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Old 03-03-2005, 12:30 AM   #1
vharishankar
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My thoughts on Open Source and its future


I have written an opinion piece on the Open Source philosophy and my perception on its future:

Read it:
http://literaryforums.org/forums/cms...cle.php?aid=16
 
Old 03-07-2005, 08:38 PM   #2
davidhayter
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Amen dude, same thoughts down here
Great article, congrats
 
Old 03-07-2005, 09:48 PM   #3
vharishankar
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Thank you. Actually I made a slight mistake while writing it and had to add a "Notice" at the beginning because

"Open Source" is not equal to Free Software Foundation's definition of "Free". I found this out after I had written the article and did not feel up to changing all the terms containing "Open Source" to "Free" (as in Freedom/GPL)

My own opinion is that GNU/Free (FSF) will continue to remain the flagbearer of Linux rather than the Open Source initiative (OSI).
 
Old 03-08-2005, 04:34 AM   #4
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I agree with your essay, but do note that it applies equally to the BSD license as to the GPL license! Just on different time scales, IMHO.

The basic difference between the BSD licence and the GPL license is that GPL is more restrictive in a truly significant way. It essentially forces developers who wish to benefit from GPL software to contribute to GPL software. This has had the obvious effect of making GPL more successful than BSD for now...

...but in the long run, the less restrictive BSD licence will win out. It will just take longer.

Look at it from the developer's point of view. Given equally capable alternatives, would you rather use the more restrictive GPL alternative or the less restrictive BSD alternative? Unless you're a GPL evangelist, the latter.

It's not a question of "if", but "when" the equally capable BSD alternative exists. Sooner or later, the efforts of idealists driven to develop software purely out of the ideal for (complete) freedom will accumulate enough to make pure BSD-license OS/software systems a practical alternative.
 
Old 03-08-2005, 06:32 AM   #5
vharishankar
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The reason for my "disclaimer" at the beginning of the article: because they (FSF) don't like to be identified with the "open source initiative" (OSI).

Just to clarify I have nothing against the BSD license as well.

It's just that some of the other licenses which are embraced by OSI (leaving aside BSD) mentioned at GNU.org aren't really the "free" licenses that they proclaim to be.

The Free Software Foundation has pretty strict norms on what is "free" and what is not and they don't like to use the terms "open" and "closed" source.

There's only a small difference between GPL and a few of the other licenses, but I guess that the true ideologues at FSF will disagree.

But what I like about FSF is their strength in philosophy and the fact that they have been around a long time gives them a kind of aura in the Linux world. Also GNU/Linux is one of the oldest Linux distributions around and is still going strong.

Last edited by vharishankar; 03-08-2005 at 06:34 AM.
 
Old 03-08-2005, 06:39 AM   #6
vharishankar
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I think that leaving aside the technical issues of Licensing,

FSF is the equivalent of the political motivational group with a "pure" ideology. The ideology is very important to keep the spirit of the movement alive. Without the ideology, the OSI cannot survive.

OSI is the equivalent of the actual "practical" group which implements the concept in a more acceptable way to the real world by making compromises in some areas (esp. with regard to software licensing).

Both movements are important, but my article is basically about the "philosophical" driving force, so naturally I talked about the FSF rather than the OSI.
 
Old 03-14-2005, 12:24 AM   #7
al_periodical
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FSF is not a political motivational group with a "pure" ideology

"....FSF is the equivalent of the political motivational group with a "pure" ideology...."

They or rather he don't even dare to declare who they are ,
and what type of society or rather this world he would like to see.
I am Free Software , a Free Software society , a Free Software world,
blah ,blah ,blah............
At least those multi-nationals are not ashamed of themselve when they declare that they are ultra-capitalist.
I think it really makes some sense when an american said that history has comes to an end with what we have now.What we , the human society or this world have now or are about is the final result of the long human civilasition and progress.Progress and invention or revolutions for a better world are something in the past !
 
Old 03-14-2005, 12:41 AM   #8
vharishankar
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al_periodical,

What I really meant was drawing parallels between the real world and the "software" world, not implying that FSF is a political party in the real world.

I was merely doing a comparison -- drawing parallels between the real world and the world of software.

What I really mean is that FSF is *like* a political party.

I meant that within the "software" world, FSF is an ideology, not in the real world outside of software.

Last edited by vharishankar; 03-14-2005 at 12:44 AM.
 
Old 03-14-2005, 01:34 AM   #9
al_periodical
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parallels between the real world and the world of software

How to promote the use of free software(not "Free Software") without touching on the real world which are the thoughts behind all the decisions made by Human Beings and the way of living resulted by human appreciations of beauty,sense of goodness and irritation towards
ugliness.
Family education,ancestral whorship,the Bible ,the Koran,the Dhammapada,parental love,friendship even neighborehood gossips,they don't claim that they are polictical,but they are what they are meant to be.
As for the FSF,the only reason that they can give us is ,use it ,because it is free of charge.
This reminds me of a food pedalers on the street telling me not to have dinner in that resturant,why ......
 
Old 03-14-2005, 06:27 AM   #10
clausi
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Quote:
Originally posted by IsaacKuo
Look at it from the developer's point of view. Given equally capable alternatives, would you rather use the more restrictive GPL alternative or the less restrictive BSD alternative? Unless you're a GPL evangelist, the latter.
IMHO, the question should be: "Given equally capable alternatives, would you rather contribute to the more restrictive GPL alternative or the less restrictive BSD alternative?"

I believe, it's more rationale to contribute to GPL projects because you can be confident that other developers will share their contributions with you, too.
 
Old 03-14-2005, 09:59 AM   #11
IsaacKuo
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Quote:
Originally posted by clausi
IMHO, the question should be: "Given equally capable alternatives, would you rather contribute to the more restrictive GPL alternative or the less restrictive BSD alternative?"

I believe, it's more rationale to contribute to GPL projects because you can be confident that other developers will share their contributions with you, too.
I hate to break it to you, but most software developers are driven first and foremost by the desire to put food on the table, not the desire to "contribute" to anything. This is the reason why closed source for-profit commerical software developed by professional software developers had for a long time maintained a large edge over freeware developed by amateur hobbyists.

The thing about GPL which gets free market libertarians's panties in a bunch is the fact that GPL is something OTHER than the profit motive which has managed to successfully promote software development. It really irks their sense of reality that something other than the pure profit motive could produce any sort of progress.

But the plain and simple fact remains--software developers need to eat, also. It's easier to put food on the table with closed source proprietary software (with the help of BSD license code) than it is with open source GPL software.

The thing which makes "free" software competetive at all is the fact that it constantly accumulates. The efforts of hobbyists in their leisure time eventually accumulates enough software to satisfy 99% of the needs of a typical computer user. Thus, GPL could catch up to commercial software for Joe Average's computing needs. Thus, BSD will catch up to GPL for Joe Average's computing needs.
 
Old 03-14-2005, 10:17 AM   #12
al_periodical
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no choice have to choose one of those GPL'ed .
Sometimes we need some GPL'ed headers files or adapt some GPL'ed code.Nothing is as simple as open source,it is better to be Open Source
if not you might have to rewrite everything from scratch !
 
Old 03-18-2005, 07:34 PM   #13
clausi
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Quote:
Originally posted by IsaacKuo
I hate to break it to you, but most software developers are driven first and foremost by the desire to put food on the table, not the desire to "contribute" to anything.
Quote:
Originally posted by IsaacKuo
The thing which makes "free" software competetive at all is the fact that it constantly accumulates.
Don't you think, you got your arguments mixed up a little bit? If there's no 'desire' to contribute to something, how does it accumulate?

Additionally, the 'contribution' argument is rather important, because contributions soon break your initial assumption "Given equally capable alternatives".

However, I admit there's an important distinction of the term 'usage': A developer doesn't mind about GPL or BSD when we're talking about using an application. He only starts thinking about GPL or BSD for libraries he likes to use.

In this case, wouldn't it be more accurate to ask, if he would use a LGPL or a BSD library?

This, in fact, is the only exception you can recognize an GPL evangelist: When he uses the GPL for a library. Such behaviour can indeed be explained by politics, only. And this is bad behaviour, especially for people talking about freedom (as in speech) all the time!

While I appreciate the fact, that this sort of politics was the main force in getting GNU/Linux started, the evangelists fail to link the need for information freedom with the general need for personal freedom.

Thus, the most interesting question is: "Given equally capable alternatives, would you rather contribute to the more restrictive GPL alternative or the less restrictive LGPL alternative?"

A rational developer would contribute (and use by linking dynamically to) the LGPL alternative. And I'm quite confident that personal interest is in general stronger than political motivations.

Last edited by clausi; 03-18-2005 at 07:44 PM.
 
Old 03-19-2005, 02:13 AM   #14
IsaacKuo
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Quote:
Originally posted by clausi
Don't you think, you got your arguments mixed up a little bit? If there's no 'desire' to contribute to something, how does it accumulate?
There's no inconsistency. I never said there is NO desire to create free software, merely that the majority of software developers would like to make a living.

The thing about free software is simply that it accumulates. Not that it accumulates quickly. Not that it's so "neato" that software developers are just going to forget about working for a living and devote their lives to "contributing" to free software. Simply that it accumulates.

GPL software tends to accumulate faster than BSD software because the source code can't "leak out" into the closed source world the way BSD software can. However, that doesn't stop BSD license software from slowly and inexorably expanding and accumulating at its own slower pace.

Quote:
Originally posted by clausi
Additionally, the 'contribution' argument is rather important, because contributions soon break your initial assumption "Given equally capable alternatives".
How so? Suppose there are two paint programs with essentially the same code. The only difference is that one is released under the GPL licence while the other is released under the BSD licence. Aren't they equally capable?

Quote:
Originally posted by clausi
However, I admit there's an important distinction of the term 'usage': A developer doesn't mind about GPL or BSD when we're talking about using an application. He only starts thinking about GPL or BSD for libraries he likes to use.

In this case, wouldn't it be more accurate to ask, if he would use a LGPL or a BSD library?
No, you're forgetting the whole point of open SOURCE. A developer using a piece of SOURCE code doesn't necessarily need to be using a particular software library at all. A developer using a piece of source code may simply lift source code to use in his own application, or may modify an existing application for his own needs. Or he may include some open source application as part of his own software package.

For example, Microsoft lifted its original implementation of TCP/IP from BSD open source code and included it in their closed source commercial operating systems. This was perfectly legal and completely within the spirit of the BSD open source licence. It also would not have been possible with GPL open source code.

Quote:
Originally posted by clausi
A rational developer would contribute (and use by linking dynamically to) the LGPL alternative. And I'm quite confident that personal interest is in general stronger than political motivations.
Believe me, Microsoft's developers were being perfectly rational when they decided to use BSD open source code in their own software development. So was Apple with OSX. Did either of them "contribute" anything in return? No, not really. But that's besides the point.

The point is that with or without the help of Microsoft and Apple and all the other profit-driven software developers out there, the universe of BSD license open source software WILL continue to expand. It will expand thanks to the efforts of idealists truly dedicated to their cause. These idealists are few and far between in comparison to the typical software developers who wish to be paid for their services. Nevertheless, their efforts will inexorably expand the pool of BSD open source software.
 
Old 03-19-2005, 07:36 AM   #15
clausi
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Quote:
Originally posted by IsaacKuo
There's no inconsistency. I never said there is NO desire to create free software, merely that the majority of software developers would like to make a living.
Yes, sorry. My mistake.

Quote:
Originally posted by IsaacKuo
Suppose there are two paint programs with essentially the same code. The only difference is that one is released under the GPL licence while the other is released under the BSD licence. Aren't they equally capable?
They are. Now suppose that a developer misses a two functionalities, but is able to implement the first one in, say, 5 weekend hacking sessions. Should he implement it for the BSD or the GPL varient?

If he acts rationale (or selfish), he'll do it for the GPL variant, assuming that another developer somewhere on the world misses the second functionality and implements it. This is what makes GPL development rationale: Sharing the costs (ie. work) for getting a certain utility.

If he would decide for the BSD variant, the second functionality might be part of a closed source product, along with the implementation of functionality one. In such a case, developer 1 would have been fooled for he worked 5 weekends for nothing. Because he's rationale, he'll anticipate this, and improve the GPL variant.

From this point of view, hacking BSD code is indeed the true altruistic action.

However, the GPL image program will aggregate more contributions, and gain functionality quicker, because more developers act rationale then altruistic. Thus, your assumption of equal capability will soon be broken.Then, the approriate question is "Given a very functional GPL image program, and and a not so functional BSD image program, what will somebody use?"

Don't you say the same by "GPL software tends to accumulate faster than BSD software"?

And what holds true for rationale hackers holds true for companies, too. Thus, it's better to spend two million dollars of development efforts for a GPL kernel than for a BSD kernel because other companies can't reap the benefit. Thus, the GPL kernel will be used my millions, while the BSD kernel will be as actively developed as OS/2 in a few years.

Quote:
Originally posted by IsaacKuo
No, you're forgetting the whole point of open SOURCE. A developer using a piece of SOURCE code doesn't necessarily need to be using a particular software library at all.
Yes, that crossed my mind, too, but I was too tired yesterday. I came this far:
  1. It makes sense to use LGPL even for applications: The protection is the same, but the LGPL will allow you to split your application into a library/application one day without the need to relicense.
  2. Any LGPL code can be forked. Thus, even if you just want a few pieces of code, you may forked them into a new library, and dynamically link to it. Your only disadvantage is distribution, then.

As a result, any LGPL code can be used by anybody without loosing the protection for contributors for the price of inconvinient distributions. Not bad, I would say.

I admit, however, that the GPL has indeed political intentions build in, otherwise it would allow for dynamic linking from the start. I see that BSD developers find this frustrating.

The most interesting question is: Does the LGPL/GPL distinction make sense for Python, Perl, or PHP scripts? What about Java or Mono?
 
  


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