Why Open Source Isn’t Succeeding…part II

*Editors note: The following sentence was removed from the first paragraph of #3:

“Even as recently as November 2004, there has been talk from the kernel developers about a fork in the kernel”

It was removed along with the link to an article from November 2004 due to it being an erroneous reference and based on comments taken out of context. However, I neglected to post that I had removed this sentence because I felt that it did little to support or not support the paragraph. I apologize to the readers of the blog for calling into issue my integrity.

Devnet



Some of you may have read my previous entry that sparked quite a bit of debate. Looking back on the content, I realize that the title of the entry could be misinterpreted as FUD or even trolling. Please understand that this wasn’t the intention. The entry simply addressed issues that I see inhibiting open source, specifically Linux, from fully succeeding (i.e. dominating both the server and desktop market for computers). I should have titled the article, “Why enterprise applications may kill open source”. But hindsight is 20/20 right? On request, I will clarify a few points for those that have asked it.

1. Enterprise companies and applications that take from open source CAN KILL open source.

There is a crossroads in today’s enterprise OS. Micro$oft has pushed back Longhorn and the next greatest server application. Companies have begun to wonder what they are going to do for server/desktop OS in the near future. Many are seeing their support for enterprise server applications such as NT 4.0 and Win2k dry up and blow away. Enter Linux. Affordable, stable, and now certified as a ready alternative to M$. So Enterprise Linux begins to flourish this year. Novell, Red Hat, TurboLinux, and others start to churn out a profit and go into the huge server market with actual products that can offer benefits to all. The problem is this…what happens if those companies pull the plug on their open source support? Would they? Wouldn’t they? Why should we count on them? Didn’t Lotus 1-2-3 and OS/2 count on Micro$oft to keep them in the loop as well? Is it really something the community should bet on? Will the community bet on it? I hope not. Will it crush the community entirely? No…but it could fork open source or even set it back quite a bit. Of course, no one can see into the future, but these are valid questions to consider when you bring enterprise applications and business into the open source mix. Most of this will probably mean nothing for the common desktop Linux user or even someone who uses one or two open source applications on their M$ desktop. So why discuss it? Hindsight is always 20/20 right? Why not make foresight 20/20?

2. What do you mean that these companies don’t give back to open source. After all, IBM gave X Million dollars of support back to the community and Sun released X # lines of code…

Yes, that is true. Money being given back to the community and code being released is a good thing. I hope it continues. If business enters the fray, can you really count on it? What if companies decide it isn’t such a good business idea anymore to give back to open source? Will we cry foul and expect them to listen? Instead of investing our support for these companies…I say we should invest our support for those distros and software that aren’t available for enterprise applications. The free as in beer stuff. You know, those that charge 10 bucks to help the author who’s taxed beyond his means and has taken out a mortgage on his home just to put out the last release. Those are the ones we should cheer…not corporations. If I were rallying behind a business when I began with open source in 1995 I would have gotten shunned out of every single BBS and channel I was on. When did it become cool to rally behind business?

A corporation that sells enterprise open source will try to advance it’s own means first and then that of the open source community that supports it. If the open source community gets trampled or the short end of the stick…so be it. If the corporation sees an opportunity to take more than it gives to open source…it will happen (and most likely has happened). Remember that all they have to do to get accepted back into the community is release another few lines of code or donate a fraction of their billion dollar profits…it’s all smiles and “welcome backs” after that.

The problem with business is that business as a whole is incompatible with the spirit of open source…which doesn’t mean they can’t help each other or coexist…it just makes for an unknown future. Right now, companies have found a comfortable balance with open source. This is proving a very rich environment that open source is flourishing in. If FUD isn’t just something spoken of but something that becomes a reality, then where will we be? How do we prevent it? By being aware that it is an issue and NOT putting all of our ducks into the proverbial enterprise application row.

3. What’s this about Linux forking?

Sometimes forks in major projects can be a blessing. Sometimes though, they can kill a project. So, it’s uncertain what would happen if Linux forked. If you’re thinking…hey, nothing in open source will fork…read this and reconsider things…it’s not an impossibility. The good part about a Linux kernel fork is that open source wouldn’t die. Linux might suffer quite a bit, or it might not…but open source Linux would survive. However, if Linux forked it would be used as a “I told you so” by so many FUD brewers (like your favorite and mine Redmond micro-brewery) and with this happening, overall support would most likely suffer. Of course, this is all speculation. It’s not something we should be afraid of. It’s something we should be INFORMED of. It’s not something that should be uncertain…it should be understood. It’s not something that should provide doubt for us…it should provide knowledge of the possibilities.

There is a possibility with businesses supporting Linux that Linux will fork because of decisions that the business makes. If something the community wants conflicts with what the business wants…what is the business going to go with? Will they remove their support when they decide that they’re going with what they want instead of the community? Will they put undue pressure on individual developers in order to sway the development in their direction? Who’s to say they won’t?

Rightly so, we can’t see the future and we can speculate all day long. But we can change our awareness now and we can adapt ourselves back into the original intention of FOSS instead of nipping at the coat tails of businesses and having misplaced alliances.

Continue reading “Why Open Source Isn’t Succeeding…part II”

Libranet and Progeny fall flat

Libranet 2.8.1 and Progeny Linux have fallen flat for me.  I don’t have an odd hardware configuration either.  It’s really too bad too.  I was really impressed with Libranet and Progeny mainly because they have the best installs of any distro available today.  Imagine configuring you Xserver and sound BEFORE it installs to disk so that it works before you even login…Libranet is able to do this.  Imagine Red Hat 9.0 Anaconda install and take that with Debian…Progeny is able to do this.  So they have so much going for them…but they failed to detect my network (nforce2 chipset integrated NIC).  Normally, I’d just flap in another NIC, modprobe, and go.  However, since this is a desktop experiment and we need detectability and a ‘less is more’ attitude…I’ll be forced to not use these distros.

So…this makes for a more simple review process and such.  For those that are curious…my hardware config is:

  • Mobo:  Abit NF7 2.0
  • CPU: Athlon XP 2400
  • RAM: Crucial 1024MB (512X2) PC2700 (underclocked for these tests)
  • HD: Maxtor 7200rpm 120GB
  • CD/DVD: NEC DVD-R/RW 8X
  • Video: GeForce 4 Ti 4400 128MB
  • NIC: integrated nforce2

So as you can see…there isn’t much for variety and not much that hasn’t already been available to the Linux scene for some time now.  I’ll probably still add another distro or two to the list to make up for those that have dropped out.  Look for more info on this soon.  I’ll bring a complete list as well as the criteria they’ll be rated on (by mrs.devnet) sometime soon.  Until then…I hate it when good Linux distros only fall short in one area!  :/  But alas, these reviews/tests are for distros that offer as little user interferance as possible. Take care!

The Saga continues…PCLinuxOS 8

PCLinuxOS 8 was installed yesterday on my spare drive.  First impressions are…this is an excellent distro…but only once you get it installed.  They really messed up the install process.  Allow me to explain.
I booted up off the CD and found myself greeted to a plethora of options and programs to run.  I really dig the fact that it retains the Mandrake Control Center but has made it better.  I find the organization of the menu’s FANTASTIC…just as I found the Mandrake 10.1 menu’s well organized.  Thus far, only MEPIS has lacked in this area.  So, I decided to go for the installation to hard disk.  Much improved over version 7 is the shortcut link on the desktop that allows you to not have to search around in the menu’s.  This is a very solid distro…don’t get me wrong.  I’d say that this is actually the most well put together distro I’ve seen thus far.  There is a reason why THIS distro is the fastest moving on distrowatch.  It moved to where it is this year from #44 in 2003 to #9 in 2004.
So I click the install to disk icon and it brings up an interactive menu.  Now, for desktop distros…I choose automatically install for each one.  The main reason being, that is what a common user would do.  They won’t partition like you used to do with Linux.  However, with this interactive menu, it assumes you 1) know what a partition is 2) know what Linux is supposed to have.  I would really like to see if having a blank disk without swap and partitions would detect correctly for PCLinuxOS 8.  It detected my swap and first partition and assigned it with some drop down menu’s.  From there, you are supposed to find /home /usr /var yourself and/or make them yourself.  I immediately stopped the install and formatted the drive as a large ext3.
I called up a friend who knows nothing about partitions and had him attempt the install.  He gave up trying to partition the drive.  This needs to change!  MEPIS installs in 7 clicks from a LIVECD.  There is no reason that this should be any different.  I suggest that they have 2 different menu systems…one for common users and one for advanced.  Something needs to change…they tout this distro for new users.  I know about 2 new users that could even get this installed…and they’re windows guru’s.  Partition creation and management is something that most common users don’t even think about or address.
Overall though, this distro is solid.  Good upgradeability with synaptic.  Great programs installed.  Great organization.  Great menu’s and icons.  Everything is very nice looking.  This distro truly shows Linux in it’s splendor.  That’s it on first impressions.  We’ll press on in a few days with the next on the list.  After finishing all distros and first impressions, my wife will take front stage and give the new users’ perspective.

Why Open Source Isn’t Succeeding

“It’s not the big that beats the small; it’s the fast that beats the slow.” Niklas Zennstrom

There was a time early in the dawn of computers where .edu’s and .orgs co-mingled ideas and thoughts via IRC and newsgroups in a conducive and non-proprietary way. The great ideas that were born from this still thrive today in the form of RFC’s, Internet Standards, Protocols, and other surges of genius that sprung from these beginnings.

Lately however, certain things have begun to become apparent. Proprietary software vendors have locked the advancement of technology. This is to be expected. The open source movement is in full swing to counteract that. The only problem with the open source movement is in trying to counteract this huge pendulum and swing it from closed source proprietary toward a multi-source, multi-national technological advancement (for the gain of mankind and not company kind). Instead, open source has begun to push the stone uphill on it’s own without assistance from the VERY companies that take from it.

The bottom line is that companies will take from open source without any inhibitions at all. But when it comes to defending that which they take, they shrivel into the shadows and hope no one notices them. Companies are not in symbiosis with open source…oh sure, some of them might be sympathetic to open source. As we’ve seen with the Linux Core Consortium, companies will pledge their favor but not their resources. But until ALL companies that take from open source give back through REAL support (financial or otherwise)…they’ll continue to be identified as an entity that takes from another without providing anything in return. The word for that is PARASITE.

Companies that take from open source without giving back are a parasite to open source; they are killing it from within. The bad part about this is that we are helping this parasite…even applauding what it is doing. Many of us cheer when company X converts 250 computers to Novell or RedHat…but that isn’t open source anymore! They’re companies who happen to use Linux…they’re just not pure open source no matter what their beginnings are or were. The support and recognition go to Novell and Redhat…the financial gain goes to those companies and not back into open source. Sure, they provide some packages and free-for-home-use downloads and other niceties to try and counteract things…but open source still loses. It loses because there are more takers than givers.

Open source advocates shouldn’t be cheering when company X converts 250 computers it has to Novell or Redhat because they’re just cheering for the company. Even when Linux becomes THE accepted alternative for business and enterprise applications we should refrain from cheering companies such as Redhat and Novell because the money they earn doens’t go back into open source…and the name they make for themselves…does nothing for open source. No matter how hard they try, they’ll always take more than they give.

Some of you might be saying, “But the simple fact is that when Company X converts to Linux, they are embracing Linux in general…not just the company that sells it. This means that they’ll open up more to open source programs such as OpenOffice and Firefox”. Perhaps. But I’d be more willing to believe that company X won’t do ANYTHING that the vendor who provided them with Linux advised against…especially if warranty and license prevent it. So if said Linux vendor who provided them with 250 Linux desktops decided they didn’t want Company X to use OpenOffice…that company wouldn’t use it. The power of choice has been removed.

Until companies aren’t afraid to offer FULL and unadulterated support for Linux (LSB 2.0 standard or the Linux Core Consortium) and free open source software, the open source movement will not succeed.

You gotta LOVE Micro$oft

[sarcasm]You absolutely have to love M$ for their fantastic business sense and fair tactics they use to accomplish their business objectives.[/sarcasm] There was this guy I went to college with who never did any original work. I mean, we used to go into the library and he’d pull up 15 articles on the subject his paper was and he’d pull 15 different paragraphs out of each of them. Then he’d ever-so-slightly change the words around a bit. Then he’d re-arrange the paragraphs so that it was harder to track down and he’d pass it off as his original paper. I would have to say, he must have graduated and gotten a job at Microsoft…because that is what they’re trying to do now.

According to eWeek,”Microsoft is claiming some form of IP rights over ‘a total of 130 protocols which Microsoft is offering for license.’ ”  The stupid part about it is that these IP Rights are IETF RFC (request for comment) documents. Microsoft cannot show patent support for these claims, but on the other hand, no one can show that they don’t have rights to these claims either.

One thing is certain, if things get down and dirty…M$ will have the financial and legal means to prosecute or bully anyone they feel they need to in order to make a point or an example.  Perhaps something should be done in the open source community to counteract this.  I would say that a large number of open source supportive companies banding together to offer support for each other and the movement would suffice…but of course this won’t happen.  They’re trying currently without much success…just do a search using your favorite search engine on “Linux Core Consortium” and look at the list of names that are absent from full support….among them are Redhat, Novell, and Sun Microsystems.

cAos Linux is out…

Tonight, I gave cAos Linux a try.  I was really interested in it because it had a gnome default desktop with an Xfce backup…it had a nice bootsplash and really looked nifty via screenshots.  It also had a really interesting custom written installer called cinch.  However, after the install, it failed to boot.  So I tried just about every boot option I could possibly try during the install without success.  So…I’ll be forced to trim cAos from the list at this time.  For this experiment, desktop Linux MUST work out of the box.  CAos fell short (unfortunately).

On a positive note, PCLinuxOS 8 came out recently…so I’ll be downloading that and giving it a go here shortly.  I’m kinda bummed that cAos didn’t want to play nice…I was really looking forward to it.  Oh well.  So, up next will be PCLinuxOS and I’ll have a post about my initial impression within the next couple of days.