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Interview: Ask Tim O'Reilly 106

Tim O'Reilly is, of course, the founder and guiding light of O'Reilly & Associates, which publishes stacks of books about programming in general and Open Source programming in particular, along with authoritative Linux manuals and a whole bunch of other stuff. Want to become an O'Reilly author? Ask Tim how. Or ask him anything else. Moderators will select the 10 - 15 questions we forward on Tuesday. Answers will appear Friday, and we cordially invite Tim to join the discussion Friday (if he has time) and add more comments or respond to any questions he found interesting but weren't moderated high enough to make the "first cut."
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Interview: Ask Tim O'Reilly

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  • How do you feel about the competition among publishers relating to tech books (ie Computing for Dummies) and will their choices to distribute via e-books format influence your discision to go this route? Is there a level of competition among these authors/publishing co's?

    Also, being into the cutting edge of technology and publishing, what are some books you've read non programming related that you've enjoyed?
  • by zilym ( 3470 ) on Monday September 06, 1999 @06:27AM (#1700402)
    Are there any plans to improve the binding on your future books? Many of us use O'Reilly books to death and the binding is the first to go. I know I certainly wouldn't mind pay slightly more for a stronger version of some of the most heavily used titles.
  • I like the fact that many of the Microsoft books are written from the unix admin's perspective. Since I too have to work with M$ technologies every day, I welcome O'Reilly's cool and clear explanations....
  • I'd nominate E.Coli for "MS Exchange Sever."

    After having wasted more than half a day of work with MS Visual C++, I'd suggest a "Dung Beetle" for that one.
    (The small guy doing by far the better compiling :)

  • by jzawodn ( 29312 ) on Monday September 06, 1999 @06:32AM (#1700406) Homepage

    Given some of the recent discussion surrounding the Linux Documentation Project (LDP), I began to wonder about its long-term direction and viability.

    I "grew up" with Linux by reading *many* of the HOWTOs and other documents that were part of the LDP. In many ways, I'd have been lost without the LDP. But with the growth of Linux mind-share and increased demand for texts that help newcomers get acquainted with the various aspects of running their own Linux systems, there seems to have been a stagnation in much of the free documentation. I can't help but to wonder if many of the folks who would be working on LDP-type material have opted to write books for publishers instead.

    Where do you see free documentation projects like the LDP going? What advice can you offer to the LDP and those who write documents for inclusion in the project? Might we see electronic versions of O'Reilly books (or parts of them) included in free documentation projects.

  • by _Sprocket_ ( 42527 ) on Monday September 06, 1999 @06:35AM (#1700407)
    I was just given a copy of The Unix CD Bookshelf as a gift. At first, I was suprised at the price (List price of $69.95 for six tittles - UNIX Power Tools, 2nd Edition; Learning the UNIX Operating System, 4th Edition; sed & awk, 2nd Edition; UNIX in a Nutshell, System V Edition (with a dead-tree copy included); Learning the vi Editor, 5th edition; Learning the Korn Shell). Then I was shocked to find out that the books were published in HTML with an optional Java based search engine. This leads to several questions.

    First, in this day and age, electronic publications (e-books) seem to be synonymous with encryption and proprietary data formats to protect copyright. Why did O'Reilly & Associates decide to use an open, and technically unprotected, format? Do you think this is a big risk? What advantages outweigh possible risks?

    Secondly, this CD set provides an amazing cost savings. UNIX Power Tools alone lists for about $60. Are electronic formats cheaper to produce? Or are the CD sets considered accompanyment to already sold paper books? Is there a risk of cutting into existing traditional book sales?

    I'd like to quickly say how much I like the CD set. The open format makes using it a breeze - I got a chuckle at Lynx being listed amoung the acceptable browsers (very cool). An electronic copy makes it so much easier to keep my reference material close-at-hand (no more "damn... I left that book at home / work"). I've really enjoyed this format; please consider offering more tittles on CD.

  • He already answered that question satisfactorily: it didn't sell enough copies to motivate the authors to write a new edition.

  • Then I was shocked to find out that the books were published in HTML with an optional Java based search engine. This leads to several questions.

    First, in this day and age, electronic publications (e-books) seem to be synonymous with encryption and proprietary data formats to protect copyright. Why did O'Reilly & Associates decide to use an open, and technically unprotected, format? Do you think this is a big risk?

    Good point. I was lucky to buy the excellent Effective C++ CD-ROM by Scott Meyers (it contains both Meyers books and several magazine articles in HTML) very early via German

    I recommended this most useful CD-ROM to many colleagues, but Amazon does not offer it anymore in Germany. I suspect due to pirating.

  • The article I'm referring to is here [].
  • Back in '93-'94, O'Reilly was one of the true Web pioneers with one of the first portals (GNN) and a stable of commercial Web servers (I know, you almost landed my MacHTTP product as one of them). Web servers obviously turned out to be a commodity business, but I wonder if you have any thoughts or regrets regarding the early sale of GNN?
  • "Lie-flat" binding is nice. What I'm talking about is pages falling out of the book. While separate pages lie completely flat on a desk, I wouldn't call them lie-flat -binding- since they are no longer bound. ;-)
  • Keep yer eyes peeled. The entire conference proceedings will be posted in the next week! Check

    Joseph McIntyre
    O'Reilly & Associates, Conferences Team
  • by maelstrom ( 638 ) on Monday September 06, 1999 @04:52AM (#1700417) Homepage Journal
    Although I am majoring in Computer Science, I have been trying my hand at a little bit of Technical Writing here and there.

    My questions are:

    • What techniques/tips do you have for future Tech Writers?
    • What books would you recommend a budding writer should read and study?

    And somewhat unrelated: Do you read every book you publish?

  • Are there any books that you look back on and wish you hadn't bothered with? In particular, I'm thinking about John Bloomer's Power Programming with RPC [], which is the only book I feel tarnishes O'Reilly's good name. It the only one I've read (and I've got most of them, to be honest :-) that I feel is poorly written and difficult to read. For a programming book not to include a simple "Hello, world!" type program until chapter 6 or so is, IMHO, pretty unforgivable.
  • Tim - How exactly do you decide which topics are "flash-in-the-pan" and which topics are going to stick around longer, and thus worth writing a book about? Also, how much does customer input factor in on your decisions as to which books to write/print?
  • I am struck by the fact that O'Reilly sells proprietary software (WebSite and friends) as well as books which are (mostly) about open-source software. I believe there will always be proprietary software, and that this is not necessarily a bad thing. But open source has worked so well for infrastructural projects, like tools and servers. And companies like Cygnus and Red Hat are certainly doing well financially with primarily open-source business models.

    WebSite - a web server - obviously falls into the infrastructure category where open source projects have done so well. I'm wondering if you'd comment on why you decided to make it proprietary?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    It would be nice if either with or seperate from one of the books you publish I was able to get a version in HTML or postscript. Most of the people who buy your books are computer literate and it would be useful to bring say, "The Perl Cookbook", on a business trip rather than lugging the actual book around with the laptop. Ben.
  • Well, you must admit that it is very keen, instead of saying "Running Linux Editon 2", just saying "The Horse Book".

    I wonder where Tim or whoever got the idea of using animals for refernce in the first place?
  • Free software, like GTK+ and GNOME, need free documentations.

    Havoc Pennington's GTK+/Gnome Application Development covers a whole range of GTK+/GNOME features, packed with example code. Since the GNOME API reference documentation can be quite hairy for the beginning GNOMEr, HP's book is hopefully closing this gap.

    Havoc Pennington, the author, should be known to a lot of people in the Free Software community. He has been working on the Debian GNU/Linux distribution, programming with GTK+ for several years, and has become a very active Gnome developer. He is responsible for creating many components of the Gnome libraries as well as contributing several free software programs to the GNOME project. He also writes the weekly GNOME Summary, helps people on the GNOME mailinglists, and was recently hired by Red Hat, to focus on GNOME at the Red Hat Advanced Developments Labs.

    The easiest way to get it is probably to order it [] in paperback.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Could you consider introducing an O'Reilly subscription service? You have been upgrading a number of your books to keep them current, I would like to get automatic upgrades when they become available - for a reduced price, of course.
  • by drix ( 4602 ) on Monday September 06, 1999 @05:08AM (#1700425) Homepage
    Why haven't more of your books made it online? A fair amount have, but it's still a fraction of the total offering. Certainly piracy could be an issue, but isn't there still some real profit to be made here? I don't think I know a single geek-sysadmin that wouldn't jump at the chance to, for example, have his company buy him an "O'Reilly Support Contract" for a couple hundred a year, which would enable him to browse and search - with regex's, of course :) - of every book you have online. Let's face it - several hundred dollars is a lot more than many of us spent on ORA books in the last year. And of course this opens up the doorway for tons of new features - books that update themselves through the notes that other readers would be able to leave on their virtual pages, etc.
    And how about the ability to create possibly the most comprehensive, one-stop shop for computer info on the planet? I think we'll find soon enough that most of the technically oriented progamming terms in your books will actually have chapters in other books that document them in that easy-to-digest, ORA vernacular that we've all come to know and love. Going for the obvious, imagine if you linked all the regular expression discussions in 'Progamming Perl' to their corresponding lengthier, better documented examples in 'Mastering Regular Expressions.' I can't imagine what a Perl/Regex guru I would've been by now if I had had the latter at my side while reading the former.
    Well, anyways, these are just some of the possiblities I see. Keep up the great work, and when you get a chance put a marmoset on one of your books. :)
  • Website came out AFAIK before there was any good webserver software for the Win32 platform (IIS 2.0? Fastrack?). Closed source is the norm on that platform, especially way back then and it was distributed for free / with an O'Reilly book. I remember hacking WinCGI's together way back then before I started using *nix, and before anything like ASP was available. I guess the webserver was so popular and had displayed such a market that they thought it was a no brainer to add some functionality, tag Pro onto the end and make some cash.

    Anyway, most of O'Reilly's books aren't open sourced, why should their software be any different?
  • Great question..indeed, what happened to GNN? I guess it was there at about the same time as Yahoo if not before?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Once in a interview you said, about the free software comunity, that they saw Gandhi as their role-model and then laughed. I then ask you: What is your role model?
  • I'm a teaching assistant for a sophomore-level languages and translation course at Georgia Tech. We use Levine, Mason, and Brown's _Lex & Yacc_ in the course. Unfortunately, we've had difficulty getting O'Reilly to support our use of its texts. The publisher offered us two desktop copies of the book for use among 20 TAs and 350 students. It was only through the instructor's persistence that we were able to secure one desktop copy per TA. O'Reilly must adopt a more teacher-friendly system if they want to see wider use of their texts in college curricula.
  • by Jelloman ( 69747 ) on Monday September 06, 1999 @07:26AM (#1700430)
    As a publisher, copyright law is obviously an important topic for you. Do you see the Net as a threat to copyright? What do you think of Congress' current fascination with mucking with and extending intellectual property laws? Isn't copyright supposed to be a tradeoff, granting protection now in exchange for eventual release into the public domain? Doesn't extending the copyright period by 20 years every 20 years defeat this? And do you have any thoughts you'd like to share on the database "protection" bills pending in Congress, or the UCITA extensions, or software patents? (I'm most interested in your thoughts on the latter.)

    OK, I know, that's more than one question.
  • Why are there so few good authors of books for programmers? With the recent death of Richard Stevens, in one fell swoop we've lost the author of Advanced Programming in the Unix Environment, Unix Network Programming, and the three books of the TCP/IP series. If you program on Unix and write networking code, those books are essential. Yet even before Stevens wrote UNP in 1990, nobody had written anything but man pages, and nobody other than Stevens has written anything since.

    Is the dearth of authors because not enough copy gets sold to amply reward all the hard work? Do programmers make lousy authors? Or is it that many people start books but never finish them?

    Certainly that last reason applies to software engineers too. It seems to be a suprisingly rare skill to actually get a product finished. But there seems to be such a large pool of people who enjoy writing and programming that I find the scarcity difficult to understand.

    Thanks. --Chris.

  • Actually, we decided to use the "Wild West" theme for the O'Reilly Linux books before the penguin had been adopted as the official Linux mascot. Back then, the only real animal representing Linux was a seagull (anyone remember that?) but the folks at O'Reilly thought the connotation wasn't what we wanted (seagulls tend to be found near large heaps of trash, for example).

    I suggested the use of antique motorcycles as the Linux cover design motif (after Pirsig's "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance") but again the possible negative connotations (i.e. Hell's Angels and the rest) outweighed that idea. My coauthor on Running Linux, Lar Kaufman, came up with the idea of the wild west -- seeing as how using Linux was a lot like the exploration of the American frontier. Never mind the negative connotations with that approach!

    Matt Welsh
  • I would like to second that!!
    I have the php manual from the web site but it would help to have some nice books like any of the Perl books to use while I learn it. Also Postgres is in the same boat, I have the manuals from there we site but it would be nice to have more. I would also like to add that when in doubt I buy O'Reilly. I found that all the books I have bought (upwards of 15) have all been well writen and very technical.

    Thanks O'Reilly
    Joshua Curtis
    Lancaster Co. Linux Users Group
  • As much as I hate working with M$ products, I'm not the one who pulls the strings, so I don't always get to pick. That means that I am often forced to use them. I very thankful that O'Reilly makes these books because I don't what I would have done if I had to use a "Learn ASP in 21 Days" or a "ASP for Dummies" type book as my reference. Hopefully in the not too far future these books will not need to be published and the world will be a happy place.
  • To expand on the animals question:

    • How much internal relevance is given to the animals? Is it somebody's job to manage them?
    • Is there a database that could be linked up?
    • I'm sure there are some good ancedotes concerning the animals (like how the pig ended up with Spam and the butterfly with Windows)

    The animals seem to be the thing that stands out the most about O'Reilly books, even the most technically illiterate can tell they're cooler than other technical books (and since they're B&W it gives a dignified air).

  • I'm just *sure* I read last year that ORA was planning a Postgres book, and have been looking forward to it. But it hasn't come!

    Why not??? I'll buy it in a heartbeat! It's a very logical program for ORA to support - it's big, complex, and open source. And it has a lot of users. What gives???
  • by Will the Chill ( 78436 ) on Monday September 06, 1999 @03:04AM (#1700440) Homepage
    Have you ever felt funny about having a horse as the animal on your linux books, when everyone would probably regard a penguin as a much better choice?

    -Will the Chill
  • by Max Planck ( 36538 ) on Monday September 06, 1999 @03:05AM (#1700441) Homepage
    With the technology changing so quickly, it seems it would be difficult to keep up, especially publishing books. Yet, you keep right up. What tricks do you use?
  • by LizardKing ( 5245 ) on Monday September 06, 1999 @03:07AM (#1700442)
    Nearly all the X programming series books grace my bookcase at home (including the XView ones ...). But when are there going to be companion volumes on GTK+ and the Gnome libraries? Get David Flanagan et. al. on the case now. Please!

    Chris Wareham
  • by TurkishGeek ( 61318 ) on Monday September 06, 1999 @03:17AM (#1700443)
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think it makes perfect sense to say that it was mainly O'Reilly's focus on Unix and Open Source subjects that helped the company become the popular and respected publisher it is now. O'Reilly's newest catalogs have an increasing number of books featuring Microsoft technologies-and I'm not talking about the "annoyances" series I love most, but books on VB, ASP etc. I, for myself, welcome these additions since market conditions require us to use MS technologies sometimes, although we are true Linux believers at heart. On the other hand, based on my assumption that your "core audience" is mostly Unix/Linux programmer/admins (which might be mistaken, of course); I am curious about the responses that reached you about these latest Microsoft technology-centric O'Reilly titles; and how they are selling. Would you say that O'Reilly plans to become an important publisher of books on MS technologies as well? Finally, thanks for all those great titles you've provided our community. I guess I will stay a loyal O'Reilly customer until the day you run out of weird animals to put on the covers of your books, and start to use pictures of bacteria and virii. (I nominate "Escherischia coli" or the HIV virus for the cover of a possible book about Microsoft SMS)
  • Just wanted to thank you for answering the concerns of myself and many other slashdotters by letting everybody know how the questioning is going to take place this time around. Kudos!

  • Is it up to the author, editor, who? And why is the animal choice consistent on some series--Linux always has a horse (I think)--and wildly varied on others--Perl has a camel, ram and I think a panther?
  • by miahrogers ( 34176 ) on Monday September 06, 1999 @03:17AM (#1700446) Homepage
    dude i've always wondered what it is with you and animals, please tell.
  • I'd nominate E.Coli for "MS Exchange Sever." I get the same symptoms after being exposed to both.

  • by Dominican ( 67865 ) on Monday September 06, 1999 @03:15AM (#1700448)
    How does one go about writing for your company?
    Is topic selection open or are there a set or topics you would accept?

    How often are books revised? Open to the author?
  • Edie Freedman is the one who designs and chooses
    the woodcuts. This was answered in the "Ask Tim"
    section of the O'Reilly site.

    Not sure about the rest of your question, but
    I believe the answer is, "You'll have to interview
    Edie!" :-)


    Why are there so many Unix-using Star Trek fans?
    When was the last time Picard said, "Computer, bring
  • by William Wallace ( 18863 ) on Monday September 06, 1999 @03:21AM (#1700450)
    Back in the December of 1998, Linda Walsh answered
    my email on the "Ask Tim" section of your website, regarding O'Reilly's support of e-books.

    Her answer is here: ml

    Basically, she just says that you'd be announcing
    your plans "soon."

    Nine months later, I don't believe O'Reilly has
    made any announcements one way or the other ...
    I've been holding off on e-books since then, to
    find out what O'Reilly is going to do.

    Will you support multiple e-books, or will you
    sign an exclusive deal to work with only one
    company? If not, which e-book do you personally
    think handles O'Reilly material better?


    Why are there so many Unix-using Star Trek fans?
    When was the last time Picard said, "Computer, bring
  • Read the "colophon" in each book. They explain the choice of animals. IIRC Edie Freedman is the one who makes the choices, and she deserves a lot of credit for coming up with wittier selections than most of us would pick.

  • by Joheines ( 34255 ) on Monday September 06, 1999 @03:25AM (#1700452)
    - How does a real O'Reilly bestseller (like Programming Perl) sell in comparison to some of the lesser known books? Generally, how often does a normal book sell (dimension)?
    - Are your books, and computer books in general, that expensive because the impression numbers are low or do you price them that high just because you can?
    - What is your opinion about electronic publishing?
  • by mathowie ( 18747 ) on Monday September 06, 1999 @03:34AM (#1700453) Homepage
    I am amazed that the O'Reilly books stay so current with the industry, and each book usually has only one or two authors. If you went with more people per book (like one per chapter or something), do you think you could get books out on new technology faster?

    I haven't seen anyone ask the question everyone is dying to know: how do you get an idea green lighted by O'Reilly? [what prompted the question: Right now there are no books on Real's SMIL (their multimedia XML spec), and I've been getting into it for the last couple months.] So if I wanted to be considered for a book on it, should I crank out an outline and a couple rough drafts of chapters, then try to contact someone at O'Reilly?

    How on earth did you guys decide to do a Lego Mindstorms book? (I'm looking forward to reading it, but I was surprised you published it)

  • Design and Implementation was published by Addison-Wesley.

    Anyway, my copy of PRM says 1994. Five years is quite a long time in this industry. I personally would like to see the URM, USD, PRM, PSD, and SMM completely redone and updated for FreeBSD (latest version at publication). Mr. O'Reilly, if you are listening, I will do whatever is necessary to get this :)

  • by ezzewezza ( 84083 ) on Monday September 06, 1999 @03:42AM (#1700455)
    I know that I can't expect you to reveal the marketing behind the pricing of various books published by O'reilly & Associates, Inc., but, I was wondering what factors were built into the pricing scheme? As a college student/ORA book lover I often find myself unsure whether to buy the seemingly smaller book on topic A or the book on topic B that's 2x as big for only $5 more.

    Justin said this.
  • by ryanr ( 30917 ) <> on Monday September 06, 1999 @05:11AM (#1700457) Homepage Journal
    Folks who want to ask questions about how to write for O'Reilly should probably read the excellent resource that they have already provided:


    Most of these questions have already been answered. I'd hate to waste a question that will probably have the answer: "read the FAQ"

  • by Crutcher ( 24607 ) on Monday September 06, 1999 @05:18AM (#1700458) Homepage
    Not sure how to phrase this, but, well, what is the status of O'Reilley and marketing books to schools and colleges for use as textbooks. Our textbooks suck, and if there textbook versions of ya'lls books it would rock.
  • Huh? What happened? I *know* my questions had a 5 score, but there is no remark why it has been marked down either..?!
  • by Kit Lo ( 45824 ) on Monday September 06, 1999 @05:24AM (#1700460)
    Will O'Reilly and Associates have any plans to publish more computer humor books? I have been struck with the User Friendly Productivity Virus, and I also have read a few humor web pages along the way (mostly I would love to read something in the line of a compilation of the best stuff from the best of the funnies I have bumped into while reading /.
  • Are you kidding me? I'd hardly consider $30-$40 expensive, especially considering the content. Unlike most of the technical books on the market, these are worth their weight in gold.
  • I was talking about computer books in General. After all, Goethes "Faust" is a masterpiece, too, but I can get it for $3 in paperback.
  • Tim,

    What do you think should be the final outcome of the Microsoft vs. the DOJ trial?

    If you could publish a book that had nothing to do with technology, what would be the subject matter?

    What is your favorite (and most frequently used) OS?

  • What is the deal with the pictures of animals, which are on the cover of most(notable exceptions include the SATAN book, Firewalls, and Practical Unix Security, none of which have animals) of your books. I think they are pretty damn cool, but is there a purpose?
  • by dair ( 210 )
    >is there anything planned in this direction? Possibly too close to the one about RCS/SCCS. -dair __________________________________________________ _________ (Work) [] [mailto] (!Work) [] [mailto] []
  • AOL bought it, and killed it.

    I have a GNN t-shirt that I scored when GNN helped sponsor the original "First Night in Cyberspace" and I helped out showing people the Web in San Francisco.

  • Fun aside, VC++ has some er.. strange points, like two versions of the C++ standard lib, pre-ISO C++ and ISO C++ (Dinkum).

    What bit me was, that the _declspec attributes vanished, when linking several libs to a big lib, so I had to link the big lib from the object files (that constitute the smaller libs) directly.






  • There is a planned UserFriendly [] book to be published by ORA in Oct of 99, and Illiad's been hinting that it won't be the end of his publishing career.
  • by Evan Vetere ( 9154 ) on Monday September 06, 1999 @03:45AM (#1700475)

    You've turned a nice profit selling books on free software. As I see it, this is much akin to hardware companies such as AMD, who sell their processors largely to Linux geeks, and RedHat, for obvious reasons. What other profitable markets or 'support industries' do you see emerging from the free software arena?

  • by t-money ( 32075 ) on Monday September 06, 1999 @03:45AM (#1700476) Homepage has recently announced that it will offer an electronic publishing service, E-matter []. What do you think about offering documents for download for a fee? Is this something that O'Reilly might be undertaking in the future?
  • by mvw ( 2916 )
    I sent a proposal for a book on CVS and related tools to ORA Germany (but got no feedback yet) - is there anything planned in this direction?
  • I don't feel like book price is always justified by low impression numbers. For example, the "JavaScript bible", which status is comparable to "Programming Perl" in the JavaScript area, costs $ 56, despite it obviously selling pretty good.
  • by the_tsi ( 19767 ) on Monday September 06, 1999 @03:50AM (#1700479)
    Not to start a free SQL server war here, but I notice there is a (quite good) book on mSql and MySql, but nothing for PostgreSQL. Are there any plans to cover it in the near future?
  • by howardjp ( 5458 ) on Monday September 06, 1999 @03:51AM (#1700480) Homepage
    Mr. O'Reilly:

    One of the biggest compaints aong critics of the BSD operating systems is the lack of available books. Since O'Reilly is the leader in Open Source documentation, you are well positioned to enter the BSD market. With that in mind, why hasn't O'Reilly published any BSD books in recent memory?

    Thank you, Jamie
  • Additionally, I don't think putting a penguin on the cover of a Linux book could be called very original.
  • Good example, but Faust doesn't have to eat or make mortgage payments. I don't want this to get too off-topic, but these guys need to make a living.
  • Do you see the Open Source model being adopted by other industries?

    For example, the music industry. I can see new musicians making lyrics, sheet music, and MP3s freely available to individuals while charging those that would profit from their works.(such as CDs, radio stations, concerts)
  • by Paul Crowley ( 837 ) on Monday September 06, 1999 @04:13AM (#1700486) Homepage Journal
    In an article explaining the differences of opinion between yourself and RMS, you once asserted that his approach was "religious" but yours was "scientific", and added that you felt free software/open source should be tested not at the pulpit but in the marketplace.

    Now, where commercial interests and ethical demands coincide, that's great. Where they differ, RMS believes that ethics takes precedence; you seem to be asserting that being "scientific" means prioritizing making money over any ethical concern.

    Since the interests of ethics and of commerce do sometimes differ, don't you think it's good that we have people like RMS to talk about the former? And weren't you unfair on him in labelling this behaviour "unscientific"?
  • I dunno. I just coincidentally downloaded Webmin, and except for getting the SSL to work out of the box with my stock Perl, it was god-awfull easy. Thier module system may be a bit more in depth, but its kind of a fringe app. Wouldn't seel much, I'd venture.
  • Ditto to that... and may I be the first to suggest an After Y2K [] book (or mini-series would be fine too). Nitrozac has burst on the scene as one of the funniest, most creative, and hottest talents in years! Hmmm., maybe I can raise enough capital... ;-)
  • by thal ( 33211 ) on Monday September 06, 1999 @06:17AM (#1700489) Homepage
    The GNU project believes that the free software it releases needs free documentation to be really free for all to use. O'Reilly seems to primarily profit from selling books for free software. Since it seems that in general O'Reilly books are slanted toward the free software movement, do you have any concrete reasons for disagreeing with the GNU project on this point, aside from the obvious reason that this is how you make money? Are you planning to release any future O'Reilly titles online for free?
  • Do you have plans to publish anymore books on embedded programming and/or writing device drivers? Michael Barr's Programming Embedded Systems [] is a good introduction to a topic covered by very few good books.

  • by mvw ( 2916 ) on Monday September 06, 1999 @06:21AM (#1700492) Journal
    Possibly too close to the one about RCS/SCCS.

    This would be a shame. Can't believe that.

    Ever considered erecting an open source project?

    Next to a server with 24/7 conection to the Internet there is a certain set of infrastructure software you simply have to have:

    1. The Apache web server
    2. a CVS server for access to the repositories of the project source and the sources of the web site (very useful)
    3. Majordomo mailing lists
    4. ssh / scp for secure telnet, ftp and CVS access
    5. Gnats or Bugzilla bug tracking systems
    6. The GIMP for some nice site graphics
    7. For documentation the docbook suite and related tools

    I wonder why nobody wrote such a Infrastructure in a Nutshell yet (gimme a mail, Tim :-)

    On the other hand I am not surprised not to see a Kernel Hacking in a Nutshell yet.. that stuff is too much in flow for Linux as well as for FreeBSD.

  • Does/Will O'Reilly accept books from authors that are not specifically programming/Open Source books?

    TheGeek []

  • While it's not an O'Reilly book, I found a pretty good book on GTK+ published by New Riders called Developing Linux Applications with GTK+ and GDK written by Eric Harlow. I read it without having written a GUI program before and I understood it well. It lacks detailed explanations of every widget, but the online documentation takes care of that for me. Here's a link [] to it on
  • He already answered that question satisfactorily: it didn't sell enough copies to motivate the authors to write a new edition.

    While he did indeed say that, it doesn't answer the question I originally asked. I want to know the figures. If I release a book, I want to know all the options before deciding whether or not to make the book freely available.

  • They made the MH & xmh [] book available when it went out of print.

    It's slightly different when books are superceded by newer versions, though. The old version is still useful, and the differences aren't necessarily sufficient to make releasing the old version of the book commercially viable. For example, my DNS and BIND [] book is good enough for what I need to know. Although it's been replaced by a newer version [], I wouldn't have gone out and bought the new one (although some kind soul was good enough to buy it for my birthday anyway :-)

    I seem to recall reading that O'Reilly do offer a trade in service, where you can send them the front cover of a previous version to get a discount on the newer version of a book.

  • I would also like to put my vote in for more BSD documentation, mostly on the FreeBSD OS.
  • You are aware that the "lie-flat" binding will appear to the untrained eye to have pulled back from the book when that's actually the way its designed to function so you can lie it down flat without problems, right?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 06, 1999 @04:17AM (#1700501)

    IMHO one of the strength of your company is the care that you put in reviewing book content.

    Would you consider reviewing parts of the LDP project and providing good editing advice to the authors of some selected documents of this project?

    Do you think that your company could review regularly (let's say xxx pages worth of technical documentation per year) as kind of payback to the community?

  • A lot of people use Lego Mindstorms for AI research. It's lame, but it's true.

    Beer recipe: free! #Source
    Cold pints: $2 #Product

  • You've said that the Linux Network Administrator's Guide sold significantly less than would normally be expected as a result of the text of the book being freely available on the net. By what sort of margin? How many copies did it sell, and how many would you have expected to sell under normal circumstances? Would you release another book in a similar manner if the author accepts that they'll make less money from it? Did the book actually make a loss, or just not make as much profit as expected?
  • by chromatic ( 9471 ) on Monday September 06, 1999 @04:35AM (#1700505) Homepage

    Would you ever consider making previous editions of certain books free for download when supplanted by newer editions?

    For example, when Larry Wall finally gets around to writing the 3rd edition of the Camel (probably about the same time as Perl 6), would you consider making the second edition available in electronic format?

    I realize this has the possibility of forking documentation, but it's hard to find anyone more qualified than Larry, Randal, and Tom, for example. It would only work for certain books.

    QDMerge [] 0.21!
  • why hasn't O'Reilly published any BSD books in recent memory?

    Maybe I just have a better memory than you :-) They published the complete 4.4BSD docs, although many of them are now out of print, and I can't find mention of them on the O'Reilly web site.

    My girlfriend's boss has the complete set (in part because the company uses BSD/OS extensively). That said, O'Reilly could do with some more recent BSD docs, covering {Free,Net,Open}BSD.

"Being against torture ought to be sort of a bipartisan thing." -- Karl Lehenbauer