The murmur of the snarkmatrix…

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Future of Open Source

Skip this month’s sensationally-headlined Wired article “The Linux Killer.” But check out its sidebar, an article about how Linus Torvald’s laissez-faire approach to sourcing Linux is causing the enterprise legal headaches today.

To put Linux on more solid intellectual property footing in the future, the company has to become a little more corporate and a little less Dangermouse. It has to be a lot more meticulous about making sure all of its code is properly licensed to and by developers, keeping a thorough library of who-coded-what. In fact, the company may send Torvalds and the developers to re-write all the code that’s already been written, making sure to pull any proprietary code out of there.

My experiences with open-source technology have been dim so far. I tried working with OpenOffice for several months on my last computer, because Microsoft Works documents only work in MS Works and MS Office was too rich for my blood. The software just had an amateurish feel about it, it crashed my computer regularly, and the interface was unintuitive (it was a little too open-source; i.e., I felt like I had to code a macro to get it to register a carriage return). MS Word may be a fascist, irrational piece of crap technology that mucks up my documents twice as often as it improves them, but at least it deceives me into feeling I have a modicum of stability there.

Open-source browsers have been a mixed bag. There’s nothing wrong with Opera or Mozilla, per se, and especially on my old computer, I would go through weeks of heavy Opera usage, but the tangible advantages I would get from making them my primary browser and customizing them to fit snugly with Windows the way IE does (yes, yes, another proof that MS is eee-vil) seem small. It’s not all that inconvenient to me to download yet another patch to fix yet another gaping security flaw every few weeks. Ha ha.

I love the idea of open-source

June 29, 2004 / Uncategorized


Robin says…

Let me just underscore how much I like Firefox. It’s so slick, and faster than IE, even though you can tell that Windows XP hates it and regards it as an infection of some kind.

So I see FF as validation that the open source model can produce top-tier work; it doesn’t always need to be a matter of settling for a kludgy open-source app ’cause it’s free.

But Firefox is, it seems, the result of a new organizational model at Mozilla: one that is more focused, as with this new Linux initiative, on code accountability and project hierarchy.

On Mozilla’s road map page, two of the project’s leaders write:

The faux-egalitarian model of CVS access and pan-tree hacking that evolved from the earliest days of Mozilla is coming to an end. Many of the original hackers have moved on, leaving unowned and under-owned modules behind. The combination of over-reach, turnover, and legacy CVS access grants has led to institute code review requirements beyond those required by the relevant module owner (if there is an owner).

So maybe the great legend of Linux — the notion that it is so strong, so fast, so stable because every line of code has been picked over by this huge international swarm of hackers — was never true. Maybe good open source projects work the same way good corporate projects do: with ownership and accountability and all that. Wait, do corporate projects even have that?

The key, I think, is that ‘open’ doesn’t have to mean ‘free-for-all,’ and that even if you forsake the hacker-swarm, you don’t have to give up the advantages of bringing lots of people into the loop.

Hmmm mozilla firefox is really good these days… never got on too well with openoffice (although it is getting better) but abiword is a top notch light word processor…

As for the thing about linus becoming more corperate, which company are you talking about?

Pretty much all the code can be accounted for via cvs, back to the authors – one of the benefits of version control… yet how can we know if proprietry software has open source in it (it does happen)… without seeing the source, you have to go on a whim, test for bugs that are in the open source implementation etc…

The snarkmatrix awaits you

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