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Microsoft Books Media Book Reviews

Proudly Serving My Corporate Masters 144

Danny Yee popped up this review from down under of the provacatively titled Proudly Serving My Corporate Masters: What I Learned in Ten Years as a Microsoft Programmer . This sounds like a fun read, but not without flaws.

Proudly Serving My Corporate Masters
author Adam Barr
pages 342
publisher Writers Club Press
rating 8
reviewer Danny Yee
ISBN 0-595-16128-6
summary What Adam Barr Learned in Ten Years as a Microsoft Programmer

Barr worked as a low-level developer at Microsoft and his account in Proudly Serving My Corporate Masters, built around his firsthand experience, offers a perspective on the company "from the ranks". This is combined with more general commentary on recent computing issues, with reflections on evangelism, community, and open source. The result has something for a range of people: those curious about Microsoft, involved in debates about the merits of open source, responsible for recruitment and management of programmers, or just interested in computing history.

Barr begins by describing how he came to work for Microsoft. This is the start of four chapters on Microsoft's recruitment system, covering both the initial selection on campus, the interview system, and the overall effectiveness. There is also an introduction to how work is structured at Microsoft, in particular the division between developers, program managers, and testers. Three chapters then describe Barr's time at SoftImage, a Microsoft acquisition producing digital editing software. Here we are introduced to the different types of "demos" (from carefully scripted sessions presented by special "demo artists" to genuine "hands-on" demos) and the complexities of dealing with third-party hardware suppliers.

Three chapters then present a potted history of computing over the last twenty years or so, beginning with an account Barr wrote as a teenager back in 1982, after visiting ComDex. Barr focuses on evangelism - on the factors that contribute to one platform or operating system winning out over others - and in particular why IBM PC hardware became ubiquitous, why MSDOS beat CP/M-86, and why Windows beat OS/2. None of this is particularly novel, but it's a nice lively account.

This leads naturally to more recent conflicts and debates which pit (as flagship icons) Microsoft against Linux. Again, there is nothing spectacular here, but Barr offers an intelligent, informed, and balanced perspective, coming up with some points that were new to me. Of the claim that it will be difficult to find programmers to do the "unsexy" work with Linux, for example, he writes

"Microsoft, being a company with salaries and a supervisory hierarchy, has the ability to order someone to work on something he or she doesn't want to work on, but I never recall this happening. People worked on things that interested them and projects still got complete coverage. There is no reason that the same should not be true of Linux, especially given the size of the Linux community."
Two chapters evaluate attacks against Microsoft, the first addressing popular criticisms and the second the various legal attacks. Here Barr is level-headed, calmly rebutting some of the sillier attacks while accepting valid criticisms.

A major weakness of this material is that Barr only ever talks about "open source" (a development methodology) and never about "free software" (a much broader movement). One major reason for techs ranting at Microsoft is their unhappiness with loss of choice, freedom, and control - and this has been articulated as an ethical and political position by the Free Software Foundation and others. But Barr never considers this argument against Microsoft at all.

A chapter on online community is really a digression. The final two chapters then consider the future of Microsoft. Barr argues that Microsoft should stick to its core PC business and not get distracted by ventures such as the XBox. He ends where he started, arguing that the key to Microsoft's future lies in its handling of employees, in its ability to attract, recruit, and retain good people.

Proudly Serving is nicely laid out and has obviously been carefully edited. Barr avoids most technical details (an exception is some discussion of buses and video hardware in the chapters on SoftImage) and offers separate digressions on Code, APIs, and Middleware. A minor complaint is that the workings of Microsoft stock options are only explained in the last chapter, by which point the reader will either have worked it out for themselves or decided they don't care.


Purchase this book from FatBrain. Visit the author's web site or check out Danny Yee's five hundred other book reviews.

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Proudly Serving My Corporate Masters

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    who's the asp developer?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The post you replied to stated that programmers needed to be paid. It never said that companies needed to sell the software they produced (be it inhouse or not), but that a business paid the programmers. read it over again.
  • ...as long as you're selling them to the right people.

    I work for MontaVista Software. We put together a comprehensive, tested cross-platform embedded systems development environment for Linux (much harder than it sounds -- but many of the test boards make great toys ). We sell support contracts and "professional services" -- and we're doing just fine. We have customers -- real customers, genuine big names who've signed large contracts, including many who've come back for renewals. Let me assure you, I get paid. So does everyone else here.

    And let me assure you, a great many of the folks here do have "REAL" talent; indeed, I would indeed describe a great many of my programmers as top-tier. Embedded systems may not strike everyone as a sexy field (our cross-development kit is never going to be sold at K-Mart) but there's one helluvalot of money here for folks doing Linux.

  • We need a good Latin term for it. It will sound better and people won't confuse the meaning. I'm sure some of you know enough latin to come up with something appropriate. Let's hear it.

  • Their most convincing argument is that programming is a job. It's work, and it can be hard work at times. But if all software is free, then who pays the programmers? It's pretty clear by this time that selling support contracts don't work. If a company can't pay its programmers, then who would work for them.

    This is something I've been thinking about, or thought about a while before I came to my current conclusion. This also doesn't surprise me about Microsoft, that their programmers think of it as a job, as hard work. To me, programming is fun. I like bringing my digital minions to life and setting them upon their tasks. Now it's true that I'm not going to write a Word replacement, that's not my bag. However that doesn't mean that someone else won't WANT to do it.

    Now, if all software is free, who pays the programmers? Depends on the business model.

    I'm constantly surprised that they say support contracts don't work. Where I work, we bring in about $125 per month per support account. We have 545 paying accounts. Some pay more than others, up to $200 a month. Now, that's not going to support a gigantic company like Microsoft, but I'm sure they could get some of their larger NT/2000 customers to pay them more than $200 a month.

    For end users, support contracts may not work, but not many companies that I'm aware of grew large and fat on end-user software. And let's face it, being large and fat is about all Microsoft thinks about.
  • Hi, Burrito.

    I worked for MS as in intern a few summers ago, and I hung out with some the real high-level programmers (the ones who get to make REAL decisions) during my smoke breaks.

    What project(s) did these guys work on? Just curious, if you don't remember it isn't important.

    They had an interesting perspective on free software.

    YOU ARE IN A MAZE OF TWISTY LITTLE PERSPECTIVES, ALL ALIKE.

    Their most convincing argument is that programming is a job. It's work, and it can be hard work at times.

    True. But it's also fun. And sometimes if something is enjoyable enough to a person, even if it is Work(tm), that person might still do it and not necessarily need (or even want) to be paid for it.

    But if all software is free, then who pays the programmers?

    I'll assume you're not intending to confuse gratis and libre here and you are meaning gratis. Well, I guess if all software doesn't cost any money, then nobody's going to pay programmers to produce software. So programmers won't produce software. So there will be no new software produced. And if someone needs software that doesn't already exist, he'll have to find a programmer to do it for free, because software doesn't cost anything, right, everybody knows that!

    Hm. I'm sure I was going somewhere with this at one time. :)

    It's pretty clear by this time that selling support contracts don't work.

    Maybe it's clearer to you (and/or the programmers you're quoting) than it is to me. Maybe selling support contracts doesn't always work, but I think you'd be pushing it to conclude that selling support contract always doesn't work.

    I'm assuming from the context that you meant to say something like "selling support contracts for open-source software doesn't work." Well - how many companies producing OSS are there that make their money primarily (or even purely) from selling support contracts for that software? How many have failed in the last year (ie. during a global tech wreck from which few tech companies of any kind survived unscathed)? I'm sure there's a few, but can't name any names off the top of my head. How many have been around for longer than five years? Ten years? For the latter, I can only think of one (Cygnus), even though it's now owned by RedHat.

    If a company can't pay its programmers, then who would work for them.

    You might as well say "If a company can't earn any money, why would it exist?"

    They were continually amazed at the amount of work that is poured into free software, and they wondered what Linux or *BSD would be like if there were some system for everyone who contributes to be compensated.

    I think this is one of the points covered (to some extent) in some of Eric Raymond's writings [tuxedo.org]. Part of the reality of opensource programming is that those who contribut to a successful project (or to a project that becomes successful) feel that they are compensated (either just by the existence of the project or in a variety of other ways). Note that the definition of "successful" in that last sentence can cover a wide area.

    I can recall one of the engineers saying something like, "We [MS] wouldn't have a chance if people with REAL talent [professional programmers] were contributing to the free software movement. Thank god the only people who really contribute are kiddies."

    *grin* Quick, better back off from that comment!

    Now, I don't think everyone who contributes to free software is a kiddie,

    Phew... just made it in time. :)

    but it does bring up an interesting point: what would Linux be like today if it could attract top-tier engineers?

    I'd say it also brings up another interesting point: how do you define "top-tier engineer"?

    I'll be generous to the anonymous MS programmer you quoted above and presume that she was as least partly joking... though I'll acknowledge there's a possibility that she wasn't (at least, you seemed to present it as a serious comment, and you were there when she said it). At any rate - what is a top-tier engineer? Can you tell them purely by their work? How reliable is your judgement in that case? Can you tell them by the way they work? Can you tell them by the the way they dress? Their hair? Their impressive collection of facial tics?

    I'll just add in closing to this otherwise largely content-free response :) that I find that the sort of people who feel a need to publically denigrate the skills of others only do it as a way of making them (the denigrater, not the denigratee) feel better about themselves.

    Pete.

  • Barr tries to cover the full range of reasons people "rant at Microsoft" (in his chapter "Evil Empire"). While the FSF "freedom" argument is indeeed something I support personally, I believe it's important and widespread enough to warrant treatment in such a context. Your mileage may vary.

    As for pushing my personal agenda... that's quite normal in book reviews, and I probably do less of it than most reviewers.

    Danny.

  • Ok...several peeps have already pointed out the inaccuracy in the original post.

    Now I'm not a programmer, but I could imagine a bunch of people working long periods of time (in excess of ten years) on things which they only wanted to program. Bob has done kernel work the entire time he's been here, Alice does network stack, she was there for Windows for Workgroups...et cetera.

    One of the things people learn in Microeconomics is that while one group may finish a particular set of tasks faster, chances are it's best to collaborate with another slower group, whose members may individually excel in one thing. I expect the same of programming.

    However, couldn't it be possible that these people spend so much time in their little programming domains that they start to lose track of the reality of how an entire program fits together? And while such a structure works out for Linux (which i'm gonna crudely summarize as having a bunch of different components working together with the kernel, which is managed by overlord Torvalds) I have to wonder if that is the best situation for Windows. Now I look at Windows and think that very talented people may have programmed the networking stack, IE, the NT kernel, et cetera...and it also makes sense that they haven't done anything else for quite some time. They have all these people programming in their little worlds...and someone else has to fit it altogether.

    Is this a sensible thought?
  • Liberated software sounds like a euphemism for warez.


    So let's call it Liberty Software . I think that has a better ring to it anyway. It sounds like the "Liberty Ships" of World War II. And of course, in the US it has that strong connection with the Founding Fathers, etc.

    I have to say that I strongly agree with the original poster on the liberty sub-thread here. I find the whole whole Free==(beer|speech) thing can get confusing even though I wholeheartedly believe, support, and evangelize the free speech side of it. It seems to me that we can't realistically expect people who aren't "in the loop" to regularly differenciate between the two. Liberty Software spells it all out, leaving not much room for doubt.

    Most people do just associate the word free with no money/cost.

    Just my .02$
  • The first sentence of the introduction is "When I started working at Microsoft back in March of 1990 it was just another software company." He then goes onto explain that he never expected Microsoft to become what it has. Now either he was incredibly ignorant, incredibly naive or both. I've been in this business a long time (I was paid to write programs for PCs in 1977, before floppy disks were commonly available, much less PC OSes) and I knew back in the mid-80's that Microsoft wanted to completely control the PC software industry. I remember making statements to that effect to friends in 1985.

  • And of course it was parodied by the Simpsons in on of the early "Treehouse of Horrors" episodes.
  • The PC I was writing programs for in 1977 was a Sol-20, made by Processor Technology. Like the Altair it had an 8080 CPU and an S-100 bus, but unlike the Altair it had a built in keyboard, casette tape controller and video bios. It may have been the first PC that had a keyboard and video as part of the unit, but I'm not sure. Later we added a Northstar 80k floppy drive to it to make it faster easier to save programs. Thinking back, I didn't actually get *paid* to program it until 1978, but I was programming it as part of a class at my high school in fall of 1977.
    One of the things I got paid for was to convert a bunch of programs written in BASIC on a DEC of some sort to run on the Sol. We had a paper tape reader that consisted of a small light sensitive tape reading unit and a lamp. We manually pulled the tapes through this thing - not too fast or there would be tons of errors. We then corrected all the arrors and translated the BASIC to the dialect the Sol used.
    Later we got an Exidy Sorceror, a Z-80 based machine that had some cool bitmapped graphics.
  • >You're obviously not overly adept at reading,
    >since you fail to see clearly intended sarcasm.

    People realized he was joking. It
    just wasn't funny because of the technical
    error.

    If you try to make a joke to technical
    people and the premise is in error (blatant
    misquote in this case), you should expect
    criticism.

    I'm sorry you felt the need to write those
    final attempts at insults in order to passive
    agressively defend your own unsophisticated
    sense of humor.

    -Kevin
  • Microserfs was fun to read, but don't forget to mention that it's a work of fiction.
  • Or Politically Correct software. ;-)
  • I haven't applied the label 'horrible' to Mozilla since 0.8, and 0.9.1 is actually pretty good. Aside from all the stupid media and Flash support in IE, I actually prefer Mozilla to IE now.

  • Personally, I prefer to use the term "Legally Free Software", which pretty much covers both the fact that "it's not stealing even though you don't have to pay anybody" and "you can make copies for other people without getting arrested".


    ---
  • by Dr.Dubious DDQ ( 11968 ) on Thursday June 21, 2001 @10:35AM (#135563) Homepage
    Linus created Linux NOT because of a "noble goal" but because he wanted to do things that he couldn't do previously.

    An even better motivator, I think.

    As far as I know, the Wright brothers built their airplane because they wanted to fly, not because some rich guy was paying them to do it...


    ---
  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Thursday June 21, 2001 @09:01AM (#135564)
    I also recommend looking at the MicroSoft Press book called "MicroSoft Inside Out" published last year on their 25th incorporation anniversary. It is like a student yearbook with several hundred short stories by current and former employees. Most of these talk about the product's they've worked on, but others talk about MS culture, and geek life.
    The collection is loosely organized in historical sections with propaganda pieces by the executives. It is not as coherent as a single-author book, but has its sweet spots.

  • Have you written any books lately?

    I have. Now if I could only get a link off the /. front page, I could finally leave this code-monkey crap behind.

  • I know. It used to render fine, then freeservers changed something and Ive never bothered to find a new (free) host. The site is very simple except for the freeservers stuff.
  • If you had asked if MS programmers write better code, I wouldn't know. But there is little doubt in my mind that MS products are more professional. By this, I mean that they are slickly packaged and show a high degree of consistency (although some real standouts remain).

    On the other hand, all of the products you mention (BIND, LaTEX, SENDMAIL, TEX EMACS) bear what I consider to be the hallmarks of hacker software: They work extremely well; are terrifically configurable; are very difficult to learn to use effectively; are quirky and not well polished; (apart from EMACS) lack well-integrated user documentation (source code is not user documentation); and are often used in combination with modules of wildly varying quality contributed by the user community, many of which basically don't work.

    Don't get me wrong; I love free software in general, and several of the titles cited above in particular. It's the best at what it does. But it's not professional.
  • Depends on what "low level programmer" means. To me, those words mean someone who writes device drivers and kernel stuff, in assembly language. And "high-level programmer" means someone who writes database apps in a 4GL.

    ;-)

    Ten years as a low-level programmer would be a dream come true, if only there was enough demand for that stuff...


    ---
  • Yeah but the best mechanics in the world are working on an F1 track in Monaco, or a FIA WRC event in Sweden, or a NASCAR Winston cup event in North Carolina.
  • by Tim C ( 15259 ) on Thursday June 21, 2001 @07:39AM (#135570)
    A number of companies already employ professional programmers to work on Free Software projects (I won't bore you with a list, you all know the names).

    Besides which, do not be fooled into thinking that all professional programmers are automatically better than amateurs; I have worked with some shockingly bad pros in my (relatively short) time.

    Also, do not be fooled into thinking that just because someone is being paid to do something, they will do a better job of it. Plenty of professional programmers do their 9-5(ish...) job, go home, and spend an hour or two working on some OS project or other.

    Just because there's no-one paying for it, doesn't necessarily mean it isn't being worked on by profesisonals.

    Cheers,

    Tim
  • Some anecdotal examples:

    I just finshed writing a perl program for my company to analyze server logfiles. (part of my job as a Unix Admin) It's completely customized to our setup, and useless to anyone else.

    My roomate works as part of a development staff at his company. None of the software they write is sold, it's all for internal use. It's an insurance company, they aren't interested in selling software.

    -Wintermute

  • It's called work because they have to pay you to do it. If it wasn't so boring, then you might do it for free.
  • "Microsoft, being a company with salaries and a supervisory hierarchy, has the ability to order someone to work on something he or she doesn't want to work on, but I never recall this happening. People worked on things that interested them and projects still got complete coverage. There is no reason that the same should not be true of Linux, especially given the size of the Linux community."

    Wierd. I was just talking to a collegue about this... see, in a company filled with primadonna engineers (myself included, unfortunately), it is impossible to get a project finished on time if the engineer working on it HATES it. Management has to be absolutely sure that the engineers they just assigned to a task actually find it interesting. If there is the odd "unsexy" task that nobody wants to tackle, management already knows it is going to take 3-4x as long to finish, and assign as best they can.

    However, I didn't see the connection between this effect and the "unsexy-jobs never get done in OSS" meme.

    It turns out that there are VERY few engineering tasks that EVERYBODY finds unsexy. Interesting...
  • In some sense, it's just as logical for experienced engineers to write free software as it is for students. Imagine spending a year writing a novel... and then burning the manuscript.

    Not a problem.... you did back-up your manuscript, didn't you?
  • Microsoft and the Free Software Movement are about as opposite as you can get. It didn't take an astrologer to figure out the friction between them heating up. The problem is that they are both expanding and are finding there isn't enough room for the both of them.

    Not to sound overly dramatic but I think there is a like a war brewing. Whose side are you on?

    And that is why Open Source Movement is so popular. Its fundamentally flawed but it allows people who care an escape. It allows people to remain neutral and not have to decide what their beliefs are. Its accomidating and allows people to say "I beleive in the Open Source Movement" when really that statement doesn't mean anything.

    Let me give you a broader perspective than the one we usually have. Many works of science fiction talk about computers controlling people. Without source code, the machine controlls the man. And indirectly the publisher of the software controlls the man. Proprietary software is a statement of control. The issue of controll is why we talk about freedom.
  • Because there are 30,000 of them of course.

    Read The 'Mythical Man Month' by Fred Brooks

    There IS no silver bullet!

  • The argument that "if all software is free, then who pays programmers?" is common (I've seen FSF apologize for it) but flawed. Programs sold on the open market are the exception. The vast majority of programming is either in-house or customized for one or a few clients. If all software were free, companies would still need to develop software for their specific needs.
  • Yea, but the problem is, you just named 6 people... Microsoft employs 30,000 very talented people in different fields. Plus, they don't just hire programmers... they have lawyers, managers, marketing people, etc. And on top of that, for every department where Linux has one or zero people working for it, MS has a team of very bright people making it work.

    If Linux had that entire staff working for them, Microsoft would almost certainly be out of business. But if you do that, I assure you those 30,000 people are going to other jobs, and probably few to none of them will work on free software. So, give some credit to MS for paying those people to contribute to the world of software, when those people otherwise probably wouldn't have.

    Now curse out Microsoft for all those bugs in their software... including the one in Freecell that allows me to CTRL-ALT-DEL close it avoid a loss!!!
  • All copyright enforcement comes at the end of a gun - whether it's at the behest of the "big guys" (like MS) or the little guys (like the FSF).

    Therefore you must oppose all copyrights. Does this make sense? Copyrights were recognized as important by this country's founders (USA, for those of you who are confused) and for good reason. They were also meant to be SHORT TERM - like 20 years or so. The current regime of life + many years is an offense to each and every citizen of this country (again, this is the USA for those who are confused).

    Sanity must be restored to copyrights, but eliminating them completely is both unconstitutional and throws out the good along with the bad.
  • Liberated software sounds like a euphemism for warez.
  • Microsoft does not support eth concept of Open Source and that it is Open Source, not Free Software, that Microsoft is actively attempting to discredit.
    Please learn the meanings of free software [gnu.org] (it's about liberty, not price), and open source software [opensource.org].

    Tom Swiss | the infamous tms | http://www.infamous.net/

  • but if he worked for ten years as a low-level developer he must not be a very exceptional person.
    Do they mean low-level as in corporate peon, or low-level as in programming close to the bare metal?

    Tom Swiss | the infamous tms | http://www.infamous.net/

  • I'm curious, which "PC" was it that you were writing programs for in 1977? The Altair?
  • Uhh.. no fucking shit sherlock, that's why I asked.
  • Hey cool, the Sol was a sweet box. Processor Technology really should have owned the market but they missed their price point IIRC.
  • of how the largest and supposedly 'best' software company in the world, with legions of paid developers, only managed to delay SoftImage's next-gen product (Sumatra/XSI) for so long that everyone who really needed it was forced to go and buy Maya. I'm sure this wasn't entirely M$'s fault - but the acquisition of SI by M$ hardly induced a revolution in the devlopment of the product, did it? Just because lots pf people get paid to do something doesn't make it good. McDonalds pays a whole lot of people a whole lot of money, but their food is still only fit for pigs. What would Linux be like if there was some system for everyone who contributes to be compensated? Well, it'd be like Windows, and then we'd all have to go and hack on something else.
  • It might get at least one more if you'd post some linkage ;^)=

    --Robert
  • I feel your pain. However, as I have unfortunately discovered, even a /. front-page listing won't do much to help a print-on-demand book get traction in the literary world.

    - adam

    P.S. Email me if you want my longer take on the subject.

  • It was a little of both. I did mostly work on loaders, kernels, and various device drivers, thus "low-level code." I also didn't rise very far up the management chain, when I left I only had 2 people working for me.

    However, Microsoft has a system in place to promote people without making them managers, so I didn't just stagnate for ten years.

    - adam

    P.S. I was lurking in this thread (see discussion here [kuro5hin.org]) but finally decided to nuke my moderations and post in the thread instead.

  • There is another, more tangible resource. Contributing also get you reputation, which is becoming more and more a valuable commodity. One of the biggest problems in hiring programmers is that you never *really* know how skilled they are. Someone who has contributed to an Open Source project has credentials that are very difficult to get otherwise... A prospective employer can actually look at what they've done. Don't underestimate this kind of capital.

    -- Rich
  • by Nailer ( 69468 ) on Thursday June 21, 2001 @02:29PM (#135592)
    A major weakness of this material is that Barr only ever talks about "open source" (a development methodology) and never about "free software" (a much broader movement). One major reason for techs ranting at Microsoft is their unhappiness with loss of choice, freedom, and control - and this has been articulated as an ethical and political position by the Free Software Foundation and others. But Barr never considers this argument against Microsoft at all.

    A major weakness of this review is that you're using it to push your own personal agenda by eveluating the authors compliiance with your own views, and stating your own personal opinions as fact.

    Personally, I'd say the majority of Linux users (and pretty much all newcomers) do indeed use the platform not because they see proprietary software as unethical, but because they think its very good, and having source code avaliable under an effort snowballing license such as those under the OSD is the basis for this quality.

    Choice freedom and control aren't specific to the FSFs concepts. The belief that Free Software is the only ethical choice is. And this is (IMO experiences) a very rarely held view.

  • Free as in speech NOT as in beer.

    Free in this context means freedom, software which is free from monopoly control and which creates users who are free from that control AND free from being locked into the software they use. That is a significant threat to M$.
  • by selectspec ( 74651 ) on Thursday June 21, 2001 @07:26AM (#135594)
    ...which is when they took me to the elevator with the granite doors. My Controller put his hand over the elevator access panel. A strange growl seemed to bellow up from the floor, and the doors creaked apart. This elevator was more suited for a gothic asylumn than a software company. We stepped inside the spacious elevator.

    There were no buttons. The walls were inlaid with strange runes and glyphs. Once we'd entered the doors closed quickly behind, and we began our decent. The air seemed to quiver, and I felt a great uneasiness. My Controller's face was unmoved. He still wore his dark glasses despite the relatively dim lighting.

    We came to slow halt, and the doors opened. What images then came into view are so horrific that the very thought of them puts me into a terrible panic.

    A vast hall stretched forth lined with arches the likes my eyes had never seen. Arrayed in a great grid were hundreds of people strapped into black chairs which seemed to envelope their bodies. My God. It was them. All of those ex-Mac developers. So, here is where they'd all gone. Their bodies shaved and naked were bristling with wires and tubes anchoring them into some kind of demonic machine beneath the floor. I could feel the dark energies churning beneath my feet and imagined huge gears grinding in an alien orchestra devised for some purpose beyond comprehension.

    Two Controllers approached from the far side of the hall. In their hands were strange surgical tools. But, these warped, metallic devices were for no humane medical operations, but for some preverted task of which I wanted no part. I tried to run, but my Controller grapped my arm with a cold grip of uncanny strength. Then I remembered what the crazy old man had told me in the town...

  • Holy shit. That's horrible. Transmeta doesn't seem to be in danger of going under right away, if their recent design wins in Japan are anything to go by. That said they are having some serious troubles cracking the US market. In a way, it looks like Microsoft could be their best hope, with Tablet PC. If you don't mind taking a risk on money you may never see again, at $5 TMTA is a bargain. Looks like a great time to buy, wish I was buying now instead of at $30!
  • > [...] LaTEX, TEX [...] are very difficult to
    > learn to use effectively [..] not well polished
    > [...] lack well-integrated user documentation.

    This is bloody ridiculous. Have you read
    the TeXBook or the Lamport LaTeX book?

    Knuth is also the inventor of litteral
    programming. The documentation *is* the source
    code (not the other way around).

    I can't talk about BIND or Sendmail but you find
    good GUIs for them these days (under RH for
    example, try linuxconf).

    > But it's not professional.

    Sorry? To you professional means w/ a nice GUI,
    online documentation and sold under a slick
    package? Have you actually tried to learn
    Visual C++ or Excel from the online documentation
    or from the package manual?

    To me professional means someone has put their
    life work and their professional reputation
    into it. Certainly TeX fits this description.
  • Whether commercial or free, I believe software should be just that: soft. I believe most folks need software that they can modify to meet their own specific needs. Free software or open source software meets this requirement best, especially because the changes we make come at no cost to us.

    The sun is setting on the days of the killer app. As we apply digital solutions to more of life's problems, the more we will need software that is soft.

  • The best mech at a F1? Track? And if you ask them why they work there what would the tell you? Money? Dream on. They'll tell you it's the competition and the reward of a job well done.

    That's what linux is about job well done and achivement.

    I totally agree that the best don't automatically work for money. If you are the best you usually love your work. That's why you are the best cause you are willing to spent time on it.

    I can tell you now that at work I take short cuts and do less then perfect jobs because i am told to do it. I don't want to do it so why spent that extra hour making it better when i just need to get a job done?

    With your work being rewarded by money there isn't a direct connection between the reward and work. Yes if you work well you can be put into a better posistion. But as we all know promotions are not so much about job skills as it is ass kissing skills.

    Open source creates a situation where the programmer is rewarded by their peers. Why do we have movie stars? Because they act well? Prehaps but I think the alure of flame and glory is more powerful.

  • right on !!
  • That's totally wrong. Very ood you should even say that...

    Why if the world would you say not work for MS if you are crap? Cause if you are crap and MS offers you a job you'll take it no? Cause companies with smaller buget can't afford dead weight. Get it? Whcih universe do you live in buddy?

    Windows being seen by millions? Millons of what? Millons of people who can't care less about who you are or what you do. That's what!

    Linux is used by whom? Used by people who would come up to you at a trade show and tell you how much they liked you work.

    Where does slashdot find people like these who have the oddest ideas?
  • Actually, it's entirely possible that he's good at it, and wants no part of the management or software-design chain. I'm in a similar position; I am autistic, and have zero chance of effectively managing other people, and have refused promotions explaining my disabilities in interpersonal interaction.

    Yes, it does reduce the number of jobs available to me, because 10 years of experience without promotion within company (just side-shifting jobs when one company wants says "take promotion or be fired") but the jobs I get are much more satisfying to me.

    I _do_ end up as a technical resource consulted by everyone from bottom to top of company, and have good market and product research skills, my strategic abilities on the _software_ and _hardware_ end make up for my lack of in-company promotion.

  • Some of us 'kiddies' remember learning to program on punchcards. And we are professional developers.

    In some sense, it's just as logical for experienced engineers to write free software as it is for students. Imagine spending a year writing a novel... and then burning the manuscript. Now do this a few more times. Would it help if someone were paying you to do this?

    People starting out often think they and their company are going to change the world. But usually, a company's management, marketing, competitors, and general economic environment have a lot more influence on success than the software (or hardware) developers. The last place I worked ran out of money about a month after I left. The previous sold my group to another company that already had the same product that I was working on.

    Meanwhile, the GPL'd game project I started got over 10,000 downloads in the last three months.

  • But if all software is free, then who pays the programmers?
    This question must be asked 100 times a day on /. The answer is that very few programmers make money from shrink-wrapped software. Most of us are writing code for our employers/clients to use. The GPL is irrelevant to this code because it essentially says, "Where the binary goes, the source goes." But the binary isn't going anywhere outside the company.
    Free Software has already brought huge productivity benefits to this (majority) sector of programmers. We don't have to reinvent the wheel.
    In this respect we are like medical doctors, who all benefit from combined medical knowledge. Sure there might be a doctor here or there that makes money by withholding medical knowledge and charging for it (the shrinkware approach) but generally they make money by applying their diagnostic and curative expertise.
    people with REAL talent
    I notice that the smokers you hung out with seem to have a pretty high opinion of themselves. Perhaps it's justified. Perhaps, though, it's a function of being a big fish in a small pond. People who work in the Unix/Web/Database world become humble because we move from shop to shop and see gifted individuals of different stripes. Also I think we are more attuned to the Internet, which has enough smart people to provide some perspective on one's own accomplishments.
    I make this guess because the Microsoft coders I've met (not MS employees, just users) seem to have this parochial and boastful attitude.
  • He worked as a NT kernel developer. at least during part of it.

    -Jon
  • When i was over at MS Press I didn't know of any (of the two) coders that smoked. There was this guy who was a pheduo content/vb guy... i think he smoked on occasion. The only dev i respected their didn't smoke.

    Latter when i was at MS Research (in Seattle you just end up working at MS, hald of you're calls will br for them). I was one of the only dev's that smoked. I remember a tester for Aliegence (a game from MS Research) he smoked... This one kina scary looking FM for the database division smoked. That was about it.

    I've never worked on main campus so i can't say. But i never saw to many smokers there. maybe it's a thing of that past. Most of the dev's in research we're phd's types. (usully also phd's) I didn't know one that smoked.

    Something that will happen to you if you live in Seattle and work at MS. you'll eventually end up at a bar one weekend, and you'll try to pick up a girl (try is emphsized) and you'll find out that she also works at MS, or at least her brother does. and then you have the most retarted exchange of words

    "oh my brother/sister/friend works at MS, what group are you with"

    "um.. Research"
    "oh, he works with Exchange IP, maybe you know him"
    "uh, maybe." (ya.. right)
    "he's name is , you know him?"
    "nope"

    "huh"

    did i mention that i couldn't get laid in Seattle? They generally all know MS people, an as a whole don't like them. There's the rich new blood that made living on the east side a upper middle class ordeal. you can't find cheap housing anymore, at least no-where near redmond or bellevue.

    -Jon
  • Are you're in Seattle?
  • by jon_c ( 100593 ) on Thursday June 21, 2001 @07:47AM (#135607) Homepage
    Funny enough I was just reading about the author and some of his columns: here's some links

    columns [proudlyserving.com]
    home page [proudlyserving.com]
    comments posted at kur5shin.org [proudlyserving.com]
    stories posted to kuro5hin.org [kuro5hin.org]. one i like is where he talked about NT's TCP/IP stack history and why it's not from BSD [kuro5hin.org]
    He's no MS shrill he was the one a while back proposed that we use the XBox as a cheap web farm [osopinion.com]

    anyway interesting stuff.

    -Jon

  • "Their most convincing argument is that programming is a job. It's work, and it can be hard work at times. But if all software is free, then who pays the programmers?"

    Unpaid programming is feasible because it is fun. If a programming project is not fun, you are probably approaching the problem the wrong way, or with the wrong tools. When that happens, stop programming. Find or develop new approaches or new tools. Then resume the project. (This technique, which preserves the fun of programming, is more feasible in a volunteer or university setting than in industry. That may be why the Microsoft people didn't think of it.)

    This is what I find fascinating about the programming process: when done properly, you can use computers to transform dog work into intellectual discovery. If that were not so, I wouldn't be a programmer.
  • *PSSST* Hey, You! don't you know that OSDN's primary source of income now is getting FatBrain referals?
  • No, he's not a shill! He just thinks that Linux will not "disrupt" MS's software, that BSD has nothing to do with NT's IP stack, and that you should shore up MS revenues by purchasing an Xbox.

    This dude's long winded BS is a waste of time. The above summary and opinion provided to prevent massive time waste.

    MS, asside from legislative efforts and attempts to bully hardware makers, does not matter at all. Their software is inferior. Their Xbox is an underpowered waste. Their sun is setting.

  • I know few of these kiddies that are woking on Linux kernel. 3 of them as a team won an ACM programming contest 3 years ago, beating guys from MIT, Berkeley and Stanford. One wrote a web search engine (commercially used now) as a one semester work. I am not sure about these real programmers, but I had also chance to see how it looks in commercial software development and I wish like hell to have some of these kiddies as my co-workers.
  • What makes you think that a goodly number of top-tier engineers don't spend some of their free time contributing to Linux? Heck, a few (Alan COx, e.g.) even get paid for mainly doing just that.
  • by friedo ( 112163 ) on Thursday June 21, 2001 @07:56AM (#135613) Homepage
    I took that to mean "low-level" as in device drivers and hardware interfaces, not rank.

    But I guess I'll have to go read the book. :)

  • It's not M$'s fault, it's a driver error.
  • by ccf ( 116263 ) on Thursday June 21, 2001 @07:27AM (#135615) Homepage
    I did a summer internship as a Software Design Engineer in Test at MS a few years ago. I found it kinda weak. The interview process was really rigorous, they make you jump through all sorts of hoops, solve programming and logic problems etc. But the work itself I found held little of the excitement of the interviews. It didn't have the challenge I wanted, I felt overqualified for the work. I felt like they were trying to sucker me into to working there with all kinds of benefits, free bike, free sodas, subsidized car and apartment, gym membership, etc, but really the work was not fulfilling.
  • Must have been a temporary outage -- I'm reading it now.
  • I'm curious to hear what this guy has to say about softimage. Softimage development was in Montreal, and Redmond didn't have that much involvement.
  • The problem with "evolving to forms best suited for 'the niches'" is that the best forms ARE NEVER ARRIVED AT. Look at all of the extinct species in the layers of rock. The genes survived for a while, and their desire to perfectly fill the niche dwindled, and now they are abandoned. This is why speices are doomed.

  • ...they wondered what Linux or *BSD would be like if there were some system for everyone who contributes to be compensated.

    First of all, if everyone who contributed were paid cash (somehow), there would be a lot of people doing this just for the money. There would be less "itch-scratching" and more writing whatever would bring in the most cash. Probably lots more "marketing", too -- pushing to get your code included in whatever just because it means more cash for you.

    Second, and more importantly, everyone who contributes does get compensated, just not (usually) in money. The compensation is in the form of: (a) having a huge and powerful system of software that you can use for Free, and that works well; (b) having people improve upon your code (and typically giving the improvements back to you, regardless of what license you used); and (c) the satisfaction that other people are finding your code as useful you did (or more!).

    -Erf C.

  • The problem with "doing the "boring work" is that the boring work IS NEVER FINISHED. Look at all the stalled projects on sourceforge that are at version 0.4 or 0.5. The programmer scratched his itch, and his desire to finish the project with all the neat features dwindled, and it is now abandoned. This is why free software is doomed.

    Every hear of an ecology of ideas? All those failed projects are just compost.

    --

  • A major weakness of this material is that Barr only ever talks about "open source" (a development methodology) and never about "free software" (a much broader movement). One major reason for techs ranting at Microsoft is their unhappiness with loss of choice, freedom, and control - and this has been articulated as an ethical and political position by the Free Software Foundation and others. But Barr never considers this argument against Microsoft at all.
    That's because Free Software isn't an argument against Microsoft, it's Open Source that is the real threat. Note that Microsoft has given away software for free (example: Internet Explorer) but Microsoft does not support eth concept of Open Source and that it is Open Source, not Free Software, that Microsoft is actively attempting to discredit. Since part of FSF's definition of "Free" includes Open-ness, you could argue that Microsoft is targeting FSF by default (FUD inheritance?). But realistically it's solely the Open Source aspect of the FSF that is a threat. IMHO the Free Software movement, while broader than Open Source by virtue of including it, is less relevant. Espeially if Linux intends to penetrate the business market!
  • It is reprehensible that Microsoft would "force someone to work on something they don't want to work on." Dammit, Microsoft! This whole work full time and get paid weekly thing has got to stop! What's next? Demanding that people meet deadlines and check their work?

    Ok, Mr. I won't read the article before posting, even if I don't have to follow a link. The quoted passage actually says that this doesn't happen at Microsoft. It says that nobody is cracking the whip to get the dirty jobs done. In a healthy team environment, people naturally balance what they're interested in, with what has to be done for the project to be successful. No coersion necessary.

    This is great news for free software. Actually, it shouldn't be news, because we've already seen it. People have always said that "free software can't produce X, because it's no fun for programmers". And in fact it has always been true that you could find things that free software didn't produce--at a given moment. But time and again, we have seen that when the a need grows strong enough in the community, or when the right leader arrives, people become motivated to produce X, and it gets done. Consider beginner-friently graphical interfaces, business software, quality control. All are receiving increasing attention, and getting done.

    Yes, the free software community is often slow to catch on to the importance of a new area. But this is not an inherent property of that area or of our community. It's not because it's dirty work that volunteers won't do. It just means that it's not important to us yet--but when it is, look out!

    (Yes, I wish there were some way to made the free software community catch on to new ideas faster. But I'm not optimistic. In many ways we are a very conservative bunch--being highly technical, it's easy for us to meet out needs with fairly basic software, and complacency follows.)

  • Maybe we should call it liberated software, so people will understand what we mean. Free is more often used to mean without cost, rather than with liberty, and people assume the most common meaning.

    Software that is given away, but not open source, we should refer to as zero-cost software.

    Saying liberated software versus zero-cost software makes everything completely unambigous.
  • it appears its been nullified ;-(

    slashdot strikes again...

    --

  • correction: it was my filter. I was filtering .asp sites (not always a bad thing...).

    yes, the book is still there. sorry for the false alert.

    --

  • by dmccarty ( 152630 ) on Thursday June 21, 2001 @07:21AM (#135631)
    Proudly Serving My Corporate Masters: What I Learned in Ten Years as a Microsoft Programmer
    Barr worked as a low-level developer at Microsoft and [...]

    I'd rather not sound so suspicious without knowing more about the book, but if he worked for ten years as a low-level developer he must not be a very exceptional person. And if that's true, then that brings the whole reasoning behind this book into question. I mean, anyone who works for 10 years without getting a promotion can't have that much insight into their industry, can they?

  • by General_Corto ( 152906 ) on Thursday June 21, 2001 @07:21AM (#135632)
    for those that don't want to shell out for the book, you can read it here [iuniverse.com]. That's certainly what I've been doing.
  • It's spelled Softimage [softimage.com] not SoftImage, and their main product is a 3d animation package, not a video editing package. (The editing package is Softimage|DS.)

    They're now owned by Avid.

  • How many of the 6 major figure heads mentioned at the top of this thread branch are starving and penniless? Linus created Linux NOT because of a "noble goal" but because he wanted to do things that he couldn't do previously.

    There are noble goals in the world, but opensource is not one of them. There are far greater things in the world than the pathetic microscopic world of open vs. closed source.
  • I think it's a *great* motivator and really spurs creativity (not bad in anyway); but again that's completely different than a "noble goal".

    I'd like to believe that if asked to name a noble goal, that it generally wouldn't be; "to distributed computer source code, so those who could afford to have a computer could use it in other ways".
  • Has more to do with SV culture.

    Another good book around which focusses on Silicon Valley culture (although it's starting to look a little dated now, since it was written before the dot.com crash) is Po Bronson's The Nudist on the Late Shift [amazon.com].

    Now that I think about it, it may no longer do such a good job of describing SV culture anymore, since most of the people in the book seemed to be rolling in millions of $$$ in a relatively short period of time. Ahh the good 'ol days.

  • "We're empowering content owners with our unique and advanced digital content infrastructure and services, designed to facilitate the conversion, storage, management, promotion and delivery of intellectual capital and digital content."

    in other words: it's copy protected.

  • by tenzig_112 ( 213387 ) on Thursday June 21, 2001 @07:19AM (#135651) Homepage
    It is reprehensible that Microsoft would "force someone to work on something they don't want to work on." Dammit, Microsoft! This whole work full time and get paid weekly thing has got to stop! What's next? Demanding that people meet deadlines and check their work?

    Until I read this, I had no idea that Microsoft was evil.

    If we can't get the government to split them up, we must find a way to keep consumers from making computer/OS buying decisions that fit their needs.

    There must be a way.

  • They were continually amazed at the amount of work that is poured into free software, and they wondered what Linux or *BSD would be like if there were some system for everyone who contributes to be compensated

    Apparently, these guys do not volunteer at homeless shelters, help someone with a flat tire, or drop their change into the little red buckets next to the person ringing the bell. Otherwise, they'd know the answer -

    The compensation is in giving of themselves - the satisfaction of contributing to a greater good and asking for nothing in return.


    -------

  • by update() ( 217397 ) on Thursday June 21, 2001 @08:26AM (#135655) Homepage
    Microsoft, being a company with salaries and a supervisory hierarchy, has the ability to order someone to work on something he or she doesn't want to work on, but I never recall this happening. People worked on things that interested them and projects still got complete coverage. There is no reason that the same should not be true of Linux, especially given the size of the Linux community.

    I'm curious as to which level of detail he's talking about when he says that. I can believe that once devs are assigned to a project someone is always willing to take on a needed task but somebody still created the project and hired people to work on it. It's not like a bunch of developers all had to sit around and decide to write a home finance package or spreadsheet bond pricing functions, the way it needs to work with free software.

    Plus, I bet qualified people don't just offer to do documentation and tech support, just like there's a severe shortage of voluntary documenters in Linux.

    A major weakness of this material is that Barr only ever talks about "open source" (a development methodology) and never about "free software" (a much broader movement). One major reason for techs ranting at Microsoft is their unhappiness with loss of choice, freedom, and control - and this has been articulated as an ethical and political position by the Free Software Foundation and others. But Barr never considers this argument against Microsoft at all.

    This is only a "major weakness" if you primarily think of software development in those terms. It sounds like this book focuses on the practical realities of development and I imagine most of its readers would do the same.

    Unsettling MOTD at my ISP.

  • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Thursday June 21, 2001 @07:13AM (#135656) Homepage Journal
    It kept locking up and showing me the blue dust-jacket of death!

    --
    All your .sig are belong to us!

  • by zephc ( 225327 ) on Thursday June 21, 2001 @07:30AM (#135659)
    "'Proudly Serving My Corporate Masters'... it's a cookbook! Nooooo!"
    ----
  • by Water Paradox ( 231902 ) on Thursday June 21, 2001 @08:49AM (#135666) Homepage
    Major Burrito:
    It amazes me that you could write so innocently on this topic. You unknowingly gave a revelatory insight into the way MS programmers think, and how they are able to justify the work they do.

    Before you can understand anything I will write in this short essay, you must realize that MS programmers think fundamentally differently than most free software/open source programmers. And that way of thinking is clipped by a desire for money which does not exist in the Open Source environment.

    In essence, as you so eloquently made clear, we open sourcers do not work for money. We work primarily for passion, with money as a secondary issue. MS employees are the opposite, they tend to work for money first, and passion second. Thus 'they were continually amazed at the amount of work that is poured into free software,' as you said. To Open Sourcers, this is not a source of amazement. This is simply a moment of recognizing the fact that others enjoy programming as much as I do. Lots of others.

    Work For Money vs. Work For No Money? It's not quite that simple, but you can understand a lot if you use that as a reference point in building principles to understand what is happening. Here is why I prefer this as a reference point:

    For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows [blueletterbible.org].
    If you stand back from the whole MS/Open Source debate from any distance, this kind of generalization becomes possible, and necessary if you want to comprehend it in a meaningful way. There are many complicated issues stemming from this single duality, none of which I want to address here.

    My point is that MS employees work within the "old" American Dream, where all you need to do is get a decent job making money, work at it for a number of years, and voila! You're retired, driving your RV around the country, untrammeled by the daily woes of the great masses.

    This doesn't work for the artist. The artist doesn't want to live a life dreaming of the future. The artist LIVES in the future, and makes his own life beautiful each day. Thus, you'll never find an artist in an RV. He can't afford one, and thus has no desire for one. Instead, he creates something beautiful each day, and sleeps well that night.

    Sleeping that well at night is a mystery to the man who seeks money. Artists have all kinds of problems we don't need to get into, so I'm not glorifying the art of being an artist, I'm only presenting it side-by-side with the typical MS programmer, who works for money, not for passion. I work for passion. I create an entirely different kind of product than my co-worker, also a programmer, who works for money. Sure, he has passion, but it is sublimated beneath his desire to fulfill his portion of the "American Dream." I chuckle wrily at his earnest efforts to get something THAT ALWAYS MOVES AWAY FROM HIM.

    I say, Major Burrito, latch on to the American Dream which is not an illusion. Let Nikola Tesla [tesla.org] be your role model, not Thomas Edison [lucidcafe.com]. Both were phenomenal inventors. But a close study of their two lives reveals that one worked for money and the other worked for passion. (Both were money hungry, but one more than the other). Same with Salieri [rz-berlin.mpg.de] and Mozart [rz-berlin.mpg.de], Plato and Aristotle [biopsychiatry.com], Freud and Jung [iafrica.com], and so many other great dualities.

    The point I want to make is that the MS perspective is only half the spectrum. The other half is populated by people who wonder what MS would be like if it were programmed by people with REAL passion, not one sublimated by other desires.

    This is an easy thing to see for most Open Source programmers. As for whether Open Source programmers have talent or not... we do it the hard way. -Water Paradox

  • If you're only into Linux for the "fame and fortune," I think you'll probably be let down. There are only a few "famous" programmers in the field of free software, and lots of famous names. We can't all be Richard Stallman or CmdrTaco.

    However, the peer recognition of Linux isn't strictly glory -- it's dialectic. One meets with another on a topic, they strive for a solution. In the process, the need for human contact among two misunderstood specialists is releived. Isn't that why we post on slashdot?
  • Well, the best modellers in the world don't necesarily design for Revell, and the best mechanics aren't necessarily down at your local BF Goodrich. Programming is a skill, to be sure, but you don't have to put your skills to work for you, or necesarily charge people when you use them. I'm sure we all have skills or know people who do that are of a professional level, perhaps even a superb level, but don't have that particular job. How many of us slashdotters are accountants with hardware and networking skills, doctors with oratorial dictation skills, and so forth?

    I may program now, and program well, for money. But I don't always want to be a snooty wage slave working for the corporate world, turning coding tricks for people richer than me. Someday, I want to teach (academia being a relatively level field)...but when I do turn in my ASP in a Nutshell book and swipe card, I'm sure as sin not turning in my programming skills. I'll probably just move them into another arena: freelance, shareware, open source free software. "Top tier engineers" aren't necesarily what free software needs -- an engineer once told me that you only have 8 years of programming time in the industry until you're technically just a product manager, telling younger programmers what to PEEK and where to POKE. Linux succeeds because the people who do the boring work(printer drivers, TCP/IP interfaces, and so on) are the ones who need it done...the incentive to do the work isn't "i need to get paid," but rather "i need to print something. It's survival-response programming, patch-the-inner-tube programming, and it's why Linux is often very terse in its interfaces...but still very efficient.
  • what would Linux be like today if it could attract top-tier engineers?

    Yes, and what would the Earth be like if it circled a yellow star?

    And what would the Pacific Ocean be like if it were really deep?

    And what would man be like if he had a network of interconnected neurons at his disposal?

    Oh wait, I'm sorry. I lost you on that last one, didn't I?

  • by beavis_kc ( 323366 ) on Thursday June 21, 2001 @07:02AM (#135674) Homepage
    Microserfs by Douglas Coupland was a great book for the theme as well.
  • by MajorBurrito ( 443772 ) on Thursday June 21, 2001 @07:23AM (#135679)
    I worked for MS as in intern a few summers ago, and I hung out with some the real high-level programmers (the ones who get to make REAL decisions) during my smoke breaks. They had an interesting perspective on free software.

    Their most convincing argument is that programming is a job. It's work, and it can be hard work at times. But if all software is free, then who pays the programmers? It's pretty clear by this time that selling support contracts don't work. If a company can't pay its programmers, then who would work for them.

    They were continually amazed at the amount of work that is poured into free software, and they wondered what Linux or *BSD would be like if there were some system for everyone who contributes to be compensated. I can recall one of the engineers saying something like, "We [MS] wouldn't have a chance if people with REAL talent [professional programmers] were contributing to the free software movement. Thank god the only people who really contribute are kiddies."

    Now, I don't think everyone who contributes to free software is a kiddie, but it does bring up an interesting point: what would Linux be like today if it could attract top-tier engineers?
  • Ah. Unfortunately you've got the two meanings of "free" mixed up:

    1. Free as in no charge - This is how IE was distributed. This isn't the kind of free software the FSF talking about.
    2. Free as in freedom - This is what the FSF means. It's not just about price, it's about what you can do with it. With M$, you can't do anything except use it on one computer (per license). With free software, you can do what you like - meddle with the source, recompile, distribute, sell it on, whatever!

    For mor info on the whole thing, read Richard Stallman's definition of free software [gnu.org], or even better, look at the whole GNU philosophy [gnu.org].

    43rd Law of Computing:

"my terminal is a lethal teaspoon." -- Patricia O Tuama

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