Open Thread

I’m on my way up to the Open Source Convention, where I’m speaking and making a book-relatedappearance tomorrow night at the great Powell’s Books in Portland.

Please be civil here.


Posted by: on July 28, 2004 01:08 AM

I was just thinking the other day about how Open Source is being villanized as a threat to jobs, security and innovation, when several things occured to me.

First thing that came to mind was the alleged code theft at google and an article several weeks ago that indicated over 60 precent of programmers take code with them from one job to the next (despite the threat that “work made for hire” hangs over their head). If Okrut had been coded with an Open Source license, google would be in the clear and the other company wouldn’t be spending their money on lawyers, hoping for google to go IPO. I think it’s foolish to tie one’s programming hitch to a single horse and I think if you ask around, you’ll find that the road to ritches very will might not be signing that super-star programmer contract with Microsoft (well, maybe in the short run). Given the churn and burn in the tech industry, having had a string of masters could be the single biggest liability that a programmer/company could know…. unless you program open source.

The second thought had to do with security. Why has OpenBSD had stack-smashing protection for over a year and Microsoft just now trying to get it out the door (without much success I might add)? Why didn’t nessus and snort come from Microsoft first? …and what a tragety that LeBrea had to stop distributing their source to do the DMCA. My only conclusions is that circumvention (hacking, not cracking) and sunlight (open source) are good for security. Closed source and maintaining apperance for shareholder’s sake is not good for security.
Even the DoD knows this. I remember back in 1996, I was working for a defense contractor in a position where I was supporting the DIICOE modified kernels and associated software (a suprising amount of which was open source). I mentioned to my soleless tie-wearing taskmasters at the time that maybe the should look at Linux. In short, I was laughed at for thinking silly thoughts. Several years later, a NSA kernel modification or 10 and several linux DIICOE varents down the river, it is obvious to me that security is not obtained via reliance on Microsoft, Sun, HP or “The Market”.

On innovation… did anyone else find Gates somewhat chovinistic when he poo-poo’ed Indian programmers several years ago? Does anyone else think that this might be the “no more than 640kb” Bill Gates satement of this decade? Ok, does anyone really think that Indian (and programmers everywhere else) AREN’T going to innovate? I wonder how many of those 7000 jobs Microsoft is opening up will be for SSN holders. Finally, the economic of Open Source should inspire the middle layer (middle class, if you like) to propagate it for several reasons:

The bulk of the value is not singularly distributed upwards. As long as consulting fees are reasonable, deployment complexity modest and innovative/maintenace coders compensated, there’s absloutely no reason why Open Source can’t save the customer money and make money for the consutaller (consultant/installer). It’s like the ultimate ponsi scheme– the spreading of Open Source will only stop when we run out of computers/customers (or politics/law interveens).

There’s some gristle for those brought-and-paid-for “think tanks” to chew on.

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