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Why Open Source is unsustainable

 
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A recent article Richard Epstein: Why open source is unsustainable

The bottom line is that idealistic communes cannot last for the long haul. The open source movement may avoid these difficulties for outside contributors who work for credit and glory.


[ October 25, 2004: Message edited by: Helen Thomas ]
 
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Excellent points but he doesn't touch on the main problem:
Once open source replaces all closed source (as the OS zealots seem certain it will) there will be no more incentive to code at all because there's no more money in it.

If everyone can dowload any software free of charge the monetary value of programming skills will have dropped to nothing, and the influx of people into the profession will grind to a screeching halt.
For a few years this will go unnoticed as the hardliners who maintain the core codebases are all seniors with a mighty disdain for anyone with less expertise and knowledge of the system compared to themselves (godcomplex).
But at the edges the system will start to rot as there's noone left maintaining the less interesting fringe systems when the maintainers leave for other jobs to pay the bills.
As the core group (ESR, Linus, etc.) die out what will be left (IF they succeed in killing commercial development and closed source as is their goal which I highly doubt they'll succeed in) is a scarred wasteland of dead and rotting corpses of applications and operating system code that noone can maintain and noone will soon be able to use.

The computer age will have come to an end.
 
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{
If everyone can dowload any software free of charge the monetary value of programming skills will have dropped to nothing, and the influx of people into the profession will grind to a screeching halt.
}
I don't think.Linux/BSD source code, anybody can see.Yet,people having OS internal knowledge are always in demand.and people actually reading that code and modifying it,won't be more than 1% of total people in IT IMO.So evenif code is freely downloadble and modifyable,understaning it and customizing it or creating new requires the same ability as it required had they not given access to source code.Same is true for those applications which require lot of business knowledge.
So programming will continue but its approach to solving the problems will change.(as it has changed in the past)
[ October 25, 2004: Message edited by: Arjun Shastry ]
 
Jeroen Wenting
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no, you think short term.
Think long term. Managers will stop seeing the benefit of paying programmers, after all you don't have to pay for software you get off the net so programming doesn't cost money.
Programming as a paid profession will die out leaving programmers no choice but to abandon (in time, this takes years) their vollunteer work in the OS community as well as they take up other pursuits.
New blood isn't being added either as noone takes up a career in which there's not enough income to pay the rent (except a few zealot and those are not the people you want coding as they're more concerned with religious and political correctness and with the beauty of the code than with the end result as an application people can actually use).

If the ideal world of the OS zealots comes to pass that's the end result, though they themselves don't recognise it. They indeed think there will be eternal bliss in which everyone is constantly coding for free while someone else pays them to do it, which is a typical utopian worldview and completely false.
 
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Originally posted by Jeroen Wenting:
Excellent points but he doesn't touch on the main problem:
Once open source replaces all closed source (as the OS zealots seem certain it will) there will be no more incentive to code at all because there's no more money in it.



by that logic, you'll never find employment at a non-profit, because someone is always willing to work for free.

There is not a fixed amount of code to be written. There will always be the need for new applications. At any given point, a company will be able to receive some monetary benefit from the creation of new code, within a given time frame. Open source will probably not be able to meet that need for the following reasons. First, open source movements almost never work around fixed time costraints. Second, the project may be specific enough to the company that it requires proprietary knowledge. Third, there may not be sufficent interest in the open source community to build this product.

I can potentially see some ebb and flow in the use of open source, developer compensation packages, and the level of interest of college students in the field. I do not think it will ever simply disappear.

--Mark
 
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1. I'm not sure, but I think that I may recognize this guy's name and if so, I'm pretty sure he has an agenda.

2. Open-source software is probably older than I am. IBM had source repositories associated with their GUIDE and SHARE user groups back to the '60's at least. I know where to get tons of open-source IBM mainframe software, even the source to IBM's OS/MVS operating system (although that was originally "published" as opposed to "free"). Somehow it didn't keep me from racking up 20+ years of being paid to develop closed-source software.

3. If I understand Richard Stallman's position on source code, his view of the world is that source should be free, but the "perfect" software system has yet to be created, there's always opportunities to hire people to make mods and enhancements (which, of course should then also be made open-source)

In conclusion, I've never had my livelihood impacted by free software. Which is more than I can say for non-free offshore development.
 
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I notice that the article ignores the fact that the most successful open source code bases seem to tend to use the BSD license rather than the GPL.
 
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Originally posted by Tim Holloway:
1. I'm not sure, but I think that I may recognize this guy's name and if so, I'm pretty sure he has an agenda.



Yes, you know his name, he's a big defender of digital copyright, a well known "neo-conservative".
 
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Is there really much open source application code as opposed to system code?

Conventional application programs are usually pretty company-specific.

ERP systems, which expect the user company to change its processes to match the system's operating model rather than the system being modified to fit the company's existing processes, don't have enough interesting code or glory to attract many unpaid volunteers.

Way back when, IBM, SHARE, and Guide published free application code, but it usually had to be heavily modified to fit each company.

My point is that the vast majority of programmers are application programmers, so open source is no threat to their jobs. Most people on the system sofware side are System Administrators who don't code and System Programmers who do fixes and write company-specific extensions, so they're not affected either. That leaves the relative handfull of core software engineers at Microsoft, Oracle, Sun, etc., who need to stay ahead of LINUX, MySQL, etc. to keep their jobs.
 
Tim Holloway
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Originally posted by Mike Gershman:
Is there really much open source application code as opposed to system code?



GnuCash? The Gimp? cdparanoia? Open Office? Eclipse?

Tux Racer?

I think you meant business apps. Things like SQLLedger or XRMS (which was my employer's first foray into Linux - as opposed to Open Source things like Apache and Tomcat, which we run under Windows and Solaris).
 
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I agree with Mike - almost all open source projects exist to enable business applications; data tier, service tier, middle ware components, app servers. Can you open source some kind of global business logic that will be useful to every company? Maybe with one or two hundred years of evolution in the field of AI.

The open source movement is a highly positive and beneficial factor for the continuing success of the paid IT industry. It leads to more successful projects, lower costs, more business faith in their IT investment. MORE JOBS!

 
Mike Gershman
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I think you meant business apps


Exactly - that's where most of the paying jobs are.
[ October 26, 2004: Message edited by: Mike Gershman ]
 
Tim Holloway
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Originally posted by Mike Gershman:

Exactly - that's where most of the paying jobs are.

[ October 26, 2004: Message edited by: Mike Gershman ]



Well, I know of someone who might have to disagree with you on that one. He was a J2EE programmer here in town. Ended up having to leave the state when the companies he was contracting for all got serious cases of the "offshores". Now he works as a sysadmin for Linux servers in Arizona. So I guess you could say that Open-Source systems programs pay his bills!
 
Mike Gershman
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Now he works as a sysadmin for Linux servers in Arizona. So I guess you could say that Open-Source systems programs pay his bills!

I meant paying programming jobs. Your friend is not harmed by the open source movement unless he is being displaced by a volunteer SA.
 
peter wooster
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Originally posted by Mike Gershman:
I meant paying programming jobs. Your friend is not harmed by the open source movement unless he is being displaced by a volunteer SA.



Computer operations, including sysadmin, is like plumbing, its rarely done for fun.
 
Helen Thomas
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I think what happens with Open source is very important from the point of view of getting new ideas to stick, in the face of Intellectual Property and all that's constitutionally wrong with IP. There's a right way to copy and a wrong way.
[ October 28, 2004: Message edited by: Helen Thomas ]
 
Tim Holloway
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Originally posted by Helen Thomas:
I think what happens with Open source is very important from the point of view of getting new ideas to stick, in the face of Intellectual Property and all that's constitutionally wrong with IP. There's a right way to copy and a wrong way.

[ October 28, 2004: Message edited by: Helen Thomas ]



Non Sequitur. If we all want to don our tin-foil hats and discuss how The Evil Corporations are going to curtail the development of free software, that's all well and good (though more suited to MD). However, the use of IP to thwart competition isn't limited to free software - it can be just as easily used to immobilize companies of any size (as Microsoft found out not long ago).
 
Helen Thomas
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However, the use of IP to thwart competition isn't limited to free software - it can be just as easily used to immobilize companies of any size (as Microsoft found out not long ago).
It's not just Evil Corporations. South Korea and France account for the most illegal downloaders of movies, having very strict quotas. The French in particular want to protect French culture and are getting heavily behind copyright law. If they can't prevent illegal downloads they cannot keep out American culture. Soon foreign consumers will expect to receive Hollywood films for free. Not to mention illegal downloads of music.

Major artists who scream loudest see this practice cutting deep holes into their royalties. Niche artists see this as a way of getting to the widest possible audience. When these niche artists become major they won't be screaming about free downloads.

Some people think they should give away good-enough quality previews free to use as they wish like in Open source software and charge (or overcharge ? ) for the best quality.

Open source appears to be getting it right with Intellectual Property vs creativity.(Haven't heard of any OS being sued.) So far there are only a handful of major developers in Open source. Developers in Corporations still see Open source as a threat and talk of there being no support for it eventually. Corporations like IBM are stepping in to fill the void as far as training etc on "best-of-breed" platforms.

Corporations like IBM = Big Music labels
Lead Developers = Major artists ; have to work even harder for even bigger bucks. I guess cultures will have to evolve to remain strong.

I think the Devs in Corps are right ; what we currently see in Open Source would be forgotten and moved to best-of-breed platform support.
There will be new Open Source projects. As there will be new music to download.
[ October 28, 2004: Message edited by: Helen Thomas ]
 
Jeroen Wenting
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The problem on all sides are the zealots.
Pragmatic people will use and create open and closed source as required depending on availability and need.

For example we use Tomcat and Xerces in our products which are deployed on hardware running AIX and SCO Unix with some Linux for the smaller customers.
Our IDE is Eclipse but we use the Sun compiler and JVM.
Our client workstations run Windows XP with IE6 while some small ones have Linux servers (AIX machines being overkill for small companies).

We used to deliver only AIX but as our customers got smaller (we already had most of the market for the larger customers in our market segment) we found that the pricetag for the hardware and software became too much for those small companies to accept so we took to Linux for them as a cheaper alternative (mainly cheaper hardware, using Intel based servers instead of expensive IBM ones).
We didn't do it out of "love" for the platform but because the market demanded something and Linux filled that demand nicely. Had IBM an AIX for x86 we'd likely have used that instead to stay with a single supplier but they don't so we didn't.
 
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