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Embracing Insanity

JonKatz posted about 14 years ago | from the history-of-OS-development dept.

Linux 99

Russell Pavlicek, Linux and Open Source evangelist, has written an impassioned little book that purports to explain to the non-geek world in particular why they should care about the Open Source movement and the success of OS systems like Linux and FreeBSD. Know what? He delivers.


There's a continuing avalache of technical/OS and other books and manuals, but very few that remind us why we should care about this stuff and, better yet, give us the tools, arguments and data to convince others.

"Embracing Insanity," by Russell C. Pavlicek (Linux Evangelist for Compaq's Professional Services organization, and 20-year computer industry veteran) is funny, smart and warm-hearted, something one could hardly expect from a book on the origins, meaning and history of the open source movement. Even though it's written by an OS veteran, it seems to be written mostly for the non-technical who need to come to terms with a movement that is both evolutionary and revolutionary.

Many of the people reading this will know some or all of the material in '"Embracing Insanity: Open Source Software Development."

This is a book to give your parents if they are wondering what you're doing up in your room all night, your teachers if they haven no clue as to why software has political, social and cultural implications, and perhaps as important, your boss, as he or she wonders why they need to understand open source and free software if they really want to do business in the 21st century.

It's not great literature, and doesn't purport to be. It is written with great heart, clarity and authority. "Embracing Insanity" is a history, a primer and a social biography. It explains what to do regarding OS, and what not to do, the sometimes bizarre nature and traditions of the OS culture.This is not a book that will confuse or scare off non-techies with language that isn't explained, or technical information taken for granted. Quite the contrary. It brings OS to life in a way that is completely accessible, explaining it's significance as a business and social model for many kinds of institutions, and its profoundly non-technological promise.

Pavlicek traces the growth of the OS and the free software movement, but he catches the weird (insane, perhaps) history and spirit of this particularly geek-driven phenomena. He sees OS as the liberation of the geek culture, for which he obviously has great feeling and empathy. One of his very neat ideas is that OS software development is "Essential Disruptive Technology," one of a hand of particular technologies that come out of nowhere to alter the direction of technical progress, change the rules, and catch all of the regular players off guard.

" is not so much that Open Source ventures onto technical ground that has never been explored before. But it does bring the rules and expectations from one area of technology (large computer systems) into another area (PC systems). And, most importantly, it does so in a way that defies the norms of the computer industry..." OS, he writes, is a new way of thinking about technology and computing, especially desktop computing.

"Embracing Insanity" is an proselytizing book (with a foreword by our own Robin "roblimo" Miller, Editor-In-Chief for the Open Source Development Network (formerly It's clear that Pavlickek has been trying to explain to people for years why anybody should care about OS, so he's written this book to make sure the argument continues and widens. "Embracing Insanity" is the view of a true believer about a movement that is widely misunderstood, and whose commercial and social significance is still lost on much of the non-geek world.

Pavlicek claims that OS explodes the myth of the anti-social geek. In a world where dread stereotypes of geeks pop up on the evening news nightly, nothing, he says, could be farther from the truth. Geeks are quite social, they just have a different set of priorities. The OS community, he says, uses a number of ways to sociall connect with each other, from basic Net tools like email and IRC, mailing lists and weblogs to the rapidly-proliferating OS news and discussion sites (like Linux Today). In the Linux community, bands of people come together all the time to talk about OS software and, in some cases, the free software movement.

Pavlicek covers some well-known OS history, but he also breaks some original ground, including when he talks about the moral values of OS beyond technology and software. One of the key values of OS and its community, he argues, is truth. "In a world where people are constantly exchanging ideas, evaluating concepts, and suggesting enhancements, it is vitally important that everyone speak the truth as he sees it. If someone fails to speak the truth, the process of creating software will be greatly impaired." The impact of anything less in the OS environment is devastating to the process of creating software. "If someone in charge of a piece of code willingly lies about how the code functions to other developers seeking to use that code, that person has caused great harm. Someone who lies to a development team could cost that team hundreds of even thousands of wasted hours of development. In that case, the liar has caused numerous individuals to waste precious hours of time chasing down a dead-end road."

There aren't too many media, social or political movements so dependent on truth or vulnerable to posturing, inaccuracies, hype and blatant falsehoods. Pavlicek explains why out this sometimes ill-tempered meticulousness is deeply rooted in geek culture, where mistakes have consequences, and where patience for fools and dissemblers is short. That could hardly be said of politics or media.

"Embracing Insanity" is an argument for OS, but Pavlicek bluntly spells out the business realities -- pro and con -- that underlie open source development. Is it good or bad for the bottom line, good or bad for the consumer, practical or not for everybody else? In addition to writing a primer of OS terms and names, he also dispels some myth and confusion. Lots of people don't know that Open Source isn't freeware, or that OS software isn't the same thing as public-domain software.

There aren't a lot of books coming out of the Open Source movement that you can hand to anyone with an interest in the future of technology -- that would cover a lot of people -- that so confidently captures the spirit, history and potential of one of the most interesting social and technological ideas in the world. OS may have started as a programming movement, but it has mushroomed well beyond that. Pavlicek grasps this big idea, even as many of his more technically-minded colleagues still resist it.

Geeks have had a hard time explaining the significance of OS to the world beyond. Now they don't have to. "Embracing Insanity" delivers on its promise to explain why society should care about this communal movement that seemed to come out of nowhere in response to the looming Microsoftization of the planet. It's almost a cliche in publishing to say a book is long overdue, but that's the perfect description here.

"Embracing Insanity" is the right gift for the people who have no idea what you're doing with your life, but may, for lots of important reasons, need or want to know.

Purchase this book at ThinkGeek.

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what is freebds? (2)

Lord Omlette (124579) | about 14 years ago | (#632439)

is it anything like freebsd? is there a netbds? is it posix compliant? can it run linxu executables?
Lord Omlette
ICQ# 77863057

Story Icon (2)

slothdog (3329) | about 14 years ago | (#632440)

And this has what to do with Enlightenment, specifically? Much like the earlier Star Wars/LEGO story being posted under the Games icon....

Re:Story Icon (1)

emir (111909) | about 14 years ago | (#632441)

i wondered that too. can it happen that this guy is coding e or something like that? btw whats happening with e, havent seen any news on it for a while....

Sounds good (1)

wiedmeister (203345) | about 14 years ago | (#632442)

Like the title -- I'm definitely going to have to check this one out.

Open source won't survive the next decade (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 14 years ago | (#632443)

Whilst it has been a refreshing blip in the current socioeconomic structures to see a movement devoted to freedom (however small its domain) I really can't see that this movement is going to go anywhere or that it will even survive the next decade.

Let's face it, at the end of the day people need to get paid for what they do, and when the current "gold rush" has died down and programmers stop earning the rediculous sums of money they do for their monkey work, they won't have the time or the enthusiasm for "contributing to the community" or whatever BS line Stallmann and Raymond are spouting that week.

Mark my words, open source is not the future.

It's in the icon's contract. (2)

darylp (41915) | about 14 years ago | (#632444)

Last time it was out was in November 1999. I think Slashdot have got to put all the icons on the front page every 12 months or the Icons Union comes knocking...

D'you know there's an Internet Explorer icon as well? Makes a change from all the Borg ones.


Helping the imprisoned developers . . . (1)

truthsearch (249536) | about 14 years ago | (#632445)

Does anyone think that a book like this would help open the minds of those enslaved by Microshit rhetoric and their own ignorance? I know people, as most of us do, who have blind faith in everything Microshit. If Gates, of Hell, says something, it's gospel. I like some MS products, as some are appropriate for what I do at work. However, too many other developers are never even willing to give anything non-MS a try. Anyone feel something like this, basic from the start, will help people be more open-minded?

a little concerned (1)

lyapunov (241045) | about 14 years ago | (#632446)

While I think that this will be worthwhile book, there might be some danger the title. THe reason for this concern is akin to the book The Dancing Wu-Li Masters. While quantum physics is an important endeavor, people talking about metaphysics and trying to explain the existence of dog does not bode well a lot of the public and damaged funding for projects because of its metaphycical aims instead of scientific goals.

It is good to try and explain physics and open source to a lamen, but care needs to be taken in how it is done.

Re:Open source won't survive the next decade (1)

Rares Marian (83629) | about 14 years ago | (#632447)

At the end of the day the work I did cost me nothing.

It's a matter of how you do it.

I have debian but I'll be damned if I'll just download any old file that comes along. If someone's got a prepackaged w/ manual box at Best Buy's I'm getting that.

At the end of the day I want payment, maybe if it's not just a hack. But I'd rather be getting work done during the day than futzing with the downloads.

Re:Story Icon (1)

R3 (15929) | about 14 years ago | (#632448)

How about Enlightenment through reading this book? Like - you read, get the ideas and get enlightened?
enlighten (n-ltn) v. tr. enlightened, enlightening, enlightens. To give spiritual or intellectual insight to: "Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppression of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day" (Thomas Jefferson). To give information to; inform or instruct.
I dunno, works for me.

Re:Open source won't survive the next decade (2)

MartinG (52587) | about 14 years ago | (#632449)

> ...and programmers stop earning the rediculous sums of money they do for their monkey work,
>they won't have the time or the enthusiasm for "contributing to the community"

I work as a programmer for a closed source company. I often lack enthusiasm at work because everything we do seems to be driven by making profit and getting code out the door as fast as we can.

In the evenings, I go home and write more code. This time, it is done on my own terms and the focus is on the code working well, and it's much more enjoyable and I am much more motivated and enthusiastic.

Explain how that fits your "gold rush" ideas, and come to think of it, explain why you describe ppls attitude to open source as a "gold rush" if you think it doesn't make money. That doesn't sound much like a gold rush to me.

non-geek world (3)

jesser (77961) | about 14 years ago | (#632450)

purports to explain to the non-geek world in particular

Gee, if he went for a target audience even a little more specific than that, he wouldn't sell enough copies to justify writing the book.


FreeBDS? JonKatz took a little too much LDS. (1)

AFCArchvile (221494) | about 14 years ago | (#632451)

Come on, Jon, Slashdot is the Linux news website. A slip-up like that just might get you ostracized (that is, if you didn't have permanent tenure here).

Acronym watch (2)

ch-chuck (9622) | about 14 years ago | (#632452)

First we had cornfusion with:

PC - Personal Computer, Professional Consultant, Politically Correct, or Programmable Controller (which has since become PLC or Programmable Logic Controller)


ATM - Automatic Teller Machine, Adobe Type Manager, and Asynchronous Transfer Mode,

Now we've got:

OS - Operating System, Open Source. I thought it was 'OSS' Open Source Software, which should have little interferance from Office of Strategic Services or Oracle Support Service. Otherwise Linux is an OSOS, and NT is just SoSo.

OS Freeware Freeware OS (1)

Shivetya (243324) | about 14 years ago | (#632453)

It seems to be the one great concept that I see many people here failing to realize. Many stories go by with people either screaming that because its free it should be OS, or if its going to be OS it must be free.

What really blows me away is the number of people who deem anything which runs or interacts with an OS product (read OS or any other item) must itself be OS. These same people are then so ignorant to blame companies for not developing more stuff for their pet OS software.

Maybe if its spelled out by someone trusted it may open some of the closed eyes. Open Source advocates are not necessarily open minded.

A book for my parents to read? (2)

Peter Dyck (201979) | about 14 years ago | (#632454)

This sounds a lot like a book I'd like to give my parents as a small Christmas present. I've tried to explain to them what Open Source -- or Free Software, to be more precise -- really means but I've got an impression they still think it's just yet another youngsters' idealistic fad (although I'm close to 30 years old ;-).

If this book manages to demonstrate why software and ideas are different from real-life things (scarcity) and should therefore be free, I'm going to buy it.

Re:Story Icon (2)

MartinG (52587) | about 14 years ago | (#632455)

sigh.. not another one.

Go into your preferences and click in the box labelled:

"Supress pseudo-random inappropriate appearance of enlightenment icon?"

And it will stop. If I had a penny for every time someone asks me about the random enlightenment icon....


Um, excuse me. That potato needs an "e". (2)

LinuxWhore (90833) | about 14 years ago | (#632456)

I know this is going to sounds like flames spewing forth, but I think it needs to be said. Is anyone else sick of comments about typos in /. headlines? Yeah, it's FreeBSD, not FreeBDS. Yes the name in the pres. poll was Ralph Nader, not Ralph Neder. You knew it, and so do I. Chances are, the /. Crew will notice it sooner or later too, and propmtly correct the mistake. I liken the annoyance of these posts to chat sessions where others correct your typos. It doesn't need to be pointed out. After all, how many typos can you find in the common comment thread? Should we correct all those too?

Maybe like FreeS&M (2)

ch-chuck (9622) | about 14 years ago | (#632457)

but I'm not going to explain it, noooo.

No... (5)

Raymond Luxury Yacht (112037) | about 14 years ago | (#632458)

This is a book to give your parents if they are wondering what you're doing up in your room all night,...

Are you kidding? I was doing what any normal, healthy, pubescent boy was doing... and praying like hell that my mother didn't walk in, and that Vivian Hsu [] would!!

Re:Acronym watch (1)

Interrobang (245315) | about 14 years ago | (#632459)

...and anyone trying to make sense of it all is often SOL.

Re:Please read what I wrote (1)

MartinG (52587) | about 14 years ago | (#632460)

> When the situation stablises,

when do you see that as being? (not that I neccesarily think that it won't, I'm just interested)

> , the inflated wages being paid out will drop to a reasonable rate.

Of course, but what exactly has that got to do with whether they are programming open or closed source software? It's true in either case isn't it?

Awww... It's turned back into a Penguin. (1)

darylp (41915) | about 14 years ago | (#632461)

You do realise that all our carefully constructed witty 'stating-the-bloody-obvious' karma-whorage is going to be marked down as 'Offtopic' now, don't you?

What was learned here exactly? (2)

update() (217397) | about 14 years ago | (#632462)

I read the review twice, trying to decide if I want to buy the book. (I'm guessing the book itself is proprietary, right?) Can anyone point to a single concrete, worthwhile point that Jon Katz gained by reading the book?

The only thing that comes close, it seems to me, is "One of the key values of OS and its community, he argues, is truth." Uh, yeah. Truth is irrelevant in closed development. Or investment banking or lifeguarding. Who cares if the engineers building that bridge are honest and forthright with each other?

As for the rest of it, proving that "geeks" aren't all homicidal sociopaths and borrowing "disruptive technology" from another author don't wildly impress me.

BTW, while doing a Google search to find where "disruptive technology" was cribbed from, I found this definition [] :
A disruptive technology is a technology or innovation "that results in worse product performance, at least in the near-term...[It] brings to the market a very different value proposition than had been available previously...Products that are based on disruptive technologies are typically cheaper, simpler, smaller, and, frequently, more convenient to use. [But, they generally] underperform established products in mainstream markets." (Christensen, 1997, p.xv)

but where's the accountability? (3)

Lord Omlette (124579) | about 14 years ago | (#632463)

double standard: we have to preview a story before we can submit it as a news item to slashdot. why do the editors not have to do the same thing? peer review: do it, and the end product will be better.
Lord Omlette
ICQ# 77863057

Re:Acronym watch (2)

ichimunki (194887) | about 14 years ago | (#632464)

Not to mention that consistent use of the words Open Source don't tend to help the case when it might be better to use the words Free Software. Using the acronym OS is much more confusing to the casual reader than FS would be, though. At least the ambiguity of Free Software is somewhat intentional (is it free like no price or is it free like freedom, and how do you have one without the other), whereas simply having an open view of the source code does not give anyone a legal right to tamper with or redistribute the software (with or without modifications). As a primarily non-programmer person, I think using the phrase Free Software is far more relevant to the world at large than using some obscured phrase like Open Source. I mean, only a programmer cares about the Source, but anyone can understand Free-- whether we mean no price or freedom or both. Open Source assumes the average individual even understands the difference between an executable binary and source code and how possession of the latter is of potential benefit. Even so, like the common car (hood welded shut or not) analogy, most of us want a specialist to do the work for us when it comes to serious maintanence.

(OT)Slashdot is News for Nerds not Linux News (2)

yerricde (125198) | about 14 years ago | (#632465)

Your Linux news sites on OSDN are [] and NewsForge [] . Slashdot is just News for Nerds. Stuff that matters.

And yes, both BSD and LSD came out of Berkeley.

You are wrong on eighty counts - here are five (5)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 14 years ago | (#632466)

You really need to read this book.
Here are just a few reasons why OSS will thrive, even if the supposed end of the gold rush comes (out of curiosity, what do you think will make that happen within ten years?):

1) People have generally the same amount of free time regardless of how much they make. When I was making 40k per year years ago, I had the same amount of free time as I do now - in fact I have slightly less because I fee some obligation to produce a lot for how much I get paid. The only difference is how many things you can buy and how you can spend your free time... indeed, if I was making a lot less I would probably travel less, leaving more time to work on OS projects.

2) There's a lot of interest in OS at the college level. These people already are not making any money, they just do it for fun. Why would that change?

3) If there was a crash, there would be a lot of people who had saved up enough to retire - a number of them might go on to work on OS projects in thier spare time.

4) If you look really far ahead at when current programmers finally retire at about 80 or 90 years old, why wouldn't they take up OSS projects as a side hobby? If you look ahead at what happens at people in OSS now grow older, with new people behind them, is it not really likley that the OSS movement will grow tremendously in the next few hundred years?

5) Trolls are always wrong about future events, being short sighted and ignorant.

While you do have something of a point (2)

morven2 (5718) | about 14 years ago | (#632467)

it's already survived more than a decade quite nicely, thank you. The GNU project was founded in 1984; open source development is even older than that. The kind of people who produced open source software BEFORE the hype will still do it AFTER the hype, it seems to me.

Besides, many open source developers DO get paid for what they do.

Re:Open source won't survive the next decade (1)

Open Source Sloth (232878) | about 14 years ago | (#632468)

Open Source was supposed to be dead by the end of last decade too buddy. Have you noticed that when corporations announce the death of something it just seems to keep getting bigger and bigger? It seems the only way they can really kill the interest in it is to embrace it. Unfortunately for them, in the case of Open Source (or Free) software, they can't embrace it so fully that it becomes "ANOTHER CORPORATE PLOT" in the eyes of its creators and the general population. I think the announcements of the death of Open Source that we hear every few weeks is evidence that the high-powered corporate interests that stand to lose the most from the "new" method of software development are getting a little scared of it. Not that they necissarily have to, but dinosaurs were probably just as scared of mice as elephants are. Something new, yet relatively small, can be very very frightening to the big old creatures.

I've been using Linux for five years and have constantly been told that I am wasting my time. Even now, running a business on it I keep hearing that I should just scrap it and go with .NET instead. I'm sorry, but I don't really see something that has steadily and slowly grown over the past few years just up and disappearing because some large corporations fear it. It's something that works for me and many like me. And more people gain interest each day.

Having said all of that, I realize that I have just been trolled. And yes, I will have a nice day ;-).

Slow moving marsupials and the women that love them

I am a moron and i love it! (1)

[verse]Eskil (118352) | about 14 years ago | (#632469)

I am a geek and I find some things to very interesting, things that people in general may think area boring, tedious, complicated or even nerdy. I also tend to spend so much tim on the things that I am interested in, so that i forget to eat occasionally, I don't have a huge social life, and i can also at times be considered as a traffic hazard.

There are a zillion little things that normal people care about that i neglect, i forget stuff, i say confusing things, and while girls get annoyed when other guys wonder what they look like naked, I annoy them by wondering if 3Dfx will ever return to beat nVidia.

So Im different.
Sometimes people tell me to get a life. but why would i do a thing like that? Why should I like zillions of others worry about a stain on my shirt. or about looking good, or being good at sports, or be the "hip guy" at my office or in my school?. Im not hip, im not good at sports, and I don't care about the stains.

In order to become the person I want to be I need to spend A lot of time on it, and maybe just maybe I will one day do some thing great. not because im smarter, just because i didnt spend my time trying to be an ordinary person.


Re:Open source won't survive the next decade (1)

xmedar (55856) | about 14 years ago | (#632470)

I beg to disagree here, the review makes an important point OS is very dependent on honesty and truth which are prized in the community. OTOH alot of closed source depends on dishonesty, for example the whole .NET thing, which does not even exist, and might just be another Cool that takes years to appear and then is less than was promised. I have learnt one thing above all in life, truth comes out one way or another, I've watched individuals, corporations and governments be dishonest but it always comes out, sometimes quickly and sometimes slowly. Any community that is based on truth and honesty, and what people say and do to be aligned is stronger than one that relies on dishonesty and that is why OS is a very good model for communities everywhere and why its influence will spread outside the arena of technology. OS in a way is really the first true ideal of a community with a shared vision, and an open and willing sharing of resources to accomplish that vision, and no one can stop that however much FUD is thrown in our direction.

Correcting the failure of software copyright (5)

jms (11418) | about 14 years ago | (#632471)

I've said this before. Free software, and to a lesser extent, Open Source software, correct a glaring defect in copyright law with respect to software -- it fails to establish a public domain.

Not public domain in the sense of "expired copyright", but public domain in the sense that copyright is supposed to place examples of the art into the public for study and learning. Copyright is supposed to promote disclosure. Publication of object code is not disclosure. It is non-disclosure. Software copyright is a failure in that it grants a monopoly on object code without the required disclosure of the corresponding source code.

Over 99% of the people who purchase a novel will do nothing more with it then use it for entertainment purposes. However, the remaining tiny percent of the purchasers are the next generation's authors. They will read the novel, and from it, learn the art of writing new novels.

Software doesn't work that way. No amount of study of Windows 98 will teach you how to write an operating system. That's because Windows 98 doesn't come with source code. You can use it, but you aren't allowed to understand it. This is no accident. It is the express desire of Microsoft that, in spite of their receiving the benefits of a copyright monopoly, that no one be allowed to read (the technical term for reading object code is "reverse engineering") their copyrighted work. Says so right in their license. Says so, with very few exceptions, in every single license of every single piece of proprietary software on the market.

Imagine if a young student expressed interest in becoming an author, and was told: Ok, but you will have to learn how to write from scratch. There are no examples for you to learn from. You cannot read pre-existing novels. You will have to learn plot development, character development, plot twists, all from scratch -- from textbooks. You must make absolutely sure that you never, ever read someone else's novel, because that would "contaminate" you, and you could never legally write a novel, because you could be sued by the people whose novels you had read.

I don't think that the result would be a "progress" in the art of writing novels. Why should we think that by making every potential software developer "start from scratch" leads to better software?

Now substitute "software" for "novels", and "reverse engineer" for "read", and you will get a statement that most legal departments of software companies would quickly agree with.

No wonder Free software and Open Source software are considered akin to a revolution. For the first time in the history of software the doors are thrown open. People are finally allowed, and encouraged to understand software instead of just use it. The fact that over 99% of the people who use Free and Open Source software will never modify it is irrelevant. What is important is that the tiny fraction of young people who are curious and want to learn how software works so that they can write their own, finally have the opportunity to examine and play with full fledged, working, professional quality software. And in the case of Free software, they have the right to reuse and redistribute their own work -- the modified code.

Free and Open Source software are revolutionary because they transcend the political limits of copyright law, and create what copyright law should have created, but failed to. A way "To promote the progress of science and useful arts."

I.P. (1)

Noctis (39956) | about 14 years ago | (#632472)

So, if I write a piece of code, even on my own time, my company owns it. If I write a book on my own time, I own it. Why is that? This isn't really on topic, but since he is a Compaq employee, how much of a cut is the company getting? NONE! Why do we have to give up our code!?!?

This post was made on company time.

Re:Open source won't survive the next decade (1)

Open Source Sloth (232878) | about 14 years ago | (#632473)

OK Bob, I'll play along.

Are you one of those people that feel that Linux is Red Hat (or Red Hat is Linux)? I'm picking that up from the 7.2 reference (if you were going from Mandrake it's already out).

It will be a long, long, long time before we see a 7.2 version on the kernel. But, since you were also hitting on the old trollish "Linux is communist" line, I'm could assume that exactly what you meant.

BTW, are you one of those idiots that hangs out in COLA (comp.os.linux.advocacy) with about four hundred different personalities? You seem an awful lot like a guy/girl/thing that goes under the name steve/claire/amy/heather/./ and about a million others.

Slow moving marsupials and the women that love them

Re:but where's the accountability? (1)

LinuxWhore (90833) | about 14 years ago | (#632474)

"Peer review"
So what you are saying is that all /. posters and contributors run to the nearest peer and ask him to proofread the comment or story he is about to send? I know that I try to proofread my own comments before sending, but proofreading your own work is useless, as most of us have found from our attempts in school to do so. We scan over the comment, looking for errors, but most of us will still see "FreeBSD" if that's what we intended to write, regardless of what may actually be on the page.

Re:Correcting the failure of software copyright (1)

Conspire (102879) | about 14 years ago | (#632475)

This is one of the best posts I have seen on /. in quite a long time. The arguments here probably sum up what the entire book sums up, except it is free to read the post!!!

The only argument against this post, is that we live in a capitalist world where business methods, source code, contact, etc. are all valuble and are to be kept secret.

The failure of open source (if it ever happens, and I really hope it does not), will come about because there is no real value to MAKE in embrasing it. Face it, everybody wants to make "value" in the form of money, which is a sad fact of humanity as we know it today.

Re:Acronym watch (1)

SUWAIN (223234) | about 14 years ago | (#632476)

When I first got into the whole Linux thing, I was always wondering what was up with the OSS references - I thought it stood for Office of Strategic Services. Took me a while to figure out that it was actually "Open Source Software". Then there's always PCMCIA - I still to this day cannot figure out what the heck that is...

And while on the subject, the letter "X" is getting really confusing, too. There was X Windows for UNIX (I'm relatively sure that the X was just a cool letter.) Then Apple came out with OS X, the X being for ten. But OS X was also based on a lot of UNIX code, so I for a while thought that it ran X Windows. And then Microsoft realized that it was missing out on the fad and created the "X Box". ;-)

SUWAIN: Slashdot User Without An Interesting Name

Enjoy the Irony (3)

skoda (211470) | about 14 years ago | (#632477)

Jon Katz intro:
"Russell Pavlicek, Linux and Open Source evangelist, has written an impassioned little book that purports to explain to the non-geek world in particular why they should care about the Open Source movement and the success of OS systems like Linux and FreeBSD. "

From ThinkGeek store:
List Price: $29.99
Save: $6.49 (21%)
Our Price: $23.50 (On Backorder)

I enjoy the irony that a book explaining and extolling the virtues of Open Source and free software must be purchased.

So, is there an open source version of this book, available for free download?

Perhaps there's an online version where people can edit and contribute new chapters, for the greater good -- many eyes creates better writing, no?

D. Fischer

List Price (3)

CMU_Nort (73700) | about 14 years ago | (#632478)

Do you think maybe we could start including the list price in the summary box at the beginning of each review? I hate having to make several clicks at times just to check to see what the price of a book is on the linked book site (thinkgeek,fatbrain,etc.). It would be highly useful to me in deciding whether I want to go purchase this book immediately or want to wait for the library to pick it up.

Re:I.P. (2)

LetterJ (3524) | about 14 years ago | (#632479)

You need a better contract. Unless my time is being specifically paid for or I'm using company resources to create the work (code or book), they don't own it.


Re:Correcting the failure of software copyright (1)

update() (217397) | about 14 years ago | (#632480)

No amount of study of Windows 98 will teach you how to write an operating system. That's because Windows 98 doesn't come with source code

I don't know if I fully agree with that. Didn't the KDE and Gnome projects learn how to design a desktop environment from Windows (among other sources)? Just like the GIMP developers learned how to write an image editor from Photoshop, Eazel and the Konqueror team learned about file browsers from IE...

Re:Enjoy the Irony (1)

scorbett (203664) | about 14 years ago | (#632481)

I enjoy the irony that a book explaining and extolling the virtues of Open Source and free software must be purchased.

So, is there an open source version of this book, available for free download?

You seem to be confusing "open source" with "free". Open source does not necessarily mean free. Please review the difference between free and open source [] .


Re:Correcting the failure of software copyright (2)

Rocketboy (32971) | about 14 years ago | (#632482)

This may be one of the most cognizant posts I've ever read related to open source, on /. or anywhere else, and I thank you for taking the time to write it down. But that won't stop me from picking nits... :)

This is NOT "...the first time in the history of software the doors are thrown open. People are finally allowed, and encouraged to understand software instead of just use it..." People (especially young people) tend to forget that computing did not start in 1981 with the IBM PC.
Before that, I came from the world of minicomputers, specifically the IBM S/34/36/38 line that eventually became the AS/400. Almost all major products (such as an MRP system) came with the source code, and once you had that you modified it and shared it with other users of the software. Even IBM's software went this way and did so with their (at least tacit) blessing. Vendor's user groups were in part designed to make code sharing easier (I know, I helped to form a couple of them, and the vendors strongly supported us.) I'll bet somewhere in the USA there is still someone using one of my tweaks to IPICS or the original MAPICS packages. Now I'm stuck with a closed-source ERP package running on an NT network and it's pure shit that I can't fix because I don't have the source. (Actually, I'm not sure I want the source. What on God's Earth convinced them that Visual Foxpro was a suitable programming language for something like this? And what was I on when I agreed to buy the damn thing?)

Actually, in the world of application software at least, I belive that one could make a decent argument that the disease of closed source began with the IBM PC in 1981, and the world is just now beginning to come to its senses, not the other way around.


Re:Enjoy the Irony (2)

skoda (211470) | about 14 years ago | (#632483)

From your link:
"The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2).

The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits. (freedom 3). Access to the source code is a precondition for this. "

Aren't these two freedoms implied by Open Source, and aren't they denied by the by-purchase only distribution of a copyrighted book?
D. Fischer

LOL (1)

Lord Omlette (124579) | about 14 years ago | (#632484)

omelete is one way to spell the egg thingee, but omlette has nothing to do with eggs... it's a long and epic tale which would be horribly offtopic
Lord Omlette
ICQ# 77863057

Re:Acronym watch (1)

JatTDB (29747) | about 14 years ago | (#632485)

From :

PCMCIA = "PC Memory Card International Association"

Also, I believe XWindows grew from an earlier project named "W", but don't quote me on that or anything.

Obviously! (1)

CAIMLAS (41445) | about 14 years ago | (#632486)

How could a book entitled "Embracing Insanity" NOT deliver?! My goodness, of course it delivers. Embracing insanity - that's soemthing I've been doing for years, and trying to brainwashH^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^convince others to do for nearly as long!


Re:Open source won't survive the next decade (1)

Open Source Sloth (232878) | about 14 years ago | (#632487)

Oh Bob, you say the sweetest things.

Some people say not to feed the trolls. I say, feed 'em till their good and fat. I hear they taste really good if you feed them lots of candy.;-)

People like you used to make me sick (back in my younger and more idealistic phase). Now, it just makes me want to laugh. That people with so little brain power can still muster up the commands in their mind to "breath in, breath out" is amazing in and of itself. Have fun playing with yourself Bob. I'm sure that it's quite enjoyable for you. And obviously, it's all your capable of.

Slow moving marsupials and the women that love them

Re:I.P. (1)

xjimhb (234034) | about 14 years ago | (#632488)

It all depends on your employment contract. Back in the late 80's there was a flap about employee developed programs which had been contributed to an internal BBS, and who owned them. Several of us talked to a company lawyer, and he pointed out that most of their contracts specifically gave the company rights to programs developed on their own time.

But it turned out that I was an exception, as I had been with the company longer, and the older contract I had signed only gave the company rights to "ideas and inventions", and software is neither - it is an "expression" of an idea. So as long as I had put my programs on the company BBS before they came up with a solid contract that you now had to sign before posting, and I had not gone back and signed off retroactively, those programs were still mine.

Of course, there was still a Catch-22. Since the company was in the software business, if I tried to sell my programs (even as shareware) I was competing with the company! Hence it was a conflict of interest, and possible grounds for dismissal. I could give the programs away for free, or I could hang on until I left the company and then sell them. Four or five years later I took an early retirement/buyout, and guess what? Those programs were totally obsolete! I'll give you a great price on a program that lets you mount a 720K 3.5in floppy on your PC-XT. Or one that lets you control the color palette on your EGA display.

I guess the moral is, check out stuff like this before you start work, and if it's that important to you, take a different job.

Re:Correcting the failure of software copyright (3)

jms (11418) | about 14 years ago | (#632489)

Thanks for your comments. I also came from a mainframe background, and was a member of SHARE for many years. I did a lot of work locally modifying the VM & CMS nuclei, and I agree that the same sense of excitement and empowerment existed within the programmers who had access to IBM's licensed source code.

However, IBM stabbed its users in the back when it went Object Code Only on VM. Even though they eventually reversed themselves, and started re-releasing the source code (or at least the output of the PL/X compilation), a lot of damage had been done. There was a turning point when a lot of people realized that having source code available at the whim of a corporation was simply not acceptable. I promote Linux at my workplace because I don't ever want that to happen again. We lost a lot. We had to withdraw popular features from our system because we simply couldn't support them anymore without access to the source code. The axe fell earlier this year, and just a few months ago, a salvage team came in, cut up our three-processor 3090 and had it hauled away for scrap. It's a shame, because VM has some great features that never made it to unix -- CMS pipelines for one.

The difference here is that groups like SHARE were only for IBM customers. You had physical access to the source code, and IBM's implied consent to share your modifications with other IBM customers, but it was all under the control of IBM. The breakthrough of the GPL was in creating a structure where the source code cannot be "recalled" if the "strategic direction" of the company that licensed the source code changes along with the management.

So yes, there have always been small user communities clustered around licensed source code, but this is different because the community is the general public, and the license to use, modify, and redistribute the software is permanent.

Re:Enjoy the Irony (2)

SquadBoy (167263) | about 14 years ago | (#632490)

That would be wrong you can sell and buy both open source and free software. In both cases you can not limit what someone can do with it after they buy it. For example I could (assuming I could code)write some app and GPL it. I would then be within my rights to put it and the source on a secure server and offer to allow people to download it for $10 a shot. Now once someone downloads it they could then turn around put it on a ftp site and people could download it for free. The key here would be to provide them with some reason to pay to download it from me if I can do that I get all the advantages of OSS and Free software. So in conclusion if we assume the GPL (from your link I think a safe assumption) It is free as in speech but does not have to be free as in beer although in both cases it will be both at some point.

Re:Correcting the failure of software copyright (1)

Software (179033) | about 14 years ago | (#632491)

Didn't the KDE and Gnome projects learn how to design a desktop environment from Windows (among other sources)?
Well, they might have learned a thing or two about the UI, but they had to do the internals from scratch. Although the UI is important, there's a bit more to software development than a pretty UI!

Re:Whoa FreeBDS??!!? (2)

mr (88570) | about 14 years ago | (#632492)

At least Jon knows that Open Source OSes INCLUDE BSD. As opposed to others, who say they are Open Source advocates, then only talks about Linux.

Re:Correcting the failure of software copyright (2)

jms (11418) | about 14 years ago | (#632493)

In all of those examples, they learned the external characteristics of a desktop environment, image editor, and browsers by examining the running software. But they learned how to create source code that implements those characteristics elsewhere.

Re:but where's the accountability? (1)

Enahs (1606) | about 14 years ago | (#632494)

And this somehow makes it OK to be an annoying bastard, posting "funny" comments about typos.

Re:Story Icon (1)

Enahs (1606) | about 14 years ago | (#632495) has lots of fun news about Enlightenment.

Re:Acronym watch (1)

mr (88570) | about 14 years ago | (#632496)

When you say 'free software' do you mean Bruce Perens or FSF/RMS version?

A quote from RMS (2)

SquadBoy (167263) | about 14 years ago | (#632497)

``Free software'' is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the concept, you should think of ``free speech'', not ``free beer.'' The fact that it must be purchased is not ironic the fact that I could not buy a copy scan it in and post it on the net *is*. I think what O'Reilly does with books like the Debian book, the Samba book, and the net admin guide is a good comprimise OSS is not a very good model for writing a book but giving it away online can be. I read all three books online and then bought all but the Debian book. Just too much good stuff and I like the dead trees but I also like the fact that I knew what I was buying first. Read this to learn more []

Perhaps the Icons, but what about... (4)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 14 years ago | (#632498)

Sure, the UI and general workflow of a program you can duplicate pretty easily.

But what about learning how to design a a great colour correction algorithm? What about learning how Photoshop works efficently with files much bigger than availiable memory? In the case of IE, wouldn't it be nice to be able to see and learn from its rendering engine? Mozilla couldn't and had to build one from scratch.

Algorithmic and structural aspects to a program are one of the most important things to learn from, and knowing what other people have done can lead to someone else coming up with even better ideas in future products, or even in exisiting ones.

Re:Acronym watch (1)

Enahs (1606) | about 14 years ago | (#632499)

I have to disagree; Open Source is a better term to use. No matter how much RMS talks about being "business-friendly," the people who consider themselves to be Free Software advocates seem to have a happy little cult all their own where Free Software is the only way to go, and if you grant freedoms for your software that don't match their concept of what freedom is, prepare for the flames.

Leave the Free Software snobs to themselves and join the Open Source revolution. It may not be "pure" but it's a happy world of acceptance.

Re:A quote from RMS (2)

skoda (211470) | about 14 years ago | (#632500)

"The fact that it must be purchased is not ironic the fact that I could not buy a copy scan it in and post it on the net *is*. "

That's a good summary of what I had in mind.

I don't mean to harshly criticize the author nor the open source (or FSF) group. But I do find it amusing that a book promoting open source is most likely not "open source" itself.

I think the key issue, as someone else pointed out, is that the original author should have the discretion over the circumstances under which his/her work is copied and distributed.

Still, if someone promoted the idea of taking friends out to dinner, but never actually treated his friends to dinner, you'd have to wonder if they they truly believed what they espoused.

If code is language, as some Open Source advocates claim, then the methods by which software is created and distributed ought to be applicable in some cases to the creation of written works. But if a prominent OS "evangelical tract" does not follow the practice it promotes, I think non-Open Source people may well cry "foul"; I think that would be a reasonable assertion too.

Just something to think about. (And sorry about all the butchered metaphors) (And I like free software, and have contributed some minor free for PHP stuff. So I think that a pseudo-OS approach to writing texts is viable in some cases.) []
D. Fischer


Anonymous Coward | about 14 years ago | (#632501)

People Can't Memorize Computer Industry Acronyms

Re:Correcting the failure of software copyright (1)

zosima (8652) | about 14 years ago | (#632502)

A very good post. The scary things is that you make anologies to books, which are obviously free and alwasy will be... or not. The liscence agreement involved with many of the Ebooks distrubuted today is downright scary. Just look at the Microsoft Reader activation dialouge [] .

I am starting to think that RMS wasn't all that far off []

Re:Correcting the failure of software copyright (1)

update() (217397) | about 14 years ago | (#632503)

Absolutely. I've used Excel heavily for years but it wasn't until I started through the KSpread sources that I got a clear idea of how to write a spreadsheet program. But I was disagreeing with the argument that you learn nothing from a binary-only release. Clearly, both open and closed-source developers learn a great deal from other products.

Going back to the analogy to art, artists don't need to fully document all their brushstroke techniques, and authors don't explicitly catalog every device to be eligible for a copyright. That level of documentation is required for patents, though. Maybe software patents are the answer?

I'm just being a devil's advocate here. The initial post is one of the more interesting ideas I've seen on Slashdot (certainly when compared to more jabber about "geeks" and pronouncements that truth is uniquely important in free software development). I'm just trying to poke at some soft spots to encourage debate and fine-tuning.

Re:Correcting the failure of software copyright (3)

Rocketboy (32971) | about 14 years ago | (#632504)

Actually I was referring to application software, not the system stuff. So far as I know, IBM never released the source for SSP (S/34, S/36) or later minicomputers. But in my experience it was standard practice for application vendors to send the source code along with their product: IBM did it with IPICS and MAPICS, PCR/Pansophic did it with RMS, etc. Maybe MRP was a type of application where vendors expected that their customers needed to modify the code in order to make it work, I don't know, but the first experience I had with NOT receiving source was with Visicalc for the Apple ][; even older CP/M software often came with source. Over time, these creaking old applications got to be very rich in terms of functionality and there was considerable depth of expertise in both the end-user and technical communities. Today we see depth in end-users but not on the technical side (how many people outside of Microsoft could maintain the source for Excel?) Even the depth on the user side is eroding, I think: since the emphasis from the vendors is adding features rather than fixing bugs, using something like MS-Office becomes a full-time occupation just keeping up with the new features.

And that's another reason why software has become so unreliable: when every user had access to MAPICS or RMS source, we often fixed the bugs and sent the fixes back to the vendors for inclusion into the next release. Can't do that anymore, either: now all you can do is try to get someone's attention off the next marketing-mandated feature long enough to at least acknowledge that a bug exists. It's very frustrating for those of us used to providing software which actually works as expected.

Please understand that I'm not arguing against open source: I think the model is right even if I'm not entirely sure how masses of developers are going to be able to support themselves if everything went open. I was just pointing out that the concept isn't brand spanking shiny new; we have prior experience with at least one form of it before and it had some pretty compelling advantages even in ancient times.


Re:Correcting the failure of software copyright (3)

ewhac (5844) | about 14 years ago | (#632505)

Ah, yes, but are you forgetting that Apple took people to court over issues of "look and feel?" The overt "expression" of a program is now copyrightable (or at least litigatable). The Free Software Foundation was formed partly in response to Apple's inexcusable lawsuits.

Atari (back was it was owned by -- surprise, surprise -- Warner Communications) was a "pioneer" in this thinking; that the overt expression of software could be proprietary. Atari had purchased from Namco the home gaming rights to PacMan; rights which, prior to that point, never existed ("Hi, we're going to invent a new form of property out of thin air and then sue you for 'stealing' it"). Atari then went after boatloads of PacMan clones (nearly all of which were running on platforms Atari refused to support), the best known being the Apple-][ clone by HAL Labs.

Sierra OnLine did score a court victory when Atari lost its suit against them over JawBreaker, but Sierra later caved in to their demands when Atari threatened to clone Sierra's entire product line (an empty threat, IMHO; Atari's software offerings back then were mediocre, at best, with very rare, if conspicuous, exceptions).

So, I regret to say that, as the rulebook is currently written, the KDE and GIMP guys do in fact have something to fear. Yes, the public outcry would be massive if Micros~1 or Adobe tried to quash these projects but, given attention spans these days, the impact to their revenues -- the only thing that really matters to them -- would be negligible.

(In a bitter mood.)

Re:Correcting the failure of software copyright (4)

ansible (9585) | about 14 years ago | (#632506)

Good post, BTW.

The fact that over 99% of the people who use Free and Open Source software will never modify it is irrelevant. What is important is that the tiny fraction of young people who are curious and want to learn how software works so that they can write their own, finally have the opportunity to examine and play with full fledged, working, professional quality software. And in the case of Free software, they have the right to reuse and redistribute their own work -- the modified code.

I think it's important to emphasize that nobody knows ahead of time who that 1% will be. Sometimes the best code can come from the strangest little corners; from unexpected people.

When code is Open Source, we (as a society) get the greatest chance that somebody out there will get some insight from existing code, and come up with something else brilliant. Those flashes can potentially advance the state of the art.

Peer != preview. (1)

Rares Marian (83629) | about 14 years ago | (#632507)

We are the peer review.

Re:Acronym watch (1)

JatTDB (29747) | about 14 years ago | (#632508) be quite honest, I'm not sure why I even bothered to go and plop "pcmcia acronym" into google. Guess it's a slow day for more than just me.

Re:Acronym watch (2)

ichimunki (194887) | about 14 years ago | (#632509)

The happy world of acceptance needs to be predicated on the fact that if you want me to care and not just mindlessly tow the Microsoft product line, you need to explain to me (other than perhaps the lower price), what, if anything, is actually important about Open Source OR Free Software. Personally, I think using the phrase "Free Software" will accomplish this a lot faster, since the average user could give a rip about source code, but will understand the various benefits of freedom.

Re:Acronym watch (2)

ichimunki (194887) | about 14 years ago | (#632510)

I am not aware of any serious differences, after reviewing Bruce's site. Here is a quote from : []
"Most hackers know that Free Software and Open Source are just two words for the same thing. Unfortunately, though, Open Source has de-emphasized the importance of the freedoms involved in Free Software. It's time for us to fix that. We must make it clear to the world that those freedoms are still important, and that software such as Linux would not be around without them."

Re:Acronym watch (2)

ichimunki (194887) | about 14 years ago | (#632511)

And, it appears that using the Preview button just mangulated that post, because the preview looked quite different from that post, which includes a quote from Perens' site on this page [] .

Great in principle, unimpressive in practice (5)

Junks Jerzey (54586) | about 14 years ago | (#632512)

This is one of those books and Jon Katz rants that leans heavily on the perceived romantic, underground nature of Open Source and free software, but misses the technical issues greatly. Namely that most of the Great Works these movements are re-hashes of software that could have been used by our parents in the 1970s, leaving great figures in software and computer science wondering why we refuse to advance.

"If anyone had told me back then that getting back to embarrassingly primitive UNIX would be the great hope and investment obsession of the year 2000, merely because it's name was changed to Linux and its source code was opened up again, I never would have had the stomach or the heart to continue in computer science."
-- Jaron Lanier

Linus created Linux because he couldn't find a decent UNIX that he could get for his PC. It's not that he thought UNIX should be the future, or that UNIX is the ultimate operating system. Realize this. Somehow we've gotten ourselves all wrapped up in UNIX again, thinking that we're oh so cool, but we shouldn't have to be subjected to this nonsense. I think many technical gurus are similarly horrified that we've started a revolution that's given us exactly what we were trying to get away from (Jamie Zawinski and Rob Pike, for example). Stability, pre-emptive multitasking, memory protection, yes, they are all good things. But this doesn't equate to "Linux over Windows."

The bottom line is that it's a shame Linux and FreeBSD are the crown jewels of Open Source. Sigh.

There is a definite need..... (3)

UberDork (235964) | about 14 years ago | (#632513)

My father (as an illustration of a broader community) might benefit from this book. He believes (like many non-geeks would, I guess) that Public Domain and Open Source are essentially the same. His experience with PD software was the atrocious crap (by almost any standard) he bought on a CD from a shopping mall some years ago and now vehemently denies he ever wasted money on. I don't know if this book will do it. I don't know if it is do-able. If this book preaches to the Yet-to-Be-Converted and does so in terms that makes them realise that there may be a better way, then this is A Good Thing.

You don't need to tell me about the value of OS, but I am a small fish in a small sea...

Re:Please read what I wrote (1)

Rakarra (112805) | about 14 years ago | (#632514)

That's not what I said, what I said was that currently there's a gold rush in that there are more jobs than programmers, and so programmers are getting vastly overpaid for their work. When the situation stablises, the inflated wages being paid out will drop to a reasonable rate.

When will this happen? I can't see this happening all that soon. The need for programmers is only going to go up, and yet (in this country, at least), the desire towards such a career is nowhere close to matching that.

Re:Awww... It's turned back into a Penguin. (1)

dasunt (249686) | about 14 years ago | (#632515)

Its rather obvious now, isn't it?

First one reaches enlightenment, then one starts to use the penguin.


Correction (1)

dasunt (249686) | about 14 years ago | (#632516)

Saying that LSD came out of Berkeley is not exactly truthful. LSD was 'discovered' by a Swiss chemist in 1938 as he was searching for a headache medicine. Animal testing showed no painkilling properties, so he left it on his laboratory shelf. On April 16, 1943, he decided to do further testing on the drug and accidentally injested a small, unknown amount of LSD, thus experiencing the fun effects of LSD. (His diary entry about that day is rather interesting.) The US was first shipped LSD in 1949, and in the decade that followed, was tested on human beings to try to treat a variety of problems, including, but not limited to, alcoholism, schizophrenics, narcotics addicts, and criminals. Of course, it was found ineffective. (Source for this information [] .)

So, therefore, saying that BSD came out of Berkeley is like saying that Redhat "developed" Linux. Both might be instrumental in spreading the word about the respective product, but neither developed it.

Re:Um, excuse me. That potato needs an "e". (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 14 years ago | (#632517)

We should open source everything on slashdot.

open source is the answer to everything

open source slashdot's admin passwords and let the users fix the problems

Re:There is a definite need..... (1)

RC Pavlicek (8145) | about 14 years ago | (#632518)

The book does distinguish between shareware/freeware of the PC era and Open Source/Free Software found in Linux, *BSD and others. I try to deal with the motivations and functions of the community, and in doing so, show how Open Source can be a powerful thing which is quite different than "just more questionable shareware."

Re:A book for my parents to read? (1)

RC Pavlicek (8145) | about 14 years ago | (#632519)

The book might prove to be useful for your parents. I tried to focus on the people standing on the fringe of the Open Source world; people who are trying to understand why this software exists and/or why these people do such "strange" things.

I think Fatbrain has a short excerpt online. Otherwise, perhaps you should suggest that your local library obtain a copy and then check it out when it comes in.

The book is meant to be an explanation for the uninitiated and a tool in the hands of those who seek to promote understanding of Open Source.

Re:Will this book help me? (1)

RC Pavlicek (8145) | about 14 years ago | (#632520)

>Will this book help me... get chicks?

If it does help, it might qualify as the strangest side-effect of anything I've ever done in my life! I doubt it will work, but go ahead and knock yourself out trying! 8^}

Re:Great in principle, unimpressive in practice (4)

ewhac (5844) | about 14 years ago | (#632521)

"No matter what your position or point of view, you can always find a pithy quote to support it."

-- Me

So what would you suggest instead of Linux or FreeBSD?

Not so long ago, I would have suggested an updated version of the Amiga OS. I still think simplicity and modularity are the way to go, something Amiga had in spades, and Linux still lacks. However, even saying the word "Amiga" gets people groaning or giggling.

There's a lot to reocommend BeOS. It's quite modern and innovative, but I don't see the breadth of Open Source projects for it as I do for Linux.

I think the reason Linux "won" the Open Source mindshare wars is because, though it's kinda ugly when compared to Windoze^H^Hws, UNIX is powerful . Out of the box, UNIX lets you:

  • Write and build software,
  • Write and typeset documentation,
  • Process and analyze massive amounts of text,
  • Process and analyze numeric data,
  • Create and maintain databases,
  • Use the system at the most abstract levels, or examine every detail down to the bit,
  • Launch and maintain useful services like mail, NetNews, and Web serving,
  • Integrate almost any of these applications arbitrarily using little more than pipes.

In short, UNIX lets you get started on whatever you want to do faster than anything else. It's a rapid prototyping environment at all levels. This is why I think it's such a success, since it rewards experimentation so quickly and consistently.

So, if you want something other than UNIX to "win" mindshare, it must enable rewarding hacking right away, so that people will want to hack on it more.

IMHO, of course...


Re:What was learned here exactly? (2)

RC Pavlicek (8145) | about 14 years ago | (#632522)

This is almost the wrong question. The book will hopefully have some value for you, as (presumably) an informed member of the Open Source community. But it should have greater value as the tool which you hand to that boss of yours, or that neighbor who you have talked to about Open Source, or your old roommate who is a VisualBasic programmer.

The role of truth in the community is far more central than in the common culture. Note the context: we are talking about a culture, not merely a pursuit as you describe in your reply. The centrality of truth in the culture makes for a different priority in values and inevitable misunderstandings between Geek culture and common culture. I work through this point at length. Try getting the book at your local library and read it for yourself.

Oh, and of course the term "disruptive technology" was used by Christensen. I never suggested that I invented it.

Re:Please read what I wrote (1)

Rares Marian (83629) | about 14 years ago | (#632523)

No they won't. The jobs available are available because no self-respecting programmer would work for a company that looks like a day-trader's fantasy. No programmer cares to deal with the crap of working for a company they full well will fail.

Re:Please read what I wrote (1)

Rares Marian (83629) | about 14 years ago | (#632524)

There's a need for programmers because the companies are bogus. They don't know the first thing about the industry. They come in ready to IPO like on the first day.

No programmers who want to have time left with other people they care about are going to spend time working toward a dead end.

They're not the managers. They're not paid to design the application this industry really need. In fact they don't get much of a say to that effect.

You might find it hard to believe but people get sick of making vapor for someone else. And it's not even a question of some useless altruism. It's a question of sanity. That's all. There's a point where the buzzwordphiles make it impossible to get any bearing on where the company is going what they are developing and whether the developers really have a future. The hype becomes unbearable. Put simply the lack of any direction is disorienting and nauseating.

Re:Um, excuse me. That potato needs an "e". (1)

damerow (153508) | about 14 years ago | (#632525)

Perhaps I'm in the minority here, but I think this needs to be said. We shouldn't have to point out the typos, because they shouldn't be there in the first place.

I'm endlessly frustrated by the lack of care people show for proper spelling and grammar. So often do I hear my peers saying that they don't care about spelling, and that people know what they're writing about anyway.

I don't understand how intelligent people can be so careless about how their writing represents them. A piece of writing littered with unchecked typos and incorrect grammar (obscure constructions aside) gives me the impression that the writer didn't care what was written. If that's the case, then why should I bother to read it?

It could be that I'm just a stickler for correctness, in programming as well as in writing style, but I do know one thing that's true: a lot of people who do care about these things read Slashdot. To those people, the typos stand out like sore thumbs, and lower the respect they have for the content on the site.

If you want to give the impression that you have the writing skill of a third-grader, by all means, do. As for me, I'll proofread.

ps. No, I'm not an English teacher. I'm a systems administrator--a computer geek like many of you--who happens to have a great respect for language.
"What makes you think tearing my head off would kill me?" -captain bo-tard

Re:Correcting the failure of software copyright (1)

killthiskid (197397) | about 14 years ago | (#632526)

I use Microsoft products. That having been said, don't flame bait me just yet, becuase it might just be on topic, in relation to the above post. I program in Visual Basic, dropping into Visual C++ when needed. I work for a bio-med company, and then only reason I'm using these products is at the mandate of the company. I'd move, but I like it, it's cutting edge, and I am getting to work with some kick-ass tech. That having been said, here's my beef. I'm a good programmer. I've designed our product from the ground, and everyone is impressed. This is not a pat-on-the-back for me, it's how I work. My problem... and I just realized this today: I spend over half of my time over coming bugs and short comings in Microsofts products, esp. Visual Basic. Things that should be intuative, aren't. Things that should work, don't. I spend more time digging through MSDN than I do coding, just in an attempt to work around bugs. If I had source code, would I have this problem? Instead of having to work around these 'issues', I could fix them, and then write code that works like it should!!! It frustrates me to no end. Microsoft has some great 'ideas' even if they aren't original. If it worked like was suppose to, I could have a complete product by now... but as it is, I have heavy documentation on why I did something a certain way, becuase it's not the most obvious way, and I have to explain why... This comes up other places too, and it's not just a Microsoft product issue... but I'd love to be able to fix the problem at the source, as opposed to a 'higher level. I'm big on OOP... I like to make killer stable functional objects, and then build up on top of them. With these 'issues' I run into, I have to compansate on a higher level for issues at a lower level, and that just irks me to no end. Sigh. One last note. We are moving towards using hand-helds to control our hardware products, and I'm pushing for Linux on the IPAQ, for two reasons: 1. I want to use it!!! 2. I want to be able to get the company to contribute resources to what I feel is an important project. We'll see... even if the IPAQ loses out, we'll go with palm... at least I won't have to deal with WinCE. That's my .02, don't blame me, I'm half drunk =)

Re:Will this book help me? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 14 years ago | (#632527)

Wait a little while, ESR is writing a how_to_get_chix-HOWTO, it will be on Userfriendly. But not just yet...

Re:I am a moron and i love it! (1)

ScumBiker (64143) | about 14 years ago | (#632528)

That is one of the best descriptions of myself I've ever found. I liked it so much I put a copy of it on my website [] .

Dive Gear []

Re:Um, excuse me. That potato needs an "e". (2)

techwatcher (112759) | about 14 years ago | (#632529)

...explaining it's significance as a business and social model for many kinds of institutions, and its profoundly non-technological promise

Along the same lines, let's all (even /. writers!) try to remember that "it's" is the contraction (meaning "it is") and "its" is a possessive pronoun (like his or hers -- not hi's or her's!). I try to be tolerant of this kind of typo, but it really gets to me when a single writer uses both forms within ONE SENTENCE to mean the same thing!!!

Re:It's in the icon's contract. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 14 years ago | (#632530)

D'you know there's an Internet Explorer icon as well?

Yeah, but they found out that displaying it crashed Netscape.

Re:Correcting the failure of software copyright (1)

Rocketboy (32971) | about 14 years ago | (#632531)

>>The only argument against this post, is that we live in a capitalist world where business methods, source code, contact, etc. are all valuble and are to be kept secret. >>

Yeah, but... Many years ago I found myself working for Company X, which was in need of new Enterprise Requirements Planning software. They'd taken their current platform/software as far as it would go but the company had grown and there wasn't much wiggle room in the current software to grow with it. So they migrated to new software on a new platform (RMS on an S/38, if you really want to know.) The vendor of the software, Professional Computer Resources, sent their customers the source to their software when you bought it. As a result, they had hundreds of customers writing their own bug fixes and enhancements and distributing them, via the vendor's user group, to all of the other customers. The software, specifically designed to make it easy to plug new stuff in, eventually grew to an incredible richness, PCR was acquired, making a lot of people reasonably wealthy, and the software is now, 20 years later, still in widespread use, still a profitable offering from its current owners. I can't seem to find a loser in that. Source code -is- knowledge and as such its value increases the more widely it is spread.


Re:Great in principle, unimpressive in practice (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 14 years ago | (#632532)

> "No matter what your position or point of view, you can always find a pithy quote to support it." -- Me

I disagree, but unfortunately I can't find a pithy quote to support my position.

Re:No... (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 14 years ago | (#632533)

> hat my mother didn't walk in, and that Vivian Hsu would!!

Nice link. Nice pix of Vivian. (Now I know what she looks like with clothes on!)

Re:Open source won't survive the next decade (1)

Garen (246649) | about 14 years ago | (#632534)

Being paid to do something is a strong incentive to do it. But people who *like* programming for the sake of it aren't doing it necessarsily because they're being paid, but because they think it's *the* thing to do.

If a person is only programming because they're getting paid, they probably ought to have a career change. Money isn't the end-all motivational factor.

In that sense, the people who work on and contribute to open source projects represents the "Artists" of programmers. These are the people who really do care about technical details, the cool "hack", the enjoyment of having a mastery over your environment, making stuff "better" than something else, discovering new ideas etc.

Thats what "freedom" in "free software" means to me. You don't have to like it, you can do something else. For the people who do, they now have a means of expressing this "art". Closed source "black box" paid-for software might be fine for many users, but it restricts others (the artists of programming).

That freedom is important.

Odd (1)

bool (144199) | about 14 years ago | (#632535)

Does anyone find it annoying that they are talking up the open source movement and then charging for the book?

Re:Please read what I wrote (1)

Rakarra (112805) | about 14 years ago | (#632536)

There's a need for programmers because the companies are bogus. They don't know the first thing about the industry. They come in ready to IPO like on the first day.

You're talking (mostly) about dot-coms. When I talk about the need for programmers, I'm refering to the fact that almost everything is becoming computerized these days, and I'm not talking about programmers just pounding out web applications or even store-shelf software. I'm refering also to programmers who write the code on embedded systems chips that actually do the driving in new cars, the chips that can be found almost everywhere these days. I'm refering to programmers, yes, at the dot-coms, but also at the large respected companies with a good vision like Sun, HP, Microsoft, and Apple (and sure, why not, RedHat too).

Disillusion in the dot-com world? Sure, I'll give you that. But the real reason people aren't jumping into the field is society's disregard and even disdain for "nerdy" professions. By the time teenagers grow out of that phase, they can be stuck in a non-technical job with no technical skills.

Why "Insanity"? (1)

afinlay (225703) | about 14 years ago | (#632537)

Why name a book about a new revolutionary movement "Embracing Insanity"? I personally wouldn't shun the idea so quickly. Personally, a title like that would be a turn off. Why not call it "Embracing Sanity"? Is there anything I've missed?
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