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Linux and Open Source in Scientific American

Hemos posted more than 15 years ago | from the good-press-coverage dept.

Linux 11

Cory Williams writes " Scientific American has a nice little article about Open Source and its superiority to commercial software: "The Best Things in Cyberspace Are Free". Not like we didn't already know this. "

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Not enough info for newbies (3)

slim (1652) | more than 15 years ago | (#2014456)

It's nice to see this kind of article in the press -- but did you notice that nowhere does the article actually explain what Open Source *is*.

I've noticed this in many, many mainstream press articles -- they either merrily drop phrases like "open source" without pausing to explain, or they use "free" to mean "free beer"... or worse they describe Linux/Apache/GNU/whatever as (argh) "public domain".

scientific american article posted @7:51 by Hemos (2)

wolf (17938) | more than 15 years ago | (#2014457)

we should all take the last paragraph to heart.

Same Old Package Deal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2014458)

I find it bizarre that in software, people think proprietary = secret, and non-secret = non-proprietary. I'm sure Howard Roark (the fictional architect hero in The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand) would be perplexed, or appalled, if people told him that in order for him to really own a building design, he has to prevent it from ever being seen.

It would certainly be possible for software writers to include a free source code license with their proprietary programs. The Quake programs already include partial source; this is how people make mods. What if, say, Microsoft Word were distributed this way?

If the license were liberal enough -- and yet still enforceable -- proprietary programs could become as good as open source.

-- Ayn-onymous "Coward"

What "free" would you expect them to mean? (1)

slim (1652) | more than 15 years ago | (#2014459)

Pah. There are laws against slavery. Probably rather verbosely written laws.

I won't spell out the analogy -- but would you say that the freed slaves are not free, because their owners rights to do with them as they pleased were taken away?

I saw that (1)

Zontar The Mindless (9002) | more than 15 years ago | (#2014460)

Let's take another good look at it:
If the current stylistic distinctions between open-source and commercial software persist, an open-software revolution could lead to yet another divide between haves and have-nots: those with the skills and connections to make use of free software, and those who must pay high prices for increasingly dated commercial offerings.

This bothers me. Let's not forget that free (as in "speech" or "beer") software is meaningless if people can't use it.


(somewhere in tenn.)

Now it all makes sense... (1)

yAm (15181) | more than 15 years ago | (#2014461)

...software so proprietary and closely held that the company itself claims to be unable to locate some of the original source code...

Doesn't that figure?

"Your honor, we are required to add our browser to the operating system"

"And why is that?"

"Well, we can't find the version of the code that doesn't have it in."

MS can't find it.... Stole it??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2014462)

Microsoft...the company itself claims to be unable to locate some of the original source code. (SciAm article)

By MS' own standards, "if you can't prove it is yours (involuntarily, invasively registered; documentation overkill for every trivial u/g) you must have stole (illegally copied)it" - sounds guilty, guilty, Guilty. Real question may be who did they steal it from ... a little GPL maybe?

Open formats and protocols, not source (1)

David Gould (4938) | more than 15 years ago | (#2014463)

Make that: not necessarily open source (not flame bait), but absolutely open file formats, communication protocols, and APIs/ABIs.

This would be a good middle-ground solution: for any format, protocol, or other sort of standard that an application uses, there should be a fully open specification, preferably including at least a bare-bones reference implementation that is under the GPL. This would not prevent the company from having a completely proprietary closed-source application, but that application would not store or transmit data in any fashion that cannot be duplicated by an open-source competitor.

Folks like Microsoft still won't like this, but I think it's perfectly reasonable -- in fact it ought to be required. The way I figure, the company would still own, and profit from, the product of all the time and energy that goes into refining the user interface, and any clever algorithms that they come up with in implementing and optimizing the data structures. However, the only possible reason for wanting to keep the formats and protocols proprietary would be to create a "lock-in" effect, making it harder for competing products to interoperate. Companies in dominant positions (cough) like lock-in effects, but this is anti-competitive. The legitimate grounds on which to compete are precisely those that would still be closed-source under my proposal: the quality of the respective implementations of the standards.

David Gould

My favorite quote (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2014464)

Ouch! I'm not sure I like the undertones here.

...instead of measuring their worth in terms of how much they earn or what resources they control, they compete by the beauty and utility of the programs they give away. Medieval craft guilds and Renaissance artists operated in roughly the same fashion,
as did several since exterminated aboriginal cultures.


Absolution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2014465)

I'll accept this as penance after SciAm's truly atrocious article on network security a couple of months back.

I wanted to discuss that article with my fellow geeks back then, but was afraid to even mention it because I didn't want the editors of my favorite rag-mag to get bombarded with flaming mail messages.

Among a number of other criticisms that might have been raised against that previous article (and a number *were* raised, judging from comments in the Letters to the Editors section of a later issue), my worst complaint about the article was that it seemed to bear a subtext conveying -

Windows NT = secure network systemware in near-universal use among professionals;

Everything Else Except "Free" Stuff = Inferior systemware in niche use by those who don't know better or haven't gotten around to upgrading yet;

"Free" Stuff = Trash that 'hackers' use because (a) it's designed for use by crackers, and/or (b) 'hackers' don't have jobs and thus cannot afford the "real" stuff.

A second (apparent) subtext was that -

The Good Guys have, or are pursuing, degrees in CS;

The Bad Guys are uneducated, or dropouts.

(I think there was a reference to a cracker who downloaded something because he was too uneducated to write the program himself!)

Despite the fact that such a scheme puts me among the Good Guys, I found it offensive due to its incredible naivety.

Glad to see their awareness of the Real World (TM) is improving.

Every 4th grader should learn Emacs (1)

Beethoven (9076) | more than 15 years ago | (#2014466)

[I]f text-editing software built by hackers for hackers (such as Emacs) is any guide, average consumers and programmers may have almost antithetical ideas of what elegant, useful programs and documentation look like.

He seems to imply that "programmers" should adjust their ideas to be more in line with those of "average consumers". Wouldn't the world be better off if the reverse happened, and the median computer literacy level permitted one to use Emacs productively?

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