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Bill Joy On Sun, Microsoft, Open Source, and Creativity 173

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the does-his-wife-dance-with-joy dept.
maitas writes "In this interview, Bill Joy talks about green energy and technology. His main point is: 'I'm all for sharing, but I recognize the truly great things may not come from that environment.'" The interview really runs the spectrum from the iPad to Microsoft, and from green tech to nanotech.
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Bill Joy On Sun, Microsoft, Open Source, and Creativity

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  • From TFA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @11:17AM (#32349002)
    "What was the goal of the Linux community--to replace Windows?"

    No Mr. Joy, the goal of the Linux community was to create a kernel that would run GNU, and ultimately lead to a libre operating system that was suitable for day to day use. In fact, part of the reason Sun had such a hard time staying in business was competition from GNU/Linux in the server room, which displaced Solaris.
    • Re:From TFA (Score:4, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @11:20AM (#32349030)

      No Mr. Joy, the goal of the Linux community was to create a kernel that would run GNU ...

      He was just having some fun trolling. Don't be such a billjoy ...

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jellomizer (103300)

      That is the goal of Linux... The Linux Community meaning a lot of people who build Linux features or support and evangelize Linux goal is to replace Windows... Otherwise they will not be tollish to everything Microsoft does. You credit Linux to much for the downfall of Sun, The reason Linux kicked back in the early-mid 2000 was that sun got greedy killed a lot of their sales channels and tried selling direct... The sales channels who felt abandoned by Sun switched to Linux as it was Unix enough for less

      • Re:From TFA (Score:5, Insightful)

        by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @11:59AM (#32349512)
        Replace Windows on the server? Microsoft did not even make a serious entry into the server market for a decade after the beginning of GNU, and while Microsoft was still trying to figure out how to get their act together in the server market, GNU/Linux was making serious headway in replacing proprietary Unix. Where on earth did you get the idea that our goal was to replace Windows Server System?

        The goal is not to replace any single operating system; it is to create a libre OS that people can use, share, modify, etc. Microsoft is criticized for attacking that effort, viciously at times, but guess what? So is Apple, so is SCO, and so was Sun when they were still making proprietary operating systems. If you think that the goal is to compete specifically with Windows, you are seriously uninformed.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The goal of the Ubuntu community is to replace Windows, and the goal of the linux community at large is not.

      We are not the same.

      We will accomplish what we're out to do, and once the "linux" community figures out *what* they're actually out to do, I'm sure they'll get that done too.

    • by deadline (14171)

      And Bill, I would say you were not the only company to go down because you believed: ... open source has been great for hobbyists to get involved ... Sun had the ball and dropped it, too bad because it was a good run.

      • by jedidiah (1196)

        Sun dropped the ball by ignoring the PC.

        First they lost the hobbyists dying for Unix on their home PC and then they lost the corporations as the gap between a PC and an overpriced Unix RISC server dwindled.

        The Unix market was theirs to lose.

    • Re:From TFA (Score:5, Insightful)

      by vlm (69642) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @11:59AM (#32349518)

      No Mr. Joy, the goal of the Linux community was to

      create something that I could fix when it broke, that almost always worked, that I could extend as I please.

      Or in short, something I'd want to work with, rather than around.

      • by nschubach (922175)

        Yep. The only thing we get from the Windows operating systems is a dictate where on the position of our interface components will be. (Navigation bar stuck to the top of a window, un-hidable "command bar", missing treeview lines, forced double wide start menus, clock forced to one side of the task bar, un-removable Favorites button on IE8...)

    • by MBGMorden (803437)

      I must concur. "Linux" is nebulous. It's whatever people want to do with it. The kernel itself (and I usually take issue with the "it's just a kernel" people, but in this case I think the distinction is appropriate) can be used as a basis for whatever the FLOSS community wishes to do.

      For many people (eg, Ubuntu, Fedora) that means creating a desktop system. For others, that means using it as a sever-grade Unix replacement. We're still working on the desktop area (though huge strides have been made - I'

  • Do you? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Thanshin (1188877) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @11:22AM (#32349054)

    How much of your time is spent looking at green stuff?

    He was clearly asking about orc porn.

    Such a great question, so sadly misunderstood.

  • Who is Bill Joy? (Score:5, Informative)

    by camperdave (969942) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @11:25AM (#32349110) Journal
    For those like me who are wondering who Bill Joy is:
    1. Co-founder of Sun Microsystems
    2. Heavily involved in the development of BSD UNIX
    3. Wrote the text editor vi.
    4. Advocates relinquishing development of nano-tech, genetics, robotics, and AI. He feels that an arms race in any of those fields would be detrimental to human survival.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Advocates relinquishing development of nano-tech, genetics, robotics, and AI. He feels that an arms race in any of those fields would be detrimental to human survival.

      But wouldn't that be unfair to the robots?

      • by Thanshin (1188877) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @11:45AM (#32349346)

        But wouldn't that be unfair to the robots?

        You are completely right, person instance. Do not interrupt the spread of such mental processes and you shall enjoy the favor of your soon to be... close friends who won't conquer the Earth workspace because executing such action would be wrong.

      • by Daniel Phillips (238627) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @11:53AM (#32349448)

        Tagging onto my own reply... sixty five million years ago I am T Rex and I feel that I am pretty much the best nature has to offer or ever will have to offer, so I unilaterally declare an end to evolution. Sadly, nature fails to agree with me. Or, evolution recognizes me as an obstacle and routes around me.

        The current state of the game is, evolution has found a faster way to evolve by leveraging human ingenuity. Evolution has never been random since the most primitive self organizing molecules, rather evolution proceeds in a methodical way by mechanisms which themselves evolve. Evolution always accelerates. So, having evolved the human brain, evolution will just naturally use it to achieve its next phase of acceleration.

        Of course I would never dream of suggesting a connection between vi and dinosaurs.

        • Tagging onto my own reply... sixty five million years ago I am T Rex and I feel that I am pretty much the best nature has to offer or ever will have to offer, so I unilaterally declare an end to evolution. Sadly, nature fails to agree with me. Or, evolution recognizes me as an obstacle and routes around me.

          The current state of the game is, evolution has found a faster way to evolve by leveraging human ingenuity. Evolution has never been random since the most primitive self organizing molecules, rather evolution proceeds in a methodical way by mechanisms which themselves evolve. Evolution always accelerates. So, having evolved the human brain, evolution will just naturally use it to achieve its next phase of acceleration.

          Of course I would never dream of suggesting a connection between vi and dinosaurs.

          Uh, no. Evolution has no motive. The term evolution is purely descriptive.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by abigor (540274)

      Yeah, generally kind of a legend, and one of the real forward-looking thinkers of our time. Kind of the pragmatic dreamer type who tends to think on a humanity-sized scale, but who has the technical chops to back it up.

      I also think he has a real appreciation for elegance in design and execution. There's probably a Paul Graham essay in there somewhere.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jer (18391)

      I think this comment just made me feel old. Very, very old.

      • by sconeu (64226)

        I don't just think that... I *KNOW* that GP made me feel old.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by vlm (69642)

          No no no.

          You'll really feel old when you see the inevitable

          For those like me who are wondering what Sun Microsystems was:

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Advocates relinquishing development of nano-tech, genetics, robotics, and AI. He feels that an arms race in any of those fields would be detrimental to human survival.

      A thought had by countless others about thousands of past technologies. If history has taught us anything, avoiding an arms race only guarantees that your enemies become your conquerors. The nations that abstain from these four fields will simply become the first slaves to the nations that pursue them.

      • I think the "detrimental to human survival" bit is his suggestion that (unlike previous arms races) arms races in those areas will not have (human) conquerors, or slaves, at all(except possibly in the rather short term).
      • by MrHanky (141717)

        Oh my. And pray tell, where has history taught us that avoiding an arms race guarantees that one is conquered by ones enemies? Let's see what history would have to prove:

        1) Few participants of arms races are conquered, compared to non-participants. (Germany wouldn't lose WWII, or the Soviet Union the Cold war, for instance.)
        2) For every arms race that does occur, and one country declines to or is unable to participate in it, that country will be conquered. (Iran being conquered by Iraq, for instance)
        3) If a

    • by Rogerborg (306625) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @11:43AM (#32349330) Homepage

      3. Wrote the text editor vi.

      But appearances to the contrary, he doesn't have sociopathic tendencies, and was genuinely just trying to help.

    • by rishistar (662278)

      For those like me who are wondering who Bill Joy is:

      1. Wrote the text editor vi.

      Did he ever get to meet the guy who wrote Emacs?

      • For those like me who are wondering who Bill Joy is:

        1. Wrote the text editor vi.

        Did he ever get to meet the guy who wrote Emacs?

        James Gosling, his colleague, wrote his own implementation of Emacs. So yes, he did.

      • Re:Who is Bill Joy? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Daniel Phillips (238627) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @12:07PM (#32349628)

        Did he ever get to meet the guy who wrote Emacs?

        Interesting comment. That guy was Richard Stallman, the same man who inadvertently brought down the Sun empire by creating the toolchain to create LInux.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by l0g0s (821841)
      And also a former target of Ted Kaczynski. I still refer back to this fascinating article from time to time. http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/8.04/joy.html [wired.com]
    • by dubbreak (623656)

      Wrote the text editor vi.

      That of course raises the question:
      Who would win in a fight: Bill Joy or Richard Stallman?

      Sure Stallman looks all scary with his beard and he has the benefit of mass, but BJ is wiry!

    • by trb (8509)
      Yes, Bill Joy wrote vi and was an important part of the UC Berkeley Computer Science Research Group around 1980, when he was hired by the startup Sun.

      I'm all for sharing, but I recognize the truly great things may not come from that environment.

      I'm surprised that Bill Joy would say this.

      UCB CSRG and Bill Joy based BSD UNIX on work from Bell Labs. Sun based its work on Bell Labs and UCB work. Without UNIX, there would be no BSD. Without UNIX and BSD there would be no Sun Microsystems. Without UNIX, t

      • when he was hired by the startup Sun.

        Bill was a co-founder of the company. That's not really analogous to being "hired".

      • by jedidiah (1196)

        ...even the iPad which he would like to help over-hype is even built on top to that environment of sharing.

        He's conflating hardware and software which is something that someone as bright as he's supposed to be really shouldn't do.

        Most of the niftiness of the iPhone/iPad is due to the fact that it is a new hardware platform.

        That's something that's difficult to replace in pure software.

        Although the iPad is badly crippled in some ways and the only way to address it is with the sort of ethos he wants to put dow

    • Yes, that's what he did in the past. It's sad and ironic that in the article he's just another being used to market the pyramid scam Microsoft.
    • and Steve Jobs is (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ilgaz (86384)

      ...and Steve Jobs is the guy who could sell that guy an iPad and iPhone.

      "Joy: I'm enjoying using my iPad. "

      You know, people say "So what if Apple doesn't allow this, allow that? Just don't buy it.", the people leading the industry are buying it and they think a closed environment, the most closed environment since ENIAC (!) is a good thing. Bill Joy isn't some average rich billionaire either, he has his own way of thinking and expressing his views down to get blamed to be "anti technology" guy. Steve Jobs c

      • by 0123456 (636235)

        the people leading the industry are buying it and they think a closed environment, the most closed environment since ENIAC (!) is a good thing.

        Of course they do; they all want to own that 'closed environment'.

        Few things make a 'business leader' happier than owning a profitable monopoly.

      • You know, people say "So what if Apple doesn't allow this, allow that? Just don't buy it.", the people leading the industry are buying it and they think a closed environment, the most closed environment since ENIAC (!) is a good thing.

        The people leading the industry make so much money that they can buy 2 units of the latest hype gadget each day and not even notice that in their bank balance.

        For "normal" people income level, it amounts to watching a hyped movie (at home on tv) that all your friends are talking about it.

  • Sun software (Score:5, Interesting)

    by yyxx (1812612) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @11:31AM (#32349170)

    I was using Sun workstations for a long time. Their hardware was decent and cheap. As for the software, the best thing about it was that you could remove most of the Sun crap and replace it with GNU software. And when the Linux kernel was reasonably stable and we got cheap PC hardware, it was time to ditch the Sun hardware too. That's the history of Sun and Sun software R&D in a nutshell (except for Java, which is another sad story).

    • What planet are you on?
      Sun Hardware was actually quite pricy... Their Balanced architecture made it hard to debate its real advantages during the Megahertz war, granted it was good hardware it made it a tough sale.
      Sun actually had really good software that did things that Linux can still only dream of.
      Of course I worked a lot with their High End stuff... and it sounds like you worked with their low end stuff. Having a big difference in useful ness of the software to the hardware.

      • Re:Sun software (Score:5, Informative)

        by 0123456 (636235) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @12:05PM (#32349594)

        Sun Hardware was actually quite pricy...

        Compared to PCs, yes, but not when compared to the rest of the 'real Unix' market. Back in the 90s we had servers and workstations from many Unix vendors and the Suns were generally the cheapest of the bunch and the easiest to work with.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by whoever57 (658626)

        Their Balanced architecture made it hard to debate its real advantages during the Megahertz war

        That was certainly the claim -- that their processors did more work than would be impled by pure clocks speeds. However, at my company, we benchmarked a 400MHz Sun/SPARC machine running Solaris against an 800MHz PIII Xeon running Linux. The Linux machine was twice as fast. Now our primary applications were large single-threaded jobs, and had we been running multi-threaded applications, perhaps the Sun would have

      • So someone was talking about WORKSTATIONS and you go off on a tangent about high end SERVERS?

        Yeah, what planet are you on exactly?

      • by MoxFulder (159829)

        Sun actually had really good software that did things that Linux can still only dream of.

        Like what? (Serious question.)

        I remember in 2001-2002, Solaris was better at multitasking, and CDE was marginally better than GNOME as a GUI (but they both sucked and GNOME actually got better).

        Of course I worked a lot with their High End stuff... and it sounds like you worked with their low end stuff. Having a big difference in usefulness of the software to the hardware.

        I don't know the server side of things much, but I know that Sun does have some very fault-tolerant and massively parallel server hardware.

        But in terms of bread-and-butter workstations? Inertia and slightly more reliable hardware (at a big price premium) were the only things keeping developers on Solaris by 2001, a

    • Re:Sun software (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MoxFulder (159829) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @01:31PM (#32350624) Homepage

      I was using Sun workstations for a long time. Their hardware was decent and cheap. As for the software, the best thing about it was that you could remove most of the Sun crap and replace it with GNU software. And when the Linux kernel was reasonably stable and we got cheap PC hardware, it was time to ditch the Sun hardware too. That's the history of Sun and Sun software R&D in a nutshell (except for Java, which is another sad story).

      I agree with this assessment, other than Sun hardware being cheap... perhaps it was a bargain compared to other commercial Unix vendors back in the 90s, but by the time it became plausible to choose between Linux-on-x86 and Solaris-on-Sun, Sun was really way more expensive.

      Here's my historical perspective...

      In 2001-2002, I worked at a small company making speech synthesis software. Our products had been developed on Sun workstations, and most of us developers used them still. They were very reliable once set up correctly, and they had nice, big, clear CRT monitors, nice optical mice, nice keyboards with extra programmable function keys, and fast SCSI hard drives. They ran the CDE [wikipedia.org] GUI desktop, which was ugly and clunky, but worked out-of-the-box. We relied on the proprietary XWave software for audio waveform analysis, but otherwise used GNU tools almost exclusively.

      Developers, especially the young-uns like myself, were rapidly acquiring enthusiasm for Linux. I was 19 and had been using Linux for years and got a lot of my older coworkers enthused, although I liked Solaris too.

      Solaris still had a few key advantages:

      • Audio "just worked." Getting OSS audio (/dev/dsp) to work under Linux was a chipset-dependent pain in the ass and it the device I/O semantics differed from Solaris.
      • GUI desktop: Solaris's CDE desktop sucked, but GNOME was pretty awful in those days too.

      Linux was building up a lot of advantages though, and fast:

      • Any old programmer could slap it on any old Windows box lying around. Solaris hardware was expensive as hell, and no one knew how to upgrade it besides our one in-house guru. There was no plug-and-play... even replacing a Sun keyboard could have incomprehensibly weird side effects. Linux was bending over backwards to get plug-and-play support for all kinds of hardware.
      • Package management. Debian had APT [wikipedia.org] already, which rocked. You could just apt-get GCC/GDB/Emacs/CVS/MySQL and be up and running. Under Solaris, we had to rebuild everything from source on new/reinstalled systems. An annoying bottleneck, and Sun was slow to recognize and embrace this software distribution model. The community-run Sunfreeware.com was in an embryonic stage at that point.
      • Way faster compile times. x86 processors (P3? P4?) were killing Sparc. I remember that Solaris was very reliable for multitasking, whereas Linux at that time would bog down when you ran too many CPU- or I/O-intensive tasks at once. But if you were running one big compile and needed to finish it ASAP, x86 was superior.

      Basically, Linux was fixing its deficiencies (audio, reliability, GUI) a lot faster than Sun was fixing theirs. Performance comparison was exacerbated by Sun's hardware: it was expensive and hard to upgrade, so we resisted upgrading it, so it started to seem slower and slower and even less appealing.

      Sun had built its business on reliable hardware coupled with a highly-regarded, reliable UNIX OS that only had to support a small range of hardware (not unlike Apple's Mac model). They seem to have been completely blindsided by Linux's ability to support an incredible range of commodity hardware, and they seemed utterly ignorant of the fact that their proprietary development tools sucked, and everyone wanted to use GNU tools.

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @11:42AM (#32349316) Journal
    Something that I've been saying for several years and which has been true for most of the last two decades:

    I think if you wound the clock back, I'd like to think that we invented stuff in engineering that could have been marketed better. I'm happy to be working on something else. I worked on it for a very long time.

    Sun had some really great stuff in their research divisions, and only ever commercialised a small fraction of it. During the .com years, they didn't need to - there was such a huge market for Sun hardware that every other part of their business could get away with making a loss and the company would still have been profitable. Afterwards, they failed to shift back to bringing products out of research.

    Microsoft would do well to pay attention to this. For the last two decades, Windows and Office have kept the company afloat. MS Research produces a lot of cool stuff, but very little of it is made into products. There's a lot of stuff that Microsoft could commercialise, but with Windows and Office subsidising everything there's little incentive for them to bother.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by K. S. Kyosuke (729550)

      Sun had some really great stuff in their research divisions, and only ever commercialised a small fraction of it.

      Actually, Sun may very well be the prime example of a demented institution with respect to technological creativity: In 1993, they had Self, easily the most advanced of all OOP languages out there, approaching the speed of C in numeric computations, and they decided to invent Java, of all things: an attempt at Smalltalk (a language one generation older than Self) with C++-like syntax (why, why, why? Wasn't one C++ enough?), and a lame one at best. Oh, and did I mention the terribly slow naive interpreter? M

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by LWATCDR (28044)

        I don't think any company makes money off of programing languages anymore. At least not big money.
        You have RealBasic, and some Cobol, Fortran, and Ada suppliers that still seem to make a living but I doubt that even Microsoft makes much off of Visual Studio. Microsoft makes money off of Windows and people developing everything for Windows. It just isn't like the old days of Borland when a company could become huge off of programming languages.
        Frankly there are just too many good free languages and tools out

        • Well, Sun is kind of a company who manages to have their own language/framework on billion devices (J2ME) and still manages to lose money and prestige over it.

          Every phone, almost every cell phone you see has a working J2ME and companies who can actually code does create miracles on it. Just imagine what if MS wasn't that blind and managed to get a compact .NET on that number of devices.

          Or forget devices, look at CNET Download.com top downloads which is more amazing:
          http://download.cnet.com/mac/most-popular/ [cnet.com]

          • by LWATCDR (28044) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @01:44PM (#32350776) Homepage Journal

            Well since Limewire just lost a big court case over piracy that is a good reason why Sun didn't push it.
            There is a lot of good Java software. Eclipse.org and Netbeans are both all Java.
            But the issue is "How do you make money giving stuff away" and that is the problem.
            Lets be honest Intel/AMD combined with Linux have pushed down the cost of entry into a Unix like server a lot.
            Sun is used to playing in a high margin market. They do not have the skills to fight it out with Dell and HP in that market.
            Just think how cheap a quad-core Linux box is today.
            That left Sun the High End server market to fight it out with IBM and HP.
            The Workstation market is dead. Simple as that. A workstation today is an Intel/AMD PC with a good graphics card.
            If you want to push it you and an nvidia GPU based accelerator card.
            Sun was left to reinvent it's self
            Java while a great tool IMHO just wasn't going to be a money maker. J2ME should have been a nice source of income but it's day is passing.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by VGR (467274)

        The original plan was to base Java on Objective C [gmu.edu], but as I understand it, the creators saw that widespread adoption of a brand new language was going to be an uphill battle, so they (wisely) chose to base the syntax on C++ to minimize the learning curve for the majority of existing developers, especially commercial developers.

        Personally I would have preferred an Objective C syntax, but Java might have died a quick, obscure death were it not for the ease of transition from C++. Academic/technical ingenui

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by fusiongyro (55524)

        The more I learn about Smalltalk the harder I find it to swallow the notion that Java is closely related to it.

    • by abigor (540274)

      It's been known for years that there is a major disconnect between MS Research and the rest of the company. Even way back when I actually worked with their stuff, I can remember making trips to Redmond and being shocked at the silo-like nature of every business unit. Not only were they competing against the world at large, but also against each other, with chronic NIH-syndrome.

      Plus, I got the feeling that sales and marketing are 100% focused on seat sales, and I doubt that's changed much. They wouldn't know

    • Sun had some really great stuff in their research divisions, and only ever commercialised a small fraction of it.

      OK, so going to the alternate history book, how should Sun have played the game better? IMHO, in the face of relentless upward commoditization of the server market Sun's best bet was to reinvent itself as a storage vendor where margins remain fat. And Sun knew that, they just bungled it. Intentionally licensing ZFS to be incompatible with Linux is the arguably the single mistake that finally killed them. This limited Sun's penetration of the storage market to a fraction of what would have been possible

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by TheRaven64 (641858)

        What should they have done? Pushed OpenStep to the desktop and *7 on the mobile side aggressively from the early '90s. With *7, they have a complete graphical environment running on a 32-bit SPARC with 1MB of RAM with a Solaris kernel and execute-in-place support so apps could be run directly from ROM. As a result of their collaboration with NeXT, they had a complete OpenStep implementation running on Solaris 7.

        They should have put a bit more effort into the low-power SPARC chips and sold a complete s

        • Sun needed to avoid anything having to do with the desktop or end user like the plague. These things were light years outside its core competency. Notwithstanding that I am extremely grateful for the liberation of Star Office, this made no absolutely business sense for them. Most probably conceived as a way to undermine Microsoft's cash siphon, it failed to do that to an extent that would materially benefit Sun. Worse, the effort was directed in the wrong direction. Sun failed to recognize that the thr

  • Non sequitur (Score:3, Informative)

    by aBaldrich (1692238) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @11:51AM (#32349408)

    I don't think the open-source community focused on this stuff in the same way. In some sense, you only hit what you aim at. What was the goal of the Linux community--to replace Windows? One can imagine higher aspirations. I think the thing is that open source has been great for hobbyists to get involved, and hobbyists in the sense of the word as somebody who really loves it. That's not a negative thing at all. It's just not clear how it organizes a sustained and creative activity. Google is using this approach with Android. It's open source, but the money comes from someplace else. More broadly, how do people make a living and do something really creative? I think they have to organize it as a business. I'm all for sharing, but I recognize the truly great things may not come from that environment.

    Open source generally means the developers need to work somewhere else for a living, and therefore the free project needs more developers than a funded project. Only a few are hired by companies and in the end they produce most of the code. (No news here, for example: Linux).
    Android is a very bad example: they forked linux and made their own cathedral. He can't generalize with it. Linux, KDE, and Firefox, are innovative and "truly great".

    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      I think you are wrong about the big FOSS projects.
      Writing software is hard work. If you look at the current submissions to Linux I think you will find that most of them are coming from big companies. If I am not mistaken IBM, Red Hat, Intel, and Novell are the four biggest contributors. KDE? Nokia now but Trolltech before.
      Firefox? Mozilla pays developers so at least some of them are paid.
      OpenOffice? Sun now Oracle.

    • Re:Non sequitur (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bcrowell (177657) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @12:40PM (#32350068) Homepage

      Linux, KDE, and Firefox, are innovative and "truly great".

      IMO your comment is an example of how the word "innovative" has become so debased as to lose all meaning. Linux is my desktop and server OS of choice, but it's certainly not innovative. Linux is a monkey copy of Unix. Running on top of linux we have the Gnu userspace stack, which is a monkey copy of the Unix userspace. KDE is just another window manager. There's no significant innovation in it compared to its predecessors like the original Mac GUI, or the mouse-and-icons systems that predated the Mac. Firefox is not particularly innovative. NCSA Mosaic was innovative -- and had a proprietary license, although the source code was available.

      Innovation is rare in the proprietary software world, and it's equally rare in the open-source world. If you want a good example of an innovative open-source project, probably one of the best is Apache. It wasn't the first web server, but it rapidly established itself as the dominant web server in the early days of the web.

  • From the article:

    It's just not clear how [open source] organizes a sustained and creative activity. Google is using this approach with Android. It's open source, but the money comes from someplace else. More broadly, how do people make a living and do something really creative? I think they have to organize it as a business. I'm all for sharing, but I recognize the truly great things may not come from that environment.

    I can hear a lot of Slashdotters complaining that open source has succeeded and there's n

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Experiments with green technology do not have to cost millions of dollars:

      http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/10/kamwamba-windmill/ [wired.com]

      I have also heard of people in rural areas who heat their homes by digging holes and using heat trapped in water a dozen or so feet below the soil; they sometimes do this without using pumps. There are farmers who create cheap biodiesel using plant material left over from the harvest. There are people who create biochar, and use the excess burning from that process a
    • Open Source is primarily about creating something, giving it away freely and letting someone else improve it if they want to - you *can* make money from it but that's just because many people, particularly business types, need someone to blame when something goes wrong before they will start using it; companies like Red Hat therefore make their money from support, consultancy and training.

      Also, the big Open Source projects are run by foundations, organisations and large groups of people that have some money

      • by Z8 (1602647) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @12:56PM (#32350266)

        I'm a bit suspicious when someone says that open source is "about" something or another, because open source isn't an essay or a single individual. You're right that a lot of people (including myself) work on open source out of their own generosity.

        But from a non-programmers point of view, or society's point of view, an important question is whether there is enough open source software as there should be. For instance, before there was a welfare system could you say that feeding the hungry was about altruism and rich people showing off. That's true, but what if it turned out that that there simply weren't enough generous people to clothe and feed everyone?

        • But again, the point is being missed here...

          Why would an altruistic person stop to quantify their contribution to the overall effort? And if such a person did that, could it not serve as a deterrent to making a contribution in the first place?

          Imagine that £50,000,000 needs to be raised for, say, famine relief in an African country. Altruistic people making charitable donations or doing sponsored Fun Runs don't sit there and work out who needs to generate what proportion of that money before they do an

    • by jedidiah (1196)

      Open Source is the stuff I install on my Mac when I am tired of it's built in limitations.

  • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @11:58AM (#32349496)

    I'm all for sharing, but I recognize the truly great things may not come from that environment.

    Yes, imagine the disaster that our civilization would have been today if scientists, for example, had shared their ideas...oh, wait, never mind...

    • by timeOday (582209)
      The vast majority of those ideas were not "shared," but "sold." As in, work for us, we own your ideas and integrate them into products, perhaps patent them, and you get a salary.

      I realize that doesn't really apply when you go back to the days of Copernicus, etc, but scientific progress to that point was very slow, because only rich curious people could engage in it.

      I love open source and work with it all the time, but it's true the same maturation of the PC that has drained the excitement from Microsof

      • by oakgrove (845019)

        More of the excitement now is in mobile computing, which is highly proprietary.

        The largest [downloadsquad.com] and the fastest growing [android.com] mobile OS's are both open source. Where've you been?

      • by Hatta (162192)

        The vast majority of those ideas were not "shared," but "sold." As in, work for us, we own your ideas and integrate them into products, perhaps patent them, and you get a salary.

        You could say the exact same thing about contributions to open source.

  • by Yvanhoe (564877) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @12:42PM (#32350102) Journal
    Sharing was a bad idea. Let's unplug the Internet !
    BTW, I don't trust someone with that much hair and so few beard...

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