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The Birth of a FOSS Application

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the no-video-squeamish-need-not-worry dept.

104

Joe Barr writes "Brice Burges explains why and how he created a new free software application, as well as what he learned from the birthing process, in a story on Linux.com. The story provides first-hand insights into the frustrations and satisfactions of developers working on free/open source projects. From the article: 'I'm always disappointed to hear open source project members say that they had "their developer" modify an aspect of the program without ever hearing from that developer or seeing any of the code. This is not progressive.'" Linux.com and Slashdot are both owned by OSTG.

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104 comments

Free != freedom (5, Insightful)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 7 years ago | (#17707470)

Open Source need not mean that the project is open to allcomers. The projects that work tend to be managed by dictators (eg Linus). I currently work on 2 major open source projects and have done some minor work on others. Those that are run as democratic communal projects tend to lose their fiocus and crash onto rocks.

No different from any other software development really.

Listen ! I am NOT a Google SHILL (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17707506)

I repeat, I am not a Google shill !!

Re:Free != freedom (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17707572)

The Free in FOSS indeed means freedom. Even though many successful projects are run by "dictators" or committees, not by a democracy of all developers, nobody can stop you from making changes yourself. There is a difference between "the" Linux kernel and "a" Linux kernel, and the Free in FOSS means you can have your Linux kernel and other people can have other Linux kernels. The project may not be open to all, but the product, the source code, certainly is.

Re:Free != freedom (5, Funny)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 7 years ago | (#17707758)

True enough, but if I have to choose between, say, the Linus-approved Linux kernel and Joe Schmoe's Kernel That He Made From The Linux Kernel But Added Some Stuff Joe Thought Was Cool, I know which one I'll go with. ;)

Re:Free != freedom (2, Insightful)

TheLink (130905) | more than 7 years ago | (#17708016)

But if I had to choose between a Linus-approved Linux kernel or say Redhat/Suse's Linux kernel, I'd go for the latter.

Re:Free != freedom (4, Funny)

Brandybuck (704397) | more than 7 years ago | (#17708406)

From painful experience, I would choose the former.

Re:Free != freedom (3, Interesting)

TheLink (130905) | more than 7 years ago | (#17719588)

You mean "For painful experience". ;).

Linus doesn't really care about stability or reliability of a particular release, he's already basically said he just does what he wants - which appears to be putting in nice new features, capabilities to the kernel, and trying to make it more efficient in most popular scenarios (which is good in some ways).

Sure Suse etc have had their screw ups as well, but they at least do a bit more testing (they supposedly have more resources).

FWIW, an Alan Cox approved Linux kernel counts for more to me than a Linus approved one.

Re:Free != freedom (1)

muridae (966931) | more than 7 years ago | (#17708032)

Do you use the Linux kernel on a computer? Just from experimenting with different distros, it seems each one comes with it's own custom patched kernel now days. CK, hppa, mm, and then you have stuff like the gentoo custom patch set, and I'm pretty sure Red Hat and many others do the same thing.

Given those choices, which kernel would you choose?

Re:Free != freedom (1)

zCyl (14362) | more than 7 years ago | (#17708126)

True enough, but if I have to choose between, say, the Linus-approved Linux kernel and Joe Schmoe's Kernel That He Made From The Linux Kernel But Added Some Stuff Joe Thought Was Cool, I know which one I'll go with. ;)

Unless the day comes when you stop trusting Linus. Thus, free. :)

reputation. (2, Interesting)

leuk_he (194174) | more than 7 years ago | (#17709240)

Most people choose a software program (if there is choice) not form their actual needed features, but a lot based on reputation. For developers this is a strange situation. the "Added Some Stuff Joe Thought Was Cool" feature might be nice for some users who choose just not to use it because Joe stuff has no reputation yet.

In the long run MS is right with their vista development recommendations [microsoft.com] . Not that i would recommend vista! It is just that their style rules make sense for 98% or the users. Users will go for the stylish look and later decide if memory consumption and stability stuff fits their needs. That does not mean you should build unstable software, it means you should spend some time polishing for dumb first time users and do some graphics.

The best thing linux ever did for this was choosing the penguin as a mascot.

Re:Free != freedom (2, Interesting)

Osty (16825) | more than 7 years ago | (#17707808)

The Free in FOSS indeed means freedom.

More accurately, the "Free" in FOSS means "GNU/Free", where RMS's definition of "free" is different than most. It's the "free" in GPL which means "free to do whatever you like, so long as your code is publicly available under the GPL if you publicly release your modified software." That's different than "open source" (BSD, MIT/X, etc) where you can do whatever you like with the source, even choosing not to redistribute your changes, so long as you keep the copyright intact.

Neither "Free" nor "Open Source" says anything about how project development should be organized.

Re:Free != freedom (1)

Brandybuck (704397) | more than 7 years ago | (#17708424)

The "Free" in FOSS means BOTH "Free as in GNU" and "Free as in free". So the BSD and MIT licenses count.

Re:Free != freedom (1)

Osty (16825) | more than 7 years ago | (#17708514)

The "Free" in FOSS means BOTH "Free as in GNU" and "Free as in free". So the BSD and MIT licenses count.

I always figured the "OS" part covered "Open Source" licenses like BSD and MIT. The 'F' tacked on at the beginning is a concession to RMS's insistence that GPL is "Free Software" and not "Open Source Software". Otherwise the acronym need only be "OSS".

Re:Free != freedom (1)

linuxfanatic1024 (876800) | more than 7 years ago | (#17708586)

RMS says it's OK for the open-source movement to use the GNU GPL, but it's designed for the free software movement.

Re:Free != freedom (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17709632)

"RMS: The inventor of Freeware"

Re:Free != freedom (1)

Brandybuck (704397) | more than 7 years ago | (#17718818)

Huh? Do you even know what "Free Software" means? Sheesh.

BIG CLUE STICK --> The BSD and MIT licenses are Free Software Licenses!

Re:Free != freedom (2, Insightful)

Osty (16825) | more than 7 years ago | (#17719032)

Huh? Do you even know what "Free Software" means? Sheesh.

Well, the Wikipedia definition [wikipedia.org] says:

software which can be used, copied, studied, modified and redistributed with little or no restriction beyond the requirement that the source code must be made available for any binary distribution of another party's free software.
By that definition, BSD and MIT are not Free Software licenses because they do not require you to distribute the code for any changes you may make.

On the other hand, Wikipedia defines [wikipedia.org] Open Source Software as:

any computer software whose source code is available under a license that permits users to study, change, and improve the software, and to redistribute it in modified or unmodified form.
Note that there is a distinct lack of requirement to distribute your own private or public changes to such source code. Thus the difference between Free and Open Source is whether or not you must make available the source for any changes you make to the code. Free Software is a subset of Open Source Software. Free Software will always also be Open Source Software, but Open Source Software need not be Free.

BIG CLUE STICK --> The BSD and MIT licenses are Free Software Licenses!

No, but they are Open Source Software Licenses.

Re:Free != freedom (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17719328)

Well, the Wikipedia definition says:
software which can be used, copied, studied, modified and redistributed with little or no restriction beyond the requirement that the source code must be made available for any binary distribution of another party's free software.
By that definition, BSD and MIT are not Free Software licenses because they do not require you to distribute the code for any changes you may make.
http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=be yond

Re:Free != freedom (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17728532)

You have already been hit with a big cluestick once. Please do the smart thing: realise that you're wrong and take the opportunity to learn something.

Well, the Wikipedia definition says
Wikipedia is not a reliable or authoritative source. Quoting Wikipedia does not help you win arguments; it merely makes you look credulous as well as ignorant.

By that definition, BSD and MIT are not Free Software licenses because they do not require you to distribute the code for any changes you may make.
Then that definition is incorrect. If I want to know what RMS means when he says "free software", I don't look on Wikipedia, I look in the writings of RMS - and he defines the MIT license, and the newer BSD license without the advertising clause, as Free Software licenses. Here [gnu.org] is the definition of Free Software according to the Free Software Foundation. Observe the lack of any requirement that Free Software have a copyleft license; observe, indeed, the explicit statement that non-copyleft software can be free.

Thus the difference between Free and Open Source is whether or not you must make available the source for any changes you make to the code. Free Software is a subset of Open Source Software. Free Software will always also be Open Source Software, but Open Source Software need not be Free.
Sorry, but you are making up a totally non-existent distinction based on your personal misreading of unreliable and non-authoritative definitions. In the real world, Free Software and Open Source Software are almost exactly the same thing. The only significant difference is the name, and the difference between the names is purely political.

Hacking code != hacking project (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 7 years ago | (#17707894)

They can stop you from modifying the project. Freedom to take and modify the code is not the same as freedom to modify the project.

In most of the best run projects you are free to take the code and fiddle ith it. You are not necessarily allowed to modify the project (ie. commit the changes).

Fork all you want, but most good projects are a result of staying focused.

If you disagree, try submitting a patch that Linus does not want and insist that he includes it "because you have the freedom".

Re:Hacking code != hacking project (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17709144)

You're confusing freedom with the right to tell others what to do. The project managers are free to reject your patch. You are free to use their code with your patch. You can even create and promote your own code fork and if you're doing good work, chances are the "official" maintainers will adopt your code after all or people will switch to your distribution.

Re:Free != freedom (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17708570)

Why the fuck did you post such a clever comment as an anonymous coward?!

Re:Free != freedom (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17717280)

Why not?

Meh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17708114)

Why bother writing another FOSS app? We all know what Lunix really needs: another text editor.

Re:Free != freedom (2, Interesting)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 7 years ago | (#17710750)

I've hade some bad experiences with "dictatorial" projects; you typically have to go through a lot of red tape in order to get simple fixes in.

I've sent in a one-line fix for an obvious and reproducible error a number of times over a period of nearly two years to a dictatorial project (Indy for Delphi) and they refused to even take a look at it, sometimes not even responding; I should become a member of the development team (which would require several steps) and submit a patch (which would require even more work). I think I'm still the only user of their project for whom the SMTP protocol actually works in all localles.

I understand that a singular vision is a good thing for a project, but these leaders should be aware that they don't shut out the end-user/-developer that only want to submit a single bugfix without a struggle.

No reason (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17711168)

The problem is that they have no incentive to help you, acknowledge you, or even care if you remain a user of their product.

If you go with someone else's application, it doesn't take money out of their pocket. In fact, they would probably end up being happier if you did, because then you would stop bothering them.

This is why FOSS is not an alternative, especially for enterprise-level products. Business needs the assurance that their applications will still be around and supported, and you only get that with a quid pro quo arrangement.

It would be nice if the world ran on good will, but it doesn't.

Re:Free != freedom (2, Insightful)

TekPolitik (147802) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716640)

I've had some bad experiences with "dictatorial" projects; you typically have to go through a lot of red tape in order to get simple fixes in.

This is not so much a problem with the project being dictatorial as with the style of dictatorship and the dictator(s). A dictator who does not trust others at all will have a project that turns off new developers and ends up with much slower progress than a dictator who gathers more trusted people and seeks to nurture new developers.

Back in the 80s and early 90s open source project managers used to be highly responsive, and the irony is they were often using more primitive tools at the time. This was something that came from attitude. We were all contributors working towards common - or at least compatible - goals. Lack of responsiveness comes from an attitude that says only the project manager is providing a service, ignoring the fact that somebody offering a patch is also providing a service.

You can still find projects with the older - cooperative - attitude. My recommendation is that if the project you are trying to contribute to does not appreciate you, you find one that does. You should not have to put up with being treated like crap when you are trying to help a project out.

Where project dictatorship becomes a problem, it is because of a failure in the dictatorial model used or in its application - fundamentally it comes down to project management failures. The biggest project management failures are these:

  1. The absolute biggest failure is when those managing the project allow patches to go without application and without any response. Quite frankly a project manager who allows this to happen regularly should be shot, or at least replaced in short order. This never seemed to happen in the 80s and we should not accept it now.
  2. Second on my list of project management failures is when the project has strict requirements for patches that are not clearly documented. Take a look at the original GNU coding standards and patch submission standards - these spelled out exactly what you needed to do to get the patch accepted. If the dictators respond to a patch pointing out failure to comply with a rule (or drop it due to such failure) and they cannot point to the rule in the project's patch submission instructions, then they have failed to plan to maximise the value of labour going into the project. They are valuing the time of other contributors at nothing instead of looking at the right way to allocate their own efforts to support the efforts of contributors to get the highest output volume.
  3. Third on my list of OSS project management failures is when the dictator fails to recognise or adequately comprehend the legitimate existence of different audiences for their product. Such a dictator will reject features because they either do not see the need for them for their own uses, or they do not understand how the feature or its implementation relates to the different audience. Frankly it's idiotic for a dictator with no experience in and understanding of an alternative use domain to tell a developer who is experienced in that use domain what features they need.
  4. Fourth is not so much a project management failure as a failure of attitude. Some communities become insular and start to treat contributions from outsiders as being unworthy. If you are unwilling to treat new contributors as being as worthy as long term contributors, then you will have fewer new contributors willing to put in the time to become long term contributors.

There are others, but these would probably cover 95% of cases where OSS project management is being conducted in a way that hurts the progress of the project.

Advertisement (4, Insightful)

Imexius (967514) | more than 7 years ago | (#17707482)

This article sounds like an advertisement more than anything else.

Re:Advertisement (3, Interesting)

zurtle (785688) | more than 7 years ago | (#17707534)

Agreed. It's not an incredible piece of journalism, but I like that it shows the classic stages of idea development when a great idea goes through that stage that requires perseverance and sits on the cusp of failure.

It also shows that small, niche, open source projects can survive. If anything, hopefully it will encourage a few dozen people to get onto Sourceforge.net and find projects they can contribute to.

Disclaimer (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 7 years ago | (#17707616)

This article sounds like an advertisement more than anything else.

Ah! That would explain the disclaimer: "Linux.com and Slashdot are both owned by OSTG."

Re:Disclaimer (4, Funny)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 7 years ago | (#17707750)

That would explain why it would have a link that says "slashdot it" and not "digg it".

Re:Disclaimer (1)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 7 years ago | (#17707970)

I won't 'Digg' things. I don't like that site, and don't like the idea behind it. People in aggregate are often blindly shortsighted and I do not trust them to make good decisions about what I should read.

Re:Disclaimer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17709718)

People in aggregate are often blindly shortsighted and I do not trust them to make good decisions about what I should read.


Can you imagine a Beowulf Cluster of Zonks?

Re:Disclaimer (1)

Raenex (947668) | more than 7 years ago | (#17714430)

Does that mean you read Slashdot at -1?

Re:Disclaimer (1)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 7 years ago | (#17719352)

When I'm moderating I do. And I often do when I'm following a discussion thread. But, it is also infeasible to have a core group of editors do all the moderating. I think there is a balance to be struck, and I think Digg is on the 'the mass mind has too much power' side of that balance.

Re:Disclaimer (1)

Raenex (947668) | more than 7 years ago | (#17722388)

I just wanted to say that I agree with you on all points (I don't read Digg for the same reasons, and I read Slashdot the same way). It's just that your initital post was a bit absolutist.

the re-birth of humans being decent to one another (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17707558)

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we the peepoles?

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all they (the felonious nazi execrable) want is... everything. at what cost to US?

for many of US, the only way out is up.

don't forget, for each of the creators' innocents harmed (in any way) there is a debt that must/will be repaid by you/US as the perpetrators/minions of unprecedented evile will not be available after the big flash occurs.

'vote' with (what's left in) yOUR wallet. help bring an end to unprecedented evile's manifestation through yOUR owned felonious corepirate nazi life0cidal glowbull warmongering execrable.

some of US should consider ourselves very fortunate to be among those scheduled to survive after the big flash/implementation of the creators' wwwildly popular planet/population rescue initiative/mandate.

it's right in the manual, 'world without end', etc....

as we all ?know?, change is inevitable, & denying/ignoring gravity, logic, morality, etc..., is only possible, on a temporary basis.

concern about the course of events that will occur should the corepirate nazi life0cidal execrable fail to be intervened upon is in order.

'do not be dismayed' (also from the manual). however, it's ok/recommended, to not attempt to live under/accept, fauxking nazi felon greed/fear/ego based pr ?firm? scriptdead mindphuking hypenosys.

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Re:the re-birth of humans being decent to one anot (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17707660)

Where have you been? I missed you.

Re:the re-birth of humans being decent to one anot (-1, Offtopic)

Infernal Device (865066) | more than 7 years ago | (#17707664)

Learn English and stop taking drugs.

Re:the re-birth of humans being decent to one anot (0, Offtopic)

Pink Tinkletini (978889) | more than 7 years ago | (#17707762)

You're the one who failed James Joyce out of English class, aren't you?

Re:the re-birth of humans being decent to one anot (1)

udippel (562132) | more than 7 years ago | (#17707834)

Luckily, James Joyce is a pleasure to read, one way or another.
Read the source, Luke !

Re:the re-birth of humans being decent to one anot (1)

Infernal Device (865066) | more than 7 years ago | (#17708444)

You're comparing that mindless drivel to James Joyce?!?!

And yes, if James Joyce failed to demonstrate an ability to communicate using the rules of English grammar and spelling, I would have failed him and gladly.

Re:the re-birth of humans being decent to one anot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17708624)

Have you read Finnegans Wake, dumbshit?

Okay. I'll admit Joyce may be overrated drivel, too, but I'm not sure I'd call it mindless. You may well find Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky" to be utterly uncommunicative according to the roools of grammar and spelling, but fuck you for failing to find value therein.

— Pink Tinkletini

Re:the re-birth of humans being decent to one anot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17711184)

Dude. Read the parent. He's not calling Joyce mindless drivel, he's calling the OP mindless drivel, and he's got a damn strong case for that.

Re:the re-birth of humans being decent to one anot (2, Funny)

Infernal Device (865066) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712768)

Dumbshit? I think not. Yes, I have read Finnegan's Wake - up to a point. Didn't particularly care for it. Do I think James Joyce is an idiot? Again, no. I also think James Joyce could have easily passed any class on English grammar that you could give him. The difference is that Joyce was writing from a character's perspective, and the OP (as near as I can tell) was writing from his own perspective and completely giving the impression that he was an ass and moron, to boot.

And since coarse invective is the only language you appear to understand, fuck you, as well.

Different projects, different styles (5, Insightful)

jd (1658) | more than 7 years ago | (#17707570)

There is no all-encompasing style for Open Source, Free Software, or any other variety of the beastie. There is no Universal Way, no Grand Master Plan that all must follow, and no guaranteed recipe for either success or failure. There is only code, tended to by a cooperative under the policies of that cooperative, for no benefit other than the scratching of a collective itch.

One of the very reasons the term "Open Source" was so heavily slammed in the early days was that it meant too many damn things to too many people (some of whom might also be damned). People, as a whole, adopted it despite those objections and often belittled those who raised them. Now we're finding out that some of those same people are finding out that Open Source does indeed too many different things to too many people, and that people really are trying to achieve different results. Congratulations. Should I break into applause or just do a Kerr Avon impression and throw these people out the airlock?

Re:Different projects, different styles (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17712488)

There is no all-encompasing style for Open Source, Free Software, or any other variety of the beastie. There is no Universal Way, no Grand Master Plan that all must follow...
You didn't get the memo?

Nice Checklist (5, Insightful)

jlarocco (851450) | more than 7 years ago | (#17707632)

The checklist on the lower right is probably the best part of the article. It's all pretty obvious stuff when you think about it, but nice to have it all listed.

Hypocritical (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17707696)

I'm always disappointed to hear open source project members say that they had "their developer" modify an aspect of the program without ever hearing from that developer or seeing any of the code. This is not progressive.

But he felt it was entirely appropriate to simply start another project because existing mailers didn't have the feature he was looking for? I don't think that's progressive either.

Cute the defence of "but if he feels like it, why not?" Well, precisely. And if other developers feel like modifying aspects of his program without seeking his prior approval, why not? It's Free Software, isn't it?

Not really (3, Insightful)

jesterzog (189797) | more than 7 years ago | (#17708116)

I didn't see anything hypocritical about it. He stated pretty clearly that the reason he didn't fork an existing project was because he couldn't do so and achieve his goals, and he gave several reasons. (eg. Nothing had the right framework for where he wanted to go, he wanted the experience of developing his own project, etc.) Also, immediately after the part that you quoted, he says:

"I hope to transition poMMo development efforts to a wider group of individuals. I am always happy when others seek to help out, maintaining open discussion and policy."

I think he fully understands that people have a licensed right to modify the code, and is okay with this. He simply thought it was disappointing that people who do this often don't bother to make their changes available back to the developers. If anything, he was just mentioning that he wants to make his own project one where people are actively encouraged to do so.

It's not exactly a revolutionary article in FOSS development, but it's handy for anyone who wants a general idea, and hopefully people don't blame him for writing a simple article when it was Slashdot that decided to link to it.

Re:Not really (1)

KillerCow (213458) | more than 7 years ago | (#17708352)

He simply thought it was disappointing that people who do this often don't bother to make their changes available back to the developers.


Then he should be using the RPL [opensource.org] . Any changes have to be sent back to the developers. But that's not free...

Re:Not really (3, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | more than 7 years ago | (#17708544)

I think he fully understands that people have a licensed right to modify the code, and is okay with this. He simply thought it was disappointing that people who do this often don't bother to make their changes available back to the developers. If anything, he was just mentioning that he wants to make his own project one where people are actively encouraged to do so.

Well, I haven't heard much about the project but I assume it's not a very big one. Why don't people contribute back? Well, here's a few reasons:
1. They don't want to argue about if, as in it scratches my itch, I don't care how/if it fits the big picture
2. They don't want to make it production quality. I've hacked around stuff to make it to exactly what I need, whatever else breaks I don't care.
3. They don't want to follow a coding styling, naming convention or document it aka "I did it myyyyyyy way".
4. They don't want to be bugged about bugs in their code.

In short, if you're taking over an unknown code base of unknown quality with an "upstream" that's not really interested in helping you out, it might easily take you just as long as rewriting it yourself. Work on the developers that actually do come back and say "I'd like this to become part of the main application.", and be very friendly, helpful and mostly forgiving with them. I think that'll pay off far better than trying to lure out people's pet modifications.

Re:Not really (1)

a.d.trick (894813) | more than 7 years ago | (#17711526)

Is there a problem with this? Community development is a great thing, but some things are better done on their own. That's one thing I really appreciate about open source software, that I can make modifications to the software for yourself with no strings attached. Some solutions are simply not worth the effort it takes to be merged back with the original code. It would be better to spend you time solving more useful problems.

Re:Not really (1)

WNight (23683) | more than 7 years ago | (#17715948)

Wrong? No. Less than helpful, Yes.

I think he'd have been happy just to have someone say:

"Hey, thanks. I needed it to support UUCP so I hacked this on like so: "

That's not asking for CVS rights, looking to merge it, asking him to do anything, just letting him know what use his project it put to so that he could make it better. If ten people admit to writing hackish solutions to something he could use that as a starting point for doing it well.

Feedback isn't required, but helps everyone.

Re:Not really (0, Redundant)

renoX (11677) | more than 7 years ago | (#17708738)

> I didn't see anything hypocritical about it.
Well, you're not looking at it enough: so he didn't find any project providing the feature he wanted, why didn't he help any existing framework adding the feature?

He doesn't explain it, but that's clearly because he wants to do things his way and he doesn't really care about the users or the other developers to help any existing framework.

Then he is disappointed that people makes change to without sending patches?
That's simple: they want to do things their way and they don't care really about him or the other users..

So yes, his article show how an OSS project started, but it's also show why real progress for the users or in the FLOSS codebase is slow..

what. the. fuck. (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17707714)

"birthing process"? Are we talking about software or pregnant farm animals?

Re:what. the. fuck. (1)

Imexius (967514) | more than 7 years ago | (#17707744)

Birth: the time when something begins (especially life)

wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

Judging by this definition, I think it's usage was appropriate ^^

Re:what. the. fuck. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17707768)

"birthing process"? Are we talking about software or pregnant farm animals?

You mean Firefox, right?

Re:what. the. fuck. (1)

Brandybuck (704397) | more than 7 years ago | (#17708440)

Farm animals do not have "birthing processes" any more than they have "excretory processes" or "ruminatory processes". Sheesh.

Re:what. the. fuck. (1)

ramunasg (973228) | more than 7 years ago | (#17709050)

"birthing process"? Are we talking about software or pregnant farm animals?

Do you know what a metaphor is?

Re:what. the. fuck. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17718124)

A metaphor is like a box of chocolates...

Poo-poo it all you like... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17707902)

But this has helped someone: me.
Am thinking of starting an FLOSS project and this has provided much needed guidance. Some people have been mean about the article, but whatever they think it's useful to some of us.

Art History (1, Redundant)

skazatmebaby (110364) | more than 7 years ago | (#17707996)

I just find it interesting that there are two mailing list managers, both named similar to art movements of the 20th century.

Linux.com and Slashdot are both owned by OSTG. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17708036)

Yes, we know already! You've only told us... what? Oh, about four hundred times! For fucks sake, cut it out already. It's a waste of bandwidth.

Don't say "FOSS" (1, Insightful)

YGingras (605709) | more than 7 years ago | (#17708070)

Don't say "FOSS". If you mean free software, write free software; if you mean open source, write open source, write open source; if you don't know the difference, look it up because there is one and it does matter. By using an empty term like "FOSS" you alienate both worlds by you lack of commitment. I bet some people even pronounce it like "fuss". This is removing all the meaning that was left from the term.

There isn't one and it doesn't matter (3, Insightful)

Per Abrahamsen (1397) | more than 7 years ago | (#17709624)

The Open Source Definition was an attempt to formalize the requirements of free software, and any difference between the lists of open source licenses and free software licenses are due to nuances in interpretation, rather than anything substantial.

There is a philosophical difference between the main advocates of "free software" and "open source", it just doesn't matter for the majority of developers who just want to share something cool they have done. From my own days as a free software project leader, I'd estimate that for every developer discussing the ethical implication of various licenses on the net, there are 99 who couldn't care less about the license, and would even contribute their code to proprietary project if that had been necessary to make it available to others. [Of course, for every developer discussing the various licenses, there are also 99 non-developers with the mistaken belief that their opinions matter. ]

In conclusion, stop trying to create an artificial ridge between free software and open source when it isn't there or doesn't matter, depending on your point of view. It is 99% overlap, the remaining 1% is just enough for ESR and RMS to stand alone and feel important.

Re:There isn't one and it doesn't matter (1)

FishWithAHammer (957772) | more than 7 years ago | (#17710060)

Agreed entirely. They're essentially the same damn thing under different names, and any differences are a joke.

And the grandparent got thumped by a 4-digit ID poster. Splat.

Re:There isn't one and it doesn't matter (1)

YGingras (605709) | more than 7 years ago | (#17711546)

If you are right then two terms for the same thing is already too many and we don't need something as silly as "FOSS". You can disagree about the dichotomy but only a stroustrupian philosopher will dodge the issue with concatenation of all the options.

Re:There isn't one and it doesn't matter (1)

Pollardito (781263) | more than 7 years ago | (#17713152)

If you are right then two terms for the same thing is already too many and we don't need something as silly as "FOSS". You can disagree about the dichotomy but only a stroustrupian philosopher will dodge the issue with concatenation of all the options.
the two terms don't mean the same thing, he's saying that the FOSS term is a superset of both of the other terms that is useful for most people. the words "doberman" and "rottweiler" don't mean the same thing as each other, but "dog" summarizes both of them adequately enough for most people

Re:There isn't one and it doesn't matter (2, Insightful)

a.d.trick (894813) | more than 7 years ago | (#17711866)

There is a philosophical difference between the main advocates of "free software" and "open source", it just doesn't matter for the majority of developers who just want to share something cool they have done.

The funny thing is that one of the things we argue about is just this: how much it matters. Generally open source fans go for the "it doesn't matter" side while the Free Software people feel the difference is fundamental to their position (which it is). To the open source guys, we Free Software supporters look like self-important fanatics quibbling over inane details as if our only goal in life was to create strife with our allies. On the other hand, Free Software people see the open source movement as sell-outs. We want a system that is not only free now, but forever. We see temporary freedom as a nasty form of trickery, and products like the Tivo are ultimately failures as far as our movement is concerned.

Just because you think something is unimportant doesn't mean the other guys think that same, and it certainly doesn't make the issue go away.

Re:There isn't one and it doesn't matter (1)

Etyenne (4915) | more than 7 years ago | (#17713120)

Just because you think something is unimportant doesn't mean the other guys think that same, and it certainly doesn't make the issue go away.

I think the parent point is that most people consider the subtleties of Free vs Open-Source software unimporant. You and handful of others might disagree, but that is still a tiny minority of people interested in FOSS. Fortunately.

Free software vs open source vs most contributers (1)

Per Abrahamsen (1397) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716734)

It is a little stronger than that.

- The free software philosophers believe that sharing is good for society, and to promote it they share some cool technology.

- The open source philosophers believe that cool technology is good for society, and to promote it they share some cool technology.

Most contributers don't care about what is good for society, they just have some cool technology they want to share. So they subtleties of free software vs open source really is irrelevant to most contributers.

Whether cool technology is a means to promote sharing (free software), or whether sharing is a means to create cool technology (open source), probably has some implications for what kind of society we want to build. But not for those who just want to share cool technology.

Well... (2, Funny)

Mongoose (8480) | more than 7 years ago | (#17708272)

In the OSS project I'm most well known for the community refers to me as 'Dear Leader'. I'm sure they mean well. ;)

failzo8s? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17708308)

ago, many of you I type this. 8ay do, may not

Birth of a FOSS application, my way (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17708484)

The birth of a FOSS application, my way;

I need a tool for something, or think about playing with some idea

spend couple evenings on it at home

figure someone else might find it useful

publish it on the net.

What's so mystical about this?

How much effort should a person go to? (5, Interesting)

deranged unix nut (20524) | more than 7 years ago | (#17708672)

I ran into an annoying little bug with Perl Win32::SoundRec, figured out how to fix it, patched my own system, and then spent 30 minutes trying to find info on where to submit the fix. I finally emailed the author and got no response. Months later, the bug is still there. The fix is three lines of code and two extra calculations.

I had some crashes with Mozilla and tried to get symbols, it turns out that the release build doesn't have published symbols so my effort to repro a stress bug and capture it in windbg was wasted.

In the pre-1.0 kernel days, I had problems getting two 3c509 nics to work in a box at the same time. With the help of a friend, we made a 3c509-2 driver by copying and changing all of the identifiers. The hack worked, but it was a hack. At the time, I didn't take the time to report the limitation anywhere or investigate further.

So, when I as a 99.9% user tries that 0.1% of the time to contribute, why is it always a pain? I would love to contribute. If the bar were lower, if I could take a 1-line fix and get someone to pay attention, or if I could take that bug and get support in debugging it other than "compile it yourself", I am sure my contribution rate would quadruple.

Maybe a college student has enough time to spend decyphering how to contribute. I don't have that much time anymore.

Re:How much effort should a person go to? (4, Insightful)

gregmac (629064) | more than 7 years ago | (#17708786)

I ran into an annoying little bug with Perl Win32::SoundRec, figured out how to fix it, patched my own system, and then spent 30 minutes trying to find info on where to submit the fix. I finally emailed the author and got no response. Months later, the bug is still there. The fix is three lines of code and two extra calculations.
That's a real problem, but it's really a fault of the project, not the open source process in general. The nice thing about this is you can at least post your patch somewhere (like the mailing list) and at the least other users who encounter the same problem can fix it. At best, if the author never comes back and fixes it, someone (or you) can fork it and maintain their own version with that and possibly other fixes/enhancements..

So, when I as a 99.9% user tries that 0.1% of the time to contribute, why is it always a pain? I would love to contribute. If the bar were lower, if I could take a 1-line fix and get someone to pay attention, or if I could take that bug and get support in debugging it other than "compile it yourself", I am sure my contribution rate would quadruple.
Again, it's really up to the project. I've been involed with projects where the only interaction between the developer and users is a forum (eg, this is where bugs/patches/etc go) and although it's easy to contribute a patch (just post a message), it's incredibly irritating in many other respects. There's no real way to "track" bugs/patches, they're just messages that eventually get lost on page 2+ (I say this as a user, but I'm sure the developer(s) would have as hard a time as I).

On the other end, some projects use ticket tracking systems that are overly complex - eg, you have to register first, and then fill out 50 fields, search 4 or 5 times to be sure it's not duplicated, etc. In some projects this tracker is not linked to from the main web page, which makes the process even more difficult. In some projects, after reporting a bug you'll get a response "please try in the latest cvs/svn version". All of these things add up to make it a hassle for the causal user to report bugs. From a developers point of view, they mean the developers (who are volunteers, remember) spend less time going through false bug reports.

I think the answer lies somewhere in between. Having to register is a response to spam - there are a lot of spam bots that attack the common bug tracking systems. Having too many fields is annoying, but in a big project it can be useful to get people to report the proper information and be sure the right people look at it. Sometimes asking the user to try the lastest version is appropriate (eg, if there's a possible fix in, but not totally tested for all cases), but sometimes it's just lazyness.

I'm active on a decently large project now, and there are a LOT of false bug reports - bugs reported in branches that are obsolete (and have been fixed for a year), people posting what amounts to help questions as bugs, and bugs that say "____ doesn't work" (eg, utterly useless). Luckily we have non-developer users that go through and close these, ocasionally CC'ing a developer to ask if it's legitimate. However, not all projects have these, and indeed, we didn't for the first year or so of existance. As a result, there were often bug reports that would sit there for a long time before someone got around to going through them. Let me tell you, it's pretty annoying to spend 30 minutes trying to duplicate a bug, only to find out in the end it was a configuration error or some other unrelated problem, where if the user had read documentation they would have solved it.

So basically what it gets down to is: do you make users spend slightly more time to file a decent bug report, or do you waste lots of developer time (in aggregate) tracking down false bugs? Since it's usually the developers that set up the bug tracking system, guess what the answer is...

Re:How much effort should a person go to? (1)

Rakshasa Taisab (244699) | more than 7 years ago | (#17708818)

Let me tell you, it's pretty annoying to spend 30 minutes trying to duplicate a bug, only to find out in the end it was a configuration error or some other unrelated problem, where if the user had read documentation they would have solved it.


That's why I now like to torment the users of my software.

Re:How much effort should a person go to? (1)

deranged unix nut (20524) | more than 7 years ago | (#17711498)

Having usable documentation is nice too.

A few times, especially with Perl, I follow the documentation step by step and it doesn't work. Spending time understanding the code, thank God that Perl is by definition open source, I usually find some undocumented dependencies that solve the problem.

With commercial projects and free projects requiring technically complex code, as often as not, I run into documentation that expects you to read and comprehend everything that the programmer had to comprehend to write the code before you can even use it. I don't fault the programmers, it is hard to write good, useful documentation and having written the code can be a liability when it comes time to provide a plain-english explanation.

It isn't always the case, but if you are getting a lot of bogus bug reports, you might consider that your design is non-intuitive or that your documentation is too complex.

How much effort should a person go to?-Little (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17712716)

Or you borrow a leaf from the commercial page and build in automated tool(s) that provide most of the needed information, and the user fills out the rest.

You get the informationn you need, and the feedback loop is nade simpler for everyone.

Re:How much effort should a person go to?-Little (1)

gregmac (629064) | more than 7 years ago | (#17713980)

Or you borrow a leaf from the commercial page and build in automated tool(s) that provide most of the needed information, and the user fills out the rest.
That's assuming a crash (or something that can be identified by the computer as a problem) happened, and your system is relatively simple. If you're working with something that involves multiple services, and there is simply unexpected behaviour (eg, action A causes B to happen, when you were expecting C .. in other words, the outcome is 'successful' but it's not what should have happened), it's very hard to provide automated tools to gather the required information (without just dumping all logs for the last x minutes - which really puts you in the same situation as requring a large amount of developer time).

Re:How much effort should a person go to? (0)

ookaze (227977) | more than 7 years ago | (#17708942)

So, when I as a 99.9% user tries that 0.1% of the time to contribute, why is it always a pain?

Let's see. Two tries were on Win32 related problems, and one on Linux wasn't a contribution at all, as you didn't have time. So the answer is clear : contributing to FOSS projects on Windows is a pain.
On Linux, I never got these problems at all when contributing.

Re:How much effort should a person go to? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17710380)

So the answer is clear : contributing to FOSS projects on Windows is a pain.
On Linux, I never got these problems at all when contributing.
Huh? His Mozilla complaint at least is project-specific not platform specific. There are no debug symbols avaiable on the Firefox download page [mozilla.com] .

Extension to Mozilla (1)

IzEBaLL (977974) | more than 7 years ago | (#17709138)

For my master thesis I developed an extension of the JavaScript engine in Mozilla Firefox to detect possible XSS attacks. After finishing my thesis I tried to find a way to give it back to Mozilla. First I tried the homepage to find out where I could send the patch/details to. Because there is no such contact information I tried the irc-channels. There were some nice people who tried to help me by suggesting I had to file a "bug" (that is actually a feature request) in the bugzilla bug tracking system. They also told me that they would possible only accept patches to trunk (whereas my patch was against a pre-1.0 version when 1.5 was the current official version) and that they would possibly expect me to work on the patch. When I told them that I won't have time in the future or at least couldn't guarantee to have time to work on it (perhaps some people in my former institute would be able to help) they started to flame me that it isn't possible worth the time if I'm not willing to work on it :-) Probably they were right because the "bug" states it is "Assigned To: Nobody; OK to take it and work on it" :-)

Re:Extension to Mozilla (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17710952)

Of course you could have posted it on the web so that anyone who is interested and has time of their own could take a look at merging it to trunk. But no, you'd rather bitch about it and take your toys and go home instead of sharing.

Re:Extension to Mozilla (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17712946)

Of course you could have posted it on the web so that anyone who is interested and has time of their own could take a look at merging it to trunk. But no, you'd rather bitch about it and take your toys and go home instead of sharing.
Actually he said

Probably they were right because the "bug" states it is "Assigned To: Nobody; OK to take it and work on it" :-)
and you can see his work as bug 332016 [mozilla.org] . Although if Mozilla is taking Adobe's ActionScript engine to replace their own it may soon be obsolete.

Re:How much effort should a person go to? (1)

Sax Maniac (88550) | more than 7 years ago | (#17711434)

I ran into an annoying little bug with Perl Win32::SoundRec, figured out how to fix it, patched my own system, and then spent 30 minutes trying to find info on where to submit the fix. I finally emailed the author and got no response. Months later, the bug is still there. The fix is three lines of code and two extra calculations.
Have you ever been on the receiving end of patches?

Nearly all patches are unacceptable because they break something else that the original author does not care about. This patch fixes 64-bit code... at the expense of all 32-bit code. This patch fixes a warning... at the expense of not compiling with anything but gcc. So on and so on.

Now imagine that you have a few hundred of these patches to deal with... on your spare time. Quick: now categorize all those patches in the "good" and "bad" category.

If you just apply it blindly, then the product will suffer. Badly.

A patch flung at you means nearly nothing, unless you already trust the person with the rest of code. You have to reproduce the problem, understand it, and vet the fix. And the time to take to do that really is not that much less with a patch in hand. So, if only one person in the world is effected by your bug (namely, you) then it's a game of prioritization. I'm going to fix the bug that affect lots of people first.

This doesn't just apply to open-source projects, you vet internal bugs the same way. It's just that open-source projects tends to have a larger group of users who now can change code, but only really need to support themselves. That's great. Make your patch for yourself, that's what we want you to do! But getting it accepted upstream is hard, and should be hard, because we are supporting more people than just you.

Re:How much effort should a person go to? (1)

deranged unix nut (20524) | more than 7 years ago | (#17711706)

Have you ever been on the receiving end of patches?

Nearly all patches are unacceptable because they break something else that the original author does not care about. This patch fixes 64-bit code... at the expense of all 32-bit code. This patch fixes a warning... at the expense of not compiling with anything but gcc. So on and so on.

In fairness, I have not really been in that situation. I have been on the receiving end for really small projects with only a handful of users.

For large projects, I can empathize.

For small projects that have had fewer than 1000 downloads in the last year, I have less empathy when I try to help and don't even get an acknowledgement or a rejection email.

Contributions (3, Insightful)

Netsensei (838071) | more than 7 years ago | (#17708870)

The involvement of the person behind the project is really important. Submitting bugs and patches is one thing, but if none one looks at them, why bother? In fact it's a two way route: the more involved the original developer, the more people will take interest in the project.

I submitted bugreports on several occasions in various projects. Most rewarding was when I submitted a small bug in Magpie. I got a personal reply by mail from the original developer. Seeing how your solutions are considered by the developer and how your contributions matter is big aspect of what's open source all about.

Cease and desist letter because of name (2, Informative)

bhaak1 (219906) | more than 7 years ago | (#17708920)

I find it surprising that he was very thoughtful about starting a software project - there are a lot of abandonden projects out there that don't work good enough and wouldn't exists if the programmer just had looked around if its really needed.

But with naming his project he just used his initial and "mail". A simple google search would have shown him that this is no good name.

When releasing something to the public I try at least to find a name that doesn't collide with existing projects (and certainly not collides with names of projects that are similar in *function*) and if possible are google unique. Helps track the distribution quite a bit.

Re:Cease and desist letter because of name (1)

skazatmebaby (110364) | more than 7 years ago | (#17717614)

It's not always that easy - I received a *very* similar letter for a program that was named similar to another program. My program was in existence much longer than this program, but they were a computer that was being traded on NASDAQ, I was a junior in college.

I followed what was written in the letter.

(not) slashdotted... (1)

Falladir (1026636) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716138)

Not the linked article, but the site of the program that was already named bMail. That's what you get for cease-and-desisting a FOSS project. (not that the author meant to DoS their site, but it's funny that it happened)
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