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Open Source Oracle Sun Microsystems

Open Community vs. Open Code 141

Posted by kdawson
from the fork-that dept.
snydeq writes "Recent silence regarding the future of OpenSolaris under Oracle's hand has InfoWorld blogger Savio Rodrigues questioning the relative importance of open code. 'Source code availability is a central factor in establishing trust in the open source community, as knowledge that the source is available can often allay fears about the future of a particular open source project or product. And yet, this trust can often be overstated,' Rodrigues writes. Members of the OpenSolaris community have been agitating for Oracle to clarify its plans for OpenSolaris in the wake of its acquisition of Sun, with some suggesting a fork as a way of severing ties. But, as Rodrigues points out, 'The community around an open source project or product can certainly be vibrant without having the resources to support a fork. In fact, this is true for many open source communities, which count numerous members, very few of whom would be qualified to develop the open source project further should a fork occur. Worse, even fewer would be interested in doing so.'"
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Open Community vs. Open Code

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  • Hmmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drolli (522659) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @02:39AM (#31885636) Journal

    So the short and neutral for of this article is:

    A company opening the source to a given product at a given time may decide that - upon seeing not enough external developers jumping on - that it may be not worth continuing this effort. And the "community of administrators and users" complains they dont have enough programmers to fork it on their own.

    How to say: Congratulations. But you know that *working* open source ecosystems also include programmers.

  • Re:Hmmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 0123456 (636235) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @02:55AM (#31885684)

    Why would a 'weekend hacker' work on OpenSolaris when they could work on Linux instead?

    That's the fundamental problem: OpenSolaris has user features that Linux doesn't -- assuming Oracle continue to support it I'm probably going to set up an OpenSolaris server in the next year or so because ZFS is better than anything Linux currently has -- but it doesn't really offer anything to the average 'weekend hacker' that Linux doesn't.

    Even if it was made available under the GPL, I suspect most of the best code would be copied into Linux and then it would die off.

  • by symbolset (646467) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @03:03AM (#31885702) Journal

    If you choose a GPL app for your critical infrastructure, you're pretty safe. If the vendor, sponsor, developers and everybody else involved drops it you can support it yourself until you can migrate to another platform or just become the primary fork. Choosing GPL means never having to say "oops", unless you're the kind of fool that wants to take a GPL app proprietary.

    A commercial closed-source app? No, you're maintaining legacy hardware that supports it until you can't get parts on Ebay any more, and then you're sunk.

    A non-GPL open source app? Your mileage may vary. Consult your attorney. Consult several attorneys. Be prepared to pay those attorneys to defend you in court.

  • Re:Hmmm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mrsteveman1 (1010381) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @03:15AM (#31885726)

    By the time you get around to setting up that Solaris server, Btrfs will have stabilized through 3-4 more mainline kernel releases.

  • Free as in Future (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kainosnous (1753770) <kainosnous@lavabit.com> on Sunday April 18, 2010 @03:29AM (#31885756) Homepage

    There are many reasons why Open Source is good. The availability of developers is only one reason. Even if there seems to be a lack of competent developers ready to take over the project, simply having that potential can mean all the difference. If nothing else, the more eyes on the code, the more likely that bugs can be found and reported. At some point all closed source software will become unmaintained because technology changes, and there is only a finite set of resources. OSS, however, is always available to tinker with, even long after it seems to be worthwhile. As a comparison, think about older cars. They don't have all the bells and whistles, but still have value because they can still be worked on long after their respective companies moved on to newer models.

    As a user of OSS, I prefer it even if there is a slightly better closed source alternative. Even though I very rarely look at that actual code, it's nice to know that it is there. It also says a lot about the company when they close up the code. I'm sure that others feel that way too. I don't mind if you sell your product, but I feel that once I buy it, it should be mine to take apart.

    Sadly, Microsoft is a great example of how well closed source and good marketing can be. That is why I secretly want that giant to fall. I still think there is an unfortunately large number of people who don't care where their stuff comes from and what the real cost is as long as it works for the short term.

  • Natural selection (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gdshaw (1015745) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @03:29AM (#31885758) Homepage

    Worse, even fewer would be interested in doing so.

    A telling statement. If enough programmers find the program useful, but in need of improvement, then it is very likely some of them will improve it. If enough non-programmers think that way then they can pay to have it improved. If this doesn't happen then maybe the program wasn't so very important after all.

    This is merely natural selection at work, and for the most part the outcome will be as it should be — unlike closed-source products, which live entirely at the whim of their creator.

  • by im_thatoneguy (819432) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @04:03AM (#31885852)

    Assuming development continues. If the open source app isn't staying competitive with alternatives then you're in just as bad of straits as being a closed source customer.

    I've seen numerous open source projects just completely die. I've seen numerous closed source projects just completely die. Usually unless you're a top 5% company you can't afford to continue development yourself long enough to make any meaningful contribution. It's usually easier to adjust your infrastructure than it is to continue developing the product to keep it competitive.

  • by gdshaw (1015745) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @04:11AM (#31885872) Homepage

    after a decade plus of open source developers using the "do it yourself" line to escape from listening to feedback and requests from end users.

    You mean to say that, when working for no reward, they work on the features that suit their interests rather than your interests? How shocking.

    Your concept of user requests as something that developers have to ‘escape’ from betrays completely the wrong attitude. Listening to requests is one thing, but actually implementing them may require a large commitment of time and energy that you're not paying for. If you can convince someone to do the work anyway, for whatever reason, then that's great: everyone wins. If not then ‘do it yourself’ is a perfectly reasonable response.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 18, 2010 @04:24AM (#31885890)

    Only if the developers care. They owe no one their work.

    And honestly, many of them want just to write the features THEY need. Not everyone else's, no matter how "important" it is to someone else's "usability" rating - although they often are open to doing small changes for other people out of pure kindness. Either way, that won't change. If you don't like things, get some programming done. too, or hire someone.

  • by gmhowell (26755) <gmhowell@gmail.com> on Sunday April 18, 2010 @04:33AM (#31885906) Homepage Journal

    Screw it, for $700, I'll deal with Adobe's lousy customer service rather than some OSS prima donna.

  • Re:Hmmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pydev (1683904) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @04:40AM (#31885922)

    Spare time? Most open source programmers get paid for their work, and quite well. Companies pay programmers to contribute to open-source enterprise-scale operating systems because they don't want to be dependent on the likes of Microsoft, Sun, or Oracle. And it works out economically because those companies have been overcharging tremendously.

  • by FooBarWidget (556006) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @04:42AM (#31885926)

    And how's that an excuse against "do it yourself"? If you live in a household, not knowing how to wash dishes does not exclude you from the duty. Now you didn't sign a contract which states that you *must* wash dishes regularly. You can hire a dish washing person, or the other household members can be nice to you and wash dishes for you. But if neither are true then complaining whenever other household members ask you to wash dishes is a douchy thing to do.

    "Escape from listening to feedback and requests"? The developer has to eat, how will immediately doing what you say get him his next meal? It won't, so he has the right to do whatever he wants with your feedback, including postponing to an indefinite time in the future.

  • by Mathinker (909784) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @05:11AM (#31885984) Journal

    > unlike closed-source products, which live entirely at the whim of their creator

    I find it silly that you believe that there is no form of natural selection which drives the development/maintenance of closed-source products. In most cases, such selection forces exist and are largely economic in nature.

    So, no, both open- and closed-source products are subject to natural selection, it's just that the selection forces on them are somewhat different.

  • by GF678 (1453005) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @06:03AM (#31886112)

    I still think there is an unfortunately large number of people who don't care where their stuff comes from and what the real cost is as long as it works for the short term.

    There's a reason for that - the open-source community hasn't been able to successfully present a long term disadvantage to using closed-source tech that people can relate to.

    I'm still using Windows because I honestly can't see a long term disadvantage in doing so. By using it I have all the software I could possibly want, guaranteed compatibility with current and future hardware, and so on. I've tried Linux and all I end up with is compromises to tangible things I want to do with my computer. If long term issues become foreseeable with Windows, then I can give it the flick and change to something else.

    You HAVE to present to people a tangible long term issue with using closed-source software that they can UNDERSTAND. Geek ideology isn't enough, and if that's all that you've got, then no wonder closed-source tech is still going to dominate.

  • Re:Hmmm (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 18, 2010 @06:25AM (#31886176)

    At which point Linux will dump it for the latest shiny. Just like hal. Just like pulse audio. For all its benefits, the Linux dev model is like a parasite that often forgets not to kill its host.

  • by gdshaw (1015745) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @06:27AM (#31886182) Homepage

    So, no, both open- and closed-source products are subject to natural selection, it's just that the selection forces on them are somewhat different.

    In a sense that's true, yes, but the distinction I was trying to make is a finer one. Open source software is directly exposed to competitive pressures. Closed source vendors may be exposed to such pressures too, but closed source software is not — except indirectly through the vendor.

    Now I don't want to argue about terminology, but there is a world of difference between an outcome that results from many thousands of individual decisions, and one that is the decision of a single individual or company. Projects like Linux and Apache won‘t die unless their communities abandon them — a natural death. There was nothing natural about how Microsoft decided to end the life of Windows XP (in spite of large and continuing demand) just because it happened to suit their business plan.

  • by AlexiaDeath (1616055) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @06:40AM (#31886220)
    Choice of DE is a matter of taste. Personally I am KDE user too. A kernel developer does not have to do a good GUI. Git as version control is very nice once you get to know it. The UI parts are both optional and replaceable with custom tools if found inadequate. So far this has not happened.
  • by ortholattice (175065) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @07:22AM (#31886308)

    Screw it, for $700, I'll deal with Adobe's lousy customer service rather than some OSS prima donna.

    For $700 you could probably get some attention from most prima donnas. Try that with Adobe, if you can even get connected to someone without a heavy accent and not reading scripted information you can find on the web anyway.

  • Re:Hmmm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by M. Baranczak (726671) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @09:16AM (#31886624)

    My guess is that Linux is more important to Oracle than Solaris. They'll probably keep developing both.

  • by Rockoon (1252108) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @10:01AM (#31886802)

    Also, open-source software doesn't come in 5 different versions (e.g. Home, Studio, Office, Professional, ...), it comes in 1 version, with all the features in it, what one guy smarter than me called "Awesome Edition".

    hmmm..

    Ubuntu, Slack, Fedora, Suse, Debian, Mandriva, Gentoo, ...

  • Re:Hmmm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bruce Perens (3872) * <bruce@perens.com> on Sunday April 18, 2010 @12:23PM (#31887606) Homepage Journal
    Yes. No matter how technically superior Solaris might be in a particular area - and I'm told there are a few - it's not superior enough to surmount the fact that Linux has hundreds of companies who host direct developers and a whole lot of un-hosted individuals. The #1 developer organization for any particular kernel release is often "no affiliation". If we just ignore Solars, Linux will catch up with those few areas. Especially since we can look at their code, as long as we don't directly copy it.

    Solaris was a non-starter, unfortunately, on the day that Sun opened it. A lot of us said so then.

  • by straponego (521991) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @04:52PM (#31889894)
    ...which is to completely change direction every year or two. x86 on, x86 off, linux is crap, we're the biggest linux vendor, screw linux, solaris, opensolaris, change licenses, x86 off...

    I do understand that Solaris technology is excellent, but anybody who counted on Sun maintaining consistent support for it hasn't been paying attention. So if Sun made you happy before, then Oracle should make you happy now; nothing has changed, the strategy spinner is still spinning.

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