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How Open is Open Source Really? 151

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the buzzwords-and-the-companies-that-kill-them dept.
jg21 writes to tell us that several industry leaders have chimed in with a response to Nat Torkington's recent piece "Is 'Open Source' Now Completely Meaningless". In the original piece Torkington raised the question of whether the term "open source" had lost any meaning because of companies that use the label yet largly restrict user interaction. Sun's Simon Phpps chimed in by stating: "I see open source as a term relevant to the way communities function and I'd support the reunification of the terms 'Free' and 'open source' around the concept of Free software being developed in open source communities. On that basis it's not dead."
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How Open is Open Source Really?

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  • I see open source as a term relevant to the communities function ...

    Except that you don't get to define what open source means. The Open Source Initiative has that luxury. IIRC, they went to great lengths to differentiate Open Source and Free Software as two distinct entities. Open Source means you get the code and nothing more. No guarantee that you can redistribute, no guarantee that the vendor pays attention to you. The list goes on. You can have closed source with an open process (I think the Java Community Process is a good example of this), open source with open process (Python and their Python Enhancement Proposals) and open source with a closed process (XFree86, the reason we have X.org today and the old gcc before it was replaced by egcs. Even free software doesn't guarantee the openness in the process that you might want, as the case with the old gcc clearly illustrates. If community is important to you, that should be part of your selection criteria, not something that you let surprise you after you have picked.

    • Amen! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday February 28, 2007 @02:28PM (#18183924) Homepage Journal
      I'm utterly tired of people not involved with a movement trying to redefine it. Open Source has been around for a lot longer than Free Software. In fact, it used to be the norm in a lot of areas.
      • Actually, SCO [slashdot.org] (back when it was called Caldera) invented Open Source back in 1996 [google.com]. Yes, that's before the OSI thing, though after the foundation of the FSF.

        Scary, huh?

        • by drinkypoo (153816)
          People were distributing code to customers with their programs before SCO even existed. Even if they had coined the term, which they did not (they called the product Open, but then, they did the same thing with SCO Open Deathtrap. Now where did I put my Open Deathtrap Shower Phone?)
        • by falconwolf (725481) <falconsoaring_2000@@@yahoo...com> on Wednesday February 28, 2007 @04:39PM (#18185764)

          Actually, SCO [slashdot.org] (back when it was called Caldera) invented Open Source back in 1996 [google.com]. Yes, that's before the OSI thing, though after the foundation of the FSF.

          The Tech Model Railroad Club [mit.edu] of MIT had open source software as early as the 1960s and early 1970s beating out SCO by a long shot. The first computer game, Spacewar [duke.edu], came out in 1962 as a result of many programmers' contributions in an open manner. They used to compeat to see who could come up with a nifty hack, something that was considered impossible, never thought of, or was able to shave a few lines out of a program. Those programmer were amoung the first computer hackers and followed the Hacker ethic [antionline.com].

          Falcon
          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by mackyrae (999347)
            Isn't the way they worked very close to Free Software, though? They would show their code to anyone, and anyone who could improve it was allowed to, etc. Open Source doesn't necessarily mean you're allowed to improve it.
            • Isn't the way they worked very close to Free Software, though? They would show their code to anyone, and anyone who could improve it was allowed to, etc. Open Source doesn't necessarily mean you're allowed to improve it.

              It was both free and open. Many would leave a copy of the code near the terminals so anyone else could look at and try to make improvements to the code. They were then expected to do the same thing. Steven Levy wrote a good book, Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution [amazon.com] , on this.

      • by torpor (458) *
        I'm utterly tired of people not involved with a movement trying to redefine it.

        Why? This is normal. It happens with everything. The outside-observers, looking at a particular realm, feel that they are the ones who are best suited to define it.. while those within a particular realm, by definition, have moved on from the 'definition' stage and are actively participating.

        Its the nature of the beast, yo. Participate, or spectate. From both positions, you can define something. Its up to each individual r
        • Re:Amen! (Score:4, Interesting)

          by digitalunity (19107) <.moc.oohay. .ta. .ytinulatigid.> on Wednesday February 28, 2007 @04:35PM (#18185692) Homepage
          A perfect example of the dichotomy you describe would be real industry participators in the standards process versus Microsoft's vision of the standards process. Most companies form panels, or working groups to develop standards. As the standards and technologies change, a consensus is reached and a standard revision is created, approved, and published. This keeps the standard relevant while making it available to all industry participants.

          For MS, this involves building a product, calling it a de facto standard and then trying to get it approved formally by a standards body. This is irregardless of the fact that MS allows basically *ZERO* industry participation in developing their 'standards' before they are submitted for approval.
      • No kidding! (Score:3, Interesting)

        by CasperIV (1013029)
        It's just outside forces wanting to push an agenda... It just doesn't work as well in the computer industry due to an overall higher intelligence level then the political arena.
    • by morgan_greywolf (835522) * on Wednesday February 28, 2007 @02:31PM (#18183988) Homepage Journal

      Except that you don't get to define what open source means. The Open Source Initiative has that luxury. IIRC, they went to great lengths to differentiate Open Source and Free Software as two distinct entities. Open Source means you get the code and nothing more. No guarantee that you can redistribute...
      You just contradicted yourself. You might want to go and read the Open Source Definition [opensource.org], which does state that if a license is to be OSI certified, it must allow modification and redistribution under the same license.

      • by Otter (3800)
        That said, neither "open source" nor "free" requires the publically accessible development repositories the author is demanding.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          So? You have the source. You can do what you want with it right? Who needs the repositories? Just make your own. If you have to fork off the development, that's what it takes.
          • by Otter (3800)
            So?

            So, the article we're discussing is nonsensical, that's what's "so".

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by atamido (1020905)

        Open Source Definition, which does state that if a license is to be OSI certified, it must allow modification and redistribution under the same license.

        I've met a number of people that make the distinction between "open source" and "source available". "Source available" simply means that you can view the source code, but not redistribute it, or not compile and distribute the binaries.

      • Last I checked, the Qmail license was OSI certified. You cannot under that licence distribute modified versions under the same license. You can distribute patches to the software under the same license however. This may seem to be quibbling with definitions but....
        • 1. There is no "Qmail license." Qmail is license-free. There is just a permission to distribute. 2. The qmail permission is not OSI-approved. [opensource.org]
          • by einhverfr (238914)
            I figured that the Qmail license is at:
            http://cr.yp.to/qmail/dist.html [cr.yp.to]

            How does permission differ from license? (IANAL, but is there a difference?)

            You are right that the license is not certified by OSI, but it does meet their definition due to paragraph 4 (which seems like it was written specifically for Qmail).
            • If you want to be technical about it, a license is a permission. It's just that licenses spell out specific requirements for granting a permission. You could view the QMail permission as a 'license', but I think the author prefers to refer to it as a permission, rather than a license so he can say that Qmail is 'license free'.

              But, yeah, the bottom line is that Qmail's 'license/permission' doesn't meet the official Open Source Definition, so it's not really an Open Source application. As far as patches go
    • by liliafan (454080) * on Wednesday February 28, 2007 @02:32PM (#18184010) Homepage
      I used to work for a web development company that advertised themselves as "the opensource web company".

      Their idea of how they were an opensource company was because they used php to develop code, and, because when a site was written they gave the client ownership of the code.

      No matter how much we employees tried to explain that didn't make us an opensource company the powers that be refused to listen. It was made worse by the fact that the president of the company was invited to DC to testify on the benefits of opensource.

      Our contracts even stated that code developed in our own time was the property of the company, and the company policy was that no code developed could be released to the opensource community at large.

      It can be really frustrating to have such a loose term as 'opensource' where a company can choose to interpret it in such a way as to benefit them and no one else, or companies that simply fail to understand the concept.
      • by CastrTroy (595695) on Wednesday February 28, 2007 @02:42PM (#18184140) Homepage
        This comes down to the question of just how open do you have to be. Some people say GPL isn't enough, because it restricts how you can redistribute the code, and only think that BSD like licenses are really open source. Seems to me like your employer was trying to do the right thing, but giving the source code to the people who bought the program, but didn't want to have the code available to everyone, just those who had paid for the product. It's just another level of open source. It may not be as open as GPL or BSD, but it's way more open than MS Windows, where you don't get any option to view or change the source at all. Even MS has stuff they tout as open source, called shared source, but that's about as least open as you get, while still getting to look at the code.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by init100 (915886)

          Seems to me like your employer was trying to do the right thing, but giving the source code to the people who bought the program, but didn't want to have the code available to everyone, just those who had paid for the product. It's just another level of open source. It may not be as open as GPL or BSD

          Actually, the GPL allows distributing the source to your customers (i.e. recipients of your software) only, and does not require distribution to anyone else. Of course, the GPL requires that your customers can redistribute to anyone they like, which may not have been the case here.

        • by ricree (969643)

          Some people say GPL isn't enough, because it restricts how you can redistribute the code, and only think that BSD like licenses are really open source.
          Which is, to my mind, a completely nonsensical idea. When it comes to offering the most freedom, no license can possibly beat simply releasing the code into public domain. The GPL, on the other hand, puts emphasis on building an open and free community over just making the "most free license".
          • by CastrTroy (595695)
            I think the GPL is better because it ensures that the code stays free. With BSD, someone could just take your code, use it in a closed app, and profit from your code, without the product being open source.
      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Our contracts even stated that code developed in our own time was the property of the company, and the company policy was that no code developed could be released to the opensource community at large.

        Congratulations on not understanding the difference between Open Source and Free Software.

        Here's a hint: If you give the source to the customer, it's Open Source.

        If you're giving the source to everyone, it's probably Free Software. But that depends on the terms under which you distribute it.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by timster (32400)
          Nonsense. The GPL doesn't give any rights to persons who do not obtain the software. So if you do work for a customer and distribute it only to them, including the source and redistribution rights, it meets the definition of Free Software. This has NEVER meant that you are obligated to send the code to anyone who asks.

          Sure, your customer has the right to distribute the code if they wish, but even if they do, they are only obligated to provide source code to the parties that they distribute the software t
          • by drinkypoo (153816)

            Nonsense. The GPL doesn't give any rights to persons who do not obtain the software.

            No, but it does give you the right to distribute the code to third parties if you wish, so long as the license is retained (along with the copyright info to give it meaning.) The author is simply not obligated to do so. This is the primary difference between Free Software and Open Source; in the latter case the code can be encumbered with a license that prohibits redistribution. In the former case, it cannot.

          • by mdfst13 (664665)

            This has NEVER meant that you are obligated to send the code to anyone who asks.

            Please read section 3b of the GPL [gnu.org]:

            Accompany it with a written offer, valid for at least three years, to give any third party, for a charge no more than your cost of physically performing source distribution, a complete machine-readable copy of the corresponding source code, to be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange;

            Note that this doesn't apply in this case (which is about PHP scripts), because 3a is satisfied. However, you made the gl

        • by liliafan (454080) *

          Congratulations on not understanding the difference between Open Source and Free Software.

          Here's a hint: If you give the source to the customer, it's Open Source.

          If you're giving the source to everyone, it's probably Free Software. But that depends on the terms under which you distribute it.

          If you contract a person to develop a website for you in php how it is possible to give them the site without it being visible sourcecode? When the small print in the clients contract specifically denies them the right to redistribute the code (which I failed to mention originally) you could not be a lot further from open source.

          Yes I will concede the point that on a technicality providing the source code (which is unavoidable in their situation) means you are giving them 'open source code', however, you

          • by drinkypoo (153816)

            If you contract a person to develop a website for you in php how it is possible to give them the site without it being visible sourcecode?

            It isn't.

            When the small print in the clients contract specifically denies them the right to redistribute the code (which I failed to mention originally) you could not be a lot further from open source.

            Again, this is a demonstration of ignorance. You could not be a lot further from Free Software. But that is Open Source. Period.

            Yes I will concede the point that on a te

            • by liliafan (454080) *

              Just because the community at large is too stupid to understand the quite elemental differences between Open Source and Free Software, it doesn't mean I'm abusing the term "Open Source" if I give someone the source code.

              A lack of clue on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.

              There reaches a point when you look at everyone else and think they are stupid you have to ask yourself the question, perhaps it is me that is stupid, or failing that just so arrogant that the idea of considering the point of view of another person or in this case a large community is repulsive to you.

              So perhaps you don't agree with my views on open source, but in this instance as I have tried to explain, perhaps not as clearly as you require, the company I was working for was trying to give the impression

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by HiThere (15173)
        That sounds like the original meaning of open source. (Notice that I didn't capitalize it?)

        OSI redefined the term Open Source to be something different, but the term existed before they did, and they just redefined it. Open source originally just meant that if you bought the product you could see the code. I think the concept goes back to IBM mainframes in the 1950's, but it might go back further. At that time people didn't automatically get copyright, and most code wasn't copyrighted. If the company s
    • Blatantly false; Read the OSI definition yourself. [opensource.org]

      The top three points are: Free Redistribution, Source Code, and Derived Wroks.

      This research took all of 30 seconds.

      Vendors don't have to listen to you, but you definitely have to be allowed to redistribute.

      The segregation of Free Software and OpenSource software was a strategic decision: Free Software and rms argue from a moral standpoint (software should be free, proprietary software is wrong,) Open Source argues from an economic&quality standpoint (thi
      • between open source and community development. For example, MySQL is open source, but community development is limited by licensing restrictions. In fact MySQL uses the GPL to force people to buy proprietary licenses from them (not very Free).

        SQL-Ledger is open source, but again, there is only one guy doing any real development work and he does not seem to like too many contributions (except in limited areas such as translation). Again, open source, but not community-developed.

        There are many other cases
    • The term Open Source was created to appeal to the corporate types - to hide the ideals of freedom put forward by the Free Sofwtare Movement. I am not shocked to see the corporates use it as some form of marketing term - that's all it ever was. It's a safe meaningless slogan of the form "whiter whites".
      • by wootest (694923)

        Not really, since there are plenty of actual open source developers - like yours truly - that don't want to subscribe to the militia-style enforced 'freedom' preservation, but who do want the pragmatic benefits of making source available and helping others. As many people have commented, open source has its own definition [opensource.org] - that it was ever simply a 'mispronouncement' of Free Software and doesn't thrive on its own merit is bullshit. (Yes, even if some people will write 'open source' when you tell them to wr

    • by CDarklock (869868)
      > you don't get to define what open source means.
      > The Open Source Initiative has that luxury

      Excuse me, but no, they don't.

      OSI doesn't get to tell me what "open" means. We agree on what "source" means, but that word "open" is sort of like that word "free". I think "open" means "you can get the source whether you pay or not". (PHPFox doesn't meet this definition, and I take issue with their use of the term "open source".) If I say my project is "open source", that means you get to look at the source ev
  • Why is this hard? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sottitron (923868)
    If you say you are 'Open Source', then it seems to me you have to have sources that are open and not closed. So if you can't download it (or the recipe for for it as in Open Source Beer), then its not open. Period. End of story.
  • Verbiage (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dosius (230542)
    I'm strange, but I prefer to call it "free and open software" - that way there is no doubt in people's minds wtf I'm talking about.

    -uso.
  • by tomstdenis (446163) <tomstdenis@gmaiCHEETAHl.com minus cat> on Wednesday February 28, 2007 @02:31PM (#18183974) Homepage
    Just because you can see the code doesn't mean you can contribute.

    Not only that, but just because the code is open doesn't mean it's accessible [re: properly written/designed]. Shitty code, even though it's open, can disuade newcomers to develop.

    For OSS or libre software to be truly effective it has to target key problems and stay on focus. It also has to be written/documented to encourage new developers to learn from it and add to it. I suspect on projects like the Kernel and GCC there are many "old farts" who lead most of the significant development. In 20-30 years who will replace them if nobody can learn from what they have done?

    Tom
    • We forked LedgerSMB because we were unable to get the maintainer of SQL-Ledger to take seriously any real contributions from others. Certainly documentation and code quality are major aspects in attracting a developer base.

      However, I think the bigger issue is that one needs to run a project so that it is open to a community of developers. This means encouraging and offering personal assistance to developers, it means respecting other community members, and it means valuing contribution. If these things a
  • Extreme open source (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Weaselmancer (533834) on Wednesday February 28, 2007 @02:31PM (#18183978)

    In the original piece Torkington raised the question of whether the term "open source" had lost any meaning because of companies that use the label yet largly restrict user interaction.

    Just because some people disagree with or don't understand the term "open source" doesn't mean it becomes worthless. All it means is that some people don't quite get it yet.

    It's like the word "extreme", which marketing has over the last few years beaten to death. Extreme doesn't mean anything anymore to most people - the mind simply edits it out. But that doesn't mean that the word is suddenly broken. It still means what it means, it's just that we're desensitized to the word through repeated misuse.

    It's much the same way with open source. When you repeatedly misuse the term, it loses meaning. A good example is everybody's favorite, Microsoft. They use the term as a negative. [com.com] Then turn around and use it as a positive [nwsource.com], albeit in a somewhat misunderstood way.

  • by myurr (468709)
    Open source is not dead, maybe just a little diluted thanks to some corporates claiming to be "open source" whilst never getting (or deliberately ignoring) the community based principle.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by VJ42 (860241)

      Open source is not dead, maybe just a little diluted
      So, in other words, it's pining for the fjords?
  • Don't be confused! (Score:5, Informative)

    by SpaceLifeForm (228190) on Wednesday February 28, 2007 @02:32PM (#18183998)
    Open source != Free Software

    GPL software is Free, as in libre.

    Open source is not necessarily Free, as in libre.
    • Exactly. There are plenty of examples of open source projects that are proprietary, and that may not be redistributed; e.g. Pine, Cedega. You can view the source, in some cases you can modify it and compile your own version, but you may NOT redistribute your changes (not even for free).

      "Open source" has absolutely nothing to do with the development process or the rights you have with that source. It simply means the source is open for viewing and for educational use and that's it.
      • by ray-auch (454705)
        Exactly. There are plenty of examples of open source projects that are proprietary, and that may not be redistributed; e.g. Pine, Cedega.

        then they are not Open Source, since they don't meet the open source community's definition. They are other things (by our definition) calling themselves open source.

        Does this mean that Open Source is only about viewing the code ?

        No it does not. Plenty of free-as-in-beer software calls itself "free software" - does this mean that "free software" is only about free-as-in-
        • A significant problem is people using legal terms they don't understand. The Equation Service for OS X, for example, says under licensing that 'It is distributed as freeware under the GPL license,' however no source download is available and the author does not respond to emails requesting the source.

          Wikipedia, which ought to know better, is also guilty of this. It has a banner allowing people to claim that they are 'dual licensing' their content as public domain and GFDL, in spite of the fact that pla

    • Certianly all software released under GPL, LGPL, BSD, and similar licenses meets the FSF's definition of Free Software. However, I would argue that there is also a component to that distinction which is softer-- whether a company goes out of their way to unnecessarily limit the freedom of the users of the software.

      I do not consider MySQL to be free enough, for example, becuase they use the GPL licensing of client libs to try to force people to pay them money for more rights. I do not see SQL-Ledger as fre
      • by Rakishi (759894)
        I do not consider MySQL to be free enough, for example, becuase they use the GPL licensing of client libs to try to force people to pay them money for more rights.

        So? They allow more options for people who want them, yet a company that only has a GPL license and thus limits options is more free?

        In short, I don't think that the license is the only consideration when deciding whether software is truly Free. The intentions and actions of those at the center of the community need to be considered as well.

        Why? Y
        • by einhverfr (238914)
          Why would I want to fork MySQL when there are two better alternatives (PostgreSQL and Firebird) on the market without this problem? And those alternatives are technically better also. Also, in order to be able to relicense the client libraries under the LGPL, you would need to strip them of any and all code owned by MySQL AB.

          When necessary, I have no problem forking. That was one reason behind the LedgerSMB fork.
  • by RotateLeftByte (797477) on Wednesday February 28, 2007 @02:33PM (#18184028)
    Buy Linux

    http://www.cooltechzone.com/Departments/Columns/Wh y_Microsoft_Should_Acquire_Linux_200702262810/ [cooltechzone.com]

    This is not a joke but it seems to fit the general thrust of this article.
    There are a number of questions the need answering
      1) Why would Microsoft really want to buy Linux?
      2) If OSS is meaningless what would Microsoft get from buying it
      3) Could they acquite RH, NOVELL, Mandriva, Debian, Ubuntu etc etc?
      4) Could they acquire the rights to the software contained in a typical distro?
      5) Why would they want to buy something that is free?

    My albeit simple take on this is Patents!
    The FUD eminating from Redmond and these articles all aim to discredit Linux and FOSS in general.
    If Microsoft is violating patents held by OSS companies then buying them would quietly make the issue go away.
  • by forsetti (158019) on Wednesday February 28, 2007 @02:37PM (#18184072)
    How about "free" + "open" = "frepen"? (FREH-pen)

    Have you tried that new frepen software?

    That's the best frepen software I've ever used!

    That frepen software frepped my freppy frep, and now I'm frepping frepped!
    • by flynt (248848)
      Read The Frepen Manual.
    • by biscon (942763)
      relax dude, you're like totally freppin' out
    • by Stormx2 (1003260)
      You should be working for Microsoft, my good man.

      "Welcome to the social" pfft.
    • by Marsala (4168)

      Oh, great.

      I already have enough of a challenge convincing upper management that I'm not some sort of martian for simply suggesting that we use free software to solve a problem, now you want me to sound like a Farscape nutjob, too.

      Frak that.

  • Not much to say (Score:5, Insightful)

    by T.E.D. (34228) on Wednesday February 28, 2007 @02:43PM (#18184150)
    For those who don't wanna bother to RTFA, he starts off by complaining about a specific company claiming to use OSS when its software isn't downloadable, only to have to post this correction:

    (update: Vyatta source is in git, though in my defense you can't find this out from their downloads page only the wiki. Their entire product is GPL, so they're as open source as they come. I apologize for misfiring)


    This is in paragraph one of a 6 paragraph article. Not a good start.

    There is one genuine arguing point, where someone named "Tim" tries to claim that certain software is cool because it embraces and extends Postgres to make it Oracle compatible. Its a silly claim though. If you ditch Oracle for someone else's proprietary Oracle look-alike, what exactly are you gaining? Certainly nothing an Open Source or Free Software advocate cares about.
    • by init100 (915886)

      where someone named "Tim"

      I think that this someone may be Tim O'Reilly, as the article discusses the OSCON conference, which is organized by O'Reilly Media.

    • The usefulness is that the spirit and letter of the Postgres license are maintained to produce a (presumably) cheaper Oracle clone. If there was an Open Source database to compete with Oracle, Postgres is certainly it. As long as the Postgres people are happy, and the people who migrate away from Oracle don't get screwed, then the EnterpriseDB project is profitable while continuing to contribute to the community that started the project.
    • by Tim C (15259)
      If you ditch Oracle for someone else's proprietary Oracle look-alike, what exactly are you gaining?

      Having worked with Oracle's DB for a number of years, this one is easy - you're almost certainly gaining a shit-load of money. (or at least, not spending it on Oracle...)
  • Open Source != GPL (Score:4, Insightful)

    by moore.dustin (942289) on Wednesday February 28, 2007 @02:45PM (#18184194) Homepage
    Creating something in an open source community/environment does not necessarily mean it will be released under the GNU/GPL license. It sounds like the OP seems to think that all open source projects either should be, or are made with release under the GPL being the end result of the program. That is not how it works. Open source projects can and often do yield a marketable product for sale in one for or another. Now other groups start out with the intent of designing a program and releasing it under a GPL - these groups then adopt the open source model in order to gain support, insight, and contributions from interested parties.

    Open Source = Development Model, not a release model/plan

    GPL(free) and open source can be mutually exclusive.
  • How open it is??!?? I wanna know how SOURCE it is!!
  • I'm going back to proprietary software, at least I know where I can touch my ankles.
  • Sadly I see "open source" as a phrase going the way of the dinosaur as well. Add this to the other words and phrases that the internet has also made meaningless...

    "free"-there is always a cost...spyware, some sort of database or mailing list, or the ones that I love that say free then ask for some sort of payment anyway
    "no credit card required"- a couple of screens later there is a screen asking for your credit card number for the next one...
    "age verification"- click here to verify your age, or use an olde
    • I'm afraid in posting all those terms you've told us all a little too much about your surfing habits. Please put your pants on, help is on the way.
  • I keep running into projects that claim to be open-source, but the only way to get the source is to "join" the team. In other words, register, provide reasons why they should admit you, wait for approval, then you can download the project source.

    These aren't company sites

    Now, I really hate the idea of the "Release Unfinished Code to the Wild" and call it "released" when all you have is a few methods and a lot of place-holders describing what could go there and the code still does nothing. But calling some

  • Something can be free software, something can be open source software, something can be both. That doesn't mean you get the source code though.

    It simply means, that if you get the binary, you also have the option to get the source and to change it and redistribute it.

    The original developer can make as much stuff as they want, and not have any of it freely available to download. That is legitimate. But, if it is free or open, then once the original developer sells you a binary, they also offer you the sou
  • I've experienced something of a culture shock recently, attempting to use and deploy the "DotNetNuke" web framework. Its an IIS+ASP.NET+MSSQL stack, which integrated well with an in-house application. The software has some good press and is open source under a BSD-style license.

    There were a number of odd differences in the developer community, as compared to similar types of open source projects I have worked with. Here's some non-comprehensive highlights.

    - There wasn't good, free web-based documentation. T
    • most of the BSD-licensed products in the Linux community have more of sharing culture, and perhaps do not feel as strongly the need to recoup the costs of their development tools :D

      I may be wrong but what I understand of the BSD license is that it is less open than the GPL and because of this it's easier to make money from BSD licensed software. A person could take open source code from a project and modify it then sale the new package without opening the code, all that's required is that those who cont

      • by Rakishi (759894)
        Not really, if you're the solve developer (or copyright owner) you can release things with any license or combination of them. It's somewhat popular to have a GPL version that can't be easily used in commercial products but also have a version that companies can pay for to bypass that restriction (but have other restrictions as a result). As long as contributors assign you copyright or license their additions under all the licenses you're using then you can even "sell" their code. If you're releasing just b
  • The meaning of the word... nothing else:

    You have free (software), which means I can own (the program) and don't have to pay (for a fully working version). Whether that be a closed source or open source piece of software, doesn't matter. Before or after compilation, they give it to me for nothing (public domain, freeware)

    You have free, open source, which means that I (personally) can only own the source code and don't have to pay for the fully finished version. Whether the binary blob and/or support during o
  • Free Software has nothing to do with communities, except for a certain correlation between success, popularity and Free (as in speech) development philosophy. Don't get the concepts mixed.

    They don't own the expression more than you or I, but as they are its original coiner, I will bring the GNU definition of Free Software, as seen in their The Free Software Definition [gnu.org] page:

    Free software is a matter of the users' freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. More precisely,
    • by ray-auch (454705)
      In fact, it would appear that RMS didn't believe community-based development was possible, at least in some areas:

      The kernel will require closer communication and will be worked on by a small, tight group

      That was the Hurd cathedral (with the modular micro-kernel, which you would have thought would be more amenable to distributed development).

      The Linux bazaar proved him wrong - kernels, even old-fashioned big monolithic ones, _can_ be developed by loose, widespread communities, and a lot faster.

  • Free Software was a bad choice to begin with, because of the obvious freeware ambiguity. This is why Open Source gained traction so quickly -- people found it difficult to communicate about "Free Software" without constantly being misunderstood (and then having to resort to the "free as in freedom" spiel which isn't exactly what you want to do when you want to convince your manager to switch to a different software solution). But Open Source completely neglects to mention the notion of "freedom" and, hence,

  • by Tom (822) on Wednesday February 28, 2007 @03:39PM (#18184884) Homepage Journal
    Which is why "Free Software" is the important concept, and shouldn't have been abandoned. "open source" was only ever a marketing term, and many people (myself including) had warned from its invention that corporations with no interest in freedom would find ways to abuse and ultimately destroy it.

    You can not be "somewhat free". You might not like the GPL, but it is ten times more resilient to abuse than most of the open-source-but-not-free-software licenses.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Bacon Bits (926911)
      Yes, because the word "free" is a completely unambiguous word. "Free Software" isn't popular because it was ambiguous from the first day it was coined.
    • by upside (574799) on Wednesday February 28, 2007 @06:08PM (#18187094) Journal
      You've got to be kidding. "Free software" is even more useless than "open source".

      It's only the geek crowd, and specifically in the software context, that thinks of free as freedom. For most people "free" connotes free as in beer (zero cost), even in the software context. A little test to put yourself in Joe Average's shoes: imagine yourself outside a bookstore. A sign above a shelf in the window says "free books". Now, do you think "cool, freebies", or do you REALLY think "cool, books that I can copy, modify and sell"?

      The simple truth is that people just have to learn about the nuances. You can't create a cover-all term and expect everyone to agree on the meaning and trust everyone not to abuse it.

      Aspects such as cost, availability of source and restrictions on use and redistribution are not necessarily tied together at all. I can devise a libre-but-not-zero-cost license that allows people to modify and resell the software, but forbids them from giving it away for free. Or an "zero-cost-redistributable-modifiable-only-for-pri vate-use" license stipulating that the source may be viewed and modified for private use, but the modified versions may not be resold. Ad infinitum.
      • by Tom (822)
        One, that's only true for english. Other languages have two different words for freedom and free beer. French "libre", for example is very clear.

        Two, it doesn't matter. We don't see subversion by Joe Doe. We see subversion by corporations. They know the difference very well, no matter the wording.

  • For example, what's "open" about OpenVMS? In the 80's companies found that they could increase sales 14% by calling their software products "open" - or something like that, I guess.

    Anyway, once a term has been exploited by management and marketing types, forget it, the term becomes meaningless.
  • Remember kids, claiming that something which doesn't confirm to the OSI definition [opensource.org] is "Open Source" is making the same mistake as claiming that Free Software is freeware.


    Now if we just renamed both to "Freedom Software"... English does have a translation of Libre.


    So to answer the question: Mu.

    • by gold23 (44621)
      > Now if we just renamed both to "Freedom Software"...

      But that's my name for what used to be "French Software".

  • a wide continuum (Score:2, Insightful)

    by davidwr (791652)
    Open source runs the gamut from the public domain with no restrictions to "look but don't use" licenses that let you copy the source code, inspect it, but not compile it or use it in any format other than plain-text.

    BSD, GPL, and other public licenses usually fall somewhere in between.

    BTW, the latter have some utility, but are not necessarily any better than closed-source. By inspecting the code, you can spot security holes, but so can the Black Hats. They will exploit the holes, and you aren't free to f
    • Open source runs the gamut from the public domain with no restrictions to "look but don't use" licenses that let you copy the source code, inspect it, but not compile it or use it in any format other than plain-text.

      If you can't use it, it's not open source. You could get VMS source code from DEC on fiche, and this was useful, but it's not "open source".

      If you can't redistribute it, it's not open source. Many control systems companies have traditionally sold their software in source code format, particularl
      • I think you made the same point I did - there is a continuum of open-ness.

        The difference is your definition sets the bar pretty high and mine sets the bar pretty low.

        Either way, using the term "open source" absent the particular restrictions of the particular license isn't very meaningful.
        • I think you made the same point I did - there is a continuum of open-ness.

          No. My point is that a product can include source code without in any way, shape, or form being "open source".

          Back when "selling software" was a new thing, and even well into the '70s, it was rare to *not* get source to a system you bought, if you spent any significant amount on software, because there weren't any other mechanisms available to ship a highly configurable software package. In some parts of the industry, it's still a bit
  • by MarkWatson (189759) on Wednesday February 28, 2007 @06:15PM (#18187188) Homepage
    I have been writing open source stuff for over a decade, and I will continue with occasional GPL projects. That said, without corporate sponsorship it is rough financially to spend too much time on open source projects. I am in the process of switching to a plan where for my three current non-consulting development projects (text mining, visualization, and document web portal) I always have a source code drop available with a free for non-commercial use license. Commercial licenses are available for a small (tiny compared to the development costs) fee. This seems like a reasonable approach to me, and potential commercial customers have access to full source code before they commit to spending money. Wil I sometimes get ripped off? Sure, but I prefer to take my chances and trust people.

    I don't think that any company should use any important infrastructure software that they do not have source for. Open source like Linux, OpenOffice.org, Apache, etc. are best, but for some more niche infrastructure components that are not commercially sponsored, an approach like the one I am starting to use make sense: consumers are protected by having source code, and developers of niche projects have some chance of making money to support future development.
  • I prefer my housemate's term for not-really-open source, and it is Available Source. The code is there, but there are some restrictions on how to use it (no commercial use, but free for education/personal use). We should probably all start using this term to describe restricted-use source code licenses.
  • There are so many endless comments about open source and what ever othr label you want to call it today, be the fact of the matter is that all those involved see it in their own light, and even those not involved.

    The bottom is that its source code that you can access and modify without any restriction other than not taking that same right away from others.

    But those who do not like it continue to come up with distortions of that and claim that are not consistant with it in the hope that what they want will h
  • A. Depends on the ethics of each author. Nothing prevents you taking a GPL'd product and making your own proprietary changes. Then when you distribute your product you strip comments and obfuscate the code before compiling the final release version and publishing the incomprehensible source. In theory it's still Open Source, in practice it's not. I've used an AJAX framework which looks like this has happened.

The test of intelligent tinkering is to save all the parts. -- Aldo Leopold

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