Articles / Has Open Source become dera...

Has Open Source become derailed?

In today's editorial, Bruce Smith takes a "What have you done for me lately?" look at Open Source development, and shares his concern over the answer he finds. A few days ago, an article was published which asked whether Open Source was producing results. The author claimed that there were none, except for Mozilla. As a developer who as embraced the concept of Open Source, my first reaction was outrage. Obviously there were results, and many readers made the point clear. The BSDs, Linux, Apache, Bind, GIMP, and GNOME are but a few examples of highly successful projects.

But then I took another look at the article and at Open Source software in general, and I saw what he saw, and possibly the context that he saw it in. Until about a year or so ago, the mainstream press generally ignored Open Source and didn't really know what was going on in the field. Now everyone is jumping on the Linux bandwagon and the press are following the field for the first time. Look at Linux, Apache, Bind, and the rest. They were mature projects by the time the rest of the industry took notice. Since then, except for Mozilla, there have been no major Open Source projects that made a major impact on the market.

I guess I've just made myself serious flame-bait for all of you out there, but take a close look at the announcements on sites like freshmeat, SourceForge, or even LinuxBerg. For about the last eight months now, all I've seen in the line of new projects have been small utilities that do something that is often meaningless in the bigger picture. Sure, every one of us wants his ICQ client to look the way he wants, so those who can write their own and publish it for those who can't. I know I'm guilty of doing exactly that with my gView and gRun applications. They have been small tools I needed and that I decided the rest of the world might take an interest in.

I am not saying that those small projects should not have occurred, or that they are meaningless in themselves. My point is that these small projects are the only new items to come out of Open Source for the last while. Where are the killer applications, the Dream Weavers, the Visual Studios, the Exchanges, GroupWises or Lotus Notes, and the massive network management platforms? They are just not there, and while we don't do anything about it, the commercial programmers will either ignore the platform, or write their own versions and charge for them. And they will do it.

Maybe we should take a step backwards and look at the overall picture. There is something wrong with the image that we can see close up, like a puzzle where the pieces have fit, but are in the wrong place. Maybe it is a lack of seasoned developers and project leaders to create new projects, or a lack of programmers who feel that they have what it takes. I can tell you what it is not. It is not a lack of ideas or needs. There are plenty of those out there for us to take hold of and fill. We just need something to kick us in the butts and shove us into the deep end.

Right now, the rest of the world is looking at us with great expectations. We have made huge claims about how Open Source is the only way and that it produces better programs than the closed system. We know that is true. They see it as a claim, an unfulfilled claim on our part. We need to stop shouting to gain attention; we have it now. Now we need to start producing results to prove that Open Source is not just a handful of highly successful projects and a sandstorm of small, single utilities, or they will shrug their shoulders and pat Uncle Bill on the back again. And we don't need that.

So let's make a deal with ourselves: Let's pull the fingers out of the nether regions, climb down off the high horses, and get down to some serious work. I am working on a new project, been tinkering for a few months now, in fact. The project, tentatively entitled Rainfall, is a distributed backup system that can be used to perform backups on multiple systems from a single controlling console. It isn't as big a project as some, but it is something that I think we need. If you agree, contact me and we can try form a project team. If you disagree, contact me as well.

To Linus, Alan, Manish, Frederico, and all the rest of you that are out there: I give you a major vote of thanks and my eternal gratitude for what you have done. It has taken an lot of commitment, dedication, and endeavor from you to do what you have done. Now the rest of us must take up the rope and help pull as well. Otherwise, commercial software will win the war.

I invite comment, criticism, and anything else that you may feel is necessary to be said.

References


Bruce A. Smith <bruces@mail.petech.ac.za> is 24 and a 4th year IT student at the Port Elizabeth Technikon in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, with qualifications in chemistry and computer programming. He works as a general troubleshooter in Tech's Computer Services Department on a part-time basis. In short, a single white male with mild delusions of grandeur.


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RSS Recent comments

07 May 2000 07:36 dloss

rebuttals

Three quick examples, off the top of my head:

KOffice, AbiWord, Gnumeric.

I'm sure there are many more. Your concern is laudable, but don't think that just because everything in development or even in consideration of development isn't being hyped to hell and gone, it doesn't exist. There are lots of serious development efforts going on in some of these areas. You just may not be aware of them.

Doug Loss

07 May 2000 08:40 elsewhere

you're right... sorta... ;-)
I think i understand what you're saying here. Sometimes i have the same feeling. But, hey, there are some nice projects. Just take a look at Evolution from Helix Code; it's a bright project. Or think about Zebra.
I guess Open Source just goes on, but it's in a face change phase.

07 May 2000 09:01 possum

PHP!!!
Ok how about PHP. Look at the metoric rise in usage it has had over the last year or two. Open source has been in the news that long. This is in use on well over a million servers worldwide and growing and replacing Active Server Pages. I think this is a very viable flag to hold up for this argument. I personally have been using php for over a year and I love it and recommend it to every web developer I know. And 100% open source. As the old commercial said &quot;Try it, You'll like it, Hey Mikey&quot;;).

07 May 2000 09:02 goonboy

Another Great Project
Another great open source project is the jBoss project (www.ejboss.org), an open source implementation of the EJB spec. With the recent release of JDK 1.3 by IBM for Linux, this project will really take off because all the Linux devotees will now be able to run the latest version of jBoss.

07 May 2000 09:03 frogface

Some thoughts after reading this
I've done a bit of thinking about this and I've got some ideas abou the possible cause (and whether it's true or not). This isn't meant to be inflammatory and it certainly isn't a fully-thought-out arguement so feel free to shoot down my logic :-) (apologies for the dodgy formatting - I'm using Lynx and it limits the number of characters on a line in a text box)
I agree with most of what is said in this editorial but I don't think that *at this point* it's a bad thing. I think that what has happened over the past couple of years is that the number of Linux/Apache/Samba/etc. users has shot up, but the number who have joined the *community* is much smaller, and the number who are willing and able to contribute in the form of coding work is even smaller. Until a couple of years ago, almost everyone who started using any of these pieces of software was a hacker. The packages were far enough out of the mainstream and far enough from complete/easy-to-use/stable/etc. that you had to be a hacker to *want* to use them and to *be able* to use them. This meant that most users were willing and able to contribute back, in the form of code, bug-hunting, technical doc and so on. Since then, a lot of people have started using these packages who are *not* hackers, as the software is easy enough to use and complete and stable enough that you can grab a copy and run it without
having any idea how it worked and therefore without any will or ability to fix/enhance it. It's not a bad thing - it does mean that end-users are getting better, cheaper, *free-er* software, even if they don't also reap the benefits of the community feeling. When I say use the software without joining the community, I mean using it without reading the web sites/newsgroups/mailing lists, from which much of our community strength derives. Even so, if we have gone from 75% of 100,000 users (75,000) who contribute back to 5% of 10,000,000 users (500,000) who contribute, we still have many times more active testers/coders/writers than we had a couple of years ago. The difference is that most of the active participants 2 years ago (maybe more) were professional (or academic) computer people with some experience, so they didn't *need* to start with noddy IRQ programs, they could dive right it. Most of the new people now are also relatively new to computers (or to development) so they're still finding their
feet. Give it time, it'll stabilise.
Another thought: This is one of the differences between the Open Source and free software movements. To RMS (or any other free software zealot) *none of the software you mentioned as missing exists in a usable form* because none of it exists in a free form. To an ESR (or any other Open Source zealot) it exists, but in a non-optimal form. In today's Open Source-dominated world, therefore, there is less incentive to re-implement already-existing apps - in a perverse way, there is less incentive to re-implement big successful commercial apps, since Open Source tends to foxus on code quality rather than freedom, so if there is a good-quality commercial app, and it would take a *lot* of work from the Open Source community to re-implement it, the temptation to just use the existing commercial app is strong. For free software zealots, the temptation (while it surely still exists) is weaker, because those apps exist more as a prototype for the upcoming free version of the package than a useful package which
must be implemented. Does this make any sense? Another difference is that there are two main ways for a free (or Open Source) piece of software to come into existance - opening up existing closed packages, or writing from scratch. As I understand it, the FSF tend to favour the latter method while the Open Source Initiative favours the former. While the Open Source people have had some stunning victories (Mozilla and Darwin come to mind), they generally have to fight each individual case on its own merits and in general are trying to persuade a company to do something which is against their basic beliefs. The FSF, on the other hand, is trying to convince no-one but the developers who are needed to do the re-implementation, and the developers wouldn't even be listening to the FSF if they weren't interested in the first place. I'm trying to write this down without making a value judgement about it (although you can probably tell on which side my personal belief lies) as both methodologies have pros and
cons and we are almost certainly best served by a mixture. I think, unfortunately, that while we currently have a mixture, we have to wrong ratio - too much Open Source and not enough free software or, to put it in less political terms - too much lobbying and not enough coding.
Another thought - they may be an absolute maximum number of people who can successfully run or participate in a large project like Apache or the Linux kernel and it is possible we are nearing saturation point. I think it takes a special kind of person to participate in and an exceptional kind of person to run such a project, and it is possible (maybe not likely, but possible) that we are actually nearing the limit of availablity of such people. I wouldn't say I am such a person, although I have written a couple of small, useful and unique (particularly if I ignore the shareware alternative) free (GPL) Palm programs. I have participated in larger development teams at work, and I know I'm a bit too much of a dominant personality to fit perfectly into a team - I'm better off 'owning' my own software within a greater framework. I have some plans to move on to bigger programs, but it may never happen - I may be one of the thousands stranded on the beach, on the edge of the great ocean of free software
development.

07 May 2000 09:20 fleeb

A need for open design...
I think part of the challange to open source developers to work on larger projects such as Mozilla, involves the need to be able to see the overall design of the project.

Large software corporations have processes in place to help deal with this. They form meetings, have focussed discussions, trade diagrams and whatnot, all leading (eventually) to the release of the software.

Open source developers, by and large, have the source code itself, but not necessarily the design.

While this is still helpful, knowlege of the design of an application can make the creation of the application considerably easier. Hunting through mounds of source code to figure out where that bug might be hidden becomes a greater chore if you are not familiar with the layout of the code you're working with.

Also, your larger software corporations tend to have a horde of people who gather information about what the user might want, eventually translating that into documents and diagrams that help the development team create the software in question.

For Open Source to scale, it needs to be able to carefully design its project. For it to carefully design the project, it needs design tools that will help it work within its unique restrictions. Currently, I know of no such tools for Open Source software.

Namely, Open Source developers tend to be distributed across the globe. They come from various time zones, various languages, and various backgrounds. An adequate tool for design in such a setting would have to allow the design to be charted through some distributed means (like XML or the web in some way), subject to peer review, yet somehow be relatively language-independant. The design should probably be subject to the same kind of revision controls you find in various source code projects (RCS, for example). The design needs to be viewed graphically.

Basically, I think we need a tool similar to Rational Rose, but open sourced, and with strong integration with the web.

07 May 2000 10:09 lsutic

Not One True Way
Partially the appearance of lack of open source applications of the killer kind is because of the overhyping of open source that has happened: Basically, we have promoted open source as an *in every case* superior model, when in fact it isn't. The bazaar model with voluntary contributors may work when there are a lot of features that need to be bolted on an alreday existing infrastructure - just look at how neatly GNU replaced the UNIX components one by one. It may not be as successful when you need to do some serious architectural changes - witness the HURD, which has taken a bit longer than expected to get up and running, or look at the horror that is GNU automake/autoconf, a collection of barely cooperating gnuseless gnutilities that require GNU-everything to be present before they'll even dump core. Look at GNOME, Gnumeric, etc. - how many developers worked on the program at the beginning? Isn't it true that the positive effects of the bazaar model didn't become apparent until what was left was to add loads of features to an already existing framework? We're falling for the myth of the man-month.

The decision to open source a program must be made on a case-by-case basis (as ESR says, BTW), rational, not ideological: Is there more to gain by going open source than it is to stay closed?

I believe that as the open source concept matures, we will find out which types of programs that benefit most from an open source development model.

Right now, it is too easy to point at failed open source projects and say &quot;There, that didn't work, so open source doesn't work, because you've said that open source is *always* better.&quot;

07 May 2000 11:10 tcabot

More proof that Fred Brooks was right
Jeff,

I'd offer Fred Brooks' &quot;The Mythical Man-Month&quot; as an explanation for why there are so few large-scale open source projects out there. In one of the early chapters he talks about the difference between a &quot;Program&quot; and a &quot;Product&quot; (IIRC), and the set of assumptions that change when you go from building one to building the other. The result of the differences is that &quot;Products&quot; are much, much more expensive and time-consuming to build than &quot;Programs.&quot;

Basically, there are a set of programs that can be built by one programmer in a reasonable amount of time (window managers, napster clients, etc) and a set (Brooks would call them Products) whose scale simply require many people to interact with one another (WYSIWYG word processors, web browsers, etc) over a long period of time. Given ESR's assertion (proven by Mozilla, I believe) that the initial release of an open-source project has to do something useful in order to attract more developers, then we've got a chicken-and-egg problem:

programmer A decides to write an ERP package to put SAP out of business. He sets up an area on sourceforge and says &quot;hey, everyone, wanna help build an ERP package?&quot; He's now stuck, because he *can't* build an ERP package on his own (one human doesn't have enough hours in his liftime), but he has nothing attrative enough to convince anyone else to help him.

This, I believe, is where the suits come in. The best way to break the logjam is to find someone who will *fund* the project until it becomes useful, and then release it to the public as free software. At that point people are naturally willing to jump in and fix bugs, add features, etc.

Barring that, someone needs to assemble a group of very dedicated people who are willing to put a tremendous effort into building something that won't give them any return on their investment for quite a while. This is a pretty low-probability event.

Best of luck with Rainfall!

07 May 2000 12:06 colinsmith

Why not improve Amanda?
Reinventing the wheel with Rainfall? Have a look at Amanda. www.amanda.org/

07 May 2000 12:21 hamilton

slow developement
I can see the validity of this arguement, but I would tend to disagree. I am not a developer, but I must say that I am very happy with the utilities and general content of linux programs. I believe that slow, controlled developement has helped linux remain stable and relatively bug free.

While it is true that there are a lot of folks out there developing applications for linux, It seems as though the major commercial software companies suffer from a lack of the checks and balances that the open source movement has. They can dump a lot of manpower and money into developing apps that suffer from bugs and security holes, all the while meeting thier OWN agendas.

In short, I believe the open nature of linux development has caused this slow forward momentum.... but it is not bad thing. Let them complain, what we will end up with in the long run will be worth the wait.

07 May 2000 12:37 bowie

Matters of greater concern

I can't speak for anyone else on the matter, but I can tell you why I no longer play the project management game when it comes to Linux. It's because of trust, or lack thereof.

Its a different game than it was a few years ago--Now, we have companies with a vested interest in what we do, and motivations (read: $$$) other than the "hey, thats neat..lets do it" aspect of the work.. you simply can't trust anyone anymore. Right now, i'd even go so far as to say that its stupid to openly develop a project for Linux. It's stupid now because you have no way of preventing Company X from screwing you over.

Unfortunately, the environment in which you have to work within is far, far different than it used to be. You have a totally different list of concerns now, standing inbetween you and the completion of your project. Yes, it sounds rough to say, but the fact is, companies like Red Hat and VA Linux Systems are turning against eachother. They're doing it in order to compete with eachother, rather than cooperate.

Rather than do the right thing, they are busy plowing tremendous amounts of money into ensuring that their way is the only way that matters in the end. They're removing our ability to choose freely, and build freely by insisting that their vision of the future should be the accepted default, without question, and without debate. If you dont fit into their battle plan, you're pushed off the map and forgotten about.

No one in their right mind is doing to develop something openly if they know that they'll be trampled under foot by Company X before they even get off the starting block. Nothing prevents Company X from getting wind of your idea, and putting any number of employees on the task full time, so they can slap their own name on it and be out of the gate first with it. I wish it were different, but until VA goes bankrupt, and Red Hat goes back to being a Linux distribution instead of the Linux distribution, thats how its going to stay, i'm afraid.

Bowie

poag@u.arizona.edu

07 May 2000 12:53 stsz

*nix is like LEGO
As I started to work with Linux ( and other Unix OSes ), it remembered me of those funny little LEGO (www.lego.com) stones I used to play with as I was a child. Take a green LEGO stone and take a LEGO motor, take this an that, and you build a Helicopter with small stones.
And so it is with Linux. Take netcat and grep, awk and sed, and *wush* you have another useful tool. And take this tool and an other tool, and take this and that, and *wush* you have a killer APP.

Another example: A year ago I saw an announcement of a jpeg package, with an jpeg to tiff converter.
I said to me: "Whhoo whooo.. What a killer application... " and laughed.
A week later I had to convert 1000 JPEGS in 20 different directories to tiff (for faxing - don't laugh) - and the tiff had to be postprocessed, etc... So guess how happy I was as I remebered this announcement. I used this tool, grep and tr, and *wush* I had a killer application...

Okay, this story is not complete nor is it fully true ('cause I don't remember the details), but the point is that like in my childhood, as I build monsters with LEGO, I'm happy if I somebody writes a little, specialised application which does nothing else than ONE SPECIAL THING, so I can build scripts which can do BIG THINGS with Linux-LEGO.

In my DOS times this was impossible - because there were/are only BIG applications without even a scripting engine. I had to write a C(++) application for every little task - and an EXE was abaout 200 kB big!!!
In Windows this is impossible - because every shit must have a Window, a graphic configuration, and must not have command line parameters....

Summarizing, my opinion is that this modularized development prevents us from re-inventing the weel everytime we have to do a task - and that is what makes *nix so great. So don't try to "stop" it.

-----

PS: If somebody finds a spelling or grammar error: You can keep it. ;-)

07 May 2000 13:01 grtodd

Notable projects
It's true that a number of the recently &quot;discovered&quot; free projects were quite mature when they &quot;made the news&quot;. But making the news in the mainstream media is hardly an accurate measure of the value or impact of a project though - remember much of the press seems to think ILOVEYOU.vbs is yet another example of cyberterrorism.

In a limited set of situations Koffice is already a competitor to Office2000 : it's twice as featureful as the commercial products were 5 years ago (remember Word6?) and it's free, easily extendable, writes to common XP formats, etc. (no NT or MacOS/X ports yet but ;-) but there's no hype or mainstream discussion yet because it's not on any radar screens. There surely will be astounding ways for databases, KOffice, GNOME, Gnumeric, CORBA, and DCOP to connect and cooperate that compare to anything on the market right now. Unfortunately the gradual boring process of maturing, adding features, minimizing bugs, and planning for the future development of applications like these doesn't capture media imagination the way benchmarks, market share, and other exciting skirmishes in the supposed &quot;war&quot; do.

I am astounded at the lack of attention that projects like Postgres get (contributing to database development requires fairly high level technical skills I presume). Postgres's gradual but steady improvement and the increasing power of cheap hardware has made it a real competitor in a whole host of implementations (Oracle, Sybase, etc. might be &quot;better&quot;, but &quot;good enough&quot; and source available is sometimes more important). But this too has been a gradual development and hard to fit into the way the media packages reality and presents their analysis of technology developments.

There are projects that might be easier to contribute to but still have substantial impact: adding a scanner driver to SANE; extending USB support to more devices (keyboards, storage, audio, modems, scanners, network devices); NetBSD, FreeBSD, Linux people working together to create/maintain common interfaces so developing portable software is easier; contributing documentation to &quot;desktop&quot; projects like GNOME and KDE (esp. making it &quot;fit&quot; better with other non-Linux platforms); etc. etc. None of these are &quot;flashy&quot; visible projects of course.

Compared to the *BSDs an authoritative base set of high quality manual pages for Linux remains an &quot;on going task&quot;: but keeping documentation up to date and in synch across all the I18N L10N environments is a massive task for *all* free OS projects. For Linux the LDP is a fantastic project in this regard - compared to dancing paper clips the LDP's Guides, manpages and HOWTO collection are a veritable treasure. It might not be high profile but it's crucial, valuable, open, and has as much potential for impact on OSS development and use in the future as another big software project might have.

There have been lots of important developments in the way commercial software companies relate to OSS too: Applix's opening up of ELF (nice), Metro-X contributions to XFree, Netware and OpenLDAP, that sort of thing. These are likely to be things that have long, slow, positive impacts - thus they may be difficult to fit into the media's &quot;breathless relentless change&quot; view of the universe.

Re: the above comments on automake autoconf - I didn't know the situation was quite that bad ;-) Then again there's a good chance that the whole range of tools might just get rewritten in python:

software-carpentry.cod...

07 May 2000 13:58 windozesux

Pah!
The thing that many people seem to forget is that open source is for the _users_, not the media or anyone else. True, "killer apps" are required for success in the commercial and desktop worlds. But whether or not Linux or open source in general succeed with the public... that's irrelevant. As long as we have the tools we need to build things when we need them, and we pass on our creations to others, open source will remain superior. You don't have to win to succeed.

07 May 2000 14:00 robertdomachevsky

Open Source modeling tool
DOME is an open source design tool that provides some of the Rational Rose functionality. Check it out at www.htc.honeywell.com/....

07 May 2000 14:11 therealzooko

I suggest &quot;dpkg&quot; and its sisters as major projects.

I think that the most important project under development in the open source world is the Debian package management suite (dpkg, apt, gnome-apt, dselect, deity,
that script that makes graphs of dependencies, debhelper & company, lintian, cruft, popularity-contest, that test-your-debian-packages package, that script that downloads the source and compiles up an optimized Debian package for you, etc.).

Likewise, its poorer cousins rpm, rpmfind, rpmfind.net,
etc.

--Zooko

07 May 2000 15:06 tjl

But...
There are few, established big players (Linux, Apache etc.) and lots of small utilities?

Here's my take: my prediction is that MOST open-source projects will end up dead. This is natural selection in action. Some will rise above others and finally become big players themselves. They will find their evolutionary niche, using resources (developers' time) from that niche that are available to them (the developers want the thing to work).

A year is a really short time in this cycle: can you think of any great new innovations in the closed-source world during the last year that aren't just new versions of the old big players' work?

Let's look again in five years: by then some of the current small players will have slowly crept up into being big players, into the community consciousness --- and at that time someone may again complain about the same thing. Why? Since once something gets to the big player stage, it's difficult to remember the time it wasn't - do you remember when Linux wasn't a big player? Microsoft?

The thing is, these things come so slowly that you don't realize your world view is changing, that you're beginning to see some project as a big player when it slowly gains momentum.

07 May 2000 16:35 jensb

Re: Open Source is not becoming derailed.
Hi,

I don't think Open Source is slowing or losing momentum. It's just that those "big" projects (apache, bind, BSD, etc) take time.

You can write a little helper script (for example, I am doing a perl thing called foreachuser that traverses /etc/passwd and executes a command for (or as) each user that matches a regexp or group) in two or three days, a bigger application in a couple weeks. But those really BIG things take time.

Look at KDE and GNOME. Look at the current KDE snapshots. They are quite useable already (at least for seeing where they are heading). The plan is to include a full office suite in the liga of MS Works, although partly, they already do much more.

Look at apache. This project owns the Web (70% total market share last I heard), Linux practically owns half the Apache share (40%? Something like that). But these projects do not and cannot just appear out of nowhere. Even Microsoft (gosh!) took their time to develop MS Office - when was Word first released? 1985?

So: be patient. Everyone's looking at Linux right now, and that makes some of the soothsayers predict doom, not because there are less projects than before (more the opposite) but because all the big players in Open Source are already established and nothing special any more.

The big challenge called "desktop", will probably never be owned by Linux alone, but that might very well be irrelevant, because we'll all be using small versatile web pads in ten years time anyways (running whatever there is - you don't notice the OS any more). Have any of you ever wondered about what operating system your phone or kitchen stove is using?

No? See ...

07 May 2000 16:42 qbal

FSF and Open Source are PRIME for Opportunities

The GNU/Linux/BSD/Apache/PHP/Mysql (and many more) communities that make up the FSF and Open Source has succeeded in creating an excellent system. This system empowers folks, like no other system to develop and deploy vertical solutions.

To maximize this great work that has been done, The Vertical Linux (ERP, MIS, Accounting, Inventory Control, Automated Manufacturing, etc...) community needs to become more visible. This visibility could be increased by sites that host FSF and Open Source resources by creating, forums, news feeds, and the typical resources already found on these sights towards complete vertical solutions and their projects

I've reviewed the news clippings from most of the commerical industry leaders, and the marketing focus
is currently on SOLUTION oriented products and services.

The Telecos and major corporations are focused on solutions that enable them to achieve quality
goals (ISO, CMM, Six Sigma). There is tremendous opportunity here for FSF and Open Source folks to
make a tremendous contribution in terms of tools, products, services, and best practices to both the corporations are oursevles.

Within the existing horizontal solutions(GNU/Linux/BSD...) there is plenty of opportunity to create
immediate vertical solutions based on what already exist. For example, The system environment for
a traditional system/application developer is different than that of embedded system developement,
and web development. Each of these environments is an opportunity for a Linux vendor to produce
a vertical solution based on their specific needs. From this, the opportunity exist to build solutions for
markets outside of software development.

In regards to competition... What the FSF started in the 80's has made incredible impact and contribution
to the successes of many, many people. That success may be in terms of gained knolwedge and
experience, creations of new technology and services, and yes corporate success too.

Competition is GOOD! Free Markets are GOOD! We can let the consumer decide on what the best value is!

Has Open Source derailed?

My thought is that it really depends on our individual goals are in terms of FSF and Open Source, what we as individuals and a community are trying to obtain from FSF and Open Source.

* A person may want to develop skills that empower them to achive school, work or personal related goals I'd rate the current state of thing a 10+ here
* A person or group of people want to create a presence on the web to share and communicate
with other. Another 10+
* A person or group of people want to contribute towards solving problems. Another 10+
* A person or group of people want to compete with traditional commerical commpanies. Another 10+

My perception is that what I see today as apposed to just 5 years is astounding. The impact that
the FSF and Open Source communities has made is truly unbelievable. If we look at the number of
web sites runing Linux, BSD, Apache, PHP, Perl, GNU, and compare that to any other commerical
company, it is truly remarkable what this community has achieved. Truly, Truly staggering!!!
This community has educated so many of todays young engineers, programmers, and web developers
(and a few old dogs, like myself).

The amount of quality information that is available today as opposed to just 5 years ago is astounding.
Relatively speaking, there was very little information in the 80's as compared to today.

This community has succeed where other communities such as OSF and Unix International struggled
and achieved a very limited foothold in terms of establishing standards and deliverables

Regards,
Paul

07 May 2000 17:01 gls

Moot point?
You are worried that the Open Source community does not produce monsters like MS Office or Dev Studio and instead writes small utilities, which you perceive too small to make a difference (whatever the difference may be). But think of it this way: Do we really need huge kitchensink applications that will take up twice as much memory as you have available, take 15 minutes to start up, and offer you a multitude of buggy features of which you're likely to need 2 percent? That's the way Microsoft does it and that's exactly the reason I use UNIX instead. I'm much more comfortable with having a bunch of small applications available, each of which has its own purpose and does its task well (that's UNIX), than have a huge amorphous piece of dung that tries to do everything for you and succeeds at nothing (and here we have Windows). I like the UNIX mentality and I'm glad that the Open Source movement goes the way it does. The Windows experience has tainted your expectations, think of this and you'll realize that your worry over nothing.

07 May 2000 17:11 blurred

Pros and Cons of Open Source

There are some areas where Open Source has great advantages over other solutions and where it will stay. These are namely all areas where money is not made off software sales but more off consulting and configuration of this software. (like SAP or sendmail or ... )

Open Source may have a greater future in Europe because both the French and the German gouvernement are investigating the benefits of Open Source (OSes like Linux or others), especially the areas in which security is vital for states.

So where there is no money to make off services around the software, Open Source will only be viable in supporting roles (as seen with Loki games). so fully Open Sourced games will remain personal projects of some people.

Another problem with many Open Source projects is that too much manpower is wasted in many projects that essentially try to achieve the same goal. I have spent some time searching for a mailtool for my Gnome desktop. I did find a numer of clients which did have limited functionality, but all of them were not stable enough for everyday use.
So I am back again using pine. It is not pretty but it does what I need.

So the greatest problem is: Why does everyone feel the need to start his own project? (especially with much used/needed tools like mail clients) Many projects could advance a lot quicker if all people interested in developing a new tool looked around and contribute to an existing project instead of re-inventing the wheel over and over.

Just my 2 cents
Jens Hausherr

PS: Please excuse any errors you find, I am not a native speaker :)

07 May 2000 17:39 qbal

FSF and Open Source are PRIME for Opportunities

The GNU/Linux/BSD/Apache/PHP/Mysql (and many more) communities that make up the FSF and Open Source has succeeded in creating an excellent system. This system empowers folks, like no other system to develop and deploy vertical solutions.

To maximize this great work that has been done, The Vertical Linux (ERP, MIS, Accounting, Inventory Control, Automated Manufacturing, etc...) community needs to become more visible. This visibility could be increased by sites that host FSF and Open Source resources by creating, forums, news feeds, and the typical resources already found on these sights towards complete vertical solutions and their projects

I've reviewed the news clippings from most of the commerical industry leaders, and the marketing focus
is currently on SOLUTION oriented products and services.

The Telecos and major corporations are focused on solutions that enable them to achieve quality
goals (ISO, CMM, Six Sigma). There is tremendous opportunity here for FSF and Open Source folks to
make a tremendous contribution in terms of tools, products, services, and best practices to both the corporations are oursevles.

Within the existing horizontal solutions(GNU/Linux/BSD...) there is plenty of opportunity to create
immediate vertical solutions based on what already exist. For example, The system environment for
a traditional system/application developer is different than that of embedded system developement,
and web development. Each of these environments is an opportunity for a Linux vendor to produce
a vertical solution based on their specific needs. From this, the opportunity exist to build solutions for
markets outside of software development.

In regards to competition... What the FSF started in the 80's has made incredible impact and contribution
to the successes of many, many people. That success may be in terms of gained knolwedge and
experience, creations of new technology and services, and yes corporate success too.

Competition is GOOD! Free Markets are GOOD! We can let the consumer decide on what the best value is!

Has Open Source derailed?

My thought is that it really depends on our individual goals are in terms of FSF and Open Source, what we as individuals and a community are trying to obtain from FSF and Open Source.

* A person may want to develop skills that empower them to achive school, work or personal related goals I'd rate the current state of thing a 10+ here
* A person or group of people want to create a presence on the web to share and communicate
with other. Another 10+
* A person or group of people want to contribute towards solving problems. Another 10+
* A person or group of people want to compete with traditional commerical commpanies. Another 10+

My perception is that what I see today as apposed to just 5 years is astounding. The impact that
the FSF and Open Source communities has made is truly unbelievable. If we look at the number of
web sites runing Linux, BSD, Apache, PHP, Perl, GNU, and compare that to any other commerical
company, it is truly remarkable what this community has achieved. Truly, Truly staggering!!!
This community has educated so many of todays young engineers, programmers, and web developers
(and a few old dogs, like myself).

The amount of quality information that is available today as opposed to just 5 years ago is astounding.
Relatively speaking, there was very little information in the 80's as compared to today.

This community has succeed where other communities such as OSF and Unix International struggled
and achieved a very limited foothold in terms of establishing standards and deliverables

Regards,
Paul

07 May 2000 17:57 ncflipper

Let's put together a Big Picture
It seems to me that there is so much open source stuff out there of different quality and importance to different people, that it's easy to only see the things you encounter from day to day. While there is Freshmeat's database, and GNU's software list, it is impossible to get the Big Picture of what is out there.

I can't believe this hasn't been done before, but if it hasn't I think we need to compile a list of what people define as important programs to them. If contributors stated a range of the most useful and/or important open source projects that they use or know of, a list could be compiled, perhaps at Freshmeat.

A short comment on why it is important (inc. what it does) could be made for each effort, and it could be catagorised, but in a more specific way to the appindex. It would probably be a great resource for both regular and potential users of open source software.

07 May 2000 18:12 hamza

Yes...No..yeh but no...
Has Open Source become derailed? No...
Will it be derailed No...
Will all projects finish succesfully No...
Is there any concerns Yes.... (Almost agrees Bowie J Poag's Matters of greater concern)
Somebody is eating the fruits of everybody's efforts!!!
There must be a way to "make clean" such exploitations.

What about Tuomas J. Lukka's Prtediction - "that MOST open-source projects will end up dead "
100% right. Mainly because of the reasons pointed out by BLURRED. There must be a way to avoid duplication of efforts. See, what will we do with all the nice window managers? I love them all... But can use ony one ... If all of the best their efforts were combined ?????

Decklin Foster - me too..... get queasy seeing Dream Weaver, Visual Studio, Exchange, Groupwise.....

George , I Agree with your views...

Zooko - Zoooookoooooo..... Can't agree with your view at all. "dpkg and its sisters " may be good. But why should you make the existing ones the POOR????. .....

Yeh.... no.. Bye

07 May 2000 19:23 qbal

Redundancy is GOOD!
What I mean by, "Redundancy is GOOD!" I have a value that "people try and
re-create already exsiting solutions in their own vision". It is this
evolution or revolution that allows us to move forward. In my experiences
I've witnissed developers with good ideas that really could not implement
them because the projects architectural design of the project they had been
assigned to, was inconsistent with their solutions values, principles,
etc... This is the beauty of what we have in this community, "the freedom to
do what works for you"

What is nice about the Unix community in general is that many of the tools
and utilities are small and can be leveraged into many solutions (or another
example is the java beans approach)

Redundancy is managed by consumer choices. Solutions that are of high
perceived value continue to grow, solutions of lesser perceived value move
on.

I do believe this Redundancy can be quite overwhelming even to the
experienced developer. I think there are many ways to manage this. One way
is to establish a library of software and documentation that be
cross-referenced with solution packages. If a consumer is looking for a
solution, they search on a class of solutions, they select a solution, they
a presented with solution spec sheet. The solution spec sheet list all
softare components, documentation, vendors etc... that for example.. I am
looking for a solution that allows me to create a web site that has a forum,
search engine, login accounts, news feeder ...

The spec might have the following components:

List of packages required to implement solution (including authors,
revisions, performance, etc...)
Documentation on system requirements with a utility to audit the
consumers system for compliance
Install utility to install packages in a predefined configuration
FAQ for the Solution, etc...

This is what I refer to as verticle solutions in my previous posting. Now
consumers focus on selecting complete solutions (integration of a collection
of tools and utilities). I think we'd find that the redundancy would become
much more palatable for both the developer and the consumer

Regards,
Paul

07 May 2000 21:46 zootx

helping open source
I know many people who would love to help with open source projects, but are unable to code. Are there any ways a non-coder can help contribute to open source projects?

07 May 2000 21:57 mad099

Collaborate- too many apps doing the same thing !
I think one of the main problems is the fact that people don't seem to collaborate, rather they just start up a new app. Sure choice is good, but instead of having 20 different opensource ftpd's out there (I bet there's probably more !) why not have one or two which can do all of those 20 things ? No, don't do code bloat like microsoft, but use modules, like apache, and linux. How many httpd servers are there now ? Everytime I see someone start up a new app that a decent one already exists, I think about what a waste of talent that is. Why reinvent the wheel ? I don't know why this doesn't seem to work, maybe these people make redundant apps because they can't work with anyone else ? Maybe they just want all the credit ? Before someone starts a new project they should ask, is there something out there we can add too instead of reinventing the wheel ?

07 May 2000 22:54 leonbrooks

All concerns answered here (-:

This is a storm in a teacup, but the concerns are real. The answers to those concerns are:

yes, there are big OS projects (see many previous posts for fine examples); indeed, some big OS projects have either been created OS or OSed by large not-stupid companies like IBM.

big projects aren't what OS is really about, nor are they what Linux or Unix is about. As a previous poster said, and this is important: Unix is Lego. More small pieces means more possibilities.

People are sold on (a big project in itself) Linux as a system, for example, in one of two ways: either "I can do here what I did under Windows without crashes, trojans, viruses and Monopoly Tax" or I show them a one-liner shell script, usually using smallish tools like wget or gawk, to achieve something that would take weeks of VB coding, if it could be done that way at all.

It scares me that a lot of new small projects for KDE and gnome are totally single-purpose, not even slightly useable as a component of a bigger system. Apple users are just beginning to discover the wonders of scriptable components, while X users are forgetting how. This is Very Bad, IMHO, and probably represents a wholesale importation of the Windows mindset.

GIMP is an interesting example, because it is both a big project and an enabler for lots of small projects (plugins). It and tools like XMMS are showing more life than average simply because of plug-ability, which is the graphic equivalent of stringing stuff together with (say) PERL or BASH scripts. It gives newbies an easy starting point: PHP likewise, because beginners can start with an ordinary Web page and just add bits of code, here a little and there a little.

There aren't enough Richard Stallmans around. Sure, they rub people up the wrong way. Sure, they don't make prima facie business sense.

People like Richard do make enabling tools and above all keep them not just OS but Free Software. They do regularly tap "the Open Source Movement" on the shoulder and remind them that plausible business models, while necessary for funding and wide publicity, are not the raison d'etre of Open Source.

Concentrating on making OS software a business success is putting the cart before the horse. Nobody made PERL a business success. Instead, they made it ugly beyond belief, cryptic, occasionally arcane - and USEFUL. PERL was built largely on Free Software principles, strange FS principles to be sure, since nothing in PERL is entirely normal, but principles.

A lot of what is being built today makes compromises in the name of fitting a business model, and the results are to Free Software as Macdonalds is to food. Cardboard and plastic in a inna bun (CMOT Dibbler would be proud). This is why I and many others distinguish Free Software from Open Source.

Yes, there are many ways to help, including:

If you know more than one language, translate things. If not, you can learn (I recommend lojban (www.lojban.org/) for a mind-widening experience)

If you have any writing talents at all, make HOWTOs, tutorials, man pages

If you can draw, paint, take photographs, sketch, cartoon etc, then make graphic content. Find logoless projects and offer them an identity. Find ugly projects and make them beautiful. Find one-spaceship shoot-em-ups and give them a fleet.

If you are an expert in a field, but know nothing about computers, look for projects in your field and offer technical advice. Make content for online or downloadable databases (collect photos of rock samples and make a geology tutorial, maybe team with a writer to make it scan nicely; take pictures as you backpack, and spawn backpacker guides; write or rewrite songs or poetry for projects and movements).

Test stuff. One of the biggest problems with many manuals and programs is that they're written by people who know what they're doing, and read by people who don't know what they're doing. The writer assumes things, then the reader can't find a starting point. Nut it out, then write the missing introductory document so others needn't waste skull-sweat.

If you have organisational talents, do things like starting user groups, organising a presence of some kind at shows, fairs and such, arranging for tutorials and courses for free or very little, writing articles for periodicals, and other general getting people all pointed in approximately the same direction type activities.

If you're rich, or have any spare money, fund an organisation like the Free Software Foundation (www.fsf.org/) or an individual project.

If you get on well with people, learn a bit yourself and then teach it to them. Or give talks about OS, FSF and similar topics.

If all else fails, be a warm body at meetings, carry stuff and hand out stuff for shows, and do any other odd job which appears.

Open Source isn't dead. It's growing and diversifying. These are growing pains.

07 May 2000 23:00 abo

Competition may be good, but co-operation is better
One effective way to win in a competitive environment is to make your competition loose. This can be done by spending part of your efforts on undermining your compeditor. This means you win, but all of your compeditors effort's and part of your own are wasted. The community, which includes both youself _and_ your competitor, is poorer for your victory.

The reason why all those free software projects succeded is they were co-operative projects, not competitive projects. They never set out to &quot;defeat&quot; commercial products, just to co-operatively develop a useful free alternative for themselves. The interesting thing, as it has turned out, is co-operative development can be more effective than competitive development, and now these projects are starting to &quot;compete&quot; with the commercial products.

Now the Open Source movement is promoting the co-operative development model as a competitive edge to comercial-dom. However, I'm not convinced that the comercial mindset is compatible with co-operative development. Even as we speak the suits are trying to twist it into something that will help them &quot;defeat&quot; their opposition. They will probably use all the same tricks that companies use for &quot;Open Standards&quot; (proprietry through un-necisary complexity, or &quot;de-commoditising&quot; as per the halloween document).

When a competitive mindset starts to dominate free software, I think we will all have lost. I know it's hard to think co-operatively in this competitive society, but give it a go, and we should all be better off :-)

08 May 2000 01:30 onest8

What about Evolution?
I dunno about all of the rest of the ppl on the net but I know of one of the HUGEST PROJECTS TO THE OPEN SOURCE COMMUNITY.

EVOLUTION.

I am personally anxiously waiting for even an ALPHA to play with just 'cause it's such a cool concept!!!!

www.helixcode.com/apps...

&quot;Evolution is the Helix Code mailer, calendar, and contact
manager. But more than that, it is the next step forward in
GNOME applications. The three tools will be tightly integrated with one another and act as a seamless personal
information-management tool. Evolution will be highly
scriptable and it will be possible to use it to solve a huge variety of information-sharing problems.&quot;

Definetly a company worth investing in!

www.helixcode.com

ps: I Love What They've Done To Gnome!!!!!!

08 May 2000 05:28 allsupjd

Word, Excel, Dreamweaver, MS Studio.
Take the MS Studio example. It is not a 'single application' so much as a complete environment, such as emacs is, but rather different. You don't need to worry about where the development tools are --- they are all in front of you. Similarly for the other applications.

Applications such as that are NOT designed by thinking 'what features do I want' and listing them. Instead you consider 'how do I or OTHER PEOPLE want to work?' imaginig the environment so far as the computer is concerned, and then setting about producing such an environment. This is the power of killer applications, why people use them, and build systems around them --- you start with the USER, then you put the computer and peripherals around them, and then you build the software, NOT the other way around.

08 May 2000 09:02 mrblonde

my mother and open source
this discussion is full of people making good and valid comments. but i think there is something that everyone is missing here, and that is a small link in the chain known as the end user.

lets take a look at my mother (no funny comments!). she is an end user. do you think Amanda (www.amanda.org/) is important to my mother? do you think my mother could actually &quot;Take netcat and grep, awk and sed, and *wush*&quot; have a killer application?

do you think my mother ever played with lego? we all did. thanks because we're geeks. we tinker. we play. we know computers. we are NOT end users. and everyday one of us decides to make a new piece of lego. either to make his/her life easier, or to better our entire lego community.

my mother wants a fully assembled space station. she doesn't want to have to individually put pieces of lego together to get one. now as strange as this may sound to people. my mother would actually *pay* for this preassembled space station, rather than be given a space station kit and man page for free. i suppose this is called commerce. and i also suppose it sounds contradictory to open source. but if there is ANY WAY that we are going to topple the software giants and put a unix on every desktop, we as a community are going to have to become more END USER aware.

if my mother were to buy a pre-assembled space station, what would she want...
1) an intuitive, user-friendly window manager (WHERE IS THIS???)
2) Office Tools (haven't played with KOffice, but StarOffice was S-L-O-W)
3) Workgroup-orientated email/calendar/etc solution (like Exchange, but one that works! AND NOT WEB BASED!)
note: other people's mothers would probably want ERP and CRM tools.

additionaly, the RAD tools for unix are a bit sucky. i don't want to give any praise here to MS Access, so please consider this as an example...

my mother needed a piece of software developed for her, which was essentially a front-end to a database that captured data and then did &quot;hectic stuff (tm)&quot; to it, and started printing of thousands of documents (they don't know much about email in the healthcare game here in south africa). every small-medium company has their little set of it requirements that can generally be built on crap like access - as it provides not only the data side of things, but easy to make front ends.

some punk ass kid wrote this piece of my mothers space station set, and like he doesn't really need to be much of a coder to do this.

anyway. i could go on for hours, but i have to get back to work and stuff. but i would like to see more workgroup orientated applications being built. and i think that people should start doing PRODUCT development - which entails a large amount front-end development and considering the end user. my mother.

08 May 2000 10:14 frankcast

Many a point has gone unrecognized.

Some of the responses do say so, but there is a curious amount of responses that Just Don't Get It!(tm), especially the author.

**ix has built up a tremendous amount of software components. These components, when mixed and matched, will produce products that are as good, if not better, than other product$.
Until 1999 the open source initiatives where known and utilized by very few, at which point it has since attracted a tremendous amount of interested developers.
There is an incredible amount of developers now eyeing and imagining the great things that can be achieved by leveraging tremendous amounts of developers becoming interested in the movement. Come up with an idea, let it be known, it will attract people.
I agree that big things don't happen overnight, but they are happening faster in open source.

It is usually a sign that someone is thinking in a tunnel when the driving argument is on that reads "C'mon, it's been one year already and all I see are these utilities coming out of open source.". I won't go as far as saying ignorant, but it is damn close.

Although I am American I have always respected the patient and consistent drive of the Japanese. I see the open source movement taking a page out of their book. The consistent quality of what comes out of open source is what will change the face of software development, process, and projects as we know them.

Frank V. Castellucci

Heres a component

Oh look, there goes another one!

08 May 2000 16:48 juliocesaraguilar

So be it.
Maybe there are not new BIG proyects in Open Source. So what?

The article sounds like an internal letter in one of those big companies:
&quot;we promised this and we don't have it&quot;.
Open Source is not a company. It doesn't have to prove anything to
anyone. There doesn't have to be big_easy_to_use applications just
because there are people who wants them.

Open Source doesn't have to dominate the desktop, or the market,
or anything. Linux and GNU (for example) started because some people
wanted to have (and share) free alternatives to useful things and they
were willing to code them. As a result, we have Open Source OSes
as an alternative to Windows, MacOS, Solaris. Let every system
have its users and its tools.

To all the developers involved in OpenSource:
Thank you for job.
Code for YOUR pleasure. Only good things will come out of that.

08 May 2000 18:57 mikol

TiVo
Bruce,

Although I have not used the device personally, I have heard rave reviews about TiVo. TiVo runs on a modified GNU/Linux system. Per the GPL's stipulations, those modifications have been released, complete with tools for becoming familiar with the code changes (www.tivo.com/linux/). Now TiVo is probably more complicated than just the Linux kernel and the GNU tools Philips modified; in fact, I presume (though don't know specifically) that the really cool things the TiVo does are not free. However, I think it is more important that Philips chose an Open Source foundation for a truly ground-breaking product. I suspect this decision had more to do with openess than hype, and while I'd love to see GnuTV.org (or something like that), I'm a practical person and this is a step in the right direction. To me, the TiVo is a shining example of how openess can be used fruitfully. I only hope that in the future, the openess is as great as the fruitfulness.

Mikol

09 May 2000 05:16 spodzone

Size and shape of Big Picture(TM)
I think it's a question of expectation as well; either you're interested in following the commercial world where you have millions of companies all spewing out code with stuff-all interest in it, and/OR you're interested in the community that codes for pleasure to fulfill a need - opensource and the FSF strike me as more about writing something small and neat to get the job done (and &quot;maybe someone else will benefit from this&quot;) than the former.

18 May 2000 11:42 alexbm

I agree
I have just read your article, and this is not a flame. In fact, I wholeheartedly agree.

Development for Open Source has almost ground to a halt. Development for Linux is even worse, with 3/4 functional USB only just becoming available in the latest kernel. Plug and play is still sketchy, and very little interfacing with todays commercial leaders.

Where is the mail client with an Exchange Client plugin? I find it hard to believe that Microsoft would deny this privelidge, mainly for the bad press they'd get. What about a half decent browser? Netscape is slow and bulky at the best of times, Lynx not cutting it with todays web sites. Opera would seem to be a hope but has still not made it out of alpha test.

Open Source has the potential to obliterate the commercial variants with the stability and power behind the apps and OSes. The developers need to get their finger out, and forget the &quot;Open Source is for experts and needs to be kept complicated&quot; attitude. Make Linux and related products easier to use, and its bye bye Microsoft.

I tell you, the only reason I still use Microsoft products for example, is they do the things I want them to do, easily. Do that on a free operating system for me, and make it legal for me to have it free, then its bye bye MS. In fact, my main OS is now Linux, with vmware loaded for those things I can't do yet.

I do hope to be getting rid of vmware soon ;)

19 May 2000 09:16 y1000000

Building a very big town with very small Lego blocks?
[PS. I don't like writing in metaphores, but I hate to write opinions in technical terms. I'm learning ;) ]

I used to have a dream of building a town with very small blocks, so that everyone can visit it, walk thorugh it, admire it, and use it. And I'm sure I wasn't the only one. So why aren't there lots of big cities built of small blocks?

For a start, it takes time. A lot of time. Even a normal sized building would take ages, so it is almost impossible to build a town. So may be, MAY BE, we need some bigger blocks. If possible, instead of a very small blocks, I want to use buildings as building blocks. The problem is, of course, Lego doesn't make prefab buildings, because they want the maximum of variety. And that means it will take centuries to build a city. In the Open Source World (tm) we can fabricate bigger blocks from smaller blocks. And we should.

Secondly, there aren't enough kind of blocks. With Open Source, we have different kinds of prefab fire stations. One of them has lots of firehoses, another one has a hose and a ladder, and a third one has a car and a ladder. In the real world the third one can just borrow a hose from the first one, but with Open Source this is not done very often. Maybe because borrowing code is barred by rational reasons like "not done", "not invented here", or "I didn't know it was there".

Thirdly, there is no suitable "glue" for buildings in our Open Source World (OSW). In the real world, there are roads. But even that takes a lot of buildings blocks. In the OSW however, we would need something like Open Roads Between Applications (ORBA). Maybe it's just me, but ORBA is very little used between current applications. Most of things I've see are roads between a graphical front-end with an invisible application. Now I want to see more communications between graphical programs (and I don't mean graphical shells only). I really want to see a graphical application that can start and moves freely in a graphical text editor. (and if it is already there, please tell me, I want one for joe).

And lastly, other people want prefab cities. I've never heard of people who say they really wanted to change their city, except architects and construction workers. But that doesn't mean that there cannot be towns that can both be very rigid for its inhabitants and very flexible for builders, especially when everyone can have his/her own in our OSW. Having a town with a good school (a part of the core of a program) does not mean that that school cannot be copied to other cities (as a small core application in another application).

To recap, to build a Open Source World of cities, we need cities, roads, big building blocks, and small building blocks. At this moment (2000), we have some small building blocks (see the sourceforge projects), and a few cities (Linux, Apache for example). We still need some larger building blocks, but larger blocks can and should be build from smaller blocks. So, is it bad that everyone is focusing on the small blocks and the big cities?

[PS 2: I still use Delphi to build programs, because it allows me to use medium sized blocks (components), and small sized blocks (c/pascal/scripts) to build fabricated buildings(small generic applications). In future, I do want to use something like that for Linux (can someone help me with this? I don't know what to look for).]

--

20 May 2000 14:46 astrobot

so what?
Oh no, we (the open source community) don't have any huge, bloated, ever-so-important, attention-getting "killer apps". What a big deal!

Arrgh! Everything we have is fine! A bunch of smaller apps, each extremely efficient in performing a single task, rather than a big app trying to perform every task. (I know that was kindof reduntant, but...) Strength in numbers is the key!! Strength in numbers is always victorious!!! Let us not conform to the standards and ideals that everyone wanting to be a part of open source wants us to accept. Why are people always constantly trying to change us and mold us? And why are we trying to take over the world?? We can do whatever works for us, and stay that way. If someone's mom doesn't know how to use linux and prefers a user-friendly OS, then let her use the user-friendly one, for Bob's sake!! Let us not mold to fit her requirements!!

If they don't like what we do, fuck 'em!

28 Oct 2000 14:04 scottgnet

There are X domain spaces, and Y projects to fill them

There are 'domain' spaces which I define as an area of capabilty that an application addresses itself to.

Serving web content is a 'domain', and there are many packages that attempt to serve in that domain: Apache, AOLserver (my favorite) and many other, lesser known web servers. And now RedHat's TUX effort.

Once a domain has 'enough' applications that attempt to serve it, talent is drawn to those particular projects and there isn't usually anyone interested in starting yet another app to fill the same domain space.

Email servers is another domain. You mentioned there were no Open Source projects like Exchange -- we already have sendmail, qmail, postfix etc. that fulfill this domain area for us and do it well. But Exchange is 'much more' than that, and that may be the problem. Exchange tries to be everything to everybody -- they're tacking on workflow capabilities, they're tacking on directory services etc.; they're trying to integrate everything into it. But Unix and open source projects tend to steer for orthogonality, i.e. to be independent parts that do their job well, interoperating with other parts. Sendmail interacts with DNS et al. But they're separate projects and programs and you can replace DNS easily with another package that supports the same standards without breaking sendmail. With Exchange, they try to integrate everything into this monolithic program that does it all for you.

I'm not so sure that's a bad thing. Now a good thing would be to start a project that attempts to interoperate with MS Exchange, like Samba interoperates with Windows.

/s.

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