Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board




When is open source not?

First we find out that Red Hat has to charge for "free" software. OK. Free, not such a good idea.

Now we've got this open source operation that has discovered it's a great idea to charge for software:

http://www.firstmonday.org/issues/issue8_11/munoz/index.html

They're going to set up "syndicates" that specify products and "syndicates" that develop them, led by syndicates of project managers with disputes adjuticated. It sounds like a barrel of fun for the developers.

Revolutionary new idea
Tuesday, November 04, 2003

From that site:
"The Open Code Market (OCM) is both an open market for code, as well as a market for open code. However, it aims mainly to become a free market for software, as well as a market for Free Software. "

It seems to cool, as well as hot. So interesting, as well as intriguing. So repetitive and yet so redundant.

Someone over worked their thesaurus.

Marc
Tuesday, November 04, 2003

"If you do not learn to master your rage..."
"Your rage will become your master?  That's what you were going to say, isn't it?"
"Well... I..."

(from the movie adaptation of Mystery Men)

Sam Livingston-Gray
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

> First we find out that Red Hat has to charge for "free" software. OK. Free, not such a good idea."

It's not entirely correct to say that RedHat charging for free software is a new thing. Or a "thing" at all.
For one, RedHat has always sold their shrink-wrapped RedHat Linux distribution, thus always has charged for their product.
And second, you can still redistribute the source code of the Open Source (OSI definition) components of the products, thus in effect making the price of the Open Source components converge to zero. What you really pay for is the service and support included in the product bundle.

If you don't believe that you can obtain RedHat Enterprise Linux Source code for free, go have a look at
http://ftp.redhat.com/pub/redhat/linux/enterprise/2.1AS/en/os/i386/SRPMS/

Martin A. Boegelund
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

And for those interested in version 3 RH Enterprise Linux:
http://ftp.redhat.com/pub/redhat/linux/enterprise/3/en/os/i386/SRPMS/

Martin A. Boegelund
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Free as in freedom, not free as in beer eh?  Standard misunderstanding of free.

It is perfectly ok to charge for open source (or free or whatever term is politically charged these days) software.  Just go look at http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/philosophy.html#AboutFreeSoftware and follow the "Selling Free Software Can Be OK!" link..

i like i
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Sorry, will you people shut the hell up about this CRAP.

Believe it or not, maybe there are distros which AREN'T COMMERCIAL, NO MONEY TO BE MADE (e.g. debian). You people keep on bringing up, open source isn't free! don't use it for $x reason!!! Who the HELL cares. If you don't want to use it, fair enough, if you do, use it, great. These arguments are BEYOND the call of stupid.

It's personal choice, I don't actually care what programming language anybody uses (once I don't have to update it etc..) or what o/s you use once I don't have to help you fix it, to each their own, and stop the stupid arguments.

fw
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

> It is perfectly ok to charge for open source http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/philosophy.html#AboutFreeSoftware and follow the "Selling Free Software Can Be OK!" link..

I know the theory. The whole point is the theory doesn't work.

Revolutionary new idea
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

> I know the theory. The whole point is the theory doesn't work.

put an article about it in your blog?

i like i
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

fw, I think you don't understand why people here discuss open source being free. In the slashdot crowd, this topic is discussed in the context of being free being a deterrent to corporates using open source. Silly corporates.

Here, we are people who develop software and pay our bills by getting people to pay us. For us, the idea that we should develop for software for free is really dumb.

Revolutionary new idea
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

> For us, the idea that we should develop for software for free is really dumb.

Being one of "us", I have to disagree.  :)

I *do* agree that free software obviously competes with proprietary software. Put a free version of CityDesk out there, and Joel will feel the pain :)

But there are plenty of other models out there, especially software as a service, where it is perfectly realistic to develop free software.

Some of my friends who have been unemployed have used it as a way of keeping their skills sharp; the software they've developed hasn't sold, but potential employers look at the work and prefer them to paper resumes, and bang they're working again.

The Holy Grail here is the JBoss model; develop free software, then sell consulting services for it. IMO, not a large niche, but just as viable in its own way as the small ISV.

Portabella
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

> For us, the idea that we should develop for software for free is really dumb.

I guess you won't be doing it then.  Fine.

Then why do so many of 'us' professional programmers put our spare time into writing free* software?  I guess 'we' are out to get _you_...

/me expects this thread to cycle and cycle into the future, going nowhere ;-)

i like i
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

FW was right.  This is a stupid argument.  Use OSS if you want or don't.  No skin off anyones behind. 

Mike
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

I have read many comments on this forum from developers who hate the free software movement because their feeling is, if they manage to develop a useful bit of software that they could sell, eventually some open source project will duplicate it and they will no longer be able to make money.

I recall a similar feeling in the early 1990s.  If I create a useful bit of software that I could sell, eventually Microsoft will create a version and I will be out of business.  This is basically why VCs stopped funding desktop software startups around that time.

One of the inconvenient facts of our industry is that it is easier to copy our work than in previous industries.  Even without the open source movement you would have to deal with these issues.

Name withheld out of cowardice
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

> FW was right.  This is a stupid argument. Use OSS if you want or don't.  No skin off anyones behind. 

I don't think fw understood what the argument was about. It's not about whether I'm going to use open source. It's about - getting back to that open code project idea in the original post - the loopy logic in the whole open source philosophy.

The open code project idea has this great idea that - hey, customers could pay the developers to do the development. My interest was piqued by the way the clearly naive organisers thought this would work.

To i like i, yes, it's true you can write your software and give it away ( which is what you do when you give away the source.)

But if you do this, you shouldn't think it's terrific for you, except in the sense of providing charity or giving things away. That's the tragedy, really. Do it for deserving people. OK. Good. Do it for big business. You're getting screwed and smiling about it.

Revolutionary new idea
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

"the theory doesn't work"

Post your proof.


Wednesday, November 05, 2003

OSS brings out the ugly in some people.  For those who feel that thier life and livelyhood are threatened by OSS, do you feel the same about other vendors?

Do you think CityDesk would even exist if MS thought it was worth pursuing?  Would you be lamenting that MS has put Joel out of business and that is unfair?  But this is FREE!  How could Joel compete with FREE?  Well, he cannot.  He has to provide more of something or he will lose.  So, when you buy CityDesk, you get Joel and FogCreek with it.  Just like the PlayStation is competing with MS who is giving away the Xbox at a loss.

When you buy Red Hat or SUSE or Yellow Dog (I just like the name of that distribution), you are buying the service and support of the companies, not the software.  If you can support yourself, then you can run on your own.

As for the purity of life and OSS, let me ask the anti-OSS people, "Do you use any code developed by another programmer?"  If you purchase a framework or even .NET are you putting programmers out of jobs? If companies were forced to build the infrastructure each time think how many more developers would be needed. 

It sounds silly because it is.  Everyday you use the work of coworkers, or even work/knowledge you developed for other clients to get your job done.  Pre-OSS, we would call it sharing.  Hey I need something that does "XYZ", if I buy it for Widget Inc. it is $11,000.  Your friend says "no problem, I have a set of scripts and a couple of VB programs that will do 95% of it."    You add the 5% and off you go, without a thought for the lost sale at Widget Inc.  That you may be causing unemployment, layoffs, a weaking economy, STD, drought, and everything else I hear blamed on OSS.

It really is time to get a grip on reality. OSS is no different than MS, Novell, or Borland.  They provide a product and whether it meets your needs should determine whether you use it.  Eliminating OSS as an option because it is not a corporate entity is as silly as choosing your vendor by the number of employees.

MSHack
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

OSS is not much different from the rest of the software world. It is just a different business model.
This also explains why serious OSS is more expensive: the money has to come from a smaller pool of clients.

The only thing that disgusts me are the OSS politics. I would be as disgusted if my Government was caught giving backhanders to other software companies, but in the case of OSS, they don't even have the decency to try to cover it up.

Just me (Sir to you)
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

OSS advocates have a large emotional investment in open source.

That's ok.

The only problem is - is this investment based only on technical factors, or did they also think about the business side of things?

You know, that side of things that puts money in the programmer's pocket.

Frankly.. I don't think so.

They are blinded by the technical beauty of OSS, and are in fact working against themselves.

John K.
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

> One of the inconvenient facts of our industry is that it is easier to copy our work than in previous industries.

Fortunately, there is a simple solution to this. Patent the hell out of everything you can and retain top notch IP attorneys.

To do otherwise is just foolish.

Ricardo Montenegro
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

For example, the three success stories on the net are:

1. amazon.com
2. ebay.com
3. google.com

What do these three companies have in common? Why is it that competitors find it so difficult to clone their sites and drive them out of business?

One word, folks: PATENTS

Patents are there to protect your novel inventions, INCLUDING YOUR SOFTWARE. Use them. They are like condoms for your brain -- they 'protect' you.

Ricardo Montenegro
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

I disagree with your assertion that those successful sites have not been copied because of patents.  Most software ideas are not patentable so using this as blanket set it and forget protection against copying is nonsense.

Ebay isn't copied because of the network effect.  For a new auction site to gain traction they need a way to get the millions of users who think 'Ebay" when they think online auction, to think of their site instead.

Amazon had a patent so laughable that two patent attornies I interviewed used it as a conter-example (one-click ordering!).

Google?  Is their algorithm patented?  Others are sure trying to knock them off their perch.  Does anyone know if any other company's search comes close to google yet?

Name withheld out of cowardice
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

if patenting _software_ is the answer, then someones been asking some pretty stupid questions.

Seriously folks, OSS you can have differing opinions on, fair enough, but how can _any_ programmer think that software patents are a good idea?  thats genuinely stupid.

FullNameRequired
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Software patents are a great idea for those of us who have many original and economically valuable ideas that can be expressed in software.

For people just doing the daily routine, copying other, and slacking, patents will always seem stupid, just as dull, uncreative, inartistic people are opposed to copyright laws that protect music from being distributed without compensating the creator.

Fortunately, most countries recognize the value of original ideas to the point of enacting laws to protect the property rights of their creators.

Dullards like Full Name, as well as the uncreative nitwits cloning Unix as Linux (the world's most dull and unispiring cloning project) who do not know how to invent new things, will always be opposed to this.

Ricardo Montenegro
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

I have a friend who makes over $200,000 a month on his software patent. It is an original idea he invented, and he sees ALL of the money. He's not harming society at large, the software he invented is used in the entertainment industry. The only people who get "hurt" by his patent are boring copycats who see his software and then try to copy it.

I like open source, I don't like huge corporations patenting "one click," I don't like unscrupulous people patenting "e commerce" then extorting money from online chocolatiers, but I have no problem with individuals trying to make a buck off their own IP.

I'm with Ricardo, if you have an original idea, the patent process is your friend. If you don't have any original ideas, it is not.

ktm
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

> If companies were forced to build the infrastructure each time think how many more developers would be needed. 

Comments like this highlight how dumb open source proponents are, if they're developers anyway. It would be GREAT if more developers were needed. That's how you get your money, build your house, send your kids to college.

Do you think managements go around saying: look at this great idea to reduce the need for executive management and reduce our salaries. Answer, no they don't. They're not stupid.

.
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

"Software patents are a great idea for those of us who have many original and economically valuable ideas that can be expressed in software."

no, they are not.
If the current software patent laws had been in place a few years back, the GUI would be patented and only one company (xerox?  apple?  MS?  who knows) would have one.
The entire computer industry would be worse off in that case.

The list of things we wouldn't have if software patents had been allowed 20 years ago goes on and on.
browsers, a public internet..hey, the b-tree is a clever (non-obvious) idea, lets patent that....storing the string length in the first byte...lets patent PStrings, null terminated strings..thats a good, non-obvious method of marking the end of a set of bytes...can we patent it?
the quicksort algorithm...that would have been good for a patent I suspect, calling outside code from a browser, can we patent that?  oops..its been done..

The computer industry is what it is because software couldn't be patented 20 years ago.


"Dullards like Full Name...."


:)  shall we compare IQs?  I bet my creativity is bigger than your creativity...


"....will always be opposed to this."

yes, I always will.  patents in the software industry make as much sense as patents in the writing indistry, or patenting art....combining apples and toads on a river setting is a non-obvious use of skill..lets patent that...


"I have a friend who makes over $200,000 a month on his software patent. It is an original idea he invented"

what is it?  what tools did he use to create it?  what non-obvious (but commonly used) algorithms did he use within it?  if software patents had existed 20 years ago, _would he have been able to create this 'original software' using the same tools_?

FullNameRequired
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

"I know the theory. The whole point is the theory doesn't work."

It didn't work for SUSE to the tune of $210 million yesterday.  It's not working for IBM to the tune of about $1 billion (I think) in revenue per year.  It's not working for Apple, whose core OS is BSD.  It's not working for all the web sites out there running on Apache.

Did I leave out any others that the theory isn't working for?

Jim Rankin
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

"I have a friend who makes over $200,000 a month on his software patent. It is an original idea he invented"


the point is its a certainty that his idea was built on top of the work of others. At the absolute least I can guarantee that it relies on common (non-obvious) algorithms to do much of the donkey work.
If those others had patented their ideas, he would either (a)  have had to pay a shitload of money to create his solution or (b) not have bothered (not not been able to afford it)

bleech
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Perhaps the problem is that the length of the patents being granted are too long when compared to the pace of the software world? 25 years is essentially an eternity in the computing world.

As Fullname points out, giving Xerox a patent on graphical user interfaces for would have seriously hindered the progress of computing. But what if the length of software patents were reduced to a handful of years? Fundamental ideas would be released to other developers in a sensible amount of time, and those responsible for their development could still derive a lot of money from their work in the short term.

Nutbutter Jim
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Let's see, Xerox had their system in 1967 and patents are for 17 years, so it would have run out in... 1984, which was when the Mac came out.

So, again what would have been diffeent with that example?

You Just Don't Get It
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Mr Rankin, the stories you present are successes for groups OTHER THAN the programmers who create software.

IBM's revenue comes from offering services that undercut the ability of programmers to offer products. It's not a success for software developers.

SUSE is sort of the same, although that can also be seen as a reasonable part of the business environment. That is, who cares.

For Apple, yes, great success if they could reduce the amount they had to pay for their OS. Great success for Apply shareholders, but not for people selling software. See the difference?

Revolutionary new idea
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

"Let's see, Xerox had their system in 1967 and patents are for 17 years, so it would have run out in... 1984, which was when the Mac came out.

So, again what would have been diffeent with that example?"


I have no idea whether those dates are correct, but lets assume they are.

(a) It misses the point entirely, regardless of when the gui patent expired the fact remains that patents back then would have slowed down and tied up the computer world to the point where today independent developers would not be able to move. Look in any c or c++ book....all those algorithms they show the use of are non-obvious and patentable.
Databases, RAM-based databases, web servers, email clients, smtp (tcp/ip!) and so on and so on....imagine if all that had been patented and vigorously protected by the original inventors.

(b) surprisingly enough, the mac was not both developed and released in the same year...at best it would have delayed the release of the mac by a couple of years which would _still_ have had a profound impact on th computer industry today.

<g> worst case we'd still be in the world of Windows 3.1 today.

FullNameRequired
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Ive read this thread 2 times, and I cant figure out what the hell the argument is about.

Eric DeBois
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Your b is very silly -- anybody can start SELLING something once the patent has run out without paying licensing fees, and also anybody can start and finish developing patented devices without paying license fees before the license  runs out too. So the mac project started in 1980 (?) and lasted to 1984. What would Xerox be suing for from 1980-1983???

Actually, let's assume Xerox HAD patented the GUI in 1967. Having patented it, they would in all liklihood, have tried to make some money off of it. We would have had the whole WIMP interface commercially in 1971! Computers would have become usable a decade earlier and the entire bubble and crash would never have happened and we'd all be deca-millionaires.

And if anyone wanted to market the WIMP earlier, say on the Apple I or whatever, Xerox would have offered to license the technology. Apple would have saved millions in R&D costs and in the end would have ended up AHEAD of the game.

You Just Don't Get It
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

"Your b is very silly"

<shrug>  a was the most interesting by far.

People worry about the damage OSS might do to the industry.  OSS might stop me from being able to earn a living, but only patents have the power to stop me from coding and releasing what I create.

FullNameRequired
Thursday, November 06, 2003

When will you stop with the anti-patent propaganda? Patents only have the power to stop you from releasing what *others* have created, and only for a short period of time, and only if you don't want to pay a reasonable licensing fee.

How many of the examples you mentioned would still be covered under patent and how many would have long expired patents?

Also, you are making a straw man assuming that everything would be patented and charged a license fee for. For example, it's highly unlikely that web standards or standardized programming languages would be patented because it would not serve the purposes of their inventors. Is MS patenting NET ani charging onerous licenses for it? No, of course not.

You'll Never Get it Because You're Daft
Thursday, November 06, 2003

---" Patents only have the power to stop you from releasing what *others* have CREATED,"----

No, patents have the power to stop you form releasing what others have PATENTED.

Do you really think that the guy who has the patent on a mobile phone with a screen you can enter data in with a stylus created anything more than his patent application?

Stephen Jones
Thursday, November 06, 2003

"When will you stop with the anti-patent propaganda? Patents only have the power to stop you from releasing what *others* have created, and only for a short period of time, and only if you don't want to pay a reasonable licensing fee."


Something does _not_ need to be actually created to be patentable.  (if it did I would have many fewer problems with software patents).
20 years is _not_ a short time :)
The 'reasonable licensing fee' is entirely dependent on how much they want to charge.  Which means that there is no need for it to be reasonable at all.


"How many of the examples you mentioned would still be covered under patent and how many would have long expired patents?"

I dont know.....but think of the fun we could have finding out.
We would have to go through every software patent ever filed to compare its loose terms with the specifics of what we are doing in the application.
Instead of being a programming expert, I would have to become a patent expert.
_or_ I would have to hire a lawyer everytime I want to release a product.


I cannot make up my mind whether you are being deliberately obtuse, or are genuinely stupid.

There is _no_ upside for allowing software patents for _anyone_ except the people in every big company (MS, IBM, SUN) whose job it is to randomly patent every possible thing their programmers write, just on the offchance it becomes useful in the future.
Oh, and the occasional selfish swine who build their own patents on the work freely given by earlier generations of programmers.

FullNameRequired
Thursday, November 06, 2003

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home