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GNU is Not Unix News

What's Wrong with the Open Source Community? 751

Posted by Hemos
from the time-to-beat-outselves-up dept.
An anonymous reader writes "We Have Met The Enemy and He Is Us says a Pogo-quoting James Turner, in trying to pinpoint "What's Wrong with the Open Source Community?" for LinuxWorld this morning. But he doesn't *just* say that it's we developers ourselves, he also has five hard-to-deny reasons, including 'Open source developers often scratch the same itch' and 'Open Source developers love a good feud.' He also suggests we often approach the whole issue of encouraging migration to Linux from Windows entirely wrongly." There's also a decent rebuttal with this story as well - worth reading.
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What's Wrong with the Open Source Community?

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  • by carpe_noctem (457178) on Monday December 01, 2003 @12:46PM (#7599621) Homepage Journal
    showering, maybe?
    • or the lack of , maybe ?
    • Guess who? (Score:3, Funny)

      by Dogtanian (588974)
      showering, maybe?

      Yeah, here's a description of one particularly fanatical 'open-source supporter' (from PBS [pbs.org]).

      "If he was busy he didn't bathe, he didn't change clothes. We were in New York and the demo that we had crashed the evening before the announcement, and Bill worked all night with some other engineers to fix it. Well it didn't occur to him to take ten minutes for a shower after that, it just didn't occur to him that that was important, and he badly needed a shower that day."

      Please step forwar
  • by Pingular (670773) on Monday December 01, 2003 @12:47PM (#7599628)
    They're not being paid.
    • I'm getting paid (Score:5, Informative)

      by Per Abrahamsen (1397) on Monday December 01, 2003 @01:23PM (#7600065) Homepage
      I write free software for a living, and I'm getting paid. I'm writing an application for a vertical market (i.e. a market with very few customers). They pay me to provide the functionality they need, and they don't care about the license.

      In the other end, the horizontal market, people are getting paid as well. The Linux kernel, Mozilla, and Open Office are primarily developed by people getting paid to do so.

      And in-between these two extremes, people are getting paid as well. Samba, Apache, GCC, GDB and other popular network and development applications are primarily being developed by people getting paid to do so.

      It is true that most free software applications, if you count them on sourceforge, are developed by amateurs in their spare time. But most of these applications have very few users as well.

      Most of the free software most people use are developed by people getting paid to do so.
      • by surprise_audit (575743) on Monday December 01, 2003 @03:25PM (#7601409)
        Most of the free software most people use are developed by people getting paid to do so.

        Would it be accurate to say that most of the people being paid to develop the popular apps didn't start that way? I mean, didn't these folks start writing the apps in their spare time with no backing specifically for the apps, and then the apps got popular, so they got funding (doesn't matter how) to continue the development? If that's the case, the "amateur" programmers writing those apps on Sourceforge with few users could one day find themselves with a user base to match Apache, Samba, GCC, etc. And a regular paycheck too...

    • They're not being paid.

      I'm a part time software developer (and full time University student) and I can tell you that I have made much more money associated with my free/open source software than I have with my generic Windows shareware. Most of the money has resulted from custom modifications for organizations that started by using the free software. I am also developing several new projects, for which I plan on fundraising through sales of the open source software (yes, you can sell free software [fsf.org]) as

  • Much to learn. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 01, 2003 @12:47PM (#7599629)

    There is nothing inherently wrong with the Open Source movement.

    Think back to when Chiang Kai-Shek took over China: before that no one worked, everyone was poor, morale was nonexistent. Under the benevolent dictator, a term used to describe Linus Torvalds, Kai-Shek ensured that everyone worked, and everyone had a purpose.

    Within a few short years China was a world power.

    With an identical structure, the Open Source leaders ensure a good pool of talent. Millions of identical workers producing code. There's no way the current method of the Cigar-smoking boss standing on the backs of the coders can continue. Chiang Kai-Shek died in 1975 but his methods and teachings continue to this day in China.

    Open Source could learn a lot from him.


    c39052b261506f846895cac6e0724290
    • Re:Much to learn. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Ubergrendle (531719) on Monday December 01, 2003 @12:57PM (#7599757) Journal
      Wasn't he overthrown after about 20 years by Chairman Mao? Bad analogy for Open Source if you're optimistic for a future for the movement...
    • Re:Much to learn. (Score:4, Informative)

      by Greger47 (516305) on Monday December 01, 2003 @01:24PM (#7600078)
      What's often forgotten is that the Kuomintang party (of which Chiang Kai-Shek was leader 1925-1975) was actually founded on democratic principles and the party was elected to power in China.

      Elections were also held while Kuomintang was in power on the mainland.

      It wasn't untill civil war started and they got chucked out by the communists that things degraded to a good old 1 party dictatorship on Taiwan.

      (I'm ofcourse painting things a bit rosy but the democracy in China was above average measured by the political standards of 1910-1920.)
    • Re: Troll (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 01, 2003 @01:59PM (#7600486)
      Troll!

      Think back to when Chiang Kai-Shek took over China: before that no one worked, everyone was poor, morale was nonexistent.

      True, but -- then again -- no one worked, everyone was poor, and morale was nonexistent _while_ Chiang Kai-Shek ruled China and _after_ he got kicked out. If China has changed, it's only been in the past few decades -- thanks largely to peace and a moderate Communist regime.

      Under the benevolent dictator, a term used to describe Linus Torvalds,

      Some would describe Chiang Kai-Shek as "an incompetent dictator who permitted graft and corruption among his subordinates; a fool who handed the world's largest country to Communists at the start of the cold war." I haven't heard similar descriptions of Linus Torvalds. (In fairness, Torvalds has a much easier job than Chiang Kai-Shek.)

      Within a few short years China was a world power.

      China has been a world power for thousands of years. It reached a low point in the 19th and 20th centuries.

      Chiang Kai-Shek died in 1975 but his methods and teachings continue to this day in China.

      No, they don't.
    • Re:Much to learn. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by PincheGab (640283)
      There is nothing inherently wrong with the Open Source movement

      There's nothing wrong with socialism and communism either, as long as you speak "in theory." While you can find something wrong with anything if you look with a critical eye, I don't think OSS is at all close to perfect or optimal:

      RMS pounces on anyone who does not both kiss his ass (his demand is that his contribution be acknowledged, see the GNU/Linux vs Linux/GNU vs Linux arguments) *and* sponsor his own personal choice method for open sou

      • Re:Much to learn. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by cmacb (547347) on Monday December 01, 2003 @03:32PM (#7601485) Homepage Journal
        "There's nothing wrong with socialism and communism either, as long as you speak "in theory." While you can find something wrong with anything if you look with a critical eye, I don't think OSS is at all close to perfect or optimal:

        RMS pounces on anyone who does not both kiss his ass (his demand is that his contribution be acknowledged, see the GNU/Linux vs Linux/GNU vs Linux arguments) *and* sponsor his own personal choice method for open source (ie, use the license he prefers)."


        I think the rebuttal article did a fairly good job of countering the 5 issues, but an argument already having been made has never stopped me before...

        I get particularly tired of people's need to compare open source with some sort of political movement, ANY of them. RMS may have socialist views personally, but there are many capitalists in the open source movement as well. There are also large numbers of Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians, meat eaters, vegetarians, doctors and Christian Scientists.

        Open source probably would not exist in a tightly control economy. The government would eventually choose an "official" operating system and demand that everyone use it or have their computers confiscated.

        And finally I like to remind people that open source existed before it had a name. Computers used in universities and research environments for as long as there has been computing were largely programmed and tinkered with by people at those institutions. Even IBM computers where I went to school had modified operating systems. Source code was readily available from IBM and there were publications used for exchanging those modifications as well as the likelihood that some of them would show up in future versions of the OS. Until Microsoft came along in fact operating systems were secondary to the hardware that they supported. While IBM wasn't thrilled if you ran a non-IBM OS on their equipment they would much rather have that happen than to have you run non-IBM hardware.

        Given all of that, it is really not the Open Source movement that is odd, it is in fact Microsoft that is worthy of study for it produces almost no physical products and has continued to charge premium prices for software that has long ago left the R&D stage. I don't think that historians will marvel at the emergence of Open Source in our time, I think they will marvel that a single company was able to so effectively suppress that which comes fairly naturally to people: the desire to explore and understand for such a long period of time. I think that period is nearing its end however. For those who grew up in the "Microsoft age" its ending must surely seem odd.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 01, 2003 @12:47PM (#7599636)
    is entirely wrong.
  • by Ars-Fartsica (166957) on Monday December 01, 2003 @12:47PM (#7599637)
    What this author is really doing is digging up some nitpicks and embellishing them as signs of the end.

    How do you know that the same feuds and itch scratching don't happen at Sun or Microsoft? They certainly do, but you don't know this because your only interface to the firm is a PR rep. I like the transparency of the open source community. I want to see the debates and bickering take place in public, where maybe just maybe I can provide some input.

    • by YU Nicks NE Way (129084) on Monday December 01, 2003 @12:59PM (#7599796)
      Why do you care if Sun or Microsoft have turf battles? Does it make open source any stronger that we have political battles at MS? What he's saying is that your political battles get in the way of your productivity (and they do), and that their visiblity hurts you (and it does). Whether that's more true of open source or closed source does not matter.

      When he talks about each of the complaints he's got, he's not talking about competing with Microsoft, or Sun, or SGI -- he's talking about problems with the community itself. You're the one who turned his observation into a negative comment about FOSS compared to closed source. He's talking about things to fix, and you want to turn it into things to compete about. Look at his point 5, and tell me that doesn't apply to your reaction.
      • by chmod u+s (211367) on Monday December 01, 2003 @03:05PM (#7601199) Journal
        What he's saying is that your political battles get in the way of your productivity (and they do), and that their visiblity hurts you (and it does).

        Admittedly I digress from your whistle-blowing about point 5, however, who is to say that these feuds don't *help* the community? If the developers didn't care enough to put their ego/self worth/zealotry on the line then we could very well end up with poorly written or mediocre solutions that nobody cared enough to fight about. You cannot (with a straight face) tell me that the bitter rivalries over vi and emacs, kde and gnome, linux and *bsd have not filled the pipes of many an oss hacker.

        Speaking as a developer, I know I perform my best, cross all i's and dot all t's when it is my opinion, reputation, and/or self worth that is at stake. What he touts as a failure should be lauded as the competetive incentive that it is. If this is in the counterpoint, you will have to forgive me - the counterpoint was slashdotted by the time I got to it.

        • however, who is to say that these feuds don't *help* the community?

          Yep, you're right. At least for the early stages of any project. There should be several competing products, and as they mature, the size of the user base will determine which product deserves to survive. Note that I'm not saying that the "better" product should survive, merely that the one people want to use should survive. One or more of the failures could be technically better, but less user-friendly, for example. Forks should hap

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 01, 2003 @01:05PM (#7599856)
      > How do you know that the same feuds and itch scratching
      > don't happen at Sun or Microsoft?

      Have you compared the number of products for specific tasks?

      Microsoft: Internet Explorer
      Open Source: Mozilla, Galeon, Konqueror, ...

      Microsoft: Media Player
      Open Source: Mplayer, XMMS, Xine, ...

      Microsoft: Word (and to a lesser extent, Works Writer)
      Open Source: OpenOffice Writer, AbiWord, KOffice, ...

      I'd have to say the "itch" argument is pretty accurate.
      • by Ars-Fartsica (166957) on Monday December 01, 2003 @01:11PM (#7599939)
        Microsoft: Internet Explorer Open Source: Mozilla, Galeon, Konqueror, ...

        Uh, because "open source" is not a company, it is a community, in the same sense that Windows developers are a community (for which multiple browsers also exist...Opera etc).

        Microsoft: Media Player Open Source: Mplayer, XMMS, Xine, ...

        But increasingly the GNOME world at least is using Gstreamer as a backend. If someone wants to code up yet-another GUI for Gstreamer, go nuts.

      • by Trigun (685027) <evilNO@SPAMevilempire.ath.cx> on Monday December 01, 2003 @01:13PM (#7599952)
        Microsoft: Media Player, Real Player, Apple Quicktime, ...

        Open Source: Mplayer, XMMS, Xine, ...

        Microsoft: Internet Explorer, Netscape, Opera, ...
        Open Source: Mozilla, Galeon, Konqueror, ...

        Microsoft: Word (and to a lesser extent, Works Writer), OpenOffice, WordPerfect, ...
        Open Source: OpenOffice Writer, AbiWord, KOffice, ...

        There's shitloads of products for both platforms. Unless you want to talk companies, then even in the linux world, it's a one to one relation, one to two for some some projects if you want to count Open Source and Proprietary offerings.
        • by blahlemon (638963) on Monday December 01, 2003 @02:34PM (#7600851)
          The AC who posted before me is a bit of a jackass him/her self considering Open Source isn't a company like Microsoft but rather a coding philosopy, but I digress.

          I don't see why people see abundance of choice as a bad thing. The problem with the computer industry isn't too much choice. The problem is a lack of enforced standards. If the encoding of all documents was equal then the various products could battle it out on a level play field.

          Look at the automotive industry, can you imagine if all the cars ran on gasoline but Chevy's needed one brand of gas and Ford needed another brand of gas and so on? You would have to carefully plan your trips to make sure the right gas stations were at the right locations so you could get you specific brand of gas. This would lead to a lack of competition among gas companies (what competition there is now) and more outrageous prices without any method of check to see if the cost is justified.

          Kinda like software companies are now. Lets face it, if Microsoft knows it's probably going to sell X number of copied of Office, plus OEM packages and so on, why do they need to charge in excess of $400 for the professional version? You really think it's worth that much money.

    • by wo1verin3 (473094) on Monday December 01, 2003 @01:07PM (#7599889) Homepage
      I'm at a medium sized software company now, and if the customers knew of the arguments and disagrements between execs, marketing, engineering, support, etc they'd be amused. Seldomly do any of them have the same ideas or agree on the same thing.
    • I like the transparency of the open source community.

      I'm sure you do, as well as many other people. But I think this is a minor group compared to the amount of people that just want someone to tell them App-X or Software-Y can solve their problems. I think OSS sorely misses that...a PR Rep to tell everyone "Yes, this will solve your problems. Look at this pretty presentation!" It may not be the most moral way of attracting customers, but it does work. Never underestimate the value that flash and p
    • They may have the same itch, and a few separate attempts at scratching it might be attempted, but in the end, Windows doesn't come with 15 different GUIs.

      Some level of quality control (I know, MS, quality control, har har), is exercised, and the weaker attempts get canned and their developers end up working on the stronger ones.

      In open source, the weaker attempts languish on, while the stronger attempts could sure use the extra effort to make them better.

  • by dereklam (621517) on Monday December 01, 2003 @12:47PM (#7599639)
    We slashdot each other's sites!
  • by shystershep (643874) * <[bdshepherd] [at] [gmail.com]> on Monday December 01, 2003 @12:48PM (#7599645) Homepage Journal
    the biggest problem that the Open Source community faces in taking Open Source to the next level is . . . the immaturity and insecurity of some of the members of the community.

    I obviously cannot vouch for the maturity and security level of everyone in the Open Source community, but I disagree with this conclusion. The partisanship and the sometimes irrational emotional responses are a problem (maybe the problem) with Open Source, but are not the result of "immaturity" or "insecurity." They are a natural human reaction to perceived attacks on X, where X is something into which a great deal of time/work/hope has been invested.

    I agree that the community could advance more rapidly without all of the competing distributions, standards, etc., but that very same diversity is what gives Open Source its strength. The redundancy may slow things in some ways, but it helps guarantee that -- when the standards are winnowed down -- the strongest and best survive. Calling the members of the community "immature" and "insecure" is mere name-calling that is more likely to induce the exact emotional responses the author laments rather than the needed calm, rational debate on this important issue.

    • by Frymaster (171343) on Monday December 01, 2003 @12:55PM (#7599732) Homepage Journal
      the biggest problem that the Open Source community faces in taking Open Source to the next level is . . . the immaturity and insecurity of some of the members of the community.

      ballmer screams "developers! developers!" like a cocaine-feulled monkey. steve jobs is well known for his temper tantrums and "reality distortion field". darl and the sco crew are running around like paranoid schizophrenics with delusions of grandeur (or even just plain adequacy)...

      and the open source people are "immature and insecure"?

      • the immaturity and insecurity of some of the members of the community.

        There are CEOs like that.

        Among the failed dot-coms, there are quite a number of CEOs like that.

      • It is quite possible for the open source community to be quite immature, yet still more mature than Ballmer, Jobs or Darl.

    • by no reason to be here (218628) on Monday December 01, 2003 @01:03PM (#7599840) Homepage
      They are a natural human reaction to perceived attacks on X, where X is something into which a great deal of time/work/hope has been invested.

      It's not just X, either, but also emacs, KDE, Gnome...
    • Oppositional Logic (Score:5, Insightful)

      by yintercept (517362) on Monday December 01, 2003 @01:27PM (#7600105) Homepage Journal
      BSD vs Linux. Gnome vs KDE. Debian vs Red Hat. For every interesting Open Source technology, there are two bitterly feuding camps that spend as much time taking potshots at each other as in improving their own products.

      It seems to me that a problem with a large number of movements is that they are based first and foremost on an oppositional logic and rhetoric. Rather than simply providing a model for open debate and getting things done, the oppositional rhetoric gives us infighting and great wars about the composition of naval lint and the direction of the great social revolution.

      Of course, this is just a problem in OSS, it seems to be occuring just about everywhere. People are subdividing into camps based on whatever thesis/antithesis group the rant about, and are gradually losing the ability to community with the rest of the world.

      • This kind of competeition is acutally good. The more 'variation in population' the more choices you have to 'select for' the best workings. You can run KDE on redhat if you want, or Ximian on Debian. Relax. Choice = good. This makes the darwinian evolution of OSS happen at an accellerated pace. Where's the problem again?
  • blah blah (Score:3, Insightful)

    by XO (250276) <blade DOT eric AT gmail DOT com> on Monday December 01, 2003 @12:49PM (#7599665) Homepage Journal
    Well, one of the things that is definitely wrong, is that if you go into an IRC channel for any non main-stream OS (os/2, linux, mac, etc) and ask a question, you're going to get beaten up by assholes.

    case in point, i just logged into the #debian channel on freenode, and asked why the package servers hadn't updated in several days.. at least 15 people got really nasty, ranging from "read the fucking channel topic" to some very nasty insults. Strangely enough, the channel topic had absolutely nothing to talk about the package servers, and the link in the topic was broken.

    • Re:blah blah (Score:5, Informative)

      by JofCoRe (315438) on Monday December 01, 2003 @12:53PM (#7599717) Journal
      is that if you go into an IRC channel for any non main-stream OS (os/2, linux, mac, etc) and ask a question, you're going to get beaten up by assholes

      Uhhh.... I think that's just IRC, dude. :)
    • No... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by autechre (121980) on Monday December 01, 2003 @01:06PM (#7599877) Homepage
      I didn't get flamed when I went into #debian and asked a bunch of questions. Neither did anyone else that came in while I was there, and I sat on the channel for several days.

      Perhaps the problem has more to do with your question. The Debian server compromise has been "all over the news", which I believe is why the package servers haven't been updated. It's reasonable to assume that people in #debian might have assumed you knew about the compromise, and they might have been a bit sensitive about it.

      Also, you didn't mention /msg'ing the "apt" bot for news before asking your question, as (IIRC) the welcome message to the server asks you to do. Did you do this? And did the channel topic say something about the break-in, but you were unable to connect it to the servers not being updated?

      Now, I happen to think that Eric Raymond is a jerk, and wrong about a great many things, but he and Rick Moen wrote an essay on how to ask questions that should be required reading for pretty much anyone, and can easily be applied to fields other than computers. My father is a mechanic, and his job and mine have amazing parallels.

      http://www.catb.org/~esr/faqs/smart-questions.ht ml

      Our LUG has a mailing list, and I've been on it for about 6 years now. I've rarely seen anyone flamed, even for asking really basic questions. One person in particular did ask several basic questions in a row, and was eventually pointed to the above document by several list members. Sadly, he decided to be an ass about it, and some flames were exchanged, but that's the only problem I can remember.

      • Re:No... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by sisukapalli1 (471175) on Monday December 01, 2003 @01:50PM (#7600358)
        Just to give a perspective, I once went through a linux kernel mailing list archive on google. It was about "using goto." It would be hard to believe, but most of the people, many experts, including Linus himself, patiently answered the questions of a newbie.

        In fact, it was the newbie who was pretty rude -- often saying things like, "so and so book says goto's should never be used, so we shouldn't have them in the kernel. Why don't you guys fix it?"

        People gave very detailed examples and their explanations makes for very interesting reading.

        Now, in a commercial setting, one would often find some manager smiling and saying, "yes, you are right" and change the topic, or sometimes, almost rudely ask for a change in topic. For a casual person, it might seem that the manager is really polished and sophisticated, though it is far from the truth.

        S
    • Re:blah blah (Score:4, Informative)

      by damiam (409504) on Monday December 01, 2003 @01:07PM (#7599890)
      The current topic on #debian begins with

      Compromised machine info: http://lists.debian.org/debian-devel-announce/2003 /debian-devel-announce-200311/msg00012.html || Down: gluck (people, packages.d.o); || more info at http://www.wiggy.net/debian/

      While lists.debian.org is down, a little bit of digging would have given you the Google cache [216.239.37.104]. Also, it says right there that packages.debian.org is down. How much clearer can it get? I agree, it'd be better if someone had explained the situation instead of flaming, but the information was right there.

  • by IGnatius T Foobar (4328) on Monday December 01, 2003 @12:50PM (#7599674) Homepage Journal
    Before clicking through, you should know about a little bit of background information.

    Check this Linux Today article [linuxtoday.com]. James Turner wrote an article about how Linux is DOA on the desktop because it was missing two drivers he needed for his laptop. He was scathing and he basically baited the readers into giving him the takedown he deserved (and possibly was expecting, if as is suspected he was just trolling for clicks).

    In response, he announced that he was going to use this as justification for another clickbait article about how immature the Linux community is. The article in question is the new one which this Slashdot story is about.

    So don't expect any substance here. This is as much about taunting Linux users for clicks as any piece by Rob Enderle or Jesse Berst -- it's merely that this time, we have someone who writes for a supposedly pro-Linux publication stooping to this level.
    • Basically, this is a distortion of the original article. I'd encourage people to read the whole thing here [linuxworld.com].

      I may not entirely agree with a few assertions in the article, but arguing that the difficulty involved in getting an off the shelf laptop to fully support linux (dvd player and all) harms widespread consumer accceptance of the OS is not an unreasonable assertion.

    • by jdkincad (576359) <insane.cellist@gmail.com> on Monday December 01, 2003 @01:35PM (#7600194)
      from the article IGnatius linked:
      The front DVD-wise was even worse. The distribution I was playing with, like most, took the safe route and supplied a version of the Xine DVD player that doesn't include the DMCA-violating dvdcss libraries. This means that all it's good for is playing unencrypted DVDs, like the Bar Mitzvah video your uncle Charlie gave you, but definitely not "Charlie's Angels II."

      Sign of a Troll #1,203: Critizing people for obeying the law.
  • value freedom (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ciaran_o_riordan (662132) on Monday December 01, 2003 @12:51PM (#7599678) Homepage
    If we view Free Software only as a convenience, we won't progress. Sometimes it takes a lot of effort to develop a Free Software package, or to migrate a system to use Free Software. It makes no sense to put a lot of effort into seeking a convenience.

    Idealism is a more long term motivator, and it's not unjustified when the focus of the idealism has already proved to be very practical.

    This is party highlighted by the OpenSource Vs. Free Software terminology [compsoc.com], but we are not enemies, it's just a choice of where you put the emphasis.

  • Too negative... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Fnkmaster (89084) * on Monday December 01, 2003 @12:51PM (#7599683)
    Most of these problems are economic outgrowths of the fact that most Open Source developers write code for kudos, not bucks. The only way to change this would be to change the incentive system, roll in more capitalism to the process, or come up with ways other than dollars to align large numbers of developers interests in the same direction. Frankly, I'm doubtful about the prospect - the beautiful thing about Open Source is that there will always be more projects as there are more itches to scratch and people will always fight and bicker about which is best. I think the general public will become more aware of this over time and more understanding that this process generally creates good, useful software, and I think the community of Open Source developers has become and will continue to become more aware that adoption of their products depends on being considerate of UI design and usability issues from the outset, not just throwing them on as afterthoughts. More and more Open Source projects seem to be producing fairly usable software these days, not just software that works well if you can navigate a million command-line options like we saw a lot a couple of years back.


    As for the big complaint about the Microsoft shoulder-chip, I agree. Anti-Windows fanaticism is just unpleasant to hear. The point the author makes is valid - many users don't have any love for Windows either, but don't have the level of dedication to hating Microsoft that they are willing to spend hours, weeks or months futzing with their hardware and peripherals getting them to work in Linux, or learning new applications. Developers should redouble their efforts and their committment to making ease-of-use, hardware compatibility, short learning curves, and usable GUIs key elements of major Open Source projects.

    • His current article is a follow-up to a previous article about Linux NOT being ready for the desktop because it didn't work with his 802.11g card and wouldn't play DVD's "out of the box".

      http://www.linuxworld.com/story/38038.htm

      In that article, his solution was to award "kudos" (as you noted) for fixing the "problems" he claimed that rendered Linux "dead" on the desktop.

      I believe that the real solution is to only purchase products from vendors that support Linux.

      As for developers focusing on other aspec
  • Itch scratching... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hayzeus (596826) on Monday December 01, 2003 @12:51PM (#7599685) Homepage
    His points on "Itch scratching" are well-taken. However, this is not ever likely to change when developers are unpaid volunteers. The simple fact of the matter is that people working for free will ALWAYS be inclined to work on stuff they're interested in. I'm not convinced this is an entirely bad thing as it tends to avoid monoculture, at least in these popular areas. For instance, I LIKE having a number of mail systems to choose from. This is a good thing.
  • My Take on Things- (Score:3, Insightful)

    by IWantMoreSpamPlease (571972) on Monday December 01, 2003 @12:52PM (#7599704) Homepage Journal
    I've been trying to like Linux (and hece the OS community) since 6.1 days and I keep running across the same old tired issues that prevent me from getting anywhere.

    There are, in no order:

    (1) Documentation. I get far too many RTFM when the FM was written for software that is 3 versions old.

    (2) 404s or links to other links which ultimately end up as 404s on web-based FM.

    (3) Tired old sayings such as "Try another distro" (I have a stack of 20 odd distros burned onto CD, everything from the big players, down to things like ArkLinux and Icepak Linux) which obviously doesn't help in any way shape or form.

    (4) The attitude of *nix users. When I was making the switch away from windows, I had two choices, *nix or BeOS. The Be community was (and continues to be this very day) more supportive, helpful ,patient, and understanding than the *nix folks I ran across. Hence I stick with BeOS, because when I run into issues, I know where I can turn and not get attitude and flame-fests.

    (5) The old re-inventing the wheel. You know gang, instead of slavishly coping MS, why not try being different?
  • by nurb432 (527695) on Monday December 01, 2003 @12:53PM (#7599712) Homepage Journal
    I agree totally, too many people try to reinvent the same damned things, just because 'I want it a different color'.

    Users only need one wheel, or they are overwhelmed.. Choice IS a bad thing in some cases..

    Until there is more unity we are stuck in a rut.
  • Compared to what? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bstadil (7110) on Monday December 01, 2003 @12:54PM (#7599721) Homepage
    What nonsense. Anyone that works inside a major corporation can attest to much bigger Freuds going on inside those, but they are not (or rarely) done in public.

    Take HP as an example. What do you think some of the Alpha / True64 guys have conjured up against the Itanium/ Microsoft camp and conversely. That should give you a picture of main stream corporate infighting.

    Inside corportions peoples job's are at stake and they fight hard and nasty.

    Open source is a polite debating society in comparison.

  • DVD's? (Score:5, Informative)

    by IshanCaspian (625325) on Monday December 01, 2003 @12:54PM (#7599723) Homepage
    The author should stop griping about the difficulties of playing DVD's, because the MPAA has not allowed linux users a free, legal way to play dvd's. DeCSS, which is what most dvd-playing software is based upon, is illegal in the US. The author loses a lot of credibility by not having his facts straight....he looks like a damn n00b.
    • Re:DVD's? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Kenja (541830)
      Any group is able to buy a license and make a US legal Linux DVD player and sell it for a small fee. Of course it wont be GPLd so it will be shuned by closed minded Linux zellots who then will go back to bitching about the lack of a DVD player.

      And this is of course the main problem with the Open Source movment IMHO. People dont set "the software works" as the number one priority. Its "The software is Open" first with working being down around "has a cool splash screen" and "has a name starting in K or G".

    • Re:DVD's? (Score:3, Informative)

      by ksw2 (520093)
      It's actually based on libdvdcss, which has nothing to do with DeCSS (other than the fact it cracks CSS keys.)
    • Well... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bonch (38532)
      Does it change the fact that DVD playback in Linux is a difficulty?

      No. Then his point is valid. End users don't care about legal reasons, they care about results.
  • by pb (1020) on Monday December 01, 2003 @12:54PM (#7599728)
    Uh-oh... did linuxworld need to increase its ad impressions?

    Seriously, you can't expect to start a reasonable discussion by spouting as many half-assed examples as you can think of, and then not backing any of it up with either facts or history. Although some of your points have a grain of truth in them here and there, your blind assertions do not help your case.

    First, let us assume that many developers do "scratch the same itch"... why do they do it? Well, generally it's because there's something about the other solutions that are already out there that doesn't meet their needs. Sometimes it's a licensing issue, sometimes two projects spring up at the same time.

    Starting with "sound systems"... the two main ones we have now are OSS and alsa. Originally OSS had two different versions--free and non-free. The free version included in the kernel had iffy support for some cards, and comparatively few people purchased or used the non-free version. Then alsa was born (originally just for better Gravis Ultrasound support!), and it will be replacing OSS in the kernel. What's this? Consolidation of sound systems? Uh-oh... Well, perhaps you meant to say sound daemons or media players or something... let's move on to another example.

    BSD vs. Linux, here's a great one. Why didn't Linus Torvalds just use BSD instead? Well, he couldn't at the time, due to licensing issues. He started writing Linux both to learn about the 386 and because he couldn't afford to buy a workstation from Sun. And by the time the *BSDs were unencumbered, Linux was already a viable Unix system on its own, and certainly more functional than Minix ever was. Oh well, I guess he wasn't writing code just to scratch the same itch... let's move on.

    Gnome vs. KDE. This one boiled down to--you guessed it--a licensing issue! In this case, it was the licensing of Qt, the toolkit used in KDE, that was the issue. Some of this has since been resolved, but there are licensing issues surrounding Qt even today. That's because Qt was written by TrollTech and is sold as a commercial product, whereas GTK was written for The GIMP, "to scratch an itch". Interestingly enough, The GIMP doesn't have a lot of competition--maybe that's because of its quality, its licensing, and its extensible nature. :)

    Debian vs. Red Hat. Yet again, two different products with two different ideologies, one of which is backed by commercial interests, yadda yadda yadda. Interestingly enough, Red Hat's successor, Fedora, is using Debian's package manager now. So maybe they aren't such bitter rivals as you may have thought?

    As for the rest of your generalizations, I resent being painted with such a broad brush. Sure, there are zealots in the open source community; they're present in any and every community. If those are the only people you talk to, then you might get some odd impressions of how that community works. For example, most of the people in the US are Christian, but the few people who come up to you on the street and shout about Christianity are inevitably zealots, crazy people who can't be reasoned with. Does this imply that most of the US consists of crazy zealots who can't be reasoned with? No, it doesn't, the sample size is simply too small.

    Similarly, I won't just read this one article and conclude that the people at Linux World are totally clueless about the Open Source Community and its history, that they're all too lazy to do research, and enjoy making grossly inaccurate generalizations instead. That would be unfair of me. Nevertheless, I hope this article is just an isolated incident, and not the start of a disturbing trend. I recognize that this is an opinion piece, but that's no excuse for FUD, or sloppiness.
  • by Dark Paladin (116525) * <[jhummel] [at] [johnhummel.net]> on Monday December 01, 2003 @12:56PM (#7599741) Homepage
    I don't claim to be any kind of guru of, well, anything, but I've been working with GNU/Linux for a good 5 years now, setting up servers (Samba, Apache, etc).

    About 18 months ago, I got a Powerbook, and while I still like Linux on the server end, man oh man, do I like OS X - for exactly the reasons that Mr. Turner brings up.

    Simply put: it works.

    I plug in a device - and it works. No compiling, no fiddling with conf files - works. I put in a game, and without once having to find Mesa drivers for X Windows and figure out why I can get video in Quake III but no sound - wait, not I get sound but no video, let me try another sound card and figure out of the chipset is the right kind - AGGGHHH!

    The greatest strength of Open Source is its ability to evolve and grow and fill in gaps. It's truly software evolution - species of software fill in evolutionary needs, and the ones that work best (or are the luckiest in support/notice) get to grow.

    The problem with Open Source, as Mr. Turner observes, is in some ways that same community. How many truly clear, concise, "idiot proof" manuals are written when we need to understand why some piece of Open Source (OS) software isn't acting the way you want? A cry for help will often be answered - all too often by "RTFM", though there are times when a more useful answer is given.

    Probably the best thing that can happen for OS is the continued interest by businesses who want things for thier clients - like easier to use desktop operating systems (like OS X), or better office suites that can be used by secretaries (like Open Office) or administrative tools that can help configure the multitude of options easily and quickly (like what I hope Novell will do with their Suse merger).

    I think that there will always be the dynamic Mr. Turner talks about - which isn't always a bad thing, but I hope the dialectic of Open Source and Business Needs helps to create a better hybrid software animal more suited to survive the wilds of the computer world.

    Just my opinion, of course - I might be wrong.
    • by tuffy (10202) on Monday December 01, 2003 @01:25PM (#7600082) Homepage Journal
      I plug in a device - and it works. No compiling, no fiddling with conf files - works. I put in a game, and without once having to find Mesa drivers for X Windows and figure out why I can get video in Quake III but no sound - wait, not I get sound but no video, let me try another sound card and figure out of the chipset is the right kind - AGGGHHH!

      Is that really a fair comparison? If I buy a Mac, I'm getting a closed system with a small hardware compatibility list. Since Apple knows what goes into all of them, it's no surprise they can make an OS that runs without lots of configuration twiddling. If Linux was sold on an equally small number of configurations, surely it could be made to run with equally little hand-configuring.

      But because Linux is often run in the "anything goes" x86 world, hardware incompatibilities are more common. Where standards are well-defined (IDE, USB, etc.), Linux has no problems. In other cases (video cards, sound cards), Linux often lags behind the cutting edge and requires a bit of hand holding. But that's the nature of the platform rather than of the OS. Even Windows can't handle tons of different configurations without help; instead it requires seperate "drivers" for that purpose.

      • Mod parent up! (Score:3, Informative)

        by khasim (1285)
        Three entirely different worlds.

        #1. Microsoft - 95%+ of the desktop so any vendor shipping a product also included Windows drivers.

        #2. Apple - small marketshare so it compensates by restricting hardware selection. That way it can ensure that the drivers are available.

        #3. Linux - small desktop marketshare but it doesn't attempt to limit the hardware choices. So YOU have to be carefull about what hardware you purchase. Some work flawlessly, some work okay, some suck bad, some don't work at all.

        Now, the pr
  • Hmm... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mccalli (323026) on Monday December 01, 2003 @12:58PM (#7599779) Homepage
    'Open source developers often scratch the same itch'

    So, err, remind me - how many closed-source word processors can I go out and by? How many web design packages? How many commercial IDEs? How many instance messenging networks can I join? Wouldn't they be scratching the same itch too?

    ...and 'Open Source developers love a good feud.'

    'They', whoever the amorphous they actually are, probably do. So do the closed source lot as well. The particular feuds they have tend to be called 'lawsuits', and they leave even the most bitter open source feud looking like a kindergarten spat.

    Cheers,
    Ian

  • by Space cowboy (13680) on Monday December 01, 2003 @12:59PM (#7599794) Journal
    Which is basically the same model - lots of different parallel approaches to the same problem, and the best one, or group, wins.

    Closed source companies cannot do this, they operate in a constant state of limited resources. We can. We should consider it a strength and play to it.

    Sure, it get's acrimonious, but this is a symptom of fiercely-fought ideas. If someone feels that passionately about something, they ought to be able to convince others, or they are being blinkered - if they're blinkered, they'll wither and die. If they persuade the rest, they'll move to the next stage. Where's the problem, apart from bruised ego's ? Nature is red in blood and claw. We're slightly more civilised than that already :-)

    Simon

  • by Scarblac (122480) <slashdot@gerlich.nl> on Monday December 01, 2003 @01:00PM (#7599807) Homepage

    This whole article is just coming from the wrong direction. It assumes that the final goal of OS is to make usable software, that has features for everyone, to have an OS that can run all the binary drivers out there, to unseat Windows!...

    What OS actually is for is, precisely, scratching an itch. Fixing what the developer wants to see fixed. Providing the features the developer wants. Having fun making something that a hundred other people made already. Many Linux developers (for example) couldn't care less about Windows, or converting Windows users to Linux.

    And yes, they like bitching about Microsoft. Because it's so easy to do, I guess.

    These things are only "things that are wrong with open source" if you have the idea that OS is trying to be something that it's not.

  • by Oriumpor (446718) * on Monday December 01, 2003 @01:01PM (#7599809) Homepage Journal
    The "many itches, many scratchers" is a silly analogy. This is the case in not only OSS but also in for sale products. FOR INSTANCE, Musicmatch, Itunes, Winamp, Windows Media player. Enough said.

    What is truly missing from the overall product creation standpoint is a universal bounty system. If someone were to create a universal bounty system for the application of new software ideas (that benefited the donor, and also gave incentive to the developers) there would be a drastic change in OSS development. Now all of a sudden your target audience is no longer yourself, but an ethereal goal list and a real cash dollar amount to buy some more raman and coffee.

    Yeah sure, these things are "supposed" to be in existence already (sans the bounty) but I don't know how many projects I've seen on freshmeat with an empty .plan or a paltry .todo

    So I'm no professional developer, if I knew there was a series of progressively increasing bounties available for me to freely distribute my ideas to the ether I would be more inclined to spend time doing so seriously. Not all of us are driven by the solution at the end of the problem tunnel, some of us have monetary requirements to fulfil.
  • by MattW (97290) <matt@ender.com> on Monday December 01, 2003 @01:01PM (#7599812) Homepage
    Feuding and scratching the same itch is merely one form of competition. In the OSS community, you often find a war of ideas, whether that's Gnome vs KDE or Linus insisting on a plaintext /proc.

    I much prefer this war of ideas to the way commercial companies operate -- the war of marketing departments. Is it any wonder OSS turns out better?
  • by XaXXon (202882) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {noxxax}> on Monday December 01, 2003 @01:03PM (#7599838) Homepage
    It's a point/counter-point, so don't forget to read the rebuttal linked at the bottom of the page..

    (also linked here [linuxworld.com])
  • need for standards (Score:4, Insightful)

    by agurkan (523320) on Monday December 01, 2003 @01:07PM (#7599882) Homepage
    Too many developers "scratch the same itch" is a bad thing only for applications/libraries which other software depends on. We know this! This is what standards are for :-) However, for a standard to become standard we need to test lots of options and decide which is best. On the way to standardization we might merge different features, or the standard might require features from different packages which do not exist together at the moment. Different approaches make it easier to decide which feature to keep and which feature to drop.
    I personally do not mind having three plotting and five music playing and twelve font editing packages, it does not hurt anybody, and as the author himself points out, people get selfworth from other people using their package. So if we try to come up with a single solution the result will be fewer developers->fewer packages, not same developers->better packages.
  • meta-wrongness (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Savatte (111615) on Monday December 01, 2003 @01:07PM (#7599888) Homepage Journal
    they post flamebaiting articles like this one on major-traffic websites, making for pointless debates instead of getting down and coding.
  • by motorsabbath (243336) on Monday December 01, 2003 @01:08PM (#7599901) Homepage
    He also suggests we often approach the whole issue of encouraging migration to Linux from Windows entirely wrongly

    I've had a pretty good deal of luck with my family and friends getting them switched to Mozilla and OpenOffice on win32 first, and then later on suggesting Linux. Like most desktop users, thoes 2 apps give them everything they need (web, email and and office suite). If they get used to it on win32, using it all on Linux is a no-brainer and they're generally at least willing to try.

  • by Svartalf (2997) on Monday December 01, 2003 @01:15PM (#7599977) Homepage
    He is NOT worth it to anyone. He thinks that his Senior Editor position gives him a unique insight into "What's wrong with Open Source"...

    He had his damn "points" wrong for various reasons that he obviously didn't think about in the previous article that precipitated this stupid "response" (One, I might add, it was strongly suggested that he re-think the idea from the get-go over on LinuxToday's comment section...)- and most everyone on the feedback forum and on LinuxToday pointed out where he'd gone wrong (Myself included on BOTH forums) and most of them were fairly respectful but also strongly questioned is credibility and credentials, likening him to Enderle (Right or wrong, it felt a lot like Enderle's stuff...).

    He then comes in with a chip on HIS shoulder claiming that we were all about with a chip on our collective shoulder and accusing us of ad-homninem attacks.

    Never mind that the man failed to address the points LEGITIMATELY raised with regards to HIS points. And he still fails to do so now. He won't admit he might have been "wrong" about part or all of his premise and points. He may be right, there may still be things that we have that can impede desktop adoption of Linux, but what he came up with isn't the problem- really it isn't.
  • by jgardn (539054) <jgardn@alumni.washington.edu> on Monday December 01, 2003 @01:17PM (#7600005) Homepage Journal
    I was having a problem with configuring my webserver with HTML::Mason. Problem was resolved in a few hours by one of the authors of HTML::Mason. Now a neat summary of my problems and its resolutions is available to the world in the archives.

    I am trying to extend PostgreSQL so that it includes efficient Materialized Views. I posted a couple of messages, and the team basically says, "We've all got our personal projects we're working on, but we all want to see M.V. a reality. Here's some pointers and good luck." When I come back with my findings, they point out some more stuff, and the discussion starts to build. I can see having M.V. in PostgreSQL a reality if I keep advocating it.

    These are just two examples of things that just are not possible with closed-source software. The HTML::Mason and PostgreSQL teams are really good examples of open source work at its finest (along with other projects too numerous to mention). But imagine getting this kind of support from Microsoft or SUN. (Well, maybe SUN is fanatical about support and encourages its users to contribute to the codebase, I wouldn't know.)

    This is why Open Source Software (or Free Software, whatever you want to call it) is going to take over the world. Petty irritations exist, but they exist everywhere and are not insurmountable. Eventually, everyone will see what I see in the open source community. I can't imagine "paying" someone for software that I can't look into or modify. No matter how useful it is now, it won't be useful in a few years. Heck, it won't even be supported by anyone. But open source software is timeless and invaluable. When it becomes obselete, it is updated (case in point: sendmail)
  • by Grizzlysmit (580824) on Monday December 01, 2003 @01:18PM (#7600011)
    "We Have Met The Enemy and He Is

    Journalism, thats the real truth, this is just another example of Journalism's continuous need for sensation, almost all journo's are just the worst sort of Trolls, BSD is dying, Unix is dying, Aunt Nelly cat is dying, linux ate my clock radio, I moderate the article -1 Troll.

  • by gosand (234100) on Monday December 01, 2003 @01:26PM (#7600100)
    One flaw of the Open Source community is that it responds to trolls like this article.

    Maybe it is because it is a "community" and nobody rules it, maybe it is because it is passionate about what it does and feels the need to defend it when attacked. There are some things that might need some improving, but the Open Source Community has done quite well the way it has been operating since it started. It will improve when it needs to improve, that is how it works.

  • What community? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jmv (93421) on Monday December 01, 2003 @01:50PM (#7600356) Homepage
    I've read the article (yes!) and there are two implicit assumptions that bother me, even without going into the author's points. The first is that there is an open source community. I'm not quite sure of that. There are many developers that work on open-source projects for so many different reasons and don't necessarily consider themselves part of a community. The other implicit assumption is that those you start flamewars are open-source developers. Most of the time, it isn't the case.
  • distros? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BenjyD (316700) on Monday December 01, 2003 @01:52PM (#7600387)
    >There's absolutely no reason for there to be more than two or three distributions

    Let's try and find reasons for more than 3, shall we. Hmmm:

    -Debian: solid, stable, completely free, at the cost of being outdated sometimes
    -Mandrake:Simple distro, ideal for newbies. Not good for linux diehards who like to fiddle with everything
    -Gentoo: bleeding edge, compilation optimisations, easy to reconfigure the way you want it if you know what you're doing. Not so many guarantees on the stability.
    -Redhat:commercial, certified, expensive, well-supported, reasonably up to date.
    -SuSE:somewhat similar approach to Redhat. Keeps Redhat honest through this crazy thing called competition.
    -SELinux - security above all else

    The difference is priorities. Trying to combine their properties (free+certified? Ultra-Secure and custom compilations?) would be hard.
  • by QuackQuack (550293) on Monday December 01, 2003 @01:52PM (#7600390) Journal
    I've said many of the same things for years.

    OSS/Free Software people often argue that there's no need for proprietary software, free software can provide everything.

    But when I go somewhere like freshmeat, what do I find? More MP3 enocoders/players/front-ends/rippers/catalogers than you can shake a stick at. What don't I find? drivers for some of my devices like scanners, cameras. Productivity applications, like Tax software for instance, and many other things that I can't think of right now, that keep me chained to Windows. Or if I do find them, they are half finished, and barely usable. Some would say, "So fill the void!". I do write my own stuff, but the re are too many things, and I only have so much time to devote to it.

    Don't get me wrong, I love Linux, and need Windows less than ever. But I have a pragmatic approach about it. OSS can do great things, but not everything, there will always be room for proprietary software, and the two should be able to coexist.

    The other problem with OSS is lack of innovation. How many things does the OSS community go about attempting to clone only after someone like MS or another company introduced it? Was there a FreeMware before VMware? Was there Linux PVR applications before Tivo? etc.
    • by Dominic_Mazzoni (125164) * on Monday December 01, 2003 @02:59PM (#7601130) Homepage
      The other problem with OSS is lack of innovation. How many things does the OSS community go about attempting to clone only after someone like MS or another company introduced it? Was there a FreeMware before VMware? Was there Linux PVR applications before Tivo? etc.

      The presence of copying commercial software products doesn't indicate the lack of innovation.

      Earlier you mentioned that Linux is missing Tax software. So, which way do you want it? Do you want someone to create something similar to TurboTax, or create something innovative? You can't have it both ways.

      Aha, you say - OSS developers should write innovative tax software! Yeah, right. If somebody created software that did everything the average taxpayer needed, everyone would immediately start comparing it to TurboTax (and the other commercial offerings). In many ways the OSS program would have no choice but to "clone" the commercial programs, because there's no other logical way to do things.

      There are thousands of innovative OSS programs that are incredibly innovative, that have no parallel in the commercial world. Here are a few off the top of my head:

      1. Audacity [sourceforge.net] - shameless plug, this is my audio editor. It's not a rip-off of CoolEdit or Sound Forge. Of course it looks similar in some superficial ways - they're all audio editors. But Audacity has dozens of innovative, unique features, like an integrated envelope editor, automatic real-time resampling when tracks are at different sample rates, three different types of sample-level editing, etc.

      2. BitTorrent [bitconjurer.org] - robust, P2P way to speed up everyone's download speed simultaneously. And yes, it's primarily used for legitimate downloads, imagine that.

      3. GAIM [sourceforge.net] - aha, you say, just another instant messanger! What's innovative here is that it's the only instant messenger to support AIM, ICQ, Yahoo!, MSN, Jabber, IRC, Napster, Gadu-Gadu, Zephyr, and more...which is incredible if you have lots of friends you want to IM and they all use different systems.

      4. Gallery [menalto.com] - program that runs on your webserver that makes it fun and easy to upload pictures for everyone to see. Right from the web interface, you can categorize, show slideshows, etc.

      I'm not even listing the thousands of innovative programs that OSS developers have come up with that are primarily of benefit to other developers.

      Why not search the Sourceforge and Freshmeat top 100 lists for new programs? I think you'll discover lots of innovation.
  • by sys49152 (100346) on Monday December 01, 2003 @01:53PM (#7600400)
    1. Too many companies "scratch the same itch."

    We hear that commercial software companies come up with new ideas because they "wanted to make some money." In other words, there was some need they had for a new application, and they "scratched" it by coming up with a tool. The problem is, it's not uncommon to end up with two or three (or more!) different packages doing the same thing. For a specific example, look at what's happened with the relational databases, where there are now several competing packages that have to be supported by each distribution.

    2. Commercial software companies love a good feud.

    Oracle vs Microsoft. Java vs .Net. HP-UX vs AIX. For every interesting commercial technology, there are two bitterly feuding camps that spend as much time taking potshots at each other as in improving their own products.

    3. Commercial software companies often scratch the wrong itch.

    The problem with commercial development is that the developers often aren't the consumers of their products, and thus don't feel the pain of their mistakes. The other problem with commercial software development is that they often don't fix problems or develop new features that aren't going to make them money.

    4. In the commercial software community, you're either "with us or against us"

    Attempts to point out flaws or places where there's room for improvement in an application usually lead directly to legal action. Attempts to contact the company directly lead to either unqulaified indivduals, fees, or, again, legal action. Direct comment from the companies if laded with fear, uncertainty, and doubt: "The GPL is a cancer." "Linux is stealing my IP." "Hey! No benchmarking."

    5. The commercial software community has a huge chip on its shoulder...called Microsoft

    Although Linux is also a popular a target lately too, the merest mention of MS is like a bull having a red cape waved before his eyes. All reason and sense of decorum flies out the window. And while I'm first in line to throw rotten tomatoes at Bill Gates, it's harmful to the community. The reality is that Microsoft owns the lion's share of the non-server OS market. If the first thing you tell all these people who own Windows is that they are idiots, you're not starting out on very good ground to convert them.
  • by digitalgimpus (468277) on Monday December 01, 2003 @01:59PM (#7600480) Homepage
    The real problem is that Open Source is to focused on the source.

    What? You may ask...

    Open Source developers put out some great software, Linux, Mozilla, Gimp, GAIM, etc. I could go on for some time.

    Why are they good? Stable, reliable, secure... most will agree to those. Why is it true? Because good coding, and demand to get it right. No corporate preasure.

    So what's the problem? NO END USER FOCUS.

    Mozilla now is working towards an enduser focus. That's a big change.

    But the majority don't. The products are great, but lets face it. As wonderful as KDE is, it's not Aqua, or even Luna. It's good, but not good enough for an end user. There's still computer jargon in the user's face, and it's not pretty like the others.

    Tech support for endusers - missing
    Computer jargon in their face
    Lack of marketing towards end users ("What's gimp?")

    These are the problems.

    IMHO, each project should create a group devoted to end-user focus. That group should work on marketing, and viewing the product through an enduser perspective... not a Geek perspective. And judge if it's end user friendly.

    Linux won't hit the masses as long as the user gets shown the path's to 100000k different things. They don't care... they just want it to work.

    It's great that open source developers are such perfectionists. I personally love it. But what they need to do, is be able to cover it up.

    Perhaps the general release pattern should include:
    Developer release - more powerful, crude like today
    End user release - friendly, hide the ugly.

    End users don't like feeling confused. That's the key. That's what Apple Knows when it invented the iPod's interface. That's what Microsoft is slowly learning. That's what Palm knew. That's why Google is so popular.... simplistic yet powerful.

    Until open source comes to agree on that ideal, it's not going to get that far.

    Again, the products are amazing, and I love them... but I also want them to succeed with the non-geeks who actually have a social life ;-)
  • by TubeSteak (669689) on Monday December 01, 2003 @02:06PM (#7600569) Journal
    *POINT-COUNTERPOINT SPECIAL* What's Wrong with the Open Source Community?

    James Turner leads off on the "too many itches" syndrome and other problems - Steve Suehring offers his Counterpoint

    December 1, 2003, http://www.linuxworld.com/story/38073.htm

    Summary
    Just as, in the Java world, there are many competing MVC frameworks for JSP development, so many Open Source developers - says LinuxWorld senior editor James Turner - "scratch the same itch." In this week's installment of our "Point-Counterpoint" series, LinuxWorld editors James Turner and Steve Suehring slug it out over that most contentious of issues: does the Open Source community on occasion shoot itself in the foot? James says it does, constantly; Steve disagrees.

    By James Turner [mailto] Steve Suehring [mailto]

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    James Turner: 5 problems with the Open Source community

    There's no question that the Open Source community has a lot going for it. Besides a staggering amount of developer power that can be turned against important problems, the Open Source movement also has a passion and commitment to its work that the commercial software world often envies. But sometimes, the Open Source community can be its own worst enemy. Here are a few reasons why.

    1. Too many developers "scratch the same itch."

    We hear that Open Source developers come up with new ideas because they "had an itch to scratch." In other words, there was some need they had for a new application, and they "scratched" it by coming up with a tool. The problem is, it's not uncommon to end up with two or three (or more!) different packages doing the same thing. For a specific example, look at what's happened with the Linux sound systems, where there are now several competing packages that have to be supported by each distribution. Or in the Java world, look at how many competing MVC frameworks there are now for JSP development.

    A little competition can be a good thing. After all, Linux is all about offering a competing vision for the operating system domain. But when too many competing visions exist, and aren't winnowed down to a small number of options over a short period of time, you end up with a mish-mash of conflicting standards, and a user community that ends up having to download and install a plethora of different packages that all do the same thing.

    A perfect example of the "too many itches" syndrome is the absurd number of Linux distributions that exist out there. There's absolutely no reason for there to be more than two or three distributions. And because each one does things slightly differently, we've ended up with the problem that applications and drivers are rarely made available in binary form, because there are too many versions of too many releases of Linux to support.

    As an application developer, you would have to provide 5 - 10 different binary installs, one for each distribution. Now multiply that times the five or more active releases of a distribution that may be in active circulation, and you see why so few packages are available as anything but source (especially the most recent releases of packages that have not been compiled and included into Linux distributions yet.)

    The next question to consider is, why don't we see more consolidation of technology? The answer: because...

    2. Open Source developers love a good feud.

    BSD vs Linux. Gnome vs KDE. Debian vs Red Hat. For every interesting Open Source technology, there are two bitterly feuding camps that spend as much time taking potshots at each other as in improving their own products.

    It's hard to imagine how much better a lot of Open Source software would be if these groups cooperated and consolidated their efforts, rather than act like the Hatfields and McCoys. Unfortunately, the downside of personal

  • windows to linux (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sdibb (630075) on Monday December 01, 2003 @02:16PM (#7600656)
    I'll admit, I haven't read the article yet, but I did want to comment on this: He also suggests we often approach the whole issue of encouraging migration to Linux from Windows entirely wrongly.

    For what it's worth, every Linux zealot I've talked to can't remember the last time they used Windows, and wouldn't want to. Even if they do, they think it sucks.

    It seems to me that the people who want Linux to overtake Windows on the desktop are those (like me) who are so used to MS DOS / Windows after using it for 20 years, and are finding it hard to do an instant migration. Instantly my difficulties in transitioning become "what's wrong with Linux."

    I'm not a low-level C coder or anything spectacular, but I do enjoy fumbling my way through Gentoo and IceWM, trying to find the grail of replacing Windows, while still having fun with my OS and learning as much as I can.

    I think that the people who want things to be "their way" are generally out of touch with what the underlying Linux community's goals always have been.

    I could be wrong though. And as more people want to jump ship from Windows to Linux, I imagine that the sides will even out a bit, with a greater influx of novice Linux programmers.

    I think something like _that_ would begin to influence the general direction of some projects. The fact alone that so many people want to ditch Windows anyway shows that some distros are trying very hard to make them very user-friendly.

    But I find it hard to believe that was the goal of most long-term users/developers all along, or that it even is now.

  • by acomj (20611) on Monday December 01, 2003 @02:18PM (#7600675) Homepage
    If you look at linux as opposed to OSX, where OSX developed a brand new somewhat consistent desktop in far less time then KDE/GNU existed, you can see some of the problems of open source (The open source model has some advantages too) One of the problems is that so many people work on it, it can be hard to get anything consistent. this

    Look at configuration files for an example. A lot of programs use different formats for configurations, because the developers think there way is best and they're writing the code so its the way they want it. There is no linux boss telling people use X format for config files. This gives the linux distributions less of a conhesive feel than a OS that says "Config files will look like this.. love it of leave it"

    This is why the linux distributions are so helpfull and its painfull to see them leave the desktop market(redhat/ suse etc..). They've been trying to pull everything together with setup tools and a consistent look.

  • by phorm (591458) on Monday December 01, 2003 @02:50PM (#7601026) Journal
    But when I write software, I write it for:

    a) Myself
    b) My employer
    c) Other people that ask for a feature, or I know use the software

    I'm not writing to replace windows, or even really for the benefit of the whole world (in the sense that I'm not trying to make a magic-button GUI app that satisfies everyone), I'm doing it for my own purposes. Nobody else should assume that those purposes necessarily match their own.
  • by Cryofan (194126) <cryofan.yahoo@com> on Monday December 01, 2003 @03:10PM (#7601263) Homepage Journal
    A passion for "what is right", a passion for logic and truth, an inward focus, fascination with knowledge and patterns, a passion for the quest, for the mission, a need for Truth and Justice, etc etc etc. This all describes marginal Asperperger's Syndrome, and it describes both myself and many of the open source community and the slashdot community....know thyself....

Work is the crab grass in the lawn of life. -- Schulz

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