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Airing Open Source Dirty Lanundry

CmdrTaco posted more than 15 years ago | from the its-not-as-bad-as-it-sounds dept.

News 51

Christopher Bibbs writes "News.com is carrying the story of the Open Source split between Raymond and Perens. Basically their infighting is now open to the whole world. Its embarassing really. " It's not flattering, but it's interesting to see that this whole movement is made up of people (RMS/ESR/Bruce/Linus/+ zillions of others who often deserve even more credit but don't get it simply because a few people are all the world can handle). It's always been much more open than corporate software. Anyone can be on most of the lists. That human factor can be scary, but its often possibly our greatest asset. I mean- if Balmer and Bill fought, would we know? Everyone knows when Linus and Alan argue (hell, someone submits it here as a story every time they disagree over anything) But what about if it mattered?

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Dirty Laundry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2010307)

Better that their dirty laundry is aired in public
than behind closed doors. Secrecy serves nobody
but them.

Commercial vs. OSS infighting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2010308)

There have been various articles recently about fights within Microsoft about COOL versus Java. Anyhow, the open software movement is made up of millions of people. Two of them can fight without harming it in any serious way.

Pay no attention to the Ockman behind the curtain (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2010309)

It's not flattering, but it's interesting to see that this whole movement is made up of people (RMS/ESR/Bruce/Linus/+ zillions of others who often deserve even more credit but don't get it simply because a few people are all the world can handle).

More like one Ockman is too much for the world to handle, so his subordinates get all the credit. It's easier for their small minds to handle.

This is what drives Free Software. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2010310)

I like it when things like this happen. It is disagreement that drives free software development. As a community, we are open to disagree with each other. As we disagree upon philosophical points, programatic points, or technical points, we diverge and the truly best solution lives on in history. This is evolution, and that single factor is what makes free software more dynamic and long lived than its proprietary equvalent. Sure, we might not always make money by exploiting stupid people, but at least our systems work. If proprietary software developers would allow user disagreement to effect changes, it would create better programs. Look at OpenSystem's Accounting Software - it is proprietary open source software. They reccommend that if you don't like the way they did it, change it! It is such an advantage to have all of our software under this axiom. How will the best desktop environment be made? Not by KDE people, and not by GNOME people, but by their competition. If it is not liked, this kind of dissent must occur, and a better solution will be found. If we shut our arguements up, behind closed doors, where would it get us?? If there is a disagrement in the free software community, I say let it be heard! We will all be the better for it.

--
Ross Vandegrift | Eric J. Fenderson
vandegrift@erols.com
http://www.erols.com/vandegrift

This is why Windows will win. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2010311)

At the end of the day, the marketing department for Microsoft is one cohesive unit. The more pouting made by the children running OSI, the less seriously they're taken. Especially when they dress up like Obi-Wan Kenobi in front of cameras.

The real issue: doomed to repeating the past (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2010312)

The real issue Linux-newbies/outsiders are worried about is whether the current fragmentation of the Linux community (everything from GUIs to now philosophy) will have the same results now that past fragmentation of the UNIX community (commercial vendors) had: proliferating multiple approaches/standards to issues, wasting effort and creating a huge burden for people to make the "right" choice of Linux technologies, a risky thing to do for risk-averse non-techy managers.

I predict you'll see a huge FUD campaign built on this, sooner or later. Might as well innoculate people now.

Ouch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2010313)

It's bad enough when people with stable outlooks disagree. But when they change their minds at the drop of a pin and suddenly stab you in the back....

BEING POSTED ON /. AIRED IT, NOT NEWS.COM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2010314)

Who cares anyway? it's not dirty laundry, it's just fact. Peren's split doesn't affect that much.
(I respect his beliefs and his decision)
There will be FUD anyway so why worry?

Listen, Linux and GNU were available, good to use, stable and blah blah blah BEFORE it was "cool" to use.
I really don't care who uses it. F*ck M$,
F*ck the press. Hell, F*ck everybody, it's Friday.

If you people think Oracle, IBM, et. al., are porting to Linux because they believe in the Free Software(TM) / Open Source (TM) movement, then you've got to believe the Richard Gere / gerbils story... morons.


Tony
http://home.earthlink.net/~hawaiistyle

How many Slashdot editors does it take... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2010315)

to run a spellchecker?

These headlines are a travesty, Rob. Take the time to do it right, or get someone else to proof the stuff. This is sloppy and unprofessional.

There's no such thing as bad publicity. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2010316)


Especially when they dress up like Obi-Wan Kenobi in front of cameras.

Look, Raymond is publicizing himself. With the resources he has, he's doing the best he can. Sometimes he has to make a fool of himself to get his picture in the paper, but that's what being a media whore is all about. You gotta do what you gotta do. Personally, I applaud his attempts to become the Robin Leach (no pun intended! :) of free software (i.e., he's famous just because he's famous). Ed McMahon is another good analogy. Leach and McMahon make a good living; don't knock it.

This is why Windows will win. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2010317)

At the end of the day, the marketing department for Microsoft is one cohesive unit.

Really? You work there? You've SEEN this?
So.... what does marketing have to do with innovation and the building of a good OS?
If you work there... do we have YOU to thank for the propaganda that has brainwashed all the sheeple out there?

Oh yeah.. one more thing... Win What?
Comparing M$ to Linux is like comparing Apples and Oranges.
Linux works. Linux is efficient. Linux is Fast. Linux is flexible. Linux is compatible with 'Almost' everything. Linux is free.
Windoze is unstable. windoze is NOT efficient.
Windoze is Slow (even on fast processors). Windoze is not flexible and closed source to boot.
Windoze is compatible with windoze.. unless you spend mucho dinero on other software.
Windoze costs bucks... and more bucks (lots of em) for the things that are inherent with Linux.
And it still crashes...

Hell.. No contest...

You wanna WORK with your computer... use Linux.
You wanna Play? Eh... Windoze will do just fine.

Is it just me..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2010318)

Or does Bruce Perens get into more fights than a Jerry Springer bimbo?

Arguments are good. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2010319)

I work in a place where open, public criticism is very strongly frowned upon and I can tell you that airing dirty laundry is definitely the way to go. In my work environment, the worst ideas often go forward unchallenged because nobody wants to have "not a team player" on his/her annual review.

I'm glad Bruce and Eric can rip eachother's statements apart in public. This is the way things get decided, and this is the way things get done. We all know we're really on the same side, whether we're FSF or OSI or neither, whether we support KDE or GNOME or neither, that's why we get so angry at eachother. If we weren't on the same side we wouldn't care about these things enough to be passionate about them!

I hate to sound like the Shadows from Babylon 5, but good things really do come from conflict--conflicts of ideas, at least.

Windows in front of the cameras (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2010320)

I agree. I think how an operating system performs in front of the cameras *is* important.

That's why I don't buy operating systems from companies that make fake videos and submit them as evidence in federal court.

Tell us more! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2010321)


I'm sure if stories of red-faced Napoleon Gates screaming "Anyone hear of fucking Windows?" got out, you Windows lovers would be diving for cover.

Out of a sheerly morbid curiousity which is so wretched as not to be worthy even of me, uh, where didja hear about that?! More details! URL's! Pictures! Details!

Expiring minds want to know!

:)

ahem...read this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2010322)

read this [slashdot.org]

Yeah...more! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2010323)

I want to hear more about Master Gates and his easily provoked temper....

Cohesive? No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2010324)

Within the past week, I've read several stories about heavy infighting over the proposed "Cool" programming language. ZDNet has been full of it. (But then, when isn't ZDNet full of it?) When Microsoft does pull together, it's generally because the control freak running the comoany manages to quash whichever side he doesn't like. Debate leads to evolution; groupthink leads to stagnation.

Microsoft cohesive? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2010325)

Sorry kid, I'm sitting here in an MS office in redmond, and there isn't any cohesiveness around that I can see. Just a bunch o' monkeys trying to keep the stock from dropping.

Perens should be disowned!!!!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2010326)

I've been writing free software for two decades, and I never heard of Bruce Perens until his first whining fit. He's had several more since then, and I'm pretty tired of it.

Free software in some form would be thriving today even if great hackers like RMS had never lived -- it certainly wouldn't be hurt if minor hackers with big egos like Perens dropped from the face of the earth.

Being famous is not the same thing as helping our community -- in Bruce Perens' case, it seems to mean the opposite.

Disown the little bugger! He doesn't speak for us! (and RMS etc don't always, either...we're a diverse community)

RMS, ESR & BP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2010327)

At least Eric Raymond & Richard Stallman are internally consistant even if they don't always agree. My views tend to more closely coincide with Eric's, but I have a massive amount of respect for Richard even though I don't agree with him 100%. Bruce Perens on the other hand seems about as consistant as a yo-yo. I'm tired of his repeated temper tantrums. If he can't take the heat then perhaps he should stop trying to grab the spotlight and go back to coding. Or even better, he can put his time where his mouth is and start writing technical documentation for free that is on a par with O'Reilly's.

Yes -- O'Reilly is correct to reject the GPL. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2010328)

Their business model as a publisher of books cannot survive using it on their products. This does not mean their business model is wrong; it suggests, rather, that the GPL doesn't provide any way for authors to receive adequate compensation for their works. Writing good books is hard and time-consuming. Unless they write books for vanity or for the sheer love of writing, authors and publishers can't afford the GPL.

What's less understood is that, ultimately, the software business could not survive the GPL either. Right now, the bandwidth required to download a very large piece of software -- like Linux -- is expensive, so there's a market for folks like Red Hat who press it onto disks. But since what Red Hat is selling is primarily a substitute for bandwidth (they can't sell the software; they don't own it!), their business will dry up once we all have greater than T1 bandwidth to the home. There will be no need to pay when you can download virtually anything for free! Red Hat will be left to fall back on a small support business (which will be undermined by helpful folk who give advice for free) and on non-GPLed software for revenue.

In short, O'Reilly has the sustainable business model, not Red Hat. O'Reilly's authors put food on their own tables, make an honest living, and provide customers with excellent value for money. Only a serious Stallmanist -- who would brand anyone who makes money via intellectual property as "evil" -- would disagree.

--Brett Glass

Activism vs. Pragmatism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2010329)


Good that you mentioned ESR, the fellow who goes around describing
models for better profits. Please observe that (in essence)
ESR does speaking about freedom: the method for companies to win against
their competitors.

But that is not *my* freedom.

RMS speaks for my freedom, not with words
only, but with mountains of deeds.

This is why Windows will LOSE! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2010330)

>At the end of the day, the marketing department for Microsoft is one cohesive unit.
Consider gene pools and why environmentalists become very concerned with too small populations. Microsoft is marketing-centric and inbreeding. Acquisitions and "Embrace and Extend" are insufficient to reverse the debilitating effects of code bloat and featuritis. You can see a few tips of the iceberg, rebooting to install almost anything, nice graphic progress indicators which are disconnected from reality, file exports that create zero-length files.
Check the effect of Linux on *BSD and the proprietary unices. Check the effect of the various distributions on each other.

Red Hat's Success (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2010331)

The main factor that you fail to consider is that other companies sell copies of the Red Hat distribution at a tiny fraction of the standard Red Hat price, yet this does not prevent Red Hat from making good sales. If people were merely saving on bandwidth, there are much cheaper ways to do it. Put it down to ignorance, perhaps?

Also convenience. Red Hat is carried in more places than the others; they have a well-established distribution chain. If you go to a store, you're most likely to get Red Hat, even though Caldera is just as good. And branding provides warm fuzzies.

On the other hand, I don't disagree that Red Hat may have to reconsider its revenue model if the Internet becomes more convenient than a CD-ROM. Selling support seems like a viable option, given the brand-recognition they command.

Selling support is undermined by the friendliness of people out there in the online community, and by the many FAQs and "Howto" documents that are available. Most of the problems that can't be solved by looking at these documents need "hands-on" attention from a consultant, not phone support. (Phone support is always awkward, as the naive user may not even know the basic terminology to describe what he or she is seeing!)

But even if they fail, so what? Linux and good free software will continue entirely independently of Red Hat's success or failure.

Which is the problem. The GPL will continue to destroy business opportunities and jobs, without giving anything back to the businesses and working people whose prospects it has destroyed. This is why licensing like the MIT X or BSD license are a bit better; you can at least try to make a viable business out of building commercial software on top of the free code. The GPL prevents this.

Free software can and will continue to exist regardless of whether anyone makes any money off it, because it has inherent value.

And therein lies another aspect of the problem. Air has tremendous intrinsic value if you're running out of it, but zero market value. (What Red Hat does is analogous to filling a scuba tank for a diver. The air, like the software, is free to both of you, but the fellow who fills the tank is packaging it and delivering it to you.)

Yes, GPLed software has inherent value, but it has zero market value -- that is, the price a willing buyer will pay a willing seller for it. (Yes, people are willing to pay Red Hat for making the CD-ROM and the book and shipping them to the local store, but that's what they're paying for; the software is free and is not owned by Red Hat.) What's more, they reduce the market value of the function they perform to zero, so no one else can make money.

Perhaps ORA are the "nice guys" of the publishing biz, relatively speaking. If a bunch of nut case hackers suddenly decide that copyrighted manuals are evil and resolve to produce free manuals (in digital form only -- print them yourself), then that's going to be hard for ORA and everyone else to compete with. "Free" is the trump suit in this particular game.

It's the trump suit in any market, so long as the product is adequate. Again, not great, just adequate.

To some extent this is true already. I've never bought an O'Riley book: I printed the Perl manual, and it remains my only needed source of information on the subject, for example.

O'Reilly's Perl books actually have some great examples and handy reference information. I bought them for that. But if they were GPLed, they'd get posted online right away. And who would buy them? It'd be bye-bye O'Reilly. And that'd be a shame.

--Brett Glass

RMS != hacker -- oh yeah? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2010332)

Linux (sic)? Oh yeah, LINUS--didn't he start a little project called Linux and then let other people finish it (while he still worked on it of course but...)

The fact is that while RMS may have anti-capitalist attitudes that may be anathema to progress in making open source a business reality, his contributions should not be degraded. (hell, he writes stuff in Lisp, now that's a hacker's language!)

I'm sick of the infighting but I'm sick of Perens more than Stallman because Perens seems to like to make a show of it. Perens: HELLO? CLUE PHONE CALLING! Please please please get a clue! You are not helping fropenee sourceftware[tm] by bickering in public. At least Stallman keeps his rants hidden on his website (and they are better in quality and interest, especially the brilliant ones about copyright insanity)

It's good... (1)

palpatine (94) | more than 15 years ago | (#2010333)

It's good that these things don't matter. Of course, ZDNet will get a hold of it and never let go, like they did when the LSA hoopla. In any case, these events are good for reassessing our identities as members of the community for Software Libre (as I prefer to call it).

It's not pretty, but it's good. (1)

chalsall (185) | more than 15 years ago | (#2010334)

This is another example of the mainstream press not understanding the process.

It might not be pretty when these blow-ups occur, but by having it all out in the open I think the matters are settled quicker and generally for good. When things must be settled publically, it's much harder to try to push a hidden agenda 'cause someone is going to see through it and call you on it.

Conflict is normal. The press just isn't used to seeing it behind the nice, warm and fuzzy facade which wraps traditional development processes.

Disagreements are normal (1)

gavinhall (33) | more than 15 years ago | (#2010335)

Posted by Matt Perry:

Disagreements between people are normal. So what if they are broadcast for the world to see? It's not as if individuals don't have differences. And the best way to work through differences is by discussing them and finding a solutions.

This doesn't make us look bad. It makes us look like people who are activly seeking to better ourselves.

Different philosophies are allowed (1)

gavinhall (33) | more than 15 years ago | (#2010336)

Posted by The Famous Brett Watson:

As has been observed already, this "infighting" is little more than people expressing their different ideologies on the matter. It can't hurt free software in the long term, because unlike corporatesville, the free software "leaders" don't drive the community. The community has its own momentum, and the various leaders arise only because they express the opinions of a large subset of that community eloquently. These "leaders" hold a useful, but non-essential position. The free software community has no head to cut off.

There are a wide range of philosophical stances one can take on the free software issue. Rather than expound them here, I refer you to my (lengthy -- approx 70KB) essay on the matter. Interested parties can find it at the Nutters.org website [nutters.org] , or a marginally out-of-date but slashdot-effect-proof mirror copy [vix.com] .

The Famous Brett Watson, famous@nutters.org

Dirty Lanundry (1)

Vorx (876) | more than 15 years ago | (#2010337)

Dirty Lanundry ??

Spelling errors in article text is one thing, but in a header?

human nature... (1)

zonker (1158) | more than 15 years ago | (#2010338)

disagreement? isn't that a basis of conversation? if everyone agreed with each other the world would be pretty boring...

(coffee tawk) no big woop...

RMS said it first. (1)

ninjaz (1202) | more than 15 years ago | (#2010339)

Actually, RMS called Tim O'Reilly on that one about 6 months or so ago at an Open Source convention. They then decided that RMS wasn't going to be invited back, because he was "a loose cannon" ...

I don't personally think there's anything wrong with O'Reilly books. In fact, I got started on Perl with them, and since, it has greatly enhanced my life. Well worth the $30 or so for Learning Perl, IMHO.. And, now that I grasp all of the fundamental concepts, the on-line documentation is far better than any book, O'Reilly or otherwise could ever hope to be. That's the way it is for most any free software.

Activism vs. Pragmatism (1)

adam (1231) | more than 15 years ago | (#2010340)

The difference between this kind of argument and the kind of arguments you hear about within Microsoft or other places is that this argument demonstrates the fundamental split in beliefs and intentions of those behind the free software and open-source movement.

RMS and Bruce Perens are activists. They believe that people have an inalienable right to have source code for their software, and that all software should always be freely redistributable. That is the fundamental philosophy behind GNU.

ESR and Tim O'Reilly, on the other hand, are pragmatists. They believe that software developed in the bazaar model is likely to be higher-quality than proprietary software, but they don't talk about rights.

The big difference is that the activists resent the development of proprietary software for Linux -- the database products, WordPerfect, etc. -- while the pragmatists welcome it, because it means that Linux will have that much better a chance to make inroads with the general public.

Personally, I find myself much more sympathetic to the pragmatic cause, because I believe that an open-source infrastructure like Linux is infinitely more valuable than any single piece of open-source application software, so I hope it succeeds.

Adam

Slow day (1)

tjones (1282) | more than 15 years ago | (#2010341)

When there is no news, they'll have have to make some.

This article wouldn't have appeared.... (1)

Kestrel (1301) | more than 15 years ago | (#2010342)

If it hadn't appeared on slashdot. I cringed when I saw it, knowing that this would happen....

I don't object to book publishing. (1)

Per Abrahamsen (1397) | more than 15 years ago | (#2010343)

I also think we should have free documentation for free software, but the GNU way[1] to achieve this is to demonstrate the free documentation can be better (and more profitable!) than proprietary documentation.

O'Reilly does a lot of good for the free software community, just employing Larry Wall should count for much. I don't really think that his motives matter, but if profit is one of them, we should show him that free documentation can be profitable, and he will be ours.

[1] Yes, I know this is not how RMS talk about free software, but it is the way he act. He helped demonstrate that free software could be as good (even better than) proprietary software, and with the help of Cygnus that free software could be profitable too.

Hey, were you the OS/2 covert critic too? (1)

bobalu (1921) | more than 15 years ago | (#2010344)

Hey, is this one of the guys they used to have beating on OS/2 while the world waited and waited and waited for Windows 95? I lost several years of my life to your kind. Instant Karma gonna get ya.

O'Reilly (1)

citmanual (2002) | more than 15 years ago | (#2010345)

The best is Perens on Tim O'Reilly. Hate to say it, but I sorta agree. Althought I love their books.

People change... (1)

dattaway (3088) | more than 15 years ago | (#2010346)

The most interesting disagreements happen at large companies. Even though things have been great at work the last few years, we had a class on workplace violence this morning. Great stories of people trapped in dead end jobs and going postal or terrorizing colleagues.

The world of free software does not compare. Colorful language is even rare and is hard to find on C.O.L.A. too. If I disagree, I feel very free to patch, cobble together, and distribute. So there!

These are good times anyway. Very good times! :)

Wow! It must be one slow news day! (1)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 15 years ago | (#2010347)

It must really be a slow news day. I think that if the Impeachement trial was still going on, you'd never hear of this tempest in a teapot.

Gee, those Open Source folks have arguments. As long as we're not run by a totalitarian regime, we're going to have them. I'd hesitate to call any software company a totalitarian regime, but isn't it funny how this illustrates the difference between us and them?

Want to see an argument? Hit www.nocode.org [nocode.org] to see info on a ham radio organization I founded that is trying to get rid of the laws that require Morse Code tests for radio hams. The arguments I get from hams are much more virulent than anything that ever happens in the free software arena.

Thanks

Bruce

I don't object to book publishing. (1)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 15 years ago | (#2010348)

I like O'Reilly books and I have quite a few of them. That's not where my complaint is.

The main problem I see is that while we need people like Eric Raymond to speak to the non-hackers, hackers need to stay in control of the work they produced. There are a few ways in which hackers are losing control:

We no longer control our information sources. Hacker-produced web sites, news groups, and mailing lists are being displaced by commercial news sources and book publishers. That would be OK, except they seem to want to control the information, too. That part isn't acceptabe.

One person who I feel is mainly interested in profiting from the community is posing as a leader of the community. Most free software merchants know better than to get in a conflict of interest like that.

Thanks

Bruce

Laundry, thy name was never "Lanundry" (1)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 15 years ago | (#2010349)

Spellchecker's time !

Laundry spells LAUNDRY

"lanundry" just ain't gonna do.

This (and Bruce and ESR) matter less than we think (1)

jsm (5728) | more than 15 years ago | (#2010350)

Linux succeeds on its quality, not because of Bruce P. or ESR. They may have made their own contributions in their own ways, but IMHO those contributions have not been crucial to Linux and the whole open source movement (which they didn't invent). Linux would still be steamrolling forward without them, with programmers continuing to contribute patches, users telling their friends about it, etc.

Whether or not these two individuals get along will hardly affect Linux' progress. They may be able to do some good if they work things out, but I'm not worried if they don't. Fortunately, the more they argue, the less relevant they become. These kinds of organizations may help a great deal if they ever get their act together, but Linux has done pretty well without them so far.

We shouldn't be distracted by these events like this; we should keep improving the quality of the code (notably ease-of-use), and educating the world about OSS.

"Stay on target... stay on target..."

James
james@jmarshall.com

Tim, Business, and Open Source... (1)

trims (10010) | more than 15 years ago | (#2010351)

First off, let me state a couple of things up front:

  • I've met and talked fairly extensively with RMS. Though I doubt he'd remember my name (face, maybe...)
  • I've listened to ESR and Allman on Open Source on numerous occasions.
  • I've never heard Tim O'Reilly speak, though I've had a couple of conversations with some of the Sr. Editor/Publishers at ORA.
  • I'm an admin; as such, there is precious little code out there that's got my name on it; however, I like to think that significant portions of code that developers I've worked with is due to me. And lots of that is out in the World, Making Things Better(tm).

I'd agree with the majority of posters here that the fracture actually represents a healthy community, complete with stress and differences. That all being said, I really dislike the massive chip on the Open Source community's shoulder about Business, in general. Many businesses are closed-minded, hording everything they own, unwilling to share, extorting every last penny from those that need their service/product. Others protect what they have, yet are willing to sell it at a very friendly price (ie, they make money, but aren't being greedy). Still others see that they can share what they have, and still make a living. Far too many people see only the first and last categories, and refuse to accept the middle one.

I just don't get the argument over ORA. In my mind, they definately fit in the middle category. Sure, they have copyright-protected works. And they're not about to give that up, since that's how they make money. On the other hand, I don't consider their pricing outrageous (hey, anyone looked at what Advanced Programming in the UNIX Environment costs these day?), and they definately consider it to be neighborly to cosy up to the O-S community - look at the resources they expend to sponsor and promote various O-S stuff. Sure, in the end, they make money, but that means they're actually good, smart people.

One of the major things that galls me about people who complain about the cost of books, and how information should be free, is that it is. Let's take the Bible of SysAdmins: ORA's Essential Systems Administration.

I can read through the book, writing down interesting concepts and thoughts it points out. I can also read The System Administrator's handbook, Advanced Solaris Systems' Administration, and go dig up the Design and Implementation of the 4.4BSD Operating System. By my very own willpower, I can take the best ideas from each of those books, plus my very own ones, and come up with a complete documentation. What I can't do is outright copy the entire books.

The difference between code and books is that often, the major effort in code is production of the actual algorithm (ie the code itself) that results in a certain functionality. Of course, we 'd like to promote that duplication of that massive effort is avoided, thus we want people to be able to copy code.

In books, the major effort is the idea, not the actual words. In many cases the actual words are poorly written, and I certainly don't want that copied. What you can copy from ORA books is the ideas themselves. Look at how they lay out the book - use their organizational thoughts. How is the material presented? What tips and pointers do they use? What's left in, and what's left out? How are things explained clearly?

Technical manuals are by far the easiest to reproduce, since at their base, they all are talking about the same thing. So borrow from the masters - don't be lazy and require that they do all your work for you, but take what they've already expressed and produce something of your own. If you want to give that away, fine, that's up to you. Just don't condemn them if they don't feel the exact way you do. After all, you're probably not deriving your sole source of income from those works...

One last thing. I talked with one of the Publishers from ORA last USENIX, and inquired about whether or not they would be doing more of the electronic collections (such as Webmaster in a Nutshell, Deluxe Edition). Her response was enlightening: it wasn't remotely profitable. She said that the volume of sales for such an item turned out to be below what it cost to make it and maintain it. Then she said something even more startling: a really popular ORA book (like Essential SysAdmin) sold about 25,000 copies, while less popular ones (like, say, Java in a Nutshell) might sell 10,000 or so. I used to work in the publishing industry, and I know what typical margins are (let's just say that they're not much above 10%). So, for a excellent seller for ORA: .1 x 25000 x $30 = $75,000. Oh, yeah, like they're raking in the dough on this all over the planet.

-Erik

Plenty of disagreements (1)

blocked (10071) | more than 15 years ago | (#2010352)


There are plenty of disagreements in this community, as in others. Lots of ego involved. Regardless, the work goes on, and when it doesn't, the reputations of the participants tends to suffer.

An excess of ego really doesn't do much good for your reputation. Participants, please take note.

Why shoot allies (1)

Nap (10395) | more than 15 years ago | (#2010353)

One person who I feel is mainly interested in profiting from the community is posing as a leader of the community. Most free software merchants know better than to get in a conflict of interest like that.

I don't get your point. If a program source remains free, copylefted, whatnot, it's anyone's right to interpret the behaviors of the end-product, the running program, and to put it in his own manuals or books...AND to release that verbal interpretation for free or for his profit...right?

In the end, who should care? The hackers can never truly lose control, since the source code can't be hidden. So what if someone makes money from a book; isn't that the *idea* of Free Software -- to create an ecosystem around an open product?

Seems to me that one could keep running with the "everything must be free" argument until we'd all convinced ourselves that charging for consulting work on a copylefted OS was immoral.

Anyway, it bothers me that we're not discussing technical merit (e.g., "some manuals are unclear/incorrect") but just about a yearning of how the ecosystem should or should not be structured. Meanwhile, buckshot gets fired at allies who'd help grow FreeSoft mindshare.

Jerry Springer (1)

mattc (12417) | more than 15 years ago | (#2010354)

We should have these two along with RMS wearing his priestly garb fight it out on the Jerry Springer show~!


Seriously, this kind of behaviour is what we should expect from free software's two largest egos.

Open Source promotes anarchy! (1)

Your own stupidity (14554) | more than 15 years ago | (#2010355)

But it's a GOOD sort of anarchy.

Sure, in a real world political situation, anarchy is generally a Bad Thing. Nature generally abhors a vacuum, particularly a power vacuum, and there's probably always going to be someone around to fill that vacuum when it appears. For a good sci-fi treatment, try Larry Niven's short story "Cloak of Anarchy" which I think may be in "Tales of Known Space".

It's no different in a large-scale closed source development project. You will have power struggles among the developers, even with a strong project manager, resulting from differences of opinions on how the project should proceed or how it should be implemented.

But, in an open source project, these problems can't kill you. They can delay progress somewhat, but the project itself can't be killed if the source code is already out there. The worst case scenario is that you get a code fork, and that's hardly a disaster with open source. From a traditional business viewpoint, it's horrible, because you're paying for two competing projects.

Suppose for example Linus and Alan Cox had some insurmountable difference about the kernel architecture (this is a pure hypothetical example). Alan could start his own branch of kernel development based on Linux 2.2, and he could probably attract some other developers. He'd have to call it something other than Linux, of course, and not Alanix either, because that sucks. This is probably not a great thing for kernel development, but probably not a disaster so long as Alan doesn't do something crazy like abandon Posix.

You could also look at Linux vs. FreeBSD, which are competing projects. Fortunately, applications tend to be pretty portable between the two.

Part of the beauty of open source is, if the main developer says, "It's my way, or the highway," you can take the highway, and the code, and not have to start over completely from scratch.

Okay, sure, these little feuds and personality clashes aren't very helpful. The upside is, they don't kill us or our projects.

Copyleft doesn't exclude books. (1)

Hanzie (16075) | more than 15 years ago | (#2010356)

If the FSF wants to push the ideas of open source, what's the problem with free publicity generated with how-to manuals? The GNU license lets you redistribute and CHARGE FOR the distribution.

ORA distributes portions of the code in book form, and charges for it. What's the problem? They're making money? Hey, they've got bills, kids and mortgages too.

I vastly prefer books to screen reading, and printing hasn't been free since Gutenberg.

Thanks, ORA!

Activism vs. Pragmatism (1)

dillon_rinker (17944) | more than 15 years ago | (#2010357)

Yup. Perens and Stallman advocate a freedom of the elite. The mass of computer-using humanity can go hang, for all they care.

Idealists care too much about ideas and not much at all about people.
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