. However, this flexibility is a hinderance to Open Source acceptance. I get the feeling that many IT directors see that Linux may be the better "investment" in the long run. However, they feel that their organization is not currently set up to deal with the new paradigm that this type of initiative requires. In other words, the current IT deptartment is built around MS's support structure and it would require a reorganization (and in many cases new people) to change to Linux/Open Source.

    Do you agree with this analysis? And if so, how does the Open Source community combat this?

    Thanks, Tom

  • by linuxislandsucks ( 461335 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @01:26PM (#6552105) Homepage Journal
    My question is more aobut the OpenSource dev process....

    Recently there has been further baby steps by Sun moving the Java API-JSR process towards theOpenSource appraoch..some say by dragging sun by the hair every step of the way..

    What can a Language standardization and improvement process learn from OpenSource and Linux in the software dev process?

  • The Desktop: when? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 10Ghz ( 453478 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @01:29PM (#6552137)
    When will we see REAL support for Linux on the desktop? The Kernel is ready, the desktops are ready, the distros are ready, we have tons of apps. Only thing missing is real support from the OEM's. Sure, they support Linux on the servers, but few offer Linux-desktops. And those who do have very limited selection and they are hidden deep deep. No OEM pushes Linux on the desktop, not even IBM.

    Do you see any change occurring in this space? At what pace can we hope to have some REAL support for the Linux-desktop? I dream for the day when Linux will be the default OS OEM's offer with Windows being the optional extra.
  • by SWroclawski ( 95770 ) <> on Monday July 28, 2003 @01:35PM (#6552194) Homepage

    You say that you use the two terms Free Software and Open Source interchangibly. At the same time, depending on the year, month, phase of the moon, etc. you seem to declare your loyalty to one or another of these two camps almost to the exclusion of the other.

    Can you please elaborate your views on this disconnect in people's mind on where exactly you stand on the issue?

    - Serge
  • What is linux? What is Open Source?

    Can I run it on Windows?
  • by kaltkalt ( 620110 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @01:37PM (#6552212)
    It seems to be taken as a near-universal trusims that copyright is necessary to foster the arts and 'creativity,' while patents are necessary to stimulate the sciences and the 'innovation' of new ideas. In other words, without intellectual property monopoly rights (be they temporary or perpetual) humanity will cease to create anything (other than marijuana plants and dirty laundry). To many of us, OSS (and namely the success of Linux--the official #2 threat to Microsoft, from their own mouth) is proof enough that the "intellectual property bargain" truism is nothing but a falsity. A falsity that hinders innovation, creativity, the arts and the sciences. From reading some of your interviews, I get the impression that you feel the same way. I think we can all agree that copyright terms are ridiculously and unconstitutionally lengthy (Eldred notwithstanding), but do you think these IP monopolies need to exist in the first place? Could you elaborate on what your views of copyrights/patents (IP laws in general, not just software patents) are and should be?
  • ATM Receipt (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Graymalkin ( 13732 ) * on Monday July 28, 2003 @01:37PM (#6552223)
    The entire concept of the GPL and the general meme of Linux is source availability. I think one of the most important aspects of Linux being a tool of the little folks as well as the big folks is the little folks have as much access to it as the big folks do. Debian itself is a very successful distribution of Linux specifically because the entire distro is readily available after a few choice pecks at a terminal keyboard. In short, the ability to readily download Linux makes it very accessible.

    I think an important part of distributing Free as in speech information are places like UNC's ibiblio project. UNC being a good example, many universities the world over put a good deal of money into similar projects such as SunSITE. I don't think Open Source peojects would behalf as successful was it not for this extremely wide availability. While relatively cheap, for most people large amounts of storage space on top of large amounts of bandwidth are simply unavailable. Without both projects like Debian would not likely exist in their current form. Tools like apt-get wouldn't be as useful as they are if the sources list was constrained to cdrom:/cdrom and file:/mnt/nfs/debian.

    How repeatable a project do you think SunSITE is, not merely in terms of mirrors but as a repository of Free information and ideas? Also what do you feel the Free software community as a whole or individually could do to better secure availability of places like SunSITE?
  • by gosand ( 234100 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @01:37PM (#6552226)
    A lot of people equate Open Source with Linux, but what are your opinions on Open Source on Windows? Of course Open Source works well on Linux, it falls more in line with the philosophy of the OS. In your opinion, is it more beneficial to keep the concepts of Open Source and Linux coupled, or to get the message of Open Source out there in any way possible?
  • by Chalst ( 57653 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @01:40PM (#6552247) Homepage Journal
    How seriously do you think Sun's recent commitment to free software should be taken?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 28, 2003 @01:43PM (#6552263)
    I used to work on Linux professionally at a very large, three letter acronymed company around the same time you got yourself fired from HP.

    The perception from our side of the fence was that you were a egotistical, idealistic hothead that was doing more harm than good as a representative of GNU/Linux and the open source movement.

    Specifically, you were looked at as an advocate/spokeperson for the Debian project, and that association at the time was hurting Debian's chances of being taken seriously as a first-tier distribution option for vendors doing commercial work.

    My question is simple: did you get a bad rap? What were you trying to accomplish at HP, and what are you trying to accomplish now.

    Posted anonymously as to protect my own marketability.
  • California (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jefu ( 53450 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @01:43PM (#6552272) Homepage Journal
    There is to be a recall election for the governor of california and the rules for this election are not quite the same as the usual election rules. To put a candidate on the ballot does not require much -- either 10,000 signatures or 65 signatures and a $3500 filing fee. The Democratic party has stated it will not be putting a candidate on the ballot which will also change the dynamics of the pre-election media coverage. In contrast to the usual election process a relatively smallish investment in money and time could get the right candidate media coverage and an opportunity to raise issues of interest in the public eye. Given the national and international coverage of this election and the short timespan until the election, that investment could potentially be leveraged into far more visibility than would usually be the case.

    So might it be worthwhile for the Open Source community (and its friends and cousins) to somehow sponsor a candidate for governor?

    Such a candidate would have to have a good computer system for a website or the slashdot effect might make actually reading about the issues a bit difficult.

  • by philippe_grenet ( 693148 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @01:50PM (#6552331)
    Mr Perens, The European parliament is scheduled to vote for or against software patents on the 1st of September. A number of MEPs, most of them British, try to push the Parliament to adopt laws similar to the US ones. Microsoft and legal firms specialized in IP are pushing hard for it. In fact, the first proposal for this directive was written by an employee of BSA. Currently patents related to software algorithms are illegal in Europe, which does not prevent the European Patent Office from accepting them anyway. Bill Gates made clear in a recent interview that IP was a problem for Linux. Do you think Microsoft could in the future sue Linux companies on the basis of patent violation? If this happens, what should be the reaction of the open source software community?
  • by reallocate ( 142797 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @02:02PM (#6552447)
    Both Linux and the broader open and free software communities are rooted in developers' desire for free and accessible Unix platforms. Does the success of Linux mean that consumers can look forward to only two operating system choices dominating the market -- what Microsoft offers and what Linux/open source offers -- or do you expect to see open source prompt the development of other non-Unix-derived players in the OS market?
  • by shooz ( 309395 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @02:03PM (#6552453)
    Between the SCO lawsuit, Bill & Steve's IP remarks, and the Gartner group's recommendation, it looks like the corporate adoption Linux may have a tough road ahead. While most people here believe that Linux will come out on top of this particular issue, I feel this exposes a huge problem regarding Open Source software and its adoption in large corporations. Specifically, the end-users of Open Source software can be the targets of lawsuits if a company claims the software infringes on their intellectual property.

    So my question is, as a consultant who promotes Open Source software, what is the answer to a potential business client that asks the question "Does using Open Source software make my company a possible target for a lawsuit?"

    I realize this is an issue in the closed-source world as well, however, it seems that the closed-source software vendor would be liable for infringements (see recent changes regarding indemnity in Microsoft's EULA), plus the fact that it is closed-source may make it harder to discover these infringements in the first place. Would buying your Linux from RedHat put the legal burden on RedHat? What about some random Open Source project? Does downloading the RPM from make RedHat the vendor?

    Whether or not the vendor covers you is another story -- it all comes down to perception -- and right now it seems that Open Source software may be perceived as a risk to corporate health.
  • Is it true? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Tom7 ( 102298 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @02:10PM (#6552508) Homepage Journal
    Is it true that your last name is really short for "Parentheses?"
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 28, 2003 @02:13PM (#6552525)
    Why have you not stepped away from the words "Open Source"?

    If you go here [] there is a venn-like diagram showing that Open Source is a broadly inclusive definition, and how the GPL that you push is a small part of the Open Source universe.

    You had said on
    "It is not the job of Linux advocates to support BSD"

    At The Bazzar you said:
    'The new BSD licence is great. It allows a GPL license to be added, and the code protected'.

    And in the Open Group [] Open Source document you talk about "Assure that Open Source developers can participate in standards that are operated or facilitated by the Open Group, including the certification programs operated for those standards. This may require a special rate structure or coordination of corporate sponsorship for the Open Source project to go through certification.

    Promote broad certification of Open Source software by encouraging certification of a publicly available and redistributable version of an Open Source program, rather than a particular vendor's instance of that program. This will allow multiple Linux vendors to coordinate their activities on certification, so that a larger collection of Open Source becomes certified than any one vendor would achieve on their own.
    This document ignores Open Source running on platforms like Solaris, AIX, AT&T-UNIX-IP-Free'ed-BSD's, or even Windows. How does running on GNU/Linux like platforms make it an "Open Source" program and 'worthy' of certification?

    If you only wish to support the GPL and GPLed software, why do you keep using the words Open Source? There is a definition of what you actually advocate in word and deed called Free Software.

  • counter-sue? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by karnowski ( 313582 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @02:16PM (#6552547)
    We've seen Australia [] and Germany [] use some counter-legal action against SCO's FUD. Why is it not happening in the US? Surely there must be some laws in the US preventing people from claiming ownership of something without having proved it (yet)? They are damaging an industry with no evidence of their claims (yet), there must be some legal recourse for that industry to recover damages or at least shut them up?

    PS: I posted this question earlier but it didn't seem to make it, so am posting it again.
  • Patents (Score:5, Interesting)

    by molarmass192 ( 608071 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @02:19PM (#6552577) Homepage Journal
    My question is regarding the current trend of the USPTO issuing overly broad technology patents. Eventually this has to result in a technological gridlock where nothing can be done without infringing on an existing patent. Open source software is especially vulnerable to this since the community model is not designed to address patent threats. My question is what can we do to stay clear of the patent fray and do you think that there will eventually be an undoing of the current patent mess?
  • Bruce,

    Thanks for your stories and comments on Slashdot. This seems like a good time to ask you a question that I think has been on everyone's mind:

    If you could ask yourself anything, what would it be?


  • Bruce, (Score:5, Funny)

    by Will The Real Bruce ( 235478 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @02:28PM (#6552642) Homepage
    You have a unique position [] as a well-known figure in both the Free Software community and the underground rap community; as you are well-known for your involvement in Debian, speeding the corporate adoption of Free Software and protecting the IP of the Free Software community, as well as laying down the phat beats [] and representin' for the community, I have a few questions to ask of you about these enormous responsibilities.

    First, what do you do to try to get your message out to the community? What do you tell the kids who are looking for a positive role model, to show them that it's entirely possible to have legally obtained their bling-bling, and yet still have street cred, even if that street may be Wall Street? Also, have other people in the industries--like ESR or Puff Daddy--accused you of 'selling out', or 'forgetting where you came from'? And did you correctly identify them as playa hatas, who are just jealous of your successful and honest nature?

    Don't let them get you down, Bruce; you have shown everyone that it's possible to be an intelligent and responsible white man, and yet still make some mad loot, not give in to the big corporations, (software, recording, or otherwise) score with the ladies (husband *and* father!), and lay down some phat beats in the mean time. You're 100x the role model that Eminem will ever be, and I mean that, from the heart, as one wigga to another.

    Unless, of course, Eminem wises up and takes a page or two from your book, and starts researching intellectual property law and free software. In your honor, Bruce--let's all stand up.
  • by Bruha ( 412869 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @02:35PM (#6552706) Homepage Journal
    The 2 largest barriers for Linux hitting the desktop in large numbers seem to be adequate drivers and desktop applications/games. We've seen breakthroughs such as Nvidia's graphics card and Nforce2 chipset support along with Transmeta's WineX allowing more DirectX games to be played on Linux.

    In the forseeable future do you think that these barriers will continue the trend or will they be broken and things will get better for the Linux crowd?
  • by introverted ( 675306 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @02:52PM (#6552821)

    Mr Perens,

    Much of the pressure exerted on governments and big business to adopt "Free" Software seems to hinge on the idea that you don't have to pay anyone in order to obtain the software. (The mistaken belief that zero acquisition cost equals no cost at all.)

    Do you have any thoughts on what we, the Geek community, can do to educate the public about "Cost of Ownership" without driving them away from Free Software or unduly confusing them about what we mean by "Free" in the first place?

  • Hi Bruce

    Open Source methodologies have turned the software industry on its head. Many proprietary principals and processes have proved to be uncompetitive and ineffective compared to equivalent Open Source methods.

    I've been wondering why a lot of these principals can't be applied to other industries as well. For example, I've always thought that the political arena could benefit greatly from being Open, if every politician had to make their tax returns publicly accessible then the underlying principals and the way said politician votes would be available for everyone to see - in a similar manner to peer review of source code.

    Vehicle manufacturing could also be partially Opened. Sure we don't have an Open Source manufacturing plant but shouldn't anyone with the knowledge and ability to design a car be able to submit a design (or improved design) for peer review to someone like Ford before they begin the manufacturing process? I think that companies like Ford should be that confident in their designs that they should have nothing to fear by making them Open to the public? It's not like someone can get a design and be in the position to manufacture millions of cars anyway.

    So my questions are thus:

    With Open Source making so many inroads in software manufacturing in such a short amount of time do you see realistic potential for the same changes to take place in other industries using similar processes?

    What industries might they be?

    And have you been approached by anyone that is not in the IT sector to change their businesses practices to be more open in line with the OS software model?

    Thanks for reading

    John the Kiwi

  • Homeland Security (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pstreck ( 558593 ) * on Monday July 28, 2003 @03:33PM (#6553133)
    Bruce, As I am sure you are well aware that the United States government has chosen Microsoft as the platform of choice for our Homeland Security []. First, do you think this was choice will bad consequences ranging from financial to top secret data being stolen? Second, do you feel that open source software would have been a more responsible choice by our government?
  • Point Blank (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tabdelgawad ( 590061 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @04:10PM (#6553369)
    Is the Linux kernel free from copyright and patent problems? If the answer is "yes", what can the kernel developers *actively* do to counter the continuing FUD? If the answer is "no", what are they doing to fix the problems? And if the answer is "it's impossible to tell", then how can we claim that 'go-slow' or 'wait-and-see' advice to corporate IT departments is anything but prudent?
  • by ozten ( 112610 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @04:48PM (#6553613) Homepage
    We have had the OS, and then the browser wars, and personally I believe we are coming to the age of virtual machine wars. Assuming that there is a shift from the OS platform to the VM platform, these VMs like parrot or mono may allow java, C#, Ruby, Python, etc to run "freely" on many more platforms; this may lower deployment barriers and offer cross language libarary reuse for Open Source projects. Any thoughts on how these virtual machines will help or hurt Open Source development?
  • Is based on ideas which are thirty years and more old. Back in the early eighties I was working on Xerox workstations with ethernet networking, distributed hypertext [], large bitmapped screens with WIMP user interface, WYSIWYG printing, embeddable components...

    Of course part of the reason for this is that the seventies and early-eighties were an incredibly creative and productive period for software ideas. But... why has it stopped? The successful open source operating systems - the BSDs, Linux, the Hurd - are all based on UN*X, based on paradigms about how people use and share information which are rigid and hierarchical.

    Of course there are open source operating systems based on other ideas, but so far none of them is making any break through. Is there a radically different Open Source operating system that you, personally, are excited by? If not, why not? Have we learned nothing in the last thirty years?

  • by dasunt ( 249686 ) on Monday July 28, 2003 @10:22PM (#6555859)

    I'm sure there are going to be plenty of linux, SCO, GPL, and other excellent questions posted, but I prefer the more interesting, lets not preach to the choir here (heck, I can guess Peren's opinion on the SCO vs. World case, on IP, on the Linux desktop, etc).

    Here's my question (actually 2 questions, cleverly disguised as one):

    What are the five best technological features of Windows (2k, XP, etc) that the OS movement (GNU/Linux, and xBSD) is missing? From a technological perspective, where has the OS movement failed, and proprietary software succeeded?

  • by jbolden ( 176878 ) on Tuesday July 29, 2003 @12:25AM (#6556524) Homepage
    What 3 projects do you consider the most critical over the next 2 years for the continuing growth of open source solutions and why?

  • by anthony_dipierro ( 543308 ) on Tuesday July 29, 2003 @01:36AM (#6556848) Journal
    What percent of the email sent to is spam?

God made machine language; all the rest is the work of man.