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Government The Almighty Buck Linux

The Billion Dollar Kernel 289

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 toastar ( 573882 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @12:03PM (#31260230)

    What you call your 'American perspective', I call brainwashing

  • 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?

  • Re:lol wut? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jeffmeden ( 135043 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @12:29PM (#31260536) Homepage Journal

    Vitriol aside, "Social Welfare" can mean anything, like a organization (say, a Church) in a community providing a non-trivial benefit to said community, while operating as a nonprofit. To put it tactfully, you need your "American Perspective" checked. It improves the welfare of the society (albeit in a somewhat hard to measure way). Saying that society as a whole (outside the open source community) has not benefited from Open Source (to which it pays no material compensation for) is ludicrous, therefore donations to open source should be treated just as any other donation to a nonprofit group.

  • Re:Oops... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Useful Wheat ( 1488675 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @12:31PM (#31260554)

    You have the right idea, but the wrong implementation.

    How much would it cost to professionally produce every video on youtube? I heard somewhere that roughly 20 videos are posted a minute, so that would be about 10.5 million videos per year. There's a lot of good content on youtube, excellent science demonstrations (look up SF6, and see an aluminum boat floating on a gas), some excellent comedy, and some great drama. However, the remaining 95% of the videos on youtube are trash that needs to be burned, and then shot into the sun to keep it from infecting the rest of us.

    I'm sure that producing all of these videos would run into many hundreds of millions of dollars a year. On top of that, the writing staff needed to produce the comments would probably break the billion dollar mark. The real question is, is this an accurate measurement of value?

    Maybe, Maybe not.

    What I would be more interested in seeing is a comparison of what the open source community has been able to produce, compared to what the closed source community has been able to produce. Is open source labor as cost efficient as hiring a real programmer? If I paid a team of 20 experts to write code for a year, would their output be better than the same number of lines produced from open source?

    I don't know. However, if I had to guess I would say no. If you look at the state of 3d video drivers, and gimp, the closed source version is typically better. Windows drivers are almost always better for video cards. Photoshop is better than gimp.

  • Re:Ramifications (Score:3, Interesting)

    by vlm ( 69642 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @12:39PM (#31260684)

    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 gravy, just mostly.

    Get a church to "hire you" to maintain their website, then ...

    Am I allowed to charge the $50 an hour I think I'm worth?

    You would be OK. To prevent being accused of fraud, your church either needs to do competitive bidding, have some kind of long term business relationship, or pay standard union rates. Which works pretty well for my union electrician friend, not so well for you. Chalk that up as reason number 0x1010110110101011101 that programmers should unionize as a skilled trade...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @01:27PM (#31261404)

    "given", if by "given" you mean "they have to help the hardware people design it, from scratch, because it does not yet exist and hardware doesn't just appear out of the sky without regard for the software that will ultimately run on it", then yes, they're "given" it.

    Most FOSS stuff is literally just copying things that have already been done. A small subset of that is an improvement on closed source software (such as Firefox and... I can't actually name anything else that isn't incredibly subjective - sure, Pidgin supports multiple IM services, which is nice, but it also doesn't do any of them quite right...) and an even smaller subset of that is actually original (such as bittorrent).

    Frankly, working from a spec or a working example is far easier than inventing it to begin with. You think the OSS world has it hard writing an exchange client off its specs because the specs are poorly written, or poorly organized? Those are the same specs Microsoft used, and in addition they had to deal with investigating if bugs were in the client or the server FAR more often than OSS clients do. For the most part, OSS clients can assume the server has already been written and debugged (by the closed source teams) and they have a much easier task.

    A lot of the overhead and time consumed in my work in closed source software hasn't been implementing some simple protocol, it has been designing it to meet needs that are only partially defined, getting everyone to agree to it, writing it, testing it, discovering we needed some information that no one bothered to tell us about, fixing the protocol, rinse and repeat.

    I imagine the Direct X people have similar problems. The OSS people whine on and on about Microsoft and their closed source work with the hardware vendors giving them "advantages", but what they really want is the closed source people to do all the hard work of coordinating with the hardware makers, figuring out what features make the most sense for the next version, designing and developing specs and APIs for the hardware, interfaces etc, and then to hand them all of this on a silver platter so they can code-monkey the shit out.

    There is a word for the work most closed source teams are doing: "engineering". When you're handed a spec to code to, you may be figuring out your implementation, but you're not engineering anything. You're implementing. Sorry the world doesn't do all your work for you.

  • Re:Seems a bit high (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @01:27PM (#31261414) Journal
    That's assuming that a replacement would be 12m lines of code. I recently rewrote a few classes for an open source project that I contribute to and replaced 5,000 lines of code with 500 (which did more, ran faster, and fixed some bugs along the way). Just because the current implementation is 12m lines, doesn't mean that the correct implementation is 12m lines. From the Linux kernel code that I've read, I suspect that there is a lot of redundant and duplicated code in the kernel. I wouldn't be at all surprised if you could implement it with a cleaner design in closer to 1m lines of code.
  • 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.

  • by bzipitidoo ( 647217 ) <> on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @01:46PM (#31261726) Journal

    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 system of IP law they profess belief in. We've had a decades long holy war going on over this, and the general public has barely noticed. That F/OSS has nevertheless advanced in spite of all that the Microsofts of the world have done to kill it, that the monopolist camp has resorted to dirty tricks by the hundreds and still failed, and that they've been caught over and over violating their own professed principles and exposed as hypocrites and fools, shows which side is stronger. As for IBM, I'm thinking the bitter split they had with MS, and the failure of OS/2 helped them see the light. Most others have not. A tax break would do much more than merely ease funding problems. It would not be yet another giveaway to the undeserving with massive lobbying campaigns, nor hopefully seen as such, it would be some justice for valuable work that many agree is not sufficiently appreciated. How rich are Torvalds and Stallman, really? They might not even be upper class. Compare that with Gates' status as the richest person ever. Hardly fair. Maybe Sun would still be independent. It would be greater official recognition that might serve to disarm the attackers and turn the heat down on this wasteful and expensive holy war. Some might even change sides. Imagine if MS were to change sides.

    The US has tried to push people into homeownership, on the idea that this turns people into stakeholders, that it makes for a more prosperous, stable society. They've done this by specifically allowing mortgage payments to be deducted from taxable income. So why not make open source work deductible? Rental payments aren't deductible because society wants to encourage home ownership. The ugly side of the American Dream is that if a homeowner is respected, those who have "failed" to own a home are disrespected. I've seen and experienced the low grade discrimination renters get just for being renters, the notion that if you can't swing a home, you should at least strive to spend as much money as possible on the rent so as not to be "low rent". In the eyes of too many, that's the status of F/OSS now: "low rent". This is also why America is so hostile to pedestrians. Only criminals and losers walk-- those whose time is not valuable or valued. Car ownership is the current Esq. "You get what you pay for" implies that F/OSS is junk. Many studies have shown that people value things more if they pay more, irrespective of the actual utility and value. People are always using mental shortcuts, and equating cost with value is extremely popular, and reasonably reliable. Paying more for F/OSS would get their attention.

    There are other helpful moves. Another convincing one is patronage, in the sense of being a customer and user. Use more F/OSS in government.

  • Re:Ramifications (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DMUTPeregrine ( 612791 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @02:22PM (#31262294) Journal
    Gentoo at least is a registered 501(3)c charity.
  • Re:Ramifications (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Blakey Rat ( 99501 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @02:57PM (#31262754)

    In the US, you can only write-off money donated to charity, not labor.

    So if you give the LUG $500, you can write it off. If you spend a couple days making their website, you can't.

System checkpoint complete.