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Programming GNU is Not Unix IT Technology

How To Tell Open-Source Winners From Losers 218

An anonymous reader writes "There are 139,834 open-source projects under way on SourceForge. IWeek wonders which projects will make lasting contributions, and which will fizzle. Sure, Linux, Apache, and MySQL are winners, but what about OpenVista, FLOSSmole, and Hyperic HQ? What's your list of open-source winners and losers?"
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How To Tell Open-Source Winners From Losers

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 05, 2007 @03:32PM (#17893756)
    This is backwards, I hear about a program, then I go look for it on Sourceforge. Who has time to sift through 100,000 hobby projects? Let others discover and bring the good ones to light. That is what true open source is all about.
  • Hint (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Pxtl ( 151020 )
    If it's an MMORPG that 12 people on the project who've been working on it for about a year, and they've got a small stack of concept art and some story documentation to show for it, it's probably a loser.
  • Fairly easy (Score:5, Funny)

    by $RANDOMLUSER ( 804576 ) on Monday February 05, 2007 @03:35PM (#17893798)
    IBM: Open Source Winners
    SCO: Open Source Losers
    • SCO has unfairly (and I hope illegally) accused IBM of theft. IBM has had to spend 10's of millions defending this slander. OTH, all of the top ppl of SCO have received millions from MS and Sun. In addition, they have played the market and kept it artificially inflated until MS and Sun were ready. What will happen to SCO? It will dissolved. What will happen to the top ppl from SCO? They are lot richer than you or I, probably richer than the lawyers at IBM, and will go on to pull another scan elsewhere.

      I do
  • Sheesh. There's a lawsuit waiting to happen.
  • by 192939495969798999 ( 58312 ) <info&devinmoore,com> on Monday February 05, 2007 @03:37PM (#17893842) Homepage Journal
    I've always thought there should be a borg-like game project to roll all the unfinished games into one big ball and work out the common elements into a single game engine, then just farm out the artwork,etc. back to the individual project holders. It could be way easier to generate a lot of interesting games that way.
    • by Chyeld ( 713439 ) <chyeld AT gmail DOT com> on Monday February 05, 2007 @03:47PM (#17893994)
      and so the world of TRON was born...
    • Wouldn't this just make every single game feel and play like every other? Total boredom. I'd like this about as much as I would like 64,000 ugly skins for my favorite media player app.
      • by Jorrit ( 19549 )
        It is not the game engine that defines the feel of art and play of a game. The artwork and the game logic (which isn't part of the game engine but written on top of the game engine) are what makes a game unique. And you can make many unique games with the same game engine. Saying that one game engine makes all games look alike is like saying that all games using Direct3D look alike.

    • by Sneftel ( 15416 )
      Will the ball of unfinished games be able to roll through the tubes of the internet?
    • There is. It's called SDL and OpenGL. Everything else is game-specific.

      Of course, some families of games are closer than other - you could probably make one engine for all first-person shooters, one engine for all MMORPGs, etc. But if you want one engine for everything, we're already as close as we're going to get.
    • by nuzak ( 959558 )
      I've always thought there should be a borg-like game project to roll all the unfinished games into one big ball and work out the common elements into a single game engine, then just farm out the artwork,etc. back to the individual project holders. It could be way easier to generate a lot of interesting games that way.

      If you rolled enough of these projects up, you'd end up creating a critical mass of incompetence. The bogon cascade alone could annihilate any project that got near it.

      "Adding more programmers
  • I don't care so much if a program is popular. I'm more interested in whether or not a program is actually USEFUL to me. :-) Some of the open source stuff I love is quite unpopular, but I don't care because it does what I want in the way I want it done.

    That's one of the beauties of open source -- "winning" doesn't always matter.
    • We have an open source project that models brain regions [neurojet.net], that is extremely unlikely to ever be widely used by a general audience. However, if it were used by 25% of neuroscientists who run brain simulations, I'm sure we'd consider it successful.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by DaveV1.0 ( 203135 )
        That is just the thing. A 25% market share of your target audience is good. The thing is most OSS apps don't have even a 10% market share.

        Another thing that I see is FLOSS apps that are in perpetual beta, that never make it to 1.0. If something has been around for 3 or 5 years, one would think it would be v1.0. Instead, what we see is v0.93.4223587234856852837501613. At some point, it has to be finished.
        • by MenTaLguY ( 5483 )
          Changing the version number to 1.0 won't make it finished, though. We have this conversation in Inkscape every so often, and the consensus has been that it's just more honest this way.

          That said, we do have a set of minimum requirements for a 1.0 release, so we're not just putting it off indefinitely.
        • by Mr Z ( 6791 )

          I authored an Intellivision emulator [spatula-city.org] and a development kit for Intellivision. [spatula-city.org] I've got a decent portion of the free Intellivision emulator market, and pretty much all of the dev-kit market. Sure, that's an active audience measured in the dozens, but I'm happy. :-)

      • by jd ( 1658 )
        I agree, though your license may be a little restrictive for some, and I'd put the program very firmly in the category of "not just below the horizon but also below ground". I don't care what Kevin Costner might say on the matter, you've got to let people know you've built it before they will give a damn. Although absolute numbers are inconsequential - and even the relative numbers are really not significant - if it's just right for those who do use it, it is just as important to consider those who WILL nee
        • Most of the current work has been direct one-on-one with others who do brain modeling. Hence the Rice mention. It's a fairly small group, so it's not too hard to just talk to everyone who might be interested in using it. :) Also, it's still a fairly new project, and none of us are OSS afficiondos.

          • by jd ( 1658 )
            Heh! I'm less an OSS afficado (although that label still definitely applies to me) as I am an information afficadio. In the end, OSS is merely one more model of information dispersal, no matter what any person's opinion on OSS happens to be. The key is that it's all about information. Without that, OSS has no inherent value. It's just a bunch of magnetic states on some iron oxide.

            Would you have any objection to me adding some references to your project on a few OSS project sites?

            • I definitely have no objection. On one hand, I doubt many in our target audience will find it there. On the other hand, it only takes one to make it worthwhile. Furthermore, I suppose many of our target audience's minions might find it there. ;)
    • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) * on Monday February 05, 2007 @04:12PM (#17894322)
      You are thinking in terms of getting a program and using it yourself, for your own setup. If you are working in a larger business environment this may not hold useful.

      Leaving out any of the stupid Political how Bosses are stupid and stuff here are some facts why you should be more interested in more Successful projects.

      Training Costs: Training costs are more then paying an expert to tell the people how to use the product during a meeting. It is the downtime people suffer from the learning curve on the product. Say it is an easy to use App and it takes a company of 100 employees only 15 Minutes to learn and get useful. Assuming an average wage of $15.00 an hour That is about $300 (The actual multiplication is more but we can assume that they can make up some of the loss time that day) So for a Very Simple application that is very easy to use we have spent enough money to Pay a $15.00 hour employee for 1/2 a week. As a program grows in complexity the numbers a higher, and if the CEO needs to use this app it can get expensive quickly. If you use a more popular application there are chances that there will be more people who already know the product and less training expenses.

      Dynamic Needs: Companies needs are rarely static, and they are often the same changes that happen with other companies. Using a more Active and Popular tool increases the chances that the product will keep up with the needs.

      Security: One lonely programmer checking for security or a large team checking and fixing security. Which do you prefer.

      Finding the Product: If you are trying to find a product that meets your needs you will normally find the more popular product first then then other guys later. So it comes up with how much time/money are you willing to spend to find that needle in the haystack that will work perfectly with you. Or the more popular app is good enough and will get the job done.

      Support: If there is a problem what is the base you can turn to. If the project is too unpopular then the only guy you can contact is the developer, and if he is tired explaining the products he just may not talk to you. For more popular products there is a community you can turn to get support on your problems.

      Now for some of the PHB problems.

      Unknown Name: MySQL, Linux, Apache They get some coverage in the non-tech rags. If it is to remote then the Boss will not want to try it because they haven't heard from anyone else professionally on how well it works or not. As well articles stating its success if the project fails.

      What if the project stops: What if the project just stops. Who will keep the product alive. Trusting a Company Critical Application so a program that may day doesn't sound good to me.

      If this doesn't work who to blame: if the S**T hits the fan fingers will be pointed and if the project isn't popular enough it will go under the radar and toward the person who implemented it or approved the implementation. Saying it is Linux or Microsoft fault will ease the blame towards the individuals because the product has been used sucessfuly elsewhere. But if was GNUseless then You will get the blame.

      Sure for personal use you can use whatever application you like. I myself for text editing I prefer JED not as much Vi or Emacs. As well as some other less used tools. But if I need to implement on a company bases even for a very small company going with larger names actually does make it easier to get it approved and implemented.

      • You are thinking in terms of getting a program and using it yourself, for your own setup. If you are working in a larger business environment this may not hold useful.

        Just to clarify: I'm also thinking in terms of getting a program, using it myself, and making general recommendations to others in a corporate environment where I don't have root access and the sysadmins will only install "company approved" software, meaning I'm on my own to find things not on the relatively short Approved List.

        Many of yo

      • Several comments.

        OOSS applications are not always more secure than closed source programs. I think a lot of this depends on the type of application as well as the popularity of the application. An OSS program that isn't very popular will have few developers working on it. The greater security availabel in Linux is only present because of the number of people reviewing the source; with a small program maybe there's only a few people developing it. One thing is nice however.. a lot of the less popular applications have less features than their closed source counterparts and thus have less attack vectors.

        What if the project stops: What if the project just stops. Who will keep the product alive. Trusting a Company Critical Application so a program that may day doesn't sound good to me.

        This is a toss up. With closed source, the reverse is true also. What if the company stops producing, developing or supporting your Company Critical Application(R)? You have no options except to migrate to another solution. You could ask the copyright holder if you can have the source, but most companies will decline citing (insert one: IP concern, security, diluted financial value of the product, etc). If a company has the technical resources and had been relying on an OSS solution, at least they have the source code as a clutch to get them through until a migration is convenient. If it turns out that the program is easily extensible, they may even keep an internal fork that they can continue to develop without the hassle of keeping their changes open sourced.

        For a small business, this is an absolute non-option. They don't have the resources and losing a primary application on which your business is founded can be a business killer. OSS has it's advantages for small business however, including reduced cost over time. Like anything, OSS isn't right for everyone. Any successful business owner would complete a risk-tolerance assesment to determine what solution has acceptable features, security risk, cost(initial and over time).

        Sadly, many times the instability and uncertainty of OSS applications' future makes small businesses choose closed source. It's funny though that for the very reason they choose closed source applications, they should choose open source: You never know when Company X will discontinue Product Y and leave you stranded. I would bet often times this is based on inaccurate and incomplete information. How do you tell the small businesses though that they don't need to pay the Redmond rent to be successful?
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Eskarel ( 565631 )
          True, closed source applications can die(or more likely move onto a new non compatible version), but close source applications die in different ways than open source ones.

          Closed source applications die because they are unprofitable, or because the company that makes them tanked for some other reason. This is a problem, particularly with smaller applications, but a good product worth paying for is usually profitable, and most large companies don't tank, and if they do their profitable assets are bought by so

      • You just hit the nail on the head as to a why software sucks. Managers want someone to blame when something goes wrong. They don't care about if it goes wrong.
    • I don't care so much if a program is popular. I'm more interested in whether or not a program is actually USEFUL to me. :-) Some of the open source stuff I love is quite unpopular, but I don't care because it does what I want in the way I want it done.

      Which is great until the project goes tits up, and is removed from ports trees, security updates and such, and then you have to go looking again. It would be nice to find a winner the first time out.
  • Jakarta (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bckrispi ( 725257 ) on Monday February 05, 2007 @03:39PM (#17893878)
    In the Java world, anything released by the Apache Jakarta project is usally a winner.
  • How to tell? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bendodge ( 998616 ) <bendodge@bsgpr[ ... m ['ogr' in gap]> on Monday February 05, 2007 @03:41PM (#17893910) Homepage Journal
    1. Does it have a good plan and some goals
    2. Is it something someone needs? (Edison and the electric voting machine...)
    3. Can it be to kept current and out of obsoletion with reasonable effort?

    Other than that, only time will tell.
    • 4) Have they actually released source code?

      I'm constantly amazed by the number of projects on sourceforge with nothing to show but vague descriptions and good intentions.
      • I'm constantly amazed by the number of projects on sourceforge with nothing to show but vague descriptions and good intentions.
        Why? What's the harm? It's not hard to make a sourceforge page, nor should it be. I don't think the number of crappy projects on sourceforge proves anything about anything, except that it's not hard to start a project on sourceforge. Good.
  • Easy! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 05, 2007 @03:48PM (#17893998)

    root@localhost>./configure %% make && make install
    (program/library/whatever works)


    root@localhost>./configure %% make && make install
    error: unable to find . You need to install library.
    root@localhost>rm -rf ./*
    • Re:Easy! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by lahvak ( 69490 ) on Monday February 05, 2007 @05:44PM (#17895726) Homepage Journal
      Losers: whoever runs "configure" as root.
      • by mcrbids ( 148650 )
        Losers: whoever runs "configure" as root.

        Losers: whoever thinks it makes a difference what user you run "configure" as without realizing that running "make install" as anybody other than root is pretty pointless.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by edunbar93 ( 141167 )
        Next you're going to tell me that I should never run any compiled program as root (and most servers need to start as root even if they run as another user) unless you've checked over every line of that software for backdoors and security vulnerabilities yourself. Because you know, it's just as easy for the developer of said software (or a third party attacker!) to insert a backdoor or exploit into fastlib.c as it is to insert one into Makefile. And while we're at it, you should never run ls, mv, cp, df, du,
  • Clarification (Score:4, Informative)

    by Bogtha ( 906264 ) on Monday February 05, 2007 @03:48PM (#17894008)

    One of the PostgreSQL developers quoted in the article feels this article is inaccurate in some ways [ittoolbox.com].

  • From TFA:

    Corporate developers and other IT professionals must get better at divining the winners and ignoring the losers. The wrong picks can lead companies down a rat hole of support problems and obsolete software.
    Maybe so, but some projects may turn out to be loosers just because they didn't get picked up by some company wanting to use it.
  • Look at the Hype (Score:2, Interesting)

    by RAMMS+EIN ( 578166 )
    It's the same as with everything: you can't tell which products are going to win by looking at the projects. Look at the hype, instead. If the media are abuzz with the product, it's probably a winner. If a product can't seem to capture the media attention, even after reaching a usable state, it will not be more than a fringe player. If the project site, documentation, code, etc. is so messy you can't make sense of it, the product will probably fail.

    Disclaimer: this is just my rule of thumb. There's no silve
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by shmlco ( 594907 )
      And if the project "team" is one individual who hasn't posted anything new in six months...

      Proably could eliminate 70-80% of the projects on SF with this one criteria.
  • by digitalderbs ( 718388 ) on Monday February 05, 2007 @03:57PM (#17894148)
    The same rules apply to open source as they do in real life.. it's not about quality necessarily. To quote Sean Connery in The Rock,

    Losers always whine about their best. Winners go home and fuck the prom queen.
    The prom queen, in this case, is your PC.
    • by msuzio ( 3104 )

      | Losers always whine about their best. Winners go home and fuck the prom queen.

      My PC prefers to be lovingly wooed, not fucked like a cheap two-dollar whore. That, to me, is the difference between Microsoft and Linux. It's like the sleazy CEO from Seattle who just wants an H&D versus the sophisticated Finnish fellow who loves jazz music and art films.

      My PC needs more than a one-night stand, dammit!
  • by BertieBaggio ( 944287 ) * <bob@nOspam.manics.eu> on Monday February 05, 2007 @03:58PM (#17894168) Homepage


    MySQL, Linux, and other successful open source projects all have this in common: a Linus Torvalds sort of figure, a benevolent dictator with the humility to see the value in other people's work. [...] At Samba, founded in 1992 to provide file and print capabilities across Windows, Unix, and Linux, it's the diplomatic yet decisive Jeremy Allison.

    I'd add that a good characteristic is that these 'benevolent dictators' have a good habit of speaking out on matters of importance. For LT, it is about GPL v3 - and although I may disagree with his conclusions [slashdot.org], the debate is valuable. With JRA it was taking a principled stand against a deal that he saw as damaging the community, resiging [slashdot.org] in protest [slashdot.org] from Novell (and was/is now being snapped up by Google?).

    A project is more likely to succeed if they have an open-minded, forward thinking leader who doesn't shirk the big issues. Of course, picking battles is important - you probably won't hear ESR talking about maintaining biodiversity in freshwater lakes, or RMS warn people about the rapid spread of Lyme Disease any time soon. Still, being able to spot potential external troubles can be just as important as spotting potential internal ones.

  • by Stefan Fredriksson ( 196416 ) on Monday February 05, 2007 @04:18PM (#17894426)
    Ok, I confess. I'm one of the guys thats trashing sf.net.

    However, when I realized I would not have time to "finish" my small project (I had a working version up there though) I decided to remove the homepage, *and* the

    Now, callar me stupid but I did not manage. I looked over and over for a way to delete *my own* project but didn't manage. I looked a couple of days later and I then send an email to sf.net and explained the situation to them. What did I get in response? Nada, zip.

    This was maybe 18 months or so ago and maybe it's better now but my long-ago-abandoned program still sits at sf.net taking up space.
  • Winners (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dynedain ( 141758 ) <slashdot2@anthon ... m ['in.' in gap]> on Monday February 05, 2007 @04:20PM (#17894442) Homepage
    Aside from the obvious big winners (ie. Firefox/Apache/MySQL/PHP/FreeBSD/Linux) here are some of the lesser-known winners that I like:

    Cyberduck - Very clean OSX FTP client
    Joomla! - Content Management System
    SmoothWall - Router/Firewall Linux distro
    VNC - remote desktop
    PDFCreator - Great PDF printer for Windows, but really hard to find
    VLC - all in one media player for OSX
    XMMS - WinAMP-like media player for X11 systems
    MythTV - even though it doesn't work for me (yet!)

    Some that I think are losers:

    Mambo - The project Joomla! forked from when the devs split with the corporation owning the copyright.

    OpenDarwin - since Apple seems to be intent on not giving back whatever it doesn't have to.

    Blender - just not enough market for another 3D app, which is why the commercial company sold it off to begin with. The nonstandard interface and workflow gets in the way and only enthusiasts really use it (like gimp, but with a much much smaller install base)

    Sunbird - the calendar component of Mozilla's offerings... Firefox development has been blasting along, even Thunderbird is doing great, but Sunbird (both the standalone and plugin version) seem to have stagnated... very very unfortunate since the iCal standard is going to explode with the iCal server in OSX Server 10.5 and there are very few Windows clients that utilize it. Mozilla could capture a huge market share here.

    PalmOS - once a closed-source winner... soon to be an open-source loser as the Linux-based OS supposedly in development is not adopted. Palm could dominate the market again if they pulled their heads out of their asses (not very likely).

    Some of my winners may ultimately be losers. For example, SmoothWall hasn't had a major update in several years, PDFCreator is difficult to find, and would disappear if Adobe included a PDF printer with Acrobat Reader or Microsoft included one in Windows. Likewise, some of my losers could easily become winners if they could pull their acts together.

    You can see my bias (as a web developer) but "loser" open source projects seem to just fade away. So I don't think there are many memorable examples as there are of winners. And of course every winner can easily be eclipsed and made a loser if they don't stay on the ball just like closed-source projects.
    • I agree whole-heartedly with PDFCreator. This project has saved me a lot of licensing fees for Adobe Acrobat (for Distiller), and is much more user-friendly than the online converters.

      Now if only there was an opensource PDF reader for Windows that was as "easy" as Acrobat Reader, but not as utterly crappy. (I'm half hoping that somebody will pop in here and say, "THERE IS!")
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by c41rn ( 880778 )
        There is a free Acrobat Reader alternative called "Foxit" [foxitsoftware.com], but alas, it is not open source. I gave it a try a few months ago and it was snappier than Acrobat Reader but it didn't play nice with Firefox. It looks like it's been updated since then, so YMMV.
        • Also, while Foxit is faster than Acrobat at loading (though only marginally, if you have the Acrobat SpeedLaunch in your Startup folder like you should), it is much, much slower at rendering complex layouts.

          By the way, I agree with Dynedain about PDFCreator too, but I'm not sure why s/he thinks it's hard to find -- pdfcreator.sourceforge.net points you to the right place. I'd agree it's difficult for it to get publicity, though, what with all the zillions of adware equivalents out there.

          • By the way, I agree with Dynedain about PDFCreator too, but I'm not sure why s/he thinks it's hard to find

            What I meant is that if you don't explicitly already know about PDFCreator, and know where to find it, it's very difficult to locate. Sometimes when installing I forget what it's called, and sourceforge's search leaves much to be desired. The biggest problem is that people generally don't even know it's possible to install a PDF printer and instead rely on whatever their applications have support for i

      • XPDF - The De-facto best PDF viewing engine on Linux has recently been forked into the poppler projet [freedesktop.org] : a project to separate core function into a library to make easier to create software using the XPDF engine, like KPDF (Nice poppler rendering engine, but unlike the original XPDF has a non ugly interface too).

        Because of its portable and easily integrable characteristics, poppler will probably be at the origins of the first viable alternative to Acrobat Reder (slow) and GhostView for Windows (Ugly).
        So cont
        • by Laur ( 673497 )
          I'm hoping that KPDf (along with a lot of other great KDE software) will come to Windows with KDE 4.
    • I agree about blender, but what if distros installed it by default as it so often does with the gimp for instance? I think could need a 3d modeler to play around with, and it's not very large when it comes to filesize anyway... dunno what their license agreements say tho.
    • by Jorrit ( 19549 )
      I think you underestimate the number of people that are using Blender. Recently Blender has been getting a very big increase in popularity (helped partially by the Elephants Dream movie) and Blender is also being used in several professional companies as well. Blender is no longer a small and insignificant project by any means.

    • by Qbertino ( 265505 ) <moiraNO@SPAMmodparlor.com> on Monday February 05, 2007 @06:35PM (#17896610)
      Blender - just not enough market for another 3D app, which is why the commercial company sold it off to begin with. The nonstandard interface and workflow gets in the way and only enthusiasts really use it (like gimp, but with a much much smaller install base)

      My gosh. Your list is more or less compliant to mine, but this is a complete bummer. Blender is one of the gallionfigures of the OSS movement and it's installed base is easyly 10 to 100 times larger that that of Gimp. If only Gimp were as easy to install as Blender. It competes with packages that are 50 times larges and cost upwards of 2000$. It's got a fully OpenGL accelerated GUI - which afaik no other programm has had that long - and has gotten recent feature additions that put it way ahead of competition in a lot of fields. Blender is the OSS application that is currently scaring the living piss out of the entire 3D industry and for good reasons too. You're entirely wrong on this one.
    • by sootman ( 158191 )
      A couple random notes:
      - Cyberduck: I *hate* the idea of paying for an FTP client, but Cyberduck is slow as hell for me and often disconnects. (Anyone else? This happens at work and home, so it's not just my network setup.) Transmit is great and it made me do the unthinkable: pay for an FTP client. Life's too short to babysit file transfers. For Windows, Filezilla is so convoluted it gives me pause, and it's definitely not something I can recommend to anyone but the hardiest of techs. (And since all techs al
    • PalmOS - once a closed-source winner... soon to be an open-source loser as the Linux-based OS supposedly in development is not adopted. Palm could dominate the market again if they pulled their heads out of their asses (not very likely).

      I couldn't agree more. This has, unfortunately, bit me right on the ass, in a very topical manner, being the Lead Developer and Project Administrator for the jSyncManager [jsyncmanager.org] Project, a SourceForge hosted project that provides a 100% pure Java protocol stack, synchronizati

    • It's not easy to have an interface to all the features in a 3D drawing or modelling environment - in AutoCAD I find I use the command line a lot to get to all the options quickly.
  • OpenSource will always win on some level. Projects can be assiminated into another projects, it's possible to combine the efforts of multiple similar projects into the "stronger" project. The strong project way have won a battle, but all project won in the end.
    The only party that might lose is the end-user, but then again, they would lose much less if they backed a closed source project, because in that case they wouldn't have any possibility to continue the project.
  • Quick tip... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jimhill ( 7277 ) on Monday February 05, 2007 @04:23PM (#17894484) Homepage
    If a guy is worried about his project being perceived as a "looser", it's a loser.
  • If someone gets something out of any project, be it useful function, useful knowledge, or even simple amusement, then it is a winner. The article is attempting to discern POPULARITY of projects as the criteria of each being a winner/loser. Personally, I don't give a damn about how popular something is. If it is the right tool for the job, and works, it's golden to me.

    Even open-source BrainFuck programs are winners as far as I am concerned, because they amuse me. :)
  • ...any of the major projects on the list at opensourcecms.com [opensourcecms.com] for a simple reason: I can look at virtually every major open-source based CMS project out there, see installs, get user community feedback on each of them, and look for more effective implementations all in one place.

    I think I have come up with more innovations that I can adapt for use in my company that are based on stuff in these CMS packages than any other single web location I can think of.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 05, 2007 @04:38PM (#17894702)
    1. Introduction

      As everyone knows, Open Source software is the wave of the future. With the market share of GNU/Linux and *BSD increasing every day, interest in Open Source Software is at an all time high.

      Developing software within the Open Source model benefits everyone. People can take your code, improve it and then release it back to the community. This cycle continues and leads to the creation of far more stable software than the 'Closed Source' shops can ever hope to create.

      So you're itching to create that Doom 3 killer but don't know where to start? Read on!

    2. First Steps

      The most important thing that any Open Source project needs is a Sourceforge page. There are tens of thousands of successful Open Source projects on Sourceforge.Net; the support you receive here will be invaluable.

      OK, so you've registered your Sourceforge.Net project and set the status to '0: Pre-Thinking About It', what's next?

    3. Don't Waste Time!

      Now you need to set up your SourceForge.net homepage. Keep it plain and simple - don't use too many HTML tags, just knock something up in VI. Website editors like FrontPage and DreamWeaver just create bloated eye-candy - you need to get your message to the masses!

    4. Ask For Help

      Since you probably can't program at all you'll need to try and find some people who think they can. If your project is a game you'll probably need an artist too. Ask for help on your new Sourceforge pages. Here is an example to get you started:

      "Hi there! Welcom to my SorceForge page! I am planing to create a Fisrt Person Shooter game for Linux that is going to kick Doom 3's ass! I have loads of awesome ideas, like giant robotic spiders! I need some help thouh as I cant program or draw. If you can program or draw the tekstures please get in touch! K thx bye!"
      Thousands of talented programmers and artists hang out at Sourceforge.net ready to devote their time to projects so you should get a team together in no time!
    5. The A-Team

      So now you have your team together you are ready to change your projects status to '1: Pre-Bickering'. You will need to discuss your ideas with your team mates and see what value they can add to the project. You could use an Instant Messaging program like MSN for this, but since you run Linux you'll have to stick to e-mail.

      Don't forget that YOU are in charge! If your team doesn't like the idea of giant robotic spiders just delete them from the project and move on. Someone else can fill their place and this is the beauty of Open Source development. The code might end up a bit messy and the graphics inconsistant - but it's still 'Free as in Speech'!

    6. Getting Down To It

      Now that you've found a team of right thinking people you're ready to start development. Be prepared for some delays though. Programming is a craft and can take years to learn. Your programmer may be a bit rusty but will probably be writing "hello world" programs after school in no time.

      Closed Source games like Doom 3 use the graphics card to do all the hard stuff anyhow, so your programmer will just have to get the NVidia 'API' and it will be plain sailing! Giant robot spiders, here we come!

    7. The Outcome

      So it's been a few years, you still have no files released or in CVS. Your programmer can't get enough time on the PC because his mother won't let him use it after 8pm. Your artist has run off with a Thai She-Male. Your project is still at '1: Pre-Bickering'...

      Congratulations! You now have a successful Open Source project on Sourceforge.net! Pat yourself on the back, think up another idea and do it all again! See how simple it is?

  • Define "Winner" (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Hymer ( 856453 )
    ...in our reality we can't measure success in kG of gold left by users... installed base may be a way of measuring but how do you get that info (and no, that is not the same as "how many downloads") ?
    A winner is simply a project with a satisfied userbase of significant size.
    ...and no, that doesn't make Windows a success... just ask any Windows user if they would accept a car, TV set or washing machine wich behaved like their Windows and you'll get the answer "You are not serious, are you ?".
    I left Windo
  • If the goal of all those 140,417 (yup, the article si a few hunderd projects behind ;) ) is to make an everlasting impression and change the look of the world, there would be a lot of dissatified developers. However most of those project are just a idea, and other projects that are maintained have different goals. Maybe just for fun or to develop knowledge. Not everyone is interesting in taking over the world.

  • by CountJoe ( 466631 ) on Monday February 05, 2007 @04:58PM (#17895040) Homepage
    I don't appreciate the idea of Winners vs. Losers in the open source world. It's not a game. There are a lot of open source projects that never get released or never get a following, but that doesn't make them Losers. Sometimes you start a project and find out that someone else has already done, or is doing, something better. Sometimes you just lose interest. Things happen. At least some people are trying. And they're not losers.

    I say this because I have started/joined several now-dead projects.
  • by rg3 ( 858575 ) on Monday February 05, 2007 @05:16PM (#17895320) Homepage
    I have developped several open source programs. Most of them very small tools, none of them over 3000 lines as much. From those, only one has a number of users in the thousands and can be considered a "winner". However, I use two more of them _daily_. One of those two doesn't even have 50 users if any. There's another one which I don't know how many people use but probably almost none, but I did it for my father, and he uses it from time to time with great results. And, finally, I did another one for an online friend that, as far as I know, has used it successfully many many times.

    So, are they losers really? If I use them, I don't care how many more people use them. They fill my needs. If I create a program for another person or group of people and they use it frequently because it fullfills their needs, how can it be a loser?

    The only losers are the programs that aren't used by anyone, the people that asked for it or their creators. And how much of those are there? I don't think many.
  • by cjmt ( 967208 ) on Monday February 05, 2007 @05:23PM (#17895414)
    The big winners (to me) are those projects who provide a viable or better alternative to available closed source software and those that you'd put into a business and trust to "just work". To find them you need to test, test and test some more. My winners, those that spring to mind immediately as being trusted not to embarrass me, are
    • mOnOwall [m0n0.ch] - firewalling
    • IPCop [ipcop.org] - firewalling
    • Metadot [metadot.com] - CMS
    • Apache [apache.org] - web server
    • Bind [isc.org] - Name Server
    • asterisk [asterisk.org] - telephony/voip
    • Sendmail [sendmail.org] - cussed but stable MTA
    • SpamAssassin [apache.org] - spam filtering
    • MIME-Defang [mimedefang.org] - email content filtering/manipulation
    • ClamAV [clamav.net] - Virus filtering
    • Freebsd [freebsd.org] - the best OS since sliced bread (IMHO)
    • Centos [centos.org] - Not to shabby an OS either
    • ...
    The other winners are those that are used everyday as part of the tools to do the job and never really thought about. Nmap, vim, perl, portupgrade, cvsup and many more.
  • Ouch, that's an unfortunate name. It's got to be up there with the great oxymorons of our time like Microsoft Works, and Trusted Computing.
  • all (Score:2, Insightful)

    by treak007 ( 985345 )
    Even if only one person downloads the software and finds it useful, then the software is still a success. Perhaps not a success from a business model sense, but a success in an open source sense.
  • by ChrisA90278 ( 905188 ) on Monday February 05, 2007 @06:07PM (#17896098)
    Many of those 100,000+ projects were never ment to be "big" for example I have one project there. It is a Linux kernel drivel and some user land stuff that goes with it. The driver controls an astronomical camera of which less than one dozen wer made. Onless you run a TASS Mk III camera you don't need this.

    Much of this stuff is intended for a very small user group, so if only 50 people use it, it is not a failure. One example is software to help with EME radio (EME is "Earth, Moon, Earth" where you bounce radio signals off the moon.) this is very popular but only within a small community. Actually MOST software is like this. Here at work I'm working on software to process telemetry data from space lift boosters. Not many people need this. I'd guess n the closed source worlld 99% of everything is written for just a few users and therefor never published.

    Don't count quality or usefullness by the number o users

  • by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Monday February 05, 2007 @06:40PM (#17896698) Homepage

    There is a tendency for a lot of OSS projects to linger on without ever improving. They're sort of like the neurotic family dog that is reasonably well behaved in some ways, but never quite got to be 100% reliable about not pooping on the carpet.

    In hopes of alienating as many people as possible, I'll list a bunch of projects that I see as being in this category:

    • OOo. Still lacks a lot of functionality that people are used to having in Office, which makes it hard to build enthusiasm for switching from Office to OOo. I noticed that TFA counts it as one of the losers, and I have to agree. The big problem here, AFAICT, is a huge codebase of fairly poor quality code, which doesn't make anybody want to work on it.
    • xpdf. On the one hand, I use it every day of my life, and I love how it starts up so fast. On the other hand, it has obvious rendering bugs that have existed for a very long time, and are apparently never going to get fixed. (The UI is also very 1982.)
    • Perl 6. I was really enthusiastic about this in 2000. Now there's pugs, but I don't see any sign that the project will ever progress to a real-world implementation.
    • Perl/Tk. There's just scads of software out there that uses Perl/Tk, including some that I wrote. OK, I'm grateful to Nick Ing-Simmons for writing it, but he's no longer maintaining it actively, and nobody else has stepped up to the plate to take over maintenance. There are starting to be some really serious problems with Perl/Tk on recent Linux distros, and patches for them are not getting applied. I believe Perl/Tk is heavily used in the financial industry by stock traders; I wonder how many of those firms are regretting tying themselves to it.
  • Having recently become involved again with a floundering project that I helped start (with the intention of saving it from itself), I read this article not only as a "magic 8 ball user manual" for businesses looking for open source solutions, but also as a recipe for success that projects with any aspirations beyond serving their developers' immediate needs should pay attention to.

  • by patio11 ( 857072 ) on Monday February 05, 2007 @09:11PM (#17898724)
    Three times my little slice of commercial software development has made it onto Slashdot. (http://www.bingocardcreator.com -- It makes bingo cards for elementary schoolteachers.)
    Three times folks have said its trivial (true as it goes -- it took me a man-week to write.)
    Three times folks have said its disgusting to charge $24.95 for it (good thing I don't sell to Slashdot readers.)
    Three times folks have said OSS is going to put me out of business.
    Three times folks have actually offered to donate labor to put me out of business. ...

    Three years my OSS competitor has gone without a patch. (http://sourceforge.net/projects/bingo-cards) It lacks a few key features, like actually printing the cards it makes. This makes it more active than 80% of the projects on Sourceforge.

    Is bingo-cards a success? Well, it probably accomplished what the author wanted it to, and good for him. Is it going to put me out of business? No. Is OSS ever going to supplant commercial software in bingo card creation or a whole lot of other human endeavors? No.

Each honest calling, each walk of life, has its own elite, its own aristocracy based on excellence of performance. -- James Bryant Conant