back to article Open source - the once and future dream

For some, Oracle's $5.6bn purchase of Sun Microsystems was good news for open source. After all, a mega tech vendor has acquired a hugely popular open-source database product and project: MySQL. But at the same time, as the European Union's anti-trust probe wore on, costing Oracle's chief executive $100m a month, and MySQL co- …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    ...indeed created some marvellous pieces of technology: T34 (best tank of early WW2), Sputnik (first satellite), the An224 super-cargo aircraft, the excellent Mig29 and Su37 fighter planes.

    The Mig29 is superior to America's main fighter, the F15 in terms of aerodynamics and vector-thrust missiles. The Su37 even more so.

    BUT, we know that vastly superior capitalist electronics won the cold war and it manifests itself in excellent RADAR, ELINT and general intelligence capabilites that can acquire and shoot down a Mig29 before it can use its superior aerodynamics against the ageing F15. Also captialism has enough oil and spare parts to train pilots to highest professional levels.

    I think Open Source is very similar - Linux, a lot of Unix tools like bash are simply vastly better than much of that commercial stuff - in some aspects. System admins love the "free" bash command line and it gives them great power.

    BUT, the majority of users is non-technical, including those making the buying decision. They care about economics of using a computer by 95% of their workforce, and that's the non-techies. So windows, flash and ms office might be ugly under the hood, but that simply does not matter. Ergonomics matters, and in this aspect, commercial stuff is still vastly better than almost all open source products.

    Actually, open source systems are most often a knock-off of commercial products, with a huge economics problem, like all kinds of socialism have. RedHat is one of the very small number of companies which make real money with open source, maybe the only one.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      cold war is over

      You are right. People care about stuff that works and is save, for a fair price.

      The development method with which proprietary software is being build, makes software unreliable and unsafe. I won't repeat the incredible number of (security) bugs in Flash and Windows here, we all know that.

      So something has got to change, because clearly the "software industry model" is not capable of producing software that works and is save.

      You talk about open source == socialism. I don't see open source that way. I actually see a free market and lot's of money, but only if the mind set changes a bit.

      I see a future where you have software contractors, like in the building world. They get paid by the hour to produce a software product (build a building) for a customer.

      An (software) architect makes a building plan and decides what blocks and bricks (think modular software libraries) he needs. A lot of the stuff will be ready to use of the shelf open source but some might not. Think about your convenient user interface. So together with the contractor they get these parts from other companies that produce them to the specification of the contractor and architect. These companies get paid by the hour (or a lump sum) to produce the open source software bricks.

      Because everybody is paid by the hour to produce open source software, the price of the lines of code or software blocks goes down and the architect and contractor focus on what really counts namely the specific customers wishes. The software companies are finally released from complaining customers, because they only care about making particular software blocks to specification of architects and contractors. The rest is already open source.

      No more help desk calls that stuff is not working and stressed programmers because the market is growing faster than they can code.

      Everybody get's rich, well some more than others. Simple coders are paid the least, but they have an easy job and will have the ambition to become architects which earn more. And the role is more fun, since there you can interact with customers and be creative how to build what they want the cheapest way. Contractors are the guys that just manage the software production for a customer and are paid to how fast and efficient they can deliver.

      That's what I'm already doing and customers love it. So I can only hope for you that you leave that cold war think alone and start to make some money.

      The future is bright, the future is open.

    2. Mr Grumblefish

      You don't get it

      if you think FOSS is anything like socialism let alone communism. (and no, they're not the latter two are not the same thing.)

      This is the 21st century not the 19th - things have changed.

    3. webster phreaky ate my iphone


      Would it be possible to have a debate about FOSS without resorting to tired analogies between software development and political systems? Is MySQL the T34 of databases? Is Windows the F15 of operating systems? Really, please stop.

    4. Anonymous Coward


      "BUT, we know that vastly superior capitalist electronics won the cold war "

      WTF are you talking about? No-one "won" the cold war.

      ...besides which, I didn't see any capitalist electronics cheering when the Berlin Wall came down, I didn't see capitalist electronics driving tanks into Romania to liberate the population either!

      The PEOPLE decided they had enough of living under dictatorship.

    5. Kevin Bailey


      Wow. The astro-turfing is getting faster and using longer words.

      'RedHat is one of the very small number of companies which make real money with open source, maybe the only one.'

      That shows your level of ignorance/astro-turfing - which IT industry are you looking at?

      Anyway, go to go - currently replacing unusable Windows PC's with Ubuntu one's at a school. The makers of ActivBoards have seen the way the wind is blowing and their latest software was built to support Ubuntu.

      The simple fact is that as MS software is removed from systems and replaced with FOSS the quieter, more reliable and more efficient the systems become.

      You may be dreaming of making billions by merely printing CD's - unfortunately for you (and some companies that rely on the proprietary model) those days are over. It's now about supplying good quality, supported IT services to companies - i.e. having to work for your money. And FOSS provides us with a vast range of top quality code to be used as needed.

      1. Gilbo


        Good work, mate, and good luck to all the kids at your school that leave with little or no experience of the OS that 95% of the entire planet uses.

        You just keep on promoting your own agenda.

    6. Usko Kyykka
      Big Brother


      The list of military hardware would seem to imply that socialism == USSR.

      The USSR was - IMHO - foremost a totalitarian system where power was in the hands of the select few. I seem to recall the definition of socialism being a system of government where the means of production are in public control. Taken at face value, wouldn't this mean that every democratic country is - in fact - socialist as in such countries power is - in fact - in the hands of the public ?

      1. Freddie


        From what I understand, no. I agree about your assessment of the USSR, however, private companies, even in a democracy, are not under the control of the public.

    7. El Cid Campeador

      No it's not socialism

      As an unrepentant capitalist, reactionary, and free-market Tea Party enthusiast, I have to tell you FOSS is NOT socialism. The government is NOT running it, it is NOT attempting to take wealth from the productive classes and give it away, it is NOT restricting your freedom.

      A better analogy for the current debate is to think of the closed source system as Mercantilism and the FOSS movement as free trade Adam Smith-inspired capitalism, though it is not precise.

    8. Etrien Dautre

      Title? Do you mean if I am a Sultan of Swing?

      " manifests itself in excellent RADAR, ELINT and general intelligence capabilites that can acquire and shoot down a Mig29 before it..." -

      It's OK with the title "Socialism" in the title, I hope, I would only add that Mig29 and Su37 were created partially to protect the An224s from RADAR, ELINT and general intelligence, joeuro, by the means of RADAR, ELINT and general intelligence.

      And generally, looks like scientific and military circles are something internationally self-centered, not? Like they know something valuable for clan enrichment/in-reachment, when all known by the majority of others is when Spring comes.

  2. jake Silver badge

    Something that needs to be expanded on ...

    "Zemlin says that people who don't contribute today will eventually, pointing to how the Linux kernel has grown during the last 18 years. "The benefit of open source is you can collectively maintain open source...I think this is a temporal issue not a systematic issue.""

    Ah, yes, the time factor. FOSS has time on it's side.

    Corporations are ephemeral. Even large ones (see Enron, for a particularly egregious example). Microsoft, Oracle, HP and IBM have finite lives. They will not exist forever. They will eventually go away. This is reality, regardless of any other posturing.

    FOSS, by its very nature, is here to stay. Unless it is banned by Governments world-wide ... Which, realistically, isn't going to happen (and even if it did, FOSS would hang out in the computing underground).

    The only logical way to look at this is that FOSS *is* the future. You can either choose to start learning about it, or eventually you will be left behind. Your choice. Choose wisely.

  3. bitmonki

    Please read the fine print!

    Overall, quite an informative and useful overview.


    "Of the licenses, GPLv2 is the most popular for open source, but arguably, it's not the most "business friendly" - meaning companies can't alter code or keep their changes or make money off of them."

    Sorry, but wrong, wrong and wrong!

    First: by definition, one may obtain the code for open source software, else it is hardly open, is it? And once one has it, *especially* under the GPL, there is nothing preventing one from altering it. I believe that is in fact the major reason Mr. Stallman set about creating the GPL, to ensure ones right to do so!

    Next: perhaps Mr. Clarke meant that companies may not keep their changes to open source secret? They may under the GPL, so long as they don't (re)distribute the resulting software.

    Lastly: the bulk of Linux -- the kernel software that makes the hardware available to the rest of the programs in the operating system -- is, IINM, under the GPL, yet Red Hat and Novell, according to this very article, make millions of dollars a year distributing and supporting the changes they make for their particular variety of Linux.

    Perhaps Mr. Clarke doesn't consider millions of dollars "money" -- thus his emphasis on the (to my mind arbitrary) $1 billion/year milestone?

    In closing, after nearly 30 years of professional software development, I don't understand why $1 billion/year in revenue should be the primary standard for success of a product or a way of developing software. So why the repeated references to it as a goal?

    In fact, the market for open source software is the only truly free market I have ever seen, and one of the most fascinating things about it has been the rationalisation of prices as compared with the more-or-less monopolistic proprietary software.

    To me the more realistic standard would be market penetration: how many companies, given the choice of roughly equivalent proprietary and open source products, opted for the open one.

    A factor not considered by Mr. Clark might have shed a bit more light: the economics of commodification of software once it is open.

    Anyway, nice overview otherwise!

    1. J 3
      Thumb Up

      @ bitmonki

      "In fact, the market for open source software is the only truly free market I have ever seen"

      Definitely the closest, yes. And isn't it ironic that FOSS is exactly the one that gets labeled as "socialist", "communist", and stuff like that? Quite telling of what type of "free market" the capitalists really want...

  4. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Green Room Chatter

    "That's because they are blamed for the project failures of the past and because IT has earned a reputation for being a cost center, not a center of savings."

    The cultural shift ideally needed is for all to realise that without ICT is there no Massive Economic Activity at all, and everyone would be reduced to trading with the exchange of real and diverse goods for survival ..... One chicken for some chopped wood for the fire. And stupid man for all of his present supposed sophistication would not be able to hack that simple environment, which is always only just a Power Collapse away ...... therefore is IT ....the ONLY Real and Virtual Wealth Engine and that make Competent Programmers of Big Picture IT Products, ....... well, without them would you be cowering in Caves like in the Dark Ages with Partners, Ignorance and Fear, and thus are they extremely valuable, and especially the one who can Collapse Power Systems as easily as they can Secure them against Interference and Menace.

  5. Simon R. Bone

    Very Interesting Article!

    2 points always interest me about FOSS though...

    1. what percentage of programmers contributing in their spare time have full time paid jobs in firms selling proprietary/closed software? i.e. if all software became FOSS tomorrow would the economic model be self-sustaining?

    2. there now seems to be a large degree of awareness in the business community about "free software" HOWEVER this has the trickle down effect that they then translate this to mean support and other professional time based fee should be on a lower rate than for traditional systems! i.e. the rather illogical "this software is free, why are you charging me to put it on my computer argument?"

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Halo


    Linux game is over and it has lost.

    Too diluted, too geeky. It will NEVER be anything other than a curiosity to most and a wannabe Holy Grail for those not wise enough to switch to Max OS X which is the closest thing to what Linux could have been if it hadn't messed up.

    Server room fine. Desktop? lol

    Sorry hippies. That's the reality.

    Get a grip, use Mac OS X.

    Deal with it.

    1. Anonymous Coward


      I can think of no other explanation for the complete crock of shit you posted other than that you are a troll.

      I am typing this from a Linux desktop. Just because you don't know how to use it doesn't make Linux rubbish - it just makes you stupid.

    2. Old Marcus
      Jobs Horns

      Apple ads

      It seems the Apple marketing team are out in force tonight...

    3. jake Silver badge

      @AC 16:50

      We aren't discusing Linux, per se ... Rather, we are discussing FOSS. You know, like the BSD that forms the core of your Mac?

      Welcome to our world, you FOSS hippy, you :-)


      The nature of free software

      The nature of free software is that it simply doesn't require a corporate patron for it's continued existence. It doesn't matter what they conspciously consuming naysayers say. Linux will stick around as long as anyone is interested in using it or supporting it. World domination simply isn't neccessary.

    5. Anonymous Coward


      I use Linux (Fedora) as a desktop machine and it is absolutely fine. My friends use various ones as desktop machines as well, from Ubuntu to Mint, and they also find it fine. Some family members are happy using Ubuntu for their emails, video, web and instant messaging.

      I have tried OS-X, didn't like it. Too flashy, too sluggish. It just didn't feel right. And there is not enough software for it, and what there is doesn't run too well. Plus the hardware is expensive and limited.

      So sorry gay boy. You and the rest of the 'oh but it's pretty' brigade are wrong. Stop shovelling your crap down peoples throats. OS-X isn't the holy grail you make it out to be.

    6. Rod MacLean

      RE: Fail

      I'm a Mac user and I strongly disagree with you. Linux is here to stay.

      It's a useable operating system and (like OSX) seems based upon common sense and efficiency (unlike certain other OSs which still haven't got rid of horrors like "the registry")

    7. Evil Auditor
      Thumb Up

      Re 20 thumbs down

      Why? It's been long since I read such a fine piss of irony!

    8. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down


      But sorry, religious arguments have very little traction out here in the real world. Have a nice time in Steve-land* but don't expect the rest of us to grease up and bend over.

      *Or 4chan, or wherever it is that you've learned conversation skills.

    9. Big-nosed Pengie

      Oh yeah?

      OS X ~4%

      Linux ~8-20%

    10. Neil Paterson

      Neil Paterson

      Use your real name, d*ckwad!

      and DON'T call me a f***ing hippy!

  7. Martin Owens


    So a few errors, A/L/GPLv2/3 are very popular because they guarantee participation from redistributors. Businesses gunning after Apache are working on the assumption that anarchy is better and the cost of self support is more painful than collaboration. Never underestimate the stubborn selfishness of some.

    "donations to FOSS during the next 10 years" - Companies participating are rarely donating, they're not donating their time, their money or their code. None of that is true. Participation is not gifting, collaboration isn't charity.

    joeuro - You _are_ aware that what your talking about is communism vs capitalism, not socialism. Especially since a) The military is a socialist endeavour in EVERY western country, b) RADAR was a war time advancement made by socialists. c) Capitalism requires a socialist basis to function, see Fed Reserve.

    I support our new socialist overlords, they can't be nearly as thick as some of these lot.

  8. Jim Morrow
    Paris Hilton

    What the fuck?

    "Meanwhile, 11,000 lines of code are added to the kernel each day" - HOLY SHIT!!!

    Once upon a time the whole UNIX kernel was under 10,000 lines of code for *everything*. The 4.2 BSD kernel, the one that brought TCP/IP to the masses, was around 85,000 lines. That has pretty much all the OS features anyone needs, apart from NFS and the virtual file system concept.

    What the fuck are the monkeys with typewriters contributing to the Linux kernel and is any of it doing anything worthwhile?

    Paris icon because although she gives a little, it does a lot.

    1. Keith Oldham

      Re : What the fuck?

      It does explain in the linked article that 11000 are added, 5500 removed and 2200 altered and that core kernel code is only ~5%. Most of the new code is for drivers/processors.

      It goes quite a long way to explain how each new release works on more and more hardware to the point where installing a modern distribution is now trivial on desktops, at least

    2. sT0rNG b4R3 duRiD

      A very good question.

      Bit like M$ Windows I suspect, only we can actually see the cruft in the source in the case of linux. I often wonder if it's actually time, just to tear it all down and rebuild it.

      Most people are probably just assuming, heck, um... ok this bit is meant to do this, I think, and that bit, err... that... it all seems to be working pretty good so I won't go fuck it up.

      I suspect a whole lot of it goes into device drivers but my god, who actually understands which bits can be taken our or rewritten?

      It's easy for me to say this, but perhaps we don't need new features, just chucking out the old, I mean, wow, look at all the make options...

      Tannenbaum appeared to have a great idea pushing microkernels, there is a certain beauty in the concept but pity they appear to be, by and large, so handicapped by overhead.

    3. Charles Manning

      a few points:

      1) The number is wrong. While 11,000 lines of patches might be submitted on all mailing lists etc every day, nowhere near as much actually makes it into the kernel. A lot of what does get accepted is actually modifications and refactoring, not new code per se.

      2) Lots of it is optional. It includes whole rafts of stuff for usb devices, flash drivers and support for tens of CPU architecture and over a hundred variants of those. There's support for 30-odd file systems (which all exist because they serve some purpose). Only a small amount of the whole code base actually runs on a Linux server, phone or any one device. The kernel code actually running on an Android phone is probably around 750k lines or so.

      3) How many CPU architectures did 4.2BSD support? How many USB devices? Audio devices? Flash memory devices? How many different file systems? It's pointless comparing them.

      4)The reason there are so many monkeys coding Linux is because there are so many variants and it is being used in all sorts of applications. A relatively small number are actually generating stuff that **everyone** uses.

    4. Martyn Welch



    5. Renato


      Not just contributing to the Linux kernel, the monkeys are everywhere typing furiously with their typewriters.

      Javascript is taking the role that once were of the servers. A browser is a (X)HTML renderer plus JS interpreter. Today a website (and I'm talking about all Google's services) needs JS to process some shite and create the element with some content. Then the browser renders the page. What's the matter with processing on the server and serving the content already processed? And see a JS code made by some monkey. Hell, it is as inefficient as it can be! Seems someone got the code and run into a deoptimisator!

      And going back to the realms of real computing, nowadays nobody knows how a computer works, only a few know a bit of low-level languages (Assembly and C -- note, not C++ (I know C is not that low-level, but you get the point)) and computer architecture to know how to optimise the code.

      Beer, cos today is Monday and my university classes are some hours apart.

  9. Donald Miller

    Hasn't the FAT patent expired?

    A quick search hasn't found the date granted. And if it's for a utility, not a device, has Micro$oft remembered to pay the time-extension fees for it?

    1. Chronos


      ...I think he meant VFAT, the patent of which is still valid (ask TomTom) although the distinction between them is sort of lost these days with long filenames being the norm, so it's an easy slip of the keyboard to make.

  10. The Original Steve

    It's all bollocks though isn't it...?

    Cause at the end of the day, most SME's (which make up the majority of IT Dept's) don't give a shit about the "ethics" or licence details - they want an application that works.

    Most people don't care, and segregation between closed and open souce is one of the most pointless things in the world. The fact there is such a long article that doesn't really say much annoys me hugely.

    If your looking for a free database, then naturally most geeks would think MySQL, Oracle One, SQL Server Express and maybe some other smaller FOSS players.

    But at the end of the day, I'll pick which ever one integrates with the rest of my applications, management tools and is the easiest ot use.

    Closed source companies charge per licence including support what a lot of the FOSS vendors charge for support - so it's not about money.

    Oracle have their way of doing things. So does Microsoft. FOSS doesn't - it depends on what app it is, who developed it, when it was written, what licence it's under etc.

    The biggest reason FOSS has grown has been down to the fact that a company doesn't need to build their CRM/appliance/management application from scratch - they can use someone elses for free, read up on it for a week and then tweak till it's perfect. Saved months or even years of work, saved the licence fee from Microsoft, Oracle, etc. and all they need to do is whack in a "some parts of this product are licenced under the GPLV2. As such we are obligated to provide parts of the source code upon request. Please write to ..... for a copy".

    Some developers, and a few evangalists care - the rest of us just want the cheapest software that integrates the best. Open or Closed.

    1. Martin Owens

      Title Required.

      >> Some developers, and a few evangalists care - the rest of us just want the cheapest software that integrates the best.

      Your problem is that you believe the ethics and moralists crowd are ignorant of those facts. In fact it is the so called practicalists that are not being very practical in the long term that is causing the issues. Closed source is short sighted, unscientific, uneconomical, insecure and unownable.

      You want TCO, it's not possible to own software that isn't FOSS.

  11. IT specialist

    Ballmer is the Beast of Redmond

    Ballmer said that open-source software is "a cancer".

    Yet his failure to embrace it is why Microsoft's Windows Phone is plummeting in market share. Microsoft is incapable of moving fast, because it develops every part of its proprietary software. If it used the Linux kernel, and put a proprietary interface on top (like Palm did), it would have its mobile OS to market much quicker.

    Why is Microsoft developing an entire web browser? It could just take WebKit (like most others do), and put its interface on top. Get to market quicker. Save billions.

    Microsoft's coming 'Windows Phone 7 Series' is going to fail in the market because of a lack of software. As the article said, a lot of developers avoid Microsoft, and will avoid Windows Phone, because of Microsoft's past nasty behaviour. With relatively few developers compared to Android and iPhone, Microsoft's Windows Phone will die a painful death in the market.

  12. Sean Timarco Baggaley

    I honestly don't get the point of FOSS.

    If you just want to donate your time and skills to the community, place your work in the Public Domain. It's as old as Copyright. It has no legal encumbrances. It requires no monitoring. It needs no stupid, stupid legalese-stuffed "licenses". And it means you are genuinely *giving* your work away, no strings attached.

    The GPL—and all its bastard children and relatives—are just a way for the more egocentric programmers to *pretend* to give their work away with no strings attached, while ensuring they're forever seen and recognised to have done so. It's exactly the same as those Z-list celebrities who give money to charity primarily so that everyone knows that they're the kind of celebrities who give money to charity.

    This is *self-publicity*, not selflessness. True heroes don't *demand* medals and recognition.

    1. Goat Jam

      GPL developers

      simply don't want their work to be taken by some corporate entity who simply repackages it and then sells it as a proprietary product. They are simply saying "I am contributing this work to the community and if you make changes to it I expect you to contribute them back*."

      I'm not sure why you find this idea so difficult to understand.

      * Only if you redistribute your modified binaries.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      RE: I honestly don't get the point of FOSS.

      I couldn't tell you the name of the author of more than handful of pieces of OSS that I own. They definately don't do it for fame - otherwise applications would be littered with the developers name & photograph on every screen!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      "... the more egocentric programmers to *pretend* to give their work away with no strings attached, while ensuring they're forever seen and recognised to have done so. It's exactly the same as those Z-list celebrities who give money to charity primarily so that everyone knows that they're the kind of celebrities who give money to charity.

      This is *self-publicity*, not selflessness. True heroes don't *demand* medals and recognition."

      This sounds like a definition of academia, where advancement is not through commercial success but through promoting one's own work whilst rubbishing that of those around you.

    4. Retired Geek
      Gates Horns

      Because before GPL

      People WERE "giving" their code to the community, and others were including it in their own products, patenting it, and then taking the rest of the community to court for "infringing" on their patent. See FAT.

    5. John Sanders

      And the point of FOSS is:

      To prevent anyone from taking whatever source code I put on the Public Domain, making a commercial product using my public domain source and releasing it as theirs, also closing the source of their version down in the process.

      Making an obscene profit from a work they never paid to use, and negating the improvements (if any) to the rest of the public.

      Well this is one point, there are many more, but you need to read the GPLv2/GPLv3 licenses.

    6. Martyn Welch

      It's not about giving the work away

      Contributing to GPLed or other open sourced licensed software is not about giving your work away, it's about allowing others to benefit from your work whilst trying to ensure that any further modifications made are also available for others to benefit from as well.

      Public Domain does not stop others from taking my hard work, modifying it slightly and monetarily gaining from it without me or others also gaining anything. It has nothing to do with me wanting to be selfless, it's about sharing with those who are also willing to share.

    7. The First Dave


      @Sean Timarco Baggaley

      As with Closed-source, FOSS comes in many flavours, and projects range from one-man hobby projects to huge _commercial_ projects like MySQL and Mozilla - neither of those two would have a chance if it the majority of the code came from amateurs, however gifted - nothing to do with publicity, just about paying the bills. To my mind, it is the ability to run a large organisation that matters most, not the source of the money. I also think that the question of "too many licences" is a red-herring. It is largely a response to the different funding models in use, and also to the threat of software-patents in different legal jurisdictions. The number of different FOSS licences is nothing compared to the number of different commercial licences, which no-one bothers to read - for the vast majority of consumers, the particular flavour of licence is going to be pretty immaterial too.

    8. Anonymous Coward

      Re: I honestly don't get the point of FOSS.

      People like you never do.

      Consider it more along 'share and share alike', or is that too human for you?

      0 out of 10, must try harder

    9. Frumious Bandersnatch

      on not getting the point of FOSS

      > True heroes don't *demand* medals and recognition.

      Let me explain it another way. You've crafted a piece of software as a labour of love (or whatever) and you want someone else to download it off the net and claim that they wrote it? A lot of the various open source licenses don't demand recognition, let alone medals. But they are designed specifically to prevent unscrupulous and unethical behaviour, viz outright plagiarism.

      Items in the public domain do not have any protections at all. Plus, most things in the public domain are crap anyway, although this is due in no small part to the release of the good stuff increasingly being put on the never-never, due to arbitrary extensions of the copyright charter.

    10. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Nicely put!

      That's all I need to say ...

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "Late last year, ABI Research predicted that nearly one-third of the 35 million netbooks sold in 2009 would ship with Linux." Am I alone in reading something slightly odd with a prediction of the year that has just gone? Or should I click on the link?

    1. serendipity

      I agree and ...

      I seriously doubt the 32% Linux market share that ABI Research were predicting for 2009.

      Here in the UK, just try and find Linux Netbook! Have a look at the PC World website for example. How many Linux netbooks are they selling? That would be a big fat ZERO!

      And its a similar story in the US I believe - take a look on the Walmart site, how many Linux based Netbooks are they selling? You guessed it, that would be zero again.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        in their defense

        there is a good reason for not selling linux notebooks/netbooks. They don't have the technical knowledge to explain what it is, and how it's different from windows.

        Like it or not, to the unwashed masses, a computer means windows. A mainstream, non-techie, store (yes pcworld is non-techie) just can't handle any customers who might not have got what they wanted. Linux takes a certain level of technical knowledge to use at anything beyond a basic level. And, for linux, installing a driver is beyond this level.

        Would you expect wallmart to want/be able to deal with people who bought a new camera that "won't work" because the software that comes with it is windows only, or a GPS, or a phone. Or even to look for help on the net and be told that if they want their el-cheapo brand printer to work, all they need to do is type 12 pages of gobbledegook into a variety of text files and the command line. It's not ready for mass market yet, and the refusal of major chains to stock it reflects this.

      2. SynnerCal
        Thumb Up

        I partially agree...

        Serendipity said "Here in the UK, just try and find Linux Netbook! Have a look at the PC World website for example. How many Linux netbooks are they selling? That would be a big fat ZERO!"

        That's because PC World (et al) want to up-sell you with AV, warranties and all that other rubbish. If you're in the market for a Linux netbook then there's a chance to punt Norton etc gone. And if PC World, Comet etc aren't asking for Linux netbooks then the vendors won't ship them in. Which means, that if you're looking for one for Linux you have to buy one with Windows and then "upgrade" it. Which accounts nicely for the "there's no demand for Linux netbooks" fluff that comes out regularly in the press.

        Meanwhile, if you're needing a Linux netbook, go direct. Both Dell and HP have models available direct. Heck, HP actually has (I just checked) three ranges of machines where Linux (Suse) is available on the lowest spec/price model for UK purchase. Although, I'm interested to understand the rationale behind classing netbooks as "Business" only units Mr HP-UK.

        Strangely enough, I've seen very few Windows netbooks around - most folks I've seen them with have either bought them with Linux installed, or retrofitted it later. But YMMV.

  14. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    @Sean Timarco

    Yep. You really *don't* get the point do you?

    Nobody is claiming to give their work away 'no strings attached'. However, they are attempting to make it available in such a way that nasty greedy bastards, can't claim it is theirs and then turn round and sue the real creators - not that any business would do that of course.

    The originators are also trying to ensure that any improvements to the software are also placed to benefit everyone in a like manner.

    There now. That wasn't so difficult, was it?

  15. Joe Montana

    More realistic market...

    In reply to the comment about 11,000 lines of code... Sure, kernels years ago were smaller, but a LOT of that code in linux is driver code required to support all kinds of different hardware and several entirely different architectures...

    As for aiming towards $1 billion companies, is that really a good thing?

    For one thing the current software market is unrealistic, economies of scale mean that by the time you've sold a few thousand copies all of your investment has long since been recovered and you could churn out additional copies for $0.01 and still make a profit. Sooner or later the masses will wake up to this and demand lower prices.

    Also consider, when you have huge companies they become too powerful, and use their power to distort the market - ultimately to the detriment of customers. You also get situations where companies are "too big to fail" and end up receiving bailouts from the government... Companies like this make massive profits one year, which go into the back pockets of those high in the company who jump through whatever hoops necessary to avoid paying tax on it, and the following year they don't do so well and take money from the taxpayers... Privatised profits, nationalised losses...

    So companies staying small, and having to compete on an open market against other small companies is a good thing.

  16. Colin Barfoot


    I think Tiemann's talking out of his arse. Ignoring the metaphorical weed smoking, FOSS decisions seem to be made by a plutocracy of techies - there's no user interaction. (I think this primarily stems from Unix's historical presence in academia where the users are to be ignored - but I won't press the point). People who aren't able to offer technical solutions are rejected - try posting an idea, phrased in non-technical language, to the brainstorming section of your favourite distro and see what happens.

    Software development is pretty much the same as it was before, poor management processes lead to upset users - only the big players have changed, and this time Linux / GNU have become dictators to the masses.

    1. Martin Owens

      Pay Me

      Want your ideas listened to, then get your wallet out and shop for your devel.


    The GPL and willfull ignorance.

    > The GPL—and all its bastard children and relatives—are just a way for the more

    > egocentric programmers to *pretend* to give their work away with no

    The GPL is the result of practical experience dealing with contributors to such

    "gratis-ware" products. It is not something that was merely plucked from the

    nether-regions of someone with an axe to grind. It was created to address an

    actual real world problem. People who "give" quite often don't like to feel

    "taken advantage of". The GPL addresses this issue.

    Anyone that bothered to actually look into the issue would quickly learn this.

  18. William Gallafent

    Zimbra …

    … is now being acquired by VMWare, which apparently “Enables Virtualization of the Application Layer” …

    I suppose Yahoo! realised it didn't need Zimbra after all!


  19. E 2

    @Sean Timarco Baggaley

    No, there is more to it. When GPL v1 was written a bottom end Sun UNIX workstation retailed for more than $15000, and I think it did not include a C compiler. A lot of people who knew they could make their own got together and made GCC and other people made Linux and the *BSDs.

    None of them wanted to see other people rape their work, or take their work and assume control of it - which is possible with a public domain release. Their work was not 'the commons', and they cared that it not become so. Thus the constraints built into the GPL.

    The GPL does not stop a corp using GPL code: it requires only acknowledgment if the corp keeps it's changes private; it requires disclosure if the corp release it's changes. The GPL stops nobody from using GPL code, but it does stop corps using GPL'd code as a product of the commons.

    At least in the USA there is the question of free speech. And in the USA 'free speech' is written with capital letters... IIRC there was a landmark court case in the late 1990's that established that software is speech, thus free from coercion. A gov't of the USA can no more than a corp in the USA restrict free speech.

    1. markfiend

      Slight nitpick...

      ...but freedom of speech (in the USA's constitutional guarantee) only means that the government may not restrict your speech. It doesn't mean that corporations may not.

      For instance, a cinema would be perfectly at liberty to have you removed from the building if you kept yelling "fire".

      But like I say, it's only a nitpick.

  20. E 2

    @Anonymous Coward, Feb 20

    Depends on the market segment. How many of the things you own that have CPUs inside them are running a Linux kernel? I'd wager many if not most. How then has Linux lost?

    As for desktop operating systems, speaking as a sysadmin, every time MS or Apple releases a new version of their OS, or MS released the latest greatest Office with no menus as such, I have to teach my people how to deal with all the changes. Do you seriously contend that for MS users KDE would be too hard to use? KDE is a knock of of Windows GUI. Same for Gnome in relation to Apple. Same for OpenOffice

    People are not stupid, they can learn and the learning curve is hardly steep qua KDE or Gnome or OpenOffice.

    I will grant that people are often lazy or bigoted. I offer you as a case in point.

  21. E 2

    Route 66

    I, you, anyone who writes code, has the right in at least the USA to release it under the license that best suites my, your, desires and priorities. This is backed up and provided for all the way back to the USA constitution's protection of free speech.


    If you do not live in the USA then YMMV. You might need to take a look at the utility of your particular country's protection of free speech in that case.

  22. sT0rNG b4R3 duRiD


    "My vision," Zemlin said, "is to have a computer in every gas pump, X-ray system, cell pone, GPS system, set top box, picture frame, car, logistics system, airplane, DVR, server, super computer and desktop all running Linux."

    Christ here we go again... Some embedded applications (ok quite a lot of 'em) do NOT need to be lumbered with an OS that complex. This is wasteful, bordering on being criminal and just plain LAME.

    Zealots. I tell you... Bloody hell.. I mean, bloody hell....

    K. I. S. S.

  23. Hungry Sean

    open source as a business

    I feel like it's worth differentiating between commercial open source projects (such as Red Hat, JBoss, Jasper Reports) and non-commercial projects (e.g. CPAN, gcc, Gimp, Open Office). My relatively limited experience with the commercial side of things struck me as a tad strange. My former employer (a small business) wanted to deploy a business intelligence stack, and we selected an open source product partly because my employer had a moral commitment to open source, partly because the commercial offerings in this space would have been far beyond our budget. I will leave out the name of the product we used because while I have some negative things to say about it, I believe they're doing the best they can with the resources they have, and I don't want to badmouth what was all-in-all a reasonably useful product at a good price.

    Initially we elected to use the "community edition" of the product, but because of limited documentation and a relatively immature product that required far more technical expertise than is really appropriate for a product targeting business users, we eventually caved and shelled out for the enterprise edition, which was basically the community edition with support and some nice closed source goodies to simplify life. We also had promises of great documentation which didn't really materialize. Shortly after this, the platform received a major overhaul which required us to redo most of our reports, re-install completely, and generally suffer. Without the support, it would have been too much given the size of our technical staff and the poor documentation. From that perspective, at least, it was well worth buying the support (bug reports also managed to get responded to, rather than ignored once we were paying people, surprise surprise). Given the total cost of support however, the offering was still far cheaper than any of the major vendors.

    Here's where I get confused: If this company had a more mature product with better documentation and less upheaval, we would probably never have shelled out for a support contract. What happens to these guys when their product matures to the point where a handful of engineers can sit down with some manuals and get a working and reasonable system up on their own? How about when the product is friendly enough that business people with no technical background can sit down and use it? Do they hope to be like Red Hat and generate their income primarily from very large and complicated installations? At that point they'd be doing battle with Oracle, SAP, and Microsoft, and I have to believe they'd lose that fight.

    Look at Open Office-- It's a good solid product that basically does what it says on the tin, and partly because of that, I have an awfully hard time imagining anyone paying for a support contract for it. Are these sorts of open source projects essentially self strangulating, or is there a way out that I am missing?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Things change...

      ...and that's why software is never finished. The whole idea that software is something you can put in a box and sell is false.

      As your company will grow, you will find that you will have different needs of the software. So the company that sell's you the support will implement that functionality and provide again support. This will continue indefinitely.


      When that company you hired to support you, suddenly does not want to build that functionality in your system, you can go to ANY another software company and ask them to build it into the community edition. Since the source code is open, this can be done. Proprietary software never gives you this possibility.

      Now comes the fun part of open source. Which is a quantum leap in thinking but stay with me here. Maybe you know other companies, that use the same program. The BI system will not be the competitive advantage of your company or the other companies. It will be something common like toilets. The data contained in the BI system is what makes it relevant to your company. So this means that you can split the development bill of the new functionality with ALL those other companies that use the software! One friend is 50% discount, two friends only a 33% needs to be paid etc..

      So the message is think outside of that (software package) box.

    2. Martin Owens


      Your thinking in the old ways, you don't pay for what has been done (software creation) you pay for what your going to do. People will want support and that's great, but companies that want development improvements and progress. Well now it's time to invent some new markets for dealing with that demand.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    But Mr Baggaley....

    ...the whole point of the GPL is to prevent code released being taken into some proprietary system and lost to the community, go and read about the GPL's four freedoms on the FSF site.

    Richard Stallman created this licence because he saw code being taken away from its users, and wanted to ensure that could never happen.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Spieling & grammatical errors - lost on me

    I couldn't work this article out. And I speak Ingrish.

    Either way, the pic caption should read:

    Larry Ellison - munching a brown suit.

  26. Stephen 1


    What is wrong with developers seeking some credit for an enormous amount of hard work for which they weren't paid? Seems fair to me.

    After all, every film has every person that worked on it listed at the end, and they were paid. Perhaps musicians should not expect credit for writing great songs either - all songs could be anonymous and anyone claiming to have written a popular one is dismissed as an ego-maniac. And don't get me started on those authors who actually have the audacity to put their name on the covers of their books.

  27. Morten Bjoernsvik
    Thumb Down

    Oracle moved to linux to keep margins up

    The only reason Oracle embraced linux is to keep the total cost of the system down. Cheap hardware and free OS, rather use your bucks on their pricey software then. It is all about transactions/$.

    They have made their own RedHat Clone called 'Oracle Enterprise Linux' free to big buck paying software customers. This is much the same as 'CentOS' with just some oracle software and patches added.

    If RedHat goes belly up, there is no-one left to 'maintain' 'Oracle Enterprise Linux' for them.

    Nice if someone could get a comment out of RedHat about 'Oracle Enterprise Linux'. No wonder why RedHat puts most of their efforts into semi-closed-source addons like GFS, Virtualization, JBoss etc.

  28. Alastair 7

    Re: Ballmer

    "Ballmer said that open-source software is "a cancer". Yet his failure to embrace it is why Microsoft's Windows Phone is plummeting in market share."

    Er, the iPhone isn't open source, and I don't see it plummeting in sales. There are a lot of reasons why Windows Mobile isn't very successful right now, but it's got nothing to do with it being open source or not.

  29. Tom 79

    Tombo says

    Sean Timarco: Good point Sean. I remember 5 1/4" floppies out the yang of PD software. BBSes were loaded with it. When CD Rom's came out, I shoved one in my old 386 and let everyone download it. If FOSS was true PD, I think many more people would be inspired. Unfortunately everyone, including our laws do just about anything to protect code from going PD.

    Anonymous Coward: Yes, OSX really has brought *nix to the desktop in an elegant way. If this had only happened in the 90s. I'm just happy that a true OS built for networking is moving into the mainstream. Also, don't discount servers, they serve the stuff that all desktops use. Hopefully now, the only thing preventing some 16 year old kid from bringing down our infrastructure won't be because his mother is yelling at him to come to dinner.

  30. E 2

    A few points

    1. Perhaps it is better to consider the economy-wide 'global' impact of FOSS. It has lowered the cost of entry into the web market and the file server market and the HPC market dramatically. In 1997 we had to pay MS for NT4 and buy hardware to run it, now we just buy the hardware and the entire software stack can be FOSS. Linux' and *BSD impact on embedded devices, be they personal electronics devices or network devices, has lowered the cost of entry for new companies and new products. In circa 1995 if you wanted to buy a UNIX license you would pay through the nose, indeed both nostrils - today most people will not even consider doing such a thing. It is probably fair to say that if not for Linux' success, the HPC market would be vary vary small and very expensive compared to it's current state.

    2. If a closed company acquires an FOSS company & it's code, and then kills off the product - the code up to the point of the murder is still available under whatever open source license it was published. Note: there are at least two serious forks from MySQL and neither can be suppressed by Oracle if Oracle decides to kill MySQL. As far as I understand the GPL a company could kill off or halt development of the main branch of a project by acquiring the entity that drove that development, but same company cannot kill off the project's status as open and free to use code... the torch merely would have to pass to a new FOSS entity.

    3. Some FOSS products grabbed mindshare at the expense of other competing FOSS products. Again MySQL: if MySQL disappeared tomorrow there would still be PostgreSQL which is an excellent DBMS.

    4. Nothing stops a group of people replicating any FOSS product that might get killed off: eg Oracle as no patent on relational DBMS's; MS has no patent on operating systems.

  31. E 2


    I don't know that there is much truly new that could be done with software. So FOSS operating systems and DBMS's could be called copies. But the set of things an OS or DBMS must do are pretty much common across all DBMS's and OS's - so who is copying who? Yet with web servers, IIRC, Apache appeared at about the same time as Netscape's product, and CGI based on shell scripts and/or PERL was hardly an innovation from the capitalist side of the software development world.

    I do agree with you in the context of GUIs and desktop managers. KDE slavishly follows Microsoft's ideas (even at the cost of discarding most of v3.5.x functionality in order to have something in v4.x that looked a lot like Vista), and Gnome very closely follows Apple's ideas.

  32. confused-gordy

    One OS to rule them all

    So, to paraphrase Zemlin, we need "one OS to rule them all".

    I'm not too sure that is what our society needs. Diversity is usually more robust.

  33. Tim Brown 1

    Spurious statistics

    I do hate statistics like "11,000 lines added" they are used as headline grabbing numbers that very rarely relate directly to the point being made, soon get into folklore and quickly get distorted by repeated re-use.

    In this case, only a third of a quote has been taken "I just looked it up, and we add 11,000 lines, remove 5500 lines, and modify 2200 lines every single day.", immediately cutting the headline 11,000 additional lines in half, but even then without proper context those numbers are themselves meaningless. Was that an average over a month? or perhaps the figures on a single day when some large changes were submitted? Maybe some source-code reformatting is going on and a bot is going through the files changing every occurrence of

    } else {





    Who knows?

  34. Peter Kay

    All software sucks

    From where I'm standing open source still has some way to go. I spent part of the weekend trying to get some code working on an old CP/M system (I couldn't go out, so bugger off with the sad git comments). This involved playing with Windows 7, NetBSD, Linux (Mint in a VM in this case) and CP/M+. FOSS code was also involved.

    Both FOSS OS were a pain in the arse to use for different reasons. The FOSS code (written for Linux) was barely portable across different versions of Linux, never mind different unixes.

    Windows wasn't perfect either, but was mostly pretty good. CP/M was a bit awkward but not exceptionally bad.

    The points being :

    Despite 30+ years of OS evolution, shit happens, just mildly different shit.

    Use the right tool for the job, no size fits all.

    Linux is not a fucking panacea or suitable for all hardware.

    The vaunted million eyeballs do not always help when the only eyeballs that can be bothered to look are your own pair. When a Windows installation package is provided it usually works first time. When Linux source is provided, it may not even work on Linux, never mind anything else.

    Sometimes closed/commercial source has some large advantages. Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy FOSS OS (especially BSD) and sometimes it's absolutely the right solution for the job. At other times though it doesn't offer a packaged solution that Just Fucking Works and lets me get on with more important things.

  35. bell

    Does it have to be a business

    I'm not sure that open source needs to pay shareholder returns. It just needs to pay programmer salaries so that the programmers can buy Jolt and gaming rigs or mortgages and alimony - depending on what point they're at in life.

    Kicking off a project of meaningful size is difficult with a purely volunteer team (although it has been done). Besides commercial concerns the initial kick could also be delivered by academia or a very large end user organisation like a national government or a global megacorp. Once the project exists in a useful form the salary for a programmer working on it can come from anyone, anywhere who finds the project useful. Part of the appeal of open source to programmers outside the coutries where most development work is done is that they can participate in a way that is impossible for closed products.

    1. Peter Kay

      Yes, it probably does

      To address the economic issue : a 20 year old living with Mum and Dad and spending all their money on computer kit needs less money than someone older with a mortgage, kids and a life.

      Both are potentially doing the same job, so should be paid the same amount - the higher amount, that is. Who decides what's an acceptable life for the programmer to lead? Maybe you live in a bedsit, how dare the programmer expect a three bed semi! They should only be able to socialise once a week, maximum!

      The delightful sentence 'once the project exists in a useful form' should be replaced by the old flowchart joke with the box containing 'then magic happens'.

      Who pays the programmer to code the application to a useful status? After all at that stage it's not useful to anyone. Academia/megacorp/government does not do things 'to be nice' - they expect an income. Where does that continued payback come from? Once it is at a useful stage, why bother donating?

      If you're not being paid for the work, why bother with the really boring tasks and uncommon failure cases that will be appreciated by only a few dozen people vs something highly visible that's appreciated by thousands?

      Why bother doing this when you can get paid for more commercial work with probably less shit from the community?

      What can, and does work already, is either commercial organisations bankrolling employees full time for open source work on a commercial basis, or contracting programmers for specific purposes - for instance the PCC compiler on BSD Fund. It then becomes a matter of capitalism - raise the price high enough and the talent will be tempted away from other options.

  36. Anonymous Coward

    The payback is this : independence, security, transparency and stimulate the economy.

    " or contracting programmers for specific purposes - for instance the PCC compiler on BSD Fund. It then becomes a matter of capitalism - raise the price high enough and the talent will be tempted away from other options."

    Yep this will and does happen. And besides that large group of contractors, there will also be other people working on the software project (for fun, education or conviction) but that group appears to be smaller given the latest academic reviews of open source project structure.

    "Academia/megacorp/government does not do things 'to be nice' - they expect an income. Where does that continued payback come from?"

    The payback is this : independence, security, transparency and stimulate the economy.

    With open source, governments do not depend on foreign countries to run their country. Today large foreign software companies are sending the monthly pay checks of public officials and taxes are being processed on systems which are not under control of the governments. With open source they become independent.

    And if these government systems fail? Nobody is responsible. Because software is "as is" and no vendor is stupid enough to guarantee it works (check your licenses!). The more governments rely on a single software vendor, the more interesting this vendor's software becomes for people that want to do harm to a country. That's why a single flaw in that vendor's software, enables the people that want to do harm, to shutdown an entire country. As we have seen here and here

    Also governments need to be transparent. The people have a right to check what governments do. But not even the government can check what a new bought software system (from another country) does. Will it really just wiretap? Or send a cc to a foreign nation? So also for the sake of transparency governments have an interest to use open source.

    If governments hire companies to build open source solutions for them, they will stimulate local software businesses which is good for the economy. Also if the government needs an email server replacement, they will not be alone in that wish for functionality. Building this with tax payers money and than giving it back to the community will reduce costs for other businesses that also want to email. Do you have special needs a business? Well you are free to privately or cooperatively spend additional money to let some software company implement your specific wishes. We all know that socialistic goods sometimes need improvement :)

    So there are more than enough reasons why governments should start to use open source software where ever they can today.

    1. Peter Kay

      That's not a model that appears to have worked

      It may be true at times that no one can be found to be blamed (or rather, there are political reasons to present that view), but that is not the same thing as the government wanting to take the project inhouse so that they can be blamed. Neither is it true that open source and a black box commercial option are the only two options. Microsoft, for instance, is not the only holder of the Windows source code - but the other people require strong reasons to gain access.

      By definition, any sensible contracted development work has custom requirements. An e-mail server is available off the shelf, and reinventing the wheel is rarely a good idea.

      Giving the source code of government funded projects back into the community may or may not make sense. If there's an existing open source project there's probably a case for funding their expertise, but if it's from scratch there's then the interesting discussion about whether the output of government should be free, charged to increase public services/reduce taxes and whether it would negatively impact the commercial sector.

      So, no, I'm not necessarily convinced.

  37. Muhammad Imran

    cell phone, GPS system, set top box, picture frame, DVR are all desktops.

    The famous vision of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates for a computer on every desktop and every home .... "My vision," Zemlin said, "is to have a computer in every gas pump, X-ray system, cell phone, GPS system, set top box, picture frame, car, logistics system, airplane, DVR, server, super computer and desktop all running Linux."


    cell phone, GPS system, set top box, picture frame, DVR are all desktops.

    Others: (with possible counts worlwide)

    X-ray system (50,000 !?!)

    car (tom tom paying MS, smartphones controlling cars, what else left in car for linux !?! stereo, gauges !?!)

    logistics system (50 !?!)

    airplane (500 !?!)

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