[OSGeo-Discuss] "Free"

Arnulf Christl arnulf.christl at wheregroup.com
Mon Mar 5 09:51:42 PST 2007

Zachary L. Stauber wrote:
> If I'm not mistaken at the last FOSS4G conference OracleXE already did have a
> demonstration and it wasn't nearly as integrated with open source software as
> the requirements we're now talking about to be part of FOSS4G.  I didn't attend
> it, but I did talk to some of the presenters afterwards for some technical help.

I attended the workshop and wasn't too excited about it. Paul was sitting right beside me and I had to restrain him a few times from throwing tomatoes but else it was pretty relaxed. 

We started a short argument in the discussion about what Oracle's initiative is worth to the Open Source community. The result was null. Oracle is basically just trying to lure a few free-beer beta tester to hone their solution. The second strategy is have people implement Open Source on top of Oracle to help spread their proprietary licenses. Both are not OSGeo mission statements.

I might develop a different opinion if Oracle would be a sustaining sponsor of OSGeo and actually invests some money. They have cash, if they spend it to sustain OSGeo, cool.

> The alternative to OracleXE is Oracle 10g Enterprise which is something like
> US$40,000 per processor.  

Yes, look at this. All they need to do is sell two processor licenses to be in the major league of OSGeo sponsors (aside to FunCom: we should raise the bar, when I come to think - of it we are a lot too cheap...). ((aside to myself: Counting this way the WhereGroup has generated a revenue of 400k for Oracle last year. Whoops! That wasn't planned!))

> So just because of that huge step up I don't think
> Oracle can use OracleXE as a foothold in order to sell a commercial version.  I
> think it's safe to say if they're offering OracleXE to the open source
> community, their reasons are benign, and if they're not, too bad for them
> because they won't be getting any sales off it.

"Their" reasons are not "benign" if I understand the meaning of the word correctly as "them" in this context is a corporation and can thus not bring human affection, care or love. ((aside to myself: hope for them to not apply the term "benign" to Open Source software because it won't work either))

> Believe me, I'm a PostGIS user to the core, myself, but I think that the slope
> from commercial to open source is a slippery one 

Yes it is, sorry - if I may interject. The opposites in this equation are "proprietary" vs. "Open Source". The term "commercial" can be applied in many ways to Open Source based solutions, so it does not make sense to oppose Open Source to commercial but only to proprietary. Then it also makes a lot more sense. 

> from which there is rarely a
> return.  If Oracle is encouraged to get into open source, I think it will only
> be good for OSS.

Again this is point of view. Oracle is a commercial enterprise. "OSS" can be either a software development model, licensing method, the "community at large" (which is not a homogeneous mass either) or any combination thereof. Another stakeholder of the conference are commercial enterprises like the WhereGroup, Refractions, DM-Solutions and many more. "Our" interests (as diverse as they may be) might also conflict with those of Oracle. So whichever way you turn it, OSS might profit or not from Oracle appearing there. 

If they want to make a workshop or presentation they can be sure that there will be a happy audience asking critical questions (or was it a critical audience happily asking questions). They are prepared for this and it is one of the ways that "we" actually communicate with "them". So from my point of view a presentation is a good idea. 

> Obviously FOSS4G doesn't have the capacity to have a booth or a seminar on every
> piece of free/lite/demo GIS software, 

IMNSHO initially it was only intended for Free as in Free-Speech software. We do not want to have a workshop on crippleware. Technically Oracle's XE actually is crippled... maybe only "lite".

> but OracleXE is unique in that it's the
> only example of commercial relational database that has a spatial component with

Again - sorry to be insisting. Please do not use the term "commercial" if you mean "proprietary". We are a commercial undertakings and do business with Open Source - some exclusively, some hybrid. 

> a free version.  I don't think IBM's Spatial Blade has a free version nor SQL
> Server have a spatial component, so I think Oracle could be in.  It is fully
> functional, I've tried it, and people have gotten it to work with MS4W, but I
> haven't, and I'd like to see someone do it in a demo.  It works on both Windows
> and Linux, so the regular MapServer users, rather than just us Windows-only
> types, may get some use out of it, too.
> On a general philosophical level, I agree with the wiki mentality.  The more
> inclusive, the better.  The fact that millions of people are using GoogleEarth
> to do their own maps and it wasn't formally included in the last FOSS4G should
> really have been a wakeup call.  It's not technically open source nor free for
> commercial use, but we can't ignore it if it has that many users, and it uses
> GDAL itself which is an OSGeo product.  Besides, they have tens of millions in
> data acquisition budget every year.  If they use GDAL, why not use them?
> Convince them to kick in some money to GDAL's home agency by including them.
> 	-Zack

Thats the point. There are several possibilities for them to kick in with money (it already worked for the conference) and OSGeo has just not yet made the effort to pursue this. I guess with OpenLayers using GoogleMaps and GeoServer rendering WFS on top there already is interaction and I am sure we will see more at FOSS4G. 

Thanks for this interesting thread. 

Best regards, 

> Pericles S. Nacionales wrote:
>> I just to clarify:
>> A workshop about OracleXE alone doesn't belong to a Free and Open Source
>> Software for Geoinformatics conference.   A workshop about how OracleXE
>> uses or integrates open source geospatial software would be acceptable
>> to me.
>> -Perry
>> Zachary L. Stauber wrote:
>> I agree with Perry.  There are a lot of free/lite/express versions of GIS
>> software that are perfectly usable for small businesses or the non-profit
>> "neo-cartographer" such as Tatuk Viewer, ArcExplorer, OracleXE, and
>> GoogleEarth.
>>  Because they are useful, they're going to be part of the tools of a
>> lot of
>> people whether FOSS4G takes them into the fold or not, so we might as
>> well.
>> Personally I'd like to see, exactly, how to connect up OracleXE with
>> MS4W in a
>> demo at FOSS4G, so I say if they integrate with everything else well,
>> let 'em
>> show it.  It may get some support out of folks like ESRI, too.  After
>> all,
>> they've released many of the formats that became open standards, like
>> SHP files,
>> BIL images, and I think they were instrumental in coming up with the
>> WKT for
>> coordinate systems.
>>     -Zack
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