[Politech] Replies to IPI fending off "attacks of open-sourcers" [ip]

From: Declan McCullagh (declan@private)
Date: Tue Apr 13 2004 - 22:09:25 PDT

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    -------- Original Message --------
    Subject: Re: [Politech] IPI successfully(?) fends off "attacks of 
    theopen-sourcers" [ip]
    Date: Tue, 13 Apr 2004 15:15:11 -0400
    From: William Allen Simpson <wsimpson@private>
    Organization: DayDreamer
    To: Declan McCullagh <declan@private>
    References: <407C0961.3010805@private>
    Declan McCullagh wrote:
     > -------- Original Message --------
     > Subject: IPI: IPI defends against the attacks of the open-sourcers
     > Date: Mon, 12 Apr 2004 12:39:57 -0500
     > From: Tom Giovanetti <tomg@private>
     > IPI published a new paper called "Has Open Source Reached Its Limits?"
     > questioning whether open source software really has the potential for 
     > market penetration, and whether open source will ever deliver innovative
     > products, rather than the derivative products that have thus far
     > characterized successful open source projects.
    I'll bite.  The original (and most existing) Internet implementations
    are open source.  How was that derivative?
    In the marketplace, IP was a direct competitor to the private telephone
    companies' OSI -- that failed miserably despite billions of dollars in
    direct government investment, compared to a few measly millions in the
    ARPAnet and NSFnet (predecessors of the commercial Internet).
    Too broad a scope?  How about the Point-to-Point Protocol, developed in
    open cooperation among a large number of companies, institutions, and
    individual consultants through the IETF.  (As the Editor, I'm reasonably
    familiar with the specifics.)  How was that derivative?
    As an open source contributor, my PPP software proliferated into many
    projects, including proprietary products.  And that's what allowed the
    "common user" to dial-up the Internet, leading to an entire industry of
    widespread Internet Service Providers.  Mass market enough?
    William Allen Simpson
         Key fingerprint =  17 40 5E 67 15 6F 31 26  DD 0D B9 9B 6A 15 2C 32
    -------- Original Message --------
    Subject: Re: [Politech] IPI successfully fends off "attacks of the 
    open-sourcers" [ip]
    Date: Tue, 13 Apr 2004 20:51:35 -0400
    From: Dan Geer <geer@private>
    To: Declan McCullagh <declan@private>
         [IPI is a conservative group in Lewisville, Texas. To give you an idea
         of where IPI is coming from, it has close ties with former House
         Majority Leader Dick Armey
    and it gets Microsoft funding
    -------- Original Message --------
    Hi Declan,
    Kudos to IP for selecting and attacking a partisan response to its 
    original partisan report, and for painting all open source advocates as 
    crazy zealots living on the fringe of reality, who are forcing the rest 
    of us into an unworkable anti-property (read:communist) system.  Well 
    However, IPI's assertion that all open source software is not ready for 
    and can not be made ready for the mass market can be disproved by a 
    single counter example.  Along with many other people, my mom and not 
    too technical best friend are both members of the mass market for 
    computer software.  Both use OpenOffice.org, which is a powerful open 
    source office suite similar to Microsoft Office.  I installed the 
    software and trained them no more than I would have if I had installed 
    Microsoft office.  Q.E.D.
    -------- Original Message --------
    Subject: Re: [Politech] IPI successfully fends off "attacks of the 
    open-sourcers" [ip]
    Date: Tue, 13 Apr 2004 14:26:20 -0500
    From: Jim Davidson <davidson@private>
    To: Declan McCullagh <declan@private>
    CC: tomg@private
    Dear Declan,
    > But, thanks to Google News Alerts, we found out about the
    > attack, and demanded the right to have our reply published,
    > which showed up today.
    Since when is there a "right to have our reply published"?
    That's a mythical "right" which creates an affirmative
    obligation, much like the "right to education" and the
    "right to healthcare" which are touted by other socialists.
    Such a right, if it were to exist, would obligate anyone
    who publishes any information to publish information in
    direct opposition to their own views.  The claim that such
    a right exists is destructive of freedom of speech and
    is the sort of typical socialist tyranny that neo-cons
    seem to love.
    Nobody has a right to have their reply published, and
    only fascists would claim such a thing.  Which makes me
    unwilling to examine the words of IPI.
    -------- Original Message --------
    Subject: Re: [Politech] IPI successfully fends off "attacks of the 
    open-sourcers" [ip]
    Date: Tue, 13 Apr 2004 22:20:19 -0600
    From: Allen S. Thorpe <athorpe@private>
    To: Declan McCullagh <declan@private>
    References: <407C0961.3010805@private>
    I don't consider anti-opensource-freeware to be a conservative position.
    I don't know why TCS and this group get so worked up about these
    initiatives.  If people want to give away their work to make it a better
    world, more power to 'em.  Maybe Linux won't dislodge Microsoft, but it
    won't be for the reasons I've read so far.
    It's not that I hate capitalism.  It's more that I don't think that
    everything has to be done for profit. The value of volunteerism is as
    fundamental to a free society as democracy is.
    Furthermore, I think that personal computers have been oversold as being
    simple and easy to use.  It might be a good thing if we returned to the
    idea that some work is necessary to be qualified to use one.
    -------- Original Message --------
    Subject: Re: [Politech] IPI successfully fends off "attacks of the 
    open-sourcers" [ip]
    Date: Wed, 14 Apr 2004 04:55:54 +0200 (CEST)
    From: Thomas Shaddack <shaddack@private>
    To: Declan McCullagh <declan@private>
    CC: politech@private
    References: <407C0961.3010805@private>
    I dare to take exception to the "successfully". Fended off, yes - but more
    by political rhetorics than by real arguments.
    Disclaimer: I am just an admin/developer with some hands-on experience. No
    political nor economical theory background, nor any desire to mess with it.
     > IPI published a new paper called "Has Open Source Reached Its Limits?"
     > questioning whether open source software really has the potential for 
     > market penetration, and whether open source will ever deliver innovative
     > products, rather than the derivative products that have thus far
     > characterized successful open source projects. Here's a link to the 
    Couple comments about the most glaring points:
    "According to those [Google access] records, Linux has only around 1
    percent of the mass market."
    Many browsers, from Opera to Links, allow manual setting of the User-Agent
    string, which is what Google uses for browser/OS identification. Because
    of sadly way-too-common practice of so-called webdesigners to take
    shortcuts and exclude everything but MSIE, telling the browser to lie it's
    MSIE in order to not be redirected to "this site is only for MSIE" pages
    is quite common. I refrain from guessing the real numbers here, though,
    just reminding that there may be distorting factors here. Passive IP
    fingerprinting would do better job than relying on User-Agent header.
    "The computer game market is dominated by commercially developed games."
    That's true. In the area of "big" games, heavy on graphics. However, code
    complexity and playability are orthogonal; Tetris is a nice example.
    There are also examples of graphics-heavy open-source games slowly
    "Third, it's common in open source advocacy to see figures describing the
    number of projects at open source site sourceforge.net or similar sites,
    with the implications this represents a mass of useful products."
    Sturgeon's law: 90% of everything is crud. So this is unsurprising. The
    remaining 10% tends to be quite interesting, though.
    "In actual fact, most of the projects are of poor quality, are unfinished
    and are certainly not comparable with the polished products of the
    commercial software development model."
    Windows 95, First Edition. What to say more? (Maybe Windows ME...)
    "Fourth, the firms often presented at open source conferences as evidence
    of the virtues of releasing source code are usually not software
    developers at all, but web developers, and their much vaunted "products"
    usually include very little original intellectual property."
    What conferences? I never heard about web developers being
    disproportionally represented on such conferences. Or maybe I remember
    things wrong way and Suse, Inc. is a group of web developers.
    "Communities advocating for open source fall into four main groups - IBM,
    hardware makers, commodity firms and some types of lawyers."
    IBM, yes. But you can choose a lesser brand, or, if you are a small
    operation, hire a local tech.
    Hardware makers, some, especially embedded, as mentioned, yes - the rest
    is throwing sand into the gears by refusing to release specs or at least
    drivers, and in extreme cases even threatening the reverse engineers with
    high-yield intercontinental ballistical lawyers. I dare to contest the
    claim that openness in embedded software is not good for building software
    industries - the effort to design a new thing is dramatically reduced,
    which lowers the cost and time to market and allows developing solutions
    even for applications that won't be profitable otherwise. Lots of smaller
    companies can coexist on the market that would otherwise belong to few Big
    Names, developers working there aren't mere human resources, customers get
    more personal attention and better-customized solutions.
    For various kinds of companies, open-source really represents cost
    reduction. It also represents a wide market for developers themselves, to
    customize the applications for the needs of the clients - which is a nice
    alternative to the one-size-fits-all commercial approach. Comparing the
    number (and wages) of advertisers, PR specialists, lawyers, salesmen,
    market analysis and policy research groups working for and paid by various
    open source initiatives with their industrial counterparts reveals one of
    the sources of the savings.
    Lawyers are opportunists that try to get gain from just about anything, so
    that's not surprise. What about the corporate lawyers, the patent ones,
    the intellectual-property ones, and all the kinds of others who parasite
    on the inhabitants of the legal maze of Commercial Software?
    Nobody mentions a very important group: administrators - it's easier to
    maintain a system with sources available than a closed something. In
    numerous cases I had to grep the sources for an error or log message, then
    looked where it was called from, ltrace and strace helped to pinpoint the
    cause, and the solution was found. Often in less time than what it takes
    to get an answer from a helpline. Or, when tuning or supervising a system,
    had to add a syslog call in some third-party code to have centralized
    logging/supervision for that application. Same for developers - if you
    need a program that's similar to other program but has a certain function,
    you take the similar program and write the function in. It's a courtesy to
    publish the modification (or an obligation, if you redistribute it,
    depending on the licence). Also, openness and modularity is a big plus for
    maintenance of in-house applications.
    Another area, often neglected in discussions, is the problematics of
    interoperability and adherence to standards. There are certain subjects on
    the market, who see interoperability as a threat for their business model,
    and go head over heels to "embrace and extend" existing standards, and to
    push their own opaque proprietary ones. I had to retrieve data from
    damaged files of all formats; XML format of OpenOffice can't be compared
    with DOC format of Microsoft Word - it would be like comparing plaintext
    markup language with poorly documented binary abomination. One you can
    handle in Notepad, if things come to worst, the other needs its own editor
    - and even there tends to lose formatting when moved between different
    versions of the editor.
    "For example, whereas a computer costs a month's wages for an average
    American worker, it costs eight years' wages for a Bangladeshi."
    How much does it cost including all the software needed to actually use
    it? What computer - new state-of-the-art one, or a refurbished old one?
    "Good developers create their own designs; they don't need to copy other
    peoples' source code."
    So good developers reinvent the wheel. Did I understand correctly? How
    much code did the author write?
    "Microsoft platforms probably provide it better than open source, because
    they expose functionality via precisely defined hooks that continue to
    work in upgraded versions of the platform, allowing properly engineered
    third party applications to work seamlessly across all required versions
    of Windows, including future versions."
    One word: POSIX. (And various other standard APIs and protocols, allowing
    applications to work seamlessly across many different processor
    architectures and operating systems. And when there's not binary
    compatibility, there's still the source and the tool chain.)
    Not mentioning Microsoft's tendency to litter their API with undocumented
    functions. Rumours are they use them in order to take unfair advantage
    over the third-party vendors, who don't have access to them. This also
    causes problems with emulation, hindering interoperability.
    "Again, development of custom functionality and third party applications
    does not need access to source code of the underlying platform."
    That's true - but access to the code makes things MUCH easier.
    "...avoidance of the alleged dangers of a software monoculture."
    Alleged? One word: W32/Lovsan.worm.a.
    "The reality is that open source can trap a customer into an outsourcer
    relationship more readily than commercial software. This is because
    commercial platforms expose standard API's for third party applications
    and any consultant can develop for them."
    Open-source software exposes EVERYTHING, including the APIs.
    "For example, respected open source developer Hans Reiser of the ReiserFS
    file system has complained that controllers of different versions of Linux
    have started threatening to invalidate support contracts if customers
    stray from their own versions. He describes this behavior as being
    intended to achieve market leverage and exclude competitors."
    Many supporters from the Windows World seem to do that too. The real
    reason seems to be in the difficulties in keeping track of the user's
    modifications and related issues for debugging. If you run into such
    issues, the best course of action is either changing the vendor, or
    getting an in-house support.
    "Establishing 100 percent security in software and in large installations
    of that software is an enormous task."
    You can't get 100% security. You can get reasonably close, though. In my
    experience, Linux turned out to be much easier to manage than Windows.
    Windows tend to be picky about hardware; when a Linux computer dies, the
    drive is taken to another computer that has to be just vaguely similar,
    booted up, and is up again with minimal trouble. Such trick done with
    Windows (tested with Windows 2000) often ends up with the machine not even
    booting - happened to me with the SAME MODEL of the motherboard.
    Reinstallation of the kernel or a damaged or accidentally deleted system
    library can be done by booting from a service CD and just copying files
    where they belong. Most system administration can be done over
    commandline; the flexibility of ssh versus rdesktop can't be compared (try
    to script mouse clicking - a non-issue for one machine, a big problem with
    50). Unifying the configuration of the software can be as simple as
    rdisting or scping a simple text file to the /etc directory, instead of
    fiddling with keys sprinkled all over the Registry. (The config files can
    also be processed automatically with per-machine configuration, using some
    of the plethora of text-manipulation tools, including but not limited to
    sed, awk, scripts written in perl and python, C, Java...) Should I
    "This is a point made by Bertrand Meyer and Nikolai Bezroukov, who contend
    that so-called free programming is often funded by taxpayers in one form
    or another..."
    Ummm... isn't closed software licensed by the governments and paid for by
    taxpayers' money equivalent to funding the commercial software vendors by
    taxpayers? For a middle-sized country, the costs of licencing vs the costs
    of "in-country" development can be at worst comparable. The recent
    China-Korea-Japan Linux development coalition looks like a good idea,
    cost-wise. If it costs the same or less, why give the money to a foreign
    corporation instead of keeping it all in local economy and fund the local
    "As these factors become more apparent, open source will go the way of
    other IT industry fads that were once trumpeted as the way of the future,
    like Macintosh computers, business AI, 4GL programming languages and Y2K."
    Macintosh machines don't seem to be dying and OS/X looks nice (and it's
    largely based on open-source BSD code). Business AI moved out of
    spotlight, quietly maturing in many applications from stock market
    evaluation to optical systems in robotics. I don't know enough about 4GL,
    and Y2K was to large extent overhyped in order to provide a comfortable
    cash cow for the vendors and ratings for the media. Not exactly good
    "Indeed, there is already evidence that staffers at Munich are not as
    enamored of open source as the political advocates are."
    Counterquote from the referenced Wired source, its closing statement:
    "Right now we are proceeding as planned, and we have no hints or signals
    that the city counsel is regretting or reconsidering their decision to
    move to Linux," said Hofmann.
     > In reaction, an open source partisan in Australia published an attack on
     > IPI's arguments, and on IPI. Here's the link:
     > http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/04/05/1081017093699.html
     > But, thanks to Google News Alerts, we found out about the attack, and
     > demanded the right to have our reply published, which showed up today.
     > Here's the link:
     > http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/04/12/1081621880019.html
     > Hope you find this of interest, and we're always interested in your
     > comments.
    I am somehow entirely unsurprised by the vitriolic and ad-hominem nature
    of the reply, combined with failure to answer even the basic points of the
    "attack" - in effect resembling more the reaction of a prodded wasp nest
    than of a 17-year-old, well-respected public policy research organization.
    Just few selected points to comment on:
    "This improvement in the human condition is due in no small part to
    innovative technology and health products developed not under any sort of
    open-source model, but rather under the property-rights incentive model Mr
    Brooks apparently loathes."
    I dare to remind the readers that the property-rights incentive model is
    related only to applied research, which stands on the shoulders of
    elementary research that is in vast majority open and publicly funded.
    *Real* innovation comes from there.
    "But, in the real world, there is nothing more important to companies than
    the happiness of their customers."
    One word: profit. Happiness of a customer is the means to achieve profit.
    If the market is distorted the way it is possible and cheaper to cause
    unhappiness to the non-customers (or customers reluctant to upgrade to the
    Newest Greatest Really-bug-free-this-time version) instead, eg. by
    intentional incompatiBILLities, it's done instead. If happiness would be
    primary, open standards and simple file formats would be used instead of
    the current proprietary status quo.
    "No, it is the open source partisans who ask for something. They ask for
    laws forcing government purchases to give favourable treatment to open
    Don't they, the taxpayers, have the right to say where their money will be
    spent? If it gets swallowed by a multinational corporation and maybe
    trickle down as few local jobs, or if it stays in the region, feeding the
    local people, companies, and universities, then the resulting software
    getting free of charge to the local industry, lowering their expenses and
    giving them cost (and perhaps performance) advantage over the corporations
    relying on commercial software?
    "They ask for intellectual property laws to be weakened, in effect taking
    the right of ownership away from those who create and innovate useful
    Maybe because they are insanely strong? This is a whole separate area for
    discussion. Eg, the US patent system is thoroughly broken: USPTO grants
    patents to virtually anything, prior art their donkey; cost of patent
    litigation can run well over a million dollars, individual developers and
    small-and-middle sized organizations are unlikely to be able to afford it,
    even if they would be likely to win. Threat of a lawsuit doesn't belong
    between the innovation-stimulating things. But many megabytes of disk
    space were wasted on this problematics elsewhere, without any apparent
    effect on the intellectual property partisans.
    "We should not so quickly toss out the property-rights model of
    innovation, especially when the alternative has yet to prove itself."
    Look at the server market. Reevaluate the statement.
    "The right policy for governments to pursue is to leave the open source
    movement free to see if it succeeds in delivering innovative, useful
    products for nothing in return."
    "Nothing in return" may have the form of at least the free availability of
    the plethora of tools and applications. Or it may be the job of an
    in-house developer, or a job in eg. Suse, or maybe a donations-funded job
    like the core Freenet developer has. Or the feeling of achievement,
    identification with a project and/or the developer group. Or a hired-gun
    developer, contracted for a specific problem. Or a combination of the
    above. There are many different business models even for open-source
    projects, but I refrain from commenting on them as that's outside of my
    area of both experience and interest.
    "But, in the meantime, wise policy makers will not seek to undermine the
    proven property-rights model, which has been of such an immense value to
    History tends to forget the merchants, but remember the thinkers. What has
    more value for civilization: making money, or sharing knowledge?
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