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Revolution OS 263

Posted by timothy
from the magic-of-cinema dept.
Though it's been out for more than a year, most people have not gotten a chance to see Revolution OS ; luckily for those who'd like to, a video release is planned for later this year, and for California readers, the screenings page lists four two-night showings over the next several weeks, in Newport Beach, Pasadena, California, Santa Monica, and L.A. Reader AdamBa submits his impressions of the movie (below).

Linux users who wonder why drag-and-drop doesn't always work between applications may find themselves treated to a lengthy philosophical discourse on the difference between Gnome and KDE -- a difference they may not have known existed.

Linux users who watch the documentary Revolution OS will find themselves treated to a lengthy philosophical discourse on the difference between free software and open source software -- a difference they may also have been unaware of.

The film by J.T.S. Moore is about the growth of the free software movement, and its eventual co-option by the open source movement. I don't think that's what the movie was supposed to be about; it was supposed to be about Linux and its battle about Microsoft. But the movie is quickly hijacked by its participants and turned into a theoretical discussion, in which Linux itself is a mere sideshow.

The combatants are Richard Stallman for free software, and Eric Raymond and Bruce Perens for open source. Much of the movie is after-the-fact interviews with them, as well as other notables: Linus Torvalds, Michael Tiemann from Cygnus, Larry Augustin from VA Linux, Brian Behlendorf from Apache. Rob Malda, aka CmdrTaco of Slashdot, even makes an appearance. But the Stallman vs. Raymond/Perens debate forms the core of the movie.

All three main participants come out looking reasonably good. I think when Microsoft executives see photos of typical open source luminaries, they might feel an urge to give them a hug and a bowl of soup, rather than worry about them taking market share from Microsoft (forgetting that Bill Gates created the same impression at age 24, negotiating the deal to license DOS to IBM). But Stallman and Raymond and Perens are not like that; they have spent decades writing software and thinking about writing software, and the intellectual heft of their arguments reflect that. Stallman, in particular, gets a chance to explain at length his feelings about software and how these led to the Free Software Foundation and the GNU public license, which may be news to viewers who only know about Linux.

Heavy with interviews, the movie lacks the staple of documentaries: scenes with multiple people that are later analyzed individually by each of the participants. The main characters almost never appear together, and when they discuss the rare events at which two or more were present, they contradict each other as often as not. This is an artifact of distributed development: there are not a lot of scenes where they are together because they do not need to be together a lot.

The movie also lacks a villain, a battle of good vs. evil. Nominally Microsoft is the bad guy, but except for Bill Gates' quarter-century-old "Open Letter to Hobbyists" and a snide comment from Bruce Perens about intellectual property, it isn't clear why Microsoft is disliked. Nobody explains why Windows is worse, or Linux better. In fact, the movie demonstrates that GNU and Linux began as alternatives to expensive and proprietary hardware and software from Sun, not from Intel and Microsoft.

Even the open source vs. free software debate is presented from both sides. Since more people have heard of open source than free software, the fact that Stallman gets equal time is in a sense a victory for him over Raymond and Perens. But all three are shown acting both profound and petty, combining smugness with "aw, shucks" modesty, and attempting to claim their rightful credit without being obvious about it.

* * *

An outsider might come away from the movie with the inaccurate impression that open source is the commercialized cousin of free software. Digging a little deeper, he or she might find the Free Software Foundation's web page that attempts to clarify the issue. "While free software by any other name would give you the same freedom, it makes a big difference which name we use: different words convey different ideas. The term 'open source' quickly became associated with a different approach, a different philosophy, different values, and even a different criterion for which licenses are acceptable." However, after kicking the ideas around a bit, the article doesn't come up with any concrete differences. The site also provides a handy chart, but the "free software" and "open source" boxes intersect completely (except for the small space allocated to their names).

The two movements do have different grounding philosophies. Free software is based on four freedoms, open source is based on nine criteria. The freedoms are more general -- they could be applied to almost any creative work -- but in practice, when it comes to software, the four freedoms generate a set of rules very much like the nine criteria. Linux, the standard-bearer for open source, was released under the GPL, a license that came from free software.

While the Free Software Foundation's site devotes significant verbiage to the difference between free software and open source, the Open Source Initiative doesn't talk about free software. Its history begins (somewhat guilelessly) on February 3, 1998, the day the term "open source" was coined (an event whose location is pointed out by Larry Augustin in the movie).

This gives some insight into the difference between the two movements. The Open Source Initiative has a more pragmatic attitude, and I think this rankles the Free Software Foundation. Of course, OSI has to please various people, while the moral compass of the FSF is inseparable from that of Richard Stallman, making it easier for it to stay the true course. In the movie Eric Raymond describes the term "free software" as "lousy marketing," which if it was intended as an insult, I fear will miss the mark. As Stallman puts it, free software is "important for quality of life and the good of society." What worries the FSF about OSI is not so much the nine criteria that exist and whether they conflict with the four freedoms, but whether the tenth criteria would conflict with the fifth freedom.

In computing, with its thousand ways to do the same thing, such arguments are often termed "religious," and the comparison is not inapt. In his book What is a Jew?, Rabbi Morris Kertzer writes, "[Jewish] tradition pictures God as saying, 'It would even be all right if my children forgot me, as long as they keep my commandments.'" That is an open source attitude: who cares what is motivating you to release the source code; just release it. Free software is different. To do free software right, you gotta believe.

In the movie, neither side is completely frank during its interviews. As part of the GNU project, the FSF created every part of a working Unix system except the kernel, a gap that was filled by the Linux kernel. Linux would not exist without the GNU code (particularly the compiler), lending credence to Stallman's claim that the system should be known as "GNU/Linux," but it is disingenuous of Stallman to portray the kernel as just one part of the whole system, on par with a text editor.

Stallman appears annoyed by a lack of purity in the Linux project. Linus Torvalds had the temerity to start writing software without first working out a detailed philosophy that governed all aspects of his life. Furthermore, he used a simpler approach to kernel writing (a monolithic kernel) than what GNU was planning for its Hurd kernel (a microkernel), and more gallingly, got it working sooner and wound up having the name of his kernel be used to refer to the whole thing, a synecdochic slap in the face to Stallman.

Open source has done such a complete job of embracing and extending free software that we are treated to the sight of Richard Stallman receiving an award named after Linus Torvalds, when historical events seem to dictate the other way around as more appropriate. Stallman, to his credit, shows up to accept the award at LinuxWorld, but he cannot resist haranguing the crowd about the GNU/Linux name (a premise that Torvalds elsewhere labels "ridiculous"). Linus gets the last laugh, however, since during Stallman's rant he is being upstaged by Linus' two adorable toddlers, scooting around on the back of the stage.

* * *

Revolution OS does unearth some good background information on a few aspects of open source. We learn about Cygnus and VA Linux, two of the first companies to attempt a business model based on free software. The movie goes into some detail on Netscape's decision to open-source its browser

But Linux itself is rarely seen, missing from its own movie. The product is merely an adjunct, a manifestation of the battle between open source and free software, with both sides claiming moral ownership. When two dogs fight over a bone, you don't see the bone fight. We are never shown anyone using Linux, except for unhappy users at an Installfest. The rise of Linux is chronicled only in occasional titles, superimposed over footage of cars zooming down a road, showing the impressive rise in the numbers of users through the years. Important issues, such as what a distribution is and why there are different ones, are never addressed.

Tiemann and Augustin discuss how Linux can help customers, but they are too polished to make much of an impression amidst the geekosophical debate. Stallman and Raymond and Perens care more about the abstract fight than the market battles, and their passion drives the movie. If they developed their software to scratch an itch, it's clear they gave the interviews for this movie to scratch a different itch, the nagging feeling that someone else was trying to steal their glory.

This leads one to wonder about the movie's target audience. Open source navel gazers will enjoy matching names to faces, but the average non-technical user will probably fail to grasp the significance of most of the issues discussed. They will be left with an entertaining story, peopled by colorful characters who obviously disagree about something they feel passionate about, but the gist of the arguments will likely elude them. An executive watching the movie may also be puzzled; the term "open source" was chosen over "free software" partly to avoid the non-commercial associations that the old name evoked, but watching the internal bickering may cause some to wonder if the software is ready for prime time, or if it is best reserved for zealots willing to accept certain tradeoffs because of the feeling of moral superiority that the software engenders.

The organization that screened the movie in Seattle, the Northwest Film Forum, has two theaters, one seating 70 and one seating 48. They chose to show it in the little theater (called, in fact, the Little Theater), which seemed to me a mistake in tech-savvy Seattle, at a theater just a few miles from the University of Washington campus. Yet, despite being hyped in the Friday "What's Happening" section of the paper, only 19 people showed up for the show on a Saturday night -- mostly Linux users and their tolerant dates, as far as I could tell.

Others may have to wait a while to see the movie. It has been showing at film festivals since last year, and is now starting limited runs in some cities. Luckily, the film is planned for DVD and video release in the second half of 2002.

The filmed part of the movie ends on a positive note, first with LinuxWorld in 1999 coinciding with the Red Hat IPO (featuring Rob Malda commenting on what the unevenly divided influx of money will mean to the Linux community), and then the VA Linux IPO in December 1999, where the stock rose 698% the first day, a record. Check out the NASDAQ stock ticker crawling by on the CNBC footage from that period! Of course in retrospect we know what is coming, and the movie finishes with a couple of intertitles explaining that VA Linux and Red Hat are now trading below $5 a share.

I think this leaves the average viewer a little puzzled. Did Linux peak in 1999? Now that the money that fluxed in to Linux has fluxed out again, is the community closer to its pure roots, moving away from the open source movement and back towards free software? The movie doesn't say, but you get the feeling that somewhere, Richard Stallman is smiling.

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Revolution OS

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 19, 2002 @11:02AM (#3373599)
    The movie sucks. It's a complete chick flick. You go to this movie expecting the sort of action that the others have promised, and you get a bloody chick flick...

    No action at all.

  • CowBoyNeal! (Score:2, Informative)

    Yes, CBN is in this film. Same with Taco.
  • ...gives you Revolution OS X
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The movie also lacks a villain, a battle of good vs. evil.

    Isn't that supposed to be a good thing?

    Discussing matters on the one-dimensional Good vs. Evil axis is plain stupid. The world isn't black and white, good or evil no matter how Ashcroft and other dangerous people would like you to believe it.

  • by Bazman (4849) on Friday April 19, 2002 @11:10AM (#3373640) Journal
    And there's me thinking "The Revolution OS Will Not Be Televised"....

    Baz
  • by microbob (29155)
    Can it be ordered on DVD?

    Anyone got an address and price?
  • I'd like to make the first half of this movie required viewing for our staff. Some people who don't necessarily 'get it' when it comes to Linux. It'd be most useful for sales weasel types to watch it.

    The second half of things got a little too political and might not necessarily be watchable by weasily types ;)

    However, the first half should be a good watch so that people can understand what Linux and Open Source is all about.

    j
  • Sigh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by the_rev_matt (239420) <slashbot@rev m a tt.com> on Friday April 19, 2002 @11:11AM (#3373645) Homepage
    I know, don't take rejections personally, blah blah blah. I did submit my review about 4 months ago, and posted it on my site as well [punitiveart.com]. At least the producer linked to my review ;)

    It really is a great documentary, and can serve to show people (esp. business types) that the OS/FS community is not only diverse and innovative, but also easy to get along with and eager to help.

    • Re:Sigh (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jgerman (106518)
      Though not necessarily a GOOD documentary. The dramatic reading of the Gates letter to Hobbyists was a little over the top.
    • Re:Sigh (Score:3, Insightful)

      by turbine216 (458014)
      easy to get along with and eager to help

      You're kidding [heise.de], right?

      From my experience, and from the experiences of many of my colleagues, Open Source developers are some of the most difficult people on earth. Trying to get help from them is like drawing blood from a stone. It doesn't matter WHAT you ask, it's always "read the fucking manual" or "fuck off, n00b". None of them seem to realize that there is a learning curve that all users must overcome...and their poorly-contructed, text-only, flowchart-lacking HOW-TO's just don't cut it when it comes to supporting a product. I know that free software is free software, but christ...if you don't want to be bothered by the public seeking help, then don't release the fucking software to the public.
      • Re:Sigh (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Arrgh (9406)
        It would seem to me that in essence, you're advocating additional restrictions on people who want to write software and give it away!

        Thou Shalt Not Release Unless Thy Documentation Is Complete And Useful To Non-Technical Users! Thou Shalt Be Nice To Newbies Who Don't Read The FAQ!

        Give me a break! It's free software! If you think the docs suck, write your own! If the software sucks, patch it, live with it, or don't use it! If the maintainer is an ass, fork it!

        Don't bitch and moan that someone is not being generous enough... Maybe they don't have time to do it properly, and maybe they don't feel like answering simple questions. Who are we to try to compel them?
        • Re:Sigh (Score:4, Insightful)

          by turbine216 (458014) <turbine216@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Friday April 19, 2002 @03:28PM (#3375374)
          you just proved my theory to be 100% correct. You share the very same attitude that i've encountered a number of times when dealing with Open Source - people always saying "hey - it's free! What more do you want??", and then try to tell me that their crapware is so much better than the closed-source for-profit alternative. Screw that! Unreliable support is exactly why open source is making so little headway in ANY markets. The only place that it i gaining any footing is in replacing UNIX...and that's because the guys swithching to Linux/BSD/whatever are already well versed in supporting it themselves. But god forbid they ever have to help somebody!!

          Again, fuck that. I'm all for paying money for software if it means the difference between getting support reliably or trying to deal with the "get lost n00b" assholes that seem to be so common in the open source world.
          • Re:Sigh (Score:4, Insightful)

            by cburley (105664) on Friday April 19, 2002 @04:46PM (#3375833) Homepage Journal
            You share the very same attitude that i've encountered a number of times when dealing with Open Source - people always saying "hey - it's free! What more do you want??", and then try to tell me that their crapware is so much better than the closed-source for-profit alternative. Screw that!

            Perhaps what you run into is more the result of volunteers carefully considering the degree to which you'll actually value the efforts they make to help you -- which, apparently, is pretty close to zero.

            Meanwhile, if you want reliable support, you have to pay for it, at least in this universe.

            If, on the other hand, you believe you can get along with free, ad-hoc support, on the whole, it seems the free-software community at least equals, perhaps betters, the proprietary-software community.

            Finally, if you want to be able to choose your own team to support the software you use, then you can pretty much write off using proprietary software entirely, since supporting software without access to its source code is a nightmare.

            By the way, whether you pay for the software or get it for free is orthagonal to all of the above. You can get Internet Explorer for free, but, presumably, without source, which means you'll have no hope of improving it to fit your needs (beyond whatever hooks MS provides). And you can pay $$ to get Redhat Linux, and hire your own support staff (or just a consultant, whatever) to improve it however you see fit, since it's free software (in the gnu.org sense; it comes with source code).

            The only point at which paying for software and ensuring reliable support intersect is where the cost of providing some degree of support for a limited period of time is incorporated in the price of a single distribution of that software.

            With proprietary software, for a given product, whether you're forced to pay for both to get the software (and thereby limited to a single vendor for support) is entirely up to the distribuor.

            With free software, for every single product, you can choose whether to: a) acquire the software for free and maintain it on your own dime; b) acquire the software for free and pay a fee to a support vendor of your choice to support it; c) buy a distribution of the software and maintain it on your own dime (which probably means the cost of the distribution does not incorporate the cost of support, e.g. a Cheapbytes CD); and d) buy a distribution of the software and employ the support of the seller of the distribution (assuming that's part of the deal).

            All in all, it seems that you're complaining that free software offers choices a, b, and c, rather than forcing you, as is generally the case for proprietary software, to accept "choice" d.

            (I'll only lightly touch on the fact that, while my purchased Redhat Linux 7.1 permits a presumably-limited number of systems registered for support in their data base for a limited time, the licensing for the system in no way limits me to a fixed number of systems on which I may choose to, in fact, install it. I can even hand it out to a neighbor and let them copy it onto their system. Legally. I can do none of this with Windows 98, and I won't even get into the fact that proprietary software is written with a mindset that the software serves the vendor rather than its user, which is almost never the case with free software -- e.g. MS Encarta refusing to let you print a picture from its data base because it's "copyrighted".)

            In the meantime, while I share many of the frustrations you express with the quality of software and support in the free/volunteer world (and probably have many more pet peeves of my own), I see no reason to look a gift horse in the mouth, especially in a public forum, especially by singling out "offenders" who refuse to cater to my every whim for free, as you seem prone to do.

          • Again, fuck that. I'm all for paying money for software if it means the difference between getting support reliably or trying to deal with the "get lost n00b" assholes that seem to be so common in the open source world.

            Good for you.

            You know, I have heard very few programmers try to convince newbies to use their software. It always seems to be the phylosophical types like ESR and RMS who try to get people to use it. Yes they are programmers but they are not very active. ESR maintains fetchmail and is making contributions to the kernel but most of his work seems to be trying to recruit people to OSS. Same with RMS but I better specify FS in his case so I don't get flamed.

            Actually, the most vocal crowd trying to get newbies to use OSS are the newbies themselves. When I first migrated to Linux and fell in love with it I was a complete nut for the first 2 years trying to get everyone and their mother to use it. I've given up on that now because I just don't care anymore.

            Anyway, my interpretation of your post suggests that you are saying "If you want people to use your software then why are you so rude when they ask you for help?"

            Well my response is "I don't give a shit if people use my software or not. I write the code for myself and not for anyone else. If you like it fine. If you don't then find something else".

            I get the same impression from Linus regarding the kernel and from most other OSS hackers. It's the people who are not doing the programming who seem to want other people to use the software so much and it's always the programmers who get the slack for not supporting their code.

            So please all I ask is that you don't blame the programmers when they tell you to RTFM and leave them the fuck alone.

            I'm sure there's lots of programmers out there who are trying to recruit new users of their software and so they put just as much of an effort into support and documentation as they do the code. However, in my experience that's only a select few.

            So really, fuck off and leave us alone. And for all the people trying to get people to use other people's software: support it yourself or go home. It's not my responsiblity to support my software.

            I code for fun. Coding == fun. Supporting newbies and writing documentation is not fun therefore I don't do it. It's not my job to write OSS software. Only a hobby. Why would I do something as a hobby that I don't enjoy?

            --
            Garett
      • I would have to agree that there is a small but vocal subset of the OS community that is less than helpful. However, in my experience those who are helpful far outnumber those who are not. Try checking out something like Desktop Linux [desktoplinux.com]. Full disclosure: I help maintain Desktop Linux.
      • Your experience is so different to mine it's unreal.

        I started as a complete newbie to linux 2 years ago. I asked a lot of questions on websites and after a couple of months on irc when I found irc.openprojects.net.

        My questions were almost always answered not only promptly but politely. In 2 years of asking questions I've only heard RTFM once as a response. (and not only was it warranted, it was the best response I could have recieved in the situation)

        On irc, I've dropped by large and small project channels and talked directly to the developers who on every occasion helped me out. I have to say some were more polite and helpful than others. The kde team was much more friendly and helpful than the gnome team. That was in fact what originally started my kde use. (now i'm just a junkie)

        To name a few projects where I've talked to developers/advanced users within seconds of asking a question and recieved the best help possible:

        • KDE
        • debian
        • python, zope, other python related projects
        • mandrake
        • NVIDIA
        • xfree86
        • linux from scratch

        I can't even begin to compare how much better I like getting support from the free/open community than from companies.

        The wealth of support out there is imense from websites and mailing lists to irc. I'd even go as far as saying it's so great, there should be a linuxdoc.org how-to to teach newbies about all the different ways they can get support and the proper etiquete to use.

        • The problem is mostly related to IRC and EFNet. The most unfriendly network on earth. ;)

          If you enter #linux, or any other OS or programming channel and ask for help - you'll get flamed. It doesn't matter if you know what you're talking about. Oh, and ops in those channels have a tendency to think "I'm right, and you're wrong. You're saying you're right - so i'll kick you".

          The attitude is appalling. However, if you enter openprojectsnet things get better immediately. Friendly people all over the place. :)

      • by arcade (16638)
        I've had similiar experiences - and very different experiences. In general, if you nag at 'your local admin' - he'll most likely flame you as he's often very busy ;)

        If you try asking questions on ANY os-related channel on EFNet, you're out of luck. Most people there are som 'l33t that they think they know everything better than everyone. A really sucky attitude - and a real put-off for the opensource movement.

        However, try more friendly networks, like openprojectsnet - where, among others, the KDE developers hang out. Really friendly people that can give you excellent help. However, they do want you to at least try to search out things first, and you shouldn't necessarily nag about help in the kde-developers channel, but rather in the KDE-users channel - but that is nitpicking.

        But yes, I've seen the responses you quote. From idiots on EFnet. Not on other networks though.
  • I think when Microsoft executives see photos of typical open source luminaries, they might feel an urge to give them a hug and a bowl of soup, rather than worry about them taking market share from Microsoft (forgetting that Bill Gates created the same impression at age 24, negotiating the deal to license DOS to IBM). But Stallman and Raymond and Perens are not like that; they have spent decades writing software and thinking about writing software, and the intellectual heft of their arguments reflect that.

    I have often wondered why Bill Gates is responsible for such bad (and occasionally good) software.

    He's not a fool, certainly, and I keep wondering why he has allowed so much rubbish to creep into the windows source code. (Particularly at a kernel level where it can do so much damage.)

    Has he forgotten about the basis of good code? Did he never know how in the first place? Or is there something intrinsic in the business model of microsoft that makes it become different from the open source models?

    Just wondering,

    Michael
    • Has he forgotten about the basis of good code?
      Well, there have to be some reason that he had to copy an OS (CP/M) to have something to sell IBM, and not create one of his own.. Maybe he's not that great a coder after all. I don't know, just a thought. But you certainly got a point there.. If Microsoft just made good software, the world would be a better place. If Microsoft did have GOOD policies on stuff (like marketing, monopoly, open source and stuff), the world would be even better.

      Now, this got a little off-topic. Sorry (-8
    • I don't believe Bill Gates produces software for the purpose to serve the computer user or to create fundamentally good software. He owns a business and his only goal is to make money.
      That's my stupid opinion.
      But really, I have a hard time these days believing anything isn't done for money.
      People make me sick.

      s
    • Why do you assume that Gates is a programmer? Sure he did his fair share of coding when he was younger but that's not the career that he pursued.

      Most historical representations of the early days of MS depict Paul Allen doing most of the technical work. Gates is a business man. Nothing more.

      So when you ask yourself why he did this or that it's because it was the best thing for business at the time.

      Nobody except the technically inclined have ever given a shit about Windows' stability of lack of security. And Microsoft's market has never consisted of these types anyway because they're running *nix.

      But when Linux became popular our biggest outcry was that Linux was more stable. This gave MS a bit of competition and decided to make their next 9x release based on NT which has always been more robust.

      It was the best business decision.

      --
      Garett
      • This gave MS a bit of competition and decided to make their next 9x release based on NT which has always been more robust.

        Just to clarify I'm talking about XP here. I guess there's room for confusion and you may think I'm talking about ME or something (which is pretty funny considering it's the most unstable of the 9x series).

        --
        Garett
      • There is an alleged comment in the MS Basic source code that says something like "this function used to do xxx, but Bill Gates changed something and it stopped working".
        • There is an alleged comment in the MS Basic source code that says something like "this function used to do xxx, but Bill Gates changed something and it stopped working"

          In any large project there are probably hundreds of comments like that... "This never worked so I commented it out to see who complains", "Whoever wrote this must have been on crack", or simply "WTF????"

          Nothing special... just normal progammer banter.
    • He's not a fool, certainly, and I keep wondering why he has allowed so much rubbish to creep into the windows source code. (Particularly at a kernel level where it can do so much damage.)

      IMO, Microsoft (and Bill gates as it's leader) is a Market driven company, not a technology driven company. This is the fundamental difference between Microsoft and Apple, for example. Apple has put a lot of work into the creation of the 'perfect OS', but made a lot of marketing errors in the process -- mostly because it would have diluted the perfection of the OS.
      (as an example, opening up the hardware would have created new markets for MAC-OS, but would have made it a bit harder to have the OS remain stable and predictable).

      It's been pointed out more than once that, for Microsoft, security and stability are marketing issues -- not technical ones. They didn't take them seriously until they began to be issues that were starting to (threaten to) cost them big contracts.

      In short: Bill Gates doesn't seem to give a rat's ass about the OS. He cares about the market. The OS is simply a means to an end.

    • Bill Gates has an opinion on software and that is basically, Marketing and Marktet Control are more important than actually writing good software.

      From Microsofts perspective "good software" is software that sells. Whereas from the OS community's perspective "good software" is software that works well. While there is certainly overlap in the two philosophies, as software that works well sells well (sometimes), there are a lot of actions taken by Microsoft that make no sense in a quality software context but that make them billions of dollars. Bill Gates in interested in a quality kernel only as far as a quality kernel will make him money.
  • by asv108 (141455) <alex@@@phataudio...org> on Friday April 19, 2002 @11:12AM (#3373650) Homepage Journal
    How can you have a movie about open source without making the video available for download in a non-proprietary format that includes the script in a .RTF file?
  • First, I hope the DVD does get released (it will be the only way for me to view it).


    Second, it would nice to see some other features on this DVD along with the DeCSS source (hehe).

  • I am busy using open source technologies to benefit small players in an industry that is held slave to legacy based stuff.

    I try to explain what open source is to these folks every time I go to a conference and address attendees but I always feel like I fall short explaining what open source actually is. These folks like most normal non geek people can't grasp that it's free and superior!

    So I think as a gift to every new client I am giving them a copy of this so they can get informed. This DVD does so much better of a better job explaining this revolution to people.

    Now if they would hurry and release the damn thing so I can buy my 1,000 copies.

    I suggest you buy it and use it to educate your friends. It will have the impact of "Scared straight" except it's for non OSS people.
  • by realgone (147744) on Friday April 19, 2002 @11:15AM (#3373673)
    Other than to plug the movie, which has an undeniable cool factor thanks to appearances by a few /.ers, why was this even posted as a story? Where's the news hook?

    Is it the possible video release? Nope. That's only mentioned in passing and no real info is given on it.

    Is it the local screenings for this year-old movie? Nope. Slashdot isn't the local events pages of your daily newspaper.

    Is it the reader review of the film? Nope. The film's a year old and has already been reviewed and reported on quite a number of times already.

    So what's left exactly?

    • Other than to plug the movie, which has an undeniable cool factor thanks to appearances by a few /.ers, why was this even posted as a story? Where's the news hook?

      Is it the local screenings for this year-old movie? Nope. Slashdot isn't the local events pages of your daily newspaper.

      Considering the limited release for the film, I'm not inclined to complain if a few screenings are mentioned for it. Just because it's not on in your neck of the woods isn't much of an excuse.

      (I don't live in California, but I'll be there a couple of weeks from now for a homebrew get-together...that's the weekend that it'll be running in Pasadena. That's only about 80 miles from Temecula, so I might wander over that way before returning to Vegas.)

    • CmdrTaco sitting on an inflated couch?
  • shame (Score:3, Funny)

    by asv108 (141455) <alex@@@phataudio...org> on Friday April 19, 2002 @11:17AM (#3373687) Homepage Journal
    How could they have GIF's on the movie's website [revolution-os.com] when one of the main stars is RMS [fsf.org]. You think there would be a clause about that in his contract.
  • by John Harrison (223649) <[johnharrison] [at] [gmail.com]> on Friday April 19, 2002 @11:23AM (#3373728) Homepage Journal
    An article [stanfordalumni.org] about J.T.S. Moore, the filmmaker, recently apppeared in Stanford Magazine.

  • The movie showed in Austin for about 1 weekend. I wanted to get together with some friends to see it and by the time we got organized, it wasn't playing anymore. It's good to see a review so I can decide whether to get it on video...
    • You should've gone solo--it's a good film. I went the night before ALG's field trip and the theater was about 75% full. Not bad for a Wednesday night. One of the interesting things I noticed while I was there were the three or four guys who showed up in official Microsoft denim shirts. On the way into the theater there was a table covered with photocopied documents, flyers for Linux support companies and free Redmond Linux CDs, but on the way out there was a stack of official Microsoft .Net promo CDs next to all the Linux stuff. I wonder where that .Net stuff came from...
  • My thoughts (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lkaos (187507) <anthony@NOsPam.codemonkey.ws> on Friday April 19, 2002 @11:24AM (#3373733) Homepage Journal
    I was fortunate enough to see the movie on Sundance. I really liked the movie although I do not expect non-geeks to enjoy it (in fact, I watched it with a bunch of non-geeks and they absolutely hated it).

    I thought Stallman was portrayed in a pretty positive manner (which IMHO is good as he does alot for the community but gets a heck of a lot of criticism for his views). ESR just came off as a total prick, touting his Bazaar essay as "changing the world." Bruce Perens came off as a business man and the whole OSI thing tended to be viewed as a way to commericialize Free Software (which I do believe is true to some extent).

    What really suprised me though was how Linus came off in the movie. He almost seemed indifferent and a little aggreviated with Linux. I don't know, he definitely wasn't passionate about it which kind of disappointed me.

    My favorite scene that illustrated the difference between Linus and RMS was at a LinuxWorld expo keynote where both were on stage. RMS is rambling off about how important free software is, trying to rally the world, and Linus just kind of was goofing around on the stage with his little daughter, totally oblivious to anything RMS was saying.

    Good movie though, I will definitely buy it when it comes out on video.
    • Re:My thoughts (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Pope Slackman (13727) on Friday April 19, 2002 @11:46AM (#3373857) Homepage Journal
      ESR just came off as a total prick,

      Gee, that's surprising...

      He almost seemed indifferent and a little aggreviated with Linux. I don't know, he definitely wasn't passionate about it which kind of disappointed me.

      This is a man who has to deal with ESR, GNU/RMS and countless other whiny, socially inept dorks [slashdot.org] on pretty much a daily basis, because of linux...
      I think that would burn anyone out on project pretty damn quick.

      Linus just kind of was goofing around on the stage with his little daughter, totally oblivious to anything RMS was saying.

      'Least it sounds like Linus has his priorities straight.

      C-X C-S
    • Yeah I was actually a little pissed at that seen. Linus acted like a complete dick, completely dis-respectful. Regardless of their personal viewpoint differences there was no excuse for that.
    • I thought Stallman was portrayed in a pretty positive manner....


      It's a good thing cameras only capture light and not smell.

  • Great (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by fobbman (131816)
    Like the choosings aren't already watered down, we have to deal with yet another Linux distro.

  • Wow. (Score:3, Funny)

    by Frac (27516) on Friday April 19, 2002 @11:31AM (#3373773)
    Never in my life have I thought that this page [imdb.com] would someday exist.

    Now it's all about waiting for the nomination from the academy.
  • Linus, sure.
    Stallman, eh..
    Taco? damn.. [imdb.com]
  • by Ilan Volow (539597) on Friday April 19, 2002 @11:34AM (#3373788) Homepage
    The Oracle of Bacon says that Linus Torvalds [oracleofbacon.org] has a bacon number of 3. Not bad.
  • Dated stuff (Score:3, Insightful)

    by moankey (142715) on Friday April 19, 2002 @11:36AM (#3373805)
    I was able to see this thing on Sundance. It was rather dry and dated info. Currently GPL and GNU has taken a different form that what these people had originally intended and become more legalesse than necessary.

    The movie was made around the tech boom and days that VALinux was worth the price of a PC per share. Although Stallman was true to form an Open source advocate, you could see others in the film (Bruce Perens, Michael Tiemann, Eric Raymond,...) get that greedy glimmer that Gates always has in their eyes.

    It also ends slightly before the bust and if compared to current day their comments seem naive.
  • This leads one to wonder about the movie's target audience.

    You know, I never, EVER wonder about anything's "target audience." This is a term which has slithered out of the marketing department and into daily decision-making, and enough is enough.

    Shakespeare never wondered about a target audience. Neither did Mozart. Target audiences only matter to people who are packaging demographics for advertisers.

    Prior to about five years ago, NOBODY CARED who the target audience was. Time to send the term back to the marketing department, file it, and forget it.

    yeesh..
    • You are very much mistaken. Many artists think about their target audience. This is particularly important in the theater/film world. If you are trying to please or entertain somebody, you'd better have some idea of what will please or entertain them.

      Shakespeare especially would have been concerned about his audience. He wrote for the nobles in the balcony just as much as the riff-raff on the ground.

      There is nothing wrong with considering those who would use your creation. In fact, if you're creating some sort of technology, this should be of utmost importance, if you intend others to use it. If it's just for you, then no, it shouldn't matter.
    • Why do you think Shakespeare never considered his
      target audience? Considering the gratitious
      action scenes and the number of lewd jokes (most
      high school versions of Romeo and Juliet are
      censored), I think Shakespeare knew very well his
      target audience. Any successful production
      considers its target audience; what will fly with
      them, and what won't. If you don't know that,
      then you're running a good chance of offending or
      boring your audience.
  • by gargle (97883)
    If the movie is as boring and difficult to follow as this review, I don't think I'll be watching it.
  • Confusion... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by FurryFeet (562847)
    This is a great test to notice who does or doesn't read the article.
    How many posters actually believe RevolutionOS is a new OS/Linux distribution?
  • I read the screenings page on the website and there was no mention of further east coast exposure, and I missed the Savannah GA screening.

    Anyone know if we can see it here in Atlanta or if it will go to video some time?
  • by Otter (3800)
    Linux users who wonder why drag-and-drop doesn't always work between applications may find themselves treated to a lengthy philosophical discourse on the difference between Gnome and KDE -- a difference they may not have known existed.

    There's a philosophical reason for drag-and-drop problems between Gnome and KDE? For those of us who don't live in SoCal, could you tell us what it is?

  • SUNDANCE! (Score:2, Informative)

    by RumGunner (457733)
    Revolution OS has been playing for over a month, on and off on the Sundance Channel. Set your TiVo tonight, and you'll be set!
  • Sundance channel showed this a few times (thank god for Tivo).

    I thought that it was okay overall, but that it suffered a bit from the "preaching to the choir" syndrome. The best example: when they read Bill Gates' "Open Letter to Hobbyists" and they have the reader read increasingly fast and in a high pitched voice.

    Open Source has good enough answers to the issues raised in the "Open Letter to Hobbyists" that it really wasn't necessary to "fix the fight" by making Bill Gates sound like a hyperactive chipmunk.

    Eric Raymond's "I'm your worst nightmare" anecdote about encountering Bill Mundie in the elevator also hit a sour note. I've heard Eric speak, and he is a very thoughtful speaker. But the way this anecdote was presented out of context made him sound pretty childish. Fortunately, he gets some good air time later in the movie.
  • This is email I got from the filmmaker:

    From: "J.T.S. Moore"

    The key is to make the local arthouse theaters aware of the number of people passionate about Linux. Most arthouse theater bookers are not really conscious of the Open Source movement. If people do try to lobby their local arthouse theater, tell them the distributor is Seventh Art Releasing in Los Angeles.

    Also, people interested in screenings can also e-mail info@revolution-os.com. I cannot promise that the distributor will be able to set up anything, but any feedback helps. At some point in the near future, I hope to make the film available on videotape for LUGs to screen it at their meetings.

    Sincerely,

    J.T.S. Moore
  • by Goody (23843) on Friday April 19, 2002 @11:59AM (#3373938) Journal
    Two geeks create a community-based discussion website that turns into a militant geek site monster that goes out of control. The geeks try to take back control with underhanded moderation and editorial tactics. The movie ends with the site being drowned out with advertisements and the geeks fired from their own company.

    Don't forget about THGSB !
    • Two geeks create a community-based discussion website that turns into a militant geek site monster that goes out of control.

      Yes, yes, a monster that feeds on massive bandwidth, huge servers and is able to use a death ray to obliterate other websites!! I like it!

      The geeks try to take back control with underhanded moderation and editorial tactics.

      So it's like "Pirates of Silicon Valley", too? With a Godzilla like monster? Where are you going with this?

      The movie ends with the site being drowned out with advertisements and the geeks fired from their own company

      ...and a troll known as Goody modded down to -1 :-P

      Don't forget about THGSB !

      Hunh? THGSB? This Has Gone South, Buddy? You got me with that one...

      You're a lousy script writer, director and producer, bub. Two big thumbs way down.

      Soko
  • by dant (25668)
    But the Stallman vs. Raymond/Perens debate forms the core of the movie.

    Huh? That was in there, sure, but I definitely would not call it the core of the movie.

    To me, it was about explaining how Linux came to be, what makes it different from proprietary software, and why the people that build it are willing to 'give away' their code.

    And it does that fairly well, I think. For most of us, it's nothing we didn't already know, but I think it can go a long way to educating non-geeks about what's different and why we care.

    The only problem I had with it was that it ended with the hi-tech market collapse and kind of implied that that was somehow the end of Linux. Those same non-geeks who would be informed by the first 90% of the movie could be seriously mislead by the last 10%.

  • I thought they were talking about some Chinese GNU/Linux distro for like the first half of the article...
  • oh come on (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Apostata (390629)
    What a bloated, shamelessly self-interested plug. No one outside of Linux-weenies and unwilling video archivists are going to see this film. Why? Because it's not interesting to anybody but the most devouted "me too" open-source enthusiast.

    There must be some confusion (or delusion) about Linux and open-source these days: nobody outside of the "movement" is interested in Stallman (outside of his writing) or Torvalds (outside of his kernel work) or anyone else for that matter.

    Why? Because it's bloody software we're talking about here! And although, granted, the philosophy behind the propogation of this software can be interesting, it's clearly not something anyone who isn't part of a LUG is going to be remotely interested in.

    When Linux actually gains a reasonable hold of the desktop...when average citizens really take an interest in it (outside of civilian hobbyists), then you can make all the back-patting, iconoclastic documentaries you want.

    Man, and I thought Jon Katz was a drip...
    • Because it's not interesting to anybody but the most devouted "me too" open-source enthusiast.

      I'm not a devoted "me too" open-source enthusiast. I'm a devoted "me too" free software enthusiast, thank you.



    • Why? Because it's bloody software we're talking about here! And although, granted, the philosophy behind the propogation of this software can be interesting, it's clearly not something anyone who isn't part of a LUG is going to be remotely interested in.


      Its just software. Its just computers. Its just a world-spanning network available to an unprecidented number of individuals.


      And the printing press was just a machine.


      To some people, a tool is just a tool. Even those in the business of making tools sometimes see them as simple end products. Something generated to, in turn, generate income.


      Others realize the impact these tools can have on a society. They recognize that a tool becomes a vehicle of change. And because of that change, the tool in turn wields a greater degree of power, and requires a higher degree of respect than just an object that generates cash flow.


      Open Source and Free Software may be about technology. But they are also about the social aspects of that technology.


      And before one dismisses this as some political ideology, that social aspect also affects business. How much of your corporate infrastructure is dependant on a single vendor and their marketing strategy?


      Are the leaders of these movements obscure to the general public? Sure. But that does not mean the movement, and the ideas of these leaders, are not worthy of documentation. And it certainly doesn't mean the movements themselves have no value outside of hobbiests and the enthusiast.

    • There must be some confusion (or delusion) about Linux and open-source these days: nobody outside of the "movement" is interested in Stallman (outside of his writing) or Torvalds (outside of his kernel work) or anyone else for that matter.

      So why are you here? No interest, move on. Didn't you mom teach you, "If you don't have something good to say, don't say anything."?

      Most of us are here because we do care. Stallman and friends care a great deal for our rights. As Thomas Jefferson noted, most honest people are too concerned with the details of their daily lives to be consider larger issues. Every now and then you find someone like RMS willing to quit their job for principles. Occasionally, they suceed. Free software and the four software freedoms will touch everyone just as the Bill of Rights did. Certianly, more of us can name more of both documents than your "average citizen".

      It is sad to see that the story is not well told, but it is good that it was captured at all. This is typical of history. Change, especially of ideas, is often slow even inperceptible. When the revolution is over people look around and wonder how anyone could have thought differently. Here, in this film, we have the movers themselves, their words and expressions captured. That's nice for someone like me who will never get a chance to see any of them personally. Linux and other free software will dominate the desktop. People will wonder how anyone ever put up with computers that worked so poorly, cost so much and continuously forced people to redo their work. Licenses that forced the usage of certian software and prohibited critcism under penalty of revocation will bring blank stares. The average citizens will eventually chose or be given free software because it works better. Already, they know things are not as they should be. When the answer is put before them it will be clear, as it was for all of us. They will then be interested in who had such great ideas to begin with. Someone will be able to take this and stick key pieces into a larger documentary that includes insanity like the DCMA, Disney, M$ and Hollings.

    • "What a bloated, shamelessly self-interested plug. No one outside of Linux-weenies and unwilling video archivists are going to see this film. Why? Because it's not interesting to anybody but the most devouted "me too" open-source enthusiast."

      So? What's wrong with that. Oh! A movie has a target audience, big deal.

      Man, and I thought Jon Katz was a drip...
    • You know, I was prepared to write a very articulate response to some of the negativity resulting from my original comment, but after reading the last few, the only thing I can think of is this: go fuck yourselves.

      If you don't like/understand dissenting opinion, then you don't even understand what a revolution is in the first place.
  • This is a really funny synopsis...

    Revolution OS is an historical document about the free software movement, which renamed itself open software and was able to raise a lot of money from investors who believed there was a difference. The main beneficiary, VA Linux Inc, had a spectacular IPO (its stock jumped from 30 to 250 on opening day and its CEO exclaims that he can't believe this is happening. It didn't really. As the closing credits start to roll, we find that the stock subsequently dropped to 2 and that VA Linux (now VA Software) has quit the Linux business. It would have been interesting to have watched their slide down, but the film makers apparently ran out of money too.
  • seen it on cable (Score:3, Interesting)

    by josepha48 (13953) on Friday April 19, 2002 @12:59PM (#3374375) Journal
    I have seen it on cable already twice. It was actually pretty interesting to find out some things. Like the letter Billy Gates sent to the FSF (before teh FSF was the FSF) about how giving the source code away was a bad idea and that noone could make money off of that kind of software model. I wonder how Billy think RH is doing now with that kind of model.

    Also it was intersting to hear the interviews with RMS, BP, and ESR as well as Linus Torvalds.

    It was also interesting that they were working on a kernel of their own, I guess the Hurd in about 1985, when Linus released his first kernel in 1991 or so. I may be off by a few years in the dates, it was a movie after all.

    They even mentioned why their kernel took so long. They mentioned some of the issues with the microkernel and message passing. Also how the message passing was hard to manage.

    For anyone who is interesed in Linux, BSD or open source of any kind, it is a good documentary.

  • I'm glad this movie will be screened in Newport Beach! There is no greater concentration of semi-powerful corporate drones anywhere in the world, who really need this kind of education. These people are smart, and appreciative of the kind of advantages Linux offers, but too caught up in the mess to see the light. This will help, even if it's just a little.
  • Linux users who wonder why drag-and-drop doesn't always work between applications may find themselves treated to a lengthy philosophical discourse on the difference between Gnome and KDE -- a difference they may not have known existed.

    Ya know, there is a perfectly good model, that does not require a huge fscking 'environment' that is easily implementable in EVERY X program. There is also a very cool other protocol, XDS, that allows you to drag files FROM an application to your filesystem. NEITHER of these require the bloat that is KDE and Gnome (more KDE than gnome).

    WTF don't these environments just use THAT elegant standard?!?

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