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Microsoft

Shared Source vs. Open Source 393

Posted by Hemos
from the who's-the-driving-the-source dept.
leonbrooks writes "Microsoft are fond of touting Shared Source as being "as good as" Open Source, with a view to muddying the waters as much as possible, and so keeping as many people away from the benefits of Open Source Software (OSS) (particularly Software Libré AKA "Free Software") as they can. This new article analysing the differences arrives just in time for Microsoft's Australia-wide series of "Competitive Hour" misinformation sessions on Open Source, and includes a handy list of potentially showstopper questions. We'd like your help in putting these and other questions to the speaker during such misinformation sessions, with the dual aim of opening the eyes of many of the audience, and reporting back to us what was said so that we can refine the questions to close whatever loopholes are employed in evading these important issues."
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Shared Source vs. Open Source

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  • by stm2 (141831)
    In Spanish is libre, and not libré. (libré would be past participe)
    • by Anonymous Coward
      no. In Spainish liberado is the past participle if the verb is librar. Libré is the preterit aka pretérito indefinido aka simple past.
    • Oh c'mon, don't be so harsh. What kind of nerd would he be if he didn't totally fuck up some ordinary word in an effort to sound like some tiresome know-it-all. See: boxen, virii.


      • Oh c'mon, don't be so harsh. What kind of nerd would he be if he didn't totally fuck up some ordinary word in an effort to sound like some tiresome know-it-all. See: boxen, virii.
        Ah, yes, the pompous jackass factor (PJF). Many posters, especially the younger ones, try to boost their PJF with eleet-speekisms, references to "boxen", or -- quelle chose! -- a sig written in latin. This last is particularly galling when including the phrase "deus machinarum" or other computer-related terminology.

        The older, more self-assured slashdot poster rises Zenlike above this silliness. He knows that it is the idiocy of his opinions which will send his PJF heavenward.
  • by bcarlson (516657) <nixpimpc&hotmail,com> on Monday February 10, 2003 @09:50AM (#5270013) Homepage
    why don't they just give it an open source license?

    If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, but it tastes like crap on a bun, it's probably a bad licensing scheme.
    • by NoCoward (648971) on Monday February 10, 2003 @12:34PM (#5271135) Homepage Journal
      From my seminal paper, written in 1999 (BEFORE the dotcom collapse):

      The High Priests of the Bazaar

      This paper presents a case against the open source movement and explains why the open source model does not work for the vast majority of those involved. There are several arguments against the OS (open source) model.

      Open Source Doesn't Make Economic Sense For Most

      The open source organization has presented a few cases that supposedly explain why OS works economically. However, if you examine the cases objectively you will find that the cases are flimsy and non-specific and do not address any specific concerns. They attempt to bolster their case by pointing out a few "successes", among which Caldera and Red Hat are displayed as shining examples.

      The real economic question of the OS model is how is money made, and who is making the money. Who is being rewarded financially for the enormous development effort? The open source initiative claims that there are at least four different models that allow someone to reap rewards. Oddly, it is not mentioned that it is not necessarily the people who did the development work that gain financially.

      The four primary business cases mentioned by OS proponents are "Selling Support", "Loss Leader", "Widget Frosting" and "Accessorizing."

      The first case proposes that money can be made via selling support for the free software product. This is by far the strongest case and is proven to work, for a few small companies. The two companies that are shown as positive examples of this business model are Red Hat and Caldera, who distribute and support the Linux operating system. What is never mentioned is that neither of these two companies has contributed significantly in relative terms to the Linux development process. Its important to note that using this business model, the people that make the money are usually not the ones who have invested in the development process. So much for the strongest case.

      The second case is based on the idea that you give away a product as open source so you can make money selling a closed source program. This also can work, but it should be noted that the money is being made off the closed source product and not off of the open source. An example of this model would be Netscape, who gives away the source code of their client browser so the OS community can do development, but keeps their "cash cow" products completely closed. Obviously, this case may only work if you have a software product that lends itself to this sort of "give away the razor and make money on the blades" system. The truth is that the vast majority of software is monolithic. So much for the loss leader case.

      The third case, "Widget Frosting", sounds completely practical. The premise that hardware makers produce open source software so that the OS development community will work for free to produce better drivers and interface tools for their hardware products. It sounds great on the surface, especially for the company that produces the hardware: they get free drivers and do not have to pay for expensive developers. The OS community wins by getting presumably stable drivers and tools. What is not mentioned is the reason hardware makers usually don't do this is because they do not want to reveal trade secrets regarding their hardware design. Production of efficient drivers requires an intimate knowledge of the hardware the driver is for. It is almost always the case that it is in the hardware developers' best interest to keep their hardware secrets close to home. This also brings up the question of why isn't hardware "open"? So much for the frosting case.

      The final case, "Accessorizing", is similar to the first, but throws in the idea of selling books and complete systems with the open source software, and other accessories as well. It is obvious that selling books qualifies as support, and that it really belongs in the first case. The idea of selling computer systems, T-Shirts, dolls, again begs the question: "Who is making the money?" As with the first case, it is not necessarily the people who have done the development work. Additionally, the question of how much money can be made selling books, t-shirts, mugs, etc, is never answered. O'Reilly Associates is frequently used as an example to be a company who has made money using this case. The reader should notice that O'Reilly Associates are not the people doing the development work. Indeed, it is never asked why all the O'Reilly books are not available for free or at least at manufacturing cost? This also brings up the question of why isn't book production "open"? Perhaps they are waiting to see if they could sell enough O'Reilly T-Shirts to pay their bills. So much for the accessories.

      Open Source Does Not Necessarily Produce Better Software

      The open source proponents frequently state that OS necessarily produces better software. This statement is made without any evidence. Indeed, there is evidence to the contrary. GCC is a standard compiler produced by the GNU organization. It lags its commercial counterparts in both efficiency and features. The reason behind is illustrates the largest weakness in the OS plan. It is very hard to convince qualified engineers that they should do such boring and unglamorous work without any sort of financial reward. The idea of throwing large quantities of people at the source does not work in this case, since there are not large quantities of qualified individuals available.

      Open Source Did Not Make the Internet Successful

      Another statement made by the OS community is that somehow open source was responsible for the success of the Internet. The reason behind this is probably a result of the confusion between what is open source and what is an open protocol. It is easy to see that the foundation of the Internet was built on open protocols. This does not equate to open source, for the two are quite different. The vast majority of the machines on the Internet run on closed source operating systems running mostly closed source software, which communicate using open protocols.

      Where Does Open Source Work?

      Open source does work in certain cases. A good example of where it may work well is Netscape. The act of giving away the source to the OS community so they can work for free and produce a product that helps the sales of their server software was a stroke of genius and proved very profitable for the relatively few at Netscape. But is this truly making money off of open source? Isn't the money is made off of the closed source software?

      Another example of where it does work is the aforementioned Red Hat. Red Hat has been successful making money off of the work of thousands of others who have contributed to the Linux operating system and the associated GNU programs that have shipped with the Linux distributions. The question is: do those who work at Red Hat deserve to be rewarded, or do the people who do the actual development work deserve to be rewarded? Should the money go to the few, or to the many? It seems that the High Priests of the Bazaar believe the former.

      THIS DOCUMENT CAN BE RECOPIED AND REDISTRIBUTED WITHOUT RESTRICTION, HOWEVER ADDITIONS/MODIFICATIONS/CORRECTIONS SHOULD BE LABELED AS SUCH WHERE THEY OCCUR.

      Another thing I would like to point out, and which I will include in an updated version of the paper, is the fact that by contributing to Open Source you are decreasing the financial value of software. The reason for this is because you have eliminated the artificial scarcity of the product. This only serves to lessen the financia value of the product, which leads to lower compensation for those that produce software.

      Music and book publishers create scarcity via the copyright mechanism, the software industry should be no different.

      For those of you who have bit hit hard by the recent economic downturn in the software world may want to consider this before giving away your efforts to the corporations for free.

      • by .milfox (75510) on Monday February 10, 2003 @03:29PM (#5272694)
        I'll have to disagree on all four of your points. "Follow the money" doesn't just count where the money goes, but where it comes from.

        On your first point and the economics of open source ... yes, there are fewer companies that can produce the same old code and sell it again as new. (Upgrades, etc) So at first it seems less money is being made, right? WRONG! The money that would have been spent on software upgrades (creating profit at little cost for the upgrading corporation) instead stays in the client's hands, where they can be spent on other things, funding new features (on an individual or cost-shared basis) So that's something to consider when dealing with open source and economics.

        You missed also the fact that yes, you may not be able to maximize profits with open source. *shrug* Big loss. Profit isn't a right. Software enhancements will still be neccessary, and individuals (or companies) will still be hired on a single or cost shared (think bounty) basis to add features.

        Companies represent nothing more than a convenient means for the collectivization of effort. Nothing more.

        As for the business cases? Redhat pays the salary for Alan Cox as well as some of the other developers. IBM does as well. That's contributing back.

        On 'better' software.

        Open source products may not neccessarily be better in all areas, but they do tend to have the ability to rapidly have problems corrected and wanted features added. That's the advantage. Some would say that's 'better'.

        Open source and the internet:

        Actually, I would argue that open source did signifigantly contribute to the internet, in the forms of reference implementations that were copied.

        Look NSCA HTTPD and Mosaic. Even today's IE browser has the following quote : "Based on NCSA Mosaic. NCSA Mosaic(TM); was developed at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign."

        I'd say that's a form of open source that's helped, no?

        As for where open source works? IMHO anywhere where multiple groups can benefit from the same product. All the clients can benefit (at the cost of 'profit' for the software companies, but *NOT* at the cost of the developers) since the unneccessary overhead is elimimated by the nature of open source.

        As a programmer? Your lives remain the same. Code will still need to be developed, and jobs will still exist in an open source world. They'll just be funded by individual companies, instead of at a centralized 'software corporation'.

        As for copyright? My ideas are open to be picked up and used by others, but my words are always my own. (As these ideas are a synthesis of ideas of others, of course)
      • by solprovider (628033) on Monday February 10, 2003 @03:34PM (#5272737) Homepage
        There is another business case.
        It does not involve profit from software sales.
        It is about business.

        Software was originally written by companies to make that company better able to do its primary business. An automobile manufacturer uses software to make and sell automobiles. A retail store uses software to assist selling merchandise.

        All the "business cases mentioned by OS proponents are" about how to make money selling software.

        But what if most software was developed internally?
        - What if the programmers shared with programmers from other companies to ask for help?
        - What if it was easier to maintain the software publicly than to pass around copies every time you had an issue?
        - What if it meant you received fixes for things you had not encountered yet?
        - What if it meant you received fixes for things you had not NOTICED yet? (Like that bug that affects payroll.)

        This is the world of GPL open source applications.
        1. We need an application.
        2. We download a database program.
        3. We build our application.
        4. We realize the database is missing a feature.
        5. We add the feature.
        6. While programming, we notice a bug.
        7. We fix the bug.
        8. Our application does exactly what we want, and we send our changes back to maintainers of the program.
        9. ?Profit? There is no profit from the software sale. The only benefit is that the company has the application that allows it to compete better.
        The programmers may have been a consultant, so maybe they profited. Or an employee, who got paid. Or a student, who gained experience and a line on an rather empty resume. Or a hobbyist, who had fun.

        It would be nice if the company sent a few dollars to the program maintainers or mirrored the site, but it cannot be required. I doubt there is money there. The program maintainers COULD sell their services to help with implementation. But so could anybody else. This is where your four business models fit.

        But none of this is necessary to make open source a good investment for a company. Even if the company is the only source for improvements for years, eventually someone else may start to use the software (such as the company your former programmers join. Programmers hate solving the same issue twice.) And if they use it, they will add value. (If you fork the code, you lose the benefits of what everybody else is doing. If there is any development progress, you quickly lose the ability to apply your patches to the maintained version.)

        Open source is about programming to support business models that are not based on selling intangibles like software. That is why companies that are completely based on selling software will do anything to destroy it. That is why companies that have trouble selling software packages are embracing it. That is why every non-software company should be embracing GPL open source software whenever they can. And they outnumber the software companies.

        ---
        About the financial value of software, there is none. Software's value is what it does to help you. Hopefully it helps your primary business make money. (Even if it is just the extra alertness from walking and getting coffee every time you need to reboot.)

        Imagine if information transfer was free, because there is no method to record it so it has to be person to person, or because something like the internet removes the cost of the transfer. With the personal method, I can tell you an idea, or sing you a song, for free. With the internet, I can send you a million word idea, or send you a recording of an opera, for free. Words went from spoken to written to printing-pressed to websites over a very long period, but music and 2D video have only had about a century between the ability to record and the ability to freely transfer. The companies that were created to deal with the difficulty in distribution are complaining loudly now that they are obsolete.

        You can put artificial constraints around software, music, and other intangibles, but this is not good for society. The whole patent system was created to make sharing easier. Today was built on yesterday, and tomorrow will be built on today, if we remember what we did today. Most examples of creativity, whether software, music, or doodles, is thrown away after a very short period. The example of creativity with music is the performance. Recording it allows me to share it with others. If I do not record it, it is lost forever. If I record it and bury it in the backyard, it is useless. Only by sharing can others improve on my work. This goes double for software: you probably cannot improve my songs; you can probably improve my programs.

        Ideas are free for those who can hear them. Stop trying to silence them to increase the scarcity so you can increase your compensation. The world that requires no new software is a world without progress.
      • 1. Your paper does nothing to explain why Shared Source would be any better.

        2. Your paper doesn't cover using Open Source, only creating it. Since it already exists, I don't see any reason not to use it. In fact, most of the pro-Open-Source literature concentrates on why using it is beneficial. (And they tend to do a good job of explaining it -- customer control probably being number one.) And since Microsoft is trying to get people to use Shared Source (or proprietary) and stop using Open Source, I think usage is the real issue here.

        3. You've missed a lot of things in your paper. For example, the Internet was built on Open Source. Ever heard of Sendmail? How about NCSA httpd (and Apache, its follow-on)? BIND? These were (and still are) core components of the Internet.

        4. GCC is not the fastest compiler. But that is not its primary goal. It is however, the most portable. This was one of the primary goals, and it has been successful as the most widely available compiler. Still, on x86 systems, it is competitive with even Intel's own compiler. I also believe that it was the first compiler to be completely ISO C++ compliant.

        5. How can something that can be copied for virtual nothing be scarce? Any scarcity you create is artifical. And competition tends to remove such artificial barriers.

        6. By artificially increasing the value of software, you are increasing the costs to all consumers of software. Thus you reduce the amount of productivity savings to all those customers. It's not clear which is more beneficial to the econmony/society as a whole. But I expect that spreading the wealth around would be better.

        7. If people want to give away their labor, who are you to complain about it? If someone offered to cut your grass for free, would you turn them down because it is depressing the economy? Maybe they want to have an excuse to be outside, or maybe they enjoy doing it, or maybe it makes them feel good to help others.

        8. The issue of why people want to work on Open Source without monetary remuneration have been covered in several places. ("The Cathedral and the Bazaar" probably being the best.) Such reasons include making a name for one's self, generosity, no value seen in the software beyond using it for one's own purposes, wanting others to work on the product, etc. Also, don't discount the fact that if someone creates some software and releases it, he tends to end up with a better version than what he released.

        While your paper makes some good points (I moderated it "Interesting" in another thread) I don't think you've spent too much time doing your research. You provide reasons why people shouldn't work on Open Source, and yet they do. So you're busy explaining why this shouldn't happen, when you should be figuring out why it does.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 10, 2003 @09:52AM (#5270023)
    Stop sabotaging my business, okay? I'm just trying to eek out an honest living, is that so wrong!? ...billg
  • by natron 2.0 (615149) <ndpeters79@g m a i l . c om> on Monday February 10, 2003 @09:54AM (#5270034) Homepage Journal
    Funny, I thought "Shared Source" meant downloading the latest build of XP Pro from Kazaa.

    • by roalt (534265) <slashdot.org@noSpAM.roalt.com> on Monday February 10, 2003 @10:01AM (#5270077) Homepage Journal
      Funny, I thought "Shared Source" meant downloading the latest build of XP Pro from Kazaa.

      No no no, you have to wait until Eric S. Raymond introduces the term open binary after which microsoft somewhat unthoughtful releases their shared binary initiative.

      • Re:Shared Source? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Melantha_Bacchae (232402) on Monday February 10, 2003 @11:47AM (#5270756)
        Microsoft already has a "shared binary initiative": they share their binaries for free, and you pay regularly to keep them running. The highest level of MSDN has all kinds of binaries in it, you pay the MSDN subscription fee at a certain level, and the updates keep coming. Office XP was supposed to be subscription in the US as well, but people screamed bloody murder, and Microsoft sold the product instead.

        Windows XP Service Pack 1 and Windows 2000 SP3 EULAs have regulations on Microsoft being able to install anything on your computer, deactivate anything, and read any data. Where do you think they are going with that? Possibly in the not so distant future Microsoft will automatically update major OS versions (like from XP to Longhorn), and install the applications for the subscription service you picked (removing stuff you aren't going to be paying for). As long as you keep paying, your computer continues to function, and you get to see your data. Miss a payment and your computer ceases to function, and your data, stored wherever on the network that Yukon socked it, is flagged to not allow access by you until you start paying again.

        "Shared source" is just a marketing term for their years old practice of letting people they think need to see their source, sneak a peak in return for NDAs and a lot of cash. While the above scenario would mean keeping the source to some parts of their programs closed would be less essential (as the continued functionality of the computer, not the secrecy of their source, would lock customers in), you are not going to be seeing things like DRM source any time soon. DRM would be needed to lock access to parts of your computer you are not paying to access, or to automatically charge you for accessing additional features.

        What, you thought DRM was just for music and movies? Nope, it's for Explorer, Notepad, the Word spell checker, and Excel function packs. You might as well assign a "ka-ching" sound effect to your system sounds, because you will be racking up some big bills with daily use of your computer.

        "At this moment, it has control of systems all over the world.
        And...we can't do a damn thing to stop it."
        Miyasaka, "Godzilla 2000 Millennium" (Japanese version)
  • How many different competitors of OSS do they want to be within themselves?

    Can't they ever just... stop?
    • by Apreche (239272) on Monday February 10, 2003 @10:07AM (#5270105) Homepage Journal
      yeah, I hate that whole competition/capitalism thing. Why doesn't everyone just bow down and go with the obvious choice of making GNU/Linux a monopoly. I mean it's the best OS ever and is perfect for everything. And it's so simple a goldfish can use it!
      • And it's so simple a goldfish can use it!

        not if that goldfish wants to print, use a webcam, use a digital camera, play high graphic games, easily manage personal finances, scan documents, listen to music via the on-board audio chip, listen to mp3's (RH slam), etc, etc.

        sorry, i'm a little sore. i needed a document to print on my home machine. i had gentoo, and couldn't print to either of my printers (lexmark z53, and lexmark 4039). in a pinch, i installed RH which wiped out the gentoo. now i can print, but no other hardware works nicely. on top of that i get a really warped version of kde that's beyond changing colors and window look. where is the kontrol-panel?. i could have installed Win98 and been using all my hardware in about an hour... i'll probably go back to gentoo, but end up having to have a win98 partition on that machine just in case i need to ever print again.
  • Funny... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Omkar (618823) on Monday February 10, 2003 @09:57AM (#5270053) Homepage Journal
    includes a handy list of potentially showstopper questions

    This is what I do before almost every presentation in school - screwing the presenter makes you look good here.
    • Re:Funny... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by stevens (84346) on Monday February 10, 2003 @10:40AM (#5270304) Homepage
      This is what I do before almost every presentation in school - screwing the presenter makes you look good here.

      School and work are different things.

      Where I work, Managers accept pitches from vendors and decide on multi-million dollar purchases all the time. When a vendor comes to make a pitch, it's all shiny slideware and gleaming promises.

      Technical people are there to 'screw the presenter,' so to speak. We're there to probe the actual benefits and costs of their product, not the bullshit marketing line they lead the presentation with.

      Allowing vendors to go unchallenged has left us with some huge bills for garbage software. If we have a requirement for seeing source code for a new product, you can bet I'll not let any vendor get away with equating "Shared Source" with actual OSI-approved licenses.

      Holding your tongue is a good strategy in school where a teacher's favor is the criterion, but in business good choices and good thinking win, not quiet acquiescence.

  • Marketing vs. reason (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Koos Baster (625091) <ghostbusters@xsS ... .nl minus distro> on Monday February 10, 2003 @09:59AM (#5270057)
    As a geek, I'm convinced Open Source will eventually vindicate over Closed Source -- no matter what. Whatever argument Microsoft could come up with, there'll always be a better counter argument. IMHO, the only thing their $50 billion could buy is better software, and this will work only on the short term. But I'm prejudiced...

    So my question is: Would it be possible for Microsoft to kill Open Source solely through a media campaign?
    • by rusty_razor (635173) on Monday February 10, 2003 @10:19AM (#5270165)

      Marketing and reason seem diametrically opposed to my mind.. can you imagine slander campaigns similar to election ads?

      "Do you want your enterprise code written at 4am by a community of hackers?!"

      I doubt any such marketing campaign could convince people who already appreciate the benefits of OSS.

      I think the main danger is providing management with misinformation, making a tech's job harder justifying OSS. Most people wouldn't blink as long as the name "Windows" was mentioned.

      Once OSS becomes more of a household name (and it is) M$ will have a much harder time suppressing it.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 10, 2003 @10:27AM (#5270216)
      it won't take a media campaign from MS

      there are a number of threats to OSS that will emerge as it becomes more pervasive. None of these would kill Open Source as a movement , but they will compel the community too temper some of their absolutism.

      There WILL be a widespread virus that attacks some popular OSS platform / architecture. The community's reaction to this event could determine the viability of OS across all domains.

      There WILL be a test of the GPL that effectively modifies its tenets , perhaps fundamentally changing the character and popular interpretation of the license. This will bring a reality check to the more strident elements of the OSS community , but could encourage OSS realists to adapt more commercially viable licenses.

  • by simplexMethod (564813) on Monday February 10, 2003 @09:59AM (#5270061)
    I work on a scientific project that is supossedly an "open source" project. In reality, it is really shared source. What it comes down to is users from the community reporting bugs and even submitting patches that are never incorporated into the code. The "czar" of the project often refuses to apply these fixes or doesn't do so in a timely manner. It just doesn't work and is just about as pointless as not having the source at all...

    • by Timesprout (579035) on Monday February 10, 2003 @10:08AM (#5270109)
      I'm not sure thats a reflection on shared source, more an indication of a poor PM. Shared source is realistically the only advance MS can currently make in the direction of fully open source. They are a large corporation with many shareholders who will not accept the source, excuse the pun, of their honeypot suddenly being made available to the public at large.
    • So you have a bizarre czar at your bazaar [kde.org]?
    • by Khalid (31037) on Monday February 10, 2003 @10:48AM (#5270351) Homepage
      This is alas often also true for Open Source projects, many open source projects maintainers refuse to apply patches too. I think this depends on a lot of factors, for instance whether he has enough confidence in other people's work or not; many maintainers just simply don't want their baby spoiled by wanabe hackers for instance, who don't understand the whole architecture. It often takes a lot of time working together to accept other people work. As it has been said, Linus way of doing things is remarquable as he has accepted patches from the begining and he knows how to work with other people, while keeping track of the whole Linux source code, which is very very difficult in practice and a lot of work, as he needs to review all the code which goes into the kernel.
      • It takes time to accept other people's work, but not as much time as writing the code yourself, assuming the patch submissions are well-documented.

        Of course, due to the nature of OSS, I think that smart maintainers will immediately reject any and all patch submissions that are not well commented.

        Really, I think this is the reason why the Linux kernel and similarly maintained projects seem to mature so quickly compared to oh, say, gcc (pre-egcs) or the HURD might be because people like RMS honestly seem to think that merging other peoples' patches isn't worth their time.
        • If the people running the project suck, you can just maintain a better fork if you want. With shared source, you might not even be able to distribute your patches to other customers suffering your fate. The point is that true OS gives the control to the ultimate consumer, and anything less isn't worth that much. Why contribute your work to something that another private entity owns and controls?
    • by SnarfQuest (469614) on Monday February 10, 2003 @11:47AM (#5270759)
      Use the fork, luke, use the fork!
  • Embrace and Extend (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Octagon Most (522688) on Monday February 10, 2003 @10:00AM (#5270074)
    It appears that Microsoft's famously successful Embrace and Extend strategy can apply to concepts as well as technologies. Expect to see Shared Source (i.e., Open Source with proprietary extensions for improved performance on Windows only) heavily promoted as a new Windows development tool.
  • by MagicMerlin (576324) on Monday February 10, 2003 @10:02AM (#5270081)
    While this is a very informative article, I get a very 'preaching to the choir' felling about it. The bias seeps through and undermines the effectiveness of the article. I think the best advocacy of open source software could be realized through: 1. case studies of successful industry/governemnt deployment of oss. 2. summary of development/use of open source superstars like apache, postgres, etc. of course, its always fun to pick at ms, but the idea is to change minds, not appear dogmatic.
    • > While this is a very informative article, I get a very 'preaching to the choir' felling about it.

      It's a guide for OSS people to be able to ask the right questions at the right time at the conference.

      Then see MS people squirm...

  • Patents. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Any-one fancy going throug the M$ code and looking for patent violations, M$ still has a lot of finincial muscle.
  • by Aquitaine (102097) <sam@@@iamsam...org> on Monday February 10, 2003 @10:03AM (#5270087) Homepage
    Hasn't the OSS done battle with the SS once before?
  • by dwheeler (321049) on Monday February 10, 2003 @10:04AM (#5270093) Homepage Journal
    For a similar "shared source vs. Free Software" article, see Bernhard Rosenkraenzer (bero)'s article, which makes interesting points about "Shared Source". It was at shared-source.com; it's no longer there, but you can get it via the Internet archives: http://web.archive.org/web/20011103204837/http://w ww.shared-source.org/index.html [archive.org]

    Unfortunately, the "picking up your marbles" article uses nonstandard terminology and thus may end up confusing many readers. For example, it seems to equate "Free Software" with copylefting licenses (like the GPL), and "Open Source" with non-copylefting licenses (like the BSD license). That's extremely confusing; the standard definitions for both Open Source and Free Software include both the GPL and the BSD licenses. Also, "Shared Source" is still proprietary; trying to claim it isn't just confuses things. Proprietary software comes in at least two varieties: secret source, and "shared source". Licenses are confusing enough without using nonstandard, inconsistent terminology. Hopefully, the article will get updated - it makes interesting points, and the shifting terminology is unfortunate. For the moment, I would recommend Bero's article instead if you're looking for an article opposing "shared source".

    • And it's less confusing that shared source is proprietary and open source is Free? To the lay person, they would sound like the same thing.

      Face it, MS is making up their own terminology here, so we should stick to ours too. He who controls the language controls the mind too.
  • Simple question: (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BadDoggie (145310) on Monday February 10, 2003 @10:09AM (#5270114) Homepage Journal
    "If I find a coding error or vulnerability in a Microsoft Shared Source program, can I fix it and recompile?
    "Can I provide this fix to others? If not, why not?"

    I'd recommend losing the bit about the Borg on that site unless it's a page meant only for geeks and techies -- name-calling cheapens the rest of your arguments. It doesn't matter that they started it. </FourthGradeTeacher>

    Just point out the uselessness of Shared Source and the piles of responses to Microsoft FUD.

    woof.

  • Excellent (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cigarky (89075) on Monday February 10, 2003 @10:09AM (#5270117)
    A very nice and concise review and discussion. The questions, in particular, are a great preparation for a rebuttal. Polite and informed disagreement will go lot farther in an audiences opinion than shouting "LINUX ROXORS". In extreme situations, it may still be necessary to fall back on that technique :^)
  • My humble addition (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I just sent them this extra question. Looking forward to see if MS has a good answer:

    What kind of paperwork, NDA's, and other obligations do I need to sign on before looking at the shared source? With GPL I can look at the license (and only that!), and know that if I do not like the source I see, I can put it down, not use it, and be free to continue my life as if I had never seen it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 10, 2003 @10:11AM (#5270121)
    That document was poorly written, I was expecting a business quality doco. The linux community needs to realise that if they want to be taken seriously in big business, they have to act in a mature business like manner.

    For example: Stop refering to closed source companies as being evil. Treat them all the same - did you know that there are more closed source software companies that just Microsoft? Such as Lotus, IBM, Apple (surely not Apple???) and most of these guys have borrowed code from BSD, Apple even got praised for it, rather than berated. (Which I still can't believe to this day)

    Imagine if MS had taken almost all of BSD and started selling it, because they couldn't be arsed to develop their own OS.

    • The part of OS X that uses BSD code is open-source. You can download the source to Darwin, make changes, recompile, and submit bug fixes to Apple (not sure how long it takes them to implement them). The part of OS X that is closed-source is the user interface layer, and that is presumably proprietary code.

      Apple did borrow from BSD, but they did it (mostly) right.
  • I'm glad this isn't televised. If Microsoft televised a question session that looked like genuine hackers, geeks, executives, secretaries, etc asking questions about software, the future, and esp. software....well, I know just enough people who will want to believe what is said, and that's scary.

    And it will only give a greater confidence to those who think that my optimism about free software is unfounded, and that Microsoft can't be that bad since they are so big. After all, the only reason we geeks hate them is because they are too big!

    Then again, I suppose I shouldn't be giving marketting suggestions to Microsoft.

  • by Dagowolf (646208) on Monday February 10, 2003 @10:16AM (#5270154)
    Wouldn't it make more sense if you were a company that produced a large, bloated program that has a long history of poor performance that you would want to get input from people that might be able to streamline your program and optimize its performance? We were always taught in computer classes that the best programs where the ones that got the job done, correctly, with a minimum of code and in the quickest possible way. As much as we all might dislike Microsoft, Windows has the ability to be a good OS, it just hasn't been allowed to get anywhere near that ability. It seems each iteration of Windows creates more bugs and more bloated code rather than the reverse (which would would expect in most software programs). So, IMHO, Microsoft should move to open source, perhaps just releasing large segments of Windows code so they can protect their business (otherwise why release anything?). Ask programmers to streamline the code, even to the point of optimizing it for AMD, Intel, and Cyrix chips individually (Make Bill happy that he can market 3 versions of Windows).
    • Quite honestly I like XP better than Redhat 7.2, And it runs my multimedia devices better. I run my big screen off my computer when I want to watch my Divx movies in the living room, you know what a pain in the arse that is in Linux? In windows I right click the desktop, choose properties, make the change and click apply. I didn't have to download any special modules or programs, My OS was set to go. And well, ever try to play BattleField 1942 on Linux? Oh that's right, you can't.
  • by termos (634980) on Monday February 10, 2003 @10:26AM (#5270207) Homepage
    OpenSource is that you have the source, in order for you to compile it. Somone see this as a benefit because they can compile it from source, and get certain optimizations on the executable of the program (Gentoo Linux for example).
    The Free Software Foundation [fsf.org] has other values in mind.
    The look on software as something everyone owns, ideas, science and so on. With free software you have the right to make changes that fits you, then release that source again with a new and (hopefully) better version. You of course have to include who originally wrote it.
    A good example of Open Source and not free software is the NVidia drivers for Linux and not BSD. They are not licenced under GPL, you only have the right to compile the source, not make changes to it and redistribute those changes.
    • No.

      Go to Google, and go search for "open source software". Google ranks pages, so it's reasonable to assume that whatever it finds first is the "dominant" definition of the term "open source software". The top rank is opensource.org, with the definition given at: http://www.opensource.org/docs/definition_plain.ph p [opensource.org]. The first sentence in the material states: "Open source doesn't just mean access to the source code." The lower-ranked pages agree with this definition, too.

      I think it's clear that this particular phrase, "open source software", has acquired a very specific meaning, meaning much more than simply that the source code is viewable.

      If you wish for a term meaning "I can see the source code", I suggest the term "source viewable." Peter Neumann suggests the term "open box".

      • You are right about the deffinition of OSS - the guys first proposed using that term made it clear that they intended it to mean the same thing as Free Software - but the poster above does illustrate a common objection to use of the term "Open Source Software".

        Just as there is a natural tendancy to think that "Free Software" means software that you don't have to pay for, so there is a natural tendency to think that "Open Source Software" just means software that is supplied with source code. One natural confusion was swapped for another one.
  • by frozenray (308282) on Monday February 10, 2003 @10:27AM (#5270213)
    ...is the girl who lifts her skirt and lets you have a good look, but never lets you go further than that. Nice, but useless and frustrating in the long run.

    The Open Source variation, on the other hand... well, I can't speak from personal experience, but I heard it must be very nice.
  • by KjetilK (186133) <kjetil@@@kjernsmo...net> on Monday February 10, 2003 @10:27AM (#5270214) Homepage Journal
    Hm, the last time I uttered that Microsoft's Shared source is going to be indistinguishable from open source to most people, I was modded funny, and I love that of course.

    I have a deep respect for many of those who coined the term "Open Source", especially Bruce Perens.

    But, I think we're about to find out that "Open Source" was a mistake.

    Microsoft will clearly claim that their "shared source" encompasses all the benefits of open source, and for those who do not allready understand what Open Source is all about (which is to say, most people), it will be a compelling argument.

    We can go "uh, no, you see, it is about, free, and I mean free as in speech, not beer, uh, if you know what I mean". And they don't. And they won't read this paper. When they can see the source, the source is open enough to them. What more could you ask?

    I attended one of ESR's talks, and while it took me a long time to realize, ESR's top selling point ("you can always take development in-house"), is not a simple pragmatic argument. It is an argument based on freedom.

    The top selling argument for Open Source, for Linux and for all the rest of it, is, and will remain, an argument of freedom. Not only freedom for individuals, but freedom for corporations too!

    It is about politics. It is about creating a society where freedom benefits everyone, individuals and corporations alike, the whole society.

    I realize, of course that "Free Software" is not a good term either, but for those of us who speak a Real Language[tm], the term "Open Source" should be abandoned, and terms like "Software Libré" or "Fri programvare" should be used instead.

    • I was listening to the movie "A beautifull mind" yesterday, and I was asking myself:
      Ain't the benefits of OSS going along the lines of John Nash theory?
      Everyone benefits from collaboration...

      This is not a troll, I don't know John Nash's theories at all, only saw the movie, but seems to fit...
    • What about FreedomSoft?
    • by siskbc (598067) on Monday February 10, 2003 @11:17AM (#5270557) Homepage
      Look, I believe in the benefits of a free society AND software, and while I see the connection, most people won't. Their response will be somewhere along the lines of "crazy damned communist geek." Again, I agree, but I don't think this "software as a model for society" argument is going to change any minds that it hasn't already. If anything, it will simply paint the entire OSS movement as a bunch of neo-hippies.

      I think the best route is to keep hammering on the differences. Consider our targets for conversion - it's not MS, and it's not governments here - it's potential users of Shared Source, ie companies. And, though you believe they may bess less compelling, companies only care about pragmatic arguments - they could care less about freedom in the abstract, only in the immediate. You don't have to use the "free as in speech vs. beer" argument. Just explain why seeing the source is useless if you can't touch it. I think most people of even moderate intelligence can understand that.

    • That's a tricky one. I like that the Free Software label describes exactly what it is, but I never would have been able to convince my last place of work to use anything called "Free Software" just because they wouldn't have gotten the fine distinction of the capital "F". For them, it was "free software" and equivalent with "freeware" and "crap." And unless you live in eastern Canada, just trying to get people to pronounce "Software Libre" (a moniker I like even better. The french have a much better word for Free) is a lost cause. Basically, I was able to sell them on the usual advantages of having the source code, making "Open Source" easier marketing for me.

      Now "Open Source" has mindshare, and trying to get people to understand that it's really "Software Libre" (hard for those with less nimble tongues to pronounce) could make things that much harder.

      Personally, I'd be happy if a few more MBAs had better Real Language[tm] skills, but some still think "embiggen"* is a real word.

      * Not a Simpson's reference, a real phrase frequently used at last said place of work.

    • The top selling argument for Open Source, for Linux and for all the rest of it, is, and will remain, an argument of freedom.

      I must take issue with RMS and others' use of the term "freedom" to define a contractual agreement. Of course a contract represents freedom -- the basis of contract is voluntary association. Open source and proprietary contracts are both examples of freedom. It does not matter what the terms of contract are; if the contract is engaged through voluntary association, then it represents freedom.

      Freedom is defined by the lack of force, and nothing else. Freedom does not know the difference between open source and closed source. Freedom does not know what software is. Freedom knows only two states: coercion (force) and voluntary association. If an individual engages in an interaction with another individual or group, and the interaction is voluntary, then the interaction represents freedom. If the interaction is non-voluntary, i.e. an initiation of force, then the interaction does not represent freedom.

      Therefore it is meaningless to define your terms of contract as "freedom". Microsoft's shared source contract is no more or less "free" than an open source contract, because you are equally "free" to engage both. What you really mean to say is that one vendor's terms of contract are more restrictive than another vendor. Freedom has nothing to do with it.

  • It makes little sense to bother if the MS guy blahblahblahs for awhile and doesn't actually answer the question. If you can't verify, push the question, or ask a followup, all the power stays with the presenter.>

    I've heard enough press conferences at the White House to know how that works.

    I'd ask, "Does Bill know I'm screwing his wife?"

    That ought to toss a wrench into the works...

  • by mattr (78516) <mattrNO@SPAMtelebody.com> on Monday February 10, 2003 @10:34AM (#5270259) Homepage Journal
    With the accent it sounds more like "freed software" and maybe that's a key.

    It is not free as in "you are free to make my day". It is free as in "this software code has been freed from any restrictions, to the point that no man or woman may hide it or stop it from living its life to the fullest".

    Law of nature? Law of freed information!

    Question 1: Does any software actually exist which has gone through a full life cycle as shared source and not demonstrated major problems e.g. with respect to security, monopoly law, cost effectiveness?

    Point 2: Open source is critical to proving that software is secure in a concrete case: security of one's private machine and data. If Microsoft is only sharing source, how can it be known (without resorting to blind trust of unknown coders/governments) that the source you saw is the source that made it into the final product?

    Point 3: Microsoft's shared source campaign seems defined partly in terms of an attack against open source software. How does this reconcile with open source software being highly promoted by the security experts of the majority of major companies, server operators, and governments. Is it such a good idea to distance itself from such amazingly beneficial, successful, and satisfying projects? If Microsoft believes it to be critical to do so, then would Microsoft be open to funding a free (free of cost, anonymous, with results posted publically, and run by a third party) online facility to scan software (source and object code) for violations of liscense agreements (like GPL etc.) to guarantee that no GPL code is in Windows? (After all if it is then all of Windows legally must be GPL'd..)

  • If that was meant to be french, it should have been "Libre" (for "Free"), or "Libéré" (for "freed"). And I'm ignoring "software".

    People in Québec would Say

    Vive, le logiciel, LIBRE!

    But that's a different political issue.

    (With my regards to De Gaule).
  • Has anybody noticed the Microsoft ads on Slashdot?
  • Last friday here Microsoft had a meeting about Shared Source. I had the funny idea about going with the printed version of shared-source.com to give them a bit of work, but found that the domain was down, and even if I could make my own points against shared source, between not having something with stronger basis and that was early in the morning, well, I missed it.
  • In Spanish is "Libre". With normal "e". Not acute "e". And I think in French is also the same.

  • Curious (Score:4, Interesting)

    by KoolDude (614134) on Monday February 10, 2003 @10:43AM (#5270321)

    ...Microsoft are fond of touting Shared Source as being "as good as" Open Source...

    Didnt they also mention Open Source is "cancerous" ;)
  • by airrage (514164) on Monday February 10, 2003 @10:46AM (#5270340) Homepage Journal
    THIS ARTICLE IS SPECIFICALLY DESIGNED TO BE VIEWED BY ADULTS AND THEREFORE MAY BE UNSUITABLE FOR CHILDREN UNDER 17. THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS ONE OR MORE OF THE FOLLOWING: PROVOKING THOUGHTS (PT), EXPLICIT SARCASM (ES), OR CRUDE INDECENT SPELLING (S).

    Why don't things evolve?

    I keep thinking about the space shuttle, and open-source, and Microsoft; also of tiny winged dinosaurs recently found in the Mongolian Highlands. All these controversies and discoveries start me thinking -- but mostly the dinosaurs. Why did those little dinosaurs sprout wings? What was the point? Don't they know that was a greater wind resistance drag, making it even harder to escape predators? Why did the space shuttle, built in 80's never upgrade? One could talk of the government and the fact that they never, ever, upgrade unless it's tanks or grenades. But the space shuttle, with it's aging tape-to-tape flight computers, and it's spray on foam insulation, and it's glued on tiles -- why evolve to serve this niche, then never evolve? Was it laziness, stupidity, or some perceived fecundity that we've reached the promised land?

    I can feel there is a tipping-point here, some wisdom I'm about to understand, and yet it eludes me. Back to Microsoft. Why couldn't Novell evolve? Did they think that a different password for everything was better than one password to rule them all? Why continue to chew the prehistoric cud whilst the meteor streaks across the sky - moocow!. Now it's Microsoft, you might argue, that is starting to run a little slower, a little more gamely, who sees the big game cats bearing down in their proverbial rear view mirrors. Will they evolve? Can they evolve? What will they become?

    And so open-source sits too at the precipice, but its penultimate creative spark blew apart at its evolution, splitting into various organisms wading the primordial ooze. Fascinating stuff: evolve now or later, but why not right at the beginning? Evolve on the starting line! It's a pretty awesome strain of thinking. Keep trying to get it right on the starting line -- holding back some DNA -- shooting off ideas that might work. Hyper, hyper-parasitosis. I believe it's the way of informational beings. Even WOPR decided [sciflicks.com] that there might be a better way.

    So why can't Microsoft evolve? I believe they can, but it must happen while, and before, the energy required to evolve is still greater than the remaining energy it has to sustain life. Can they evolve a hybrid, become open-source (you heard it here first!), jump from the abyss, sprout wings, and fly?
  • by Titusdot Groan (468949) on Monday February 10, 2003 @10:55AM (#5270406) Journal
    Why is it that every religous movement hates it's heretics more than the heathens?

    This article looked pretty good until I hit this part:

    At first glance, BSD-ish licences may appear to be even more free. In real life, this turns out to not be so: the software can be modified and the results do not need to be returned to the community at large. BSD licenced software can be hidden away again (without loss of the originals, mind you) and perverted so that it breaks other implementations, as Microsoft did with the Kerberos authentication system (and many other things). Windows (finally, with 2000 and XP) has a long list of BSD acknowledgements in its "about" panel and documentation [see bottom of that page].
    I'm beginning to hate the GPL guys just because they have to shit on every other open source developer because they don't agree with politics of their GPL manifesto.

    BSD is more free; at first glance and every glance. That somebody can pervert that freedom is one of the costs of being free. Us BSD'ers are not the enemy -- look further up the list not further down.

    • Why is it that every religous movement hates it's heretics more than the heathens?

      Probably because they think that a lie which falls close to the truth is more believable, and hence more of a threat, than a lie which falls far from the truth, and is less believable. Of course it does get anoying when when they mistake reasonable differences of opinion for lies.

      BSD is more free; at first glance and every glance. That somebody can pervert that freedom is one of the costs of being free. Us BSD'ers are not the enemy -- look further up the list not further down.

      Personally I don't have a problem with the BSD license (in fact I don't have a problem with people who retain all of the rights granted by current copyright law), but I think your claim that the BSD license "is more free" than the GPL is mistaken. There is a long tradition in political theory (roughly speaking the Republican tradition represented best by guys like Cicero, Machiavelli (the divine M. of the Discourses not the diabolical M. of The Prince), and Locke) of regarding liberty as more than just an immediate lack of constraints on action, but as a kind of security agaisnt future constraints on action. This understanding of liberty is what gave rise to theories of limited constitutional government - the concern was not simply to let people do whatever they wanted to do, but also to ensure that such freedom of action would not later be taken away. Whether he knows it or not Stallman's ideas about liberty owe a lot to this Republican tradition. The constraints in the GPL are not constraints on what you can do with GPL'd software, but rather checks against future infringements on this freedom of action. You can compare these constraints with the 1st amendment of the US constitution. Although the 1st amendment is a rule that specifies things that cannot be done - and hence at first glance may look like a limit on freedom - it is in fact a rule that establishes the kind of secure freedom which really deserves the name of liberty.

      Freedom that can be taken away at a moments notice does not deserve the name of liberty. The GPL guys are not the only people who think so. About 2000 years worth of Republican political philosopher's agree with them.
      • by Reziac (43301) on Monday February 10, 2003 @02:30PM (#5272165) Homepage Journal
        One could turn your argument around: freedom as "more than just an immediate lack of constraints on action, but as a kind of security agaisnt future constraints on action" could apply just as well to the BSD license being used to prevent others from applying future constraints on the actions of those using a BSD'd codebase.

        IOW, it works both ways. What the GPL does is enforce group freedom at the expense of individual freedom (no option there). Conversely the BSD license enforces individual freedom which *may or may not be* at the expense of group freedom (but the individual doesn't lose their CHOICE about whether they contribute to group freedom or not).

        Sometimes I wonder if the GPL doesn't boil down to "if *you* get something, then *I* want it too!!"

        Mind you, I used to be more in favour of the GPL until I started really thinking about it. (Somewhat helped along by inheriting a GPL'd codebase, and discovering that now I have NO options as to how to handle its future.)

        • by praksys (246544) on Monday February 10, 2003 @03:28PM (#5272684) Homepage
          There is a difference between what you can do with code (i.e. the uses you can make of it) and what you can stop others from doing with it (i.e. the conditions you can put into the license you relaese it under). So for example when you say...

          Somewhat helped along by inheriting a GPL'd codebase, and discovering that now I have NO options as to how to handle its future. ...you are somewhat mis-describing the situation. You can do anything you like with GPL'd code. What you are not free to change at will is the license, and the license itself has nothing to do with what you can do, but rather controls what other people are allowed to do.

          Your contrast of group freedom with individual freedom is also misleading. The GPL protects individual freedom by ensuring that everyone has the freedom to use code in any way they like - but also that no one has the ability to take that freedom away from anyone else. Again the aim is not just any sort of freedom, but a freedom that cannot be taken away.

          Sometimes I wonder if the GPL doesn't boil down to "if *you* get something, then *I* want it too!!"

          You might be right about a lot of the people who support the GPL, but the guys who actually write GPL'd code probably hope that they will not wake up one day and find that they are not allowed to use software that is built on their work.
    • by Steeltoe (98226) on Monday February 10, 2003 @12:04PM (#5270905) Homepage
      Maybe you need to study the GPL again.

      GPL is Free, not because you are free to do whatever you wish with it (there are restrictions on distribution, not use), but because the software is Free (not gratis), and nobody can retain control once it is distributed.

      BSD gives freedom to the programmers.
      GPL makes the software Free.

      Yes, it's that easy, but since it's not taught in school, people will continue to confuse the issue. Myself, I respect both licenses and hope the authors are comfortable with what they imply when they pick a license for their projects.

      Freedom is more complex than limitless actions for everyone, since we don't live in a perfect world with perfect inhabitants.
    • There is a difference between freedom and anarchy. Freedoms must always be balanced for the greatest benefit. For example, if everyone had the freedom to kill without consequence, then our freedom to speak our mind without fearing for our lives would be greatly diminished.

      The GPL takes some freedom from those who would embrace and extend without sharing in exchange for more freedom of fair competition for those who put in the bulk of the original work. The total balance of freedom remains constant, but I personally would rather lean toward the original creators, especially when they are competing with a strong monopoly.

    • I honestly want to know. People who claim "BSD is more free than GPL" (or the ones that claim the contrary) are all bogus.

      BSD and GPL offer different slants because their core philosophies and values are different. Neither are right or wrong in their evaluations. To claim one type is greater than another type is HIGHLY disingenuous. I have yet to find any indication philosophically that your freedom, my freedom, or any other person's freedom is greater than any other. Philosophers have been asking that questions for centuries and there doesn't look like there is an answer in sight.

      BSD vs GPL boils down to this: Its a philosophic question that DOES NOT HAVE A RIGHT OR WRONG ANSWER. Its fine and dandy to argue the merrits but to assert your way is the one true way is bogus.
  • Contaminating Coders (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RichMan (8097) on Monday February 10, 2003 @11:19AM (#5270567)
    Are people free to view the Microsoft source, or is there an EULA type agreement that any person with access to Microsoft Source is not allowed to work on Open Source or Microsoft competitive products. I would think that this would be a very restrictive license term that would get in the way.

    Say the anti-competitive period is 5 years. This means that anyone who sees the code is contaminiated and restricted from what they can work on. Possibly a career limiting exposure.

    Of course there could be no such terms attached to the source. Anyone have insight?
  • One whole point of using a free OS like GNU/Linux or an open source program like Apache in a corporate setting is that is something goes wrong or requires change or is confusing you have a broad variety of support sources (RedHat, freelancers, other organizations, in-house people who work on it in their spare time, widely read mailing lists, etc.). Access to Microsoft source code under some sort of proprietary agreement effectively only means your in-house coders can look at that -- and they will not have years of experience working with the code base or other extensive support resources and so their ability to use the source to any good end is very limited. This is a "network effect" issue where free software widely distributed in a network is much more valuable than proprietary software supported at a few isolated nodes.
  • Can it be forked? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SnarfQuest (469614) on Monday February 10, 2003 @11:57AM (#5270852)
    The one question that really shows the difference between "open source" and "shared source", obviously has to be "Can I create my own fork"?

    Disagreements with the original author about the direction a software package should go, or the apparent abandonment of some software, are two of the many good reasons for creating a fork. This approach allows for competition, and may the best version win. It may piss off the original author, but it allows for improved evolution of the software.
  • In the days of big iron, most software came with its source code. The uses of the software knew who owned the software, but they could make changes to the software, distribute the source for those changes, and even sell those changes. You just had to make sure that anyone who picked up your changes had a licence to the orginal software, and also knew that if they put any changes into their source that the support for the modified software would be disowned by the original creator.

    This way dealing with source code has disappeared, except for some companies that supply code for library routines. Such source distributions disappeared for two reasons. One was piracy (it didn't help), and the other was to simplify the problem of support. As systems became for complex the fact that the software was modified would became lost, the original software creators would spend a large quantity of time and money discovering and fixing other peoples bugs (this did help).

    Even with its problems, I always liked this format of source distribution. It gives a revenue stream to the creators of software, and at the same time is allows further develepment, and bug fixes.
  • This articel stumbles at the gate:

    'Public Domain [public-domain.org] (AKA "freeware")- help yourself, there are no strings attached;'

    According to convention, experience, common sense and the FSF Free Software Definition, [fsf.org] freeware is not public domain software. It is propriestary software distributed as gratis binaries without source.

  • ...is permit the user to make custom changes and apply security hot-fixes. Whether or not this happens in practice depends far more on the attitude of the company deploying the SS than on the license itself.

    Microsoft's MFC was a good example--most bugs were reported by users. Usually the solution was given as a workaround. Only on rare occasions was it suggested that you rebuild MFC and for good reason--non standard versions of MFC DLLs could break stuff, even if they were supposedly less buggy. Nevertheless, MS got a lot of feedback from MFC users.

    OTOH, some of the other SS stuff was done because the companies felt pressured by OS. Worse yet, they were end-user apps like Office suites where most people don't look at the source. Since the original developers never anticipated source-level feedback from users, they just weren't "geared up" for it, or enthusiastic about it. You couldn't expect it to work very well.

    Of course what SS can't do as well as OS is give the users control of the direction the code takes, or give them ownership of significant code they write to enhance the original package. So, the best you can hope for when releasing under SS is that if your product is popular enough people might send you small bug-fixes.

  • I don't buy the security by obscurity argument, but it is an argument. I just find the track records MUCH better for OS.

    Under OS, all the bad guys have the schematic for all the locks in the kingdom. But all the good guys do, as well, and lets them improve the locks.

    Shared Source gives a small subset good guys a look at the schematics, but prevents them from improving the locks for themselves or anyone else. The most you can accomplish is working as an unpaid and probably ignored QA engineer for an unethical corporation. In fact, you are paying THEM for the priviledge. (Debugging OS code makes you a participant in a larger community of volunteers - a very different vibe.) It all but guarantees that the SS code will leak to essentially all bad guys, who will either not honor NDAs or aren't bound by them in the first place. It also appears to taint any OS developers who look at it, so their presence in an OS project threatens it with litigation entanglements.

    So - OS gives all access, SS gives bad guys access and restricts the freedom not just of code, but developers. As Dilbert says, "I gotta get me some of that!"

  • From Microsoft's shared source policy is not equivalent to open source [hevanet.com]:

    Good programmers are not willing to sign the non-competition and non-disclosure agreements that Microsoft requires. They fear that would put them at risk of a Microsoft lawsuit. Even if they were found in court not to have infringed on Microsoft's contract, the cost of the lawsuit would be enormous. Also, they could lose their jobs over any such dispute. It is possible that the only real effect of Microsoft's shared source policy is to cripple an organization's best programmers, so that they cannot work in any field in which Microsoft has an interest.

    Microsoft's policy of allowing government programmers to see source code is not equivalent to having open source code. A thorough review of the more than 40 million lines of source code in Windows XP is far more than even a government can attempt. It would be easy for someone to hide spy instructions that could be controlled from outside. This is not unlikely. The U.S. government's spy agencies, the CIA, NSA, and others, have an essentially unlimited amount of money. They can and do exploit any method of spying. The U.S. government has bombed 14 countries in 35 years. Organizations should not assume that those who think killing is a way of solving problems will suddenly become moral when they consider computer software.

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