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Feature:The Two Towers 188

Jeremy Lee has contributed another feature to Slashdot. This one attempts to address some of the issues surrounding the new commercialization of Linux and Open Source. This is a really good piece that raises a lot of good issues worth thinking about. A must read.
We are not ready. And it scares me. We're meddling with major forces, armed with some hopes and dreams, and we think it's enough.

No-one can deny the astonishing jump in attention that Linux and Open Source have made. It's incredible, and all due to the hard work and diligence of some very cool individuals. But I'm here to doomsay, though it's not my nature, because I think it's vital that some important thoughts get thunk.

First, Microsoft is irrelevant. Totally. Ignore the man behind the curtain. Gates is just a ringwraith to the Sauron of unethical capitalism. We run the real risk that by concentrating too hard on killing Windows, we will become just like them. People are calling for 'feature parity' with the Office(TM, Pat Pend) applications to ease the transition of newbie users without once questioning whether that is a good thing.

Personally, I like the idea of giving all those potential new users a nasty shock to the complacency. (which is just above the navel, next to the spleen.) I don't want Linux to be "Just like Windows only Better!", I want it to challenge the basic assumptions that the Microsoft engineers have made. Windows is a poor copy of the Macintosh is a poor copy of the Xerox Star, now 20 years old. We haven't challenged the basic WIMP (windows, icons, mouse, pointer) paradigm in 20 years? Come on!

And have you ever considered what might happen if the stated Linux goal of 'Total World Domination" is actually achieved? And are you really prepared to accept the consequences?

I don't think you are.

Consider: Red Hat used to release a new version every few months. That has now slipped. The reason is rather involved, but essentially the Reseller Channel doesn't like version releases too often. Even once a year is too frequent, in resellerland. Two kernel updates a day wouldn't even be believed.

To get Linux onto everyone's desktop, the release frequency will have to drop down to that kind of timescale. Even if we perfect the Debian auto-update, people won't use it, even if we get the bandwidth. They don't like their software changing unpredictably from day to day. The hacker/early-adopter/mainstream model acts like a filter to keep bad or incomplete software off computers. (And consider carefully the possibility of a single buggy kernel module, sent out through the auto-update chain, taking down the Net)

First, accept that the commercialization of Open Source products is inevitable and necessary. Some people only attach value to things they have to pay for. This is the businessman's mindset. He believes in Money, with a capital M. It defines him, and his relationship with the world is interpreted in terms of the flow of cash. This is the work of Adam Smith's Invisible Hand, which has long been wedged up Adam Smith's Invisible Butt.

And as far as commercial Linux vendors go, There Can Be Only One.

Microsoft has a monopoly, because commercial operating systems form a natural monopoly due to network effects, and they just happened to be the one ruthless enough to get it for the moment. If Linux 'wins', then it will become the monopoly OS. And it will be a plodding RedHat once-a-year release. Is that what you wanted?

Because sooner or later, Red Hat the Company will be owned and run by an economic rationalist with a legal obligation to increase shareholder value (as all publicly traded companies are required to do, or they get sued) using any and every means at their disposal. It happened to Netscape. Ask Jamie. Linux, in the wrong hands, is a big gun which someone will use to shoot Microsoft, probably in order to replace them. That is simply what will happen. If Microsoft is clever, then they'll buy that gun to shoot themselves in the foot, rather than waiting for someone else to aim it at their head. That is the consequence of Total World Domination. This is called 'Commercial Reality', and the only way to win is not to play the game.

Don't let the fact that 90% of the population wants to be spoon-fed their software distress you. People are weird. Accept it. Just remember that while a thriving Open Source community exists, the other 10% can get what they need. And if you care, then you're in that group. And the way to live is to do it on your own terms. Great Works can be done outside the corporate environment. We've proved that. We don't need them anymore. Independance is key.

Along the way, there are many traps. First, though copyright and patent law are flawed, it's still the law. Be very, very sure that the code you put into an open source program infringes no patents or copyrights, even though you disagree with the concepts. Don't use LZW compression, don't call your program 'Excel', and don't share code between your day job and your project unless you've got a piece of paper to counteract the other piece of paper they usually make you sign. If it becomes a crucial part of the system, and suddenly gets yanked because of a legal dispute, that's a very bad thing for the project, for whoever gets the blame, for all the people down the track who may have used your code in something else, and for the image of Open Source. Maybe we need a "100% pure Open Source" campaign or something, I don't know.

The second trap is commercial interests. Look at Silicon Valley. It's a case in point of what to avoid. The defining characteristic of the Executive Suit is the search for power. They look for the biggest game in town and muscle in at the top using the forceful application of money and the law. Can you say "Venture Capital"? I knew you could. As soon as you turn a technology into a company, or a patent, or something that can be owned, then it will be bought up by the kinds of bottom feeders who like to own things, because they're very, very good at it.

Open Source has got the attention of the world, now. And that means a million Suits are looking at Linux and asking "How can I use this". And they don't mean "How can I use this to make things cool and froody" but "How can I use this to increase my grip on Power and crush my enemies like the bugs they are!" and then they laugh maniacally and stroke their fluffy white cats while pushing evil buttons.

Well... maybe I'm being a little melodramatic, but you get the idea. :-) Effective executives are users, who treat every thing and person as a "resource". And some of them do have cats.

There's a saving grace, if you choose to believe it: Linux is a byproduct. A created artifact. The important thing is the community which created it. If every copy of Linux (source and binaries) could be magically removed from everyone's hard drive, (possibly the result of some evil Microsoft virus delivered by nuke-detonation EMP pulse and Tantric chant) we'd scream blue murder, and then re-write the whole thing in two years. Some would even count it a blessing, like the Great Fire of London, and how it made possible some proper town planning for once.

So, let them 'own' Linux, if we must. Let them gloat over the binaries, like some rare and sparkly gem. Just don't tell them that we can make another anytime we wish. Because then they might be tempted to try to own the community, and the process. And that would be awful.

But the worst trap of all would be for the Open Source community to deny what makes it so powerful: a global collection of individualistic, ornery, talented, and opinionated people who make things happen, knit together by a new communications medium that we built ourselves, which somehow keeps us moving in the same unified direction.

We have dangerously re-focused from being a hacker collective to taking aim at a product. The first can be described as an open-ended search for self. The second is a closed contest with a single winner, and then Game Over. Then what?

Sun Tzu said "Know yourself and know your enemy, and you will come through a thousand battles without harm". We know the enemy well enough... but.

Saruman looked too deep into the palantir. His wisdom gave way to the need for power, and in grappling with the Enemy on his terms, he became like him. His mind was warped by what he saw. Insengard was remade into a poor imitation of Minas Morgul. The Two towers. One a sad copy of the other. Both failed in the end.

Updated 01/19 09:22
Addendum: Writing for an on-line forum can be interesting. Within hours of the article being posted to, upwards of 180 people had posted public (sometime lengthy, but usually thoughtful) replies, and several sent me direct mail. One ex-Microsoft product manager mailed about his experiences trying to push Open Source while still there. One person asked for help installing Linux. (And got it.) The majority of replies were positive, speaking of a general feeling that yes, perhaps things had gone a little too far.

Another general thread was "the GPL will protect us". I'm not so sure. It's just a document. The real protection comes form the daily efforts of all in the community. I hold a deep belief that things will work out for the best when driven by people of good faith and good intentions.

Lastly, my mention of RedHat in a possible worst-case scenario means nothing. RedHat have performed a sterling service for the community, they're simply the most visible example of exposure to the commercial world. I wish them the best of luck in walking their fine line. Special kudos to the guys in the RedHat labs.

[Jeremy Lee is a Programmer/Analyst living in Australia. He is currently designing a new User Interface which will totally revolutionize computing as we know it. He does not have a cat.]

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Feature:The Two Towers

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    I disagree with some of the stuff in here. If Redhat became like that, remember that we still have the GNU license. Another company would take over and pick up the slack. I believe that the diversity of linux is part of what makes it what it is, and people WILL have choices when it comes to linux. Slackware will never succeed in the real world market because it is not user friendly, but IMO, it is the best for people who like to do it themselves. I see Redhat and S.u.S.E. taking over here, along with several other user-friendly ones. IF THIS EVER HAPPENS.

    The fact that everything is GNU, however, WILL allow other people to get into the market. There WILL be competition.

    And, on top of that, even if some publicly traded company bought Redhat, we would STILL HAVE THE GNU license. We will be able to make it. Microsoft cannot be duplicated because of the fact that it all is commercial. You can't duplicate it. Linux is different.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The Linux community has only one thing in common and that is the Linux source code. There are no financial, legal, national, racial, religious, or any other ties binding this group of people to Linux.

    In order for some evil corporation to "take the GNU out of Linux" they would have to gain international rights to all the code ever contributed to Linux, either by leveraging patents or by simply enumerating every person who contributed anything and then giving them money or prestige or something in return for the rights to the code.

    In order to gain this leverage over the Linux community they are going to have to spend a LOT of money, and the return on it, as you said will be NOTHING. Why nothing? Because the force that made Linux strong (us) can also kill it. If they want to invest in Linux, they will have to do whatever possible to make it a profitable investment, and that includes not ailienating the community.

    I find the whole notion of Linux being vulnerable to commercial pressures laughable. Linux is a reaction against the commercialization of fundamental technological "rights". We don't WANT to be owned by Microsoft or Macrohard or Redhat or anything resembling it.

    Perception is reality, if "they" can convince us to work for them for free then we will. But if we remember to keep our efforts centered on what WE need and want, then we will have no problem.
  • It hasn't been deleted (at least if it is the post I think you're talking about). It's been graded "-1" so you need to change the page threshold. This feature has been around for quite a while now, and was discussed ad nauseam before it was implemented, so it shouldn't be news.

    If you're talking about the post I found, it doesn't contain the word 'garbage' but I do agree with its rating. And I certainly wouldn't call it a critique.
  • I agree with the conclusions you stated, though I don't know what your reasons are as you don't say much. There are several posts which provide detailed criticism of the essay, most of which I feel are largely on target.

    Painting broadly, this essay is grounded much more in emotional than rational appeal. While I tend to agree with a couple of points (Microsoft is generally irrelevant), the homoginization and "owning" of Linux are, IMO, a very slim possibility, as Linux and OSS are born of GNU, early and frequent release cycles, and a high level of transitivity among vendors. No one vendor "owns" its customer base -- I can switch at low cost between Red Hat, SuSE, Caldera, Debian, or direct ftp downloads. This is a feature, not a bug.

    I tend to agree with those who find the original content at Slashdot lacking. There are the occaisional highlights from Alan Cox and other core developers. Jon Katz can be a good read. I'm finding myself less drawn to Commander Taco's "Stuff that matters", and far less to the discussions, than nine months ago.

    Slashdot hasn't sunk so much as it's failed to push itself to the next level - whatever that might be -- while its competition continues to evolve. This is being reflected in the news feeds of choice at sites such as particularly following some questionable editorializing by a /. editor. I don't know what Rob's plans are for this corner of the Web. It's been real and it's been fun. The question is: what will it be?

  • Interesting that an article about Linux and
    commercialization brings up a quote from the Art
    of War. I guess TNT timed their playing of "Wall
    Street" better than they could have guessed...

    "Greed is Good"... =)


  • I think Linux is simple AND pretty. Linux is a piece of cake compared to the incessant, hopeless and frantic clicking while trying to reload or configure the Windows OS. Furthermore, I have a richer multimedia experience on my Linux box than on any Windows machine I've ever seen.

    I agree that the way things were and are is not a bad thing... however, I'm not gonna deny Joe Sixpack (*hic*) out there his chance to use Linux either.

    M$ can stay in the software business - they just need to surrender the OS business. :P
  • I'm not trying to fan the flames of conflict but... wasn't Microsoft the ones who reverted to subversion? They want to take free and open protocols/standards and embrace/extend them to the point where they are Microsoft proprietary. All in the name of denying Open-Source projects and competition entry into the market? Oh Yes, they are the enemy all right - because they chose to be.

    How we react to Microsoft is what counts and here is where I agree with you - we need to be proactive rather than reactive. We need to take the torch from thier stumbling hands and leave them far behind. We cannot allow them to take control of the Internet or Open Standards. We cannot afford to be complacent. We need more great reasons for people to switch to Linux! :)
  • This happens to all projects. The guy who used to do IDE stuff under Linux left under a similar cloud. So it's hardly a BSD problem. It's a people problem, and you're never going to solve them
  • I see no reason to get rid of the keyboard. It's faster than handwriting and easier for the computer to handle. What might not be a bad idea would be to position the touch screen so that the distance the hand would have to move from the keyboard to the touchscreen was minimal. Instead moving hand from keyboard to mouse and back to click on commmand buttons one could tap the buttons with one's finger an avoid breaking the rhythm of typing as much.

  • "The argument that as Red Hat gains market share, it will become more like M$ is certainly valid, IMHO."

    Why is it valid? Microsoft did not become more amoral as it grew richer. Microsoft was amoral right from the start. MS's ethics have more to do with the personalities in charge than the money they make.

  • Posted by planders:

    I think the author mixed up his Lord of the Rings references a little bit. Bill Gates isn't a ringwraith; he's Sauron to Evil Capitalism's Melkor.
  • Posted by biffdogg:

    Hello Linuxers, *BSDers, and all free/Open Source software enthusiasts. Are we forgetting the Internet? Are we forgetting the GPL? Why do I see more and more articles by people who are afraid that mainstream acceptance means that Linux will no longer be a hacker OS?

    While I agree that IP Patents/Copyrights are a very serious concern that we need to be careful to guard against, I don't think Mainstream acceptance is as much a threat as it is purported to be. One of the biggest fears I hear repeated regularly is that the hackers who CREATED Linux will be subjected to use the operating system exactly like the work-a-day Joe Computer user who wants to email his grandma, read stock reports on the Internet, write some emails to his football buddies in Colorodo jibing or alternately grieving the victory/loss of his favorite team to the Broncos, et al. I think this assumption is ludicrous -- hackers will still hack, that's what they do. And even if Red Hat/Caldera/S.u.s.e./(your-favorite-commercial-dis tro) dominates the other commercial distros., we will always have free distros like Debian, Stampede, etc. The GPL guarantees (in as much as any legal device can) that our hacking freedom will always be there, and the Internet will continue to be our developer's center.

    The real issue is whether we are willing to share our freedom with those who can't/aren't willing to hack. Just because they can't figure everything out about the syntax of .*rc or *tab or init* doesn't mean they should be forced to endure crappy M$ operating systems. The first time I used Linux was ~1995. I was using a 386,4M Ram. Needless to say, it regularly crashed under Win3.1, and I durst no put Win95 on it. I did however put Slackware on it, and was absolutely Euphoric at how stable it was.

    Fast forward late 97 and 1998 -- At various times and sundry places I have been forced to work on M$ Win95 Machines. I remember one job in particular -- I was working at a large law firm in Cleveland, OH doing a little bit of VB developement (Nasty language, if you ask me, but OK IDE) for some jury-rigging programs. I would do a couple hours of coding, then someone on the other side of the building would sneeze, the network would burp, and my Win95 machine came to a screeching halt. I'm sure many of us have stories just like that. It's a frustration to constantly be interrupted when your working by computer problems, especially when you know that these problems are trappable by a good OS and don't need a reboot.

    Now to get to my point, although M$ slowly (think geologic ages) is improving their OS's stability, it would be great if we, the technical elite, could break the technocracy of the proprietary software world, and deliver the fresh air of freedom to the world at large. Technology should be used to enhance the lives of the many, not increase the wealth and power of the few.

    Don't be afraid hacker's, it is your destiny to hack, and hack you will. That doesn't mean it's a Bad Thing(Tm) to make the system easier for the rest of man-kind (after all -- if everyone hacked, no one would eat). If you read this article and feel frustrated that people won't learn more, but want to use computers, feel assured that I sympathize. I am currently a helpdesk jockey, and I get plenty aggravated that people won't learn the basics. But there is the hitch -- people should learn the basics, but I don't blame them if they are intimidated by linux, *BSD, et al. They can be basic to use, once setup properly, but definitely not yet basic to setup/configure.

    Jeff Schmidt [mailto]

  • Posted by planders:

    My understanding is that gzip handles compression *only*. The reason you need tar is to handle storing files and directory hierarchies along with file system information like permissions and timestamps.
  • Posted by bmcdaniel:

    Regarding the comment about how Red Hat must legally be committed to maximizing shareholder value: As a matter of law, appropriately chartered corporations don't have to maximize shareholder value. For one thing, there are nonprofit corporations, which don't even have shareholders per se -- just people who serve as directors and oversee the corporate purpose. For another, even for-profit corporations need not be soley committed to maximizing shareholder value if the corporate charter specifies other goals and other mechanisms to achieve this. For example, newspaper publishers such as the WSJ and NYTimes have corporate governance structures in place (such as dual classes of stock, restricted voting rights, statements of corporate principles) in order to both maintain the editorial integrity of the newspaper, but still allow for profits.

    I don't know any of the details, but I would imagine that Intel's investment in Red Hat doesn't require dividends or repayments. In spirit it was probably closer to a donation, rather like how IBM donates money to the Media Lab in exchange for access. Of course, Intel had its own agenda: the presence of an alternative OS arguably bolsters its position. But Intel's purpose, though different, can be complementary to the OSS community.

    The message to take away from this is that corporate charters are simply contracts, and as the GPL so ably demonstrates, if the plain-vanilla law doesn't suit you, whether it be copyright law or corporate law, then you can contract around it. There is no reason that Red Hat, or anyone else commercially committed to OSS, need be antagonistic to OSS ideals.

    Brian McDaniel

    PS I *am* an attorney who practices corporate law, and if someone out there wants help putting some of these ideas into practice, I am willing to help.
  • Wow. This has to be the most coherent, non-through-rosy-glasses article on Open Source in general and Linux in particular, that I've seen yet. Excellent work.

    The cautionary nature of this article is a point well taken. The Open Source community must remain focused on developing outstanding, truly free software. Simply bringing down Microsoft is a narrow-minded, unworthy aim. However, alongside the dislike for Microsoft, there is also too much fear of a successful commercial entity using Linux to its advantage.

    The hypothetical ascendancy of Red Hat as "The" commercial linux vendor is just fine. The great thing about linux is that it can't ever be owned by anyone, yet at the same time anyone is free to try and make money with it. Red Hat can't own the OS as such, but they can sell it with things that they do own, and they can sell support for it. So much the better. Better software is a good thing for everyone, however they get it and regardless of who profits monetarily from it. If Red Hat gets out of hand, the Open Source community will still be there and will still be an alternative - all the more so, since the difference between Red Hat Linux and everyone else's linux will be far less than the difference between Windows and Linux is now.

    Microsoft became a juggernaut because they not only created a new environment for software development with Windows, but they fought to become the only developer in that environment. They have succeeded, and have now stifled competition and innovation in the Windows world to the extent that no one wants to develop there any longer - the only choices are failure or assimilation.

    On the other hand, a commercial-grade Linux (TM), however much the thought of that grates on some of us, is good for everyone. A well-known distributor with established support channels is absolutely necessary for serious commercial development on Linux to take place - that point is eloquently made by Jeremy. The common fear is that this would turn Red Hat into the next Microsoft. But there's no guarantee of that. Even if Red Hat is the biggest Linux vendor, it isn't the 1000-lb gorilla that Microsoft constitutes. Just because RH produces the most successful distribution of the OS, doesn't mean that it will dominate application development for the Linux platform. Indeed, because the OS is open, it doesn't even give them a particular advantage. They sell the OS, and the applications get a level playing field on which to compete - which is as it should be.
  • Well written, too. The most telling part, for moi, is this:

    Personally, I like the idea of giving all those potential new users a nasty shock to the complacency. (which is just above the navel, next to the spleen.) I don't want Linux to be "Just like Windows only Better!", I want it to challenge the basic assumptions that the Microsoft engineers have made. Windows is a poor copy of the Macintosh is a poor copy of the Xerox Star, now 20 years old. We haven't challenged the basic WIMP(windows, icons, mouse, pointer) paradigm in 20 years? Come on!

    Using Linux can make you smarter. Most important. I know, I know, most people just want to use the 'puter, they don't give a rat's ass what's inside or how it works. Okay. But. Linux gives you a change to LEARN. How about that? Learning one new thing each day is the best way to improve your condition. Period.
  • by bhurt ( 1081 )
    Point by point:
    1)Please be more specific. You might try enumerating what (you think) the problems will be if and when Linux hits the problem, and what you think we should be doing to prepare. Vague warnings (except for "if they can buy it, they will", to which I refer you to the GPL) don't help.

    2) The reason we haven't moved beyond WIMP is that no one has thought of anything better. Linux already has a best-of-breed CLI, mate that with a good GUI and you're set in the interface department. I do make the prediction: when the next UI appears, it'll appear on Linux first.

    3) Choice is good. Not only can there be more than one Linux distribution, there should be- for the same reason there should be more than auto maker, or more than one soft drink. The myth that there can be only one OS controlled by only one company or person is perpetuated by the Microsoft apologists as an excuse for the monopoly.

    Caldera et. al. are the ultimate defense against Redhat being bought out- or even comming down with a case of the dumbs (like Apple seems to have fits of). Choice allows you to choose _differently_.

    4)You're confusing the development releases with the distribution releases. Simply because Linus released a new kernel doesn't force Redhat to do a new distribution. This is a common mistake made by people just discovering Open Source. The 1351 builds that occurred before NT 4.0 was released where never seen by the public- but they still existed. The only differences are that Linux makes the interim kernels publically available, and generally has fewer of them.

    This is part of the value the distributors add- they "gear down" the release cycle to something the channel companies can handle. Just translate "Redhat 5.2" in your mind to "Redhat 5 SP 2", if it makes you feel better (how fast did NT 4.0 SP 1/2 go by? 98 now has how many service packs?).

    5) Copyright and patent are laws that can cut _either_ way, as AT&T found out when it sued UCBerkley. Avoid patents and lawsuits (where possible), yes- but this is a means of our defense as well as, via the GPL. Microsoft cannot buy Linux even with all of it's billions- copyright law prevents it.

    You mention LZW (which is patented). When the patent came out, FSF learned to it's horror that the unix utility compress was covered. So what happened? After some research, an unpatented and _better_ compression algorithm was found, and thus gzip was born. Similiarly, gif's are giving way to png's. Patents are a threat, I agree, but a managable one.

    And the situation is not as bad as it was a decade ago. If a patent lawsuit cropped up, you'd better beleive that Caldera, Redhat, et. al. would help fund the defense. And rumors to the contrary, justice in America is _not_ for sale to the highest bidder (as Microsoft's current legal woes richly testify- as do the previous successfull litigations against Standard Oil and AT&T). This is one place where having money grubbing capitialists as allies helps.

    6) So long as you can continue to use Linux to produce "cool and froody", why do you care if someone else uses it to make money? Heck, you may want to use it to make money someday.

    7) Now that slavery is abolished, how do you "own a community"?

    And finally:
    8) Linux isn't Saruman, it's Tom Bombadil.
  • I've thought about that myself. I think screen placement is really task and user specific. One good way is to place it into an architect's drawing table (adjustable angle). For other users, an easel would be preferred. The ideal would be something that could manage to place the screen like either of those. It shouldn't be too hard to come up with that, though it might be quite heavy if it's high quality.

  • What makes you think that? The folks running RedHat most likely will end up with more money in their pockets by staying private than they ever will by issuing public stock. Besides NetScape and quite a few others has proven what a bad idea taking a private company public can be. I don't see RedHat walking down that road anytime soon....
  • If it wasn't for guys like this, there wouldn't be a Slashdot. If only TV could be as nihilistic. The urge to rant while in college is a direct result of our confinement while in college.
  • Why does this topic always come up? I keep hearing it like a paradigm needs to change every few years or else it is less than efficient.

    I think we should give up WIMP when there is a compelling reason, we can spend a lot of time thinking about it but until we have some better ideas I don't think we should discount it. STAR is 20 years old?!? Big deal, verbal communication is 50,000 years old, should we switch paradigms?
    Come to think of it, writing and language are ancient, it's time to move on...

    Voice dictation is a key, it's on the way but it's not a paradigm shift. I think that as long as we are visually displaying information (and being the visual animals that we are this trend will probably last quite a while) be it on a screen or in a holographic form or whatever there is going to be a tendancy to touch it or point at it, to group it visually, to move it around, and that stuff is all WIMP ideology. We may change the way things look or change their names but the ideas are still the same. You can replace the mouse with a trackball or a touchscreen or even something that tracks eye movement but it's still the same paradigm and I don't think it's very bad for the technology we have.

    even is startrek they still have screens with data divided up and grouped (windows) and buttons to push to do things (icons).

  • Before everyone starts lamenting the loss of the lost days of yore, remember: Open Source means Choice. It doesn't matter if Redhat or Caldera put out a Microsofted Linux; you can always run Slackware. Choice cannot and will not be extinguished in the Linux camp, allowing each to go his own way. Keep those teeth ungnashed and those fingers moving!
  • One of my favourite books is "Truth or Dare" by the rather radical author Starhawk. In this book, she outlines how the world works under the model of Power Over. Those with the military and monetary resources use this to create a society in which they have all the power and the rest of us feel powerless to do anything about this situation. The second type of power is power from within. This is what drives the Open Source hackers to hack. No one can take from them their power to create. The third type of power is power with - power gained because your peers respect you and listen to you. Linus has power with, not because he can fire you or shoot you, but because we respect him.

    Make no mistake about it, Open Source is a Movement, a social and political movement as much as it is a technical movement. The reason that the Open Source community is seen as the ONLY threat to the dominate monopoly is that we don't play by the same rules as they. Things that are created with love and the model of power-with will always be superior to what the corporations can get their slaves to produce.

    We have come to a turning point, however, in which we are actually being noticed. In the battles in history between those who follow the Power-Over model and those who follow the Power-With models (usually refered to as Patriarchial and Partnership models), admittedly the war-like patriarchs usually win. Even if they don't win outright, they win in a more subtle way: you have to become the enemy to defeat the enemy.

    This is precisely what I DONT want to see happen to Linux. When we start to talk about and worry about market share and what IBM is porting to Linux and what shall become the "standard Linux desktop" and start to change the operating system so it fits into a Corporate world view, we are becomming the enemy.

    I am very much wish for the open source movement to survive and flourish and give the world a new model in co-operation to follow. I have advocated it at my college and it now runs on all our servers and dual boots in our labs. I am hoping for a day when we can run our college on only open source software, that it becomes the new model for the development of new software.

    But we must be mindful not to become the enemy. I think that we should be mindful of the points mentioned in this article and take them to heart.

  • Whenever I read an article like this I wonder
    what the author wants me to do about the supposed
    problem. Am I supposed to erase Redhat? Stop advocating Linux among the heathen? Give up on GNOME or other make-it-user-friendly projects? What?

    Otherwise I don't see anything I can do about what
    other people choose to do with Linux. Hey, do
    you think that could have been intended from the beginning?
  • Nice job on this article. I'm not a big Open Source Activist (I do support it whole-heartedly, though), but this article does a good job of pointing out the things that our community should not forget in our push to get Linux into new software arenas.
  • If someone DID delete your comment, why then, can one read THIS comment? The system isn't perfect and shit CAN happen.
  • You got distracted by the last few lines of what you call trolling. The point was _not_ that Linus, and all the other kernel developers can't be unfair tyrants. The point was that the Linux kernel developers can't throw a hissy-fit and yank big chunks out of the kernel. Once source is released GPL, you can no longer make it proprietary--not so with BSD licence. (Well, you *could* make a proprietary release of code that was previously released as GPL, but ONLY if you are the copyright holder, and even then you couldn't revoke your previous release under the GPL.)
  • For when you are using MS-Windows: get "X-Mouse". It is a little program that somehow persuades MS-Windows to use a focus-follows-mouse style. Without this utility I'd have never survived that brief period where I was forced to use MS-Windows at a job.

    When you are using WINE to mix Windows apps with Linux apps, use WINE's -managed option to make fvwm2 handle such things as window focus.

    Consider your problems solved.

  • All this Tolkein-referencing is becoming very bizarre. Earlier today I was working on a Visual Basic project for school and came across a sub-chapter entitled "What has it got in its pocketses?" . . . very bizarre

  • The danger of linux becoming big isn't really about redhat being an actual monoply. The other commentators are right the GPL protects us from that.

    The danger is that as more and more software, sometimes even free software is written as part of commerical development teams the social esteem and social pressures that cause people to write free software start to disappear. If the code is getting written by well paid profesionals it isn't worth it to you to devout your time to make their job easier.

    Moreover commercial companies MUST perver tlinux to a much more user friendly form to gain market share. This isn't a problem now gnome and other addons to make some things easier do no harm. But the vast majority of people are scared by that which they do not understand, and the unix propmt is surely one of those things. We may see the power and flexibilty we value in the linux system being subverted as the paid programers will only write code to expand the market.

    If necessery someone must split the tree and keep powerful 'hackish' operating system alive even if 90% of people are using open source SimpleLinux
  • I once wrote a review of the Unix-Haters Handbook []. Briefly, my opinion was that many of the complaints were about little buglets that could be fixed if you had the source code (and some of them *are* fixed in current GNU/Linux distributions), some were valid criticisms (X Windows, poor security model), and some were religious issues (filenames being case-sensitive).
  • We can increase the standard of living of everyone on Earth if we extend the concepts of the GNU General Public License beyond the software industry.

    Imagine having designs for all the technology necessary to maintain human life made freely available to anyone who wants to produce these goods. This would be a huge aid to developing nations, such as in the former Soviet republics, Latin America, Indonesia and many others.

    It may turn out the Stallman's GPL will prove to be a turning point in human history and the process of cultural evolution.

    Long live the GPL!
  • As I stated, "Imagine having designs for all the technology necessary to maintain human life made freely available to anyone who wants to produce these goods."

    Were talking about information. The physical goods have to be produced, but the designs for the goods and the designs for the equipment to produce the goods, and the designs and knowhow for the tools to build the equipment to produce the goods.
    Scarcity is a myth. Ever since Thomas Malthus completed the first comprehensive inventory of the earth's resources in 1810, people have bought into this idea of scarcity. If Malthus were to be brought back to life and preform his survey again, he would reach the opposite of conclusion that he reached in his time. Remember it was Malthus who pointed out that "Populations increase geometrically while the resources to feed them increase arithmetically. Malthus would reach the conclusion that scarcity is myth, part of an ideology. Since the invention of refrigeration, preservatives, bio-engineered plants, genetic engineering, we can already produce, package, store and distribute enough food to feed the world's population today and for many doublings of the population to come.
  • I'm glad this article was written.

    It's been bugging me for some time to read things like "Linux must do X to beat Y".

    I don't think there is a "Linux must". There is just a bunch of people writing code that pleases them, meeting whatever goals that they as people have.

    Once we stop focussing on writing code that meets personal needs, we get locked into stupid dicksize wars. It's OK if beating MS is a happy side-effect, but making it the goal is really dangerous. Microsoft's goal is to beat everyone else, and look at the code they produce...

    It has already been observed on ./ a couple of days ago that the most successful free software is written to meet a pressing need on the part of the author, rather than to tick off a feature in comparison with a commercial vendor's offering.

    We should stop wanting to beat Microsoft (or Oracle, or Sun, or whomever) and begin wanting to write great free code (or if you don't code, help people who do.) All else is distraction, and dangerous.
  • One word.


    I spent an hour yesterday with a customer who had just bought FrontPage 98, which relies on having an IIS server to talk to and MS' own proprietary implementation of SSI.

    (No, I don't want to install the FrontPage extensions to Apache)

    The customer believes it is our fault, of course.
  • The Hurd can't be based on Linux because it's older. (Look at the "Linux is obsolete" flamewar where the Hurd was cited as a reason why there was no point developing Linux). It also has a very different architecture underneath. The drivers from Linux are presumably just for compatability with PC hardware, which I don't think was the platform that the Hurd was originally intended to run on.
  • An old-timer's perspective

    I have been using linux since early 1994. I have already seen major changes. There seems to have been a major shift in the focus. When I started using linux I used it for a reason (I used Unix at Uni and need to be able to work at stuff at home). Linux with all it's crap provided a much better working environment than windows 3.11. I also bought Windows 95 and MS Office 95. This was the right decision. I have no problem saying that. I was using LaTeX to write my reports etc and even as an experienced user with my own customised macros it still cost me a lot of time. Time that I could not afford. Using windows and a word processor saved me as much as 50% in terms of time. And since time is money it paid off quickly. I did it all because I wanted to get stuff done. I didn't do it because it was fashionable or becuase I wanted to be cool. Most people who used linux in those days were the same. Linux was a get-things-done OS. News Groups were filled with other people doing things for reasons. (This is not to say that many -- including myself -- didn't enjoy the challenge of learning and using Linux.) That Linux seems to have been pushed aside.

    The new order

    These days linux has a different personality. There are hordes of people who run linux becuase it is cool. People are more driven by gimmicks and fashion. People spend all their times downloading, compiling and tweaking and no time actually doing anything. Their computer and their linux install is mearly a toy. These people flock to the latest gimmick and skew the development of stuff. There are now heaps of window managers that can be configured to look incredible but lack some basic usability functions. Newsgroups and other forums have gone to crap. They are filled with wankers who want to be more-geek-than-thou. You get more idiot politicians who carry on with everything-must-be-free without doing something about it. Developers/Web sites who try to give something back get flamed by these idiots. The respect and caring etc is being drowned out. Ditributions come out maith major and glaringly obvious bugs (like Red Hat 5.0 did) but with basic functional tool are not included. I found going from my trusted old slackware install to a new shiny glamourous Red Hat that there where heaps of glamour gimmicks but valuable tools had gone and I had to download and compile them separately. Gimmicks not functional tools sell CDs.

    The upside is that this first flood has also brought more useful people, new and useful software and more knowledge. But it's not the same friendly, useful linux it always was.

    The coming flood

    The mainstreaming of linux is going to bring another flood. If you look at windows news groups you can see the people who will be joining us. The windows community that once existed is as good as dead. Even crappy shareware propgrams cost money. Newsgroups are filled with selfish idiots. There are hordes of slimy parasites who think they can get rich. People demand answers to questions that they could have answered with a minute's thought. Reading the manual is for losers. People talk as if they know stuff when they don't.

    These people are coming. I don't know how we will cope. The differences in direction that exist now will be amplified. Therre may need to different distributions for different groups. Debian for people who develop, Red Hat for the common public, Caldera for business and MS Visual Linux for losers. I can see some of the hard core geeks jumping ship to quieter OS's (like the BSD's, Hurd and commercial alternatives). I don't know. The code is open. Linux can go it's different ways. There are advantages and disadvantages. If unity means hanging round with dickheads and using a crippled (but pretty) system count me out.

    Linux Sucks

    50 idiots will say it doesn't. If you doesn't think it does you don't know it well enough. (+ I wanted an attention grabbing heading ;-) Many of it's users use it because it sucks less (including me). (Analogy time: Linux is like stepping in a dog turd. Windows is like tripping over and falling face down in a dog turd. It could be that somewhere exists with clean footpaths.) Linux's Unix heritage has tied it to a lot of brain damage. This compatibilty helps at times, but really sucks at other times. There are a lot of traps that get even experience users, lots of things that are inconsitent, lots of things that waste my valuable time. A major drawback with free software is a lot of it includes faithful replication of other people's mistakes. It would be nice to make a clean start and do things differently. I'm keeping my eye on a couple of alternatives, but don't really have the time to help.

    After all, at the end of the day what matters to me is getting useful work done (even if "work" is ray tracing and Alife experiments). I should help out more though.

    I feel better now.

  • A good place to start here is to refer you to The Unix Haters Handbook which was compilled by Simson Garfinkel, Daniel Weise and Steven Strassman. Published by Programmer's Press/IDG Books in 1994. ISBN 1-56884-203-1. While some of it's complaints are about old version of unix and some are just nitpicking, there are a lot of valid points in there. Every serious unix user should read it. Here is a web page with some little excepts []. It also has a link to some stuff with the blinking cursor thing.

    I did have some good bookmarks here that would been good to include here, however I can't seem to find them. If you look arround the net you might find some of them. The sites are still probably out there. One site that occassionly has interesting unix problems is the Risks Digest []. Occasionally security sites have stuff like this too.

    Some quick points. There a lot more than I've got here and some things may be open to taste and religion. Other people have done a much better job than I'm doing here. Much of unix was written as series of quick and dirty hacks that worked for the simple case but does does not scale to the general case. Any way - some points

    • A lot of the programs that come with it are inconsistent, they take different flags, take their input and output through different means, etc. This can be a real killer on occasion when you accidentally use the wrong flag and trash something. It also make using them more work, since you have to learn all the different flags and behaviours. Some programs even interperet them differently ie "foo -bar" may be the same as "foo -b -a -r" or it may be different. The pieces just don't always fit together.
    • The unix shells intercept and expand all sorts of things like "*" and "~" rather than just passing them through to programs and letting them deal with it. (Really simple example: "rm * .o" -- "do you really want to remove all files?". You can't do this. This may seem like it's not all that important but there can be times when you really want to do it. Also if you want pass stuff like this down to say a lower shell script using say $1, then it's too late. Unless you make the user put quotes arround it. But then quotes get removed and it gets expanded at the next step if you not careful. and so on. All this is assuming that there are not so many files in a directory that your shell can't cope with the size of the strings produced when * is evaluated)
    • Shells are a bastard crossbreed of command interperter and scripting language. And don't do a great job of either. Fortunately Larry Wall and Guido van Rossum wrote Perl and Python ;-)
    • Relics like man (1) persist even though they suck for what they are supposed to do.
    • BSD v System V incompatabilities.
    • Really, really, inflexible file access control system. (ie rwxr-x--- type stuff). Sure it's easy to implement but there is just so much stuff you can't do. For example: people in group "coders" and group "testers" have access to this directory without having to make a new group "codersandtesters". Even windows NT has ACL's.
    • Core files. Yeah, I really wanted a 20MB core file from an application that I an not devolping and don't even have the source code for. Unix treats everyone as if they are a developer.
    • X windows, where widget chaos reigns. Different programs behave differently and "mode confusion" is a matter of course. And soooo much of it is ugly and tricky to use. GNOME and KDE may help, but there will always be apps that are exceptions.
    • It's mostly built on C which is another area of serious brain damage (and is also talked about in the haters book). A lot of the standard libraries have serious safety problems.
    • Curses and termcap/terminfo. Basically this involves moving the terminal driver into the application rather than having the operating system do it for you. Ditto for graphics. There should not be a program that is directly accessing the hardware (and thus can screw your whole machine if is crashes). GGI/KGI are fixing that.
    • Unix style file systems including ext2 can be incredibly fragile. I had a flaky hard disk controller. Under windows individual files got corrupted. Under linux huge chunks of the file system failed. Sometimes fsck was like pouring petrol on a fire. (It did teach me to back up regularly ;-)
    So many people don't even think about these things. Often they don't know anything else. There are some really cool things done under things like the Amiga etc, that are next to impossible under linux. But people who haven't used (or read about) these features don't miss them. I used the Mac a lot and while they were not power-user friendly they did have some features that I really miss. But by the same token there are a lot of cool things you can do under linux that you can't do under other operating systems. And for me the cool things you can do under linux outweigh the other systems and better enable me to do the things that I want to do. I would just like a new OS that had all the good stuff and I don't have time and patience to write it.
  • ??? How is NT scheduler better? I happen to like having a range of priorities, not just 4. I admit the realtime stuff is nice, but it can be done w/ linux... Mind you I don't know much about the NT scheduler, so I may have just put my foot in my mouth :-)
  • by Kev ( 4776 )
    That's a damn good article needed saying.

    I think people need to recognise that for Linux to be the operating system on the systems of normal non-technical users - the world-domination scenario - there is inevitably going to be a money issue. Whether or not the system is open source isn't terribly relevant, because the amount of people who have the know-how to download such a system and assemble it is only a fraction of the amount that would be far happier to pay for it and not have to worry about it. Most people are less concerned about the politics of what they are using, just does it get the job done or does it get in my way when I'm working/playing /surfing? Whatever else you might think of Windows or Mac OS they get the job done for the average user.

    The distributors such as Redhat will make money out of support and packaging and use that to differentiate themselves, maybe go for niche-markets; web-serving, homeuser OS, graphics, 3D... and more. If one of those niches (probably homeuser) proves to have even a slight margin of profit potential then all hell could conceivably break loose, there'll be a lot of competition and there's always a looser in these situations. Hopefully that won't happen, but...
    And what if one of the established Big Players decides to back a distribution? Even if they didn't make money on it then at least it wouldn't be in the hands of the wrong people - that's how those guys think, and they'll throw big marketting bucks at it. Didn't Intel recently give support to Redhat? It's always in the interests of these big guys to have less players rather than more. It gets messy otherwise.

    If people make a lot of noise about Linux and it gets even more mindshare than it has now (so that The Man In The Street knows about it and wants it on his PC) then as Jeremy Lee says it's going to come down to money in a big way - it has to. People will see it and want to make money on it, open source or not. He is absolutely right. Less noise the better.

    Linux is not immune to market forces. If you give away something for free then someone is losing money on it, and they'll do something about it.

    On a very much related note, very recently I noticed that there was some concern in the Linux community that Sun/AOL are very likely to see Linux as a problem, same as MS is. But while everyone is carefully watching MS, the other guys are probably scheming as well. If anyone has any comment on that I think it would make for an interesting discussion.

  • Napoleon hated them. Caesar did. Hitler did (IIRC). This was the only thing basically and fundamentally wrong with this editorial!

    Cats are too independent. No herding them.

    Linux people love cats. It's something you can bet on. I've seen it over and over again!

    Someday someone should set up a web page about Linux and cats, Linux lovers and cat lovers. With pictures.

  • Anyone care the translate the rest of that famous poem into the O.S.S. analog? I don't think I could.

  • A few lines in every article can always be good for the soul...

  • Three OS for the BSDs under the Berkeley,
    Seven for the Microsofts in their boards of intel,
    Nine for Unix Servers doomed to die,
    One for the Great Linus on his wired throne
    In the Land of The Net where the Hackers lie.
    One OS to rule them all.
    One OS to find them,
    One OS to bring them all,
    and in the darkness bind them,
    in the Land of The Net, where the Hackers lie.
  • Lots of good things said more eloquently then I could have put them. We definitely need more Taoist quotes in articles too! :)

    Go read the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu, especially Chapter 17.
  • The Linux community flocks together through cooperation without commitment. By solving every possible problem at once, we route around damage before it can even occur. We have no direction, because we have every direction. What heirarchy we have is bottom-up, as easily replaced as it was created.

    Corporations pose a threat, but a different one than you envisage. We can flow around a corrupt disributor, or a corrupt leader. Two things threaten us. Firstly, fragmentation of our ability to share. With an ever increasing panoply of OSS-compliant licences that won't mix, our community can be forked and forked again to the point of impotence.

    OpenSource is good, it's a foot in the door. But, unless we can start synchronising the licenses, we will be left worse off than before. A mature OpenSource program can't be re-licensed - too many people have contributed and cannot be traced for their permission. We would be free of monopoly companies, but not free to share our code.

    And there's a second threat - mimics. By careful license design, a commercial company can create what at first glance looks "open" but with a sting in the tail - for example a "patches only" license that lets the company re-release the program under a closed license, trapping the open-source version in the form of a dated master file and a growing mess of patches.

    This is why I find myself in reluctant agreement with the "license flamers" on slashdot - this is our greatest weakness, and the only true leverage point corporations have against us.
  • Jeremy Lee suggested that "To get Linux on everyone's desktop, the release frequence will have to drop done to that kind of timescale" (ie, about once a year).

    In fact, Multics (Unix's papa) permitted continuous maintenance: a friend worked on it. It's a solved problem in computer science to support continuous change. It is addmittedly hard enough that it wasn't considered as a goal of Unix, and so has been lost from the collective memory of the industry...

    The unsolved problem is getting people to pay for something they can't see. Even now, Microsoft has to change the box, play with the user interface and add "features" in order to sell folks their box of bug fixes to Office every few years.

  • I don't appreciate having your words put in my mouth. Gawd knows where they've been... *ahem*

    I like linux because it doesn't *force* simplicity on me. I think it'd be great if someone were to put out a distro simple enough for my mom to install and use. Because Linux is GPLed, there would be other, less-restrictive distros for me to play with. Everybody's happy.
  • I don't want to get into an ugly editor flamewar. However, vi has always been about usefulness over elegance (hence the steep learning curve and the archaic interface). I could use any other editor for years and know it by heart and still never get around a file faster than I can with vi. It's not a matter of elitism and thrusting an archaic editor into newbies' faces in an attempt at broadening a non-existent class gap in the unix world. Some people are die-hard advocates of certain methods for reasons other than maintaining their social image. (;

    And in regards to the command-line, it's all those small yet extremely powerful utilities that are at the heart of any unix system (the sort of things you miss if you ever go back to a DOS prompt) and the clever flexibility of the standard shells that really make unix what it is. The command-line is advocated so strongly because it puts the least between the power user and those utilities, and in fact facilitates their usage. For me a GUI is simply a way to have graphics instead of just text, display more text, move around from text to text, a way to easily accomplish repetitive actions, and make it all look good. Well, maybe that's not so simple. :P


  • When I read this article, I first thought it was the ramblings of an isolated Linux user who didn't understand the GPL. Then I read the comments. Now I'm depressed.

    We all use Linux because it's difficult? Nobody is supposed to make money off Open Source? It's wrong to only use stable versions? RedHat can somehow own Linux and prevent Alan Cox and Linus Torvalds from releasing new kernels whenever they damn well please? If we (as a community) are going to worry about something, let's at least pull our heads out and worry about real threats.

    Read RMS. Read ESR. Becoming complacent and allowing a little commercial code in the kernel, or allowing Big Company to violate the license a little, now those are threats to Linux. Commercial success alone isn't.

    My single point of agreement with this article is that we may be focusing too much on Microsoft. Even if you think RMS is a religious zealot, you have to admit he has a point. Would you contribute code to the Linux kernel if M$ had the legal right to modify it, and then sell it as proprietary closed source software? I wouldn't. That's why the GPL works. That's why even those who don't program benefit because they get more robust software with better features because it was written to scratch someone's itch, not to satisfy marketing's checklist.

    Free software is about choice. To say that only morons want stable systems that don't change very often, and that this shouldn't be allowed in the free software community is completely ludicrous. If you believe that someone, anyone, should be able to dictate what everybody wants, buy Windows. You agree with Bill Gates, you might as well line his pocket with you cash.

    Not me.

  • For a COMPLETE implementation of HTML 4.0/CSS-1/DOM-1, check out Gecko. Does the W3C specs TO THE LETTER. Not bad for an "alpha". ;-)

    M$ wants to turn the Web into one giant VB app. (shudder) Hence, all the proprietary extensions (such as "data binding") built into what it refers to as "DHTML". Yuck. Okay, so it DOES do a fairly decent job on implementing CSS scripting... it's just all the other crap M$ sneaks into its implementation that bothers me. Once again, I say: Yuck.

    As for FrontPage: If I've said it once, I've said it a million times -- why the hell does anybody want to use a so-called "authoring tool" that purports to know more about what you want to do than you do? I started out building sites using it. In less than 90 days, I'd learned enough about what I was really doing to become thoroughly disgusted with it -- to the point where I permanently exiled it from my system and went back to a text editor (until Dreamweaver came out, that is :-). Anybody who's used any of the "Visual" tools has run into the same thing, I'm sure.

    Sure, M$ supports standards, but only while it sees an advantage in doing so... just long enough to try to hook people on its "extras"... Then -- ta daaah -- it's back to business as usual, above board as well as below.

    Fsck Micro$oft. I still don't trust the bastards.


    (somewhere in tenn.)

  • John,

    If AOL shuts down your site, get in touch with me. We have plenty of space. And I'd love to have some good Linux advocacy stuff on our server.


    (somewhere in tenn.)

  • I hope we all scrutinize RedHat's actions more carefully. It may be the decline of the Linux spirit 'as we know it'.

    Vigilance is the price of freedom, my friend.

    As of right now, Red Hat has produced nothing but free software. They have not compromised their "main" distribution. ( their commerical offering does contain non-free software ). As long as Red Hat continues to produce and promote free software in their GNU/Linux distribution, no one should worry.

    If Red Hat has made a design or implementation decision in their software that you cannot live with, there are plenty of other distributions that probably agree with you and have not made those decisions.

    As for Red Hat's cohorts (Intel, venture capitalists) money, it should be noted that almost all of that is going into new facilities and support technicians. Neither of those things are detrimental to GNU/Linux.

    As for the real danger Redhat poses, I just can't see any. They're not like MS because I have the _choice_ to use another distro if Red Hat upsets me. It is when this choice is revoked that Red Hat becomes a problem. And as each distro caters to a certain crowd, I have no fear that Red Hat will ever be my only choice...since I have the choice to fork off a distribution of my own at any time ( cf. Mandrake distro ).
  • I can assure you it wasn't me. (I don't even have direct posting rights, let alone deletion abilities.)

    If you've still got a copy, feel free to send it to me directly.
  • (1) Er, specifically, I think we should generalize. :-) Seriously, the intention was to say that things are going fine, don't get sidetracked. Here are some hypothetical ways to get sidetracked, so don't do 'em.
    (2) It's easy to be best of breed. That just takes research. Here's a quick idea to improve even our CLI: I use JBuilder a lot at work and have come to depend on it's Code Insight features. (if you type System.out. and wait, you get a list of the methods. Type ( and wait, and you see the parameters and types. Ironically, didn't this first turn up in a MS product? Delphi does it better, though.) Extending a shell to suggest parameters, or maybe bringing back recently used values, might be fun. I'm always having to hit the man pages for less-used programs like ipfwadm.
    (3) Choice is good, but sometime is less valuable than standardization. Multiple variants of HTML, to pick a random example, could be annoying.
    (4) Yes, I was overstating. But it made a good lead-in to the kinds of changes that occur when you decide to become commercial. I'm concerned that the whole linux community doesn't understand what commercial dominance would mean.
    (5) That's exactly the example I had in mind. It distracted the FSF from coding. Same thing happened to GIF's. Remember the sheer miles of verbage that got spewed over that one? I couldn't handle one such 'issue' a month. Besides, big companies are not adverse to pushing a licence agreement to breaking point for their own benefit, since they have laywers specifically for that job. The Sun/MS/Java case in point.
    (6) I care if the focus of the community shifts to the point where it destroys the ideal. I like money. I like not having to care about it.
    (7) Talk to some behavioral psychologists. You'd be amazed. The easiest way is to create a popular leader. Hoomans are weird.
  • Once again my "dissenting" opinion has been erased from this site.

    This is very disturbing. I did not use profanity, or insult the author in a personal manner. I did say that the article was garbage - is this what the Slashdot Politburo considers offensive?
  • by jmasseo ( 9543 )
    Mad props to ya. Needed to be said.
  • Can the question be formulated?

  • I'm not awfully worried about the commercialization of Linux. On the subject of Red Hat Linux: Note that while they are not putting out more than N releases per year, the updates directory goes on and on. One way to work well with a marketing department is to put the procedures in place to ignore them successfully at just the right moments.

    The author is quite right in saying that the community could rebuild Linux from scratch, and it might even be an improvement. The essential resource is the community, and you simply cannot own that community. Not when it includes plenty of people who are actively annoyed at the concept of being owned. It won't happen.

    In fact, there are quite a few people in quite a few organizations who are beginning to understand that the community is the Goose That Lays The Golden Eggs. Expect them to become quite vocal when that goose is threatened. We call these people 'converts', and they show up in the most unlikely places.

    Finally, let's not fall for what I call the 'Gates Fallacy.' This is the fallacy which says that our interests are the same as those we pay money to. This could also be referred to as the 'exit poll syndrome'; it's demonstrated when the major networks do exit polls on election day which affect the course of voting, because people vote for the perceived winner, often in contradiction to their own best interests.

    How do you avoid the Gates Fallacy? Simplicity itself. Remember that the software industry could fall apart tomorrow and there would still be software. We don't need Corel or IBM to write professional, usable software. That's been amply demonstrated. Indeed, even Microsoft doesn't always need its own software; look at the number of Linux and other Unix boxes in Redmond.

    Everybody is a user of software, but not everybody is a seller of software. Remember.

  • begin 2 cents here:

    I have only one comment concerning the Eventual Domination of Linux.
    Say Linux does become somewhat of a Standard, commerical product. Say RedHat is the primary vendor with their once a year update. I think this will be a good thing, because people who want that kind of OS (and there are quite a few) will get it. And it will be good.
    For those of us who like the latest and greatest, who could not live without our development kernels, we'll still have those too.
    I see these future 'Production' relaeses as a stable, snapshot of a given kernel release and all the other cool open source apps out there. But the point is, it is a collection from the open source community, a derivitive. So for those of us that like to be at the heart of the development, it will always be there, un-commericalized, un-tainted, free for all. No matter what.

  • Goliath has ALWAYS been running scared.

    Just listen to Bill Gates et al sometime. They're terrified of being subjugated by some new technology like the Internet or Java.

    "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean someone's not out to get you".

    I don't remember who said that - but it describes Microsoft very, very well.

  • Didn't the FrontPage extensions have some fairly well-publicised security holes?

    I can understand someone not wanting to install them on that basis.

  • I thought in Open Source there was not supposed to be anyone making money off it?

    As I understand it, the concept behind Open Source is "you can compile it, hack it, sell it or give it away for free -- but anything you do with it, you must allow people to see what you did (make the source freely available) so they can have the same freedom."

    The reason it challenges "closed source" is that since they control the source, they decide what features will be added, what bugs will be fixed, and how often the two happen (and how much they can gouge you for it). With Open Source, if you have the technical know-how to fix the problem yourself, go right ahead. (And if you do, please share with the rest of us who might have the same problem.)

    If Redhat wants to sell a commercial Linux distribution and only update once a year (to please the corporate types who see rapid updates as a bad thing -- you know, "how stable is this stuff if they keep updating it all of the time?"), that's fine. If you can't wait, then get the new source when it becomes available and do it yourself.

    I thought one of the advantages of having commercial resellers was that those of us who are not hacker-types but want to use Linux can pay to have someone do much of the grunt work (and provide tech support). If I want to do it myself, I can. If I want to pay someone to do much of the work for me, I can. That's the freedom of Open Source.

    Jay (=
  • It's good to see someone hit the nail right on the head. I still use Windows quite a bit, and I agree that the commercial world at large is going to be quite a shock if and when Linux finally hits it big.

    There are a lot of complexities in the commercial market that Open Source software simply doesn't have to deal with. The lawyers and the lawsuits haven't infringed much on this territory, but once there is big money in Linux, they WILL be there. And with no central authority, who is going to handle them?

    And as always, ease of use is still a big factor, even with the advances being made. The little old lady down the street can't even install her own Windows software - even when it just means running setup.exe and accepting all the defaults. What will it mean when she has to compile it as well?

    Just some things to think about amidst the screams of "World Domination."

    - Slarty
  • remember the end of 1998, when fbsd-current had like half of its drivers removed by some immature ppl in the core team?

    FreeBSD-current had some old drivers removed that were no longer maintained and were not compatible with some new architecture decisions. In the process, some drivers that shouldn't have been removed were.

    This was a mistake. It was acknowledged, and they were restored.

    Yeah, the timing (over Xmas) sucked. People make mistakes. They get over it.

    someone suggested that the core team should be elected by the user base, and the core team said "hell no".

    I'm not a member of the core team, I'm just one of the 160 or so people that can commit direct to the FreeBSD source tree (remind me again: how many people can write to the Debian tree, or the RedHat tree, or the Slackware tree?).

    Nevertheless, why would electing the core team make any sense? The core team oversees the architectural direction in which FreeBSD is going. I want competant engineers doing that, not people who win popularity contests.


  • The point was that the Linux kernel developers can't throw a hissy-fit and yank big chunks out of the kernel.

    Cool. Neither can the *BSD developers. Firstly, because the license doesn't let them (once its out there as BSD license someone else can't relicense the same code with a more restrictive license, such as the GPL).

    Secondly, because the code's in CVS repositories mirrored around the globe. cvs checkout -r mumble gets you the code before it was yanked, and cvs commit mumble puts it straight back in the repository.

    Easy. huh?


  • Check out the whole bloody blowup when NetBSD discovered that FreeBSD used a few lines from their alpha port for FreeBSD/alpha:

    Some NetBSD code was imported in to the tree and the copyright notice was inadvertently ommitted. NetBSD complained (Jason Thorpe, if I remember correctly) and the ommission was put right as soon as the FreeBSD committer in question (Doug Rabson, possibly, but I forget) was informed.

    Big deal. It was dealt with. People screw up. They recover from their mistakes. That's life.


  • Yes, the removal of drivers at the end of 1998 was restored. No problem. But what have you done to prevent this from happening in the future, and with the same people?

    Well, given that the root cause was lack of communication, perhaps you'd actually like to read the "State of the Union" message. I'm paraphrasing (and anyone who wants to can see the original at but; []

    Intention to remove code must be posted to the appropriate mailing list first (-current or -stable) and ample time must be allowed for discussion.

    Seems clear enough.

    And at the end of the day, the person with final say is David Greenman, as FreeBSD's principal architect.

    Gosh. One person with final control over FreeBSD. I'm shocked, I tell you. Shocked.

    Oh. Wait. There's only person with final say over Linux as well.

    Regarding election of fbsd core members, I would like to see those 160 developers you mention have a greater say in who their leaders are.

    Sure. When are you going to get the chance to vote for Linus, or Alan Cox?

    You're not, right? They're there because of technical ability. Funnily enough, so is the FreeBSD core team (and the NetBSD core team, and the OpenBSD core team).

    If you thought that it looked like E0.15 sucked, would you try and vote Raster away from it?

    No. Didn't think so.


  • The Macintosh (or Windows for that matter) is not a POOR copy of the Xerox Star. Yes, they borrowed a few ideas from it (like the mouse, and the use of windows), but each OS has made significant advancements. Have you ever seen one of those things? The windowing system doesn't even allow multiple windows to overlap each other! Apple engineers took the very basic ideas that were invented at Xerox PARC and made them a lot more usable with the Lisa systems and later, the Macintosh. -Sol
  • Some interesting points, but the idea that Linux can replace Windows, with Red Hat becoming the new monopoly, is pretty far-fetched, even as a hypothesis. Microsoft will be the last major monopoly of its kind. If they fall, things will be much more diversified - with Linux, BSD, Mac, Be, etc.

    But the very nature of Linux and its community means that if RH tried to pull any tricks, the backlash would be extremely vicious. Even as it is, with RH's current benign form of capitalism, there are people who think they are the already the next Evil Empire.

    And WIMP is, unfortunately, necessary. The wonderful thing is, in Linux, it's an option rather than something forced down your throat.

  • Now this is a good idea. My thoughts on this are not to get rid of the keyboard. The keyboard has the advantage over the voice dictation of accurate and easy editing. It would, for the time being, remain useful (I'm not saying the keyboard is sacred or anything, just that it has an advantage or two in this situation).

    The mouse should be dumped (I hate mice, they are slow and annoying). Now, I think the ideal setup in this situation would be to have the monitor and a minimalistic keyboard in one unit, probably having the keyboard storable, only needing to flip or slide out when you want to use it. Then, the window manager would be designed completely around the ability to touch the screen. The keys not on the keyboard would be buttons on the screen. Not necessarily labeled the same way. Or the whole thing could be done completely differently, these are just some initial thoughts.

    All work and no play doesn't do anything positive for your performance.
  • by cjs ( 12969 )

    ...I feel the hair-splitting wars between Linux distributions does not serve the Linux cause well.
    Indeed, nor do I. Ironically enough, though plenty of Linux folks I talk to say that one of the `advantages' of Linux over *BSD is that `There's only one Linux.' Is this a case of not knowing oneself well enough (to the user, the differences between the BSDs are actually less apparent than the differences between, say, Slackware and Debian), or a case of thinking of Linux as Red Hat and nothing else, implicitly acknowledging the Microsoft view of the world (there can be only One True OS)?

    It will be interesting to see where Linux ends up in the long run. Unlike the BSD folks, Linux folks tend to work very hard at proselytisation, and are a lot more likely to work hard at features that will convert Windows users, rather than other Unix users. (I'm not saying that this is better or worse, just different.) Thus, Linux is a lot more well known, despite being younger, and is indeed headed towards being what Windows is today.


  • Now NeXT isn't really like BSD. If I'm wrong tell me.
    You're wrong. :-)

    The OS underlying NeXTStep was originally 4.3BSD. I expect the 4.4ised it at some point, and more recently Apple certainly grabbed a fair amount of NetBSD code to use in it. (This was quite a boon to the NetBSD project, because they contributed back a pile of bugfixes and whatnot.)


  • Actually, I was just having a quick look at a copy of The Unix Haters Handbook the other day, since I'd not read it in years. I only read through a couple of dozen pages scattered about the book, but even then, something became apparent to me that never struck me four years ago when I first read it. The implication is around in several places, but it's blatently stated in paragraph 3 of page 128. Essentialy what it says is:

    What this system really should do is transfer code from the server to the client and execute it remotely.

    Well, looking back on the last few years of Java holes, macro viruses, and the ActiveX disaster, I think we can pretty safely say that this fellow was quite lacking in foresight. So enjoy the book, but take it with a big grain of salt. It's turning out that some of the things that seem horrible about Unix aren't as bad as one might think.


  • >We must get our hands on RedHat's shareholders >**NOW** and educate them that we are NOT going >to allow them or their childish market to >restrict how often our kernel evolves

    Better yet, those of us that have the funds should become the shareholders. Even if RedHat/Caldera/(name your commercial distro) is not your favorite, it would be in the Hackers best interest if hackers held most of the shareholder control.

    I'll start building up a hold in the major commercial vendors, even though I personally prefer Debian :)
  • Do you get paid to spread this sort of material? Doesn't anyone find it odd that the more successfull distributions are coming under so much attack lately. Especailly groups like RedHat that have done so much to actively support the Free Software movemment.
    These attempts to divide the community need to be seen for what they are, and resisted.
  • This is the kind of down to earth article that we (the Linux community) really need to consider.

    Sure, Linux on every desktop, Microsoft out the window, and Bill Gates living in a cardboard box would be a Good Thing(tm), but come on people...

    The whole reason we like Linux is the fact that it's not simple. It's not pretty. To achieve Linux on every desktop would mean giving up everything about Linux that we love.

    I don't know about you guys, but I prefer the Linux we have now, and M$ still in business, rather than no more Microshaft, and a crap, stupified, updated-once-a-year, no more home made solutions Linux.
  • That was truly a fantastic voiced everything that's disturbed me about Linux in maybe the past year, but which I haven't quite been able to put my finger on.

    Many people (including a lot of people that have replied here already) first got into linux because they used Unix at work or school and wanted the same functionality and utilities at home. Most of these people quickly hit the greatest stumbling block of running Linux - dealing with the dominance of proprietary file formats and technologies. Nobody wants to be stuck with his thumb up his ass when he receives a binhex encoded Word document with lots of embedded GIFs attached to an email. So we create dual-boot systems, install Wine, buy WABI, etc.

    From an idealistic perspective, this is a disgusting compromise. From a practical perspective, it's a necessary one - until and unless open formats achieve dominance. At least users "guilty" of this kind of compromise still know why they want Linux (while acknowledging the need for some proprietary software).

    That's one level of compromise, one that was common even two years ago. Lately there's been a far more disconcerting kind of compromise in the OSS community, specifically in the user interface realm. It started with fvwm2-95 and continues today with GNOME and KDE. Most linux desktops look like Win95 with lots of graffiti sprayed around. Big cumbersome toolbars with masked Start buttons dominate the screen, and from them belch forth menus with 20 nested levels, listing every userland executable installed on the damned machine.

    Why? What is the advantage? I thought UIs were supposed to be about speed and power, about the ability to quickly display needed information, organize it, and then make it go away. If a commonly-needed task can be automated down to the click of one button, then by all means let there be buttons. If navigating through seas of buttons and toolbars takes 5 times as long as typing a simple command on the console or in an xterm, why put up with the clutter?

    The downfall in the mindset of Linux users can be directly seen in the downfall of usage of the command line. The command line is the origin of everything great and powerful about Unix in the first place.

    So what I really fail to understand is the mindset of competent hackers who are listening to the demands of whining Windows converts - people scared by emacs or VI and who long for Notepad. Why are competent hackers catering to them? Why are you slowly but surely hiding an OS whose power and allure resides in its speed and power behind an inferior shell? What is gained when the community gains incompetent members?

    The cheap thrill of seeing a cute penguin graphic plastered everywhere will wear off quick. Encouraging users to convert to Linux by means of a "friendly" and weak interface will only create liability, not strength.

    I miss TWM - and for more than nostalgic reasons.

    Jeff Zapotoczny
    One Slackware-running, libc5-dependent, package manager-free motherfucker.
  • First of all, this is a wonderfully written and compelling article. It moved me and battered me around emotionally. Kudos.

    Second, the other day my dad saw my GIMP book that I recently purchased (I don't really need it, but I like supporting the idea that you CAN make money from OSS Software.) He asked me what GNU was and I gave him the three minute run down. The first thing out of his mouth was an incoherent rambling about how he could make money with it, then the barrage of questions hit. He's one of those Get Rich Quick Scheme types that likes to jump on the bandwagon then jump off just before it crashes in effect helping to cause the crash.

    He was astounded that I have been using OSS/GNU/Linux for about seven years now and demanded to know why I didn't tell him about it earlier.

    I suppose that my point is (there's a point?) I have been using GNU software for a long time, regardless of what MS has been up to, and after the OS wars are long over and BOTH MS and Linux have faded to obscurity, I will still be using GNU/OSS Software. Let the corporations do their moneygrubbing - it affects me not.

    RMS - Gandalf
    Linus - Frodo
    Dennis R. and Ken T. - Tom Bombadil and Galadriel
    anyone else?
  • The thrill of linux is not that it is messy
    or doesn't "look nice." That's absurd. One
    of the biggest thrills of linux to me is that
    it gives me OPTIONS. I can choose from a dozen
    different distributions, a dozen different
    window managers, for a complete desktop I can
    chose KDE or GNOME. I can scale Linux. It can
    run on my Palm Pilot, or my Screaming P450 server.

    I personally do want to see linux dominate the
    world and crush microsoft. The beauty of Open
    Source is that when that happens, even if it
    happens through a company like Red Hat becoming
    more mainstream, releasing a new version every
    two years, giving in to the shareholders, etc.
    Even if they were to become Evil and if Bill Gates
    himself were to own Red Hat, even then, we'd
    still have the source.

  • Linux is not Tom Bombadil, it's Gandalf who will
    smite Microsoft's ass with fireworks.
  • How about having a keybord with keys that have small displayes on the function keys, number key pad, and perhapes others. This way applications can begin to once again use these keys to do something useful. I know that I hardly ever tough those keys. Back in the DOS days some very good user interfaces were designed around those keys except that you to memorise what those keys did, or use a cheat sheet. The small displays would solve this problem.
  • Actually, one of my friends is an electrical engineer, and he was telling me about this nifty device that UPS wanted built to save them next Christmas...

    Turns out that Dragon Systems had a bunch of their people port their voice recognition engine to the StrongARM-110 platform running VXworks, and UPS kept throwing money at the project until they were getting 4 or 5 nines (99.999%!) reliability. No more mobile keypads! The device was intended for use in the UPS regional distribution centers, where it's pretty noisy, but some guys on the project wrote all sorts of nifty audio filters to remove all the crap from the signal. Turns out that they can get extremely reliable voice input using a 30 cent electret headset mic :)

    I've also seen similar technology used in the WildFire [] platform; they wrote their own ridiculously expensive audio filters for a really moby computer telephony agent called WildFire. I've gotten very reliable results yelling into my cell phone, in a bowling alley, on league night, during fleet week...

    The problem is that all these solutions are too damn expensive (6, 7 digits) for the sort of work you're thinking about doing, unless you want to put together a Silicon Valley startup, heavily commercialize the idea, and partner with one of those companies.

  • Hmm, the venture capital company that plopped down $750k for a minority stake in us actually *convinced us* to go open source:

    Another point to remember: some companies (like ours) want to have employee ownership interest. Employees should have a right to realize success from their endeavors and provide long-term financial security for their families. This isn't a Bad Thing.

    We have found a powerful business model and an enlightened venture capitalist. We hope to knock ColdFusion upside the head this year. So hey, it isn't all that bad!
  • by Fats ( 14870 )
    Ye know, I'd really love the idea that Linux becomes mainstream. There is no way that Linux won't be 10x more stable then Windows in the end. The Linux core is just 10 times better then window's....

    Commercialized or not, Linux WILL stay 10 times better regarding stability/up-time.


    Someone who's egerly waiting till rm -rf /dosc becomes possible while still being able to play games ;)
  • Excellent piece! You've capably captured
    the essence that motivates 3-piece bottom

  • Oh, come on. Just because linux becomes the mainstream OS would not mean that it is no longer the hacker OS - Redhat may be kept down to a yearly kernal upgrade but that by no way means that noone else can download upgraded development kernals.
  • The primary reason that Red Hat is slower now on releases has little to do with "corporate anything", and a hell of a lot to do with a goal of improving the releases in terms of how well the parts work, and the whole works together.

    If all you want to do is throw a lot of software together in a package & call it a distribution, great - you can roll out a new release with every new kernel version. But you'll take a lot of flack for the failure to check that everything works.

    Red Hat has _greatly_ expanded the beta program, and taken other steps to ensure that all the parts work together as well as possible.
  • Jeremy, an interesting article, and an interesting attempt to raise some concerns. Unfortunately, you seem to fall victim to a few traps along the way, and they detract from your basic points.

    The "traps" I'm referring to include the demonification of capitalism as an enemy in some way to open source software, the assumption that, in your words, "There Can Be Only One" commercial vendor for Linux, and (despite your comment in the addendum/update at the end) specifically selecting Red Hat as an example. I'd like to briefly comment on each of these points. (Like you could stop me, right! Ignore, possibly.)

    Demonification of capitalism: You include a number of references to capitalism & corporate actions that both label them as evil, unthinking, and uncaring about areas beyond their own pockets, and imply that they're one and the same thing. Your little Adam Smith quote & derogatory remark is a good example here.

    Capitalism & Corporate economics aren't the same thing! They get confused, and politicians mix the labels freely, but that doesn't change anything: calling a skunk a rose won't change the smell, and labeling corporatism as capitalism doesn't either. Most corporations are fully avowed enemies of any approach to Laissez Faire economics and capitalism. Look at the amount of money they spend to encourage special laws which only act to increase their power and income. Fair competition is the last thing they want.

    Adam Smith pointed it out, and no real refutation of his basic points have been made. Every economic decision, at all levels, has consequences in the rest of the market. We don't really understand what those consequences will be, can't plan 'em, can't really do more than recognize them and attempt to deal with them realistically. Look up Ludwig von Mises and Praxeology sometime. Markets aren't just about money; you can be paid in pride, dignity, self-respect, external respect, admiration, any number of other "currencies" which are important to you. Corporate structures and values arn't really about markets; they don't believe in markets, and damn sure don't believe in unintended consequences - they think they can predict consequences and control them. This is one of the reasons companies go bankrupt all the time.

    Bottom line here is that the attack is polarizing and detracts from your basic points.

    "There Can Be Only One." Pardon me for saying so, but bull . This is based out of the old fashioned corporate economics you denigrate in your article, and fail to recognize the paradigm shift involved in the whole open software concept. It's a marketplace of ideas, and the ground rules as laid out in the GPL and other "open copyrights" (or copylefts) are changing the way the game is played. You're applying the old rules and expectations to a new game.

    Now, part of the reason I liked your article, and appreciate your concerns is that when you change the rules there will, again, be consequences. Along the way to a new outcome, things can get rough and some of the things you express concern about might be attempted.

    In an open market of ideas, such as Linux and the GNU, BSD, Berkeley, and other copylefted material you cannot "corner" the market. You can try to capitalize on the situation, but there are no guarantees. Note that Caldera, backed by Ray Nordla who has buckets of cash on hand, isn't doing quite as well or growing as fast as Red Hat, which started on a shoestring by a guy who was spending all his time hacking Linux & not getting paid for it. From a corporate viewpoint you'd tend to suspect that Caldera would be the fastest growing distribution. It's good, but it's not the fastest growing or even best recognized, is it?

    "Red Hat the Company" "Because sooner or later, Red Hat the Compay will be owned and run by an economic rationalist with a legal obligation to increase shareholder value (as all publicly traded companies are required to do, or they get sued) using any and every means at their disposal."

    Bad shot, from many viewpoints. One, you tend to turn people who like, support, and defend Red Hat & it's distribution off so they ignore value in your ideas, and Two it was, again, an unnecessary attack. You could have used a fictionalized company name to make your points.

    In any case, there is a fundamental difference in businesses, such as Red Hat, Caldera, SuSE, LST, and others; and traditional, product-oriented companies. The product is basically free. The GPL was drafted by attorneys, directed towards a specific goal, and is, I suspect, not quite as fragile as your concerns imply. Additionally, what these companies are doing is making a pittance on the direct product (the distribution), and attempting to make the real money for themselves on the services.

    MicroSoft, as one example of a traditional company, sees it's product as the software. Hence, closed source, high prices, rapacious acquisition of competing products, etc. (If they saw the product as service, then quality would be more of an issue there, instead of the creaping "featurism" that they display.)

    Service is the ultimate market product in many ways. It is directly, and only, based on customer satisfaction. It depends on reputation, and failure on the part of the seller to provide satisfaction would eliminate the reputation (and destroy the value of the product) in very short order. The certification programs that Caldera and Red Hat (amoungst others) are starting now are a part of that product, and also help to act as a control on those companies, also. How so? If I want to start up my own company, selling service and support for Red Hat, Caldera, (whatever) Linux, and I have their certification, it would be hard for them to apply FUD to reduce my marketability and to abrogate it to themselves. They would have a hard time claiming I was unqualifed, if they, themselves, have certified me as being so. In any case, the model they seem to be assembling for support is one where they supply training, testing, and certification, and then a loose alliance with service companies in local areas. They will take the request for service and hand it off to the nearest local agency which is a member of the alliance. Such a model would give Red Hat and it's associates an advantage, but not dominance, since vendors selling hardware locally can also be certified, and can sell maintenance contracts with the hardware package.

    Just a thought.

  • Red Hat has chosen, knowingly and specifically, to remove all non-open source software from their distribution. If you review the contents of 5.2 you will note that the BRU backup software, Metro-X, and all other commercial software has been removed from the package.

    Even most of the books related to the distribution are copylefted, and available for download. Want the installation guide? Download it. Want to learn more about the RPM packaging system? Download a copy of "Maximum RPM" by Ed Bailey. Follow the links for more documentation.

    They've funded open software. They've started paying creative people so they can spend full time hacking Linux, like Alan Cox. The work done by these people goes directly to the communit, not to Red Hat first.

    You make a big deal out of the desktop wars and Red Hats actions related to that issue. What Red Hat did was not to denegrate KDE, but to take a simple, consistent position that no Red Hat distribution would include non-open source software in the core distribution. Period. Then they contributed money, personnel, time, and web space to Gnome, the open source alternative. You also choose to ignore the fact that a lot of people, myself included, have tried KDE - and don't like the approach. I applaud the effort of Mattias Ettrich and the KDE group. I regretted the choice of Qt until they started opening up the license for the libraries. But even if KDE had chosen to use GTK+ as a library, I still don't like the look and feel.

    What's so evil about having choices? What's wrong with having Gnome and KDE?

    Like the Grinch, I suspect your shoes are too tight, or your heart is two sizes to small. Take off your shoes, open a good beer, remove the necktie, join those who let their karma trample selfish dogmas. 8^)

  • What if (after the DOJ trials are over) MicroSoft wanted to take over Linux? How would it do it?

    It might well buy the private corporation most publicly associated with Linux. RedHat is perfectly placed to be bought by MS. MS's even got a close partner inside already. Who knows, perhaps they're even influencing them by proxy (RedHat Certified Engineer, hmmm?)

    MS might then throw some of its unemployed NT programmers onto the kernel project to give it that real Windows BSoD look, might use the company to push divergent kernel versions to divert energy from the main community, special Intel-only features, perhaps? WinModem driver?

    In the end, what would it profit MS to do this? How could they make their bucks?

    Well, if we look at history (IBM's monopoly preservation tactics) when one part of the monopoly is undercut, you start giving it away, and making your profit from another part. So I think you could expect to see people paying more for Word, Excel and such - they're how MS established its hegemony in the first place. I think, also, there could be more profit in hardware (at least that's how IBM used to play the game, switching from O/S to H/W profits.)

    The best defense against this seems to me to be vigilance, yes, but also plurality.

    It's great to see RedHat raising Linux awareness, putting on a suit and tackling the big end of town. When they've tasted the system, some will hopefully move to where the real system is (shameless Debian plug.)

    In the interests of that plurality, I think it'd be really nice if RedHat gave some of its voting stock to the FSF. That would be fair, and it would enable them to act in the public interest before they list, which eventuality would make it illegal to do so in some situations where the public and shareholders' interests diverge.
  • I was greatly suprised by the tone of your article. Linux's Doomsday? I'm not exactly sure that I see that. The only concrete example that you gave of the doom of Linux was that RedHat's slipping release schedule. What makes this the harbinger of doom? RedHat is not the only distribution of Linux. Or of Open Source software. If users don't like this release schedule, they can try another distribution.

    This is also what will make it so difficult for Venture Capitalists to grab control of Linux. There is no monopoly on Linux. No handle for anyone to grab hold of. If anything, VC interest will be a boon to the Linux community. There are other ways to make money off of software than just selling the software. VC interest in Linux and OS will open the door for service companies, consulting, custom software development.

    Lastly, I am suprised that you are against making software that will ease the transition of people to Open Source software. You seem to have spent a great deal of time working with open source software. Now, you treat the use of OS software like some kind of club where everyone should devote the same amount of effort as you. I thought the goal was to make software as accessible as possible to everyone. That getting involved in OS development projects is a means helping everyone. Not just the technically elite.

    But enough of my ranting.
  • Perhaps it is time to have some new UI style. After reading this article, a silly little idea that I had been toying with a few years back came into my head: touch screens with reconfigurable control displays a la Star Trek NG and beyond. Naturally, voice dictation and control would also be a part of this system. Three years ago, such a system would not have been very feasible. However, with recent advances in voice dictation and display technologies, it may be a possibility.

    The display itself would be context-sensitive, depending on what application(s) are running, the content they contain, and also on the user's preferences settings.

    However, there are a number of critical problems with this that would need to be overcome:

    1. The current cost and quality of touch screens. I haven't looked into either of these issues yet, but low cost, and a fast and accurate response to the touch would be necessary.

    2. Placement of the display. Current systems with a touch screen that goes over the monitor would be uncomfortable for extended periods of use -- having to hold your arms up to tap on the screen would be a pain. While voice control would help alleviate some of these problems, physical control is still an important aspect. A desktop or slightly angled LCD panel with a touchscreen surface would be a better alternative display than a touch screen over the monitor.

    3. Voice control accuracy. True, most voice dictation systems are pretty good, but there is room for improvement. Since the traditional keyboard and mouse are gone, editing text would be somewhat more difficult. Given that, a 100% accuracy rate is necessary. No tolerance for mistakes, ever. It could be tough to do.

    I'm curious to hear some other views on this and why it would or wouldn't work...
  • First, Microsoft is irrelevant. Totally... We run the real risk that by concentrating too hard on killing Windows, we will become just like them. People are calling for 'feature parity' with the Office(TM, Pat Pend) applications to ease the transition of newbie users without once questioning whether that is a good thing.

    Personally, I like the idea of giving all those potential new users a nasty shock to the complacency... I don't want Linux to be "Just like Windows only Better!", I want it to challenge the basic assumptions that the Microsoft engineers have made...

    Choice is good. Linux should support LOTS of different user interfaces, which should all compete for user mindshare. However, since the cost of retraining far exceeds the cost of continuing to upgrade to the latest M$ bloatware, there should be at least one interface available that mimics as closely as legally possible the UI of Windows and Office, and is capable of reading and writing M$ file formats! Unlike developers, who enjoy constantly learning new things, most people can't be bothered to learn ANYTHING new. I know lots of people who are perfectly content to continue using their Windows 3.1 and old M$ Office, 'cause upgrading would be too much money and hastle...

    As far as the other points in the article: No, Micr$oft is NOT the enemy, and if we focus on Micro$oft, it makes us reactive, not proactive. One of Micr$oft's main problems currently is that it focuses entirely on the latest perceived threat, making it almost entirely reactive, then never completely follows through because a new threat inevitably comes along before they have finished implementing a solution to the old one... do we really want OSS to operate like that???

    The argument that as Red Hat gains market share, it will become more like M$ is certainly valid, IMHO. However, even one other company entirely motivated by profit that can compete on an even footing with M$ would be an improvement; it would keep Redmond honest, and force them to rethink their strategies to provide more value to the consumer. In the end, it's not important that M$ wins or Netscape wins or even the Linux wins... what is important is that the consumers win, by being given access to the latest innovative ideas in software at a reasonable price. Also, OSS itself acts as a moderating effect on Red Hat's behaviour. How much more responsive would M$ be to their customers, if all their source was freely available, and disgruntled customers could simply fork their source tree and start shipping their own version of Windoze?

    Micro$oft will always be with us, in much the same way that IBM System 370s and VAXen are still with us... they are still in use, but nobody is buying new ones, and all the exciting, cutting edge development is being done on newer platforms. Micro$oft has learned a lot from IBM... have they learned enough to avoid following the same path?

  • by El ( 94934 )
    To those of you that think a touchscreen angle into the desk is bad, because you have to lean to look at it: I went all through school leaning to see my books and notepads. How is this any different? Why not just mount the touchpad with enough degrees of freedom so that you can put it anywhere you're comfortable with. The real problem with a touchpad is that you have to clean the thing regularly, especially after working while eating pizza... ;-)
  • Bravo! Ok, FrontPage sucks. But it may fall under the rule "Never attribute to malice what is adequately explained by stupidity." In other words, it may suck because of a sinister plot to trick people into building web pages that can only be hosted on IIS and only be viewed by IE, or it may suck simply because it's implementors are lazy and ignorant. Choose whichever you wish to beleive. I personally feel that M$ breaks compatibility far to often to be purely coincidental, but unfortunately they do it in such a way as to leave enough doubt that intentional malice could never be proven in court. Then again, I could be paranoid...
  • The less we think about Microsoft the better we are. The more we use Open Source products the bigger the statement we are going to make. If you buy a PC, return the Microsoft license agreement and get your money back. Install Linux. Help the developers. We can build a community bigger than it is now. We just have to work on building our community and not destroying Microsoft's Borg Ship. We can beat them with our minds and with our software. Give back for what you take. Make some software, join development, submit bug reports, throw rallies. Put bumper stickers on your car. Do it by being better than Microsoft. Be better. -Nick

"I prefer the blunted cudgels of the followers of the Serpent God." -- Sean Doran the Younger