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Linux and Open Source in Scientific American 11

Cory Williams writes " Scientific American has a nice little article about Open Source and its superiority to commercial software: "The Best Things in Cyberspace Are Free". Not like we didn't already know this. "
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Linux and Open Source in Scientific American

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  • by slim ( 1652 ) <john@hartnu p . net> on Tuesday February 16, 1999 @04:26AM (#2014456) Homepage
    It's nice to see this kind of article in the press -- but did you notice that nowhere does the article actually explain what Open Source *is*.

    I've noticed this in many, many mainstream press articles -- they either merrily drop phrases like "open source" without pausing to explain, or they use "free" to mean "free beer"... or worse they describe Linux/Apache/GNU/whatever as (argh) "public domain".
  • we should all take the last paragraph to heart.

  • Pah. There are laws against slavery. Probably rather verbosely written laws.

    I won't spell out the analogy -- but would you say that the freed slaves are not free, because their owners rights to do with them as they pleased were taken away?
  • Let's take another good look at it:
    If the current stylistic distinctions between open-source and commercial software persist, an open-software revolution could lead to yet another divide between haves and have-nots: those with the skills and connections to make use of free software, and those who must pay high prices for increasingly dated commercial offerings.

    This bothers me. Let's not forget that free (as in "speech" or "beer") software is meaningless if people can't use it.


    (somewhere in tenn.)

  • so proprietary and closely held that the company itself claims to be unable to locate some of the original source code...

    Doesn't that figure?

    "Your honor, we are required to add our browser to the operating system"

    "And why is that?"

    "Well, we can't find the version of the code that doesn't have it in."

  • Make that: not necessarily open source (not flame bait), but absolutely open file formats, communication protocols, and APIs/ABIs.

    This would be a good middle-ground solution: for any format, protocol, or other sort of standard that an application uses, there should be a fully open specification, preferably including at least a bare-bones reference implementation that is under the GPL. This would not prevent the company from having a completely proprietary closed-source application, but that application would not store or transmit data in any fashion that cannot be duplicated by an open-source competitor.

    Folks like Microsoft still won't like this, but I think it's perfectly reasonable -- in fact it ought to be required. The way I figure, the company would still own, and profit from, the product of all the time and energy that goes into refining the user interface, and any clever algorithms that they come up with in implementing and optimizing the data structures. However, the only possible reason for wanting to keep the formats and protocols proprietary would be to create a "lock-in" effect, making it harder for competing products to interoperate. Companies in dominant positions (cough) like lock-in effects, but this is anti-competitive. The legitimate grounds on which to compete are precisely those that would still be closed-source under my proposal: the quality of the respective implementations of the standards.

    David Gould
  • [I]f text-editing software built by hackers for hackers (such as Emacs) is any guide, average consumers and programmers may have almost antithetical ideas of what elegant, useful programs and documentation look like.

    He seems to imply that "programmers" should adjust their ideas to be more in line with those of "average consumers". Wouldn't the world be better off if the reverse happened, and the median computer literacy level permitted one to use Emacs productively?

Some people carve careers, others chisel them.