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How To Approve the Use of Open Source On the Job

Unknown Lamer posted about 3 months ago | from the who-can-we-sue dept.

Businesses 123

New submitter Czech37 (918252) writes "If you work in an organization that isn't focused on development, where computer systems are used to support other core business functions, getting management buy-in for the use of open source can be tricky. Here's how an academic librarian negotiated with his management to get them to give open source software a try, and the four phrases he recommends you avoid using." "Open Source," "Free [Software]," "Contribute," and "Development" appear to scare managers away.

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Nobody ever got fired for buying $big_corp (5, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | about 3 months ago | (#46984901)

Old saying. Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM. Nobody ever got fired for buying Microsoft. Nobody ever got fired for buying SAP. It's a simple cover-your-ass game.

Managers, unless they have a very special bond with the company (like, say, they built it from the ground up) don't give a shit about the company. They care about their ass. And when the question is whether to blow a million of company money for software they don't know jack about but has a big name behind it, or to save the company a million bucks using software they don't know jack about but has no name to it, they blow them money.

Because they needn't explain why they did it. It's IBM/MS/SAP, how should he have imagined that it's no good?

Re:Nobody ever got fired for buying $big_corp (2, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | about 3 months ago | (#46984961)

Unless you can find a written policy forbidding it, just do it.

Its easier to get forgiveness than permission.

Chances are you won't find any policy, unless you work for a big bureaucratic compartmentalized organization. Even then, in the absence of a written prohibition, cost savings can sell the day as long as you provide a support contract. (Some how bean counters become blind to expenditures on support contracts that never ever get exercised).

Re:Nobody ever got fired for buying $big_corp (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 3 months ago | (#46985447)

Getting forgiveness is only available from C-Level on. Below, they just kick your ass out on the street.

Re:Nobody ever got fired for buying $big_corp (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46986697)

Getting forgiveness is only available from C-Level on. Below, they just kick your ass out on the street.

In real life; almost never. You are going to have to check your own company carefully. Likely this will only happen in a really big company where you already had an explicit warning about open source. Make sure you read through all your IT policies. If there is an explicit one against open source in some way, then always act ignorant ask your manager before breaking it. "Hey, there's this really neat package Gimp which will let me make that special photo we need. It will save me thousands over buying Photoshop; is it okay if I use it. It's completely legal". If he says yes, then go ahead; after this is a widely established thing then go back and "revisit" the "outdated" policy. If he says no, then you wait for a good opportunity (normally just after they failed at something else or at a company efficiency conferece) and register a complaint against the policy with the boss of whoever wrote it.

For a small company there's normally no policy and nobody cares as long as it's more or less legal. Just go ahead and do it. Become the expert in your area and then teach others.

The companies which really might care are the truly unscrupulous consulting companies where the entire aim is to raise the cost base of the customers. Here the fact that the software is free would make the companies overpriced services more visible. Basically, if you work for such a company then god help you. The only good thing you can do for humanity is start planting voice recorders around the company and leak the recordings on WikiLeaks.

YMMV (1)

westlake (615356) | about 3 months ago | (#46985731)

Its easier to get forgiveness than permission.

Not always. Not everywhere.

My first instinct when a geek summons up a Slashdot meme to make his case is to do precisely the opposite of what he suggests.

Re:YMMV (3, Informative)

arth1 (260657) | about 3 months ago | (#46986367)

My first instinct when a geek summons up a Slashdot meme to make his case is to do precisely the opposite of what he suggests.

But it isn't a slashdot meme - it is a Grace Hopper quote well known long before Slashdot existed, and rarely encountered on slashdot.

Re:Nobody ever got fired for buying $big_corp (1)

u38cg (607297) | about 3 months ago | (#46987899)

Very much this. Once something is done and working, getting retrospective permission is typically a lot easier. Your industry may vary.

Re:Nobody ever got fired for buying $big_corp (1)

smooth wombat (796938) | about 3 months ago | (#46988415)

Unless you can find a written policy forbidding it, just do it.

This is why you never give people admin rights. They'll randomly install shit and when something breaks, go to someone else and let them spend (potentially) hours of their time trying to figure out what went wrong.

If you think randomly installing shit is fine, I think it's fine to just reimage your machine without bothering to see if your stuff is backed up.

When you're at work, it's not your equipment. It's the company's and yes, almost every company out there has a policy explicitly stating the installation, or attempted installation, of unapproved software can get you fired.

Re:Nobody ever got fired for buying $big_corp (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about 3 months ago | (#46985045)

...Oracle...

Re:Nobody ever got fired for buying $big_corp (2)

Wintermute__ (22920) | about 3 months ago | (#46985303)

Oh, plenty of people have been fired for buying Oracle. Their enterprise apps are a bad joke.

The joke's on the poor sap dumb enough to buy them.

Re:Nobody ever got fired for buying $big_corp (2)

roc97007 (608802) | about 3 months ago | (#46985427)

Their enterprise apps are a bad joke.

...and always have been, to some degree. Yet people still believe that the way not to get fired is to specify Oracle.

Re:Nobody ever got fired for buying $big_corp (2, Insightful)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about 3 months ago | (#46987885)

Oh, plenty of people have been fired for buying Oracle.

Yeally?

Their enterprise apps are a bad joke.

Yes, but they're such an *expensive* bad joke that it is too embarressing to too many important people to write off the cost, so usually, the system is kept and forced to work and declared a success.

If you fuck up a $100k contract, you'll be fired. If you fuck up a $10,000,000, people will work very hard to find a way to make it not look like a fuckup, especially if they've been involved in any way at all.

Re:Nobody ever got fired for buying $big_corp (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46989085)

I can personally attest that this is true. Thankfully we were smart enough to quit throwing good money after bad, admit that Oracle just sucks, and now we're investigating a solution from another company. We were only $5M in the hole. No one got fired as it was a decision made by committee and not tied to any one individual.

Re:Nobody ever got fired for buying $big_corp (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46985695)

I would fire someone for buying SAP. Or at least the products they acquired by buying Sybase (SQLAnywhere/IQ).

Re:Nobody ever got fired for buying $big_corp (2)

rioki (1328185) | about 3 months ago | (#46987261)

I would fire someone buying SAP period. Interestingly their products are mediocre at best, but the real scam is everything surrounding the product. You don't buy SAP, you get a tailor made software. To find out what you need a a team of consultants will monkey around your business for a month or two, at your expense. Then a few developers will write 5 lines of custom business logic binding exciting modules together and swap a few logos and acronyms. On top of that you need to train all users in the most basic tasks, partly because the entire thing is totally convoluted and they assume that even tech savvy users do not know how to use a computer.

For the cost of deploying SAP, easily a couple millions upfront plus expensive maintenance contracts, you can straight up employ a small team of developers and build your custom apps on top of some common framework. Or better look around a little for existing tools.

oh noes (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46987561)

>>o find out what you need a a team of consultants will monkey around your business for a month or two, at your expense

Wait, so they do work, and you have to pay them? What a scam!

>> Then a few developers will write 5 lines of custom business logic binding exciting modules together and swap a few logos and acronyms

And provided it works, what's wrong with that?

>> On top of that you need to train all users in the most basic tasks

I assume you wouldn't have to train users when implementing other system, either made in-house or bought?

>>you can straight up employ a small team of developers and build your custom apps on top of some common framework

You can. Provided you will find developers who also know intricacies and legal codes regarding personnel administration/ payroll/ time management or whatever you need the system for. And are ready to keep up with all legal changes that happen all the time.

>> Or better look around a little for existing tools.

and remodel your business processes around the paradigms those tools are designed. Although if you are a big company with tons of rules in, lets say, collective labor agreement, then you could find yourself having to extend those tools, and then support whatever changes you've made work with updates to those existing tools.

Re:oh noes (2)

rioki (1328185) | about 3 months ago | (#46988121)

Wait, so they do work, and you have to pay them? What a scam!

Except for the really edge cases most SAP installations cover the exact same grounds. What are the chances that, for example the accounting, which is strictly governed by laws, is radically different from one shop to the next? In few cases a shrink wrapped solution would have done the job too.

And provided it works, what's wrong with that?

Except that you are billed around half a million for the "integration" efforts.

What SAP sets itself apart from shrink wrapped solutions, is integrating with existing legacy or non administrative systems. For example the sales order triggering an entry in the production system. But in the case of SAP that definitely will not be cheap and you are effectively contracting software development work out to SAP. This is all fine and well when you are a shop that has totally no background in software development. But then you can also contract it out to a different and cheaper developer.

I assume you wouldn't have to train users when implementing other system, either made in-house or bought?

Yes you need to provide some guidance. But wasting a day of a room full of IT professionals on how to fill out a spread sheet like form, so they can log their hours. This includes on how to install the application, log into the SAP, typing in values and hitting submit. With the added excourse why basics of account and why logging hours is useful. You know something that one page e-mail would have done with a "I mananger comand you to log your hurs" and here is the step by step explanation. The entire thing at the tune of 10 thousand bucks to train something like 200 people. Not to mention the fact that hours where logged beforehand.

and remodel your business processes around the paradigms those tools are designed

Except that deploying SAP also meant that most processes where changed around anyway, so yea whatever.

I have seen 3 SAP deployments, two first hand and one second hand. There is some benefit in using SAP as a one stop solution, but it will definitely not come cheap.

Re:Nobody ever got fired for buying $big_corp (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46986121)

Plenty of businesses have gone bankrupt from buying SAP or IBM.

How is it not "getting fired" if the company you work for goes into liquidation, and you no longer have a job?

Re:Nobody ever got fired for buying $big_corp (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46986925)

Ego check -- your lowly recommendations rarely make or break things. 'fraid so

Re:Nobody ever got fired for buying $big_corp (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | about 3 months ago | (#46987327)

d'uh - the people "buying SAP" are C-level people signing it off. And they never get fired, they simply leave to spend more time with their family due to the stresses of their incredibly stressful job.

Same applies if the company goes bust - they still get first dibs on whatever payoff cash is left over.

Re:Nobody ever got fired for buying $big_corp (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46986177)

It's IBM/MS/SAP, how should he have imagined that it's no good?

Bitter experience.

Re:Nobody ever got fired for buying $big_corp (1)

rioki (1328185) | about 3 months ago | (#46987277)

"But everybody else is using IBM/SAP/MS? They are successful!"

Re:Nobody ever got fired for buying $big_corp (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46987285)

Uh, do you currently have a job?

It's not that open source software is unacceptable from a licensing standpoint - its that its horseshit and I can't pay somebody $100k to give me a few hours of support that is meaningful. Challenge me if you wish, but really, its not that people get fired over choosing IBM, its that people get fired over hanging out 1000 feet above the ground with no net.

Re:Nobody ever got fired for buying $big_corp (1)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | about 3 months ago | (#46988893)

Very true. It's not a reason FOSS will not work in your organisation, but it is an issue that needs to be addressed. If something goes bad, who is accountable? Make sure it is not the manager signing off on it. Companies like RedHat do not just exist to package and provide support on Linux installations, they also exist as a "blame buffer". Start with a low risk project that will not have huge repercussions if it fails, be honest about both short and long term risks in using FOSS, and address these risks. For instance: don't assume 100% effective and timely community support, and don't leave maintenance to Ted in the boiler room either; get a real support team in place. Treat it like you would in-house developed software, but without the risks associated with development. Once you have demonstrated the benefits, work with management to arrive at a sensible policy for FOSS.

Another area that management may be particularly sensitive to is liability for IP infringements. If Microsoft steal someone else's software, the IP owners go after MS. In case of FOSS, the IP owners go after the users with deep pockets. I could name a few cases where this has happened. This is a manageable risk, but again: it needs to be addressed up front.

Managers thoughts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46984919)

Contribute = Obligation
Development = Cost

Pet projects and the hidden skunk-works. (4, Interesting)

raydobbs (99133) | about 3 months ago | (#46984925)

In small businesses - often the best foot in the door for open source software is a pet project, something you can do transparently to design something to show management about the advantage of the software has over more traditionally licensed fare. Being able to speak the language of IT management helps - Cost of Ownership, Return on Investment, being able to present facts based on license costs is also helpful - management listens to dollars and sense, followed by legality.

Of course, if your business deals with large vendors who have a stake in keeping things locked to Microsoft, Oracle, IBM or HP - you are fighting a steeply uphill battle.

Re:Pet projects and the hidden skunk-works. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46986823)

Yeah, I'm re-writing one of those pet projects (Apache + PHP5 + PostgreSQL) for IIS + C# + MSSQL. Yeah, that "foot in the door" is now a "foot-up-my-ass"

Re:Pet projects and the hidden skunk-works. (1)

rioki (1328185) | about 3 months ago | (#46987315)

And in what way do you think you are doing a better job with ISS + C# and MSSQL? The Apache + PHP5 + PostgreeSQL stack is in par with the MS stack and the primary fault lies with the developer of the application. That same developer would have botched the ASP site equally well.

Re:Pet projects and the hidden skunk-works. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46989267)

IIS vs. Apache is a wash.

C# vs. PHP is substantial, since C# has a "compilation" step (compiled to MSIL, but still) where the machine checks to make sure you don't have any glaring errors in your code. PHP just waits until runtime to barf out an error message on the page, and even then, it only does it if it takes a code path that has a problem. C# has so much more that makes it better than PHP, but it would take a lot of time to enumerate all of those features.

MS SQL Server vs. PostgreSQL is not even a fair comparison. Postgres is fine for a small project. But it does everything in an excessively complex way that doesn't add anything useful. And I can count exactly ONE feature that PostgreSQL had (past tense) that SQL Server didn't. (User-defined sequences, if you're curious. And SQL Server 2012 has them now.) Meanwhile, SQL Server has actual backups, replication, import/export, XML conversion, reporting services, integration services, scheduled maintenance that doesn't require the database to go offline, and a bajillion other things that make it worth the small amount of money they charge for the license (for a business that is using it to make money, yes, it's quite a small fee).

The Apache + PHP5 + PostgreSQL stack is not even close to the MS stack on the whole. I've worked with both. I would be reluctant to go back to [L|M|W]A[M|P]P now. It's just not as nice to use.

Re:Pet projects and the hidden skunk-works. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46989247)

If it's indeed a "foot up your ass" it's probably because you don't know how to translate between the two. You can do the same things with both. Working with C# is a hell of a lot more painful than PHP. I mean really. You've probably got a web site with a database backend. Export the database, and import it into MSSQL. Transfer the web pages and convert them to asp. The only part of what you describe that might be painful is the code translation. Maybe instead of moving it you should have fixed whatever the perception problem was.

GPL (0)

bhlowe (1803290) | about 3 months ago | (#46984931)

Avoid terms with negative connotations, such as "GPL" and use the more acceptable term, BSD. As a hiring software developer, I know of what I speak.

Re:GPL (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46984971)

Management never heard of either one.

Re:GPL (1)

rioki (1328185) | about 3 months ago | (#46987333)

It depends. In my experience they have heard of freeware, which often comes with a "non commercial" clause and the legal department said that is evil. Free software is freeware right? The better educated managers know about the GPL and that makes all our software free software, but we wanted to sell that software. All free software is GPL right?

Re:GPL (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46988827)

but we wanted to sell that software

Contradicts TFS. Your case is not OP's case.

Re:GPL (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46985003)

Re:GPL (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46985989)

Avoid terms with negative connotations, such as "GPL" and use the more acceptable term, BSD.
As a hiring software developer, I know of what I speak.

This.

GPL = Pink slip or resume in the trash

Re:GPL (3, Insightful)

arth1 (260657) | about 3 months ago | (#46986439)

.Avoid terms with negative connotations, such as "GPL" and use the more acceptable term, BSD. As a hiring software developer, I know of what I speak.

That wouldn't work with my old boss, who would take any unfamiliar word and enter it in Google, and then hit the "Images" link for screenshots or easy to understand slides.
Suggesting BSD would then be career suicide.

The best way I know of suggesting free (as in breasts) software is to present it with the pricing for someone who sells support. If you can buy the support through the hardware vendor,all the better.
Which is one reason why there are so many IBM / Red Hat systems out there.

With a small company, this is easy. (4, Interesting)

MindPrison (864299) | about 3 months ago | (#46984943)

When I tried this with bigger companies, it was H*** on earth to try them to embrace Open Source. One of the business managers simply doesn't understand the concept of a free lunch.

However, with every SMALL company I ever worked for, introducing Open Source software...was a blessing from above to them, it's free, it's cheap...and the programmers are enthusiastic idealistic & proud of their work, so bugs gets fixed faster and new features are introduced frequently as opposed to the commercial bug ridden bloatware where companies are afraid to admit ANY wrong doings as they're afraid of liabilities and such.

I've been using Blender (3d Software) for over 10 years now, making a living of it, and all the commercial alternatives are slowly fading away with their fanboys. Long live Open Source, it really is true freedom.

Re:With a small company, this is easy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46985103)

it's free, it's cheap...and the programmers are enthusiastic idealistic & proud of their work, so bugs gets fixed faster and new features are introduced frequently

+1 Funny.

as opposed to the commercial bug ridden bloatware where companies are afraid to admit ANY wrong doings as they're afraid of liabilities and such.

Well, you know, except for the fact that every piece of open source software disclaims any warranty or liability for the quality of software.

Re:With a small company, this is easy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46985263)

"Well, you know, except for the fact that every piece of open source software disclaims any warranty or liability for the quality of software."

So exactly the same as every piece of closed source commercial software then.

Re:With a small company, this is easy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46985475)

Um, that doesn't contradict what MindPrison said at all. Either you don't know how to read or you don't know what "except" means.

Re:With a small company, this is easy. (1)

gewalker (57809) | about 3 months ago | (#46985141)

Well, if free is the problem, you can always cut a big check and send it me when you adopt such software. Of course I will channel all such funds received into furthering the benefit of mankind (or at least 1 man). I will even gladly give you a receipt for your "purchase"

Re:With a small company, this is easy. (3, Interesting)

drolli (522659) | about 3 months ago | (#46985581)

i have been working in two of theand really big companies (both > 100k employees), one Japanese, one german.

  in the Japanese company there was no strategy regarding software and "whatever works" was fine, which included open source.

the German company had the strategy to explicitly manage the obligations from open source. effectively the rules were:
Apache style, bsd style licenses and LGPL where white listed
GPL 3 was blacklisted
GPL needed special consideration (so kind of blacklisted)

Re:With a small company, this is easy. (2)

EmperorArthur (1113223) | about 3 months ago | (#46986155)

Considering that those licenses all cover distribution I don't see the difference for an in company product. Especially since the difference between GPL and GPL 3 deals with preventing locked bootloaders. Now if you're doing embedded development or selling software, it's a completely different story. I don't agree with it, but I can see why companies want complete control of their products.

Re: With a small company, this is easy. (1)

AvitarX (172628) | about 3 months ago | (#46986299)

Doesnt gpl3 also have effects on web services? I thought it folded in agpl.

GPLv3 != AGPLv3 (2)

tepples (727027) | about 3 months ago | (#46986399)

The web service stuff is in AGPLv3, and GPLv3 and AGPLv3 are separate licenses. The only ways they're connected are that most of AGPLv3's wording is copied from GPLv3 and that the GPLv3 has an explicit exception for linking to AGPLv3 code.

Re:With a small company, this is easy. (2)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 3 months ago | (#46986915)

the German company had the strategy to explicitly manage the obligations from open source. effectively the rules were:
Apache style, bsd style licenses and LGPL where white listed
GPL 3 was blacklisted
GPL needed special consideration (so kind of blacklisted)

A company I worked for had the exact same policy. Though it was a bit more formalized in that if you want to use a not-previously-approved piece of software (commercial or open-source), the license and justification must be sent to Legal in order to vet it. And for open-source, they had the same criteria - except GPL (all) was blacklisted and you needed a Really Good Reason(tm) to have it considered.

And they needed to know if it was a tool for inhouse use or to go to customers, as well.

Considering that those licenses all cover distribution I don't see the difference for an in company product. Especially since the difference between GPL and GPL 3 deals with preventing locked bootloaders. Now if you're doing embedded development or selling software, it's a completely different story. I don't agree with it, but I can see why companies want complete control of their products.

The problem is that "distribution" may occur inadvertently. It's generally considered that if the software is used on premises by employees, it's not distribution. But it gets murkier if there are external contractors involved - if the contractors work onsite, then no, it's not really distribution. But what if the contractor then works offsite? Or if you agree to take on more contractors, and they exclusively work off-site? That could be considered distribution to those people since the software has no gone offsite to other people.

And I believe a case was decided, or the FSF has decided that yes, that is distribution and triggers the GPL.

And it makes sense - let's say they hire you to solve an issue they have, and then they send you the build tools they use so you can build the code base. Oops, that IS distribution since they sent you the tools. It's just like they sent you the tools in a regular way, you're not an employee and it's no longer on site, so it's distributed to you and you have a right to the source per the GPL.

And then there's the whole compatibility issue - GPLv2 is NOT compatible with GPLv3. Some GPLv2 code is marked as "upgradable" (i.e., GPLv2 or later, or GPLv2+) so it can turn into GPLv3 code. But GPLv2-only code cannot be mixed with GPLv3. And in a somewhat mixed and large code base, this could happen quite inadvertently. Especially if someone is upgrading from one version to another, and the old was GPLv2, while the new is GPLv3.

Companies are paranoid these days, and legal obligations can be inadvertently created so they're wanting to be extremely careful.

Re:With a small company, this is easy. (1)

drolli (522659) | about 3 months ago | (#46987221)

inadverted creation of obligations:

-the matlab compiler signs code for execution. no GPL3 is compatible with it (even if they never mention the term "DRM" in the manual).

-what happens if a part of your software sits in controllers owned by your customer (for whom you develop) which logs data as a service offered to his customers? as long as you own the controller they dont need to pass the code on, but at whuch point should that happen?

-assume that you develop software to be delivered to a daughter company. is it enough to create builds and give them access to the repository to enable them to fulfill their obligations?

Re:With a small company, this is easy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46985685)

it's free, it's cheap...and the programmers are enthusiastic idealistic & proud of their work, so bugs gets fixed faster and new features are introduced frequently as opposed to the commercial bug ridden bloatware where companies are afraid to admit ANY wrong doings as they're afraid of liabilities and such.

In what software, other than Blender, is this the case? (Also even in the case of Blender its obvious ignorance to suggest products like MAX and Maya are "commercial bug ridden bloatware"). Nothing in the open source world can hold a candle to Renderman for example, just like GIMP is an awful abomination compared to Photoshop and there is no decent video editing software comparable to the existing proprietary solutions. Blender is the shining example, outside of that there is very little except things users never see.

Your broad generalization is unsupported by facts, yes you can find cases supporting it but you can find just as many that disprove it. The real truth is that neither way is overall providing better products and being religiously devoted to one development ideology is just ignorant.

Re:With a small company, this is easy. (3, Insightful)

davydagger (2566757) | about 3 months ago | (#46986273)

There IS no such thing as a free lunch.

Free as in speech, not as in beer.

There are many advantages to Free software, such as Freedom, being the microsoft doesn't have leverage over you. If your a large enough corp, you can write whatever features MS will never give you, or pay red hat to make them for you.

Re:With a small company, this is easy. (1)

Bite The Pillow (3087109) | about 3 months ago | (#46986289)

Until a data issue means you have to ship a database backup or large data file to the developer to reproduce and fix the issue, and you have no company to make a data confidentiality agreement with. Or the main developer is outside the company, because international law is a bitch.

Want to fix it yourself? Now you've signed up for internal maintenance unless you can get it accepted upstream. And without a repro, and bad data to test with, the need for the fix is not obvious.

As always, your circumstances will determine what you can and cannot use. Ignoring certain situations means your choice is an uninformed one. I'm not surprised to see that larger businesses want to cover situations they have experienced or read about, and smaller companies are fine with taking changes they don't even know they are taking. Chances that history has created a flowchart or checklist in that company that says we need this data in order to even consider operating third party software. And open source doesn't have it, unless you buy with a support plan like red hat or oracle.

Fictitious data to trigger a misbehavior (1)

tepples (727027) | about 3 months ago | (#46986421)

and you have no company to make a data confidentiality agreement with

Why can't you execute a data confidentiality agreement directly with the main developer as an individual contractor?

And without a repro, and bad data to test with, the need for the fix is not obvious.

If a patch is made with the intent to correct misbehavior, this implies that a cause of the misbehavior has been found. And once a cause is found, it shouldn't be too hard to generate fictitious data that likewise trigger the misbehavior.

Re:With a small company, this is easy. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46986423)

When I tried this with bigger companies, it was H*** on earth to try them to embrace Open Source. One of the business managers simply doesn't understand the concept of a free lunch.

There is no free lunch. There's just economies of scale, and sometimes a free ride.

It's like hitch hiking. If someone stops and picks you up, and is going the same way, you might get a free ride, otherwise it's "cash, ass or grass". If someone's already made some OSS that does exactly what you need, you get a free ride, otherwise you still have to put the work in or pay someone else, to turn it from what it is, to what you need. Sometimes that's a short walk, and sometimes it's a year long trek.

I've been on the other side of this argument, working for OSS obsessed managers, trying to convince them of the merits of buying a commercial product rather than engaging in a year long project to modify some OSS into what we need. And I won that argument.

I tend to favor BSD and MIT licensed software over GPL or commercial software, all things being equal. If I use PostgreSQL
and I need some fancy feature like horizontal partitioning or synchronous multimaster replication, I can buy one of the commercial forks of Postgres that has added those features. If I use NetBSD, and I need lockstep execution, again, there are commercial vendors who provide that. And if my company begins some great work on a BSD project, we can make an intelligent business decision on whether to open that work up, or productise it. We can even have a version that we release as BSD, to capture the value of third party contributions, and make money on the value-added components that people are prepared to pay for.

I can't see anyone buying PostgreSQL if it was a commercial product, unless it was nearly give-away prices. It's a good database but so are Firebird and MSSQL, the first being OSS, and the second being nearly give-away prices. What sets Postgres aside is the large community of commercial editions that could not exist in a GPL community.

I agree that Blender is awesome, being an avid Blender artist myself, but it's important to remember that Blender's genesis is not in OSS and especially not in the GPL, but as a commercial product for IRIX, which became a commercial freebie for multiple platforms, and there was an enormous fundraiser ($1M IIRC) to buy Blender from NaN and release the source code as GPL. I'm not totally sure "all the commercial alternatives are slowly fading", as while my personal opinion is the UI and usability of Maya totally sucks, there is a huge community of commercial extension vendors around Maya, and it's not clear the GPL license of Blender allows commercial (not GPL) extensions, and I can't see all these vendors turning around and releasing all their extensions under a GPL license. More simply, I don't see the huge number of extensions for Blender that Maya or AutoCAD have.

Re:With a small company, this is easy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46986661)

When I tried this with bigger companies, it was H*** on earth to try them to embrace Open Source. One of the business managers simply doesn't understand the concept of a free lunch. .

That is because he is RIGHT. unfortunately too many open source advocates don't understand business realities. Open source isn't a free lunch, usually it is cheaper and better but everything has a price and the key is to understand those costs and present them correctly so they can be adequately evaluated against the closed source alternatives.

Show them how they use it already (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46985075)

Point out its inside your routers etc. so it's not harmful and actually works.

APK

P.S.=> This should be the LAST thing I would tell you "Open SORES" people (as I am a Windows fan as you mostly all know probably, but I don't dislike Linux & have used it for years myself: I just disliked "FUD" b.s. lies spread here about it vs. Windows, ala "Linux = Secure, Windows != Secure" for years here when the real truths are any of them can be security hardened quite well, AND, the more used an OS is on ANY platform, the more it will be attacked - ANDROID's showing the WORLD that's true, albeit, only now... I said it for years vs. the b.s. artists here is all beforehand)

However: "There 'tis" - Use your heads & point this one out along with any other good ideas that pop up... apk

Addendum (from a business "pov" by example) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46985169)

See subject-line & extoll a virtue of less 'cost-per-unit' of each router: Goes over big on that end too (with 'business types' - think about it, if YOU were running the place & it was YOUR money).

APK

P.S.=> Remember the crowd you're addressing isn't so much about tech, as they ARE about "Benjamins/DeadPresidents" & stock value - demonstrating a savings from "R&D" goes a LONG ways... apk

Re:Show them how they use it already (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46985219)

Most routers use VxWorks or QNX.

Saving money on them using Linux (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46985351)

Was my point & I can say it, I've DONE it: Saved costs of buying routers using machines that were dual homed + netconfig software to do it on Linux (no licensing fees etc./Free OS etc.)... was easy to setup, acts as a NAT router nicely in fact.

APK

P.S.=> There's routers with Linux cores in them too http://www.bing.com/search?q=r... [bing.com]

Plenty of "pretweaked" firewall & router OS based on it too or ready to do what I did decades ago (1999-2000) tuned to do the job -> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L... [wikipedia.org]

... apk

Re:Show them how they use it already (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46985295)

Point out its inside your routers etc. so it's not harmful and actually works.

Since when are either QNX, VxWorks or IOS open source? Because those operating systems are what run most routers and switches despite what the hive mind of Slashdot believes.

Saving money using Linux (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46985355)

Was my point & I can say it, I've DONE it: Saved costs of buying routers using machines that were dual homed + netconfig software to do it on Linux (no licensing fees etc./Free OS etc.)... was easy to setup, acts as a NAT router nicely in fact.

APK

P.S.=> There's routers with Linux cores in them too http://www.bing.com/search?q=r... [bing.com]

Plenty of "pretweaked" firewall & router OS based on it too or ready to do what I did decades ago (1999-2000) tuned to do the job -> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L... [wikipedia.org]

... apk

Re:Saving money using Linux (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46985811)

Was my point & I can say it, I've DONE it: Saved costs of buying routers using machines that were dual homed + netconfig software to do it on Linux (no licensing fees etc./Free OS etc.)... was easy to setup, acts as a NAT router nicely in fact.

That is true; you can do it however your original comment: Show them how they use it already. Point out its inside your routers etc. [slashdot.org] is false as they most likely use routers that have QNX, VxWorks or IOS which are not open source.

Again: There's routers out there w/ Linux (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46986103)

On THIS site? They likely do already. In fact - I'd be VERY SURPRISED *if* there aren't guys here doing what I did already in their businesses (as it's a cheap out, & routing can be done easily this way (& even use the box for other production work too - routing's no "huge task" for an internal network)).

* Per my subject-line above though? You could also POINT OUT that those routers SHOULD be cheaper than ones licensing other OS to run them - for a Per-Unit cost savings on them (provided they're cheaper & can do the same job... & they can do the same, but it's a matter of costs).

Sense tells me you could sell a router cheaper using Linux onboard than licensing ones to raise the per unit cost of said routers.

APK

P.S.=> Have YOU forgotten WHERE it is you're @? I hate to say it, but... "THIS IS SLASHDOT" (home of the Open SORES Penguins online (imo @ least))... apk

Re:Again: There's routers out there w/ Linux (1)

Ash-Fox (726320) | about 3 months ago | (#46988295)

Sense tells me you could sell a router cheaper using Linux onboard than licensing ones to raise the per unit cost of said routers.

While cost is often a reason for many things in big corporations, certifications and training are too. There is no universal "Linux router", many specialized Linux distributions for routing purposes do a lot of configuration and setup vastly different from each other. IOS on the other hand is pretty uniform and will likely have a wider selection of employable candidates with Cisco certification than Linux Router specific certification.

Money talks (the loudest) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46988447)

In corporations (especially the Fortune 100-500 & yes, I've been there/done that) see subject-lline above. You wouldn't use all the diff. distros of Linux for routing. Just a single one can do it. As far as certs go, if something gets the job done and the person adminning it has proven himself, why bother with a cert that costs the company money sending an employee to get it if they don't need it since they understand it fully! That'd be wasteful of said monies (unless its in their contract or employment agreement to get said training that is. That happens too). Ash-Fox: What are corporate bodies out to do and make? See 1st word of my subject-line above. That IS their "bottom-line" objective.

Re:Money talks (the loudest) (1)

Ash-Fox (726320) | about 3 months ago | (#46989341)

As far as certs go, if something gets the job done and the person adminning it has proven himself, why bother with a cert that costs the company money sending an employee to get it if they don't need it since they understand it fully!

Because decreasing the risk in employing more people to handle the systems is fairly important. Especially in today's corporate climate where people tend don't tend to stick around and have a long term career in a single company. You also generally want it to be easy to look for replacements and understand that the person is capable without having to be an expert in the matter yourself. Also depending on your industry, you may have compliance requirements that require certain types of certifications to prove eligibility.

Ash-Fox: What are corporate bodies out to do and make?

In my experience, red tape.

hidden advantage to open source (2)

roc97007 (608802) | about 3 months ago | (#46985099)

It seems like the best bet is to not raise the question in the first place. Management doesn't need to know that Apache is free, for instance. And there are commercial and free versions of Nagios, Tripwire, Sendmail, and so forth. We have over half of our prod servers running Red Hat, for which we buy maintenance, but in the lab we run CentOS. The Open Source community realizes that companies have a compulsion to spend money, and there are companies that will sell you free software (think about that phrase for a minute...) to satisfy this requirement.

Re:hidden advantage to open source (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46985343)

I agree, not announcing a product is open source is the best way to get open source software into a business. I've run into situation where I felt an open source project was possibly the best option for our company. I pitched its features, wrote some sample documentation, got another team member to try it and agree that it worked. Once management saw the software as a good solution, then they started asking about cost ($0), license (free to use), support (code is open so we can fix it in-house). Get management interested in what software can do, then tell them it is open.

Thats right! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46985165)

On the Forum www.VitalpilzeForum.de I read about that too & it is soo right! Thank you for telling the same, now I understood this!

Don't sell Open Source, just present the options (4, Interesting)

Dynedain (141758) | about 3 months ago | (#46985387)

So in other words, put Open Source on the table just like any other software. Don't try to differentiate it as "Open Source", because if you do, decisions makers and stakeholders will wonder why you're putting extra effort into justifying it.

Put it up with a support contract and necessary consultants just like any other piece of software and you'll get approval.

Re:Don't sell Open Source, just present the option (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46985613)

exactly lay out the facts:

product A is owned by commercial company with billions of dollars and developers backing the product

product B is written by some really smart people in their free time that may help you on a forum or in an IRC chat room if they can

Re:Don't sell Open Source, just present the option (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46986805)

exactly lay out the facts:

product A is owned by commercial companywith billions of dollars they spend on their many lawyers and developers backing the product who spend most of their time designing licensing features which not only make it likely you will meet the lawyers but also interfere with your normal legal use. BTW never call support; they just use it as an excuse to check licenses and they try to "monetize" bugs by selling consultancy.

product B, apart from it's excellent commercial support from RedHat and IBM who actually do fix things from time to time, is written by some really smart people in their free time that may help you on a forum or in an IRC chat room if they can.

There FTFY. Really, the 90's called and they want their anti-open source shilling back.

Re:Don't sell Open Source, just present the option (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about 3 months ago | (#46987743)

exactly lay out the facts:

product A is owned by commercial company with billions of dollars and developers backing the product

product B is written by some really smart people in their free time that may help you on a forum or in an IRC chat room if they can

You hit the nail on the head. That is one of the big problems indeed.

Re:Don't sell Open Source, just present the option (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about 3 months ago | (#46987785)

exactly lay out the facts:

product A is owned by commercial company with billions of dollars and developers backing the product

product B is written by some really smart people in their free time that may help you on a forum or in an IRC chat room if they can

You hit the nail on the head. That is one of the big problems indeed.

There is sometimes overlap between the two groups. For example, Linux.

Re:Don't sell Open Source, just present the option (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about 3 months ago | (#46988001)

True. Those are good pieces of software.

Re:Don't sell Open Source, just present the option (4, Informative)

orasio (188021) | about 3 months ago | (#46988423)

Good idea, but incomplete:

exactly lay out the facts:

product A is owned by commercial company with billions of dollars and developers backing the product

product B is written by some really smart people in their free time that may help you on a forum or in an IRC chat room if they can

Product C is free, maintained by a mid sized company, and they sell support contracts
Product D is proprietary, owned by a company that might be bought by the competitors, who may or may not keep supporting your product
Product E is a great software product, proprietary, but your company is not in the target market, so licensing and support don't match your needs
Product F is proprietary, and you might need small development tasks on top of the product. Only can buy from the owner.
Product G is free, and you might need small development tasks on top of the product. You can buy from the developer, build your own, contract, whatever.

Add to that, whether there is an easy way out should the unthinkable happen (end of life for products). Does the software support industry standards? Are there alternative implementations of these standards? Have you tested compatibility?

I'm not hiding the technical or strategic advantages some proprietary products might have over free ones, but they are stated everywhere, only trying to lay out more aspects you need to care about.

I think regarding the article you just need to do your job, and lay out all the things you consider. Free software is almost always better in the long run, but it's only sensible to lay out everything you considered, so others can make the best decision.

Re:Don't sell Open Source, just present the option (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about 3 months ago | (#46985713)

Agreed. I take a dim view of managers that demand I "sell them" on what I think is the right choice.

It's their job to make decisions wisely, not my job to force what I consider wise decisions down their throat. I try to be honest about the pros and cons. If the choice lies within my authority, I try to make the best choice. If it's within their authority, then I hope they make the best choice. If they don't, that's their problem.

I guess this response must reek of someone who has little patience for foolish managers, and other job prospects if necessary. So be it.

Re:Don't sell Open Source, just present the option (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about 3 months ago | (#46988225)

Don't try to differentiate it as "Open Source", because if you do, decisions makers and stakeholders will wonder why you're putting extra effort into justifying it.

Well, why put the extra effort into justifying it, then? What's the real answer? Is it because I have been brainwashed to like it, and must turn everything into OSS just because it's so awesome?

"free" is a synonym for "junk." (0, Troll)

Osgeld (1900440) | about 3 months ago | (#46985523)

and they are typically correct

otherwise free software isnt free, you have to take perfectly good machine with working software package, take the time to remove all that reinstall free software that may or may not do the job (IE bill makes a presentation on MS office and java office pukes the formatting right in front of the customer), Then who is going to support it when it doesnt work? Are you going to hunt bugs all day, don't you have a job to do? Who is going to retrain everyone, I know OS's are fundamentally similar, but Jesus move an icon and Mary can no longer function?

non software company's don't want to deal with that, they want to go to dell.com, choose a box click the option for MS office and be done with it. Its cheap, it works with everybody else, just about everyone knows how to use it, and it doesnt take months to restructure your entire IT system ... for what? A political statement.

Re:"free" is a synonym for "junk." (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46986877)

Plenty of open source project (I would say about 90% of them) are nothing but junk abandonware. And some of the very few that are supported, aren't good enough to use.

So just saying we are going to use open source is not a solution to anything. If the suggested tools are crap, the cost of the project can easily skyrocket to the point that the commercial solution would be significantly cheaper.

Only very small number of open source tools are worth using. The rest are just ok to use when time, lack of support and the limitations of the tools aren't factors of concern (which is very rare).

Generalize much? (3, Interesting)

mi (197448) | about 3 months ago | (#46985673)

"Open Source," "Free [Software]," "Contribute," and "Development" appear to scare managers away.

Not where I'm working (a giant company). On the contrary, we are rather suspicious of commercial solutions — because their costs tend to run up pretty quickly (we have a large user-base) and their license terms often enough turn out to be rather enslaving (Oracle is particularly scary in this regard, from what little I've overheard from the company lawyers).

Sure enough, free software has its rough edges, but so does the commercial kind. And we have enough bright people to fix the problems (bugs or missing features) in the open-sourced packages, whereas with the proprietary stuff you are usually at the mercy of the vendor. We still use some commercial programs, but, when choosing a software solution, the program being proprietary is a negative, rather than a positive factor.

I wish, it remained possible to get the source for the commercial packages as well, but with modern attitudes towards theft of intellectual property as well as the wide-spread propensity to use the terms "free" and "open source" interchangeably, this is not an option...

Re:Generalize much? (1)

Bite The Pillow (3087109) | about 3 months ago | (#46986419)

3 Fortune 150 companies, and we always had someone who could get a support ticket opened to major vendor. I had to push a bit to find the contact, since this information is usually kept close to the chest.

Basic vendor rules are:
1) Be running the latest version
2) Be ready to upgrade to the next patch in order to have your bug fixed
3) All of the other patches, improvements, and bugs will be in the next version

These can be very limiting, and I would prefer to have the source even if all I do is submit a diff. But "mercy of the vendor" isn't even a thing, if you understand your your support contract works, and your upgrade plans accommodate the rules. If you choose to operate differently, you are probably better off using something more flexible.

You mention having people who can fix the bugs from open source. Most business does not operate this way. You are shifting costs and beta testing onto your own employees. Not all of it, but this is a risk.

I'm happy your company has found enlightenment. For other companies to make the same switch, they need to shift around their infrastructure to support this model of internal ownership. That takes a huge leap of faith, or a rogue division willing to take a risk to make a name in management.

I sound like an apologist, I give you that. But equally plausible is the concept of "know your enemy".

I will contribute this - there are many proprietary tools where you get the source if you buy it. These examples are great places to start, if you want to start supporting availability of source code. Many are development tools, where the benefit is obvious. There are others.

Re:Generalize much? (1)

thegarbz (1787294) | about 3 months ago | (#46986429)

Of course it's generalised. Why? Because that's what people do, we generalise.

Why is a cheap Chinese product automatically assumed to be worse quality than an expensive USA made product?
Why are cheap games automatically assumed to be garbage compared to $80 titles?

Now given that inherent bias that fuels the many generalisations on cost, why should a free word processor be anywhere near as good as MS Word? It can't be, otherwise it would cost as much as MS Word right? People don't give away something for nothing so the quality must be crap.

Remember often when you try to explain open source software to people you are explaining to people who make purchasing decisions but know nothing of the principle behind OSS, the economics behind it or anything else. When presented with the options you risk looking like a TV Shopping network salesman. "But wait, there's more! Call now and we'll give it to you for an incredible 99.99999% off and I'll throw in my wife absolutely free!"

Open source has many merits other than price which don't carry such a stigma.

My experience (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46985889)

In my experience, showing a side-by-side demonstration of performance followed by the price will get your foot in the door. From then on, deliver and keep foot out of mouth. The low cost of setting up a demonstration of FLOSS makes this fairly simple with no need for a line-item on any budget.

For instance, in one school, I discovered the paid ILS was not working two years after it had been bought. The supplier just didn't bother to fix the problems. I installed KOHA in 15 minutes and showed it to the librarian. Within days, the supplier of the paid system made its stuff work. Several years later, that same supplier was doing the same with another school. It's software would not accept the supplied "key" after weeks of discussion. I installed a FLOSS ILS and in short order the paid supplier fixed its problem. The sad thing is that both schools paid $thousands more to get similar performance to a FLOSS application that didn't let closure of the source code or anything else get in the way of performance. It's just so much simpler to use FLOSS from one end to the other.

In another school, the CD that bore the "key" was missing/lost and an expensive bit of software could not be made to run and the supplier would not bend. He wanted to be paid again for the same performance. We replaced the OS and the application with GNU/Linux and Moodle and several other FLOSS applications and had better and more agile IT thereafter. FLOSS is the right way to do IT for education. We are in the business of educating, not making monopolists rich. We don't owe them an extravagant living.

Cost is irrelevant, support is everything (4, Insightful)

petes_PoV (912422) | about 3 months ago | (#46985901)

While reading the article I instantly recognised the situation the guy was describing. However, I believe he has misinterpreted the concerns of his employers.

Most managers who have had any dealings with a software rollout know two things:

First is that they won't actually get what they think they have specified
Second is that there will be problems (see point #1), overruns, differences between what's required and what's delivered and that getting the software functional is only a small part of the job. The rest is integration, training the users, supporting the thing for 5+++ years, implementing upgrades and bug-fixes

These managers also know that once a project has been signed off, the money has, just that moment, been spent. Companies don't think of money, they think of budgets - so once you have gone through the approvals process and got your budget and your go-ahead the project is effectively a sunk cost, but one that has not yet delivered anything. As a consequence the manager in charge of the project will be deemed to have failed if he/she needs to go back and ask for more, in order to deliver the project.

So, in their minds they want insurance - and indemnity - above all else. Even above cost savings. They want to know that in return for $<megabucks> that when things start to go wrong, their commercial relationship with "the vendor" entitles them to get support, advice, expertise, fixes, customisations, training, documentation and upgrades. Those will all form part of the cost-case and whoever approves the case will expect, maybe even require, that those items are included and form part of the contract. As they know that there will be the need to call upon those services. If all they get for using "free" software is a pile of code, then that is usually the smallest part of the project and often the least expensive, too. The real cost, over the project lifetime comes with all the extras and services they get from their vendor - but which "free" software is very poor at providing, and absolutely does not guarantee.

If you go to get approval for a project of any significant size, not having included those items will mark you out as, at best, a newby and at worse: completely unsuitable to be managing a project. It's like if you buy a car. The cost of the vehicle is only one aspect. The cost of servicing, fuel, taxes and depreciation are major factors that should be included in the plan. That they aren't is just an indication of how poorly most people approach a major purchase - and why they'd never make a project manager.

Re:Cost is irrelevant, support is everything (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46987921)

So, in their minds they want insurance - and indemnity - above all else. Even above cost savings. They want to know that in return for $ that when things start to go wrong, their commercial relationship with "the vendor" entitles them to get support, advice, expertise, fixes, customisations, training, documentation and upgrades. Those will all form part of the cost-case and whoever approves the case will expect, maybe even require, that those items are included and form part of the contract. As they know that there will be the need to call upon those services. If all they get for using "free" software is a pile of code, then that is usually the smallest part of the project and often the least expensive, too. The real cost, over the project lifetime comes with all the extras and services they get from their vendor - but which "free" software is very poor at providing, and absolutely does not guarantee.

And this should have been apparent if you invert the situation and consider the business models of the successful companies who supply Open Source-based software to other companies: it's the support. Support support support.

My experience (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46986835)

Well.. from my experience:

Me: "BOSS!! I got this server program for FREE!! Or do you want to purchase MS 5 ACL for $860???"

Boss: "HELL!! Why you still sit there!? Go fucking install it until overtime! But don't charge fincance for your overtime!!!""

Easy...

Managers read that as... (3, Insightful)

hessian (467078) | about 3 months ago | (#46987121)

"No support contract."

Thus what they see is the possibility of problems that take days or weeks to resolve, while getting told STFU NEWB on some mailing list.

That's the experience many clients have had with FreeBSD, for example.

MOD PARENT UP! (2, Insightful)

Brett Buck (811747) | about 3 months ago | (#46987211)

Particularly the STFU NEWB part. This is exactly the reputation open source software has.

Re:MOD PARENT UP! (3, Insightful)

bool2 (1782642) | about 3 months ago | (#46987503)

Except often it goes like this:

NEWB: I have . How do I solve it?
List doesn't reply within 10 minutes.
NEWB: Look, I have to have this fixed by Monday. How do I solve it? If you don't solve it for me then I have to move to .
List doesn't reply within 10 minutes. NEWB gets angry
NEWB: Its such a simple issue. I can't belive nobody can solve it. (Oh the irony). Bump bump bump.
List: STFU NEWB.

Don't expect support-contract-like behaviour from a list - remember they're volunteers, there's no "SLA" and they don't work for you.

Some simple steps for success: Make the effort to properly describe your problem and the steps you took to try and solve it. Make doubley sure you're posting to the correct list - many projects have development and user lists. And always be polite.

Re:MOD PARENT UP! (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | about 3 months ago | (#46987709)

Some simple steps for success ...

I agree. Most lists and forums take a dim view of repeated questions, ones that are "obvious" and ones that the small minority of helpful posters feel are irrelevant. As you say, there is no guaranteed response time - if you get any response at all - and no guarantee that the responses you do receive will be correct or even on-topic.

Those are why people pay for support. Those are the factors that companies value and the time (equates very closely to money) taken to both supply the requested information, try out all the dead-end, time-wasting, misdirections or re-setting the question can run into $$$-thousands, especially when the replies given are wrong.

Contrast that with the support you get from a reputable organisation: "Oh yes, I'll just call up your configuration ... OK, The error log shows ... which means ... So you need to do .... to fix the problem. You can download the software to do that from our website, here's the link ... Goodbye".
Provided you have chosen your suppliers wisely, not based on headline cost, that level of interaction will be entirely familiar to you. Sadly, very few customers are used to, or expect, such high standards.

IDK (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46989389)

A lot of the reason I got into the more technical end of things is because Microsoft was useless for support. Early on I had a modem that was conflicting with the mouse serial port (remember I/O addressing and IRQs?) yes that was long ago. After several phone calls they couldn't fix the issue. I broke down, read the manual (yeah remember those), and fixed the issue myself.

Years later getting a strange BSOD on an enterprise system. Called up MS on our support contract. They had no idea why. After much digging and research found that their patch broke a particular driver. So, if I have to solve all my own problems anyway why not run software that's free?

Re:MOD PARENT UP! (3, Insightful)

Shados (741919) | about 3 months ago | (#46987755)

You're absolutely right. However on a lot of high profile projects, that won't get you anywhere.

I remember a while back I was using a very high profile/popular data access library which shall remain nameless.

I found a fairly breaking bug in a semi-common scenarios. I poke at the mailing list, not asking for it to be fixed, but simply if it was a known issue, as again, it was a fairly common case, and I could pin point the exact snippet of code in the source where the issue was (but, being unfamiliar with the code base, couldn't easily fix it myself).

Instead of a simple "yes or no", I was more or less told to write a failing unit test or shut it, in not so nice words.

So I write the unit test, after taking several hours to find the exact guidance on how to write it (making a test for a database access framework that stays within the realm of unit test and not integration test differs wildly from project to project), I do so, submit it...all around half a day of work.

In the meantime, I patched up something on my end that worked (but it was a hack, so I couldn't really submit a patch) in a few minutes.

2 _years_ later, I see in my email that my bug report just got rejected because of a small mistake in my unit test (that still didn't change the main code path it was testing), and to this day the bug is still present, and whenever this is raised in on Stack Overflow or whatever, people just say its a scenario that isn't supported, even though you can see in the code that it should be, and its just a naive sort order mistake when looping through some array.

I wish it was an isolated case, but it basically is always like that unless you're inside the project's "clique" or you happen to find a bug that is particularly interesting to fix. Yes, they're just volunteers, but if they don't want their project to be of world class interest, then don't promote it as such.

TL&DR: Big projects with a lot of marketing pushes saying they're great for real production use, then don't support it as such, are far too common.

Re:MOD PARENT UP! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46989701)

Perhaps. But usually I've seen it the other way:

Me: Windows is trying to use the same IRQ for multiple devices preventing the network card from working and there is no visible way to change it. Hardware works perfectly under Linux.
Microsoft: Pay us $300 to listen to your problem. That's not to fix it. That just to hear about it. We'll get back to you with a quote to fix it. Maybe. If we [Microsoft] wants to fix it.
Me: $@#% Goes off and tweaks the BIOS to declare the IRQ legacy and prevent the overlap.

In contrast, when I found a bug in g++ I filed a bug report. Less than 10 minutes later I had email confirming the bug. Within the hour I had a second email confirming it was now fixed in the latest developmental branch.

Night meet day.

Even on minor projects, folks respond back when I ask about whether FOO should have a plus sign or a minus sign and readily fix bugs.

Re:MOD PARENT UP! (1)

Brett Buck (811747) | about 3 months ago | (#46989101)

Well, that's about right, however, that's also the problem. In a professional setting, you expect support, and not just "when and if we feel like it". NEWB in this case may not have ever even heard of a message board or listserv. Someone says "support is here", he goes there, no one answers.

      NEWB doesn't know or care about the theory of open software, building relationships with the list members, doing research on the code base, etc. He found a problem and wants it fixed, and wants someone to fix it or help him fix it. There's no trouble ticket number, tracking to closure, or in fact any reason to think it will ever get fixed.

          What does he do? He has a problem, someone at his work is going to expect it fixed, or at least get a schedule to get it fixed. It gets fixed on the whim of someone who decides to do it, or not.

        This is the problem with open source. It's for geeks by geeks, anyone else will have no chance of ever tracking down a problem, or even getting basic functionality assistance, because by design, no one person or group will take responsibility for it. This may seem to be a minor problem to you, but I assure you, it is the biggest issue by far for anyone outside the cult.

reality (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46989735)

The reality is that's the same response you get 99% of the time from commercial closed source vendors as well. It's just cloaked in different wording. You have a problem, you contact support, it's been outsourced to some scripted call center. You hassle with several of them, maybe you get escalated. You have a known issue, it'll be fixed in some point release in an undefined future timeline. Or it's not a core feature, but you can pay an hourly support fee to have a developer address the issue. So, you just got the same answer from your support that you got from the OSS mailing list, NEWB we'll fix it when we feel like it.

I deal with a mixed house, plenty of OSS and proprietary software. Both have advantages in their realms. If you are using a popular OSS package at least there's plenty of information available on the internet about other people's solutions to problems with it. If you are using a popular commercial product, it probably has knowledge bases or adequate support to help with edge cases. However, if you are using an almost orphaned OSS package or a small commercial product or niche market product... good luck to you.. they all are lacking.

Re:MOD PARENT UP! (1)

hessian (467078) | about 3 months ago | (#46989877)

Don't expect support-contract-like behaviour from a list - remember they're volunteers, there's no "SLA" and they don't work for you.

Ah, the old "bad behavior exists, therefore your example must be of the bad behavior"!

No.

I've (repeatedly) seen people go on to these lists, ask a polite question, and receive STFU NEWB or analogue response very quickly.

Generally, the more difficult the question the more likely it is to receive this response.

Ever wonder why Stack Overflow is so popular? Volunteers there get imaginary internet karma points and so have incentive to answer questions.

You usually get a better answer at Stack Overflow than from the official lists.

But few businesses want to rely on a software plan that begins "And if there's a problem, we know this INTERNET FORUM..."

Investors will panic and flee the room, with good reason.

Re:MOD PARENT UP! (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about 3 months ago | (#46987989)

Particularly the STFU NEWB part. This is exactly the reputation open source software has.

It's kind of understandable though. What if you went poking the Windows Kernel Team with questions like "how do I get this printer to work"? They would say "we don't have the time to help with that". Then you would contact a Microsoft support engineer and his response would instead be "I'm happy to help you, let's get started".

In open source world, commercial distros like Red Hat do have proper customer support in place, but various random open source projects do not have that kind of support options. You can contact the developers directly, and that's it.

Zero budget usually helps, plus have a fall-back (1)

RuffMasterD (3398975) | about 3 months ago | (#46987981)

Project leaders usually come to me with a vague and changeable list of requirements, a very short turnaround time, and no budget for anything other than wages.

- Writing from scratch takes too long, plus the requirements change too late in the game
- Buying off-the-shelf means squeezing blood out of someones stones, and is not customisable
- Evaluating several open source solutions and taking the best, then modifying as needed hits the sweet spot

The only time I really needed to put a strong case forward to switch to open source was when I took over an in-house solution just after I started this job. The new requirements were simply too much, the deadline too close, and I had too many other things to do to realistically change the custom written code on time. I found a mature open source solution with an active developer and user community which was far more capable and customisable than anything I could single handedly accomplish. I told management that if it didn't do what we needed then in the worst case we could always fall back to the old in-house solution (god help me). Best decision ever, saves me hundreds of hours ever year. I still add the odd feature or bug fix when needed and submit back to the community, but usually by the time we think if it someone else has already done it for us.

Having basically no budget means I couldn't accomplish half my job without free or open source software.

link should be retitled to (1)

PJ6 (1151747) | about 3 months ago | (#46988603)

'academic librarian doesn't know how to proofread or use spell-check'
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