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South African Minister Locks Horns With Microsoft

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the speaking-truth-to-monoploy dept.

Microsoft 325

naheiw writes "The South African minister of public service and administration on Monday addressed the opening of the Idlelo 3 free software conference in Dakar, Senegal, saying that software patents posed a considerable threat to the growth of the African software sector (video). Microsoft responded aggressively, saying that 'there is no such thing as free software. Nobody develops software for charity.'"

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325 comments

freshmeat.net? sourceforge anybody? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22862286)

are they smoking micro-crack again?

Technically true though (-1, Flamebait)

Crazy Taco (1083423) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862742)

What Microsoft says is technically true though. Yes, there are many developers who write code for no money, but at the same time, I don't know anyone who does it entirely for selfless, charitable reasons.

Many of the most active open source coders are poster children for being self absorbed. It's just that, instead of being self absorbed with money and material possessions, they prefer to be paid in the form of being well known, having prestige, and generally getting their ego stroked.

Many others program just to stick it to the man because they have some sort of grudge against govt. or corporations, and others because they simply want lots and lots of software for free (thinking if they give theirs away, others will too). Stallman probably fits into both of these camps.

Finally, some program for free just to learn more or have fun. Not necessarilly saying that any or all of the above reasons are bad, only that there are few, if any, programmers who write free software for charity. Most expect to get some sort of benefit out of it. The thing the Africans need to realize is that most programmers prefer to get money in exchange for their coding, and if you don't allow patents, and therefore don't allow programmers to get money in exchange for coding, you have cut off about 98% of your source of new code. You can get some people to work for ego stroking, but most have mortgages to pay and lives to live, and they need money like everyone else. In general, Microsoft is very correct that software costs money, and you aren't going to get it for free.

Re:Technically true though (5, Insightful)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862798)

you seriously have your wires crossed thinking you can't get paid for coding without software patents. MS knows this. I don't need to patent something to make money off it, it just need to write a good product that people want, if a crappy clone comes along and tries to steal my idea... well that just encourages me to come up with new idea's and to offer a better product or service.

the 2 things MS is terrified of having to compet on.

Uh... (2)

msauve (701917) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862812)

it's "free, as in speech," not "free, as in beer."

Re:Uh... (4, Interesting)

fyngyrz (762201) | more than 6 years ago | (#22863138)

MS Says:

Nobody develops software for charity

Nonsense. Neither the commercial urge nor the recognition grabbing need have spread to cover 100% of those people producing software. Here [ideaspike.com] is a database system in python that I wrote for my own reasons, and give away for free. No "GPL" or other pseudo-free restrictions, just free. PD. Take it. Do anything you like with it. Or not. Don't care. Not looking for money, not looking for recognition, not looking to promote free stuff over commercial stuff or vice versa, no requirements of any kind. Repost it anywhere, take my name off it, whatever you like. It's just... free. What do I get out of it? It works for me, that's all. Doesn't hurt me or compromise me in any way to give it away, so I do.

What Microsoft - and the GPL-fans, for that matter - have oh-so-conveniently forgotten is the mechanism of PD software. Write it, share it, go on with your life. The more people do that, the more useful things will get created. Personally, I find the GPL just as corrosive as software patents, and for very similar reasons. I try to stay away from both. But that's just me.

Re:Uh... (1, Informative)

lymond01 (314120) | more than 6 years ago | (#22863290)

What do I get out of it? It works for me, that's all. Doesn't hurt me or compromise me in any way to give it away, so I do.

I think consistent, reliable, updated software is rare. Your database you speak of sounds like a one-off thing. What if someone finds a security hole? Or wants an additional feature? You'll either ignore the request, tell them to fix it, or be annoyed but fix it yourself. For free. What if there are 100 features/bugs that need to be worked on? Unless you have a lot of loose time, it'll end up another buggy piece of "open source" software with 2.5 cows on Tucows.

The idea of developers sharing and improving upon free software is a good one. The idea that the free software has any responsibility backing up its existence is false. "It's free...do what you want with it" is fine for developers, not for the end users. And that's what Microsoft is saying.

There are exceptions (BackupPC, Apache, Firefox, Plone) but in the end, only the software is free (as in speech) while the dev time is not (as in consulting and thanks for the beer).

Re:Technically true though (5, Insightful)

roggg (1184871) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862852)

... if you don't allow patents, and therefore don't allow programmers to get money in exchange for coding...
Huh? I'm calling shenanigans on you. Patents are not a mechanism by which programmers get paid for coding. They are a mechanism by which legal departments of companies harass their competitors, and by which companies that produce nothing engage in extortion. Programmers get paid to build software.

Re:Technically true though (3, Informative)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22863018)

It does also sometimes serve its original intent, to protect the little guy from having his ideas stolen with zero recourse.

I agree today its not often, but id not say patents are ONLY to support the big legal departments for harassment purposes.

I agree, but... (3, Insightful)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 6 years ago | (#22863106)

It does also sometimes serve its original intent, to protect the little guy from having his ideas stolen with zero recourse.

I agree, that is the original intent of patents.

But has anyone heard of a little guy using a patent to stave off a large corporation from stealing his ideas in the last decade or so? It only works if the little guy has lawyers good enough to go to bat against the megacorporations likely to steal his patent. Which, of course, means he's not a little guy.

The patent game is a game played by companies with teams of lawyers on the payroll. IMHO, the little guy was bounced out of this arena sometime around 1950 or so. I know I haven't seen it be otherwise in my lifetime.

Re:Technically true though (1)

virtualXTC (609488) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862954)

Many of the most active open source coders are poster children for being self absorbed. It's just that, instead of being self absorbed with money and material possessions, they prefer to be paid in the form of being well known, having prestige, and generally getting their ego stroked.
Just because someone donates their time, or money to charity with some home of prestige or fame, doesn't mean that it's still not an act of charity. Further, you mean to tell me that everyone who starts an open source project thinks they are going to be famous? That's nonsense.

The thing the Africans need to realize is that most programmers prefer to get money in exchange for their coding, and if you don't allow patents, and therefore don't allow programmers to get money in exchange for coding, you have cut off about 98% of your source of new code. You can get some people to work for ego stroking, but most have mortgages to pay and lives to live, and they need money like everyone else.
Your premise is severely flawed, patents are not necessary in order for programmers to be paid. Here at the Broad Institute there are plenty of open source programmers who are well paid. Maybe it's time for a reality check, not everyone in this world is overly selfish.

Re:Technically true though (4, Insightful)

Znork (31774) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862980)

and if you don't allow patents, and therefore don't allow programmers to get money in exchange for coding

That's called a non sequitur.

Most people who receive money in exchange for their work do so without having monopoly rights. There is no evidence that monopoly rights are necessary for monetizing software development; in fact, there's a vast array of evidence suggesting it's not at all necessary.

That evidence ranges from open source companies on one end to the vast majority of programmers hired for coding specific purpose software which is never released and for which copyright or patents is irrelevant.

On the other side is, eh, Microsoft. Claiming that they need software to cost money or they have no business model.

No shit. Wonder what makes them say that then.

Re:Technically true though (1)

Kjellander (163404) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862986)

Finally, some program for free just to learn more or have fun. Not necessarilly saying that any or all of the above reasons are bad, only that there are few, if any, programmers who write free software for charity. Most expect to get some sort of benefit out of it. The thing the Africans need to realize is that most programmers prefer to get money in exchange for their coding, and if you don't allow patents, and therefore don't allow programmers to get money in exchange for coding, you have cut off about 98% of your source of new code. You can get some people to work for ego stroking, but most have mortgages to pay and lives to live, and they need money like everyone else. In general, Microsoft is very correct that software costs money, and you aren't going to get it for free.

WHAT? 98%? Did you pull those figures out of your own ass?

98% of the source of new code does not come from software patents and I can prove it:

Mac OS X

The code in Mac OS X did not come to be because of software patents, it came to be because Apple paid their programmers to code a kick butt OS so they could sell hardware, and they do, and they sell a lot of hardware. Plus a lot of the code came from NeXT, which Apple bought, and from BSD. And their market share is big. (No, I use Linux, but I bought my mom a Mac)

You must have confused Imaginary Property, Software Patents and Copyrights respectively, otherwise there is no way to get even close to your numbers. What you probably mean is; If you abolish copyright altogether you would remove 98% of the income source for new code. But that is not what this is about at all.

The Minister said software patents was a threat.

Re:Technically true though (3, Insightful)

Weedlekin (836313) | more than 6 years ago | (#22863272)

"98% of the source of new code does not come from software patents and I can prove it:

Mac OS X"

And MS-DOS, and Windows, and Word, and Excel, and... MS wouldn't exist in its current form if Digital Research had software patents on CP/M, or Apple had them on the original Mac and QuickTime, or Dan Bricklyn had patented the concepts in VisiCalc, or MicroPro had patented various WP concepts, or Borland had patented the IDE, or software patents had been present on any of the legion of other programs and associated software technologies that Microsoft have blatantly ripped off over the years.

To paraphrase Alastair Crowley: "Do as I say and not as I do shall be the whole of the law".

Re:Technically true though (3, Informative)

annodomini (544503) | more than 6 years ago | (#22863050)

While you're certainly correct that most free software isn't written for charitable reasons, there certainly is plenty of free software that is. Look at the OLPC; that's not for profit, or for ego, it's a charity, unless you want to clame that every single charity out there, from ones that fight hunger to AIDS to teaching in developing nations, is just around to "have their ego stroked." Or, to give you a particularly striking example, here is an excerpt from the SQLite source code:

May you do good and not evil
May you find forgiveness for yourself and forgive others
May you share freely, never taking more than you give.

Crazy Taco:

The thing the Africans need to realize is that most programmers prefer to get money in exchange for their coding, and if you don't allow patents, and therefore don't allow programmers to get money in exchange for coding, you have cut off about 98% of your source of new code.

That's absolutely false. 99% of programmers don't make their money from software patents; in fact, most of them would have an easier time doing their jobs and making money if software patents didn't exist. Software copyrights certainly help protect their software and allow them to make money, but the vast majority of software patents are held by patent trolls who haven't written a line of useful software in their lives, or big companies that just patent everything they think they can to use defensively against other companies in case of patent lawsuits.

The problem with software patents is that pretty much every piece of software written is a novel invention, because if it wasn't, then you should have reused code that already existed since it already does what you need. If people patented every new idea they had while coding, they'd be in an out of the patent office 10 times a day, and wouldn't be able to get their work done (credit to Phil Greenspun for that argument). The only people who get patents are, as I mentioned, greedy patent trolls who just want to make an easy buck (it's pretty damn simple to come up with a new, patented idea in code, and then just sue anyone else who happens to think of that and implement it later), and companies that usually get big patent portfolios so when other big companies try to hit them up for money, they can just do a patent cross-licensing agreement and not have to actually fight it out in court.

As a professional, paid programmer, I must say that patent issues are second only to cryptographic regulation issues in terms of laws that have interfered with me actually getting my job done.

Re:Technically true though (3, Insightful)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 6 years ago | (#22863148)

There's another camp---indeed, the largest camp of all---the people who code because it solves a problem they have. In the absence of it being a competitive advantage for a corporation, there's no good reason not to share that with others so that it will help solve their problems, too. Lord knows I've done that quite often. Sure, I like name recognition, but I'd still do it even if nobody ever heard of me.

Similarly, when I run into a problem that prevents me from getting stuff done, I fix it and submit patches. They don't always get accepted, but at the very least, they are out there for other people who run into the same problems to use if they need them, and they make the original developer aware that people want a particular enhancement.

That said, there's still a payback. I'm getting useful functionality out of the code---functionality that I would not get without writing it. So pedantically speaking, the Microsoft rep is technically right. That said, since I had to write it anyway, from the perspective of the system as a whole, the existence of the software as a public resource is as close to "free" as you can get; if you don't consider that "free", then there's no such thing as "free" at all, and I would argue that this is a silly way to look at the world. If something occurs for no additional cost (or negligible cost) as a result of a process that you have to do anyway, that something is, by definition, free. Now the act of giving it away isn't free, mind you; there's a possible opportunity cost because perhaps you could have sold it and made money. However, this is lost potential revenue, and the effort that you would have to spend trying to obtain that income usually won't pay for itself anyway. As such, releasing it as open source often truly is free....

Re:Technically true though (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22863182)

Most programmers do not work for Software Companies.

Hence, their renumeration is not tied to the "sale" of software. They are paid to create/modify software for their employer's use. A lot of the time, it makes sense to share the work on a reciprocal basis, because it lowers everyones costs and improves the quality of the software for everyone ("Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.") Read The Cathedral and the Bazaar [catb.org] , by Eric S. Raymond. It's online for free.

Re:Technically true though (4, Informative)

hardburn (141468) | more than 6 years ago | (#22863310)

Yes, there are many developers who write code for no money, but at the same time, I don't know anyone who does it entirely for selfless, charitable reasons.

Vim is explicitly produced as a way to promote a charity for Uganda.

Re:freshmeat.net? sourceforge anybody? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22862794)

It isn't developed for free... someone subsidizes all that code in some form... whether the developers are directly paid to produce the code there or someone who does it in their spare time and gets money by a day job. Even kids in college either get money from the parents or work some other jobs in order to have the free time to contribute.

Re:freshmeat.net? sourceforge anybody? (2, Insightful)

psychodelicacy (1170611) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862898)

Depends on how you define "free", doesn't it?

If I donate goods to charity, they get those goods without paying me money in return. If I give a gift to a friend, they also get goods without giving money in return. Those goods may have been paid for with my money, which was given to me by my employers, which comes from my employers' profits from their customers. I may be repaid with friendship or a good feeling in my heart. But that doesn't make the gift non-free at the point of donation. Similarly, when I download free (as in beer) software, the fact that I don't ever have to pay any money to use it makes it free for download, even though someone may have been paid to produce it or done so whilst subsidised by their parents. I may give the producers publicity, my thanks, my love and attention, but I don't give them money. If Microsoft claims that there is no such thing as software for which users don't have to pay money, they're blatantly wrong. If they claim that software is never produced without using time or resources which could otherwise be making money, perhaps they have a better case.

never trust a nigger with your property (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22862288)

Never trust a nigger with your property, especially your intellectual property.

Where is Stallman? (4, Interesting)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862306)

The growth of Free Software in Africa could be encouraged were Stallman to visit the area. His visit to India was enormously successful. Would that we have a better and more cheaply available biography of the man and his vision (O'Reilly's Free as in Freedom [amazon.com] is good, but could be better) that could be distributed to influential figures in the African IT world.

Re:Where is Stallman? (1)

genesus (1049556) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862814)

Maybe experiencing and existential crisis after finding out there is no thing as free software...

Nobody (4, Funny)

Ricin (236107) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862326)

"Nobody develops software for charity"

Hello, my name is Nobody. You know, the one that's prefect. Same dude.

Re:Nobody (4, Insightful)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862360)

My jaw dropped too to see that South African Microsoft executive claim that. I've done a few transcriptions for CastingWords of recordings of discussions among Microsoft figures, and it's amazing how out of touch they are with the Free Software world. Granted, if you are working at Microsoft you are probably ideologically against the Free Software crowd, but most geeks are curious about other software projects going on just to get fresh coding perspectives--Jobs took a lot from PARC, for example. Microsoft just exists in its own little bubble.

Re:Nobody (2, Funny)

erroneus (253617) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862506)

...just to add to what you've written:

It's a BIG bubble, a THICK bubble, and it doesn't show signs of bursting just yet. I am, however, attempting to make Bill Gates's head explode with the powers of my mind... which also shows no sign of bursting.

Re:Nobody (1)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862696)

Try making it asplode [uncyclopedia.org] instead

Re:Nobody (1)

Xymor (943922) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862754)

Can a communitarian effort be labeled as charity?

If a group of people works toward a common goal for this group, then this isn't charity but simple cooperation.

Re:Nobody (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22862834)

I work at Microsoft, and I am /not/ "ideologically against the Free Software crowd". In fact, I run Linux on all of my personal computers and have written GPL software. However, I have not found a way to get free software to pay me a living wage, so I took a day job.

Re:Nobody (1)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 6 years ago | (#22863302)

More importantly, you can be FOR closed source software and still AGAINST patents. I prefer open source, but hey, I want the best software I can use, regardless if I get to see the source or not. I am against patents and DRM, which both restrict my right to use and create software of my own, each in their own way.

Re:Nobody (2, Interesting)

Kamokazi (1080091) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862450)

Well, they *kind of* have a point.

I would be willing to bet the vast majority of FOSS developers are working on stuff they actually use, so it's not entirely for charity.

I guess it's just worded with enough wiggle room that they can back out of it later and claim that's not what they meant. It really is stupid for them to say something like this, when there are thousands of people who develop great free software for Windows. I wouldn't be suprised if some people developing cross-platform stop releasing Windows binaries because of brash statements like this.

Re:Nobody (3, Insightful)

Trails (629752) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862678)

You've *kind of* touched on an important point. ;)

The Minister slammed software patents. Microsoft is slamming FOSS. While MS's slam, in and of itself, is flawed, it's also somewhat irrelevant. A piece of software that isn't patented isn't necessarily FOSS.

Consider the one-click buying patent, a favourite whipping boy(rightly so). This could be implemented with .NET, silverlight, VBScript, MSSQL, on windows server 2003, and not patented.

The MS exec is trying to make a flawed implication(that absence of software patents == FOSS), because they think it helps their argument. That it doesn't help their argument is part and parcel to MS's failure to understand the FOSS movement.

In other words, MS is doubly wrong, and Linux pwns Steve Ballmer in the ear.

Re:Nobody (2, Insightful)

Weedlekin (836313) | more than 6 years ago | (#22863026)

"The Minister slammed software patents. Microsoft is slamming FOSS. While MS's slam, in and of itself, is flawed, it's also somewhat irrelevant."

In other words, it's a straw man, and given the nature of the majority of responses here, it's succeeded admirably in getting lots of geeks beating at it with their FOSS sticks.

Re:Nobody (1)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862682)

Some people do in fact code (open source or closed source) purely for charity.

Re:Nobody (1)

Kamokazi (1080091) | more than 6 years ago | (#22863228)

That's why I said 'vast majority' and 'not everyone'.

Re:Nobody (1)

Dr Caleb (121505) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862914)

"Well, they *kind of* have a point."

A point? The title says they have horns!

Re:Nobody (1)

blhack (921171) | more than 6 years ago | (#22863052)

It really is stupid for them to say something like this, when there are thousands of people who develop great free software for Windows
And even more people (like me and everyone at my company) who USE that software.

Lets see:
Our webserver runs OpenBSD.
Our proxy runs Squid on top of Gentoo
Our FTP is VsFTPd on top of Gentoo
Our mailserver will be (I'm still building/testing) Unison on top of Centos (hey, people that write the centos install script, will you please let me install it manually...your install flames out *every* *single* *time*)
Our VPN is OpenVPN on Gentoo

All of our office Applications are OpenOffice stuff (microsoft...don't f*cking change the gui after over 10 years of the same thing!!)
I do design work. I do everything in:
Scribus (for layouts, and final product)
Inkscape (for vector work, logos mostly)
Gimp (for bitmap stuff. Photo retouching, sometimes initial test layouts (rough sketchs) are done in here).
I build EPS files using Ghostscript and view them in GSviewer.

We have several wireless access point in that I built on Soekris boards, they run:
The madwifi driver suite.
A custom stripped-down version of gentoo with the vanilla kernel sources.

I build and run reports on Mysql which is (once again) running on gentoo linux.
The web front ends for these reports are running in apache.
The pages are generated using Pythong with the CGI module.
Anything that needs regex is done in perl (shut up....regex in python is UGGGGGGGGLLLLYYYYY)

Point is, pretty much the ONLY thing in our office that WASN'T given to us for free by the open source community was windows XP and windows server 2003. These will probably both be replaced by a mix of Ubuntu workstations and OpenBSD/Centos/Gentoo servers once Microsoft stops selling us copies of XP.

Microsoft (1)

Joseph1337 (1146047) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862332)

Why they didn`t patent the idea of a FUD already?

Well, they're right, and wrong, I guess (4, Insightful)

ashridah (72567) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862342)

Okay, so in the strictest sense of the terms, he's probably right. Software development isn't a charity.

Free Software (GPL/LGPL) is definitely not a charity, it's a give and take trading system. You put in, and you get out, and it largely self-improves through feedback, patches, bug reports, etc.

BSD comes closer, but still required attribution in the past, and of course, the developers were (back in the day) originally producing it as part of various university projects (ie, they get status in return), and more recently, are developing it as for-profit work, but are releasing it. Again, not charity.

That said, whether the argument's been taken out of context, or is accurate in other ways is another matter.

Re:Well, they're right, and wrong, I guess (4, Insightful)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862420)

Free Software (GPL/LGPL) is definitely not a charity

By "charity", I assume that the idea is that someone writes software with the hope of social change with no guarantee he will himself financially benefit from it. Certainly that idea has been widespread in the Free Software world, from Stallman's early dreams to even (funny how this has now gone a complete 180) Miguel de Icaza's founding of GNOME to benefit children in his native Mexico.

Re:Well, they're right, and wrong, I guess (4, Interesting)

grcumb (781340) | more than 6 years ago | (#22863140)

By "charity", I assume that the idea is that someone writes software with the hope of social change with no guarantee he will himself financially benefit from it. Certainly that idea has been widespread in the Free Software world, from Stallman's early dreams to even (funny how this has now gone a complete 180) Miguel de Icaza's founding of GNOME to benefit children in his native Mexico.

Indeed. Just because people don't see it doesn't mean it's not happening.

Do a quick Google for 'ICT4D' - Information and Communications Technologies for Development. You'll be surprised how much work is being done by organisations big and small, and by individuals, too.

I work almost exclusively with FOSS in Vanuatu [wikipedia.org] . Small linux servers running on ancient hardware was the only way we could conceivably have brought small organisations and NGOs online when I arrived some years ago.

The server OS we use is SME Server [smeserver.org] . I worked for the company that created this software starting back in 2000. I went to work for them specifically because of this software's suitability for use in the developing world. After I left these guys, I worked for 3 years as a volunteer using the same software (and a lot of other FOSS as well) to help people communicate electronically, often for the first time.

FOSS is critical to development work. I've written extensively about ICT and Development. This essay [imagicity.com] explains in layman's terms why FOSS is often the right tool for the job.

Re:Well, they're right, and wrong, I guess (2, Interesting)

Rhapsody Scarlet (1139063) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862672)

BSD comes closer, but still required attribution in the past
It still does require attribution, the first and second clauses of the current BSD license [opensource.org] state exactly that. The only change in the history of the BSD license has been the removal of what rms referred to as the "obnoxious advertising clause [gnu.org] ", making it GPL-compatible.

Re:Well, they're right, and wrong, I guess (1)

ashridah (72567) | more than 6 years ago | (#22863262)

Ah, yes, I'm getting the attribution and advertising clauses mixed up, my bad.

No, they are actually wrong (1)

Bored MPA (1202335) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862710)

Several 501c organizations develop software for other 501c organizations simply to reduce the cost of administrative overhead...i can't name names, but I ran across a few when hunting for a job with my MPA. Since any decent charity is judged by its works _and_ its administrative overhead, it made sense to folks working with multiple non-profits to spin-off administrative systems and software. I will say that such processes are usually extremely rare, especially when involving gov't organizations or funds due to regulatory/control reasons--I was very surprised to see them.

Is it charity to develop software for free (or in this case, not for profit) to lower mgmt costs? I would say yes, because the goal of the technology is to lower the costs of work and thereby get more support to those who need it--this is back office charity. And those non-profit employees that still get paid...well they're donating their own work at less than market value (no stock/upside) with a greatly increased risk (very unstable funding).

Re:Well, they're right, and wrong, I guess (1)

Urza9814 (883915) | more than 6 years ago | (#22863158)

I've developed and published code online without any license at all.

Sure, it wasn't exactly good or extensive software, but it was software nonetheless.

Heck, even charity is not really charity (1)

microbee (682094) | more than 6 years ago | (#22863162)

They get tax benefit!

Everything is give and take, no matter how you look at it. A good system keeps the wheels running, a bad system does not.

Equivocation (2, Interesting)

SirGarlon (845873) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862356)

In Microsoft's case I'm inclined to think they're being equivocal on purpose, implying "free as in beer" when the real topic "free as speech."

To fight back, I think we should be calling it "freedomware" rather than "free software."

Re:Equivocation (2, Funny)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862560)

How about "upyoursgatesandstallmanware"?

Re:Equivocation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22862796)

You just need to give it its proper name: software libre.

Just wait (4, Funny)

SnoopJeDi (859765) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862366)

Just you wait, those hooligans with their "Open Source" will start jacking up the price, and you'll be sorry then, but I won't help you then!

Couldn't believe it, had to RTFA (1)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862410)

I couldn't believe anyone at Microsoft would actually say something like that in public, so i had to read the article to see it myself [mybroadband.co.za] . I am no fan of Microsoft's business practices or products, but I would like to believe that that employee was misquoted somehow.

Re:Couldn't believe it, had to RTFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22862568)

Well, it was a Random Something-Or-Other Manager from the South African office, not Gates or Ballmer. Won't stop the Anybody But Microsoft crowd (*cough*KDAWSON*cough*) from blowing it out of proportion.

Re:Couldn't believe it, had to RTFA (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862628)

Why is that unbelievable?

Look, businesses sell their products. Or more precisely, businessmen have salesmen who sell their products. Salesmen are people who are good at sleight of hand, blurring fine distinctions and confusing issues. It's OK, because things are set up because it's their duty to do what it takes, short of fraud, to maximize sales. Everybody knows this.

Can you imagine what things would be like if companies sent engineers out to sell. Of course engineers can learn to be discreet. You can also teach a dog to walk on its hind legs, but that doesn't make it natural. Nor does it make it convincing. It's the fact that the poor animal has to struggle to do an unconvincing imitation that makes the routine amusing.

You might not even get a more balanced view from the engineer -- not unless you brought one in from off the team. There has never been an engineer worth his salt who didn't obsess about the things he could have done better, even on projects he or she is proud of.

In the end, it's always caveat emptor.

Re:Couldn't believe it, had to RTFA (1)

oddaddresstrap (702574) | more than 6 years ago | (#22863128)

... so i had to read the article to see it myself. ... I would like to believe that that employee was misquoted somehow.

Well? Was he? The rest of us would like to know!

Dear Microsoft (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22862412)


I am developing a replacement for your crap Windows "Operating System"

Go To Hell.

Sincerely,
Filipino Monkey

Re:Dear Microsoft (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22863118)

No you're not. Unless you're part of the inner circle of any major distro. You're just a board monkey.

Disgusting (5, Interesting)

arotenbe (1203922) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862454)

Microsoft responded aggressively, saying that 'there is no such thing as free software. Nobody develops software for charity.'
I develop software for "charity" all the time. No one is giving me any incentive, yet I do it anyway.

He added: "For innovation to continue, there needs to be value - and even open-source applications have some form of market model, which incentivises them to continue innovating."
Excuse me while I barf.

PS: What is the chance that the person who said that at Microsoft will be looking for a job very shortly? Having your upper management assert that they are moving toward a more open model and then having some bozo say something like this must look terrible even to the Microsoft Marketing Department (tm).

Re:Disgusting (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#22863088)

The idea of developing software that people want to use makes you barf? Geez.

"Nobody develops software for charity" (4, Interesting)

hey! (33014) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862466)

Umm, having developed software for charities at various points in my career, I have to say that is not the case...

Oh, wait, I am a nobody. At least so far as Microsoft is concerned. It's not that I didn't make enough money to "put food on my family", it's just that I didn't make enough to matter and I never will.

However, the feeling is mutual. If I didn't have clients who need products delivered on MS platforms, I'd happily never touch a piece of MS software again. It's not that I'm ideologically against them, but Microsoft doesn't cater to people like me; we're not a profitable market for them. In fact, we're nobody as far as they're concerned.

That's OK with me; the Gap doesn't offer a line of clothing for people like me; the local Evangelical church doesn't have special Sunday services for people like me either. I'm perfectly happy for each of these organizations to provide their services and wares for people who for whatever reason think they fulfill a need. We just move in orbits that, for the most part intersect.

I think the mutual indifference thing breaks down because Microsoft wants to be everything to everybody. They want to have the one important operating system and the one important file format "standard". Since they don't intend to cater to me, the only way for that to happen is for me to have to use products that were not designed with the things I value in mind. The file format thing is a great example. What I want out of office file formats is not at all what Microsoft is prepared to give me.

Re:"Nobody develops software for charity" (1)

dattaway (3088) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862760)

Microsoft wrote free software at least once. It wasn't for charity, it was to kill a company. Internet Explorer was given away to kill Netscape. In their words, "cut off their air supply."

Re:"Nobody develops software for charity" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22862844)

You are confusing free-as-in-gratis and free-as-in-libre. Yes, IE was monetarily "free" (well, bundled with the OS and cost amortized across it). But it was never libre, since it was copyrighted (while not being open-source or free-software licensed to ameliorate the worst damages of copyright law) and closed-source.

Some people just don't get it ... (5, Insightful)

richg74 (650636) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862476)

there is no such thing as free software

Like the people in the RIAA, Microsoft just doesn't get it. The fundamental issue is not about whether software development is a charity (although sometimes I think that is a motivation), but about Economics 101 and prices in a competitive market. If they had paid attention in class, they would remember that, in a competitive market, the equilibrium price is found where price = marginal cost. The marginal cost of an additional unit of any digital work is very close to zero. So MS, the RIAA, and many others are engaged in an attempt (futile in the long run, IMO) to construct an economic perpetual motion machine by legal schemes and other rent-seeking behavior.

Re:Some people just don't get it ... (4, Insightful)

DigitalisAkujin (846133) | more than 6 years ago | (#22863016)

Exactly, which is why the future of companies that make money from computers would be mostly relegated to support and installation. In other words the marginal cost of man power.

Re:Some people just don't get it ... (1)

Citizen of Earth (569446) | more than 6 years ago | (#22863330)

The marginal cost of an additional unit of any digital work is very close to zero.

Yeah, but the cost of the first unit is a doozy. I think your model is a little bit flawed.

Unable to grasp the issues (4, Insightful)

downix (84795) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862518)

Microsoft in their arguement has managed to demonstrate a clear lack of understanding of the core issue.

Software is not a charity, nobody is discussing it as such.

Software is, however, a written tool, in the end. Control of that tool is the key to empowerment. South Africa, actually all of Africa was held under oppression for many centuries by corporate interests such as microsoft, who held the keys for livelihood out of the masses hands in order to force the yoke.

Microsoft cannot understand why people with such a memory would not jump at the option of putting a new yoke on their necks, to work themselves to death in order to enrich a new foreign master.

Re:Unable to grasp the issues (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22862664)

You're not very smart are you? Blah blah yoke blah oppressor blah foreign white devils blah blah.

Please stop posting, reading what you wrote made me physically ill.

Re:Unable to grasp the issues (1)

downix (84795) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862780)

The truth hurts, doesn't it? You sit there, afraid of the truth, hiding behind anonymity else be branded. I don't need to know you AC, I know your kind, chicken and fearful, afraid to face the tough truth that is out there.

Re:Unable to grasp the issues (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22862924)

"The truth hurts, doesn't it?"

Sometimes, but what does that have to do with your post?

"I don't need to know you AC, I know your kind, chicken and fearful, afraid to face the tough truth that is out there."

Despite what you seem to think, we are not related.

Re:Unable to grasp the issues (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22863032)

Despite what you seem to think, we are not related.

Well, assuming you're the same AC as the first one, you certainly made no attempt to give your side of "the truth" and just went straight for the ad hominem, so perhaps your common ancestor is a bit closer than you wish to admit.

No such thing as free software? (2, Interesting)

CowboyNealOption (1262194) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862572)

Then how come msn shows over 81 million hits for the term "free software"? Or maybe he meant there is no free software that puts huge piles of money in Microsoft's pockets?

p.s. It made me giggle a little to search for ubuntu, free software, and sourceforge on msn.com using firefox on a linux box.

Nobody develops software for charity (4, Insightful)

trb (8509) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862576)

Set aside for a moment Stallman's "socialist" arguments. Set aside "software wants to be free." Set aside your disdain of certain companies and their software.

Even since the days before Stallman, the reason people shared software (that is, they gave it away for free), is because it is practically cost-free to reproduce. A community of hackers use the same OS and tools. In my life, it's been DEC TOPS-10, then UNIX, then Linux, but no matter. We all run into the same bugs. Better for one of us to fix and share, than for each of us to find and fix the same bug. Better for each of us to write a tool and share with all, than for each of us to have to write the same tool, most of us doing it poorly. It seems so obvious.

Why did Bill Gates become fabulously wealthy? Because he produces a great product? I think not. Because he produces (and markets) an ok product that he can reproduce for pennies and sell for hundreds of dollars each. And he has managed to lock people into using his products.

The point is that economically speaking, there is a strong argument for sharing (and thereby dividing up) the cost of production of tools if you can reproduce the tools for no cost and with no restrictions. Microsoft may not like this, but a developing nation should understand the point.

Yes but... (4, Funny)

ElGanzoLoco (642888) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862578)

"South African Minister Locks Horns with Microsoft

Yes but, were they long horns?

charity case (3, Funny)

debatem1 (1087307) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862594)

God must love idiots, because He made so many of them...

NISTAFS (1)

Cytlid (95255) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862646)

"There is no such thing as free software."

  Slavery, anyone?

Re:NISTAFS (1)

ettlz (639203) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862976)

Slavery, anyone?
Well, that'd be Clippit and a powerful magnet.

Re:NISTAFS (1)

Cytlid (95255) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862978)

Egads, make that "TINSTAFS" ... I'm abbreviationally challenged today.

Helping Microsoft with Analogies (3, Insightful)

lancejjj (924211) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862658)

there is no such thing as free software. Nobody develops software for charity.
That's like saying that software developers are simply unable to experience altruism because free software development makes them "feel good" - And "feel good" is a form of profit.

If that's Microsoft's position, than clearly this organization [gatesfoundation.org] is just another profiteer.

UN FOSS (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22862662)

I guess they only recognize their own stuff and not the UN's FOSS (free/open source software) and IOSN (International Open Source Network) programs
http://www.iosn.net/foss/foss-general-primer [iosn.net]

Fuck you, Africa (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22862668)

Fuck you, Africa. I'm fed up with my taxes being used so that government aid can bail you out of your own mistakes.

50 years ago, the cry was for independence - you were mature enough to run your own countries, you could manage democracy, imperialism had only set you back. What happened in nearly every country within 10 years? Genocide, civil war, dictatorship and famine. One man, one vote, once.

"But wait" cries the liberal, "Africa is only in the state it's in because of Western Imperialism. 100 years of occupation ruined these countries." Liberals, I'd like to make a comparison here. We're going to look at 2 countries. One is Ethiopia, one is Poland. Ethiopia has, in the past 300 years, been under foreign rule for 5 years. Poland, by contrast, has been independent for less than 50 of those 300 years, alternating between the German and the Russian jackboot. So, as Africa's problems are solely due to evil imperialism, let's make some predictions here - Poland will have lower GDP, lower life expectancy, lower literacy and less political stability. Right? Well, wrong. On every single metric, Poland scores higher than any country in Africa. So does Iceland, Ireland and Hungary. Hell, so does Israel, and if anyone's been persecuted and oppressed it's the Jews. I don't see them trying to claim reparations off Egypt.

So what, then, is the problem with Africa? Well, the problem with Africa is basically that it's full of blacks, who are, Albanians and Turks aside, the most worthless specimens of existence ever to have crawled out of the primal soup. Blacks have never contributed anything of value to humanity, and short of revolutionary new methods of fossil fuel generation, probably never will. "But wait again" cries the plaintive liberal voice, "What about peanut butter?". What about peanut butter? Europe can claim Mozart, Newton, Galileo, Plato, Locke. The list is endless, a non stop parade of Western achievement and progress. China can claim a legacy of civilization going back to the time when Stephen Hawking's ancestors were bushwhacking Roman legions in the Black Forest. The Arabs have their chemists, the Jews their philosophers, the Persians their poets. The blacks have a sandwich filling.

"But wait" our muesli molester cries, almost daring to mouth the dread accusation of racism that should silence all dissent "it's all environmental. African underachievement is a result of living in poor countries." If this were the case, blacks should prosper when they sneak into the West under false claims of asylum, surely? Except they don't. In every country, blacks have higher unemployment, higher crime, higher poverty and lower educational achievement. There isn't a black majority area in the world that compares favourably with it's counterparts. Instead, we're forced to put up with all the problems they bring as our cities and nations become dumping grounds into which the sewers of the third world can flow.

Fuck you, Africa. You're the problem, and the only aid that will help you is a vasectomy.

Nope noone develops stuff for nothing... (1)

N1ck0 (803359) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862674)

Yep your right, people develop free stuff for knowledge, experience, marketing, recognition, entertainment, pride, associated-revenue streams, etc. None of those are totally 'free' in the broader sense of cost.

Of course Microsoft has to stick with its free can't cost less money than commercial development argument. And overall many of MS's business folks can't grasp doing something for pride, fun, or education (unless the company is paying money you to be happy, full of pride, and smart).

Microsoft Open License Charity program (5, Informative)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862712)

http://www.microsoft.com/licensing/programs/open/opencharity.mspx [microsoft.com]

Oh, the irony! Or is it hypocrisy?

Re:Microsoft Open License Charity program (1)

0racle (667029) | more than 6 years ago | (#22863336)

Neither. Do you really think that the software made available through that program was written for charity?

Redmond is right (1)

xutopia (469129) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862758)

Just as no Chef ever creates an interpretation of a recipe for charity.

In a sense, Microsoft is right (1)

thewiz (24994) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862768)

Many people spend their time and effort contributing to the development of Open Source and even "free" software. They pay the price so others don't have to reinvent the wheel. While it isn't $$$ we're talking about, time is valuable.

False dichotomy (2, Insightful)

ketilf (114215) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862808)

This is a false dichotomy [wikipedia.org] . Software patents are obviously not the only alternative to developing for charity.

The horns (1)

snarkh (118018) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862824)


We all know Microsoft has them, but I was surprised to learn that South African
ministers possess horns as well.

Someone hit MS with the irony stick (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862826)

A good chunk of their network stack came from BSD... you that free code they insist doesn't exist.

In the proper context? (1)

gelfling (6534) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862878)

I hear the same argument from developing countries who wish to break all sorts of patents; on drugs, on biomedical research for example. The downside for them is that they often find themselves cut out of the distribution for the latest and greatest of these life saving tools, or, are often at the mercy of haphazard quality controls from second or third rate manufacturers.

FYI, copyrights and patents are corporate welfare (3, Insightful)

argoff (142580) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862900)

He minus well have said - we need slavery, nobody will grow cotton on the plantations for free. The point being that copyright and patent are nothing like a normal property right and are the anti-christ of freedom and free markets. Every 'value' that they have is coerced at the expense of someone else, is asserting control over things they have no right to control, is an artificial monopoly.

Developing for charity (4, Informative)

aneviltrend (1153431) | more than 6 years ago | (#22862928)

Nobody develops software for charity.

Especially not Bram Moolenaar [vim.org] .

Re:Developing for charity (1)

killmenow (184444) | more than 6 years ago | (#22863252)

Or Richard Stallman [gnu.org]

Call a spade a spade, eh? (1)

Real1tyCzech (997498) | more than 6 years ago | (#22863094)

Patents and copyrights pose threats to third world countries because with them they cannot legally use the software they need or want to use to get themselves out of the "third world".

Nothing new here. Same thing in China and Russia, etc...

They want a free ride until they get on their own feet.

I've got no problems with that, but don't try to pass this off as some failure of the patent system.

Open source == no documentation (0, Flamebait)

blhack (921171) | more than 6 years ago | (#22863120)

Malcolm Rabson, the managing director at software company Dariel Solutions, said the open-source technology appeared to be free but did not come with a "rich" set of documentation for the project, which required high-end skills.
This guy has never talked to any OpenBSD folk, has he?
I recommend this to him.

Jump into #openbsd on freenode, and ask the guys to explain something to you.
See if you still have any trouble finding "rich" documentation for open source projects then.

Nobody develops software for charity... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22863122)

...and nobody codes for fun!

Is this mostly about employment? (3, Interesting)

Ricin (236107) | more than 6 years ago | (#22863132)

Against my nature I RTFA, and I noticed that from MS' side what this seems to be about (if you read between the lines) is the courting of local developers. The comparison with India speaks volumes.

I'm willing to speculate that if you look at market entrance for the (lower) continent SA is likely the gateway. Is Shuttleworth a large employer there? Is it a veiled threat WRT employment possibilities?

It's a tried and tested method used by corporations to get their way, use (potential and actual) employment as bargaining chips to get the government pork.

My, how times haven't changed. (4, Informative)

jimicus (737525) | more than 6 years ago | (#22863146)

"Nobody develops software for charity.'"

I hear echoes of a letter written by a certain William Gates over 30 years ago:

    http://www.blinkenlights.com/classiccmp/gateswhine.html [blinkenlights.com]

"What hobbyist can put 3-man years into programming, finding all bugs, documenting his product and distribute for free? "

Free Software (4, Insightful)

sgt scrub (869860) | more than 6 years ago | (#22863200)

Microsoft have used software libraries that were released by the BSD community in their products for years. They "incorporated" tools written by hobbiests into DOS, back in the day, without any note to the contributors. It only proves they move blindly towards the money, never look behind, and never clean the people they step on off the bottom of their shoes.

Incentivises? Incentivizes? (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 6 years ago | (#22863288)

"Incentivize" and "Incentivise" both appear in some dictionaries. I still do not accept these as words. There are very few "-ize"/"-ise" words that are rooted with nouns and generally speaking, all of them are pretty much "made up." (Yes, I know pretty much ALL words are "made up" if you go back far enough, but the English language is just getting WORSE and WORSE losing all structure and order.) But this word "incentivise" just registers badly with me and it's worse than "ain't" mostly because supposedly "educated" people are using it! (Rather like 'irregardless' has been used in the past.) Is it REALLY that hard to say "gives incentive" or "give incentives"? I guess it is since you'd have to have some understanding of verb and noun tenses and where/when they are appropriately used.

If you're wondering, in the article:

[Paulo Ferreira] added: "For innovation to continue, there needs to be value - and even open-source applications have some form of market model, which incentivises them to continue innovating."


GOD DAMN IT! People are starting to believe it's a word because people wearing suits and ties are saying it! It's worse than the likes of "ain't" because it was mostly used by rednecks and other 'uneducated' sorts. But now I have to wonder what other "noun" roots can have "-ise"/"-ize" endings added to them to make them into verbs? "Horseize"? Nope... "Dogize"? Nope... "Loveize"? Nope... "Georgeize"? Nope... "Martinize"? Yes, but that's an exception since it's a trademarked word. "Ostrichize"? Nope... but would "Ostracize" close enough? "Penalize?" YES! Oh wait, that's not a noun root... it's an adjective root!

So what I'm ranting over here is the use of "Noun"+"-ize" where as far as I can tell, it should be only "Adjective"+"-ize" only.

And while it fits in this case, every time I hear "incentivize" I think of the speaker as a frikken idiot!
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