Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Eric S. Raymond Answers

Roblimo posted about 15 years ago | from the he-be-da-man dept.

News 413

This week's interview guest with Eric S. Raymond. We got a *lot* of good questions, forwarded the moderators' favorites to Eric, and he not only answered the ones we sent him but - extra cool - picked some more out of the crowd and answered them, too. Read the complete session (below) and if you have something you want to add, go ahead. If Eric has time, he'll jump in and respond, because, well, he's just that kind of guy. ;) Note: questions marked with * are the ones Eric added to the moderators' selections.

chromatic asks:
Astute readers know why you've reluctantly taken a position as a Linux evangelist, open source sociologist, and prime target. Taking the opposite approach, is there anything which would convince you to step down, that your posts were no longer necessary?

This is not meant to be inflammatory ... it's just a roundabout way of asking how far along your goals are, and what your plans will be if you ever meet them.

ESR answers:
Three things could cause me to step down:

  • One: someone emerging to do the public-advocate job clearly better than I do.
  • Two: Linux's market share going over 50%. (Cool down, BSD guys -- I'd be equally pleased to see some other open-source Unix win, it just doesn't seen very likely at this point).
  • Three: a collapse in Microsoft's stock price. That would mean the end of effective FUD and countermarketing against open source.

ivo asks:
A while ago, we read from you that being the Open Source advocate you are was wearing you down and influencing your life very badly. Did you cut down on advocating and did it help? In other words, did you get your life back?

ESR answers:
Not really. Something more remarkable happened instead; the community responded to my distress call by growing up a little. I got letters of apology from some of the worst flamers. Many people in the rest of the community started pressuring the pinheads who had been making my job harder to shut up or get constructive.

I have also cut down somewhat on my travel schedule, but not as much as I thought earlier this year I would have to. I'm also demanding (and getting) better travel conditions -- business class instead of the cheap seats in coach. It makes a difference, more of one than I would have thought.

Stephen Williams asks*:
I'm glad to see that, after a three-year break, the Jargon File has been updated over the past few months. Is version 5.0.0 in the works? Are there any plans to release an update to the print version, The New Hacker's Dictionary, any time soon?

ESR answers:
I've discussed the possibility with people at O'Reilly. That might be my second-to-next book, after "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" and before "The Art Of Unix Programming" (which is about half-done now but could take me another nine months to finish). Whether I go with O'Reilly or the publisher of the previous editions (MIT Press) the fourth edition of TNHD seems likely to come out next year sometime.

Tom Christiansen asks:
I don't know how to ask this question without it sounding like stirring the pot, but what about the growing chasm between free software (giftware) and GNU software (the viral kind, not the nice LGPL kind)? This is a real issue for some people in some situations. Think about the many BSD resellers and vendors who have custom packaging in highly competitive fields, like video editing? Doesn't the friction hurt everyone? Apple has turned to BSD not Linux, and the GPL is cited as one reason why. This seems to be devisive. There are no end of flamewars on /. and elsewhere, and the heat diminishes the light. What kind of reconciliation is possible? Or is "take no prisoners" just the way it has to work?

ESR answers:
I don't see a chasm there, Tom. After all, we're all still writing and exchanging code. We're all using basically the same set of licenses. I don't think there are properly two different movements at all, outside the imaginations of a few rather fanatical partisans on both sides.

Here is the reality test: if you're running a project and someone sends you a patch, will you stop to enquire whether that person is a member of the correct faction before you apply it? I don't think so...

So despite the verbal fireworks and philosophical disputes, we're all hackers together. What unites us is more important than what divides us.

Tet asks:
You say you want to live in a world where software doesn't suck. I couldn't agree more. However, do you see closed source software on an open source OS as a step in the right direction, or just likely to be a more stable platform on which to run your potentially bug-ridden software?

ESR answers:
Step in the right direction, definitely. As more and more infrastructure goes open, and the remaimning closed-source applications increasingly use it for leverage, the overall quality of the applications will go up.

planet_hoth*:
Recent interest shown by large commercial tech companies (IBM, SGI, Sun) seems to signal a new chapter in the history of Linux. Do you see the participation of these companies strengthening the linux communitity? Destroying it? Or transforming it into something completely different?

ESR answers:
Look around you. What do you see, compared to a year ago?

Do you see fewer Linux hackers writing open source, or more? Do you see fewer hackers getting *paid* to write open source, or more? I think the answer is pretty clear.

Do you see our designs, or our licenses, or our coding practices being changed in any significant way by corporate participation? Again, I think the answer is pretty clear.

The truth is, they're not transforming us. We're transforming them.

asad asks*:
I know that you are on the board of directors at VA Linux, what does your job entail?

ESR answers:
My job at VA mostly involves sitting in a board meeting once a month asking searching questions about what the firm is doing and why. My role there (as Larry Augustin describes it) is to be the official corporate conscience. This mainly involves nipping bad ideas in the bud, before they flower into something that would piss off the hacker community. I have not had to do this often.

shawnhargreaves asks:
You've always been involved in hacker projects outside of just coding (eg. the Jargon File), but over the last year or so the spokesperson role seems to have grown into a fulltime job. How long is it since you last sat down to write a major piece of software? Do you expect to go back to fulltime development work anytime soon, and if so, what would you work on? How do you manage to cope with the withdrawal symptoms?

ESR answers:
An astute question ;-). I haven't sat down to write a major piece of software from scratch in months, but I am continuing to maintain fetchmail. I just took over the gif2png beta code with Greg Roelofs's consent; the 1.0.0 version might be out by the time you read this. Today I did some work on gnuplot, bringing the PNG driver up to date.

If I get to go full-time again soon, I want to go back to work on Trove, the distributed web-based code-archiving system I designed last year. I'd also like to work with Guido van Rossum on Python 1.6; there are some long-time wishlist features like rich comparisons and a full lambda facility that I care enough about to implement myself. I also have a strategy-gaming system I wrote back in the 1980s that I'd like to put a modern (Web-based) interface on. Finally, having contributed a bit of code to GNOME (the network-monitor applet) I'd like to balance things by doing something for KDE.

meersan asks:
This has probably been asked before, but I can't recall seeing the answer to it anywhere. What originally led you to write The Cathedral and the Bazaar? -- what I'm interested in is if there was some event or impetus that prompted you to write it down. Obviously you'd have no way of predicting the firestorm that followed, but it's always intriguing to know about the spark that started it all

ESR answers:
I wrote CatB as a way of coping with my astonishment in the face of the Linux phenomenon. What I observed was that the community around Linux had evolved a way to write software that (a) was tremendously effective, (b) violated the classic Brooks's Law rules, and (c) was completely unconscious! Nobody reflected on what they were doing; it was practice without theory. I wrote CatB as an attempt to help my tribe become more conscious about what it has been doing.

Q*bert asks:
We all know that you are a staunch advocate of libertarianism. Do you see the open-source / free-software movement turning into a larger political push for libertarian, minimal government?

What conferences are you planning to attend this year? Do you have plans for organizing Geeks with Guns outings during them? If so, is there a mailing list or some other source of information about how to join?

ESR answers:
No comment on that first question. But, if you could see my face, I'm wearing a very evil grin....

See my speaking calendar for the conferences I plan to attend. As for GWG, there's no mailing list; would you like to host one? I rely on local organizers to find a range, and I don't have one for Atlanta Linux Showcase yet.

banky asks:
Linux, like all things in the computer world, will eventually become obsolete or maybe just too much work to keep "up to date". Linus (er, Dr. Torvalds) even said in his "Open Sources" essay that (paraphrasing) someone else could come along and write something better which will take Linux's place. How long do you think before someone will have an offering that will obsolete (or at least prove a competitor to) Linux and the BSD's?

ESR answers:
I doubt Linux will have a real technical competitor for a long time, because I think it will probably just absorb new architectural ideas, amoeba-like, as they evolve. Twenty years from now the core APIs may have grown and changed tremendously, but we'll still think of it as the `same' codebase and call it Linux :-).

scumdamn asks:
Is the friction between Gnome and KDE, BSD and GPL, Free Software and Open Source, and the other sources of flame war a bad thing or a good thing for the movement? Many people seem to feel that the competition is devisive, but isn't it the opposite? We're always preaching that competition is a good thing for the entire market, but then we complain when any of our pet projects are pitted head to head with another. The passion felt by the proponents of each philosophy seems to result in better, more quality work. Isn't this proof that competition is the Good Thing we've been saying it is all along?

ESR answers:
I think you answered your own question :-).

cemerson asks:
Which of the coders working on open source projects do you admire the most? A particular big name like Linus, or someone less well-known?

ESR answers:
Hmmm. I don't think there's anyone I can say I admire the most. There's a level of ability beyond which trying to make comparisons between people just gets silly, because each of the people that good has become a sort of perfect master of his own domain. Linus. RMS. Larry Wall. Guido van Rossum. James Gosling. Going further back, Ken Thompson or Dennis Ritchie. Anyway, I find these guys have gotten their fill of being admired, so I try to be friends with them instead.

K asks:
Why isn't there an entry for "free software" in the Jargon Dictionary? Was this a politically-motivated decision?

ESR answers:
Zounds! You know, until this moment, I didn't realize that entry was missing.

I don't think you want me to write it, though. I would find it hard to avoid using phrases like "rhetorical millstone around our necks" and "held us back for fifteen years". Care to submit one yourself?

Paul Crowley asks:
In Understand my job, please! you described Bruce Perens's proposal that we have a team of Linux advocates sharing the load as "glib". Could you say more about why you feel this way - isn't it more likely that a job where the load is shared would be more attractive?

ESR answers:
I think I answered that question in the same paragraph you quoted. What makes the job rough isn't the workload, it's the second-guessers and snipers from the sidelines -- among whom Bruce was, at the time, nearly the worst. Connect the dots yourself.

jflynn asks:
Starting an open source project from nothing but people with a common interest is difficult. It's been my experience that it is very easy to founder with a bazaar approach to architecture and design. The issues tend to get confused with religious wars about toolkits and license choice, and just a lot of differing opinions about how to best structure a program, no one of which may be *obviously* better.

Is it essential for individuals to first create a working model, incomplete and buggy it may be, before applying bazaar development? Or what would you suggest in terms of managing a bazaar approach to creating programs from a bare idea?

ESR answers:
I wouldn't. I think you're right; the successful projects have a core of individual vision around which the bazaar community nucleates.

elutfall asks*:
Since, as we all know, cheese is the most powerful substance in the universe, I was wondering what your favorite source of ultimate power is?

ESR answers:
That would have to be sex, because I'm allergic to cheese.

--

Next week: Bruce Sterling.

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Re:Another question- oops (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1644697)

I meant ESR. of course I'd be interested to hear RMS's answer too. sorry...

Re:First Post! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1644698)

You've come a long way baby,
To get where you've got to today.
You've got your own comic strip, now baby,
You've come a long, long way.

(if you don't know the melody to the Virginia Slims TV commercial, you're just too young a brat to remember it)

Re:Another question- (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1644699)

Interesting question. On the other hand, why are you not paying fees to the patent holder? If a patent exists. If a patent does not exist, you patent it. Get people to pay you. This is America, stand up for your right to put it to the other guy!

Re:In the Year 2020 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1644700)

In short, the goal is, say it with me kids, "Total World Domination".

I bet that a part of Linus wishes he'd never joked around with that phrase. It sounds so, well, banal and piggish. Completely out of character for Linus.

Re:OH MY GOD!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1644701)

What the hell is this? Some people....

Slow Pitch Softball (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1644702)

It is a shame that a few tougher questions were not asked. I'm glad that he took time to answer a few questions from /. readers, but the end result was too much like the Chris Farley talk show skit of SNL. "Hey ESR, do you rember when you wrote The Cathedral and the Bazaar? That was cool."

Re:"Sniping from the sidelines" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1644703)

GREAT essay! Please, take it out and put it in a website. This is as good as the ones from people such as RMS, ESR, and Bruce.

ESR opinion of the BeOS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1644704)

I'd be curious to hear what Eric thinks about the BeOS. I know its not Open Source, and its not UNIX, (although it does have enough posix stuff so that it feels a bit like UNIX), but it is a nifty little OS.

Re:Selling binaries with GPL pieces (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1644705)

I'm a big proponent of OSS (or whatever you want to call it.) I've always shared my code. my tools. Whatever people wanted/needed.

But I'm confused here.
Let us suppose that I want to build a stereo system (mp3 player, for instance), in a black-box, to fit on a stereo stack. I want to sell these. Now, I decide to use linux as a the 'embedded' system. The outside user is given no access to the OS itself directly, and cannot modify it in any way. I have not really modified the original source, all I have done is compiled it with the appropriate kernel options to support my hardware, set it to boot from flash, and added my own software. Let's say I use other OSS mp3 players and such to construct it.
Do I have to provide source to everyone who I sell this to? I mean, I'm not really distributing software. It's not something they pay a premium for, it's a part of the whole. They can't touch it, see it, or modify it. I haven't actually changed any OSS code, aside from configuring and compiling a kernel.

Now, my question is, do I have to provide (or otherwise direct people towards) the sources for the linux kernel, and other tools that i've used simply because my product contains their executables? Do I actually have to state that my hardware device uses linux inside?

IMHO, the GPL was intended to keep people from taking others hard work and making it proprietary, and not contributing back to the software world. Using GPL'd code as an embedded system is a bit different, no?
Is it that the GPL only covers software when referring to 'the work as a whole?'

Thanx Eric! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1644706)

Eric, Thank you for speaking out and supporting mankind's right of self defense (against evil governments and individuals as well). I would be happy to host a "Geeks with Guns" in Cincinnati. Barry

Re:ESR/Perens war to continue? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1644793)

Dicksize wars never end. Especially on the 'net.

We just have to deal with it is all.

Re:In the Year 2020 (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1644794)

The problem is that everyone forgets the "Oh, and scantily clad women" part. :)

It sounds much better that way. :) :)

Re:Needless Hostility (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1644795)

Bruce, don't you remember that it went much further than 'just' criticizing ESR's opinions? I seem to recall your angry paranoid rant about how ESR was 'coming to get you' with a gun here on /. and how you used his pro-NRA beliefs to revile him. It was no mere 'professional' argument that got you and ESR to the point of not speaking, this is a personal thing between you and him.

Another question- (2)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1644805)

RMS, what do you think of software patents, and how do you think the Open source community will deal with things if a day of reckoning comes? As the owner of a small software company (and chief coder) I can tell you that we are constantly afraid of being sued for using Xor to draw a cursor or something similar. We don't really have a contingancy plan except to beg for VC. what do you think the open source community would do?

Nethack (3)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1644808)

Eric, what's the story on the future of Nethack? A lot of us old-timers are left breathlessly waiting for sequel or "updated" release. Bill Tanksley (sp?) took up the task of reviving Omega. Any chance for Nethack?

Separation of Chruch and State (5)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1644809)

Eric, this is more of a comment than an additional question.

We're all very well aware of your pro-libratinarian (sp?) and pro-gun opinions; I even share some of them.

It is, however, vitally important that you separate these activities from your Open Source activities. You must keep the Church and the State separate.

Imagine if a deeply religeous President started trying to make his beliefs law, or if he started to use Presidental privlidge as a formum to preach his beliefs.

It's OK to have strong, personal beliefs. It's OK to voice these beliefs. It's not OK when you use State position (in this case, your position as the Open Source spokesmodel) to advance your personal cause.

It is my opionion that you mix the two far too often. Please do more to keep them separate.

The Famous Hero

In the Year 2020 (2)

andrew (229) | about 15 years ago | (#1644812)

Twenty years from now the core APIs may have grown and changed tremendously, but we'll still think of it as the `same' codebase and call it Linux :-).

For some reason, this statement disturbs me greatly. Sure, it's a nice idea to have the same relative base that's matured and been expanded, but I kinda like to think we'll have something more, well, exciting by then.

Of course, I'm still miffed that flying cars aren't in everyone's aero-garages yet.

-Andrew

Who "wins"? (2)

drwiii (434) | about 15 years ago | (#1644815)

Three things could cause me to step down:
(...)
Two: Linux's market share going over 50%. (Cool down, BSD guys -- I'd be equally pleased to see some other open-source Unix win, it just doesn't seen very likely at this point).
Three: a collapse in Microsoft's stock price. That would mean the end of effective FUD and countermarketing against open source.

I'm a bit confused by those last two reasons.. When you say you'd be equally pleased to see some other open-source Unix "win", does that mean that they are somehow in competition with each other? I've found that using the right tool for the job often works best. Linux for workstations, BSD for servers. If we were to use market share as an indicator of who "wins", I'd say Microsoft would win.

Next, I'm not sure how you interpret the destruction of Microsoft as being the end of FUD against openly-coded programs and operating systems. Microsoft serves a very important purpose for openly-coded operating systems and programs right now. Their "just good enough to push out the door" coding style is starting to piss off even their most rigid supporters, and the more people that Microsoft helps us to convert to open systems in that manner, the better. Remember, Microsoft is not a software company, it is a marketing company.

If Microsoft tanks, look for Sun to start spreading FUD against open systems. Why? Because they stand to profit from doing so.

--

Yes. We need open policy as well as open source. (2)

Paul Crowley (837) | about 15 years ago | (#1644826)

Our debates have to happen in the open. We have to criticise the viewpoints put forward by the people who represent us to other cultures.

If what Bruce does is "sniping from the sidelines" I'd like to know what the hell valid criticism from another participant looks like.
--

Talk to Sun, Ray (0)

Shaman (1148) | about 15 years ago | (#1644827)

Please. Solaris could make the open source movement jump up 10 notches overnight if it was used to its potential.

Most hackers will cooperate (2)

Per Abrahamsen (1397) | about 15 years ago | (#1644828)

ESR didn't answer the question, because he didn't accept the assumptions on which the question was founded: The existence of a growing chasm between followers of BSD and GPL. He, correctly, pointed out that it really only is small number of fanatics on both sides who refuse to cooperate.

Your point is somewhat different than Toms, about the practical (rather than cultural and political) problems of reusing software between the licenses. This is a real problem. My advice is: Ask the owner (if he can be identified) for an exception to the license, that allows you to incooperate his work in your project. You will find that most people are willing to cooperate.

Re:Needless Hostility (2)

Drey (1420) | about 15 years ago | (#1644829)

This is a real dilemma. Is it more sad that:
1. I find myself wanting 'killfiles' for /.?
2. I would ever want to killfile ESR and Bruce Perens?

It is this sort of public clashing among well-known advocates of Open Source/Free Software/Name Of The Week that enemies of such movements gleefully point fingers to prove the movement is doomed/falling apart/not business worthy.

Wow.. I'm actually inspired.. (1)

Thomas Charron (1485) | about 15 years ago | (#1644830)

So despite the verbal fireworks and philosophical disputes, we're all hackers together. What unites us is more important than what divides us.

That is one of the most inspiring thing I can honestly say I've ever heard ESR say. Not saying he's never said anything good, but this sticks out in my mind..

Re:In the Year 2020 (1)

Thomas Charron (1485) | about 15 years ago | (#1644831)

Well, it doesn't mean that Linux won't change drastically, and BE more exciting.. ;-P

Linux for the Toaster, anyone? ;-P

Re:A technical competitor to Linux (1)

Thomas Charron (1485) | about 15 years ago | (#1644832)

As an avid Linux user for years, you're right, but they don't really 'compete'. BSD has borrowed from Linux, and vs. versa.. I'm not sure 'complement eachother' is the right word, but I don;t think it's a competition..

Re:Separation of Chruch and State (2)

flea (1941) | about 15 years ago | (#1644835)

I must disagree here. I have looked at the Libertarian party, and have been able to summ it's philosophies up in a simple statement: "Do not interfere with my right to do what I want unless I am interfering with the rights of others to do as they see fit." So if I want to stand on my head in my front yard, I can, but if I stand on my head in the middle of the street, I'm arrested.

The OS/FSF/etc. movement is completely compatible with this. "Don't restrict my right to be private! (encription laws).", "I will not be forced to use a piece of software just because everyone else is (including the government)". I can re-distribute this code, with my modifications, so long as I give credit for the work that others have put into it, and I don't try to close-source the work of others.

If ESR were trying to associate the OSS movement with a party that focuses on Abortion rights, fear of THEM(tm), or other ways of reducing individual rights, then I might agree with you. Libertarians would make sure that the GNU software licence is always legal, that everyone can use encryption on anything they want, that the gov't can't sieze computer equipment and store it for years on a mere allegation.

You might as well get upset when an OSS evagelist talks about Science in the same breath as Linux.

Eric Raymond offensive? (2)

jelwell (2152) | about 15 years ago | (#1644839)

Is anyone else offended by his last comment about power? I've been reading slashdot for a couple of years now and can't remember the last time I was so offended. I can see why people snipe and second-guess the man. Apparently he can't keep his personal opinions and views outside of the Linux Community and it is interfering with the evangelism.
It would be nice to have an evangelist who can keep his penis out of the evangelism of linux.

I'll probably get moderated down for this comment. I'm not trying to be flamebait - rather I think Eric Raymond is flamebaiting and I think (Moderators in paticular who want to moderate me down) that it is important that people be able to relate to being disgusted by this comment as I would like to be able to look back and realize I'm not alone - others are disgusted by his comment too.

Maybe if people are allowed to reply to this comment and express their views (rather than having it moderated out of the discussion) Eric will realize the mistake that he's made.

I realize of course that I will probably recieve just as much flame as Eric for discussing this. So I have to say that I can respect Eric as an evangelist but not as a person. I would hope that he could keep his personal life out of his work.
Joseph Elwell.

Leader or Follower? (3)

jelwell (2152) | about 15 years ago | (#1644840)

"What makes the job rough isn't the workload, it's the second-guessers and snipers from the sidelines --among whom Bruce was, at the time, nearly the worst. Connect the dots yourself."

First off, neither the Linux movement, nor the evangelism of it, is lead by Eric Raymond. Why should he not be subject to second guessing? Isn't Linus subject to second guessing by Alan Cox and other kernel developers? Should the evangelism of Linux be similar to the Development?

Secondly snipers are bad. kill them.
Joseph Elwell.

Re:In the Year 2020 (3)

mfterman (2719) | about 15 years ago | (#1644842)

Something to bear in mind is that there is a lot more to a typical Linux system than the kernel. Hence RMS's insistance that it be called GNU/Linux because of all the GNU tools involved. And there's the GNOME/KDE wars which occur on a level above the kernel.

Twenty years from now the kernel itself will have changed and expanded somewhat, most likely. But I feel most of the real excitement to most people will be in the layers above the kernel.

VR user interfaces, voice recognition with natural language processing, these sorts of things are a level above the kernel and will be where a lot of the excitement comes in. Most users never really 'see' the kernel when you think about it.

Kernels to some extent are supposed to be boring. Stability and reliability and predictability are traits that you'd like in a kernel, rather than the edgy excitement of never knowing when you're going to get a BSOD.

As for Linux, I see long term things like greater modularity, more network transparency, improved resource management, security and so forth. Not exactly cutting edge stuff, but the foundations on which all applications depend on.

Not that these things won't be exciting, but a lot of it will be in an understated or hidden way. The fact that you won't have memory leaks or you'll have a hundred processors on a dozen machines working together seamlessly with no fear of someone cracking your system isn't exactly glamorous, but will be important.

And the creation of physics-perfect (or deliberately twisted) virtual realities and getting your computer to understand what you speak will be the exciting processes that run on top of a rock solid kernel. Not to mention all the fun applications and games you'll have.

Re:Couldn't have said it better myself... (1)

CWCarlson (2884) | about 15 years ago | (#1644845)

I disagree about your target. I'd like to think that enemy against which we are united is Bad Software.

If Microsoft were to crumble and another corporation took its place, you'd have to retrain your sights. Why not look farther ahead than that one enemy?

Re:ZZZZZ (1)

Doug Loss (3517) | about 15 years ago | (#1644850)

What do you think _should_ be here? You've just ruled out some important stuff in geekspace.

Doug Loss

Re:In the Year 2020 (1)

ESR (3702) | about 15 years ago | (#1644852)

This reminds me of the old chestnut about how we don't know what the features of the most commonly-used programming language of 2020 will be, but we do know that it will be called FORTRAN.

I was thinking of this when I wrote my reply.

Re:Needless Hostility (3)

ESR (3702) | about 15 years ago | (#1644861)

You attacked me viciously, personally, and in public.

That's not constructive criticism. Constructive criticism would have been avoiding a flamewar -- coming to OSI and Apple privately with your concerns.

That's what I can't forgive -- and won't.

Re:Microsoft vanishes (3)

ESR (3702) | about 15 years ago | (#1644862)

I think the collapse of Microsoft will slow down our momentum hardly at all. Because I don't think the open-source movement is fundamentally about being against Microsoft -- it's about being for better programs.

Re:ESR/Perens war to continue? (2)

Bruce Perens (3872) | about 15 years ago | (#1644865)

Well, at LinuxWorld, I offered to participate in a Niven-style duel* to satisfy the demands of honor, knowing full well that Eric knows how to aim and I don't. He didn't go for it. I think he understands that it's necessary for him to accept criticism now, but he's not ready to forgive me for offering that criticism. Waiting is.

* Niven-style duel: Champagne corks ejected from the bottles at 10 feet, eye-protection required.

Re:Needless Hostility (2)

Bruce Perens (3872) | about 15 years ago | (#1644866)

OK, but please remember that I was the one being threatened. I think in that case there was unprofessional behavior on both sides.

Thanks

Bruce

Re:ESR/Perens war to continue? (3)

Bruce Perens (3872) | about 15 years ago | (#1644870)

I have made a number of overtures to end the dispute, and have so far been rebuffed.

Bruce

Re:Needless Hostility (3)

Bruce Perens (3872) | about 15 years ago | (#1644871)

You linked to my criticism, now please go back and read it and tell me what was vicious.

I criticised Apple's license and IBM's in public. Both responded positively. I think the public debate was essential in eliciting that response.

Certainly your criticism of RMS has been as bad as anything I've ever directed your way.

You dish it out, you've got to take it too.

Thanks

Bruce

Needless Hostility (4)

Bruce Perens (3872) | about 15 years ago | (#1644874)

Eric's still upset about my criticism of the Apple license. I'm glad that Apple wasn't as upset - they incorporated all of my suggestions into the next version of their license. It's interesting that Eric's job for VA is to question them and to stop bad ideas before they go too far, but he won't accept someone doing the same thing for him. Public argument and criticism are the ways our community finds its direction. They should be encouraged, not resented.

Thanks

Bruce Perens

Re:In the Year 2020 (1)

giskard (4644) | about 15 years ago | (#1644880)

who is to say that Linux wont be in your aerocar in 10 years time?

Re:...united... (1)

grahamkg (5290) | about 15 years ago | (#1644883)

Actually I like to think we're "united" to making computing - and thus ourselves - better.

Yes, Microsoft is a target for the Linux community, just as IBM was a target to the Macintosh community 15 years ago. Targets are secondary, improvement is primary.

Linux and the GNU toolset make my life better. At work I can use these to crunch lots and lots of numbers quickly, and I do. For instance, it's a beautiful thing to use a simple awk program to preprocess a bunch of data that will then be thoroughly masticated with c when it's the right thing to do. At home it's just nice to spend time using the computer rather than maintaining it [maintenance effort 20 hrs/mo. for Windows vs. 3 hrs/mo. for Linux].

Yes, I'll fight against an enemy when necessary, but I've got better things to do with my life than to spend it fighting {fill in enemy of the moment}.

Graham

Re:Leader or Follower? (1)

broonie (5807) | about 15 years ago | (#1644889)

Indeed. Most of the (public - I've no idea what turns up in his inbox, but I imagine it's worse) criticism of ESR is of the form "how dare you say that I believe that". Like someone said earlier on talking about "Church and state", Eric often expresses his views as being the views of everyone and sometimes seems to be advocating as much to other people in the community as to people outside it. This rubs those who disagree with him up the wrong way, and with reason.

On the other hand, he can't really go around adding riders to everything he says and covering all viewpoints - it would create confusion and make him completely ineffective. A few mentions or weasel words and more consultation would go some way, but ultimately it's unavoidable and people are going to have to accept that if there is someone like Eric, they may end up not telling the whole story the whole time. Everyone (not just Eric) needs to learn that there are other viewpoints and that there are some issues which come down to individual choice.

One thing that would help a lot would be a less abrasive response from Eric to disagreements. Often, what happens (again, in public) is that any disagreement is met with a "you don't understand, you're wrong, I'm right, I'm in charge, get out of my way" style response. Perhaps understandable given the attitude he sometimes seems to get, but hardly likely to solve anything. Yes, other people do it to - but generally Eric is the one with the highest profile.

Please... (3)

John Fulmer (5840) | about 15 years ago | (#1644890)

Two REALLY big differences...

1) Linux has never clamed someone else's works as 'innovative' and then actively tries to drive the origional company out of business.

2) Linux is about making software available to EVERYONE free of charge. Yes, RedHat, Caldera, and others are trying to make money from it, but you can still download everything free of charge.

World Domination (TM) by Linux is good, because it's not domination by a single company, but rather freedom from a single company who dictates how my computer works.

Execuse the rant...


jf

A technical competitor to Linux (3)

mischief (6270) | about 15 years ago | (#1644891)

I doubt Linux will have a real technical competitor for a long time

This might be overly picky, but I would say Linux already has a technical competitor - BSD based Unices.

--

Re:ESR/Perens war to continue? (1)

locust (6639) | about 15 years ago | (#1644893)

I think he understands that it's necessary for him to accept criticism now, but he's not ready to forgive me for offering that criticism. Waiting is.

This is probably not my place, but:

Bruce, don't act like a child. You have a grievence with ESR. This is not the time or the place to describe your own righteousness. If you feel you have been wronged, then telling ESR that he's not ready to forgive won't make it happen any sooner.
locust

ESR/Perens war to continue? (5)

JoeBuck (7947) | about 15 years ago | (#1644895)

Eric, when will you start acknowledging Bruce Perens' considerable ongoing contributions to the cause? Your continued sniping at him only makes you look bad.

We all need second-guessers, because none of us is perfect. Bruce's second-guessing of you resulted in a better license from Apple (you would have let them get away with too much, not because you're a bad guy but simply because you made a mistake).

As far as I'm concerned, you and Bruce have pretty much the same job: companies are contacting both of you for advice on software licensing; journalists are contacting both of you to get an understanding of the movement, both of you are advocates for open source, etc. You each have your strengths and weaknesses. This isn't Highlander; it is not true that "there can be only one".

The Enemy of BeOS (2)

daviddennis (10926) | about 15 years ago | (#1644905)

I think many Linux/Unix users (including myself) wish BeOS well - in fact, I own and use a copy of BeOS at home.

I don't think Red Hat Chairman Robert Young is sitting at his desk trying to combat BeOS. Microsoft, on the other hand, has listed BeOS as a competitor in its antitrust case filing.

Jean-Louis Gassee insists, in his gallic sort of way, that BeOS is more a compliment to Windows than its enemy. BeOS, after all, coexists quite nicely with Windows. At the same time, I would guess that 90% or more of machines running BeOS have a Windows license. That doesn't make BeOS look like a Windows competitor, does it?

I would have to conclude that, in reality, BeOS has no natural enemies other than a lack of consumer desire to try alternative operating systems.

Unfortunately, indifference is a horrifyingly powerful beast - more powerful even than Microsoft.

D

----

Free Software (1)

Col. Klink (retired) (11632) | about 15 years ago | (#1644908)

The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing (foldoc) has a "free software" entry:

According to {Richard Stallman} and the {Free Software
Foundation}, free software is software that everyone is free
to copy, redistribute and modify. That implies it must be
available as source code. It does not imply that it is free
of charge, so anyone can sell free software so long as they
don't impose any new restrictions on its redistribution or
use.

{This dictionary} is free in this sense, though it is not
really {software}.

There are many other kinds of "free software" in the more
obvious sense of "free of charge". See "{-ware}".

Selling binaries with GPL pieces (2)

Kismet (13199) | about 15 years ago | (#1644914)

I have a question about this:


Tom Christiansen asks:
I don't know how to ask this question without it sounding like stirring the pot, but what about the growing chasm between free software (giftware) and GNU software (the viral kind, not the nice LGPL kind)? This is a real issue for some people in some situations. Think about the many BSD resellers and vendors who have custom packaging in highly competitive fields, like video editing? Doesn't the friction hurt everyone? Apple has turned to BSD not Linux, and the GPL is cited as one reason why. This seems to be devisive. There are no end of flamewars on /. and elsewhere, and the heat diminishes the light. What kind of reconciliation is possible? Or is "take no prisoners" just the way it has to work?

ESR answers:

I don't see a chasm there, Tom. After all, we're all still writing and exchanging code. We're all using basically the same set of licenses. I don't think there are properly two different movements t all, outside the imaginations of a few rather fanatical partisans on both sides.

Here is the reality test: if you're running a project and someone sends you a patch, will you stop to enquire whether that person is a member of the correct faction before you apply it? I don't think so...

So despite the verbal fireworks and philosophical disputes, we're all hackers together. What unites us is more important than what divides us.


Supposing I use some GPL code in a program, and then sell the binaries only. I'm breaking the GPL, right?

Now supposing I use some LGPL or BSDish code in a program, and then sell the binaries. I'm fine... or am I?

Is this where the friction happens? It seems to me that some folks would like the, er, "option" of making a profit from software they create with the help of Open Source libs or something, without redistributing their code.

Maybe I'm just confused about the whole thing.

Re:Linux zealotry and hypocracy (TROLL FOOD!) (1)

Prophet (13824) | about 15 years ago | (#1644917)

I've always liked trolls...

M$=closed, proprietary, corporate owned products.
Yes, this makes them the evil Borg.

And as for absorbing ideas - EVERYONE should do that.

You see the surface, but not the depth of water; You are wrong. There indeed has been lots of innovation in Linux. There has been lots of innovation in M$. The difference is that you have complete access to all the innovations in Linux. You don't have complete access to well - little from M$, and they purchase innovation to use(which is somehow 'cheating') or to kill off opposing technology.

I'd go into it at length, but I don't like to feed the Troll *too* much. Consider yerself marked down. :)

Linux zealotry and hypocracy (1)

Zico (14255) | about 15 years ago | (#1644919)

[Linux] will probably just absorb new architectural ideas, amoeba-like, as they evolve.

Wow, sounds like a great thing, sign me up! Of course, when it's Microsoft absorbing ideas from elsewhere, they're the evil Borg.

I always did find it amusing to hear Slashdot readers complaining about Microsoft taking ideas from other places when there hasn't been a whit of innovation in the entire history of Linux.

I'm done. Those who have a hard time with truth and honesty, feel free to mark me down now.

Cheers,
ZicoKnows@hotmail.com

Re:OH MY GOD!!! (0)

D3TH (15279) | about 15 years ago | (#1644926)

You killed Linus! You bastard!

Sterling?!!! (1)

icepick (17241) | about 15 years ago | (#1644929)

You got Sterling? You just made my day! I guess I better come up with a good question.
--

Couldn't have said it better myself... (1)

kennedy (18142) | about 15 years ago | (#1644932)

*So despite the verbal fireworks and
*philosophical disputes, we're all hackers
*together. What unites us is more important than
*what divides us.
I think we all could learn a little from this. we are infact united against the same enemy (microsoft).

Re:Needless Hostility (1)

Arandir (19206) | about 15 years ago | (#1644945)

If I recall your public letter correctly, it was not a piece of constructive criticism. Rather, it was almost as if you were accusing ESR of religious heresy. Asking Eric is private, "have you lost your fscking marbles?", is one thing, but announcing to the entire world that in essence "Eric is a bad boy and we need to slap his wrists" is something else entirely. As I read through that original letter, I almost expected the last paragraph to announce the forcable ejection of ESR from the OSI.

Re:Couldn't have said it better myself... (1)

Overt Coward (19347) | about 15 years ago | (#1644949)

I think we all could learn a little from this. we are infact united against the same enemy (microsoft).

Actually the true enemy is closed-source, bad software. If Microsoft started building good software and releasing it open source tomorrow, the war against bad software would still need to be fought. Only the battlefield would change.


--

Re:Nethack (1)

set (19875) | about 15 years ago | (#1644950)

That's up to the devteam. Check http://www.nethack.org [nethack.org] periodically or rec.games.roguelike.nethack for up-to-the-minute nethack info.

Re:"Sniping from the sidelines" (1)

Ronin75 (21473) | about 15 years ago | (#1644951)

I've read /. for about a year now, and I've never seen such an intelligent and well-articulated opinion.

Thank you for sharing.

Re:Another question- (3)

esh (23599) | about 15 years ago | (#1644956)

One argument against software patents is that they are very different from patents in traditional manufacturing. The number of patents possibly applying to a software project is orders of magnitudes bigger than those applying to, say, designing a car.

In addition there are many software patents considered void because the patented ideas are obvious (and thus violate patent law). The XOR patent is usually quoted in this context. There is hardly a chance a small software company can know all the relevant patents let alone fight the bad ones in court, which would be the constitutional/legally correct thing to do.

It all boils down to whether society profits from software patents. With industrial manufacturing the decision of most of todays industrial nations is to support the patent system. For other things like mathematics, law, and to a large extent basic research including medicine these same industrial nations won't grant the protection of patents. Software currently falls under the patent system but the discussion is far from over.

This article [mit.edu] or the League for Programming Freedom [mit.edu] have a few arguments.

Re:In the Year 2020 (1)

Ivo (26920) | about 15 years ago | (#1644958)

Sure, it's a nice idea to have the same relative base that's matured and been expanded, but I kinda like to think we'll have something more, well, exciting by then.

Do you have to start from scratch to get something more exciting? I mean, in 2060, we all use flying cars that automatically drive, but we'll probably still call it car. :)

Greetings,
Ivo

Future Threats to the GPL (2)

webmaven (27463) | about 15 years ago | (#1644960)

It seems as though in asian cultures respect for intellectual property on the part of governments, corporations and individuals is much lower than in the west (This is an overbroad generalization, but one supported by a lot of anectodal evidence that has come my way over the years).

Currently, this expresses itself as endemic piracy of closed source software, music CDs, movies, etc., but I suspect that when Open Source wins over closed source software, rampant violations of the GPL will ensue from asian corporations and developers.

What will we be able to do to protect the GPL in the arena of international law and a global marketplace?
--

Re:In the Year 2020 (1)

Maple Syrup (27770) | about 15 years ago | (#1644961)

Twenty years from now the core APIs may have grown and changed tremendously, but we'll still think of it as the `same' codebase and call it Linux :-).

This reminds me of the old chestnut about how we don't know what the features of the most commonly-used programming language of 2020 will be, but we do know that it will be called FORTRAN.

And on a (semi-)serious note: if the 2020 release of LINUX bears the same resemblence to 2.2 as Fortran 98 bears to Fortran III, you'll have nothing to complain about.

-maple(intheyear2525)syrup

Re:Wow.. I'm actually inspired.. (2)

Jburkholder (28127) | about 15 years ago | (#1644966)

Yeah, ESR has really grown on me recently. I never truly disliked any of his positions, but I did kind of see some of the flamage going on around him and kind of kept a wary eye.

I may not personally agree with everything that comes out of his mouth or word processor, but in general I have to agree that this in particular is very inspiring and in general I think ESR makes some very persuasive arguments.

Re:GwG Fireing Range (1)

Jimhotep (29230) | about 15 years ago | (#1644968)

I would be interested in knowing what
percentage of "geeks" own firearms.

Not knowing very many, I get the impression
most "geeks" are liberals and are against guns
of any kind.

But, like I say. I don't know many "geeks".

Re:Needless Hostility (2)

ajakk (29927) | about 15 years ago | (#1644972)

You two need to get over yourselves. While I respect both of you, and I appreciate the work that you both do for the Open Source community, petty bickering over who flamed who first does not help. I am not saying that one of you is correct and the other is not. Personally, I don't care.

Any time there is a democratic group, there will always be factions who have different opinions. Each one will acuse the other of doing the wrong thing. The problem is that people on the Internet will make harsher, ruder comments than people would make face to face. However, the Internet is much more public than any personal confrontations.

We do need all opinions available. We need people who can deal with the PHB's and get them comfortable with Open Source. We need everyone we can get.

Sue who? (1)

homunq (30657) | about 15 years ago | (#1644978)

The saving grace of the open source community is that there are no deep pockets to sue. You either sue to damage a competitor or to line your pockets. The open source community is too amorphous to be seriously damaged by a lawsuit - who do you slap the restraining order on? - and too nonmonetary to line someone's pockets. Even if you sued Red Hat, you couldn't touch their major revenues (support and VC) except as punitive damages... and the chances of getting a sane judge would just be too great to risk going so far into uncharted legal ground.

Re:A technical competitor to Linux (2)

Wah (30840) | about 15 years ago | (#1644979)

To me it seems more like race wars within the same species. Those that start and continue such flame wars should be considered the equivelent of "racists" in the real world. "My strain is better" (nope, just different)

(disclaimer: unless you are bashing Micro$oft, they are akin to the evil alien race that has enslaved the ignorant and lazy and are trying to steal the Helping Phriendly Book)

Community Tangent (2)

Wah (30840) | about 15 years ago | (#1644980)

From the Main article:
Q*bert asks:We all know that you are a staunch advocate of libertarianism. Do you see the open-source / free-software movement turning into a larger political push for libertarian, minimal government? .snip.

ESR answers: No comment on that first question. But, if you could see my face, I'm wearing a very evil grin....


From the abover (long and very good) comment:
By its nature, the community responds indifferently to grand visions, and the definition of success varies from participant to participant, each according to his or her own needs. The aim of open software is to serve the people who write it, and consequently its users react warily to those advocating a de-emphasis of their rights in exchange for money, publicity, or convenience. Because initiatives flow upwards in this population, its ideal leadership is not that of an emperor tending to a legacy, but that of an ambassador speaking for a people. And in the free software movement, just as in government, an overly inventive diplomat is an incompetent one.

This might be a bit much for some of you, but looking at how the OSS community works is a good example of how things *might* be done in other areas (such as government) in the Digital Age. Replace a few of the words in the above paragraph and you gain some insight in how groups think, and how communities can figure out what is best for them, starting on the "what's best for me" level and moving upward. It will take some time before the population as a whole becomes as connected and tech. literate as your average /.'er (probably another generation) but the effects of this could be, should be, will be, system wide and profound. Instant feedback is good for organisms of all shapes and sizes, communication helps spread and distill ideas. Anyway, just something I was thinking about as I moved through this thread..

Re:A technical competitor to Linux (1)

aithien (32819) | about 15 years ago | (#1644982)

I think he just means a technical competitor for the mind share of the linux kernel developers... besides linux isn't an OS, it's a kernel.

Re:In the Year 2020 (1)

jsfetzik (40515) | about 15 years ago | (#1644990)

Think about it this way. PC's are now 25+ years old, are they no longer exciting? Things have changed dramatically since the mid 70's, but we still call them PC's, even though they have the power of a mid 70's super computer. It may still be called Linux in 20 years, but there will be new and exciting things revolving around it. New UI's, new processors and archetectures, news peripherals, etc.

When you get right down to it it is not the Linux kernel that is exciting, it is all the stuff that is being done with it that is exciting.

Re:Wow.. I'm actually inspired.. (1)

drivers (45076) | about 15 years ago | (#1644999)

It was a warm and fuzzy answer but I was disappointed it didn't actually answer Tom's question.

It seems to me there cannot be a 100% cooperation between GPL and BSD. There will always be downsides to the other license if your ideals side with one or the other.

On the positive side, doesn't the fact the Berkeley dropped the advertising clause open up the possibility for greater convergence of BSD and GPL code. (At least incorporating BSD code into GPL code.) True, the results would be GPL'd, so BSD idealists wouldn't go for it. Isn't there room now for a GNU/BSD distribution to compete with Free/Net/OpenBSD AND GNU/Linux and GNU/Herd? I realize the BSDs use some GNU tools (gcc), do Linux distros use any BSD licensed packages? If I download some BSD software, can I apply the change in the BSD license myself or do I need to start with what code Berkeley offers somehow? That is, Berkeley owns the copyright on all BSD software right? Therefore I can accept their new license without the approval of the *BSD maintainers who have added code to it. Can I copy code from some BSD program into a GPL program or vice versa? If so, who has the copyright on what?

Re:"Sniping from the sidelines" (1)

drivers (45076) | about 15 years ago | (#1645000)

Did you write all this just now? If so you must be some kind of genius. Either way, really nice essay. I learned a lot from it. :)

Woohoo....Bruce Sterling (1)

seesik (45318) | about 15 years ago | (#1645001)

I know, it is sorta off-topic, but it is nice to see a diverse set of interviewees. Now everyone go read Distraction.

Re:Linux zealotry and hypocracy (1)

Uller78 (49800) | about 15 years ago | (#1645006)

What are you talking about? There's a world of difference between Microsoft's strategy (embrace and expand) and the way Linux absorbs new technologies.

The biggest difference is, before Microsoft puts something new into Windows, they make absolutely sure that they can twist standards around to grab more market share than their competitors, and once it's in there, there's no going back (it's there to stay).

Linux developers, on the other hand, are constantly releasing new code for Linux. Does this mean the code will make it into a distro? Not necesarily. It depends on the community's will, and the project's acceptance within the community.

I know this has been repeated time and time again, but obviously, some people still don't get it. Microsoft makes its OSes evolve like machines. Linux evolves like a living being. The difference is that when the time comes to implement something new under Linux, it's never forced on anybody.

And as for your comment about innovation in the history of Linux, I think you should look at what's going on before you make such blantantly ignorant statements. Take a look on Freshmeat, I'm sure you'll find at least a little innovation there.

Oh, and not to be a bitch, but learn to spell hypocrisy before you run around everywhere complaining about it.

Re:A technical competitor to Linux (2)

HaveGunWillTravel (51986) | about 15 years ago | (#1645007)

Think of operating systems like languages (spoken, not coded :). The BSD-en and Linux-en are regional dialects of the same "language" just as U.S. english has several regional dialects.

Now, I'm certain that hardcore speakers of the U.S. english Georgia dialect and the U.S. english Ohio dialect would vehemently disagree that they are speaking the same language.

And those regional dialects of Open Source operating systems can splinter into several smaller factions (FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, Redhat, Caldera, Debian, SuSE, yadda, yadda, yadda).

We must understand the "differences" but focus on the "sames". We are part of a much more powerful movement if BSD and Linux people hang together.

Focus on the big picture. Open Source operating systems are generally superior to their non-Open Source bretheren. And what makes Linux and BSD attractive, effective, powerful and affordable are the Open Source ideas on which they are built.

Hopefully, Solaris, MacOS and, heck, even BeOS could one day be included in that group.

11th Commandment of Open Source Advocacy: Thou Shalt Not Speak Ill of Another Open Source Operating System (without damaging one's own cause in the process)

Re:"Sniping from the sidelines" (2)

konstant (63560) | about 15 years ago | (#1645024)

I did not plagiarize this. I wrote it in my spare time and submitted it to CmdrTaco about a week and a half ago. I don't think he's going to post it, so I just added it as a comment.

I don't plagiarize.

-konstant

"Sniping from the sidelines" (5)

konstant (63560) | about 15 years ago | (#1645025)

Pardon the length....

Surprisingly, the most prominent evangelists of the open source community are also the most abject victims of its flame. These individuals, pedigreed by years of code, use their eloquence to plead for free software worldwide. Their work is the reproductive force of the movement, stimulating conversions and showing businessmen the money to be made embracing open source. In reward, the open source community takes the beliefs of these leaders seriously - by far the gravest honor this opinionated clan can bestow. Yet these public speakers are also subject to a continuous trickle of hate mail from the geeks they represent, one that widens into a deluge the moment they stray from open software's traditional path. While they behave predictably, open source leaders have the backing of their constituents, but if they articulate a new vision or take a risk, the community that could rally round them instead sits down and jeers.

This humiliating puzzle is bound up with the role of leadership in the open source movement. The computer industry is rife with the Napoleonic model of business, which views software as the manifest will of visionary CEOs. At Scott McNealy's Sun, Larry Ellison's Oracle, Bill Gates' Microsoft and others, resources flow back and forth in obedience to the whims of charismatic chairmen. Like competing generals, they glower at each other across the battlefield of the NASDAQ listings, struggling to see furthest and direct their armies of coders accordingly.

Open source is altogether different. By its nature, the community responds indifferently to grand visions, and the definition of success varies from participant to participant, each according to his or her own needs. The aim of open software is to serve the people who write it, and consequently its users react warily to those advocating a de-emphasis of their rights in exchange for money, publicity, or convenience. Because initiatives flow upwards in this population, its ideal leadership is not that of an emperor tending to a legacy, but that of an ambassador speaking for a people. And in the free software movement, just as in government, an overly inventive diplomat is an incompetent one.

Enter the brash politics of Eric Raymond. A decade and a half into the GNU project, and with the 8th birthday of Linux hard approaching, credit is due to Raymond, who has single-handedly sweetened the reputation of open source. Once considered a toy of seditious kids, Linux is now a titan thanks to Raymond's ability to creep inside the heads of corporate decision makers and craft arguments against their fears. Raymond established his importance to the community with his paper The Cathedral and the Bazaar, a stunning explanation of open source methods that convinced Netscape Corporation to open the source of its popular Mozilla browser in 1998. All was smiles and backslapping in the community as the campaigning Raymond brought businesses to openness. In Eric Raymond, it seemed, open source had found a missionary capable of converting the heathen without going native himself.

The giddiness didn't last long. Raymond was a volunteer, neither salaried nor elected, but made powerful by his own work with companies and the press. True altruism is rare, and especially so when attached to the magnitude of celebrity Raymond was achieving. The nasty word 'sellout' appeared in sporadic flames on the net, and Raymond stoked the fires by conspicuously avoiding talk of 'freedom' or 'free software' in his speeches, a policy he later attributed to the unease those terms stir in businessmen. Open source developers, whose professional lives often fall short of perfection due to the interference of suits, awoke to the possibility Eric Raymond was a Judas, willing to sell their rebellion in return for the gratifications of fame.

The flashpoint was the release of Apple's Public Source License in early March of this year. Apple, hoping to bring the dynamism of open source to its OS kernel, requested a meeting with Raymond to discuss its License. Raymond and Apple retreated behind closed doors. Other open source activists, such as Richard Stallman and Bruce Perens, learned of the meeting through the grapevine but were so far out of the loop that they could not even locate a phone number to call at Apple. The talks disbanded shortly afterwards without their contribution. Eric Raymond emerged flushed with victory, and Apple trumpeted APSL 1.0, fully certified as Open Source. Stallman and Perens went on the offensive, denouncing the License as deficient and enumerating reasons. Community discussion boards buzzed with speculation, with many participants agreeing Raymond had misrepresented open source. To this criticism he issued a retort, stating that objections to the License were founded in loose reading and lack of legal competence. It appeared that from Raymond's point of view, the discussion was at an end.

Eric Raymond had many defenders, but others stuttered with anger. Apple's inadvertent exclusion of the community forced a realization long in coming: the position of public representative is as much bestowed by corporations and the media as by the community itself. Raymond had succeeded as a promoter by cultivating his credibility with the forces arrayed against open source. Once allowed in their camp, he could persuade them gently, in words they understood, rather than bellowing from the perimeter. This arrangement was convenient for reporters and businesses: the affable Raymond provided translations and spared them the chore of researching open source. But Raymond was only one man, presenting a tinted perspective of the diverse opinions alive in his movement. Indeed, Apple stated afterwards that the APSL fracas was the first it had heard of other community factions. Once it was clear Raymond would not yield to the disagreement of his peers, it became academic whether the APSL was a good license. He was one man defying the movement that had made him, and not a few felt it was time he was deposed.

Disciplining a volunteer leader

Rationally, there was little the community could do to rebuke its spokesman. There was no salary to slash, no vote to cast, not even any media contacts who would prefer a few ragtag emails to the word of the established Raymond. But flame has little to do with the rational. The great furnaces were heard chugging across the land, and what profane masterpieces of filth were disgorged only Eric Raymond can say. His email address became a sump of all that is foul in the minds of hundreds of raging geeks. Before the month was out, Raymond issued a statement in which he threatened to resign his leadership. Ironically, his sarcasm was misinterpreted; leaving the impression he had already drawn the blinds and settled into a life of oblivion. The reaction to this perceived development, while poignant, lacked the tenor of fear that might be present at Microsoft, for example, should Gates unexpectedly retire. Open source was prepared to move on without Eric Raymond, and he rushed to clarify himself and remind his listeners that much work remained only he could complete. After some skeptical grumbling, he was reinstated to the community's good graces. The Apple Public Source License was revised three weeks later, correcting all the disputed terms.

Spats such as this illuminate a problem with open source gift culture. Ego gratification is a powerful stimulant for open source developers. Participants give gifts of source code partially to satisfy their craving for recognition as magnanimous geniuses. The community encourages this motive in all cases save one: leadership. Public representatives for the open source movement are expected to be meek and shun self-promotion. Those who stray are lashed with vicious emotional reprisals. All their work must be for the good of the whole, and none for themselves. In short, the community demands its foremost members adhere to ethics the average hacker finds intolerable. Small wonder most open source leaders ultimately disappoint the led.

Many arguments reduce to a handful of facts that can be viewed in more than one light, and emotion rather than intellect is the deciding element. The civilized compromise is an agreement to disagree, but when it comes to community speakers, there is no room for such courtesies. Since ideas rise upwards in the open source movement, allowing a leader to advocate one thing while the community believes another would be as damaging as allowing a diplomat to Russia to announce IMF debt forgiveness on his own initiative. Ambassadors may suggest, but they cannot decide. They must either represent the community, or be expelled.

Examples of this are abundant on the popular board Slashdot.org. Roving journalists frequently refer to Slashdot when plumbing the attitudes of the open source community; making it crucial they not receive a false impression during their stay. Slashdot real estate is therefore valuable and the power to select discussion topics is great. If a site operator abuses Slashdot to gratify an emotional itch, the response from readers is not only rational debate - though logic is always voiced - but also emotional counterattack. While calmer members discredit the logic of the offender, volatile participants demolish their motives with insults. It becomes psychologically expensive for the offender to continue.

Sengan Baring-Gould learned this during the Lewinsky scandal, when he exercised his operator power to post a denunciation of American missile strikes in Iraq. Perhaps seduced by a captive audience of thousands, he forbade community responses, effectively hijacking the open source mouthpiece for his own politics. Slashdotters responded with furious floods of mail to Baring-Gould and site owner Rob Malda, who scrambled to enable comments and posted two apologies. Criticisms swamped the board, ranging from windy dissections of Baring-Gould's logic to far rawer fare. With his argument tattered by logic and his power trip soiled by emotional assaults, Baring-Gould had little motive to fight on. The episode was not repeated.

But Baring-Gould's experience was a mere candle to the bonfire roasting of Jonathan Katz. Katz, a former editor with Wired, is surprisingly innocent of technical knowledge. Empowered with posting privileges, Katz writes opinions for a board patronized by thousands of open source developers, and consequently is a sort of de facto community representative when journalists come calling, regardless of whether his columns are actually read. His pieces endure much scrutiny from those who do not appreciate his company.

Early in his tenure, Katz was known for unabashed promotion of his own books. His columns effused over dubious notions such as 'sexbots' and at least once a month declared the dawn of a new era, as evinced by a movie he had seen. Rational criticisms did little to improve his quality. Slashdotters turned to flame. The rage came ripe and sloppy for weeks, even prompting a Katz column in which he wondered whether he was still wanted (he decided he was). Then, when it seemed inevitable he would lose his position, Katz had a moment of brilliance. In a daring piece, he defied popular media and declared the Columbine geeks had killed because they were driven to it, persecuted by merciless jocks. Instantly, the sewage of popular opinion sprouted roses. Katz had said something the community had needed to hear for a long time. Today, Katz confines himself largely to variations on the Columbine theme and book reviews. There remains little for which he can be flamed, save lack of innovation.

Open source advocates - and the hacker clan in general - fancy themselves as dispassionate creatures, able to analyze facts from a distance and judge impartially. This is a delusion. If emotion runs high anywhere, it is among geeks, and if any group is harnessing this volatility, it is the open source community. When reason's bullets are spent, only raw feeling remains to dispute actions that are wrong or damaging. Like the Salem Puritans many geeks profess to despise, the open source community manipulates emotion to enforce the curious strictures of its morality. It remains to them to decide whether this is a suitable tool for their advancement. Their success in quelling it or wielding it will reveal a great deal about their culture.

-konstant

GwG Fireing Range (2)

Kintanon (65528) | about 15 years ago | (#1645028)

There is a gun store called 'Franklins' in Atlanta, I'm not sure how far from the Atlanta Linux conference center it is but it has a HUGE shooting range that will accomodate around 100 people at one time, they shouldn't be too hard to get in touch with and last time I was there the range was free if you brought your own gun and you could rent/check out various different firearms for a few bucks.

Kintanon

Re:Linux zealotry and hypocracy (1)

DanaL (66515) | about 15 years ago | (#1645030)

The important difference is that there is no hypocracy. No one, that I see, ever claims that Linux is innovative and bleeding edge. The usual claims (which are justified) are that it is stable and that it works!

If there is innovation, it is in the software development model. By conventional software engineering wisdom, hundreds (1000s?) of developers working remotely across the Internet shouldn't work. The linux community (and many other OSS projects) have proven that it does.

Microsoft steals ideas and claims them as it's own. Linux cheerfully borrows good ideas! Freedom of information is one of the basic concepts of the Open Source (or Free Software). No one is going to run around saying, 'Linus and Alan Cox invented journaling file systems!!!!' If they use SGI's code, I'm sure credit will be given where credit is due.

Borrowing & sharing is completely, utterly different than stealing.

Dana

Re:In the Year 2020 (1)

zantispam (78764) | about 15 years ago | (#1645050)

"Of course, I'm still miffed that flying cars aren't in everyone's aero-garages yet."


They're [moller.com] working on it. :-)


Along those lines, I would have to believe that ours is a culture that will have something more exciting by then. We are intelligent, driven, passionate, and not constrained by buerocracy (usually).


I for one think that Linux 10.4.6 will be totally unrecognizable by today's standards. The technology will evolve suffeciently to have really cool stuff to write drivers for (transporter drivers for pizza, flying telnet coffee pot, whatever). We will create the technology. We will advance the kernel.


In short, the goal is, say it with me kids, "Total World Domination".

Re:Linux zealotry and hypocracy (1)

zantispam (78764) | about 15 years ago | (#1645051)

I really didn't want to reply to this. I looked at it, went downstairs for a smoke, reloaded /. a couple of times, and generally let myself calm down a bit.

Yet here I am responding anyway. I must be sadistic.

"Of course, when it's Microsoft absorbing ideas from elsewhere, they're the evil Borg."

Incorrect. When it's Microsoft absorbing ideas from elsewhere without giving credit to the original author(s), they're the evil Borg.

"when there hasn't been a whit of innovation in the entire history of Linux."

I defy you to prove that. Yours is the burden of evidence.

"I always did find it amusing to hear Slashdot readers complaining about Microsoft taking ideas from other places"

Why do we complain? Because they took code and incorporated it into their own design? No. This is called good coding practice, or more simply, not reinventing the wheel. We complain because they take code, incorporate it into their own code base, claim it was theirs to begin with, then fundamentally break the code. Witness J++.

"Those who have a hard time with truth and honesty, feel free to mark me down now."

Do note that you haven't been marked down.

Re:Eric Raymond offensive? (1)

zantispam (78764) | about 15 years ago | (#1645052)

"Is anyone else offended by his last comment about power?"

Probably not, as it was (IMNSHO) intended to be humerous.

"Apparently he can't keep his personal opinions and views outside of the Linux Community and it is interfering with the evangelism."

Goddess, I hope this post was meant to be humorous. Let's put it this way; if you devote a very large chunk of your life to something, it becomes more and more difficult to compartmentalize the different parts of your life. End the end, you have two choices: either be in "work" mode all of the time and go home espousing the virtues of the OS model to your SO, or relax the partitions between work and everything else. On the surface, this may seem to be inefficient, causing problems similar to the one you see. OTOH, it does make for a somewhat more sane ESR.

If you can demonstate to me how you can totally compartmentalize every single aspect of your life, 24X7, without ever once making a mistake, while retaining all of your sanity *and*still enjoying what you do, then I will call you `God'. Untill then, do try to remember that OS advocates are people too and cut them a bit of slack.


Re:Needless Hostility (2)

zantispam (78764) | about 15 years ago | (#1645057)

`To err is human, to forgive, divine'.

Not that I feel so presumptious as to try to preach to ESR. I don't. But I would like to voice an opinion.

(and this is meant for both parties)

Look at advocacy in the small; word of mouth, interpersonal relations. This is what has been; vitrolic attack and defend, parry and riposte, snipe and bash. How effective is this? Not very. I hold trmendous respect for both of you. In spite of this.

Look at advocacy in the large; Linux World Expo, in print, on mailing lists. This is what it has been; cold distance, massive tension, public flamewars. How effective is this? Well, if your name is BillG, very.

What's my point? It doesn't matter if you like each other. Hell, I don't care if you hate each other. But as is the case with divorces, it's those in the middle that suffer. If you cannot come to terms privately, that is, in the small, then at least do something to reduce the tension in the large.

I feel it every time I see either name on /.

Suggestions? Get in a fistfight. Better yet, get rip-roaring drunk first. Somebody's bound to apologize. (Hey, it works for me :-) Seriously, have it out, face to face and in private. Eric, extract any measure of revenge you feel is needed. Bruce, do what you have to to get Eric to shut up.

I'm not meaning this as a flame. Well, maybe a little. I also do not mean this as a jest. I mean this in just the way it's stated. Do whatever you have to do to get all of that dislike, hatred, whatever out of your system. Call center employees are advised to let irate customers bitch and yell as long as is needed to get the anger out of thier system. You know what? It works. Very well. And is usually accompanied by a heartfelt apology.

Feel free to flame me privately for this. Yes the email is real.

Re:A technical competitor to Linux (1)

Zagato-sama (79044) | about 15 years ago | (#1645059)

Um yeah..as well as Windows, BeOS, solaris, umm...what am I missing?

Re:Couldn't have said it better myself... (1)

Zagato-sama (79044) | about 15 years ago | (#1645060)

Um I'm a BeOS user, I'm not a hacker. My operating system of choice is not open source ;) I guess my enemy is Linux then?

A Purely Academic Question (2)

knoxcarey (79231) | about 15 years ago | (#1645063)

I'd like to ask Eric to clarify the concept of the gift culture as distinct from a free market culture.

It seems to me that the so-called "gift culture" is also a free market culture, and those who see a distinction between them are merely confused about the concept of "money". I suppose most people view money as a stand-in for good and services. Since we can't carry around all of our goods and services to barter, we introduced the concept of money to facilitate trade. But economics goes beyond money -- it's about the exchange of utility. And money is just one (rather poor) way to quantify utility.

Consider: given one hour to spend writing code, I can choose to write free software under the GPL or some similar license, or I can choose to write code for money. The amount of money I could earn during that hour of writing commerical code is the opportunity cost of writing the free code -- it is the amount of income I would sacrifice to write the free code.

But writing the free code may provide me with some non-monetary benefit such as ego gratification, fame, repsect, the promise of robust software etc. If I personally value these rewards over the money, then by definition, those rewards have a higher utility for me. By writing the free code I am still "paid", but I simply choose to be paid in a different medium, a medium that holds a higher utility for me personally.

If we expand our view of economics beyond money and into the realm of utility exchange, then there is absolutely no distinction between a "gift economy" and a "free market economy". To me, a "free market" means that people are able to exchange utility in any medium whatsoever without interference. The so-called "gift culture" falls into this category.

I would even suggest that it is precisely the concept of "money" that has caused the most divisive internal battles in the open source community. By moving beyond money and realizing that there are other, equally valid measures of utility, the open source community can unify its communitarian instincts (RMS) and its libertarian instincts (ESR). There is no contradiction here -- just economic confusion.

-knox

BOTH OF YOU (4)

Ender Ryan (79406) | about 15 years ago | (#1645065)

need to quit whining!

Quit acting like high school kids, this is pathetic. You're both right and you're both wrong. Criticism is important, but it needs to be done is a respectful manner. Remember that feelings ARE important, they're the driving force behind everything we do. So be mindful of other people's feelings when you criticize them.

That said, I respect both of you, but please, quit this pointless bickering. We will all be more productive if we can respect each other and act civil.

Re:In the Year 2020 (1)

bmc (80269) | about 15 years ago | (#1645066)

This reminds me of something I saw years ago, supposedly written in the mid-1970s. A paraphrase: "We don't know what the programming language of the 80s (or was it 90s?) will look like, but we know it will be called FORTRAN."

The evolution of computing ideas is a lot less predictable than it seems, and 2020 is an awfully long way away.

-bc

This is why (2)

scumdamn (82357) | about 15 years ago | (#1645067)

I always finish an ESR interview excited. Thanks for answering everyone's question, Eric. Even though you kinda putzed around with mine. No matter, though. I'm happy to have you as the foremost advocate for "that rhetorical millstone around our necks". ; >

Re:Linux zealotry and hypocracy (2)

scumdamn (82357) | about 15 years ago | (#1645068)

I think you're a little lost. You want to be in the Apple Advocacy forum. It's down and to the left. Obviously, Linux is not against cloning. Linux is basically a "clone" of Unix. We're anti reinventing the wheel, and pro code reuse. If Microsoft wants to clone something first done in the Linux community, they're free to do so. If they want to embrace and extend, copy source code and make it proprietary, or spread FUD about Linux, they're not. I think you are confusing the arguments here. MS blatantly copied the MacOS. That pissed off Mac fans. fvwm95 blatantly copied the Windows "look & feel" and that didn't piss anyone off. Why? Two different groups of people with entirely different sets of values. You need to differentiate between the different groups in what you must see as the "anyone but Microsoft" metagroup.
One of the main innovations of Linux is the Open Source philosophy that began with GNU. It's not an innovation of code, but an innovation of operations.
So, though I don't have a problem with either truth or honest (even I consider them the same thing) I respectfully disagree with your misguided opinion.

Re:Community Tangent (2)

scumdamn (82357) | about 15 years ago | (#1645069)

starting on the "what's best for me" level and moving upward

I think that's the way it's been for too long. We need to start at the "What's best for society" and go from there. There's too much chance for selfishness to get in the way if it's the other way around.

Re:ESR/Perens war to continue? (3)

scumdamn (82357) | about 15 years ago | (#1645073)

You know it's mostly hurt feelings, though. You gotta understand as well as anyone that when you question what a geek is saying it's worse than putting down his mother. So you hurt Eric's feelings. Give him a while, be nice, send him a patch (maybe even a Palm Pilot), and you'll have yourself a friend without even having to say you're sorry. Besides, you're a nice guy. I'm sure he'll come around.

Re:Eric Raymond offensive? (3)

Ledge Kindred (82988) | about 15 years ago | (#1645075)

What the heck are you talking about? Do you mean his "sex" comment? Don't you have sex? I do. I don't think there's anything inherently offensive about sex and I don't think he said anything like "I like to have sex with Linux users in public while speaking about Linux at Comdex." (And if he did, that would just be weird.) I don't see how a flippant answer to a silly question should be offensive.

I am, though, highly offended by the questioner's mention of... well, the "chee-" word. I think anyone with the gall to talk about such a subject in a public forum should be forever banned from that forum. It's intolerable and unconscionable.

-=-=-=-=-

Re:Linux zealotry and hypocracy (1)

merky1 (83978) | about 15 years ago | (#1645076)

I thought both M$ and Mac copied from xerox.

Interestingly enough.. (1)

Kitsune Sushi (87987) | about 15 years ago | (#1645079)

Philosophical clashes (and other like-minded disagreements on key issues) has been rather common for some time now. There are various factions with different philosophical bents. The easiest division is between those who prefer the term free software, and the ones who prefer the term open source. However, our community has not fallen apart. Nor will it. It is certainly not doomed. Personally, I could care less if it was "business worthy", as by virtue of using something like the GPL, you never intended to make money in the first place.

Furthermore, another reason why this development model succeeds is because it is /not/ a business. There is practically nothing and no one worth buying out, putting pressure on, etc. It just doesn't work. It's easy to apply pressure to a smaller business, it's impossible to crush an idea. This movement is not going to end just because a few of us can't keep our cool. Or if we disagree. I find it personally distasteful that many slam RMS. Without him, where would we be, hmm? Regardless, those who like him and those who don't work together, as ESR pointed out (though not in those words.. he meant it more generally.. as do I, really).

Debate and the occasional (..?) grating of different opinions are good. It shows we still have individual perspectives. That the best ideas will probably shine through. That every idea and thought or whatever that is contributed will be scrutinized and tested, to make sure it is a worthy addition. Public debate is something we can not afford to be without, no matter what the cost.

In short, I'm not entirely sure how this can be interpreted as a Bad Thing. I'm certainly as opionated as any, and I see no reason why those who are the most respected in our community be any different. Because we all still individuals. That's a Good Thing. Let's keep it that way.

Yeah.. (2)

Kitsune Sushi (87987) | about 15 years ago | (#1645081)

Berlin sucks. Let's stick to X.

I'm going to assume that you mean GNU/Linux and the entire free software movement rather than just the Linux kernel, or else you're making even less sense. Yes, the first paragraph of mine is dripping with acidic sarcasm.

There's nothing wrong with slurping up ideas. Ideas aren't even protected by copyright law. The free software movement is cool because we try to make software better. We let other people contribute. We don't try to screw people other with software that has significant lossage just to make a buck. Microsoft is just out to market their junkware, crush all innovative competition (it could be a threat), and bleed the consumer dry.

If you can't see the difference, you're the one who needs a dose of the truth. Speaking of which, I don't think you'll be marked down for "preaching it how it is brother", but rather because you seem to be trolling. GNU was meant to be a Unix clone. Therefore, a lot of software had to be rewritten from scratch, so that it would be free. If you think that points to a lack of innovation, I'd like to see you make an OS from scratch without copying anyone else's ideas for any reason. Sounds stupid, right? That's because it is.

Now that we have all the basic stuff, this is where the strong innovation hits. You think Berlin isn't innovative? Come ooonn.. You're really scraping the bottom of the barrel on this one, pal.

Too funny.. (2)

Kitsune Sushi (87987) | about 15 years ago | (#1645082)

don't see a chasm there, Tom. After all, we're all still writing and exchanging code. We're all using basically the same set of licenses. I don't think there are properly two different movements at all, outside the imaginations of a few rather fanatical partisans on both sides.

Sounds perfectly reasonable, right? Well, how about.. this.. in regards to not having an entry in the Jargon File for free software..

I don't think you want me to write it, though. I would find it hard to avoid using phrases like "rhetorical millstone around our necks" and "held us back for fifteen years". Care to submit one yourself?

Yeah. I much prefer the term "open source", which has allowed businesses all over the world to corrupt the term into a ludicrious piece of.. urgh.. Besides which, I believe this is an excellent example of the idea that ESR is one of those fanatics .. Just look at, say, the Linux entry in the Jargon File for an "objective" opinion (I just love those parathesized sections..)

Personally, I find it very hard to even bother listening to someone who can't seem to take criticism from someone like, say, Bruce Perens (not that I always agree with Bruce either ;). Point is, ESR has always shoved his opinions down into everything he's done, as far as I can tell. Maybe I'm wrong. I find it rather unappealing, however. I'm just as opionated, but at least I can be objective when it counts.

Re:In the Year 2020 (1)

PagoPago (96360) | about 15 years ago | (#1645102)

The old joke about "If Harley-Davidson made Airplanes" comes to mind, for one.

Is the enemy really microsoft?? (1)

firstnevyn (97192) | about 15 years ago | (#1645103)

As I see it the enemy is not microsoft they are going to fall. The enemy as I see it is all proprietry code, codex, file formats and protocols. and although microsoft is the major purveyor of these atm there are others just waiting in the wings to take over. As has been stated before don't be suprised when microsoft falls that Sun turns around and shafts the community

Microsoft vanishes (1)

dreami (97561) | about 15 years ago | (#1645104)

Eric S. Raymond, you mentioned in a answer above that you would step down i Microsoft shares would lose a lot of it's value. Do you think Linux would have such a strong following if the anti-microsoft alibi would vanish? Would the media still be interested if the David and Goliat story didn't exist anymore?
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?