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altonbr
December 27th, 2007, 06:25 AM
This is an excerpt from an e-mail I just sent to a fellow Ubuntu Forums user regarding why I release under GPL software and why I feel he should to.

I thought it was mildly well written and I'd like to hear the Communities thoughts so I thought I'd share it with you all


...
I was hoping we could learn from each other with these programs by just seeing simply "what works and what doesn't".

I'm a VERY firm believer in open-source and open-knowledge (think Wikipedia, Linux documentation, Open Document Format, etc.). I don't believe in copyrighting ideas, especially for profit (think: Freedom 2 in the GPL). Yes, that means I'm a dreamer specifically because I believe the World will be a "better place" once everything is openly documented (cars, CPUs, (think OpenSPARC (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OpenSPARC)), pharmaceutical drugs, etc.). This will not happen of course, until Humans are rid of their innate, malicious intents for self-righteousness. This will help educate our society by making esoteric subjects available for all to read (by choice). As you can see, 'by choice' means this is not Communism nor communistic even if it deals with bettering the immediate community and shared resources. Although I've yet to read his books, I think of Ray Kurzweil and his prophetic outlook on the Human race)

So as you can see, GNU/Linux's ideology is pretty powerful to some of us programmers and users (ie: me).

BUT, that brings me to the point of GPL software vs. what you're doing (and I'll give examples).

You see, the reason for GPL software is as Richard S. Stallman describes (paraphrased):


To defend the freedom of every user.

How?

Freedom 0: The freedom to run the program as you wish
Freedom 1: The freedom to study the source code so it does what you wish
Freedom 2: The freedom to help your neighbour
Freedom 3: The freedom to improve the program and release it to the public so the community benefits as a whole

Thus, many programs, such as Deluge Torrent (http://deluge-torrent.org) will offer binary versions (http://download.deluge-torrent.org/index.php?dir=ubuntu/gutsy/) and open source versions (http://download.deluge-torrent.org/index.php?dir=tarball/). This allows user's to use the program unmodified (Freedom 0 & 2) and to study and or modify the program for the benefit of self and/or community (Freedom 0, 1 & 3).

Thus, if you release your code under the GPL, I believe you'll be benefiting the Ubuntu and Linux communities. This will also allow you to handout binaries (as you stated you would like to do) and rid you of credibility for modified versions of your software as it was not official released by you. Example: If I forked the Apache 2.2 server, wrote malicious code and then handed out versions to fellow users, the Apache Foundation would not be to blame as they did not release this source code.
...

hhhhhx
December 27th, 2007, 06:36 AM
well written, and intuative.

I feal that if someone is going to change someones view on something, it is way better to not force it on them, To many things have been lost just because someone wants everything to be done there way. I think that we will get nowhere, fast if we force out ideas on someone, if we just give the facts and let people make the decision for themselves, we will be a lot better off. (p.s. i was not reffering to what you wrote, just a general note for others)

bufsabre666
December 27th, 2007, 06:37 AM
here here my friend


cheers to open source

BradwJensen
December 27th, 2007, 06:48 AM
I really like how you gave examples and worded it all.

Its nice to know more people are out there who think somewhat like I do about some things :-)

t0p
December 27th, 2007, 07:42 AM
Yes, it's good to try to persuade other developers to do the right thing - and to do it gently, as not many people like to feel as if they're being forced to do something.

This is Stallman's problem, I think. I agree with a lot of what rms says, but I think he puts it across too forcibly. He argues that as he's talking about fundamental freedoms, he has to put it strongly. He says, for instance, that the open source movement's "more pragmatic" approach does not emphasis the importance of freedom as much as does his Free Software philosophy. But I think the open source movement wins more converts as it is less frightening to business types who blanch at the word "free".

My favorite of rms's approaches is the analogy of software as recipes. For millenia, people have been trading recipes freely and modifying them as they see fit. As software is essentially a list of steps or a description of how to do something, it should be treated in the same way. Put like that, the idea of Free Software doesn't seem as radical and "communistic" as some of its detractors like to say it is.

altonbr
December 27th, 2007, 07:48 AM
My favorite of rms's approaches is the analogy of software as recipes. For millenia, people have been trading recipes freely and modifying them as they see fit. As software is essentially a list of steps or a description of how to do something, it should be treated in the same way. Put like that, the idea of Free Software doesn't seem as radical and "communistic" as some of its detractors like to say it is.

Hey, I really like that! Thanks for sharing that tidbit.

tbroderick
December 27th, 2007, 08:22 AM
It might be nice to point out that the GPL is not the only open source license that is compatible with RMS/FSF's four freedoms. Especially since you give Apache as an example and it's not GPL licensed but under the Apache License.

23meg
December 27th, 2007, 10:01 AM
It might be nice to point out that the GPL is not the only open source license that is compatible with RMS/FSF's four freedoms.

http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/license-list.html

daou
December 27th, 2007, 10:35 AM
I release my code in GNU/GPL, but that doesn't mean I believe in freedom from making profit. I have no problem with people using the GPL to make money, unless it is just repackaged work of someone else.

That said, I don't ask anything for my code. I'm happy enough that people find what I do useful. And I want it to be used as much as possible (but want to reserve some credit for my work). That's why I use GPL. A thanks now and then is enough for me to keep working.

garret
December 27th, 2007, 01:47 PM
While I appreciate your statement for what it is, it fails to recognize the "business" of software. Doing the world a favor, being a good person, etc, all of that is great, but if you can't make a living at it, it starts to fall apart at some point.

While I do have my views on this position, I would be interested in hearing yours . . . from a perspective of business. How would you encourage software businesses to release their software under the GPL? What are the reasons that they should do so? Please remember, first and foremost, if a business does not make money they do not survive.

Thanks
Garret Acott
http://restore-backup.com

daou
December 27th, 2007, 02:27 PM
While I appreciate your statement for what it is, it fails to recognize the "business" of software. Doing the world a favor, being a good person, etc, all of that is great, but if you can't make a living at it, it starts to fall apart at some point.

While I do have my views on this position, I would be interested in hearing yours . . . from a perspective of business. How would you encourage software businesses to release their software under the GPL? What are the reasons that they should do so? Please remember, first and foremost, if a business does not make money they do not survive.

Thanks
Garret Acott
http://restore-backup.com

In business, code is considered a commodity. It's difficult for businesses to take the leap and offer openly something that is so easily copied and redistributed.

But I feel that there is a change in attitudes towards closed software, especially when new systems break compatibility with old software. Releasing code under the GPL is a statement from the developer: the code is good enough to show, we are an open company, and our customers come first. It is also a kind of promise to the customer: even if we go out of business, or stop the development of this software, you can port it to other new systems, make improvements, fix bugs, etc. by yourself. There is no such thing as vendor lock-in with GPL, which should be a very strong selling point.

garret
December 27th, 2007, 07:26 PM
In business, code is considered a commodity. It's difficult for businesses to take the leap and offer openly something that is so easily copied and redistributed.

But I feel that there is a change in attitudes towards closed software, especially when new systems break compatibility with old software. Releasing code under the GPL is a statement from the developer: the code is good enough to show, we are an open company, and our customers come first. It is also a kind of promise to the customer: even if we go out of business, or stop the development of this software, you can port it to other new systems, make improvements, fix bugs, etc. by yourself. There is no such thing as vendor lock-in with GPL, which should be a very strong selling point.

I agree with much of what you are saying . . . all very good points for the software developer's customers, but not as compelling for the software developer himself, and even less so if it's a company with a number of developers. Developers aren't cheep and neither is running a company. The cost of Errors and Omissions insurance by itself is enough to put many smaller companies in the red rather than black, and if you are designing professional software, you really should have it.

While telling the customer that he has access to the code sounds like a great idea, many customers want nothing to do with that. They aren't interested in porting the software, they just want it supported. While the ability to move forward with the software if the company goes out of business is great, many would just rather deal with a company that has a long track record. The reality is, many of the items listed by you are more selling points to the customer, rather than a plan on how one (being a software company) would make a go at creating and "selling" free software. What are the business cases for becoming a "free software" company? Consider just two standard choices in business today while creating free software.

1. I have a company with 10 developers. I have one product that is really a great product but it just hasn't taken off well. There are a lot of reasons it hasn't done well (always are), but let's say the primary reason seem to be large competition (1 Billion $$ plus companies) has out marketed me with competing products and my sales guys just can't seem to get traction. I have 5 investors who have dumped a total of 2 million into developing this software. I have heard of free software and am intrigued. How can my company move into this emerging market and make money. How do I convince my investors that it's a smart move?

2. Same company as above without the investors. I've (the owner) have been boot strapping this thing myself for five years now and am about out of money. Like the above, I am intrigued with free software and the new market. How can I save my company and turn things around?

Thanks
Garret Acott
http://restore-backup.com

p_quarles
December 27th, 2007, 07:45 PM
@garret: There are many reasons for businesses to be interested in open source software. First and foremost is the fact that so much of the work has already been done. I.e., the open source developer is standing on the shoulders of giants, whereas a proprietary solution often needs to be written from the ground up.

Second, it can be very attractive to any business that makes its money selling software-based devices. OEM computers, cellular phones, GPSes, TiVos, etc. These are big businesses, and they have all taken advantage of open source software.

Third, many businesses have been very successful selling software support contracts for open source software. A contract guaranteeing that an OS will work -- or be repaired quickly when it doesn't -- is worth much more to a large business than the software itself.

Finally, take a look at the major corporations which already center much of their operations around open source software: IBM, Google, Red Hat, Novell, Sun, and I'm sure there are others.

daou
December 27th, 2007, 08:06 PM
@garret: There are many reasons for businesses to be interested in open source software. First and foremost is the fact that so much of the work has already been done. I.e., the open source developer is standing on the shoulders of giants, whereas a proprietary solution often needs to be written from the ground up.


This is a very good point and one I neglected to mention. In some cases you can cut down the work of a 100 developers to a task for 5 developers. I have been involved in embedded Linux development, and it mostly involves making patches to existing software and the kernel to work exactly as you want. The biggest work is hunting down the right software for the task and attempting to cross-compile. Then release as GPL and it's done. Compare that to the work you would need to do to make a working dedicated operating system and all the software it requires.

I would think investors are happy if the 10 developers are reassigned to 3 projects instead of all trying to reinvent the wheel for a single project. Of course, mature companies developing closed source software are at an advantage here because they have extensive code libraries at their disposal (to a limit, of course). But it makes it much easier for startups to enter the game.

garret
December 27th, 2007, 08:47 PM
Thanks everybody, just like to see people thinking about FOSS business as well as personal. I have been in the business of developing free software for the last ten years and understand that there are many ways to make it work. Quite honestly, most of them painful. :-) We have just GPL'd the software in my sig, after on and off development over a number of years. Sometimes I look back and wonder how we ever stayed in business.

It's a great new world out there and every day it seems we see more software companies move to open source.

To be honest, the real sticking point is still investors. In my example #1 the company would never be able to open source their product with the original investors. Many investors still invest in "IP" rather than market. Company #1 would have to get somebody to buy out the original investors, and then move to open sourcing the product.

Garret Acott
http://restore-backup.com

daou
December 27th, 2007, 09:05 PM
Thanks everybody, just like to see people thinking about FOSS business as well as personal. I have been in the business of developing free software for the last ten years and understand that there are many ways to make it work. Quite honestly, most of them painful. :-) We have just GPL'd the software in my sig, after on and off development over a number of years. Sometimes I look back and wonder how we ever stayed in business.


I hope you manage to keep staying afloat and perhaps even churn out a nice profit. Good to know that the GPL makes it possible.

jseiser
December 27th, 2007, 09:27 PM
Not to Derail, but i noticed 2 separate posts that mention communism like its a bad thing, when did it become a bad thing?

p_quarles
December 27th, 2007, 09:28 PM
Not to Derail, but i noticed 2 separate posts that mention communism like its a bad thing, when did it become a bad thing?
August of last year, IIRC. It was even on the front page of USA Today. ;)

garret
December 27th, 2007, 10:10 PM
I hope you manage to keep staying afloat and perhaps even churn out a nice profit. Good to know that the GPL makes it possible.

Thanks, I think we'll make it. After running our company (Ruffdogs) for almost 10 years, in March of this year we were acquired by a company called Holonyx, Inc (http://holonyx.com). It's nice to see that other companies (not just the big ones like IBM) see value in companies like ours. I hope it's a trend that continues to grow.

Garret

phrostbyte
December 27th, 2007, 11:10 PM
While I appreciate your statement for what it is, it fails to recognize the "business" of software. Doing the world a favor, being a good person, etc, all of that is great, but if you can't make a living at it, it starts to fall apart at some point.

While I do have my views on this position, I would be interested in hearing yours . . . from a perspective of business. How would you encourage software businesses to release their software under the GPL? What are the reasons that they should do so? Please remember, first and foremost, if a business does not make money they do not survive.

Thanks
Garret Acott
http://restore-backup.com

I think we need to come up with some kind of system to replace copyright which allows developing open source software to be very profitable. Because I think there is a clear overall technological advantage to sharing code and schematics with other people and groups, so I think the overall economic system should reward this behavior in some way. I am not sure how but copyright is not optimal in our information age world.

garret
December 28th, 2007, 12:57 AM
I think we need to come up with some kind of system to replace copyright which allows developing open source software to be very profitable. Because I think there is a clear overall technological advantage to sharing code and schematics with other people and groups, so I think the overall economic system should reward this behavior in some way. I am not sure how but copyright is not optimal in our information age world.

While I agree that copyright is not optimal, I don't believe that the issues really lie there. In software development you have to be trying pretty hard IMHO to step on somebody's copyright. Copyright does protect you (open source or not) from people trying to steal your work and call it their own. Remember, copyright and license are two completely and mutually exclusive items. The real issue IMO is the patent system and software patents. A complete joke in my mind.

Garret Acott
http://restore-backup.com