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GNU is Not Unix

Free Software Magazine 221

EmilEifrem writes: "Why hasn't everyone submitted this story one million times? Anyway, the Free Software Magazine (FSM), issue 01 is out there. There's a column by RMS, an article about making a living with free software, a C advocacy article and even an "enterprise" section, amongst other things. Seems like a promising first issue. s/Linux/GNU\/Linux/g."
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Free Software Magazine

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  • that is about to be aquired by AOL/Time Warner?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 27, 2002 @10:11AM (#2909427)
    A $25 000 car costs about two grand to make. The usual costs for making a car is a bit below 10% of the sale price.

    Intels top-of-the-line processors costs $20 or so to make but you buy them for $500 or so. Your typical stereo or freezer or whatever costs just a fraction of what you buy them for to make.

    Despite that this may seem like a huge overprice those companies sure hasn't profit margins like 99%. Intel has negative cashflow (right? I'm not 100% sure) right now. It DO costs lots and lots of money to develop new products, test them for safety and so on.

    Software isn't really any different. Just like everything else the value is mostly in the research&development (and marketing) of the products.

    People just don't seem to realize that "intellectual property" is the major costs of ANY product these days. But hey, this isn't bad! Thats whats make the people valuable and if you ask your gandfather I can bet that he will tell you how the workers situation was then the valuable wasn't in the worker but mostly in material and machines. It was a good bit worse than today. The worker has never been to valuable as today.
    • Your comment seems to suggest that you think that the retail cost is so much greater than the manufacturing costs is entirely down to "research&development (and marketing)" you're making a huge leap. Companies have many, many other costs. Capital investment into things like fab plants. rent for things like offices, salaries, distribution costs, insurance, legal fees, etc, etc. R&D costs do contribute, but are certainly not the "major costs of ANY product".
    • I'm not going to comment on Intel's earning or cashflow, since I don't have the numbers handy. However you can think of this in the abstract. Back in a micro-economics class I came across the following rule-of-thumb (that has generally been confirmed by my experience), a software company must make about $150K per employee per year to break even. This covers salarys, capital equipment, benefits, taxes, etc.

      So take a small software company, saw about 10 people. That means they must make about $1.5M pery year, just to stay in business. So the price of their product must been seen against the cost of doing business (balanced against what the market will accept). So if the make software for a vertical market with expected sales of a thousand units per year, then they need to charge $1500 per unit just to break even. Not to profit, not to grow the company, not to put money in the bank against hard times, but to break even. If the market won't accept that price then they'll need to reevaluate their business plan, and if the product makes sense.

      It doesn't make sense to me to judge the cost of a product against the cost of printing the manual and pressing a CD, but to judge it against the total cost of doing business. The raw ingredients of french toast cost about $0.50 but I don't have a problem paying $5 for it at a restraunt.
    • by renehollan ( 138013 ) <.ten.eriwraelc. .ta. .nallohr.> on Sunday January 27, 2002 @01:51PM (#2909939) Homepage Journal
      Yes, of course, this is all true (pretty much, anyway).

      As others have pointed out, it isn't just R&D, but costs for space, uilities, legal fees, etc.

      However, that is generally amortized against the expectation of selling some number of copies a year, and coming up with a price per unit. Now, what if you sell more units.

      Yup, assuming an efficient distribution infrastructure, like online-downloads (sorry, charlie, boxed sets in retail shops aren't efficient), you're looking at essentially pure profit.

      So, no: software does not cost a lot to produce, only the first X units cost a lot to produce. And while it stands to reason that there should be legal principles, like licenses and copyright, that permit one to recover one's development expenses and overhead by being able to restrict redistribution of those first few copies, should those same principles permit the subsequent generation of extreme profits? As much as I am a free market libertarian, I'm not sure.

      Certainly, in liew of copyright and license, one could have a subscription model: pre-sell a given number of units and use that to fund the R&D and initial overhead. If insufficient demand exists, all monies collected are returned, and the project scrapped. IIRC, some classical music by certain desired orchestras was recorded this way, by subscribtion. But, this technique is awkward: the buyer assumes all the risk regarding the quality of the product, and whether it gets finished at all, once started. The restrictions imposed by copyright and licenses appear to work quite well, in this regard: make something, offer it, and be secure that (almost) everyone who wants a copy pays you for one. The risk falls on the developer, not the buyer, and the system generally works quite well.

      Of course, not all software is produced as an "adventure in trade" as some government desciptions of business put it. Some is produced for personal benefit, none of which is diminished by sharing the result. So the R&D costs are effectively written off, and the overhead is essentially nil. A lot of good free software gets written that way. Other free software gets written for reasons of, as ESR put it, egoboo, or prestige. Some gets written to satisfy political of philosophical pressures: RMS helped bring forth a C compiler because a free one was required.

      Whether one supports the proprietary (make money) or free (help the world) camps, and I think most of use lean toward some combination of both, one can not deny that when software is free, everyone benefits, except perhaps, providers of a non-free alternative. Note Microsoft's recent rants about how "open source software" (their words) is "unamerican". About the only thing that free software inhibits is a right to profit. Last time I checked, there was no such constitutional right, at least not in the U.S.A. If there were, any semblence of free market competition would disappear to be replaced by government-sanctioned monopolies in a multitude of areas. Clearly, free software serves the public good.

      This means that attempts to stifle it's propagation need to be for reasons that also serve the public good. If one has invested significant time and money to develop a better algorithm of some kind, this should be rewarded with a limited right to exclusively exploit the algorithm. If one has invested time and money to discover a novel idea, this should be rewarded with a limited right to exclusively publish the idea for other interested parties. Enter patents and copyrights.

      Of course, both patent and copyright appear horribly broken un the U.S.A. of late, primarily because legislators appear to have forgotten what for a limited time means. The founding fathers of the U.S.A. recognized that ideas were not property, but to secure their development, artificial property-like protections would be granted to individuals (patents are awarded to indivuals, subsequently assigned, perhaps, to ficticious citizens, i.e. corporations) for limited times, so that the ideas could be exploited for financial gain.

      Should software not be treated in a similar manner? If source is disclosed, patent protection may be available. In any case patent and copyright protections expire in a reasonable length of time, present limits being laughingly unreasonable. That leaves licenses to restrict software.

      Licenses serve to limit how something may be used. The presumption is that property rights remain with the provider of the item. Of course, if property rights secured by patent and copuright are artificial and limited to begin with, there is no property to license once they expire. A license can certainly be used to restrict software beyond whatever protections copyright and patents provide, but such extra restrictions should expire when the copyrights and/or patents or license does, whichever comes first.

      But wait! Because new ideas were recognized as being in the public interest even while those who thought of them were granted temporary property-like priveledges, these property rights were not absolute: copyright was envisioned as a balance between author and reader. Witness the doctrine of first sale: you could resell a copyright work if you retained no copies. With all the effort expended to come up with a reasonable balance of rights with regard to copyright works, should licenses changing such a balance even be permitted? Why bother trying for a reasonable balance in the first place?

      If a system is in place to supposedly serve the public good, it makes no sense to do an about face and permit circumvention of that system. So, if you have copyright law with fair use provisions, it should not be possible to use licenses to restrict such fair use. It would be reasonable to use licenses to define liquidated damages if copright or patent rights were subsequently violated.

      So, what does this leave?

      We are left with shortened copyright and sane patent protections on software, after which it reverts to the public domain. Note, this is not free in the GPL sense, but closer to a BSD-style license. I wonder what RMS would say about a system where all software would, within a reasonable term, revert to the public domain, including GPL-covered software. Perhaps a condition of securing these rights would be a requirement to place the source code in escrow, to be made public when the terms expire.

      This rather lengthy analysis ultimately addresses the initial concern of "excessive" profits on software, after all the R&D has been amortized away. It would retain many of the benefits of copyright and patent protection, but temper a runaway profit-engine, running on artificial property rights. While all code would eventually become public domain, and anyone could produce derivitive works of popular software after a time, the original author would enjoy a head-start in getting such works ready. So long as they continue to innovate, they will effectively enjoy their early property rights over and over again. Surely that is a reasonable balance.

      • One thing that needs to be factored into your otherwise complete analysis is product failure.

        As you said, the costs are factored into a projected sales volume. If this volume is exceeded, there are large profits to be made. However, you seem to have skipped the flip side (and I didn't read your analysis as tightly as I should have to make this statement, so forgive me if you've addressed this) wherein a product that doesn't meet expectations must be paid for somehow. For example, the onerous profits for MS Win95 paid for the development of MS BOB.

        There is also the need to front pay for later development and support. If I have a copy of Win98 (oh, hey, look at that. That's what I'm using) that was bought several years ago, M$ is still releasing the occasional security patch, bug fix, etc. That is either from money that was spent years ago by me, and is still getting spent, or it is money spent by people buying XP today that is being diverted into other products. What's the point? Well, initial development and overhead are not the only costs. One could look at your analysis and say that it is factored into your term 'development costs', but I believe your arguments are stronger if you explicitly mention these costs, both because they are significant, and because they require a different sort of approach from a programming/managerial/marketing POV.
        • Good points, but, with well-designed software, maintainance costs should not be such a large fraction of overall costs to be significant.

          The interesting thing about large proprietary projects is that, as the codebase gets larger, maintainance costs appear to go up as a fraction of overall costs, increasingly robbing future reinvestment of profits into additional R&D.

          To some extent, free software does not suffer this fate because the number of developers available grows as the number of users, and thus, desired features. Of course, this remains true only of classical geek-appeal software where many users are also developers.

    • Broadly speaking I agree. However:

      What fraction of those R&D costs occur because of the constantly requirement to reinvent a 'new and better' wheel, because somebody else already holds the IP/patent ?

      The fact majority, that is why we have hundreds of pain-killers and no cure for, say, AIDS.
    • "intellectual property" is the major costs of ANY product these days

      This is your conclusion. I think. To be honest, I'm not quite sure what you're trying to say.

      R&D != "Intellectual Property". Not by fiat. Now you might argue that R&D efforts should result in legal ownership rights and priviledges, but you haven't done so. You simply take this relation for granted.

      I'm going to paraphrase a question I already asked, but on an expiring thread in an old article: How many people who rigorously defend proprietary software actually own and profit from proprietary software? If you code for Microsoft, you don't own jack shit. Why do you code? For money. It's work for hire, pure and simple. Code ownership has nothing to do with it. I'd like to see someone tell their boss at Microsoft that they would like to excercise their "Intellectual Property" rights. And don't let the door hit you on the ass on the way out.

      If proprietary software were outlawed tomorrow, does anyone really think that the demand for software would evaporate?! Bullocks. People would get paid to develop software just like they do today. Except that they would actually be able to continue building on their own (and others) work, no matter who they worked for.

      It seems to me like the posers who most ardently defend the free market and "Intellectual Property" are also the most afraid of allowing a real free market to actually exist.

      The worker has never been [so] valuable as today.

      Right on.
  • I didn't know what RMS looked like until I read his article (his picture is up at the top right). I can really only say one thing; RMS, the 70s called, they want their shirt back. heh.

    *hides from RMS' militia*

    • I'll tell you what this picture (and every other pic I've ever seen of Stallman) is all about. He's got some brilliant PR people. I mean seriously, you know what Stallman is about before he even opens his mouth. And before you accuse me of judging a book by it's cover, let me say, I agree with about 65% of what RMS says - it's not like I'm bashing him. But such a picture perfect, communal, 70's, woodstock, peace love and understanding look in early 2002 can only be the result of careful crafting, coupled with a hell of a lot of trips to the Goodwill Store.
  • Full circle (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 27, 2002 @10:19AM (#2909438)
    So now we have come full circle, with the chinese lecturing us about freedom! What is to come of this? Will bejing soon be filled with the masses wearing their "RMS" suits (dirty jeans and a t-shirt) chanting "proprietary pig" in front of the Microsoft embassy?
  • rejection (Score:2, Funny)

    by Alien54 ( 180860 )
    Why hasn't everyone submitted this story one million times

    Geeks are sensitive types, and many have problems dealing with the fear of rejection


    Looks good. The book that is reviewed, "How to Think Like a Computer Scientist " looks interesting as well.

    [puts into bookmark file]

    • The book that is reviewed, "How to Think Like a Computer Scientist " looks interesting as well.
      Oh, how to think like a computer scientist? Here I was, thinking it was RMS's latest opus - How to Look Like a Computer Scientist. My bad.
  • objective C (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 27, 2002 @10:34AM (#2909460)
    Be sure to read the article "Objective C is Fun". It is about GNUStep Objective C, and it is a light, well written intro to this language. It is a good read for anyone who knows another object-oriented Language, particularly one from the C family. Heck it seems the C family has quite a few OO extensions: C++, Java, Objective C, Eiffel sort of, and cringe ... MS CFlat (whatever!).
    • Re:objective C (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Pengo ( 28814 ) on Sunday January 27, 2002 @11:17AM (#2909556) Journal
      I never realized how important the GnuStep movement could be until I took the time (one afternoon) to learn Objective C. It really is everything -I- could want from a language, with the only exception of NSStrings feel a bit clutsy to use after using python and java for so long.

      If apple continues to break ground in market-share, and attracts more and more commercial development maybe we will start to see OSX ported GnuStep applications.

  • C Advocacy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by __past__ ( 542467 ) on Sunday January 27, 2002 @10:37AM (#2909464)
    Wow, that "C is here to stay" aticle must be the most content-free piece of text I ever read. Come on: C is good because some guys wanted to use a PDP some 30 Years ago, and because Perl is mainly used for text processing?

    I see that there are areas where C may still be useful, like bare-metal hardware access, but the rest is purely historical accident. OK, there are lots of C code in use. There are also lots of COBOL programms. However, there are also languages (basically all except C, and by inheritance C++) where there was more progress in the last decades than finding funny new ways to get root by exploiting new classes of bugs (first buffer overflows, then format string errors...)

    What is it that there are so many C advocates? I just don't get it...

    • Re:C Advocacy (Score:1, Insightful)

      by iangoldby ( 552781 )
      Because C is easy to learn. Anyone can get their head around it in a few weeks part-time effort. C++ is much harder, because you have to think about design.

      I thought the article was pretty content-free too. It didn't really seem to know what it was aiming for. The subtext was clearly that marketing/research/suits - bad, real-world problem solving - good. If that had been made the main point and it had been illustrated with a few more examples and anecdotes, it could have been an interesting read.
      • Anyone can get their head around it in a few weeks part-time effort. C++ is much harder, because you have to think about design.

        Oh, yes. C is better because you can program in it without thinking about what the final result will be.

        You have made two cases here: that C is good as a learning language, and that C is not good for making well-designed programs.

        Bingo Foo

    • "C is here to stay" aticle must be the most content-free piece ...
      What do mean content-free? "C was created in the 1960's by Ken Thompson." That's news to me. I thought the C was created in the 1970s by Dennis Ritchie. Of course all you "Linux is not GNU" people probably didn't notice or care.:-)
    • Re:C Advocacy (Score:3, Offtopic)

      by mckinlay ( 222722 )
      C is widely used because it allows the programmer to do exactly what he or she wants with (except in a few cases) the ability to be able to predict how the resultant binary will 'look'.

      For example, the in-memory layout of a 'struct' is exactly how the programmer decided it should be - with the exception of padding, which has a well-defined behaviour anyway.

      Similarly, the same applies to calling conventions, and to a certain extent, the raw machine code that gets generated.

      C++, on the other hand, I hate, becuase it doesn't give you this fine-grained control (for example, the in-memory layout of a class containing virtual methods is largely implementation-defined, I believe).

      The majority of the 'other' languages (with the exception of those such as Pascal, FORTRAN and COBOL) generally execute within a VM, which as well as letting you do lots of neat stuff (most of which you can do in C with a little bit of effort and a decent dynamic linker API), it also adds a layer of abstraction which means it's difficult to see how corresponds to assembler output. You're constrained by the VM, meaning that if you want to optimise for a particular CPU or architecture, you need to rebuild the compiler/interpreter/whatever and optimise the VM itself.

      My two cents.
      • Re:C Advocacy (Score:3, Interesting)

        by entrox ( 266621 )
        And just WHY do you need to care about how your structures are laid out in memory? Or how the calling conventions look like? Isn't the point of a high level language (which C doesn't seem to be) to abstract away such details from the programmer?
        You've got a point there if you're talking about device driver development or truly performance critical code (like the rendering core in a 3d game). But WHY would I need to fiddle with such things when I'm writing a web-browser? An IRC client? A CGI script?
        I certainly don't want to mess with those implementation-specific details. If those were abstracted properly away, you wouldn't need such clutches like configure.
        • Re:C Advocacy (Score:3, Insightful)

          by d^2b ( 34992 )
          Well this, and the article it replies to, pretty well sum it up. Either C is the best tool for the job, or not. If you don't care about performance, then probably not. I don't mean this to come across as a put down, but there are _lots_ of applications that are nothing like the three IO-bound ones that you mention. And although the mass market is primarily interested in games and office applications, there are lots of people in the world who still use computers to compute things. For the last month I have had $100,000 worth of computers crunching away on a problem in Discrete Geometry. This means that the basic operation in my program has been repeated about 150 billion times. So yeah, I care how fast that operation is (50 machine cycles, last time I checked).
      • Re:C Advocacy (Score:2, Interesting)

        by e-Motion ( 126926 )
        C++, on the other hand, I hate, becuase it doesn't give you this fine-grained control (for example, the in-memory layout of a class containing virtual methods is largely implementation-defined, I believe).

        I've never understood this version of the "C versus C++" argument. C++ was based on C. A few things were changed, but an attempt was made to maintain backwards compatibility with C when it didn't compromise safety and design.

        From "The Design and Evolution of C++", page 120:
        "C++ doesn't aim at 100% compatibility with C because that would have compromised the aims of type safety and support for design. However, where these aims are not interfered with incompatibilities are avoided - even at the cost of inelegance."

        C++ generally added new features to the language to support design. If you want to write a program as you would in C, you can do that. If you want to access a struct directly based on its memory layout, then go ahead. You still have access to the lower-level constructs that C provides. If a new feature of the language causes problems with this, then simply don't use the feature in that situation. For example, in your vtable situation, you could have the raw data contained in its own struct, and the class with virtual functions could contain that struct.

        In short, C++ has extra "stuff". Usually, this "stuff" doesn't interfere with the old "stuff" in C. I don't understand why "anti-C++" C programmers feel that C++ is less powerful than C, when C++ was intended to maintain a high degree of backwards compatibility with C, and still supports most of the features of the language.
    • Re:C Advocacy (Score:4, Interesting)

      by moncyb ( 456490 ) on Sunday January 27, 2002 @12:26PM (#2909706) Journal

      However, there are also languages (basically all except C, and by inheritance C++) where there was more progress in the last decades than finding funny new ways to get root by exploiting new classes of bugs (first buffer overflows, then format string errors...)

      Ummm...those problems come from mistakes made by the programmer. Like writing printf(mystring) instead of printf("%s", mystring), using the outdated gets instead of fgets, or incorrectly specifying the amount of space a buffer has--such as coding read(fd, buffer, 256) when your buffer has only 200 byes of space.

      Those types of mistakes could just as easily be made in other languages...for example doing something like popen("sort " . $HTTP_GET_VARS['filename']."r") would be a big security mistake in PHP.

      What is it that there are so many C advocates? I just don't get it...

      Maybe all of the people you are referring to aren't advocates, but people who see the need for a language like C. There are many cases where a low level language is needed, and C is much easier to program and much more portable than assembly. Not to mention there are some cases where using C is a more elegant or easier solution.

      There is a reason C has been around for a while--it gives the maximum control for the least amount of coding. There are a few things assembly has over C (just try to figure out if that last addtion operation just overflowed). PHP is far better for web programming. I hear Perl is great for text processing. I have also heard Python is easier to program. However, C still has its uses.

      • There are a few things assembly has over C (just try to figure out if that last addtion operation just overflowed).

        isn't (a += b) overflow if (b &gt 0 && a &lt b)?

        Benjamin Coates
        • argh, no, for signed addition,
          c = a + b is overflow if
          (a ^ b) &gt= 0 && (a ^ c) &lt 0
          (a and b have the same sign and the result is different sign)
          ... if i'm awake yet.

          Benjamin Coates
      • Most buffer overflows would have been avoided had the C library included dynamically allocated strings. Static buffers ARE evil for arbitrary length data such as strings. There is no reason to limit most input (as is pointed out in the GNU coding standard []) to arbitrary length anyway, and there is no significant performance penalty if they are implemented properly (IE not reallocating and copying the whole string every time a character is happened to it).

        The fact that it's not implemented in the standard makes it so that programmers are more likely to be lazy and use what they are provided with (sprintf, snprintf, scanf ...), no matter how broken it is.
      • I won't repeat the excellent responses to the question of "Why C?", nor will I succumb to the temptation to start another pointless flamewar about the advantages and disadvantages of either OO or high-level languages. I will, however, note that just as OO programming with C++ requires about 14 months of solid work to really "get it", writing good procedural code with C requires about the same learning curve. Too many people learn C++ these days and assume they know C because C++ is a superset of C syntax, but the simple fact is -- as anyone who has used both for significant work will attest -- that they are very, very different languages.

        C has its place. That place, IMHO, is when:

        • You need maximum performance and control, and you'd rather not surrender portability by resorting to assembly language.
        • The application you are working on is written in C, or the bulk of your staff consists of C programmers (which could apply to any language, not just C, and is, in fact, usually the reason a particular language is chosen in the real world).
        • You actually understand the overhead involved in OO languages and decide that it isn't appropriate to the project at hand.
        • You're interfacing with hardware (or, for that matter, with various network protocols) and would rather not jump through hoops to get the job done.
        • Flexibility. Perhaps too much for the nervous nellies who think "type safety" is a first-order concern, but it's there if you want it.
        And finally, though the recent (completely full-of-crap) Internet boom and ESR lead many people to forget this, the purpose of free software is not necessarily to chase bucks and compete with corporate offerings -- writing code can be fun, and its purpose can be exploratory/educational or altruistic, in which case you're free to choose the language that is best suited to the task, or best suited to the programmer.
    • Re:C Advocacy (Score:2, Informative)

      by Cyclops ( 1852 )
      Well, I'd just recommend a quick visit at freshmeat's browse by programming language [] page. There are 3.01 C programs for each Java program. And that's not counting C++, C# and Objective-C, which will make it 4.21 C derivate programs for each java program.

      I do agree that the motives he stated are somewhat trivial. My quick statistics are far better. A pity I can't easily count the lines of code, I'd laugh even more of java (of course you must count the real program lines and not the library lines, although they should also be taken in account for greater fairness).

      Hugs, Cyclops
      • Hmm... if you count C# as a derivative of C then Java would probably fit into that category as well.
      • C: 3502 projects on freshmeat
        Java: 1161 projects on freshmeat

        C's birth: sometime in 1972
        java's birth: May 1995 (

        C Duration alive: 30 years
        Java Duration alive: 6.75 years

        C: 3502 / 30 = 116.7
        Java: 1161 / 6.75 = 172

        Java is obviously better.

    • Which is basically a poor rehash of Lisp plus same syntactical sugar. In that case java ( not to mention half the languages in vogue today) go back even further than C does for their basic concepts.

      Simply put C/C++ is an elegant language that gets the job done. I use it for work and for pleasure, despite having tried almost every alternative. It certainly isnt the first language Ive used- but it is certainly the best (for my needs).

      As for buffer overflows: using sharp tools requires a measure of skill. I will never resort to a play-doh knife while I have a choice.

      • The claim that Java is "basically a poor rehash of Lisp plus s[o]me syntatical sugar" could only be made by someone who has done little Lisp programming, or little Java programming, or both.
  • are they charging for it?
  • by Masem ( 1171 ) on Sunday January 27, 2002 @10:46AM (#2909477)
    The base cost for our distributor is USD2.00/copy, plus the air shipping cost, the air freight tariff varies according to the country and city the distributor located, plus 5% handling on the basis of C+F airport price.
    You mean a magazine about free software isn't free?!?!? </joke>

    Seriously, you can grab the PDF files and make your own copies for free. The $2 above seems reasonable for cost of printing and paper, and to keep a bit buoyant in terms of profit.

    • Seriously, you can grab the PDF files and make your own copies for free.

      Of course, except for the fact that the PDF-files [] aren't there..

      Resource not found
      Sorry, the requested Zope resource does not exist.
      Check the URL and try again.

      Oh, well. They'll come up soon, I hope.
  • sourceforge article (Score:4, Interesting)

    by asv108 ( 141455 ) <[moc.ssovi] [ta] [vsa]> on Sunday January 27, 2002 @10:49AM (#2909483) Homepage Journal
    I thought the most interesting article was this piece [] dealing with the recent changes over at Sourceforge []. It probably deserves it's own submission even though we have discussed this before [].
  • Editing? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Uberminky ( 122220 ) on Sunday January 27, 2002 @10:50AM (#2909488) Homepage
    I know I'll probably get modded down for this, but... where's the editing? Granted, I only read the C advocacy article mentioned. But if these people want to be taken seriously as a magazine, don't you think they should do a little proofreading of the articles?
    • Re:Editing? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by __past__ ( 542467 )
      If they wanted to be taken serious they also shouldn't have printed this 5 years old SGML article. Ok, it may be edited to reflect some changes, but when? 3 Years ago? SGML is history, and XML is more than SGML with some obscure features removed right now, it's a whole new tool-chain (and both Docbook and TEI are long available for XML, btw.).

      As well, I really liked the distro article, because it mentions some smaller ditros I never heard of. It was fun reading it, some months ago on

      Sorry, but this magazine doesn't do anything good to the Free Software community. It just lets us look boring and unprofessional.

  • by AirLace ( 86148 ) on Sunday January 27, 2002 @10:53AM (#2909494)
    I've noticed they've placed a W3C XHTML 1.0 logo at the bottom of their index page []. This is a mark that shows the designer has conformed to Web standards and provided a basic level of accessibility for disabled users. It typically links to the W3C page validator []. They probably put it there to show that GNU supports open standards, but the page is in fact nothing like [] well formed XHTML, and contains numerous basic HTML errors that could make the page inaccessible to page-readers for the blind, for example.

    I'm not saying everyone who puts up a webpage should have to write perfect HTML, but why do they feel the need to put the logo of compliance there if it's just a lie? I know GNU supports open standards by principle, but they should do more than just pay lip-service. Either take the logo off the page, or fix the HTML!

    • That's a good catch. And it's not just a few minor technicalities either, it's an assload of problems, some of them very major and at the same time, very fundamental. Just 5 years ago, a page this bad would not have even been renderable. he unqualified forgiveness of today's web browsers has really hurt the standards process.
    • by Maul ( 83993 ) on Sunday January 27, 2002 @11:31AM (#2909581) Journal
      Agreed. When I've always used the W3C logo for a page conforming to the W3C standards, I have always linked the logo to a URL that will validate my HTML.

      Obviously, it looks bad if a page displays the logo and does not validate. I'm not blaming everyone involved with the magazine, but they should really get on the case of the web page designer(s) to either
      get the HTML to validate, or to remove the logo.

      It is a pet peeve of mine when people use the logos without validating.
    • I'm impressed... my website wasn't that bad the first time I validated it, and I wasn't even claiming it complied! (It does now, but that's not the point.)

      I wish people would learn HTML before making web pages, particularly if they're trying to look professional.
    • So very true []. As another poster mentioned: Normally when you use the xhtml logo you directly link to the validation page for that page (indeed that is the html that the W3C page gives you), which is a sort of circular "keep 'em honest" type check to keep stuff like this from happening. How hilarious.

    • Either take the logo off the page, or fix the HTML!

      I wrote to the webmaster about this issue, and unfortunately he chose the path of least resistance - removing the logo. Ironically, he left the Valid CSS logo. Sometimes, I get soooo tired...
  • Can anyone post a mirror? Thanks.

  • PDF link (Score:5, Informative)

    by koolade ( 98089 ) on Sunday January 27, 2002 @11:07AM (#2909532) Homepage

    The PDF link on the site doesn't work. The real link is pdf.tar.bz2 []

  • I mean, before the old guys in Benjing decide that FSF-China (the magazine's publisher) is guilty of anti-Chinese activities, high treason and general lack of hygien. You see, China is a country where order is far more important than freedom.

    They have a good chance, though. Every week some US commerce agency produces a memo criticizing China for its lack of copyright enforcement. I wonder if some time from now we will start to see memos criticizing China for its copyleft enforcement...

    The Chinese government has already showed interest in Free Software/Open Source many times in the past, mainly as a way to avoid Microsoft/Oracle/IBM /whoever proprietary lock. They are well aware of the strategic value controlling its own software.

    This can also boost FS/OS development in ways we simply can't imagine. As someone said, when you change some quantity by an order of magnitute or more, you automatically achieve a quality change as a side-effect. Think about China sponsoring a few (a few, in China, are hundreths of thousands) Chinese programmers developing Free Software. Microsoft may well fear this.
  • by perky ( 106880 ) on Sunday January 27, 2002 @11:10AM (#2909538)
    Ok, I admit it. I only read the C advocacy thing. Which was poorly reasoned, poorly argued, factually lacking, and could do with a bit of proofreading.

    At the end of the day C is a good language for low level programming and there is a great deal of experienced in programming C. there is also a lot of legacy code. These do not make it a good language. Pretty much any mature language has its uses, and these mostly correspond with what the language was designed for. Even C++ with all its knobs and ugly bits is nice when you've got used to it. And as for the comment about Java: If you don't think that the more rapid development, cross-platform compliance, and "coherent" design of Java are worth having, then .... something bad.

  • by Kerg ( 71582 ) on Sunday January 27, 2002 @11:13AM (#2909546)
    From C Advocacy Article:

    So Java became a language in search of home and found in the web browser. But it's never been more than a cult language outside this market.


    Mr. Steve Oualline seems to be well in touch with reality and the industry direction, heh.

    Advocate all you want but come on... surely you can do better than that.

    • If they need better writers, then how about submitting an article? I have.

      Seriously, this is their first issue, and they are still working the bugs out of the editing process.

      Most magazines are a little flaky in their first few issues, but then settle down over time as they attract quality writers and columnists, start evolving their own unique style, etc.

      Hong Feng, the magazine's founder, is taking a big chance here, and I think he can pull it off. With our help.
    • Mr. Steve Oualline seems to be well in touch with reality and the industry direction, heh.

      Look, face it, Java is *not* taking the world by storm as was expected circa 1997. In both in the proprietory and Open Source/Free Software worlds, C and C++ are overwhelmingly dominant and show every sign of remaining so. This isn't a slam on Java, it's just reality. Heck, Perl is probably more widely used than Java.
  • Valuable information about the FreeSoftware/OpenSource/Linux movements can be and their excellent, superior software can be found here [], here [], here [], here [] and here [].

    Examples of the excellent community spirit within that movement that will help us bring down the Microsoft monopoly: here [http], here [], here [], here [], here [], here [].

    Let's all work together to improve free software.
  • i find it odd that most instances of "linux" in this article are not preceeded with the "gnu/" prefix. it's in the title, but lacking in most of the article. it's not that i really care about this issue, but i would have thought something published by the fsf would insist on this.
  • FSM? (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Is that related to FHM []? :-)
  • by Carik ( 205890 ) on Sunday January 27, 2002 @12:54PM (#2909788)
    ...could you try for a degree of professionalism?

    The first article I read was "Why C is here to stay." As has already been mentioned, it was poorly researched, and clearly not edited at all. Perhaps I'm being unfair, or languagist or something, but if you're going to publish an article in a language, you really need to find an editor who knows the language.

    Well, I wasn't sure whether that was just a fluke, so I read a few more articles; "SourceForge Drifting," "VIM: The popular text editor," and "Upgrading KDE2 to KDE3 from CVS." While none of them were as badly written as the "C" article, none of them were well edited, and all contained basic gramatical and spelling errors. In other words, here's a magazine I won't be reading again.

    Add to that the missing PDF files, the fact that the webmaster lies about having validated the HTML, and you have a truly terrible website.
  • If you're looking for the "How to Think Like a Computer Scientist" books, I found them here [] via a google search. They're available in a few formats, including PDF. What's notably missing, though, is the C++ version of the book that's mentioned in the review. Just the Python and Java versions are there.

  • At any time during the development process [of Debian], there are three branches in the main directory tree - "stable", "testing" and "unstable", the last of which is often referred to as "sid".

    Could this be because it's name is sid?

  • I'm shocked to see so many people convinced that C is a decrepit language (or perhaps it's just a swarm of /. trolls). I'm a strong believer in different tools for different jobs. However, when it comes to performance critical or content-complex applications, there is no legitimate alternative to C/C++. Majority of commercial software available in retail outlets is written almost exclusively in C/C++ for a reason. No other language features as extensive a library collection for performing virtually any thinkable function while maintaining excellent performance.

    Trolls are bad, bad, ugly people.
  • Stallman's column will read "bla bla bla GNU GNU Linux bla bla bla..." :p
  • I thought I would cruise over and give the magazine a spin. The article "Why C is here to stay" astounded me with its cluelessness.

    I'm not knocking C or making a pro-Java argument, but the author simply can't seem to make a cogent argument. Here's a typical gem:

    The answer is that although C++ is better than C, it's not that much better.

    Oh, you don't say Steve! Gee, I guess you're right. Or how about:

    So Java became a language in search of home and found in the web browser. But it's never been more than a cult language outside this market.

    Thats right Steveo, people quit writing Java programs the second they found out applets sucked. Or maybe this bit of cluefulness:

    Perl is slow, C is fast.
    Finally, there are things you can do in C that you can't do in Perl. Remember the Perl interpreter is written in C.

    Is this man writing for ten year olds?

    If this is indicative of the quality of writing to be found in this magazine, we've got a new on our hands!

  • business models (Score:3, Insightful)

    by h4x0r-3l337 ( 219532 ) on Sunday January 27, 2002 @02:48PM (#2910139)
    The section about how to run a free software business is, while extremely long (mostly because the author somehow feels a need to preach to the choir about the virtues of free software), simply a repetition of the same old "make money on support" mantra.
    The article pretty much says:
    - release buggy software, that way you can charge for bugfixes
    - release hard-to-use software, that way you can charge for training and support
    - use free software to lure customers in and then sell them other things
    (you'll notice that these three tactics are pretty much exactly what Microsoft does too)
    In other words (and this is not a troll, it's all right there in the article for everyone to see), if you just like to write good software and would like to make a living doing so, then free software is not for you.
    • Re:business models (Score:5, Insightful)

      by justin.warren ( 14556 ) <{moc.cigamnegie} {ta} {suladead}> on Sunday January 27, 2002 @08:48PM (#2911356) Homepage
      This article was of particular interest to me for reasons I won't go into here, but I agree with you about its poor quality. There are other bits I disagree with too:

      What's this "One movement with two factions" nonsense? I don't belong to any faction, or movement. They are two viewpoints shared by two separate groups of people who seem to spend a hell of a lot of time bickering about who has the moral high ground. I don't have an affiliation with either of them. I happen to use some of their software is all.

      I've seen some pretty reasonable explanations of the costs of software development too, which surprised me. To summarise: R&D costs, equipment costs, legal fees, rent, wages, etc. Now, if you're running a not-for-profit type charitable organisation, that's basically it and all you have to do is cover costs. If you're a commercial business with shareholders, you have to make profit. This is usually codified in the corporations law of whatever country you're in. The shareholders want to make money on their investment too.. otherwise they'll take their money and go somewhere else. That's why a company, no matter what it does, needs to make money.

      People seem to have an issue with this concept.. particularly if the company makes lots of money. Sure, they've made back the development costs on the original software project.. but now what do they do? Improve the software or add new products to their portfolio. It's a rare company that will survive for long by sitting on their laurels after a single successful project.

      And while we're at it, what's wrong with making a lot of money by doing a great job? You make a piece of really useful software and a lot of people part with their hard earned cash to use it to make their lives easier in some way. I just don't see why that's a bad thing.

  • by prototype ( 242023 ) <> on Sunday January 27, 2002 @03:21PM (#2910299) Homepage
    Is it just me or are these articles written by people that have a poor grasp of the English language? I can understand it comes out of China (or seems to indicate that) but I read the article "Making a Living with Free Software" and it seems to be a collection of one sentance paragraphs. Not to mention the fact that it doesn't even answer the original question. The article talks about writing free software, which I do on a regular basis (about 10 projects on the go right now), but never talks about making a living with it. It's a long diatribe about the freedom of writing free software and overusing the words "metaphor" and "freedom" way too much. There's no mention of how you can make a living off it (which isn't possible AFAIK). In any case, the magazine (and I'll use that term loosely) isn't really that impressive both visually or literally.


    • "Making a Living with Free Software" and it seems to be a collection of one sentance paragraphs.

      Ummm.. you will note that people who do not speak English as a first language have trouble using English as a language up to the (wow you have high standards dont cha?) standards you are expecting. So what?

      I spent a year in Asia, and this looks typical as far as visual standards and as an attempt to write something using English. My take: nice go! Good work, glad to see your using OSS.

      So as far as your falls short (xenophobic) remarks: Guess what? I am sure it does not fall short for the target audience, which is most likely Asians and others who like to see what Asians are up to with the open source world.

      Wow, if the whole world would just abide by your standards, maybe everyone can think like you, dress like you, talk like you, have the same literary and visual ideas you have. hey! Wont the world be a better place like that?

      Heres some more shit for you to make fun of: They write funny in Nepal too.
  • How much time and breath (ergo keystrokes) have been wasted defending the title "hacker"? Jesus, get over it and accept that many people have negative connotations with the word. Move on. It's choosing a battle for pathetic, superficial, pseudo-intelligensia reasons.

    Or are these people from Hackeria and they're defending their noble cultures traditions? Bah.

  • Stale... (Score:3, Informative)

    by erat ( 2665 ) on Sunday January 27, 2002 @04:43PM (#2910567)
    Could we have some recent articles? Rehashing articles that have appeared elsewhere is not my idea of producing a quality online zine. I could do the same thing by putting links on any ol' web page. Doing so and calling it a "magazine" is questionable at best. (I'm sure some of the content is new, like RMS' opening editorial. Other articles in the mag seem old, though.)

    All things considered, I'm not impressed.
  • They are not even trying to be somewhat neutral: All editing was done by GNU Emacs 21 - the greatest text editing tool [...] (toc.pdf)
  • by Lazaru5 ( 28995 ) on Sunday January 27, 2002 @11:35PM (#2911834)
    If you're going to bother making the case that Linux should be written as GNU/Linux then you should also strive to make sure that when you're talking about Free Software that you don't focus on just Linux.

"You can have my Unix system when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers." -- Cal Keegan