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Open Source Licensing - Cuts Both Ways? 367

shortscruffydave writes "The Register is running a piece Open source databases - a sword that cuts both ways? which mentions one of the potential pitfalls of open source databases: "Open source is just another licensing model: the more accepted it becomes, the more it is adopted at a strategic level, the more it plays back into the hands of the traditional behemoths that dominate the industry". " I couldn't disagree more with the author of this piece, since I think the success of Postgres & MySQL are already contra-proof positive, but the piece is still an interesting read.
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Open Source Licensing - Cuts Both Ways?

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  • OpenSourcing a DB (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mirko ( 198274 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @10:06AM (#12133329) Journal
    It's still a good idea as it allows third parties to write plugins and conduits more easily for it.
  • I call bull (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MPHellwig ( 847067 ) * <> on Monday April 04, 2005 @10:07AM (#12133339) Homepage
    The arguments given in the article are inadequate IMHO, they are just as and mostly more applicable to closed source software.
    The key argument for open source vs closed source is: The source is available, you can support/develop it by your own or hire in support/development/warranty, now try that with closed source.
    All disadvantages for open source are at least applicable for closed source, closed source has no real advantage on open source.
  • Personally I agree (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 04, 2005 @10:09AM (#12133356)
    The article is right, which ever piece of software, you are locked into using the program the way the author designed, you are locked into the upgrade paths the author leads you, you are locked into any future costs the author charges.

    Yes you can change the platform you are based on, but this typically costs more money than it is worth.

    Yes you could modify the source, but this will cost more money than it is worth in R&D.

    I.E., yes you are locked in, in the same way that the traditional behemoths that dominate the industry haved succesfully negotiated.
  • Misread TFA? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wild_berry ( 448019 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @10:09AM (#12133360) Journal
    I may have misread TFA, but the author appears to have missed the strategic value that is to be gained from investing staff and company hours into F/OSS projects for internal use.

    The article seems to view the present hobbyist-driven projects as solutions procured in the same way that a company buys in commercial programming. The differences in modus operandi are so great that this cannot be the case. The trick is to find where the middle ground lies in order to profit.
  • Postgres? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Saeed al-Sahaf ( 665390 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @10:11AM (#12133374) Homepage
    I couldn't disagree more with the author of this piece, since I think the success of Postgres & MySQL are already contra-proof positive, but the piece is still an interesting read.

    For MySQL you could be right, but Postgres? It's not backed by a commercial group as is MySQL, and while it can be seen in a LOT of commercial (enterprise) situations, it's still a tiney speck compared to it's commercial backed friend MySQL (even though it is much more of a "real" db).

  • by kfstark ( 50638 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @10:12AM (#12133387) Homepage
    If you are making strategic decisions about software at your corporation, you had better take into account that the software may no longer be supported in the future. This applies to closed source and open source projects.

    The benefit of open source is that if the original corporation writing the code stops supporting it there may be a community behind the software that will continue to support it as you transition. Also, another company may spring up with the same codebase.


  • by the_mighty_$ ( 726261 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @10:13AM (#12133397)
    the more it is adopted at a strategic level, the more it plays back into the hands of the traditional behemoths that dominate the industry

    WHAT?!?!? You mean the "behemoths" can use open source too? How could this happen??!?! NO NO NO NO!!!!!

    [Sarcasm off]Well what do you expect. Don't forget that opensource software != free software. of course the big guys will start using opensource too, now that they've started to see that light. What did anyone expect? Did you want to FSF to have a monopoly on opensource forever? I think not. I think the result of "big behemoths" switching to open source will be more secure software being delivered to end users. That's the whole point of OSS!

    I for one welcome our opensource behemoth overlords.
  • by Karma Farmer ( 595141 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @10:14AM (#12133410)
    I'll boil down the entire article to one sentance: "If you're implementing any type of 'strategic' software system, make certain you make sound business decisions when you choose the software."

    Know what you're buying. Know who you're buying it from. Consider the entire lifecycle of the software solutions you're building. Oh, and there was a throwaway blurb about open source.
  • If this qualifies as an "interesting read", I weep for the future of humanity. You know it's bad when the Slashdot summary is just as informative as the actual article.

    The central point seems to be that a company looking for an OSS product which is supported by a large company, will end up going with a large company's OSS product.

    Oh, wow. Insightful +1
  • IT Investment (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MLopat ( 848735 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @10:15AM (#12133425) Homepage
    I'm sure some of you may know, but many of you may be unaware that large enterprises need to be really choosy in the database solution that they use. Its not simply a matter of installing the cheapest DB. When you consider the sizable investment made by an IT department on the hardware and operating system platform, it really makes sense to invest wisely in the product that will actually retain all your company's data.

    With that said, given the choice between installing a poorly supported, poorly documented open source database, or something like Microsoft SQL Server, its obvious which solution will let you keep your cushy IT position. Furthermore, as good as I have to admit MySQL is, it still does not have support for such common things as triggers, views or even basic stored procedures never mind data warehousing.

    For these open source products to be taken seriously, the same sort of fundamental support and functionality will need to prevail as the costs of not having these far outweigh the monetary costs of the common retail solution.
  • non-article (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 04, 2005 @10:15AM (#12133429)
    Wow what a load. The punch line is that if you are planning enterprise scale projects you need to choose solutions that will last long enough to get a good ROI. Jimmy-joe-bob's high school DB project is a non-starter. JamesJosephRobert's small proprietary DB is also a non-starter. TFA misses the point: all things being equal you get more security if you have the source. The crux of the matter is that the definition of "equal" depends on your context.
  • Trust the vendor? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CaptainZapp ( 182233 ) * on Monday April 04, 2005 @10:16AM (#12133431) Homepage
    Good grief; what a moron.

    No doubt that there are valid reasons for a commercial database vendor. But that guy makes about as much sense as the drooling drunk at 2am in front of the seedy night club in the bad part of town when it comes to "strategic decisions".

    Strategic decisions by definition are dangerous. When you decided on PeopleSoft 10 years ago this looked strategically sound. Until the good burgers from Oracle came along and bought them out in order to squash a competitor. By no fault of your own you are fucking fucked when you're a PeopleSoft customer.

    Au contraire I argue that especially in the db market having source access to your database software is about as strategically valuable as it comes.

    Sorry mate, but I have seen to many examples of customers being fucked over by vendors of strategic software and you can go and tell the PR department of { Oracle | Microsoft | IBM } that they are just dead wrong and for an "analyst" it's bad form to just reprint their spew.

    Not that I accuse you of doing that, but your "analysis" leaves a strong stench of not being quite independant.

  • by walterbyrd ( 182728 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @10:18AM (#12133460)
    The article is saying that there is no money in open source, so the developers could walk away at any time and leave you stranded with an unsupported product.

    For those who didn't know redhat just posted record profits, and the share price just jumped about 12%.

    There is certainly money being made in open-source. The difference is: open-source will not die without money.
  • by overshoot ( 39700 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @10:20AM (#12133476)
    is in the "these projects need to make money or they'll go away, leaving users stranded" premise.

    First off, open-source projects don't need to make money. Secondly, if users are dependent on them, they don't go away.

    The "problem" that Bloor describes is either a phantom or self-correcting, whichever way you choose to look at it.

  • Re:I call bull (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bman08 ( 239376 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @10:22AM (#12133500)
    Is it possible to get paid writing open source code for companies that don't provide software as their business? Aren't the guys working on cinepaint, for example, doing just that?
  • Author has points (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ( 213219 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @10:24AM (#12133512) Journal
    Damn straight - Open source software can be and should be strategic. When an enterprize selects strategic software they need to know that it will be around (and supported) for the long-haul. Millions of dollars could be riding on the issue.

    So, in a large sense, I agree with the author and will even say that in some cases, there is justifiable concern for an enterprize to avoid open software solutions.

    Having said all that, I'm far from opposing open source software in the enterprize, quite to opposite in fact. Products like MySQL and Apache prove that there is a lot of room and potential in big business for OSS.

    Anyone -- including big business needs to do a sort of risk evaluation before settling on anything that has the ability to affect the bottom line. For a public company it is more than business sense, it is the law. They need to know that the people they bring in on a project can do what they say they can do and just as importantly, that they will be around tomorrow to fix anything that is broken or needs changing.

    For this reason, the enterprize level open source market will probably grow through pretty conventional methods. Either there will be in-house expertiese or they will hire consulting firms with the skill, knowlege, and expertise to deliver. Those firms will in many cases be old, established, familiar names that recognize the need and make the right moves to get in the market.

    This isn't bad at all. It brings OSS legitamacy.
  • Re:I call bull (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 04, 2005 @10:31AM (#12133578)
    I want to write code that is so good it doesn't -require- support,

    No such thing.

  • Re:I call bull (Score:2, Insightful)

    by cosinezero ( 833532 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @10:35AM (#12133621)
    You're talking about -major- projects, and for products that thrive on support for either open OR closed models. But I develop in business application markets - where the ideal goal is ZERO support and training required. That's the pinnacle of office software - to be so intuitive that a child could use it.

    You should be paid for your -features-, not for someone else's work training people on it. We don't pay Ford on the driver's training fees, nor can we.

    And I call bullshit anyways - Red hat developers get paid? Sure, but do the hundreds of developers involved with the source upstream from RH get ANY of that money? No...
  • Re:I call bull (Score:2, Insightful)

    by cosinezero ( 833532 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @10:42AM (#12133686)
    Yeah, it would. Where do you see open source changing that, and further, how do propose that we creative developers defend ourselves against a big fish picking the project up and 'providing support' for it, and NOT paying developers?
  • Re:Postgres? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by BigGerman ( 541312 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @10:46AM (#12133727)
    Mods, this is not a flamebait.
    The guy mentions couple of facts and states his opinion. Come on.
  • Re:Postgres? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @10:49AM (#12133759) Journal
    Which makes PostgreSQL a far better counterexample. The article argues that, without a successful company backing an open source DB, it will fade away and thus can't be used to develop `strategic' applications. The fact that PostgreSQL has developed to its current point without a commercial backer is a direct indication of this.

    A database company exists to sell copies of a database. If they produce a perfect database, then they can sell a finite number of copies, and then go out of business (or, they can switch to a subscription pricing model). Their business model revolves around adding features and then trying to persuade customers that the features are worth money. If the database they have lacks a single feature that a potential customer needs, then they will go to someone else (and the DB company may implement that feature once they realise that the lack of it is costing them business). This is how off-the-shelf commercial software works. If a customer buys their RDBMS, and then later discovers that it is missing a feature that they need (perhaps one that they didn't need when they purchased the system), then they can either buy the latest version (assuming it adds this feature) or they can migrate to a competitor's product (often difficult and expensive).

    A company that chooses to base its `stategic' systems around PostgreSQL (for example) doesn't pay anything initially. If they find that there is a feature missing, then they can employ someone to add that feature. If the database is particularly important to their survival then they can fund one of the lead developers for (say) one day a week to ensure that their feature requests and bug reports receive a high priority.

  • by blackhedd ( 412389 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @10:51AM (#12133770)
    I recently chaired a panel discussion on enterprise open-source, attended by representatives from several dozen Fortune 500 companies, and we turned the discussion back on them at one point. Turns out that:
    1) all had made a "commitment" to open-source products;
    2) almost none had done anything strategic up to that point (they all had a little Linux and a little Apache/MySQL floating around here and there, of course)
    3) NONE were interested in the cost-reductions available with F/OSS
    4) ALL were interested in the advanced technology which they felt was probably more available from F/OSS then from incumbent vendors
    5) ALL were holding back waiting for better support options.
    There was a lot of discussion about the latter point, including some really fascinating suggestions that belong in another discussion. But for here and now, the key thing is that you don't necessarily look for support for OSS DBMSs from the developers. Something like the Pervasive model is interesting, as long as they continue to maintain close ties with the developer communities. But OSS support is a service business, with linear cost-scaling characteristics, so we will need a lot of vendors to pitch in. I think it's a nascent large opportunity.
  • Re:I call bull (Score:2, Insightful)

    by cosinezero ( 833532 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @10:52AM (#12133780)
    Yes, but while that's fine and well and good, and explainable to other techies, the general populace doesn't get a piece of buggy or obtuse code and say "Well, I suppose I should pay them to patch this!", they say "eff this, this software sucks!" Seriously, find a job in technical support. I spent 2 years as a tier-two technician for a certain software empire. Users don't want to pay for bug fixes, compatability changes, or useability features after-the-fact. They want that in -this- release, free or otherwise. They will pay for good software off the bat... but rarely will they pay for additions to free software. Think about it - where is anyone making money right now selling upgrades? Microsoft -is-, because they've got customers that understand that they pay for the software, and get free bug support, and have to pay for training. People pay for their next version because they can't get that sort of upgrade anywhere else. But with linux, say... customers can say "Well, screw this; this flavor has xxx but wants me to pay for it, while this company over here has flavor yyy that's free." It's just not going to work once people figure these things out. You FOSS/OSS guys underestimate the target audience here...
  • by Morgaine ( 4316 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @10:52AM (#12133785)
    It is interesting that the writer didn't tell us what option he'd prefer

    Well that's no surprise, given that the article said nothing of any substance whatsoever.

    In effect what we have here is a manager of some sort seeking justification for his role in applying "strategy management" to open source. I bet the managers around him think that he's really cool and clued up on all this.

    In reality, he just doesn't understand that the value of FOSS doesn't come from the financial muscle and longevity of its corporate backers at all. His entire position is 100% ill-founded, and he has no clue whatsoever about the power that FOSS can give his company. "Just another licensing model" says it all, really.

    More like just another PHB or management type, totally out of his depth but still eager for control.
  • Re:Say what? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hab136 ( 30884 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @10:55AM (#12133803) Journal
    Doesn't read like a Gartner-style MS schill to me

    Just because they're not a Microsoft shill [], doesn't mean they're not a shill. Who would care about open source databases? Maybe Oracle, IBM (DB2), etc?

  • by Spinlock_1977 ( 777598 ) <> on Monday April 04, 2005 @10:59AM (#12133844) Journal
    Not all of the companies involved will be able to make enough money out of these products to stay in business. That means that at some point in the future the market will consolidate and a number of these products will disappear.

    Complete bullshit. The companies will disappear, but the product will live on in sourceforge (or where ever), exactly oppositite of what this inexperienced author says. Every customer of the product will have a copy of the source, which at least allows them the option of continuing development and support internally. This simply cannot be said for closed, commericial software.
  • Re:I call bull (Score:1, Insightful)

    by dynamol ( 867859 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @11:01AM (#12133851) Homepage
    And like I mentioned you really want all the programmers in the world to compete for these few jobs....are you sure that you have what it takes to beat out 99% of all programmers in the world? Both open and closed source have their place. Truth is....somethings will never get done if money is not amount of idealism is going to change the way the world has worked since the dawn of time. And honestly...people do deserve to be paid for their they deserve a lock on the market...that is a different story. Patents are a totally different story.
  • Re:I call bull (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BabyPanther ( 813124 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @11:09AM (#12133937)
    I want to write code that is so good it doesn't -require- support, and be paid for it.

    The last time I saw a developer that good...was...well, hell, I haven't seen one that good.

    I actually believe that developers should always sit on the support lines for the products they write. Surprisingly enough, practical, well-built interfaces start to appear after the developer is forced to take the 900th call concerning a poorly implemented feature.

  • Re:I call bull (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tbannist ( 230135 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @11:10AM (#12133948)
    You don't release it as open source, or you don't spit in the companies face when they come to talk to you. Any company should want to hire you, if they are going to provide support for the project you built, unless of course you're a total crackpot...

    Wait, nevermind...
  • by genneth ( 649285 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @11:10AM (#12133951) Homepage
    Yes you could modify the source, but this will cost more money than it is worth in R&D.

    Errr... isn't the cost of changing the source EXACTLY the cost of R&D? The cost of software drops as it scales in use, that's why consumer level software is affordable. MS Office is not less complex than say Maya, or "easier" in some sense to make. It just sells more copies, so the cost of R&D (all software development (not including marketing, etc) is R&D) is spread over more customers. The worth of software, as with all things, is exactly what someone pays for it. If a company needs some piece of software, and it's not already available, then they need to pay for it. Otherwise they don't -- since obviously they're not the first ones to need it. In this case open source ensures that a company can't just sit on its ass and milk one product forever *cough*MS*cough*.
  • by nikai ( 614442 ) <> on Monday April 04, 2005 @11:12AM (#12133960)
    I absolutely disagree.

    Take a company that is in control of an open source project. If they change their project radically, in a way other users of the software don't like, these can branch at any time. This allows them to at least maintain the old version of the software.

    However, there has to be open source code for that. If all you have is an API and an SDK, you can't maintain such an older version for your ever-changing environment, should those in control of the closed source move into a direction you don't like.
  • by martin-boundary ( 547041 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @11:15AM (#12133989)
    Yes you could modify the source, but this will cost more money than it is worth in R&D.
    Nice try, but that's precisely the difference with closed source. In open source, the R&D is already done by whoever wrote and developed the code to begin with, just like with closed source. However, with open source, you can take the latest code, latest R&D that was just made, and change it any way you like the same day, unlike closed source where you would have to duplicate the R&D yourself.

    So you can take open source and you don't need to do any R&D if you don't want to, and still end up with a modified product that does all the things you would have had to do R&D on just to be competitive. If you do just a little R&D, others can take your R&D and add just a little stuff of their own.

    Basically, open source is like skinning on steroids.

  • by DoctorHibbert ( 610548 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @11:23AM (#12134046)
    Said the guy who never wrote a low level plugin. It is extremely helpful to have the source code of the thing that is interacting with your code.
  • by MyLongNickName ( 822545 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @11:29AM (#12134089) Journal
    If you depend on the source code for optimizations, don't you get yourself into a situation where you have to review any upgrades to ensure that your optimization haven't gotten "broken"? I like APIs, as they shift the responsibility back to the first party...

    Granted, nothing I do requires incredible optimization to run efficently. I imagine their are some power users who need this. However, in my experience, there are more people who think they are cutting edge than there really are...
  • Whatever, Jeff (Score:3, Insightful)

    by the_mad_poster ( 640772 ) <> on Monday April 04, 2005 @11:40AM (#12134195) Homepage Journal
    Of course you disagree. You're a wingman in one of the most spectacular business model failures of open source []. What, were you going to get up on your own bloody site and scream from the rooftops that the OS model of software licensing has flaws that could be exploited by people who made it big by exploiting flaws in systems?

    Of course, I don't see why you don't just do it. With a 2.38% share drop being less in cash than it costs to buy a piece of Bazooka Joe, it doesn't look like VA Software could really suffer too much more regardless of what you do.
  • Re:I call bull (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cheesybagel ( 670288 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @11:42AM (#12134218)
    Wrong. Software developers are badly paid and not respected, because corporate bosses expect Indian sweat shops to do it cheaper.

    MySQL, RedHat, SuSE etc manage to get money just fine.

    I suspect the more Open Source is used, the greater will be the creation of local jobs. Most existing general software problems will eventually get solved. But people will still need fixes to local problems and local solutions to local problems. Solving local problems means a local software developer makes more sense than someone in India.

  • by OwnedByTwoCats ( 124103 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @11:56AM (#12134357)
    The unstated premise of the article is that users of an open-source Database are just as much at the mercy of the vendors as are the customers of a proprietary Database. I believe this is not true for the general case. So the author's argument, that Open Source is to be avoided because the vendors Can't Make Money, is fatally flawed.
  • Re:I call bull (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jrockway ( 229604 ) * <> on Monday April 04, 2005 @12:05PM (#12134451) Homepage Journal
    Getting paid is not necessarily "success". I enjoy writing open-source software because it's ... enjoyable. I do other stuff to make money (although now I am modding bugzilla for work-related purposes and am being paid :).
  • Re:OS Auditing TNG (Score:2, Insightful)

    by SnowDeath ( 157414 ) <> on Monday April 04, 2005 @12:15PM (#12134534) Homepage
    Because the maker of the software would be liable as the users have no access to the source-code whatsoever. The logic for open source is that the individuals have access, thus opening them up to liability. Its all BS either way
  • by SpecBear ( 769433 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @12:15PM (#12134538)
    Whenever I see an article criticising open source software, I do a quick check to see if the author has his head up his ass:

    Step 1: Replace the phrase "open source" with "closed source."

    Step 2: Replace names of open source products with the names of their closed-source counterparts.

    Check if the article's arguments and criticisms still apply. If so, the author hasn't written a critique of open source software, he's written a critique of software, and probably not a terribly insightful one at that.
  • by dustmite ( 667870 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @12:20PM (#12134589)

    I can't really agree. Being locked in to any platform is bad, sure, but you are only as locked in as you choose to be, because by and large there are cross-platform choices out there. And although it will never be 100% trouble-free to transition to alternative software, it is usually only minimal effort/expenditure required. And initial costs are usually only marginally higher. For example use wxWidgets [] for application development instead of a platform-specific API like Win32 or Cocoa. Not only is it a good API, but available for many platforms. Choose OpenGL instead of Direct3D for 3D graphics, games etc. Not only is it just as capable, it's cross-platform and non-proprietary. For databases use cross-platform database-neutral access methods like ODBC. We've done this with our application, and with only a relatively tiny amount of additional effort, we now have the choice of several major databases, and an easy path to others. If MySQL goes bad, we can just use another database.

    Many people become locked in because they choose to do so, most do not seem to realise the longer-term penalties incurred when they lock themselves in to the latest flashy proprietary goodies from the traditional behemoths. In some cases one might need some more advanced functionality available only from specific vendors, but in most cases the requirements are a lot simpler and if you know what you're doing, you can avoid locking yourself in so badly that you can never get out.

  • by cliffiecee ( 136220 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @12:21PM (#12134598) Homepage Journal
    The article brings to my mind an interesting scenario...

    You're a developer of an OSS project, along with several others (geographically diverse). You get a call one day...

    "Hi, This is Clueful Manager from MegaCorp. We'd like to use your software in our business."

    You say "Sure, go ahead; it's open source. Of course it'd be nice if you'd donate to our project..."

    CM says "Yes, that's why I'm calling. We'd like some extra functionality added, and we're willing to pay you to add it. What do you say?" ... great! Until you realize that your OSS program is now the cornerstone of a BUSINESS. *YOUR* business. How will money be divided? Taxes taken out? Accounting? (Now we rue the lack of financial packages for Linux!)

    Maybe MegaCorp will hire you; but then you're their employee, subject to their restrictions.

    Maybe they hire you as a contractor; but then what about the other devels? Are they out of luck just because it's your email that's in the README?

    Maybe MegaCorp's expecting to treat you like a vendor. In which case you'd need to supply invoices, bills, tax info, and all the other things a 'real' business would supply.

    WARNING TO OSS DEVELOPERS: Success is coming! You need to think about what you're going to leverage the success of your software. Do you want a profit? Or just enough to pay the bills? Do the other devels agree with you? Or, do you ignore all such requests, unless they interest you as interesting challenges?
  • Re:I call bull (Score:3, Insightful)

    by poofyhairguy82 ( 635386 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @12:27PM (#12134653) Journal
    You are giving it all away while the executives are raking it in and the corporations are coming to expect software to be "free".

    Thats exactly what you want. You get them to use free software, get them to expect a minimal cost of free. But then when something with the free software doesn't adapt to the situation well, you (the developer) comes around and says "Oh, so you need it to do THAT. I can adapt it to do that, but it will cost you..." If you helped make the OSS program in the first place, that means business for you. For talented developers, this is a far better lot it life (suckering managers in order to get them by their balls with the word "free") than competing for a job to make proprietary software with a guy in India that makes less in a year then you want to make in a month!

    Authors, architects don't give away their IP for free, neither should you.

    These groups also don't have to deal with major outsourcing (yet). Maybe if they do, they will use the old bait and switch as well- such as OSS software!

  • by indifferent children ( 842621 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @01:05PM (#12135027)
    This argument is flawed. Because a project is OpenSource, and forking is a possibility, the 'authors' take that into consideration. Forking is generally considered to be wasteful and bad. If someone forks your project, they are either incredibly unreasonable people or you have screwed-up and mismanaged the project. Look at OpenSource history; forking is very rare. How many forks have their been of: Apache, Linux (kernel, not distros), Postgres, MySQL, PHP, Python, Perl, etc.

    The result of this pressure to prevent forking is that the 'authors' go to great lengths to prevent breaking backwards-compatibility and new features are discussed at length. If any of the existing user base complains about upcoming changes, then their concerns are usually given a great amount of weight.

    If the 'authors' had a closed source project, then they would feel free to behave in an autocratic fashion as long as it wouldn't cost them "too many customers". And thanks to vendor lock-in, they could screw their existing customer base pretty hard before "losing too many customers".

  • Re:I call bull (Score:2, Insightful)

    by cosinezero ( 833532 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @01:07PM (#12135038)
    Look, I agree with your point, but that -is- the goal, is it not? Shouldn't our goal be to write software so intuitive that no one needs support for it?

    The answer is, of course, yes.

    And the closer we get to coding that well, the further we would get from revenue. That's BAD. Real bad.
  • Re:OS Auditing TNG (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Darren Winsper ( 136155 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @01:07PM (#12135042)
    As far as I know, no open source software has been found to have mis-appropriated source code in it, yet it has been shown that a number of closed-source products have mis-appropriated code from open source projects in them, making the argument even more silly.
  • Re:I call bull (Score:2, Insightful)

    by 2short ( 466733 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @02:17PM (#12135845)

    I've made my living for more than ten years using various software packages, development tools, databases, what have you. Certainly plenty of things that pass whatever line you want to set to mean "serious". I have never in my life called tech support for a software issue. If I need to pay someone to help me use your software, your software is not worth my time. The whole "you can make money from support" OSS argument is total bunk. If your software is good enough, you can't; and to whatever extent you can make money doing support, so can anyone else. Open source is great if you're not trying to make money from doing development directly, which is actually a lot of the time. But it sure isn't all the time.
  • by sillybilly ( 668960 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @03:45PM (#12136761)
    You can't friggin make profit in this business, simply because of the nature of information, which is infinite, unlike material things. If I have an apple, and give it to you, I don't have it anymore. It's either you or me. If I have a thought, a joke, a secret, a gossip, and tell it to you, I don't lose the original, I'm still free to enjoy it. (Heck, even air, which we consume free, should carry a pricetag, because it's not infinite. Just think of the free market regulating deforestation.) Imagine if the same was possible with apples, with cars. You got a new 2005 Rolls Royce? Hold on lemme beam a copy of it into my garage, a la star trek. Ehh, I'm bored of it, I'd rather make a copy of Pete's Lamborghini. Would Pete be willing to share it with me? Sure. Ahh, you say copyright - Lamborghini copyrighted the thing. Well sooner of later people get fed up, and just group together to build a lamborghini themselves, one guy building a screw, the other a button, and they all copy each other's work. How you gonna stop them? You'll forbid giving things away for free? Then how about for 1 cent a bundle? Ahh, that's where patents come in - now you can't build a screw without permission. Well, how about what we did 20 years ago, in the expired patents? That's still gonna work. Well, let's extend patents to 200 years. It's a dark spiral, slippery slope going this way, way to stifle innovation.
    With material things one vendor cannot give away the thing and crush all the competitors, because there is marginal cost. But with software, there is no such thing as marginal cost. Take Netscape for instance - success was coming, but it was just soo easy to put them out of business, because Internet Explorer was free. What's your guarantee that as soon as success comes around, someone won't undermine you the same way? You can pretty much just make a living at this, because as soon as you get too successful, you'll be put out of business. Instantly. Patents won't help, because they don't matter, with patents what matters is who got the deeper pockets for lawyers to keep a trial going for a decade. In the end the free market drives the prices to the marginal cost, which is 0, unless there is continuous need for new capital investment. These days this continuous need to reinvent the same wheels in the language of the day is what keeps prices going, but frankly, what radically new stuff have you seen in software since say 1995 (Mac/Win95 GUI/Internet/RelationalDB)? Where is the new stuff? This software field is maturing now. All we see these days is the same old stuff with lower prices, and some big iron corporations running around like the chicken with the head cut off, erecting new legal schemes to lock in and control before prices do fall to 0. The only real advancing thing anymore is hardware, even if slower than it used to be, and software is just there to keep up with it. Your major reason to upgrade is simply because old software won't handle your gigabytes of space, or USB gadgets. There is a need for 'new' information, just like there is a need for new books, and new movies. But that needs radically new things, innovation, not just the same old thing with a new face slapped on it. You can only command a price if you innovate, when you provide customers something new, that they really want, and if you sit still, all your prices will fall to commodity prices. The other way to command a price is of course to become a monopoly where you patent mouseclicks and keyboards even with prior art present, then go beat everyone up in court over it.
    It'd be so nice if people could freely share and build on each other's work, instead of everyone having to climb the same hill, redoing the same work. Remember what Newton said? He could see farther because he was standing on shoulders of giants. How did Newton make a living off of producing information? He wasn't selling or licensing the stuff. There was a free exchange, with credit given where credit is due, and as far as money goes, your reputation earned you a stipend, where some rich sul
  • Re:IT Investment (Score:3, Insightful)

    by drooling-dog ( 189103 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @04:19PM (#12137156)
    given the choice between installing a poorly supported, poorly documented open source database, or something like Microsoft SQL Server

    You're being a little presumptive there, aren't you? You'll keep your cushy IT position right up until your CEO starts noticing that his competitors are doing just fine with OSS (where appropriate, of course), and with greater flexibility and no vendor lock-in. Maybe you'll have some splainin' to do?

    Seriously, though... Maybe we need a discussion of what "support" really means, when it is necessary, and how much it's really worth. It's been years since I've been more than a Google search and a minute or two away from any answer I've needed on the OSS that I use. How much of the need for external support is actually created by vendors themselves, and the closed nature of their products?

"The following is not for the weak of heart or Fundamentalists." -- Dave Barry