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Software GNU is Not Unix

Too Much Free Software 843

An anonymous reader writes "The plethora of Free Software applications available today, none working perfectly, is a problem which stands in the way of major adoption of Linux on the desktop. In order to conquer the desktop, we have to stand united. Read the article on Freshmeat."
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Too Much Free Software

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  • by mekkab ( 133181 ) on Friday April 04, 2003 @09:44AM (#5660589) Homepage Journal
    hog wash.

    If you want a bunch of people to work on one thing until completion, PAY THEM.

    Otherwise you get what you get- a sea of productivity that comes and goes in fits and spurts. you also get a lot of different ideas on how to approach the same problem.
    • That is very true. When people are working on free software, it is a creative outlet for many, I would think. Improving on the existing is beneficial to the community, but not as gratifying to the individual. It's not their own creation. Proprietary software has the focus advantage because creativity has to be channeled to keep a project on tract, plus, of course, they have developers working on the projects 40 hours a week. While I think the article raises good points, personal freedom is also an issu
    • Spot on (Score:5, Insightful)

      by 0x0d0a ( 568518 ) on Friday April 04, 2003 @10:28AM (#5660959) Journal
      Amen. The story totally ignores the way open source works.

      If you want a bunch of people to work on one thing until completion, PAY THEM

      Which can be to be on an Open Source project. However, the fact remains -- they need to be paid.

      This wave of users coming in, demanding a clone of Windows, not really caring about functionality, choice, the ability to see source, and just saying "I want idiot-proof editor! I want idiot-proof file browser! I want idiot-proof web browser! I want GNOME and KDE combined because they sound the same to me and I don't understand their internal structure! All developers should drop everything else and work on that, because that's what I want! Me me me me me!" piss me off.

      Most developers are working on their software because it's *fun* for them to write something the way *they* want to write something and try out their own ideas. Maybe learn something. Fulfilling the needs of a whiny end user who doesn't give a damn about anything but "cheap and Windows clone" is really far down on the list. If you submit some code to a project, you're *much* more likely to be listened to.

      I mean, seriously. Open source is about developers. It's generally not about users. And this misunderstanding is producing a lot of discontent. "Why are people writing all these stupid command line programs when I want a GUI program!"

      Here's the deal. If you want a feature and no one else is doing it, especially if it's been suggested over and over before already (merge GNOME/KDE, clone InstallShield), you're pretty much responsible for doing it yourself. If you can't write code, sorry. Open source developers are not a bunch of little "code fairies" that grant you your every wish. If you write *some* unrelated code for their project (or for other projects), developers are more likely to listen to requests. If your sole contribution to the OSS world is telling everyone on Slashdot that "Linux rules" or whatever, yes, you may get ignored.

      Now, do developers sometimes go out of their way to fulfill random end user requests? Sure, especially if they don't take too much work to implement. It *is* a source of pride to be more popular than commercial alternatives. However, it comes down to the fact that users frequently don't seem to understand that they're going up to talented people who are already volunteering their time and (very skilled labor) for particular goals and then trying to tell them what to do.

      As for "it's not about getting your name as the author in the credits", that's also false. Lots of people have had fun analyzing open source, because it's a weird social phenomon and in the news a lot. It's a gift-based culture, where you get fame in exchange for your work (in addition to other things). There's a *reason* volunteer OSS people don't like doing plumbing-type work on code. Recognition in exchange for code *is* important to most OSS developers.

      Finally, while coding is important to get respect and influence in the OSS world, it's not the only path. Artists are quite scarce, and folks like the free WorldForge [worldforge.org] project desperately want you. If you're maintaining the website for a project, that's going to grant you some influence in that project and others. If you do translations, that's good too. Not many people translating to Swahili.

      But if you just want to play Icewind Dale and don't want to pay anything for your software...well, the Open Source world probably isn't really a place that's going to be all that pleasant for you. Maybe, maybe one day. But not now. BSD and Linux simply don't fit you very well.
      • by 0x0d0a ( 568518 ) on Friday April 04, 2003 @10:55AM (#5661216) Journal
        Tips for interacting with OSS developers:

        * If a developer says he doesn't want to implement something, that's it. Arguing is pretty much certain to not convince him that he wants to implement it, and may tick him off towards you. If the developer isn't the maintainer (and hasn't said "my project will *not* contain this feature", just "I'm not going to write this"), you can try suggesting it to another or (far more likely to get code in) write it yourself.

        * Be *nice* to developers. They're smart people that are making good stuff that they're letting you use for free. People that jump on a project mailing list and say "Your program sucks because it doesn't do foo and bar and I'm not going to use it because of that...so your only chance to get me to use it is to add these features" *are* going to be ignored. The author is *not* going to help these people. If an author adds a feature you asked for *thank him*, no matter how trivial it is. The work, had you *paid* to have it done, would have cost a bundle, and the thanks is only another few lines of typing. If you've been using a piece of software for years, and email the mailing list or a developer for the first time, start out with a brief thanks for the software, and compliment them on whatever it is that you really like about it. Volunteer OSS developers aren't getting money, so their only pay is appreciation and the enjoyment of coding. The only pay you have influence over is appreciation. Don't stiff them. In the same vein, do not personally attack open source developers -- "You're stupid because you don't support postgres as your back end". If anything, it just discourages them from making more software. Everyone loses in that case.

        * If you have a question, first look at the FAQ, search google, and check the docs. Really. Definitely do not get angry if you just get flamed if you ask a FAQ on a mailing list. You may be able to get away with simply going to the vendor if you're paying money. Then some paid schmoe gets stuck on the support line listening to you. Open Source developers are generally interested in coding, not in doing support. Generally, support is not tons of fun. It also helps only a single person, whereas them writing even one line of code can benefit hundreds of thousands (or millions) of people -- generally not an efficient use of valuable developer time. Don't post to -devel mailing lists in the hope of getting developer attention and faster support. That *definitely* will get you ignored.

        * Don't use ultimatums. It doesn't help you, and it pisses *everyone* off. With software you're paying for, you are a customer. You have clout. In most cases, a volunteer open source developer doesn't give a damn whether Joe Blow uses his program or not, especially if Joe Blow wants extensive support. Saying "Change this feature or I'll use MySQL instead of Postgres to the Postgres developers is not going to get you anywhere." Actually, ultimatums are a stupid tactic even in conjuction with paid developers -- look at Larry McVoy constantly getting shit on the Linux mailing list. Regardless of whether you like him or not or want BK to be used, the constant threats to stop using his software just piss him off. If you don't want to use some software, don't.

        * If you can code at all, sending in a patch will get you lots of goodwill from developers.

        * Never send in bug reports that say "foo crashes" or "foo crashes randomly". You'll get ignored. If you get a segfault, hand in a stack trace (run gdb and then type bt). "Foo crashes randomly" isn't going to help a programmer a whit. If he hasn't seen the symptoms, he's going to consider the possibility that you might have bad hardware or a broken setup. If he *has* seen the symptoms, it doesn't add anything new.

        * Most mailing lists are English. This can be hard for non-English speakers, since they may not get the nuances, but be polite. If you're asking for something, use common courtesy. Say "please". Don't lots of exclamation points. Don't use all caps. Don't use "HELP ME!!!" as your subject line -- be descriptive. Indians posting to English mailing lists always seem to come off as quite rude to me, though I assume it's simply a lack of experience with English.
      • by fygment ( 444210 ) on Friday April 04, 2003 @11:37AM (#5661568)
        "Fulfilling the needs of a whiny end user who doesn't give a damn about anything but "cheap and Windows clone" is really far down on the list. "

        The arrogance that permeates this statement is sadly too common in Open Source. How can you despise people and then expect them to buy in to your vision? Unfortunately the impression it leaves is that Open Source is a self-serving ego trip for individuals who really aren't at all interested in the public good.
        • by 0x0d0a ( 568518 ) on Friday April 04, 2003 @02:26PM (#5663078) Journal
          How can you despise people and then expect them to buy in to your vision? Unfortunately the impression it leaves is that Open Source is a self-serving ego trip for individuals who really aren't at all interested in the public good.

          First of all, I'm not sure that you can say that I despise someone per se. I despise their actions. I don't care if someone can't program, but if they aren't willing to contribute at *all* and they expect free attention from the developers...yes, I suppose I consider that act despicable.

          Second, what "vision" is this that they're supposed to be buying in to?

          Third, this illustrates another issue that I'd like to bring up. There is much mention of "public good". People feel that once someone's demonstrated a hint of altruism, or at least lack of selfishness, they must be good to hit up for more. Just because a programmer didn't hold his source close to his chest doesn't mean that he wants to spent hundreds of hours that he could spend programming or with his family or painting or hiking doing tech support for unappreciative users. You're talking about public good? What about the efforts of the noncontributors to the public good? What have *they* done? Are *they* out donating their time to the public? Yet they expect the developer to donate more time to them because he's shown a flicker of what might be percieved as interest in the "public good"? The developer writing a line of code can benefit many people. Has this user sent him money to assist him in writing lines of code for many people -- for the public good? Has he assisted in writing code? Documentation? Anything? No? Then this user demanding attention in the name of the "public good" may be a bit hypocritical. But worse -- if they do not *help*, do they at least avoid *hindering*? If this noncontributor eats valuable developer time asking FAQs because he won't even look at the documentation, he is *hurting* the public good. If he simply criticizes the developer's work, he discourages the developer from producing anything more, hurting the public good. Developers that generously and freely give out time and effort and then are met by selfish criticism tend to get rather bitter over time.

          The arrogance that permeates this statement is sadly too common in Open Source.

          If wanting to not be met with a kick when giving something freely away is arrogance, then I must plead guilty. I'm only human.

          Remember that, while Joe User is playing games on his X-Box come the weekend, Mike the Open Source Developer is writing software that Joe can freely download and use. Mike's done his part. If Joe hasn't done his, has he at least avoided hurting Mike's efforts?
      • Spot off (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Iowaguy ( 621828 )
        Everything in the above comment is true and correct, yet misses a wider truth of the slashdot mantra. Many times on many threads, I hear it argued that linux is a viable alternative to windows. Threads proclaiming that Linux *should* replace Windows in the world are not uncommon either. It is easy to proclaim a revolution, but it is another thing to take the responsibility to run a civilization. My two cents, -Iowa
    • You seem to not quite get the gist of the article. From how I understood it, it's not about only going with ONE app, desktop, front. It's about 'cleaning up the crap'. In fact, the author endorses 4 different Desktop environments and 3 different office suites.

      I think that the author has some valid points that some effort is wasted on projects that may never make it past beta. That the effort could better be spent improving or modularizing existing work to build truly best of breed applications. I tend
    • A question from a non-programmer: does a distinction need to be made between, say, the core software architecture (the... Operating System? The Kernel? Helping we the relatively smart and eager to adopt understand these distinctions would be a good side project for y'all...), and specific applications on the other side? From my unenlightened viewpoint it seems like the challenge is to keep the open, flexible, community developed nature of the core while seeking the happy medium and point of mass agreemen
      • by buffer-overflowed ( 588867 ) on Friday April 04, 2003 @11:49AM (#5661642) Journal
        Okay, let's see if I can sum this up for you.

        Let me first make the define libraries. Libraries are, sort of, predefined routines to save programmers time. The windows equivalent is the DLL file. Only under Linux drivers are either compiled into the OS or are modules that can be plugged in.

        What most consider the Linux operating system consists of the Kernel, and the GNU tools at it's core. The entire system is exceptionally modular in nature.

        The kernel handles everything from memory management, to task scheduling. It is the grand lord brain, translating everything from the plebian programs into action on the system. The kernel by itself would just sit there and do nothing, with no way to interact with the system.

        The GNU tools are tools for interacting with the system, managing files, etc.

        Everything else is stacked on top of this.

        X is a series of libraries and programs that provide the core of the GUI for a linux system.

        On top of this you stack various libraries which do various things within the X framework, GNOME and KDE are a set of tools and libraries that extend X and make it pretty.

        Then you have programs that utilize all of the above.

        So your typical program, like say OpenOffice has a series of dependancies on up the tree. Some of them require additional libraries.

        This is why, with a little tweaking, you can have a BSD Kernel running a "Linux" program. Each part for the most part can be substituted for something else with a little work.

        I hope I didn't ramble or was nonsensical there.
    • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) <bruce@perens.com> on Friday April 04, 2003 @11:27AM (#5661487) Homepage Journal
      Yes, I think he needs a re-think. There are a few points that I want to respond to.

      The purpose of Free Software is not to replace Microsoft Windows. Individuals and companies that are involved in Free Software may have that goal, even me, but not the developers of the niche software he criticizes. There is no point in his telling them not to work on another editor. They want to make editors, not MS Windows killers. They are motivated to do for free what they want to do, not what he wants them to do.

      Our diversity is our strength, not our weakness. Free Software's strategic marketing paradigm is a massively parallel drunkard's walk filtered by a Darwinistic process. We make gains because we can bypass the failures of a more narrow strategic marketing directon, which would have us work on only one solution to any problem. The problem with one solution is that marketing has no crystal ball, strategic marketers are no more accurate in general than stock-pickers. Their chosen direction is rarely the best. It's better to let coders control their own multiple directions. One of them will get it right.

      He also gets into the dreadfully common error of considering window managers to be GUI desktops.

      Bruce

  • by buffy ( 8100 ) <buffy AT parapet DOT net> on Friday April 04, 2003 @09:45AM (#5660598) Homepage
    The plethora of Free Software applications available today, none working perfectly, is a problem which stands in the way of major adoption of Linux on the desktop.

    The plethora of Microsoft applications available today, none working perfectly, is NOT a problem which stands in the way of the stranglehold Bill and Steve maintain over the desktop.

    Grr.

    -buf

  • by Kolenkow ( 557147 ) on Friday April 04, 2003 @09:46AM (#5660608)
    Like someone said at Digital Illusions: "when 90% of the work is done, 90% remains". Maybe he's not that good at calculus, but he has a point.
    It's much more fun to start on a new project, or to add extra features, than to make those existing ones work perfectly.
  • So? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ekephart ( 256467 ) on Friday April 04, 2003 @09:48AM (#5660617) Homepage
    "The plethora of Free Software applications available tday, none working perfectly, is a problem..."

    What about all the proprietary software that doesn't work perfectly (you know what I'm talking about). It hasn't prevented a certain software company from dominating the desktop market.
    • "The plethora of Free Software applications available tday, none working perfectly, is a problem..."

      What about all the proprietary software that doesn't work perfectly (you know what I'm talking about). It hasn't prevented a certain software company from dominating the desktop market.

      That is because there is a default, standard choice. I am not saying this is right or wrong, but I get the author's point. "Working" is used too generically in this article. Mplayer works, but not to some people. I c

  • Variety is good (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rf0 ( 159958 ) <rghf@fsck.me.uk> on Friday April 04, 2003 @09:49AM (#5660625) Homepage
    I really think its great to have a large number of apps to choose from but its true that sometimes an application is worth trying to compile/run. Some apps are great, others are shall we say worthless.

    This is one reason I like debian as if you stick to the default packages anything you install you will at least know that the application is stable and featured. If not you can download the unstable which normally has more functionality but, by nature, might be slightly more unstable.

    Rus
  • One good point (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nath_o_brien ( 608347 ) <nath@nathans-domain-name.org.uk> on Friday April 04, 2003 @09:50AM (#5660638) Homepage

    Most of the article seemed to be space-filler but one good point I have to agree with is

    Sourceforge should start removing projects with less than 1% activity for the last six months (every week, they could propose several projects to be removed, and allow a month for the activity to increase)

    I'm sick of so many going-nowhere projects cluttering up the categories. Most were probably a spark of an idea that didn't go anywhere - and never will - because its originator has decided to concentrate their attention elsewhere.

    It should be a case of good housekeeping on Sourceforge's behalf if nothing else.

  • Nothing New (Score:5, Insightful)

    by turgid ( 580780 ) on Friday April 04, 2003 @09:50AM (#5660643) Journal
    Every so often yet another article like this comes along. They all make some wrong fundamental assumptions. Namely (1) All Open Source/Free Software can be lumped together and treated like the output from a traditional company, (2) that no one should develop their own programs for the fun of it even if another already exists and that (3) all such software is governed by some sort of committee (or shoukd be) that decides what should be writtem and who should write it. Face it, it's up to the Linux and *BSD distributions to pick and choose which applications, utilities, GUI's etc. get provided and it's up to the users to pick and choose what they like and what suits them best. This article completely misses the point of freedom, Freedom and the Free Market.
  • by TopShelf ( 92521 ) on Friday April 04, 2003 @09:52AM (#5660658) Homepage Journal
    In order to "conquer" the desktop, a concerted effort would be required. The OSS model by design is more collaborative in nature, which goes against the mindset of having the single, dedicated focus of achieving desktop dominance.
  • I am amazed (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Torinaga-Sama ( 189890 ) on Friday April 04, 2003 @09:53AM (#5660661) Homepage
    It's a good thing thats a news post, otherwise it would have been modded down -1 (Troll).

    Seriously, there are some good points, but things are getting better. I don't particularly care for Linux on the desktop at this point in my life. I can get away with it, but it ends up being kind of painful trying to get things to work. I use OSX or Win XP for those two things.

    This doesn't mean defeat, just that there is a lot of work to go. It took Windows the better part of 10 years to be useable (humble opinion) and they all got paid a truckload of money to do it. I think the growth of Linux has been exceptional.

    THese statements are purely my relections on Linux on the desktop. It is still dreamy as a server.

  • by Mattygfunk1 ( 596840 ) on Friday April 04, 2003 @09:54AM (#5660669)
    Choice is good, but it's frustrating when none of the alternatives works properly.

    I disagree. All of the alternatives just mean more ideas coming in at the ground level. The "best" is decided by the users and gradually finds its way to the top.

    This can be seen by the users decision that RedHat offers the features they want in a user interface that they can navigate. While I'm not suggesting that RH is the best for everybody, the support it gets pushes further development on that "path" because of the support.

    Open source software is in it for the long haul. Most of the projects do not have the formalised procedures and financial backing of proprietry software and cannot produce overnight solutions.

    It is long term that we should all be looking.

    _____________________
    cheap web site hosting [cheap-web-...ing.com.au] challenges you to try and pay less than $3 a month for hosting.

  • by mcdade ( 89483 ) on Friday April 04, 2003 @09:56AM (#5660685)
    Look at the number of disks that most Distros now have, Redhat is up to what 4 CD's?? what the hell, I remember when it all fit on one CD, and if they can get a distro that fits on a floppy then what is the other 2GIG of stuff? With all the crap that a distro installs it's over a GIG of software, and this is just getting close to the Base OS as an End user can with the menu system. Microsoft isn't even this blotted!

    This is the reason for the great success of OSX, great OS, and useful applications, there might be a few that do almost the same thing but you don't have hundreds of crappy little programs that do very specific tasks. The Opensource community should start to get together and build one really fucking amazing interface, that is fluid for everything (seems like all the environments are about 1/2 done as far as look and feel, work great for a few things then look like total shit for everything else). Then work on some really great core apps... that's pretty much what Apple did.. build a great interface, then release some good core apps that everyone wants to use.

    OSX is what Linux wants to be when it grows up.. problem is everyone in linux is on a holy crusade and that their distro and packages are the best .. you are all fighting against eachother... If there was a distro for Linux that was on par with OSX, I would buy it in a heartbeat.. truth is .. most suck ass.
  • by salesgeek ( 263995 ) on Friday April 04, 2003 @09:58AM (#5660699) Homepage
    I read the troll on Freshmeat last week. It's the usual:

    * There's too many choices and ways to get things done.
    * OSS software isn't as easy to use as commecial software.
    * There's not unified desktop, MS Office Killer (yet) etc but there are a half million text editors...

    Open Source's strength comes from diversity, not from untiy. That's why numerous ways to conquer any given task. There's also 25+ years worth of software, much of it still being maintained or can still be run on modern systems. In the commercial, closed source world you'll find:

    * A limited set of tools to address a given problem. If they don't work, you have to create from scratch.

    * Rapid appearance of new software and equally rapid disappearance.

    * Limited migration to new platforms. This stems from closed source software often (NOT ALL THE TIME) being written to proprietary, arbitrary or hardware based libraries. When MS, Intel or whoever change their standards, the software dies. (yes I know good software engineers wouldn't do this, but it happens)

    * A wide variety of text editors for your various text editing needs. :)

    $G
  • Some valid points (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BenjyD ( 316700 ) on Friday April 04, 2003 @09:59AM (#5660706)
    While I disagree with much of what the article says, dislike its angry tone, and realise it is a troll, it does make a few valid points.

    Open-source development relies on people doing what they want to do, and the result sometimes also being useful to others. So you can't force people to develop what you think is best.

    However, some thought of how to help the free software community would be nice. A few bugfix patches to a project with a large installed base is going to help many more people than starting yetanother$PROGRAM_TYPE on freshmeat. Probably with much less work too. It may not get you 'fame' on freshmeat, but you're probably doing more good that way.
  • by CaptnMArk ( 9003 ) on Friday April 04, 2003 @10:05AM (#5660764)
    One thing I would like to see is reduction in functionality duplication in distributions.

    There is no need to have 2,3 or more implementations of the same thing in a distribution.

    I am not saying all should be done at once (GNOME vs KDE), but this should be a goal.

    I'd like to see 1CD linux distributions again.
  • I kind of agree (Score:3, Insightful)

    by swb ( 14022 ) on Friday April 04, 2003 @10:07AM (#5660782)
    I can't help but agree with this a little bit, and I think a lot of it is personality driven.

    My take on it is that geeks are too willing to argue over technical differences. In some cases the differences are meaningful, in many cases they're only superficially meaningful and ego prevents pursuit of the greater good (ie, a really good widget) in favor of some fuzzy technological benefit that doesn't really impact the user.

    There's also the issue of personality and control. Established projects have leaders (defacto or otherwise) that control what goes into these projects, and some of them are willing to deny good ideas just to keep control of the project.

    The personality and control thing also comes into play with people who want to start their own projects. I think a lot of them get started because someone wants to be in that postition -- I admin the sourceforge site, the www.myossproject.com site, the IRC channel, yadda yadda. The project itself is almost secondary to achieving the status symbols of open source development.

    Another contributing factor may be that more established projects are complex software development efforts. Good ideas are relatively easy to come up with, but implementing them within the scope of a large project requires mroe experience and skill than a lot of newer developers have, so they do new projects instead.

    Diversity is a good, but sometimes I think that too much diversity just weakens what's out there without providing any benefit.
  • by Arethan ( 223197 ) on Friday April 04, 2003 @10:11AM (#5660823) Journal
    I don't think that there are too many free software projects out there. Have you ever gone to download.com and just looked around at all of the thousands of Windows applications? Many many of them perform the same function. Some better than others, some are innovative, some are not. That doesn't seem to stop people from downloading and using them.

    Quantity isn't the problem. The problem is quality. Well, percieved quality anyways. Unix has a different paradigm when it comes to software installation. That's a fact. There is no 'Program Files' folder that everything is installed to. Of course, there's always /opt! :) Not to mention the lack of automated installers for most projects. The installers exist, people just don't use them. I'll admit, some of them are a little lacking (a scriptable installer ala InstallShield could be helpful), but I have plenty of Linux games that use those simple installers, and they work great, despite kernel upgrades and distribution changes.

    IMHO, people just rely on ./configure too much these days. I've always felt that build scripts like ./configure were useful for the developers and hackers, but the general public really shouldn't have to have gcc installed just to install new software.

    It also doesn't help that we still don't have a hard definition of what a useable base installation of Linux entails. Yes, we have LSB, but it really doesn't seem to cover enough ground. They waste a lot of time documenting exported functions, when really they should simply state library versions, and maybe even keep a copy of the appropriate source (even a precompiled copy?) available on their site so there is no question about what version they are referring to.

    In addition to fixing the LSB, distros really should start obeying it. It certainly would make things easier for us end users. Is RedHat 9 even LSB compatible at all? I never see anything on their website about it, but I've continually heard from various sources that "the next version is LSB compliant".

    I'm sure my remarks have pissed more than a few people off, who will undoubtedly attack my credibility. So for the record, Linux could stay non standardized for all eternity, and I'd still have no problem using it myself. I'm only putting these arguments forth since I feel that they are the real reason that free software isn't as mainstream as we would all like.

    Rebuttles and counter arguments are, of course, always welcome. :)

    Cheers!
  • by timothy ( 36799 ) on Friday April 04, 2003 @10:13AM (#5660843) Journal
    (At least that's what I call this.)

    The argument that there's "too much choice" (and people make this argument in a lot of domains, not just software) has a certain merit. Choice is difficult; every day we face a series of tradeoffs. In areas with fewer choices, it's sometimes simpler for that reason to actually select one over the others.

    However, it seems that this argument also has an underlying assumption that there is a single, common goal which "we" could all achieve if we would only just let emacs and vi have a final, conclusive deathmatch, and if we could make every GUI user draw straws between KDE and GNOME (and WindowMaker and the various *boxes, too, but they'd get fewer straws) so all this unproductive wheel-reinvention strife would go away. If you think there is such a common goal, name it -- I bet good money that counterclaims would pop up to invalidate the claim :) I can think of several offhand. And let's face it, a lot of people just want to "stick it to Microsoft."

    The point (in my opinion, and noting that a more important metapoint is that your opinion may be different) is that the best outcome of having a real marketplace of ideas is not the construction of the perfect widget, but rather the constant, distributed reconsideration of what and how to do things. That means churn, and lots of broken eggs.* Maybe in the end you decide you don't even need the widget, because you've found another way to sufficiently increase your happiness by other means that spending your time in widgetland is a bad investment.

    If you think there too many choices in the world of software (leaving aside the question of how open the code is for a moment), there are lots of ways to *reduce* your choices without harming anyone else's ability to wade through them. Example one: here are lots of consultants who would love to trade your money, if you have some, for their time and expertise. You can specify what you want the resulting computer setup to do, and your consultant will attempt to create one in a way which a) makes him money yet b) is pleasing enough to you that you recommend him to your friends. Example two: in the free software world specifically, you can download and use any of several (sorry, choice again) of the stripped down distributions designed for efficiency, like Peanut Linux and ignore other things available. If it does *your* job, it does.

    Remember, UNIX was (in part) created because Thompson and Ritchie wanted to play a game. So they did it. What if they'd been hampered by a committee with a lot of predetermined goals about "what the world really needs"? Could be that the world would now be perfect thanks to T&R's Famine Reduction Machine, but I think it's more likely that all the cool things their desire to play a game with has led to (including the OS I'm typing from right now) would most likely just not exist.

    That said, there are a lot of dead projects on SourceForge which should probably be spidered and marked for death in as non-destructive a way as possible. Like sending out multiple notices to all listed project heads in an attempt to make sure that dead-seeming projects really *are* dead.

    timothy

    *Eggs are good scrambled, until you create the ommellette which best pleases you, or egg custard, or goldenrod eggs ...
  • Excellent Article (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Spiked_Three ( 626260 ) on Friday April 04, 2003 @10:14AM (#5660853)
    He's right - whenever I search for an OSS solution, I usually find 5-10 half done applications. Seldom do I find finished polished product.
    And, on the subject of stability; The OSS crowd has got to get off the soap boax that OSS code is more stable and secure. It is not. Microsoft has billions of dollars in the bank, they can make their product however stable they need to be. The quality of their released products is calculated and managed. The arguments that OSS is 'better' is only hurting the movement. As soon as OSS software starts to infringe on MS becusause of stability, then MS will change their tragets and OSS is back to playing catch up again.
    What OSS needs to succeed is complete and functional applications with complete documentation. Perhaps if OSDN would step up and manage the submissions of near identical projects rather than blindly accept all (quanity not quality), OSS could make some headway.
  • by cenonce ( 597067 ) <<anthony_t> <at> <mac.com>> on Friday April 04, 2003 @10:24AM (#5660932)

    While many "geeks" may not care whether the average Joe or Jane uses Linux or not, they should.

    I'd label myself an above-average Joe when it comes to computers.... I can program some C, I can install and configure Apache and I can build a decent system for a couple of hundred bucks. Yet, I still struggle when I want to install or use a piece of OSS. I find that I often have to get into an "engineer mindset" (which is tough when you are not an engineer) to figure out what the developer means or wants me to do. Sometimes I get the impression that because OSS is "free" and there is no warranty, that developers think they can half-ass the install instructions or that they write them as if somebody with their acumen in programming is installing it. I wish all developers would (if possible) make an install like Phoenix's install... unpack the damn thing and drop the folder wherever you want!

    I frankly just don't understand why distros insist on having two desktop environments on a basic install, and two Office suites (Open Office and (Gnome or KOffice)), Kate, Emacs, Mozilla and Konqueror (and Galeon) and two of a bunch of programs. I mean, jeez, how many friggin web browsers do ya need!?!

    I look at my Red Hat "Start Menu" and there is a Preference option and a "System Settings" option... who the heck came up with that!?! Add to that "System Tools" and the average user has no idea where to go to do basic stuff... it took me a few months to even get comfortable with three different places for these things. I'm not saying "Make things like Windows or OS X", I'm just saying that the amount of software and the fact that distros feel the need to install doubles of a lot of stuff makes it difficult for the average user to understand (and thus fear) OSS.

    The thing is, if the Open Source movement wants more "clout", it has to have more people using the software. There are a limited number of "geeks" in the world, but there are quite a few "quasi-geeks" (like me) and a lot of people just "want the damn thing to work!". So Slashdotters, Developers and everone involved in the OSS movement should all care about getting the average person using OSS, making sure they can install it, understand its interface, and can get help without getting flamed, etc.

    Unfortunately, my (completely) anecdotal evidence suggests that until OSS is streamlined and made usable for the masses, it will be hard to get outside of the enterprise environment (not that the desktop user is necessary, but it does provide more "market clout" for OSS).

    -A

  • by Florian Weimer ( 88405 ) <fw@deneb.enyo.de> on Friday April 04, 2003 @10:25AM (#5660934) Homepage
    From the article:
    Linux is already winning on the server side. Why? It works! You have a Web server (even named "httpd" on Red Hat), two databases which cover all your needs from low to high end (MySQL and PostgreSQL), three mail servers (Sendmail, qmail, and Postfix), a name server, etc. You don't have "Yan -- Yet Another Nameserver" or "Ans -- Ans's Not Sendmail".

    Even on the server side, there are plenty of choices which share little if any code. For DNS, you have BIND 8 and BIND 9, djbdns, nsd. There are more databases than MySQL and PostgreSQL (SAPDB and Firebird come to my mind). So it's not lack of choice what makes Linux successful on the server side.

    I think the author made up his mind, forgot trying to falsify his theories, and as a result, his article is rather bizarre.
  • by rjamestaylor ( 117847 ) <rjamestaylor@gmail.com> on Friday April 04, 2003 @10:27AM (#5660942) Journal
    • The plethora of Free Software applications available today, none working perfectly, is a problem which stands in the way of major adoption of Linux on the desktop. In order to conquer the desktop, we have to stand united.
    Yes, because we all know that the reason for proprietary software's acceptance and success is perfectly working software that stands alone in its own categories.

    Bollocks.

    Rather the most success software company in the world has a policy of "3 times a charm" and this company also enters markets where established competitors already exist.

    Don't tell me to read the article after presenting an erroneous supposition as an introduction.

  • Is that it evolves like a biological system. The best parts get recycled, and the rest gets forgotten. Over time you get incredible products, far better than anything closed source could produce, simply because their software is stagnant. There is no new blood.

    It is short-sighted to see the early stages of a developing tech to be imperfect or incomplete. (And yes the stage is still early.) Instead you need to measure it against the fitness of other products on the market (where it measures up well.) or against previous versions (where it measures up well.)

    The thing that hurts linux on the desktop is lack of popular acceptance. It's still considered radical among grannys and baby boomers; they're worried that they won't be able to use aol on Linux, and that thus, their digital existence will come to an end. This acceptance will only come with time.

    Just my opinion.
  • by blab ( 214849 ) on Friday April 04, 2003 @10:35AM (#5661029)
    This guy, I think, is confusing end-users with developers. FM and SF repositories of code and code ideas is a good thing[TM].

    OSDir.com [osdir.com] on the O'Reilly Network is a nice showcase to users of what is out there that's good, stable, and beyond 'beta' project wise.

    I started OSDir as a showcase to end-users and now that it's on O'Reilly it is beginning to get a lot of eyeballs from folks who want to become familiar with open source and want to try stuff out.

  • by zerofoo ( 262795 ) on Friday April 04, 2003 @10:38AM (#5661055)
    I've said this for years. Having used Linux since RH 4, there is too much software variation in the Linux world.

    The majority of the computing world wants standard software that works MOST of the time. Computer users want to be able to easily exchange files, and install software without worrying about compatibility. Most computer users are realists; they realize that software is not perfect. Software fails....just like cars, and other complex things. People understand this.

    Corporations want standards. And most of all they want predictable standards. Sure MS screws up a lot, but corporations have gotten used to the predictable nature of MS software...imperfect though it may be.

    RedHat seems to be the closest thing to a predictable release of Linux. The community must put petty squabbling and ego aside and decide on a "standard" way of doing things if it is ever going to challenge the commercial software industry.

    -ted
  • by FuzzyDaddy ( 584528 ) on Friday April 04, 2003 @10:41AM (#5661087) Journal
    From the article:

    Another problem is that major functionality is quite often rewritten from scratch. It's not unusual to see freshmeat announcements like "What's new: completely rewritten". Don't throw away all tested and working code and documentation to start all over again, introducing new bugs which annoy users and waste time.

    Boy, if I didn't throw away and re-write stuff, it'd be even buggier and harder to maintain than it is. Sometimes I feel like my most productive programming days are the ones where I delete more lines of code than I write.

    • Exactly! (Score:3, Insightful)

      FuzzyDaddy said:
      Boy, if I didn't throw away and re-write stuff, it'd be even buggier and harder to maintain than it is. Sometimes I feel like my most productive programming days are the ones where I delete more lines of code than I write.
      Exactly! Spot on. Just look at Apple and the change from Classic OS 9.x and earlier to OS X. A fine example of throwing "away all tested and working code...to start over again".
  • by Alain Williams ( 2972 ) <addw@phcomp.co.uk> on Friday April 04, 2003 @10:42AM (#5661096) Homepage
    Choice is good because:
    1. it allows experimentation with the alternatives, and the best variant ``wins''.
    2. it means that incompatible ways of doing things can be tried out
    3. alternative solutions are sometimes better in one area or another -- specialisation.
      (Think: large machine/small machine; user with good/bad eyesight; ...)

    Choice is bad because:

    1. it confuses users; ``Which one do I use ?''
    2. users need to learn new tools if the one that they chose ``looses''.
    3. it makes it harder for programmers to write code; they need to either make one choice or work with the alternatives
    4. interoperation between the choices sometimes does not work well (or at all)
    5. it defrays development effort; the same work is done/duplicated in many of the choices -- so it all takes longer
    6. systems are bigger as they often have more than one choice installed at once (Gnome/KDE, emacs/vi, ...)

    Choice and standardisation are opposites, each has its own benefits.

    In the past, choice has been seen as a ``good thing'', us techies were happy to put the work in and learn the choices and make transitions as standards changed.

    Aunt Tilly doesn't want that. She just wants to: surf the net; write letters; ... she wants just one tool for each task, she wants them to all work together; she doesn't want to learn new tools every 2 years.

    As computers become commodity items and computer use becomes de-skilled, the needs of the non technical population need to be appreciated by us hackers. We keep on wanting world domination, so we need to pay the price.

    This is what the author was saying.

    But, you say, what about the next best thing ?, well - maybe we need to play with that in private (or at least where Aunt Tilly doesn't see), until it is polished & ready when she will look at it, but only if it is so much better that it is worth her learning the new way.

  • by Sleepy ( 4551 ) on Friday April 04, 2003 @10:45AM (#5661127) Homepage
    There are some valid points here that should not be lost. Unfortunately they are being overlooked, while people complain about the author and his lack of tact.

    Controversial statements around here tend to get classified as trolls and flamebait, even when there's a point behind the ill-worded rant.

    Key point:
    Is there a LOT of overlapping, functionally incomplete and unpolished UNIX software? I would say without a doubt the answer is YES.

    Just consider the point and answer this question for yourself, without clouding the issue in emotion or the author's irritating language.

    Why do people start new projects, where one existed?
    How often do "new" free software projects (legally) "borrow" code and ideas from other projects?
    Do people learn MORE doing all the coding themselves, vs. learning to find a niche in an existing project?

    Assuming the main argument against consolidation is "fresh ideas" (not to under-represent other concerns or minimize this one..), assuming this, what steps could protect this ideal while at the same time minimizing code waste?

    Can this issue be put to rest *without* discouraging new ideas?

    People can blame this on GTK vs Qt, but the problem's more widespread than that. You can see this in the "mp3 jukebox" class, as well as "ad blockers", file-sharing clients, etc.

    I think part of the problem is ego, and I don't mean that in a BAD way (not entirely). If you disagree with a project design, why offer to rip the guts out and clean the code, all for someone who ultimately gets most credit?

    Another problem is immature (or missing) libraries. If someone is writing an ad-blocker, they need to: a) write their own proxy or plug into an existing one, b) create a table of regex's to block, c) create exception tables for allowing images that match the regex, but shouldn't be blocked, d) define a file format for the regex and URLs.

    It seems to me that there's an opening for a blocker-library that defines a common format. Then the ad blocker authors can focus on differentation: distributed/collobarative sharing of custom-block lists, user-management, language-of-choice, etc.

    Gphoto took this strategy and made a general-purpose library for cameras. It is used bt GTK/GNOME applications, -and- by *text* apps. A pity there are no KDE applications using gphoto. I haven't formed an opinion why this is so because I *don't* want to assume it's due to the "dirty name" (g-something).

    Another problem is KDE and GNOME themselves: they both lost focus on the core desktop, and are competing for a wider goal of "the UNIX API" for all desktop applications. It seems there's hope in the form of freedesktop.org defining small improvements in interoperability, but it's maddeningly slow progress. Furthermore, my understanding is these desktop libraries are not well supported for non-GUI applications: if you want to develop a curses-driven GUI for a GNOME or KDE-targeted library, good freakin luck to ya. The functionality doesn't always need to be bound to the widget/GUI stuff but mostly it is.

    Lastly, people can learn more by forming their own project and going it alone. That's perfectly valid to practice your coding skills, but there's also benefit in learning teamwork and diplomacy by joining a project (not to imply these are exclusive goals).

    (More examples?)
    "Back in the day" there were two main Napster clients for GNOME: Gnapster, and Lopster. There doesn't seem to be library (GNOME-specific or not) for general-purpose "nap/opennap" communication. These authors each poured long hours into usability and back-end functionality. The gui's were unique, but the back-end can't differ by very much. It would have improved things if GNOME and KDE shared some neutral libnap library.

    Just my thoughts. I'm not a real developer (I script :-) but I've been working with software for 20 years and been an SQA Engineer for the last 10. I've seen a lot of useful code go to rot (tho others have seen much, much more)
  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Friday April 04, 2003 @10:57AM (#5661235) Homepage Journal
    This is obviously bogus. Do we have too many scientists, just because most of them never produce a breakthrough on the level of Einstein or Tesla? Of course not. Do we have too many open source applications because they aren't all successful? You can't get all of those open source developers to work on the same software package anyway...
  • by trelanexiph ( 605826 ) on Friday April 04, 2003 @11:03AM (#5661290) Homepage
    this guy has missed it, I mean truly missed it. The point of freesoftware is that people contribute back what THEY want to use. His treatment of various projects, Enlightenment for one (a waste of time) and Gaim, HERE WRITE YOUR PROGRAM HOW I WANT IT! Sir to quote ESR, you don't get it.
    Why must everyone adopt linux? I quite frankly don't want to have to deal with the 200 morons and 10 clued people I work with all adopting linux and then having to answer all their questions. I'd be quite happy if they'd simply switch from IE to Mozilla so I don't have to keep removing virii from their desktop.
    The foolish push to get everyone to use linux for everything is misguided. Quite honestly if I was a developer in any project he mentioned, I would be incredibly insulted. Fortunately I'm not but I still find this prevailing attitude that the sheep need to use linux on the desktop misguided.
  • by RogerWilco ( 99615 ) on Friday April 04, 2003 @11:05AM (#5661309) Homepage Journal
    It's widely known in the software engineering field that Maintenance of a software product constitutes op to 80% of it's cost.
    (source:"OO and Classical Software Engineering", S.R.Schach)
    This is because the further a program has developed, the harder it
    get's to maintain and to prevent regression fault intoduction.

    From experience I know it's easy to whip something up esp. in a RAD
    environment quite fast. But getting from a product that does what it
    has to do most of the time, to a product that includes:
    manuals, error-handling, fault tollerance, user-friendly GUI,
    help-files, consistent clear code and design, well documented code,
    is very hard, and takes a lot of effort. A lot of coders are not even trained
    to take these points into account when programming in my opinion.

    In my view that's why a lot of OS projects never get the above list
    completed, even if they do have most of the desired core functions.

    Adriaan Renting.
  • Balderdash. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sanermind ( 512885 ) on Friday April 04, 2003 @11:10AM (#5661346)
    Total rubbbish!

    The competition of multiple attempts to approach the same thing is nothing but healthy. Let's not forget the rampent cross-pollination that takes place in the even moderately succesfull software products. I just set up firewire for my new miniDV camcorder the other night, and I couldn't help but notice examples of it everywhere. One utility used a version of quicktime4linux [from heroinewarrior/cinelerra fame]. FFmpeg [and it's libavcodec subsystem], which started out as a streaming server [and still is] has been adopted all over the place in video land. But I still like to use xvid with mencoder, cause it's artifacts are somehow preferable to my own personal psychvisual aesthetics. I don't mean to ramble [very little sleep, what with my new toy last night, and having to get up for work this morning ;) ]... but I would strongly argue that in all cases the diversity and multitude of the free software world is one of it's greatest strengths. Emacs vs. vim vs. etc, gdb vs. ddd vs etc, mencoder vs. transcode vs. etc...

    I find myself wondering if the currently prevalent conformist patriotic meme running about these days has somehow begun to infect people in more bizare respects.

    Battle for the desktop? Pshaw. The honest fact is, that linux is -far more- usuable on the desktop to a serious computer user. Has been for a good while. As for the lusers out there who buy $40-$60 ieee1394 cables at best buy, and have learned to pop in a disk and see an installation wizard pop up, so they can dutifully click OK and I ACCEPT a few times... That is the beloved desktop, that we think linux should strive towards?!

    There will be some companies, lindows or whomever, who will encapsulate the marvelous sophistication and subtletie of linux, into a comfortable and homogonized straitjacket world of user-friendly bliss. I have no problem with that, indeed, the multifarious oppurtunities of open source encourage all manner of repackaging and redesign. Which is a Good Thing.

  • by pmz ( 462998 ) on Friday April 04, 2003 @11:10AM (#5661349) Homepage
    I view Free Software as being driven by Natural Selection. Lots of startups, lots of failures, and only those projects with genuine leadership, insight, and luck will succeed.

    For this reason, most software sucks. Actually, it sucks and blows. Most software (commercial included) is so bad that I am ashamed to use it and, occasionally, ashamed to have played a part in its creation. Okay, point made.

    However, I am not suprised at how bad most software is. What would you expect after only fifty years of evolution? Only fifty years of learning and cultural penetration?

    The fact that certain big corporations say we can have our cake and eat it all thanks to them has made the public delusional and impatient. Right now, I think the public is in denial about software quality, because it is not yet public knowledge that software is among the most complex things ever devised by mankind.

    Do we run to the neighborhood fix-it man and say "build me a fast car in six months...oh, and make it silent and brain-dead intuitive to work with. Oh, yeah, I have only $750 to pay you." Do we ask the same of bridge contractors? How about NASA? Would you ride in a submarine to the bottom of the ocean controlled by software written by you or someone you know? How about using software written by (gasp) Microsoft?

    Face it, we're still in the dark ages and in denial about it.
  • What a moron! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by xchino ( 591175 ) on Friday April 04, 2003 @11:37AM (#5661566)
    This guy is an idiot. One would think he had just recently installed Redhat 5.2.

    "On Linux, there's no decent movie player and no working sound recorder (like the one in Windows 95) shipped as the default by GNOME, but hey, there are more than 385 text editors!"

    Why the hell should there be a "default" video and player that come with Gnome? Seems to me like he has the idea that those are part of a the desktop. He however, goes on to say that there are 385 text editors. There are not 385 text editors included with Gnome. He needs to learn the simple distinction between packages like gnome, gmplayer, enlightenment, and X. What comes as "default" on distro A will not be the same as Distro B. If he was saying there was just no decent media player, then he really is mentally deficient. Mplayer beats out everything I have ever come across, regardless of platform.

    Choice is good, but it's frustrating when none of the alternatives works properly.

    "A good example is Mozilla. There are lots of browsers available for Linux today, but most of them are based on Mozilla. Therefore, they work."

    Since when are most browsers based on Mozilla? I think he's thinking of the GECKO engine, which is not Mozilla.

    "Please stop developing and using some obscure application when there are better alternatives. Not happy with them? Fix what's wrong, or if everything looks wrong, work at separating the functionality into a UI-independent library, then develop your own graphical interface.

    Why the hell should I stop using ANY program I enjoy just because someone else deems something to be "better". I guess I should drop vi for emacs... or is it the other way around? Depends on who you're talking to. At any rate, one of the MAJOR advantages of free software is the amount of choices we have.

    "Reusing and improving existing code, not making your own, is the way.""

    Thank you, oh benevolent deity, for showing us all "the way". I will cease to write any of my own code, or innovate and develop any new ideas, I'll just reuse the same old obfuscated cruft, and spend just as much time or probably more hacking it do be what I want.

    "Another problem is that major functionality is quite often rewritten from scratch. It's not unusual to see freshmeat announcements like "What's new: completely rewritten". Don't throw away all tested and working code and documentation to start all over again, introducing new bugs which annoy users and waste time. So what if there's a lot of refactoring?"

    Thanks for proving you're not at all a developer in any way. Nobody just decides "Hey I should rewrite all this past year of work just for fun!" When code is rewritten it is usually because bad practices have led the project to be unmanagable, or another language would get the done job better. So what if there's alot of refactoring? What kind of dumb statement is that? Who cares that PhpNuke is a garbled peice of insecure software that takes half the time to rewrite properly than it does to fix? Drop all other CMS' and work on PhpNuke, because someone said it ws the best, and others are more "obscure".

    This guy wants to use Windows. He wants to not have an option, have everything laid out for him as what he "should" be using. The only benefit he sees in free software is not having to pay for it. That's exactly the kind of people we could do without in the *nix world. The kind of people that think Linux should just be a free MS clone. Linux is a different OS, a different environemnt, a different user base. The point is not to beat out those MS guys. Linux can easily be turned into expensive crap that any idioit can use, which is why we have Lindows.

    Ok I'm ranting, but this attitude really irkes me. One of the first lessons I learned when making the Windows->Linux switch was how powerful simply having an option is. Whne people can't get over their own personal dislike of Microsoft and make Linux out to be some sort of crusade against the evil giant. It gives all open source a bad name.
  • by copponex ( 13876 ) on Friday April 04, 2003 @11:38AM (#5661569) Homepage
    I've been around linux for a while, but I am barely worthy of the title "script kiddie." I use linux at work for a SMB fileserver and print server, as well as to host some intranet applications. The main problem I have with linux is that too much software is installed with distros.

    The real beauty of open source is the competition in addition too the sharing of ideas. There's nothing to stop someone from looking at a project, snipping parts of it for their own use, and releasing a better piece of software in a matter of weeks instead of months. Take a look at ARIA, which noticed that NOLA dev wasn't going anywhere, and now they're fixing bugs and adding features. Perhaps in a few months someone will take ARIA and integrate it into TUTOS. Any way it happens, you can be assured that the best functioning program will be the most popular.

    The only problem with this is all the forking has lead to a top-heavy tree. Linux distros come absolutely loaded with software, and most of it goes unused. Sure, you can roll your own, if you're literate enough. I think to get people away from Windows, you have to start looking at why it's successful. It's because a) installing new software is easy, b) there are a lot of fully functional, well supported office/financial applications, c) the user is completely seperated from low-level configuration. Once you can install a linux distro simply by selecting the time, network settings, and username (pretty close in RH8.0), then boot into it with a bare minimum of visible configuration utilities, you will have won the battle. People want to turn on their computer, start and use an application (without reading a fucking manual), and then print, e-mail, or publish their results.

    The first victim will be customization, but look at QuickBooks for christ's sake. It's a shit program, but it's popular because it gets the job done.

    -Dean
  • by TopherC ( 412335 ) on Friday April 04, 2003 @12:50PM (#5662208)
    I know that this article has major problems, and my feathers got ruffled when I read "Motif, Tcl/Tk, wxWindows? Die!" Those are all great toolkits (except he meant to say Tk since Tcl is a programming language).

    BUT, did no one here actually get the author's point? Seems like everyone just fixated on the details and ignored any possible value in the article. I don't think many people disagreed that there are too many audio interfaces in Linux that are (nearly) equally capable. Research is fun, but should every single Linux *user* need to spend hours trying to figure out why sound works in one program but not in another, and research the complete configuration of and relationships between OSS, aRts, ALSA, etc.? I have things basically working on my computer now, but I still don't completely understand it all.

    Maybe the point of the article is that developing an alternative piece of software instead of working with existing code is a matter that should be seriously considered, because the cost of doing this is much larger than one might imagine. To the extent that you are successful, you would be detracting from the existing alternative software.

    Probably there are two bad reasons why new projects are started when they should not be. One is that people would rather write code than read it. I guess that's psychological -- when you're writing code you feel like you're making progress, but not when reading code. The other reason is personal glory. "This is MY project!"

    So, we need to be sensitive to these bad reasons, and deeply consider if what we want to have is really funudamentally different from any other OS project out there? If the differences can be overlooked or overcome in any way, then it's better to work on an existing project and/or with an existing toolset.

    That said, there are also good reasons for starting from scratch, but often an existing project can do that on its own. If a change of paradigm or code structure makes sense, as the project is becoming unwieldy, that can (and does) happen. But this process is motivated by the growth of an existing project, so again even if you have some fundamentally new ideas and really want to write "Ans" by yourself, try working with sendmail first, and maybe your contribution might be the impotice for another healthy re-design.
  • by cyberassasin ( 4943 ) <bmfrank&gmail,com> on Friday April 04, 2003 @01:26PM (#5662538) Homepage
    Well, I believe it is the simple theory that most like working for themselves, rather than working for others. Also, I tend to believe that many who have started a project will want to control the project to the point of being stiffling to those that may want to contribute. And when you are contributing time and energy for free, you surely don't want to have to deal with getting shot down on ideas and implmentations. So I doubt we will see a convergance of efforts on any project. The ones that will succeed are those that are managed by people that have a good understanding of collaborative work ethics, and can manage people and resources effectively. And having contributors that have a common goal in mind.

    :
  • by The Breeze ( 140484 ) on Friday April 04, 2003 @04:35PM (#5664444) Homepage
    The point is not that "Linux needs to conquer windows"

    The point is not that "Linux needs to conquer windows"

    The point is not that "Linux needs these things to be better"

    The point is, quite simple, "Linux needs a double-digit desktop market penetration to survive"

    Did everyone miss the line about Microsoft using legal tricks and lobbyists to make Linux illegal/irrelevant?

    Linux is a great system. We all enjoy playing with it. However, we also need to web browse, we need to be able to buy things online, we need to be able to communicate. If Microsoft manages to get more and more companies making websites that don't work with Linux, if Microsoft lobbies and succeeds in getting laws passed that require software to have strange, undocumented backdoors, keys or encryption, then Linux is dead. Period. A few odd people may play with it, it will be a good learning tool, but that's it. The massive development that marks big apps will be impossible.

    And, the only way to prevent this from happening is to get MORe non-techies using Linux. The magic 10% of desktops. As the article points out, a company can cheerfully deploy a website that 2% of users can't access. Cutting off 10% is a different matter.

    Here's just one example. I own an ISP. I have to partner with Qwest. To test a line for DSL qualification, I need to use a Windows machine or use Konquerer with user-agent spoofing, because they have designed their ISP-interface website to specifically reject any non-Microsoft browser. It's not that the website doesn't work - it fools you by saying, this browser is not recommended, lets you try to proceed, and then kicks you out saying your browser is incompatible. Funny thing, you change the user agent string and the same browser that was "incompatible" 30 seconds ago now works fine. We're going to see more and more of this crap.

    If we want to be able to continue to use Linux, or any other OS/software that allows us to modify it, we need non-techies on Linux. Period. We need a non-technical base of people who will protest when poorly-written or MS dependant crap kicks out their Mozilla.

    Linux needs:
    * to drop the elitist "RTFM" attitude.
    * Better cut and paste, in ALL GUI's / window managers, whatever
    * Better selection of software - we need some kid's software, better written - we need to be able to do TurboTax or something like that. We need - gasp - GREETING CARD software. Sound goofy? Get a suburban housewife hooked on a greeting card package and she'll stick with it for life.
    * Better font handling.
    * BETTER INSTALLATION ROUTINES. RPM sucks. Period. Either it's fundamentally broken, or 75% of the people using it to package apps aren't using it right - I can't tell. Dependancy hell makes troubleshooting Windows problems look logical. It is WAY to hard to install most Linux programs.
    Developers, you can code. I can't. My skills have atrophied, I haven't coded in years. I love you all for the great software you give us. I love that it's free.
    But, I would love it more if I could actually USE it. I'd love it if it would actually INSTALL. I would pay a fee for that. Most people would. I'm a technician, and I can't figure out how to get some of this crap to run, short of compiling from source - and if you want non-techies to install it, forget it. Developers, PLEASE, when you think your project that you've slaved over for months is finished, pause. Pause and spend ust one more week, or even one more day, polishing it. I mean...come on, why does the KDE dialer tell me to delete a stinking PID file when it crashes and I reopen it? Why doesn't the KDE KPPP dialer ust say "Your previous dialup connection may have ended improperly. Would you like me to start a new one? (Click ADVANCED for a detailed description of this problem)"? That would be smart. The end user would mindlessly click yes and it would work. The hacker could click on the advanced tab and find out what's going on with the stupid PID fil

To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk. -- Thomas Edison

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