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.

Linux, Open Source, and the Great Schism.

I’m relatively low key. I don’t get excited and shout alot. I don’t get worked up on politics. I’m not too exciteable. I REALLY don’t like ranting and raving about nonsense. I also hate the fact that when someone has a blog, that ranting is the most common thing done. I feel somewhat bad that this will be only my third entry, yet my second ‘rant’. But in the first case, I ranted in a way to defend open source, in this entry I could be seen as attacking it. If you’re still interested, please read on.

I can hear a Scorpions song in the back of my head…that silly whistling sound that permeates pores and seeps into the jellied slab of the mind. The winds of change (cliche I know) have begun to blow in open source. I noticed this quickly on a very specific day. It was November 5th, 2004 and Linux…not Linux worldwide…but one distro…got the ball rolling. Allow me to impart the specifics to you.

MEPIS Linux, a very solid and good distribution of Linux, announced on 5 Nov 04 that it was supporting The U.S. Military with free downloads and support via a community website called Mepislovers. This in itself is ok to almost any American but I cringed at this notion. I waited patiently for things to develop and had fear that somewhere someone wouldn’t take this offering very well. Less than a week later, it happened. On MEPISLovers’ (MEPIS official community site) main site they expressed concern over the decision to support the troops citing, “why not give free support to Iraqi(s) [families] as well?” This person was silenced immediately, as was I when expressing concern about how this person was silenced. I was Someone who had been involved with MEPIS Linux since it’s first public offering and someone that had a website recieveing 400k site views per month; I was silenced on the ‘official community’ website for MEPIS. This is the change I took notice of. I was censored. Odd, I had never been censored since discovering the internet in 1993. Didn’t matter too much but the thing that really really got me thinking is the fact that Linux had been categorized!By announcing that MEPIS Linux offered free stuff for the military they opened themselves up to criticism from its foreign users who didn’t agree with this decision. They had officially alienated some of their userbase! I cringed again. This isn’t the way open source is supposed to operate. I looked on the net for examples of what I had just seen but couldn’t come across any. This seemed (there may be other previous instances I’m not aware of) to be a new concept. I hoped it wouldn’t repeat itself. Flash forward to a few days ago.

The headline reads, “Debian Women: Geek feminists in action.” Give it a read through and you might see what I’m getting at. I’m not an anti-feminist and I’m not against women’s lib. I don’t take political sides…I try to stay as neutral as possible until I see an injustice such as the censorship of ideas. However, on this instance, an exception MUST be made. Linux is becoming more divided than I ever thought would be possible. Not just divided in distros…that part is ok because each one offers something specific to a niche of people. The difference now is that Linux is being associated with political situations and ideas…which is alienating others.

The Debian Womens group even went so far as to submit a BUG to the debain buglist on something they considered SEXIST LANGUAGE in documentation and instructions! A Bug! What kind of “bug” would this be?? It’s ridiculous to think that this would have been a ‘bug’ of any kind. But alas, some developers and maintainers even accepted this. What in the world is happening to Linux and open source if we are dividing ourselves in this manner? We’ve gone over 10 years without having these subdivisions…why start now? Remember that together, rope strands make a strong coil…but unstrung from the original cord, they are weak and will snap under small amounts of stress. I sure hope open source remains together as a strong rope.

The simple fact of the matter is that when open source started out…there were only handles…nicknames…with which people were known as. No one cared if you were a female or a male unless you were in an IRC chatroom (shout out to efnet! 😉 ). What have we begun to do to ourselves? I’m sure there are others that have seen similar situations like these two happen across the web…if so, please let it be known here. Something has to be done before we fork ourselves into having “Gay/Bisexual Linux” or some sort of racial Linux that only certain people should ascribe to? This is a problem that has begun to seep into the very foundation of open source…and the fact that it is printed on newsforge means that people are accepting it.

Think about it everyone. If changes like this happens, Linux will suffer a huge setback. As an open source user it shouldn’t matter what sex you are or if you prefer apples to oranges. What should matter is that you are willing to sacrifice a bit of your spare time to further along whatever program or distro you support.

“A House divided against itself cannot stand” Abraham Lincoln, 1858

My Current Distro….

I’ve just installed Mandrake 10.1 Community…just to take it for a test drive. I’m coming off of testing Progeny Linux RC1 (very nice) and decided I wanted to take a look at what 1000+ people each day find so interesting (a stat supported by distrowatch.com). I’ll probably post back within the week about what are some good and bad points about it…then I’ll shuffle on to another distro. So far though, Mandrake has been the most eye pleasing distribution I’ve tried (installer anyways) with Progeny and Fedora Core 3’s anaconda installer a very close second.

A quick look of the Mandrake desktop impressed me…simply due to the fact that it is the most well organized default KDE desktop I’ve ever seen in a distribution. It also has the custom Mandrake control panel which is very choice for controlling all your system settings such as network, file sharing, etc. So far so good. As previous, I’ll get back to this one later…afterall, it is finals week and I’ve got some work cut out for me.