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Open Source Operating Systems Software

Evaluating the Harmful Effects of Closed Source Software 490

Posted by Soulskill
from the probably-causes-cancer dept.
New submitter Drinking Bleach writes "Eric Raymond, coiner of the term 'open source' and co-founder of the Open Source Initiative, writes in detail about how to evaluate the effects of running any particular piece of closed source software and details the possible harms of doing so. Ranking limited firmware as the least kind of harm to full operating systems as potentially the greatest harms, he details his reasoning for all of them. Likewise, Richard Stallman, founder of GNU and the Free Software Foundation, writes about a much more limited scope, Nonfree DRM'd games on GNU/Linux, in which he takes the firm stance that non-free software is unethical in all cases but concedes that running non-free games on a free operating system is much more desirable than running them on a non-free operating system itself (such as Microsoft Windows or Apple Mac OS X)."
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Evaluating the Harmful Effects of Closed Source Software

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  • by Osgeld (1900440) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @01:23AM (#40272523)

    Having XFCE and ubuntu earlier today granted me with some artifacts tween the gimp and firefox which built up until the screen was complete garbage, and its been a number of years, possibally since windows 98 days since I have seen that on the MS side

    Windows may suck for a long list of reasons, but for some odd reason, will millions of brilliant nerds working for a goal, more shit gets screwed up on OSS systems, more frequently. Personally I went from a windows only mindset in the mid to late 90's to a linux only mindset in the 2000's, just to end up dreading having to boot linux in the 2010's

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Nursie (632944)

      You may have a graphics hardware problem.

      I use XFCE extensively, the only time I've ever seen things get screwy is when the card was on the way out. THis manifested in linux slightly before windows.

    • by RR (64484) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @02:04AM (#40272645)

      ...some artifacts tween the gimp and firefox which built up until the screen was complete garbage...

      Probably a graphics hardware problem.

      The great thing about Linux is the freedom. I have a laptop where the graphics card went kaput. (Old NVIDIA thing with the thermal death.) If it were running Windows, it would start to load the graphics driver and then freeze. Sometimes it would run for a few hours before freezing.

      But the great thing about Linux is that I can tell it to ignore the built-in graphics chip. Now I'm using it as a terminal with an external screen and a USB graphics chip. I couldn't do this with Windows, but it's possible with Linux.

    • by jgrahn (181062)

      Having XFCE and ubuntu earlier today granted me with some artifacts tween the gimp and firefox which built up until the screen was complete garbage, and its been a number of years, possibally since windows 98 days since I have seen that on the MS side

      Windows may suck for a long list of reasons, but for some odd reason, will millions of brilliant nerds working for a goal, more shit gets screwed up on OSS systems, more frequently.

      N=1. If we push that to N=2: I've seen free software suck as badly as proprietary. And people at work have major problems with Windows (Vista and 7), up to and including daily BSODs.

    • You actually just complained about a lack of open source video drivers from the hardware companies, you just didn't realize it.

  • by moshberm (2487312) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @01:33AM (#40272561)
    Sure, open source is great (I've contributed), but I think too much of either side is wrong. It's unethical to take what's not yours, be it because you don't want other people to rip you off, or for some other reason. So charging for software makes it inconvenient for people who want it. But think about the people who spend hours and hours coding. How do they afford coffee to stay up writing software so open-source freeloaders can consume whatever they feel like? I've contributed to open source, only to have my work resold as someone else's. Look, I'm not against open source, but to make a blanket statement and call all closed source software unethical is absolutely stupid.
    • Cory Doctorow considers closed source setups unethical because it gives the devs the ability to hide any function they want from the user. If the user can't see what's running, how can they defend themselves from spying, censorship and propaganda? If a user can't be allowed to view and control what runs on his hardware, he can't be sjre he has any other digital rights either regarding his hardware. And that contradicts the very definition of ownership of property

      • by perryizgr8 (1370173) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @02:09AM (#40272663)

        then the user is most welcome to write his own s/w. this whole argument is shit. do you think about who's gonna spy on you when you talk on the phone, when you watch tv, when you drive your on-star car?? accept it, you can't have total control over stuff that you didn't make yourself. and you can't make everything yourself.

        • by Carewolf (581105)

          then the user is most welcome to write his own s/w.

          Funny, that is exactly what open source is all about. I think you just made the opposite argument of what you intended :D

        • by martin-boundary (547041) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @06:19AM (#40273315)

          this whole argument is shit.

          Or maybe YOUR response is shit?

          then the user is most welcome to write his own s/w.

          Not if the OS doesn't LET HIM. That's what the bootloader fight is about.

          do you think about who's gonna spy on you when you talk on the phone,

          Of course. That's why there are laws AGAINST PHONETAPPING, because some people thought about that before you were born. I guess you didn't know that?

          when you watch tv,

          There are default rules about privacy here too. That's why you need to VOLUNTEER to be monitored by Nielsen ratings, for example.

          accept it, you can't have total control over stuff that you didn't make yourself. and you can't make everything yourself.

          How about YOU ACCEPT it and leave the rest of us to figure out how to save our privacy in the future?

          Total control isn't even remotely the issue. What is the issue is freedom. Freedom to do what we like, freedom from being spied upon, and freedom from being forced to accept the economic slavery that we are being pushed into.

          It's not difficult. Companies are welcome to do whatever they like so long as they DON'T break our freedoms. Each time they do, we'll just have to complain about it, figure out what it means, and keep talking about it until we find a way to smack them so they stop.

          • nice! you skirted around the main issue brilliantly! esr says "don't trust any s/w unless you can see what it does at the code level." i disagree. according to esr it is impossible for me to use ANY s/w, because i'm not an expert programmer, and i won't understand how ios does its magic even if i was forced to read the code out aloud. similarly, a person who is not an automotive engineer won't ever be able to drive any car, because how the fuck is he expected to trust his car if he doesn't understand how ev

        • by tepples (727027)

          then the user is most welcome to write his own s/w.

          Some companies that assert broad exclusive rights in general functionality would beg to differ. These include, for example, MPEG-LA members and the owners of copyright in some classic video games.

          As martin-boundary pointed out, hardware makers that assert broad exclusive rights to develop software for their hardware would also beg to differ. Take Sony v. Hotz for example.

      • by roman_mir (125474)

        It is up to the users to decide whether they want to run the software or not, if users decided they didn't want to run closed source software, the market for closed source software would disappear, nobody would be able to sell it.

        Since the users are not making that decision, the market for closed source software exists and thrives actually, which makes this argument irrelevant.

        • It is up to the user to decide whether they want to breathe clean air or not, if users decided they didn't want to smoke cigarettes, the market for cigarettes would disappear, nobody would be able to sell them.

          Since the users are not making that decision, the market for cigarettes thrives actually, which makes this argument irrelevant.

          You see.... that's the crux of the problem, you dodged the vendor lock-in addiction issue by ignoring that the vendors don't reveal the true risks. Many users want to quit smoking cigarettes, but are helplessly trapped by their need. The Proprietary Tobacco Industry doesn't care what sort of harm they're causing as long as users keep buying product.

          • by roman_mir (125474)

            Users can grow their own tobacco, they can buy from other vendors, but it's funny that you are comparing cigarettes to software.

            Tobacco is clearly an addictive narcotic that is also harmful to people (causes multiple health problems). OTOH the software hardly can be said to have the same adverse health risks (cancers?) Way to compare apples to rocks.

            There is plenty of open source software, thus the only reason closed source software sells is because people like to buy it, do you want to take away their ab

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 10, 2012 @02:00AM (#40272635)

      Stallman is not against paying for software. He's for free (as in freedom) software, i.e. software the user is free to (pay someone to) modify. Heck, he sold early copies of emacs (or was it something else?) in tapes, and emacs was free software at the time (and of course still is). Although having access to the source code means no cracking is necessary, that buys you a few hours at best (or, days if it's an unknown game). Others copying your work and selling as theirs is a huge problem for some types of games, but depending on the game you could GPL the code but keep the maps/art proprietary; that way anyone can improve the game but copycats will have a harder time copying you unless they're Zynga (perphaps not perfect, but that was done in a game or two, unfortunately I don't recall the names).

      • by unixisc (2429386)

        One improvement the FSF has made lately is that they've started using the adjective 'libre' instead of 'free', and they use the less confusing, but still misleading term 'Software Freedom' to describe what they are about. A better term to describe in English what they stand for is 'Liberated Software', since it captures everything that rms describes from both ends - FSF activists, as well as businesses. For the latter, the label fits the perception that it is a quasi-Marxist way of owning software, fully

    • Take a page from the book of Kickstarter. If people can see exactly how their payment/donation is contributing, they will be in a better position to make the decision for themselves. No one wants to overpay or be ripped off. Transparency in funding should be the next step in modern day open and other projects. The philosophy of developers being confident about their flow of operations speaks volumes about what their work represents.

      I remember a website with a simple 'in the red' meter on the homepage. If in

    • by w.hamra1987 (1193987) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @02:45AM (#40272765) Homepage

      no one is saying you can't be paid for your work. I write free software as well, and i make money selling support and warranties. my code comes with absolutely no warranty, and anyone can use it, but seeing as it's aimed at schools (i design school administration systems), you can bet they want some guarantee the system will function, support availability if something malfunctions, bug fixes when released, and for the "pro" package they get to suggest custom features that i'll happily implement.

      some choose to be charged by hours of actual support, others buy annual support packages. and then, some might want to just use the system themselves, without my support, it's their choice, i really don't mind.

      oh, and i make some profit selling hardware, almost all schools here don't have a proper server, and some have horrible networking that requires some changing, to which i charge money as well...

      it just works :)

    • by unixisc (2429386)

      Sure, open source is great (I've contributed), but I think too much of either side is wrong. It's unethical to take what's not yours, be it because you don't want other people to rip you off, or for some other reason. So charging for software makes it inconvenient for people who want it. But think about the people who spend hours and hours coding. How do they afford coffee to stay up writing software so open-source freeloaders can consume whatever they feel like? I've contributed to open source, only to have my work resold as someone else's. Look, I'm not against open source, but to make a blanket statement and call all closed source software unethical is absolutely stupid.

      I'm not a software guy, but I pretty much agree w/ this.

      The one thing esr didn't address in that page (maybe he's done it elsewhere) is the redistribution rights associated w/ open-source. It's one thing to give your open source to your customers when they buy the software from you, so that they can make alterations that suit them better, under terms and conditions agreeable to both of you (things like do they have to contribute back to the tree, and so on)

      However, the way I see it, you'd also be fully

    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      Well, it is inconvenient to say so, because so many of us depend on close source to get paid, but it is actually unethical to give a client a software in binary form without the source code, I wholeheartedly agree.

      Right now, I am developing two pieces of open source software, and am being paid (fulll time) for this. The first one is a custom implementation of a known algorithm, to be run on a webserver. The client considers it strategical for him so while he will have the source code, he plans not to pub
      • it is actually unethical to give a client a software in binary form without the source code, I wholeheartedly agree.

        That may be true (it certainly disadvantages them, but does it make it wrong?), but I think it's bad business sense to basically allow the creation of a competitor whenever you release your source code to another party without limiting their ability to redistribute it. In other words, for large complex projects (like OS's) the possibility of an emerging competitor leveraging your source code is offset by the complexity of the code base, and the benefits FLOSS methods give you in terms of bug-fixing, stabili

    • by ilguido (1704434)

      Sure, open source is great (I've contributed), but I think too much of either side is wrong. It's unethical to take what's not yours, be it because you don't want other people to rip you off, or for some other reason.

      I can't get what's the link between the two sentences. What does Open Source/Free (as in GNU) software have to do with pirated software? Some closed source software benefits from pirated software, because it expands its audience among possible customers. Open source software never benefits from it.

      So charging for software makes it inconvenient for people who want it. But think about the people who spend hours and hours coding. How do they afford coffee to stay up writing software so open-source freeloaders can consume whatever they feel like?

      Open Source commercial software exists and thrives. This smells like the usual FUD: open source is bad for the economy, for your company, for your babies....

    • by stsp (979375) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @05:04AM (#40273109) Homepage

      I'm sad to hear that someone ripped off your work and resold it as their own. That's unjust, and it's one of the inherent risks of open source development.

      There is a healthy variant of this where companies build a product based on an open source code base, something that adds value but is doing something that the community around the open source project isn't interested in doing. Many companies do this, including Facebook and Yahoo, who fund development of of e.g. Apache Hadoop, and Apple who are using BSD and Apache-licensed code in OS X. If you're doing this well, you feed back any changes the community might be interested in. And that doesn't mean just dropping some code on their lists and walking away. You need to interact nicely, react to community feedback, and eventually become part of the community and share some responsibility.

      Whoever sold your work as their own took the irresponsible and damaging route with the above approach, looking for short-term profit only, with no interest in supporting the original project. To fight this, you can use a copyleft licence and enforce it if it is violated, and/or build a community that is strong and dedicated to supporting the original product (this is why new projects at the Apache Software Foundation go through an incubating phase that builds up a community around the project -- the project graduates once the community is deemed healthy). As an additional lever, you could also trademark your product's name to ensure that others who use your work cannot use the same name for their own product but must rebrand it.

      You can also sell services that relate to the software. E.g. where I work we sell support and consulting for open source development tools (svn, git, eclipse, and the like). We also contribute to some of the projects we sell services for, so money people pay for our services partly funds further development of these open source tools. We make sure clients are aware of that, and they are usually quite happy about getting support from someone who is a developer on the project. This gives us a small competitive edge over others who sell consulting for these open source products but don't interact with the open source community.

      An excellent description of the role money can play in an open source project is given by Karl Fogel at http://www.producingoss.com/en/money.html [producingoss.com]

      .

    • "How exactly do I support myself as a developer?"

      Well, first you have to study Elementary Economics 101. Supply & Demand. What's scarce is not your software. What's scarce is your ability to create the software. As long as you're trying to sell a beach bum sand, or ice to Eskimos, then no one can help you.

      What you really want to do is get paid for working, right? I mean, that's the disconnect. THAT's the problem. The fact that you've gotten yourself into a situation where no one can pay you to

      • by bug1 (96678)

        You want to work and work and work, and then after it's already done, you expect to get paid...

        How does the success of the "Humble Indie Bundle" fit in with your views ?

        If you ask for money when the work is done, you have taken a lot of risk out of the process, potential financial contributors have a much better idea of what they are getting.

    • by jgrahn (181062)

      But think about the people who spend hours and hours coding. How do they afford coffee to stay up writing software so open-source freeloaders can consume whatever they feel like?

      (a) I don't know how it happens, but they do. There are more than 25,000 packages in Debian.
      (b) "open-source freeloaders" is an oxymoron. You can't give things away for free (which is what you're getting at) and then when someone accepts it, accuse him of being a parasite.

    • But think about the people who spend hours and hours coding. How do they afford coffee to stay up writing software so open-source freeloaders can consume whatever they feel like?

      A few ways:

      1. Work for a company that commits patches to open source projects. Red Hat, IBM, and even Microsoft (though they tend to only contribute patches with an obvious benefit to their own business interests) come to mind, and there are many others.
      2. Work as a contractor developing special purpose software; contribute to open source projects on the side or as needed (be careful about this one -- some companies might try to claim that any patch you wrote is their "property").
      3. Work in academia (not necessa
  • by MrMickS (568778) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @01:35AM (#40272569) Homepage Journal

    Whilst I can see the points being made, and understand them, there is little difference between closed and open source from an ordinary end-user point of view. If they are unable to examine, update, modify, and build the software themselves there is no real difference between open source or closed source software. To the contrary closed source is likely to better serve their particular needs as the closed source vendor has to persuade them to spend money on it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Osgeld (1900440)

      thats a very good point. at our company we buy MS office, not because we like MS, but just for the simple fact it can open our retardedly large spreadsheet data logs where as the OSS version tosses up a bitch message and truncates the data. the OSS version fails in our application, we dont care about the politics, only what will work for our needs

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 10, 2012 @02:05AM (#40272647)

      Obviously you understood very little. Although most people cannot code themselves, with free software they're allowed to ask anybody who can to help them. With proprietary software they face a vendor-lock-in with monopoly on changes to the product and usually to support for the product. And free software is not always gratis. Red Hat runs a billion dollars a year business with free software.

      • Obviously you understood very little. Although most people cannot code themselves, with free software they're allowed to ask anybody who can to help them.

        And these people consumers are supposed to ask are going to do a full code review for free? And let's hope these 'code reviewers' are very good, because no software company is going to code the sneaky stuff in obvious ways. Don't expect to find function spy_on_user() when looking around.

        With proprietary software they face a vendor-lock-in with monopoly on changes to the product and usually to support for the product.

        That's the same case for FOSS. Sure, they could find someone to write another software package so they can access their data, or they could convert it to something else, but both of these aren't free. When someone else write

      • by Kjella (173770)

        They can ask, but unless it's a problem that can be solved by reading forums and changing settings - which you can ask anybody to help with for closed source software too, I think you would find there's quite many companies that support Microsoft products without being Microsoft - then it's highly unlikely they get any help they can use. Bug reporting on open source is often a DYI project where you get tasks back that normal people wouldn't understand (try compiling with this patch, for example.. tell that

    • Actually, there are important difference even for people who have no idea how to write a program. I will never forget the time when I was trying to do homework for an engineering class, and I received a message from Matlab that said that I could not use the program because too many other people on campus were using it. There was an arbitrary limit on the number of concurrent Matlab users; this is not a programming issue, it is an arbitrary and unnecessary restriction. Likewise, when my mother -- someone
  • by Billly Gates (198444) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @01:41AM (#40272583) Journal

    What about the harmful effects of software not being developed that meets a businesses needs? If you do not pay for it it doesn't get developed.

    People say yeah linux can do everything Windows can do or clueless. Redhat, IBM, and thousands of others donate and develop code for Linux so you can use it on a server at work.

    The 100% no non free code linux kernel was 200k in the 1990s and unpractical. Just because it was given away doesn't mean it was free to make. More to the point Windows meets the needs much better than Linux to desktop users because they are willing to pay Microsoft to fine tune and make sure it works right on their pc. You do not have to worry an update will hose your system due to the lack of an ABI or some weird wifi will randomly disconnect (issue with my laptop with linux).

    What is so evil about getting paid? If you need shit done you provide value to barter that we call call cash in exchange for their labor. That is capitalism 101 and is the most efficient system.

    All this non free software is worth every penny for those who need JIT inventory in Access/SQL Server to the accountant who purchases statistical add on packages for Excel so his employer can pay him. If you do not like it go get a job or write your own solution.

    Also someone should get paid handsomely for his or her contribution and there is nothing wrong with that.

    • Very strange (Score:3, Informative)

      by folderol (1965326)
      Why is it that I don't seem to have any of the problems others do with Linux? Across my home and business use I have 4 totally different desktops of different ages and capability along with two laptops, again quite different in age and power, yet I have no issues with any of them. They all run debian (or one of it's derivatives).

      Why also, do people totally miss the point of FOSS and focus on price rather than freedom of choice? In fact, it is quite legally and acceptably possible to make money out of lib
    • by gmuslera (3436)
      OSS is not about getting paid or not for writting it. Is about not getting a black box that you don't really own, on which you must give blind trust, you can't modify/extend/adapt to your exact needs and that you are limited in the ways you can use it. Is about freedom, not about getting or not money, and there are in fact a lot of people and companies that do their living writting, adapting, or giving services around open source software.
      • by unixisc (2429386)
        Uh, if you look at the Open Source Definition [opensource.org], the first point they make is about Free Redistribution. Very surprisingly, the Source Code comes second. It's a pity, b'cos had the OSI definition not insisted on Free redistribution, it would have served the needs of open source better w/o raising converns about the financing of such projects.
    • by Ash-Fox (726320)

      A lot of work in the Linux open source initiative is paid work to begin with. I don't recall instances where these people were called out and called evil?

  • by bmo (77928) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @02:19AM (#40272697)

    in which he takes the firm stance that non-free software is unethical in all cases but concedes that running non-free games on a free operating system is much more desirable than running them on a non-free operating system itself

    Why single out games as "potentially not as harmful"?

    Moving from non-free to free is a process. It is a process that does not happen overnight. First get the vendors to compile for Linux. Then, if any feel like it, they can move to Free Software and make money through support like IBM, Oracle, and SAP make the vast majority of their profits on support (the actual sales of their closed source software is a minor component of their profits).

    Without getting major companies to start moving their paid, closed source software to Linux first, you/re /never/ going to see Autocad or the like as Free Software on Linux.

    Absolutism is counter-productive and turns off the people and companies we need to get on the side of Linux. I'm sorry, but ESR is full of himself and full of shit.

    --
    BMO - Long time Linux user, and user of Free Software and believer of Free Software as a laudable end goal, but the world is not as neat as ESR thinks it is, can be, or should be.

    • by Lazy Jones (8403)

      Without getting major companies to start moving their paid, closed source software to Linux first, you/re /never/ going to see Autocad or the like as Free Software on Linux.

      Which is why we have GIMP even though Adobe hasn't ported Photoshop to Linux?

      The next step after major companies declaring to port stuff to Linux is demand for a non-removable DRM component for Linux. I think the intention of Open Source was to pollute closed-source habitats with (viral) Open Source software, not the other way round. Closed source / DRM isn't magically going to become open when it's a perfectly valid and undisputedly supported option for Linux, why should it?

      IMHO, the way to go is the

      • by bmo (77928)

        >The next step after major companies declaring to port stuff to Linux is demand for a non-removable DRM component for Linux.

        >slippery slope argument

        Linus has come out and said that DRM is not necessarily bad on Linux.

        I disagree and say that DRM is bad on all platforms, but that's me. We've even seen pushback on DRM on closed OSes, so at least there is hope. DRM while related to closed source, is a separate issue.

        >Which is why we have GIMP even though Adobe hasn't ported Photoshop to Linux?

        There a

        • by Lazy Jones (8403)

          >slippery slope argument

          You're right, slippery slopes do not exist and we should go down that road

          at our peril

          ...

          There are a lot of people who will tell you that they will not move to Linux until Photoshop or Solidworks works on Linux.

          No problem for me, Linux doesn't get better or worse (well, more likely worse if the past 10 years have been any indication) if more people (esp. like those - who usually prefer pirating Photoshop over using free alternatives) use it. WINE should be improved to support more commercial software though.

          • by bmo (77928)

            So how is Wine better than having companies make native ports?

            >only kids who pirate software use Photoshop or Solidworks

            I dunno, manufacturers who do CAD and CAE would go to Linux if you had Solidworks and other CAE/CAD/CAM software on Linux. Wouldn't they?

            OpenCASCADE isn't enough.

            --
            BMO

    • i understand your point of view on this, but RMS still has to do it. take a good look around the FOSS world, almost everyone disagrees with RMS, and allow/encourage/provide non-free software, that can range from drivers, to games, to highly useful programs that don't have a FOSS alternative. and the linux world keeps thriving, and getting better, and of course, has not lost its spirit of freedom. non-free software, in little amounts with the vast free stuff available, perfects the ecosystem, not harm it. bu

      • by bmo (77928)

        But to point at software companies and say "you're unethical" doesn't earn friends.

        --
        BMO

  • This is another example of ESR ignoring the dangers of closed-source software in his devotion to "pragmatism." There is always a role for the monks of society, and RMS is the monk of free software. It's relatively easy to be a pragmatist. It takes something special to be a monk.

    I don't live like RMS, but I find his insights to be important. The dystopian future from The Right to Read [gnu.org], especially, is being carried out in terms of years instead of decades. The secret to RMS's "fanaticism" is his long-term pla

    • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @03:09AM (#40272819)

      The microwave example is not that good, either. Many modern microwaves have an insanely complicated user interface, and I wouldn't mind replacing it with a more intuitive one. Not to mention what silly things you could do with a microwave if you could network it.

      Because if there's one thing people think of when it comes to FOSS software, it's well designed, intuitive interfaces.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Because if there's one thing people think of when it comes to FOSS software, it's well designed, intuitive interfaces.

        You Jest, but if you can come up with a way in which Metro is superior to Unity then you'll really have something.

      • by jgrahn (181062)

        The microwave example is not that good, either. Many modern microwaves have an insanely complicated user interface, and I wouldn't mind replacing it with a more intuitive one. Not to mention what silly things you could do with a microwave if you could network it.

        Because if there's one thing people think of when it comes to FOSS software, it's well designed, intuitive interfaces.

        Well, yes actually. Although that probably has more to do with the Unix tradition.

    • by jgrahn (181062)

      This is another example of ESR ignoring the dangers of closed-source software in his devotion to "pragmatism."

      Well, at least this: I didn't understand why he would dedicate the article to RMS-bashing. That was really the core of it, and it looks silly and secterian. I hope he does *other* pieces on OSS which don't focus on that.

  • Figureheads need to write placatory articles lest they should get caught playing L4D2 on Linux ...
  • "The advantage of OSS is you can modify it to suit your own requirements"

    That's all very well for the small number of elite programmers who have the free-time, skills and learning ability to just knock out a complete recompile of GNOME (say), or Open Office. For everyone else it makes no difference whether some of the major packages they use are open / closed / free / restricted or written in a foreign language. The number of people who HAVE decided to make customisations to anything is small (n.b. If you

    • by Arker (91948)
      You are wrong, and here is why. You dont need to be able to modify the source yourself in order to benefit from it. There are these things called markets, you see. Free software enables a free market, without artificial barriers to entry, and you dont need to be able to make customisations personally to benefit from this.
      • So unless these "markets" (wow, a term I've never heard of before </sarcasm>) use fresh air or leaves as a unit of transaction, you might as well just go out and buy a commercial package. I know there's a difference between OSS and zero-price (different again from zero-cost - everything has a cost), but once you're in hock to a third party to support your customisations and fix whatever bugs they introduced - now and for every new version, you may as well reduce the commercial risk and just buy an OTS
    • When I was an undergrad, I tried to run Matlab only to discover that there were too many other people on campus using Matlab -- apparently the license our school had only allowed 50 concurrent Matlab users. That, in a nutshell, is why free software matters for non-programmers -- proprietary software almost always comes with arbitrary restrictions, and sometimes those restrictions are enforced by the software itself.

      Free software eBook readers do not delete your books when Amazon asks them to. Free soft
    1. 1. Reliability: Consequences of failure are the same as OS. If the driver fails, the computer usually fails. Complexity is high for many drivers, at the same level as the OS itself. The relevant metric is the probability of bugs in the bits you use, not the total probability of bugs. OS: 8/10 , Toaster: 1/10, Drivers 8/10
    2. 2. Unhackability: Lower than OS, as the driver has a fixed purpose. More important than a toaster, as you may want special HW functions, like switching resolutions on a graphics card. The

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