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GNU is Not Unix

Lutris, Close Source, And The Open Source Community 186

sohp writes "Back in mid-September Slashdot ran the story "Lutris Closes Enhydra Source" regarding that company's decision to retract its open source licensing terms. Now George C. Hawkins has reconstructed the pre-closed source reality and discusses it at How Lutris betrayed the Open Source Community . Short summary: blaming Sun was a smokescreen. Interesting use of web archive sites, too." There's definitely a lot of strong feelings against Lutris in the linked piece, but there's also a lot of validity as well.
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Lutris, Close Source, And The Open Source Community

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  • Deception... (Score:2, Interesting)


    While it really sucks that they would promote a product as open source and then change their minds when it became less popular, there really isn't very much that can be done in such a situation, as from my understanding of the article the code was never actually released under an open source license, so there really isn't any legally binding commitment to open source on their part, just a lot of hot air from various executives.
    Duplicity isn't exactly new among the human race, the lesson to be learned from this article is that just because someone claims to support open source doesn't mean that you shouldn't be skeptical of them, particularly when money is involved. Suspicions should have been raised when the code never showed up, none of it was ever released. Other than vigilence, all that can be really done is remembering who's shafted you in the past and try not to do business with them in the future.
    • There is a way out of this - it's called the GPL. If InstantDB had been GPLd before it was sold to Lutris, they wouldn't have been able to shut off the old versions in the same way they have done here. Realising this, they may not have even closed sourced it in the first place.
      • They didn't shut off old versions. They merely took all the submitted work and closed future verisons, no?

        And if it was GPL, it wouldn't have changed anything; if it was sold to them, by the copyright owners, they are not bound by the license.
    • From the article:

      InstantDB is strange in that it was often referred to as an open source product by many (including Lutris employees), but no one outside Lutris ever actually got to see the source.

      This should have been a great big flashing neon sign right there folks. If no one outside the originating company gets to see the fsckin' source, it AIN'T OPEN SOURCE. How much more simple can you get?

      This strikes me, not as a case of an open source program getting closed off by a greedy company, but as a greedy company, who had been lying and calling their (up to then) freeware (not in the GNU sense of free, free as in beer), "open-source" in order to get the warm fuzzy reputation that brings, then backpedalling when they couldn't turn a profit with that. Lutris's deceit was not in closing off the software, but in lying and saying it was OSS in the first place.

      -Kasreyn
  • by Spootnik ( 518145 ) on Sunday October 14, 2001 @04:47AM (#2426411)
    Another alternative to Lutris Enhydra Java/XML Application Server is Orion Server. This application server was one of the first fully J2EE compliant application servers, even before WebLogic. It is 100% Java. It supports both EJB and JNDI. It is FREE for development. I follow their list group and they seem to have a very good following. I find the product to be very easy to configure and deploy. It is worth evaluating.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 14, 2001 @04:49AM (#2426417)
    OK.

    Seriously.

    How hard can it be to expect that the SUBJECT LINES in a story get at least a second look to make sure that there are not typos in the FIRST TWO WORDS?

  • It's totally wrong for a company to screw over its contributors like Lutris apparently did. If they promised to deliver an open-source version then they should have, especially after people contributed to it.

    Having said this, I wonder what can be done. It would really depend on the licensing. It doesn't look like this was ever released under an open source license so it seems that people have no recourse.

    Though, it would be an interesting twist if people had GPLed their contributions and Lutris was using them in a closed-source implementation. Things could potentially get messy for them there. Test case for GPL maybe? Though I doubt it would ever get that far.

    Though, unfortunately I don't think anything is going to happen here. Having read the page, I don't think Lutris did anything that is legally wrong. Whether they acted in good faith or not is a totally different question, but unfortunately one that is irrelevant when it comes to such things.
    • Re:What can be done? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by crucini ( 98210 )
      I missed the part where anyone outside Lutris contributed to the code (after its acquisition). How could they contribue when the source was never released? Could you point me to this please?
    • FRAUD: noun: specifically a : intentional perversion of truth in order to induce another to part with something of value or to surrender a legal right (See DECEIT, TRICKERY) b : an act of deceiving or misrepresenting (See TRICK)
  • by augustz ( 18082 ) on Sunday October 14, 2001 @04:52AM (#2426423) Homepage
    But I'd say in all honesty that folks can distribute InstantDB free of charge. If someone tells you something in a form that can be verified somehow, and you base decisions on that in good faith, then there it's not as easy for the company to balk out as it might like to think.

    That said, a concerted effort should be made to unsupport InstantDB. Contacting their customers directly can be usefull. I've already started with those that I could identify in a few seconds, and will be making the rounds when I get more info.

    These are companies doing business with lutris and folks may want to be cautious doing business with them if they are working with what appears to be a con artist:

    room33
    indiqu
    gravityrock.com
    paremus
    rarefire technologies
    i-engineering.com
    inet6/inetsys
    mobiltee
    eApps
    eSavio

    Lutris is also laying off employee's, sending the following email:

    I am disappointed to inform you that you will be in the group of 35 employees being laid off
    tomorrow. Sometime in the next half hour, a company executive will bring you a packet of
    information for you to read this evening. Once you have received this packet, please take
    the remainder of the day off. You must leave your computer here in your cubicle at Lutris.
    --

    Great to see someone pull together some pretty weasily threads, in the real world these folks would be scum. If someone could list the names of the folks on these threads that were in the weasel dept I'd appreciate that for future reference, you never know where they will turn up again, these scum have a nasty tendency to jump the ships they sink.

    Please rember that the above is a rather uninformed opinion based on the information I read on the net, Do your own DD before basing decisions on it of course...
    • If someone tells you something in a form that can be verified somehow, and you base decisions on that in good faith, then there it's not as easy for the company to balk out as it might like to think.

      IAALS (I Am A Law Student)...I'm not so sure. Since nobody paid for the download, and nor did they enter into a formal "will code for distribution rights" agreement, there's no contract here, so you can't get Lutris for breach. As far as I can tell, you're referring to the idea of equitable estoppel, but the tests for that to apply are fairly difficult to pass (generally, Lutris's action in reneging would have to be "unconscionable", plus a pre-existing contract, but hey, you and I probably live in different jurisdictions), and I'm not sure this situation passes those tests. It's possible that companies who use InstantDB as a vital part of their operations would get out of paying the distribution fee.

      Great to see someone pull together some pretty weasily threads, in the real world these folks would be scum. If someone could list the names of the folks on these threads that were in the weasel dept I'd appreciate that for future reference, you never know where they will turn up again, these scum have a nasty tendency to jump the ships they sink.

      Agreed, although I prefer the term "leech".

      • IAALS (I Am A Law Student)...
        *sigh* Not only that but apparently, judging from your phrases...
        nor did they enter into a formal "will code for distribution rights" agreement [...] there's no contract here, so you can't get Lutris for breach [...] referring to the idea of equitable estoppel, but the tests for that to apply [...] live in different jurisdictions [...]
        ... you are already drifting to the dark side. You begin to confuse reality with sophistic word games.

        They promised the thing with free distribution rights. Nobody is arguing to sue them - the question is if they have a argument if they sue you for illegal distribution.

        Common sense says they don't.

        f.
        • That to which I referred can be used both for attack and defense, depending upon your circumstances. Perhaps I should have expressed myself more fully. Regardless, I don't see why Lutris can't revoke rights they have given gratuitously (again, it depends on the circumstances). But copyright/IP aren't areas of law with which I am fully familiar.

          Common sense says they don't.

          Common sense doesn't count for squat in court. What is your argument in law? :/

          • Regardless, I don't see why Lutris can't revoke rights they have given gratuitously.
            If I give you a piece of bread, and say "This is a gift. Use it to your liking", can I come later and ask a price for that bread, once you have eaten it ?
            Common sense doesn't count for squat in court. What is your argument in law?
            The court is the servant of the people. Common sense is what keeps society working. If what you say is actually right courts better start remembering what their role is.

            f.
          • No. This is not a matter of formal law, this is a matter of hidden law [nationalreview.com]. These people are scum, they should be be boycotted and shunned, and any company they run should be treated the same.
    • Damn those bastards. Always with the making money! What the hell is wrong with them?

      Yeah Yeah, I know, the open source community has a set of more or less unwritten rules which you should follow when you play in that arena. Not doing so is at the very least dishonorable. Unfortunately companies have their own set of rules and honor (And just about everything else, often including ethics and legality) tends to take a back seat to making money. You can't trust the corporate world not to stab you in the back because they will for a buck. The corporate world will use you while it's convient, fuck you the moment you cease to be useful and sue you if you try to bitch about it. Don't ever trust those assholes.

  • Oh well. (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Turned out to be shareware I guess. Other databases out there you know.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Does this remind anyone of what happened with CDDB and Gracenote?

    This time, it wasn't just a voluntary community donation like people's submissions to CDDB. It was actual WORK that developers spent a significant amount of time on hoping that the project would be of future use to them.

    This proves that even the comfort than an open source license gives to developers, can't prevent a company from acting in bad faith and running away with the results of their sleepless nights, endless frustration, and aggravated (or now non-existent) spouses.

    The moral? Don't deal with a company, even under the pretense of community service, unless you know *exactly* what their intentions are, and you've taken steps to prevent them from acting contrary to the reasons you bothered to be involved in the first place.

    All the complaining and licensing in the world won't protect us from cutthroats. We've got to watch our own asses out there.
    • Wow. Talk about naive. The moral is very obviously simply don't write code for free. Period. There's absolutely no point in coding for free when you can do the exact same thing and be compensated for it.
    • Show us the licence (GPL preferred), show us the CVS tree/open database/etc.. Otherwise, shut up about being "open source".

      Folks, there have been con-men from the dawn of time. A true, published open-source licence is a enforcable contract with the community - accept no substitutes (promises, promises).

    • This proves that even the comfort than an open source license gives to developers ----> That's the crux of the problem here, though. THERE WAS NO OPEN SOURCE LICENSE. There were promises made, promises that the license would be made open source "soon", but "soon" never came. And now it appears that "soon" will not be coming in the future either.

      The moral? Don't deal with a company, even under the pretense of community service, unless you know *exactly* what their intentions are -----> Agreed. The moral is to insure that if an open source license is to be put into place, insure that it is indeed put into place, then work on the project if you choose. But don't accept a "maybe someday soon" answer; everyone can now see that "on a handshake" is only a reliable way to do things when you are dealing with intrinsically honourable, and unfortunately corporations don't fit that definition.
  • by Skuto ( 171945 ) on Sunday October 14, 2001 @05:20AM (#2426448) Homepage
    OpenDivX vs. DivX4

    Use the open source community to test & improve your stuff for you, and then close things down and make money with it.

    Hey, it seems to be a succesfull formula! Any more examples of stuff like this happening?

    I know of one: http://www.freechess.org

    Take GPL code, improve it a little, and then sell it off (to the USCL in this case). Doesn't matter it's a GPL violation...the author can't prove anything anyway, unless he pays $$$ lawyers.

    --
    GCP
  • by mj6798 ( 514047 ) on Sunday October 14, 2001 @05:32AM (#2426461)
    If the open source development was carried out under a reasonable open source license, like BSD, GPL, or LGPL, it doesn't matter if the company wants to take further development private: the open source version continues to be open source, and any enhancements made to the open source version, through feedback or contributions, will continue to be open source.

    Furthermore, nobody can make source "closed source" if they don't own it. So, if the open source community made valuable contributions and those became a key part of this software, the company can't make it closed source. The fact that they can suggests to me that few such contributions have come in.

    Friends can betray you. But in business, and open source is part of the business world, what matters is contracts and licenses. If business partners violate contracts, you take them to court. Otherwise, if you don't like the license under which a piece of open source software is delivered or accepts contributions, don't use it and don't contribute to it. And if there is a possibility that some open source software with an otherwise OK license goes "closed source", you should keep frequent public mirrors of the open source versions so that open source development can continue when the need arises.

    There are plenty of pieces of software that are semi-open where I have said "no thanks" (I won't name names, but I have complained about them enough on /.). I suggest others pay a little more attention to licenses as well before investing their time and effort in using or enhancing other people's software.

    • The enforcement of the open source license depends on the users already having source. This was an open (what) source license. Nobody outside of the company has access to the source code, so nobody other than the company can make upgrades, changes, etc.

      Given that the company made it very clear that the product was open source, and freely re-distributable, it may be possible to claim ... I think that the legal word is 'enjoinder' ... and continue to (re)distribute the available binaries. For future binaries, the question of enjoinment becomes much more debatable.

      IANAL... I just like thinking in the space.

      • In any case, I'm going to use the word enjoinder here, because I can't come up with the correct word, and the word enjoinder keeps coming into my head... When some legal eagle recognizes what I'm talking about, please supply the correct word for people to substitute.

        'enjoinder' is the polite legal way of saying "you lied to me you bastard, but I'm going to hold you to your word". It basically is the principle that if someone got you to do something based on a lie, you can continue to act as if the lie were sincerely meant... depending on the jurisdiction, this may go as far as forcing the liar to live up to the lie. What this boils down to is that, if 'enjoinder' applies here, people should, at the very least, be able to continue to distribute the old binaries based on the public promises that they were, and would continue to be, free to do so.

        It may even extend so far as to be able to get a court injunction forcing the company to release their current sources so that people can use it as open source.

        Any real lawyers out there that can say what word I'm talking about?

      • Nobody outside of the company has access to the source code, so nobody other than the company can make upgrades, changes, etc.

        But wait. Isn't there a "last open source snapshot" out there from just before they closed the source? If so, then you can make upgrades. If not, then noone cared about the program much so who cares anyway? If the license was under BSD/X, then the company has done something disappointing, but perfectly legal and a good example of what the GPL is designed to prevent. I don't think the GPL is always the best option, but if you want to make sure something is always available, then you should use it and not one of the other licenses. If the Luthis license was GPL, and other people contributed code and licensed their code under the GPL, then the company is in violation of the GPL. Otherwise, the whiners are just crybabies who don't understand the rules of the game.

        I have a little open source project under the X license right now. At some future date, I may decide to make it commercial, and stop development of the open source branch. So what? I can do that in either of two cases. 1. I wrote all the code. 2. The license allows me to do that. You could cry all you wanted about me being a meanie, but you wouldn't make me feel bad, even if I had done all the coding and released it under the GPL and then closed it. The only thing the licenses guarantee is that the specific version with the open license will remain open.
        • Did you even read the story? Or click on any of the links? If you did, you are illiterate. The whole problem was that they were promising to release the source code, but never got around to it.
          • OIC you're right. I read about 1 paragraph, and I stopped reading about here:

            " i.e. co-opting the help of the open source community in developing a product "

            I just assumed that "help of the open source community" meant that people had the code and were contributing code, and were whining because Luthis stopped releasing updates. I didn't realize that people got pissed because they got suckered into being beta testers.

            Having read the rest of it, I still don't see what the big deal is. If the people have executables under an open source license (they did check right?) then they can still use them regardless of the chest-puffing luthis wants to engage in. If not, then people should have checked. It sucks, but it looks like there was never anything open there to start with. There's one born every minute, and luthis found a whole herd of them. Shrug.
            • I can see why people are mad. They got the big stiffy here. But, I can't help but think they were a little naive(sp?) for building their own products around it without assuring the licensing was going to permit them future usage. Seems a little financially reckless to me.
    • So, if the open source community made valuable contributions and those became a key part of this software...

      I didn't see any mention of such code contributions in the article. My understanding from reading the article is:
      1. The product was always closed source. The source was never publicly visible or released under any open source license.
      2. Nobody contributed to the product except Lutris employees and the original (commercial) developers.
      3. The complaint is that people wrote code that uses the product, in the expectation that the product would soon be open source.

      I agree with you about the problem of pseudo-free licenses, but that does not seem to be what is happening here.
      • Enhydra itself was open source at some point. InstantDB may not have been. In either case, I think the lesson is: don't rely on promises. Unless it has an open source license and you have the sources, it isn't open source.
      • Nobody contributed to the product except Lutris employees and the original (commercial) developers.

        Depends on how you define contribution. I'm sure the people who were using the Lutris binaries would consider themselves to be contributing if they were performing beta-testing. Their expectation was that the final product would be open-source. If you read the article, you will understand why: the company's website used "open source" all over the place, and the company's representatives gave presentations at public meetings with "open source" in the title...

        I think the lesson here is: don't trust a company. If they say you should help out, believe them when you have the code on your hard disk, not before. Read the fine print.

  • by gotan ( 60103 ) on Sunday October 14, 2001 @05:44AM (#2426475) Homepage
    InstantDB is strange in that it was often referred to as an open source product by many (including Lutris employees), but no one outside Lutris ever actually got to see the source.

    "Open Source" isn't a trademarked expression, so people should watch out if someone is calling something "Open Source". There is a telltale sign: the source itself, and a licence attached to it, that gives anyone the right to do development of the source and distribute the source further under the same conditions. It should also ensure that this will continue to be so in the future. That license may be BSD or GPL or something similar, but it has to be there, together with the source. Unless that happened the thing is simply not open source.

    This only serves as an example, that people should be more aware of the difference between marketing speech and what actually is reality. "Open Source" is a good 'brandmark' for marketing some products, even Microsoft tries to benefit from that with their "Shared Source". Now with Microsoft everyone understood the difference between marketing talk and what really happens. Why isn't the same scrunity applied to the rest of the business? If someone announces they will "soon" go Open Source the answer should be (more or less): "Fine, when?". When they fail to get their stuff together and fail to show some of the source (hey, we even have a term for that, it's vaporware) some scathing remarks and general awareness of foulplay should come up a little earlier than more than a year after the announced date, and a fait accompli, so the rest of the community knows them as the jokers they are and they get some negative publicity (after they cashed in on the Open Source "Trademark").

    This is not meant to be critique about the article, it is asking, why the issue was raised so late and hoping the next time people will be more alert.
  • by Carl ( 12719 ) on Sunday October 14, 2001 @05:46AM (#2426479) Homepage
    The root of the problem is that Lutris tried to build a free software (open source) product on top of some software libraries that are not Free Software. So they had a very bad case of vendor lockin. (Or at least they could tell a plausible story that Sun didn't want them to do wathever they wanted to do with their own product.) So the moral of the story is either don't use a proprietary (closed source/source behind glass, etc) foundation for your Free application. Or help one of the projects that make free alternatives for those closed foundations.

    Please checkout GNU Classpath [gnu.org] and GNU ClasspathX extensions [gnu.org]or the Gnu Compiler for Java [gnu.org] if you are really interested in Free solutions for Java. Without those free foundations, Java programs will never be truely Free Software!

    • Please get your facts right before trolling.

      GNU Classpath and its related projects, while trying to fulfill the noble goal of creating an open source implementation of the Java Runtime Environment, has nothing to do with Litris' "predicament". Sun's JRE (and a number of others, notably the IBM's JRE) can be used freely to execute any kind of software, and is fully compatible with open source.

      As the article and many people here have pointed out before, it is easily demonstratable that the whole issue is a smoke screen -- equivalent open source projects (e.g. JBoss) have never had problems with Sun.

      Sun's policy in respect to Java (including the JRE) has been to provide a mechanism for the definition of standard specifications via the Java Community Process [jcp.org], and let players in the market provide different implementations of those specifications. The JCP is also obliged to provide a reference implementation and a compatibility testing suite to ensure that different implementations work well with each other. The whole idea is precisely to avoid vendor lock-in and to promote excellence via competition between different implementations (compare this with .NET). This policy plays very well with open source, since it allows the open source community to create competitive and highly compatible implementations of those standards. JBoss (an open source implementation of the J2EE specification) is excellent example of that.

  • by Elwood P Dowd ( 16933 ) <judgmentalist@gmail.com> on Sunday October 14, 2001 @05:47AM (#2426480) Journal
    One quote from one of the emails [enhydra.org]:

    - 2) Over the past year, several of us received explicit permission from Lutris to use InstantDB without payment. We have proceeded on that assurance. I don't believe Lutris can unilaterally and arbitrarily rescind that. Nor do I think Lutris can limit that approval to those to whom it was explicitly extended.

    Uh, can we get a lawyer in here? If I'm not completely insane, it sounds like *any* venture that was operating under the understanding that InstantDB would be available free of charge could absolutely sue Lutris for the cost of migration? I imagine that this will not happen, just because the cost of migration will probably be a lot less than the cost of legal action. Isn't Lutris responsible for these sorts of assurances? Hell, is there a case for fraud?

    I realize that the answer to all of these questions might be "no" but I don't see why.
  • Since Java is so incredibly easy to decompile
    how about decompiling it, reconstructing the
    source and distributing it as open source?
    What licence did it come with when originally
    distributed?
    • Or you could download the source [sun.com], but that doesn't mean you can do whatever you want with it.
    • That is unfortunately illegal my friend. How about reverse engineering Pentium 4 and build another one with another name and sell it for 50% less that what Pentium 4 costs? can you do that?

      There is a very fatal misundestanding in the open source community that people thinks it is all their right to get a commercial software reverse it and make it open source. This is a very big mistake; it is no different than the Pentium example I have given above. You will be prosecuted by any means by the company who owns the intellectual rights to the software, and I think they have all the rights to do so. If you are impotent of producing a software from scratch, It is better you stay away from open source development.

      Do it yourself and make it open source; if you can of course.
      • Scuse me, but you've forgotten
        IDT/WinChip-
        short lived, but a nice example of a chip that claimed to be reverse engineered.

        Cyrix- National Semiconductor, and later IBM's take on an x86 chip.

        AMD- yes, they had to pay licensing to Intel for many a year from their 486 work.

        Perhaps you didn't choose the best of examples.
    • Yeah, and GPL licensed programs are incredibly easy to get source for. How about we get the source, steal the code and integrate it into our commerical products?

      (ok, a bit of tongue and cheek).
  • by jcr ( 53032 )
    Sorry, but I just can't get upset about this.

    It's something I never would have considered using, any more than I'd have chosen an MP3 decoder written in COBOL.

    -jcr
    • Wow. Talk about clueless. What do you think Oracle is written in?
      • > What do you think Oracle is written in?

        C++. Possibly C. Oracle has been around a lot longer than Java. It contains a JVM now, it certainly doesn't run on one. If it's written in Java now, you bet your ass it's compiled, in which case it's almost identical to C++ (object layout and vtables and all).
      • If you think Oracle's written in Java, then you've been smoking too many Sun brochures.

        -jcr
    • That post meets all athe hallmarks of a troll, and it gets a (at this time) "4, Insightful?"

      As the poster states, he has no exposure to Java RDBMS systems, so he obviously has no clue what he is talking about. There are many [R,OR,O]DBMS out there, and they clearly fill a niche. PointBase and CloudScape (both competitors to InstantDB) are highly complete, high perfoming databases.

      And (just to me mean): They both have beter SQL support that MySQL...
      • >As the poster states, he has no exposure to Java RDBMS systems, so he obviously has no clue what he is talking about.

        FYI, kid: I've dealt with databases in some very high-demand applications (such as supporting derivatives trading operations, where the database was the legal "system of record"), and if you're defending the idea of writing an RDBMS in Sun's travesty of a programming language, then you're the one who doesn't know what he's talking about.

        Java has no business running outside of a web browser.

        -jcr
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Those of us who use Zope [zope.org] are feeling much better than the Enhydra crowd these days. We've know for years that the rug would one day come out from underneath them just like it did with the Ars Digita community.

    Zope Corporation [zope.com] has been moving in the complete oposite direction as Lutris and AD. They've recently opened their CVS [zope.org] to community check-ins, and are working with RMS to make their already open-source license GPL compatable.

    When Zope Corporation hired the PythonLabs team, they heartily agreed to turn over the copyright of Python [python.org] to Guido van Rossum [python.org] personally, to be later transfered to the a community led Python Software Foundation [python.org] a non-profit organization whose members consist of all of the developers who have CVS check-in ability.

    It's obvious (to me, at least) that you can't build a sucessful open-source application based on a closed source platform like Java. Sooner or later, the virus of commercialism will invade the mindset of all the layers above it. Immagine if Apache, or Emacs were written in a closed source language. They would not be what they are today.

    So, hopefully all those folks will learn their lesson and switch to a real open source object-oriented web application platform like Zope.

    • Speaking of Zope, when are Perl external methods going to become an official part of Zope? I have a perl project that's currently mod_perl that I'm itching to connect to Zope as well (no I'm not porting it to python unless someone wants to port Template Toolkit to python also)
    • Note that the Zope license is incompatible with the GPL [gnu.org]. Something to consider before you start using it.
      • Note that the Zope license is incompatible with the GPL [gnu.org]. Something to consider before you start using it.

        Did you even read the article your are responding to? To quote:

        They've recently opened their CVS [zope.org] to community check-ins, and are working with RMS to make their already open-source license GPL compatable.

        BTW: This incompatability really is no problem. Under what circumstances would you need GPL-compatibility of Zope?
    • Mr Coward wrote: N\It's obvious (to me, at least) that you can't build a sucessful open-source application based on a closed source platform like Java. Sooner or later, the virus of commercialism will invade the mindset of all the layers above it. Immagine if Apache, or Emacs were written in a closed source language. They would not be what they are today.

      I quite disagree: all sorts of open source offerings were written on top of closed source platforms, notably Unix operating systems, by writing to stable and published interfaces. For example, Emacs!

      I also think Mr. Coward (Noel?) is confusing closed source platforms (eg, OSs, runtimes) and languages (eg, C, Java).

      Finally, he suggests that closed source is a virus: if that were true, the converse would be true, and Microsoft would be "justified" in trying to prevent the use of open source operating systems and software with their closed-source OSs... for fear it will take over the minds of their lawyers.

      I, for one, am not prepared to agree to that kind of arguement: I suspect Noel's not going to want to either!
      --dave

  • Welp, it's better than "far source" anyway!
  • IANAL (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dxnxax ( 225294 )
    But it seems to me that Lutris made a verbal contract with developers that they would open source the product. They went so far as to put that verbal contract in writing in various emails and on the web pages that this guy was able to pull out of his cache (pun intended).

    Perhaps Eben Moglen would have an opinion about this?

    Dan Barber
    Mojolin: Linux, Unix and embedded jobs and resumes [mojolin.com]
  • I don't know if the company deliberatly set out to con the Open Source community or not, probably not. Some of its employees (and the creator of the project) seem to have honestly believed that the product was going to be Open Source, and management was probably kinda willing to try it... until they realized they would not make money this way.

    I think they, and many of the outside developers that bought into their promises forgot a couple of general rules about Open Source:

    You can only hope (and that's only a hope!) to make money of an Open Source project if it is already stable and widely used.

    Open Source is a very good way to overcome the barrier to entry in a market where the network effect rules: it allows the project to grow and to gain market share without a company having to survive the initial phase in which no money can be made from it.

    MySQL (for MySQL AB),, Apache (for IBM), Sendmail Linux itself are good examples of that. I don't know of any attempt at creating an Open Source product from scratch that allowed a company to succed, Eazel for example died a predictable death.

    Oh, and it does not hurt to create server-side software, clients don't pay! (At least Lutis had gotten that right).

    This should be a quick rule to figure out if it's worth investing time and energy in an Open Source (or "nearly, soon, but not quite yet OS ;--) project. Chances are that a company, especially a small company will not be able to afford waiting for the product market to be big enough to sustain itself on associated services.

    • I applied to work at Lutris back in the "Pre-IPO! Pre-IPO!" days and the feeling I had was that Lutris was going to give away the software and make their money by

      A) Using it to build sites for customers
      B) Charge support fees from anyone else who picked it up, used it, and needed help. C) Continue to serve as sole arbeiter of development on Enhydra, which conveniently discourages competing parties from doing the same.

      Not a bad model, really, just that the bottom fell out of the e-tailing industry wasn't in their plan.

      I knew some day this would happen. Development of internet enterprises would begin consolidation, as there's still a lot of money in it, and we would end up with a few large companies holding sway. Microsoft has been working in this direction for years...too bad for them they don't have a decent server.

  • by wolf- ( 54587 )
    This author did a great deal of terrific research to backup his concerns. Props to him, enjoyed the read. We had actually tested Enhydra here, looking at using it for the base of a new product. I think I may still have some of the original cds too. Now if all article submitters to slashdot would do this much research, I might have to start reading more of the stories.
  • by Anonymous Coward


    how many times have i seen this happen?

    (open source == alive)

    while it may not always be true, because of a lack of interest, talent, etc., the one saving grace is because it is open source, someday someone somewhere can extend the software for the benefit of everyone.

    (closed source == dead) is always the case, with so few exceptions to this rule that they are relegated into two statistical anomalies;

    namely:

    1) illegal monopolies
    2) idiot programmers

    the requirement that the monopoly and/or programmer to still be around 'a few years from now' relegates the usefulness of their code to an ever-dwindling statistic.

    when are programmers, and the people who hire them, going to realize that their programs might actually outlive the original authors?

    open source means your efforts might live forever.

    closed source means you are doomed from the start.

    if the agriculture of wheat was closed source, there would be a lot fewer people eating bread.

    programs are the wheat that feeds computers.

  • by The Pim ( 140414 ) on Sunday October 14, 2001 @09:21AM (#2426641)
    Plenty of free software implements proprietary standards (Mesa, Lesstif, all the *nix utilities in GNU, really). This has typically not been a legal problem, so I don't understand why implementing J2EE might be a legal problem. Perhaps someone can enlighten me.

    My understanding is that J2EE comes from Sun in basicall three parts: specification and other documentation in natural language; the Java API; and a sample implementation. I think these parts are fairly distinct. I want to know which of these is the "problem".

    Obviously, every implementor must make use of the documentation. Normally, this does not taint an implementation, but Lutris claims [newsforge.com] that "reading the specification for J2EE forces the reader to agree to the SCSL [sun.com]". The J2EE specification license [sun.com] I can find doesn't say that. Though it is fairly restrictive, it doesn't seem to prohibit a free implementation. So is the specification a problem or not?

    The JBoss response [jboss.org] says that JBoss uses "seven jars" from Sun. I'm guessing these jars define the API, ie, they consist entirely of interfaces, abstract classes, and (maybe) trivial classes. Is this necessary? Most free implementations of proprietary API's include their own header files as free software. Does Sun claim a copyright on the API itself? What is the legal status of such claims, since there is basically only one way to express an API? Or did JBoss simply choose not to write their own versions?

    Finally, does Enterprise Enhydra use essentially the same Sun classes as JBoss, or do they borrow some of the sample implementation as well? Do they claim that their commercial nature, or some pre-existing agreement with Sun, makes their situation different?

    Thanks if you can untangle this.

    • I thought the article made it clear that the Sun licensing issues were a smoke screen. That being the case let's move on and lynch Lutris.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      don't understand why implementing J2EE might be a legal problem

      It isn't, really. But the J2EE certification does not allow Open Source implementation. If you want to be "J2EE certified" you cannot distribute the source. Which is the reason JBoss does not claim to be certified.

      So is the specification a problem or not?

      No, it isn't.

      does Enterprise Enhydra use essentially the same Sun classes as JBoss

      JBoss has a "clean room" implementation of the Sun J2EE API classes. The license for these on most parts is "for internal use only". However, there some jars that are not part of the J2EE paltofrm (at least not yet) that are licensed using the standard Sun Binary License with the supplemental terms which allows the distribution of binaries if they're kept unchanged. JBoss does redistribute some of these libraries as the license clearly allows this.

      • If you want to be "J2EE certified" you cannot distribute the source.

        Ok, that makes sense. But then Lutris could distribute an uncertified free version of their product, in parallel with a certified non-free edition of the exact some bits (minus source). (They would need to get a special agreement from external contributers, but that can be arranged.)

        JBoss has a "clean room" implementation of the Sun J2EE API classes.

        Good.

        However, there some jars that are not part of the J2EE platform (at least not yet) that are licensed using the standard Sun Binary License

        Huh? If they're not part of J2EE, why does JBoss need or want them? What do they do? Can you run JBoss without them? (Ie, is the core of JBoss entirely free?)

  • There is an anternative RDBMS to instantDB. It's called HypersonicSQL [sourceforge.net] and it's been implemented in Java. I don't know if it has as many features as IDB, but you have an open alternative. HSQL it's BSD'ed BTW.
  • this is really not a disaster, since lutris products actually suck a whole lot. Believe me. Ugly, confused, disorganzied, buzzword-driven design. But here's jboss [jboss.org] to save the day. Use it if you're doing server-side work in java.
  • Dont wory about it... JBoss is still here. It was and IS the best open source J2EE app server out! It has features the biggies don't even have.

    jboss.org [jboss.org]

    Regards,
    Hiram
  • JBoss won (Score:4, Informative)

    by protected ( 196485 ) on Sunday October 14, 2001 @11:25AM (#2426964)
    I've been using JBoss for over a year now. It's full featured, is very fast, has a small footprint, and is just generally a brilliant piece of work. Enhydra Enterprise was a long-term vaporware effort -- at least until recently. There were alphas and betas for over a year, but it just never seemed to become ready.

    In addition, JBoss is elegant. It is modular and based on JMX. You can plug in new modules and your own code ridiculously easily. JBoss also requires no assembly/deployment phase for EJBs. It's just brilliant.

    JBoss has a very active, dedicated bunch of J2EE gurus building it and answering questions in its forums and on mailing lists. The development activity on JBoss seems very high, and the users and developers are very accessible. Enhydra's forums always seemed stale and not very helpful. To me, it has always looked like all of the best people were working on JBoss while Enhydra was just sort of sitting there.

    We use JBoss as our main J2EE development platform and deploy either on JBoss or one of the commercial J2EE servers. JBoss starts up fast, hot deploys web applications, EJBs, and connector resources with lightning speed. It comes with standard, easy integration to Tomcat. We're very happy with it.

    I think JBoss just won. I also happen to think it would be a great addition to any standard Linux distribution... but that might be offtopic.
    • This is the truth. Lutris has already lost. This isn't the first opensource product they've closed. Their model is to capture the talent of the opensource community then close the source once the product matures. Hopefully developers have wised up for the future.

      Alternatives:

      www.jboss.org (also hosted on sourceforge) - insted of enhydra

      hsql (hypersql on sourceforge) instead of instant db (also distributed with jboss)

  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Sunday October 14, 2001 @11:32AM (#2426985) Homepage Journal

    As noted in the original story [slashdot.org], the old version [enhydra.org] (perhaps a link to http://enhydra.enhydra.org/ [enhydra.org] would have been more appropriate) is still free. This license perpetuates itself in the code:

    3.1. Application of License.
    The Modifications which You create or to which You contribute are governed by the terms of this License, including without limitation Section 2.2. The Source Code version of Covered Code may be distributed only under the terms of this License or a future version of this License released under Section 6.1, and You must include a copy of this License with every copy of the Source Code You distribute. You may not offer or impose any terms on any Source Code version that alters or restricts the applicable version of this License or the recipients' rights hereunder. However, You may include an additional document offering the additional rights described in Section 3.5.

    So they let you know that this source must remain under this license, and that any derivatives must carry it, and that they can revise the license at any time (for future versions of the code). They even said that they could do that to you, but you went and spent time and effort on it anyway.

    The only thing really keeping anyone from basically ignoring this license is the following paragraph:

    3.7. Larger Works. You may create a Larger Work by combining Covered Code with other code not governed by the terms of this License and distribute the Larger Work as a single product. In such a case, You must make sure the requirements of this License are fulfilled for the Covered Code.

    As long as you keep code compartmentalized, you only have to keep *their* code (or any code which has been submitted to them) with this license agreement.

    Anyway, what all this boils down to is that they gave all the rights you could ever ask for, but that includes their right to take it back. They could also revise the license in future versions to say "From this point on, all code is the exclusive property of Lutris, and will be closed for all of eternity, and used by us as we laugh and spit in your face." Because they reserve the right to revise the license at any time, this is what you asked for, and what you got. Oh sure, at the time they change it, you can fork the existing code under the old license, because they said you could continue to use the old one, but that doesn't change the fact that they can (and apparently will) railroad your code at a moment's notice. Your code is after all required to carry their license now that it's a part of their project, and submitted back to them.

    So while closing it might be sleazy, it's completely legal, within their rights, and you all should have expected it. Corporations don't have souls, or morality. Sometimes its members do, but it's rare that the people with morals (or at least those willing to exercise them) are the people in power.

    Put another, blunter way; If you grease yourself up and bend over, someone will f*ck you.

  • Similar to egrail? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Is this at all similar to egrail? It was my understanding that egrail used to be open sourced, but is now not. Are they using any community-contributed code in the current version?
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Sunday October 14, 2001 @02:08PM (#2427670) Homepage
    Enhydra has a product called Mapper [enhydra.org], which seems to be a set of objects which provide database-related services. UNISYS [unisys.com] has had since 1982 a product called Mapper (U.S. Trademark #1343172, category G & S: Information, Storage and Retrieval Services in the Business Management Field.) This is an old mainframe product, still in use, sold, and supported. It's the base for "Unisys e-@ction Business Information Server". [unisys.com] There's a UNIX version, a Windows version, and the original OS/2200 version for the old UNIVAC 36-bit big iron.

    So Enhydra may have other intellectual property problems.

  • *This* type of scam is exactly what I'm concerned about OpenWATCOM pulling. Again let me remind folks that after over a year the OpenWATCOM folks have yet to release anything other than a binary patch (that requires the paid version).

    I hope the people that contributed to those guys don't get shafted.
  • that the developers who were working with the product, under the assurance that it was Open Source Software, never really got the source code. All they got were promises that they'd get the source code Real Soon Now.

    Not much you can do, when you've got no source code to use under the EPL. Just move on and use someone else's product.

    -e
  • a different take (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tim_maroney ( 239442 ) on Sunday October 14, 2001 @08:10PM (#2428769) Homepage
    I have a somewhat different take on this.

    It was clear to me -- as an Enhydra developer and partner on my current project -- that Lutris was seriously committed to the open source movement. I can't support the idea now circulating that its open source commitment was a bait and switch manever to get free volunteer support from the community. They walked the walk as well as talking the talk. They were firmly committed to ESR's principles in tCatB. Their business model was to give away the software and make their money on services.

    The only problem is, the tCatB principles don't work. They haven't worked for anyone. Services revenues don't scale in the nonlinear way that is required to support the extremely high costs of professional-quality software research and development. Everyone who's tried this on a larger scale than the "Dave's Software Shop" four-person consulting business has failed or is currently in the process of failing. Lutris was just one of many groups to be led down the garden path by this unworkable business model.

    They started to realize this earlier this year and were thrown into great confusion. Open source isn't just a movement, it's a religion, and it's always painful when your religion turns out to be false. For a while they thrashed. Finally grim economic necessity forced them to what is here being called their "betrayal," which was, to abandon the tCatB business model, and to return to a business model that has historically been successful for many developers. This was a visibly painful transition and they were reluctant to make it, but it was that or go into bankruptcy. (I get the feeling that some zealots here think Lutris should have just marched joyously into martyrdom!)

    Their problem was not that they abandoned open source. Their problem was that they believed in it in the first place, without setting up any rational business model, based on ESR's numbers-free hand-waving and on media buzz around the Linux bubble. Had they just worked from a conventional business model to start with, their product would have been just as good (and it is pretty darn good), even more people would have used it, and they would not have become the whipping boy for the remaining (but shrinking) core of religious believers.

    The true betrayal was in people who didn't have any understanding of, or concern for, business realities selling Lutris's founders the open source bill of goods and encouraging them to go into business in a way that was foolish and self-destructive. The true betrayal was in proselytizing for a false religion.

    Tim
    • While I agree with your premise about scaling services, however in Lutris' case they had the added disadvantage of basing their services on a non-existent product.

      You can smoke the ego-stroking "told-ya-so, Open Source isn't a real business model yaada yaada yaade" all you want but it doesn't change the name of the game. Good software for free (or cheap) tends to win. Bad software even for free doesn't fly, period, not these days.

      It doesn't invalidate the oss business model, it must be out there, in fact many people today make a living at Open Source, the question you raise is can you really grow fat in Open Source, the answer is probably no, not in the early stages. But maybe one day, you too can be throwing money out the window and flashing it around town. There are very succesful services companies (EDS, CAP) and an Open Source equivalent is in the making

      marcf
    • "Everyone who's tried this on a larger scale than the "Dave's Software Shop" four-person consulting business has failed or is currently in the process of failing."

      What about accenture and other big consulting companies. They make money on only services. All big companies IBM, Oracle and even Microsoft make huge amounts of money on consulting and services. Even hardware manufacturers like dell and compaq are starting to push services as a way to make extra money.

      Given that billions of dollars are being made in services by all kinds of comapnies big and small what you really meant to say was that lutris couldn't make money doing it. Maybe lutris didn't understand the services business and maybe it could not compete with the accentures of the world but you can not simply dismiss the entire computer services sector from the failure of one small company.

      BTW considering how ineptly they handled this latest round of affairs I doubt they will make any money in products either. They will get crushed on the high end with BEA, IBM and Oracle and on the lower end with jboss, cocoon, orion, webobjects etc. Combine that with the fact most people think they are sleazy and you have a recipe for disaster.
      • What about accenture and other big consulting companies. They make money on only services.

        But they don't use it to fund open-source development. BTW, in case you didn't hear, Accenture is laying off big-time.

        All big companies IBM, Oracle and even Microsoft make huge amounts of money on consulting and services. Even hardware manufacturers like dell and compaq are starting to push services as a way to make extra money.

        See, it's this "huge" thing that makes it not a business plan and more of a science fiction story. It's hand-waving. Those companies don't fund their R&D on services. That wouldn't work. They fund their R&D by selling the products of R&D. That works.

        Tim
        • "But they don't use it to fund open-source development."

          If they were doing it to fund open source development then theywere fools. The whole idea behind open source is to cut development costs. Maybe their product didn't catch the fancy of open source developers and they had to devote time to building "their" product. If that's the case then they are stuck with those costs no matter what. Now that they have closed off the software they will effectively kick out developers who were working on their product for free. There will be an additional burden on them. You know what webobjects will still kick it's ass and only cost $400.00. They are screwed no matter what.

          "BTW, in case you didn't hear, Accenture is laying off big-time."

          Big whoop welcome to the economy stupid. The airlines are laying off, the manufacturers are laying off, the telecoms are laying off, the insurance companies are laying off. Times are tough on everyone including consulting companies so what? Does accenture laying off people completely invalidate the computer services industry? Maybe according to you it does.

          "Those companies don't fund their R&D on services. That wouldn't work."

          They do plenty of R&D in their own way. By and large they are a pure services comapny (the kind you said could never scale beyond a four man mom and pop). Do you see how stupid of a statement that was now? What product does gartner sell? what does ADP sell? they sell consulting and they sell services that's what. I'll say it again it's a billion dollar industry. Lutris couldn't cut it and many companies won't either. like any other sector there are a few large entrenched companies that dominate their sector. All you can do is fight for the crumbs. The same goes for trying to sell boxed software.
          • What you're saying seems to be beside the point. Yes, there are profitable services businesses. However, those services businesses do not use their profits to fund open source development. Those businesses that have tried to implement the tCatB business model in which services are used to fund open source development have found that it doesn't work, with Progeny and Lutris among the more recent examples. Services businesses require a significant outlay in terms of payroll and overhead for every dollar made, so they do not tend to have millions of extra dollars lying around for charitable projects; and creating open source software does not create service opportunities which exceed in revenues the cost of the open source development.

            Tim
            • Somebody severely misunderstands what this open source thing is all about. Here let me try to explain it to you in real terms.

              What service was lutris trying to sell? Was it supporting windows? Supporting Microsft office? No it was supporting enhydra and developing enhydra web sites. This was the only technology that they could legitemately claim expertise in. Any other field and they would get crushed by the competition. Somehow it never occured to them the in order to support enhydra it had to be a good AND popular software. So is enhydra a solid product? Well maybe. Is it popular? Not really.

              Enhydra was not better then cocoon or jboss. It also was not as popular as those two. As a result somebody had to make it better and somebody had to make it popular. Either that somebody was lutris or the open source developers. I would say that opening up enhydra did make it more popular and did make it better but it still wasn't enough.

              Lutris had no choice. There was no money to be made in trying to service a product nobody wants. They either had to support the project and make it better or just throw in the towel. They certainly failed to attact a critical mass of developers and the also failed to get the word out in a significant way. But make no mistake the product as it stood was barely useful and it needed development. If they didn't do it nobody else was going to.

              So yes if you have a crappy product then you have to make it better because there is no service dollars. If other people don't get involved then you have to do it yourself.

      • For some more on the impossibility of funding software development on services revenue, here [cnet.com] is a story from CNET on Progeny:
        The move completes a change in strategy started in July, when the Indianapolis-based company decided it would focus more of its efforts on services and away from developing its own version of the Linux distribution known as Debian.


        "We were burning too much cash doing development," said CEO Steve Schafer. "Now we are cash-positive."
        Services do make money. They just don't make enough money to fund software development.

        Tim
    • The true betrayal was in people who didn't have any understanding of, or concern for, business realities selling Lutris's founders the open source bill of goods and encouraging them to go into business in a way that was foolish and self-destructive. The true betrayal was in proselytizing for a false religion.

      I believe you are confusing two fundamentally different things here: 1) the "truth or falsity" of Open Source as a religion (a description that has much merit, BTW), and 2) the viability of a business model based on Open Source.

      Evaluating the Open Source Religion's "truth" is waaay tricky: it all depends on how you define its premise. I think your implied premise, which clearly involves building profitable business models on Open Source software, is inapplicable. IMHO, the most applicable premise is something along the lines of, "Open Source produces technically superior and socially desirable software". This premise is demonstrably "true", at least in technical terms; it is also closer to most geeks' ideas of Open Source, and it has nothing whatever to do with making money. By the premise I described, and which I argue to be applicable, the Open Source religion clearly works, hence it cannot reasonably be described as "false". In the final analysis, Open Source and Making Money are no more inherently linked than Christianity and Making Money.

      ESR himself has, in my hearing, publicly described what he thinks makes Open-Sourcing a software package a good or a bad idea for a business, and he was crystal-clear that NOT every project can or should be Open Sourced on business grounds. I cannot reconcile the presentation I heard ESR give, OR my reading of "The Cathedral and the Bazaar", with the idea that he has sold someone a "bill of goods". I see no evidence of misrepresentation there. To blame ESR for a corporation's starry-eyed rapture with the dot-com fashion is to misassign responsibility that properly belongs to business planners who failed to realistically analyze their business model (and in the dot-com bubble, there have been LOTS of those).
  • Lutris is starting to send people unsolicited mail claiming that JBoss may not be a reliable solution. These are unfounded, and JBoss is posting a response on their site.

    It's disgusting.

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