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Bruce Perens on the Status of Open Source 241

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the executive-summary dept.
Lars Lehtonen writes to tell us that Bruce Perens has posted the text of his LinuxWorld press conference. In his talk he takes a look at many of the hot topics surrounding the open source community including ODF, NTP vs RIM, and GPLv3. From the article: "It's interesting to note that Jack Abramoff, the lobbyist implicated in scandal with Republican Tom Delay, was employed by Bill Gates' dad's law firm "Preston Gates", a political proxy for Microsoft. Microsoft succeeded in lobbying both Republicans and Democrats to oppose ODF."
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Bruce Perens on the Status of Open Source

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  • bipartisan scandal (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    One more data point in the fact this was a bipartisan scandal.

    Even the Minority leader Harry Reid was a big beneficiary of cash payments by clients of Jack Abrahamoff!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 08, 2006 @04:02PM (#15092046)
    "It's interesting to note that Jack Abramoff, the lobbyist implicated in scandal with Republican Tom Delay, was employed by Bill Gates' dad's law firm "Preston Gates", a political proxy for Microsoft. Microsoft succeeded in lobbying both Republicans and Democrats to oppose ODF."

    And this means what, exactly? Abramoff pleaded guilty to a variety of charges, but didn't have much of anything to do with Microsoft or ODF.

    This seem to be a nice set of coincidences, but nothing more. If you are going to allege something sinister, please do it with evidence or proof. Throwing a bunch of random things out doesn't really mean much to anybody but gullible leftist slashbot.

    • by hey! (33014) on Saturday April 08, 2006 @04:46PM (#15092211) Homepage Journal
      And this means what, exactly?

      Not much yet. It's just a set of dots which, if they could be connected, would make a very interesting picture indeed. But I agree, the dots haven't been connected. Yet.

      Abramoff pleaded guilty to a variety of charges, but didn't have much of anything to do with Microsoft or ODF.

      Doesn't mean a thing.

      The way this works is, the prosecutor targets a sleazeball who's got connections. He puts together a portfolio of charges on him that, if half of them were proved, would put Mr. Sleaze in jail for the half life of a proton. In exchange for only having to endure being sodomized for three or four years, Mr. Sleaze agrees to hand the prosecutor the ends of all the webs he's been holding.

      Microsoft and the Gates family may be on the other end of one of those threads. Or they may not; or even if they are it may not in the prosecutor's view be the best place to start. The prosecutor might also decide to make examples of one or two individuals and leave it at that.

    • I think what you mean is that it's not suspicious, or it doesn't indicate wrongdoing, or perhaps that it's not relevant to Mr. Perens' point and thus possibly constitutes the creation of unfair innuendo by Mr. Perens.

      But it's certainly still interesting, at least to me. If nothing else because it demonstrates once again exactly how small the pool of actually empowered people in America is.
    • The biggest Republican lobbyist of the current generation, Abramoff, worked into his power position at the law firm of the father of the richest man in the world, Bill Gates. Gates was a certified monopolist, but the incoming Republican administration let him keep operating his monopoly. That takes a lot of lobbying and money. Abramoff has pleaded guilty to bribing Republican politicians for his corporate clients.

      Those aren't random facts. That's not a coincidence. Those are leads. When we talk about them m
      • IMO I am seeing some astroturfing from the pro-software-patent camp around this speech, and not only on Slashdot. Only folks who can see IP numbers, etc., of people posting could track that down, and even then it might be difficult, so all I can say is that some comments do look suspicious.

        Bruce

        • When the Republican Party astroturfs, they call it >ratfucking [wikipedia.org]: Nixonian "dirty tricks". Especially when it's astrolling, like calling people who are interested in the links from Gates to Bush through Abramoff "gullible leftists". What's next is reverse astrolling: an organized campaign posting impossible rightwing conspiracy trolls, to paint any deduction of Republican fascism with a dismissable troll brush.

          The Watergate crowd seems to have only recently gotten the hang of exploiting Christianity. We're
          • Well, they're doing that rat thing here on Slashdot, and so on. I guess we need to trust the moderators to deal with the substance-free objection-for-its-sake postings, to correct over-moderation when necessary, to correct badly-motivated down-mods, and so on.

            It was nice when we could just have a discussion.

            Bruce

            • Unfortunately, they can be moderators as well...

              Who do you call when you can't trust the moderators...

              Me, I'm calling the A-Team *que A-Team theme song*

            • It was nice before alt.tasteless invaded rec.pets.cats too. And it was nice when it was DARPANet, and when it was BitNET. But there were fewer people to learn really different things from.

              We think we learned about metamods, but Slashdot's SW doesn't protect from the anonymous TrollMod. The metamods would be a lot more powerful if some social circuits were closed with a "web of trust" more than the current haphazard system.

              Meanwhile, I personally favor extreme politeness until betrayed even a little bit anon
            • It was nice when we could just have a discussion.

              It was nice when you weren't automatically assigned the role of conspirator just because you didn't believe in a conspiracy.

              I shouldn't have to provide definitive proof against a conspiracy in order to engage in this discussion. But until I prove the negative, I'm considered a "substance-free objection-for-its-sake" poster. Until I can prove that a Microsoft/Abramoff/Republican conspiracy to destroy Free Software does not exist, I'm just a ratfucker.

        •   One thing I've noticed is they tend to include subtle but important misdirections. The first two sentences in the post under discussion have one. It's kinda Reaganesque *dons flame retardant suit*

          SB
        • I am seeing some astroturfing from the pro-software-patent camp around this speech

          So in other words, if we don't believe in the big Microsoft/Abramoff/Republican conspiracy, then we're astroturfing? I think your paranoia is eating away at your rationality.
      • Moderation +1
            70% Insightful
            30% Overrated

        Abramoff's TrollMod minions don't want us talking about the White House bed he shares with Gates, because that's us working together to connect the dots by finding more evidence and logical connections.
    • Well, the point is that politicians in Massachussets were heavily lobbied to oppose ODF. Even the Governor, a presidential candidate, rated 2nd by the last Republican leadership congress and thus likely to be in the primary - seems to be doing some realpolitic about the lobbying.

      Hm, do we have no discovery process since Abramoff plead guilty? In that case we may never know what he was talking about. But he was working for Gates. Did he take a bullet for his boss by pleaing guilty?

      Bruce

      • Slashdot for grown-ups?

        I Would take that as a place where facts counts for more than suspicion.

        • by Anonymous Coward
          Well, of course facts counts for more than suspicion. Does that mean we can't discuss our suspicions?
      • by man_of_mr_e (217855) on Saturday April 08, 2006 @09:00PM (#15093114)
        Hm, do we have no discovery process since Abramoff plead guilty? In that case we may never know what he was talking about. But he was working for Gates. Did he take a bullet for his boss by pleaing guilty?

        It seems to me that, based on the amount of money spent on lobbying by Microsoft (some $360,000) they didn't hire abramhoff for much. They're well below average for abramhoff's clients, even though they were the #1 contributor to campaign funds.

        Microsoft learned back in the 90's that if you don't contribute to politicians funds, you have almost no voice on capital hill. Since then, they've been pretty strong in contributing to various campaigns, but of a largely bi-partison nature.

        Given the small amount of money spent on abramhoff, it seems unlikely that they hired him for much of anything serious.
      • Hm, do we have no discovery process since Abramoff plead guilty? In that case we may never know what he was talking about. But he was working for Gates. Did he take a bullet for his boss by pleaing guilty?

        it did strike me odd how *incredibly* fast everything was tidied up with a guilty plea in this case. my money was on a convenient stabbing in a holding cell, but this would have been second.

    • What this means is that Microsoft is using the same corrupt Republican lobby mechanism that many other big businesses use. They are buying favors in Congress...
    • This seem to be a nice set of coincidences, but nothing more. If you are going to allege something sinister, please do it with evidence or proof.


      what the fuck was abramoff doing for microsoft? mowing the grounds of the redmond campus?

  • by mOOzilla (962027) on Saturday April 08, 2006 @04:10PM (#15092077)
    So, is this the year of Desktop Linux?
    • by cmacb (547347) on Saturday April 08, 2006 @05:25PM (#15092389) Homepage Journal
      "So, is this the year of Desktop Linux?"

      Don't be silly! 2002 was the year of desktop Linux. The vast majority of people are now happily using Linux on their desktop, and Microsoft is deparately trying to grab back market share with Vista. Plus, I've heard the new Apple computers will now dual boot to Linux. They have to, after all thats where all the applications are now. Windows, really is going to be relegated to controller applications for cell phones and CD players. Its days as a full-sized computer OS are numbered.

      Oh... and Sony is going to buy Microsoft. I read it just today on Slashdot.
    • So, is this the year of Desktop Linux?

      Of course ! Like every other year !
    • Re:Desktop Linux (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Bruce Perens (3872) *
      To take a frivolous comment seriously, we seem to have folded up the vendor organization that used to do publicity for desktop linux - which I spoke for - in favor of efforts by OSDL, freedesktop.org, etc. Since I have a lot to do, that's no problem. But I'm available to give a speech about the desktop if anyone wants one.

      Bruce

    • I dunno. Is it the year for Desktop Windows or Desktop Mac yet? Because all major desktop platforms have serious usability problems.
  • When they finally catch the Zodiac Killer I'm sure Bruce Perens will try to find a "Microsoft angle" to him as well.

    This is nothing but FUD that plays right into the scandal of the day. Perens needs to provide some proof that Abramoff was directly involved in the ODF issue as part of a lobbying effort by Microsoft, Gate's dad or the Easter Bunny. Otherwise I'd say he needs to keep his conspiracy theories to himself.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 08, 2006 @04:29PM (#15092140)
    "It's interesting to note that Jack Abramoff, the lobbyist implicated in scandal with Republican Tom Delay, was employed by Bill Gates' dad's law firm "Preston Gates", a political proxy for Microsoft. Microsoft succeeded in lobbying both Republicans and Democrats to oppose ODF."

    What is interesting about it is the fact that it is lobbying. Lobbying is only organized, legalized bribery! Microsoft lobbies both Republicans and Democrats because it really doesn't care who is in power as long as they can buy the legislation they want. The fact that it was found illegal is something they will probably take care of with the next round of legislation (and partly paid for by Microsoft along with all other companies looking for a special favor).

    Republican, Democrat, who cares? What we must get rid of is the entire idea of "pay for legislation"!
    • Are you insinuating that we should be lobbying to make lobbying illegal?
    • An article several months ago in the Washington Post [washingtonpost.com] described more about how Jack Abramoff took money to influence congressional proceedings. In this case, it was to scuttle a bill that would have prohibited state lotteries from going online. As with his work with Indian casinos, Abramoff pulled strings to get otherwise anti-gambling members of Congress to vote against a law prohibiting companies like eLottery from conducting lotteries over the Internet.

      Oh, did I say "companies like"? Oops, no, just eLott

    • What is interesting about it is the fact that it is lobbying. Lobbying is only organized, legalized bribery! Microsoft lobbies both Republicans and Democrats because it really doesn't care who is in power as long as they can buy the legislation they want. The fact that it was found illegal is something they will probably take care of with the next round of legislation (and partly paid for by Microsoft along with all other companies looking for a special favor).

      Perverse though it may be, lobbyists are one

      • {sigh} well, to paraphrase Jack Nicholson from Mars Attacks, "... and I gotta tell ya, two outa three ain't bad."

        On the other hand, the rights granted to corporate entities are not enshrined in the Constitution: they are of much more recent vintage. If those were revoked or severely restricted, problems with undue influence in government might improve substantially. In any event, we aren't talking about "redress of grievances", in the sense that a organization is being unfairly impacted by the law. We ar
    • Sadly, only the Democrats seem inclined to do anything about unethical lobbying, and sadly, only are because they happen to be the party out of power. I fully expect the roles to reverse when the Dems get a few more members in congress.

      But not all lobbying is bad, even if backed by corporate money. Businesses do have a legitimate interest in getting their concerns before congress, and if a lobbyist is the only way to do it, then that's what they have to do. We wouldn't need lobbying in a fair world, but thi
      • You present a false dichotomy: "Businesses do have a legitimate interest in getting their concerns before congress, and if a lobbyist is the only way to do it, then that's what they have to do."

        You imply that lobbying is the only way for a business to address its concerns to congress. That is certainly NOT the case. Lobbying is a way for a business to press its concerns above those of the common people that can't afford to spend that money bribing their representative (or senator).

        There is nothing
  • by FishandChips (695645) on Saturday April 08, 2006 @05:07PM (#15092304) Journal
    There isn't much to be learned from this.

    We are given some rather improbable conspiracy theory around the ODF affair, a long wail about software patents, a few digs at Microsoft, some very tentative ideas about DRM and a slapdown of Linus Torvalds, something that now seems almost obligatory every time the big cheeses of the Linux world open their mouth. I wonder why they feel they have to run Torvalds down. Are they worried they won't be seen as following the correct right-on line and might be made to stand on their own in the playground? Frightened, perhaps, that Big Richard Stallman will say they are sissies and chuck them out of his gang? Whatever the reason it comes over as pretty darn unedifying.

    Articles about how awful the patent system is are ten a penny. What is very hard to find are folks who have thought this one through, have some cogent and realistic proposals, and who are prepared to build support for change among those in a position to change things. Anyway, it doesn't sound as if Mr Perens will be one. Big cheese massage sounds more his gig.
    • The patent think is kind of funny.

      (1) Bruce Perens' group claims that Linux might violate many Microsoft patents.
      (2) Steve Ballmer cites Perens' claim about Linux violating Microsoft patents
      (3) Perens says "SEE? Ballmer's out to get us!"

      Perens might not be helping Linux adoption, he's doing wonders for worldwide FUD production.
    • Or maybe they are trying to get Linus to understand that while he is "god" as far as the one particular piece of software goes when it comes to things that effect many hundreds of pieces of software he should try and act in a cooperative manner.
    • by jambarama (784670) <jambarama AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday April 09, 2006 @12:47AM (#15093715) Homepage Journal
      Articles about how awful the patent system is are ten a penny.

      Yep, everyone has one. Here is mine - copied from my blog http://jambarama.blogspot.com./ [jambarama.blogspot.com] As a warning it is long (really long) but I really put a lot of thought into this and I think I've proposed some good realistic solutions (not the "eliminate all patents" bull that gets posted to /. so often).

      What is a patent supposed to be?

      A patent is supposed to be a well defined property right that gives an owner (not necessarily inventor) a monopoly, or significant competitive advantage, on a device. It should be clear what the patent covers, enforceable, innovative and temporary.

      Why give monopoly power?

      Innovation has positive externalities. Meaning it benefits more than just the creator. A negative externality means that it is under-produced. To get around this problem, we give away temporary monopolies so that creators capture more (not all) of the benefits they produce for others. The temporary monopoly with the new invention makes people better off than not having the invention would.

      The trade off is that the workings of the invention must be public. Any expert in the field should be able to use your patent application to recreate your invention. That way, when the invention falls into the public domain, everyone may benefit. This is why the government offers patents.

      What are patents currently?

      Patents today are the right to TRY to exclude others from using a property right granted exclusively to you. They are not often innovative (prior art issues)1, often held invalid and most of the time not very well defined.

      Why do we care?

      This is actually a great question to always ask. So patents aren't doing what they were designed to do. So what? I argue there are many problems. Patents are designed to incent innovation. They may in fact discourage it (as we'll see later). Legitimate patents may be invalidated and the uncertainty with not knowing the validity of a patent has negative externalities (so it causes harm to many, so we have too much of it). Patents may deter entry into markets, so monopolies can be extended. Patents may harm consumer welfare. All these things are bad.

      Why are we so far off?

      In brief, because of a poor incentive system. It was designed just fine, but some problems crept up, weren't fixed and it has gotten worse. Don't believe me? Here are some statistics. In the United States there are 350,000 patents filed each year, and 200,000 accepted. That isn't to say that 150,000 are rejected, there is a backlog of about 750,000 patents as of 2004. Does anyone think there is that much innovation going on in the United States?

      Over-Patenting

      One of the biggest problems is over patenting. As the previous statistics should show, we are filing and receiving way too many patents. I don't know what the right number is, but we'll see that 350,000 a year must be too high.

      Over patenting is bad for a lot of reasons. Worthless patents swamp valuable ones in the examination process. Which patents are worth carefully examining? Patents on non-innovative ideas are terribly harmful to competition. The value of a patent (and enforceability) is diluted with frivolous patents.

      Problems with Filing a Patent

      Because patents are first come first receive, there is the incentive to file early to beat out competitors. Many patents are filed just in case a discovery turns out to matter in the future. If the inventor (usually a firm) doesn't know the value of a patent, there really is no way the PTO can know.

      The PTO bears the burden of proof. Meaning your application is considered valid until proven invalid. Patents are relatively inexpensive to file for (the fees differ on a number of factors) but since the PTO spends an average of 18 hours on each patent, they are relatively expensive to handle fo

      • Strengthening the patent system by asking the governments left arm to sue the right arm will not happen; would you expect a system to screw the people to be replaced by a system of the government screwing itself? To put it another way, the government would continually receive flak from all corners for doing so.

        Now strengthening the system by making what is patented sounds sensible. However this would lower the "success" metrics of patents/year and actually might allow non-US companies to sell innovative p

    • I have cogent and realistic proposal for the software patent system, namely shut it down. Entirely, immediately, and without compensation. Or perhaps you meant "a wimpy compromise that papers over the cracks and appeases vested interests"? Software patents are conceptually broken and no half-solution will improve them.

      A dog that sick, the only mercy is to shoot it quickly.
  • Abramoff (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Catbeller (118204)
    Abramoff worked for ANYBODY that would give him cash. His buddies of old, Ralph Reed, Norquist, would often take the opposing sides. And they made millions, unprecedented wealth, in using DeLay as an on/off switch for introducing or burying legislation. It was government for sale.

    And NO, kids, it was not business as usual. This is what happens when one party takes over everything, and that party only represents moneyed interests.
    • And NO, kids, it was not business as usual. This is what happens when one party takes over everything, and that party only represents moneyed interests.

      Slightly OT, but how do you know that? For one thing, both parties - I daresay the vast majority of politicians primarily represent moneyed interests. What scares the hell out of me isn't what Abramoff did, but the idea that there may be hundred more like him in Washington right now.
      • by Tony (765)
        Absolutely. And like the domestic spying issue or fabricated evidence for war in Iraq accusations, there's no incentive to investigate and uncover the truth (whatever the truth might be).

        I'm scared there may be more like Abramoff, and I'm pissed nobody is doing anything about it.

        The hesitation to address the issues speaks more about their guilt than any other evidence.
    • Re:Abramoff (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Catbeller (118204)
      The story was in the Rolling Stone, oh moderators. Not to mention every decent paper in the country for the last ten years or so. Ralph Reed, Norquist, and Abramoff were old buddies in the Reagan era college scene, and they've been part of the Dewey, Fleeceum and Howe circuit since at least then.

      Wird fact I read: Abramoff wrote "Red Scorpion", a movie produced basically by the South African secret service and the CIA. Interesting stuff: seems Abramoff got his start working as a factotum for the South Africa
  • knows his stuff (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PMuse (320639) on Saturday April 08, 2006 @05:10PM (#15092315)
    This is why reading Bruce is better than reading some random guy on slashdot. The man knows his stuff. Go RT whole FA. It's worth it just to hear some one say it straight without screwing something up.
  • Conspiracy theory (Score:2, Interesting)

    by layer3switch (783864)
    Am I the only one who think /. should have a tinfoil hat category besides Politics?

    Seriously, Mr. Bruce Perens couldn't have written a better script for Syriana II. I'll be blunt. ODF and GNUv3 rabbit hole doesn't go any deeper than the usual Bostonian political scuffle. Given enough spare time to ponder about politics, even Boston's Big-Dig project could be tided to Microsoft somehow.

    C'mon. We all know Microsoft's deep pocket reaches everyone, but the speculation forgets to mention that Open Source isn
    • by Bruce Perens (3872) * <bruce@perens.com> on Saturday April 08, 2006 @07:53PM (#15092937) Homepage Journal
      Even if Linux kernel violated SCO's patent, could anyone really stop Linux kernel development?

      Well, they could do a pretty decent job of stopping you from distributing it or using it anywhere that is publicly visible. Now, the law doesn't stop meth labs, but I don't want those who choose to develop or use Free Software to have to operate like a meth lab.

      It used to be that people thought that the law had no real mechanism that could touch the Internet. Enough people like Skylarov have gone to jail for writing the wrong software or have had their net worth made negative through the need to mount a legal defense against an unjust civil or criminal claim. I don't want Tridge or Jeremy Allison to go to jail for reverse-engineering Windows file and printer sharing or infringing on some improperly-granted patent. I don't want to go to jail for using it.

      Bruce

      • I don't want to go to jail for watching a DVD on Linux. Bad laws can and do make normal and harmless activity very difficult. Honest people should be able to do honest things in the open.


      •   Someone with mod points mod this up.
      • "Enough people like Skylarov have gone to jail for writing the wrong software"

        He was the first to be prosecuted under US DMCA section 1201(b)(1)(A), prohibition on trafficking in a circumvention technology because FBI wasn't competent enough to know Sklyarov didn't own the software, but ElcomSoft did. Even Adobe realized the mistake later and asked for release of Sklyarov. But that is not to say that what ElcomSoft did was wrong. I am simply saying, Federal case against Sklyarov was dropped, and our lega
    • Amazing Spin. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by twitter (104583) on Saturday April 08, 2006 @10:23PM (#15093335) Homepage Journal
      Mr. Bruce Perens, to me, sounds bitter and impatient how ODF and Open Source is being adapted around the country, and the world.

      Who says that rate is slow? ODF is less than a year old. [wikipedia.org] Yet, two state governments have moved adopt it. Can you name any other technology state governments have adopted so quickly?

      Let's look at what Peren is angry about again:

      [Character Assasination via Boston Globe] ... Microsoft succeeded in lobbying both Republicans and Democrats to oppose ODF. ... There's a chilling effect that stems from the harassment of Quinn: other government CIOs are being scared away from the Open Format issue because now they know that Microsoft will do its best to end their careers if they even try.

      That's hardly what you have charged.

      I'd like to see you address any of that with more than insults and "say it aint so." The short of it is that M$ used it's money and influence to bamboozle decision makers, the public and other CTO's. The CTO's, who are more difficult to fool than the others, are being threatened. The facts of the case seem to support Perens on all of the above.

      If you are not angry about the end of Quinn's career over file formats, you have not thought enough about it.

      • Again, this is no surprise. You misunderstood my post. First, I wasn't insulting or attacking anyone. I was simply stating the current political baffle that is going on in Boston. Gavin and Pacheco had long standing grudge against Mass. republican party since Jane Swift. Gavin is on the prowl to take over Romney, and Pacheco is just a dimwit following democratic party line with fellow dickard, Gavin. IBM and Sun is behind ODF in Boston where probably very significant portion of Mass's diminishing soft
        • Again, this is no surprise. You misunderstood my post.

          Less insulting than "bitter and impatient" and redirected but still insulting.

          this is politics, not Matrix. Quinn's getting the boot isn't some mighty act of evil genius, but rather piling BS that is going on in Boston's Politics as Usual.

          More of the same, "Say it ain't so," and it's no harder to understand than it is likely. The CTO is not a political position. File formats are not the kinds of things politicians battle over because no one cares

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