Discussion:
GPL not encouraging new technology
(too old to reply)
Niall Douglas
2002-11-29 15:00:47 UTC
Permalink
I'd be interested in what the list thinks regarding whether the GPL
is good or bad for new advances in technology eg; startups.

I'll firstly offer my own position on this: the big problem I see
with the GPL is that it does not make any money for vendors *except*
when the product is already well-established and mature. If I were to
come along with some radical completely new way of looking at
computer software, my sole option under the GPL would be to do most
of the initial work myself, then get volunteers onboard (difficult -
there are not many programmers capable of thinking radically outside
the box), and then after many years and a lot of hard work you'd have
a product you possibly could provide support for and thus make your
living out of it. Until that point, you'd probably have to work to
support yourself and do the radical project in your own limited free
time.

Hence, I would feel that the GPL is bad for blue-sky technology
startups. The GPL is excellent for developing a better version of
already existing technology which cannot be stolen by others, but no
use for creating new technology.

To prove this last probably contentious point, look at GNU/Linux. I
personally cannot see anywhere in the entire system any completely
unique technology. It's merely an improved version of existing know-
how. There's no real innovation in there AFAICS, not say like Plan 9
or EROS is a reconception from the ground up.

Now I personally am not a free software advocate, never have been and
probably never will (I come from an Acorn background) but I do see
its utility against the shoddy practices of large multinationals. I
personally have always supported the notion that you buy, not licence
software and a binary alone isn't software - it comes with source. I
also support a fair deal more freedom of use of a bought product but
not so far as reselling it - so long as I get my cut of resales, I
would be happy with whatever its end use.

So, hopefully you don't think me a troll. I am genuinely interested
in what all your thoughts are.

Cheers,
Niall Douglas
Marcus Brinkmann
2002-11-29 15:18:38 UTC
Permalink
On Fri, Nov 29, 2002 at 04:00:47PM +0100, Niall Douglas wrote:
> Hence, I would feel that the GPL is bad for blue-sky technology
> startups. The GPL is excellent for developing a better version of
> already existing technology which cannot be stolen by others, but no
> use for creating new technology.
>
> To prove this last probably contentious point, look at GNU/Linux. I
> personally cannot see anywhere in the entire system any completely
> unique technology. It's merely an improved version of existing know-
> how. There's no real innovation in there AFAICS, not say like Plan 9
> or EROS is a reconception from the ground up.

Uhm, but EROS is GPL and LGPL. So is the GNU Hurd, which is another
innovative operating system.

> So, hopefully you don't think me a troll. I am genuinely interested
> in what all your thoughts are.

I think that programmers of all kind should come up with innovative
programs, and that managers should come up with innovative business models
for free software ;) Also, most progress is probably incremental. There
are steep pragmatic barriers when it comes to the question of establishing
innovative software.

I also think that the availability of free software among pupils and students
can spur some innovative new free software. Studying real programs is a
very important aspect of learning to program, and the GNU software base has
some very good examples (I often look into the GNU C library, for example).

Thanks,
Marcus

--
`Rhubarb is no Egyptian god.' GNU http://www.gnu.org ***@gnu.org
Marcus Brinkmann The Hurd http://www.gnu.org/software/hurd/
***@ruhr-uni-bochum.de
http://www.marcus-brinkmann.de/
Nick Mailer
2002-11-29 15:27:43 UTC
Permalink
On Fri, 2002-11-29 at 15:00, Niall Douglas wrote:
> I'd be interested in what the list thinks regarding whether the GPL
> is good or bad for new advances in technology eg; startups.
>
> I'll firstly offer my own position on this: the big problem I see
> with the GPL is that it does not make any money for vendors

Stop there for a moment. You see, you already frame the GPL's "big"
problem in economic terms. In other words, if some philosophy is not
"economically worthy", it is a "big problem". This is highly
contentious, for a start.

>
> *except*
> when the product is already well-established and mature.

I'm not sure there's a particular problem with this? *Most* software
projects, propriatory or Free, do not make money until they are
well-established and mature.

Other software projects learn the value of the GPL through a trial of
fire: like Trolltech's QT and MySQL. That is not to say they have
abandoned propriatory licenses (through a dual-license) strategy, but
that they have realised the value in allowing those who would benefit
from a GPL'd product access thereto. This seems to be an inreasingly
sustainable model.

>
> If I were to
> come along with some radical completely new way of looking at
> computer software, my sole option under the GPL would be to do most
> of the initial work myself, then get volunteers onboard (difficult -
> there are not many programmers capable of thinking radically outside
> the box), and then after many years and a lot of hard work you'd have
> a product you possibly could provide support for and thus make your
> living out of it.

Why should you assume the right to make a living out of such a thing? In
a sense, the world offers you no living at all - you EARN one. If your
talents are sufficiently useful to someone, you will be paid to work
therewith. A case in point: we employ a Debian GNU/Linux package
maintainer who, at least 1/5 of the time, must continue to work
maintaining this package for the Debian project. It's worth it for my
company.

As for your comments about programmers - I think that's patronising.
Take a look at the Kernel mailing list to dozens of programmers thinking
"out of the box" every day. This contradicts some of the comments you
make below.

>
> Until that point, you'd probably have to work to
> support yourself and do the radical project in your own limited free
> time.
>

No you won't. Many people work on Free Software projects in their spare
time or as part of other employed work. Take a look at the Exim
mail-server as an example. Lots of innovative technology has emerged
this way.

> Hence, I would feel that the GPL is bad for blue-sky technology
> startups. The GPL is excellent for developing a better version of
> already existing technology which cannot be stolen by others, but no
> use for creating new technology.
>

Do you know anything about the history of the Free Software Foundation?
Do you know about the creation of GCC? Indeed, of the whole GNU project?
This seems to contradict what you say: certainly, it was designed to
look and feel like Unix, because this is what people were used to. But,
in virtually every case in point, the GNU tools out-performed and
out-innovated anything available for propriatory Unix. Indeed, even
today, propriatory Unixes like Solaris pretty much recommend the
downloading of the GNU toolset to get anything like a comfortably
useable operating experience!

> To prove this last probably contentious point, look at GNU/Linux. I
> personally cannot see anywhere in the entire system any completely
> unique technology.

There are very few examples of "completely unique [sic]" (something is
either unique or it isn't, by the way - it's one of those words ;-) IT
technologies around at the moment. Certainly, Microsoft haven't created
many. I would argue, strongly, however, that the Free Software movement
is innovating far more frequently and interestingly than propriatory
software. Take a look at some of the fascinating things that are going
to be included in the 2.6 kernel. Take a look at the Reiser4 file
system. Play around with some of the latest Mozilla developments.
Certainly, much of Free Software plays catchup with propriatory software
- because propriatory software has received the marketing budget and
mindshare that requires its efforts are duplicated. But do not let this
mask the fact that extraordinary innovation is going on as well. Indeed,
in a free, open and discursive environment, which is closely aligned to
the effective force of the Scientific Method, it would be surprising
were this not the case.

>
> It's merely an improved version of existing know-
> how. There's no real innovation in there AFAICS, not say like Plan 9
> or EROS is a reconception from the ground up.
>

Reconceptions from the group up are rarely popular. Syntheses of what is
best about earlier technologies are. We are blessed and, indeed,
lumbered with a past. This burden is as heavy with propriatory software
(WIN32 et al) as it is with Free Software. Fortunately, Free Software
can just say "Ok, the next version is going to be binary incompatible"
and innovate, but without preventing the release and development of
previous versions. That way, nobody is locked out.

> Now I personally am not a free software advocate, never have been and
> probably never will (I come from an Acorn background)

So do I, but I don't see how this precludes one from a belief in Free
Software. Indeed, much of the benefit of the Acorn world was in the
home-brew programming mentality it spawned.

>
> but I do see
> its utility against the shoddy practices of large multinationals. I
> personally have always supported the notion that you buy, not licence
> software and a binary alone isn't software - it comes with source. I
> also support a fair deal more freedom of use of a bought product but
> not so far as reselling it - so long as I get my cut of resales, I
> would be happy with whatever its end use.
>
> So, hopefully you don't think me a troll. I am genuinely interested
> in what all your thoughts are.

To be honest, if Acorn's dying movements had been to Free RiscOS, it'd
be in a far, far better state than it is now. And it would have any
number of wonderfully innovative features.

There are innovative, revolutionary projects all over the Free Software
universe. There are also "me too" projects. Your analysis does not bear
scrutiny.
MJ Ray
2002-11-29 16:23:34 UTC
Permalink
Niall Douglas <***@nedprod.com> wrote:
> I'll firstly offer my own position on this: the big problem I see
> with the GPL is that it does not make any money for vendors *except*
> when the product is already well-established and mature. [...]

I do not think that the GPL is particularly better or worse in this regard
than most software licences. I suspect that selling GPL software is easier
because there is a near-guarantee of not being able to screw the users for
more money in exchange for no new work. I am testing this suspicion.

To me, your business model seems short-sighted and hemmed in by the thinking
of proprietary software producers. *shrug*
--
MJR| v
---|--[ Software developer available for hire. Email me...... ]-----|
`--[ http://mjr.towers.org.uk/ ]---------[ slef at jabber.at ]-----'
Nick Mailer
2002-11-29 16:35:23 UTC
Permalink
On Fri, 2002-11-29 at 16:23, MJ Ray wrote:
> Niall Douglas <***@nedprod.com> wrote:
> > I'll firstly offer my own position on this: the big problem I see
> > with the GPL is that it does not make any money for vendors *except*
> > when the product is already well-established and mature. [...]
>
> I do not think that the GPL is particularly better or worse in this regard
> than most software licences. I suspect that selling GPL software is easier
> because there is a near-guarantee of not being able to screw the users for
> more money in exchange for no new work. I am testing this suspicion.
>
> To me, your business model seems short-sighted and hemmed in by the thinking
> of proprietary software producers. *shrug*

Quite. Let's examine the issue at hand:
a. An individual wishes to produce software
b. An individual wishes to earn money

The fallacy is in assuming that there is only one sphere of causality
where both of these desires are fulfilled. Notice that once you remove
all the illusory connective tissue: "I wish to be paid to produce
software, whereafter I wish to receive further royalties from every copy
of the software sold; and to deprive the right of any (even paying) user
access to my work except in a very specific and delineated way" you are
left with simply a. and b.

The *truly* creative programmer, who can GENUINELY "think out of the
box", will provide innovative connective tissue that does not rely on
the effective monopolistic extortion and strongarming that a
fully-operative proprietary realm demands.

There are many models available at the moment where the GPL fits very
comfortably. It is only someone extraordinarily lazy or greedy who
cannot conceive such.


--
Nick Mailer <***@cream.org>
The Positive Internet Company Ltd.
Niall Douglas
2002-11-29 19:54:56 UTC
Permalink
On 29 Nov 2002 at 16:18, Marcus Brinkmann wrote:

> > To prove this last probably contentious point, look at GNU/Linux. I
> > personally cannot see anywhere in the entire system any completely
> > unique technology. It's merely an improved version of existing know-
> > how. There's no real innovation in there AFAICS, not say like Plan 9
> > or EROS is a reconception from the ground up.
>
> Uhm, but EROS is GPL and LGPL.

And its development was exclusively funded by a university (ie; a
government) as far as I understand it.

> So is the GNU Hurd, which is another
> innovative operating system.

You're right it is, but it was much more radical back in ~1990 when
it was conceived. My understanding of it is that it's quite similar
to the NT kernel.

However GNU Hird proves my point exactly. Work has gone extremely
slowly on a badly needed kernel which would in one fell swoop address
many of the technical problems with GNU/Linux. Because it was and is
considered so radical, and mostly I suspect because the much more
retrograde GNU/Linux kernel felt more comfortable to more developers,
it has been sidelined.

> > So, hopefully you don't think me a troll. I am genuinely interested
> > in what all your thoughts are.
>
> I think that programmers of all kind should come up with innovative
> programs, and that managers should come up with innovative business
> models for free software ;) Also, most progress is probably
> incremental. There are steep pragmatic barriers when it comes to the
> question of establishing innovative software.

True, but one of the most major is funding because without that it's
very hard to attract enough programmers to some whacky unproven idea.

> I also think that the availability of free software among pupils and
> students can spur some innovative new free software. Studying real
> programs is a very important aspect of learning to program, and the
> GNU software base has some very good examples (I often look into the
> GNU C library, for example).

There's no reason why commercial software can't achieve the same
thing, it's just we've all grown used to not receiving the source
with our software.

Nick Mailer wrote:

> Stop there for a moment. You see, you already frame the GPL's "big"
> problem in economic terms. In other words, if some philosophy is not
> "economically worthy", it is a "big problem". This is highly
> contentious, for a start.

I never said that.

> > *except*
> > when the product is already well-established and mature.
>
> I'm not sure there's a particular problem with this? *Most* software
> projects, propriatory or Free, do not make money until they are
> well-established and mature.

No, but money arrives to GPL projects much later (and less of it)
than to commercial so therefore proving my point.

> Other software projects learn the value of the GPL through a trial of
> fire: like Trolltech's QT and MySQL. That is not to say they have
> abandoned propriatory licenses (through a dual-license) strategy, but
> that they have realised the value in allowing those who would benefit
> from a GPL'd product access thereto. This seems to be an inreasingly
> sustainable model.

MySQL had a mature product when they looked to go commercial. Qt was
less so at the time, but it was still relatively mature.

Both are better implementations of existing technology, there isn't
much radically different in them.

You're not addressing my point at all.

> Why should you assume the right to make a living out of such a thing?
> In a sense, the world offers you no living at all - you EARN one. If
> your talents are sufficiently useful to someone, you will be paid to
> work therewith. A case in point: we employ a Debian GNU/Linux package
> maintainer who, at least 1/5 of the time, must continue to work
> maintaining this package for the Debian project. It's worth it for my
> company.

Ever heard of the entrepreneurial spirit? ;)

Why should I want to work for someone else? Why should I care if I am
of value to someone else? Engineering, like art, has intrinsic value
with no relation to whether someone wants to pay for it - however,
unlike most art, engineering is useful.

Unfortunately we live in a world where work in itself is not
rewarded. It must be of value, and because of this artists and
engineers alike must bend their creativity towards making profit.

Hence yes, I do assume the right to make money out of writing
software, just as much as painting a wall or anything else others
consider of value.

> As for your comments about programmers - I think that's patronising.
> Take a look at the Kernel mailing list to dozens of programmers
> thinking "out of the box" every day. This contradicts some of the
> comments you make below.

cf. my comments about re Hurd.

> > Until that point, you'd probably have to work to
> > support yourself and do the radical project in your own limited free
> > time.
>
> No you won't. Many people work on Free Software projects in their
> spare time or as part of other employed work. Take a look at the Exim
> mail-server as an example. Lots of innovative technology has emerged
> this way.

Emm, you've just repeated what I said!

> > Hence, I would feel that the GPL is bad for blue-sky technology
> > startups. The GPL is excellent for developing a better version of
> > already existing technology which cannot be stolen by others, but no
> > use for creating new technology.
>
> Do you know anything about the history of the Free Software
> Foundation? Do you know about the creation of GCC? Indeed, of the
> whole GNU project? This seems to contradict what you say: certainly,
> it was designed to look and feel like Unix, because this is what
> people were used to. But, in virtually every case in point, the GNU
> tools out-performed and out-innovated anything available for
> propriatory Unix. Indeed, even today, propriatory Unixes like Solaris
> pretty much recommend the downloading of the GNU toolset to get
> anything like a comfortably useable operating experience!

Again you're repeating exactly what I just said! And if you do
examine the history of GNU, their attempts at their own kernel were
trounced by Linux which was a very retrograde kernel when it was
first created. Therefore, supporting my original argument.

Don't get me wrong. Given twenty years of spare time by enough
people, you'll eventually get there. But vastly more people will
volunteer their time on established paradigms that radical step
changes, hence the GPL is not good for blue-sky projects.

> There are very few examples of "completely unique [sic]" (something is
> either unique or it isn't, by the way - it's one of those words ;-) IT
> technologies around at the moment.

I think there are more that many would believe. Acorn RISC-OS had
quite a number, as did NextSTEP.

> Certainly, Microsoft haven't
> created many.

Absolutely agreed! In fact, I'd go further and say everytime they've
tried something new and innovative it's failed dismally.

> I would argue, strongly, however, that the Free Software
> movement is innovating far more frequently and interestingly than
> propriatory software. Take a look at some of the fascinating things
> that are going to be included in the 2.6 kernel. Take a look at the
> Reiser4 file system.

I like Reiser, him and I think similarly. I wholeheatedly support
Reiser4 but I don't think it has anything unique in it. Reiser6 will
be unique though.

> > Now I personally am not a free software advocate, never have been
> > and probably never will (I come from an Acorn background)
>
> So do I, but I don't see how this precludes one from a belief in Free
> Software. Indeed, much of the benefit of the Acorn world was in the
> home-brew programming mentality it spawned.

Precisely, but free software is libre. The typical Acorn mentality
was to distribute the software with source but for a cost if you
could get away with levying one.

> To be honest, if Acorn's dying movements had been to Free RiscOS, it'd
> be in a far, far better state than it is now. And it would have any
> number of wonderfully innovative features.

Possibly, but I'd doubt it. Software needs hardware to run and RISC-
OS is totally dependent on ARM because it's all assembler. Arm don't
want to produce performance processors, so RISC-OS is effectively
screwed.

MJ Ray wrote:
> > I'll firstly offer my own position on this: the big problem I see
> > with the GPL is that it does not make any money for vendors *except*
> > when the product is already well-established and mature. [...]
>
> I do not think that the GPL is particularly better or worse in this
> regard than most software licences. I suspect that selling GPL
> software is easier because there is a near-guarantee of not being able
> to screw the users for more money in exchange for no new work. I am
> testing this suspicion.

You're right with the standard business model regarding software, and
it's also true that GPL software saves much of the repetition which
wastes so many closed-source resources.

> To me, your business model seems short-sighted and hemmed in by the
> thinking of proprietary software producers. *shrug*

However just because IBM and Microsoft said things should be this
way, it doesn't mean it's a strict black and white choice between
free software and existing business models. I personally support a
model whereby you pay a small amount for the binaries (users), more
for binaries and source (students or developer evaluation) and there
is a sliding percentage royalty for reuse of the software in other
commercial products (resale in a derivative work). This business
model benefits engineering, the software, the users and has most of
the benefits of GPL software but it can *make* *money*!

Something like the QPL goes half way there, but its problem is it
isn't scalable - to reuse a derivation off Qt requires a one time
payment of the lump sum by each developer and this reduces the
nesting level of reuse because the lump sums accrue with each
derivation. With a sliding scale of royalties, the more derived you
are the less percentage you get, which keeps overall royalties low
but ensures derivations which are 95% combination of other pieces of
software sending most of their earnings to the people who wrote the
software.

In all of this, there is no reason why royalties cannot be waived for
non-commercial use. There would need to be some limiting to prevent
someone distributing a slightly repackaged pay-for program for free
in order to undermine them.

Nick Mailer wrote:
> > To me, your business model seems short-sighted and hemmed in by the
> > thinking of proprietary software producers. *shrug*
>
> Quite. Let's examine the issue at hand:
> a. An individual wishes to produce software
> b. An individual wishes to earn money
>
> The fallacy is in assuming that there is only one sphere of causality
> where both of these desires are fulfilled. Notice that once you remove
> all the illusory connective tissue: "I wish to be paid to produce
> software, whereafter I wish to receive further royalties from every
> copy of the software sold; and to deprive the right of any (even
> paying) user access to my work except in a very specific and
> delineated way" you are left with simply a. and b.

I never said any of that. You assumed that's what I thought. cf.
above.

> The *truly* creative programmer, who can GENUINELY "think out of the
> box", will provide innovative connective tissue that does not rely on
> the effective monopolistic extortion and strongarming that a
> fully-operative proprietary realm demands.

No, you as someone also from an Acorn background should realise the
commonly practicised software business model is one invented mostly
by US multinationals. It is not the only business model.

> There are many models available at the moment where the GPL fits very
> comfortably. It is only someone extraordinarily lazy or greedy who
> cannot conceive such.

To encourage innovation, society must make it worth while to the
inventors. Currently, we do this with money. I don't feel I am lazy
nor greedy to feel that the ten hours I put into something per day
which will benefit all of mankind should be adequately rewarded.

The ideal people will produce for the benefit of mankind for no
reward may work for some people, but they are a tiny minority. People
are primarily centered around self-interest (look at any four year
old child), it's simply the way we are.

Someday our culture may evolve to create a majority less egocentric.
But that is a long way off, and until then this is the way it is.
Hoping or dreaming for something not possible is at best a waste of
time, and at worst dangerous.

Cheers,
Niall
Marcus Brinkmann
2002-11-29 20:16:41 UTC
Permalink
On Fri, Nov 29, 2002 at 08:54:56PM +0100, Niall Douglas wrote:
> And its development was exclusively funded by a university (ie; a
> government) as far as I understand it.

It makes sense that free software is written in a cooperation between
the public and private companies, just as it happens in various sciences.

> > So is the GNU Hurd, which is another
> > innovative operating system.
>
> You're right it is, but it was much more radical back in ~1990 when
> it was conceived. My understanding of it is that it's quite similar
> to the NT kernel.

Your understanding is wrong, it's very different. Please refer to the
http://www.gnu.org/software/hurd. It's much more similar to Plan 9,
although its root reach further in the past.

> However GNU Hird proves my point exactly. Work has gone extremely
> slowly on a badly needed kernel which would in one fell swoop address
> many of the technical problems with GNU/Linux. Because it was and is
> considered so radical, and mostly I suspect because the much more
> retrograde GNU/Linux kernel felt more comfortable to more developers,
> it has been sidelined.

That might be one reason, I have a few others in mind but I think it would
reach too far to discuss this here. However, I fail to see how this proves
your point, as you are comparing two GPL licensed projects here. To prove
something, I would think you need to compare GPL licensed projects with
proprietary or other licensed projects. At the OS market, as far as I can
see, conventional, monolithical kernel designs dominate over other more
innovative designs for many years now.

> > I also think that the availability of free software among pupils and
> > students can spur some innovative new free software. Studying real
> > programs is a very important aspect of learning to program, and the
> > GNU software base has some very good examples (I often look into the
> > GNU C library, for example).
>
> There's no reason why commercial software can't achieve the same
> thing, it's just we've all grown used to not receiving the source
> with our software.

I don't know if you are talking about commercial or proprietary software
here. If a license does not give me the four fundamental freedoms, my
abilities to learn from the software and use the result of the learning is
resrticted.

Thanks,
Marcus


--
`Rhubarb is no Egyptian god.' GNU http://www.gnu.org ***@gnu.org
Marcus Brinkmann The Hurd http://www.gnu.org/software/hurd/
***@ruhr-uni-bochum.de
http://www.marcus-brinkmann.de/
Alex Hudson
2002-11-29 20:46:59 UTC
Permalink
--=-zz2KxILNnG+Lt+RMXw5z
Content-Type: text/plain
Content-Transfer-Encoding: quoted-printable

(I'm only interested in the economic arguments here, so I'm selectively
quoting and replying - shoot me :o)

On Fri, 2002-11-29 at 19:54, Niall Douglas wrote:
> > I also think that the availability of free software among pupils and
> > students can spur some innovative new free software. Studying real
> > programs is a very important aspect of learning to program, and the
> > GNU software base has some very good examples (I often look into the
> > GNU C library, for example).
>=20
> There's no reason why commercial software can't achieve the same=20
> thing, it's just we've all grown used to not receiving the source=20
> with our software.

I disagree with this; being able to look at source doesn't teach you
much at all (I think Marcus hasn't stated the argument well, or perhaps
he doesn't agree with me :). You only learn by doing, and participating
in a Free Software project (for example) is far more 'doing' than being
able to see source for X "commercial" (proprietary) program. Proprietary
software that comes with source very rarely allows you to 'do', all you
can do is review, play a little, perhaps bug-fix.=20

> No, but money arrives to GPL projects much later (and less of it) =20
> than to commercial so therefore proving my point.

I don't think that's necessarily the case. Proprietary software tends to
come to market fully-formed (i.e., developed already); Free Software
isn't usually written and then marketed. If you believe in supply/demand
theory, at a simplistic level proprietary licences are good at
restricting software, whereas the restriction for Free Software (which
also exists with proprietary softwarem, but usually isn't a limiting
factor) is availability of skills and labour. The programmer comes to
market with his skills, rather than his software, so the development of
the software would be pre-funded rather than post-funded.

I would imagine that is the more common scenario - if not now, in the
future - than mature software being commercialized in the marketplace.
"Mature" Free Software tends to address large-user-base COTS (commerial
off the shelf) needs, rather than the bespoke software market (which is
probably bigger), which is probably a contributory factor to the
scenario where commercialized Free Software is also (at least partially)
proprietized.

> MySQL had a mature product when they looked to go commercial. Qt was=20
> less so at the time, but it was still relatively mature.
>=20
> Both are better implementations of existing technology, there isn't=20
> much radically different in them.

I think your argument that Free Software is inherently derivative is a)
correct, and b) wrong. Yes, the tendency to derive is more likely in
Free Software, but only because it is the natural tendency of software
and is far easier with Free than proprietary. But, where is there real
innovation? I would argue nowhere, not proprietary nor Free. It of
course depends on your definition of innovation, but frankly, there's
nothing new under the sun.

> Unfortunately we live in a world where work in itself is not=20
> rewarded. It must be of value, and because of this artists and=20
> engineers alike must bend their creativity towards making profit.
>=20
> Hence yes, I do assume the right to make money out of writing=20
> software, just as much as painting a wall or anything else others=20
> consider of value.

You can assume the right all you like; your business will not succeed
unless someone is willing to pay you :)=20

In a way, you are probably correct about proprietary licences. They are
very good at mitigating the risk of developing software: I guess in the
way it's a lot like the futures market, where you bet on the future
value of something in terms of realizable revenue. However, this is only
applicable in the sense of an entrepreneur risking investment in
software development for future reward: i.e., the COTS scenario where
the software is brought to market. From the bespoke point of view, it
hasn't really mitigated the risk (the customer isn't really buying what
you are developing), and certainly doesn't work from the
skills-to-market point of view.=20

The value of COTS software long-term is also pretty poor - this is the
usual reason people think Free Software licences are poor at
commericializing software. Once a piece of software has been developed,
in order for a developer to continue work on it there must be reason for
it's further development. The proprietary market has worked out it's own
answers to this question (data lock-in, subscription software, etc.),
but it doesn't get away from the fact that continued development on a
piece of software in order to make a new value proposition is hard, and
made harder the longer the software is developed. Free Software licences
are poor at locking the user in, are poor at selling 'bells and
whistles', etc. - if you haven't created something of new value, it's
unlikely you could re-commercialize it. Hence, people think it's hard to
commercialize Free Software. What they usually mean is, it's not easy to
commericialize COTS Free Software on an over-extended product life-span.

> > <snip GNU history>
> Again you're repeating exactly what I just said! And if you do=20
> examine the history of GNU, their attempts at their own kernel were=20
> trounced by Linux which was a very retrograde kernel when it was=20
> first created.

To be fair, he wasn't. While GNU was originally deriviative - probably
more because the development systems it was being created on were UNIX,
and it was being created piece-meal - it's not true any more. Yes, they
were not ground-up innovative, but that doesn't preclude them being
blue-sky: in fact, the amount of innovation is actually quite high,
which is why they are trouncing their proprietary counterparts. Not
because of development cost reasons (which are arguable anyway), but
because they're better in many very real ways.

> Don't get me wrong. Given twenty years of spare time by enough=20
> people, you'll eventually get there. But vastly more people will=20
> volunteer their time on established paradigms that radical step=20
> changes, hence the GPL is not good for blue-sky projects.

If GNU projects were not progressive, they would not over-take their
proprietary forebears. Remember, the GNU project was *designed* as an OS
replacement. Not an alternative, a replacement. So, it had to really
implement all the functions in a substantially similar fashion. What
were the proprietary systems doing while GNU was being developed?
Nothing that would keep them ahead, anyway - the only proprietary COTS
operating systems with advantage over GNU/Linux are Windows and Solaris
(arguably). Areas in which these systems are technically better are few
and far between, arguable, and not worth debating here. I suspect
Solaris won't be in the race much longer either.=20

> > There are very few examples of "completely unique [sic]" (something is
> > either unique or it isn't, by the way - it's one of those words ;-) IT
> > technologies around at the moment.
>=20
> I think there are more that many would believe. Acorn RISC-OS had=20
> quite a number, as did NextSTEP.

If you believe that RiscOS is innovative, but the Hurd is not, then you
either don't know the Hurd sufficiently well, or have a clear Acorn bias
in your argument that you can't see past :)

Cheers,

Alex.


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Niall Douglas
2002-11-30 21:06:08 UTC
Permalink
On 29 Nov 2002 at 21:16, Marcus Brinkmann wrote:

> On Fri, Nov 29, 2002 at 08:54:56PM +0100, Niall Douglas wrote:
> > And its development was exclusively funded by a university (ie; a
> > government) as far as I understand it.
>
> It makes sense that free software is written in a cooperation between
> the public and private companies, just as it happens in various
> sciences.

It does make sense, but it's not self-supporting. Governments have
since time immorial paid for economically unviable things with long-
term benefits.

I would wholeheatedly agree that public expenditure should result in
totally free results (I'd prefer BSD to GPL though for this). But my
original point that the GPL does not encourage new technology still
remains valid.

> > > So is the GNU Hurd, which is another
> > > innovative operating system.
> >
> > You're right it is, but it was much more radical back in ~1990 when
> > it was conceived. My understanding of it is that it's quite similar
> > to the NT kernel.
>
> Your understanding is wrong, it's very different. Please refer to the
> http://www.gnu.org/software/hurd. It's much more similar to Plan 9,
> although its root reach further in the past.

I had read that document prior to replying. I stand by my point -
note I referred exclusively to the NT kernel which I believe *is*
quite similar to GNU Hurd (you'd need to read the hard-to-find docs
on NT's undocumented APIs). Plan 9 is a complete reimplementation
which affects application space completely as well, and AFAICS GNU
Hurd doesn't and won't do that.

> That might be one reason, I have a few others in mind but I think it
> would reach too far to discuss this here. However, I fail to see how
> this proves your point, as you are comparing two GPL licensed projects
> here. To prove something, I would think you need to compare GPL
> licensed projects with proprietary or other licensed projects.

No it proves my point exactly because one is quite radical whereas
the other used to be quite retrograde. The radical stuff just won't
attract volunteers under the GPL - only money can do that.

There are plenty of examples of propriatary ventures making real
innovation eg; Next, Xerox Parc, AT&T etc.

> > There's no reason why commercial software can't achieve the same
> > thing, it's just we've all grown used to not receiving the source
> > with our software.
>
> I don't know if you are talking about commercial or proprietary
> software here. If a license does not give me the four fundamental
> freedoms, my abilities to learn from the software and use the result
> of the learning is resrticted.

I was speaking of COTS as privately produced software usually comes
with source. I appreciate the FSF's efforts to illustrate their
concerns with clarity, but I fear people then become too entrenched
on either extreme between free and closed. There is a large middle
ground offering most of the benefits of free software but encouraging
innovation and making profit. Among those benefits for sure are
encouraging innovation in all its forms, including the production of
the next generation of talent.

Alex Hudson wrote:
> > There's no reason why commercial software can't achieve the same
> > thing, it's just we've all grown used to not receiving the source
> > with our software.
>
> I disagree with this; being able to look at source doesn't teach you
> much at all (I think Marcus hasn't stated the argument well, or
> perhaps he doesn't agree with me :). You only learn by doing, and
> participating in a Free Software project (for example) is far more
> 'doing' than being able to see source for X "commercial" (proprietary)
> program. Proprietary software that comes with source very rarely
> allows you to 'do', all you can do is review, play a little, perhaps
> bug-fix.

Again, you're restricting yourself to the current business model
mindset. It doesn't have to be that way. If a law existed which said
that all COTS had to come with source and could be reused by anyone
so long as they paid a percentage of the sales cost (including zero
if they sold it for free) ie; in other words, if mandatory reuse were
legistlated for, then this whole situation would change.

> > No, but money arrives to GPL projects much later (and less of it)
> > than to commercial so therefore proving my point.
>
> I don't think that's necessarily the case. Proprietary software tends
> to come to market fully-formed (i.e., developed already); Free
> Software isn't usually written and then marketed.

You mean here marketed = distributed. I'm not. I mean marketed =
distributed for profit.

> I would imagine that is the more common scenario - if not now, in the
> future - than mature software being commercialized in the marketplace.
> "Mature" Free Software tends to address large-user-base COTS
> (commerial off the shelf) needs, rather than the bespoke software
> market (which is probably bigger), which is probably a contributory
> factor to the scenario where commercialized Free Software is also (at
> least partially) proprietized.

Except that all bespoke projects I've ever worked on tend to reuse a
lot of COTS. Much bespoke software as well uses customised GPL
software because the GPL permits not releasing source if you don't
distribute the software. So, I think it's the opposite of what you
say.

> > Both are better implementations of existing technology, there isn't
> > much radically different in them.
>
> I think your argument that Free Software is inherently derivative is
> a) correct, and b) wrong. Yes, the tendency to derive is more likely
> in Free Software, but only because it is the natural tendency of
> software and is far easier with Free than proprietary. But, where is
> there real innovation? I would argue nowhere, not proprietary nor
> Free. It of course depends on your definition of innovation, but
> frankly, there's nothing new under the sun.

I'd disagree. If you read patent law, they have a strict definition
of what is to be regarded as innovative (and unfortunately has been
mostly ignored since the 1970's in the US and increasingly here). The
UK govt's venture capital website http://www.nesta.org.uk/ has plenty
on how it judges whether something is innovative or not.

And I think if you apply those criteria to non-subsidised free
software, you won't find any innovative projects performing strongly.
To my knowledge, they don't exist - and hence my original point.

> > Hence yes, I do assume the right to make money out of writing
> > software, just as much as painting a wall or anything else others
> > consider of value.
>
> You can assume the right all you like; your business will not succeed
> unless someone is willing to pay you :)

Hence the "others consider of value" :)

> In a way, you are probably correct about proprietary licences. They
> are very good at mitigating the risk of developing software: I guess
> in the way it's a lot like the futures market, where you bet on the
> future value of something in terms of realizable revenue. However,
> this is only applicable in the sense of an entrepreneur risking
> investment in software development for future reward: i.e., the COTS
> scenario where the software is brought to market. From the bespoke
> point of view, it hasn't really mitigated the risk (the customer isn't
> really buying what you are developing), and certainly doesn't work
> from the skills-to-market point of view.

I don't quite understand you here. Bespoke software is custom usually
once-written software to perform usually one strictly defined task.
So therefore surely the customer is exactly buying the software?

> The value of COTS software long-term is also pretty poor - this is the
> usual reason people think Free Software licences are poor at
> commericializing software. Once a piece of software has been
> developed, in order for a developer to continue work on it there must
> be reason for it's further development. The proprietary market has
> worked out it's own answers to this question (data lock-in,
> subscription software, etc.), but it doesn't get away from the fact
> that continued development on a piece of software in order to make a
> new value proposition is hard, and made harder the longer the software
> is developed. Free Software licences are poor at locking the user in,
> are poor at selling 'bells and whistles', etc. - if you haven't
> created something of new value, it's unlikely you could
> re-commercialize it. Hence, people think it's hard to commercialize
> Free Software. What they usually mean is, it's not easy to
> commericialize COTS Free Software on an over-extended product
> life-span.

No I agree with all that and always have done. The current locked
down closed source system is bad for software, engineering, users and
pretty much everyone except the CEO's of the software multinationals.
I am just as strenuously opposed to them as Richard Stallman.
However, I also don't think free software is the perfect rose-tinted
vision of perfection so many in the GNU world believe it to be, and
while it's ideologically comfortable it simply isn't practical IMHO.
One of its main problems is that in my opinion, it stifles blue-sky
innovation - hence my posing of this question.

> To be fair, he wasn't. While GNU was originally deriviative - probably
> more because the development systems it was being created on were
> UNIX, and it was being created piece-meal - it's not true any more.
> Yes, they were not ground-up innovative, but that doesn't preclude
> them being blue-sky: in fact, the amount of innovation is actually
> quite high, which is why they are trouncing their proprietary
> counterparts. Not because of development cost reasons (which are
> arguable anyway), but because they're better in many very real ways.

This may be your view, but no one in this list has yet shown me a
piece of innovative strongly growing unsubsidised free software so
I'm afraid I'm going to have to disagree. You're completely right
that free software is trouncing its competition because its quality
is higher (more love from the programmers, vastly better peer review,
friendly cooperative competition) but it's merely doing better at
functionally *cloning* the competition.

> > Don't get me wrong. Given twenty years of spare time by enough
> > people, you'll eventually get there. But vastly more people will
> > volunteer their time on established paradigms that radical step
> > changes, hence the GPL is not good for blue-sky projects.
>
> If GNU projects were not progressive, they would not over-take their
> proprietary forebears.

No, completely wrong. They're *energetic*, but not innovative.

> Remember, the GNU project was *designed* as an
> OS replacement. Not an alternative, a replacement. So, it had to
> really implement all the functions in a substantially similar fashion.

And it's precisely that reason that they still haven't succeeded ie;
because blue-sky stuff just doesn't sit well with free software. If
they'd set out to write the perfect functional clone (which is what
they have ended up doing anyway), their goal and ideology would have
been compatible.

> What were the proprietary systems doing while GNU was being developed?
> Nothing that would keep them ahead, anyway - the only proprietary COTS
> operating systems with advantage over GNU/Linux are Windows and
> Solaris (arguably). Areas in which these systems are technically
> better are few and far between, arguable, and not worth debating here.
> I suspect Solaris won't be in the race much longer either.

Much of the reason Windows got in there is because the competing Unix
vendors refused to get their act together, and now most have gone to
the wall. The current closed source tie-down-the-user business model
is wholly to blame for this in fact - if by law software had to be
reusable, the competing vendors could repackage their competitors
software within their own and thus inoperability would have been
reached.

> > > There are very few examples of "completely unique [sic]"
> > > (something is either unique or it isn't, by the way - it's one of
> > > those words ;-) IT technologies around at the moment.
> >
> > I think there are more that many would believe. Acorn RISC-OS had
> > quite a number, as did NextSTEP.
>
> If you believe that RiscOS is innovative, but the Hurd is not, then
> you either don't know the Hurd sufficiently well, or have a clear
> Acorn bias in your argument that you can't see past :)

You should have read my words more closely. I said the Hurd was
innovative *in* *its* *time* but not really any more. RISC-OS was
extremely innovative in 1988, but it sure isn't today. Innovation is
100% relative to the context it's in.

John Tapsell wrote:
> Just a quick point - remember that the majority (90% or something
> wasn't it?) of software is not off-the-shelf software. For the
> majority (all?) of not-off-the-shelf software, the licensing probably
> doesn't affect much. (code for research, putting packages and support
> etc together for 'solutions', in house development, ...)
>
> For the software that is off-the-shelf, I'll let everyone else cover
> that.
> But remember that is a small percentage of code that is written.

Given a majority of the major projects I have done in my professional
life have been bespoke, sure I'm well aware of that. But as I
mentioned above, bespoke solution are increasingly using a
combination of COTS and thus the COTS situation is very relevent.

A small example: I had to integrate one of the industry leading
industrial testing packages into a bespoke solution. This was COTS
and was riddled with bugs. Time and time again I would find yet
another exception, serious memory leak among others and I would send
a working example of how to trigger the bug to the manufacturer, a
large US multinational.

But their repair rate was horrendously slow, and since we were a
multi million euro contract for them I rang them up and threatened to
switch to a competitor. We got an improvement, but I suspect at the
expense of someone else.

Now if their COTS came with source, I'd just fix them manually and
email the diffs as I do with Trolltech's Qt. The entire project would
have gone quicker, wasted less of my time with workarounds and
produced a cheaper, better bespoke solution.

The current system is crap for everyone and with software patents now
being pushed on us by US multinationals, it's going to get a lot
worse - especially as they'll win the next vote with the new EU
members on their side. We
*need* a third way acceptable to industry. Free software is not that.

All this discussion BTW has been for a point. I've been preparing
that third way, and I'll publish it before Christmas. Thank you for
your input, you've helped clarify a number of issues and I look
forward to further comments with interest!

Cheers,
Niall
Alex Hudson
2002-11-30 22:48:07 UTC
Permalink
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On Sat, 2002-11-30 at 21:06, Niall Douglas wrote:
> Again, you're restricting yourself to the current business model=20
> mindset. It doesn't have to be that way. If a law existed which said=20
> that all COTS had to come with source and could be reused by anyone=20
> so long as they paid a percentage of the sales cost (including zero=20
> if they sold it for free) ie; in other words, if mandatory reuse were=20
> legistlated for, then this whole situation would change.

If a law existed that mandated everyone had to buy my software, my whole
financial situation would change :o)

Basing business models on forced laws is a bad idea. I don't think my
unacceptance of that is a 'restricted mindset'. If you that 'I work with
what I have' as 'restricted', then I suppose so...

> > I don't think that's necessarily the case. Proprietary software tends
> > to come to market fully-formed (i.e., developed already); Free
> > Software isn't usually written and then marketed.
>=20
> You mean here marketed =3D distributed. I'm not. I mean marketed =3D=20
> distributed for profit.

Marketed =3D distributed?? That's not what I mean. Clearly, all Free
Software is written then distributed. It's hard to see otherwise.=20

"Distributed for profit" is also a fairly meaningless phrase, in this
context. We're talking about marketing - but you're talking about
marketing Free Software being more difficult that non-free. Saying I'm
talking about marketing as being a non-profit activity is merely begging
the question on your part - yes, if you assume that Free Software cannot
be effectively distributed for profit, then when I talk about marketing
I'm talking about a non-profit activity. It's illogical, though.

> Except that all bespoke projects I've ever worked on tend to reuse a=20
> lot of COTS

I doubt that very much. You probably 'customise', or 'extend', rather
than reuse - if software is reuseable, it doesn't fit the COTS
definition. COTS software comes 'as is' - you cannot change it, you only
get to use it.

> Much bespoke software as well uses customised GPL=20
> software because the GPL permits not releasing source if you don't=20
> distribute the software. So, I think it's the opposite of what you=20
> say.

How does the above further your argument? If it's bespoke, it's not
COTS, and hence nothing to do with the COTS market we were talking
about.=20

Anyhow, it's arguable whether the above is the case anyway: I suspect a
contractor re-using GPL on a bespoke, proprietary, development is a
licence violation, pure and simple. I can't see otherwise.

> > Free. It of course depends on your definition of innovation, but
> > frankly, there's nothing new under the sun.
>=20
> I'd disagree. If you read patent law, they have a strict definition=20
> of what is to be regarded as innovative

Patent law is the best example of what is not innovative! Indeed, all
patents are required to set out how they build upon current knowledge.=20

The two basic tests are a) originality, and b) non-obviousness. Test a
is passed if there is no previously published work including the
invention; this is a fairly easy test to pass. Test b is more a matter
of opinion, since only someone 'familiar in the art' could judge it, yet
they are not the ones who are asked.=20

Patent abuse has been rife since the time they were invented; my above
criticism is not limited to post-1970/contemporary action. I don't have
any rose-tinted glasses with respect to some golden age of innovation -
it's clear even such names as Edison were intent on bending the system
to their own end. Judging innovation on the basis of the patent system
is very flawed.

> And I think if you apply those criteria to non-subsidised free=20
> software, you won't find any innovative projects performing strongly.=20
> To my knowledge, they don't exist - and hence my original point.

If you're talking about critera A and B set out above, there are
numerous examples of innovative Free Software. There are even examples
of software patents in Free Software (such as Raph Levien's printing
patents). None of this proves anything, of course, because innovation is
merely in the eye of the beholder.

Free Software tends to lose out in such beauty contests as a rule, since
it is de-mystified compared to proprietary software. If someone presents
a cathedral, you are immediately impressed, even if the actual detail is
not very good. If you see the cathedral being built, you are not
impressed so much, even if the details are much better. Proprietary
software has wham-factor; Free Software tends not to.

> > > Hence yes, I do assume the right to make money out of writing=20
> > > software, just as much as painting a wall or anything else others
> > > consider of value.
> >=20
> > You can assume the right all you like; your business will not succeed
> > unless someone is willing to pay you :)=20
>=20
> Hence the "others consider of value" :)

I should have said, "pay you enough". It is not good enough that
something has _value_, it must have sufficient value to fund you now and
in the future. Proprietary software is very good at making more money
from things than their value suggests, in my opinion, but of course it's
not very good at competing. Short term gain versus long term stabilty, I
guess..

> I don't quite understand you here. Bespoke software is custom usually=20
> once-written software to perform usually one strictly defined task.=20
> So therefore surely the customer is exactly buying the software?

Hmm, not really the case. Certainly, customers very rarely own the
software (in terms of copyright), even if it is bespoke. More often,
they buy the software, and then are tied into a support contract (since
only the writer of the software can maintain it).=20

Modern companies see software they right as their "intellectual
property"; and tend to licence it, not sell it. Much like in the COTS
world, you very seldom buy the software.

> This may be your view, but no one in this list has yet shown me a=20
> piece of innovative strongly growing unsubsidised free software so=20
> I'm afraid I'm going to have to disagree. You're completely right=20
> that free software is trouncing its competition because its quality=20
> is higher (more love from the programmers, vastly better peer review,=20
> friendly cooperative competition) but it's merely doing better at=20
> functionally *cloning* the competition.

Your argument isn't flawed when someone gives an example of innovative
free software, because you can always say "that is not innovative".
Hence, no-one will argue with you because it's an unwinnable argument.
You produce your criteria - possibly with examples of proprietary
software that fulfils the criteria? - and maybe someone will knock them
down for you.=20

Personally, I don't see any proprietary replacement for Mosix, for
example, I guess one probably exists somewhere, but unlikely to be as
well developed. I personally think the Hurd is innovative, and I don't
see your reference to the NT kernel whatsoever (if it is like anything,
it is like OS/X in that it [currently] runs on Mach - it is *very much*
not like any other OS in terms of the daemonized architecture).=20

Even Apache - with the 2.0 multiprotocol support - is doing things found
no-where else in the industry. I disagree with the cloning thing. If
Free Software were only cloning, proprietary software could keep ahead
by innovating. That concept has been killed dead by the fact that Free
Software competes, betters and stays far out ahead (see Apache, for
example). This isn't about being energetic, as you said - it's about
being innovative.

However, I have no doubt you will knock over every example here for some
reason - as noted, it's an unwinnable argument. I will only note that
'unsubsidised' is a rubbish criteria: this has nothing to do with our
argument. Look at Microsoft: everything they produce, apart from Windows
and Office, is *hugely* subsidised. It's in the figures, you can go see
them. Ditto the quality argument: Free Software does not prescribe love
from developers, more peer review, or any of that. These are not the
differentiating factors.

> > Remember, the GNU project was *designed* as an
> > OS replacement. Not an alternative, a replacement. So, it had to
> > really implement all the functions in a substantially similar fashion.
>=20
> And it's precisely that reason that they still haven't succeeded ie;=20
> because blue-sky stuff just doesn't sit well with free software. If=20
> they'd set out to write the perfect functional clone (which is what=20
> they have ended up doing anyway), their goal and ideology would have=20
> been compatible.

How is the Hurd a functional clone? I don't see that they have ended up
doing that at all. I also don't see that your argument as presented the
case that the Hurd has not "succeeded" because it's blue sky. Hurd
development has been slow because there are not enough hackers working
on it: it's pretty simple.=20

Hurd is still blue-sky; just take a look at the "GNU" virtual memory
approach outlined by Neal Walfield (I don't have the link to hand, sorry
- the site Google suggested appears to be down). I would personally call
it 'very innovative', since it is completely unlike anything current in
operation - AFAIK, of course - and a system that would be
unimplementable in any system except the Hurd - again, AFAIK.=20

> Much of the reason Windows got in there is because the competing Unix=20
> vendors refused to get their act together, and now most have gone to=20
> the wall. The current closed source tie-down-the-user business model=20
> is wholly to blame for this in fact - if by law software had to be=20
> reusable, the competing vendors could repackage their competitors=20
> software within their own and thus inoperability would have been=20
> reached.

That's completely arguable. I would suggest the reason Windows got in
there was because it was built upon DOS. The reason DOS got in there was
because it was a "Model T" in an era of custom cars. Cheap,
mass-produced. Very few Unix vendors have 'gone to the wall', they've
just become less important. Good lord, if SCO are still making a lot
money from OpenServer in *this* day and age, that says something. It's
more simply a shift in the market.=20

Reusability/freedom in software is nothing to do with the above shift;
it was merely a market share shift within the proprietary market. You
would have thought, as well, with all the competition between vendors
battling for user mindshare, that the 'energetic' development would have
kept them ahead of Free Software. It hasn't.

> You should have read my words more closely. I said the Hurd was=20
> innovative *in* *its* *time* but not really any more. RISC-OS was=20
> extremely innovative in 1988, but it sure isn't today. Innovation is=20
> 100% relative to the context it's in.

That wasn't my argument. You pointed at RiscOS as being an example of
something innovative (at whatever point in it's product life-cycle).
Clearly, you are not holding it to the same "strongly growing ..
unsubsidised .." etc. standards that you hold Free Software to - RiscOS
was never strongly growing, never hugely profitable, and in fact gained
most of it's market share on the back of the British Broadcasting
Corporation monopoly on computing in schools. Your point that use of the
GPL "stifles blue-sky innovation" is clearly wrong, so you then use this
"non-subsidised" device to make the argument unwinnable. All blue-sky
innovation is subsidised: if you cannot afford the development fail, as
a business person you must not do it. The risk with blue-sky is that it
will probably fail, so you should expect to lose your money.=20

You seem to be interested in some fabled 'third way', which is very
modern, but seems to me to be meaningless. Software is either free or
not - in this sense, it's a very black and white issue. What you are
talking about is trying to sugar-coat non-free software (or, in
business-speak, 'increase it's value proposition'). That's not something
I suspect many people in this group would find particularly interesting,
nor do I think it is innovative (cf. shared source, Borland's Delphi
system, and numerous other software which have been distributed in the
way you seem to propose). And ultimately, I don't see it being
successful, because non-free software ultimately cannot compete with
free software. Development practice, funding, etc. is all mostly
irrelevant: when free software and non-free software compete, the free
software tends to win. Third-way software depending on "free software
development practice", "open source", etc., is no different to any other
type of non-free software.

Cheers,

Alex.




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Niall Douglas
2002-12-01 18:54:47 UTC
Permalink
On 30 Nov 2002 at 22:48, Alex Hudson wrote:

> On Sat, 2002-11-30 at 21:06, Niall Douglas wrote:
> > Again, you're restricting yourself to the current business model
> > mindset. It doesn't have to be that way. If a law existed which said
> > that all COTS had to come with source and could be reused by anyone
> > so long as they paid a percentage of the sales cost (including zero
> > if they sold it for free) ie; in other words, if mandatory reuse
> > were legistlated for, then this whole situation would change.
>
> If a law existed that mandated everyone had to buy my software, my
> whole financial situation would change :o)

Not what I said, but yeah, me too!

> Basing business models on forced laws is a bad idea. I don't think my
> unacceptance of that is a 'restricted mindset'. If you that 'I work
> with what I have' as 'restricted', then I suppose so...

No I must disagree. All law can be said to be the grease between the
cogs of society and it is no more so in commercial enterprise. If you
compare the illegal drug black market (which is an example of
partially unregulated capitalism) with the sanitised version we're
legally allowed practice, then it is clear laws define a marketplace.

Hence just because there is a law saying no one may make a copy of
some software for a friend doesn't make a similar law guaranteeing
right of distribution of derived works any less possible or valid.
Regulation gives bias - it's the old carrot & stick scenario.

> "Distributed for profit" is also a fairly meaningless phrase, in this
> context. We're talking about marketing - but you're talking about
> marketing Free Software being more difficult that non-free. Saying I'm
> talking about marketing as being a non-profit activity is merely
> begging the question on your part - yes, if you assume that Free
> Software cannot be effectively distributed for profit, then when I
> talk about marketing I'm talking about a non-profit activity. It's
> illogical, though.

Never said any of that! Really! This list seems to constantly misread
and misquote my arguments! I will assume it is because I am not being
clear enough, nevertheless no other list I'm on does this so it seems
odd.

Of course free software can be sold, and indeed is so. Here's my
original point:
> > No, but money arrives to GPL projects much later (and less of it)
> > than to commercial so therefore proving my point.
>
> I don't think that's necessarily the case. Proprietary software
> tends to come to market fully-formed (i.e., developed already);
> Free Software isn't usually written and then marketed.

Now I'll repeat myself, this time with hopefully more clarity.
Proprietary software tends to get money much earlier in its
development cycle because the workers need paying. Free software
tends to get money only once it's mostly complete and mature because
you can't sell something which isn't written yet. The only source of
substantial funding for infant free software is government grants,
and those really are bespoke.

And that's my problem with free software - it is not long-term self-
sustainable because it cannot encourage entrepreneurs except those
making money off the back of selling other people's work. This is bad
(in the long-term) for software and hence society.

> > Except that all bespoke projects I've ever worked on tend to reuse a
> > lot of COTS
>
> I doubt that very much. You probably 'customise', or 'extend', rather
> than reuse - if software is reuseable, it doesn't fit the COTS
> definition. COTS software comes 'as is' - you cannot change it, you
> only get to use it.

In this you would be right. My apologies for using "reuse"
incorrectly.

> > Much bespoke software as well uses customised GPL
> > software because the GPL permits not releasing source if you don't
> > distribute the software. So, I think it's the opposite of what you
> > say.
>
> How does the above further your argument? If it's bespoke, it's not
> COTS, and hence nothing to do with the COTS market we were talking
> about.

No my point was much bespoke software customises or extends one or
more COTS. Therefore bespoke software is intricately linked with COTS
and will increasingly become so with time.

Therefore when we speak of COTS, it implies consequences for bespoke
and indeed almost all software everywhere due to this intrinsic link.

> Anyhow, it's arguable whether the above is the case anyway: I suspect
> a contractor re-using GPL on a bespoke, proprietary, development is a
> licence violation, pure and simple. I can't see otherwise.

Depends entirely on what is called "distribution". It can be argued
that a privately funded venture to produce some bespoke solution
involves no distribution.

I've never worked on a project where we did this, but I had to fight
hard to stop it happening ("If project X did this, why can't yours?" -
answer: "Because I'm working on this project!" :) ) with a copy of
MySQL.

> The two basic tests are a) originality, and b) non-obviousness. Test a
> is passed if there is no previously published work including the
> invention; this is a fairly easy test to pass. Test b is more a matter
> of opinion, since only someone 'familiar in the art' could judge it,
> yet they are not the ones who are asked.

This is all true and I completely agree the patent system is not
perfect. However if you consider the world before patents, the
overall situation was worse.

Anyway this is besides the point. I referred to the *theory* not the
implementation and I think if you do have someone familiar in the
art, then they are a pretty good judge of how non-obvious it is.
Obviously implicit in the definition of "innovation" is a strong
subjective quality.

> Proprietary software has wham-factor; Free Software tends not to.

That would depend. Free software tends to be much more powerful in
non-obvious ways. I go "wow" much more often with free software than
with mainstream commercial.

> > I don't quite understand you here. Bespoke software is custom
> > usually once-written software to perform usually one strictly
> > defined task. So therefore surely the customer is exactly buying the
> > software?
>
> Hmm, not really the case. Certainly, customers very rarely own the
> software (in terms of copyright), even if it is bespoke. More often,
> they buy the software, and then are tied into a support contract
> (since only the writer of the software can maintain it).

In my experience all rights get transferred to the purchaser who can
theoretically take out a support contract with someone else. They
never do, but they can.

> Modern companies see software they right as their "intellectual
> property"; and tend to licence it, not sell it. Much like in the COTS
> world, you very seldom buy the software.

In the contracts I've worked upon, it's explicitly written that all
rights become the purchaser's. Could be a military thing though.

> Your argument isn't flawed when someone gives an example of innovative
> free software, because you can always say "that is not innovative".
> Hence, no-one will argue with you because it's an unwinnable argument.
> You produce your criteria - possibly with examples of proprietary
> software that fulfils the criteria? - and maybe someone will knock
> them down for you.

That is entirely possible, and of course I know the proprietary range
much better than the free one. However I came at this point from the
basis of logical theory and then looked for evidence to disprove it.
So far, I have not found any.

> Personally, I don't see any proprietary replacement for Mosix, for
> example, I guess one probably exists somewhere, but unlikely to be as
> well developed.

Surely Cray have something?

> I personally think the Hurd is innovative, and I don't
> see your reference to the NT kernel whatsoever (if it is like
> anything, it is like OS/X in that it [currently] runs on Mach - it is
> *very much* not like any other OS in terms of the daemonized
> architecture).

Daemons no but plugins yes. The NT kernel is quite extensible eg; it
uses a unified namespace of which parts are provided by plugins eg;
pipe manager, file system etc. Technically one could do much of what
GNU Hurd can in NT - it's just Microsoft have chosen not to and
indeed seem to actively have prevented anyone knowing much about it.

Very few people know that file points in NTFS can hold multiple
streams or run through a translator eg; reparse points which work
like symbolic links, or zip files appear as directories etc. I agree
that GNU Hurd is somewhat innovative, but it's been overtaken by time
and history and the fault for that, in my opinion, lies squarely with
the psychological consequences of free software.

> Even Apache - with the 2.0 multiprotocol support - is doing things
> found no-where else in the industry. I disagree with the cloning
> thing. If Free Software were only cloning, proprietary software could
> keep ahead by innovating. That concept has been killed dead by the
> fact that Free Software competes, betters and stays far out ahead (see
> Apache, for example). This isn't about being energetic, as you said -
> it's about being innovative.

Apache, like KDE is coming from a strong existing base. Well-known
and respected programmers within each project then posit their views
on best future direction and democracy chooses the best path.

Unfortunately, it will tend to choose a path most comfortable to the
most developers. This will tend to be conservative and not overly
radical. Thus returning me to my original point of not encouraging
innovation.

> However, I have no doubt you will knock over every example here for
> some reason - as noted, it's an unwinnable argument.

You'd be right :). It's probably impossible to reach a conclusive
position as well. However, the chances are that if something looks
funny and smells funny, it probably is funny. What I want to guard
against is zealotry. The free software ideology is 99% good but I can
also see some serious concerns about its long-term sustainability and
trampling down commercial alternatives is fine and good until they no
longer exist and are no longer bringing vast sums of new money into
the profession.

> I will only note
> that 'unsubsidised' is a rubbish criteria: this has nothing to do with
> our argument.

It has everything to do with it. Government subsidies are AFAICS the
only method free software has of creating real innovation. We spent
hundreds of years getting away from dependence on government to allow
private enterprise, and I think it a bad idea to return to that so
long as governments are structured the way they are.

> Look at Microsoft: everything they produce, apart from
> Windows and Office, is *hugely* subsidised. It's in the figures, you
> can go see them.

I know, I used to be a shareholder. And I agree a company as large as
Microsoft isn't good for software (neither was IBM). But this is a
completely different kind of subsidy - free software isn't subsidised
for pure motives, it's really publicly-owned bespoke solutions eg;
DARPA's funding of ReiserFS. There is next to no chance of pure blue-
sky research in free software, whereas if nothing else Microsoft's
many failed blue-sky projects show some effort is put that way with
the hope of first-to-market.

> Ditto the quality argument: Free Software does not
> prescribe love from developers, more peer review, or any of that.
> These are not the differentiating factors.

Oh come on now! You telling me free software isn't on average of much
higher quality than proprietary? I'm sorry, I just don't believe
that.

Quality in software has a direct correlation with user satisfaction.
If my absolutely critical Windows 2000 server crashes twice a year, I
will be much less happy than with a crash once every two years. Same
even goes with reading email, or browsing the web or indeed anything.

> > And it's precisely that reason that they still haven't succeeded ie;
> > because blue-sky stuff just doesn't sit well with free software. If
> > they'd set out to write the perfect functional clone (which is what
> > they have ended up doing anyway), their goal and ideology would have
> > been compatible.
>
> How is the Hurd a functional clone? I don't see that they have ended
> up doing that at all.

Read again: I said that's what they *should* have done and if they
had, they'd have succeeded like Linux has.

> I also don't see that your argument as presented
> the case that the Hurd has not "succeeded" because it's blue sky. Hurd
> development has been slow because there are not enough hackers working
> on it: it's pretty simple.

And why aren't there enough programmers on this project? Answer me
this one question straight, no mucking around. If you can answer this
without fufilling my logic regarding free software offputting
volunteers for radical ideas, well, we'll have made progress!

> > You should have read my words more closely. I said the Hurd was
> > innovative *in* *its* *time* but not really any more. RISC-OS was
> > extremely innovative in 1988, but it sure isn't today. Innovation is
> > 100% relative to the context it's in.
>
> That wasn't my argument. You pointed at RiscOS as being an example of
> something innovative (at whatever point in it's product life-cycle).
> Clearly, you are not holding it to the same "strongly growing ..
> unsubsidised .." etc. standards that you hold Free Software to -

No you're mixing and matching my arguments about totally separate
things to make it look like I'm saying something else - which isn't
productive. The strongly growing unsubsidised qualifications
exclusively referred to free software innovation. Obviously, every
commercial venture will subsidise any new programming project, it has
to and whether it's strongly growing is a matter of the speed of
development of the code, not how it sells.

> RiscOS was never strongly growing, never hugely profitable, and in
> fact gained most of it's market share on the back of the British
> Broadcasting Corporation monopoly on computing in schools.

All true, but it was still innovative in many ways because it did
things no one did at the time and indeed still can do quite a few
things hard to do today. I still use it occasionally in the form of
an emulator - just the find & replace tools in Zap are enough reason.

> Your point
> that use of the GPL "stifles blue-sky innovation" is clearly wrong, so
> you then use this "non-subsidised" device to make the argument
> unwinnable. All blue-sky innovation is subsidised: if you cannot
> afford the development fail, as a business person you must not do it.
> The risk with blue-sky is that it will probably fail, so you should
> expect to lose your money.

I see what you're saying but I'm afraid I have not been clear enough
in my arguments. I'm talking bigger pictures, over the space of
years. Quite simply, I'm asking the question: who will produce the
most radical innovation over twenty years? Free software or
proprietary?

My own conclusion is proprietary will tend to win, but for all the
wrong reasons. A third way could maximise it better than either.

> You seem to be interested in some fabled 'third way', which is very
> modern, but seems to me to be meaningless. Software is either free or
> not - in this sense, it's a very black and white issue. What you are
> talking about is trying to sugar-coat non-free software (or, in
> business-speak, 'increase it's value proposition').

No I'm talking about reversing the mistakes made in the conception of
software as IP. There is a huge difference between design and
implementation and the US multinationals chose it to be design. I say
I should be implementation, and leave the design alone and free.

Thus under my view software patents are boneheadedly stupid. Also
licensing software should be illegal - you should get what you pay
for, and that includes source. You should also get the right to
modify and redistribute with appropriate royalty payments.

> That's not
> something I suspect many people in this group would find particularly
> interesting, nor do I think it is innovative (cf. shared source,
> Borland's Delphi system, and numerous other software which have been
> distributed in the way you seem to propose).

I've not seen any guaranteeing right to produce derivative works.

> And ultimately, I don't
> see it being successful, because non-free software ultimately cannot
> compete with free software. Development practice, funding, etc. is all
> mostly irrelevant: when free software and non-free software compete,
> the free software tends to win. Third-way software depending on "free
> software development practice", "open source", etc., is no different
> to any other type of non-free software.

They cannot compete because free software is superior to the current
proprietary model. But no one can say what happens between a
/different/
proprietary model and free software.

In the end, IMHO free software gets 98% of the way there but it
causes me grave concern about long-term viability. There is a better
way, but we'll need (a) free software to become an extremely serious
threat to proprietary (b) a leading step-change product endorsing a
third way and (c) support from politicians in order to bring it
about.

Cheers,
Niall
Marcus Brinkmann
2002-12-01 19:20:00 UTC
Permalink
On Sun, Dec 01, 2002 at 07:54:47PM +0100, Niall Douglas wrote:
> > I personally think the Hurd is innovative, and I don't
> > see your reference to the NT kernel whatsoever (if it is like
> > anything, it is like OS/X in that it [currently] runs on Mach - it is
> > *very much* not like any other OS in terms of the daemonized
> > architecture).
>
> Daemons no but plugins yes. The NT kernel is quite extensible eg; it
> uses a unified namespace of which parts are provided by plugins eg;
> pipe manager, file system etc. Technically one could do much of what
> GNU Hurd can in NT - it's just Microsoft have chosen not to and
> indeed seem to actively have prevented anyone knowing much about it.

So there is your misunderstanding. The innovation in the Hurd lies in the
fact that users can do this extension, without asking Microsoft, or even the
system administrator, and without compromising the security of the rest of
the system. The Hurd is user extensible and replacable. And that is also
why it doesn't matter that the default personality of the Hurd is the POSIX
API (it matters so far as it makes it possible to reuse a lot of existing
software) - users who like another API better can just write that API and
add it to the system, reusing as much of the existing base as possible and
adding whatever is missing.

> Very few people know that file points in NTFS can hold multiple
> streams or run through a translator eg; reparse points which work
> like symbolic links, or zip files appear as directories etc. I agree
> that GNU Hurd is somewhat innovative, but it's been overtaken by time
> and history and the fault for that, in my opinion, lies squarely with
> the psychological consequences of free software.

Whatever that means, I disagree ;)

Thanks,
Marcus

--
`Rhubarb is no Egyptian god.' GNU http://www.gnu.org ***@gnu.org
Marcus Brinkmann The Hurd http://www.gnu.org/software/hurd/
***@ruhr-uni-bochum.de
http://www.marcus-brinkmann.de/
Niall Douglas
2002-12-01 19:48:44 UTC
Permalink
On 1 Dec 2002 at 20:20, Marcus Brinkmann wrote:

> > Daemons no but plugins yes. The NT kernel is quite extensible eg; it
> > uses a unified namespace of which parts are provided by plugins eg;
> > pipe manager, file system etc. Technically one could do much of what
> > GNU Hurd can in NT - it's just Microsoft have chosen not to and
> > indeed seem to actively have prevented anyone knowing much about it.
>
> So there is your misunderstanding. The innovation in the Hurd lies in
> the fact that users can do this extension, without asking Microsoft,
> or even the system administrator, and without compromising the
> security of the rest of the system.

But that's not innovation - that's merely a consequence of the Hurd
being "free" software. On a technical level, the two are capable of
similar functionality.

> The Hurd is user extensible and
> replacable. And that is also why it doesn't matter that the default
> personality of the Hurd is the POSIX API (it matters so far as it
> makes it possible to reuse a lot of existing software) - users who
> like another API better can just write that API and add it to the
> system, reusing as much of the existing base as possible and adding
> whatever is missing.

And indeed they'll have to in order to make serious use of the Hurd's
facilities. In fact, you could criticise Microsoft of the same
shortcoming because they chose to make the Win3.1 compatibility API
the default. From what I've seen of the NT internal API's, you could
expose a massive amount of power through them.

I agree the Hurd will eventually, in some years more from now, be an
excellent kernel. It will however be ten years later than it could
and perhaps should have been. It'll also be saddled with all this
existing software using the POSIX API just as Windows is saddled with
an ancient API. If they'd got the Hurd out five years ago, so much
less software would be crippled this way and thus making GNU the most
technically superior OS on the planet.

However, the whole thread of this point from me is why this didn't
happen and I feel there are fundamental sustainability flaws in the
"free" software ideology.

> > Very few people know that file points in NTFS can hold multiple
> > streams or run through a translator eg; reparse points which work
> > like symbolic links, or zip files appear as directories etc. I agree
> > that GNU Hurd is somewhat innovative, but it's been overtaken by
> > time and history and the fault for that, in my opinion, lies
> > squarely with the psychological consequences of free software.
>
> Whatever that means, I disagree ;)

:)

Well, let me write up my views and solution a bit like www.fsf.org
and then we'll have a centerpiece for venting of spleen!

Cheers,
Niall
Marcus Brinkmann
2002-12-01 20:44:05 UTC
Permalink
On Sun, Dec 01, 2002 at 08:48:44PM +0100, Niall Douglas wrote:
> On 1 Dec 2002 at 20:20, Marcus Brinkmann wrote:
>
> > > Daemons no but plugins yes. The NT kernel is quite extensible eg; it
> > > uses a unified namespace of which parts are provided by plugins eg;
> > > pipe manager, file system etc. Technically one could do much of what
> > > GNU Hurd can in NT - it's just Microsoft have chosen not to and
> > > indeed seem to actively have prevented anyone knowing much about it.
> >
> > So there is your misunderstanding. The innovation in the Hurd lies in
> > the fact that users can do this extension, without asking Microsoft,
> > or even the system administrator, and without compromising the
> > security of the rest of the system.
>
> But that's not innovation - that's merely a consequence of the Hurd
> being "free" software. On a technical level, the two are capable of
> similar functionality.

Another misunderstanding. "user" above means unprivileged user of the
system, ie a user that has not the user ID 0.

See, I am not on a mission here. If it's important for you to believe
that no innovation is possible in free software, you are entitled to your
opinion and I am not interested in challenging them (I will be interested
to see your upcoming proposal). I don't even care if you consider the
Hurd to be innovative, ex-innovative or not innovative at all. But, and I
insist on so much, on a technical level, it's different from Windows NT.
That all operating systems are capable of similar functionality is a trivia
(you only need to define "technical level", "capability", "similar" and
"functionality" conveniently enough).

[About the Hurd succeeding...]
> However, the whole thread of this point from me is why this didn't
> happen and I feel there are fundamental sustainability flaws in the
> "free" software ideology.

If you want to know why the Hurd didn't happen earlier, you also have to
look at the history of operating system development. Mach was only the
first generation of a microkernel, and it's far from perfect. That led to
a situation where the whole world turned away from microkernels and focussed
on monolithic kernel approaches, or at least single server systems. This
meant that microkernel research went into a depression, as well as its
application in industry. In fact, some people claimed that operating system
research is dead (http://www.cs.bell-labs.com/cm/cs/who/rob/utah2000.ps).
Now that the hype is over, hardware is a lot faster and
cheaper, and features that are naturally included in a well-designed
multi-server operating system become important for users, we have the chance
to take another look and "do it right". It's really a very classical hype
curve, and has nothing to do with free software at all.

Thanks,
Marcus

--
`Rhubarb is no Egyptian god.' GNU http://www.gnu.org ***@gnu.org
Marcus Brinkmann The Hurd http://www.gnu.org/software/hurd/
***@ruhr-uni-bochum.de
http://www.marcus-brinkmann.de/
Niall Douglas
2002-12-03 00:39:11 UTC
Permalink
On 1 Dec 2002 at 21:44, Marcus Brinkmann wrote:

> > > So there is your misunderstanding. The innovation in the Hurd
> > > lies in the fact that users can do this extension, without asking
> > > Microsoft, or even the system administrator, and without
> > > compromising the security of the rest of the system.
> >
> > But that's not innovation - that's merely a consequence of the Hurd
> > being "free" software. On a technical level, the two are capable of
> > similar functionality.
>
> Another misunderstanding. "user" above means unprivileged user of the
> system, ie a user that has not the user ID 0.

Ah I thought you meant user = human, not program.

> See, I am not on a mission here. If it's important for you to believe
> that no innovation is possible in free software, you are entitled to
> your opinion and I am not interested in challenging them (I will be
> interested to see your upcoming proposal). I don't even care if you
> consider the Hurd to be innovative, ex-innovative or not innovative at
> all. But, and I insist on so much, on a technical level, it's
> different from Windows NT. That all operating systems are capable of
> similar functionality is a trivia (you only need to define "technical
> level", "capability", "similar" and "functionality" conveniently
> enough).

Ok, returning to what I originally said, which is that it is somewhat
similar. Of course similarity is subjective, so what I might find
similar is not what you find similar but then again, you're so very
much closer to the code. I may not understand the GNU Hurd technical
descriptions and indeed it's entirely possible the NT kernel
technical descriptions are just plain wrong, but I personally doubt
both. Of course there are a number of things GNU Hurd does
differently than NT, but if I were to compare the current Linux
kernel against GNU Hurd and the NT kernel, I personally would say GNU
Hurd is more like NT than Linux.

And just for the record, I *do* think the GNU Hurd is innovative, and
indeed I have said just that here a number of times. I am very much
looking forward to seeing & using it when it becomes the de facto
kernel.

> If you want to know why the Hurd didn't happen earlier, you also have
> to look at the history of operating system development. Mach was only
> the first generation of a microkernel, and it's far from perfect.
> That led to a situation where the whole world turned away from
> microkernels and focussed on monolithic kernel approaches, or at least
> single server systems. This meant that microkernel research went into
> a depression, as well as its application in industry. In fact, some
> people claimed that operating system research is dead
> (http://www.cs.bell-labs.com/cm/cs/who/rob/utah2000.ps). Now that the
> hype is over, hardware is a lot faster and cheaper, and features that
> are naturally included in a well-designed multi-server operating
> system become important for users, we have the chance to take another
> look and "do it right". It's really a very classical hype curve, and
> has nothing to do with free software at all.

That is interesting, but I think that history is mostly relevent to
the Unix world. I'm not going to argue the point however, because
quite simply I don't know much about that period of time. If you say
that was the way it was, then I believe you.

Alex Hudson wrote:
> > > I don't think that's necessarily the case. Proprietary software
> > > tends to come to market fully-formed (i.e., developed already);
> > > Free Software isn't usually written and then marketed.
> >
> > Now I'll repeat myself, this time with hopefully more clarity.
> > Proprietary software tends to get money much earlier in its
> > development cycle because the workers need paying. Free software
> > tends to get money only once it's mostly complete and mature because
> > you can't sell something which isn't written yet.
>
> Here again you've missed what I said. I disagree with that fundamental
> assumption you make above. I'm not going to argue with the rest of
> what you say; there's not point, because I believe your assumptions
> are wrong. You state the above two points as if they were facts;
> they're not. Unless you are stating your opinion?

Right, we're finally making progress! Why didn't you just say my
assumptions are wrong?

Of course, anything not backed up by references and academic
statistics is going to be opinion and not fact, and indeed I'd say
even with references and statistics much will remain opinion. I had
thought the notion that free software attracts less money than
proprietary to be self-evident, but if you don't think so then I
suggest you look at all software created world-wide and look at where
the money goes. Why isn't RedHat in the position of Microsoft? Or are
we claiming that in not much more time, it will be?

Copious historical evidence would show that if you have money, you
can buy the best and the brightest of any speciality and get them to
do what you want. That means rich people tend to stay rich and indeed
get richer. Now if right now I had a few million in the bank and I
decided I'd like to design the perfect operating system, I could just
employ the best and make it happen. If I'm poor without a penny, then
the only people I can attract are volunteers, most of whom will have
their own wildly different ideas and so won't work with me.

People like working with what they know and best of all it's common
ground. For the opinions of the best future of any engineering,
you'll get wildly different options and traditionally it was the role
of management to choose one. Free software doesn't have management,
it has the democratic process - if two groups disagree, they'll fork
off their own version of the software and competition will determine
the winner. This is all good, but not for radical blue-sky ideas
because the further you get from the standard, the more widely
differing the opinions of the optimal become, and the more impossible
for a cohesive group to form.

I think my logic's correct, but I've used more assumptions. Please
tell me those you think wrong. It's basically the too many cooks
spoil the broth argument.

> > This is all true and I completely agree the patent system is not
> > perfect. However if you consider the world before patents, the
> > overall situation was worse.
>
> You're saying that the patent system was responsible for the end of
> the dark ages? I think most historians would argue literacy was, but..
> I don't see how patents were a cure for anything. They were, and are,
> purely a device for making money, the 'fosters innovation' argument is
> tenuous.

Umm, never said it ended the dark ages and I would point to italian
politics and protestantism as being the key to the end of the dark
ages, not literacy (which other cultures had and have, but it doesn't
help them).

Of course patents are there to make money, but more specifically to
create an entrepreneurial spirit. The average guy on the street
probably invents something new every week, but if there's no
incentive to spread their ideas then they won't spread. Now I'm the
first to say the current IP system is crap, but before you throw the
baby out with the bathwater you have to look at what happened before
they were introduced: big companies stole ideas from startups and
could drive competition into the ground by producing a clone with
much lower overhead. This discourages the startup, thus never
challenging the big company and thus creating a monopoly.

The precise reason the IBM's and Microsoft's of this world can exist
is because these checks and balances are broken for software. What is
the case for a physical device (materials, manufacturing time,
processes etc.) is completely different to software (almost nil cost
for replication) and the original mistake made was to make software
equal IP design whereas in fact it's IP implementation.

> I suspect we have different experience (you mentioned the military).
> In my experience, especially in modern times, companies are very
> unwilling to give up 'IP', especially if it's something they can go on
> to develop further.

Yeah the military gets these notions of them being unable to get bugs
fixed during war. Such a thought always makes me smile, because if
they wouldn't use COTS they'd be helping themselves a lot there. I
actually proposed once that we make the entire solution on FreeBSD
and literally they looked scared :)

> > That is entirely possible, and of course I know the proprietary
> > range much better than the free one. However I came at this point
> > from the basis of logical theory and then looked for evidence to
> > disprove it. So far, I have not found any.
>
> But, what I'm saying is that I don't think you have set out any case
> by which you can disprove it. For a start, trying to disprove
> something is exactly the wrong way to go about things...

Well that's what the logical theory books also say, but I'd wonder
how many people really ever start with a tabula rasa?

> In your responses to my examples, the first was a question (e.g.,
> 'maybe' :), one was an example demonstrating you don't realise what's
> 'wow' about the Hurd, and the third was arguably a straw man (rather
> than argue that Apache 2.0 multiprotocol support isn't innovative, you
> argued that developers are inherently conservative and hence a project
> couldn't be innovative). I can't read your examples any other way.
> Personally, I believe this to be bias on your part. Of course, since
> it is an unwinnable argument, neither of us is correct.

No I think it's partially that I'm not explaining myself. Basically,
I'm working from a belief that a complete ground-up redesign and
total rethink from basic principles every five years is a very good
thing for software.

Now I don't see much of this in the free software community, at least
not much with a lot of volunteer energy behind it. I do see more in
the proprietary world, because they're making long-term bets.

I know Microsoft, AT&T and IBM all have done ground-up rethinks, many
of them. Whatever we all may have against them for whatever reason,
surely we can agree more radical blue-sky (ie; ground-up
reconceptions) work is done in the proprietary world?

> > It has everything to do with it. Government subsidies are AFAICS the
> > only method free software has of creating real innovation.
>
> Why is business subsidy impossible? If we're arguing about subsidy,
> subsidy is a method that pays for Free Software before it can come to
> market - precisely how you compain Free Software is funded :/

Because business or government subsidies of this form aren't
entrepreneurial - they're effectively service payments. While they
could be entrepreneurial, it isn't likely because once released,
someone else can run away with their investment.

> > DARPA's funding of ReiserFS. There is next to no chance of pure
> > blue- sky research in free software, whereas if nothing else
> > Microsoft's many failed blue-sky projects show some effort is put
> > that way with the hope of first-to-market.
>
> Nautilus is a great example of a blue-sky project that failed. And
> unless you used Eazel services, please don't tell me it wasn't
> innovative :p

I looked around, but couldn't find much about Nautilus except that it
was a file manager for GNOME. I note with interest it failed to
secure additional funds and so failed, which reinforces my point I
think (though I'm sure you'll say KDE was more to blame).

> I personally believe a lot of the Hurd is *very* blue
> sky - in the vm example I gave you, I think it's highly innovative for
> processes to manage their own memory needs without requiring ring 0
> CPU access. And this isn't old; this is new Hurd innovation.

For the umpteenth time, I *do* think the Hurd is blue sky and
innovative, just not as much as it was five or ten years ago. I keep
repeating this, but no one's understanding. Go back and check the
emails, I *have* said this.

> > Oh come on now! You telling me free software isn't on average of
> > much higher quality than proprietary? I'm sorry, I just don't
> > believe that.
>
> No, that's not what I'm saying, although I'm not necessarily agreeing
> with you. I'm saying that Free Software isn't necessarily of high
> quality. There's a difference there. If something is Free Software, it
> doesn't gain peer review because it's free. It gains peer review
> because people are interested in it.

*And* because people have access to its source.

> Free Software is not a
> development model, and hence cannot affect the quality of software.

You're wrong here, free software strongly influences a development
model and IMHO, that influence produces better quality results.

> Free Software tends to be more pervasive, yes, but I'm not convinced
> that software + more developers = better software (mythical man month,
> and all that jazz..)

The calibre of a programmer wanting to volunteer their time for no
fiscal reward tends to be much higher. If you've seen some of the
people coming out with degrees nowadays, you'll know the average
calibre programmer is pretty low but that's basically because of lot
of them take the degree not because they like the subject, but
because it has guaranteed jobs.

> Hurd not attracting programmers? I think it's to do with a number of
> factors, but you'd be 100 times better asking this question of Marcus,
> or anyone else with more than 10 minutes use of the Hurd (like me ;).
> I think one reason is that there aren't many hackers with enough
> low-level hardware knowledge/PC boot knowledge to go around.

That's understandable, it's nasty.

> The main
> reason is probably that it's a system people don't have much knowledge
> of - Linus had Andy Tanenbaum's book, for example, new hurd developers
> have much less documentation to go on, and obviously less relevant
> experience because it's such an innovative project. I also think that
> the FSF/GNU puts off a lot of people, because they don't understand
> the organisation.

These are all points I made ...

> Ah, so you are holding Free Software to specific standards that a
> "commercial" (proprietary) venture isn't held to. You state you think
> Free Software is always commercialised as a mature project (e.g.,
> subsidised), you also state "every commercial venture will subsidise
> any new programming project", but then you say to your standards free
> software innovation has to be unsubsidised for it to count. If that's
> not what you mean, I apologise, but I'm sorry, that's how it reads.

That is what I mean. I am holding them to different standards because
they are two totally different beasts. One is all about primarily
generating profit whereas the other is primarily about generating
software. It's in the nature of proprietary to subsidise new works
whereas it's not in the nature of "free" software - there it's a case
of enough enthusiasm pointing the same direction.

> > Quite simply, I'm asking the question: who will produce the
> > most radical innovation over twenty years? Free software or
> > proprietary?
> I would go back to my point on competition: if innovation were
> possible, and it was desirable (from a consumer's point of view), and
> only proprietary software was capable of delivering sustained
> innovation, then proprietary software would be able to out-compete
> Free Software because it would be able to out-innovate it.

You're not quite right there: proprietary will only innovate when
it's more profitable to do so. Free software will trickle-innovate as
part of its nature.

I think it's a question of two points: do you believe complete
rethinks are good for software? If so, how many naturally occur in
either proprietary or free?

I say more happens in proprietary.

> Well, clearly you are arguing for something non-free, although I doubt
> you dispute that. I personally don't see a workable legal basis for
> what you describe, even if it were desirable: the only means I can
> think of make it equivilent to shared-source, which is not better than
> what we have. I would like to see what it is you propse, merely out of
> interest :)

The link should be posted shortly.

> What you describe just sounds like non-free software, to me. And it
> will suffer an inability to complete, just like current non-free
> software.

Oh you're right, it is non-free. But it's also free. You'll see.

MJ Ray wrote:
> > No, but money arrives to GPL projects much later (and less of it)
> > than to commercial so therefore proving my point.
>
> [etc etc ad inf... the above is just a typical quote]
>
> Please, stop waving your hands and bring up numbers. If you have, I
> apologise but I missed them in the volume of email, so could you point
> me towards them?

No I have no numbers whatsoever! And I do apologise if I'm boring
people. Hopefully above I've explained why I'm making the assumptions
I have.

> Also, you still seem to be stuck in the conventional software models
> despite accusing others of wearing blinkers. Please help me resolve
> the apparent contradictions in your reply. Concise clear replies to
> each thread individually in turn might make your writing less
> confusing.

Well I wasn't wanting to be filling the list with my replies, so I
was keeping them all in the one reply. I fully understand the free
software business model (it's a service), it's just (a) I don't
believe it makes much money (b) it isn't good long-term for software.

I know many in here will prefer the model of software writing being a
service. I disagree and think it should remain manufacturing - if
anything, Maggie Thatcher showed us why the service industry isn't so
hot.

> Of course, you may not care whether anyone else understands your
> thoughts. If that is the case, please disregard my grumble.

Well like most people, I'd prefer to think at least someone
understands me :)

> > Proprietary software tends to get money much earlier in its
> > development cycle because the workers need paying.
>
> This does not change for free software if you are developing it
> commercially.

I think it does. Capital goes where it can make the most profit, and
free software does not make much profit therefore it's a bad
investment.

If you make software construction a service industry, then money must
regularly come in because it becomes a running cost. However this is
bad long-term, because then we directly compete against the third
world. This is a very very bad idea because they'll trounce us - they
can do the same work, but cheaper.

The best long-term option is to maintain ourselves as an innovation-
based entrepreneurial manufacturing industry.

Simo Sorce wrote:
> > Now I'll repeat myself, this time with hopefully more clarity.
> > Proprietary software tends to get money much earlier in its
> > development cycle because the workers need paying. Free software
> > tends to get money only once it's mostly complete and mature because
> > you can't sell something which isn't written yet.
>
> There's no proof of this theory.
> It's your idea.

I think economic theory is on my side here. We may not like
capitalism, but it is the system.

> > The only source of
> > substantial funding for infant free software is government grants,
> > and those really are bespoke.
>
> It is the same for "real" blue-sky wannabe proprietary software.
> I know no company that invest money on a project that need many years
> of development. They all depend on previous governmental university
> research.

That's strange, because I know of many companies who have invested
years in a completely new product designed to take over after their
current one.

I do agree most blue-sky research is done in collaboration with a
university so that a company may get the government to pay for some
of the work, and I personally think it's the worse for it.

> Tell me of a real "blue-sky" project that was completely developed and
> funded by a company and that involved a substantial amount of
> innovation that made it something completely different from what there
> were before.

Ok, there's one that I know well, which is ARX from Acorn. There's no
doubt it was mold-breaking in its day, and indeed perhaps it was
overly so since it ran out of cash and they had to go make RISC-OS in
six months. Nevertheless, RISC-OS reused much of the innovative stuff
written for ARX eg; font manager, filing systems. However, had ARX
survived, it had a memory-protected preemptive multitasker and the
entire system was written in a form of object Pascal. It should have
been superior to Amiga's WorkBench which did some pretty innovative
things on a home computer.

I would also say DEC VMS was pretty innovative, and the NT kernel
does things nothing else in production use before it did. Lastly, and
I know people will disagree, but what Apple has done with MacOS X is
precisely the kind of venture project proprietary software can
produce - when a company's looking at death, it can be motivated to
spend on some really radical ideas. There isn't an analogy in free
software, because a developer can't really die like a company can
(not with the scale of loss to the board of executives anyway).

> I think you will not find out much, as proprietary software is tied
> much more to wide public acceptance and so imitate much more what
> already exist.

I'd strongly disagree with that. There isn't the same raw survival
instinct or entrepreneurism in free software.

> The real big innovation of the last 2 decades was the net, and it was
> not made by companies with a proprietary model, or it would have gone
> nowhere (see IPX, DECnet, SNA ...).

Object orientation? Virtual Machines? Wireless communications? The
list goes on and on. Conversely, the internet is more or less the
same as DARPA had it (which precisely why it has technical problems).
The proprietary alternatives couldn't win because the owners had
vested interests in their technology which prevented their wide
acceptance eg; like with minidiscs.

> > And that's my problem with free software - it is not long-term self-
> > sustainable because it cannot encourage entrepreneurs except those
> > making money off the back of selling other people's work. This is
> > bad (in the long-term) for software and hence society.
>
> Unproven, and misleading, imho. Why selling other people work's should
> affect software production? I see no connection, is like saying that
> if bakers didn't existed bread will have never be done.

I never said it affected production. I said it affected innovation. I
also said it discourages entrepreneurial investment.

> Software is a service, you do not need to sell it as a box to make a
> living, there are many ways people live with free software providing
> services.

No it bloody well is not - it's a manufactured product. It's
precisely that kind of dangerous thinking which is taking us to a
very dark world indeed where every algorithm is patented and the
third world writes all the software while we're all out of jobs.

Just because a product can be replicated for near zero cost doesn't
remove its high design and first copy implementation cost. Software
is a manufactured product. Software *support* is part service part
manufacturing like say a plumber is.

It is *not* a service and it's very very dangerous to think of it
that way.

> I think you go wow because you know not much free software and tend to
> think (as many): "oh dear how do unpaid(?) people manage to produce a
> so useful software?" While for a proprietary software you give as
> datum that an overpaid software must have quality and you look only at
> features.

I would take exception to you saying that about me. I have offered no
evidence to support this conclusion of yours and in fact I find it
offensive. You are merely labelling me with your preconceptions
because I don't 100% agree with what you think is your dogma.

I have always judged software purely on its technical merits without
regard to cost, who wrote it, if it came from a terrorist country or
whatever.

Furthermore I think you'll find I have released a great deal of my
own software for free over the years. And I don't mean GPL, I mean
completely free.

> > Daemons no but plugins yes. The NT kernel is quite extensible eg; it
> > uses a unified namespace of which parts are provided by plugins eg;
> > pipe manager, file system etc. Technically one could do much of what
> > GNU Hurd can in NT - it's just Microsoft have chosen not to and
> > indeed seem to actively have prevented anyone knowing much about it.
>
> No, no, no, please can you try to document yourself before making
> assumptions?

Very hard to do regarding NT as so much of it is undocumented.

> The Hurd is completely different, they are indeed based on a
> microkernel architecture, but here where the similarities end.
>
> We speak of daemons not of plugins for a real valid difference:
> in hurd you can plug in a new filesystem as user of the system, you do
> not need to be root to do that, and this is something NT kernel, nor
> any other classic kernel can do.

So the filing system executes in user space rather than kernel mode?
I don't see the ground-shattering significance.

My original point in all this was about *similarity* ie; how
similarly structured are the two? I said somewhat similar and so far
everyone here has said completely different without saying why. So
really, you're all just as guilty of not backing up points as much as
I am!

> If you honestly answer these questions you will see that proprietary
> software is conservative as well, and that there has not been much
> innovation in this industry besides the success of Free Software.

I agree, but then all fields of human endeavour tend to be
conservative. The difference is that proprietary spends a small sum
every year on the really radical stuff as a long-term bet and I can't
see an equivalent in free. Also proprietary companies can become very
radical when they are starting at bankruptcy and I again can't see an
equivalent in free. Lastly, proprietary has some entrepreneurism
whereas free has very little.

> Well, there's always need
> for new software, everything need software nowadays and any new
> product or process need new software or need to adapt existing one,
> I'm sure developers will have a job in future in a free software
> world.

Capitalism works squarely around growth. If you're growing, all is
well. If not, all is bad. That is capitalism. What you are proposing
is we reduce the drive for growth within our industry which in the
long-term means less jobs, lower income, higher profits for the
multinationals and less innovation.

I personally think capitalism is a doomed system, but I at least know
its first principles. There are some excellent books on capitalism
eg; R.H.Tawney's Religion and the Rise of Capitalism along with why
it's doomed by Fritjof Capra.

> No, "on average" it is not better than proprietary.
> Quality is not something inherent to free software, a license cannot
> change the quality of the software by magic. Go and look at
> sourceforge and see. You will find very good software and very poor
> software, I'm not sure about the average.

I'm sorry, in my experience this is not true - free software is of
higher quality, just the same way as RISC-OS software was generally
of a very high quality due to its homebrewed nature. Philosophies
directly affect quality, not just in software but in all areas of
life eg; fascist governments tend to increase quality, communism
tends to decrease it.

> look at the last 20 years of free software and think that now people
> producing free software has increased at exponential rates.. go
> figure!

Only because the current proprietary model is so crap. A different
one would
draw a lot more people back to it because people are selfish.

> > and (c) support from politicians in order to bring it
> > about.
>
> We are seeing support here in Europe

Really? Then why are software patents in Europe being even talked
about?
Why are there fast track visas for software programmers? Why is there
a singular resistence to broadband? What about the RIP acts being
instigated all over Europe?

Sorry, I don't agree. We're just as screwed as anyone else without
donation funds.

Cheers,
Niall
MJ Ray
2002-12-03 23:58:01 UTC
Permalink
Niall Douglas <***@nedprod.com> wrote:
> Right, we're finally making progress! Why didn't you just say my
> assumptions are wrong?
>
> [...] I had
> thought the notion that free software attracts less money than
> proprietary to be self-evident, but if you don't think so then I
> suggest you look at all software created world-wide and look at where
> the money goes.

Now, divide the profit by your favourite metric of market size, please.

> Why isn't RedHat in the position of Microsoft? Or are
> we claiming that in not much more time, it will be?

Because RedHat are not in the monopoly position?

> Copious historical evidence would show that if you have money, you
> can buy the best and the brightest of any speciality and get them to
> do what you want. That means rich people tend to stay rich and indeed
> get richer.

Erm, I think you'll find copious historical evidence will point to frequent
structural changes and disturbances. If you are attempting to say that we
much never try to bring about such things, then you hold a strange opinion.

[...]
> That is what I mean. I am holding them to different standards because
> they are two totally different beasts. One is all about primarily
> generating profit whereas the other is primarily about generating
> software. It's in the nature of proprietary to subsidise new works
> whereas it's not in the nature of "free" software - there it's a case
> of enough enthusiasm pointing the same direction.

I think I found the absurdity: do I win a prize? You seem to be using tests
whose outcome depends on your beliefs in order to back up your beliefs.
This is a feedback loop, surely?

[...]
> Well I wasn't wanting to be filling the list with my replies, so I
> was keeping them all in the one reply.

No. It breaks threading and makes the discussion difficult to follow. I am
sorry, but this conversation is not about who can write the most in the
fewest messages. Please stop this thread-mangling, else it will look like
you are trying to deliberately confuse people and some will not strain to
read your replies.

> I fully understand the free
> software business model (it's a service), it's just (a) I don't
> believe it makes much money (b) it isn't good long-term for software.

1. There is no *the* free software business model;

2. I believe your beliefs are forming your beliefs again.

[...]
> I think it does. Capital goes where it can make the most profit, and
> free software does not make much profit therefore it's a bad
> investment.

Once again, I suspect you have no basis in fact for this? Ethical
investment (and I believe that free software is more ethical) has
outperformed profit-chasing investment in the last ten years (based on a
comparison of managed investment funds).

[...]
> The best long-term option is to maintain ourselves as an innovation-
> based entrepreneurial manufacturing industry.

Nothing in that statement requires proprietary software.

MJR
Alex Hudson
2002-12-01 21:10:03 UTC
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On Sun, 2002-12-01 at 18:54, Niall Douglas wrote:
> No I must disagree. All law can be said to be the grease between the=20
> cogs of society and it is no more so in commercial enterprise. If you=20
> compare the illegal drug black market (which is an example of=20
> partially unregulated capitalism) with the sanitised version we're=20
> legally allowed practice, then it is clear laws define a marketplace.

Sure, but there needs to be a clear need for the law. The default is
that the law doesn't exist. Your reasoning for some shared source scheme
appears to be along the lines of "I like source code". Generally, the
more specific the law, the worse it is. Eg., your example of the law
"saying no one may make a copy of some software for a friend" doesn't
exist: copyright is a very general law, not specifically software
related.

> Never said any of that! Really! This list seems to constantly misread=20
> and misquote my arguments! I will assume it is because I am not being=20
> clear enough, nevertheless no other list I'm on does this so it seems=20
> odd.

You were the one who differentiated between "distributing" and
"distributing for profit" - I was making the point that I was making no
such differentiation, and in fact doesn't make sense when reading it the
way you outlined. I don't think I'm misreading you.

> > I don't think that's necessarily the case. Proprietary software
> > tends to come to market fully-formed (i.e., developed already);
> > Free Software isn't usually written and then marketed.
>=20
> Now I'll repeat myself, this time with hopefully more clarity.=20
> Proprietary software tends to get money much earlier in its=20
> development cycle because the workers need paying. Free software=20
> tends to get money only once it's mostly complete and mature because=20
> you can't sell something which isn't written yet.

Here again you've missed what I said. I disagree with that fundamental
assumption you make above. I'm not going to argue with the rest of what
you say; there's not point, because I believe your assumptions are
wrong. You state the above two points as if they were facts; they're
not. Unless you are stating your opinion?=20

> > Anyhow, it's arguable whether the above is the case anyway: I suspect
> > a contractor re-using GPL on a bespoke, proprietary, development is a
> > licence violation, pure and simple. I can't see otherwise.
>=20
> Depends entirely on what is called "distribution". It can be argued=20
> that a privately funded venture to produce some bespoke solution=20
> involves no distribution.

No, I don't think that's what it depends on. Privacy is only allowed
within an organisation, or for a person. A contractor working for a
company is not part of that organisation (this is fairly clear in
copyright law, I think), so for them to give some customised GPL
software to the company they work for means they must distribute under
the terms of the GPL or it's a violation.

> This is all true and I completely agree the patent system is not=20
> perfect. However if you consider the world before patents, the=20
> overall situation was worse.

You're saying that the patent system was responsible for the end of the
dark ages? I think most historians would argue literacy was, but.. I
don't see how patents were a cure for anything. They were, and are,
purely a device for making money, the 'fosters innovation' argument is
tenuous.

> Obviously implicit in the definition of "innovation" is a strong=20
> subjective quality.

Well, indeed :o)

> > Proprietary software has wham-factor; Free Software tends not to.
>=20
> That would depend. Free software tends to be much more powerful in=20
> non-obvious ways. I go "wow" much more often with free software than=20
> with mainstream commercial.

If it's not obvious, it's not wham-factor. I think you prove my point :)
Proprietary software has the capability to blow people away. I don't
think Free Software can do that. Not because it doesn't reach the same
heights, but because people see the ascent. A little like mathematics: a
result is far more impressive when you see the proof, but not the
scaffolding. Proofs tend to be polished, and 'elegant': but of course,
that's not how the mathematician got there :) =09

> In my experience all rights get transferred to the purchaser who can=20
> theoretically take out a support contract with someone else. They=20
> never do, but they can.

I suspect we have different experience (you mentioned the military). In
my experience, especially in modern times, companies are very unwilling
to give up 'IP', especially if it's something they can go on to develop
further.

> > You produce your criteria - possibly with examples of proprietary
> > software that fulfils the criteria? - and maybe someone will knock
> > them down for you.=20
>=20
> That is entirely possible, and of course I know the proprietary range=20
> much better than the free one. However I came at this point from the=20
> basis of logical theory and then looked for evidence to disprove it.=20
> So far, I have not found any.

But, what I'm saying is that I don't think you have set out any case by
which you can disprove it. For a start, trying to disprove something is
exactly the wrong way to go about things...

In your responses to my examples, the first was a question (e.g.,
'maybe' :), one was an example demonstrating you don't realise what's
'wow' about the Hurd, and the third was arguably a straw man (rather
than argue that Apache 2.0 multiprotocol support isn't innovative, you
argued that developers are inherently conservative and hence a project
couldn't be innovative). I can't read your examples any other way.
Personally, I believe this to be bias on your part. Of course, since it
is an unwinnable argument, neither of us is correct.

> > I will only note that 'unsubsidised' is a rubbish criteria: this has=20
> > nothing to do with our argument.
>=20
> It has everything to do with it. Government subsidies are AFAICS the=20
> only method free software has of creating real innovation.

Why is business subsidy impossible? If we're arguing about subsidy,
subsidy is a method that pays for Free Software before it can come to
market - precisely how you compain Free Software is funded :/

> DARPA's funding of ReiserFS. There is next to no chance of pure blue-
> sky research in free software, whereas if nothing else Microsoft's=20
> many failed blue-sky projects show some effort is put that way with=20
> the hope of first-to-market.

Nautilus is a great example of a blue-sky project that failed. And
unless you used Eazel services, please don't tell me it wasn't
innovative :p I personally believe a lot of the Hurd is *very* blue sky
- in the vm example I gave you, I think it's highly innovative for
processes to manage their own memory needs without requiring ring 0 CPU
access. And this isn't old; this is new Hurd innovation.=20

> > Ditto the quality argument: Free Software does not
> > prescribe love from developers, more peer review, or any of that.
> > These are not the differentiating factors.
>=20
> Oh come on now! You telling me free software isn't on average of much=20
> higher quality than proprietary? I'm sorry, I just don't believe=20
> that.

No, that's not what I'm saying, although I'm not necessarily agreeing
with you. I'm saying that Free Software isn't necessarily of high
quality. There's a difference there. If something is Free Software, it
doesn't gain peer review because it's free. It gains peer review because
people are interested in it. Free Software is not a development model,
and hence cannot affect the quality of software. Free Software tends to
be more pervasive, yes, but I'm not convinced that software + more
developers =3D better software (mythical man month, and all that jazz..)

> And why aren't there enough programmers on this project? Answer me=20
> this one question straight, no mucking around. If you can answer this=20
> without fufilling my logic regarding free software offputting=20
> volunteers for radical ideas, well, we'll have made progress!

Hurd not attracting programmers? I think it's to do with a number of
factors, but you'd be 100 times better asking this question of Marcus,
or anyone else with more than 10 minutes use of the Hurd (like me ;). I
think one reason is that there aren't many hackers with enough low-level
hardware knowledge/PC boot knowledge to go around. The main reason is
probably that it's a system people don't have much knowledge of - Linus
had Andy Tanenbaum's book, for example, new hurd developers have much
less documentation to go on, and obviously less relevant experience
because it's such an innovative project. I also think that the FSF/GNU
puts off a lot of people, because they don't understand the
organisation. I think the Open Source split was damaging to the free
software movement. I think Hurd was too isolated; I think they have made
a lot more progress with the Debian infrastructure in place. There are a
huge number of reasons, but I don't believe it was because the Hurd is
radical (except, of course, that lack of relevant experience slows
hacking).

> No you're mixing and matching my arguments about totally separate=20
> things to make it look like I'm saying something else - which isn't=20
> productive. The strongly growing unsubsidised qualifications=20
> exclusively referred to free software innovation.

Ah, so you are holding Free Software to specific standards that a
"commercial" (proprietary) venture isn't held to. You state you think
Free Software is always commercialised as a mature project (e.g.,
subsidised), you also state "every commercial venture will subsidise any
new programming project", but then you say to your standards free
software innovation has to be unsubsidised for it to count. If that's
not what you mean, I apologise, but I'm sorry, that's how it reads.

> I see what you're saying but I'm afraid I have not been clear enough=20
> in my arguments. I'm talking bigger pictures, over the space of=20
> years. Quite simply, I'm asking the question: who will produce the=20
> most radical innovation over twenty years? Free software or=20
> proprietary?

Well, let's take this is as the basic argument then. Free Software is
certainly old enough for there to be established examples which would
point one way or another.=20

I would go back to my point on competition: if innovation were possible,
and it was desirable (from a consumer's point of view), and only
proprietary software was capable of delivering sustained innovation,
then proprietary software would be able to out-compete Free Software
because it would be able to out-innovate it.=20

Now, I don't believe that has happened, and given the current evidence
of it not happening, I don't see that it will happen. So, if it's not
the case that Free Software can compete on innovation, it must be one of
my other assumptions that is faulty: that it's a) possible or b)
desirable. Potentially, I would argue on point a). I suspect you would
say that perhaps relatively, it is not as desirable in the short-term as
(say) TCO, and hence gets swamped by other factors. I'm not sure it
matters, whatever argument is put forward: it is enough that Free
Software succeeds; your goal that it is also as-innovative is your goal
;)

> Thus under my view software patents are boneheadedly stupid.=20

Hooray :o)

> Also licensing software should be illegal - you should get what you pay=20
> for, and that includes source. You should also get the right to=20
> modify and redistribute with appropriate royalty payments.

Well, clearly you are arguing for something non-free, although I doubt
you dispute that. I personally don't see a workable legal basis for what
you describe, even if it were desirable: the only means I can think of
make it equivilent to shared-source, which is not better than what we
have. I would like to see what it is you propse, merely out of interest
:)

> > interesting, nor do I think it is innovative (cf. shared source,
> > Borland's Delphi system, and numerous other software which have been
> > distributed in the way you seem to propose).
>=20
> I've not seen any guaranteeing right to produce derivative works.

All Delphi programs are derivative works... ? Royalty-free too, comes
with source.. still non-free tho'

What you describe just sounds like non-free software, to me. And it will
suffer an inability to complete, just like current non-free software.=20

Cheers,

Alex.


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MJ Ray
2002-12-02 00:04:22 UTC
Permalink
Niall Douglas <***@nedprod.com> wrote:
> Proprietary software tends to get money much earlier in its
> development cycle because the workers need paying.

This does not change for free software if you are developing it
commercially.

> Free software tends to get money only once it's mostly complete and mature
> because you can't sell something which isn't written yet. The only source
> of substantial funding for infant free software is government grants, and
> those really are bespoke.

And this is untrue, I believe. I'll work more on disproving it later.

[...]
> In the contracts I've worked upon, it's explicitly written that all
> rights become the purchaser's. Could be a military thing though.

I think it probably is. Normally, it is negotiable.

MJR
Simo Sorce
2002-12-02 09:57:14 UTC
Permalink
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On Sun, 2002-12-01 at 19:54, Niall Douglas wrote:

> Now I'll repeat myself, this time with hopefully more clarity.=20
> Proprietary software tends to get money much earlier in its=20
> development cycle because the workers need paying. Free software=20
> tends to get money only once it's mostly complete and mature because=20
> you can't sell something which isn't written yet.

There's no proof of this theory.
It's your idea.

> The only source of=20
> substantial funding for infant free software is government grants,=20
> and those really are bespoke.

It is the same for "real" blue-sky wannabe proprietary software.
I know no company that invest money on a project that need many years of
development. They all depend on previous governmental university
research.

Tell me of a real "blue-sky" project that was completely developed and
funded by a company and that involved a substantial amount of innovation
that made it something completely different from what there were before.

I think you will not find out much, as proprietary software is tied much
more to wide public acceptance and so imitate much more what already
exist.

The real big innovation of the last 2 decades was the net, and it was
not made by companies with a proprietary model, or it would have gone
nowhere (see IPX, DECnet, SNA ...).


> And that's my problem with free software - it is not long-term self-
> sustainable because it cannot encourage entrepreneurs except those=20
> making money off the back of selling other people's work. This is bad=20
> (in the long-term) for software and hence society.

Unproven, and misleading, imho. Why selling other people work's should
affect software production? I see no connection, is like saying that if
bakers didn't existed bread will have never be done.

Software is a service, you do not need to sell it as a box to make a
living, there are many ways people live with free software providing
services.


> On 30 Nov 2002 at 22:48, Alex Hudson wrote:
> > Proprietary software has wham-factor; Free Software tends not to.
>=20
> That would depend. Free software tends to be much more powerful in=20
> non-obvious ways. I go "wow" much more often with free software than=20
> with mainstream commercial.

I think you go wow because you know not much free software and tend to
think (as many): "oh dear how do unpaid(?) people manage to produce a so
useful software?"
While for a proprietary software you give as datum that an overpaid
software must have quality and you look only at features.

> In the contracts I've worked upon, it's explicitly written that all=20
> rights become the purchaser's. Could be a military thing though.

This is a position in favour of free software actually, as you can give
all the rights the customer need (she can legally modify and keep
working the software) and let you stay the software owner.

> That is entirely possible, and of course I know the proprietary range=20
> much better than the free one. However I came at this point from the=20
> basis of logical theory and then looked for evidence to disprove it.=20
> So far, I have not found any.

The problem is that you start from unproven axioms.
You can derive any logic if you also decide and model what is the
background over your idea.
This way of thinking has been hopefully be abandoned when Galileo
Galilei introduced the scientific method ;-)

> > Personally, I don't see any proprietary replacement for Mosix, for
> > example, I guess one probably exists somewhere, but unlikely to be as
> > well developed.
>=20
> Surely Cray have something?

Well if this is the way you answer any objection I also have an answer
for you:

Surely Free Software is viable in someway ....

To answer your question, no cray has a whole different way to conceive
parallelization (a much more effective for it's goals indeed, but
different)

> Daemons no but plugins yes. The NT kernel is quite extensible eg; it=20
> uses a unified namespace of which parts are provided by plugins eg;=20
> pipe manager, file system etc. Technically one could do much of what=20
> GNU Hurd can in NT - it's just Microsoft have chosen not to and=20
> indeed seem to actively have prevented anyone knowing much about it.

No, no, no, please can you try to document yourself before making
assumptions?

The Hurd is completely different, they are indeed based on a microkernel
architecture, but here where the similarities end.

We speak of daemons not of plugins for a real valid difference:
in hurd you can plug in a new filesystem as user of the system, you do
not need to be root to do that, and this is something NT kernel, nor any
other classic kernel can do.

> Very few people know that file points in NTFS can hold multiple=20
> streams or run through a translator eg; reparse points which work=20
> like symbolic links, or zip files appear as directories etc.

You can do the same with the linux kernel by modifing a file system.
You can do the same on a samba server by making a vfs plugin, where is
innovation here?
streams are part of different OSs since a lot of time, and the same can
be said for vfs plugin methods, where's innovation here?

> I agree=20
> that GNU Hurd is somewhat innovative, but it's been overtaken by time=20
> and history and the fault for that, in my opinion, lies squarely with=20
> the psychological consequences of free software.

No the fault of that is that there is no fault.
Real innovative blue-sky software need TIME to be built, and also proper
conditions to be accepted be it free software or proprietary.

> > Even Apache - with the 2.0 multiprotocol support - is doing things
> > found no-where else in the industry. I disagree with the cloning
> > thing. If Free Software were only cloning, proprietary software could
> > keep ahead by innovating. That concept has been killed dead by the
> > fact that Free Software competes, betters and stays far out ahead (see
> > Apache, for example). This isn't about being energetic, as you said -
> > it's about being innovative.
>=20
> Apache, like KDE is coming from a strong existing base. Well-known=20
> and respected programmers within each project then posit their views=20
> on best future direction and democracy chooses the best path.
>=20
> Unfortunately, it will tend to choose a path most comfortable to the=20
> most developers. This will tend to be conservative and not overly=20
> radical. Thus returning me to my original point of not encouraging=20
> innovation.

It's the same in proprietary software, you are telling us nothing that
applies specifically to free software. Proprietary software tend to be
as conservative as it can too, and innovate only in lock in methods in
my experience. And I can prove that, what proprietary OS is currently
widely used? Which is the one that won? How much was it innovative? How
many proprietary software companies tried to build blue-sky innovation
in OS field? How many survived?

If you honestly answer these questions you will see that proprietary
software is conservative as well, and that there has not been much
innovation in this industry besides the success of Free Software.

If you want to be accepted in the market and succeed you have to be
conservative as much as you can otherwise people will not understand
your technology and will not risk with you.
Currently the only software I see that has been able to be both
conservative, adherent to standards (otherwise it get blamed), and yet
innovative is free software.

> You'd be right :). It's probably impossible to reach a conclusive=20
> position as well. However, the chances are that if something looks=20
> funny and smells funny, it probably is funny. What I want to guard=20
> against is zealotry. The free software ideology is 99% good but I can=20
> also see some serious concerns about its long-term sustainability and=20
> trampling down commercial alternatives is fine and good until they no=20
> longer exist and are no longer bringing vast sums of new money into=20
> the profession.

long-term sustainability is a strong factor in free software imho!
Of course it all depends on the subject, as you didn't specified by whom
it need to be sustainable. If you say users then free software last a
lot more. If you mean developers taking home bread? Well, there's always
need for new software, everything need software nowadays and any new
product or process need new software or need to adapt existing one, I'm
sure developers will have a job in future in a free software world.

> It has everything to do with it. Government subsidies are AFAICS the=20
> only method free software has of creating real innovation. We spent=20
> hundreds of years getting away from dependence on government to allow=20
> private enterprise, and I think it a bad idea to return to that so=20
> long as governments are structured the way they are.

I'm just asking, has the Hurd been subsidised by government?
And what's wrong in government subsidising software? It is just a
"customer" like any other, just a bit more wise sometimes.

> > Ditto the quality argument: Free Software does not
> > prescribe love from developers, more peer review, or any of that.
> > These are not the differentiating factors.
>=20
> Oh come on now! You telling me free software isn't on average of much=20
> higher quality than proprietary? I'm sorry, I just don't believe=20
> that.

No, "on average" it is not better than proprietary.
Quality is not something inherent to free software, a license cannot
change the quality of the software by magic.
Go and look at sourceforge and see. You will find very good software and
very poor software, I'm not sure about the average.

> Quality in software has a direct correlation with user satisfaction.=20
> If my absolutely critical Windows 2000 server crashes twice a year, I=20
> will be much less happy than with a crash once every two years. Same=20
> even goes with reading email, or browsing the web or indeed anything.

User satisfaction stimulate better software only if you can put the
producer in competition with others, this is possible in free software,
a lot less with proprietary software that uses proprietary formats.=20


> > > And it's precisely that reason that they still haven't succeeded ie;
> > > because blue-sky stuff just doesn't sit well with free software. If
> > > they'd set out to write the perfect functional clone (which is what
> > > they have ended up doing anyway), their goal and ideology would have
> > > been compatible.
> >=20
> > How is the Hurd a functional clone? I don't see that they have ended
> > up doing that at all.
>=20
> Read again: I said that's what they *should* have done and if they=20
> had, they'd have succeeded like Linux has.

blue-sky software does not succeed because it is blue-sky ... please! It
does not happen in any kind of software, you for sure may remember lot
of innovative, nice, blue-sky, proprietary software that failed!

> > I also don't see that your argument as presented
> > the case that the Hurd has not "succeeded" because it's blue sky. Hurd
> > development has been slow because there are not enough hackers working
> > on it: it's pretty simple.=20
>=20
> And why aren't there enough programmers on this project? Answer me=20
> this one question straight, no mucking around. If you can answer this=20
> without fufilling my logic regarding free software offputting=20
> volunteers for radical ideas, well, we'll have made progress!

See above.

> > Your point
> > that use of the GPL "stifles blue-sky innovation" is clearly wrong, so
> > you then use this "non-subsidised" device to make the argument
> > unwinnable. All blue-sky innovation is subsidised: if you cannot
> > afford the development fail, as a business person you must not do it.
> > The risk with blue-sky is that it will probably fail, so you should
> > expect to lose your money.=20
>=20
> I see what you're saying but I'm afraid I have not been clear enough=20
> in my arguments. I'm talking bigger pictures, over the space of=20
> years. Quite simply, I'm asking the question: who will produce the=20
> most radical innovation over twenty years? Free software or=20
> proprietary?

look at the last 20 years of free software and think that now people
producing free software has increased at exponential rates.. go figure!

> They cannot compete because free software is superior to the current=20
> proprietary model. But no one can say what happens between a=20
> /different/=20
> proprietary model and free software.

uhmm interesting: what you mean by different proprietary model?

> In the end, IMHO free software gets 98% of the way there but it=20
> causes me grave concern about long-term viability. There is a better=20
> way, but we'll need
> (a) free software to become an extremely serious=20
> threat to proprietary=20

this is already true in some filed=20

> (b) a leading step-change product endorsing a=20
> third way

uhmm free software vs proprietary software

> and (c) support from politicians in order to bring it=20
> about.

We are seeing support here in Europe


Simo.

--=20
Simo Sorce - ***@xsec.it
Xsec s.r.l.
via Durando 10 Ed. G - 20158 - Milano
tel. +39 02 2399 7130 - fax: +39 02 700 442 399

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MJ Ray
2002-12-01 23:35:28 UTC
Permalink
Niall Douglas <***@nedprod.com> wrote:
> No, but money arrives to GPL projects much later (and less of it)
> than to commercial so therefore proving my point.

[etc etc ad inf... the above is just a typical quote]

Please, stop waving your hands and bring up numbers. If you have, I
apologise but I missed them in the volume of email, so could you point me
towards them?

Also, you still seem to be stuck in the conventional software models despite
accusing others of wearing blinkers. Please help me resolve the apparent
contradictions in your reply. Concise clear replies to each thread
individually in turn might make your writing less confusing.

Of course, you may not care whether anyone else understands your thoughts.
If that is the case, please disregard my grumble.

MJR
John Tapsell
2002-11-29 22:30:49 UTC
Permalink
Just a quick point - remember that the majority (90% or something wasn't it?)
of software is not off-the-shelf software.
For the majority (all?) of not-off-the-shelf software, the licensing probably
doesn't affect much. (code for research, putting packages and support etc
together for 'solutions', in house development, ...)

For the software that is off-the-shelf, I'll let everyone else cover that.
But remember that is a small percentage of code that is written.

JohnFlux
Niall Douglas
2002-12-04 23:30:00 UTC
Permalink
On 3 Dec 2002 at 23:58, MJ Ray wrote:

> > Why isn't RedHat in the position of Microsoft? Or are
> > we claiming that in not much more time, it will be?
>
> Because RedHat are not in the monopoly position?

I was more meaning the supplier to the most people ie; industry
leader.

> > Copious historical evidence would show that if you have money, you
> > can buy the best and the brightest of any speciality and get them to
> > do what you want. That means rich people tend to stay rich and
> > indeed get richer.
>
> Erm, I think you'll find copious historical evidence will point to
> frequent structural changes and disturbances.

Ah no - structural changes and disturbances *upset* the status quo of
rich people staying rich and getting richer. Without them in fact,
the elite would remain impermiable.

> > That is what I mean. I am holding them to different standards
> > because they are two totally different beasts. One is all about
> > primarily generating profit whereas the other is primarily about
> > generating software. It's in the nature of proprietary to subsidise
> > new works whereas it's not in the nature of "free" software - there
> > it's a case of enough enthusiasm pointing the same direction.
>
> I think I found the absurdity: do I win a prize? You seem to be using
> tests whose outcome depends on your beliefs in order to back up your
> beliefs. This is a feedback loop, surely?

:) It indeed could be. I've done that to myself a few times actually,
but it never holds for long.

No, I'm trying to compare the overall long-term consequences of each
ideology. I look at each one's nature and from that try to draw the
probabilities of their behaviour. It's similar to comparing fascism
and communism - they're very unalike but essentially about the same
thing.

(Note: I am *not* relating either fascism or communism to this thread
- it was an analogy, nothing more)

> > Well I wasn't wanting to be filling the list with my replies, so I
> > was keeping them all in the one reply.
>
> No. It breaks threading and makes the discussion difficult to follow.
> I am sorry, but this conversation is not about who can write the most
> in the fewest messages. Please stop this thread-mangling, else it
> will look like you are trying to deliberately confuse people and some
> will not strain to read your replies.

Depends if you use a threading email client. I personally don't like
them, so I don't. But for your benefit please note the four or so
messages thus far!

> > I fully understand the free
> > software business model (it's a service), it's just (a) I don't
> > believe it makes much money (b) it isn't good long-term for
> > software.
>
> 1. There is no *the* free software business model;

"the" usually means the most common one which is what I meant here.

> 2. I believe your beliefs are forming your beliefs again.

Again, possible but I don't think so.

> > I think it does. Capital goes where it can make the most profit, and
> > free software does not make much profit therefore it's a bad
> > investment.
>
> Once again, I suspect you have no basis in fact for this? Ethical
> investment (and I believe that free software is more ethical) has
> outperformed profit-chasing investment in the last ten years (based on
> a comparison of managed investment funds).

Yes but a comparison of the ethical funds to their opposite,
deliberately non-ethical funds (these do exist - they invest
exclusively in drugs, sex, petrochemicals and the arms industry)
shows the non-ethical is not promising. I remember differences of 5-
10% p/a, but this was some years ago. I *do* know non-ethical
investments perform excellently in recessions and do pretty well in
boom times too.

> > The best long-term option is to maintain ourselves as an innovation-
> > based entrepreneurial manufacturing industry.
>
> Nothing in that statement requires proprietary software.

No, but as I've been saying all along I don't believe free software
encourages either entrepreneurs nor radical ground-up innovation.
Still no one's proven me completely wrong here, so I'm beginning to
think I may be right ;)

In the end, I foresee the same as you - this thread will peter down
to a point where it becomes a question of faith - do you believe or
don't you because as was previously said, this argument is probably
unwinnable for either side.

Still, I will have considered it all worthwhile if either side is at
least more familiar with the concepts and topics involved. I hope the
majority in here will do so too.

Cheers,
Niall
Rui Miguel Seabra
2002-12-05 09:27:03 UTC
Permalink
On Thu, Dec 05, 2002 at 12:30:00AM +0100, Niall Douglas wrote:
> 10% p/a, but this was some years ago. I *do* know non-ethical
^^^^^^^^^^^^^
> investments perform excellently in recessions and do pretty well in
> boom times too.

Is that from personal experience? If so, as victim or abuser?

> No, but as I've been saying all along I don't believe free software
> encourages either entrepreneurs nor radical ground-up innovation.

One, it doesn't encourage entrepreneurs? Just here in Portugal I know of
about 6 different companies that deal with free software.
Unfourtunately, not exclusively, but the non-free products are not the
motivation for their work... they just value technical merit more,
instead of keeping a balance.

Two, there is no radical ground-up innovation, that's the fairy tale of
the lottery of software patents.

Rui
MJ Ray
2002-12-05 12:01:45 UTC
Permalink
Niall Douglas <***@nedprod.com> wrote:
> I was more meaning the supplier to the most people ie; industry
> leader.

Depends what you are describing as "industry" here. Are we trying to get
share in an existing market, or replace one market with another, or...?

> Ah no - structural changes and disturbances *upset* the status quo of
> rich people staying rich and getting richer. Without them in fact,
> the elite would remain impermiable.

So why do you discount the possibility of causing structural change? I
think a lot of your plan has been "this is the world we live in and we must
interact with it" rather than the commonly-held view of "we must construct a
robust new method". Elsewhere you talk about replacing the current system
of capitalism, but here you are trying to conform with it in the smallest
details: contradiction?

[...]
> No, I'm trying to compare the overall long-term consequences of each
> ideology.

But your history for comparison can only consist of about 20 years, which is
not really long-term. I know computing is often said to move fast, but this
is economics and business science. Your forecasts are likely to have a very
large margin of error.

[...]
>> 1. There is no *the* free software business model;
> "the" usually means the most common one which is what I meant here.

Sorry, I've not ever seen that definition.

[...]
> In the end, I foresee the same as you - this thread will peter down
> to a point where it becomes a question of faith - do you believe or
> don't you because as was previously said, this argument is probably
> unwinnable for either side.

I think that we are starting to explore the real reasons for your views,
rather than the superficial expression of them in a complex non-free
copyright licence. One thing troubles me, though: do you see this argument
a battle you are fighting that can be lost or won?

MJR
Niall Douglas
2002-12-05 21:13:23 UTC
Permalink
On 5 Dec 2002 at 9:27, Rui Miguel Seabra wrote:

> On Thu, Dec 05, 2002 at 12:30:00AM +0100, Niall Douglas wrote:
> > 10% p/a, but this was some years ago. I *do* know non-ethical
> ^^^^^^^^^^^^^
> > investments perform excellently in recessions and do pretty well in
> > boom times too.
>
> Is that from personal experience? If so, as victim or abuser?

Neither. I keep an eye on the markets, that's all.

> > No, but as I've been saying all along I don't believe free software
> > encourages either entrepreneurs nor radical ground-up innovation.
>
> One, it doesn't encourage entrepreneurs? Just here in Portugal I know
> of about 6 different companies that deal with free software.
> Unfourtunately, not exclusively, but the non-free products are not the
> motivation for their work... they just value technical merit more,
> instead of keeping a balance.

I can *guarantee* you they only deal with it because they want to
make use of the existing debugged mature GPL software. That's not
being entrepreneurial - that's taking advantage of a situation.

> Two, there is no radical ground-up innovation, that's the fairy tale
> of the lottery of software patents.

Of course there is! NextSTEP, BeOS, Plan 9 and even CP/M are all good
examples of software redone from first principles. Hell, even the GNU
Hurd falls in that category.

I can even think of those Dyson vacumn cleaners which use a vortex to
extract the dirt. They work very well BTW.

Cheers,
Niall
Niall Douglas
2002-12-05 22:44:38 UTC
Permalink
On 5 Dec 2002 at 12:01, MJ Ray wrote:

> > I was more meaning the supplier to the most people ie; industry
> > leader.
>
> Depends what you are describing as "industry" here. Are we trying to
> get share in an existing market, or replace one market with another,
> or...?

Is it me or are my commonly used terms not commonly used on this
list? Ah well. I mean, as I've explained in previous emails, software
industry = support, writing and users ie; more or less anything to do
with software.

Now in this you could argue embedded devices running some bespoke
solution are far more numerous than PC's. However, RedHat and
Microsoft compete in more or less the same area, and yet RedHat could
hardly be said to remotely rival Microsoft in terms of distribution
of product portfolio. While certain free software products rule the
roost in niche areas (eg; Apache), overall they most certainly do not
despite often offering superior implementations of the same
functionality.

> > Ah no - structural changes and disturbances *upset* the status quo
> > of rich people staying rich and getting richer. Without them in
> > fact, the elite would remain impermiable.
>
> So why do you discount the possibility of causing structural change?
> I think a lot of your plan has been "this is the world we live in and
> we must interact with it" rather than the commonly-held view of "we
> must construct a robust new method". Elsewhere you talk about
> replacing the current system of capitalism, but here you are trying to
> conform with it in the smallest details: contradiction?

Yes in terms of overall wish but not in terms of pragmatism. I might
not like the current system and indeed have visions of it being
replaced, but I know it won't happen in mine nor your lifetime. The
effects of the free software movement on the software industry will
be felt within my lifetime, so therefore I'm far more concerned with
that.

The reality is that so long as capitalism exists, we have to play by
its rules. Free software in this respect is perhaps too ahead of its
time because culturally, I don't think it's viable in the long term.
Someday perhaps - when people can motivate themselves without the
dream of riches, but it's at least a generation away.

> > No, I'm trying to compare the overall long-term consequences of each
> > ideology.
>
> But your history for comparison can only consist of about 20 years,
> which is not really long-term. I know computing is often said to move
> fast, but this is economics and business science. Your forecasts are
> likely to have a very large margin of error.

In this you are absolutely correct - I could be completely wrong.
However, I am just as likely to be wrong as anyone else with a
business model for software - so on this logic, *any* business model
for software is equally wrong. I don't think this is a sound basis
for further argument! :)

> >> 1. There is no *the* free software business model;
> > "the" usually means the most common one which is what I meant here.
>
> Sorry, I've not ever seen that definition.

I meant the English common usage. When I say *the* Queen I may refer
to any one of a number of queens, but I'll usually mean the most
common one. In the UK, Canada, Australia and US, this means the
British Queen but in Spain I'd mean Queen Sofia.

Hence *the* free software business model is the commonly used one
which AFAICS involves charging for commercial use of the software but
is free for non-commercial use. There are others too, but it's the
most common AFAIK.

> > In the end, I foresee the same as you - this thread will peter down
> > to a point where it becomes a question of faith - do you believe or
> > don't you because as was previously said, this argument is probably
> > unwinnable for either side.
>
> I think that we are starting to explore the real reasons for your
> views, rather than the superficial expression of them in a complex
> non-free copyright licence. One thing troubles me, though: do you see
> this argument a battle you are fighting that can be lost or won?

Well, I like to have my fundamental beliefs challenged. Occasionally
I'm wrong, so therefore I can have them put right. If not, it's still
a stimulating test.

No argument IMHO is a battle - merely a contest, most of whose value
comes from the process not the end result. I can't prove I'm right
ultimately unless I develop some software, sell it under my model and
see if it replaces the current proprietary model. This could happen,
but it would take a few years at the least.

OTOH free software is already selling and is evidently vibrant. I
personally believe that's because the current proprietary model is so
crap for everyone and it's easier to seek refuge with an existing
alternative than to reform an existing bad one. I think of it similar
to the reformation - first protestants split from catholicism, then
catholicism realised its days were numbered and reformed itself. I
reckon the same thing will happen here.

Cheers,
Niall
MJ Ray
2002-12-09 12:33:43 UTC
Permalink
Niall Douglas <***@nedprod.com> wrote:
> On 5 Dec 2002 at 12:01, MJ Ray wrote:
>> > I was more meaning the supplier to the most people ie; industry
>> > leader.
>> Depends what you are describing as "industry" here. Are we trying to
>> get share in an existing market, or replace one market with another,
>> or...?
> Is it me or are my commonly used terms not commonly used on this
> list? Ah well. [...]

Possibly not. There are many differences exposed in all their gnarly
horrors on this list, including:

- markets vs industries vs sectors;
- the differences between copyrights, patents and trademarks;
- case law (UK-style) vs code law (DE-style);

and probably many more besides. Fouling up by using the jargon of the mass
media on this list is probably the most common cause of misunderstandings.

[...]
> Yes in terms of overall wish but not in terms of pragmatism. I might
> not like the current system and indeed have visions of it being
> replaced, but I know it won't happen in mine nor your lifetime.

Now you go from my comment about causing structural change to wanting to
replace the entire macroeconomic system. Why? There have already been
structural changes in my lifetime and I'm not that old. I expect there will
be more. Let's use them to our maximum advantage.

[...]
> However, I am just as likely to be wrong as anyone else with a
> business model for software - so on this logic, *any* business model
> for software is equally wrong. I don't think this is a sound basis
> for further argument! :)

Hrm, are you sure? I guess what I meant to say is "show me the evidence".
;-)

>> >> 1. There is no *the* free software business model;
>> > "the" usually means the most common one which is what I meant here.
>> Sorry, I've not ever seen that definition.
> I meant the English common usage. [...]

It is not that common. Not even students at the local college fail to
recognise the significance of the definite article.

OK, the most common FSB model has flaws. I think I'd agree with that. I
don't think it's reason to abandon all FSB models, though.

> Hence *the* free software business model is the commonly used one
> which AFAICS involves charging for commercial use of the software but
> is free for non-commercial use. There are others too, but it's the
> most common AFAIK.

That would not be a Free Software Business model, because charging for use
of the software is not possible for Free Software: the act of running the
program, for any purpose, is unrestricted.

> [...] I think of it similar to the reformation - first protestants split
> from catholicism, then catholicism realised its days were numbered and
> reformed itself. I reckon the same thing will happen here.

Those damn proprietary protestants, eh, splitting from Free Software? Do
you really think Free Software hasn't reformed itself enough already, with
the introduction of copyleft licences, rather than trusting to the public
domain and good nature of future hackers?

--
MJR| v
---|--[ Something else will appear here eventually, I guess... ]-----|
`--[ http://mjr.towers.org.uk/ ]---------[ slef at jabber.at ]-----'
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