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Michael L Torrie torriem at chem.byu.edu
Wed Apr 6 16:15:39 MDT 2005


On Wed, 2005-04-06 at 15:53 -0600, Eric Jensen wrote:
> I can understand the "repeat victim" part.  We have all experienced that
> plenty.  But the economy part is a bit of a stretch.  America's economy
> is one of, if not the, strongest economy in the world and I'm pretty
> sure it wasn't because of OSS mindsets.

Actually it is.  Witness the total domination of the IBM PC architecture
(arguably now wintel).  This came about because compaq had the guts to
reverse engineer IBM's bios.  This forced IBM to be more open with the
specs and things and before you know it the industry exploded.  Compare
this to Apple who always has kept stuff very tightly controlled.  Where
have they gone?

We're always asking other countries to "open up" their markets to us.
Is this not an OSS mindset?  Keeping things closed does not promote the
economy and does not promote innovation and development.  Being more
open does.  Two things hold back entire industries: government
regulation and closed industries with high barriers to entry.  Sometimes
this is a good thing.  I'd hate to not have government regulation on
automobiles, for example. 

> I'm not up to speed on the OSDL employee stuff, but I've never felt like
> BitMover was forcing anything on anybody.  Even if it isn't open source,
> I think offering a great product/service for free is very generous. 
> Personally, I think a lot of people are still locked in the anti
> Microsoft mindset.  But there is a difference.  Microsoft makes horrid
> products and are the worst kind of capatilist bullies.  People like
> BitMover, Secway, and many many others make great products and offer
> them very generously to the community.

BitMover never forced anything on anyone, true.  But their decision has
cause a problem that is inherent with all proprietary systems.  Yes they
were generous (sort of) but Linus made a mistake and now RMS is saying I
told you so.  From what I can tell Larry McVoy is anything but kind and
generous.  Sometimes people are more generous than they would be
naturally because they have to be that way due to their market position.
If he was in MS's position for example, it does not follow that he would
be the same.

> 
> With that said, I'm not sure where I stand on the reverse engineering. 
> Reverse engineering has been used to steal and also to great new and
> better technologies.

Reverse engineering is and always will be morally okay.  The problem is
that software traditionally has been much harder to reverse engineer
than, say, a new car engine.  Even in the traditional world, a product
is only immune to reverse engineering as long as it is secret and not
yet released.  Once a car has been sold, for example, I can take the
engine apart as much as I'd like to see how it works.  Whether or not I
can copy it and sell it for profit is another story.  As far as software
goes, reverse engineering isn't so much about seeing the assembly code
as it is documenting the protocols and algorithms used, neither of which
can and should be property.

For what it is worth, I applaud this employee's work to free us from
bitkeeper.  As far as I know implementing the bitkeeper protocol would
be just fine and the algorithms bitkeeper uses are anything but secret
or McVoy's private property.

An interesting thing to watch lately has been the relationship between
the NoMachine.com group and the FreeNX group over the NX remote X
software.  Most of the NX is GPL and open source and NoMachine does
depend on selling packages of NX for their bread and butter.  FreeNX in
many ways threatens their livelihood by providing entirely GPL glue
components in easy-to-use packages.  Given FreeNX's slick packages why
should anyone by the commercial version?  Clearly NoMachine sells value-
added services surrounding NX.  Through it all both groups are
contribution to each other to make the NX product better all around.  It
is a win-win.  NoMachine makes more money selling to enterprises the
improved software while we continue to enjoy NX on our home machines.
BitMover could move to this type of symbiosis but they have chosen not
to.

Fortunately history has shown that when companies try to get themselves
entrenched in some way (in the Linux kernel development process, for
example) and do things like this invariably it provides the impetus
needed to write a completely free version that often does the same thing
better.  I hope this happens.  Frankly the current state of revision
control systems that are freely available is pretty sad.  CVS sucks,
Subversion sucks a little less, arch is terribly complicated, etc.
Monotone sounds promising but still has a ways to go before Linus can
use it.

Michael


> 
> Eric Jensen
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