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Management 'Scared' by Open Source

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 7 years ago | from the following-with-a-firm-push dept.

Businesses 373

A discussion panel at EclipseCon exposed how managers are freaking out over open source. Apparently a disconnect exists between managers who set corporate open source policies and developers supposed to follow them, but who end up covering their tracks to make it seem like they are not using open source. Developers, though, end up using open source because of its ubiquity and not using it 'puts them at a competitive disadvantage because their competitors are.' And the Lawyers are in a panic.

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frist pr0st (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18298782)

eff pee

The main reason is lack of clear knowledge (5, Insightful)

freedom_india (780002) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298784)

1) Managers are under the mistaken impression that if i just use spring or Jakarta Commons, the company MUST open up the whole project in which it is used (like a proprietrary trading system) to Open Source.
Many managers don't realize that just "using" Spring does NOT force you to open up your systems.
You only need to open up if and when you modify Spring framework with your own code.

2) Open source hacks is another fear they have: the fear that somehow using open source tools will make their client sue them.

3) Leak Back: Managers fear developers, in their zeal to promote open source, will incorporate company's code into open source for 'benefitting' others. Much like SCO claimed. Developers are not fools.

It requires a maturity level beyond that exists today and i don't blame them since these managers were brought up an era where you pay good money for good things.

Re:The main reason is lack of clear knowledge (3, Interesting)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298812)

Along the lines of #1, most folk I meet are fearful of the license issues in terms of "do we owe royalties or something?" Where I work, we use my public domain OSS projects, but we also use others (openssl, swan, the kernel, etc) and we have to be careful of how we distribute things. Fortunately, most of it is in source form which alleviates GPL/LGPL issues. But it's always in the back of our minds.

Tom

Re:The main reason is lack of clear knowledge (3, Interesting)

pammon (831694) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298916)

Managers are under the mistaken impression that if i just use spring or Jakarta Commons, the company MUST open up the whole project in which it is used (like a proprietrary trading system) to Open Source.

Use how? What if one of the engineers needs a snippet of code, copies it from Spring, and incorporates it into their product without attribution? Suddenly, that company is legally vulnerable.

You only need to open up if and when you modify Spring framework with your own code

No, that is not correct - the Spring framework does not require you to distribute your changes. You just proved the point: licensing mistakes are easy to make. If you were developing a program that incorporated Spring, and mistakenly believed that it required you to license your source, you would cost your company a great deal of money by doing so. That is why the fear is legitimate.

Open source hacks is another fear they have: the fear that somehow using open source tools will make their client sue them.

And that's a reasonable fear. If I sell code that violates a license to a client, that client becomes legally vulnerable and might sue me. Because open source software is so accessible, it becomes easier to inadvertently violate a license.

Leak Back: Managers fear developers, in their zeal to promote open source, will incorporate company's code into open source for 'benefitting' others.

I doubt very much that's a concern. No developer is going to risk their job for open source warm fuzzies, and conversely, no open source project is going to accept leaked patches. Any project that did would open itself up to huge legal liability. Corporate espionage and bribery is a much bigger worry.

You mentioned maturity, but I think you have it backwards - corporations have developed strict, mature processes for keeping themselves on firm legal footing, and licenses are reviewed and vetted by the legal teams. The wide availability of license-encumbered code means that engineers have the opportunity to play lawyer. That's bad, and if you're a manager, you should be scared by that.

Re:The main reason is lack of clear knowledge (3, Informative)

l0ne (915881) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299272)

Use how? What if one of the engineers needs a snippet of code, copies it from Spring, and incorporates it into their product without attribution? Suddenly, that company is legally vulnerable.

Oh, come on! The dev community has worked twenty years to get to the point where you can reuse existing code without having to copy and paste it. We were calling this inheritance if I'm not mistaken.

Also, it's common sense that other people's code is other people's. If your developers are not intelligent enough to understand that and actively research the license for the code they're taking, they should not be your developers. I can do it, and I'm just a Slashdot-reading moron!

No, that is not correct - the Spring framework does not require you to distribute your changes. You just proved the point: licensing mistakes are easy to make.

They're also easy not to make. Not as easy as they are to make, but easy enough. Think safe sex.

If any contributions are properly documented (it's easy with a proper source management system), and made by a group of competent developers, as above, things work out correctly. If you cannot keep your devs in check, you have more to worry than just licensing problems. Google does this, Apple does this, Microsoft (!) might be even doing this, and none of them ever had licensing problems of any kind.

Open source hacks is another fear they have: the fear that somehow using open source tools will make their client sue them.

And that's a reasonable fear. If I sell code that violates a license to a client, that client becomes legally vulnerable and might sue me. Because open source software is so accessible, it becomes easier to inadvertently violate a license.

Using an open source tool and modifying it are two deeply different things. No FOSS tool that I know of limits what you can do with its output. OS X is compiled with GCC, but it's a commercial OS, for instance.

Re:The main reason is lack of clear knowledge (1)

drsmithy (35869) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299454)

Using an open source tool and modifying it are two deeply different things.

Not while "linking" and "modifying" remain synonymous, they're not.

Added to which, the GPL - probably the most popular OSS license - does not require "modification" to apply its restrictions, it merely requires "inclusion".

Re:The main reason is lack of clear knowledge (2, Informative)

init100 (915886) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299464)

No FOSS tool that I know of limits what you can do with its output.

One category of programs that may cause such issues are lexical and syntactical analyzers (also known as lexer and parser generators), since they often include parts of themselves in their output.

disempowerment (5, Interesting)

ex-geek (847495) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298940)

I believe that another important fear is that of disempowerment. Open source is usually free of charge, which means that their budgets and thus their importance decreases. Also, there is no need for developers and IT staff to go to their superiors to ask and beg in the first place. They can just download, evaluate and use free software right away.

Free software is also not advertised unlike commercial products, which means that managers can't even communciate, what is going on, to their kin.

Compare: "I recently negotiated a licencing deal with <known software company> for <known software product>, which i deemed to be the best solution because of <list of buzzwords>"
To: "Well, my IT guys implemented a working system on their own, using some software I can't pronounce and really don't understand."

Re:The main reason is lack of clear knowledge (3, Insightful)

rlauzon (770025) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298958)

The main reason is the lack of knowledge. Period. (At least for the companies that I've worked for.)

The people who makes these decisions are frequently ex-techies who don't realize that they have no useful knowledge anymore, simply because they've been living in management-land for so long. So they make decision based on simple rules. Back in the '80's, the rule was "no one got fired for going with IBM." Now, it's "no one got fired for going Microsoft."

Time and time again, they choose to pay for overpriced Microsoft products instead of going with an open source alternative. For example: when we "upgraded" to Windows XP, we also "upgraded" to Office XP. No one could give me a clear reason why we chose to pay $75 per license for Office XP instead of going to OpenOffice for free.

The only time non-Microsoft products enter the enterprise is when these people aren't part of the decision process. For example: our new PBX system runs Asterix and the "print servers" that we put in the remote locations are all appliances that run Red Hat.

Re:The main reason is lack of clear knowledge (2, Informative)

Alex (342) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299092)

No one could give me a clear reason why we chose to pay $75 per license for Office XP instead of going to OpenOffice for free.

I use openoffice all of the time - and the answer to your question is "open office is only an acceptable replacement for basic users of office applications" - have you tried opening a complex spreadsheet in openoffice ? it'll take ages. On my 3 year old windows laptop similar spreadsheets open in 20% of the time in Excel.

Openoffice is very good - but for a small % of users it is a very poor replacement, 75$ is also a bargain for MS Office.

Alex

Re:The main reason is lack of clear knowledge (2, Informative)

rlauzon (770025) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299292)

I use openoffice all of the time - and the answer to your question is "open office is only an acceptable replacement for basic users of office applications" - have you tried opening a complex spreadsheet in openoffice? it'll take ages. On my 3 year old windows laptop similar spreadsheets open in 20% of the time in Excel.

Yup. Just did it. Opened quicker than Excel for me.

Openoffice is very good - but for a small % of users it is a very poor replacement, 75$ is also a bargain for MS Office.

I would agree that for a small percentage of users OO is probably a poor replacement.

But I would argue that those people are using the wrong tool for the job and that the only reason they are using MS Office is because it's the only tool they know about (or the only one that their IT dept will let them have).

And we are back again to letting the wrong people make technical decisions.

Re:The main reason is lack of clear knowledge (1)

LaughingCoder (914424) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299336)

I would agree that for a small percentage of users OO is probably a poor replacement.
Please see my comment at http://linux.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=225968&c id=18299300 [slashdot.org] . I would submit that anyone who does even simple graphing in Excel is not a candidate for Open Office. Given that Office is predominantly a business application, and given that Excel is the primary component for business users, I think this means that Open Office is simply unsuited for business users.

Re:The main reason is lack of clear knowledge (2, Informative)

TobascoKid (82629) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299488)

So because OO.org is not suited to some business users it's unsuited for all business users?

Looking at your post, why are you using a spreadsheet to do that kind of graphing in the first place (even Excel)? You seem to be claiming that your particular use of spreadsheets shows that OO.org is not suitable for all business use, even though you are using it in a way that is non-representative of typical business use cases.

Re:The main reason is lack of clear knowledge (1)

turbidostato (878842) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299310)

" have you tried opening a complex spreadsheet in openoffice ?"

Yes.

"it'll take ages"

False.

"On my 3 year old windows laptop similar spreadsheets open in 20% of the time in Excel."

False again.

You probably meant that open *Excel* spreadsheets on Openoffice.org took ages; that I admit. But open *openoffice* spreadsheets on Openoffice.org works just OK. On the other hand, trying to open Openoffice.org spreadsheets on Excel doesn't take ages: it takes forever.

Re:The main reason is lack of clear knowledge (2, Informative)

LaughingCoder (914424) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299300)

No one could give me a clear reason why we chose to pay $75 per license for Office XP instead of going to OpenOffice for free.
Here's a clear reason. Open Office is a toy. I am actually not a power user of Excel, but every time I try Open Office Calc (spreadsheet) it is very disappointing. Just the other day I wanted to graph 2048 data pairs contained in a CSV file. I am using a dual core machine with 2GB of RAM, and nothing else is running. In Open Office's spreadsheet program it takes 15 seconds just to create a simple line graph (default parameters) and then for some bizarre reason it simply hangs, unresponsive for another 12 seconds before it accepts UI commands again - 27 seconds in total!. I tried this on two different machines, not believing what I was seeing. And for reference, the memory footprint of Open Office with the data loaded and the graph displayed is 74MB. In Excel, by comparison, on the same machine the graph is displayed in less than a second (a blink of an eye actually). That's a factor of about 50 faster! And the memory footprint is 4MB (a factor of 18 less than Open Office). I don't know about you, but I won't wait 30 seconds for a simple graph to be displayed - that would drive me nuts. One more thing. The default graph in Open Office is poorly formatted and requires some tweaking before being usable. In Excel the default is quite acceptable so I don't have to fiddle to get it to look decent.

Open Office may be an alternative someday, but at least as far as the spreadsheet goes (which is arguably the key application in office for business users), it seems still to be a long way off. And I have yet to try Office 2007 wherein Microsoft presumably raised the bar yet again (though maybe not, they do have an unfortunate tendency to sometimes take steps backwards).

Re:The main reason is lack of clear knowledge (2, Informative)

shaitand (626655) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299524)

Funny you should mention that. I just got my first chance to work with excel in Office 2007. I can certainly say that it was a nightmare.

I am not an excel user nor am I tied to a UI scheme. I am a frequent game player (each UI unique with different levels of quality) and also commonly use various new open source tools (again, many have unique UI's of various quality levels). I can truly say that I have never seen anything quite so horrid as the user interface in 2007. It took a full 10 seconds just to figure out how to print my spreadsheet. The standard File, Edit, View, etc menubar that is found in every windows application known to man no longer exists. The set of toolbars that is used instead is an absolute clusterfuck. There are options scattered about. You might have two options on top of one another and then the next option is skinnier but as tall as the two before; a third segment will again have two elements but that are as thick as 1.5 of the first elements. It hurts just trying to find an element in that.

I couldn't tell you how quickly you could graph data in office 2007 because I'll be damned if anyone could ever figure out how to do such a thing.

Re:The main reason is lack of clear knowledge (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299378)

The only time non-Microsoft products enter the enterprise is when these people aren't part of the decision process. For example: our new PBX system runs Asterix
Those feisty Gauls sure know how to get what they want.

Re:The main reason is lack of clear knowledge (1)

SpaghettiCoder (1073236) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298980)

With regard to your premise number 1, I don't agree that's a "mistaken impression" at all. You have referred to "using" Spring, but it's not as simple as that. What if I downloaded Spring, renamed it and sold it to my client as my own work? I would be in trouble. It's not a clear cut rule which is the same in every case, and the legalities would depend on the specifics of the individual case. If you use any open source code in your company's software, your failure to comply with the legal conditions for doing so (such as the GPL) can and will put you in close communication with your lawyers if the original coder ever finds out you've ripped his code in secret.

These companies are not under any false impressions. They have every right to seek legal advice to protect themselves from being liable to pay damages under intellectual property law. The safeguards referred to in the article (e.g. blocking SourceForge and prohibiting devs from bringing in flash drives) might help them if it ever came to a court of law, and if they were accused of "turning a blind eye" to copyright theft. It seems reasonable to me.

Re:The main reason is lack of clear knowledge (3, Insightful)

Mateo_LeFou (859634) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299182)

I don't know much about Spring in particular, but depending on the license it's perfectly legal to download it, learn how to build it, and make someone pay you to install it. Charge whatever you can get; try to keep a lid on how easy it is. Attributing it to yourself would break the license, but it would be *your breach, not the client's.

"If you use any open source code in your company's software, your failure to comply with the legal conditions for doing so (such as the GPL) can and will put you in close communication with your lawyers if the original coder ever finds out you've ripped his code in secret."

The good news is that policy from the highest levels at the free software foundation is "never let a request for damages interfere with a settlement for compliance." So if a manager finds that they are noncompliant, they will get guidance (from Moglen) about how to get back into compliance, rather than a lawsuit.

On the whole, it seems like a much friendlier proposition that having a team of attorneys crawl over every vendor's EULA with a microscope.

Re:The main reason is lack of clear knowledge (1)

SpaghettiCoder (1073236) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299302)

I agree it is much better than having close legal scrutiny of individually crafted terms and conditions, but I wonder what would happen in the following situation. Suppose I build someone else's GPL'd code without giving proper attribution (an abhorrent thing to do anyway) and make a broad statement such as "it's all my work" when selling the compiled, installed binary to a client. The client adduces from my statement that it's all legit, and hands me the cash. I go on my merry way and milk the reputation I've accrued with this deal, with more contracts of a similar nature with other parties. One day, an open source software dev Googles his own project to find out what the commercial sector is selling, in the same field as his open source software project. Looking a little deeper, he finds it striking just how many similarities exist between their shiny, glossy packages and the functionality provided by his own little interface or library or whatever. He obtains a copy of what they're selling, and runs it through a debugger, and finds that by an amazing coincidence, the exact names he has given to various objects, functions and procedures are found in the commercial packages. So who does he seek out for compensation? The self-employed obscure contractor who nobody knows, and who's based in God-knows-where or the up and coming household name (i.e. the small-to-medium-sized firm)? How does he even know that the local big boy hired the contractor who sold his own code to them under false pretences? He doesn't know, so he writes to everyone: the retailer, the wholesaler, the software company - everyone. They all write back to him saying we're terribly sorry we didn't know. We hired a guy who said the work was his. So will you take $5000 and be cool? Of course the open source guy is reasonable and he agrees. But because money doesn't grow on trees and they have to justify every penny, the companies then seek out that Joe Bloggs who sold them the software. They want the cash they paid him for the software, and to recover all the compensation they had to pay out. Of course he can't pay, so they are forced to write off the debt.. Wouldn't it have been better to look for a proper dev in the first place, than to advertise for solutions? The best place to look would be open source, in case someone talented has already produced what you need for your company.

Re:The main reason is lack of clear knowledge (3, Interesting)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299228)

There's a big difference between using openoffice, and altering open office and trying to sell it to someone else as a product. If the developers and management can't understand that, then there are other issues. Of course there are a couple issues with packages like MySQL, where simply calling the API can require you to open source your product, but that's just something the company has be aware of. I don't think dealing with open source licences is any more difficult than dealing with the closed source licenses that Microsoft et al give you with their product.

Re:The main reason is lack of clear knowledge (1)

init100 (915886) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299500)

Of course there are a couple issues with packages like MySQL, where simply calling the API can require you to open source your product

That might be why MySQL also offers commercial licenses, which presubaly do not carry any such requirements.

Re:The main reason is lack of clear knowledge (1)

turbidostato (878842) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299344)

"With regard to your premise number 1, I don't agree that's a "mistaken impression" at all"

Yes, it is. It wouldn't be a "mistaken impression" if source code added *new* legal problems, but the case is that it doesn't add new problems at all, so they shouldn't be more scared about the GPL than they are about Microsoft's CLUF, for instance. There lies the "mistaken impression".

"What if I downloaded Spring, renamed it and sold it to my client as my own work? I would be in trouble."

Of course you could be in troubles. But "what if I downloaded Microsoft Office 2003, renamed it and sold it to my client as my own work?" I certainly would be in *big* troubles too, so where's the novelty? Answer: nowhere. For you to use code written by others, you need them to agree. Sometimes this involves royaties sometimes not, that's all.

"if you use any open source code in your company's software, your failure to comply with the legal conditions for doing so (such as the GPL) can and will put you in close communication with your lawyers"

If you use any closed source code in your company's software, your failure to comply with the legal conditions for doing so (such as the Microsoft's CLUF) can and will put you in close communication with your lawyers.

So once again: where is the novelty of the case so company's lawyers can cry "fire, fire!" when talking about open source that were not the same with all closed source they don't cry "fire, fire!" about?

Re:The main reason is lack of clear knowledge (2, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299064)

1) Managers are under the mistaken impression that if i just use spring or Jakarta Commons, the company MUST open up the whole project in which it is used (like a proprietrary trading system) to Open Source.

To be fair, I don't expect a manager beyond a certain level to understand the complexities of libraries and linking and 'derived work' and patent clauses or whatnot. In particular not if they're entering into a legal agreement on the company's behalf, which is exactly what a software license is. I certainly wouldn't want to take a developer's word that he knows what legal implications it has, any more than I'd take a lawyer's word that he can run networks because he's written SLAs. Depending on the beuraucracy of the organization, it might be a shorter and easier way to write it themselves than to go down that route with policies and legal and whatnot. Managers are rarely the ones to ask for foregiveness rather than permission.

To take one example from a client that shall remain nameless. I needed an SQL tool to do my job, and the only approved tool was Query Analyzer. At the same time they were in a process of migrating to a new platform, and everyone issued new PCs had to be on the new platform. Unfortunately, they had not certified Query Analyser (and Enterprise Manager) for use on the new platform. Could I have it installed anyway? No, against policy. Could I downgrade to the old platform? No, against policy. Could they make an exception to policy? Blasphemy. I could tell you how much time and money was wasted on that, but you'd swear I was lying.

2) Open source hacks is another fear they have: the fear that somehow using open source tools will make their client sue them.

Half the reason Microsoft is so unpopular is because they deserve it. The other half is because Microsoft has been blamed for a million cock-ups by incompetent managers or their subordinates. Whenever there's a flaw in a product, the client is trying to grab the one closest to them and make it their responsibility to fix it. The further it gets passed up the chain, the less chance they'll get help. Once it's passed off to upstream support, the ball is sort of passed. In that respect, the fact that you *could* in theory fix an opensource tool is more of a disadvantage than anything else. In that sense, I think it might actually be legitimate. In addition, there's simply managers covering their ass.

3) Leak Back: Managers fear developers, in their zeal to promote open source, will incorporate company's code into open source for 'benefitting' others. Much like SCO claimed. Developers are not fools.

I don't think they're half as worried about that as the other way around, apart from blatant "let's post the whole products source code on the Internet", which has nothing to do with open source. If some odds and ends from lone developers leaks, it's a shame but they got pretty much a full arsenal of legal work to stop it. If SCO had any real claims, and those were pointed out specificly they'd be gone by the next point release, never to return in any official kernel. What I do think they're worried about is changes of context and ending up sued for copyright infringement themselves.

Let's for example say you've built up some internal tool based on GPL code, which is perfectly OK. But then you figure out that your partners, customers or something also should be able to use that tool. Suddently you're distributing that tool from one legal entity to another and the GPL is invoked. Parhaps the GPL'd bit is just some library or code that got thrown in sometime because it was useful and it's internal anyway, right? Again, there's also the personal angle and the company angle. It might not be a big thing for the company as such, but I swear: If your company gets sued it comes from legal, up to executive management and down on that manager like a ton of bricks.

Certainly, that's not something new and you can get sued by others too. But paid licensed code has usually been through a whole different formal funding and licensing bit, for all sorts of BSA-ish audits and whatever. Everyone that's using it probably has to go through some sort of process, often they're limited to a certain product or to a certain use or whatnot. While you might say open source code should see the same rigor, it usually doesn't because it's gratis and can be taken from one internal project to the other without issues.

Re:The main reason is lack of clear knowledge (1)

turbidostato (878842) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299376)

"To take one example from a client that shall remain nameless. I needed an SQL tool to do my job, and the only approved tool was Query Analyzer. At the same time they were in a process of migrating to a new platform, and everyone issued new PCs had to be on the new platform. Unfortunately, they had not certified Query Analyser (and Enterprise Manager) for use on the new platform. Could I have it installed anyway? No, against policy. Could I downgrade to the old platform? No, against policy. Could they make an exception to policy? Blasphemy. I could tell you how much time and money was wasted on that, but you'd swear I was lying."

I'd believe you since I've been there too.

But then, what's the case about "fearing open source" when the fact is that the ones that stablished the policy were the ones that shited it -and such situations will rise both using open or closed source software?

No. I think the (somehow) real "problem" with open source is twofold:
1) Marketroid FUD speech. A PHB is not a technician and surely knows more or less about "technocrap" than a geek about quarter balancing. So the PHB forms an opinion with the elements that reach their hands (just exactly the same *we* all do). And what he has on his hands are pretty coloured brochures from well known closed source companies that can spend money on those issues against vague references from other products that do not expend money on bright coloured brochures (and for the most part, such "vague references" will come from the side of the ones that do expend money on bright coloured brochures).
2) The old adaggio: timeo danaos et dona ferentes. It's free thus it must hide something malicious.

Re:The main reason is lack of clear knowledge (1)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299286)

Managers are under the mistaken impression that if i just use spring or Jakarta Commons, the company MUST open up the whole project in which it is used (like a proprietrary trading system) to Open Source.
Many managers don't realize that just "using" Spring does NOT force you to open up your systems.


It doesn't help that they have salespeople from BlackDuck Software [blackducksoftware.com] reinforcing their fears. Theys guys come knocking telling CEOs, and CFOs (they're very careful not to make initial contact with the technical guys) that if they don't run the BlackDuck product against their source code, they're going to end up getting caught with a line of GPL'ed code in their product and be forced to open up the whole thing. They do this despite the facts that accidentally including GPL'ed code wouldn't force the company to open their code (though they may be forced to remove the GPL'ed part), the Black Duck product produces more false positives and false negatives than valid results, their product provides no guarantees at all, and the BlackDuck software itself is almost certainly violating the copyrights of GPL software authors everywhere.

The open source community has little to no PR to educate businesses about their product, and at the same time IP Lawyers and predatory companies like BlackDuck are spreading false information to maximize billable hours and license fees.

I don't think that your reason #3 is so much of an issue. If it were, companies wouldn't be so willing to outsource. Rather, they'd be afraid that the outsourcing company would use their code in other customer's products as well. I simply don't think that the typical executive manager or investor today is educated enough to even consider that, much less be afraid of it.

Re:The main reason is lack of clear knowledge (1)

dhasenan (758719) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299348)

You don't have to release the source to your modifications of GPL code unless you distribute your modifications. If your company wants to roll out a heavily modified version of GNOME for internal use, the GPL allows that, and they don't need to share the source with anyone until they distribute the binaries outside the company.

Re:The main reason is lack of clear knowledge (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18299494)

4) Many technicaly inclined managers dislike Open Source because the source is available for anyone to see, mainly hackers (crackers to be politicly correct) so it's all the easier to find exploits and one manager I discussed Open Source with seems to think that commercial software developers can get patches for exploits/bugs released faster than Open Source developers. At least he thought that until I explained that with closed source, only authorised developers can make patches, usually a small team and with Open Source, ANYONE that can code in the language the project is written in can patch the application, meaning possibly millions of coders.

Heard that (5, Interesting)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298786)

When big enough companies use [or acquire companies that use] my software, I usually get a call from a manager or legal dept. Turns out big companies are not only scared of OSS but also public domain software. The idea that I give out something for anyone to use without license seems to scare them.

It's like a fiver you leave on a bus for anyone to have, people are always skeptical if they can in fact take it.

On the plus side, it's fun explaining the public domain to folk :-)

Tom

Re:Heard that (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18298896)

It's not clear that that's stupid. The GPL license is a very specific commitment that subsequent users have a set of rights. Whilst PD software is clearly much safer than most proprietary software, where the license may just change in the next release, it doesn't have the guarantees of GPL software.

E.g. If I get your software from a downstream distributor, I've got no guarantee that their code is also PD. If your code was under the GPL then there would be real problems for the down stream distributor if they later try to change their mind (look at the problems SCO has got into by trying to steal Linux, for example).

Re:Heard that (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298968)

Agreed, except in my case the people who contact me are getting the code from me directly. So the distribution is public domain. While it's legit to question the origins of the code, most don't get too hung up on that. They're more worried about how they license public domain code from me... hehehe

It helps to have a consistent coding style, makes my code easy to argue that it came from one source.

Tom

Re:Heard that (2, Interesting)

teh kurisu (701097) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299042)

I think I understand their concern. Technically you still have copyright over your works, as copyright is automatic, but it's what you do with that copyright subsequently that makes it de-facto public domain work.

Also, it's not strictly true that you're passing it on without licence - you are entering into a verbal contract with your clients (which I believe is binding in most legal systems, but don't quote me on that) which gives them certain rights over your copyrighted work. A good lawyer would probably prefer a written contract, so that they have some form of proof in the event of a dispute.

Re:Heard that (5, Interesting)

DRichardHipp (995880) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299052)

I've actually *sold* a few of licenses to the public domain SQLite [sqlite.org] library. Companies call me up and say they want to license the product. I carefully explain that no license is necessary and that they can use it forever for free for anything they want. But they still want a license. So I sell them one. So far, I've sold them cheap. Maybe I should charge more....

This appears to be more of an issue in Europe where, apparently, the concept of "public domain" is less well defined than in the US.

managers who set corporate open source policies? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18298788)

"Apparently a disconnect exists between managers who set corporate open source policies"

There's your problem right there. Managers shouldn't be setting corporate open source policies. Managers are ill-equipped when it comes to setting technical policies. Let the techs make the technical decisions and let the managers... well.. uh.. manage.. stuff. Whatever it is they should be doing.

Re:managers who set corporate open source policies (1)

dhasenan (758719) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299380)

It's a matter of software licenses. Legal should be involved. And should have a clue what they're talking about. In an hour, they could determine that the people issuing these licenses claim that you can use their software as an end user with no charge and no caveats, that the license only matters for distribution, and if their developers want to use open source tools, no problem, as long as that doesn't get into the final product.

Gifted Peasant (got) Lawyer (2, Funny)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298804)

In Capitalist West management scared about your lawyer exposing code theft.
In Soviet Russia KGB scared about not stealing enough code for you.

Re:Gifted Peasant (got) Lawyer (1)

agent dero (680753) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299252)

Jokes are only funny when used less than once every 24 hours [slashdot.org] . Please step back from the keyboard and try again tomorrow.

You capitalist pig.

The license issues (4, Insightful)

mi (197448) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298808)

And the Lawyers are in panic

And for good reason. Just listening to all the talk on whether or not Novell is violating GPL (perhaps by simply partnering with another vendor - Microsoft) should make a lawyer's skin crawl...

If more code was released under BSD-type license, we would've seen wider adoption.

So, GPL was used to wrestle a few vendors into releasing their own code. And what? Who has looked into that code or used it for anything else? And how many other vendors have (foolishly) decided to avoid "open source" and come up with their own (usually inferior) re-inventions of the wheel, because of that?

It is hard enough to use an outside solution because of the NIH [wikipedia.org] syndrome. Restrictive licenses exacerbate the problem...

Re:The license issues (2, Interesting)

imroy (755) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298838)

So, GPL was used to wrestle a few vendors into releasing their own code.

I'm sorry. What did you just write? Give me one example of a company being forced to release previously proprietary software under the GNU GPL. One. I dare you.

Re:The license issues (2, Informative)

mi (197448) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298918)

Give me one example of a company being forced to release previously proprietary software under the GNU GPL. One.

Do a Google search [google.com] will ya?

How about Cisco [infoworld.com] for example, uhm? Or Linksys [wi-fiplanet.com] :

In June 2003 some folks on the Linux Kernel Mailing List sniffed around the WRT54G and found that its firmware was based on Linux components. Because Linux is released under the GNU General Public License, or GPL, the terms of the license obliged Linksys to make available the source code to the WRT54G firmware. As most router firmware is proprietary code, vendors have no such obligation. It remains unclear whether Linksys was aware of the WRT54G's Linux lineage, and its associated source requirements, at the time they released the router. But ultimately, under outside pressure to deliver on their legal obligation under the GPL, Linksys open sourced the WRT54G firmware in July 2003.

Now, you could say, the open-sourced firmware was never proprietary to begin with somehow, but that's just semantics — clearly, Linksys thought of it as proprietary and weren't planning to release the sources until the outside pressure made them do it. I'm not aware of anybody benefiting from this open-sourcing, however, and this lack of benefits (from vendors being wrestled into releasing their "GPL-tainted" code) was my main point.

I dare you.

Now that I've successfully responded to your dare, what will you do? If you are a female, you can scratch my back for 5 minutes. If you are a male, you can take out my garbage — once, this Monday. Make your pick.

Re:The license issues (4, Informative)

LinuxDon (925232) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298978)

Quote: "I'm not aware of anybody benefiting from this open-sourcing, however, and this lack of benefits (from vendors being wrestled into releasing their "GPL-tainted" code) was my main point."

There are a lot of people benefiting from this actually.
Ever heard of http://www.hyperwrt.org/ [hyperwrt.org] and http://openwrt.org/ [openwrt.org] ?

Now you can actually run a webserver on this device.

Granted, you can create a discussion about the commercial value of it all, but it certainly has a very high educational value. Also, this code (with some modifications) could be used on other/similar devices as well.
The way I see it, this is a big win. Instead of reinventing the wheel people can now start off with the already existing code. And I bet Linksys is actually selling more devices because of openwrt instead of less, so Linksys has won too.

Re:The license issues (3, Interesting)

imroy (755) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298982)

Now, you could say, the open-sourced firmware was never proprietary to begin with somehow, but that's just semantics

How is that semantics? I thought that was the whole point - PHB's are afraid of having to release all or part of their precious proprietary software. But that's not what happened with Linksys/Cisco and the WRT54G routers. It was a striped down Linux distro. Ok, they had to put it together, perhaps write some shell scripts. I'm not sure where the web interface came from. But did they have to release any super-secret proprietary source code? I doubt it.

So really, has there been any actual cases of a manager's worst nightmare, the scenario that Microsoft has been FUD'ing us with for years - having to "open source" their internally developed software because a developer in some way used Open Source Software? That's what I'm after. And I don't believe it's ever happened. It's just FUD but the managers don't know any better.

Re:The license issues (1)

mi (197448) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299090)

It was a striped down Linux distro. Ok, they had to put it together, perhaps write some shell scripts.

Well, if that's all it was, why is OpenWRT [openwrt.org] offered as an example by another responder to my post? Apparently, some work was required to go from a "Linux distro" to "Linksys firmware" — and that work is now available to all because of GPL.

And I'm not saying, it is bad. But it certainly is something, a "PHB" is justified to be concerned about.

Re:The license issues (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299358)

But it certainly is something, a "PHB" is justified to be concerned about.

Yeah, but so what? Do you think that the PHB somehow doesn't have to be concerned about the alternative, which is either licensing some proprietary solution (which, legally, is probably even more complicated to deal with) or writing it in-house from scratch (which, obviously, would be complicated too).

In other words, there's going to be issues (licensing or otherwise) whether OSS is used or not, and I've yet to find any situation where the issues with OSS are more onerous than the alternative.

Re:The license issues (4, Informative)

Bent Mind (853241) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299456)

It was a striped down Linux distro. Ok, they had to put it together, perhaps write some shell scripts. I'm not sure where the web interface came from. But did they have to release any super-secret proprietary source code? I doubt it.

Just off the top of my head, it's been a while.

They took the Linux kernel and patched to support a Broadcom wireless NIC. They then sold the compiled version as their own software. Someone found a bug in the interface that dropped them into a shell and discovered it was Linux. Linksys responded by offering the Linux kernel source without the patch. People complained when it didn't work and legal again was threatened. So Linksys rewrote the patch to use a binary blob. Nothing proprietary was lost.

Open Source developers then used the patch and blob to reverse engineer a Broadcom driver for BSD, and latter, Linux.

My memory of the events is hazy. I'm sure there is a Wiki article somewhere with more/better details.

Re:The license issues (1)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298998)

"I'm not aware of anybody benefiting from this open-sourcing, however, and this lack of benefits (from vendors being wrestled into releasing their "GPL-tainted" code) was my main point"

How about owners being able to modify their router firmware? There are _LOTS_ of mods for the WRT54G mainly because of this and the WRT54G enjoys part of its sales because it is so flexible.

Hell. I have a modded one on my office.

So, I am one who benefited from this.

You can take my garbage. Tuesdays.

Re:The license issues (1)

mi (197448) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299120)

How about owners being able to modify their router firmware? There are _LOTS_ of mods for the WRT54G mainly because of this and the WRT54G enjoys part of its sales because it is so flexible.

Interesting. So, now I aware of the benefits — in this case. Cool.

You can take my garbage. Tuesdays.

I can, of course, but I don't have to. Unlike the poster who dared me to come with an example of something, I simply said, I'm unaware of something (else) — and you informed me...

Re:The license issues (1)

ciggieposeur (715798) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299104)

Now, you could say, the open-sourced firmware was never proprietary to begin with somehow, but that's just semantics clearly, Linksys thought of it as proprietary and weren't planning to release the sources until the outside pressure made them do it.

ALL code licenses are "just semantics", because all laws are "just semantics". Many companies have taken F/OSS code and pretended that they had the right to make it their own and were stopped by the legal copyright owners from doing so. They were in fact making derivative works of someone else's work.

Now try to do what the GP actually said: find a company that first developed a piece of proprietary software, added a piece of F/OSS code to it, and was then forced to open up their original work as a result.

Re:The license issues (1)

mi (197448) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299214)

Now try to do what the GP actually said: find a company that first developed a piece of proprietary software, added a piece of F/OSS code to it, and was then forced to open up their original work as a result.

Although such cases likely exist, I don't have to present them here, because I have not spoken of them. The case of Linksys being arm-twisted into releasing their code illustrates my point (not the GGP's apparent interpretation).

That the arm-twisting may have benefited Linksys itself overall (as was credibly suggested by other poster) is not really relevant here — they did not want it, and all of us would've objected to such arm-twisting.

Concerns about such arm-twisting applied to their companies is certainly contributing to managers' fears of Open Source. Justifiably so.

Re:The license issues (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299514)

Are you claiming that Linksys didn't have the option of paying damages to those whose code it had illegally distributed instead?

Re:The license issues (1)

HRogge (973545) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298942)

Linksys... they created a router and used linux code (iptables for example). Later they had to release the whole firmware as GPL code, that's why we have free firmware for linksys routers. http://lwn.net/Articles/73848/ [lwn.net]

Re:The license issues (1)

Skunkhead (66686) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298962)

Linksys? as far as i remember they opened up the code for wrt54g because of violation of the gpl'ed netfilter code.

Re:The license issues (2, Informative)

mvdwege (243851) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298844)

[...] all the talk on whether or not Novell is violating GPL (perhaps by simply partnering with another vendor - Microsoft) [...]

Stop spreading FUD. Novell was doing more than simply partnering with Microsoft. They took out what amounted to a patent license in all but words, which would call into question their ability to distribute GPL code. The patent clause in the GPL is quite clear: if you have a patent license to code under the GPL, you must be able to transfer that license along with the code, or you can't distribute under the GPL.

Novell's problem is caused by the fact that they are hemming and hawing around whether or not they actually do have a patent license agreement with Microsoft and what its exact terms are.

Mart

Re:The license issues (1)

mi (197448) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298948)

Stop spreading FUD. Novell was doing more than simply partnering with Microsoft. They took out what amounted to a patent license in all but words, which would call into question their ability to distribute GPL code.

Whether Novell was right or wrong, the truth remains — they had GPL-related troubles (and may have them again). Had they used BSD-licensed wares, they wouldn't have had these troubles. End of story.

Re:The license issues (1)

TobascoKid (82629) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299126)

Had they used BSD-licensed wares, they wouldn't have had these troubles.

They also wouldn't have had a marketable product. If you decide to distribute GPL code then you have to play by the rules. End of story.

Re:The license issues (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18299208)

If you decide to distribute GPL code then you have to play by the rules. End of story.


Which is why managers and lawyers want to stay away from GPL (and open source in general), as stated in the article. Duh.

Re:The license issues (1)

TobascoKid (82629) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299382)

So why are managers and lawyers eager to go with proprietary software? Have you ever read some of the EULAs that go with various proprietary libraries? You have to play by those (often far more onerous) rules too. Proprietary software is a far larger legal minefield - the only benefit is that it's a legal minefield that the M&L's are used to.

Re:The license issues (1)

mi (197448) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299234)

They also wouldn't have had a marketable product.

Come, come... Certainly, you are not saying, that Apple's FreeBSD-derived MacOS is less marketable, than Novell's Linux-derived SUSE (or whatever)...

If you decide to distribute GPL code then you have to play by the rules.

Yes, of course — true of any license (and decision). The point is about the rules being too restrictive for some people.

Re:The license issues (1)

TobascoKid (82629) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299364)

Certainly, you are not saying, that Apple's FreeBSD-derived MacOS is less marketable, than Novell's Linux-derived SUSE (or whatever)...

The marketable bits of OSX are the bits that are proprietary. Seeing as Apple have (more or less) kept Darwin open then they could have just as well have used a GPL'd kernel (like Apple's own mkLinux).

If Novell released NovellBSD, they certainly wouldn't be putting some slick propeietary UI on top of FreeBSD. Without that, why would you buy it? There's certainly nothing stopping Novell from releasing a version of BSD, so why don't they?

The point is about the rules being too restrictive for some people.

There's nothing stopping anyone from writing their own (software patents not withstanding). If GPL'd software is too restrictive then proprietary software would be even more of a straight jacket. About the only reason that I can think of as to why the GPL would be "too restrictive" would be when somebody wants to exploit the works of one set of people solely for their own benefit and at the expense of another set of people.

Re:The license issues (1)

mi (197448) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299512)

If GPL'd software is too restrictive then proprietary software would be even more of a straight jacket.

I'm not comparing GPL'd vs. proprietry software. I'm contrasting GPL with BSD-license — the latter being far less restrictive.

About the only reason that I can think of as to why the GPL would be "too restrictive" would be when somebody wants to exploit the works of one set of people solely for their own benefit and at the expense of another set of people.

Tell me now, how is Apple's MacOS "at the expense" of a FreeBSD developer or, indeed, of any other "set of people".

Re:The license issues (1)

BruceCage (882117) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299394)

"If more code was released under BSD-type license, we would've seen wider adoption."
The premier goal of those who license their code under the GPL is not wider adoption (neither by public nor business), it is guaranteed freedom of software (including any forks). Any business that builds upon GPLed code should be well aware of this.

"The point is about the rules being too restrictive for some people."
I believe it is relevant to quote Stallman concerning this subject, so I shall. The following is taken from The GNU GPL and the American Way [gnu.org] :

"I designed the GNU GPL to uphold and defend the freedoms that define free software--to use the words of 1776, it establishes them as inalienable rights for programs released under the GPL. It ensures that you have the freedom to study, change, and redistribute the program, by saying that nobody is authorized to take these freedoms away from you by redistributing the program under a restrictive license.

For the sake of cooperation, we encourage others to modify and extend the programs that we publish. For the sake of freedom, we set the condition that these modified versions of our programs must respect your freedom just like the original version. We encourage two-way cooperation by rejecting parasites: whoever wishes to copy parts of our software into his program must let us use parts of that program in our programs. Nobody is forced to join our club, but those who wish to participate must offer us the same cooperation they receive from us. That makes the system fair.

Millions of users, tens of thousands of developers, and companies as large as IBM, Intel, and Sun, have chosen to participate on this basis. But some companies want the advantages without the responsibilities."

Re:The license issues (1)

mvdwege (243851) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299224)

Novell bought GPL developed projects. To turn around later and blame the GPL for Novell's PR nightmare is stupid. There exists something called 'due diligence'.

Mart

Re:The license issues (1)

l0ne (915881) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299326)

The problem with BSD is that it can become proprietary at any time - you have to be actively involved in your BSD project for it not to disappear. GPL is a pledge that whatever happens, your code will be there, ready to be read and possibly used by anyone even after you have lost interest in it.

Yep, the GPL works for the good of humanity, you cinic :)

Re:The license issues (1)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298976)

"If more code was released under BSD-type license, we would've seen wider adoption."

If more code was released under BSD-type licenses, we would see a lot of proprietary software using such software and small contributions to the original, BSD licensed code, only where compatibility between the BSD core and their proprietary extensions is required.

GPL-style is an economic incentive for corporations to act nice (help others or don't sell your "enhanced" version). BSD is no such thing.

Re:The license issues (1)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299008)

"proprietary software using such code".
                                                                  ^^^^

Preview is for sissies.

Re:The license issues (1)

mi (197448) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299174)

GPL-style is an economic incentive for corporations to act nice (help others or don't sell your "enhanced" version).

GPL is more of legal incentive, than an economic one... Hence the lawyers' worries...

BSD is no such thing.

Yep. BSD is not an enforcement tool.

Re:The license issues (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18299094)

This is precisely the reason people release under GPL. Rather than thinking of what's best for the developer some people are more concerned about what's easiest for the business. Giving some software companies' previous history, I am certainly not about to release any of my code under a license that allows a commercial entity to copy and profit from my work without credit. All these debates seem to be about why we should change the license to enable greater corporate adoption. But why should I be worried about that?

Re:The license issues (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18299144)

Speaking as a manager in a large "network infrastructure provider", this is so much garbage. We use both GPL and BSD code. The GPL is much better for us since we can release the source code without much discussion. Using BSD code, we always have problems keeping sync with the outside. This means that in all of the experience I have seen, BSD stuff has always ended up as a maintainance nightmare.

The GPL is great for "open source" (I fear to say Free software here; we aren't talking about people doing it for the good of humanity in this particular case) in companies since it defines a clear standard for cooperation with other companies.

Re:The license issues (1)

YA_Python_dev (885173) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299172)

If more code was released under BSD-type license, we would've seen wider adoption.
No, we would not. *BSD OSes existed for a long time before GNU/Linux and they had a much smaller adoption. Then GNU and Linux came and we know the rest of the story. Why the difference? Because much more people are willing to contribute to GNU and to Linux because they are GPLed!

open source is exactly what? (2, Informative)

OffTheLip (636691) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298818)

Managers may be afraid of unknown open source packages but much of what they do is governed, managed if you will, by open source software. As has been said time and again here the internet and much of the global communication grid is dependent on open source offerings. It what they don't know that they fear. Nobody ever got fired for choosing Microsoft.

Re:open source is exactly what? (1)

pammon (831694) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298946)

It is not the quality of the software that is scary to management, but the unknown legal implications of incorporating it into their own offerings.

Speaking of nobody (1)

Mateo_LeFou (859634) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299210)

Nobody has ever accidentally freed their code.

"We have never, in the history of free software, despite everything that has been said by lawyers and flaks and propagandists on the other side - we have never forced anybody to free any code."
http://www.geof.net/blog/2006/12/10/eben-moglen [geof.net]

Strange conceptions indeed (5, Interesting)

thsths (31372) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298834)

I had a problem with the BSD three clause license once. If you every read commercial software documentation, there is usually a section full of advertising clauses for contributed software. But no, management deemed this not acceptable. Of course there was no time either to remove the BSD code, so we just left it there.

On the other hand the leaking of GPL code is a reasonable concern. It happens all to often with common software such as MySQL. And you here statements such as "but if we use Perl, we are not linking against the MySQL code", which are dubious at best. Or "if the customer downloads the library himself, we are not responsible".

Of course banning open source is not the solution. Actually most commercial software packages have some content of open source code (Windows has the BSD network stack, Matlab has BLAS, Adobe uses the JPEG library...). And even if you ban all open source software, you can still violate the license of a commercial package :-). The only solution is to be careful with what you ship, period.

Commercial Licences (2, Insightful)

TobascoKid (82629) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299304)

And even if you ban all open source software, you can still violate the license of a commercial package

Which a point rarely made about proprietary software. Practically every piece of proprietary code comes with a different license, with an entirely different set of restrictions. It's a lot easier to make a misstep with proprietary software than it is with open source, and your risk of being taken to court (as opposed to just some public shame restricted to tech circles) is far higher.

Of course they're scared (2, Insightful)

imroy (755) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298852)

If people are wondering why managers are scared of Free/Open Source Software, just look at Rob Enderle's recent story [slashdot.org] posted here on Slashdot yesterday. Managers are the targets of these schill reporters (Enderle, O'Gara, Lyons) and their efforts are clearly working. We might not fall for their FUD, but managers and other non-techies do. And that's why they get paid.

Re:Of course they're scared (0, Troll)

pammon (831694) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298960)

If you were in the business of selling software, would you feel comfortable using code written by folks who are philosophically opposed [gnu.org] to the existence of your business? If you're going to blame the commercial software shills, you also have to acknowledge the impact of the open source shills.

Re:Of course they're scared (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18299048)

Get real:
  1. Microsoft are philosophically opposed to the existence of any other profitable software company.
  2. There are profitable software companies selling support and services around GPL software.

I thought Endertrolls article was funny, a little detached from reality but amusing.

Re:Of course they're scared (1)

imroy (755) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299076)

If you were in the business of selling software, would you feel comfortable using code written by folks who are philosophically opposed to the existence of your business?

Richard Stallman is against the existence of commercial software, and he gives very good reasons for why he thinks it is bad for society. But I'm not sure he is against the existence of commercial software businesses. He probably just sees them as a waste of time i.e spending time and money to produce something that will ultimately be restricted and kept behind closed doors. Why not instead work on something that can be not only used by everyone, but even (potentially) modified and improved by everyone? But anyway, what does that have to do with being "comfortable" about using GNU code? Judge the code on its merits.

...you also have to acknowledge the impact of the open source shills

Open Source shills?

From Wikipedia:

A shill [wikipedia.org] is an associate of a person selling goods or services who pretends no association to the seller and assumes the air of an enthusiastic customer.

So how can someone be a shill for a product which isn't being sold and is developed by a community?

The word you should have used is either advocate or zealot, depending on how and why a person promotes Free/Open Source Software. I'm usually an advocate, although I can cross into zealot territory sometimes. I try to avoid it because I know it is often counter-productive.

Re:Of course they're scared (1)

pammon (831694) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299238)

Richard Stallman is against the existence of commercial software, and he gives very good reasons for why he thinks it is bad for society. But I'm not sure he is against the existence of commercial software businesses.

Splitting hairs, I'd say - in any case, I think we agree that it's hard to reconcile "commercial software should not exist" with "I want to sell commercial software." As to 'judging the code on its merits,' I wouldn't want to buy from someone who didn't want me as a customer, even if the price were zero. If nothing else, I'd worry that they would be less likely to accept patches, fix bugs that were important to me, interact on mailing lists, and in general provide support. It's not necessarily a deal breaker, but it's a factor to consider. In large organizations, procedural issues can dominate the technical ones.

And - no offense intended - 'judge the code on its merits' is not practiced by the FSF community (if you'll permit me to generalize from RMS), who believe that, for example, schools should use exclusively free software [gnu.org] , regardless of any technically superior proprietary alternatives. For RMS, too, procedural issues dominate the technical issues.

From Wikipedia
I see your Wikipedia and raise you one Merriam Webster [m-w.com] :
shill b : one who makes a sales pitch or serves as a promoter

Shill (1)

TobascoKid (82629) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299440)

Look at the full text from Merriam Webster

2 : to act as a spokesperson or promoter

That still implies payment. Look at every definition returned from a Google define query [google.co.uk] - each one implies payment.

Re:Of course they're scared (2, Interesting)

LinuxDon (925232) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299130)

I don't know what kind of manager everyone has, but I can't think of any manager having the time to read such crap like Rob Enderle has produced.
In my experience managers can actually be educated quite fast/well on open source if you know how to sell it to them. The main keywords are 'cost savings', 'reliability', 'significantly less downtime', 'scalability', 'flexibility', 'performance'.
And big company's like Novell, IBM and RedHat selling opensource/linux make a very strong case.

Actually, in my experience management doesn't care what is running on the servers as long as it -just works 24/7 and saves them money-. It's not like they will actually have to fix it should any problem arise. Please note that you will have to take full responsibility for the product your are recommending, anyone will back out immediately when you have any doubt. In contrast to commercial software, 'finger pointing' games cannot be played with open source, so if anything goes wrong you'll be shot on the spot. But in my experience everything will go just fine and expectations will often be exceeded.

If you take the time to make an alternative cost calculation for the next project and invite a company that can sell it to you, chances are good a manager will change his mind.
Also, make it very clear that it's the manager's budget and you are just trying to make their life easier. In the long run, your manager will become your friend.

The main problem are engineers without any Linux/Unix experience fearing for their jobs, they will do anything to sabotage the whole thing and start shouting like the world is coming to an end.

FUD (1, Interesting)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298862)

I read the first sentence of the article, and it is clear to me that it is utter BS.

If the company policy is closed source that is it. Managers are absolutely right to make sure that nobody uses open source in company products, because if somebody sneaks in snippets of GPL-protected code into their applications, that might have big legal ramifications.

Said that, the company policy to use open source in their productsor not is another issue. That is up to particular company, particular circumstances. For some it is better, for some it is not.

Best Buy (2, Interesting)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298870)

This amuses me greatly, as my good friend is a manager of a Geek Squad department and they're not allowed to use open source tools, although he frequently sees them being used (and lets it slide for obvious reasons). I forget the exact reasoning, but it does involve liability to some extent. Apparently stand alone geek squad "stores" in strip malls and the like are allowed to use "more advanced" tools for some reason.

Re:Best Buy (2, Informative)

chill (34294) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299058)

That's amusing. Wasn't it Geek Squad just had their pants sued off for distributing and not paying for internal copies of Winternals software? They licensed ONE copy and made it, and other tools, available on an internal FTP server for everyone.

WTF then is the problem with FOSS? At least it would have made what they were doing legal. Or do they WANT to be criminal scum?

Re:Best Buy (1)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299080)

I believe that was the incident that led to the death of the Knoppix STD in geek squad.

Not all management and lawyers (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18298920)

Only incompetent management and lawyers.

Okay I digress, most management and lawyers.

That's what lawyers do (1)

Livius (318358) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298930)

The timid are easily frightened by whatever they cannot control.

Lawyers are upset only because they realize there is no justifiable legal work in open source licenses. Sometimes you need lawyers, but never forget they look out for themselves, not their employers.

Lawyers aren't alone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18298994)

Even IT managers act in their best interests, Microsoft Windows is crappy enough to keep them employed fixing it for eternity.

Truth (2, Insightful)

jawahar (541989) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299060)

People make money out of others ignorance.
People make money by adding value to others.

Resistance Is Futile (1)

codepunk (167897) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299078)

I cannot think of a single company anywhere that is not at least using open source software. Hell, there is likely very few if any that do not at least use it indirectly "google search". Now granted
developers within a company shipping a product should be trained in what you can and cannot use and under what circumstances. Soon here even java will be open source, so you will not even be running your application servers and custom code without a open source component.

What we are talking about here is proprietary development shops and people closed source apps, yes
by all means you should be afraid "we don't want our code in your application".

Management def Freaked (1)

ChronoFish (948067) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299118)

Though where I work (a state government entity) it's not about legal concerns, it's about "security". There is not only a mis-understanding, there is "no" understanding about opensource.

This is what happens when a new official is elected. You've spent 4 years getting the word out that opensource is safe, cost effective, and effcient, and that it opens doors to a whole new constituentcy when you release open services.... Then a new guy brings in new leadership and they want to put the breaks on because it doesn't jive with their sense of good software use.

Ironically, they have no problems with custom software (which I write, and which we contract out) which has to be the most dangerous software in the industry.

-CF

Price equals quality (0)

petrovski (1074058) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299156)

Me and the IT-professional at the law firm I work in are currently trying to create a new website. It is one of the biggest corporate law firms in Denmark. When our IT-guy requested that the new website should have a content management system, and that he had found a great open source system, the partner in charge insisted on paying for a system that costed $10.000 because the company shouldn't rely on shareware.... and this guy works with copyright law. There is a general misconception that you can't possibly get something for free that is as good (or better) than something you pay $10.000.

Re:Price equals quality (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18299450)

I can relate. My company insists on using a custom proprietary VPN instead of ssh with port-forwarding.

Scene One: Staff Meeting (2, Funny)

natrius (642724) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299184)

Manager: So you're telling me that someone already wrote code that performs a task we need done in our software, and they're letting anyone use it for free?
Coder #1: Yeah, I think it's cool that—
Manager: AIEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!
[Manager faints.]
Coder #2: That's the last project on SourceForge that we hadn't used yet. How are we going to get out of work tomorrow?
Coder #1: Hmm... Wanna go grab a beer and start yet another Python web framework?
Coder #2: You're a genius.

Broad generalizations are always so useful (2, Insightful)

ArmchairAstronomer (724678) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299288)

Look at the context of this post, it was a pannel discusion at a conference. It means they didn't have anybody to speak about something infromative so they got bunch of so called experts to talk about something "controversial" to fill the time. It treats the groups discused as monolithic morons. Developers, Managers and the always popular "Lawyers". We are "Freaking Out", "Scared", "in a panic" all very informative descriptions for how people deal with complicated problems. News flash! There are clueless "developers" who don't understand the conequences of their actions on the orgaizations that pay them. There are clueless "managers" who have never read a EULA of any kind. There are clueless lawyers, nuf said. How about the report of a real discusion between thoughtfull people about trying to balance Stallman's la la land philosophy with Ellison and Gates' Ferengi capitalism.

In a manager's budget, developers time are free (2, Interesting)

khchung (462899) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299316)

Developers, though, end up using open source because of its ubiquity and not using it 'puts them at a competitive disadvantage because their competitors are.'


See the problem here? Using open source give an advantage in the minds of the developers, but not the managers? Why? Because developers' time are free for managers of most in-house IT dept! Developers' salary is fixed cost in the budget, once hired, a manager rarely have to justify it every year. On the contrary, developers viewed as having little to do would have caused more problems for their manager!

So for a manager, a developer's time is a free resource that happens to have a "use it or lose it" property.

Now, give him a choice of (1) buying a piece of software for a given price, (2) use a comparable open source software with a license he do not understand so he can (2a) try to understand it himself and thus open himself to any future problems or (2b) send the license to legal dept and gets charged to his budget, or (3) tell his developer to re-implement the software themselves, no further expense claim or budgeting needed. Guess what a lazy manager will do?

So when the manager chooses option (3), and the developers see months and months of unpaid overtime and endless bug fix headaches coming from re-inventing the wheel, they covertly downloads an open source library and plug it in, with a custom wrapper to hide their tracks. Is that a surprise?

No amount of education will not cause a manager to take any amount of risk choosing open source instead of using a "free" resource to achieve the same thing (a resource that cannot be saved and use later in any case). The developer's time and effort is an externality in the manager's consideration.

The only way you can bring the manager to use open source is to add the developer's time into the manager's accounting, either when developers are "pooled" and any effort spent will be charged to the manager's budget, or when the developers have other things to do so there is an opportunity cost to have them do other things.

It seems that the managers are not managing (1)

Iloinen Lohikrme (880747) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299384)

To me it seems more that these managers that are afraid of open source are just lazy and don't do what they are paid to do: to manage. Using open source in ones system or taking advantage of it by including it to your own software is not that hard. You just have to decisions. If I want to keep my application closed then I can make a simple rule: no GPL code or if GPL code really badly needed then contact the developer and check if it's possible to license the code in another license. In example in my own company which develops closed source survey research software we follow few rules:

1) No usage of GPL code/software allowed that requires opening up our application
2) LGPL code can be used under few conditions
a) no straight code lifting
b) code is only used via Jars
c) if code is changed, the changes are distributed back
d) include the package with sources that we have used into included directory when distributing the application
3) Usage of code under other licenses like BSD etc.. is evaluated case by case

These are very simple rules to follow and very simple to understand. Of course we could have more rules and more specific rules and guidelines but then again we are small company and we are not that heavy on including open source components to our software: our main work is writing good software not linking all the worlds code to our software. Of course in a bigger company writing rules and guidelines may need more work and more thought, but then again that is what managers and lawyers are paid to do and if they do their job by just shouting "NO!" then they are not doing their jobs.

Is this any different from educating employees ... (1)

constantnormal (512494) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299386)

... on sexual harrassment policies, or export regulations?

One would think that if corporations have no difficulty "educating" employees on interpersonal relationships or export legal issues, that they would have someone from legal get up to speed on the various types of open source licensing and "educate" the managers and developers on the subject, and when it is required to include attribution comments (why not do that ALWAYS? Seems like it would improve the documentation).

I suppose this is what keeps the corporations firmly in the IE camp, with its associated higher support costs.

Switching to use a "free" product like Firefox that works better with fewer problems, and actually tries to conform to a published standard of web interpretation, must seem like endorsing theft -- when in fact, by sticking with a product from a company that is stealing them blind by continuing to sell it year after year with the same litany of flaws and security holes, they are endorsing true thievery, the thievery that comes from knowingly selling defective products.

Sounds familiar (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18299430)

I work in a large (Fortune ???) company and official policy is "no open source" as far as I know.

Unfortunately, one of our group's work products is essentially a OS distribution. We take a base (Unix-like) OS load, add our internal applications that run ALL the time, create install CDs, and send them out to our internal and external customers.

(I'm being intentionally vague here, because I actually like my job....)

Now, I don't know how you do anything modern with a Unix-like OS without open source. Neither does anyone else.

Perl. Apache. Samba. OpenSSH and OpenSSL. zip. unzip. Those are just the ones that immediately spring to mind, and we've been using them all for years as part of that CD.

My manager knows and understand. My director knows and understands. Not sure about my senior director. But there's a real lack of understanding of reality somewhere in our food chain.

But the legal department - who has to review and sign off on things - is probably the most clueless. We're not really a technology company, and it really shows over there.

FUD and bad FUD at that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18299462)

No one seems to realize that the whole ball of crap described by the article only applies if you are a producer/distributor of software. Most businesses are not software companies. They are small businesses reselling retail merchandise and services.

I am a consultant, and I constantly have to explain to every suit I meet, that if you don't distribute software, you can use GPL'd software in your business all you want and essentially never even have to consider the GPL. Run your servers on Linux, use Open Office on desktops, use GPL's utilities and code internally without fear.

I use this example: Since there is no software in a Domino's pizza (and assuming that is their only product and they don't distribute any software elsewhere), the Domino's company can use GPL'd software to run the entire company and every franchise and never have to concern itself with the GPL. If they develop an in-house pizza-business application using GPL, no GPL issues arise unless and until they decide to distribute that software to others. Service industries, like lawyers, janitors, and home inspectors, will typically have no issues using GPL software.

Finally, I know sometimes a company that is not a software company may distribute a piece of software they have developed as some small side-project. If by some mistake they run into a GPL problem, it is easily solvable. Just post the source code.

I don't dispute that GPL issues can be serious with software companies that make a living off of selling software, particularly if you create code with both GPL sources and proprietary source material under a license that prohibits source posting. But for the vast majority of businesses in the world, the article is FUD.
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