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Freeware:Article in Red Herring 16

Booker writes "Red Herring magazine has an article about Open Source software from a business perspective. They seem to think that it will NOT be the Next Big Thing in business, but it's interesting reading. There are quite a few articles in the "Related Links" section at the bottom, including ones about Open Source startups and Open Source hardware, and an article by ESR. "
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Freeware:Article in Red Herring

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  • Effugas wrote:

    While the original developer retains the right to use his own code in closed source software, I do not believe that he(or she) may use submitted code in that software--at least not under the GPL license.

    Technically, you're right, but to a certain extent it depends on the project. If a person submits code to a software project that is distributed under a particular license, it is traditionally assumed that the submission is also under that license (unless explicitly otherwise). The only person who can change the license on code is the copyright holder. Small patches contributed to a larger work are often considered as being copyright assigned to the holder of the large work by default. Most big projects which care about copyright (eg. GNU or CygWin) ask for a formal assignment of copyright when you submit a significant amount of code. When you assign your copyrights to someone else, they can legally change the license at will.


    Sendmail, of course, is not(to my knowledge) covered under GPL, so that probably explains why its makers can use publically submitted patches in a private product.

    Until recently, Sendmail was under the BSD License [opensource.org]. This license has always been interpreted that you can redistribute BSD source or binaries under any terms (i.e. license) you wish, provided the specific conditions of the BSD license are also met. As of version 8.9, Sendmail, Inc [sendmail.com] is supporting three versions of Sendmail, each under different license, each license includes the BSD conditions.


    An interesting contrast can be drawn with closed source software, which increasingly is including time limits on usage in the fine print. While you can never lose the right to use OSS software, certain popular programs are legally limited to only twenty five to thirty years of usage.

    Yeek! Do you have an example of such a license?
  • Heh, there was a new ad banner above slashdot today -- for penguin caffeinated mints [peppermints.com]! I've always wondered where you can get these things... slashdot comes through again :)
  • Despite being quoted in the article, I don't agree with all its conclusions and actually agree with your contention that Nikki Goth Itoi left some stuff out that she should have mentioned. But it would have been nice if you had given some concrete examples.

    I'll give one of mine: I think she neglected the potential possibility of companies that offer services based on open-source software, where those services are not just technical support and integration related to the software itself. A hypothetical example would be a online game company that made the client game software open-source and built a business around the community itself, e.g., based on subscriptions, advertising, whatever.

  • "[OSS's] mission is to commodotize those services which can best benefit from commodization." That's actually a very good way of putting it.

    I would only add that many if not all business products and services combine a commodity component and a vendor-specific added-value component. OSS can potentially fill the niche of providing those commodity components for a wide range of business products and services, with smart businesses still able to figure out ways to provide added value in a manner that is both profitable and consistent with the nature of OSS.


  • Depends on what your business is doing. I think if your business is doing graphics, or design open source would help, but if you're doing any networking or electronic commerce stuff I'd say it's essential for security reasons. I wouldn't use anything else, but of course I'm not an 'IT manager'.
  • I read through the whole article, and they make some very good points. I notice a tendency of Linux fanatics to not read articles and understand what the author is saying before jumping to flame them.

    And their summary really put everything into perspective:

    "There is nothing strange or magical about open-source development from a business point of view; it should neither be shunned as impractical nor embraced as a panacea," Mr. Hecker concludes in his white paper.

  • A quick observation--I'm working on a paper that actually will end up rebutting this article to a degree, so I'll leave most of my commentary to that essay when it is complete.

    At one point in the article, it is noted that open source software ceases development when interest wanes or when the developers close the source to take it commercial.

    This is not entirely valid.

    While the original developer retains the right to use his own code in closed source software, I do not believe that he(or she) may use submitted code in that software--at least not under the GPL license. However, even if one looks at other licenses, it is simply not possible for the OSS license to be "revoked"--once code is put out to the public, it can not be taken back nor reigned in.

    Sendmail, of course, is not(to my knowledge) covered under GPL, so that probably explains why its makers can use publically submitted patches in a private product. The most famous example of the latter condition I refer to above is the FLTK affair, when Digital Domain ceased the (L)GPL status of future versions of one of their coders' graphical toolkit. While the software is still being developed in house at DD, the older, pre-recall versions still remain and will always remain under protection of an OSS license.

    An interesting contrast can be drawn with closed source software, which increasingly is including time limits on usage in the fine print. While you can never lose the right to use OSS software, certain popular programs are legally limited to only twenty five to thirty years of usage.

    That's one way to look at value-per-dollar...

    Yours Truly,

    Dan Kaminsky
    DoxPara Systems
    http://doxpara.netpedia.net




    Once you pull the pin, Mr. Grenade is no longer your friend.
  • are the people whose attitudes will determine the
    ultimate influence of free software, not startup
    entrepreneurs who want to make a quick buck.
    Corporations are very concerned about costs and
    about depreciation vs. appreciation of their
    investments (including, most significantly, the
    time required to train personnel). If they
    come to believe that the free software model is
    an advantage for them, then there will be a
    (bigger) revolution. If they think it is too time
    consuming and doesn't help productivity then they
    will not care. The Red Herring article is geared
    to startup entrepreneurs because that is the
    focus of that magazine, but those are probably
    not the people who will decide the issue. And if
    they do, it will be as consumers (like ISPs, web-
    sites), not as software producers.

    - Josh
  • Red Herring is admittedly a business-oriented publication. I was surprised with the relative level of accurate and insightful information contained here, since most OSS articles seem to either proclaim the era of OSS or discard it offhand.

    Some of the comments were misleading, specifically the license issues (the article touched upon copyleft, but didn't distinguish the different licensing models very well).

    I thought the comments on how the different companies are utilizing (or capitilizing, as the case may be) on OSS were very well put forward.

    One point made in the article which I whole-heartedly agree with the idea that OSS will prosper most in the software infrastructures. For instance, Sendmail and Apache are always used as examples of popular OSS systems. They are because so many computers depend on the services they provide in order to run the internet. Similarly, Linux (not to leave you *BSD guys out either) are popular because every modern computer needs an OS, so it's only natural for an OSS operating system to spring up to fill that need. The higher-specialized applications will continue to be proprietary, because the OSS model simply isn't capable of generating the public interest which would be needed to make the project feasible. Although there certainly are cases of OSS software being used in "cutting-edge" technologies, those are more the exception than the rule. There are some technologies which benefit more from OSS than others (for instance, device drivers for advanced technology) and therefore are often found in OSS even when not in proprietary systems (and when they are it's usually driven by politics). The article touched on this with the hardware vendors, for whom proprietary software is a bottleneck.

    As technology becomes more necessary across the board, it will be commoditized in OSS. We're just beginning to see sophisticated office applications in OSS, as such applications become in increasing demand on OSS platforms.

    Therefore OSS is relegated to minor, low-level software, but rather it's mission is to commodotize those services which can best benefit from commodization. So, while Microsoft "integrates" essential technologies into their platforms, OSS will liberate those technologies. Both are different means to the same end: to provide the essential services to the people who need them. In most cases, the later model shows itself superior, if not as spiffy.
    --
    Aaron Gaudio
    "The fool finds ignorance all around him.
  • The perspective of the article is skewed. It's looking at the question as to whether OSS will cause the rise of new giants to kill the old ones. It won't -- but it will kill the old giants anyway.
  • Actually, I didn't post as a Coward..

    And what I said.. I backed up later. Why can't I just say I think their wrong. And I read four articles before I replied. Yes I do read fast, and I was just god damn lucky to be first actually(a first for me). So, being in the profound position - I thought I'd be annoying.

    If you noticed that the Red Herring article was almost a week old (18th of Feb), maybe you'd be able to comment as quickly as I did.

    ;P

    Pan
  • Why do I think I've already read this weeks ago?

    It's kinda dull anyway: they say nobody's going to get incredibly rich with OSS -- do we care?
  • I noticed the Red Herring also has a nice article on Google [redherring.com]

"The chain which can be yanked is not the eternal chain." -- G. Fitch

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