[OSGeo-Discuss] "Free"

Zachary L. Stauber zachary at stauber.org
Tue Mar 6 08:47:30 PST 2007

Tim Bowden <tim.bowden at westnet.com.au> said:

> Open source doesn't mean closed mind at all.  If you are referring to
> the habit of FOSS purists being pedantic about what is FOSS and what is
> not, then I think that's a good thing.  It's not uncommon for people
> outside the FOSS development world to think that free as in beer is the
> same as free as in speach.  For those of us who have experienced first
> hand what the difference is, I think it's important to keep hammering
> away at the perception they are the same. `The problem of course, is the
> dual meaning of the word free, as has often been pointed out in the
> past.
> Don't get me wrong, I'm not proposing a "Stallman" approach here.  If
> someone wants to use proprietary software, fine.  If someone wants to
> offer proprietary software (free as in beer or otherwise), again no
> problem.  You just won't get me jumping for joy about it.  It's not
> about the quality of the software.  There is plenty of great software
> and junk software in both the FOSS and proprietary development
> ecosystems.  What I don't like, is handing the keys to my business to
> the vendor of my mission critical software, which is what so often
> happens when proprietary software is at the heart of a business.  If
> being in that position makes me an "open source purist" then so be it,
> but I don't see how my insistence that *I* use only open source can be
> the heart of the problem for *someone else*.

Well I think you're giving yourself too much credit.  This thread isn't about 
whether or not *you* can limit yourself to open source, the open source 
purists don't want to allow any prorprietary software at FOSS4G, and that 
could be the heart of the problem for me.

> Yes, we do want open source commercialised.  I make my living of selling
> open source solutions.  If that's not commercial open source, then I
> don't know what is.

I'm referring to the practice of commercializing an already existing piece of 
open source software and making it proprietary, such as Khoros, or what used 
to be Khoros.  Shame about that one, and it's incidents like that that have 
me almost in the camp of open source purist myself, but it turns out to be 
very rare.  These days people are open sourcing commercial things more often 
than the reverse.  Congratulations on building a commercial solution with 
open source though, I think it's a model that should be promoted because 
folks like you prove it works.

> It is often necessary to integrate with *proprietary* software in many
> different ways; Platforms, data formats, server apps, client apps etc.
> The question is often asked, should open source support windows.  The
> answers are as varied as the developers who write open source.
> At one end, we have the ESR type approach- "No, we don't support Windows
> — get a better operating system" [1] which does have merit.  If I'm
> developing software to scratch a personal itch [2], why should *I* worry
> about *your* operating system.  You've got the source code.  If you
> really want it, go for it, so long as you respect the licence I choose. 

Well a lot of developers did start on Windows.  Most commercial GIS software 
is Windows-only or at least the full functionality of it exists only on 
Windows, and we may want to integrate with it in order to increase the 
functionality of both it and its partnered open source.  But it's not just 
Windows.  Apple hardware and MacOS X is even more proprietary than Microsoft 
has EVER been, and there are developers who use that as their primary 
platform, like OSSIM.

> At the other end, we have the mozilla approach.  Firefox is targeted
> first and foremost at windows, because it's the dominant platform.  The
> problems it causes linux distributions are well known and only recently
> addressed [3].  Which is the correct approach?  Probably no single
> approach.  It all depends on the motivations of the developers, and
> that's a wide open field.  I don't think you can say any one project
> should or shouldn't support windows or any other relevant application.
> In the end the decision by business to use open source or proprietary is
> a value decision.  How well do the different options solve the business
> problem at hand.  That's not a clear cut issue either.  If a business is
> windows centric, then the value proposition of using open source for one
> application may be very different for another business that is used to
> open source.  The cost will be higher if there are no open source skills
> in house; think about installation (./configure, make, make install is a
> shock for windows admins), legal issues (licensing is a big one and
> takes a while to get your head around if you haven't seen an OSI license
> before), bug reporting, support etc.  It's all a bit different from what
> many are used to.  If you want to push open source in a proprietary
> centric environment, you have to show the value proposition in respect
> to the business problem.  Yes, having open source apps running on
> windows may make it easier in some cases and it is an issue that gets a
> regular run in open source circles, but it is not always the correct
> answer.
No, it's definitely not always the answer.  In the case of GRASS, for 
example, it's probably easier to learn Linux than to learn Cygwin or try to 
make the Windows native install work at this point, unless you're mandated by 
company policy to have only Windows machines (for upkeep purposes, or 
whatever).  We did finally get one Linux box, but the web server is 
Windows/IIS and there's just nothing we can do about it, but would you rather 
us try to make MS4W and OracleXE work on that or give up on open source and 
go ArcIMS, cursing the name of the OS community for ignoring us?

> Regards,
> Tim Bowden
> [1] http://gpsd.berlios.de 
> [2] http://gpsd.berlios.de/history.html
> [3] http://www.linux.com/article.pl?sid=06/12/08/1655211
> _______________________________________________
> Discuss mailing list
> Discuss at lists.osgeo.org
> http://lists.osgeo.org/mailman/listinfo/discuss


More information about the Discuss mailing list