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There's "No Such Thing" as Free Software

CmdrTaco posted more than 15 years ago | from the stuff-to-read dept.

News 164

st. augustine writes "This editorial on the front page of PC Magazine UK cites the old "programmers will starve" argument and claims that open source and cheap hardware are driving people out of business, thereby reducing consumer choice." The article is mostly about declining costs of hardware, the little FUD blurb is at the end, although it seems strangely familiar to an article sent in by toolz: this little gem appears on so it doesn't have to try to be impartial. Read both, were going to see a lot more of this stuff.

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Hmm? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1927629)

RedHat is giving Linux away for free, but I don't see them begging in the streets. Looks like the author didn't do much research.

jobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1927630)

All those young, eager students will have to turn to something less respectable, like studying law.

Or you might have to resort to writing stupid little articles for Micros~1.

Mindbogglingly Stupid article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1927631)

This is like arguing that because air is free,
society is losing because all the people who
might work in the 'air' industry are out of
jobs. Unbelievably stupid arguments.

Refreshingly stupid arguments (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1927632)

It was refreshing to see what simple and narrow arguments the "Flux" article contained. I was worried for a moment it might contain some pertinent criticism of free software. If these are the best arguments that the reader can muster as criticisms of free software, why then I'm very hopeful.

they better be scared! (the gold mine is closed!) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1927633)

I read both articles and I think it reminded me why I'm so into GNU/Linux.

They left out the fact that now starving-student types like me won't have to pay $100 for OS + $200 for an office suite to greedy corporations that collect so much profit that they're some of the most profitable companies in the world.

I'm a cs student and if it wasn't for gpl software I wouldn't have been able to do (experiment with ) half the things I have with my computer. Multiply my experience by a couple thousand and you have the growth of the computer industry, not it's demise.


Something Really funny... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1927634)

And the page ranting about the evils of free software was served by none other than...
Apache 1.3.4! See:
2)~> telnet 80
GET /askjlfgaskgeqjr HTTP/1.0

HTTP/1.1 404 Not Found
Date: Mon, 19 Apr 1999 14:04:00 GMT
Server: Apache/1.3.4 (Unix)
Connection: close
Content-Type: text/html

I wonder if Mr. Kane knows about this horrible, unethical practice is going on?

Refreshingly stupid arguments (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1927635)

What you don't realise is that 300 million Microsoft users eat this shit at face value. Why, I don't know. It's a trust thing.

Proprietary 'TV' is a necessity. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1927636)

The TV and broadcasting industry has done well by that model. The programming is free (to you) and the Tvs can be low cost.
"If all we had was opensource software and sub $500 PCs then the market for personal computer technology would quickly disappear"
It would be more proper to say the market wouldn't be the way "the present players" desire it to be.
Remember this stuff that's being published is being pushed by companies who's 'self-interest' would be hurt if the market was any other way.
If there was OSS and $500 pcs then computers would be as ubiquitous as tvs and vcrs are now.

Before you post a flame of them here*** (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1927637)

Agreed, but I suspect that the press does indeed read slashdot. How much? only rob could possibly answer that.

Well written Flux article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1927638)

Won't work.

The author (and Microsoft) are in the perfect situation, they can ignore any reasoned and well written point by point rebuttals and simply point out any flames they get and call all Linux users zealots. Although it appears to be a magazine article, it isn't. It's just a Microsoft propoganda piece designed specifically to push their corporate interests.

Casting the Linux community as a collection of "zealots" is a quick and easy way of getting those who are unfamiliar with Linux to continue to be so. The ABM ("anything by Microsoft") crowd will be talking more and more about how Linux proponents are communists, and how free software is evil and a force of the devil. Notice they carefully avoid technology issues in their arguments. That's not by accident.

Luckily, I've noticed that Redhat 5.2 is #6 in the Ziff Davis top 10 retails software sales list.

The Infinite Price of Free Software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1927639)

I disagree with some of the preceding comments. I think these articles are right, but poorly written.

Sure, Windows costs lots of money and Linux is free. But suppose the purchaser is gifted enough to make lots of money from the use of a program (e.g. by buying a graphics program and selling pictures). With Microsoft, once you pay for your software license, it's paid for. Everything you make, after that expense, is yours.

With Linux, you always owe something back to the community, and no one can say how much. The more you make, the more people will expect. In practice, it's a debt that can never be repaid.

As I set out to try to make my fortune, it is comforting to know that, if I make a fortune, even if I make billions of dollars -- Mine, all mine! Bwa-ha-ha! -- Microsoft will never call ME a "hoarder."

-- An Ayn-onymous coward

Software: You get what you pay for ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1927640)

I think not. Does anyone have an estimate on how many 2nd, 3rd or even 4th rate programmers are out there in the global software industry getting paid Mega$$$ to generate thousands of lines of ill-designed, or just plain buggy, code ? Just because someone gets paid to write code isn't a guarentee of quality, or is it ? For instance, does the Microsoft EULA make any guarentee as to the stability, functionality or reliability of any of their products ? I was under the impression that in fact it was the opposite, that MS ( or any other software maker, to be fair ) pretty much washes their hands of responsibility if you should be so foolish as to install and use whatevers on that shiny, expensive, CD.

Thanks for listening, if anyone has any good counters to these thoughts/rants I'd love to read them.

FLUX == FUD? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1927641)

Is FLUX a new kind of MS FUD?

FLUX = Fear of Linux, Unix and X-windows (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1927642)

It's true. FLUX stands for:
Fear of Linux, Unix and X-windows.

Bad Economics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1927643)

Good observation(s).

There is some merit to his argument, if you hold to
; "in the long run profits are normal".

Maybe it's time for another law/corollary that accounts for the hyper-foreshortened timeline of technology development.

Could be it's just 'easier' for us to hit the diminishing returns point.

If this is the case and could be proven, it would allow for such cyclical behavior in the industry.

new Microsoft policy emerging... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1927644)

I think we are beginning to see an emergent Microsoft policy towards Linux:

  • Slate article about how hard it is to install.

  • Near fraudulant benchmarks from Mindcraft.

  • Microsoft article says programmers will starve, free sofware is a communist conspiracy.

The publicity machine is rolling into action.
The question is how much of the press will buy MS pr these days. Unfortunately the Open Source press machine seems to have imploded...

Starve? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1927645)

I wonder how many programmers work for companies like Microsoft that make their money from shrink-wrap software and how many work in IT departments or for companies that embed software into their products? The second category of programmer won't be effected at all by free software, in fact many of their customers already get the source code delivered with the product.

Simple political analogies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1927646)

Those who are FOR free software are communists, and those who are against it are fascists.

The alternative... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1927647)

The cost of proprietary software.

The current proprietary software model is
an example of the cost that it incurs. What
you get with PS, that you dont with OSS is the
overhead of greed, selfishness, and the general
effect of when one person/company tries to get
one over on another at their expense, and sometimes at the expense of the many, rather
than for the good of everybody.

This is a cost that OSS eliminates -- and getting
rid of them is no bad thing.

No money in Free software - I just sent him this: (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1927662)

Yes, Bob, there is such a thing as free software. If you check out, you will see that it has to do with rights and not price. No one says that creating free software (granting rights/freedoms) does not cost money, time, etc.

However, there is also free software that also does not cost money and that is software that has already been paid for or funded.
This can occur in many ways.

One client wants something. I code it and charge them. I make the agreements necessary to own the completed code and then give it away. (I have done this in the past.)

A programmer chooses to consider the vast amounts of free software available to him at no cost which he can use to make money, save money, use in his own projects (save time) or use as an education as payment in advance on his own contributions to the pool of free software. I have just done this. I consider the code I write and release as payment towards the code I get. It is one way to look at things.

Earning enough to eat can be easier than getting vastly rich. ~;-) I am not starving.

Who's Deluded? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1927663)

His points about hardware are all meaningless. When a lot of companies are building the same beige boxes and all using the same off-the-shelf parts, the only way to compete is by cutting prices to the absolute minimum. Then, the only way to make enough money to keep things running is to sell more product and wait for enough of the little manufacturers to die-off so you can raise prices again.

His comment that "there is no such thing as free software" is a bit overstated, but for the most part it is true.

Others have brought up the Internet as an example of free software, but the US government funded most of that development. The US government funded BSD and its brethren. If you were to look at the majority of free software of consequence prior to the past three years, guess who paid for it?
Someone always pays.

Then there was Linux.

A lot of people have invested their time developing the pieces and parts and put together a really good server OS than can be used by anyone without having to pay anything for the privilege.

Things are going to change, and it won't be exactly how you envision. The utopian open sourcers are going to be pushed back to the fringes as the old big software companies and the new big software companies begin the exploit the new, level playing field that is Linux. Welcome to the world of Linux as the next great desktop OS.

Red Hat and other distributors can make money selling the OS in a box, differentiating their releases and adding value through the creation of custom installers and configuration programs. Right now they can even make money by providing support. Most will quickly learn that the cost of providing support to average users is much higher than the money any sane user is willing to pay. Most will have to limit support to yearly business-to-business support contracts. If they want to court and support the average user, the money will have to come from somewhere, and that will be proprietary end-user applications. Red Hat's R&D efforts will be forced into developing commericial applications to pay for the average users, even if they do not want to.

Another way to feed off the Open Source gravy train is to take the Apple approach and make the developers pay. This is the approach that KDE is taking, and it will work well for them. KDE will be the standard Linux desktop (as soon as KOffice is full featured and stable). As KDE evolves, it will become more and more a necessity to use the QT widgets, and if your going to develop a commercial product, you'll need the QT license. With their control of the QT widgets will come control of the desktop. Behold the next Microsoft!

The majority of money will go to the same proprietary apps you loathe. Early entrants to the Linux arena will have to throw an open source bone or two at the frothing masses. Eventually, most will either become complacent, their OS choice so justly validated, or will move on the next great fringe OS.

So, in the next two years watch for a lot of disillusioned people to pop-up in articles on /. complaining about various companies selling-out. Remember that most of them didn't want to; market forces drove them to it.

So it is written, so it shall be done.

Views and opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect those of Anonymous Cowards Inc.

There was an unknown submission error (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1927664)

I tend to agree with most of what you said. But I think you read something into what I wrote that I didn't intend on saying. I don't mean to say that "support will be the _only_ source of revenue." What I was trying to say, is that "support will have a larger fraction of the cash value of the package than the executable itself."

The distribution model is sort of fuzzy, and I don't see as clear of a trend there as you do when you point to Red Hat.

I believe Red Hat isn't actually making profit from distribution, more from support. I could be wrong here, I guess, but as I see it; 1) Red Hat sells "Red Hat Linux on CD" with a user manual. Documentation is probably more support than it is distribution. and 2) Red Hat includes one month of email support with the "Offical Red Hat Linux." Say what you will about the quality of that support, it is support, not distribution.

Therefore, I believe, IMHO, that Red Hat is selling support, not distribution. If you consider a Cheap Bytes, LSL, or Linux Mall $1.99 CD of Red Hat Linux, then I believe in that case, you are seeing companies making profit solely on distribution. But, I believe this is a byproduct of the open source development model, not something that relates directly to the income of a developer.

Also, "The world isn't going to turn into 100% programmers over the next decade." is taking something I said out of context and exagerating it. I said slowly, you point to 10 years. I don't believe that there is a clear defined end point, that's why I pointed to the model of "evolution." There is no clear end point where an evolution of something reaches completion. It's a model of drifting twards something that better fits it's environment. And I said that there was a larger percentage of programmers today than in the past, but by no means did I imply that the world will turn into 100% computer programmers. Therefore you have set up a "strawman" argument, putting up something unrealistic, and poking holes in it. This voids your point, because your not arguing against something real. I believe that's a case of "rather narrow goggles."

Somehow this went from a discussion of "There is no such thing as free software," the point I addressed, to this discussion of "can the software industry and programmers survive on support profit alone." The latter was not my intention to defend, OTOH, I believe _some_ segment (e.g. Red Hat) has proven that it is a possable, profitable, buisness style for _some_ companies. (I wish I didn't have to do the _stress_ thing with the _underlines_, I just got out of the habbit of doing that, but it appears that some people miss the point if I don't).

I don't think your going to convince me that shrink wrap software will always be the main source of revenue for the software development community. That point is something I just can't see happening from a basic supply and demand economic standpoint. But if your trying to tell me that there will always be someone selling shrinkwrap software, somewhere, then sure. There are people who sell bottled water too, although the bulk of the world accepts the grade of water sent to them through public utilities (internet) at a much lower cost, and occasionally just filters it themselfs (custom hacks).

Rob C. (some error, otherwise I would have posted from my own computer)

some OSS != ALL OSS (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1927665)

Why do you keep making the jump from 'some software is OS' to 'if suddenly all software were OS the world as we know it would end'? To the best of my knowledge, nobody advocates FORCING all software to be open source. On top of that, you're missing the difference free (open) software, and free ($) software. There are several companies out there making a profit and paying employees competitive wages while selling Open software. Remember, free software is analogous to free speech, not necessarily free beer.

What, me? Starve? (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1927666)

I think the response to the question 'Why would anyone want to code for free?' is best summed up by the line the Stone Soup group used to add to the end of the Fractint documentation:

'Don't want money. Got money. Want admiration.'

Free software will destroy civilisation (1)

Patrik Nordebo (170) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927667)

Yes! He's right! Let's all petition our respective governments to mandate a minimum price on software and hardware, to protect the industry. Otherwise all innovation will end and we will all live in straw huts, eating mud, within ten years!

Putting it in terms... (1)

Patrik Nordebo (170) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927668)

I wasn't being sarcastic about people who think there is a place for proprietary software. I was being sarcastic about people who paint free software (and in this case, cheap hardware) as being somehow evil and opposed to choice, the free market, etc. If a company can't take the competition from free software or cheap hardware, it is they who need to change, not the people providing free software or cheap hardware.

Proprietary 'TV' is a necessity. (1)

Patrik Nordebo (170) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927669)

There is a huge difference between the freeness of TV programs and free software. Think free speech, not free beer, as they say. Though that is not really the important difference. The important difference is in the degree of reuse that is possible.
What makes this difference important is that a TV show can't really make use of content from earlier TV shows to any large extent, because the audience will not be as willing to spend their time watching old content. Therefore every TV show has to have mostly new content, which leads to high production costs. With free software, we have a situation where production costs will go down the more free software there is.
There will still be a cost, of course, but it is quite possible that this cost will be low enough that we can entirely scrap proprietary software development. This is what the free software people are hoping and believing will happen, I think. At least it is what I am hoping for.

He Just Doesn't Get It (and bountyware) (1)

davie (191) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927671)

Don't forget "bountyware." Sooner or later, I think this concept is going to catch on. Why waste millions developing a package when you can hang the requirements, basic design goals, and some stub code on your web site and let the hackers duke it out for the money?

He Just Doesn't Get It (and bountyware) (1)

davie (191) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927672)

I don't see why Bountyware can't be made to work for desktop applications and the like. If the ISV lays the proper groundwork and makes some working code available from day one, a working GUI for a word processor for instance, it can spend its development resources at a higher level, reviewing submissions, supporting developers who are working on the project, etc.

As for product quality and correctness, I see no reason why the process would be any different with outside hackers. If an ISV thinks it can pay less attention to code developed in-house than it would to code developed by hackers, it's inviting trouble to begin with. Hackers would be driven by the same interests as employees or contractors; it would be in their best interest to produce quality work. One might argue that the incentive to produce innovative, tight, quality code would be greater with folks who are competing for a prize.

Granted, there are problems that will have to be worked out before Bountyware will work for larger, more demanding projects, but this is just a lack or tools and plain old experience.

Bad Economics (1)

Aaron M. Renn (539) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927674)

I must say, somebody should send this guy to an econ course. He is basically saying that high prices are good for consumers in the long run because they help businesses stay afloat. What garbage. Prices for most goods are set in a relatively competitive marketplace. Supply and demand determines price. You can believe that if a given price were not profitable (or at least more than covering the variable costs of production), people would quickly stop supplying computers at that price. This will cause the price to rise. A complete discussion of this is beyond what I can do here, but suffice it to say that this person is crazy. In a competitive environment, some businesses will fail, but that doesn't mean the industry is not healthy.

I guess they never heard of the Internet... (1)

farrellj (563) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927675)

Which is built upon free software. Commercial transport nets like Compuserve and AOL are big...but without the Internet, they would never have grown as big as they are now.

Thusly, most of MS & Co's business plans would no longer be valid if free software didn't exist.


My company makes money on... not software... (1)

gavinhall (33) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927678)

Posted by CompilerBoy:

The trick to free software is not making money on your software contribution, but making money in a more sideways fassion.

The free software gives the garage shop programmer a boost. They do not have to develope six man years of code to do the _quick_ neat thing they wanted to scew around with... They can go directly to it.

What does Compaq care what OS they distribute with their servers/desktops. They will ship whatever people are willing to pay for. If free software opens markets that were not previously available I am sure they will be overjoyed.

The same for Cygnus and Redhat. They support the free software movement by SELLING support. If you do not have the expertise inhouse to modify your free source Cygnus will contract it out to you. Redhat sells convience and some level of assurance that the code has at least been looked at once by a professional programmer before distribution.

If the software companies (M$) start getting scared that this is going to hurt their bottom line maybe they should find other places to make their billions. M$'s software has been getting more expensive and many of the features they have been adding to justify a new version have been more a pain than a help (like the paper clip...).

What he doesn't seem to realize (1)

gavinhall (33) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927679)

Posted by Hungry Joe:

We operate in a capitalist society. Capitalism relies heavily on the idea that there will be a limitless market as well as limitless resources, however in the field of computers, this first principle does not hold true. No matter how much we can try, you can only sell so many computers to the world, because really, not everyone needs a 500 Mhz machine at home. Demand is going to drop off for these machines, and in response producers are going to have to cut prices to sell them, and after a while they will have to cut production or lose money. That's the way a capitalist economy works, it always has, and no amount of price fixing is going to change that.

the prices are falling! the prices are falling! (1)

Wansu (846) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927682)

Oh lawdy lawd, the prices, they just keep falling. We gotta do something quick to protect our phoney balony jobs here. Yeah, Like a value added tax. Yeah, that's the ticket. We'll just jack those prices right back up there. And as for software, it's mIcKeY$oFt uber-alles. You Americans just don't recognize a real treasure like us silly English bed-wetting types do.

Dear Microsoft: Wake up and smell the Internet! (1)

Kurt Gray (935) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927684)

Free software is not a new idea, but the big
difference between then and now is a little
something we call the Internet. Days of trading
code on floppy disks are over. Now almost everyone
has a computer with Internet access, thus anyone
with coding talent can collaborate instantly on
free software projects, and the "trend" is only

Most teenages have only two questions about computers:

1. Where do I find dirty pictures?

2. How do I program this thing?

So you see, the artistic urge for people to create
their own software for the sake of wanting their
own software is not a pipe dream. It is real.

Again Microsoft does not realize the full impact
of the Internet. They can't see the tidal wave
that's about to drown them. Wake up and smell the

I find it humorous... (1)

bhurt (1081) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927685)

...That the people who can't sleep at night worrying about wether free software will ruin customer choice didn't even blink at Microsoft's "Unix is Dead" campaign. And that these self same people consider the "fragmentation" of Unix to be it's critical failure, and instead perfer the enforced sameness of Windows.

Unlike Microsoft, I cannot think of a _single_ software company that has been destroyed by free software. The role call of software and software companies killed by Microsoft is long indeed.

The punchline here is, of course, that all evidence indicates that free software _increases_ choice. Consider: Gnome vr.s KDE, Caldera vr.s Redhat vr.s SuSE vr.s etc., Linux vr.s *BSD, Sendmail vr.s qmail vr.s smail, perl vr.s python, vi vr.s emacs.

Oh, and cheap computers are hardly new- anyone remember the C-64? TI-99?

well sorta (2)

Stu Charlton (1311) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927692)

I agree that he doesn't "Get it", but I think if you think that the software industry can survive on "support profits" alone, you don't quite get it.

While support is important, it isn't enough to sustain a multi-billion dollar industry. And if you think "they'll downsize, they can't stop the Linux J1H4D!", I have news for you. Most people feel that giving up their freedoms (especially if they DON'T CARE if the source is free because they can't code) is fine for convenience. This means that free software is something to continually fight for - it is NOT an inevitability.

The world isn't going to turn into 100% programmers over the next decade. For that reason, There is room for BOTH free and proprietary software in this world. Furthermore, a company wanting to reach current levels of profit would need many indirect flows of cash beyond support - including distribution fees ala. RedHat.

Free software is important, and it is good that we move in that direction, but it's also important to take stock at what the barriers to this future are today. The picture you painted is viewed through some rather narrow goggles - it's important to see beyond your perceived "inevitability" of freedom - it is NOT inevitable. You have to fight for it.

No money in Free software (1)

Zachary Kessin (1372) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927693)

Quick tell Cygnus, Red Hat et al that they are Waisting their time.

Parallel - Phone Service / Computing (1)

Spectre (1685) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927694)

When phone service was introduced, telephones were so expensive people would lease them from the phone company rather than purchase them. As sales volume increased and control of development was released to other business entities, competition ensued and the price of phones dropped. ICs were developed and the price of phones has dropped to roughly the price of the hardware. Wireless phones were developed, which are now given for token monetary amounts (the $1 exchange of money to make a contract binding) -- yet manufacturers of telephony equipment and service providers now enjoying economic health.

I believe this parallels PC hardware and software. The technology and volume have reached the point where the cost of the hardware is minimal (a few hundred dollars at the low end to a few thousand for people who want the most bells and whistles). The software more closely follows the wireless phone industry, give it away, and charge for the service.

Programmers aren't starving, because companies like paying somebody to manage resources, including computer hardware and software. I get paid a living wage just to keep my company's network of computers, printers, routers, etc running smoothly. This includes writing custom scripts for processing data, adding features to the accounting system, and the myriad other details every company needs.

I just had another job offer last week, to do consulting on "free" software systems for several companies around town...

I don't think I'm going to be starving anytime soon.

Again with the "support" argument (1)

BadlandZ (1725) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927695)

I can only speek for myself. I don't intend to claim that support is the _only_ way to make profit other than shrinkwrap.

1) look at employment ads. (you or will you discredit that too?) Programmers _are_ being hired more and more by companies to work on projects that are not "shrinkwrap software."

2) How can you discredit RedHat, or O'Reilly when it is clear that they do make a profit from thier products, which include GNU/GPL work? It's a fact. Add to that list, VAResearch (yes, they employ people to do programming, but they don't sell shrink wrap software), and now SGI, SuSE, Caldera, ... That is a long long list if you look around, and it's growing. Just because people bring up "Red Hat" as an example frequently does not mean that they are the only one. Would you say Microsoft is the only one making money on shrink wrap software because it's the one that get's talked about the most?

3) Support your comment "Trust me guys, it ain't workin' -- just makes it look like you and your plan can't stand up under scrutiny." Where have you seen the Open Source model fail? Is the open source community getting smaller? Are there less people programming open source software now? Are companies that sell/use/develop open source products loosing money? You accuse the arguments of not being valid, and then don't make any support to your statment that it's not working?

Bob Young doenn't have to code a single line to prove Open Source is effective. What has Bill Gates been coding lately? If he hasn't been coding, does that prove that Closed Source is failing?

Beowulf has no more to do with this than Meept does.

The iMac? I am sorry, please expand on how the iMac proves that Gnome or KDE is never going to succede? I don't get it. You mean industry is moving twards something that is a lot of market hype and "simple" but the GNU/GPL community is getting more complex and harder to use and not getting any public attention? I don't see your point.

Please provide some information about the "not wanting to pay for support" statement. I see no indication that closed source shrink wrap software is any more ready for the computer illeterate than open source is, so I don't see a point your making there. I don't see how people not wanting to spend money on anything makes a point either. Why do people buy the "Offical" SuSE (see, I didn't say RedHat) if they aren't willing to pay for support. Can you explain the profit in Word Perfect if it's not support and documentation that people are buying? (see, I didn't say Red Hat). Can you explain how good programmers are making good money for hardware companys like SGI, IBM, SUN, VAResearch while working on GNU/GPL code?

You can't write these things off as not important if they _ARE_ happening. I would have to say the author of the "there is no such thing as free software" artical made a better case against GNU/GPL than you are. And his main point was that Hardware venders are paying for the development. Even if THAT was the case, it still would mean that hardware vendors see better profit when there is a larger market for thier product, and providing more applications will expand thier market. Still, it would be a plus for the idea of open source, not shrinkwrap.

To close your eyes at the many avenues of revenue companys can make from open source and limit it to the discussion of "support" only is not the point. The fact that open source movement is growning and some people fear it, and some people are blind to seeing it, that, is the point.

He Just Doesn't Get It (3)

BadlandZ (1725) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927696)

"Many have cited the efforts of IBM, Sun and HP to contribute to the Open Source pot. I would argue that the only reason they've been able to do so is that they have other business that allows them to fund this development. Think of it this way: if you're a small developer and you have six hours to write code today, would you spend it writing something that you'd give away or something that you could charge someone money for so that you could buy dinner tonight?"

Hehehehehahehahehaehahaha. Yea, OK. Sure. Let's see... He managed to prove that he STILL "just doesn't get it." I suppose he doesn't believe in evolution either, and we just "appeared" on the planet suddenly too.

Software is undergoing an evolution, it's that simple. The cashflow will come from support, not development. That is showing. The percentage of the people in the world that can code a valuable application is going up, and the law of supply and demand only proves that GNU/GPL is going to be the way of the future. Does he believe that there are eventually going to be 1000's of Word Processors that are commercial, and they will all sell for $100 a copy?!?

Talented coders prove thier worth with GNU/GPL, and get hired by companys after they prove themselfs. This is because of economics. Companies can't afford to hire people that are really good to make a shrik-wrap software package forever. But, they are learning very quickly that thier support mechinism is seriously lacking, and thier highschool dropouts with good phone voices aren't hacking it as phone in support techs. Companies will loose buisness selling a fancy product with crappy support. It happens slowly.

There are many companies that still do buisness the "old way," but that is slowly changing. When people order software today, they are more consirned about support. When big buisness orders a software solution now, they are more and more looking at something that can be modified to suit thier specific needs after they get it. It's not fully there yet, but it's clearly moving that way.

Software is evolving, this guy is a dinosaur and doesn't get it. Programmers will bring home good paychecks after this evolution, but it is not going to be for shrinkwraped software, it will be for solid tech support, and custom hacks of open source software to specificly suit a companys need. I don't think dinasours understood Darwins theory of evolution, and I don't think you could teach them either. This guy is a dinasour, don't waste your time listening to his arcane grunting.

Not following you (1)

tony@work (2206) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927698)

I'm not sure I understand.

You're saying that, without proprietary software companies, there would be no demand for personal computers? Or, are you saying there would be no fantastically rich companies on the stock market based on software?

If your point is the latter, I agree. That follows from our assumptions. But I don't agree the demand for personal computers would fail. Look at the Internet; when I first got on (fall '89), there was no web; Archie was still being maintained; and, contrasted with today, there was little noise in the signal.

Before companies started putting their URL in their ads, people were asking for the Internet. It wasn't the marketing that drove that demand; it was a percieved need.

It's the perception of need that drives demand. Marketing is geared to inciting that perception. But, lacking marketting, real need drives demand.

Besides, computer manufacturers (Dell, Compaq, et al) are good at marketing and convincing people they can't enter the new milenium without a new PC. I'll bet you a Starfire that Gateway has sold more PCs than MS.

The ownership of software has not determined the demand of computers. The ownership of software has just forced everyone to constantly re-invent what has already been invented.

At least, that's my opinion. I could be wrong.

Old Programs (1)

tony@work (2206) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927699)

Wait a second. Shows re-use old material all the time. In fact, original programming is rare. Sure, the cosmetics change, but the meat, the core, the jokes, the characters, are all re-hashed I Love Lucy. It's all variations on a theme.

The biggest difference between free TV and free (speech) software is this: free TV is created by a bunch of suits thinking up new shows ("It's like All In The Family, but the daughter moves in with another woman!"), except when it's thought up by one person and pitched to suits ("It's like Kolchak: The Night Stalker, but with two FBI agents.").

Free software is created by the people who actually use it. It's like public access TV, only everyone has the resources of George Lucas. Sure, 90% of it is crap. But, but Sturgeon's Law, 90% of *everything* is crap.

If TV started out as a public access medium, it would be a different world today. And I bet TV would be a lot more interesting.

He's right about one thing... (1)

Millennium (2451) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927704)

Open-Source does, in fact, limit consumer choice. This is even stated in the GNU Manifesto; one of its ultimate goals is to "eliminate competition."

However, the result isn't another Microsoft, even in this scenario. Why? Because even though there is one (insert type of software here), people are not limited by the whims of one company. The ideology behind Open-Source, or at least part of it, is that if a piece of software lacks something you want, you can add it to that piece of software.

Now, about the whole "programmers will starve" bit: that's nonsense. However, the job of the programmer will change significantly. A programmer will no longer be able to be just a coder (though, in the ideal scenario, other people will be contributing, and this makes up for that coder's abscence). The programmer will also have to support the program; there is, after all, no better person to provide upport for a program than the person who made it (assuming that person has the proper communication skills; something which will also become necessary for a programmer to have).

Will they make as much as they do now? Probably not. Some might, certainly the best would. Consultants probably would, as companies maintaining software pay them to undertake big jobs. But not all programmers would; the times are changing, and those who fail to change with it will likely be lost.

Well written Flux article (1)

Epeeist (2682) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927705)

I didn't say it was right, or that the author had a clue what he was talking about. I simply said that it was well-written, by a master propogandist.

There were some nice little touches, for example Richard Stallman having a genius award, with the word genius in quotes. What does that say about the award?

This one needs a reasoned response, picking the mistakes and misdirections very carefully.

Kill the Messenger (1)

Plutor (2994) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927707)

Kill the messenger!

The person we have to blame for this is one of Intel's founders, Gordon Moore.


Starve? (1)

dattaway (3088) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927708)

I get paid twice the average family income doing manufacturing tech work and programming is a hobby at home. Should it be illegal for me to program for the fun of it? I would starve if I couldn't program.

Humans are just begining to use software. (1)

smithdog (3152) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927709)

The no-cost OS and applications frees up money to develop the high-end applications that have not yet been implemented because most people spend too much money M$ software. I belive that busineses have a limited amount of money to spend of software. By getting the OS and some common applications gratis, they have more of a budget for computer consultants, network infrastructure and custom software. The future looks bright for software developers. Only the dinosaur companies like Microsoft have to worry. We mammals are going to take over! gbs

copy of the letter I sent kane (5)

aheitner (3273) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927711)

Dear Mr. Kane:

I must disagree with you about the state of consumer choice and Open
Source software. Open Source Software (OSS) does not represent a decision
not to make money from selling software. Many companies do -- RedHat and
Caldera in the US, Pacific HiTech in Japan, and SuSE in Germany are just a

Why does this work? It stems from a realization that the software market
does not work in a traditional economic sense, nor anything remotely like
the hardware market (an example of perfect competition if there ever was
one). MicroSoft can sell as many copies as they want of Windows at
essentially no cost, once it's developed. The box, CD and manual represent
a negligable part of the $90 (much more for WinNT) cost of the software.
The cost to them is in fact technical support -- which is why the
technical support has gotten so bad recently, to the point where you must
pay for every incident if you are a regular customer. This is what OSS
Value Added Resellers actually sell. Anyone can download a copy of RedHat,
but you have to pay if you want technical support. Even MicroSoft
acknowledges this is a good idea -- their coming reorganization includes a
whole division of "Knowledge Workers".

And what of the programmers who write free software? The argument that
they won't because they'd rather be paid is invalid -- they already do.
Linux runs on hardware from Personal Digital Assistants (the PalmPilot and
Compaq's experimental Itsy) through destroying WindowsNT on desktops and
servers (see ZD's own articles comparing NT and Linux as a Windows
Networking server) through supercomputers among the 100 fastest machines
in the world (IBM built a Linux supercomputer with off the shelf parts and
a $40 RedHat CD that was as fast as a Cray during LinuxWorld Expo in San
Jose a couple of weeks ago). The base of superior software already exists.
Many programmers contribute the tools they need, written to solve their
own personal requirements. Others donate their time for fun (such as my
friend Ian Peters, a fellow Carnegie-Mellon University student and the
GNOME Games package maintainer). Still others are employed by OSS VARs to
increase the value of the product -- in this catagory are Alan Cox the
Linux hardware guru, and a big chunk of the GNOME desktop environment
team, all employed by RedHat.

I also note that Intel's perfect following of Moore's law, and the
constant pricing of a "nice" computer system (used to be about $2500 here
in the US) was an artifact of the way Intel made all the machines. Those
chips cost Intel much less than they're selling them at. But for many
years they had a monopoly and no pressure to cut prices. But along came
AMD and Cyrix to cut into Intel's marketshare in the sub-$1000 value
priced PC arena (the kind of machine that will soon make a PC a standard
appliance in every home in North America and Europe), and all of a sudden
there was competition. Intel has already lost the lead to AMD for market
share -- and the rule of thumb about pricing is out the window.

As of now, processor technology can still be developed by the big guns
of AMD, Intel and Cyrix on a Moore's Law track (works well, since it gives
the engineers a target), but there are arenas in the hardware market where
the law simply doesn't apply. In 3D hardware the product cycle is closer
to 9 months, and each new product has many more than twice as many
transistors, since the leading manufacturers such as 3Dfx, nVidia, Matrox
and ATI are competing on a technological playing field with near constant
pricing between them.

If you have yet to try Linux, I suggest you do. There really is
something to Eric Raymond's "Cathedral and Baazar" model of software
development. We don't use Linux because we're foolish lunatics. Millions
of us use it because it's better. That's why Linux is gaining market share
in corporate servers far faster than any other player.

Yours sincerely,

Ari Heitner
DC: 703/5733512 CMU: 412/8623003
"You know how your whole life flashes in front of your eyes before you die?
That's just gdb unwinding the call stack . . . "

CC: Bob Kane of PCMagazine UK

Ridiculous, but a common elitist argument (2)

maynard (3337) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927712)

Nowhere is this more evident than in the pages of this month's issue, which contains 80 PCs from 32 different manufacturers. While this might sound like a lot, consider this: last year's PC blockbuster had 91 systems from 39 manufacturers. While 24 of the companies in last year's round-up also submitted systems this year, that leaves 15 that didn't, for a number of reasons, not least of which is that many aren't around anymore. Only eight new companies have submitted PCs for the first time this year.

And this is the stated evidence that PC prices are unsustainable??? That a few integrators have gone out of business? Would he care to compare this result with the US airline industry deregulation? And then to claim this relates to the upcoming failure of Moores law because high tooling costs are driving volume manufacturing, which is what's also driving low prices, is either disingenuous or blatent ignorance. If, as he says:

So for Intel to continue to be successful, each new fab must be able to pay for itself, which means building not only faster microprocessors, but also more of them. This system encourages manufacturers like Compaq, Dell and IBM to take greater and greater volumes.


Unfortunately, because of the volumes, price incentives and desire to grab market share, Machrone's Law is now broken. This has led to eroding margins for suppliers and downward pressure on prices. Even Intel has had to buckle under this pressure by cutting prices on CPUs to its largest customers, Dell, Compaq and IBM. Combined with pressure from AMD at the low end for even less expensive CPUs, one has to wonder where Intel is going to get the money to continue fab development into the future.

then Intel must be stupid enough to price themselves into oblivion by charging less than cost plus profit. By any rational free market position they deserve to go out of business because of critical poor planning (if this is actually the case, which I strongly doubt). That's the whole point of a free market, otherwise we'd need a regulatory body determining price structures -- which sounds suspiciously like Socialism. Somehow I doubt the author of this would admit to being a closet Socialist, so where are these arguments heading?

There's no such thing as free software, and there's no such thing as a cheap computer. Those who say otherwise are endangering tomorrow's IT choices.

OH, now I understand. Those arguments that Intel is damaging its future with low prices are really just a straw man to prop up the argument that Free Software will destroy the "tomorrow's IT choices." By this line of argument all collective effort by groups of individuals not managed by a for profit venture are somehow damaging tomorrows potential markets. One could include Churches, private non-profit charitable organizations, food co-ops, community theater (you could have spent that time at a movie -- think of the lost film industry profits!) community sponsored parks, you name it. This line of thinking, when taken to its extreme, would tear local communities apart -- along with Internet communities. And it's frightening... just look at the MAI (Multilateral Agreement on Investment) [] for a good look at what multinational business stands to gain when these kinds of rules get codified into law, and why it's a great threat to worldwide democratic progress.

It would be laughable were it not representative of worldwide trends in conservative elitist think tank, and multinational corporate, popular opinion.

what an idiot (1)

Lurking Grue (3963) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927713)

This guy fails to consider the fact that a lot of companies apparently have a poor business model. Everyone seemed happy to jump into pc sales, not thinking that the market might just become saturated one day. And now that just about evereyone interested has a pc, these companies are starting to worry. And we should feel sorry for them?

No, now is the time for the good companies to differentiate themselves. That is the natural evolution of business. This is not the oil industry: you cannot arbitrarily raise prices and expect people to continue paying.

And as far as his last three statements:
>There's no such thing as free software, and
>there's no such thing as a cheap computer. Those
>who say otherwise are endangering tomorrow's IT

1. There is such thing as free software. It pre-dates the stuff sitting on store shelves.
2. There is such thing as a cheap computer. People all over have suddenly begun purchasing them.
3. I say otherwise, and I find that tomorrow's IT choices are looking better than ever.

my letter to "" (1)

kevin lyda (4803) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927715)

no one will study software engineering because there won't be any great
jobs in it?


i guess that's why no one studies philosophy, theology, history, theoretical
physics, or even primary and secondary education.


nice fud, but alan cox's paycheck proves you wrong.

come to think of it, so does his rejection of your job offer.

Students aren't in it for the money (1)

Dixie_Flatline (5077) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927718)

...Necessarily. I mean, I'm a student, I write software, and I'm not in it to get a good job. I'm in it because it's interesting. I plan to do research. The fact that this is going to make me money is a great side benefit. All sorts of artists think that way, and I think a lot of computing people do too. Programming is our art. Money is a nice reward for doing something that we love. But there are lots of ways to make money.

Universities (1)

overlord (5277) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927719)

I seems that the universities are the worst enemy
of Micro$oft. People gets smart and it is not
so easy to take their money.


Fuel for the fire... (2)

Sawmill (5567) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927720)

Didn't anyone find it interesting that along with the run-of-the-mill FUD, he also used RMS's GNU-Linux whining AGAINST the Linux movement...

Yet another example of, together we succeed...divided we fall. Instead of RMS giving the FUD-miesters more fuel to go on, by bickering over a NAME, wouldn't it be better if he was championing the success of Linux?

Apparently we're living in a dream (2)

djarb (6628) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927721)

Never mind that it has worked for decades...

>While free distribution is a great marketing tool
>(think about all those samples you get in the
>mail), what does it say about the product itself?
>Frankly, it says that the product (or the effort
>that went into making the product) has no value.
>Is that what you software engineers out there

It's the product that has no value. The programmers' time and effort have value, but the product doesn't. At least, not in monetary/economic terms.


It's happened a lot throughout history (1)

lightning (8428) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927722)

Prices on things dropping isn't exactly a new phenomenon.

Some of the things I can think of right off the top of my head which started out as incredibly expensive but eventually became household items:

cotton products (thanks to the cotton gin)
gelatin desserts (it used to take hours to make these, now you can do it in 5 minutes out of a box)
cell phones, faxes, and pagers
instantaneous news (first daily via the paper, now via everything)

The list goes on and on; I keep thinking of more things the longer I think about it.

We live better, longer, smarter, and healthier now than royalty used to just a few centuries ago. Hot and cold running water, gas and electricity at the touch of a button, public education for the masses, amazingly soft and colorful clothes, soft mattresses, decent plumbing, warm (or cool!) dry housing, more leisure time (in general), food that the royalty would have been jealous of ...

We've really got it made, when you start thinking about it.

He Just Doesn't Get It (and bountyware) (1)

scrytch (9198) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927724)

This is already happening. Isn't Sun offering some reward (a pittance compared to commercial development costs) for the first practical application of XSL?

Vertical Markets (2)

Cassius (9481) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927725)

Of course at some point the market for Word Processors and Spreadsheets is going to be dominated by free, quality products.

If you want to stay profitable in software, and avoid having open-source software put you out of business, there are a number of ways to do it.

1. Go into a vertical market. Embed in your software some specialized knowlege about a field that not any college kid is going to be able to distill into code. For example, my friend designs software for lighting at large theatrical events. This requires interfacing with hardware that is not available to most people, and requires knowing how theatric lighting is done.

2. Get a great brand. A good brand name can insulate you temporarily from heavy competition. Look at graphics tools - it doesn't matter if the gimp ever becomes better than Photoshop. Photoshop has brand recognition among designers and very little is going to change that.

Typical MS strategy (1)

Irishman (9604) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927726)

Both of these articles are just examples of Microsofts attack strategy. They seem to be trying to find a weakness in the OSS model that they can exploit and use to rid themselves of this threat. This is just an example of the 'You get what you pay for' attack, something that products like Apache and Linux have all but defused.

As time goes on, MS will continue to attack from several angles, looking for one to one to do major damage. If the OSS community is vigilant and stays away from the same tactics, it will come out on top.

So read the articles, make a good argument to counter the statements, and watch the fun as a dinosaur tries to avoid extinction.

FUD? (1)

EnglishTim (9662) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927727)

Just because he expresses an opposing view to many people here doesn't make it FUD....

Maybe I just don't get it? (1)

Dion (10186) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927729)

especially the case studies...

Pitfalls (1)

Laxitive (10360) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927730)

Yuck.. the FLUX article. It's too obvious to be FUD, it's just stupidity.

While free distribution is a great marketing tool (think about all those samples you get in the mail), what does it say about the product itself? Frankly, it says that the product (or the effort that went into making the product) has no value. Is that what you software engineers out there want?

What is free has no value. That statement should be framed and put up on a wall. Excuse me? BiND, Apache - half-the-internet. Guess this software has no value then...? Let's all just switch to MS Visual DNS Pro 4.0 SP3 - it costs more, it MUST be worth more!

If, however, you gave away all software, how would you pay the creators of that software? You destroy the subtle motives that only cash can bring--motives such as food on the table, a warm place to sleep, and so forth. What you're left with is a bunch of amateur coders who need to have real jobs to make ends meet. Are these the type of people you want developing the software products your business depends on?

This whole statement assumes that the programmer's product is released by somebody else who needs to pay for this programmers time. One difference in paradigm of the Free Software Movement is that it is the PROGRAMMER who owns the code, and releases it. In other words - the labourer controls the means of production (Damn red commie ratfinks!). Look, no-one is going to design a multi-million dollar specialized application for your company specifically for free. Free Software is about providing a good piece of software that can be used by everyone. It is not about making everything free. It's about making the fundamental operations needed to be provided by a computer, available to the masses, and not concentrated in the hands of highway robbers to take money from you for things that you MUST do. "ls" is free. "gcc" is free. "Molecular Modeler 3.13 by Fictitious Software (tm)" is NOT FREE. It's about people providing a service to a community, and (cover your children's eyes people) DONATING IT.

Ironically, these folks are sowing the seeds of their own destruction. If they actually succeed in making software free, no one will be willing to employ them to create a product with no value. Soon, students will stop studying software development in college since there won't be a way to make a career out of it.

How so? There will always be jobs that the average student programmer cant handle by himself. And one HAS to ask the question - if there is a programming task that can be completed by a student in college - then WHERE do you get off charging exorbitant prices for it? If Apache can provide a better solution for half the servers on the net, and it is created by a bunch of college students - WHAT DOES THAT TELL YOU ABOUT THE COMPANY WHICH PROVIDES THE SAME (OR WORSE) PRODUCT, AT A HIGHER PRICE??

If intellectual property isn't property, then just what is property? Why not just give away cars, houses, and everything else?

When person A gives person B a car, person A does not have the car anymore. When person A gives person B a copy of the blueprints of the car, person A loses NOTHING. This is the difference between "material" property, and "intellectual" property. There are circumstances where "intellectual" property should be protected, but in the LARGE majority of cases, it is used in a selfish and bigoted way, which does very few people any good, except perhaps the peron "owning" the intellectual property.

If software is free, why does it matter who takes credit for it? After all, aren't we all just one big, happy family contributing to a great, shared codebase for all of humankind? Why should it matter that someone uses some code from someone else? The way I see it, "credit," better known as fame, is just another method of payment. If the big kahuna of the FSF wants free software, he shouldn't demand the payment of fame for its use.

Fame is different from money. If an author writes an article for a magazine, and gets paid to write that magazine, he has NOT SOLD THE RIGHTS FOR THE CONTENT HE WROTE. Fame and money are not mutually substitutable. Stallman's push behind GNU/LINUX is not as much for personal fame (though that could be factor), but to gain a spotlight for a movement that played a major part in the success of Linux. He wants his idea, and products based on his idea, to succeed. He is pushing his ideology, not demanding "payment" for his software. The argument made here is VERY VERY childish.

In short, I'm not against software being given away. I just want the folks who write that software to be paid--and paid handsomely--for writing it. That is the proper model for the industry. So the next time you think about using some free software, consider its cost to the software industry.

Thank you for standing up for poor programmers everywhere, downtrodden upon by the cruel selfish bastards of the Open Source and Free Software. Let us all start a REVOLUTION against our Open Source oppressors!

You know, I really dont give a SHIT about the software industry if it provides bad products at high prices. If FS should be considered anything, it should be that it is the BEST competitor to come along in a LONG time - and just hope that it will jumpstart an industry stagnated with the likes of Microsoft, who rely more on glitz than real work and good products. Linux,GNU,FSF is here because there was a need, and it fulfilled that need. Those in power, those who were growing fat on their bad software, are now apprehensive that this movement might actually FORCE THEM TO MAKE BETTER PRODUCTS (What a travesty of justice and capitalism THAT would be!).

The arguments made in this article are not even worthy to be read - except for the fact that they give you a glimpse into the fears of the software giants as they exist today.


copy of the letter I sent kane (1)

GtHS (11041) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927732)

Whoo. Bravo Ari. If they don't publish this in the next print edition of PCMag... well...

Need I add that Good Programmers Won't Starve. Good Programmers can always Get a Job.

Actually, does anyone else see a parallel between the "Open Source = Programmers will Starve!" and "MP3s = Musicians will Starve!" FUD campaigns? Obviously, the dynamics aren't quite close enough to make a decent analogy, but you know...

Fuel for the fire... (1)

rdsmith (11517) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927734)

Actually, my first thought was that this (RMS's GNU-Linux whining AGAINST the Linux movement... ) was the only thing that Boling got correct in his article.

I agree with you on this... it shows a very real problem within the OS community when we resort to such petty bickerings.

Re: Maybe I just don't get it? (1)

Greg Titus (11738) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927735)

I work for a small company that does consulting and shrinkwrap software, and we write quite a bit of free software. Not only is it a lot of fun, there are three major business benefits:
  1. Support: Not only do we sell support contracts, large corporations often just feel better paying for something, even if they could get it for free, because they'll have a vendor standing behind a purchased product.
  2. Admiration: There is no better advertisement for a consulting organization than working code that your potential clients can look at and try out for themselves. We are known in our little niche primarily because of our free software offerings, and it gets us a lot of paying business.
  3. Productivity: We get more work done for our clients in a shorter amount of time because we can reuse our free source code on every project, so we're only building the unique parts of the project instead of reinventing the wheel all the time. More productive means higher rates.

So we don't usually make money directly from free software, per se, it is more of an investment - it pays off over the long run for the aspects of our business that do make money.

They still don't get it... (1)

Stiletto (12066) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927736)

The flux article just goes to show that Microsoft and their partners (read ilk) still don't understand the difference between free speech and free beer.

This guy is clueless! (1)

Dionysus (12737) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927737)

Would you care if he did? I mean as long as you had free (beer) access to the kernel, do you really give a shit?

Programmers (1)

finkployd (12902) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927738)

The problem with this (and other) articles is that they rely on the assumption that a software company can only generate revenue by selling the software itself. Totally overlooked is the service end of things. Case in point, the computer store I work at makes more money from it's service department than sales, as do some car dealerships I know of.


Sounds to me like someone's bitter. (1)

Mr.P (12985) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927739)

Cheap hardware? Affordable, ubiquitous computing? Hyper-competition? Hello, the declining hardware costs are NOT our problem. It's called "economics", man. The fact that there are 80 computer builders advertising in PC Mag UK is sufficient evidence, in my mind, that either there are a lot of really stupid people out there, or that the PC industry, while low on profit margins, is high enough in volume that it balances out.

And he forgot the converse of the whole thing, too. Suppose you've just started a new software project and you're hunting around for tools to use. Suppose further that you're fresh out of college, with little cash, and the parents aren't giving you that interest-free loan. What do you do? Take out a loan at a bank and buy a Microsoft compiler suite, or first try and figure out Cygwin32?

Sure, I could buy Codewarrior and code for Linux. Find me someone who did (and isn't coding for any other platform).

Who's to blame, dude? (1)

Rahga (13479) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927741)

" (FUD about computer suppliers dying...) The person we have to blame for this is one of Intel's founders, Gordon Moore. "

" Moore postulated a 'law' back in 1965 stating that transistor counts would double roughly every 18 months, bringing an exponential rise to computing power in relatively short periods of time. "

And he is to blame for what, now? God forbid I ever state a law that will ruin an entire industry :)

Every day that passes is another day I wish more that most of the computer-geared mass media would just go away....

What about IE vs. Netscape? (2)

incaroads (13827) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927742)

From the article:
Giving away software is a great marketing tool. It's hard to compete if your competition is free. That's something that a number of companies have discovered. Now it's Microsoft's turn with Windows NT versus Linux. Still, if all software was free, none of us would have a job.

Sounds like this is just the tactic that MS used in its battle against Netscape. More lost irony.

Again with the "support" argument (1)

Zico (14255) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927743)

That's nice and all, but there's no supporting facts that the software industry can survive and prosper on support alone. It's truly amazing how many people around here take it as an immutable law, just because a handful of companies were able to make it work for them.

See, most people don't want to pay for support. They don't want to pay for software either, but when it's a choice between the two, they'd rather have something that they can easily use themselves instead of having to call for support every five minutes. And no, most people don't care whether or not they have the source code to their software. Most computer literate people don't even care about that, much less the masses.

The industry, as it always has, is moving toward making things simpler -- just look at the success of the iMac -- more expensive than the competition upfront, but simple enough that relatively few customers are going to need to pay for "support" later. Like it or not, the main reason why Linux is getting so much mainstream press is because the newbie journalists can use KDE or GNOME to try it out. In other words, because it was made simpler for those people. Simpler, meaning that there are fewer times that they would need to pester a knowledgeable friend or hop on IRC (the hobbyist's form of "support").

So, if we want a lot of people to be making money from Linux, there's going to have to be a Hell of a lot more demand for support than there is now. Unfortunately, that conflicts with the fact that everything's getting easier to use. Easier to use, less support needed, fewer support people needed, more free software programmers working at McDonalds between coding stints.

It would really be nice to have a real explanation of how this economic model can continue to work in a world of increasing simplicity -- preferably, and especially since we're talking about how the programmers' economic stability, not the revenue stream for those that leech off of them, something a little more substantial than the tired arguments of:

  1. Bob Young/RedHat! What's he been coding, anyway?
  2. Tim O'Reilly! So fond of the free software model that he sells a proprietary, closed-source web server and has made selling Windows books a higher priority within his company.
  3. Beowulf! Oh c'mon, you know someone will argue that sooner or later! ;-)
  4. Wow, you're just so stupid that you'll never get it, so I can't explain it to you! / Do you work for Microsoft? / Do you work for Apple? As more legitimate questions get asked about the viability of this economic model, I see more and more advocates resorting to this one. Trust me guys, it ain't workin' -- just makes it look like you and your plan can't stand up under scrutiny.


Before you post a flame of them here (2)

bee (15753) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927744)

Quick, before you post a flame of these people here on slashdot--

Send them email instead pointing out exactly how and why they're wrong. Don't bother to flame; flames will just make them think the free software people are a bunch of assholes.

Take your time writing the email, too; it's not like here where if you get your reply off first you'll get your article listed at the top. Better that they get instead a bunch of well-thought-through messages than anything else. If you can't think what exactly to say, go read what other people have written in the past about free/open/* software and crib from that; there's no shame in borrowing good ideas, as long as you don't claim that you thought them up all by yourself.

In short, do something that helps. Sure, ranting on here is stress-relieving and fun at times, but here you're preaching to the choir. Better to help get the word out to the unwashed masses.

I admit it, I don't get it (1)

Royster (16042) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927745)

There will always be a need for closed source development. Most of the money spent on software development is in-house development. Companies make software for their own use. This will always be the case. OS gives these companies open tools to do this work so that hey are not locked into a proprietary solution from a closed source vendor.

The economic model for existing commercial software is flawed. The development costs, while substancial, are fixed up front costs. The more units you sell, the less the development cost of each. This economic model gets us locked into single OS, single Office Suite solutions because those are the most economically efficient even though there are long-term costs accisiated with this solution: i.e. vulnerability to viruses and upgrade extortion.

OS is a different economic model. Hardware vendors build drivers and give them away. They recognize that software is a necessary cost of doing business -- not a profit center. under the OS economic model we get the source because we need it to adapt the HW to different operating systems. Once OS has a greater hold in the marketplace, HW vendors will see the advantage of OS drivers -- a larger marketplace for their products.

As a result, there is not less demand for programmers, there is at least as much.

Internet Explorer is free (1)

Belzebuth (17819) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927748) is it evil too?

It's interesting that a Microsoft pawn says that free software may put companies out of business, while Microsoft itself has tried to put Netscape out of business by making its competing product free. Now they're crying foul when somebody advocates free software.

I think by now we're all used to this hypocritical double talk from MS.

FUD, Bull, and stupidity (1)

Badgerman (19207) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927751)

Where to start . . .

First of all these articles are blatantly manipulative FUD. "Oh pity us stuff is cheap" and "you'll STARVE because of these 'other people'" seem to be the major themes. Yes, now lowered consumer prices are bad and open source is the ENEMY of all of us programmers. It's hard to imagine anyone falling for this garbage.

What was truly pathetic is the lack of knowledge about Open Source shown by the articles, especially the FLUX one. Open Source would mean more opporutnites for programmers - they'd have code to improve (and create better products), quicker bug fixes, the ability to make their own bug fixes on the job, and more customer trust. Open Source to me means more competition, not less. Most importantly, the articles miss that Open Source can make money in SUPPORT, in helping the often-forgotten customer.

I'm a programmer/analyst consultant. Open Source to me means more work not less - because I'll be able to better adapt and serve those who need me. It means I can tweak products and compare code, and ultimately be a better (and thus better paid) consultant.

All different kinds of support (2)

jslag (21657) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927752)

Tons of software is written for specific customers these days - the project I work on, for example, is a financial reporting analysis tool for a major corporation. The software is built specifically around the corporate financial structure, so it would be useless to anyone else; there's never going to be a GNU Financial Reporting package or whatever that would do the same job. But Free software would still improve this picture greatly. As it is, we do our development with bug-ridden proprietary software, and deploy the product on a bug-ridden proprietary OS. Using reliable & proven Free software products would make this sort of project better for user & developer alike, and there are thousands and thousands of these projects keeping programmers employed in the business world.

That is why the spread of Free software won't put programmers out on the street. There will always be a place for the programmer/analyst who can walk into a business situation, distill it to a logical system, and write a tool that will allow the customer to do more/faster/better. The only difference will be that programmers will have more hair, because they won't be pulling it out every time they get a random GPF and have to spend another 20 minutes rebooting their workstations.

Anti-charity rhetoric at turn of the century (1)

for(;;); (21766) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927753)

Back in the early 1900s, another time when monopolies were powerful, the ultrarich made arguments against charity, saying that it undermined the capitalist system. They believed instead in "social darwinism," where the smart and beautiful make money and live to procreate, and where the stupid and ugly died of starvation before producing young.

It's interesting that the monopolists here are using a similar argument, that the computer industry will be undermined by free software, that the only good way for software to be produced is with monetary incentives. There was even some antiAmericanism implied, by labeling free software as anti-capitalist.

But it's the same bullshit now as it was 100 years ago. They're trying to use pseudologic to assert that their monopoly is justified, that any other model is unscientific and evil.

Nice Little Line (1)

JasonCarlSmith (25698) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927756)

From the Microsoft article:

"What you're left with is a bunch of amateur coders who
need to have real jobs to make ends meet. Are these the type of people you want developing the software products your business depends on?"

Some would call this hypothetical company Microsoft.

A suit, not necessarily proud of it, but not entirely ashamed of it either.

Make a copy of my house! (1)

fwarg (27789) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927757)

From the "Flux" article:

> If intellectual property isn't property, then just what is property?
> Why not just give away cars, houses, and everything else?

Well, mr. Boling. If you would like to make a copy of my house, I won't be stopping you. And just like with free software, you only have to pay for the cost of making the copy.

This article is amusing, isn't it? :)

This guy is clueless! (2)

kokopelli (29209) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927761)

This guy is totally overlooking the fact that there are developers that *want* to develop code and then give it away. The pleasure of creating something good far outweighs that pleasure that would come from making money off of it.
Linus is the prime example . . . he has yet to make money directly from the kernel! Do any of us think he has trouble putting food on the table?

The Cost of Developing Software (1)

scruffy (29773) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927762)

Any way you look at it, developing software has costs. The free software movement doesn't seem to acknowledge this.

To get good software, someone has to put in the time and effort to develop and maintain it. If someone wants to do this for free, that's fine. However, if someone wants to do this for a living, that means selling software for money. Once the software is free, the software developer doesn't have much of an advantage over competitors for selling service, books, or whatever. In fact, the software developer has one big disadvantage, i.e., the competitors didn't incur the cost of development.

So the point of the articles, though they don't say it very well, is that free software is not a very good business model for software development. To make it work, the software developer needs to be able to sell something that no one else has. However, once the software is free, everyone has the software.

It's happened a lot throughout history (1)

Wah (30840) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927763)

And soon we'll have all the free software you can shake a PPP at. Of course we'll still have to pay for games, but hopefully they'll soon destroy the movie industry and then The BOX will rule all.

Why is it always either/or? (1)

DonkPunch (30957) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927764)

Why is this argument always framed as, "either free software or proprietary software?" Is there some natural law that prevents them from co-existing?

Let's ignore for a moment the fact that both articles misuse the word "free" as it applies to FSF (not zero-cost, simply free to modify, redistribute, etc.). I make it a point to read as much about Richard Stallman and the FSF as I can (something the authors should try). It seems to me that the GNU tools were intended to provide a free alternative to proprietary tools.

The word "alternative" is important. It's not "replacement" -- it's "alternative". That means you have the choice to use free software, proprietary software, or both.

I hate to fall into the traditional slashdot MS-bashing, but this notion that you have either 100% marketshare or nothing seems to be a peculiar part of their culture. What are they afraid of? That Free Software might knock them down from 90% to 80% or even 70%? Gasp! How many industries are there where only 70% marketshare is unacceptable? I'm sorry, it doesn't work like that in the real world.

Maybe it's not the loss of marketshare or revenue that Microsoft fears. Maybe they are afraid that customers will get tired of being treated like idiots.

Relax, Microsoft. You will put yourselves out of business before Free Software does.

FLUX Hypocracy (1)

Izaak (31329) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927765)

Dear Douglas Boling,

I find your reasoning in the article "Free Software. Is it Worth the Cost?" rather strange. If creating free software is somehow immoral because it denies paid programmers the chance to make money with their product... how can you justify Microsoft dumping Internet Explorer on the market. By your own argument, this is vastly unfair and anticompetitive to Netscape. Seems rather hypocritical to me.


rising computer prices. (1)

Restil (31903) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927769)

The computer you want will always cost a certain price, according to the law the writer referenced.
The rule still applies, but not as the reader has quoted it. The top of the line CONSUMER machine still costs the same price as it has over the years.

The reason that low cost computers are possible today is partially because most people don't NEED the bleeding edge for today's applications which seem to center around web browsing, at least for the run of the mill consumer. The only software products that really require the bleeding edge are games. When using Microsoft products, it almost makes more sense to double the memory rather than doubling the processor speed.

When you can't use the system to its full potential, then its demand will go down. Low cost PC's are in higher demand, and that is the reason they exist. Supply and demand is a very simple economic theory that the writer has apparently missed.

Delicious Irony (1)

cje (33931) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927774)

"What you're left with is a bunch of amateur coders who need to have real jobs to make ends meet. Are these the type of people you want developing the software products your business depends on?"

I wonder if Microsoft really realizes what they're saying here. It is widely recognized, even within the hallowed halls of Redmond, that Linux and the various *BSD offerings are more stable than Microsoft's "flagship" corporate operating system. Are we to take this to mean, then, that people who Microsoft refers to as "amateur coders" are able to produce systems that are more dependable than those produced by the "professionals" at One Microsoft Way? In their spare time? With "limited budgets?"

IMHO, proponents of Linux and OSS in general should be encouraging Microsoft to make arguments like this!

Proprietary 'TV' is a necessity. (1)

CaptainCaveman (34116) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927775)

Even on TV we have choices. If you don't want to watch ads, then subscribe to paid programming like HBO.

For many families the free PCs or low-cost PCs (like the eMachines) are their only hope for getting connected to the internet. For these people, I'm sure the ads are worth the price.

However, your first statement that "we do pay for TV programming" was mostly accurate. I just think it is important to emphasize that even on TV the consumer has a choice.

Putting it in terms... (1)

Foogle (35117) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927777)

No reason to get sarcastic about it - that's why we always come off as assholes to non-frequenters of /. Let's put it into terms:

1) Then OpenSource model works and (in most cases) it works well. OpenSource programmers will not starve.

2) Closed Source software models work too. And let's be honest - closed source programmers get paid more.

Sure, you can say "Well I get paid $500k a year and in my closet at home I hack away to make a better version of 'cat'." Good for you - it goes without saying that most of the time, it doesn't work that way. On the other hand, there are plenty of companies that are turning the paradigm on its head (such as the often-used example of RedHat).

Now, I don't use Windows unless I absolutely have to - let's make that very clear. Even still, I think Microsoft has a very clear right to do what they're doing (antitrust issues aside for now). If they, or anyone else, wants to sell the software that they spent their time on for a profit, then more power to them.

So what the hell am I talking about anyway? Don't berate others for trying to make money off their software. I mean: Can't we all just get along?

Proprietary software is a necessity. (1)

Foogle (35117) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927778)

I'd tend to agree with you there. I think it's safe to say that the market would be different without the existence of free software, but my point was that without proprietary software and expensive hardware - there would be no market. Simply put, it's these profit-oriented models that created the market for technology. If it had been cheap and free the entire time, people like Apple and Microsoft would've been driven out of business a long time ago.

The author (who's name I've already forgotten) made a valid point inside his FUD-boggled article. If all we had was opensource software and sub $500 PCs then the market for personal computer technology would quickly disappear.

Proprietary 'TV' is a necessity. (1)

Foogle (35117) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927779)

That's not true - we do pay for our TV programming, just not with money. The amount of advertisements that the average person is subjected to in just an hour of primetime television is staggering. It's already a part of the Internet, do you want ads in your word processor and your filemanagers?

Now there are companies that are doing exactly that - giving out PCs to people for free and piping Ads to their screen over the internet. Yeah, that sounds like fun. C'mon, the TV industry is a crappy model. I hate Ads. Everyone hates Ads. If that's how you want your PCs to become "ubiquitous" then I'll stick to my typewriter, thanks.

Maybe I just don't get it? (1)

kshep (35214) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927781)

Ok I can see every one here is for OS. Maybe I just don't get it, so maybe some of you can show me the light. A lot of you seem to be saying that you do OS for recognition so that some company can see your work and hire you for your skills. Well what if you don't want to work for some company. What if you want to start a company and earn money from your software and work for your self? I guess what I am asking is. Is it possible to make money with an OS product? I feel that if I am going to put a lot of work into a product that a lot of people are going to use I should be able to make money off of it. I like the idea of releasing the source so others can learn, but I can't just say well here is my product, everyone can have it for free. It just seems to me like it is not possible for someone to support themselves by programming with the OS model.
Maybe there is something that I am just totally missing about OS and I am sure that someone will set me straight. But then again. That is exactally why I am writing this message. I want to know. I am curious.


I admit it, I don't get it (1)

heech (36526) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927783)

I see almost all of you are incredibly passionate about Open Source, and have spoken at lengths about its advantages. But I haven't seen anyone actually address the concerns expressed in the article as far as the "starving software engineer" affect.

I've seen people claim Open Source will still conquer all, and its explosion has allowed us, as users, to experiment and create all kinds of neat toys.... Great... One question. If a development effort like Linux was all that existed in the world, do you think the Internet explosion (and there-fore, half of the people involved in this discussion who might not have been) would've occured? This might be blasphmy, but don't you think there's a strong correlation between the appearence of an OS (Win95, MacOS...whatever) that approached the ideal information appliance and the explosive growth in Internet popularity? Linux might be powerful, wonderful to use... but it is *not* mom-friendly. It is *not* friendly for the millions of AOL users who just want to click on "Check Mail..."

You might have also noticed that Linus is working for profit at Transmedia. What if they went Open Source and worked for no commercial profit as well? Would Linus still be able to approach Linux as a commercial-effort?

Some of you mentioned how Linux has broadened your educational experience at school. Without the millions of corporate donations, don't you realize that computer science departments across the country would start to resemble the other "non-profit" fields... like history, english... with their broken-down desks, poor infrastructure, and little capital investment? I got my CS degree from Berkeley and am now in graduate school at MIT, and I know both schools have been strongly affected by corporate donations that would disappear if the profit motive was truly removed.

All of you CS graduate students out there.. don't you realize that you would be grant-less without the industry connection?

I'd appreciate the solution to this question that some of you appear to hold. If anything, this is my only concern about my support for, and the growth of, Open Source. If the commercial software industry really is decimated through popular support for OS, what kind of people (age, job...) would still be able to persist in open-source development?

Programmers (1)

heech (36526) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927784)

I don't think this is a desirable way of approaching the situation.

Do you really think users want to take their computer software to the shop, much like their cars? Can you imagine the mark-up that would have to exist to allow the software industry to support the huge development effort?

He Just Doesn't Get It (and bountyware) (1)

heech (36526) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927785)

Uhm, I personally wouldn't hang my billion-dollar development project for the next telephone switch, relational DBMS, or IA-64 operating system on the whims and capabilities of people I have no control over, no knowledge of, and no direct interaction with.

Until formal specification and code verification becomes a practicality... I don't think so. The software engineering process is as important as the supposed final result, and I'd have a hard time integrating a component someone else wrote until I went through every-line with a microscope.

what an idiot (1)

heech (36526) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927786)

Your right, free software predates the stuff sitting on store shelves.

But, it was the stuff on store shelves that BROUGHT us the billions of potential consumers across the globe. The free stuff has been around for decades. Web-browsers are not exactly exciting technology, and neither is HTML. Why the sudden explosion? Because software became USABLE through these commercial products. Because open-source developers have less interest in making their product "sell-able" to the open-market, in packaging and testing and verifying and doing market research to figure out what consumers want...

D-I-Y (1)

eey0re (38009) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927788)

Its 1999, Software programming is not confined to the best math/scientists/brainstormers anymore in suits and on $$$$ salaries.

The software tools/API/kits are just as much common as a hammer and nail.

People do more DIY than ever before, will it be illegal to decorate your first borns' nursery?
Therefore FREE software will never die, there will always be somebody out there who wants to DIY.
First there was the shelf, then the room
now its the "hello world", the handy app, to the spreadsheet.
With the ease of programming with JAVA and the quality of good programming texts out there, somebody at Microsoft MUST have the COMMON SENSE to realize that this is evolution and the power of knowledge.
If Microsoft want to stop this then they will have to burn all the books in the land....
Free software is becoming as (more) powerful and useful than commercial s/w.
Free software is written by folks who CARE about what they do, its a passion. you know!
Valueless, the real value is that these people produce quality code and functionality that Microsoft cannot even hope to suppass..........

Lawyers can't own IP and they make $250/hour (2)

justin_squinky (38349) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927789)

I think that all this free software makes programmers much more productive workers. Just like factory workers make more than manual laborers because they use machines, programmers who have access to big open source toys make more because they create more value for each hour worked so companies think it's ok to pay them a lot. Similarily lawyers are just integrators of previous open source legal arguments that can't be copyrighted and they make tons of money. Sure you can make $300,000 a year doing Oracle Consulting but that's because Oracle makes database programmers extremely productive. With open source though you can make $200,000 a year as a perl consultant using purely open source products and this will go up as the tools approach commercial quality.

Starve? Never! (1)

agbert (97698) | more than 15 years ago | (#1927792)

Given that Bob Kane's editorial is mainly focused on the hardware side of the business. Which BTW rings true with me. How are they going to pay for the next fab? Selling their own stock? HA! Nonetheless the subjects of OS and paying for next years fab have nothing in common. OS is not for just one hardware platform. Intel and PC's could rot and OS would still be here to stay.

The drivel of Douglas Boling's M$ slanted editorial and briefly mentioned comments in Mr. Kane's editorial. This pile of stinky crap smells much like a scare tactic to keep the young, impressionable, OS programmers of tomorrow from contributing to the OS systems to come. These editorials would have us believe that those who contribute now or in the future can not put food on the table. HA! Many of the OS contributors I know, have known, and hope to know have carriers that already put plenty of food on the table. All of their spare time is put into making OS what it was, is today, and what we all hope it will be in the future.

Don't let Big Brother make you think you can't put food on the table! Keep putting your best foot forward for the future of Free Universal OS!


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