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GnuCash Developer Robert Merkel Responds

Roblimo posted more than 13 years ago | from the follow-the-money dept.

Linux 98

These are Robert's answers to questions about GnuCash you posted on June 18th. He says, "Some of the answers to the questions here were the result of discussions with the other people at LDG, where others were more qualified to speak on various topics, so the readers are really getting the benefit of our collected wisdom (well, we hope it's wisdom :) )"

1) Why the GPL?
by noz

I'm not sure if this will be a very popular question, but I'm always interested in why people have chosen the GNU GPL.

Developed under the GPL, you have no need to worry about obsolescence: GnuCash will be there for you.

The GPL expresses many ideals, and there is a differing philosophy between Free Software the Open Source. Perhaps that's a bit broad, but what are your ideals and how do they relate to the GPL?

Robert:
The simple answer is that GnuCash is based on the X-Accountant codebase, which was GPL'd when Robin Clark released it based way back in 1997. If we wanted to use that code, we were obliged to use the GPL. If that code had been released under another DFSG-free license, I'm sure the developers would have been happy to continue under the same license.

There's more to it, though, as you have indicated in your question. I like the GPL, would generally use it on a project of my own, and I believe the GPL has been very good for GnuCash's development and will continue to be so.

The GPL it makes it clear to people who contribute code to GnuCash that their code will remain free forever. There's nothing wrong with corporate sponsorship of free software; in fact most of the core GnuCash developers work for the Linux Developers Group, which is sponsoring GnuCash development and intends to sell, extend, and support it. The entire management of LDG is GnuCash developers, so there's not much question of Bad People doing Bad Things within the corporate framework, but sometimes Bad Things happen anyway, and in those cases the GPL's protection is very valuable. And, for us, Bad Things really did happen.

Gnumatic sponsored GnuCash development for about a year. Like a lot of other small companies, Gnumatic got in financial trouble during the Bust. Thanks to the GPL, the work done on GnuCash during 2000 was not lost, and the developers were able to start a new company (LDG) to continue the work. This was an inconvenient distraction, but not a fatal blow to the project, as it was to the products of many other companies who went out of business during the current downturn.

Also, having GnuCash under the GPL helps us at the Linux Developers Group continually improve our tools without having to argue with clients about it. We are aiming to make the GnuCash code base a useful tool set for small-business accounting, ecommerce, and general financial solutions consulting. When we talk to clients, we don't have to try to convince them to like the GPL, since there's no choice involved. If we start from our tools, the work is under the GPL, period; that's the way the license works. We don't have any choice but to put our improvements back under the GPL, and clients seem to understand "we have to do it this way" better than "we really, really think it's a good idea to do it this way".

2) Online Banking Plugins?
by Tin Weasil

Online banking is a great feature that I would love to see incorporated into GnuCash. I realize that there are probably a ton of obsticles to making this a reality, so here is my question:

Would it be possible to incorporate some sort of perl plugin to GnuCash that would go out to a bank's web site, access the banking account information on the site, access the relevant data and then format it in a way that could be pasted into the existing GnuCash data?

My bank, Region Bank, allows customers to access their checking account via a web browser. I hate to see this resource going to waste.

Robert:
Banks generally provide machine-readable account information in a couple of formats: QIF (Quicken Interchange Format), which is an old and broken text export format used by just about every personal finance program, and OFX (Online Financial Xchange), with its first cousin QFX (Quicken Financial Xchange), which is an SGML/XML protocol for both getting information and initiating on-line banking activity such as funds transfers.

If your bank provides downloadable QIF files, as many do, you can import them into GnuCash easily right now. We are working on the ability to use GnuCash's built-in web browser to log on to the bank with SSL and download the QIF directly into GnuCash without having to save to a file, but until then, it won't break your arm to download with a normal browser and import the file into GnuCash.

At the moment, GnuCash doesn't support OFX, but we are working on it. OFX support is definitely in the top 10 most demanded features; however, it's a very large and complicated specification and will take some time to get right.

Non-US users have other protocols that will have to be addressed one at a time. For example, Germany uses a system called HBCI. At least one German GnuCash developer (Christian Stimming) is working on HBCI support now, but I have no idea how long it will take.

Even given significant developer and user interest, it's going to be challenging to get environments where we can test any implementation (you need some kind of test account with somebody who runs the kind of server you wish to talk to, and they don't just give those accounts away willy-nilly). Having corporate sponsorship of GnuCash will hopefully prove to be useful here. We might also run into the kind of NDA-type issues that I'll discuss in my answer to question 5, which might get a little nasty.

So, in summary, you can do some things now to get information from on-line sources in QIF format. OFX downloads and interactive banking activity are in the nearby but not immediate future.

3) Custom Reports
by jmauro

Is there any possiblity or chance that custom reporting mechnisms can be added into GNUCash? (I.E. A number of rules can be set up to group certain transactions into groups and generate different reports based on other sets of rules.) It is the one thing in the 1.4 release that I thought was needed. The reports that were there seemed limited and I resorted to copying data into gnumeric to generate the reports I wanted. Does 1.6 correct this, or am I still limited to a number of default reports? Is there currently work on this area, or if not where in the code can I best look to start to add this capablity.

Robert:
The GnuCash reporting system is designed to provide both a bunch of reports that are broadly customizable and a straightforward framework for adding your own totally custom reports. We are partway there on both counts, but in any case the improvement since 1.4 is pretty great.

The set of reports that ships with gnucash-1.6 is much better than the set that shipped with 1.4, and includes several totally new features, like piecharts and bargraphs, style sheets, and save/restore of your customized reports. You can do most of the standard reporting stuff to look at your income, expenses, and assets by category and within date ranges, or list transactions matching certain patterns. The reports and graphs related to stock portfolios are pretty limited, but we are trying to find interested folks to work on these and other "sophisticated investor" features during the current development cycle.

You can customize every report through a GUI configuration interface, which generally allows you to control the appearance of the report, date ranges, what accounts are examined, etc. You can also select a "style sheet" for each report. The style sheets are separately editable, so you can build and save a "business" style sheet with your company logo and so on that you can apply to any report.

Writing custom reports requires a little knowledge of Scheme at the moment, but the ability is there and there are good examples to work from. The Scheme report generation system is very powerful and allows you to do absolutely any kind of analysis that you want to do, but it's a little intimidating for new users.

We are looking at a simplified interface using something like KDE's Kugar system, which is a simple report specification language. It's open-source so we may just steal it directly. There's a useful customization "sweet spot" that we haven't hit yet (more powerful than changing colors and titles, but less than a complete new report).

4) XML and billing
by LL

Currently there are a number of XML billing initiatives such as XMLPay, VisaXML, etc... How do you see these trends influencing the design and development of GNUcash ... in particular do you think that your users are only looking for a simple view/format/verify client (think IMAP server + XML extensions) while GNUcash moves towards being the agent of record (aka a specialised ASP?) Of you do see GNUcash as a drop-in replacement for existing monolithic accounting packages? In summary, given that the market for electronic businesses and purchases (greater use of international currency, direct attachment to electronic settlement, near real-time risk management) is going to change, how do you think GNUcash should respond?

Robert:
The issues here are similar to those in the online banking question above. We're working on supporting a lot of this stuff but it's a bit tricky.

We are talking to people from CheckFree and PayTrust about direct integration with their services, and we have a bit of code called gPal by Alp Toker which is a GTK Paypal interface; we're going to try to steal parts of it to add direct Paypal support in the soon-ish timeframe.

Right now, GnuCash doesn't really have the infrastructure needed for a "Make it so" button; it's designed to be a record of financial transactions you've done, not an agent for actually performing the transactions. We want to change that because people are really foaming at the mouth to get online bill payment working.

As far as the XML-based initiatives you mention, I'm not familiar with them. If they look like they will be widely used, it makes sense to try to support them; I'm guessing they will be at least kissing cousins to OFX/QFX, which means that once we get those working we should be able to reuse some work.

5) Cool stuff, but...
by RareHeintz

Is anything being done to make GnuCash competitive with Quicken and other products? The tour at the web site depicts a competitive feature set, but there's more to it than auto-incrementing check numbers: I, for one, would rather use the GPL'ed alternative, but most consumers will look for convenience-related features - for example, integration with their favorite online bill-paying service.

Though my question is about GnuCash specifically, I guess it does address the larger issue about how Open Source projects compete for market share and mind share with the products of well-capitalized corporations that can form strategic partnerships that (despite the shortcomings of Closed Source software generally) offer real value to consumers. Any thoughts?

Robert:
Everything we do with GnuCash is aimed at making it competitive (ultimately, superior) to Quicken and other products. We want our program to be people's choice because it's the best available, not just because it's free (in both senses). Quicken is still ahead of GnuCash in many areas, and as you point out, sometimes closed-source companies have big advantages. All I can say is "We're working on it".

The Linux Developers Group, as a company, can make the kinds of partnerships you describe and pass the results on to our clients and the GnuCash community as a whole... but we won't be in the business of violating other people's copyrights, and that will probably mean controlling access to information we receive from third parties.

For example, people want real-time stock quotes. Well, you have to pay for that, and we would get our pants sued off if we tried to buy a feed from Reuters and redistribute it to everybody and their dog for free. We are in the process of setting up direct integration of real-time quotes in Gnucash as a paid service for our customers; the code to get the quotes is free software, but you have to have authentication to use the service. That means we can have a meaningful agreement with an information source to get the quotes and pass the cost on to our customers.

This may end up happening for other services as well. We won't write proprietary extensions to Gnucash, but there may well be information that we don't own that we can only share with customers under a specific agreement with an outside party. In these cases, the code to get the information will be free but the information won't be.

6) Documentation
by quartz

Will the next major release feature some decent documentation? Extensive documentation is the only thing I miss from GNUCash. Having only recently come to live in the US, I have enough trouble understanding the local economics, so it would be good to have a nice tutorial for my personal finance management program as a starting point.

Robert:
Hey, I've *never* lived in the US, so I still have a great deal of trouble understanding just what those crazy Yanks* are up to :)

As to the documentation, we do our best, and, to be honest, I think our best is better than many of the open source projects out there. I revised, with help, a fair bit of the documentation for this release, and as well as documenting just about every new feature, we wrote a quickstart guide for new users, as well as a "what's new" guide for people upgrading for 1.6. Now, if only I can figure out a way of speeding up the process of taking a squillion new screenshots (didn't get that finished, but I'll try to get them done for 1.6.1) I'll be happy.

However, what people like yourself seem to be asking for is a tutorial on basic personal accounting, using GnuCash for the examples. We provide a little of this in the documentation (for instance, Chris Browne wrote some nice clear explanations of depreciation expenses) but there's certainly room for a lot more of that kind of thing. What would be *really* ideal is if somebody wrote a book on "managing your personal finances with GnuCash" and possibly even bundled a GnuCash CD. Hmmm, there's an idea . . .

I also wrote an introductory tutorial-style article for the April Linux Journal. Unfortunately, it's not online (unless you're an LJ subscriber), and it talks about GnuCash 1.4.x so some things are a little out of date, but if people can find it, it might help a little.

*To an Aussie, a "Yank" (or "Seppo", the derivation of which is kind of amusing but a little difficult to explain) is a citizen of the US. While it's often prefixed with "crazy", "loony" or a variety of epithets, we're casting slurs on all US citizens rather than a subset :)
7) Palm Conduit?
by woggo

I'm likely not alone in my need to be able to sync my finance software with my Visor. Are there any plans to link GnuCash to a Palm-based money manager program, a la Quicken and PocketQuicken? Or are there any plans to develop a new, GPLed "PocketGnuCash"?

Robert:
I have a Palm myself, and I'd really like this feature. I looked at doing something about it ages ago (just using the Palm's builtin expense tracker), but the old 1.4.x binary file format didn't support storing the required metadata (whereas storing metadata with the new XML file format and the engine improvements is almost trivially easy). However, by the time the new file format arrived, I was too busy trying to write reports and other stuff.

The PalmCoins project, moreover, is working on a proper GPL'd Palm-based financial application. Their stated goal is to fully support synchronization with GnuCash, and we'd be overjoyed to have that kind of functionality available. If you really want it too, go help these guys out!

Another possibility that we have started thinking seriously about is raised by the availability of Linux-based handhelds. The GUI-independent parts of the GnuCash codebase are actually pretty small and wouldn't tax a reasonably well-specified handheld device. Combined with a stripped-down GUI, a handheld version of GnuCash would IMHO make a pretty enticing application for handheld users and manufacturers . . .

8) Integer based currency type
by kbrown1

A while ago I was hesitant to use GnuCash because I discovered that it uses floating-point numbers instead of integers to store currency values. What have you done to work around the round-off errors inherent in such a system, and do you plan to migrate to an integer based system? If so, when?

Robert:
GnuCash 1.6 stores all quantities and performs all calculations using an exact (integer-based) numeric representation. Our code was the result of extended, er, "discussions" on issues of currency representation and rounding, and consequently it provides pretty comprehensive facilities for determining and specifying the appropriate precision, and exactly how results should be rounded (or not) to that precision, if required.

In practice, errors that were actually the fault of the floating-point representation were very rare, but "very rare" doesn't really cut it if we want GnuCash to become a <buzzword>enterprise-ready</buzzword> business accounting system. Getting this stuff right took a lot of time and effort, and doesn't result in any new user-visible features. We really have tried very hard to get the bedrock good, so that we can add even more gloss in future releases.

9) Taxes
by ichimunki

Moreso than simple home accounting software, I'm interested in electronic tax filing. Any plans to integrate GnuCash with any existing filing services, or to integrate tax features into the program (if there are any, I apologize for overlooking them)? As tax preparation and filing are services many of us are comfortable paying a fee for (especially online), I don't wonder if there isn't a revenue stream in there somewhere, as well.

Robert:
There are some tax-preparation features in GnuCash 1.6 (via the Tax Report and TAXTXF export), and we hope to get more soon. The problem with tax preparation is that the rules are constantly changing and they are different for every town, state/province, and country.

We haven't really looked at integration with existing filing services, but that sounds like a pretty reasonable approach. You'd have to ask the author of the Tax Report, Richard "Gilligan" Uschold, how his current work could lead to that.

My only concern with electronically submitting tax forms is that I'd imagine you could face large fines (or, highly unlikely as it may be) prison, for submitting an incorrect tax return, not to mention the risk of security holes . . . so it's a feature that you'd have to plan with some considerable care. However, I'm not sure what the other developers, particularly US-based ones, think of the idea.

One area of tax preparation which I do personally intend to look at is GST/VAT/Sales Tax. In jurisdictions with a value-added tax, the ability to track and conveniently report the amounts of that tax collected at sales time, and included in goods purchased by your business is essential. There has been some debate on the lists as to how we tackle it, and hopefully soon we'll be able to resolve such debate and actually get on with implementation.

10) Illuminati & Mafia (+5, funny)
by FortKnox

I heard that GnuCash is the Accounting program of choice for the Mafia and Illuminati (the whole Trilateral Commission, I believe). My question is: Do you plan on adding features for efficent money laundering to help your best customers?

Robert:
/me checks over his shoulder to make sure no-one's looking

Well, actually, the true world conspiracy is cricket. The Mafia and Illuminati are really just small pieces in the plan - as is Linux. While big US corporations attempt to lock up American sports in pay-per-view and sponsorship deals, we're steadily working on open-source server and streaming media solutions, which we'll spread far and wide . . . and all that will be left to broadcast is . . . cricket. We'll make ourselves incredibly rich selling cheap-n-nasty sports memorabilia to every sports bar in America (cricket has such long periods between any action, it's perfect for lots of advertising slots), as well as online betting with reputable subcontinental and middle eastern bookmakers - and that's where GnuCash fits in . . .

oh wait, there's a bunch of guys in suits and sunglasses at the door, oh, f*&Y*&, help me please, they're dragging me away from the keyb67*

---------------
- Robert Merkel
rgmerk@mira.net

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REDUNDANT? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#106723)

You dickhole, it's the FIRST post up there!

GPL (1)

Have Blue (616) | more than 13 years ago | (#106724)

(Trying not to troll too overtly, but this will be unpopular)

Have they considered that the GPL may hinder the adoption of GNUCash by other projects/companies? They can't use any GNUCash-derived code without GLPing their entire product. Perhaps it should be switched to the LGPL?

Re:Yanks (OT) (1)

Loundry (4143) | more than 13 years ago | (#106725)

BTW, to a non-USAian, all U.S. citizens are 'Yanks', as Robert pointed out.

Yes, I know, though I think what you meant to say is, "to an English-speaking non-USAian, all U.S. citizens are 'Yanks'." I became aware of this fact after spending a good amount of time with my Scottish in-laws. I was attempting to make a joke, I think the humor was lost in the medium.

Yanks (OT) (1)

Loundry (4143) | more than 13 years ago | (#106726)

To an Aussie, a "Yank" (or "Seppo", the derivation of which is kind of amusing but a little difficult to explain) is a citizen of the US. While it's often prefixed with "crazy", "loony" or a variety of epithets, we're casting slurs on all US citizens rather than a subset :)

I'm a Southerner, and I agree with the Aussies that yankees are rightly prefixed with "crazy," "loony," or many other colorful epithets!

(Yes, I'm joking!)

Re:Yanks (OT) (1)

Loundry (4143) | more than 13 years ago | (#106727)

Last I heard, you fired first.

As if this justifies rape.

Just because you were all stupid enough to think that you could win a war of attrition when you had half the population, no real industry, and a poor infrastructure doesn't mean you should keep bitching about it.

That wasn't what he was bitching about. He was bitching about being equated with Yankees.

I feel real bad for destroying an economy that was based on slavery.

You had as much to do with destroying the evil institution of slavery as I did with perpetuating it: nothing.

I hear Atlanta was a gorgeous city too, at least until Sherman burned it down.

Your words perpetuate the stereotype that yankees are rude, stupid, and cruel.

I've always wanted to take a tour of the south in a car that named the 'General Sherman'. Would be fun. Sure fire way to learn all about 'southern hospitality'

Let me get this straight: It would be fun to flout an act of so-called "Total War" in the face of people who have done nothing to you and then look for hypocracy when they don't give you hospitality? This is your idea of "fun"? Again, your words perpetuate the stereotype that yankees are rude, stupid, and cruel.

It's ridiculous that Southerners get the label of "not letting go of the war" when Northerners can write things like you just did and not be labeled with anything.

(I should learn not to feed the trolls, but sometimes I don't mind turning the spotlight on after a yankee's shown his whole ass.)

Re:Yanks (OT) (1)

Loundry (4143) | more than 13 years ago | (#106728)

I bet you are a racist redneck too.

Wow, what an awesome comeback! Instead of responding to any of my points you just whip out the tired, old, "racist redneck" comment. Racists and rednecks aren't confined to the South, dear. They exist all over the country. The strongholds of the Neo-Nazi and Christian Identity movements are actually in the West.

Tell me, what was it that I said which gives you the impression that I'm a "racist redneck"? I can tell you exactly what you said that gives me the impression that you're a rude, stupid, and cruel yankee. (Provided that you're the same anonymous coward that I responded to previously.)

For the record, I'm a gay man, and I have a committed partner with whom I've adopted a little boy from Ukraine. Growing up gay in the South wasn't easy (as if it was easy anywhere). I've probably suffered more from "racist rednecks" than you could ever imagine.

Re:Online payment (1)

Ed Avis (5917) | more than 13 years ago | (#106729)

Dammit, that's the second time it's happened this week... I post a question, the replies get moderated up, the original question gets moderated down! (I humbly submit this post at the score level of '1' in the earnest hope that the moderators may take pity on it and not consign it to the depths of -1, Troll...)

Online payment (1)

Ed Avis (5917) | more than 13 years ago | (#106730)

Okay, so people are keen to add functionality to pay bills online, to send money via PayPal, and so on.

But what are the odds that the first feature implemented will be a button saying 'click here to donate money to the GnuCash project'?

Re:QIF files aren't sufficient (1)

Goonie (8651) | more than 13 years ago | (#106731)

The question was, is it possible to use a perl plugin for this ?

If you want to use a scripting language to talk to the GnuCash engine, you're best off using scheme at the moment - well, the guile dialect of scheme, anyway. If you use perl, you'll have to jump through considerable numbers of hoops to do it.

If you still have your heart set on using Perl, you'd be best to write your pluging to convert the data to QIF and importing that.

Go you big red fire engine!

Re:Standard GPL FUD (1)

ergo98 (9391) | more than 13 years ago | (#106732)

It is open source and the question was specifically relating to the difference between "free software" and "open source" (anyone ever get the feeling that the FSF and friends are playing a little 1984? I've noticed they keep "defining" terms and then redefining terms...common terms that they have zero right to state with such certainty that they're right. "Henceforth `free' means anything that is covered under the GPL and has been personally approved by Richard Stallman."). The statement "will remain free forever" is specifically and obviously in comparison to the "faults" of the *BSD license that Stallman and friends like to perpetually attack, which is that it doesn't impose viral conditions like the GPL does...the gift that keeps on taking.

How pathetic the moderators of Slashdot are (1)

ergo98 (9391) | more than 13 years ago | (#106733)

While I suspect it's a power-that-be at Slashdot with a serious personality defect, in a moment my post went to Moderation Totals:Troll=2, Overrated=1, Total=3. Get a life you losers. One of the questions was why he chose the GPL with the standard rhetoric and bullshit to back it up, and when I call it on it I get moderated like that? How sad.

Re:Standard GPL FUD (1)

ergo98 (9391) | more than 13 years ago | (#106734)

100% true! The problem is that the GPL is a virus, and its defenders try to spread the gospel wherever they can (like in this article talking about why they used the GPL. I'd call the justification pure GPL-FUD fear-mongering bullshit [so common on Slashdot], which is why the parrots and clowns of Slashdot moderated my post to -1). When faced with propaganda, especially when it's the converted preaching to the converted, of course people should call them on it.

Re:Standard GPL FUD (1)

ergo98 (9391) | more than 13 years ago | (#106735)

So what you're saying is that you can take contributed changes into your proprietary product and not have to reimburse the people who have helped make your program better. You make millions (*taptaptap* no Flower that's billions) and when the guy who contributed the code needs function X which you only offer in your proprietary product you can jack him for a licensing fee.

Tell me this: If you fly Bunghole Air and they happen to be running Linux with PostgreSQL and Apache for all their servers (theoretically, so the FSF tells us, contributing to the bottom line if you pretend that silly things like TCO don't exist) do you expect to fly for free? Why do so many GPL fantatics have such a simplistic view that the world is software and only software: Lots of people profit because of software (either in their operations, efficiency, etc.), and if you released your software for free you have NO RIGHT to demand payment later on. The GPL philosophy is a sad, pathetic "If I can't make something worthwhile out of this, then damnit neither can you!".

And to counter the standard BSD rant you can sell a GPL'd product. The FSF has been doing it for years.

___BULLSHIT!___ Man that sort of nonsense is so unbelievably illogical it absolutely boggles the mind. Arghhh...forget it. This is absolutely ridiculous. How long until you people are calling Stallman Jesus? I'm 100% serious. There is some seriously skewed perspectives.

Re:Standard Anti-GPL FUD (1)

ergo98 (9391) | more than 13 years ago | (#106736)

Does the author of the BSD TCP stack have the freedom to modify and redistribute the fork of their code that's in Windows?

Your code is what you have created and released (which is no less free after they incorporate it), and obviously any changes are their changes.

Re:Standard GPL FUD (1)

ergo98 (9391) | more than 13 years ago | (#106737)

Oh please. The only fanatic I'm seeing is you. I made a damn good point. If you put the product under a proprietary license and then offer the same package under BSD what's the point? The only thing you can offer is support. Just like GPL'd software.

I totally agree with this: There is very dubious economic value to releasing something under the BSD and simultaneously trying to sell it (just as it's absurd to try to sell something that's under the GPL, and this notion that keeps being proposed that the GPL & software sales go together is proposterous). You don't give away your greatest asset if you ever plan on profiting from it, and I don't agree with any such plan. However there are lots of companies whose asset isn't the software (for example hardware companies whose drivers are intrinsically tied to the sale of their hardware), and for them open source makes total sense. Additionally to push communications/packaging protocols and standards releasing open source makes sense. It also makes sense to release some open source for goodwill (IBM is playing this card). It doesn't make sense to make a "software company" and think that you're going to profit creating software and releasing it under the GPL. The reality is that the overwhelming majority of GPL fans are the leachers of society who between Napster sessions are busy ripping off cable TV and stealing the neighbours newspaper (or living in university labs).

Your analogies are skewed. No I don't expect to fly for free. Being able to use free software does not mitigate the cost of fuel, the cost of staff to fly and maintain the plane, etc. etc. Your reasoning is completely flawed. But if a cost savings gets them to add more staff, improve service, and get Fluffy from point A to point B in one piece then I don't see why that isn't a good thing.

My analogies are totally logical (although, like all analogies, they're of marginal value). The point is that GPL fanatics hold as their religion that it is evil for someone to profit off of "their" creations (although of course the person profiting must have added something to the GPLd code if they were to hypothetically profit from it, but this fact escapes GPLers. Another post brought up "Well what if someone sold something containing my open source code and profited from it without giving to me???!?!?!?!?!" : Obviously they're profiting on their EXTENSION of what you've done, as their creation does not make your open source disappear), but they extend this philosophy apparently only so far as other software, but if IBM is selling more servers because they install Linux on it: Good for them! If US Air can pay the CEO more because they switched to Linux (bogus scenario as TCO renders the base charge irrelevant), hurrah! It's a bizarre cannibalism of programmers where GPLers care the most that other programmers don't profit of their work, but if big business is laying off programmers and siphoning the IP for free: Hey isn't that just grand?

We Crazy Yanks (1)

Spud Zeppelin (13403) | more than 13 years ago | (#106738)

Outside the US, a Yankee is anyone from the US.

In the South, a Yankee is anyone from anywhere else in the US.

Outside the Northeast (and the South), a Yankee is anyone from the Northeast.

Within the Northeast, a Yankee is anyone from the region between Boston and New York City, inclusive.

Despite the fact that I now live in Texas, I don't like the Southern definition. It is inadequate in that it ignores states like Idaho and Montana, and to a lesser extent New Hampshire, which border Canada, but have a lot more in common with most of the South than they do, say, Connecticut or Rhode Island.

Incidentally, based on the narrowest definition, "crazy" isn't a bad choice -- Massachusetts drivers, in particular, are notoriously intemperate. Driving tip #1: that space between the yellow line and the left-hand Jersey wall is NOT a passing lane, despite what Sen. Ted Kennedy's (a famous bad driver from Mass.) constituents might think!

MOO;IANAL.

Re:Great argument for GPL (1)

ethereal (13958) | more than 13 years ago | (#106739)

I imagine the folks who invested money in Gnumatic (they had millions in VC money, IIRC) and the employees who were counting on it to pay their bills are less thrilled about the situation.

Here's a good question: How is the Linux Developer's Group different than Gnumatic? Their web pages have the same sorts of claims, and they seem to be composed of mostly the same people. Is there any reason to think that what happened to gnumatic won't happen to LDG?

...this isn't the kind of app you can partition into free code and paid-for add-ons."

Looks like he was pretty much on the money.

I think the jury's still out on that one, though - just because Gnumatic or LDG haven't yet hit on the right formula for getting paid for Gnucash doesn't mean that it isn't possible to do so, and just because Kapital is proprietary doesn't automatically mean that they've solved all problems of making a profit (are they at the moment?). For one thing, the existing Gnucash fits all of my needs, so no matter what business model either of them adopts they're not making a whole lot off of me.

I agree that VCs aren't going to foot the bills anymore for anyone (or at least only for the very fortunate), but that doesn't mean that all ideas initially funded with VC money are automatically bad ideas.

Re:Yanks (OT) (1)

Bob Uhl (30977) | more than 13 years ago | (#106740)

I'm quite aware that we were not angels either. But a) we were fighting a war of defense and b) I really don't care about yankees or what happened to them. I care about what happened to us. I'm sure yankees feel the same way; I just feel that neither of us should be lumped in with the other, 'cause we're different sorts of folks. I'm just arguing for the distinction.

Personally, I found Texans to be great people. But that's me. I know some folks that find New Yorkers to be the finest folks in the world. It's a matter of taste.

Re:We Crazy Yanks (1)

rabidMacBigot() (33310) | more than 13 years ago | (#106741)

exactly - just like the British/English/from-the-islands-but-neither-Briti sh-nor-English thing :)

I've had enough people on Usenet explain it to me, and I understand it for as long as it takes me to read the post. I don't think anyone outside the EU - maybe even nobody outside the islands - really understands it.

Pop quiz for the rest of us USians - Wales. British or no?
Answer: I have no idea.

--

The Southern Economy (1)

dmaxwell (43234) | more than 13 years ago | (#106742)

The Southern economy was doomed regardless. The South did not employ a standard gauge on it's railroad system which makes the transportation infrastructure damn near useless. The North was also busy industrializing most sectors of it's economy....including farming.

Plantation owners would have none of it. We wouldn't want to encourage idleness among the slaves now would we? Incidentally, the slavery would have been a millstone around the South's neck in other ways too. Most people these days will go out of their way to avoid a product that they know is produced by slavery. Even with no moral imperative, the South's products would be tariffed or boycotted. Nations without slavery wouldn't want its' citizens to compete against slave labor.

The rape, murder, looting, and pillaging might have been avoidable. The destruction of the South's economy was not....with no "help" from the North whatsoever.

GNU (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 13 years ago | (#106743)

It's not hard, you open a dictionary, or a book of children's name and you point randomly. Choose a freakin' name.

Re:Yanks (OT) (1)

thetechweenie (60363) | more than 13 years ago | (#106744)

I think you should check your spelling as well. I must confess, I'm using Microsoft Money.

Seppo? SEPPO? HOW DARE YOU INSULT US AMERICANS! (1)

stefanlasiewski (63134) | more than 13 years ago | (#106745)

(Ob-Simpsons reference)

*To an Aussie, a "Yank" (or "Seppo", the derivation of which is kind of amusing but a little difficult to explain) is a citizen of the US. While it's often prefixed with "crazy", "loony" or a variety of epithets, we're casting slurs on all US citizens rather than a subset :)

I'm sick of the way you Austrailians stereotype Americans! It's horrid! Let's give 'em the BOOT [snpp.com] !

(Yes, this is a joke).

Re:Web browser... (1)

jmccay (70985) | more than 13 years ago | (#106746)

That makes sense. Thanks for responding.

Re:QIF files aren't sufficient (1)

mabinogi (74033) | more than 13 years ago | (#106747)

the CHARGE you for QIF files??...

I'd say get another bank!...


Re:Yanks (OT) (1)

Rogain (91755) | more than 13 years ago | (#106748)

Yeah man, Slavery was quite level-headed and not loony at all. And fucking yer cousins and sisters and other fun shit like that are quite the opposite of crazy. Oh and lets not forget the bitter, narrow minded christianity so wildly popular down here.

Re:Seppo? SEPPO? HOW DARE YOU INSULT US AMERICANS! (1)

Rogain (91755) | more than 13 years ago | (#106749)

No hes refering to you Australasians. But seriously the real danger is those greasy New Zealanders. Dirty goat fuckers.

Re:What's wrong with that? (1)

lewp (95638) | more than 13 years ago | (#106750)

No, if you were evil, you'd just completely drain the account and not say a word :P.

You're just mischievous.

Re:Yanks (OT) (1)

cybercuzco (100904) | more than 13 years ago | (#106751)

And it took an american (me) to correct your spelling of rhyme. A rime means eather a sea chantee or a type of deposit usually found around the inside of a tank in a ring

Re:Online payment (1)

brassman (112558) | more than 13 years ago | (#106752)

Would Pocket Coins restore the small-change aspect of PayPal that they took away when they dropped their Palm app version?


--

Re:how about a Mac OS X version? (1)

TandyMasterControl (136043) | more than 13 years ago | (#106753)

There's some pent up demand for alternatives to Quicken, and there's also some penned in resistance to allowing non-Quicken, non-MS clients to connect to online banking services.

As of version 3.0, Moneydance was able to exchange OFX data online. Well, that was some time ago and most banks still will not allow Moneydance to connect to their servers --although American Express and Discover Card do find Moneydance is up to snuff and allow Moneydance to echange data.

It's not always sufficient for data formats to be open, when powerful partners in information exchange don't feel like being even-handed.

Re:Web browser... (1)

mar22 (145944) | more than 13 years ago | (#106754)

They use existing browser, I suppose. If you go and carefully read the explanations in the web site you'll see that the aimed integration is to facilitate the automatic loading of your bank account data. I suppose that when log in to your bank web site and decide to download the QIF file, instead of "save to file" you will automatically get all the data imported.

I suppose that they use Mozilla as a web browsing control.

peter
http://geocities.com/h2428
When you drop your car keys into a river of molten lava, let 'em go, because man, they're gone.

Re:Standard GPL FUD (1)

Pinball Wizard (161942) | more than 13 years ago | (#106755)

That was funny, and spot on. BSD code also remains free forever, but you wouldn't know it reading the standard GPL rant.

Seems to me that the GPL has the potential to remove your rights as a developer in the long run. Say you invent a software product, copyright it under your name, and then GPL it. You could sell this product as a proprietary product under a different licence. However, as soon as someone else contributes to your code, you lose all rights to sell it under your proprietary licence. With a BSD licence, the open source model still works, you get to share code and have others contribute to the project, and no one is restricted in any way from making money with the code. As it should be IMO.

I can hear the anti-BSD rant already. "But what if evil software company X steals your code and never gives back to the development community? Well, here's what would happen. Since I BSD'd my code instead of GPL'ing it, I'm not restricted in any way from selling my product and competing with company X(If I had GPL'd my project, its likely that neither I nor company X would ever make any money, but that's neither here nor there). Now who do you think people are going to buy the software from. Me, who wrote the code, and actually can support it, or Company X, who downloaded the code, doesn't know shit about it, and just wants to make a quick buck.

That's right, even under the BSD model, I'm still pretty much guaranteed the lions share of the sale of this software product. My code is still free and can be developed with an open source community model. And most importantly, I can sell my own work as a binary product to people who don't care about the code, and I can sell it without restriction.

In short, if you like the OSS model of development, and if you ever hope to reap profits from your coding work, the BSD licence is the way to go.

Lay off the crack moderator! (1)

FortKnox (169099) | more than 13 years ago | (#106756)

This is off topic??
Read below, then find it in the article, then undo your moderation, ya freak!

10) Illuminati & Mafia (+5, funny)
by FortKnox
I heard that GnuCash is the Accounting program of choice for the Mafia and Illuminati (the whole Trilateral Commission, I believe). My question is: Do you plan on adding features for efficent money laundering to help your best customers?

Robert:
/me checks over his shoulder to make sure no-one's looking

Well, actually, the true world conspiracy is cricket. The Mafia and Illuminati are really just small pieces in the plan - as is Linux. While big US corporations attempt to lock up American sports in pay-per-view and sponsorship deals, we're steadily working on open-source server and streaming media solutions, which we'll spread far and wide . . . and all that will be left to broadcast is . . . cricket. We'll make ourselves incredibly rich selling cheap-n-nasty sports memorabilia to every sports bar in America (cricket has such long periods between any action, it's perfect for lots of advertising slots), as well as online betting with reputable subcontinental and middle eastern bookmakers - and that's where GnuCash fits in . . .
oh wait, there's a bunch of guys in suits and sunglasses at the door, oh, f*&Y*&, help me please, they're dragging me away from the keyb67*


It appears the moderator is moderating without reading the article.....

--

Re:Lay off the crack moderator! (1)

Happy Monkey (183927) | more than 13 years ago | (#106757)

Or someone doesn't want you reading that post fnord...
___

Re:We Crazy Yanks (1)

Happy Monkey (183927) | more than 13 years ago | (#106758)

Summary:

Outside the US, a Yankee is anyone from the US.
Inside the US, it's too muddled to tell.

Apologies to Groucho and Seppo Marx.
___

Re:Standard GPL FUD (1)

CyberKnet (184349) | more than 13 years ago | (#106759)

Ho humm. So I should have no right to say "Use this, as long as you allow everyone else to use this, and any additions you make to it"? It seems like you're trying to encroach upon my rights. (And no, I'm not encroaching on yours ... you have the right to say yes or no to the terms and conditions). People have been saying yes to worse licenses for decades. What is so new about a condition? Personally it is a condition I *WANT*.

---

Re:Standard GPL FUD (1)

CyberKnet (184349) | more than 13 years ago | (#106760)

Why do BSD License advocates always complain about the GPL requiring the source to remain available for any released product? Time and again I hear the argument "But I dont want to release the source for my app, but I want their source!!!!" ... what is the problem? Nobody is making you use it. The GPL does not "take" if you hold the same ideals. If you dont hold those ideals, then dont use it. The gift does not keep on taking.

---

Re:Great argument for GPL (1)

update() (217397) | more than 13 years ago | (#106761)

Gnumatic didn't "blow through" their "millions" in startup funding. They never got the money to start with, just a term sheet, a promise, and a firm (but meaningless) handshake from the "investors" whose name I won't give any press to by a mention.

I did not know that -- I knew they were supposed to get a lot of money but didn't know it had fallen through. My apologies to them for the misinformation. (Could somebody mod the parent up?

That's why the Linux Developers Group is trying to make a living doing financial/ebusiness consulting using the GnuCash code base as a toolset. We're going to sell and support GnuCash for end users, but IMO it will be more of a calling card and advertisement for our consulting services than an attempt to be Intuit. If the Linux desktop space takes off, GREAT! We'll already be there. If not, I'll personally be disappointed but the business doesn't hinge on it.

Good luck to all you guys with that! I'd much prefer to see free software development rely on sensible, modest schemes like this.

Unsettling MOTD at my ISP.

Re:Yanks (OT) (1)

tsmit (222375) | more than 13 years ago | (#106762)

I've always heard "YankeesSuck", but that could be because i'm hanging out at Fenway too much.

ummmm (1)

gnudutch (235983) | more than 13 years ago | (#106763)

Thank GOD the format isn't still called QIF....I'd never say that in public!!

Re:Web browser... (1)

diamondc (241058) | more than 13 years ago | (#106764)

they don't they use the GNOME html widget (not sure if its the old one or gtkhtml)

Re:Standard GPL FUD (1)

stcanard (244581) | more than 13 years ago | (#106765)

Actually I think the problem is a bit more subtle than that -- the GPL ensures that another company can't incoporate your code into a proprietary product, thus making it non-free in that specific instance.

Example, in this case the developers of GnuCash don't want to be funding the next version of Microsoft Money, or Quicken.

Bad Grammar! Nooooo! (1)

noz (253073) | more than 13 years ago | (#106766)

From my question (printed in this article):

"...there is a differing philosophy between Free Software the Open Source."
Well I thought this was a mis-print, so I went to my original post [slashdot.org] and it was also like this! I swear I wrote it proper!. Was supposed to read:
"between Free software and the Open Source movement.'

Is /. compressing their dbs? ( :

Re:GPL (1)

Fat Casper (260409) | more than 13 years ago | (#106767)

Says who? You can derive code from any GPLed app and use it to your heart's content.

Do you not mean "use GNUCash code in a closed source, proprietary app?" Riiiiight. Even if you can talk a bunch of Linux developers into using a less free license, you'd have to get them to start from scratch. The code is already under the GPL. Nobody can take back what rights you already have to code that you already have.

Do you simply not understand the GPL, or do you need to RTFL before you troll?


"You know, the golf course is the only place he isn't handicapped."

Re:The Government should do it (1)

Fat Casper (260409) | more than 13 years ago | (#106768)

Open Source government doesn't exist here. Look at the building codes- they are not written by lawmakers, but by the building associations. They are adopted as law, but remain copyright of the building people. We have laws on the books that are not a part of the public record.

What part of that system do you think is going to make it easy for you to pay taxes accurately? They'd rather have you too scared of mistakes to try deducting anything.

And we keep voting them back into office- "Congress sucks, but my rep is great."


"You know, the golf course is the only place he isn't handicapped."

riight (1)

kilgore_47 (262118) | more than 13 years ago | (#106769)

so, any of us posting at this point obviously havn't read the article.

___

Re:Yanks (OT) (1)

Smegma4U (301112) | more than 13 years ago | (#106770)

Considering that it could be said that the Southern states were responsible for the rape, murder, looting, pillaging, and complete economic destruction of African countries which have still not recovered, by your definition, Southerners could also aptly be called "Yankees"

Re:Seppo? (1)

Rockin' Az (315143) | more than 13 years ago | (#106771)

Seppo is not an Aussi term - it's UK Cockney slang - as someone else pointed out it is "Septic Tank Yank" or Seppo

Quick question... (1)

srvivn21 (410280) | more than 13 years ago | (#106772)

Why is there no link to the GnuCash [gnucash.org] website, either in the article, the related links or in the comments? Yes, I dropped my filter down to -1 *shudder*, and searched the source.
Nothin'. Just curious.

Seppo? (1)

ThePreciousRoy (414473) | more than 13 years ago | (#106773)

any Aussies wanna take a shot at what Seppo means?

*To an Aussie, a "Yank" (or "Seppo", the derivation of which is kind of amusing but a little difficult to explain) is a citizen of the US. While it's often prefixed with "crazy", "loony" or a variety of epithets, we're casting slurs on all US citizens rather than a subset :)

Re:Standard GPL FUD (2)

cduffy (652) | more than 13 years ago | (#106774)

It doesn't make sense to make a "software company" and think that you're going to profit creating software and releasing it under the GPL. The reality is that the overwhelming majority of GPL fans are the leachers of society who between Napster sessions are busy ripping off cable TV and stealing the neighbours newspaper (or living in university labs).
If your software company is formed to create new software, then releasing everything you write under the GPL is indeed a great risk. If your market is such that vast customization and development (as opposed to end-user) support is required, however, doing so can be quite profitable.

This is not necessarily so in a case where a piece of software is entirely new; however, in a saturated market, use of an open license (providing customers with flexability between support vendors and an assurance that some level of support will be available even if the vendor goes out of business) is a big win. I say this not theoretically, but as a programmer at a company using just such a strategy. Here at MontaVista Software [mvista.com] we support the use of Linux in building embedded systems. We have a great deal of internal build, testing and development framework which is very hard to replicate otherwise, and a high saturation of talented developers. As such, we make good money off companies looking for an operating system suitable for embedded use which they can use royalty-free and get excellent support for.

We don't just profit off those other developers who wrote the software we support, either. We fix bugs, add new board support and contribute new features quite regularly -- and our customers pay us to do it.

In our market, use of the GPL is really win-win. Our customers get an excellent embedded OS, and the ability to switch vendors if we disappoint them (something which, to the best of my knowledge, hasn't happened yet); the community which wrote the code we support gets bug fixes and new features; and we get paid. What's not to like?

GNUcash! (2)

mholve (1101) | more than 13 years ago | (#106775)

If GNU is free, then where can I get some of this GNUcash? :)

Re:Yanks (OT) (2)

Troy Roberts (4682) | more than 13 years ago | (#106776)

Bob,

If you believe that only the Yanks were raping, murdering, looting, pillaging, and such, then you know little about the Civil War.

As for other comments in relationship to this, I am from the Northern US (Indiana) and now live in the south (Texas). People here are not particularly more friendly then those in Indiana. In fact, many are not friendly at all.

So, Poor education about the Civil war and unfounded comment about "rude yankees" do not endeer you to anyone nor provide any evidence of intelligence.

Troy Roberts

Re:Yanks (OT) (2)

JoeBuck (7947) | more than 13 years ago | (#106777)

It was the freeing of the slaves that caused the complete destruction of the economy of the south, since it was pretty much the only economy that existed (almost no manufacturing, almost no agriculture that didn't use slaves).

The south didn't really get back on its feet until after the civil rights movement, which the south resisted tooth and nail. It was the south's own practices that kept it backward and poor.

Re:I'm glad's it's GTK/GNOME... (2)

Goonie (8651) | more than 13 years ago | (#106778)

P.S. Re: the hub-bub about 60+ add-on libraries: add-on libraries could be statically linked in or included in the GNUCash source tree for everything except the service providers (ie CORBA service providers). Example: many image tools include a release of libjpeg and libtiff which are then statically compiled into the executable.

They're not the ones that have caused trouble. The actual libraries that people haven't had are mostly guppi and gtkhtml, and there's been a few problems with incompatible guile versions.

There are also more issues than you might think with statically-linked libraries - for instance some of those libraries have associated data files which obviously *can't* be statically linked in.

Go you big red fire engine!

Re:Tax preparation and liability (2)

Goonie (8651) | more than 13 years ago | (#106779)

For U.S. Federal income taxes, at least, providing tax preparation features shouldn't pose much risk to the GnuCash developers.

That wasn't really my concern. My concern was mainly for the damage to GnuCash's and LDG's reputation that could ensue if a bug led to incorrect tax returns being submitted - not to mention the damage it could do to the unfortunate souls who got caught by the bug.



Go you big red fire engine!

Re:Online payment (2)

Goonie (8651) | more than 13 years ago | (#106780)

Just a minor clarification. While GnuCash is licenced under GPL software, we are not technically a GNU project. The copyright is actually owned by the many individuals and the companies who have contributed to the project.

If we were a GNU project, all copyright of the code would have been assigned to the FSF. The GNOME libraries, gcc, and guile (which LDG developers have contributed to) are examples of projects like this.

Go you big red fire engine!

Re:Great argument for GPL (2)

kaisyain (15013) | more than 13 years ago | (#106781)

This only helps if the company actually releases something.

And if a company goes to the trouble of releasing a binary then they can release the source code as well. And if the source code has been released then having it under a BSD license works just as well.

I think arguing the GPL in this situation is a red herring.

The answer to your question is obvious. (2)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 13 years ago | (#106782)

Now who do you think people are going to buy the software from. Me, who wrote the code, and actually can support it, or Company X, who downloaded the code, doesn't know shit about it, and just wants to make a quick buck.

The answer is: The company who has the most money to market the software with. (Assuming the software is any good.) The people who know enough about the process to know that Company X just took the code are going to be smart enough to just take the code themselves, and aren't going to give either of you a dime anyway.

If you ever hope to sell your code for a profit, neither the GPL nor the BSD license are good choices.

Re:Standard GPL FUD (2)

Shadowlion (18254) | more than 13 years ago | (#106783)

Say you invent a software product, copyright it under your name, and then GPL it. You could sell this product as a proprietary product under a different licence. However, as soon as someone else contributes to your code, you lose all rights to sell it under your proprietary licence.

Bzzzt! Wrong.

What you "lose" is the right to sell the version that contains your code AND the code contributed by other people. You are still entitled to distribute the product you wrote under any license whatsoever.

What you essentially have is a fork, where you have a proprietary and a free version that share a common code base. There's nothing that says you can't distribute your original product under a proprietary license (in fact, there's nothing that says you can't continue to improve it!) - you simply can't distribute the changes and modifications other people make.


--

You mean "Australians"? (2)

GroundBounce (20126) | more than 13 years ago | (#106784)

If we americans cant lern how to spel
corectly, we wil never get the respec we
so writefully deserv.

Re:how about a Mac OS X version? (2)

flimflam (21332) | more than 13 years ago | (#106785)


"Rather than settling for outdated, unsupported Mac versions of the leading PC accounting software..."

While I share your desire for another alternative to Quicken, I believe that the product that they are referring to is Quickbooks, which Intuit continues to sell (I think -- at least they did recently) despite the fact that it hasn't been updated in, what 5 years now?

Re:GPL (2)

frantzdb (22281) | more than 13 years ago | (#106786)

First, since GNUCash is based on other GPL'd software the GNUCash maintainors would have to get permission from everyone who ever contributed to that project.

Second, this is the entire idea of the GPL. If a company doesn't want to contribute to GNUCash in a sharing way, then that is their problem. I suspect many of the GNUCash contributors would not want to sacrifice the freedom of their code because some company doesn't want to share.

--Ben

Re:Standard Anti-GPL FUD (2)

frantzdb (22281) | more than 13 years ago | (#106787)


And of course under the *BSD license if X company decided to incorporate that code somehow into a commercial proprietary product, instantly and unrevokably all copies of said source that exists in the world would spontaneously delete itself and suddenly retroactively become non-free.

Of course not. However if company X does incorporate BSD code into a closed commercial product, that company will have restricted the freedom the original author would have had were the software in question covered by the GPL. When software is covered by the GPL, the ``code will remain free forever.'' (As the original poster said.)

--Ben

Re:Standard Anti-GPL FUD (2)

frantzdb (22281) | more than 13 years ago | (#106788)

How exactly does a company using BSD-type licensed code restrict the freedom of the original author? All of a sudden they can no longer work on their code?


Complete BS.


Does the author of the BSD TCP stack have the freedom to modify and redistribute the fork of their code that's in Windows?

--Ben

Re:Yanks (OT) (2)

Bob Uhl (30977) | more than 13 years ago | (#106789)

And to a Southerner, yankees are the ones responsible for rape, murder, looting, pillaging and the complete destruction of our economy, such that it took more than a century for the South to get back on its feet once more. We _don't_ like being called yankees, or yanks, or anything else along those lines...

Re:Standard GPL FUD (2)

Flower (31351) | more than 13 years ago | (#106790)

And where did he say the BSD license didn't? Where did he mention the BSD license? Oh wait. He didn't at all. Instead he talks about how code they used to start GnuCash was under the GPL so it was required to GPL GnuCash. Nice spin doctoring there.

My question to you is "so where was the alternative the developers could have used that was licensed under BSD?"

Re:Standard GPL FUD (2)

Flower (31351) | more than 13 years ago | (#106791)

Oh please. The only fanatic I'm seeing is you. I made a damn good point. If you put the product under a proprietary license and then offer the same package under BSD what's the point? The only thing you can offer is support. Just like GPL'd software.

Your analogies are skewed. No I don't expect to fly for free. Being able to use free software does not mitigate the cost of fuel, the cost of staff to fly and maintain the plane, etc. etc. Your reasoning is completely flawed. But if a cost savings gets them to add more staff, improve service, and get Fluffy from point A to point B in one piece then I don't see why that isn't a good thing.

Lots of people profit because of software (either in their operations, efficiency, etc.), and if you released your software for free you have NO RIGHT to demand payment later on.

So we agree that the parent's author to this discussion is flawed in releasing a program under the BSD license and then charging for a proprietary licensed version of the same product? After all he does offer a free version he shouldn't expect payment from it later on. Must be the same quality as any GPL stuff out there if it's available for free.

Oh, and I said I supported both the BSD license and the GPL. Next time you want to start screaming zealot go look into the mirror.

Re:Great argument for GPL (2)

topham (32406) | more than 13 years ago | (#106792)

Actually it may not.

If the actual code is never released by the company during it's production it does not have to be released if the company goes under.

All updates can sink with the company.

Re:Online payment (2)

MikeBabcock (65886) | more than 13 years ago | (#106793)

I seperate (whether correct or not) the concept of GNU software and software created by the Free Software Foundation.

GNU/Linux, as I understand it, does not necessarily _only_ contain software owned by the FSF, but any GPL'd (or otherwise 'free') software.

I may be mistaken -- and thus open to correction -- but I'd call any project under the GNU Public License a GNU project.

Re:Seppo? (2)

Jarvo (70205) | more than 13 years ago | (#106794)

Don't tell them that you fool!

Oh well, there goes the ANZUS treaty and here comes the US pacific fleet...

The Government should do it (2)

alispguru (72689) | more than 13 years ago | (#106795)

Once there is a published standard tractible representation for regulations like this, there should be Government sites that publish all regulations in that form.

After all, if we have to follow the rules, the rules should be published in a form that is as unambiguous as possible, and the closer to directly executable the better. Open-source government, anyone?

Of course, all the people who currently make their living interpreting regulations would have to start charging less for their services, as some of their work would now be done in a centralized fashion.

Re:Standard Anti-GPL FUD (2)

Rogain (91755) | more than 13 years ago | (#106796)

When will we get beyond these pointless flame wars and actually begin shooting BSD advocates then we would finally be rid of these devil spawned flouters of the GPL once and for all?

tee hee hee!

Re:Great argument for GPL (2)

SquadBoy (167263) | more than 13 years ago | (#106797)

No the BSD license does not make as much sense as the GPL in this case. And I like the BSD license for many things. The problem with the BSD license in a situation like this is that it lets others use your code without so much as a please. This could be very bad for someone like this and give say Microsoft a real club to use against them. The GPL on the other hand means that you have to compete with them on things other than the code and I think these guys will really shine in backing up code that they know and understand better than anyone out there.

Re:Tax preparation and liability (2)

swillden (191260) | more than 13 years ago | (#106798)

  • For U.S. Federal income taxes, at least, providing tax preparation features shouldn't pose much risk to the GnuCash developers.

    That wasn't really my concern. My concern was mainly for the damage to GnuCash's and LDG's reputation that could ensue if a bug led to incorrect tax returns being submitted - not to mention the damage it could do to the unfortunate souls who got caught by the bug.

Ouch. Nothing like being forcefully reminded that if you spend enough time with the borg, you will be assimilated. I've clearly got to get away from the litigious world of U.S. megacorps. At this point I can barely imagine people being concerned with end users and with that quaint notion: "reputation"...

Web service for GNU cash (2)

aburnsio.com (213397) | more than 13 years ago | (#106799)

"The problem with tax preparation is that the rules are constantly changing and they are different for every town, state/province, and country."

You mentioned that you would provide free code for the real-time stock quotes, but that the information would have to be paid for by a third party and verified via authentication. The same approach could be used for region-specific financial practices, including GAAP for the industry, taxation laws, reporting requirements, etc.

There would be some service, online or otherwise, which provides updates to these financial practices; should we say, a web service? This web service could be used by more than just GNUcash, perhaps there is even an existing service that provides that type of information. If there isn't, and you have capital, it would be a good business to start.

Re:Great argument for GPL (2)

update() (217397) | more than 13 years ago | (#106800)

Well, it's a great argument for the GPL if you're only concerned about the work and not the company. I imagine the folks who invested money in Gnumatic (they had millions in VC money, IIRC) and the employees who were counting on it to pay their bills are less thrilled about the situation.

I remember when the Kompany's proprietary Kapital was mentioned here and posters were scorching Shawn Gordon for not releasing it under the GPL.* He responded with something to the effect that "Gnumatic is blowing through their startup funding to get GnuCash going but eventually they'll need to make money somehow. We're not taking VC money, we're looking to build a functional company and this isn't the kind of app you can partition into free code and paid-for add-ons."

Looks like he was pretty much on the money. You know, VC's are going to catch on sooner or later and then even free software developers with sensible business plans won't see a dime.

* Apparently, RMS sent him such an offensive letter that he's no vowed never again to use the GPL for anything and is exploring other license options.

Unsettling MOTD at my ISP.

Re:GPL (2)

einhverfr (238914) | more than 13 years ago | (#106801)

Have they considered that the GPL may hinder the adoption of GNUCash by other projects/companies? They can't use any GNUCash-derived code without GLPing their entire product. Perhaps it should be switched to the LGPL?

I agree with you to a point. However, the experiences of BSD, Apache, and Linux point to a conclusion that the GPL is, in fact, the right license for this job.

SunOS 1.0 was basically a commercial version of BSD. Sun and others have ensured that as long as proprietary UNIX is around, that BSD will have trouble competing. Yet Apache (developed by a groupd of diverse developers in a rapidly growing industry without major proprietary competition) has thrived on the BSD style license. In fact, unlike BSD, Apache's proprietary spinoffs have never taken off significantly.

Linux has shown that an open source operating system can be competitive. It has been sometimes inferior technically to BSD, though in the last few years has been coming to its own. While FreeBSD has been having trouble being widely accepted over its proprietary competitors, Linux has been doing well in this regard. It has been because Linux code cannot be reused by the proprietary competition.

The lesson should be that when entering an encumbant market dominated by proprietary software, the GPL is probably the best choice if you want it to be widely accepted. But if the market is not dominated by existing proprietary products, any of the other licenses make at least as much sense.

Re:Yanks (OT) (2)

tb3 (313150) | more than 13 years ago | (#106802)

"Seppo", the derivation of which is kind of amusing but a little difficult to explain

Maybe, but I'll give it a try. Aussies use Cockney rhyming slang, where you rhyme the word you're encoding with a two-letter phrase, and then throw out the rhyming word, making it nonsense to the un-initiated. The most common example is 'china' == 'china plate' == 'mate'. eg. "How are you, my old china?"

Seppo is 'Septic Tank' to rhyme with 'Yank'.

BTW, to a non-USAian, all U.S. citizens are 'Yanks', as Robert pointed out.

Tax preparation and testing (2)

Spamalamadingdong (323207) | more than 13 years ago | (#106803)

he may have meant that its difficult to develop electronic tax filing software without electronically filing tax returns to test it.
That requires the assumption that there is no way to test the filing software other than by filing a real, live tax return. Aside from the fact that you'd have to find a new taxpayer for every test run, the idea that someone would develop an internet protocol and have dozens of companies producing software which must comply with it without having some kind of test suite and internet address for testing is ridiculous.
--

GPL and Big Business (2)

mazi (465014) | more than 13 years ago | (#106804)

Let me first start by saying that I am part of a small company developing what has so far been a proprietary java-based platform. For a while now, we have been considering pursuing the OSS route. We have been studying the various OSS licenses available, and have been following much of the discussion that takes place in this regard. It took me a long while to make the transition from an observer of these discussions to someone who wanted to actually partake in one. I have been trawling the net looking for at least someone to have made comments similar to what I have been feeling, but so far I have not been successful. I therefore decided to make a few points that I believe have been overlooked in this whole discussion. In talking to others, I have come to believe that many of my views in this regard represent those of the silent majority - people who just want to get some work done and are not interested in the politics. I know it's not only me, but it really seems as if everyone is really lost in this whole argument of whether BSD is better or GPL. As so many people have posted, it really depends on what your goals are. If you want to ensure the highest adoption rate, then arguably BSD is the way to go (less restrictions, probably means more adoption). If you want to make sure that all derivative works remain in the public domain (so to speak) then GPL is the way to go. But there is another aspect to all this that utterly amazes me. How is it that all these developers who are for GPL for the reason that derivative works remain GPL don't see where things seem to be heading (or maybe they don't care)?

The argument is often made that all code should be GPL and that money should be made solely on the basis of service and consulting contracts. It is no surprise to me that the likes of IBM and HP would prefer to release their code under GPL. They are in the best position to ensure that they reap the benefits of any improvement to their code. What are the chances that Joe Hacker could compete with the likes of IBM in providing a service contract to the community at large? None.

So what does the GPL actually mean for the average small company that is trying to develop "revolutionary" software? It means that in order to get other small players to cooperate with you, you risk the attention of the likes of IBM and HP. If you are developing a great application that you would love to share with the developing community, then GPL also means that you share it with IBM. In essence, these GPL advocates are inadvertently (I hope) cheering for the IBMs of the world. I am surprised that it took IBM so long to realize how much of a good thing this was and embrace the GPL whole-heartedly.

My question to the GPL backers (and by this I mean people who believe that if something is not GPL, then it is inherently bad) is why they are willing to give up their own competitive advantage (presumably, developing innovative products) and make everyone fight the service battle with the likes of IBM? Red Hat has made it (so far) because they managed to fly under the radars of these corporate giants. And the jury is still out regarding the long term viability of these new OSS companies. But the giants have been awoken, and they will not be caught off-guard (at least not for as long) next time. How do you suggest a small company compete with these giants? Is it your intention that only the big services companies be allowed to sustain a viable business model?

I doubt that this is the intention of any of the proponents of GPL in the developer community. This is the resulting outcome, however. So, I believe that more work needs to go into developing a new license. If you believe that all code should be available to the masses for no charge, then that is your prerogative - the same way that some people sincerely believe that communism is the correct economic model. Just remember that even in that model, it was the apparatchiks that tricked the masses to work for peanuts, while they were feasting in the dachas on the Black Sea.

For those of us who believe that there must be a way to make decent money from an idea that we implement, the GPL seems to take away all our assets and advantages compared to the behemoths. I understand the general apprehension that many feel about contributing to a project that they feel would result in financial rewards for the originator, but not for the developer. The GPL solution that is being provided, however, merely shifts the gains to some other entity. It is saying that if I can't figure out a way to capitalize on this work, they neither should you. I think that this is inherently the wrong approach. What needs to be discussed and developed is a new class of license that allows the rewards to somehow be shared amongst the developing community. I would like to hear more discussion from people who have thought about how to best share the fruits of one's labor. Any ideas?

As an aside, I believe that George Bernard Shaw said something to the effect of "Any man who is not a communist at the age of twenty is a fool, and any man who is still a communist at the age of thirty is an even bigger fool." I think that much of the talk that is centered around GPL has to do with the fact that much of (specially, the vocal part) the developer community falls into this age bracket. They are idealistic, and they have found a true revolutionary in RMS. How else could one explain the war of words that goes on between the GPL and BSD camps. They seem like individuals that started a revolution together, but are now squabbling over the next step. You probably need zealots to get the word out, but I believe that it is the pragmatists that would eventually make believers of the world at large.

As a last point, I think that a lot (OK, some) of us remember the days when IBM was the only game in town and gouged customers. We have at least read of their tactics with FUD to make sure that better hardware never made it. They made all kinds of false promises to make sure people would not buy the competition's machines. IBM finally lost the game because of the PC, and sees in the GPL a way to make up for its losses. It doesn't hurt that most of the people writing here have grown up in an age when the "real" bad guy is MS. MS is not doing anything IBM wouldn't have done. Monopolies try to protect their monopolies. Now, if some people hate MS so much as to contend that we need to be promoting these other companies, then that is a flawed argument. I think that OSS has a real chance to level the playing field and make the little guys stand up and be counted. What this means is that we need a way to be able to pool our resources and share the rewards. I don't think that it should mean that we should pool our resources to line the pockets of others. IBM should play its hand the way it sees fit, as so should MS. That doesn't mean that for everyone else the option is either being a lackey of one camp or the other.

Bad Questions, Funny Answers. (2)

RennGuy (465329) | more than 13 years ago | (#106805)

It cool that he had a sense of humour about the questions. So many of them seemed to me like things saying, "Why doesn't GNU Cash give out hugs [broody.org] ?", "When will GNU Cash provide life after brain death [broody.org] ?"

I know I rambled a bit there but why can't people say thanks and ask about something other then new features. GNU Cash rocks, treat it with some respect.

AHHHHH!!! The moderators are coming to steal my karma and they are going to alkfjaljdfklfhaqp 90

Nice interview (3)

Indomitus (578) | more than 13 years ago | (#106806)

Wow, I like GnuCash even more now than I did 5 minutes ago. That was about the most informative interview I've read here in awhile. Even moreso than the infamous Alex Chiu interview :) (which, I have to admit, I was one of the people who emailed Roblimo about getting).

Slashdot should start doing a series of interviews with "important" Linux/BSD developers/groups. Just to start things off, I'd like to see interviews with the main people behind MySQL, The GIMP, and maybe some of the unknown-to-most-of-us heroes in the Linux kernel hacking arena. What developers would others like to see?

Re:Standard GPL FUD (3)

Flower (31351) | more than 13 years ago | (#106807)

Seems to me that the GPL has the potential to remove your rights as a developer in the long run. Say you invent a software product, copyright it under your name, and then GPL it. You could sell this product as a proprietary product under a different licence. However, as soon as someone else contributes to your code, you lose all rights to sell it under your proprietary licence. With a BSD licence, the open source model still works, you get to share code and have others contribute to the project, and no one is restricted in any way from making money with the code. As it should be IMO.

So what you're saying is that you can take contributed changes into your proprietary product and not have to reimburse the people who have helped make your program better. You make millions (*taptaptap* no Flower that's billions) and when the guy who contributed the code needs function X which you only offer in your proprietary product you can jack him for a licensing fee.

And to counter the standard BSD rant you can sell a GPL'd product. The FSF has been doing it for years.

I can hear the anti-BSD rant already. "But what if evil software company X steals your code and never gives back to the development community? Well, here's what would happen. Since I BSD'd my code instead of GPL'ing it, I'm not restricted in any way from selling my product and competing with company X(If I had GPL'd my project, its likely that neither I nor company X would ever make any money, but that's neither here nor there). Now who do you think people are going to buy the software from. Me, who wrote the code, and actually can support it, or Company X, who downloaded the code, doesn't know shit about it, and just wants to make a quick buck.

You forgot about marketing. I don't need to be better than you to hijack your product. I just need to convince the general populace that I'm better than you are. Then it's just a matter of time to get my ducks in row to be "good enough." For all the bitching about MS and Bill Gates I'll say this. Bill knows business and how to work it. What MS did to other businesses an equally savy entreprenuer could do to you.

And if your OSS product is so hot it's likely that you have a developer list. If Dr. Evil's software company can't figure out the code, just make a few Yahoo accounts and ask.

That's right, even under the BSD model, I'm still pretty much guaranteed the lions share of the sale of this software product. My code is still free and can be developed with an open source community model. And most importantly, I can sell my own work as a binary product to people who don't care about the code, and I can sell it without restriction.

Which again begs the question "Why can't you do the same thing under the GPL?" Just because you have to supply source if the client requests it doesn't mean you can't charge to distribute it or to support it. Unless you are adding stuff to the propriety product that you aren't adding to the BSD licensed product there is nothing preventing your product from being available for free as in beer. You wind up being in the same boat as the GPL'd crowd. Your money won't be coming in from the product but from the support you can provide.

The only way I can see you making "profit" from your OSS project is if you make the free version less functional than the proprietary one. And getting back on topic, if this had happened to the company developing GnuCash they may have had to sell off their proprietary extensions and the project would have been out up to a years worth of work.

I do think the BSD license is good and useful but you haven't sold me on why it should be the prefered way of developing OSS for profit.

Re:ummmm (3)

Magumbo (414471) | more than 13 years ago | (#106808)

Interestingly enough there is a *nix port underway and the new file extension will be "quiff" (quicken universal interchange file format). And by the way, it's pronounced "koo-if" not "kweef" or "kwiff".

--

Re:Seppo? (4)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#106809)

Seppo - variant of 'septic tank'

Rhyming slang - 'Yank' 'Septic Tank' - full of [most slashdot posts]

Re:Sponsorship? (4)

Goonie (8651) | more than 13 years ago | (#106810)

I don't think we're opposed to the concept of Windows binaries (which implies release of Windows source code - GPL and all), but it's a big job to do the port, and our resources are directed elsewhere at this point.

If somebody ported the GNOME libraries to Cygwin, I think you'd see a GnuCash port in fairly short order. Somebody already did this, but used a non-free compatibility library rather than Cygwin, so it wasn't any use to us anyway.

Go you big red fire engine!

Re:Online payment (4)

MikeBabcock (65886) | more than 13 years ago | (#106811)

That would be a very smart button to add in the About dialog of GNU projects -- an HTTP link to Paypal to donate to the author(s) or an open funding group.

Web browser... (4)

jmccay (70985) | more than 13 years ago | (#106812)

I still would like to know why they incorporated a web browser into product. Why not use an existing one? It seems almost anti-Unix to not to use existing browsers

I KNEW IT!! (4)

FortKnox (169099) | more than 13 years ago | (#106813)

I KNEW IT ALL ALONG!

The illuminati & mafia are teamming up for "project cricket"!

Now all we need to do is get sexy women to play cricket in tiny bikini's & thongs.....

--

Tax preparation and liability (4)

swillden (191260) | more than 13 years ago | (#106814)

For U.S. Federal income taxes, at least, providing tax preparation features shouldn't pose much risk to the GnuCash developers.

The tax laws, and even the tax forms, make it very clear that all liability for an incorrect return is on the filer. This is true even if you have a professional accountant prepare your taxes for you. There are plenty of people who've faced fines and even gone to prison because their accountant was crooked or incompetent.

On the whole, I think this is a bad state of affairs, but at least it should remove the GnuCash developers' legal concerns.

Of course, the real problem with tax preparation is the complexity and variety of the statutes, so teaming with an existing automated tax preparer is probably the wisest course.

Re:Web browser... (5)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#106815)

For online help and such, using another web browser would have been fine. However, the main use of HTML in GnuCash is not to actually surf, it's for financial reports, and the reports use HTML in non-standard ways.

For example, in an account summary report there will be an anchor attached to the name of each account, and clicking it causes that account's transaction register to open. Also, we use HTML <object> blocks to embed live (interactive) Guppi graphs and charts directly in reports. So we needed to integrate the browser pretty closely with the app.

We use GtkHTML to handle the display of the HTML, which is pretty much a browser-in-a-library, so we aren't reinventing that, and gnome-http to do all the network stuff. In the near future there will be online services provided for free and/or by subscription that integrate with the app in the same way that reports do now, and that requires more-or-less complete web capability within the program.

So the short answer is, "We need it."

Bill Gribble
Linux Developers Group (http://www.linuxdevel.com)

Re:Great argument for GPL (5)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#106816)

You don't know what you're talking about.

Gnumatic didn't "blow through" their "millions" in startup funding. They never got the money to start with, just a term sheet, a promise, and a firm (but meaningless) handshake from the "investors" whose name I won't give any press to by a mention.

Gnumatic never got a chance to try to make money. It was less than a year between incorporation and the complete departure of staff, a year when GnuCash was still in the development phase. Gnumatic never spent money foolishly... almost the whole staff was developers, with below-standard salaries. The plan was to spend on marketing and so on when the product was nearer to being ready. Without the money that was promised, there was no chance. At the end, developers stuck around for months without pay because they loved what they were doing and wanted to give the "investors" every opportunity to come through.

Personally, I agree that trying to make money from sales of an end-user software product for Linux is an iffy proposition. That's why the Linux Developers Group is trying to make a living doing financial/ebusiness consulting using the GnuCash code base as a toolset. We're going to sell and support GnuCash for end users, but IMO it will be more of a calling card and advertisement for our consulting services than an attempt to be Intuit. If the Linux desktop space takes off, GREAT! We'll already be there. If not, I'll personally be disappointed but the business doesn't hinge on it.

BTW, do you think you could have possibly squeezed any more rumors and gossip in there? You're nearly up to 1 rumor/sentence.

Bill Gribble
Linux Developers Group (http://www.linuxdevel.com)

I'm glad's it's GTK/GNOME... (5)

Midnight Warrior (32619) | more than 13 years ago | (#106817)

Now is a good time to be thankful that GNUCash was developed using the GTK and GNOME. If Qt/KDE had been used, the project would probably have been called Kwiken and Intuit's lawyers, unbeknownst to Intuit, would be sending a bill for lawyers fees to the developers as we speak.

P.S. Re: the hub-bub about 60+ add-on libraries: add-on libraries could be statically linked in or included in the GNUCash source tree for everything except the service providers (ie CORBA service providers). Example: many image tools include a release of libjpeg and libtiff which are then statically compiled into the executable.

P.S. Excessive use of things like CORBA provide multiple entry points for snooping points by malicious outsiders.

how about a Mac OS X version? (5)

imac.usr (58845) | more than 13 years ago | (#106818)

Although Intuit chairman Bill Campbell (former head of Claris) sits on Apple's board [corporate-ir.net] , his products are generally considered the worst of their kind for the Mac. Quicken 2000 had more Y2K issues than Quicken 98 and was buggier to boot.

Apple in fact goes out of its way to highlight not one but two alternatives to Quicken products on its Mac OS X apps list: MoneyDance [apple.com] and MYOB [apple.com] . Check out this direct quote from the MYOB page:

"Rather than settling for outdated, unsupported Mac versions of the leading PC accounting software..." [emphasis added]

So clearly there's a bit of pent-up demand for alternatives to Quicken. IMHO A Mac OS X port could help lessen Quicken's relevance in the market.


--

Great argument for GPL (5)

sulli (195030) | more than 13 years ago | (#106819)

Like a lot of other small companies, Gnumatic got in financial trouble during the Bust. Thanks to the GPL, the work done on GnuCash during 2000 was not lost...

Seriously. GPL allows the work to survive any individual company. If you're really serious about making the work available as widely as possible, and you understand how turbulent the tech business is (and has always been), it's an excellent choice - one that shows your commitment to the product.

Were I a developer (I'm not) I would be much more willing to use it, given this point.

Sponsorship? (5)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | more than 13 years ago | (#106820)

If they want corporate sponsorship, they should release (ugh) Windows binaries. Many banks give out software to people who use their online services; I remember Bank of America gave me a free copy of Managing Your Money. It was pretty bad, and I'm sure BofA had to spend a lot for the software.

Given the availability of a free, GPL'd piece of software that they could give away, I'm sure they'd lend support to port the new transaction data and bill payment protocols. They'd then have the software forever.
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