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Long Live Closed-Source Software?

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the i-am-something-of-a-fan-of-closed-source-games dept.

Software 676

EvilRyry writes "In an article for Discover Magazine, Jaron Lanier writes about his belief that open source produces nothing interesting because of a hide-bound mentality. 'Open wisdom-of-crowds software movements have become influential, but they haven't promoted the kind of radical creativity I love most in computer science. If anything, they've been hindrances. Some of the youngest, brightest minds have been trapped in a 1970s intellectual framework because they are hypnotized into accepting old software designs as if they were facts of nature. Linux is a superbly polished copy of an antique, shinier than the original, perhaps, but still defined by it.'"

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As a creative open source developer... (3, Insightful)

Silverlancer (786390) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858410)

I'd like to say that the author of this article is completely clueless. Perhaps he should define his position more, and say something like "Open Source interfaces aren't creative" or "Gnome isn't creative," rather than paint a vast category of software, including quite a bit of highly creative non-Linux software, with a single brush.

One word rebuttel to TFA (5, Informative)

rs79 (71822) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858480)

Apache.

Re:One word rebuttel to TFA (3, Insightful)

peragrin (659227) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858570)

Better word

UNIX.

The original versions shipped with source code. It was only when AT&T tried to make money on it that the source code closed down, and then guess what happened? dozens of incompatible versions became the norm.

Re:One word rebuttel to TFA (0, Troll)

mrsteveman1 (1010381) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858636)

As opposed to the dozens of Linux distros we have now, each with their own repositories of custom compiled software that typically doesn't work anywhere but on that specific version of that specific distro.

Re:One word rebuttel to TFA (0)

pilot1 (610480) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858784)

As opposed to the dozens of Linux distros we have now, each with their own repositories of custom compiled software that typically doesn't work anywhere but on that specific version of that specific distro.
Bullshit and FUD. Any free software that will run on one Linux distro will run just fine on any other. It may have to be recompiled against the new distro's library versions and such, but you make it sound as if the software itself won't run anywhere. It is only that specific binary that won't, and only then because it isn't statically linked (which is an option, but there are enough arguments against it that it's generally not done).

I have yet to hear anyone decent reasons for why this is actually a problem, other than "but there are multiple distros". Who cares? The ones that don't offer anything new die out and those that improve upon the current state of things continue or influence new distros. Think of it as survival of the fittest.

Re:One word rebuttel to TFA (2)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858840)

Please read before posting. You sound as stupid as I do most of the time (see my post history).

Your post is completely in a agreement with the post you are rebutting.

I would go as far as saying most closed source software I have come across works fairly well on multile distros, though it is generally fairly trivial things.

Re:One word rebuttel to TFA (5, Insightful)

Eli Gottlieb (917758) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858674)

But "UNIX" doesn't rebut TFA, it reinforces it! The article's whole point is that OSS has done little besides copy the work of closed-source innovators, with GNU/Linux copying Unix being the chief example!

It's because trying to lead open-source developers is like herding cats. Unless you're holding their can of food, they won't go where you want. And if you can't make all of them focus on the single project you want accomplished, you don't get anything done without a huge mass of so many people that everyone can do what they please and you'll still have enough people going your way. But the only way to get that size a mass of volunteers is to work on a "sure thing" project with an established design that moves towards a goal everyone can already see -- to copy an established product.

For example, wasn't the OpenMoko team supposed to have released a user-ready package of hardware and software by now?

Re:One word rebuttel to TFA (1, Insightful)

mrsteveman1 (1010381) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858720)

Those sorts of projects would probably do better if they focused more on being Open Source, than being Free Software.

The ability of someone to take GPL code, even expensive purchased software, and give it to anyone, anywhere, for free, hurts development in many cases.

Re:One word rebuttel to TFA (1)

Sique (173459) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858828)

Huh? Which expensive purchased software is GPLed?

Re:One word rebuttel to TFA (1)

Malevolyn (776946) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858852)

Yes, but Linux exists because people had a strong desire to run Unix, but not to pay for it. While it may be a copy, it's most certainly a great triumph of community function and I'd say it has now surpassed Unix.

Re:One word rebuttel to TFA (2, Interesting)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858682)

Where does the value of creativity come from?

a) The creation of something novel
b) The exploitation of something new

The area that Open Source shines in is B. Now, it may be that you can achieve greater speed of deliverable in the A part by getting a bunch of antisocial bastards together to work hard on something so they can use it as leverage on the rest of us. But, at the end of the day, that leverage reduces the value of that creation.

If I invent something new, but you're not allowed to use it, there's no value created. The best thing you're allowed to use is the thing with the most value.

This is a fundamental principle behind invention and innovation. The reason openness is winning is because it empowers people more. All value comes from empowered individuals.

The fact of the matter is, if we can't use it, we don't care if you created it or not. It's irrelevant, and therefore meaningless.

In this new world order, you can achieve celebrity. Not "I've seen them on TV over and over, they must be a famous celebrity.", but "That person is a treasure of humanity, and we celebrate their existence and would like to support their future endeavors."

This is how you achieve power in this realm.

The old ways, of achieving power through leverage, those ways are on their way out. There will be a lot of blood and tears spilled over the coming years putting a stop to such evil conspirators as they attempt to wield their financial might to maintain the status quo, but at the end of the day, people who destroy the value of their own finest creations are doomed to failure.

Re:As a creative open source developer... (1)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858676)

Perhaps he should define his position more, and say something like "Open Source interfaces aren't creative" or "Gnome isn't creative," rather than paint a vast category of software, including quite a bit of highly creative non-Linux software, with a single brush.

Or perhaps you should refute his points with some gold-standard examples of Open Source innovation. Unfortunately, there really aren't any notable examples. Sure, there are *popular* examples, such as Apache. But popularity doesn't mean innovative. Apache was simply one of the first web servers, which caused it to get hammered on until it was useful. But there's nothing in Apache that makes you stand back and say, "Wow! That's absolutely brilliant thinking!"

Re:As a creative open source developer... (3, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858796)

But there's nothing in Apache that makes you stand back and say, "Wow! That's absolutely brilliant thinking!"
Whereas for a closed-source equivalent one only needs to look at clippy.

Re:As a creative open source developer... (2, Informative)

rdean400 (322321) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858810)

I think it's a fair assessment that open source spends a lot of time reinventing the wheel for the sake of having OSS coverage, but that's not to say the realm of OSS is devoid of innovation.

To be honest, the only piece of innovation that's really given me a "Wow!" moment in Open Source is the Mylyn project from Eclipse.

Re:As a creative open source developer... (2, Informative)

poopdeville (841677) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858832)

Sure, there are *popular* examples, such as Apache. But popularity doesn't mean innovative. Apache was simply one of the first web servers, which caused it to get hammered on until it was useful. But there's nothing in Apache that makes you stand back and say, "Wow! That's absolutely brilliant thinking!"

If you're cynical enough, you could say the same thing about any software. On the other hand, Apache was innovative. And the Apache Foundation continues to found and fund new projects, including SpamAssassin -- the first Bayesian spam filter.

In any case, Haskell is open source. So is Erlang.

While I'm sympathetic to Jaron's point, I think he's missing a big one. Linux represents about 30 years of knowledge of best practices in software engineering. This is not a bad thing, because Linux is flexible enough to support nearly any kind of computation environment, right now. Including the weird experimental ones he (and I) like. And the run of the mill workhorse desktop environments most people need.

Re:As a creative open source developer... (2, Insightful)

dbc001 (541033) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858694)

The appropriate response to criticism like this should be "Can this be true?". Criticism presents a chance for us to ask ourselves hard questions, and lets us work toward preventing problems. A knee-jerk reaction of "This is not true" gets us nowhere.

So when someone says "Your work is outdated", you should ask "is my work really outdated?". You can then follow up with questions like "How can I keep my work from becoming outdated?", and "how can I bring my work up to date?".

As a community, open-source developers should welcome criticism - it presents a great chance to improve, it improves the dialog about the overall quality of the software, and it gives non-programmers a way to help. This criticism may be baseless and wrong, but that's no excuse to ignore it!

Author is out of touch. (1)

twitter (104583) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858856)

Perhaps he should define his position more, and say something like "Open Source interfaces aren't creative" or "Gnome isn't creative," rather than paint a vast category of software

You can prove he's out of touch and misguided from first principles. Computers are general purpose machines. If you can make it do something in one system, you can make it do something in any. This has nothing to do with creativity, which can be applied regardless of tools. It just so happens that the best tools and best science comes from the free world. Unfettered peer review yields truth. Secrets and legal interference yields stagnation.

Ultimately, free software is more productive because the developer does not have to constantly deal with licensing issues and the intentional waste that generates. To parody the article, "If you find yourself talking to Martha Stewart, you know you are about as far away from computer innovation as possible outside of Redmond." The second tale he weaves does not undo the first - the LISP machine was destroyed by lawyers and idiots. It it's going to live again, it will have to be as free software because non free software won't really tolerate much beyond modified DOS. Free software's philosophy is sound because it is the philosophy of science in general. Secrets are the enemy of real science and an isolated scientist is dead in the water.

All he has to do to convince himself that evil still rules the non free softare world is look at the court proved story of ACPI [slashdot.org] . Every little detail of non free commercial software and hardware development is hobbled by M$. This has significant spill over into the free software world, but the closer you get to the beast the more shit you see. Then again, you can go from first principles and realize that a non disclosure agreement is an agreement to not help your peers when they need it, which makes you less of a friend than you could be.

It's a shame that the author's company has changed so drastically. It's hard to think of a more drastic contrast between Richard Stallman and Martha Stewart. Creative people I know who've worked with Martha think she's a self aggrandizing thief who sucks people for work and then claims it as her own for all profit possible. Her conviction for stock fraud involving a life science's company should disqualify her from advising anyone about science. Richard Stallman has taken all of his work and given it to the public for the broadest possible work. It's nice of the author to recognize RMS's lisp work, but he's clearly forgotten what RMS's greater work is all about. RMS chose Unix for the same reason the authors of CP/M and DOS and VMS and Windoze did, because it's what people knew and could work with. It was a means to an end, the creation of a free, software sharing community. The author would do better writing RMS a letter or two about this subject before he wastes money on Martha Stewart as a "life coach". The only thing worse than non free software is the conquest of medicine by the creators of non free software. Greed is not creative and the author is setting himself up for more serious abuse than being called a wimp.

FP FTW (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21858418)

wow took me 10 years to get this.

Re:FP FTW (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21858456)

And you probably have to wait another 10 years...

Re:FP FTW (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21858466)

And you failed it from the time-stamps! ;p

bullshit (4, Insightful)

Uksi (68751) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858442)

Just look at Java opensource software. Eclipse, Spring and Hibernate are some of the most innovative opensource projects, massively used by the biggest corporate giants to boot.

Re:bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21858526)

Eclipse is slow with an un-intuitive interface (JCreator is much better http://www.jcreator.com/ [jcreator.com] ), haven't use the other 2. I have never seen any open source software that's better than a commercial competitor, nor any that has a feature that commercial software don't have and it's good. I would switch to open source on any 1 of those conditions.

Re:bullshit (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21858672)

Just look at Java opensource software. Eclipse, Spring and Hibernate are some of the most innovative opensource projects, massively used by the biggest corporate giants to boot.

Yes, they're almost 1/4 as impressive as the commercial Smalltalk and Lisp environments we had in 1987.

Any argument relying on Java (which Alan Kay called "the most distressing thing to hit computing since MS-DOS") is going to fall kind of flat. Indeed, the fact that the new generation thinks that their Java tools are so cool is part of the problem.

Re:bullshit (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21858696)

And in the case of Eclipse, it was originally conceived by the BIGGEST gorilla out there: IBM.

Sure, right, yeah... (5, Insightful)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858446)

Open wisdom-of-crowds software movements have become influential, but they haven't promoted the kind of radical creativity I love most in computer science.
Everybody knows there's not a shred of original code or thought on such sites as SourceForge [sourceforge.net] . Nobody ever visits sites like Apple's development center [apple.com] . After all, they despise open source developers, right? And let's just completely write off sites like Open Source Alternatives [osalt.com] , because they've never listed any software that showed promise or included innovative new features. Microsoft and companies like them are the only true source of innovation on this planet, and always will be.

Yes, I'm keenly aware I'm preaching to the choir. This article is the most flame-baiting piece I've seen on the front page in a long, long time. I have to admit, it'll be good for driving traffic, and unfortunately the author is probably going to make a bunch of money on it. He won't get my clicks, though... I flatly refuse to read TFA.

No Clicks for Trolls, Here's TFA: (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21858658)

Long Live Closed-Source Software!
There's a reason the iPhone doesn't come with Linux.
by Jaron Lanier

If you've just been cornered by Martha Stewart at an interdisciplinary science conference and chastised for being a wimp, you could only be at one event: Sci Foo, an experimental, invitation-only, wikilike annual conference that takes place at Google headquarters in Mountain View, California. There is almost no preplanned agenda. Instead, there's a moment early on when the crowd of scientists rushes up to blank poster-size calendars and scrawls on them to reserve rooms and times for talks on whatever topic comes to mind. For instance, physicist Lee Smolin, sci-fi author Neal Stephenson, and I talked about the relationship between time and math (touching on ideas presented in my October 2006 column).

The wimp comment was directed at me, and Martha was right. I hadn't stood up for myself in a group interaction. I've always been the shy one in the schoolyard. Back in the 1980s, I was drawn to the possibility that virtual reality would help extend the magical, creative qualities of childhood into adulthood. Indeed, the effect of digital technology on culture has been exactly that, but childhood is not entirely easy. If Lee hadn't forged through the crowd to create our session, I never would have done it. What made Martha's critique particularly memorable, though, is that her observation was directly relevant to what emerged from Sci Foo as the big idea about the future of science.

It wasn't official, of course, but the big idea kept popping up: Science as a whole should consider adopting the ideals of "Web 2.0," becoming more like the community process behind Wikipedia or the open-source operating system Linux. And that goes double for synthetic biology, the current buzzword for a superambitious type of biotechnology that draws on the techniques of computer science. There were more sessions devoted to ideas along these lines than to any other topic, and the presenters of those sessions tended to be the younger ones, indicating that the notion is ascendant.

It's a trend that seems ill-founded to me, and to explain why, I'll tell a story from my early twenties. Visualize, if you will, the most transcendentally messy, hirsute, and otherwise eccentric pair of young nerds on the planet. One was me; the other was Richard Stallman. Richard was distraught to the point of tears. He had poured his energies into a celebrated project to build a radically new kind of computer called the LISP Machine. It wasn't just a regular computer running LISP, a programming language beloved by artificial intelligence researchers. Instead it was a machine patterned on LISP from the bottom up, making a radical statement about what computing could be like at every level, from the underlying architecture to the user interface. For a brief period, every hot computer-science department had to own some of these refrigerator-size gadgets.

It came to pass that a company called Symbolics became the sole seller of LISP machines. Richard realized that a whole experimental subculture of computer science risked being dragged into the toilet if anything happened to that little company--and of course everything bad happened to it in short order.

So Richard hatched a plan. Never again would computer code, and the culture that grew up with it, be trapped inside a wall of commerce and legality. He would instigate a free version of an ascendant, if rather dull, program: the Unix operating system. That simple act would blast apart the idea that lawyers and companies could control software culture. Eventually a kid named Linus Torvalds followed in Richard's footsteps and did something related, but using the popular Intel chips instead. His effort yielded Linux, the basis for a vastly expanded open-software movement.

But back to that dingy bachelor pad near MIT. When Richard told me his plan, I was intrigued but sad. I thought that code was important in more ways than politics can ever be. If politically correct code was going to amount to endless replays of dull stuff like Unix instead of bold projects like the LISP Machine, what was the point? Would mere humans have enough energy to carry both kinds of idealism?

Twenty-five years later, that concern seems to have been justified. Open wisdom-of-crowds software movements have become influential, but they haven't promoted the kind of radical creativity I love most in computer science. If anything, they've been hindrances. Some of the youngest, brightest minds have been trapped in a 1970s intellectual framework because they are hypnotized into accepting old software designs as if they were facts of nature. Linux is a superbly polished copy of an antique, shinier than the original, perhaps, but still defined by it.

Before you write me that angry e-mail, please know I'm not anti-open source. I frequently argue for it in various specific projects. But a politically correct dogma holds that open source is automatically the best path to creativity and innovation, and that claim is not borne out by the facts.

Why are so many of the more sophisticated examples of code in the online world--like the page-rank algorithms in the top search engines or like Adobe's Flash--the results of proprietary development? Why did the adored iPhone come out of what many regard as the most closed, tyrannically managed software-development shop on Earth? An honest empiricist must conclude that while the open approach has been able to create lovely, polished copies, it hasn't been so good at creating notable originals. Even though the open-source movement has a stinging countercultural rhetoric, it has in practice been a conservative force.

        Why did the adored iPhone come out of what many regard as the most closed software-development shop on Earth?

There were plenty of calls at Sci Foo for developing synthetic biology along open-source lines. Under such a scheme, DNA sequences might float around from garage experimenter to garage experimenter via the Internet, following the trajectories of pirated music downloads and being recombined in endless ways.

A quintessential example of the open ideal showed up in Freeman Dyson's otherwise wonderful piece about the future of synthetic biology in a recent issue of The New York Review of Books. MIT bioengineer Drew Endy, one of the enfants terribles of synthetic biology, opened his spectacular talk at Sci Foo with a slide of Freeman's article. I can't express the degree to which I admire Freeman. Among other things, he was the one who turned me on to an amazing 11-sided geometric figure (see Jaron's World, April 2007). In this case, though, we see things differently.

Re:Sure, right, yeah... (4, Insightful)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858726)

Everybody knows there's not a shred of original code or thought on such sites as SourceForge.

And what is the innovative code?

And let's just completely write off sites like Open Source Alternatives, because they've never listed any software that showed promise or included innovative new features.

And again, WHAT IS IT? Sure, there is a LOT of code out there. But show me the OSS software out there that screams, "Wow! That's unbelievably clever!" And sure, there's some *popular* OSS software, but as I pointed out in another post, popular does not mean innovative.

So far, I haven't seen any posts with a long list of examples of OSS innovation. Just screaming that there "just has" to be a lot of innovation... look at all the lines of code!

Re:Sure, right, yeah... (3, Insightful)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858830)

Who needs "screaming innovation"? Even projects that make small advances in functionality contribute to overall march of progress. Multiply that out by thousands of projects and you just might see some interesting results.

Not good enough? Okay, let's put things in a different light: open applications tend to lower boundaries to broad adoption, and tend to follow open standards. Commercial software firms do not have a vested interest in maintaining open standards for development, as this inhibits their ability to control the use (and profit from) their products. If it weren't for open source software supporting open standards, I assure you we would have far fewer options in computing than we have now.

The simple fact that a college student can install any Linux distro he/she likes and start writing software is a great way to encourage research into computing. The compiler he's using may not be "original, groundbreaking software" but the end result just might be.

Re:Sure, right, yeah... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21858736)

I think you are kind of missing the point. He is arguing against the sort of design by committee that happens in open source, over time, due to changing criteria. I imagine this would actually apply to MS as well.

Desperate (1)

BorgCopyeditor (590345) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858452)

This is a new one. "You know what's wrong with Linux? It's old." Linux bashers must be getting desperate.

Re:Desperate (1)

Forbman (794277) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858486)

Yep. I work in a crowd of people who say the same thing. "*nix is so old tech"...

It's rather depressing, actually. Just like MySQL fanboys being oh-so-happy when "features" get added to it that are in just about every other RDBMS, including MS Access. Or SQL Server fanboys being happy when stuff gets added to it that has been in just about every other big iron RDBMS since...forever.

*sigh*

Re:Desperate (1)

driftingwalrus (203255) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858594)

I have seen a lot of criticism of the old. If anything, this business has too much novelty. There needs to be a focus on making existing systems work better than they do. UNIX is over 30 years old. The reason it's still in use, is that it's built on solid design and still works well. If something newer worked better, UNIX wouldn't still have the foothold that it does. If anything, the number of people using variants of UNIX is growing.

Re:Desperate (1)

haeger (85819) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858750)

As seen on a tagline on this very site.

"There are two types of fools, one that says 'This is old and therefor good' and the other that says 'This is new and therefor better'."

.haeger

Apache (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21858462)

I wonder if he uploaded his shit article on an apache server.

Re:Apache (1)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858642)

Since you asked, here's the Netcraft query results: Netcraft Results for discovermagazine.com [netcraft.com] .

Looks like a proxy server frontend running Squid on Linux, so this alone won't tell you what the backend is running, but it does lead one to wonder.

Re:Apache (5, Informative)

Bill Dimm (463823) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858778)

I wonder if he uploaded his shit article on an apache server.

curl -i 'http://discovermagazine.com/2007/dec/long-live-closed-source-software/' | head -2

HTTP/1.0 200 OK
Server: Zope/(Zope 2.9.6-final, python 2.4.0, linux2) ZServer/1.1 Plone/2.5.2

The Author is a Fucktard (5, Insightful)

Aardpig (622459) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858468)

Why did the adored iPhone come out of what many regard as the most closed, tyrannically managed software-development shop on Earth?

What, the same closed, tyrannically managed software-development shop that built a complete, adored operating system around BSD?

Re:The Author is a Fucktard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21858592)

The author immediately struck me as someone who just doesn't know enough about computers to understand what makes linux so attractive to people who do. His "argument" is typical of a windows end-user being introduced to linux for the first time. What does it have to offer that windows doesn't? Of course the answer is nothing, if all you really do is browse the web, read email, edit word and excel documents, and play the occasional game. What makes linux attractive isn't readily apparent to the windows end-user. Hell, it isn't readily apparent to the windows programmer or system admin. It isn't until you dig deeper that you discover what makes linux (and open source in general) so great.

There are many reasons why linux is more attractive to nerds than windows, and the reasons go far beyond ideology.

Re:The Author is a Fucktard (1)

TomV (138637) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858738)

The author immediately struck me

Presumably by "immediately" you mean "before I had time to either rememeber any history or, alternatively, to click on the helpfully-provided Wikipedia link to check out Lanier's credentials".

Debate his viewpoint, sure, that's why we're all here. But just a smidgin of research first might help you to make a more cogent case instead of blowing your own point out of the water before you've had a chance to start it.

Re:The Author is a Fucktard (4, Insightful)

bmartin (1181965) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858734)

FOSS doesn't spur creativity because FOSS isn't inherently creative. HUMAN BEINGS ARE CREATIVE. software is written by people. Knowledge-sharing is natural. Being secretive about knowledge implies that you want leverage over others.

FTA: "So Richard hatched a plan. [...] He would instigate a free version of an ascendant, if rather dull, program: the Unix operating system. That simple act would blast apart the idea that lawyers and companies could control software culture. Eventually a kid named Linus Torvalds followed in Richard's footsteps and did something related [...]. His effort yielded Linux, the basis for a vastly expanded open-software movement."

I have a lot of questions about this quote: What is dull about Unix? Is the author so ignorant that he really believe Linus was following in Stallman's footsteps, rather than challenging Andrew Tanenbaum's MINIX microkernel design? There are some pretty fundamental differences between the philosophies of Stallman and Torvalds in regards to FOSS, the GPL, etc. For example, the Hurd kernel is (or will be) a microkernel, and Linus is keeping Linux under the GPL v2. Almost all modern operating systems are modeled after Unix... GNU/Linux, OS X, AIX, HP UX, MINIX, etc. Why reinvent the wheel?

The author has a lot to his credit; he's a very influential person, coined the term "virtual reality", and has taught at several Ivy League colleges. However, this article makes unsound claims and smells of anger and dejection. It's not worth sending him an email or flaming him, as he encouraged in the article. Let him vent. He's allowed to find FOSS boring. Software like Blender, Firefox, MythTV and Python will hold my attention for a very long time.

The article seems to be lacking in insight. For example, here's a quote attributed to him (from wikipedia.org):
"If we start to believe that the Internet itself is an entity that has something to say, we're devaluing those people [creating the content] and making ourselves into idiots."

This is analogous to our belief that books have something to say, which devalues the people who wrote them and make us into idiots. There's nothing dehumanizing about reading what others have written. It's simply a form of communication. /. didn't write this comment; a person did. The fact that you obtained the information from my comment by reading this site doesn't devalue me or make you an idiot.

Re:The Author is a Fucktard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21858876)

FTA: "So Richard hatched a plan. [...]
Fhe tucking article?

Re:The Author is a Fucktard (1)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858754)

What, the same closed, tyrannically managed software-development shop that built a complete, adored operating system around BSD?

And exactly what is innovative about BSD? Hint: The innovative part of the iPhone is not the kernel.

No one said OSS is not useful -- the claim is that OSS does not innovate anything. And that's a perfectly valid criticism.

Re:The Author is a Fucktard (1)

JeffTL (667728) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858766)

For that matter, the iPhone itself runs BSD!

Very insightful comment (1)

Zott and Brock (1204632) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858874)

How brilliant to call someone a fucktard and to point to BSD Unix as a poster child for innovation.

NIH syndrome (5, Interesting)

Jherico (39763) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858472)

This is a retarded sentiment. I'm a developer and I understand the call of the wild, the desire to reimplement everything from the ground up using 'new technology' but this really falls into the trap of thinking that new is automatically better. The older software is, the more mature it is and the fewer bugs it has. Sure, if there's new hardware to take advantage of or some new radical shift in methodology then there might be a reason to go back to the drawing board, but 9 times out of 10 if you're implementing something in closed source, you're duplicating something that's already available in open source and more mature to boot. My own company is having a difficult moving away from an entrenched custom build system, and an entrenched web based page navigation framework and UI framework and data access layer that is all homegrown and closed source and we're spending more time doing that than we would have if we'd just gone with Struts or Spring or Hibernate in the beginning. Not only does closed source end up making poor copies of open source functionality half the time, but one of the number one reasons to use open source is that you can hire people off the street who have extensive experience in whatever you're using. Try doing that with closed source technology.

Re:NIH syndrome (1)

Dramacrat (1052126) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858488)

No, YOUR sentiment is retarded.

But that's not what he said (2, Insightful)

jesterzog (189797) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858654)

From the article:

I frequently argue for it in various specific projects. But a politically correct dogma holds that open source is automatically the best path to creativity and innovation, and that claim is not borne out by the facts.

He's not saying that Open Source isn't great. He's just come back from a conference of researchers, and is saying that from a research perspective (which is not necessarily production), innovation and creativity doesn't tend to come through in open source projects, even if it is only the 1 in 10 closed source projects that actually have something new. You've just claimed that you don't care about innovation and creativity for the production software you use in your business, but would rather have something stable. I don't follow why you have a problem with his opinion -- there's no relation.

Re:NIH syndrome (1)

samkass (174571) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858710)

I actually mostly agree with the author of the article. The FSF is virtually defined by re-implementing stuff that closed-source companies innovated, and most of the most popular open source projects are of the type that starts with "I wish there was an open-source version of [closed-source] product X". I do think there is immense value in making sure there's a "lowest common denominator" open-source version of everything so that the state-of-the-art can never again fall below that point regardless of who goes out of business or gets bought out by whom. But pretending that open-source automatically leads to innovation and/or quality is wishful thinking.

Re:NIH syndrome (2, Informative)

jcaldwel (935913) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858866)

the desire to reimplement everything from the ground up using 'new technology' but this really falls into the trap of thinking that new is automatically better.

From the sounds of it, Jaron Lanier really wants to start from scratch. A quote from an interview with Sun: [sun.com]

Interviewer: Maybe we need to go back and start all over again?

Jaron: That's what I've been thinking lately. Tracing the history of programming, we can see places where it went wrong, based on the limited experiences and metaphors that were available at the time. It's possible to imagine a different history. Let's go back to the middle of the 20th century, to a very brilliant, first generation of serious hackers that included people like Alan Turing, John von Neumann, and Claude Shannon. Their primary source of coding experience involved coding information that could be sent over a wire. They were familiar with encoded messages on the telegraph and telephone. Everything was formulated in terms of a message being sent from point A to point B, with some advance knowledge on point B about the nature of the message. Or if not that, at least an attempt by point B to recreate that knowledge, in the case of hacking.

...So much for standing on the shoulders of giants.

Re:NIH syndrome (2, Insightful)

Angst Badger (8636) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858872)

I think it's fair to say that there's a lot of pointless repetition in the FOSS world, though I would qualify that by saying that "pointless" repetition is a great way to learn. When I was much younger, I actually reimplemented a substantial chunk of the standard C library, testing my implementations against the GNU version and P.J. Plauger's reference implementation, and I learned a great deal about the various tradeoffs one is obliged to make at every turn. That said, I doubt my version of the library would have been of particular interest to anyone besides myself.

The fundamental weakness of FOSS is essentially its immunity to commercial considerations. Obviously, this is also one of its greatest strengths. Developers can venture into new territory without having to worry about marketability -- presuming they have day jobs -- but on the other hand, they can also pursue rigid personal development ideologies that have no interest to anyone but a small group of equally fanatical and close-minded enthusiasts. (See the nitwit above who refused to even read the original article, lest Jaron Lanier make a penny from the pageview.) Moreoever, FOSS developers are often unconcerned with the wishes of their users. That's certainly true of much commercial software, but user satisfaction is an inescapable force in the marketplace, whereas it has little to no effect on many FOSS developers.

Ignoring for the moment the fact that a career vaporware evangelist like Jaron Lanier is probably not the best messenger for this particular message, I think it's fair to say that much of the FOSS community has been preoccupied with cloning or competing with existing software packages, and a relative minority are concerned with the sort of pure research and experimentation Lanier is talking about. That's not necessarily a bad thing if you view the main function of FOSS as providing inexpensive and unencumbered alternatives to commercial software, and it may even be unavoidable with the maturation of personal computer technology, but if you were present for the explosion of creativity in the 60's, 70's, and 80's, it's hard to deny that he has a valid point, even if it is stated in an overly inflammatory way. Most of what we have been seeing for the last decade or so has been the iterative evolution of existing technologies and not revolutionary new developments, no matter how often the latest minor permutation of last decade's news is trumpeted as the Next Big Thing.

You can elect to get pissed about the message if you want, but it would probably be more constructive to recognize the situation for what it is, and if it bothers you -- and it certainly need not -- then spend some time thinking about the unexplored spaces in the field and start exploring them.

New for news sake! (5, Insightful)

redelm (54142) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858484)

I have a serious problem with observers criticising something for being old [un-novel] without being more specific about how "new" might be more advantageous.


Such remarks basically insult practitioners for a lack of imagination without giving any substantiation. "Who know how much better it could be" is an impotent whine [whinge]. The commentator reveals themselves.

Re:New for news sake! (5, Insightful)

jesterzog (189797) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858724)

I have a serious problem with observers criticising something for being old [un-novel] without being more specific about how "new" might be more advantageous.

He's just come back from a research conference, and his point is with how new ideas get developed in a research environment. Right or wrong, he's not saying that open source isn't great, more stable, or a good choice for businesses and individual users who want something stable, reliable and useful. What he has said is that from his own observations, OSS is not a great model for fostering creativity and encouraging people to innovate and try radical new ways of doing things.

I'm not sure I fully agree with his view as he's stated because there are certainly some innovative ideas out there that have benefited a lot from OSS. He does have some merit with his arguments, though. Many of the popular OSS apps tend to be the ones that re-engineer ideas from closed source products.

As if closed source isn't the same? (4, Insightful)

Hacksaw (3678) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858490)

Attaching open source to these statements clouds the issue. Serious innovation isn't being supported anywhere, except perhaps in Universities. Even there it's hard because the interesting stuff is at the fringes. Businesses aren't interested in it because that won't make them money any time soon.

OS creation isn't that interesting to most people, because once you know enough about it, you realize that while the Unix paradigm may not be perfect, getting to a current Unix's level of capability and stability would take decades.

Yeah what has closed source software made? (0, Troll)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858496)

Windows which is now discovering these new things called micro kernels and moving things out of ring0. Linux is up to date with usb and proc filesystems which are object oriented and beryl can do things that make Vista look primitive regardless of the fact that yes, /, /bin, and /usr are 30 years old. How old is the c:\ prompt?

Re:Yeah what has closed source software made? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21858638)

Linux is a macrokernel. There was a huge war between Torvalds and Andrew Tannenbaum (the author of Minix over the issue. I'm not sure what features OO filesystems provide that are a huge advantage. Beryl is pretty, but pretty things aren't necessarily the most useful.

Don't get me wrong, I agree that MS is hardly an innovator (have they ever been?) I just don't think Linux is necessarily the most innovative thing around.

Re:Yeah what has closed source software made? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21858660)

> Windows which is now discovering these new things called micro kernels and moving things out of ring0.

You mean moving things BACK out of ring0. USB is not entirely userspace in linux, and even the freakin KEYBOARD is still a kernel-mode thing.

Mind you there's advantages to having a keyboard without userspace cooperation, perhaps not the best example. But if you think Linux is moving in any way toward a useful microkernel model, you're downing the koolaid by the gallon.
   

Re:Yeah what has closed source software made? (1)

DevStar (943486) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858680)

Windows NT knew about microkernels and moving things out of Ring-0 since the first day of its inception. The fact that you don't know much about the history of OSes or OS design, doesn't make your assertions correct.

It always cracks me up when these people seem to think that Dave Cutler doesn't know basic OS concepts.

Re:Yeah what has closed source software made? (1)

BotnetZombie (1174935) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858700)

Why is the parent poster modded troll? It's worth mentioning that both minix and the mach kernel are open source, and both being quite successful naturally inspires others (Microsoft included) to look in this direction.

Re:Yeah what has closed source software made? (1)

DonChron (939995) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858764)

The C:\ prompt, first used in CP/M [wikipedia.org] , is at least 30 years old.

But look at all innovative, closed-source operating system software running the world now!

VMWare ESX [wikipedia.org] - based on Linux kernel with incremental enhancements

Windows NT/2000/XP/2003/2008 [wikipedia.org] - designed by DEC VMS architects to use a microkernel architecture. Remind you of anything? Something that rhymes with "tunics"?

MS DOS [wikipedia.org] - closed source software which appropriated most of its design from CP/M...

IBM OS/2 [wikipedia.org] - DOS with a GUI and protected-mode memory access

IBM System z9 [wikipedia.org] - UNIX, based on zSeries, based on System/390, based on System/370, based on System/360...

Mac OS X [wikipedia.org] - UNIX, based on BSD

HP UX [wikipedia.org] - UNIX

Wow! What a rich array of newness and innovation! Thanks, closed source software!

Re:Yeah what has closed source software made? (1)

Ant P. (974313) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858776)

If you want to pick on filesystems, you should've made the point that windows is copying more and more features from unix ones as time goes on (hardlinks and mount points in NT2k, symlinks in vista...)

Whatever (1)

Auckerman (223266) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858522)

It would be easy to point out projects that are not only attractive, but used by a large number of people. The problem with this guys reasoning, the stuff "from the 70s" that the OSS people follow is the stuff you want them to follow. You know, the tested technologies that lead to very high stability. Microsoft is currently the only living vender that I know of that tries to reinvent the wheel as if somehow magically of the mess of code they have will rise something so stellar as to bury all competition.

There's nothing wrong with new. Again, there are many OSS projects that work on very new and solid ideas. Those are too numerous to list

The problem with many OSS projects, in terms of getting grandmas to buy it, install it, and use it, is that the coder is typically done when he/she and their friends can use it. Case in point, Gnome and KDE. Both of them are older than the GUI for OS X and both are light years behind OS X in terms of the grandma test. Both are useable, but have been "nearly desktop ready" for like five+ years. That's a problem.

OSS typically doesn't have a problem with being stuck in the 70s. It's not. If you're going to criticize something, make it valid and don't just blow out of your ass.

long live the power of choice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21858530)

we only have a couple left, but that's better than none. may as well load up a store bought game or two & pretend everything's just ducky.

no small order. curious why we're so hell-bent on self-destruction.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071229/ap_on_sc/ye_climate_records;_ylt=A0WTcVgednZHP2gB9wms0NUE [yahoo.com]

is it time to get real yet? A LOT of energy is being squandered in attempts to keep US in the dark. in the end (give or take a few 1000 years), the creators will prevail (world without end, etc...), as it has always been. the process of gaining yOUR release from the current hostage situation may not be what you might think it is. butt of course, most of US don't know, or care what a precarious/fatal situation we're in.

for example; the insidious attempts by the felonious corepirate nazi execrable to block the suns' light, interfering with a requirement (sunlight) for us to stay healthy/alive. it's likely not good for yOUR health/memories 'else they'd be bragging about it?

we're intending for the whoreabully deceptive (they'll do ANYTHING for a bit more monIE/power) felons to give up/fail even further, in attempting to control the 'weather', as well as a # of other things/events.

http://video.google.com/videosearch?hl=en&q=video+cloud+spraying [google.com]

dictator style micro management has never worked (for very long). it's an illness. tie that with life0cidal aggression & softwar gangster style bullying, & what do we have? a greed/fear/ego based recipe for disaster.

meanwhile, you can help to stop the bleeding (loss of life & limb);
http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/12/28/vermont.banning.bush.ap/index.html [cnn.com]

the bleeding must be stopped before any healing can begin. jailing a couple of corepirate nazi hired goons would send a clear message to the rest of the world from US. any truthful look at the 'scorecard' would reveal that we are a society in decline/deep doo-doo, despite all of the scriptdead pr ?firm? generated drum beating & flag waving propaganda that we are constantly bombarded with. is it time to get real yet? please consider carefully ALL of yOUR other 'options'.

the creators will prevail. as it has always been.

corepirate nazi execrable costs outweigh benefits
(Score:-)mynuts won, the king is a fink)
by ourselves on everyday 24/7

as there are no benefits, just more&more death/debt & disruption. fortunately there's an 'army' of light bringers, coming yOUR way.

the little ones/innocents must/will be protected. after the big flash, ALL of yOUR imaginary 'borders' may blur a bit? 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. 'vote' with (what's left in) yOUR wallet, & by your behaviors. help bring an end to unprecedented evile's manifestation through yOUR owned felonious corepirate nazi glowbull warmongering execrable. some of US should consider ourselves somewhat 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 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.

consult with/trust in yOUR creators. providing more than enough of everything for everyone (without any distracting/spiritdead personal gain motives), whilst badtolling unprecedented evile, using an unlimited supply of newclear power, since/until forever. see you there?

"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."

meanwhile, the life0cidal philistines continue on their path of death, debt, & disruption for most of US;

gov. bush denies health care for the little ones

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/10/03/bush.veto/index.html [cnn.com]

whilst demanding/extorting billions to paint more targets on the bigger kids

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/12/12/bush.war.funding/index.html [cnn.com]

& pretending that it isn't happening here

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article3086937.ece [timesonline.co.uk]

all is not lost/forgotten/forgiven

(yOUR elected) president al gore (deciding not to wait for the much anticipated 'lonesome al answers yOUR questions' interview here on /.) continues to attempt to shed some light on yOUR foibles;
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article3046116.ece [timesonline.co.uk]

Re:long live the power of choice (1)

I'm just joshin (633449) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858704)

Can I please have a "WTF??? -1" Moderation Option? -J

What came before (5, Interesting)

leereyno (32197) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858532)

Everything that has been created is build upon what came before.

The Roman alphabet is far from ideal when it comes to reading and writing English, but we use it anyway. The spelling of many words in English is far from phonetic, but we continue to spell them that way just the same. The benefits of moving to a different set of symbols or a different spelling of some words are vastly outweighed by the costs involved.

This is what is known as a path dependency. The grass may be greener on the other side, but the price to be paid for moving there is profoundly prohibitive.

The same is true when it comes to computer science.

A reinvented wheel may be better than what it replaces, but the cost of its development does not justify the effort, assuming you can get anyone to adopt it.

It is easy to be creative when you don't have customers. When you don't have people who have come to use a particular product, or work within a particular paradigm, change is easy. Without these other people clogging up the way, it is easy to jump to a new way of doing things.

If no one used the Roman alphabet, finding a new one would be a snap! If the spelling of words wasn't standardized then implementing new phonetic spellings for things like "knight" would be easy.

Needless to say, this isn't going to happen.

Re:What came before (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858598)

You are correct in stating that everything we do is because a path was laid out before us.
We are standing upon the shoulders of giants without which we would have no basis for our current (possibly flawed) systems.

With open source we can continue to build and make it better for everyone.

Open Source is not a religion or an oppressive regime, if you don't like the way something is done you can make it better yourself.
If others believe in your direction they will follow.

Re:What came before (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858868)

The grass may be greener on the other side, but the price to be paid for moving there is profoundly prohibitive.

As good a way of restating Guilder's Law as any. He puts the price at about a factor of ten, historically speaking, before it's worth making that investment.

He has a very small point... (3, Insightful)

JustShootMe (122551) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858540)

If you assume that Linux is the only open source stuff being written.

There is some very innovative open source stuff out there that has nothing to do with Linux. Including a few next-gen operating systems.

In fact, I think that the fact that open source programmers have gotten so much out of Linux that a 70s platform is *still viable and thriving* in 2007 says quite a bit about them - and the opposite of what the article was saying.

There are some legitimate criticisms of open source - this isn't one of them.

Re:He has a very small point... (1)

Eli Gottlieb (917758) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858604)

Including a few next-gen operating systems.
Having actually been a part of the hobbyist operating-system community, let me question this statement. How many open-source (or even closed source?) programmers are writing "next-generation" OSs with genuinely new designs, and how many are re-implementing Unix/POSIX/Linux with a few small esoteric modifications that make their "new" system perform better in a few ways while not actually changing the overall design of the system?

It truly is a pity that Bell Labs took so damned long to open-source Plan 9, or we might have seen some real competition in the OS arena.

Re:He has a very small point... (1)

JustShootMe (122551) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858652)

There are a couple of truly unique OSes out there, along with a rather active "demo" scene, last I checked (which was a while ago). I found some intereting ones a while ago, unfortunately I don't have the links anymore.

You never hear of them because they have very little traction. But having traction is not the point of open source, it's just a benefit.

Not everything is beholden to Linux.

Lanier is a wanker (1)

mitchskin (226035) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858542)

Lanier's own "research" isn't all that creative. In VR he spent a crapload of money doing things that people would do anyway once the hardware gets cheap enough.

Aside from that, he tends toward a limited-understanding kind of bloviating. It's the worst kind of fluffy futurism. It wouldn't be so offensive if it weren't coupled with his oddly oily smugness.

Re:Lanier is a wanker (1)

BorgCopyeditor (590345) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858600)

It's the worst kind of fluffy futurism. It wouldn't be so offensive if it weren't coupled with his oddly oily smugness.

TEDitis?

There's a kernel of truth (1)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858548)

The Neo Open Source movement is a latecomer to the field, so yeah, a lot of is "let's copy this commercial software!". But there's often a "it's good enough" mentality. For years, CVS had problems, but the prevailing wisdom was "it's good enough". There's svn (et alia) now, but would it exist (or be as popular) if closed source (perforce, bitkeeper) software hadn't pushed the edge?

Re:There's a kernel of truth (1)

david_thornley (598059) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858630)

The prevailing wisdom on CVS was "it's good enough", and that was precisely correct. It was, and is, much better than any version control software I used before I met CVS.

People involved with CVS thought it had problems, so some of them set out to eliminate those problems with Subversion. It wasn't because Bitkeeper and/or Perforce were better, but because CVS had problems that would not be easy to deal with without a thorough redesign, and these problems were annoying the people.

And, then, Linus Torvalds decided he didn't like CVS or Subversion, so he wrote a considerably different sort of version control system, git, because that was the sort of VCS he wanted.

Just like Knuth wrote TeX because he hated the way his papers were looking in mathematical journals.

Some of the best of free/open source software comes about because somebody is annoyed with existing software, and that's where you're likely to find the real innovation.

Missing the design point? (1)

Nomen Publicus (1150725) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858564)

As Linux is supposed to be a reimplementation of Unix its lack of a new design paradigm is not surprising.

It is worrying that at the application layer, the most popular (or at least most common) designs are re-implementations of some really crap Windows applications.

Then the fact that most software is still written in C/C++ should cause a tear or two.

Re:Missing the design point? (2, Insightful)

spaceyhackerlady (462530) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858758)

As Linux is supposed to be a reimplementation of Unix its lack of a new design paradigm is not surprising. It is worrying that at the application layer, the most popular (or at least most common) designs are re-implementations of some really crap Windows applications.

Then the fact that most software is still written in C/C++ should cause a tear or two.

The Unix way of doing things is extremely powerful. It's not the only way, but I haven't seen too many alternatives.

I too am dismayed at the efforts of the Linux community to clone Windows. Right down to the icons. Ugh! Let's innovate, people!

...laura

Someone remind me (5, Insightful)

jjohnson (62583) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858568)

Why I should pay any attention to Jaron Lanier.

His name pops up every six months on Edge or ./ or somewhere else, because somehow he got certified as a smart guy (TM), but for the life of me I can't think of anything interesting that he's done or contributed that would deserve that appelation. All I've ever seen of him is a bunch of tech punditry that's either obvious or empty speculation (which is supposed to be significant because he's a smart guy (TM)).

Re:Someone remind me (2, Insightful)

wytcld (179112) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858822)

Jaron's notion of the hazards of "premature collapse of mystery" as a serious error in conception has great potential, IMHO. Of course, he's the guy who invented "virtual reality" as a marketing term. He introduced some quite useful critiques to the emerging field of consciousness studies before becoming disgusted with the overall attitudes there and leaving. And his musical skills are considerable.

That said, in craftsmanship old tools and techniques are often best. when I add to my century-old house, I prefer to use updated versions of century-old construction patterns and techniques, not just for continuity, but because they result in better construction than the way houses - even the more "innovative" ones - are slapped together now. And it's the same way with *nix. Updated versions of decades-old tools and design patterns build something not only more compatible, but in many dimensions actually better, than some freshly-invented blue-sky bag of tricks. The geodesic dome was brilliant and novel, yet obviously in retrospect not the way to go. The jury's still out on the VR stuff Jaron's fame is based on - which was something quite beyond the illustrated multi-player versions of Adventure that's all that's seen real success to date.

Still, Jaron wants art from software, whereas most here, like me, appreciate it more as a craft - closer to fine carpentry than abstract painting.

totally misguided perspective of the author. (0)

3seas (184403) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858578)

It may be true that there are some interesting products coming out of the closed source market and that open source software library has a lot of older practices applied but considering the rate of open source advancement vs. closed source advancement, open source gave closed source a ten year handicap and that was in part caused by Bill Gates yelling Piracy.

The argument that one way is right and the other wrong, is misguided. Its not about right or wrong but making things better and more right.

Open source is a step up from closed source in many ways and the only thing supporting closed source continuation is that of economic system that provide a mechanism of reward for closed source practices.

But these both are just stepping stones in an industry the is still yet young.

What the next step? We have actually been thru that cycle before when we converted over to better mathematical systems to eventually have the hindu arabic decimal system we have today, that does NOT require mathematician status to use.

The next step in computer programming is to go beyond the open/closed source babel by following through with the core purpose of programming, that of automating some level of complexity to provide the users of that complexity with a simplified interface that they may use and incorporated the complexity into their programing. And being a recursive act, this of course leads to Auto-coding.

At some point we will reach auto-coding simplicity of such a degree that programming will be as easy to use as a calculator capable of processing abstraction beyond the but including the math based abstractions we use today. And this is the degree of ease that you can see for your self by testing how well you can do math by hand in comparison to using a calculator. A lot of people can not do by hand, math they do with a calculator.

   

Another person that confuses design with new ideas (1)

strangeattraction (1058568) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858584)

Ho Hum. I have been in this business for over twenty five years and it never ceases to amaze me. People that think software design, new computer languages etc are actually the transformational engines of creativity in this industry. Show me just important piece of software were it truly mattered what it was written in to the end user. It only really matters to the people writing it. It is true that new paradigms and languages have made certain programming activities more productive but usually at the expense of efficiency. This general sloppiness on the part of programmers has been compensated for by cpu speed, ample memory and disk storage. The true mover of this industry has been Moore's law and will continue to be in the near future. There are very few truly new and useful ideas that haven't been floating around for a long time. It is only when they become economical for the mass market that we see them implemented in ways that can be used by consumers. My humble advice: Get A Life

Wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21858602)

The guy is clearly wrong.

Apple and MS tried to improve the OS - Apple had to go back 10 years to unix-like NeXT - now Unix certified OSX.5.
MS maybe haven't learnt yet.

Just because it's old doesn't make it backward - in fact NeXTStep was ahead of it's time, so we've just finally caught up with it.

Sure... but, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21858614)

As best I can tell the only difference is closed source software is even less innovative. Companies don't want to take risks. So any new people who want to make something new that is actually really innovative will have to do it for them selves, and there is no reason it can't be open source.

Stupid phrasing (2, Informative)

JamesRose (1062530) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858618)

Obviously thats just not true of all open source software. However, with some OSS, like Open office, I just can't be bothered, because they're trying to replace closed source software, not making it in their own right, just copying it, no creativity just coding for the sake of it being open source and giving them a warm fuzzy feeling inside. For me, using Open office at the moment is like stepping back to ms office 10 years ago, why would I do that- ms office came with my PC so it hasnt cost me anything (it did, but not directly) and more importantly in businesses the users aren't charged anything- it's just an office expense. The guy does have a point though: it's no longer enough just to be open source, to be accepted you MUST be open source and useful. I think it's a step that was missed when the OSS developers started looking for larger distribution to people who weren't intereseted in computer ethics.

Re:Stupid phrasing (1)

chocbar31 (1102447) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858878)

For me, using Open office at the moment is like stepping back to ms office 10 years ago, why would I do that- ms office came with my PC so it hasnt cost me anything (it did, but not directly) and more importantly in businesses the users aren't charged anything- it's just an office expense

Actually, it costs me and the organization I work for "Tons" The latest issues encountered with MS Office. Being forced to upgrade to 2007 or deal with an issue of not being able to save documents as they become "read only" all of a sudden (just the beginning). Office 2003 and causes major issues when you have SharePoint 2007 installed as an Intranet. You are pretty much forced to upgrade to Office 2007, not to mention the learning curb of the differences between the two.

I am helpdesk and spend more time resolving Office issues more than any other product we support. I personally use OpenOffice and don't have these types of issues... At all.

Actually, in my case and in the case of the organization I am employed at, these issues can consume weeks if not months of time we can spend on IT projects. Over the past year, I have been putting out MS Office fires. With OpenOffice, just before this last update of the product, the only issue I found is that the presentation app in OpenOffice didn't display MS Office's layout correctly. That has now been resolved, OpenOffice is even a better fit now than MS Office, to me!

I don't disagree with everything you mention, just wanna mention that MS Office has its mighty fare-share and then some, in the issue department that will COST major time and money, from an aspect of someone who supports users that use the product.

Clearly not acquainted with history (4, Insightful)

Arrogant-Bastard (141720) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858620)

Every piece of significant Internet technology designed, developed and deployed over the past 25-30 years has been open-source. Offhand, I could list everything related to Usenet and NNTP, Apache, perl, gopher, python, PGP, BIND, Firefox, archie, AFS, NFS, X, LDAP, MIME, majordomo and mailman, ruby, RCS, CVS, subversion, BSD Unix, Linux, sendmail, postfix, courier, exim, P2P and associated tools, IRC, a bunch of ASF projects, etc., etc., etc. These are the building blocks of what most people perceive as the contemporary Internet -- and I'd say that creating that has involved some serious innovation.

The biggest obstacle to innovation isn't open-source: it's software patents and the associated legal thicket that's being constructed to strangle innovation and thereby preserve the profits of the incumbents. I note with interest the the overwhelming majority of those engaging in this anti-innovation practice are vendors of closed-source software -- who are thereby admitting that they can't compete on merit, and so have to resort to unethical legal maneuvers to quash their competition. Oh, and the occasional open-source-is-bad propaganda piece.

Re:Clearly not acquainted with history (3, Insightful)

DevStar (943486) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858748)

There are other items that you could list that were NOT open source developments:
Java, ASP/ASP.NET, C#, Flash, Exchange/Outlook, Adobe Reader, IE, Netscape, Google Search, Akamai caching, AIM, Yahoo Messenger, etc., etc., etc...
Don't confuse the blinders for the edge of the universe.

Yeah, /. and Digg sure bore the shit out me... (2, Insightful)

christian.einfeldt (874074) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858632)

...not. Same for Cinelerra and Kino and Jahshakah and Firefox and Wengophone and apt-get and dvgrab and transcode and ffmpeg2theora and Annodex and YouTube and Facebook and, oh well, you get the point.

As it so happens, I am producing a distributed film with FOSS [archive.org] called the Digital Tipping Point, and our community would never have been able to create all these great BASH scripts [digitaltippingpoint.com] to automate the process of capturing, compressing, and uploading the video to the Internet Archive's Digital Tipping Point Video Collection without the freedom of FOSS. Oh, and coincidentally, neither the Internet or the Internet Archive would exist without FOSS.

This guy clearly does not know what he is talking about.

It's true enough about Linux (3, Insightful)

bytesex (112972) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858662)

And Gnome. And the media players on X. They're either superb copies of old tech, or they're just running behind whoever-sets-the-trend. It's also very untrue with regards to apache, perl, python, webbrowsers (who's running after whom in this game ?). But operating systems need an overhaul, that's for sure. Not that old micro/monolithic debate (that I couldn't care less about), but currently a whole lot of tech is ending up in userland where it doesn't belong: virtualization, network-distributed/scaled filesystems, network-distributed/scaled services. And APIs. I mean, by now, transactions on a filesystem should be part of your standard C-API; read, write, oh sorry, I didn't mean that: rollback. Why isn't it ? Standardized APIs with regards to shared memory, synchronization devices, events; the UNIX crowd seems to find it very acceptable to rely on backward compatibility here. Why ?

That's the problem with the car industry (1)

Junta (36770) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858678)

They are still using *round wheels*. They are bound to the philosophy of millenia ago. A superbly polished copy of the original wheels, shinier, but still defined by it.

I think it's really not intelligent to argue that using old concepts is bad *especially* when citing Apple as a shining example of what's *good*, considering they are using a BSD at the core, with an evolved Step based API/interface. The innovations of the GUI have nothing to do with what Linux copies of long ago. What Linux copies from long ago is what every other modern platform copies (save for Windows, which I don't think people hold up as an example of stellar architecture). The GUI portion happens to have the X protocol at the core, but the APIs and behaviors are largely dictated by higher-level toolkits that are nowadays pretty much the same across the board. Compiz is a good example. Yes, there is some blatant rip-off of visual effects from other platforms, but there are new ones as well. Also, they extended the concept of expose to have window title search, which is nice. Yes, it's all an implementation with unix-style paths, with X protocol at the core, but that's a moot point, since all the innovation happens outside that arena across the board regardless of platform.

There's nothing new under the sun (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21858686)

So what? There is lots of stuff that is new and innovative. We aren't going to get to use it for another twenty years. It hasn't made it out of the lab yet.

The trouble with new innovative stuff is that the framework to use it doesn't exist yet.

An example is digital signal processing. The math was invented two hundred years ago. Nobody could take advantage of it until about thirty years ago when computers became powerful enough.

Many of the new hot things on the desktop existed on the mainframe in the 1960s. In fact, stuff that existed as mainframes now exists as microcontrollers. So do we complain that microcontrollers aren't sufficiently innovative?

Systems research is dead (1)

klapaucjusz (1167407) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858690)

Lanier is up to something, but he's missing the point. In the 1960s and 70s came up Tenex, Unix, the Smalltalk system, the Lisp Machine, the MESA system, full systems built from scratch.

Today, most of the software people, be it in Academia, in Industry or in the Free Software community, are designing building blocks -- pieces of software that are designed to fit within an existing system (Unix, Windows, the web, whatever).

Or, as Rob Pike put it, systems research is irrelevant [herpolhode.com] (PDF).

closed vs. open (1)

Rutulian (171771) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858702)

FTA: I seem to hold a minority opinion. I've taken a lot of heat for it!

I think that's because the argument doesn't make any sense. The author is saying that open source projects suffer from some sort of ADD, and therefore they don't (implication: can't) focus on one idea long enough to make it good. The thing is, open source is an enabler; it allows for the free exchange of ideas. However, it is not a source of inspiration in and of itself. It's just a methodology. A jigsaw isn't going to help a person with no skill or imagination to create a work of art from a piece of wood. However, a person with imagination and creativity will be better able to create that work of art with a jigsaw than with just a chisel and a hammer.

In the closed source world, profit is simultaneously the inspiration and the cause for lack of inspiration. If investors see potential in an emerging market, they will pour money into development of an innovative product. But if there isn't sufficient profit motivation, innovation won't happen. There is not a singular source of inspiration in the open source world. I think mostly what we are seeing up until now is the motivation of replacing proprietary software. That results in the development of a lot of clones with similar functionality and interface design. If somebody were to come along, though, and say, "Here I have this awesome idea. Come help me out with it," open source allows that to happen much easier than closed source. There is some of that out there already. They just aren't among the high profile projects. Niche ideas are going to get minimal attention until other people discover them. That is one thing that proprietary software will always do better because their business model depends on it: marketing.

A few thoughts (1)

sootman (158191) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858742)

One: software doesn't exist in a vacuum. Software development must respond to market realities. The reason people work on developing Linux and BSD is because they are usable, today, with a world of current open- and closed-source software. I'd rather have something good, that works, now, than wait forever for some magical thing and have nothing in the meantime. In other words, I'd rather have a nice, refined, working car now, than walk for 20 years while I wait for the helicar to be usable.

Open-source doesn't magically always lead to succes, but neither does closed-source: OS/2 and BeOS are two commercial, 100% closed-source operating systems that were very ahead of their time... and died. Why? Well, largely (and this is especially the case with BeOS) because they couldn't INTEROPERATE with all the other things that were already out there that most people used. And why couldn't they interoperate? Everyone, all together now...

Two: open source developers would love nothing more than to create the next great thing, and they are more than talented enough to do it. Why aren't they? Oh, right: they've got to spend their time reinventing the wheel, reverse-engineering all those wonderful CLOSED standards--Office file formats, SMB, video codecs, etc. Imagine how far ADVANCED we'd be if we didn't have to spend man-decades reverse engineering crappy-but-dominant things. If asshole companies would have worked with open standards in the first place, we wouldn't be in this fucking mess. Outside of a computer science class, it's a waste of time to solve the same problems over and over and over again.

One of my favorite quotes of all time:

"The aim is to 'commoditize the protocol'. By giving the stack away, maybe we can stop everyone obsessing over how to format the bits on the wire, and get them writing applications instead."
Craig Southeren, co-founder of OpenH323 [archive.org] Fucking-a right. Why are there so many IM protocols? (Formatted text over a network--are you fucking kidding me?!?!?*) And why, relevant to Open H323, don't we all have videophones yet? Same reason.

From TFA: "Why are so many of the more sophisticated examples of code in the online world--like the page-rank algorithms in the top search engines or like Adobe's Flash--the results of proprietary development?"

There are MANY reasons, but a lack of creativity on the part of OSS developers is NOT one. It is a fact that secrets DO have some value. If you know something good, and you aren't willing to tell someone for free, they'll probably be willing to pay.

PageRank and Flash are his shining examples of "sophisticated" and successful code?!? Ha! Let's see: PageRank is a weighted ranking algorithm Ooh. It exists (and is closed) because people are assholes and are constantly trying to game the system. If fucking asshole spammers and porn sites didn't fill up their pages with bogus META tags back in the mid-to-late '90s, PageRank wouldn't be the necessity it is. If they didn't continue to do everything possible [wikipedia.org] to defeat honest ranking, its methods wouldn't have to be secret. And Flash? Are you fucking KIDDING me? It's a vector graphics format that handles animation, can play sound in sync, and has gained the ability to play embedded movie files. Those are all DECADES-old technolgies! And Adobe bundled them all together into one plugin... ooh, that fucking REEKS of innovation.

This guy was on a panel with Lee Smolin (a physicist) and Neal Stephenson talking about "the relationship between time and math" so I'm sure he's smarter than I am in many ways, but I can't help but feel that this article of his is way, way, way wrong.

* yeah, I know there's more to it than just text... but not fucking much. Not enough to justify the existence of AIM and MSN and Yahoo! and all the rest.

No matter how much you polish a turd... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21858746)

And Vista isn't just DOS with decades of turd-polish?!?!

To Call His Bluff (1)

dasunst3r (947970) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858774)

I think that open source has been surpassing closed-source software by leaps and bounds. I mean, tell me if OSX or Windows has something like BlueProximity (http://sourceforge.net/projects/blueproximity/). The only "old" thing I'm seeing is the security model, but it's a good model to keep because we're seeing Microsoft starting to take a few pages from the Linux playbook.

Look Up Irony (1)

popejeremy (878903) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858782)

It's really handy that I can open my World Wide Web browser, and using TCP/IP, navigate to discovermagazine.com which uses PLONE running on Linux to serve an an HTML document telling me how useless open-source software is.

(cite: http://plone.net/case-studies/discover-magazine [plone.net] )

Rubbish, ignorant article (1)

Cannelloni (969195) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858812)

The author of the article is apparently entirely unaware of the many creative open source projects out there. But there is just one thing: maybe open source people need to think more about standardization when it comes to user interfaces, installation and configuration mechanisms, and also, ironically, marketing. Nothing sells, or gets propagated freely, by itself. -- you can bite my ass for saying this, ppl, but deep inside, y'all know it's true.

asshats (1)

mrsbrisby (60242) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858820)

I'm sorry, Pulseaudio [pulseaudio.org] fucking rocks. I love having every application being able to have a different volume setting. And that's just what tickled me most recently. This asshat believes that innovation comes from economic stimulation because he defines innovation as that thing that Microsoft is doing.

If you instead note that Microsoft has seen greater economic benefit by holding back the state of the art, it becomes easier to see this idea as a load of horseshit, or is the author still waiting for Cairo and Longhorn?

Red Hat clearly recognizes this, as their core business model comes from them hiring experts in Linux. Ubuntu might be philanthropy, or it might not, but it has experts as well, and experts competing to advance the state of the art is what makes Free Software the best system for the development of the information industry.

What has Jaron Lanier produced? (1)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858824)

What has Jaron Lanier produced? Is this fellow famous for being famous or has he actually done something closed source against which we can compare our efforts?

Re:What has Jaron Lanier produced? (1)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858848)

According to his Wikipedia article, no, he hasn't done anything. Taught a few courses here and there. Recorded an album. So, basically, he's an intellectual, come to tell us ignorant sluts who are actually DOING THINGS how to do them correctly. Feh. Intellectuals are the death of every civilization.

A sheltered life? (1)

ndogg (158021) | more than 6 years ago | (#21858846)

Of course he's wrong, but at the same time he's justified in his conclusion if that conclusion is based upon the most popular and useful projects out there. The problem is that the most useful projects out there are the ones that do what's always been done because those projects make it easier for people to transfer to "newer" technology (faster processors, more memory, etc.)

There are innovative and creative OSS projects, but one does need to do more work to find them because they are not going to be popular, and because few people, relatively, have a need for them.

Why are so many of the more sophisticated examples of code in the online worldlike the page-rank algorithms in the top search engines or like Adobes Flashthe results of proprietary development? Why did the adored iPhone come out of what many regard as the most closed, tyrannically managed software-development shop on Earth? An honest empiricist must conclude that while the open approach has been able to create lovely, polished copies, it hasnt been so good at creating notable originals. Even though the open-source movement has a stinging countercultural rhetoric, it has in practice been a conservative force.


Google, Adobe, and Apple have invested a lot of money into those projects, and like it or not, but the success of a software project depends more upon the money invested into it than many other factors. Something that I would consider to be highly innovative OSS, but lacking the money for publicity to succeed (among other reasons), is Tor, but it's not as though the EFF has much money to be spending on getting more people to use it. Of course, there aren't a whole lot of people that need to be that paranoid with their identity.
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