Open source vs business?

This is a discussion on Open source vs business? within the General Discussions forums, part of the Community Boards category; I've heard some people complain about proprietary software and that ALL software should be open source... Now, I just can't ...

  1. #1
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    Open source vs business?

    I've heard some people complain about proprietary software and that ALL software should be open source...

    Now, I just can't quite grasp that whole concept.
    Lets say Microsoft made all their software open source. How would they make money then?
    Anyone could just download & compile the source code to get a working product, right?
    Sure, computer illiterate people would probably still buy it off the shelf, since they wouldn't even know what a compiler is, but then again, they could get an already compiled version from one of their friends who did download & compile it...

    Also, how would they defend their patents when anyone & everyone could copy & paste some of their code into their own programs? Could they even get patents?

    Wouldn't that increase the risk of people writing viruses or backdoors directly into the code and submitting it back to the company along with a fix for some other problem?

    Who would own the copyright on new code submitted by the outside world?
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    Banned ಠ_ಠ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cpjust View Post
    Lets say Microsoft made all their software open source. How would they make money then?
    They don't

    Quote Originally Posted by cpjust View Post
    Also, how would they defend their patents when anyone & everyone could copy & paste some of their code into their own programs?
    why would they do that? it's not like they would make any money off of it

    Quote Originally Posted by cpjust View Post
    Wouldn't that increase the risk of people writing viruses or backdoors directly into the code and submitting it back to the company along with a fix for some other problem?
    you think they wouldn't notice that?
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    C++まいる!Cをこわせ! Elysia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ಠ_ಠ View Post
    They don't
    Heh.
    So to "open source" software means the doom to the software market, and yet some people *cough* Richard M. Stallman *cough* wants to open source everything?
    Yes, smooth move...
    Last edited by Elysia; 07-10-2009 at 02:16 PM.
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    The open source business model usually works off of support contracts, not the product itself. In your example, that would mean Microsoft would give away the software for free, but they would charge companies for software support. For software like Exchange, or Windows Server, this may actually work. For software like Office (Microsoft's biggest cash cow), it would not work at all.

    Companies like RedHat have been using the support model with a reasonable amount of success over the years. Of course they don't make anywhere near the amount of money that Microsoft makes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ಠ_ಠ View Post
    They don't
    So then, making everything Open Source would basically put millions of software developers out of a job?

    Quote Originally Posted by ಠ_ಠ View Post
    you think they wouldn't notice that?
    Well, in my example, this was Microsoft after all.
    But someone might be able to obfuscate their code well enough to hide it from other developers, or at least long enough for them to do some damage... or the developers checking the code before putting it in their main code might have a bad day.
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    Captain Crash brewbuck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bithub View Post
    Companies like RedHat have been using the support model with a reasonable amount of success over the years. Of course they don't make anywhere near the amount of money that Microsoft makes.
    First of all, this assumes that your software requires lots of support. That means your software sucks. Sorry, I'm not in the business of writing crappy software that generates tons of support calls. Basically what we're advocating here is a model whose success depends on software that sucks. I don't want to world to head that direction.

    Second, I'm just one guy. I do not have the capacity to serve as a one-man technical support team. And besides, my software hardly ever breaks so how would I make money that way?

    The suggestion to "Give the software away and just provide support" is actually diametrically opposed to the goals of the people who promote this theory, and I don't understand why they don't see it. It promotes development of giant corporations. It promotes buggy software. It's an all around stupid model for a single guy who wants to make money writing software.
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    Wow, it sounds like you've had a bad experience with an open source vendor in the past. At any rate, I don't think all software written by open source companies that rely on support contracts to make money "sucks".

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    Disrupting the universe Mad_guy's Avatar
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    Sorry, I'm not in the business of writing crappy software that generates tons of support calls. Basically what we're advocating here is a model whose success depends on software that sucks. I don't want to world to head that direction.
    I'd have to say you are interpreting the definition of 'support contract' far too narrowly and/or literally for this to be a valid assessment - it's simply an unfair generalization.

    Heh.
    So to "open source" software means the doom to the software market, and yet some people *cough* Richard M. Stallman *cough* wants to open source everything?
    Yes, smooth move...
    Stallman is not about open source software, he is about free software that gives the user control. Please note it is 'free as in speech' not 'free as in $0.'

    Charging money for your software is perfectly fine - but once you buy it, it should be *yours* - that property, that software, on your computer at that point does not belong to the company who made it, and they shouldn't have control of it. The user should be able to do whatever he wants with it. Would you buy a television if the creating company could, after the fact, regulate how you used it and what channels you could watch? Because proprietary software does similar things all the time with tactics like DRM and regulations like "can only be installed 3 times" (although to be fair, in the case of things like itunes anti-debugging/anti-drm code, these measures have to be in place due to contractual agreement with record labels/the RIAA etc. which allows iTunes to sell music.)

    And finally, I find the statement that "open source will doom the market" to be a completely irrational statement at best. Maybe if you had posted that in a blog on some news site about 5 years ago, you would get tons of people from the govt. etc. clamoring to you and agreeing about how "yes, we need to use proprietary software and open source is the devil for business." These seemed to mostly be analysis' by crack-pot journalist. These days, more governments, schools and businesses are using open source than ever before, and indeed, companies do thrive off the open source model - if you're really in it for the money however, you should just become a plumber or something. It pays fantastically well.

    If anything, or at least, if you ask me, you have *more* to suffer from due to vendor lock-ins because some company went out of business than having some unmaintained free software in comparison (trust me, having to deal with crappy "one time install" proprietary software after the creating company goes out of business and there are absolutely 0 affordable/economic alternatives totally sucks.)

    Who would own the copyright on new code submitted by the outside world?
    That would be dependent on the license under which the code is released, AFAIK.
    Last edited by Mad_guy; 07-10-2009 at 05:52 PM.
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    spurious conceit MK27's Avatar
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    I think for me this appears to revolve around an obvious tension: the teleology of what a computer is and the economic needs of the people of the people who make them what they are. I would call it a tension because one is bound to influence the other in ways that it otherwise would not be.

    From a purely idealistic stand-point, there really is no possible logical argument against open source (meaning the source is public) and for proprietary software (meaning the source is a secret). cpjust's two non-economic issues are pretty straightforward:

    Also, how would they defend their patents when anyone & everyone could copy & paste some of their code into their own programs? Could they even get patents?
    This one is sort of a mis-interpretation; if you are familiar with the various "open source" licenses (they are not all the same), you will recognize that you can have various forms of legally binding control over what is done to and with the code WRT modifications et. al. I believe *part* of the reason Mr. Stallman & friends have expressed opposition to the open source model (contrary to hearsay) is that they would take this a few steps further and say why not allow "the user" (ie anybody) to do whatever they would like with any piece of existing code? Of course, that doesn't mean I could perform all kinds of wild modifications to (eg) GCC and then distribute it as a compiler by Richard Stallman, or perform no modifications and distribute as a compiler by yours truly, because I would now be lying, in way that is dead simple to prove if need be.

    Wouldn't that increase the risk of people writing viruses or backdoors directly into the code and submitting it back to the company along with a fix for some other problem?
    That's kind of kooky, but vis. security issues, the open source model seems a safer one since A) the risk of intentional* or unintentional loopholes in the software is much reduced because anyone can look at the source and judge for themselves. I do not see much (if any) "subjective opinion" type arguments going on at cboard about what constitutes a buffer overflow. You see a potential buffer overflow, you call it a buffer overflow, who can argue with that?

    You could argue that making the source available makes it easier for people to do malicious things with it, but conversely, keeping the source closed means that the inevitable leaked/pirated versions are that much more likely to end up exclusively in "the wrong hands" and that it will be easier for such "wrong hands" to do bad things because it will be harder for other, law abiding types to crack some mysterious problem.


    As for the economic angle, I guess everyone has to do there own soul searching** there. It may seem slightly "privileged" and easy for Richard Stallman to take his stance, since he is no doubt set for life in the sense that he could probably depend on occasional speaking engagements alone and live comfortably. Lucky lucky! No doubt there was some hard work tho, and I'm sure that "comfort" and "privilege" wise he is not even on the same planet as Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. Like, the word "proportionate" could not even be rationally applied to that equation. But no doubt all three of them devoted a significant portion of their lives to their respective enterprises.

    * how many programmers does MS employ? Who are they? Etc.
    ** I'm a far left kind of guy who would say that anyone in the modern west who is in a position to be a "Professional Computer Programmer" (inc. myself) really is on thin ice when they start screaming that the world has not been fair to them because... This is all about cream and how much of it YOU feel entitled to...maybe if you had lost limbs in the army I might sympathize. Otherwise, I think you will be a happier and more well rounded person if you stop to consider WHAT YOU CAN OFFER THE WORLD AND NOT WHAT THE WORLD MUST OFFER YOU.
    Last edited by MK27; 07-10-2009 at 07:28 PM.
    C programming resources:
    GNU C Function and Macro Index -- glibc reference manual
    The C Book -- nice online learner guide
    Current ISO draft standard
    CCAN -- new CPAN like open source library repository
    3 (different) GNU debugger tutorials: #1 -- #2 -- #3
    cpwiki -- our wiki on sourceforge

  10. #10
    & the hat of GPL slaying Thantos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mad_guy View Post
    Stallman is not about open source software, he is about free software that gives the user control. Please note it is 'free as in speech' not 'free as in $0.'
    Actually Stallman's model doesn't protect the user, it hinder's the user. And it is "freedom for the software not for the user or speech" according to the GPL.

    Quote Originally Posted by cpjust View Post
    I've heard some people complain about proprietary software and that ALL software should be open source...

    Now, I just can't quite grasp that whole concept.
    Lets say Microsoft made all their software open source. How would they make money then?
    Anyone could just download & compile the source code to get a working product, right?
    Sure, computer illiterate people would probably still buy it off the shelf, since they wouldn't even know what a compiler is, but then again, they could get an already compiled version from one of their friends who did download & compile it...

    Also, how would they defend their patents when anyone & everyone could copy & paste some of their code into their own programs? Could they even get patents?

    Wouldn't that increase the risk of people writing viruses or backdoors directly into the code and submitting it back to the company along with a fix for some other problem?

    Who would own the copyright on new code submitted by the outside world?
    So there is quite a market for software without selling the software (kinda). Lets say you write a piece of software, it does it job, and does it well. Now around that core piece of software you can actually create a market in modifying the product (ie: changing how a feature operates, adding new features, removing features, changing how it looks, etc). Basically coding for hire. The person who commissioned the work gets the code and can release it if they want.

    There is also "support" for it (ie: installing, setting up, maintaining, etc). And given a sufficently complex system there can be a good demand for that.

    Patents are a big issue in open source programming mainly because they have been ignored and violated so much. Yes you can still get them and defend them. (real quick: INAL) My understanding is that if you own a patent, write a piece of code using that patent, and then release it as open source then people can use that implementation of it as long as they following the license you released it under.

    Copyright is another big issue. There are two approaches (that I know of) to it:
    1) Individual contributors maintain their copyrights
    2) Contributors license their code to a holding entity that can act on behalf of all contributors.

    The second one is pretty popular for big projects where a lot of people are contributing.

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    C++ Witch laserlight's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MK27
    That's kind of kooky, but vis. security issues, the open source model seems a safer one since A) the risk of intentional* or unintentional loopholes in the software is much reduced because anyone can look at the source and judge for themselves.
    Heheh, the first time I read it, Ken Thompson's Reflections on Trusting Trust speech made me pause to reflect on that oft repeated assertion. It probably is true (safer versus safe), especially where the software in question is used by a significant number of people with sufficient technical expertise and motivation to review the code by themselves.
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    Registered User whiteflags's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cpjust View Post
    Anyone could just download & compile the source code to get a working product, right?
    Sure, computer illiterate people would probably still buy it off the shelf, since they wouldn't even know what a compiler is, but then again, they could get an already compiled version from one of their friends who did download & compile it...
    I'm actually quite surprised that you're using the dl & compile it argument against business. Why would only the illiterate want a disk copy? Doesn't downloading and moreso compiling source take an inordinate amount of time? I'm sure microsoft makes some hefty programs that take hours or days to compile. Some programs are just too important to wait that long imo. And isn't that one of the longstanding gripes with debian? That you have to build every package to get the software?

    I'm not saying that I disagree with your point-of-view, I just find that bizarre in many ways. The source is for those obscure systems that still meet the minimum, I think.
    Last edited by whiteflags; 07-11-2009 at 03:27 AM.

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    spurious conceit MK27's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by whiteflags View Post
    And isn't that one of the longstanding gripes with debian? That you have to build every package to get the software?
    This is just incorrect. The first debian I used was about 1998, and I have the latest one installed now. Debian uses pre-compiled binaries (.deb files) just like everybody else, and just like everybody else they sort of mildly discourage people from compiling stuff from source "unnecessarily".

    When I first started compiling from source*, before I started programming, I found the process slightly intimidating but not that much. It definitely (again, without any programming experience or interest in it) made more "sense" to me than just installing a binary, since there is a comprehensible process that occurs. I'm sure that's where I realized the difference between an executable object and the code that produces it. Also, I found it a little more interesting having to get the source, from the source, so to speak, rather than using a distro package (altho most? distros do have source packages, I quickly learned not to use those because they are can be modified by the maintainer/distributors and are usually intended to be compiled the same way the binary is). So it was a kind of enlightening experience, not particularly difficult, and I'm sure helped to foster my interest in the "nitty gritty" side of computing. Which look where that's gotten me This would never have happened were it not for open source! It's all their fault!

    So there's one "dumb users" tale. I would say there is exactly *zero* chance of someone falling down such a rabbit hole using a closed OS like MS or Mac. Why on earth I started using linux in the first place I cannot remember at all, but I would guess it was curiosity and then tenacity.

    *my original motive was to use stuff for which there was no distro binary, or to get some (xmms i think) compile time option to work...so it was done out of necessity and I liked it
    Last edited by MK27; 07-11-2009 at 08:26 AM.
    C programming resources:
    GNU C Function and Macro Index -- glibc reference manual
    The C Book -- nice online learner guide
    Current ISO draft standard
    CCAN -- new CPAN like open source library repository
    3 (different) GNU debugger tutorials: #1 -- #2 -- #3
    cpwiki -- our wiki on sourceforge

  14. #14
    (?<!re)tired Mario F.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MK27 View Post
    I would say there is exactly *zero* chance of someone falling down such a rabbit hole using a closed OS like MS or Mac.
    Hmm... Open Source also serves the Windows and Mac communities to a great extent. But I agree that without a clear reason to do so, there's no interest in compiling source code. But this is true of Windows, Mac and Linux.
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    Originally Posted by brewbuck:
    Reimplementing a large system in another language to get a 25% performance boost is nonsense. It would be cheaper to just get a computer which is 25% faster.

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    spurious conceit MK27's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mario F. View Post
    Hmm... Open Source also serves the Windows and Mac communities to a great extent. But I agree that without a clear reason to do so, there's no interest in compiling source code. But this is true of Windows, Mac and Linux.
    Yeah, WRT linux this is why I think it a bit of a shame to aim too heavily for "user convenience" since it is has become very different now than it was in 1998. The contrast between Win95 and a debian 2.1 was intense; they were two different worlds. No one would have bothered to raise a criticism like "why isn't the GUI installer more intuitive" -- it seemed more like you were genuinely HACKING everything from the ground up. I'm sure it took me weeks just to get a GUI -- after I got ppp working and could go on line with "lynx" so I didn't have to boot back and forth into windows to get info off the web! There weren't even any linux books! The first remotely CS book I ever had was the a fat hardcover UNIX System Administration Manual.

    So to me the phrase "an alternative operating system" has a kind of potentially radical spin that gets easily glossed over.
    C programming resources:
    GNU C Function and Macro Index -- glibc reference manual
    The C Book -- nice online learner guide
    Current ISO draft standard
    CCAN -- new CPAN like open source library repository
    3 (different) GNU debugger tutorials: #1 -- #2 -- #3
    cpwiki -- our wiki on sourceforge

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