Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed


Forgot your password?
Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! No Flash necessary and runs on all devices. ×

Perens Discredits Mundie's Attack On GPL 427

SaxMan101 writes "CNET has an editorial from Bruce Perens that quite handily dismantles Mundies attack on the GPL and the Liberty Alliance. He takes the time to make YA strong argument for free software which he backs up with real numbers. Well said, worth the read."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Perens Discredits Mundie's Attack On GPL

Comments Filter:
  • This is good (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Hammer ( 14284 ) on Monday March 11, 2002 @10:59AM (#3142473) Journal
    Perens is dismantling Mundies FUD in a calm, businesslike way. Let's hope that the debate on MS FUD stays this calm and reasonable
    • Agreed. Bruce Perens did well with his rebuttal of Mundie's comments.

      So where are we now? At the We-Win part yet? Maybe not... but we are mighty close!
      • Re:This is good (Score:4, Insightful)

        by royalblue_tom ( 557302 ) on Monday March 11, 2002 @12:05PM (#3142841)
        It was calm and well reasoned. I still find it incredible that some people complain that they can't find a way of selling modified GPL software (even though they themselves didn't pay for the GPL'd code), while at the same time looking to sue anyone who tried to sell software built off the back of theirs without paying them.

        I just wish Perens had pointed out that since Microsoft have worked hard to destroy/assimilate all other competitors, it was only a matter of time that someone came up with a method of competition that couldn't be bought out by Microsoft. A method that couldn't be out-priced by microsoft.

        If someone says "It's my ball. Only I can say who plays", then in the end, either no one plays, or someone else donates a ball and everyone excludes the selfish one (who then presumably complains that no one understands them).

        So. When will microsoft release Office for Linux?
    • You expect a debate on MS FUD to stay calm and reasonable? On Slashdot?
    • Re:This is good (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Sir Tristam ( 139543 )
      Perens is dismantling Mundies FUD in a calm, businesslike way. Let's hope that the debate on MS FUD stays this calm and reasonable
      I agree; however, I think that Perens didn't help himself in the last paragraph where he said, "Did you notice how the Microsoft antitrust prosecution suddenly became less of a priority after the U.S. presidential election?" Three sentences from the end, the editorial swerves from being about how Microsoft is wrong about the GPL to being about the Microsoft anti-trust case. Perens laid out a very good case against the Microsoft FUD over the GPL, which stands on its own without the Microsoft anti-trust case. By making a swipe at the change of the DOJ's handling of the Microsoft case, Perens runs the needless risk of alienating some of the people he may have just won over with his well laid-out argument.

      Chris Beckenbach

  • by M_Talon ( 135587 ) on Monday March 11, 2002 @11:00AM (#3142474) Homepage
    It's obvious that Mundie sees the world through Windows-colored glasses. Software must be sold to get the money to make more software. How else could a software company work? If you can't license it, you can't gouge^H^H^H^H^Hcollect your due earnings. Oh, and the whole thing about people not working with Microsoft...if that's not a monopolist talking I don't know what is.

    Anyway, rant off now. It's good to see someone who can rationally tear down his arguement, and it's even better to see it on a fairly commonplace site like CNet. I think more and more people are realizing the snowjob Microsoft keeps trying to pull, and in the end that will be the thing that ends the monopoly.
    • Software must be sold to get the money to make more software. How else could a software company work?
      He is right, at least in part. Look at MS, they have tones of cash (too much really). Which open source firm is even profitable? Anyone besides RH? GPL does bestow freedom *but* it does make it hard to charge money for your work. And yes, money is needed to make more software. I am not saying the MS way is perfect, far from it. They are heavily abusing their power.

      I am a Linux user and it is 110% sweet to have a stable OS with a great web server & mail server (Courier [] in my case - it rocks) all for free. But I have an incredible sense of guilt when using it because I know that lots of people have put in their time and best effort to make this awesome software and that I'm not giving much in return.

      (I can see the mod already: -1, Heretic)
      • Guilt unnecessary (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) <> on Monday March 11, 2002 @01:09PM (#3143204) Homepage Journal
        It's not necessary to feel guilty! We want users. After all, writing software that nobody else uses would just be playing with ourselves. So consider that you save us from much embarassment :-)

        Have you considered being a technical writer or something? There are many ways that anyone can help.


    • by ergo98 ( 9391 ) on Monday March 11, 2002 @02:14PM (#3143668) Homepage Journal
      Of course Mundie sees the world through Windows coloured glasses, just as most of Slashdot's readership (including Mr. Perens) sees the world through open source coloured glasses: Biases are as human as life itself, especially when you're payed to have it (or you make fame by advocating a cerain bias).

      Having said that, I find Perens' editorial weak in substance or facts, starting from the first paragraph where he uses the public square "commons" as a parallel with GPLd software, which is ironic if you really think about: The commons was merely where you did you trade, trading cucumbers for gold pendants, and horses for a gaggle of geese -> The idea is that everyone has different skills and focuses, and commerce is how we all live full lives. The GPL software philosophy on the other hand, is one where software developers provide, and everyone else consumes (I recall a +5 posting on Slashdot some 2 years ago where someone told the story about how they explained the GPL to their dentist, and their dentist thought it was a great idea: Yeah, I'm sure they do. Now how about giving me some caps for free?). How humorous then to see Perens hold IBM up as a great example of the meshing of GPLd software and capitalism (with Linux being the "crown jewel", no less), when IBM is basically selling computing hardware on the backs of a bunch of basement programmers (I'm sure downsizing of the software development arm isn't far into the future) : IBM gains, the community loses. Yeah, I'm sure IBM does some token contributions to the Linux community, however I'd put a wager on them spending (many) magnitudes more painting penguins on sidewalks and putting cute Linux ads in magazines than they spend paying developers who contribute : Why would they contribute? Reality comes into play, and they won't see much reason to help Dell sell hardware too, now will they? Soon you have a prisoners dilemma with every company leaching but not contributing.

      The essence of all of this is this: Whether Perens and crew acknowledge it or not, what they are in actuality saying is that software development is an exceptional sector of our economy where regular rules needn't apply: Sure, sell your computer hardware, sell those coffee makers, buy yourself a nice new BMW, but don't you dare sell that software (and it is good to finally see someone in the GPL community acknowledge that the commercialization of GPLd software is next to impossible, as Mr. Perens states "And it's (deliberately) hard to commercialize GPL software."). As a software developer this infuriates me because Perens and crew are basically selling out software development as a profession, all to push an ideology and to act as spokespersons. On the receiving end, companies like IBM and HP, whose senior executives gleefully count the dollars gained from their absurdly, ridiculously overpriced hardware that is sold at thousands of times the raw material costs, hop on the Linux bandwagon : How very, very surprizing. And boy am I surprized to find that there are corporations that would happily replace systems that they paid for with GPL sytems: If these companies could pay a third world nation to enslave children to sew their $150 shoes (material and labour: $0.25) together, then they'll happily do that too.

      Mundies argument is that software as a valued good cannot coexist alongside the GPL, and in my opinion he is ENTIRELY RIGHT, as has been proven so many times (and Perens acknowledged in his article, which is quite the transition from prior GPL positioning which is that they were compatible).
      • This is all very interesting.

        I agree: IBM, HP, et el. gain from using GPLed software.
        I disagree: the community loses.

        So they are not paying for Linux. Is it better for the community that more people are using Linux on IBM/HP servers? Is it better for the community that IBM and HP have to write drivers and worry about security issues? I'd say yes to both of these.

        I believe IBM in particular, is working on ways to make Linux scale to much larger systems with much greater uptime. (Does anyone have a link to this project? It's on sourceforge)...and I'm pretty sure the work they do will be given back to the community. IBM makes money on their servers. If their servers are bigger/better than Dell's I think they know and we know it's in everyone's interest for IBM to contribute to Linux. I'm sure other OEMs feel the same way.
      • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) <> on Monday March 11, 2002 @03:29PM (#3144218) Homepage Journal
        You're infuriated! Are you sure that coffee you've been drinking isn't too strong :-)

        Whether Perens and crew acknowledge it or not, what they are in actuality saying is that software development is an exceptional sector of our economy where regular rules needn't apply

        Yes, I've made this explicit many times. It takes a pound of flour to "copy" a loaf of bread. In contrast, once you have amortized the cost of creating a piece of software, there is essentially no marginal cost associated with creating another copy. The result of this is that the current proprietary model drastically overvalues software. You complain of IBM and HP computers being overvalued with respect to the raw material cost. As we drive the market toward commodotized software, it becomes more competitive for hardware manufacturers. If they have high margins, isn't it because of anti-competitive factors like customer lock-in?

        Can we amortise the creation cost of software without a direct revenue capture per unit sold? The answer seems to be yes for a lot of people. And why would this be important? Because decoupling the money from the process makes the mechanics of collaboration a lot simpler. Collaboration works to distribute cost, making it tolerable, and improves efficiency by avoiding redundant development. That redundancy happens all too much for "in house" software, and businesses have recently realized that they can collaborate with their competitors on non-differentiating software. This is not to discount the entire "freedom" agenda, I simply need not argue in those terms this time.

        Perens and crew are basically selling out software development as a profession

        This smacks of the old guild system which operated to support costs rather than allow the free market to set them. It seems anticompetitive. But yes, if you want to consider me as selling out the software development profession, I'm doing it for the customer. People seem to forget that capitalism is supposed to operate for the ultimate interest of the customer, by keeping the costs that the customer pays as low as possible.

        Regarding your argument about software developers providing and everyone else consuming, most people are able to participate in a free exchange of information. In this same topic we've been carrying out a thread about how an illustrator can help.


      • What is your point? If you want to commercialize your code, then don't license it under the GPL. Simple.

        Or are you saying that you would like it to be impossible for me to release my code under the GPL, because someone using my Free Software program might be less interested in paying you for yours? Sorry bud, I'm going to release my code how I see fit. Neither you nor Craig Mundie has any business telling me how my stuff should be licensed.
  • by CDWert ( 450988 ) on Monday March 11, 2002 @11:02AM (#3142484) Homepage
    GPL, Apache, BSD, all these licences .

    Who is the GPL bad for ?

    Only 2 kinds of people, thats it TWO and ONLY two

    1.Those that make a copeting product with a GPL available substitute, (SQL, Linux, etc) and stand to lose money from cometition (i.e. MS)

    2.Those that would like to steal code repackage it and sell it without giving either credit or code back to whence it came.

    Thats it PERIOD.

    All this viral liscence crap and Craig Dumbdie spewing trash means nothing, the big boys the ones that count know. IBM, Copmaq, the people from a high line backing know this is all MS horeshit.

    I love the people that complain about hte license ONLY because the see $$$ signs and want to take it reroll it and sell it without contributing a damm thing back, those are the ones that make me laugh, go write the fucking code yourself.
    • by cperciva ( 102828 ) on Monday March 11, 2002 @11:48AM (#3142739) Homepage
      Who is the GPL bad for ?

      I'd add at least the following to your list:

      3. Those who would like to use code, are entirely willing to give credit where credit is due, but haven't decided yet if they want to (or, legally, are allowed to) release their own code.

      4. Anyone who wants to see open standards. It was only the existance of free-for-any-use code which lead to the global use of TCP/IP -- back when every company had their own proprietary network protocols, the only reason they added TCP/IP support in was because they could do so (almost) for free.

      5. Anyone who wants commercial software companies to release their source code. Companies which operate by selling software are never going to GPL their code; they might, on the other hand, release it under a less restrictive license which would allow them to incorporate improvements back into their own codebase.
      • by CDWert ( 450988 ) on Monday March 11, 2002 @12:11PM (#3142873) Homepage
        I have to disagree.

        "3. Those who would like to use code, are entirely willing to give credit where credit is due, but haven't decided yet if they want to (or, legally, are allowed to) release their own code"

        Once again, write your own code, I have contibuted to GPL and NON GPL projects, I have had my code stripped and moved to proprietary products. Im not game here, if you want it to be yours, write it yourself, I no longer submit code to any BSD project, just for this reason, this goes to my second point to the letter.

        "4. Anyone who wants to see open standards. It was only the existance of free-for-any-use code which lead to the global use of TCP/IP -- back when every company had their own proprietary network protocols, the only reason they added TCP/IP support in was because they could do so (almost) for free."

        The GPL is not meant for the setting of standads, it was meant to provide commercial alternative, supported and developed by a group for public use.

        "5. Anyone who wants commercial software companies to release their source code. Companies which operate by selling software are never going to GPL their code; they might, on the other hand, release it under a less restrictive license which would allow them to incorporate improvements back into their own codebase"

        Thats fine, let them release it under ANY licence THEY want, its their code. Noone is under ANY obligation to release anything. Ive coded stuff that I wouldnt give to god or country, and things Ive done for companies I couldnt even if I wanted to. CHOICE is what its all about do what you want with what you own, but at the same time dont try to dictate terms about something you dont, (dont take this the wrong way, Im not talking about you)
        • CDWert wrote:
          >[snip several reasons why GPL is the right license for him]

          I don't dispute that. From the sound of it, the GPL is exactly the license you should release your code under.

          But what you asked, and what I answered, was the question "Who [sic] is the GPL bad for?"

          The fact that the GPL isn't bad for you in no way refutes the fact that it is bad for the classes of people I listed above.
          • You two seem to be arguing slightly different things.

            What Mundie was saying, as I understand it, is that the GPL is bad because it prevents companies commercializing the GPL'd code. In other words, Mundie claims that when someone releases code under the GPL, it's bad for the economy and society as a whole. This is the assertion that CDWert is arguing against. He's not saying that the GPL is the best license for everyone to use, he's saying that people who release code under the GPL aren't harming anyone else.

            • No! DAMMIT!

              You're harming me!
              If'in I can't take the code that you produced and take it without compensating you and use it to build my own successful megabucks empire - YOU'VE DESTROYED CAPITALISM - you pinko communist.

              That's what capitalism is! Exploiting the workforce! [Sheesh]


          • Confusion on both our parts I think,

            Its not truly BAD for the people and situations you describe, it just could be better, it in NO way INTERFERES with their ability to come up with their own solution.

            A piece of say the best thing since sliced bread being out there and GPL causes no harm, hence its not bad, to ANYONE except the 2 groups I listed, you are as always entirley FREE to come up and send the time creating your own alternative.

            The GPL would ONLY be bad to any group IF it interfered with their ability to create and distribute their own IP, it does neither.

            The GPL could be better for the uses you mentioned, but it does them no harm, hence its not bad.

            Dont you love how I paint in black and white :)

      • by jdavidb ( 449077 ) on Monday March 11, 2002 @12:42PM (#3143054) Homepage Journal

        (3) is not a problem if the people do not distribute the software. It is fine to modify and use GPL'ed code internally. The GPL only covers the rules for distributing the software. So basically, unless you plan to sell the product, this isn't a problem. Note that (2) in the original list is too narrowly defined; even if credit is given, our goals with the GPL (of increasing the free software code base) are not met when someone takes the code and makes a non-free derivation.

        (4) If TCP/IP were replaced tomorrow with a new open protocol for which only a GPL'ed implementation existed, people could still write and market a non-free implementation. They just wouldn't be allowed to take my GPL'ed work and use it in a way I don't approve of.

        But my real response to (4) is that, as a hardened free software advocate, I could care less whether or not people have a non-free implementation of any protocol.

        (5) If companies want to release non-free code that is their prerogative. Eventually, I believe, the free implementations are going to surpass the proprietary implementations in quality, and make the proprietary model unviable. If they want to continue to make non-free products at that point, that is their prerogative.

        • (4) If TCP/IP were replaced tomorrow with a new open protocol for which only a GPL'ed implementation existed, people could still write and market a non-free implementation.

          Exactly... people *could* write their own implementation. But would they?

          The success of TCP/IP is due to the fact that people didn't have to write their own implementation -- they just dropped Tahoe in almost unchanged.

          I could care less whether or not people have a non-free implementation of any protocol.

          You should care more. We use these things called "shared networks". The infrastructure which gets built to support particular protocols depends upon the number of people using them. Without a free implementation of TCP/IP, not only would windows users be stuck without it, but you and I would also be.
      • I think the point of Mundie, and also you, is wrong. (bad grammer I know)

        Mundie wants to make like there isn't a choice. He basically claims - Once there's GPL software, it creates a vast wasteland where no innovation can occur.

        What a crock. If you like GPL code, go approach the creators - who own the unrestricted copyright. They can sell you a non GPL version to use as you see fit. It might not be cheap, but if you really need it, and it's such great code, the option is available.

        For the right amount of money, I'd bet that even our "beloved" RMS would sell a branch off of his GFL programs. And why shouldn't we. GPL is a "lifestyle" - if you don't want the lifestyle, you can have other options - they just come with different costs.

        The GPL isn't viral. You always have a choice. Pay the GPL program creator, or program it yourself.

        TCP was a defined standard - i.e. RFC. The code was just a representation of that RFC. The reason that TCP made it, was because it was not protected by IP. The RFC was available for all.

        Ok rant over.

      • 4. Anyone who wants to see open standards. It was only the existance of free-for-any-use code which lead to the global use of TCP/IP -- back when every company had their own proprietary network protocols, the only reason they added TCP/IP support in was because they could do so (almost) for free.

        It is most definitely a valid point that the TCP/IP stack was BSD and as a result it is more than ubiquitous. IPX, offerings from DEC, and other attempts all pretty much pale beside IP. However, there was not a GPL-ed TCP/IP implementation to compete with, so saying the BSD *won* is not entirely fair. You are implying a comparison that did not exist.

        3. Those who would like to use code, are entirely willing to give credit where credit is due, but haven't decided yet if they want to (or, legally, are allowed to) release their own code.
        I would never wish to live in a society where the wishes of people who take my code are more important than mine.

        5. Anyone who wants commercial software companies to release their source code. Companies which operate by selling software are never going to GPL their code; they might, on the other hand, release it under a less restrictive license which would allow them to incorporate improvements back into their own codebase.
        Well, two issues. Companies already release code under the GPL, even existing companies like IBM and Sun, let alone Red Hat and VA. Saying that an owner of work would not release under the GPL because it "would not allow them to incorporate improvements" is not accurate. There is *nothing* stopping them from doing so.

        The misinformation that companies can't use GPL'ed code when they have been doing so for years needs to stop.

    • Those that would like to steal code repackage it and sell it without giving either credit or code back to whence it came.

      It never ceases to amaze me how strongly people will defend IP when the GPL is attacked. So, are you now on the record as stating that strong IP rights are important?

      • by CDWert ( 450988 ) on Monday March 11, 2002 @12:36PM (#3143013) Homepage
        I write code, I can do whatever I want with that code,

        If I choose I can sell it, (Its value is lessened if any tom, dick, or harry can, and legally, get it elsewhere) I can do so.

        I can open source it, in doing so I am granting others the right to use it, Under whatever liscence I deem appropriate(remeber its my code)

        Or I can let it sit on my hard drive and rot. not much use there.

        But If I write the code, its my choice ho I make it available, If I am gracious enough to give it to the world, why should they dictate the terms under which they would like to use it ? That greed, and being ungrateful.

        I have MANY time seen things I needed similar solutions too and said damm be nice to use that in my project, but I couldnt, mine was proprietary theirs was GPL, so what, I wrote my own. No bitching no moaning, just an understanding its not my code who am I to tell someone else how to make the code their blood and sweat into available to me under my terms, I wouldnt do it and I dont expect anyone would do it to me.

        I am a capatilist, simple period. If I can make more money using open source I will, but if it interests dont meet mine, I will write my own code to fill that need.
      • If strong IP rights didn't exist, there would be no need for the GPL.
  • round 7 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tom ( 822 ) on Monday March 11, 2002 @11:04AM (#3142492) Homepage Journal
    Nothing new by now. M$ fights the PR war to defend its business model - that's hardly a surprise, no matter if you think them good or bad guys.
    Of course, people subscribing to a different view respond, defending their own views. No surprise there, either.

    What is a step forward from a couple years ago is that the mainstream press is publishing both sides (as it should, both or none).
    That is something we haven't (yet) gained in other areas where the same game is played - for example, the movie mafia is still spreading its FUD ("we're going to DIE!") largely unopposed. Its not that nobody points out the faults in their arguments, its just that he doesn't get into the newspapers.

  • Crown Jewel? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TrollMan 5000 ( 454685 ) on Monday March 11, 2002 @11:05AM (#3142495)
    Considering all of those IBM ads, and the participation of every major computer manufacturer, the GNU-Linux system has indeed become a crown jewel of capitalism.

    Yes, the IBM ads have been quite successful, but I don't think the GPL is a crown jewel of capitalism...yet. GPL'd and open source have yet to gain the market share that Microsoft's products have.

    Measured in pure dollars and cents, and market share, Microsoft would have to be the crown jewel of capitalism, propelling Bill Gates to nearly $100 billion in net worth at roughly age 40.
  • Hysteria (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Godeke ( 32895 ) on Monday March 11, 2002 @11:09AM (#3142520)
    After reading Mundie's comments, you get the feeling that Microsoft has no viable long term solution to open source software, and they have been lowered to simply repeatedly insulting the intelligence of business owners. The point made in the article about the saved revinue being used by the company is critical. I am part of a company that uses several open source tools to help our development of our software, and every dollar not spent on expensive commercial software that we can't modify to suit our needs in money we can't spend on developing our own product. But we do spend that money on the development of our product, and I think that is a better use of funds than if we had to pay Microsoft. Only Microsoft would see that the other way around...
    • Re:Hysteria (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mjh ( 57755 ) <> on Monday March 11, 2002 @11:55AM (#3142784) Homepage Journal
      After reading Mundie's comments, you get the feeling that Microsoft has no viable long term solution to open source software, and they have been lowered to simply repeatedly insulting the intelligence of business owners.

      I would believe this except for the fact that it seems to work. Intelligent business owners, who should be insulted, are not. They are simply *not* willing to take the road less traveled. They go with Microsoft products because they see it as a lower risk proposition which they are willing to pay for.

      Heck, it even happened at my church. We are currently running a Linux based fileserver. The cost of running a windows fileserver is prohibative: 30 win2k pro licenses + 1 win2k server license + 30 win2k client access licenses, are a *lot* of bucks, especially when our entire financial situation is based on donations. Unfortunately, I'm the only one who knows how to run the server. And there's a very serious concern that the effort to deal with that single point of failure is too great to overcome. My solution is to train people. Their solution is to buy licenses.

      My point is that the decisions that go into choosing a microsoft solution instead of a linux solution are complicated, and microsoft knows it, so they add as many additional complications to linux as they can get away with. It doesn't matter if those complications are true or false. Just that the perception is that their solution is easier and lower risk and something worth paying for.

      • In the enterprise, we are at the point where Linux is considered a more secure solution. Some of this is due to the fact that most CS students learn Linux. Not in the domain of the naive user, though. I think we just need to work on ease-of-administration more. I still think that we have a significant market among home users who don't want to spend big $$ for an office suite, etc., we just have to get to the point that we can accomodate them. I see it as less than a year away.


      • I understand what you are saying about the church situation. Perhaps we are in a unique situation, being developers who understand more than just windows. Our product is distributed over the internet using no proprietary systems (just stock HTML and JavaScript) to our subscriber base, so we can use open source tools more readily than most.

        My suggestion would be a cost-benefit analysis and let the numbers speak for themselves. I'm sure you can pay for the training or bring someone with a clue on board for the cost of the licenses. (Remember to include the cost of the Windows support personal and downtime/recover for both systems.)
      • Re:Hysteria (Score:2, Insightful)

        by nvrrobx ( 71970 )
        In this sort of a situation, what costs more? The software/licenses or the support?

        Businesses look at the bottom line - which comes down to TCO (yeah, the lovely "total cost of ownership" buzzword from a few years ago)

        If a company can hire any punk off the street with an MCSE and pay him very little, is that cheaper in the long run than hiring a seasoned UNIX pro and running "free" software?

        "Free" software is not free. Just because you don't pay for the license doesn't mean you won't pay for it in the long run.

        I'm not advocating either - the decision on what to use should be based on your situation. Ignore the FUD, do the homework, and decide what works best for you.
  • by superid ( 46543 ) on Monday March 11, 2002 @11:10AM (#3142522) Homepage
    To follow Mundie's conclusion, however, you'd have to believe that the money people save by using the GNU-Linux system just disappears.

    But, of course, that money isn't lost to the economy. What happens to the money that companies save by using GPL software? They put it into their business

    My wife is a statistician and she works for a very small independent research company that primarily supports educational institutions. As you would expect, they are on a shoestring budget. I have just completed installing mod_survey [] for them to evaluate as an alternative to commercial software that costs thousands of dollars.

  • Strong argument? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by platos_beard ( 213740 ) on Monday March 11, 2002 @11:10AM (#3142525)
    I think there's a strong case to be made for free software, but this ain't it. Bruce Perens touts the money saved by not buying MS software, but completely ignores the much more significant expenditures on people to administer all this software. Does it cost more to administer sendmail than Exchange? Apache vs. IIS? Is in-house development with VB cheaper to get the same results as Java on Linux?

    I'm not sure how the numbers balance out, but these concerns far outweigh the price of buying the software. If Mr. Perens is going to dip his toe in TCO waters, he'd be better be sure he can jump all the way in and not get himself drowned.

    • by fruey ( 563914 )
      Well how many companies really employ people in house to run Exchange? We make a lot of money fixing people's Exchange, and we charge more to fix it than to fix their Sendmail or to reinstall with Postfix or Qmail.

      I don't think you can make this direct argument. Find some figures to back it up. Let's think about Total Cost of Ownership: the Microsoft licence alone would pay a year's salary for a person in a large company to put in Linux instead.

    • > Bruce Perens touts the money saved by not buying
      > MS software, but completely ignores the much more
      > significant expenditures on people to administer
      > all this software.

      What a tired sick argument! I'd have to say that the average UNIX administrator is much better trained than the average Window's administrator. The average UNIX admin can do his job from a ssh terminal anywhere there is an internet connection; the Windows admin usually has to drive down to the server room and get ready to reboot multiple times. Been there done that.

      Not to mention the army of techs needed to support the desktop users of Windows. Frankly, Windows just requires more support. Been there done that.

      > Does it cost more to administer sendmail than
      > Exchange? Apache vs. IIS? Is in-house
      > development with VB cheaper to get the same
      > results as Java on Linux?

      Development costs of VB compares with Java though I'd say Java costs a bit more initially. Over the long run though, Java code gets reused more as it is based on objects; VB code usually is a mangled mess of sphagetti (sp?) code, procedural and pseudo-object code. Been there seen that.

      Face it - Closed Source Software is not a panacea!
    • The cost of IT personel/sys. admins. is going to be the same whether they are administering open-source or MS software. A business is going to pay only as much as it is willing for IT people, regardless of the software it's running.

      In terms of company tech support, considering that MS charges what, $135/hr, you probably end up saving money on support costs as well by switching to OSS, though you prolly could have the same kind of savings switching to a different set of proprietary software as well.
    • by JordanH ( 75307 ) on Monday March 11, 2002 @11:35AM (#3142652) Homepage Journal

      Without doing any real research, I couldn't say what the TCO issues really are. It's been my observation that sendmail is cheaper to maintain that Exchange, Apache cheaper than IIS, etc., but I don't really know, and I doubt that you do either.

      I just notice that they're always doing maintenance on the Exchange server, but I rarely hear about problems with the sendmail gateways here. Same goes for Apache vs. IIS.

      But, this is somewhat a distraction from Bruce's point. Actually, Bruce Perens in the article actually tries to avoid the economic issues and instead focuses on the control issue.

      It was Bruce's thesis that the control issues, through people benefitting from competition in those to support and extend the products they use, will lead to lower prices.

      I agree that the TCO issues are complex. In fact, they are too complex to really address naively. For example,

      • Is in-house development with VB cheaper to get the same results as Java on Linux?

      Please tell me... How do you get the "same results" with VB/MS as Java on Linux when the Java solution can be deployed across platforms, giving you potentially huge advantages in deployment flexibility?

      If, for example, you were able to deploy to near-zero administration Terminals based on Java/Linux and you needed to deploy tens of thousands of seats, who wins then?

      Sure, .net may do similar things someday, but what if MS starts ratcheting up the licensing fees? Any guarantees against it? With Open Source you always have the option of competing support groups or self-maintenance if a product requires extension or maintenance. This is dicey with Closed Source products where you are often forced to upgrade or have to live with the problems if the vendor has decided to take the product in another direction.

      You see, static analysis of what TCO is today is a secondary concern to the control you gain with using Open Source. I think that would be what Bruce might say, at least.

      • I was at a CTO roundtable the other day. A New York City investment banking CTO was talking about the difference between Linux/Unix admins and Windows admins (yes, Linux is widely employed in investment banking these days). Linux admins script a fix and don't touch it again, they just re-run the script. Windows admins don't script, for the most part. They push the same buttons on each system. This might be a big factor in increasing the Windows TCO. The bank claims they have many more Windows admins per system than Linux/Unix admins. I'll ask the CTO to write an article.


    • Re:Strong argument? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by GSloop ( 165220 ) <> on Monday March 11, 2002 @11:56AM (#3142793) Homepage
      You ARE right...but it's truely ironic.

      MS is THE premiere player in trying to sell cheap/free until they get marketshare, then raise the price.

      Here in Portland OR, MS convinced First Interstate Bank to install NT 3.11 instead of Netware in their new 3000+ employee loan center - and almost purely because it was cheaper than upgrading from Netware 3.X

      The bank didn't have any serious tools (Sniffer etc) in the old environment, and the hardware was ancient. But the OS was going to save them like 20K+.

      What most of the outside world didn't know, was that the network went down almost daily for months. The result was thousands of people sitting idle (a double drain - their getting paid, and NOT making money).

      Finally, after coming hours from chucking the whole thing, the MS engineers finally called the ONE guy who wrote the TCP stack. After a short conversation, the MS programmer suggested an undocumented TCP stack option. All of a sudden, the SNA session timeouts just stopped.

      The point? MS SOFTWARE was like 20K cheaper, but the whole experiement cost the bank like HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS (possibly even millions) of dollars. Even without the NT problems, the costs were VERY substantial to switch vs. staying on Netware.

      MS has used the "IT'S FREE" or "IT'S LOTS CHEAPER" approach more than I can believe - Office bundled with the OS, (Office 4.3/95) IE/OE, NT (early on), MS Windows Plus, Windows 2.X-3.X (Bundled with Windows).

      BP may not have dealt with the entire problem, but frankly, the PHB's aren't looking at TCO. If they were, we'd have run screaming from IE/OE a LONG time ago. We'd have set ourselves on fire when we see the rising cost of Office (Now it's MUCH more expensive than before - un upgrade used to cost like $200, now it's like $400), and the moving platform of MS's site licensing (I forget what MS called it - I think it used to be License+, now Select something? Doubled and Tripled in less than 5 years - loss of concurrent licensing)

      PHB's only see the INITIAL costs. If they are concerned about TCO, they will look at the HUGE problems with viruses, crashing boxes (Re-Image anyone?!) and lots of features that really waste time and aggrevate users. (Clippie Anyone? How about how Word decides how you REALLY NEED that numbered list done etc!)

      Sure, it's difficult to learn a totally new platform. But I do think that the Linux platform isn't any more difficult to administer. Ever tried to figure out Active Directory - it's got me confused! [Grin] How about when Exchange just stops sending mail in or out, but everything LOOKS fine - but a reboot fixes it? What about when IIS gets remote rooted and you get to rebuild your entire server?

      I don't think you were defending the MS status quo, but even if you were, I think that defending MS will be a loosing battle in TCO. Bugs and security problems seriously compromise the TCO calculations on ANY MS software.

      Finally, TCO numbers are SO perfect for manipulation. Everyone can make TCO numbers say anything they want. It's like the 10 year USA Gvmt budget. You can CLAIM you know where things are going to be, but frankly, you don't have a clue. TCO is usually just a massive marketing ploy.

    • by WNight ( 23683 ) on Monday March 11, 2002 @04:37PM (#3144625) Homepage
      TCO is hard to calculate. I'm sure you can hire someone with IIS experience fairly easily, but you can't compare that to someone who puts "Apache administration" on their resume.

      The Apache admin is likely to be a lot closer to a full system admin. Someone who can bang together perl scripts to automate problems, configure a firewall to drop code-red packets that are DoSing the web server, and more.

      If all you want is someone to upload the output of dreamweaver, you don't need to go with IIS though. You can do a default install of Redhat, be just as secure as XP (wow, what a claim) and use any of the web-based Apache admin tools that provide as much of a GUI as you could want. And they're easily understood by someone who wants basic functionality and no hassles.

      But it's unfair to confuse a real admin skilled in a system, with a fresh MCSE who "knows" IIS because he's taken a test about it.

      Factor in functionality of the systems, and I think your little TCO argument falls flat.

      Besides, if you really want a cheap system that a junior employee could run you might as well outsource it or buy co-lo space for a box provided by your ISP. It's simpler, often cheaper, and provides for much things like the ability to use as much bandwidth as needed without having to have new lines installed. Makes it much easier to cope with a suprise Slashdotting - just the thing that can make (or break) a new business.
  • IBM Global Services (Score:4, Interesting)

    by PHAEDRU5 ( 213667 ) <> on Monday March 11, 2002 @11:14AM (#3142544) Homepage
    I recently read an article in either Inc. or BusinessWeek about the effect Lou Gerstner had on IBM. Among other things, the article praised him for moving IBM agressively to becoming a service-based company.

    I don't think Microsoft has anything to compare with this (yet), and fears those who are already in the arena.

    The way Microsoft is fighting this war is to attempt to discredit open source as an approach, while (and I'm guessing on this) preparing its own service division.

    It's classic. Throw out a load of FUD about the competition, while readying your own competing product. Depend on clueless PHBs to swallow your line, and watch the cash roll in.
  • Makes sense (Score:3, Redundant)

    by SpookComix ( 113948 ) <> on Monday March 11, 2002 @11:14AM (#3142545) Homepage Journal
    The article was well written, and makes sense. Especially relevant was his argument that money just doesn't "disappear" when companies choose open-source software, but that it is invested into their own business in different ways, eventually ending up in the same place.

    For all the discussions about Linux taking over the world, or Microsoft obliterating the competition, etc., it's fun to just sit back and watch how several breakout OSes and technologies (Linux, OSX, MP3s, etc.) slowly and naturally build in popularity and find a solid niche in our lives. I guess it all comes down to "natural selection". :-)


  • Is this an acronym I'm clueless about, or a typo? Honestly I just can't figure it out from the context, nor can I see it as a reasonable typo.
  • by EschewObfuscation ( 146674 ) on Monday March 11, 2002 @11:17AM (#3142563) Journal
    If you drill down a bit you find this letter [] from a programmer that complains about Open Source. While I found it both sad and funny, it does shed light on how Microsoft and other commercial software vendors view the movement.

    To summarize: OSS is a bad thing because if free software is available no one will want to pay for software, which will drive programmers out of work. OSS is good in that it establishes competition for Microsoft, but that competition is better done through litigation or other commercial software.

    Applying this point of view to Microsoft is humorous, of course, considering what they did with IE.

    I actually don't think the developer has a point, though. Open source software has created far more jobs than it took. Linux, Apache, and other free platforms and development tools have meant, in my experience, that corporations are financially able to deploy systems that would otherwise have been prohibitive. The spread of such tools has also increased the number of people who are exposed to them - how many people would be running personal Unix systems if they had to have commercial systems? These people are able to get jobs in IT they would otherwise not be qualified for, or perhaps even know about.

    In any case, Perens' response [] likening software development and protective measures against open source competition to buggy whips (actually ice, in his analogy) is only half the story.
    • by tshoppa ( 513863 ) on Monday March 11, 2002 @11:48AM (#3142744)
      If you drill down a bit you find this letter [] from a programmer that complains about Open Source.

      The most paradoxical comment within this letter is this:

      The RIAA wants its intellectual property (music) to be protected. Authors want their books protected. I want my industry's intellectual property to be likewise protected. Is this too much to ask?
      In other words, he think that the way to protect his intellectual property is to ask that it be illegal for others to give away their intellectual property. And this isn't too much to ask. Scary thought.

      He also seems to give the RIAA implicit control over all music, but that's another flame war.

      • I didn't take that up with him, but you are free to write a letter explaining that to him. They'll run it.


  • by vees ( 10844 ) <> on Monday March 11, 2002 @11:20AM (#3142570) Homepage Journal

    Intelligent citizens, industry professionals and academics will read, understand, and probably agree with this article.

    This is also the sort of writing that could really color the public debate if average Joe Citizen had any reason to value the opinion of Bruce Perens [] over Craig Mundie [].

    But why should they?

    What does the average person know about Perens? What do they know about the Open Source Initiative []? Correct me if I'm wrong, but probably very little. What does the average person know about MicroSoft []? That they build the software that runs on every computer that they sit behind every day.

    There's a bit of a credibility gap.

    Craig Mundie could conceivably be any employee with the MicroSoft backing, and he would get press and general public recognition that Perens doesn't.

    Pro-Open Source writers are often honest and, while not unbiased or impartial, are at least driven more by a cooperative and edifying spirit than a monopolistic one. If the general public had more reason to trust them, the articles they write would more effectively influence public opinion.

    Think about how can this community help people like Perens while he's busy trying to help us.

    • >There's a bit of a credibility gap.

      I disagree. One of the things that I think is missing from the open vs. closed source debate is the values that people from the two camps are really supporting. Microsoft has one overriding purpose: to increase shareholder value. Anyone who says otherwise is lying. If any corporation engages in altruistic deeds or helps the environment or the less fortunate, they are doing it because there is a return on the investment in the form of good will. Anyone who believes that Microsoft cares about their business as anything other than a revenue stream is a fool. That's not Microsoft's job.

      Open source advocates promote their software because they want to have some control over their fates, to promote the general advancement of the field, and for numerous other reasons. They do not do it because they wish to make a profit.

      The case that open source people can make that microsoft can't is that they are not trying to extract more money from your business. They are trying to improve technology because they believe that it's advancement is valuable in its own right.

      Thus, Craig Mundie is a a salesperson, whose job it is to say anything necessary to promote microsft's way of doing business. Bruce Perens is an advocate shared technological advancement and general improvement.

      There is a credibility gap but no the one you think. It needs to be exploited more though.
    • I would not mind getting invitations to speak before non-tecnical political policy venues, for example the Commonwealth Club []. But note that I am a two-year-old's dad, and I don't want to be an absentee dad. I can't take every speaking invitation, they must be prioritized.



  • Since Mundie likes to talk about the benefits of taxes, maybe he woule like to tell us all just how much taxes M$ pays to the government now, and how much it would expect to be paying if Open Source were outlawed. It might look something like this:

    Paying now: 10$

    Would Pay: 12$

    That should be enough to convince anyone of just how important M$ taxes are.

  • nice to read but, (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BigBir3d ( 454486 ) on Monday March 11, 2002 @11:24AM (#3142588) Journal
    it needs to come from people not in the industry.

    "Bruce Perens is a leader in the free-software movement and co-founder of the Open Source Initiative."

    Some people will just interpret this as another person shouting from atop the soapbox.

    When it is from actual "news" people, not people from the major camps, then we have something to get excited about.
  • by sheldon ( 2322 ) on Monday March 11, 2002 @11:28AM (#3142616)
    If there is a strong argument for GPL'ed software, Bruce Perens is not making it...

    The only fact and figure I see supporting any of his claims is this $1 Billion investment by IBM. Well, gee... considering Microsoft has made a $50 Billion or whatever investment in Windows that must make it even better, right?

    Something I would like to see is accurate deployment figures for Linux. The few surveys that get reported a lot are from 1999 and even 2000 from IDC where they make claims of large share and great growth. These surveys are then disputed by 2001 reports from Gartner and Goldman Sachs showing negligible interest and growth in that market.

    I've yet to see anything from IDC for 2001, and I have done some fairly extensive searching on Why is that?

    • Deployment figures are meaningless. If there are 10 times as many Linux systems in the world today than there were yesterday, your choice of operating system should not change (unless you feel that a given vendor is now large enough to accept the liability for providing you software, but I warn you up front that that's a hollow hope).

      Really, the only facts you need are these (and I don't have all of the answers here, just the questions):

      1. What are the costs? Linux, et al. have much lower costs initially, but you'll have to hire more experienced people to maintain it.
      2. What are the risks (a poorly managed software license database can bankrupt your company when the BSA comes to call vs. dealing with more volatile software suites from the free software camps).
      3. What are your needs? If you want a desktop publishing system, open source is just starting to compete in that arena. If you want an Internet server or scientific modeling platform, you're in open source's back yard.

      Quoting billions of dollars spent is not the focus of the article. Re-read it if you doubt that statement. It's about making good choices. It's about misleading and misrepresenting arguements.

      Good luck with your own decisions. I happily work for and all-Linux shop that provides software to some of the world's largest companies.
  • "There was this notion that the world should have an alternative" (paraphrasing)

    I'll admit that it sounds like it COULD be arrogance, but I didn't hear the speech. I haven't seen much else from the speech except for that line wrt Liberty.

    Are people reading too much into this one sentence (all I've seen)? Was the next sentence "And we think this is a good thing"?

    I've enough issues with the GPL already without needing MS to could the matter further. The issue of taxes is silly imo. It's the same with people thinking we shouldn't LOWER taxes either.

    ACTIVITY is taxed (buying/selling/whatever) - not particular THINGS. Whether its software/services/hardware/buildings/whatever, the activity of doing business is what gets taxed. The spending of money. If people spend less on MS, they spend more somewhere else. That is activity, and it will be taxed.
  • Hey, is Bruce Perens going to organize another gathering of free software leaders [] to denounce Mundie's claim that free software development doesn't make for a profitable business?

    Or will that be inhibited by the fact that he, Larry Augustin, Eric Raymond and Miguel de Icaza have all decided that proprietary software is necessary for their own businesses to stay afloat?

  • by cnelzie ( 451984 ) on Monday March 11, 2002 @11:34AM (#3142646) Homepage

    I find it sorta funny that Mundie would actually state something along the lines of, "There is this notion that people should have a choice."

    How I find that funny is that in the past he has proclaimed how "Un-American" the GPL and OSS is. Of course, I believe that he never claims that MS is a for American standards of freedom, choice. A number of his statements are the sort of thing that one would expect from a dictatorship or the "American idea" of what the old Soviet Block was and may actually have been.

    .sig seperator
  • Good (Score:4, Insightful)

    by anpe ( 217106 ) on Monday March 11, 2002 @11:34AM (#3142648)
    I'm pleased to see such a good piece of anti-FUD work aimed at managers.

    The articles explains clearly that the key point in GPL is :

    But this is not to say that the main benefit of Linux and other GPL software is lower-cost. Control is the main benefit--cost is secondary.

    This quote is the most important : GPL gives you _control_ on the library you've choosen to link with your project. The library is not subject to stock prices or whatever non-IT reason. If you don't want the new features : don't upgrade, you don't like the new direction : fork the developement tree ...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Isn't open-source essentially a communist-notion? I'm not saying that would be a bad thing. But it seems that Microsoft is saying they should be able to make money selling operating systems, web services, etc: a capitalist argument. The open source argument is for everybody to put their resources in a single pot, and by polling resources a better product can be had for all: sounds like communism to me. That plan makes sense to me, but Americans do live in a capitalist society. If open-source is a communist notion, can the United States really stand against the capitalists? Communism doesn't seem to work for governments, largely because of corruption (- obviously open to argument). Does the abstract nature of software and it's ability to be copied indefinitely eliminate the flaws that made communism fail as a mode of government for countries? Is there any point where the usefulness of open-source software ends and the market for commercial software begins? Or would commercial software be obsolete in the presence of the "new world order"?
    • Open source would probably be better associated with the communal approach that some people embraced back in the 60's (not having been there it's purely hear-say for me).

      I like to think that there are a few things that really drive the open source movement. The first is that ol' "itch I want to scratch" motivation. Somebody sees something that should be improved and/or created and launches off to work on it. Hopefully that process finds a bunch of "me-too" people and it blossoms (hence the SourceForge and FreshMeat ppl).

      The second thing that drives open source is community. People want to contribute and/or show-off with their peers. How better to gain respect/kudos then to provide a useful tool? Fortunately there are enough people around that there is a community willing to contribute and build up instead of merely tearing down.

      Finally, communication. The fact that you can have the main kernel people who work on Linux cooordinate efforts between the US, Norway, Sweden, etc. increases the power of the community. If only 1% of the programmers want to contribute to Open Source projects, then having a larger pool to draw from makes that 1% a bigger overall group of people.

      Open Source "versus" proprietary isn't communism versus capitalism. It's really not versus anything. It's an idea that people use for differing goals. The main, and the best one, is to create good useful software. Some other people choose to use it as a rallying cry against all things proprietary (or more specifically against all things MS), but that's just how a particular group of people use the idea, it's not Open Source in and of itself.
    • Communism and capitalism are different economic systems, but what they have in common is that they are meant to be applied to systems of physical goods. Physical goods are limited in quantity; e.g. if you sell me a car, you no longer have the car yourself.

      Software, like any information, is different. I can sell you a copy of a program I wrote while still having my own copy. To my knowledge, neither the communist nor the capitalist model address goods that can be replicated at zero (or near-zero) cost.

      Capitalism uses money to reward production and allow consumption. Communism asks people to produce what they can and consume what they need. Free/Open Source Software allows people to produce however much they want and consume whatever they like. (Pity it only works with bits.)

  • Perens' article was a good rebuttal to Mundie's FUD slinging, but it left me wanting: it was an open source justification for a free software license.

    While all the points he makes are true, and the economic beneifits of free software are obvious, that is not the primary moral justification for software being free. Repeat after me, "When software is free, the world is a better place."

    Now, it stands to reason, that part of the world being a better place is certainly the economic benefit that free software provides to reduce operating costs. In fact, one could argue that if there were no such effect, free software wouldn't be too great a thing -- who'd want it if it had no value (rather like some excuses for programs I've seen)? And they'd be right. These are open source arguments, though, and miss the fact that freeing software not only results in lowered operating costs for businesses that use it, but it changes the every environment in which they operate.

    There are two primary schools of economic thought: planned economies and free markets. Politically, you have the statists on one side and the libertarians and anarchists on the other. Proponents from both sides argue that "their" way serves to distribute scarce resources in the most effective way, and that's what we want, no? -- effective distribution of scarce resources.

    Well, yeah, but that doesn't make the scarcity go away, does it? Oh sure, the technological advancements that lead to efficiency improvements do eventually trickle down to everyone so that certain scarcities are less visible, but that's just a kludge. Think water. Most cities have methods for distributing drinking water to the point that, although the amount of water available may remain the same, it hardly seems locally scarce, even though it may have come from far away.

    Free software serves to reduce the scarcity of good code out there. It provides value without relying on scarcity as the source of that value. It is a threat only to those who seek to leverage their possession of a scarce resource for maximum value. Now, if that resource is naturally scarce, fine: once sold, it is gone. But if the resource is artificially scarce, you can manufacture more of it for no cost, and charge whatever the market will bear, for pure profit (until you saturate the market, that is, but time-limited use licenses take care of that "problem" -- Microsoft's latest licensing strategy). It gives the owner incredible power over society as a whole (until society revolts).

    But it costs money to produce code! People can't afford to give it away!! Well, if they depend on making it scarce for their livelyhood, no, but that is a bootstrapping problem: you make something artificially scarce in order to deal with real scarcities in your life. You'd have to do this less if there were less scarcities to worry about (imagine if we had solar-powered food-generation machines). And indeed, some have managed to give code away. RMS has done this exclusively, though by living a rather austere lifestyle. His choice. Others give code away when they can afford to. Each such contribution changes our environment for the better. For hackers who breathe code, this is, of course, a godsend (RMS, an atheist, might not like that choice of wording -- "GPLsend" then). Perhaps that's why we like the GPL so much, even those of use that produce restrictively-licensed code for a living.

    So, you don't need economic arguments to defend the GPL. It is as good and wonderful for the world as are the lack of patents on fire, wheels, and language. The only people who will criticize it are those that profit from the misery that scarcity brings.

  • Better yer. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by elgee ( 308600 )
    Perens calls open source "a crown jewel of capitalism." That may be true, but open source is a crown jewel of freedom. And freedom is the bottom line here. Make no mistake about that.
  • Words of wisdom (Score:2, Insightful)

    by RogueAngel7 ( 250551 )
    He (mundie) said: "Rather than form a federation with Microsoft and work with what we had already created, there was this notion that the world should be offered an alternative."

    Words of monopolistic wisdom, from the horses mouth.

  • Nit-picking (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Eslyjah ( 245320 )
    Commerce has thrived in a "commons" since the first public squares were constructed, and the GPL's share-and-share-alike system creates a commons for software.

    GPL software would not be classified as a "commons" good, but rather as a "pure public" good. The term commons refers to goods that are non-excludable, but are rivalrous in consumption. GPL software is not only non-excludable, but also non-rivalrous in consumption. My use of a particular piece of GPL software does not diminish your ability to use it, or raise its price (it may even lower it!). Commons are, to economists, one of the WORST ways to allocate goods. Refer to Garrett Hardin's classic paper "The Tragedy of the Commons" (1968). Hurray for pure public goods!
  • by Wateshay ( 122749 ) <bill,nagel&gmail,com> on Monday March 11, 2002 @12:08PM (#3142863) Homepage Journal
    What Mundie doesn't understand (or chooses to ignore) is how wealth is created. Simply passing wealth back and forth between companies doesn't create wealth. Paying taxes doesn't create wealth. Government spending doesn't create wealth.

    Wealth is created by increasing efficiency. If I pay you $10/hour to build widgets worth $3 a piece, and you can build 4 widgets per hour, then I make $2/hour profit. If you figure out how to increase you efficiency and make 6 widgets per hour instead of 4, my profit has now increased to $8/hour. This can then be reflected in increased wages for you, fewer work hours, or a cheaper product. Regardless, net wealth of the economy has been increased, since more output is produced from the same input.

    Where does the GPL work into this? Because one GPL application has effectively infinite supply, it drastically reduces input costs of production and therefore leads to a very high net increase in the entire economy's wealth. Commercial software necessarily leads to less wealth increase, because it has an artificial cost added to increase the producer's personal wealth at the cost of the whole economy's net wealth.

    Mundie's argument is that the artificial cost is necessary for software to get produced, because there will otherwise be no incentive for the producers to produce software. The thing he ignores, though, is that obviously the software does get produced. If OS software gets produced, then it is out there. It has increased the net wealth of the economy. That increase will never go away (unlike the commercial company, which could go out of business). If OS is not enough incentive for the software to get produced, or OS doesn't lead to a solution that is sufficient, then the demand for a commercial version will be high enough that commercial development will be supportable. There is room for both.

    Microsoft, of course, is just beginning to realize that the software they make is quite compatible with OS development, and there is no way they can compete with the efficiency of an OS product. Therefore, Mundie is arguing that we will all be better off if the economy's net wealth is held down in favor of MS's personal wealth gain. I just don't buy it :-)

    On the other hand, he's absolutely right that there may not be as high a demand for software developers in the future. So what. So, a few programmers may have to change careers. They're smart people (and yes, I am one), and shouldn't have too much of a problem finding work. Yes, it sucks for a few, but where would we be today if we always held back progress in favor of old, established industries. Not to be cliche, but I'm sure the development of the automobile sucked for the buggy whip manufacturers, too. Personally, I'll risk my long term personal stability for the chance of great wealth increases for both myself and the economy as a whole.
    • I don't see how OS is more efficient according to the way you argue it. You assume

      The supplier is prepared to accept a flat rate for his "widgets". His increase in revenue is linked soley to his ability to produce more in a given timeframe than he was able to before. He depends entirely on your ability as middleman(?) to make the market or sell on these increases, while you realise the extra profitability from his 'efficiency'

      Your whole premise is based on increased profitability within a given timeframe (you quote an hour). You state one GPL application has effectively infinite supply. Completely overlooking that any program, propritary, commercial, OpenSource/Free Software or whatever has an infinite supply. The number of units produced within a given timeframe (upon which your profitability depends) should be no different for any piece of software. Experience has proven that some OpenSource products actually take longer to produce that their closed source competitors or equivalents (Mozilla - 2 years in which time Mickey has taken over themarket).
      Finally, if efficiency is achieved by lowering the unit cost, then GPL projects may well be a false economy. If the number of 'man years' spent producing some of the larger products was measured using the same costings as, say, Mickeysoft would use, it could very well turn out that unit costs are much higher than non-free equivalents.

    • This can then be reflected in increased wages for you, fewer work hours, or a cheaper product.

      Or, more likely, an extra $1 mil bonus for some faceless fatcat.

      C-X C-S
  • by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Monday March 11, 2002 @12:18PM (#3142919) Journal

    I can't believe Mundie's complaint about the GPL is that it will pull money out of the public sector. He should be arguing the other way around: In the long run, the GPL puts money into the public sector, and that's why it's bad.

    Peren's argument distracts us from the real problem by pointing out how much money business saves in the short-run.

    What is the real problem? There are at least two: First, by discouraging entry into the software market, the GPL reduces the number of competitors. This means less consumer choice, not more. That's because most consumers have the ability and the resources to evaluate and choose programs, but most don't have the ability and resources to evaluate and choose programmers. Free Software is devestating to the diverse "middle ground" of software that sells in the $20-$100 range. When GPL software dominates a market, we are left with low-quality free packages on one end and expensive "industry standard" or "specialized" software on the other.

    The other problem is that when GPL projects fail to keep pace with technology, there is the danger that people will make arguments that the government needs to step in and take over the project. This is the secret hearts desire of the Free Software movement, which is just socialism with a hi-tech veneer. Already, there are too many government workers writing software who should instead be using a diverse array of packages from different vendors, linked together by open standards (open standards are law, but executables are *not*. That's a critical distinction that Lessig fails to make, but we aren't here to talk about Lessig).

    Perens is right in the short-run: Socialism always does well in the beginning because it lives off the fat of the land that has been stored up. In the long-run though, it drags the economy down.

    • First, by discouraging entry into the software market, the GPL reduces the number of competitors. This means less consumer choice, not more.

      If 'professional' software is not worth the extra pennies over something someone knocked up in his spare time then that software deserved to die. Raising the bar forces software companies to offer value for money. Personally I think you are fundamentally wrong. With closed source software each competitor is forced to reinvent the wheel. GPL software enables people to build upon the work of others. I think a quick trip to Freshmeat [] will show ample choice in GPL software.

      When GPL software dominates a market, we are left with low-quality free packages on one end and expensive "industry standard" or "specialized" software on the other.

      Like Apache in the web server market? Or MySQL/Postgres in the DB market? Sorry but you're wrong. The middle ground may get squeezed but the services area expands. Take the market for PHP programmers as an example. I've even seen jobs to write PHPNuke add-ons.

      The other problem is that when GPL projects fail to keep pace with technology, there is the danger that people will make arguments that the government needs to step in and take over the project.

      With GPL you cannot "take over" a project as it belongs to no-one.

      Already, there are too many government workers writing software who should instead be using a diverse array of packages from different vendors, linked together by open standards

      Without any figures to back this up I won't believe you. Every government project I've heard of outsources the programming.

      Perens is right in the short-run: Socialism always does well in the beginning because it lives off the fat of the land that has been stored up. In the long-run though, it drags the economy down.

      Drags the economy down? If it creates an expansion in services at the expense of shrink-wrap software, it's my guess that it will generate more wealth than drag the economy down.


  • I have been gently pressing the organizers of the 'world conference' about getting the original copy of Mundie's speech, but so far I have been unable to get it. They claimed, at first, to be transcribing the speech, and that it would be available at the media [] part of the site, but so far it hasn't appeared.

    I really want to see the original source, as I believe that it's quite likely that Mundie's reported words are not particularly accurate, and they are surely quoted out of contest. I'm most interested, of course, because I think that the original text is, if anything, more strident and open for redicule.

    I've got an email log of my conversations with the World Conference orgranzers that I'd be willing to share with anybody, on request, just send an email. Perhaps with a few more people asking we can get the transcript.

  • Pot Meet Kettle (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Petersko ( 564140 )
    Bruce Perens claims that:

    "Mundie uses a textbook tactic of manipulation: start with some reasonable talk, and lead the audience to an unreasonable conclusion."

    Then he goes on to make the following claim:

    "A partial count of the software available in just one noncommercial Linux system released two years ago shows that it would have cost about $1.9 billion to develop the same software the way Microsoft does it... If open source was economically unviable, development would have ceased long before there was $1.9 billion worth of it."

    Pot, meet Kettle. It might have cost $1.9 Billion the way Microsoft does it, but open source development is not built the way Microsoft does it. Open source development often relies on time and effort provided essentially by donation. As such, the $1.9 Billion he's using to imply economic viability never existed. Nobody paid $1.9 Billion to develop open source software, so that particular test never occured.

    His statements are a perfect example of false logic. Strip down his arguments in the article, and you see that he IS another soapbox idiot. I trust him about as much as I do the people he is lambasting.
    • Re:Pot Meet Kettle (Score:4, Informative)

      by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) <> on Monday March 11, 2002 @04:27PM (#3144555) Homepage Journal
      Sheesh, that's pretty harsh of you. Please try some logical argument without the invective.

      That US$1.9B is software that was released for the general public to use, and it does indeed have a lot of users. But I don't have a user count right now, all I have is the theoretical cost of production. The true benefit may be larger than I said. Given the amount of business around Linux, I doubt it's smaller.

      In economic terms, the users will derive utility from the software. They will carry out some economic activity, for example operate a business, using that software, and will gain an economic benefit because of what they didn't pay for it. This benefit may well be greater than US$1.9B, since we have a lot of users these days. Again, the software didn't just go into /dev/null, it is now part of the economy. Engineers are familiar with thermodynamics, there are some parallels here, aren't there?


  • by Yankovic ( 97540 ) on Monday March 11, 2002 @12:57PM (#3143135)
    With all due respect, I do not feel this was the best piece of argument ever put forward.

    As far as the taxes issue, something that taxes do, in many cases, is aggregate a small incremental cost in a lot of areas into something that can be very meaningful. This is something that Perens wholly ignores. There are lots of places taxes will be lost:
    a) Taxes on all the individual workers at companies that manufacture commercial software and in corporations world wide who install/maintain that software
    b) Sales taxes on purchased software
    c) Taxes on infrastructure for selling software all together

    As a result money IS lost to the economy. Tax money recovered to the individual will either find its way back into our pockets (unlikely), or we will be taxed at an incrementally higher rate to make up for it. Many recessions are caused by the reduction in consumer spending, to which erasing all money spent on software would be an economic equivalent. Let's face it, the service economy around software will never be as robust as license sales, for the simple fact that end users will be unable to hire service people (it will be too difficult for companies to support the mass amount of end users for open source software). Tax money recovered by corporations WILL have extra money, but they'd rather pay for software that off the shelf worked than dedicate manpower to it (which is a lot more costly in the long run)... and the second that you have an advantage provided to someone who offers a better off the shelf package than another, you're right back to forcing people to develop proprietary software. Why would I open source the one thing that gives my distro an advantage over yours?

    As for the $1.9 B number... If you're going to give that number credit, then you probably also believe that number for world wide piracy. Both suffer from the same fallacy. If people were ACTUALLY willing to pay $1.9 Billion for the development, then they would have done so. They didn't. QED. The fact that it exists is because, in the exact same way that taxes have the ability to aggregate amounts of money so small that they would not amount to anything on their own, open source aggregates developer time. Its economic viability does not factor into it at all.

    I almost don't want to get into the Liberty argument, since that's a mess unto itself. Some central authority needs to sign all these certificates. MS has stepped forward, though it easily could have been anyone else. I actually thought that Verisign would be the one to step forward, since they have such a large infrastructure for signatures and all. I'm all for multiple offerings, but it looks like the Liberty Alliance is going after the wrong thing all together. Perens is wrong here, MS is claiming they're providing the infrastructure, that's all.

    All in all, it's not a very good representation of Open Source argument when Perens engages in the exact same strawman attacking that he claims Mundie is guilty of.
  • by satch89450 ( 186046 ) on Monday March 11, 2002 @01:20PM (#3143263) Homepage

    Steven Levy's book Hackers shows that the attitudes Bill Gates and his friends were set a long, long time ago. They never likes the idea of "giving" away any software, none at all. Their mantra was "if you use it, you should pay ME for it." All that time has done is increase their size as a business (most likely by insisting on "don't applaud, throw money instead") and being the driving force behind organizations like the Business Software Alliance (BSA).

    As is their right in our society.

    You, of course, have the right of choice -- choice that lets you choose to use software vended by someone other than Microsoft.

    The anti-trust trial was about Microsoft trying to eliminate sources of software other than itself, in the areas which Microsoft chose to "compete," and the US Department of Justice taking exception to that elimination of competition and choice. We had a charge, an answer, discovery, a trial, a verdict, and an appeal...and at the end of the day we have a company that has been declared guilty (in a Court of Equity) of anti-competitive actions.

    Bill continues to show that his grade of "F" in sandbox remains a fair and valid one by refusing to understand why his actions are in violation of statute, and why his actions are harming society.

    And who here would be the wiser if you were in his place?

    • I forget where I saw it, but a British psychologist once published a bit about Bill's personality based on as many published interviews as she could find. The bottom line was that Bill viewed everything as a zero-sum game and was extremely competitive. If someone was purchasing or using software other than MS software, then Bill was "losing" and reacted accordingly.

      GPL advocates appear to believe in a non-zero-sum game, where almost everyone can win. The theory as I understand it says:

      • Good programmers win because people will pay for their work. How "big" you can win is limited by the GPL, though, since you are limited to selling a "service," not non-redistributable code.
      • Sophisticated users win because they get source code and can modify it if necessary.
      • Unsophisticated users win because they get good code at low prices because they're not locked into proprietary solutions.
      I suppose bad programmers lose, but only because users choose not to use their code.
  • by dwheeler ( 321049 ) on Monday March 11, 2002 @04:06PM (#3144433) Homepage Journal
    Various posts have wondered if there are TCO figures, or market share numbers, or claimed that Microsoft "owns" all the markets it competes in, or commented on the $1.9 billion figure in Perens' article.

    I suggest that you look at my paper Why Open Source Software / Free Software (OSS/FS)? Look at the Numbers! []. It has that kind of information, grouped into categories such as market share, total cost of ownership (TCO), reliability, and so on.

    For example, Microsoft absolutely owns the desktop client market, that's true. But it certainly doesn't own other markets - Apache is still the most common web browser, for example, and sendmail is the most popular mail transfer agent (MTA). See my paper for the details.

    Total cost of ownership (TCO) is so dependent on the assumptions that you really have to do your own. However, it's clear that many people do find that GNU/Linux systems have a lower TCO than Microsoft's systems in their environment.

    Please note that Perens himself claims that the $1.9 billion estimate was only if the software had been developed the same way as Microsoft's. Perens does not claim that $1.9 billion was spent. Check the linked-to paper, I think it spells things out clearly. One caveat: I wrote the analysis tool used in the paper. However, the tool simply implements a well-known and widely respected estimation model that has been openly documented; it's certainly not biased to give open source software bigger results.

    I think Perens' article was well-written.

Try `stty 0' -- it works much better.