More feedback: Patents


Some people asked about how I feel towards open source, and more specifically how I would feel if someone created a word processor that implemented all of the ideas of Microsoft Word.



Well, open source has many flavors. To the extent that open source is about people working together, contributing their time and effort to build something, I think its great. That’s what I do all day too after all. In the case of open source, the contributors may or may not get paid for their work – that’s a personal choice on their part (just as it is personal choice for me to give some of the money I earn to charity). Because some people choose to give to a community in this way doesn’t make their activity any more virtuous than those who choose to give in another way in my mind.



I do worry that there is some naïveté in the open source community now though. As some of the people who comment here mention, as soon as something moves from being a hobby to something that can make money, innocence is usually lost. Right now, I think it is clear that some major players in the business world who make their money in other ways than selling software are taking advantage of the open source movement. That may not be a problem for many, since one view is that they are just more people taking part in the open source movement, but I don’t think you can say any longer that open source is unencumbered by commercial interests, which is what I thought part of the movement was about. Remember that before Microsoft (BillG is actually famous for insisting that software has value), software was considered just a no-value part required to make hardware run. “free“ software helps companies that make money from consulting, services and hardware, by lowerign the parts cost of the the software to near zero, and they are taking a free ride on the open source movement. I donlt think there is anythign inherently wrong with that but the idea that this activity is somehow more virtuous because it is related to open source than is developing and selling software as a business confuses me. I think many open source advocates are sad to see it happen – although one could argue it is sort of required for open source products to move out of the hobbyist world and really go places. Certainly software comapnies can’t get fully behind open source (especially the GPL), since it is anathema to their business model. So it has to be the hardware and services companies. If the open source people fully realized that they are effectively working zealously and for free to help one type of corporate entity over another, would they still be so dedicated to donating their time and energy? Interesting to ponder.



There are many different kinds of open source licenses. I don’t have a problem with any of them – but things like the GPL need to be treated with caution by anyone hoping to build software in that area and later make money from the software. That shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, since the goal of the GPL was to make it hard to “own” software rights and therefore to make any money from it directly (services, support and consulting aside). Other types of open source are more about sharing and less about enforcing that sharing on everyone, and that’s fine too.



As for implementing all the ideas in Word in a “clone” word processor, that starts to fall into the area of intellectual property. I think there is a growing awareness recently that the idea of intellectual property has taken a bit of a beating. Thanks to technology, it has become remarkably easy now to trample on the rights of artists and other creative or innovative people. So because it is easy to “steal” music, movies, software, etc in this way, a lot of people have started doing it, and then by mob mentality rules, it has become acceptable behavior (in some circles). Note that the same sort of behavior happens during a riot – if the rule of law breaks down, and breaking the law seems to be so easy and punishment seems unlikely, a certain type of person breaks the window of the nearest store and starts hauling off TVs, stereos, jewelry, whatever. Then if that person is not caught, the onlookers move in, and you have a looting session. While it is happening, people who resist are told they don’t get it, and they’re missing their chance because this stuff is “free”. Afterwards, most people recognize that the whole thing was not a sustainable activity, but at least it only went on for a day or so.



A subset of people argues what I would call the “Robin Hood” argument. Essentially, it is Ok to steal, as long as the entity being stolen from has more money than you. The more money they have, the more Ok it is to steal. To me this is equivalent to communism, but not enshrined in law. In effect the philosophy is that resources should be equally shared across the population. My mother brought me up to think that stealing is stealing. Stealing because you don’t like someone or because they can survive it doesn’t make it any better.



The USA and other countries have supported the idea of intellectual property ownership since nearly the beginning of the industrial era because they recognized that for someone to innovate they need to have protection for their ideas. If anyone can simply steal your idea as soon as you mention it, then why bother coming up with the idea? That’s why the police need to exist – to protect the rule of law and allow commerce and basic life to work properly. Now, some might say that they personally would develop and offer their ideas freely even without remuneration. That’s fine – but most others would not, and in any case, a sustained effort to develop something hard to develop is only done if you can expect a return on investment, or if you are treating the whole thing as a hobby, and you have a “real” job that pays you what you need to survive. If you doubt that, then you might want to take a quick economics refresher course. Capitalism, while not perfect, provides a system whereby individuals or groups of individuals are rewarded for taking risks, working hard and being creative. The alternative – where everyone contributes as they can, anyone can take an equal share, and no one benefits from providing input or value above and beyond what is expected is known as communism, and has been shown to provide a relatively small economic engine compared to one hooked up to individual interests.



One of the methods for protecting intellectual property is the patent system. Now, everybody hates the patent system. After all, it is pretty broken. The original idea of patents (I gather) was to promote the spread of ideas and inventions. With no protection for ideas, inventors resorted to secrecy. e.g. the exact method by which a chemical was made was kept secret and locked up in a factory vault, so that society could not benefit from the idea except to the extent that the inventor used it himself. The patent system offered what seemed a reasonable proposition. In return for explaining the idea in great detail so that others could understand and use it, the inventor was protected for a period of years where they had exclusive rights to use the idea, or to license it to others. If someone stole the idea, the inventor had legal recourse.



Well, fast forward to “now”, and the patent system is used almost entirely differently. At Microsoft, we used to pay little attention to patents – we would just make new things, and that would be it. Then we started getting worried – other big competitors (much bigger than we were at the time) had been patenting their inventions for some years, and it made us vulnerable. One of these big companies could dig through their patent portfolio, find something close to what we had done, then sue us, and we would have to go through an elaborate defense and possibly lose. So Microsoft did what most big companies do, which is start to build what is called a “defensive” patent portfolio. So if a big company tried to sue us, we could find something in our portfolio they were afoul of, and counter-sue. In the cold war days, this strategy was called “mutual assured destruction”, and since it was intolerable for all parties to engage, it resulted in a state called “détente”, or “standoff”. This is what you see today for the most part in lots of industries.



There are lots of other problems with the patent system. For example, Microsoft gets “submarined” quite often. A small company or individual has an idea, which they patent as quietly as possible. Then they sit back and wait (years if necessary), until some big company develops something (independently of course) that is sufficiently similar to their idea that they can surface and sue us. I have been involved in a couple of these, so I can speak from experience. The people involved often never had any intent of developing their idea, and they also make sure to wait until we have been shipping a product for several years before informing us they think they have a patent on something related, so that “damages” can be assessed as high as possible. This simply makes innovating the equivalent of walking into a minefield. This doesn’t seem to be helping the process of moving humanity forward.



Another view is that big companies patent lots of things, and then by the implicit threat of suing the “small guy”, prevent innovation from moving forward. In practice this is harder than it sounds, since the damage to the image of the company can be considerable if it tried to sue a small target – that’s why you rarely see it happen. I think this works both ways of course as I described in the last paragraph. Basically whoever has the patent has the power.



Another complete perversion of the original patent system is that because there are triple damages if the plaintiff can show the infringer knowingly infringed on a patent, there is a huge disincentive to look at the patents on file at the patent office. If you do a “patent search” to see if what you want to do is patented already, and you find nothing, you are still liable for triple damages if someone sues you and can show that you looked at their patent. This matters because even if you think their idea is irrelevant, a court may not agree with you. So the only safe thing to do is not look. So much for the patent system working to share human ingenuity.



Patents on software run afoul of the system particularly badly, since there is so much going on in software and the competition is so fierce, and so much money at stake. A lot of patents are being filed. It is clear to me at least that the patent office is overwhelmed, and a lot of shaky patents are being issued. And patents have a long lifetime – that comes from the slower pace of industrial development in the past or in other industries (e.g. pharmaceuticals). In software though, a lot of technology is ancient history before the patent runs out. But as long as those are the rules of the game, we have to play by them, while working to reform or modify the patent system to adapt to changes.



On the other hand the patent system, flawed as it is, is still better than no patent system. Some people say the current patent system is biased in favor of one constituency or another, but the one thing in common is that the people with the ideas are protected in some way. Without the patent system, we would return to the world where there is no way to protect your invention, so any clever idea can be immediately ripped off and sold for cheap. A world like this would actually favor any organization or country that can muster the cheapest possible manufacturing or development resources – certainly not the individual or corporate inventor that the patent system is trying to help.



So back to the question. Imitation, as they say, is the sincerest form of flattery. Borrowing other people’s ideas is as old as humanity, and is common in the business world too. But copyrights, trademarks, patents, etc have grown up as society’s ways of protecting the investments that people make, so these need to be respected. Would I like to see a world where I and my colleagues do loads of research and hard thinking to develop something new and creative only to have it copied and devalued immediately after we made it available? Hardly. But that’s why we have these intellectual property systems, flawed as they are. I love competition, so if someone is out there putting some heat on us, that’s great. As a designer I’d prefer it if the competition was creatively moving the state of the art forward rather than cloning us, but I don’t get a say in it I guess :-).  I am also quite confident that we can stay far enough ahead of cloning efforts to show the value of our products.

Comments (89)

  1. Alex says:

    With developers like you, there is no way Microsoft can lose.

    And with Slashdot idiots, there is no way Stallman can win.

    Until I read Microsoft employees blogs I didn’t realize how far Slashdot idiots are away from the truth.

  2. Lee says:

    I’m sitting here in the UK at 2:13am in the morning, tired and ready for bed but this blog is one of the best I’ve read. Normally I skim through blogs on a good day but I had to read this; even though I have two young sons ready for my blood at around 6:30am 🙂

    Regards

    Lee

  3. Peter Mackay says:

    Early afternoon here in Canberra, and I just finished an entry in my own blog, before tuning in here for the next instalment. Such a pleasure to read some honest, well-informed observations in comparison to some of the tired old guff I read on slashdot.

    Bill Gates is, of course, famous for complaining that user groups were passing around copies of his first BASIC interpreter, rather than paying for it. What would have happened if he had encouraged people to copy and swap commercial software? Much as the open source zealots like to talk, I doubt that we would be seeing some of the awesome software that has been developed in the past couple of decades. With little incentive to devote years of highly-skilled effort, all those programmers would have turned elsewhere – to selling insurance or accountancy or driving taxis. Anything to make a buck.

    Plain common sense, really, but some folks are short on it.

  4. Justin says:

    Your article is thought provoking, and it has changed my perspective somewhat.

    thanks

  5. Iain McCoy says:

    I agree that patents are neccesary, but there was publicity a while ago about the microsoft word-processing-documents-stored-as-xml patent. Let’s compare two possible patents:

    A machine that can lift and support more than 50 people, 1000 metres above the ground and with no contact with the ground.

    A computer program that arranges it’s data storage in terms of elements and children of elements.

    Is it really right that the same level of protection should be offered to both? Patent’s are about inventions. The first would definitely qualify – the Wright brothers creation of the aeroplane is inarguably a case of invention. In the second case, though, is it really invention? I think it’s not, and for the prospect of considering it an invention to even be countenanced is absurd, and so I cannot believe the patent system to be anything more than a farce.

    If you want to claim that it’s about innovation rather than invention, you’re welcome to. I’ll just note here that, roughly, innovation + creation = invention. Looking at one side rather than the other doesn’t make a difference to this argument.

  6. Kannan says:

    This is one of the best blogs I’ve ever read.Thank you Chris.

  7. Daniel Turini says:

    I think that the original intention of the patenting system was to protect work, not ideas. Iain gives two pretty good cases about this, and the difference between the first and the second is the volume of work actually involved. To patent that machine, one would need to work and actually design it before he can file a patent. On the second case, one would only need to have an idea “Hey, let’s data can be structured on a tree!”. This makes a huge difference, and patenting work can eliminate most of today’s patent problems.

    BTW, this “patent rush” we’re seeing clearly reminds me of the “domain rush” we had a few years ago, on the golden .COM days…

  8. leppie says:

    Interesting indeed!

    But patenting an idea IMO is not sufficient. Now step back 15 years. Imagine some company patented the idea of a first person shooter game. A few years later ID software releases Wolfenstein, and the aforementioned company now sues ID. ID loses and now all game developers fear patent infringements and stick to other "game styles".

    Now lets take some consequences into consideration. It is a well-known fact that currently games/entertainent pushes general computing hardware development. Without a FPS, the development of hardware would have taken some other turn (perhaps for the worst), and companies like ATI and NVidia (and possibly AMD) would not exist. All because of an idea being patented.

    Its just not right, just plain silly.

    Imagine Henry Ford patented black cars, does that mean if we wanted a black car, we would need to buy a Ford?

    Imagine Mozart patented his music, how could we enjoy it if only he could reproduce it?

    Patents are good for many applications, especially where millions of dollars was spent researching and developing an "idea", but merely patenting an idea (such in the case of "microsoft word-processing-documents-stored-as-xml") is completely absurd.

  9. Paul Holden says:

    Yet another insightful and thought provoking blog – thanks Chris.

  10. Mike Walsh says:

    Bill might have been the first to come with "software has a value" in the PC market, but as far as I can remember the mainframe market had stopped bundling long before so software already had a value long before Bill.

  11. Great witting Chris. Keep it up. I keep coming back to Word argument and Open Source. One could make an argument that in a way that is what you guys have been doing for years with just different twist. Open Source stuff is free and Microsoft is continually bundling more and more stuff for "free" to eliminate competition.

    Open Source implementation is "borrowing" ideas from Word and Word to gain market share is by large part built on "What does competing product has that we need" philosophy so in a way it was "borrowing" ideas from somebody else.

    Yes, you guys do innovate but for Open Source to gain market share they first must provide the functionality that Word already has and people need. Ideally in addition to that some innovation is needed as well. However, nobody can deny the value of free.

    I am really interested, from business perspective, to see how will the whole thing turn out. In a way Microsoft is in similar position as some of it’s competitors in that it competes against “free” stuff. I see you guys responding with more innovation which does seem like logical response.

  12. Stephane Rodriguez says:

    Nice FUD.

    It’s really like the Billg 1991 memo never existed.

    It’s like MS playing nice with IP stealers in OO.org is not a way to keep the control over the moving pieces in the long run.

    It’s really like it’s not about controlling everything.

    A full blog entry without bundling and OEMs. I wonder how can this crap get any +1 feedback.

  13. Harimau Iyer says:

    In 1981, at a conference I suggested that in future software costs would decline as a percentage of Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) just as hardware costs had already declined from about 80% to 40% of TCO by that time and that in personnel costs would constitute the major part of TCO. When Microsoft stamps out the software for pennies on a CD-ROM, it seems unreasonable to have to pay close to $500 for Word, particularly when nobody uses most of the bloated features of Word. Some ten years back, a Microsoft salesperson was suggesting that a new pricing scheme would have to be evolved by Microsoft whereby the basic Word might sell for $29 and then one could buy one’s preference for spell-checkers and thesaurii from the marketplace and plug it into Word. He even went so far as to say that this was the thinking behind introducing features such as COM and OLE. We haven’t seen evidence of that yet. It does seem ingenuous for Chris Pratley to claim that it is the consultants who would be making money if software got cheaper or free.

    Consultants are needed precisely because of the feature bloat in software, be it ERP systems by SAP or Oracle or MS-Windows, Word or Excel. If software were truly easy to understand, implement and deploy — and if our universities do a good job in training future software users — there wouldn’t be any great need for consultants. So long as users are failed on both counts, personnel costs will continue to increase whether Microsoft charges $1 for Word or $100,000 for Word. (Except that in the latter case Bill Gates would be taking more money out of our wallets!)

  14. Superguest says:

    "Except that in the latter case Bill Gates would be taking more money out of our wallets!"

    No, in the latter case you would be taking more out of your wallet and handing it to Bill Gates, of your own free will. If it’s too rich for your blood, move to OpenOffice. Then once there’s critical mass there, wait for the bloat (as though it doesn’t already exist to some degree). As more people use a software product, more disparate features will be requested and added, and the likelihood will rise that a specific user will not need most of them. Then these users will complain of "bloat" and the extra cost of consultancy required to understand the software.

    That’s a problem of software, not of commercial software or of MS specifically. Another common problem is good documentation, and if anyone chooses to put open source software on a pedestal for their clear and well-explained documentation, I would laugh heartily at that person. There are exceptions, but they’re few and far between.

    "Nice FUD."

    Haha, don’t you /. people ever give it a break? "FUD!" "That’s just M$ and there [sic] FUD!!!1!" "They just give candy to the kids to hook them on Excel!!" "The Gates Foundation is just to get tax-exempt status and force poor African kids to use Active Directory instead of Open LDAP!!" "They’re being nice, but they’re really being evil, the niceness is just to hide the evil, I know it, and that just proves they’re twice as evil as anyone even thought!!!!!!!!!"

    Holy crap. Shut up. Let’s see here….FUD…Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt. That sure is unique to [the oppressive!] Microsoft, isn’t it? [The evil empire of bloatware] Microsoft sure just wants to totally kill ALL open source [and you don’t want to be left without options, locked into a monopolist’s sweatshop dream of domination, do you?]. Sure, they "play nice" [but is that niceness genuine?? we don’t think so! it’s to control your mind!].

    Slashdotters (and others) who espouse this "M$ is Evil!" view, in virtually every case, regardless of logic, conceding no points, and always arriving at the same, predetermined answer, are the fundamentalist Muslims (or the religion of your choice) of software development. They have their creed, they will not sway from it, anything outside it is inherently wrong, immoral, and altogether bad, and any points to the contrary must be unfair and driven by ulterior motives (not to mention uninformed and stated by rabid trolls!!). This view is frequently sprinkled with calls to bring MS down, cries of MS’s impending and single-minded determination to crush them, and their overwhelming sense of being an oppressed people, the underdog heroes who are always on the verge of liberating themselves and everyone else. Also strongly evident is the pack ("sheep") mentality they claim to be fighting, the swift scourging of those who question the cause, and a claim to knowledge of all sorts that they are actually not authorities on (just read slashdot sometime).

  15. For Iain, leppie, Daniel and others: bear in mind I am not a lawyer, but the patent applictions regarding WordML are not on the format itself. They are on ways in which the format is used to represent word processing data structures and how that data is converted into memory structures when read into a word processor, which is inventive. A certain amount of invention is required to find a way to represent some complex word processing data structures in a linear tagged format.

    But this is simply going to my larger point – most of the millions of patents issued are not for things like "an airplane". They are for much smaller things than the patents applied for regarding (not "on") WordML.

    BTW, I wonder if you would also argue that bending a simple piece of wire into a couple of loops to make a paper clip is so obvious that it should not have received a patent? After all, it is just wire bent into a loop – no millions of dollars of research are required. By your argument, that can hardly be invention – it is just innovation, right? Where do you draw the line? Well, the patent office draws the line for us, with all the problems and benefits that entails.

    Regarding patents on ideas, the patent office is explicit in saying that an invention does not have to be developed to be patentable. This is a necessary because otherwise the idea can not be shared with others unless you actually develop it (you would be incented to keep it secret). Likewise, you want to protect the little guy who has trouble getting funding for his idea – he wants to be able to approach larger manufacturers about developing his idea without fear they will steal it saying "it is just an idea, not a true invention".

  16. I should add that as I understand it an "idea" is not patentable, but you have to use patent language to define "idea" in this case. From having reviewed many of my own patent applications with counsel, I know that what really matters are the "claims", not the idea. A patent application concludes (after a sometimes lengthy detailed description of the idea or product) with a set of claims that describe what is original and not obvious to "one skilled in the art". In the case of a first person shooter, that might have been hard to patent for many reasons – could the idea of an FPS be described in terms of patent claims? Most likely it would have to be broken down into a set of graphic primitives that when used together create the illusion of being in an FPS. For many of those graphic primitives, "prior art" might exist in the form of games from the 70s in arcades which at least tried to take a first-person perspective, if not build an actual FPS. For all we know though (without doing a patent search), there are possibly large numbers of patents around elements of FPS games. The standard way to deal with these if you are a developer is to develop around the patent (meaning, solve it in another way), patent some stuff on your own, and then cross-license with the people who have the other patents, or simply license the technology. Patents are not inherently bad – as I said in the post, I think we’re better off with crummy IP protection than without any.

  17. Anonymous Coward says:

    Alex:

    Quit trolling.

    Your comment is obvious flamebait. What you say makes sense, but you choose the most confrontational way of presenting it.

    Just because this is not slashdot and you can’t get modded down, it doesn’t mean you can troll all you want.

    If you are not trolling, sorry, but you really need to learn how to deal with people you disagree with. Calling names is really childish. Both sides have extremists (and in fact the "sides" are just creations of these same extremists hoping for some blood). But just because they are more visible does not mean they are the bulk of the users.

    And to answer your post: define "win" and "lose". The real life is not a zero-sum game, and it’s easily possible for both sides to "win", for both sides to "lose", or for one side to "win" but change so much it ends up looking more like the other side. Life is not black-and-white.

    And Stallman is just one man, one which probably will not "win" since he will not compromise a bit. But his efforts mean we get closer to his definition of "win" than we would otherwise. Other people have different definitions of "winning", and most of them do not even involve this silly "war" (why does everything have to be treated as a "war" nowadays?).

    It is wrong to act as if Mr Stallman’s behaviour was representative of the behaviour of the whole self-described "Free Software" and "Open Source" movements, and to imply that "slashdot idiots" are so important in the big scheme of things that what they say, do or think have such a huge effect in Mr Stallman’s "winning".

    Chris, sorry for (in typical slashdot style) veering so far offtopic, but I felt Alex’s comment deserved a response.

  18. Ex-OSS Developer says:

    Chris, you’re right on the spot! I used to be an OSS developer from the mid to late nineties. We were driven by enthusiasm and the anti-establishment revolutionary zeal. We were set to change the world, redefine the rules, and create a software utopia. We didn’t distinguish one company from another. For us, all companies represented greedy entities that charged people much more than what they deserved. We didn’t care about politics or philosophies. For many geeks, staying up all night to finish up a widget and contribute it to the community at large was much more satisfying than going out with a hot girlfriend. We were very proud of our creations; we were solving real world problems.

    By the late 90’s, open-source software started to get commercialized. Bullshit politics and philosophies were being disseminated. Some companies started to take advantage of the OSS movement and exploit it for its material agenda. As a result, a hostile groupthink mentality started to evolve. The OSS community is now driven by hate more than anything else.

    The reason I’m mentioning this is because, quite unfortunately, the new incarnation of the OSS movement has nothing to do with the original ideals that started it all. The average Slashdotter is defined by irrational hostility to Microsoft and other targeted companies more than any other values. Most of the Slashdot idiots who spend countless hours bashing others (and most of the times, each other) haven’t even contributes a single line of code to the community. They’re a bunch unmotivated individuals with no real goal in life and a plenty of free time on their hands.

    That is not to say that I don’t have a long grocery list of complaints and criticisms about Microsoft and its business practices. But at the same time, OSS is not about mindlessly bashing Microsoft in an endless mantra, or imitating Microsoft products for that matter. Nor is it about blindly supporting IBM, HP, Sun, or Novell and singing their tunes.

    The real eye-opener for me took place a year ago. A couple of my friends, who are OSS developers, were working for a company that publicly supports OSS and champions its movement. They were working on a piece of software which they had contributed countless hours of their personal time to develop. Then the company decided to offshore its development and laid off these developers.

    The current OSS developers think that companies who support OSS are noble and moral, and those that don’t are evil and immoral. But in reality, “OSS champion” companies would trample on them any time for their financial interests.

    Right now, I’d rather get paid for my code than feed a voracious pig for free.

  19. Alex says:

    re:Anonymous Coward

    "Quit trolling."

    Just because you disagree with me doesn’t mean that you can call me a troll! You are the one who is trolling.

    "Your comment is obvious flamebait."

    Yours too.

    "What you say makes sense, but you choose the most confrontational way of presenting it."

    Yes, I do. There is a reason for it, because I am sick of not being able to discuss even more technical stuff because of these idiots. These idiots are so comfortable that, even people who are not idiots turn into idiots when Microsoft comes up. You just can not go somewhere and praise something in Windows because of the fear of these idiots, and I am quite proud of calling them idiots, and I hope you also notice the fact that Chris, himself, calls these idiots net thugs, because that’s what they are. This has nothing to do with disagreeing. Probably you don’t know this, but these idiots are so active and so powerful that they also hate so many open source developers themselves. I am disgusted with your attempt to silence me, because you think that I am the one who is creating a big problem on the net.

    "Just because this is not slashdot and you can’t get modded down, it doesn’t mean you can troll all you want."

    Now we see why you are trying to silence me! I think you have never read Slashdot, the real trolls get all the mod points, trolling on slashdot means usually saying something positive for Microsoft without acknowledging your hate for them. If you don’t state the fact that you hate them, your points will go to trash. Chris also mentioned this about XML support in Word. All the trolls who say something against Microsoft almost always gets modded up. So, by giving credit the way slashdot works you present your own set of values, which is pretty much idiocy. I don’t know whether you are one of those idiots or not, but because you treat these slashdot idiots as someone who I should disagree with you don’t see a problem at all in the way they present their ideas, you are only seeing a major problem when someone calls them idiots. But obviously you treat someone calling Bill Gates as evil, someone we should only disagree with. If I call him an idiot, I become a troll. That’s how distorted your ideas are.

    "If you are not trolling, sorry, but you really need to learn how to deal with people you disagree with. Calling names is really childish."

    I am not trolling, I am stating the obvious. However, as I said calling those idiots people that we disagree with is an insult to open source developers, microsoft developers and to the IT industry. Please, go ahead and read what they write. I am shocked to read someone trying to be reasonable to give credit to Slashdot commentors. If you haven’t notice it yet, I feel sorry for you.

    "Both sides have extremists (and in fact the "sides" are just creations of these same extremists hoping for some blood). But just because they are more visible does not mean they are the bulk of the users."

    First of all, what side you are talking about? You think that there is a side somewhere and we have to favor one side over the other? That’s what Slashdot idiots are convinced of and you are probably thinking that I am on "windows side". No, I am for a decent IT industry side and what I see is that many serious programmers, either working on open source or on closed source are decent people. Slashdot idiots are usually losers coming to online discussion boards, and trying to sound as if they know something. Most of them don’t know what they are talking about. I couldn’t find a much better word. If someone doesn’t even know what he is talking about, I call that person usually the idiot, not someone whom I disagree with. Of course, there are decent people whom I would disagree with, but they would tell something more than "Microsoft has secret APIs somewhere or Microsoft is evil, Bill Gates hate children etc….".

    "And to answer your post: define "win" and "lose"."

    Losing for Microsoft would be losing the market share they have now, especially on the desktop market.

    Winning for Stallman would be making sure that every major software out there is in GPL, because that’s what GPL is trying to do afterall. Its goal is quite clear.

    "The real life is not a zero-sum game, and it’s easily possible for both sides to "win", for both sides to "lose", or for one side to "win" but change so much it ends up looking more like the other side. Life is not black-and-white."

    Oh thank you for this insightful comment, and let me know what it means here? You are bringing something totally unrelated issue into here without explaining how this concept apply to my argument. This is something that reminds me the slashdot idiots trying to make stupid analogies to make an argument.

    "And Stallman is just one man, one which probably will not "win" since he will not compromise a bit. But his efforts mean we get closer to his definition of "win" than we would otherwise."

    I don’t think he will win of course for so many other reasons. The only people he was able to attrack are pretty much idiots who enjoy using free stuff and doesn’t care about programming, Intellectual property. That’s something only a programmer, someone who actually creates something can appreciate.

    "Other people have different definitions of "winning", and most of them do not even involve this silly "war" (why does everything have to be treated as a "war" nowadays?)."

    Cool, you finally sounded a little bit more reasonable with this statement. I am not in a war, but I do find myself being attacked whenever I am trying to make a technical discussion. As Chris stated, nowadays it is hard to state your opinions without being attacked by these Slashdot type of idiots. Once you call them idiots or thugs you are being accused of a troll, biased, bribed etc… by the same anonymous idiots. Because you don’t know me, you probably can not understand the fact that I am more familiar with open source tools than I am with Microsoft tools. You pretty much assume that I am in a war. How can I be in this war by using open source tools, instead of Microsoft tools. What I am pissed off is that though, these idiots attack so mindlessly that even reasonable people start to behave as idiots because of the power they gain through attacking online. Also who can defend a 50 billion dollar company. It just doesn’t make sense at all. So the issue is not the technical issues, but the fact that these idiots are trying to impose their ideas on others is an important issue, and I am going to stand up against such people and refer to them by the name they deserve.

    "It is wrong to act as if Mr Stallman’s behaviour was representative of the behaviour of the whole self-described "Free Software" and "Open Source" movements, and to imply that "slashdot idiots" are so important in the big scheme of things that what they say, do or think have such a huge effect in Mr Stallman’s "winning"."

    They do have an impact. Slashdot is treated as a serious source of information by cnet news, by eweek etc… So increasingly more and more people behave in a way which is normally not appropriate but still acceptable because of this idiocy going on. I have read so many stupid articles about Microsoft that, it is as if if I say something against Microsoft, but anything, then I would get credit. It doesn’t matter what I say, even New York Times would publish an article on that stupid idea. (Powerpoint makes people dumber i.e.) So, more and more people find it acceptable to attack others who are trying to make the best decision. There are idiots out there calling you stupid because you like C#. This is not about disagreeing, this is simply being an idiot.

    "Chris, sorry for (in typical slashdot style) veering so far offtopic, but I felt Alex’s comment deserved a response."

    I personally thank you to show my disgust with people like you who want us to deal with these idiots as people who simply disagree with us. Here is Chris publishing something on his own blog, but afraid of those idiots attacking him because he expresses his own ideas. This is not just about Chris by the way, there are so many Linux users trying to express their ideas on the issues, and they are also disgusted by these Slashdot type idiots attacking them for their ideas. Everytime you make a negative comment about Linux, you are supposed to tell how much you hate Microsoft to avoid being attacked. Even you do, you might still get attacked though. And here you are trying to save the world from me, because I am trolling against Slashdot idiots.

  20. Ceesaxp says:

    Bah, I do think that some sort of moderation to feedback could be useful. Then again my paranoid self could consider that censorship…

    Chris — as usual, you do have quite a few good points. As usual, you aren’t 100% right — but who can be?

    I agree that a certain degree of naïveté is present in OSS. It is not dissimilar to the "all people are brothers" naïveté. And you are right about many facets of OSS — baut that is exactly where one may have to seek the inspiration.

    For some, OSS a-la ESR — an OSS of the "1, 2, 3, 4, 5 — Profit!" — is the answer (and that is the one that I suspect the "Ex-OSS Developer" is having a gripe with. For others it is a milder FSF/GPL version of the same, where it is about freedom of ideas and code. For some it is an extremism of RMS.

    Note that in reality neither of them suggests that you cnnot make money off it. Remember that RMS was not exactly giving Emacs for free — you were expected to pay to get it for your PDP-11 (some may note that the payment you were making was more of a media + shipping type, but still).

    IP: I like what you say a lot. It is comforting to see that you, as many others (e.g. FSF) acknowledge the "brokenness" of current patent system. It would have been great had you taken it one more step forward, and suggetsed that certain patents should never be granted — software ones being an example. In this case the nobody would have to fear of being "submarined" — neither a small nor a big guy.

    BTW, defensive pattenting can quite easily be turned into offensive, can’t it? After all, the best form of defense as we all know is the offense. And that is where the problem starts. And you are right: this can result in no innovation, ultimately. The question then is: souldn’t we repair the system instead of living by its rule?

  21. AT says:

    Hey, I would like to disagree with you about Microsoft been submarined by individuals.

    Do you feel that only big Co’s can create innovative ideas ? Can you believe that single person (or a little company) can create something new that everyone expect to be created by big Co ?

    All companies hire usual people to work. This people create everything that company produce.

    The same people can generate new ideas without been hired by company.

    For example talking about myself – I’ve a bunch of ideas given to Microsoft for free (even without any credit given) as part of beta-testing process.

    But also I’ve some ideas licensed by Microsoft using small part of their cash pile, as they found them commercially reasonable and protected by my copyright.

    What’s wrong with individuals/small companies generate ideas ? Do you feel that only people working 8 hours x 5 days x ~50 weeks per year can be innovative ??

    Why do you feel that only big corporations can register patents applications to protect new ideas ? Do you believe that all little software companies sit doing nothing and waiting for a paycheck from Microsoft ?

    Everything in our world can be used for good purpose and for damage. Anything from knife up to nuclear energy. The same happened with patent system.

    Usually it’s used for correct purpose – but sometimes for bad purpose. I can agree that currently this kind of wrong use is increasing.

  22. AT says:

    Sorry. Forgot to add a note about software patents.

    IMHO, Currently software industry produce only a few innovative things. Everything called as a new and innovative is something that was used for a long time but not so well-known or trivial to discover by anybody with clear mind.

    What can you expect from computers based on instructions for 30 years old Busicom/Datapoint programmable calculators ? The whole Intel vs. AMD world was created by IBM 20-years old deal.

    No new companies come in our world.

    Do you see anybody creating something innovative currently ?

    Do you feel Microsoft is a leader in innovations ?

    Take a look on OpenSource vs. Microsoft and compare with Microsoft vs. Apple or Microsoft vs. Novell.

    OpenSource simply doing the same that Microsoft does.

    Microsoft promoted cheap while functional and easy to use software making money from quantity.

    OpenSource trying (only trying, I do not agree that they do, take a look on RedHat collecting millions) to outperform Microsoft in pricing.

    Everything that OpenSource need is to create a new big market for clones of already existing software.

    This way you will pay less – but will receive the same or 5-6 year old thing.

    All innovation I see currently is pricing.

    All ideas generated by individuals are cheaper to license compared to big corporations, so I believe that Patent system must protect little companies from abuse by big one.

    The whole Patent and Copyright system was created to promote generation and sharing of new ideas.

    Big Co’s do not need protection for their ideas – they can implement them and make money immediately, while little companies need some valuable assets to get investors attentions and resources for their ideas implementations.

    Taking in account how many there is big corporations – this resulted in misuse of patent system. You will be unable to create defensive portfolio against little company, as result you will have to pay for all ideas generated by this company.

    Somethat instead of paying for ideas this result in complete company acquisition as this is cheapest way.

    This way there is at least four levels of costs associated with "innovative" ideas generation:

    1. Costs of hiring people with clear minds to generate same ideas faster compared to other (this is why Microsoft is growing so fast and any ideas up to stupid one is listened)

    2. Costs of lawyers to protect you against patents claims

    3. Cost of licensing patents (as patents system require)

    4. Cost of complete company acquisition.

    Every company trying to cut this costs.

    Taking in account "innovation" ("creativity") of current software patents it’s better for companies currently to hire people or use lawyers.

    Only because of this you see defensive patents portfolios, news headlines about new lawsuits and overall claims that patent system is wrong.

  23. Chris (not Pratley) says:

    I think that the public good is being overlooked in this discussion. When intellectual property is "stolen" the only thing really lost is the right of sale/modification of the so-called property. The original author/owner still has the ability to use their original work.

    While software isn’t as directly life or death as AIDS drugs for Africa or South America, the question of whether the patents should be enforced is basically the same. For example, say that a government or non-profit came up with a magic scanner that could on the fly highlight every inaccurate piece of data on a web page. Should they be able to make the software put a red squiggly under each inaccuracy or should they have to spend additional time thinking up another way to highlight their results? Under the law, they should have to come up with something new (assuming red squiggly spelling is patented)

    Similarly, is it better for a worker in a 3rd world country to 1) spend 4 weeks income on a software license in lieu of say medical care, 2) pirate the software or 3) take a job paying less money that doesn’t require said software.

    Of course for the lazy 1st world schlub who can well afford software or the open source developer who really could come up with a different design purely copying is just bad manners.

    Makes you wonder if people who favor Open Office copying features would ever wear fake Rolexes, Guccis, simulated leather, or encourage their children to just copy their classmate’s homework assignments.

  24. Alex says:

    One thing people are constantly and continously doing wrong is that treating Linux something like one, and treating like OSS something like one.

    Apache which has an open source license has been around long before Linux and probably GPL. BSD is also the same. Open source programs has been even before Microsoft. However, people who didn’t go to Universities or didn’t follow up in those times do not know that. They think that Apache is open source because they like to be in OSS community. Apache is open source because that’s how it evolved. Counting Apache and its developers within OSS is a little bit naive. Almost every open source project has its own story and one thing you will see is that, almost all of them are not motivated by being Open source for the sake of being in OSS or taking down Microsoft. Linux was born out of necessity, people needed Unix on intel and they didn’t have it, BSD had legal trouble in those days.

    Today when we speak about OSS, people assume too much. There is no one unity there. ESR tries to speak in the name of people who use open source projects, but most of them do not even know that ESR is reprensting them or that they agree with ESR. It just happens to be that, ESR assumes that he is somehow a leader of people who use or develop open source projects. That’s really not the case, and many Slashdot idiots for example hate ESR, or Miguel etc… Miguel himself disagrees with many other developers out there. Many developers spin off projects and so on. When you go and ask an open source developer, what you would find is that the main motivation has nothing to do with what Stallman is trying to do, or what CNet says, it is mostly related with creating something interesting, challenging yourself. What I usually see is that, when someone speaks in the name of OSS like a slashdot idiot, that person usually turn out to be a non-developer.

    re: AT

    I don’t know if you are an idiot, but clearly you didn’t understand what Chris says at all. He is making observations, he never said only big cos can apply for patents. That’s something you have made up, probably for trolling purposes. He is simply saying that, nowadays some small companies are using the system to make big money, and that’s hurting everybody. There is a bigger incentive for small companies going after big cos than big cos going after small companies. Turning an idea into something that can make money is a hard job, only people with money can do that. So it makes perfect sense for small companies to capitalize on their patents. It is just a way to get some sharing from the pie. The problem is that, that sharing looks quite huge, considering that Eolas patent cost 600 million dollars. That means, it is a lot of money, and probably something around the Microsoft spent on the R&D of the IE. So essentially that sends a signal to big companies that, innovating is a tricky business now, you shouldn’t try new ideas. For small companies, before patent, there are much more serious issues, like funding your company, selling more, marketing power and so on. However, patents are also a big problem, for example it is quite clear that you can’t challenge Photoshop, because Adobe is going to sue you for many number of patents, even though you come up with all those ideas by your own. They also sued Macromedia for a patent, was awarded some money, but later on Macromedia sued Adobe for another patent and they were awarded even more money.

  25. Iain McCoy says:

    I agree that the patent office has to draw the line about what exactly constitutes an invention, but unfortunately this is probably almost a matter of taste.

    There is a certain amount of ingenuity in twisting a piece of wire to form a paperclip, and I think that ingenuity is what the patent office is protecting.

    I suppose that part of this comes down to is a simple question of whether you think it’s better for that protection to occasionally be extended to things which probably don’t merit it, or for that protection not to be extended at all. Your choice on that point is probably likely to control your caring about the various other issues.

  26. Geronimo says:

    Alex, you’re absolutely right regarding Slashdot. My karma went from bad to terrible because I was objective when it came to comparing Microsoft to OSS software and pointing out the obvious fact that MS software was singled out for virus and warm attacks because it has the largest market share. Who would bother wasting his time writing a virus or worm for Linux when its maximum potential to spread is 2.5% of the PCs in the markets?

    In addition, the militancy and bellicosity of the Slashdot idiots encourage people to attack Microsoft and its customers with viruses and warms out of sheer hate or to prove the "inferiority" of MS software.

    If a Slashdot idiot stupidly opened up an email attachement that contains a worm, they considers it a security hole in the OS rather than in the idiot’s head!

    I believe this is playing to Microsoft’s advantage because, having to fend off all these attacks, MS software is becoming one of the most secure in the market.

    Then out of curiosity, I posted a few "Anonymous Coward" messages bashing Microsoft with BS messages, and lo and behold, the Slashdot idiots started modding me up to "interesting"/"insightful" with 5-point scores.

    It’s the moderators in Slashdot who encourage the ceasless attacks on Microsoft and giving Slashdot this groupthink. Any objective posts are burried down with "troll"/"flaimbait" with -1 to 0 mod points.

    In other words, you’re rewarded for being an idiot.

    And this is a vicious cycle of self-perpetuating idiocy: By acting like an idiot, you get constantly modded up, increase your karma, and therefore become eligible to become a moderator, and you in turn encourage others to act like idiots.

  27. Alex says:

    Geronimo, you expressed it quite nice. My problem with Slashdot is not the idiots though, it is the respect they get from media and others. So in fact, Slashdot type of idiocy started to become the norm.

    For example, recently, an idiot author claimed that RSS will crush the Microsoft market share. I have seen so many idiots, and so many stupid stuff, and some serious arguments about Microsoft losing its market share, but I have never ever seen someone writing publicly something this much stupid. I am a programmer, a computer user, and I am trying to make sense of RSS crushing Microsoft market share, and I just couldn’t find one and I am absolutely sure that there is none. He is arguing that, everybody now is using RSS, thus Microsoft will doom. He is giving his own experience as a proof, that 40% of his time goes to RSS. If you think about this, you just can not correlate the use of RSS to losing marketshare in the operating system. If you know what RSS does, it is even more stupid. But this guy is an author on eweek, that’s how this idiocy is spreading. All of a sudden people feel safe when it comes to attacking against Microsoft and even though everything you say is stupid, as long as you say it against Microsoft it will get credit. It is like a witch hunt, or a communist hunt. People seem to lose their mind. CNet for example, conciously trying to intimidate Bill Gates in interviews with him, you clearly see that reporter is trying to make Bill Gates angry, and I have seen one of their reporters attacking to the CEO of Autodesk because she is using .net technology.

    Imagine a world where we can’t discuss technical issues, because these idiots would attack you accusing you to be with the evil, that’s where we are headed now. Some of the rage is fueled by these myths, which Chris addressed. Every newbie coming to the net, reads these stupid stuff and then thinks that he found an evil to fight with. I am not a Microsoft fan, though I like the company as a software company, we shouldn’t have to deal with these idiots trying to intimidate people. Calling these people merely someone who disagree with you is even more idiotic than calling Bill Gates "a child hater" because Microsoft lawyers sued a kid over a domain name.

    For me the issue is about freedom, being able to discuss seriously with real reasoning, understanding, not some religion or political stuff. GPL is pretty much about communism, one man wants to have a communist system in software and thinks that everything should be free. That’s not going to happen, but others are trying to use that work against Microsoft and other software developers. They are not a big threat now, but without freedom they might have a chance.

    Microsoft’s Europe problems are all about Linux I believe. Europe knows quite well that without forcing Microsoft to design their products in a certain way, Linux has no chance. Right now they come up with a totally new law, yet they deny that.

    Competition is all good and healthy, but playing politics with technical issues is dangerous.

  28. ChrisK says:

    I figure that I should drop a few lines here, being an open-source developer and all.

    First of all, the Slashdot crowd does not represent the open source development community. OSDN would probably like for that to be considered true, but for the most part, I get the impression that those bashing MSFT and other commercial closed source ventures are probably fifteen year old kids and other immature folks who are "taking it to the man". A Google search can probably dig up comments of me saying the same things some time ago. This is not to insult the people who truly believe in OSS as the thing that will save the world (RMS, ERS, Bruce Perens, etc.), but I suspect that the true OSS philosophers are a vast minority. (I’m mostly seconding Alex above.)

    Secondly, I agree above that the patent system is broken. Someone above made a point about the mindset behind a riot and how a similar mindset is present in those willing to violate IP laws. The only problem is that often these patents are so damn obvious, they do function as a determent against further development. For example, I develop and design a book program on the Mac. If someone were to patent "a method for converting physical computer-readable symbols into an digital form for use as a key in data retrieval using networked sources" (scanning a barcode, converting it to an ISBN number, and querying Amazon for the book belonging to the ISBN), my application would be hosed. So given the situation (and that of corps avoiding reading patents in order to avoid treble damages), I don’t think that the riot analogy is quite correct. This is not to say at all that all IP protection is broken (I depend upon it to enforce my program’s GPL license.), but the situation is rather grey in some places. I can’t speak for Open Office’s cloning of Word, as I don’t use it, but I can imagine many ways parts of Word could be patented so that it becomes difficult for someone to implement a word processor of their own. Applying the situation to my application, if I were hit with some sort of patent claim, I have two choices – to defend myself or give up. Given that I do this type of thing on my free time, I don’t have the resources to hire lawyers (and I know enough IP lawyers to know that they are not cheap) and the entire situation would disgust me to the point of quitting. Many people make a distinction between large corporations such as MSFT and everyone else. I’d like to expand that by distinguishing between folks like MSFT, the smaller companies who have the resources to go after MSFT with submarine patents, and folk like myself. The first two groups can and do duke it out in a courthouse. For people on the very low end, that’s just not an option, and that is a huge problem with the system.

    Finally above, I have to disagree with the sweeping statement that the GPL is about communism. I can’t speak for the entire OSS community here, but my licensing of Books under the GPL has nothing to do with "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need". Books is licensed under the GPL as I get more out of the application in terms of accomplishment than I would financially. My goal is to write the best application in my niche and by making it open source, I’m more apt to have people look at it and offer suggestions, collaborate with other OSS applications, and expand my marketshare such that I have a large enough marketshare to have the base of customers who will provide me with feedback that I can use to improve the software. I can say for a fact that by making my program open source, it has come a lot farther a lot quicker than it would have had I made it the typical fifteen dollar Mac shareware application. My goal is to write the best software I can, and in this case an open source license has been a means to that end. Will all of my applications be open source? Probably not. But for now, it’s working very well.

    Finally, I’d like to say thanks to Chris Pratley for this blog. I’ve only discovered it in the last week or so, but I feel much better informed because of it. It’s interesting to know what’s going on in developers’ heads at MSFT. It makes me appreciate your products more, and I can’t wait for the next entry.

  29. Cynic says:

    re: Patents by AT

    "All ideas generated by individuals are cheaper to license compared to big corporations, so I believe that Patent system must protect little companies from abuse by big one."

    But it is even cheaper to just steal the idea, make the product, and fight the little guy till he gives up.

    Do you want proof of that? Lee de Forrest invented the electronic amplifier and RCA stole it from him and fought him all the way to the Supreme Court. Similarly, the electronic television was stolen, again by RCA. (No, Zworykin was NOT the inventor of modern television systems.)

    The man who got the patent on atomic fission — this means the patent on atom bombs as well as nuclear power reactors — got squat for his patent. But then it probably did not matter to Leo Szilard who quit Physics altogether in disgust after Hiroshima and went into Biology.

    As to the patent system rewarding inventors, Chris Pratley (and those of you who seem to believe in the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus) need to tell us whether it was the inventor of QDOS who made the big bucks or a huckster in Seattle.

  30. MacTruck says:

    The problem with software patents is that people are trying to equate something physical to something that is inherently NOT physical and then patent it. Also, patents, in general, are too prohibitively expensive and time-consuming to let the small-time, one-man software developer obtain them. Also, you can’t trust most patent lawyers to not simply run off with the idea and patent it themselves.

    I’ve seen Richard Stallman in person and, frankly, the guy freaks me out. For lack of a better description, the man acts like he’s some crazed, egocentrical prophet high on something (e.g. "medicinal" drugs) and dresses the part as well.

    The real underlying problem here is that no one seems to want to compete, which seems to be the point of this blog. If it is competition you want, then give me immunity from patent lawsuits and I’ll single-handedly grant your wish for competition. Eh, never mind that, I’ll just give you serious competition anyway, but it will be an uphill battle to make it an even playing field. WWIII anyone?

  31. Alex says:

    re:ChrisK

    When I look at your goals, I believe you would also agree with me that you do not necessarily need GPL. What GPL gives us, developers is a way to ensure being open and yet not so open. Because we do not want others to copy our work and re-release it without giving something back. So for many projects it really makes sense to use.

    However, when I said, GPL is about communism, I meant the GPL Stallman wrote, not the way you are using it. I already said that GPL is used for developers to recruit other developers, colloborate and get feedback. We can do all of these knowing that noone can copy our code and close it. We give incentive to third parties to come and contribute etc… However, this does not change the fact that Stallman’s true intention were totally different than allowing people to increase their marketshare. I hope I cleared myself on this issue.

  32. ChrisK says:

    Alex, I imagine you wrote above was what you had in mind when you made your original comment. Thanks for the further clarification. The point that I didn’t want missed is that while RMS goes quite a ways ideologically WRT free software, there’s a number of OSS developers doing open source because of pragmatic reasons and not so much ideological reasons. I would hate for people to assume that RMS speaks for open source developers when his all views probably seriously held by a small portion of the OSS community. That is not to say that RMS has not said some valuable things, but I’d venture that a vast majority of OSS developers have no problem coexisting with commercial developers. Of course I have no way to verify this, but it’s a hunch.

  33. J. Daniel Smith says:

    You say that "Certainly software comapnies can’t get fully behind open source (especially the GPL), since it is anathema to their business model".

    I’m not sure I completely agree (and I write software for a living). I think a sizable portion of my "value add" as a Software Engineer is my knowledge about the software I right. Much of this knowledge can’t be readily expressed in the source code.

    There is also only a very small segment of the population willing (and able) to build software from source. Most people want 800 numbers for support, and a software delivered on a CD with an installer.

    So I think a software company could (theoretically) still have a viable business even while giving away the source code (although, GPL might be a bit too liberal).

  34. Geronimo says:

    Alex, eventually this monomaniacal hostility will backfire on them. Many people are defecting their camp because these idiots have become too much of a liability. I mean I don’t mind bashing Microsoft every now and then on valid grounds. But the irrational, and certainly unjustified, extreme hatred toward Microsoft will only lose them credibility. People stopped taking these idiots seriously, especially when it comes to Microsoft.

    And about "Evil", this is a symptom of dogma in the works here. Once GWB started to say "evil", something fishy smelled bad. The same goes for these Slashdot idiots. For them, it’s either black or white, nothing in between. Does "You’re either with us or with the terrorists" sound familiar? All fundamentalists (regardless of religion or politics) think the same way. And for the Slashdot idiots, the world is divided into two extremes. On the Bright Side, there is OSS and the companies that support it. On the Dark Side, there is mainly Microsoft. Interestingly, the Slashdot idiots don’t revile closed-source companies in general, only some cherry-picked ones, like Microsoft. This tells you there are a lot of corporate-interest strings attached to the movement. You can’t reason with the Slashdot idiots. Reasoning is against their natural.

    And yes, Slashdot idiots use hooliganistic tactics to attack and silence anyone who disagrees with them. This happened before to Philip Greenspun (MIT professor) when he criticized Java, and happened to Chris not because they disagree with him, but because he’s a Microsoft employee. Not that I agree with Greenspun, since I’m a Java advocate, but what happened to his blog because he crossed roads with Slashdot idiots is similar to what happened to Chris’s.

    For Slashdot idiots, intimidation is much more effective than persuasion. This is why their self-appointed priest ESR resorts to vicious personal attackes and calls Microsoft employees "Microserfs".

  35. huge says:

    OMG.

    This thread is one of the more mind-blowing stuff I ever read.

    Ok, let start. I use a computer since 1996, never used MS stuff at home and never used MS stuff at work also since 5 years.

    So, you can call me "OSS zealot", "slashdot idiot" or what you want, I don’t care.

    Now, the meat :

    "That shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, since the goal of the GPL was to make it hard to "own" software rights and therefore to make any money from it directly (services, support and consulting aside)."

    This is just plain wrong : you write a line of code with a GPL licence, you own it. (or your company).

    Hard to make any money ? Just ask Red Hat.

    "As for implementing all the ideas in Word in a "clone" word processor, that starts to fall into the area of intellectual property."

    Aaaaaaaaah … So, MS is the sole inventor of the "Word Processor" ?

    What are you smoking ????

    This thread started with the Word history a few days ago and there was a few competitors which were there before you. So, if the idea of a word processor have been an "intellectual property", MS Word would not have been possible. Of course, when you’re the winner, you want to change the rules to lock the market, I can get it.

    "The more money they have, the more Ok it is to steal. To me this is equivalent to communism, but not enshrined in law."



    Please. Do you know what "communism" is ? Did you read Marx and Engels ?

    Ah yes, GPL is "communist", altermondialist is "communist", everything not mainstream and against Corporate America and willing to redefine the game is "communist" in order to destroy it.

    "The USA and other countries have supported the idea of intellectual property ownership since nearly the beginning of the industrial era because they recognized that for someone to innovate they need to have protection for their ideas."

    Bong Bong Bong (This is the sound of my -empty- head against my desk).

    Please.

    Do you know why "copyright" had been setup ? So that the public could have access to art and knowledge. This has been the roots of democracy, liberal markets and all of this.

    Do you know history ? Or do you rewrite history in you own interest and the interest of MS ? "Copyright" was set up before the industrial area. "Copyright" was set up in 18th century. The industrial era started in 19th.

    For the rest of the thing, you are blending copyrights and patents and try to smoke the reader. Nice try but too big.

    As a final note, it’s really funny to be bashed as a "open source / Slashdot zealot" and to read the first comments and the zealotery in them "This blog is the best". Thank for this great moment.

  36. B.Y. says:

    As I understand it, patents were intended to protect implementations, not just ideas. You had to have a working prototype to get a patent. Not any more.

  37. Cynic wrote:

    > As to the patent system rewarding inventors,

    > Chris Pratley (and those of you who seem to

    > believe in the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus)

    > need to tell us whether it was the inventor

    > of QDOS who made the big bucks or a huckster

    > in Seattle.

    Critical thinking not your strong suit, "Cynic"?

    Please explain what the patent system has to do with the above.

    (Clue: Absolutely nothing).

  38. Huge wrote:

    > Do you know history ? Or do you rewrite

    > history in you own interest and the interest

    > of MS ? "Copyright" was set up before the

    > industrial area. "Copyright" was set up in

    > 18th century. The industrial era started in

    > 19th.

    Apparently you don’t know history. Copyright was set up in the 18th century (1790, Statute of Anne, IIRC).

    The industrial revolution occured in… guess? The 18th century.

    http://mars.acnet.wnec.edu/~grempel/courses/wc2/lectures/industrialrev.html

    Please don’t lecture other people on their supposed lack of knowledge of history when it’s plainly evident that you’re an ignorant idiot.

  39. tc says:

    Chris,

    I think you covered the issue in an interesting manner. I would agree with you that software has Intellectual Property, however, I disagree that software is "patentable." I think what is "patentable" is algorithms.

    What gets me however, is the fact that Microsoft, Bill Gates, in particular, forgets his heritage. If Basic was patented, he could not have got his start. The complaint was that others were stealing his work, yet what was unique about the IP? The only thing that was unique was its implementation on a new platform. It wasn’t a new algortihm or a way of defining computer instructions. To me, a copywrite is the correct vehicle, just as it is with a book that implements ideas into a narrative form, or music that implements sounds into a documented format.

    What I wish is that someone, like Microsoft would stand up and state the obvious. Someone with Microsoft’s cloat needs to take a stand and say that the copywrite is what should be used for software and the patent reserved for algorithms, not business processes that anyone with a training in business and/or software can come up with. If Microsoft, Bill in particular, went to Congress and stated such, I think this whole patent mess would start to be resolved.

    Just my two cents,

    TC

  40. Geronimo says:

    re tc:

    I think Chris made it quite clear that Microsoft acquires patents defensively, not to aggressively sue other people infringing on its patents. This is why IBM has one of the biggest IP departments in the world and they spend gazillions of dollars protecting their IP, because they don’t want a patnet sleeper/squatter/lurker to sue them after they made the technology successful and profitable.

    Today, if you write 10 lines of code, you’re most likely infringing on someone else’s patent.

    I like the idea of looking at patents for big companies as nuke stockpiles. They’re more of a deterrant than weapons. The MAD principle (Mutually Assured Destruction) is what prevents IBM with all their patents (even on breathing) from suing Microsoft.

  41. Cynic says:

    re: Simon Cooke [exMSFT]

    [Critical thinking not your strong suit, "Cynic"?

    Please explain what the patent system has to do with the above.]

    Oh, I fully understand that the Huckster from Seattle had a legal contract with the designer of QDOS that gave him full rights over the product.

    What we are now left to wonder about is whether he also has a contract with every ex-employee of Microsoft that they have to genuflect to him in public for a certain number of years after they leave Microsoft.

  42. Geronimo says:

    And why the QDOS inventor (Tim Paterson) was too idiot not to take advantage of his creation and market it with IBM? No one forced him to sell the product to BillG. He happily sold it for what it was actually worth, and it was far from being an innovative technology. In fact it stands for "Quick and Dirty Operating System."

    It was BillG’s efforts that made it that successful. If QDOS stayed for a billion years in the hands Tim Paterson, it would’ve been burried in history’s memory hole and no one, even you, would’ve heard anything about it.

    Why should Paterson take credit for Bill’s ingenuity? When I see a ragtag product like QDOS undeservedly making it that big, I give credit to the people promoting it.

    It’s the same argument with Windows NT. DEC trashed it and closed the project, but when Microsoft picked it up and was in the process of making it the most popular OS in the world, they clamoured for their IP.

  43. Geronimo says:

    re: Cynic

    By the way, QDOS itself was stolen from C/PM, and Digital Research cosidered suing Microsoft because QDOS was based on C/PM. But eventually DR was scared of the 850 Ton Gorilla* of the time, IBM, and didn’t sue.

    For more info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/QDOS

    * 850 Ton Gorilla: http://www.objectwatch.com/Issue_10.htm

  44. Cynic wrote:

    > Oh, I fully understand that the Huckster

    > from Seattle had a legal contract with the

    > designer of QDOS that gave him full rights

    > over the product.

    >

    > What we are now left to wonder about is

    > whether he also has a contract with every ex-

    > employee of Microsoft that they have to

    > genuflect to him in public for a certain

    > number of years after they leave Microsoft.

    So in other words, you made a facetious and fallacious argument, got caught in it, and are now resorting to ad hominem attacks because it’s either that or admit that you were wrong.

    Glad to see that you’re following the Slashdot/net thug handbook to the letter.

  45. Alex says:

    re:huge

    I thank you to come in and give us the opportunity to show what exactly a slashdot idiot mean.

    "This thread is one of the more mind-blowing stuff I ever read."

    Looks like you didn’t visit Slashdot or that you find it very normal.

    "Ok, let start. I use a computer since 1996, never used MS stuff at home and never used MS stuff at work also since 5 years.

    So, you can call me "OSS zealot", "slashdot idiot" or what you want, I don’t care."

    You give us the hint here. You do not become a slashdot idiot by using Linux. Being an idiot is related with your way of thinking, your statements, your approach to issues, not what you use as an operating system. But you can’t comprehend what I am talking about since you are an idiot.

    "Now, the meat :

    "That shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, since the goal of the GPL was to make it hard to "own" software rights and therefore to make any money from it directly (services, support and consulting aside)."

    This is just plain wrong : you write a line of code with a GPL licence, you own it. (or your company).

    Hard to make any money ? Just ask Red Hat.

    "

    Idiot huge, Red Hat makes money exactly from services, support and consulting. Just ask Red Hat. This is what slashdot idiots about, you don’t even know what you are talking about.

    "

    "As for implementing all the ideas in Word in a "clone" word processor, that starts to fall into the area of intellectual property."

    Aaaaaaaaah … So, MS is the sole inventor of the "Word Processor" ?

    What are you smoking ????

    This thread started with the Word history a few days ago and there was a few competitors which were there before you. So, if the idea of a word processor have been an "intellectual property", MS Word would not have been possible. Of course, when you’re the winner, you want to change the rules to lock the market, I can get it.

    "

    What an idiot. Chris didn’t imply that they were the first to invent Word processors, he is talking about intellectual property issue and somehow, out of your slashdot idiocy, you connect two unrelated issues and somehow you make up something. I don’t blame you since there are so many number of idiots going around. Some idiots say we should treat these idiots as people who disagree with us. I am sorry but this is pure idiocy and it has nothing to do with disagreeing.

    Here is the nice touch from our idiot. Do you know something lines.

    "Please. Do you know what "communism" is ? Did you read Marx and Engels ?

    Ah yes, GPL is "communist", altermondialist is "communist", everything not mainstream and against Corporate America and willing to redefine the game is "communist" in order to destroy it.

    Bong Bong Bong (This is the sound of my -empty- head against my desk).

    Please.

    Do you know why "copyright" had been setup ? So that the public could have access to art and knowledge. This has been the roots of democracy, liberal markets and all of this.

    Do you know history ? Or do you rewrite history in you own interest and the interest of MS ? "Copyright" was set up before the industrial area. "Copyright" was set up in 18th century. The industrial era started in 19th.

    "

    Idiot huge, you didn’t even make sense to be able to reply. You disagree with someone claiming that they don’t know the history, but from which point of view the history is different and why the statement doesn’t make sense, you don’t mention it. That’s a typical slashdot idiot, refutes something but doesn’t tell us exactly why, how and what. All he knows is that he is against an idea.

    "As a final note, it’s really funny to be bashed as a "open source / Slashdot zealot" and to read the first comments and the zealotery in them "This blog is the best". Thank for this great moment. "

    You are not an open source zealot, you are a slashdot idiot. I don’t think you deserve to be associated with open source stuff, that’s an insult to open source developer. No developer would want you to defend his/her project.

    Thanks again for giving us the opportunity to show what a slashdot idiot really is.

  46. Dan Luu says:

    But why is our patent system, "flawed as it is" really better than no patent system? You present a utilitarian argument for our (or, at the least, some) patent system, but that isn’t sufficient.

    If, as Condorcet argues, invention comes from society, does it make sense to have intellectual property, even if it has some utilitarian value?

    "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants" – Newton

    >The USA and other countries have supported the idea of intellectual property ownership since nearly the beginning of the industrial era because they recognized that for someone to innovate they need to have protection for their ideas.

    The US hasn’t really been any better about this than the looters you decry. America was quite willing to steal intellectual property from the English, until the late 1800s, when American authors started producing enough IP that American firms started lobbying for copyright protection. Quite a change from their earlier position: "All the riches of English literature are ours. English authorship comes to us free as the vital air, untaxed, unhindered, even by the necessity of translation, into the country; and the question is, shall we tax it, and thus impose a barrier to the circulation of intellectual and moral right? Shall we build up a dam to obstruct the flow of the rivers of knowledge?"

    If the argument for IP protection is purely utilitarian, why shouldn’t India, China, and the "asian tigers" just ignore US IP laws for the next few decades?

  47. Alex says:

    re:Dan Luu

    Your questions look at the political side of the patent system and doesn’t address the concerns related with having no patent system.

    Whether China and India doesn’t have patent system doesn’t mean there is no patent system, because you are still protected in US and other countries and that means something to people who invent new ideas. So you do not present anything related with not having a patent system. You only talk about the case where another country with less IP declares no patent system only to be able to steal other country’s IP. That’s totally different.

    However, if you look at from the perspective of the Chinese or Indian inventors, that’s a devastating ruling, because now they can not invent and profit. Instead, having a no patent system forces those people to migrate to countries which do have patent systems.

    However, politically you are right about the fact that patent system and IP issues became important because of political interest, not just to help the inventors necessarily. However, right now unless you are very poor, it doesn’t make sense to have no patent system. For example, all the innovation takes place in USA, because companies and people know that if they work hard, if they invest their money on new technologies they will get something in return. Similarly, in Germany, England, France people invent because they know that they are protected. Patent laws may in fact become important because countries wanted to protect their own IP, but they also created a powerful environment to invent even more, and that become a catalyst for the society.

    Also remember that IP laws are in fact ignored in those countries. If you had a friend from India or China, you would know that lots of stuff are pirated there. What makes this system bad is that because of globalism, people in poor nations are less likely to win in a competition, just like I am less likely to dominate a market where I am competing with Microsoft, IBM, Oracle and so on. There are so many issues that come before patens, but in case I managed to overcome all those hurdles we all know that I will be sued because of a patent. I think the solution here is to decrease the lifetime of software related patents, because right now all patents have the same lifetime. Software is changing rapidly, so it doesn’t make sense to hold the competition so long. Also more funding is needed to prevent patenting the obvious stuff.

    On the other hand, let’s not forget the fact that today the patent system is not a problem for open source apps, it is a big problem for big guys, like Microsoft, but so far nobody come after open source apps yet. SCO case is not a patent issue by the way.

  48. Dan Luu wrote:

    > If, as Condorcet argues, invention comes

    > from society, does it make sense to have

    > intellectual property, even if it has some

    > utilitarian value?

    If invention comes from society, when will society finish the script I’m writing, or the software I want?

    What… you mean it doesn’t work that way… I have to do the hard work part?

    Inspiration and ideas are NOT the same as intellectual property. Everyone and their dog can have ideas. Ideas are like assholes and opinions – everybody has one. However, the work part comes in when one has to turn an idea or inspiration into reality.

    Information wants to be free – and should be. Intellectual property, however, takes a lot more work. The two are not the same.

  49. Kerakh says:

    The US patent office has been about ten years behind the technology of the day nearly since its creation, due to the large volume of submissions that they have to process. This has led to a number of conflicting patents being granted, noticably that of Edison and an inventor named Gray successfully patenting the lightbulb on the same day. The tech lag is nothing new, but it’s more noticable now that ideas for software aren’t filtered out.

    My own take on the matter is that ideas for software fall under the copyright laws as much as the idea of a solar-powered device for performing mathematical calculations (the idea behind many calculators), full applications and operating systems might be eligible for a patent if one could justify it well enough (though it seems like a bit of a stretch from where I stand), and embedded software almost certainly is if it’s not possible to change without physical replacement of a part (i.e. a ROM chip in a discman). I’d be quite surprised if the last category wasn’t already in place in something akin to the form I’ve described. After all, it doesn’t even appear to be at issue.

    I agree with several of the people above that as it stands, the patent system appears to be broken and in need of a fix – if not a complete overhaul. I haven’t enough information on it to suggest one specifically, but I suspect more funding and manpower would probably be helpful, which isn’t going to happen any time soon given events in other parts of the government.

    Thanks for providing something to think about.

  50. Dan Luu says:

    If invention comes from society, when will society finish the script I’m writing, or the software I want?

    >What… you mean it doesn’t work that way… I have to do the hard work part?

    I don’t really see what you’re getting at. It seems like you’re saying that implementation is yours because it wouldn’t exist without your work. Well, by that logic, the implementation belongs to society, since you never would have come up with the implementation without learning what you have from society, without having been exposed to the ideas in society.

    >Inspiration and ideas are NOT the same as intellectual property. Everyone and their dog can have ideas. Ideas are like assholes and opinions – everybody has one. However, the work part comes in when one has to turn an idea or inspiration into reality.

    What do you mean when you say ‘idea’? Something that "everyone and their dog" can’t come up with? Something obscure? What’s the difference between an idea and an expression of that idea? Does that matter? What, precisely, is "the hard work part"?

    "Last year, a group of intellectual-property lawyers argued in an article in the National Law Journal that athletic maneuvers could and should be patented. A method “for sailing an America’s Cup yacht wherein the yacht sails 10 degrees closer to the wind, for high-jumping higher or for skiing downhill 10 percent faster,’ they claimed, could easily be classified as a “useful process” within the meaning of the federal patent statute. If nonobvious and novel, such a technique should qualify for patent protection. After all, if one can patent a new surgical procedure, why not the Fosbery Flop?"

    (http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/people/tfisher/iphistory.pdf)

    Everything above involes a "hard work part". For that matter, so does a mathematical proof. Should Turing have been able to patent Turing machines? Certainly, "everyone and their dog" didn’t come up with the concept, so is it not an idea?

    Alex:

    >Also remember that IP laws are in fact ignored in those countries. If you had a friend from India or China, you would know that lots of stuff are pirated there.

    >For example, all the innovation takes place in USA, because companies and people know that if they work hard, if they invest their money on new technologies they will get something in return.

    And despite that, hundreds of billions of dollars are being invested in China alone, each year. What’s up with that? ^^

  51. Dan Luu wrote:

    >I don’t really see what you’re getting at. It

    >seems like you’re saying that implementation

    >is yours because it wouldn’t exist without

    >your work. Well, by that logic, the

    >implementation belongs to society, since you

    >never would have come up with the

    >implementation without learning what you have

    >from society, without having been exposed to

    >the ideas in society.

    However, my "implementation" is original, and therefore was not created by society, but was created by me.

    If I write a script (and this is not idle supposition) that relies on Greek and Christian mythology for some of its plot points – or even characters – it can still be an entirely original work. Society did not determine how that work was to be created. Society did not put any effort into creating that work – it is a passive act.

    I’m having trouble seeing what you’re arguing for here. Are you seriously claiming that all intellectual property is worthless, and you should be able to do anything you want with the hard work of others – without them having any say in the matter?

    Do you feel the same way about everything? Or only work where people don’t get their hands dirty?

  52. Alex says:

    Dan Luu:

    "And despite that, hundreds of billions of dollars are being invested in China alone, each year. What’s up with that? "

    It looks to me that arguing with you seriously is a problem, because you love to play with words, the language, rather than being to the point. It is a common problem, but here is what’s up with that.

    China has lots of cheap labor. Companies selling products in US invests in China, because they are saving lots of money from labor. Labor cost is the number one cost. Producing in China and then importing it here makes a lot of sense. That’s really the major source of the investment.

    Second source is the premise of a big market. Since many companies are spending money there because of cheap labor, money is flowing in and there are companies seeing this as a growing market, since those people who will get money will buy things. So, it also makes sense to enter into the China market by building factories there.

    If you haven’t noticed it yet, all the R&D is done in USA, and only production is done in China for high-tech stuff. In fact, many of my chinese friends are very angry about this fact, because even though they produce these products, the companies like Dell, Apple and so on are the ones who make big profits. Some companies, like Asus, in Taiwan though, were able to convert to R&D companies, so they also invent, but that happens mostly in countries like Taiwan who are more aligned with the USA capitalism. Japan is another example, where R&D is strong. Those companies do produce their products on China but they are the ones who own that technology. China doesn’t get the know-how yet.

    So, please present some real facts. Try to understand, why, what and when. Hundreds of billions of dollars are not being invested for R&D, they are being invested for production only, for the cheap labor. Just think a little deeper, don’t look at the surface everytime.

    So if tomorrow, China become more expensive, all those facroties will move to another part of the world. That’s how businesses work.

  53. RichB says:

    IP is important – and the recycle bin was Apple’s IP?

    This is capitalism, not communism with Microsoft being the pigs.

  54. Ben Martin says:

    At least when you buy a physical product – you get the product. Getting software without code is like paying for a service. You can build an addition to your house, or fix your TV, or get new tires for you car, but you can’t really change your software without the source (well, you can use binary patches, but… let’s be serious). Having the source, and the right to modify it is the only way to own the software. And you know what – one fundamental tenet of modern cpaitalism is ownership. IP – at least applies to software – doesn’t really follow all the good capitalist tenets you’ve mentioned.

    Now, frankly, I don’t even think that is a good way to look at the problem, but my point is the "OSS as communism" propoganda needs to end.

    Some advice: First, realize that OSS is not necessarily (RMS et al not withstanding) about communism, idealism, altruism or anything like that; it has real commercial significance. Second, think about why that is. Why is OSS of value to IBM, say? Or look at Apple leveraging open source in their OS. Ok, maybe that is exploitation, but don’t think the OSS community is not leveraging IBM and Apple back to their own gain.

    OSS is useful – COMMERCIALLY, end of story. Proprietary software will eventually (hopefully anyway) go the way of all extinct creatures. It worked well for a time, but once businesses and end users see the real advantages of open source, no one will want to touch proprietary software ever again. Software is not a prodcut in the same sense as a car, or a house, or a TV, or a bag of potato chips (as some have pointed out, it seems to be much similar to, say, scientific research which we typically do not prevent reproducing except in some patentable cases). It is a different entity and needs to be treated in a manner appropriate to that entity. Open source may not be perfect, but in the long run it is a much better approach than closed, proprietary software.

    (Some major reasons to use OSS over proprietary, off the top of my head:

    – no lock in

    – portaility

    – collaborative development across corporate boundaries [makes the software better for everyone – including the original authors]

    – easier to apply standards

    – quicker development [don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time]

    Some of those would be reason enough for me as a corporate entity to throw money at OSS – forget the communism.)

  55. Andrew Shuttlewood says:

    I think a good metric would be: if there were no patents, would Microsoft still have developed their approach for Word XML?

    Secondly, even if they had, would keeping it secret (and forcing others to invent it seperately), have been better or worse for the public good.

    For 99% of patents, I would wager that the public good would be better served if they had never been filed.

    (And Microsoft might have originally created it’s patent portfolio for self defence, but it appears they’re now very much interested in making money off of it and using it to smack competitors smaller than themselves).

  56. huge says:

    re:Alex

    > I thank you to come in and give > us the opportunity to show what > exactly a slashdot idiot mean.

    You’re welcome.

    > > "This thread is one of the

    > > more mind-blowing stuff I ever > > read."

    > Looks like you didn’t visit

    > Slashdot or that you find it

    > very normal.

    Oh yes, I visit it. Everyday. And I think this is a very good site. It has a lot of good sections, interesting book reviews, etc.

    But, lots of people don’t understand how to manage Slashdot : if you’re reading all from A to Z, of course, there are lots of idiots.

    My method is : read all the frontpage snippets via RSS, click on a "Read more" on the "Ask Slashdot" sections, put the threshold to 5 or 4, read the page, close. Don’t have an account, never post, even in Anonymous Coward.

    This is the thing I don’t like also from Joel Spolsky and so called IT industry gurus : the Slashdot bashing. Arrogance is our worst own enemy.

    > > "Ok, let start. I use a

    > > computer since 1996, never

    > > used MS stuff at home and

    > > never used MS stuff at work

    > > also since 5 years.

    > > So, you can call me "OSS

    > > zealot", "slashdot idiot" or

    > > what you want, I don’t care."

    > You give us the hint here. You

    > do not become a slashdot idiot

    > by using Linux. Being an idiot

    > is related with your way of

    > thinking, your statements,

    > your approach to issues, not

    > what you use as an operating

    > system. But you can’t

    > comprehend what I am talking

    > about since you are an idiot.

    Oh yes, so obviously, you’re not an idiot yourself to call me "idiot" and you will give us strong arguments against my claims to prove you’re not an idiot and I am one. We’ll see this.

    > > […]

    > > Hard to make any money ? Just

    > > ask Red Hat.

    > Idiot huge, Red Hat makes money

    > exactly from services, support

    > and consulting. Just ask Red

    > Hat. This is what slashdot

    > idiots about, you don’t even

    > now what you are talking about.

    I re-read the sentence from Chris Pratley and I mis-read it in the first place, you’re right.

    > > > "As for implementing all the

    > > > ideas in Word in a "clone"

    > > > word processor, that starts

    > > > to fall into the area of

    > > > intellectual property."

    > > Aaaaaaaaah … So, MS is the

    > > sole inventor of the "Word

    > > Processor" ?

    > > What are you smoking ????

    > > This thread started with the

    > > Word history a few days ago

    > > and there was a few

    > > competitors

    > > which were there before you.

    > > So, if the idea of a word

    > > processor have been an

    > > "intellectual property", MS

    > > Word would not have been

    > > possible. Of course, when

    > > you’re the winner,

    > > you want to change the rules

    > > to lock the market, I can

    > > get it.

    > What an idiot. Chris didn’t

    > imply that they were the first

    > to invent Word processors, he is

    > talking about intellectual

    > property issue and somehow, out

    > of your slashdot idiocy, you

    > connect two unrelated issues and

    > somehow you make up something.

    So what ? There is "intellectual property" on Open Office also. It has a copyright. Did Sun bought a empty shell ?

    And at first, the sentence from Chris Pratley was very fuzzy. Why ? Because he speaks about "intellectual property". He don’t

    tell us if he is speaking about copyright or patent. I will detail this at the end of this post.

    [snip the "idiot" stuff which doesn’t add anything to the conversation]

    [ my stuff about copyright and communism ]

    [ snip the "idiot" stuff ]

    Once again, refutal of my argument ?

    For more constructive stuff :

    re :Simon Cooke [exMSFT]

    I checked and in fact it seems (Google and Wikipedia told me the same) that the Statute of Anne was set up in 1709 (seems you swapped the 0 and the 9 😉 ), so, 18th century :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statute_of_Anne

    Also, sorry, but :

    – It was the beggining of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century. The rise, especially in others countries than England was in the 19th century.

    – The copyright was for print material at first.

    Of course, the copyright, the Gutenberg invention, the Rebirth, the Lumières in France, all of these have been in favor of the democracy, French Revolution, free trade.

    Now, the "copyright / patent" :

    It seems to me (call me idiot and/or MS hater) that, for some players in the IT field, copyrights are not "good enough" now. They have big shares in some markets and want to lock-in their customers. It is not enough because of the "copyleft" : RMS managed to use copyright against the traditional use of copyright. It has been a mean to protect the producer so that the consumer can’t copy over and over the producer stuff. RMS used the copyright to protect the consumer so that a producer can’t "lock" a consumer (the consumer always have access to the source and future modifications).

    For this big players (I speak of IBM, Sun, MS et al), as long as the only players in town were them and some little players, the rules were simple : against the little players, you bought them or you enter their market.

    But, with opensource and the rise of Internet (remember the tapes RMS used to sell to spread emacs), the rules changed. Now, everybody could make and improve free software (technology available : the Internet) and can protect and spread the software (copyleft, free software licences). So, the rise of opensource.

    This is why they’ve got lots of patents, defense patents as Chris Pratley said. Patents, against opensource and small software business, is a very good weapon : you’ve got a monopoly for a certain period of time.

    And, as a big player, you can afford the costs : you’ve to apply for a patent (time required), you have to pay for (money required), you have to hire lawyers (money required), etc.

    As a little player, you can’t afford all of this. For copyright, the "costs" involved are tiny :

    You wrote a line of code, it is yours, period.

    Also, look at the patent stuff in EU : big players were supportive of patents, open source and small software businesses were against.

    Alex, I’m waiting for your thoughts on this, because you are a lot more clever than I am and you will prove it to me.

  57. Alex says:

    re:Ben Martin

    I wish you had come up with something more meaningful so that we could learn something or at least challenge us.

    "At least when you buy a physical product – you get the product. Getting software without code is like paying for a service."

    That’s a very stupid analogy, and sorry if this is offending but it reminds me Slashdot idiots, here is why? When you buy a television, you can’t make another one from what you bought. If your TV is broken, you also don’t fix it, in most of the cases you can’t fix it at all. You have to send it to the manufacturer. Your example itself contradicts with your argument. TV Manufacturers don’t give you the factory, the workers, the technical documents with the tv. They give you what you are supposed to use. Service in software is a well known concept, and that is called application service provider. You can also provide software as a service by forcing people to uninstall the software after a period of time. Oracle is also selling software as a service, since every year it charges people based on the number of transactions etc… If what you said had any meaning then IBM would give away the source code to DB2, Lotus and so on. If you haven’t notice it yet, open source got the momentum, thanks to hardware companies like IBM. These companies made open source meaningful to companies, but don’t expect something beyond it. Linux is there right now as a server platform for those companies, they don’t switch to Linux at the desktop.

    Getting news for your car is the same as upgrading a piece of software, it has nothing to do with source code. Source code represents the factory here, in your case you don’t even know what you are trying to compare source code with. You can do almost everything with your commercial software, except modifying it.

    It is quite obvious that you are not familiar with open source projects. In most of the open source projects, users do not modify the code. Developers do. Users simply use it. What open source provides is that, we can recruit new developers by showing our code. Someone might pick up the code and send some patches. Developers also come from users, but users normally do not try to mess up with the source code. If the project is an easy one, like a php project, you find lots of developers contributing something, but if it is something like open office, you don’t find so many developers, you have few core developers, and most of the others are very limited in their contribution. Just go ahead and read some Linux magazines, or go ahead and inspect open source project much more closer.

    OSS as Stallman defines is communism and it is not a propaganda. GPL is effectively trying to force others to open their programs. There are many occasions where some programmer using GPL is forced to open its own source code, because that’s what GPL says. He misunderstood GPL, he thought he can get it, but ended up opening its own code. So GPL is evil and should be treated as such. People should be careful about using GPLed software, and should know that if enough number of libraries and software are GPLed we would have no choice but to abandon software engineering as it is. All software engineers would have to work for service companies like IBM. Right now, Linus is working for a company which is founded by bunch of hardware and few Linux companies. Linus is still working, despite the fact that he started Linux, he doesn’t own anything. All the big money goes to IBM, Sun, etc… Microsoft, on the other hand is founded by software engineers and is managed by software engineers. Bill Gates is a programmer, he is just like me whereas IBM’s head is not.

    Open source has a commercial value of course, otherwise we wouldn’t be talking about it now, however we should make things really clear about it. Open source doesn’t mean it is somehow inherently better, or morally correct. Open source is none of them, open source is simply a way to develop software. If you don’t have enough financial power, open source makes sense. If your software sucks, open source makes sense. That’s what open source is.

    -no lock in

    is not exactly correct for open source. Once you invest in Linux, you put a lot of effort into it. There are very few instances of commercial cases where lock in really means something more than slashdot propaganda and I don’t remember any of them now. People can easily migrate from one system into another and each commercial or open has the same amount of hurdle.

    – portability

    if you are talking about application software, yes that makes sense, such as apache, mysql and so on.

    – collaborative development across corporate boundaries

    Users do not care about this. Users do not give a damn about how you develop your software, it is none of their business and they don’t want to be part of it. You clearly never build a software company and deal with customers. You are far away from the real world.

    – easier to apply standards

    This standards word is so hyped that people really do not know what they are talking about. It is like brainless morons walking around as zombies and repeating this "standards" word. Which standards, where? How many number of standards are there? If there is a standards commercial companies do implement them, and I know probably you are so convinced that Microsoft doesn’t do that because of reading so much slashdot, but Microsoft do support standards. That’s part of the slashdot effect where it creates these idiots believing everything they read on slashdot. One thing that really makese sense here is that open source projects, whatever they implement can not be kept as secret, so others do not need to reverse engineer it, but even in some open source projects, developers sometime develop closed source components. Like exchange connector in evolution is closed. If they open it up, other developers could add exchange support, including me.

    – quicker development [don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time]

    First of all, let me tell you something, I don’t think any group of people are more effective and efficient than Microsoft programmers in software engineering. They simply excel on what they do. I use Linux, I use Windows, until Windows XP, Linux really had a big chance, but now they completely lost it. XP, Office 2003 and bunch of other software, I mean there is no way you can compare any Linux software with these complex software in anyway. Ok, quicker development is meaningful for new software companies who is trying to develop something, but even in that case remember that not every software out there is GPL, there is significant amount of Apache, BSD, etc… software. So, in that regard open source software using those components lose its edge. Only if there is GPLed software that you need to use, it makes sense to say that you may developer faster. But as I stated, that’s only against a company. But if the company has the resources, they can study the GPled code and then rewrote something similar from scratch, or just go to the developers and ask for permission. Many developers would happily cooperate with the company and in fact for some people that’s why they open source it. There is a prospect of getting attention.

    Communism comes into the picture, when slashdot idiots attack you for your own opinions. That pretty much looks like communists, or some extreme political group, trying to force everybody in the society to accept their demands for a political change. Slashdot idiots in general say that:

    – Patents should be voided and deleted.

    – Music should be free

    – Everybody who disagree with us should die.

    – Attack anybody who says otherwise

    – Stealing code from companies are ok and should be encouraged.

    – If a virus ddos to a site they hate, then you should go ahead and install virus into your own computer.

    – And bunch of many more other stupid comments.

  58. kwyxz says:

    Alex, you seem to be a bit paranoid seeing "communists" everywhere. It seems that you believe they are some kind of giant monsters eating children and raping women. Get a life, read books, learn what "communism" is, and think a little bit about words you use.

    Moreover, your opinion seems to be close from "if you don’t agree with me, then you are an idiot". Wow. I thought the US were the country of freedom of speech.

    I hope you get the point.

  59. Ben Martin says:

    Alex, I think we actually agree for the most part on the facts, we are just coming to slightly different conclusions. First, let me concede you are right that some like Stallman view OSS as a form of communism, and that is fine with me. But many, such as the BSD and Apache people, Linus Torvalds, others, don’t and they are as or more important, so to class all OSS as communism would still be in my midn propoganda, though no one may be trying to do that here, but I was getting that feel from Mr. Pratley. And, of course, I am not really worried about Slashdot… 15 year olds with attitude do not make a good baseline for anything 🙂 And you are right my initial exmple was not well thought through. (Although it so happens that not so many years ago I could have fixed my own TV, and certainly my car, with proper training. And actually, service manuals were available.)

    You are right hardware makers provide a lot of impetus (and money) for OSS. As far as open source not being viable for software only companies, I think you on to something. But at the same time, that doesn’t bother me. If university researchers, artists, IT departments, and hardware and service companies are the ones who end up producing software, that is ok. Many great projects – e.g. Linux – got to where they are today without any software company getting involved. Now, many did have that help, but you can do without a software-only company. (If the industry won’t support it – and ultimately I suspect it won’t – let it die. That’s my motto.)

    And no, these arguments are not necessarily about how they benefit home users…

    By no lock in, I meant that if your software company goes away, you can hire developers to fix the software, or if you don’t like what the software producers are doing, or you don’t like the new license version, you can take over development yourself (thinking companies here not individuals). With the proprietary model, you are pretty much stuck. Ask all the poor people relying on BeOS or Amigas back in the day… Yeah, through a lot of concerted effort by independent developers they managed to hang on for a while, but if say the Amiga OS had been open source, it would have been a piece of cake to keep those functioning and even have made them competetive with contemporary OSes, I think.

    As far as collaboration, I mean, I as one company can float a piece of seminal software and other companies will contribute to it to improve it for their own sake, and both they and we win (well, ok, didn’t really help Netscape, but oh well – the rest of us got a pretty good browser out of it though). That doesn’t really work with proprietary.

    By quicker development, I mean that I as a developer can take existing software, add a relatively thin layer of my own and get something useful out of it (e.g. take a preexisting mp3 decoder and add an interface relevant to my application). Yes, MS can do stuff quickly, but they have a lot of resources, and I bet they use preexisting code whenever possible, or at least wish they could. And I am thinking of BSD-style licenses; I agree GPL makes it a pain here.

    As far as standards, consider what open source browser projects, e.g. Konqueror, Mozilla, have done with web standards. Opera managed to do a decent job too, despite being proprietary. MS though gave this absoultely pathetic argument against using standards. Well, end users (at least ones not knowledeable enough to pick up Mozilla) lost there. You are right, the nature of OSS projects mean that standards have to be agreed on and followed (and if they aren’t whatever is implemented becomes the standard) and that is generally a good thing for end users and content producers (and software producers in the long run).

    You are right, end users don’t usually modify sotware. But if I lean on a developer they will usually fix what I don’t like, or I can find one who will who can fork the project. As a computer scientist myself, if I take the effort I can fix it. And certainly large companies can get changed whatever they want, if they are willing to invest a little bit. The point is that I have the option to throw a little money or effort at it to get it fixed. With proprietary I have to start from scratch.

    I think the Slashdot thing is a red herring, btw. I don’t believe ANYTHING I read on Slashdot (exaggeration alert), but just because it was on Slashdot doesn’t make it wrong. And let’s not let Slashdot represent the OSS developer community.

  60. For Andrew Shuttlewood:

    Yes, we developed WordML initially before we thought to patent our uses of it, which was more routine than anything. If there were no patents, we would have done it anyway, because the value to our customers to be able to generate Word docs on a server, etc to integrate with Word was valuable enough to outweigh the risks. It’s worth mentioning here that these particular patents will be available for royalty-free license (assuming they are allowed), since we don’t want our partners and customers to be concerned that they won’t be able to use the XML formats as they need to.

    I think by saying that 99% of patents are not in the public interest, you are at risk of looking at the local issues and not the global system. My point has been that the system of protecting intellectual property, flaws and all, is in the public interest (I won’t rehash the argument here). In any non-perfect system, some things will be harmful at the local level. Is it 99%? I doubt that figure. If it is a high figure, could it be made lower without breaking the overall value of the system itself – surely.

    Recently there has been a change wrt to patents at Microsoft. Rather than having them sit dormant waiting for someone to attack, that dept decided it would be worth generating a little revenue off of some of them that have been widely infringed on anyway, so they have started to offer these for license. I think this is considered normal in the industry.

    If the company were to start using its portfolio aggressively, as I mentioned I think that would be a hit on the public image depending on who the target was, but it would be within the company’s rights.

  61. Alex says:

    re: huge

    you didn’t have much idea to refute in your earlier post, in your first post you talked more like a slashdot idiot, only in the second one I found your opinions much more clear and meaningful.

    "It seems to me (call me idiot and/or MS hater) that, for some players in the IT field, copyrights are not "good enough" now."

    You do not become an idiot or a MS hater by arguing that point. I have never had that position, I call people idiot only if I am convinced that they are counter-productive people mindlessly repeating a stupid stuff over and over again without much thinking and believe me there are lots of them on the internet.

    "They have big shares in some markets and want to lock-in their customers. It is not enough because of the "copyleft" : RMS managed to use copyright against the traditional use of copyright. It has been a mean to protect the producer so that the consumer can’t copy over and over the producer stuff. RMS used the copyright to protect the consumer so that a producer can’t "lock" a consumer (the consumer always have access to the source and future modifications)."

    I agree on the idea that GPL is more consumer friendly than commercial licenses, but there are issues that you don’t think about or do not want to think about. Those issues lie a little deeper from the surface. First remember that GPL is not merely making sure that software is open, it is also a way to force other software to be open. LGPL for example does exactly what you want, but GPL is more than what you describe. It is also trying to force other developers to reveal their source code under the same, exactly same terms. That is as soon as your software touches GPLed code your software becomes GPLed also. That’s a lot different than what you simply try to show. Unfortunately you are so full of hate against big cos that you just don’t see this. Believe me, you can’t hurt big money by this copyleft stuff. You are going to hurt only software developers in the short and long term, and consumers in the long term. Big money will always make money, you guys are so stupid by thinking that by bringing down Microsoft you would somehow get a revenge from Bill Gates. Bill Gates is rich, he doesn’t need anymore money than what he alrady has. It is 50’000 Microsoft employees and far more other developers around the world who would have problems. You just don’t think about the effect that all GPLed environment will create. It is going to disrupt the whole software industry, of course I don’t think it will ever do that because as you probably realized more and more people find slashdot type idiots disgusting communist pigs or simply losers.

    I am a software engineer and what RMS tells me is to work for free. You would probably mindlessly disagree with that and point me to Redhat, but again you don’t think. Redhat is a service company for servers. Server business has been like that all the time. Sun had Solaris, IBM had AIX, HP had its own unix, SGI had its onw Unix, etc… These guys always had employees to develop these operating systems and make money through support, hardware and so on. Redhat’s contract says that you are going to pay money to the company for free software and you can’t buy one single Linux and apply the same patches to other clones, you buy support per linux installation, that’s what the contract says. That’s exactly how Redhat makes its money and it is like Microsoft telling people to rent their software. Microsoft supports its operating systems more than Redhat supports its own software. Telling me that open source is somehow better for us is simply bullshit propaganda, just like the propaganda of communism, not that I am very against communism, but the same mentality plays.

    "For this big players (I speak of IBM, Sun, MS et al), as long as the only players in town were them and some little players, the rules were simple : against the little players, you bought them or you enter their market."

    If you were really concerned about small players you would be against GPL. GPL effectivelly makes IBM and Sun bigger. Certainly it is against Microsoft, but if it becomes larger, the money from Microsoft would find its way to the open source to make money. Only developers lose here, because you lose your chance of making money out of your work. You effectively shut down that door to developers. You are not protecting the small guys, you are protecting the big money. It is the big money which supports GPL and Linux now, not the little guys. There are millions of developers around the world, only few dedicated people commit to these open source projects. KOffice is being developed by only 3-4 developers, there are not much people around.

    "But, with opensource and the rise of Internet (remember the tapes RMS used to sell to spread emacs), the rules changed. Now, everybody could make and improve free software (technology available : the Internet) and can protect and spread the software (copyleft, free software licences). So, the rise of opensource."

    Open source indeed use internet, so did the shareware industry, so did the freeware, so did microsoft, ibm, etc… What’s the point?

    "This is why they’ve got lots of patents, defense patents as Chris Pratley said. Patents, against opensource and small software business, is a very good weapon : you’ve got a monopoly for a certain period of time."

    Chris mentioned defense patents in the sense that defense against other big competitors. You completely missed that too and probably knowingly distorted it.

    Also, open source has so many major obstacles before coming to patents. In a typical slashdot idiocy, you are talking about something that is not an issue today. Which open source project is being sued by these patent holders now? Which open source project has to shut down or change its code or pay huge fines because of patent infringement. There is a danger of course, but not something we should be talking about now as something as fact.

    Another idiocy from you is that, if you have the opportunity you have to patent something or another person would. By accusing Microsoft for patenting these, you are actually becoming a Slashdot idiot. You simply deny the obvious fact, instead focus on something else.

    "And, as a big player, you can afford the costs : you’ve to apply for a patent (time required), you have to pay for (money required), you have to hire lawyers (money required), etc.

    As a little player, you can’t afford all of this. For copyright, the "costs" involved are tiny :

    You wrote a line of code, it is yours, period."

    If you haven’t noticed yet, in this world, big money always has the advantage. It doesn’t matter, in any industry, if you are a small player you are in a disadvantage position. Software is not the only one, but obviously in software the play field is a little bit more even. Now I would be happy to discuss the bottomline of these issues, since I also wonder whether we can do something for software patents so that small companies also have a chance to compete. However, as I said, I don’t see this issue coming up as a big problem for small businesses or open source yet. The danger is out there, but talking shit about this is totally meaningless now. The problem doesn’t exist now, however it could happen and that’s definitely not good.

    "Also, look at the patent stuff in EU : big players were supportive of patents, open source and small software businesses were against."

    Let me tell you something, I also read this from some of the few comments in slashdot, but obviously the slashdot articles do not tell the part of the story I am going to tell. It looks like the EU issue is really about making a fussy issue more clear. According to lawmakers, the patents already cover the software, they only want to make it more clear and software patents are already issued. So, please go ahead and read something more than Slashdot article itself, dig up more and find the real truth.

    As an example here, let me share you something I found myself. Slashdot and Cnet News were reporting that during the anti-trust trial of Microsoft, "Microsoft denied making different versions of Windows". So News.com and Slashdot were saying that Microsoft was denying to be able to modify Windows and produce a different version of Windows. I was really suprised with that, since that means Microsoft is really evil and that they are also stupid because we all know they can probably produce different versions of Windows. Anyway, I couldn’t believe that Microsoft can be that much stupid and I decided to read the court documents myself to see what’s going on. What I found was extremely shocking. What the court documents was saying that, states and the government asked the judge to order Microsoft to produce different versions of windows based on the directions of OEM licensees (like Dell) with a certain threshold (like more than 100’000 windows licenses). For example Dell should be able to say to Microsoft to remove any of the features they want and also pay less amount based on the proportion of the code being removed. The thing is that, it is not just 3 different version of windows, it is possibly thousands of windows versions all should be working quite well, all the responsibility is on Microsoft. That’s exactly what the court documents said. I read it myself. But technically Slashdot and Cnet was saying the truth, Microsoft did really say that it is impossible to implement a different version of windows, but of course in that particular context. So what I learnt from that is that people are idiot, they simply read and believe in what they read, they don’t even realize they are being manipulated. That’s when I really understood exactly what average joe mean. Cnet and Slashdot is clean, because they are not exactly lying, yet our average joe thinks that Microsoft is evil.

    "Alex, I’m waiting for your thoughts on this, because you are a lot more clever than I am and you will prove it to me."

    I use the "Slashdot idiot" word against real idiots who are stubborn and counter-productive. It is really not the way I discuss with normal people. However, unfortunately, some people are convinced that they are fighting with a big enemy with a great moral cause that they just don’t listen. Not only that, they attack me whenever I am discussing purely a technical issue. Like Windows vs Linux on desktop. It is so stupid by being attacked some of these idiots that, it is also quite funny. Almost all of them assume that by being able to use linux they are somewhat superior, whereas for me windows is the challenge, not linux. I know linux upside down quite well. As a simple user windows is great, I know how to use it, but when it comes to development stuff, I have to bring in my unix experience to windows through cygwin and other open source tools. But these idiots just assume automatically that if you are using windows, you probably can not use linux. Another idiocy i.e, when it comes to development stuff I always mention that I like visual studio .net, and then an idiot shouts "hey I am the real coder because I use emacs" whereas I am an expert on emacs and with that experience I say visual studio .net is a great platform, because it scales to large projects, whereas on emacs you have to setup your own development environment and can not come close to visual studio .net in terms of productivity, except the editing stuff itself possibly if you are an emacs user like myself. But these idiots always miss these important points, and thanks to slashdot they always think they are right.

  62. Alex says:

    re:kwyxz

    Thanks for giving me the opportunity to show another Slashdot idiot.

    "Alex, you seem to be a bit paranoid seeing "communists" everywhere. It seems that you believe they are some kind of giant monsters eating children and raping women."

    Hehe, a typical slashdot idiot trying to poke fun at others by exaggarting something. Who said I am paranoid about communism, I know exactly what you are talking about, I know McCarthy and so many other stuff. In fact going after communists are a bit stupid and had been ridiculed in so many places, and as an idea itself it is nothing to be paranoid about. But as you showed you just don’t and can’t discuss the main issues I am raising. Simply put, you are incapable of understandin or yet answering those problems with the RMS style communism. RMS does want communism in software and the tactics some slashdot idiots like you using look like propaganda from the era where communism is trying to win people’s minds. It is not just communism of course, any other stupid propaganda, but you probably should have get the point.

    "Moreover, your opinion seems to be close from "if you don’t agree with me, then you are an idiot". Wow. I thought the US were the country of freedom of speech. "

    No, my point is that if you are an idiot, like slashdot idiots your arguments would be more like, "oh you are a paranoid, gpl doesn’t eat children" type of stupid child jokes, rather than discussing a solid issue, like whether patents should be there or not, or whether software patents should be banned or not etc… Instead of rewarding idiocy, or as some people call it zealocy, why don’t we treat it as such and just tell them to shut up? There are plenty of people around with different opinons who can discuss issues without calling names and so on, why should I take someone like you seriously about serious issues. The minute I use word communism to illustrate my point, you are using some idiotic comment like "I think that communists are eating children". That’s just like accusing Bill Gates hating children, because Canadian Microsoft lawyers sued a kid over a domain name. That’s stupid thus I believe we should isolate the idiots like you so that we can at least discuss real issues in a serious way.

  63. kwyxz says:

    Alex, the only thing I wanted to point out was that by ridiculously using "communism" in all your posts, you are doing exactly the same thing than people who accuse Bill Gates of hating children and stuff. It seems that you have definetly no idea at all of what communism really is, and use the word absolutely pointlessly.

    Then, as I told you this, you answered "Idiot. I’m right, you are a zealot, an idiotic slashdot reader, blah blah blah".

    Come on, grow up, for Christ sake. I read Slashdot once every two years. I’m not a RMS zealot. I’ve been reading the whole thread seeing interesting arguments in both parts, but your posts are so full of "YOU ARE AN IDIOT." and "THIS IS COMMUNISM." crap that it pollutes the whole discussion.

    You say "I call people idiot only if I am convinced that they are counter-productive people mindlessly repeating a stupid stuff over and over again without much thinking and believe me there are lots of them on the internet. "

    Yeah. You are repeating that stupid stuff about communism over and over again without even thinking about the meaning of it. Shall we call you idiot ? What would it be worth for ? Will it help us to give our opinion ?

    You seem to be totally unable to have a calm or polite talk with people on the Internet. Take your pills. If you’re that clueless, just shut the fuck up.

  64. Mike Hearn [free software developer] says:

    Chris said: I don’t think you can say any longer that open source is unencumbered by commercial interests, which is what I thought part of the movement was about.

    There are two ways to look at this. The first is to say that open source is not in fact being encumbered by commercial interests. Companies like Sun, IBM, Ximian, Red Hat, and the company I work for have all contributed back large amounts of code to the community and are generally well respected. Are any of the projects they are involved in "encumbered" in any way? I don’t think so. They all still have healthy volunteer communities.

    If you’re the sort of person who found the whole volunteer-net thing the primary attraction then seeing .coms in peoples email addresses may come as a shock, but I’d say that’s due to faulty expectations more than anything.

    The second is to say that open source is being "encumbered" by the mere presence of commercial interests which make the whole wild frontier thing less wild and less like a frontier. Corporates are evil and greedy etc so by touching the pure and selfless work of volunteers they somehow pollute it.

    Companies though are just economic constructs. They aren’t necessarily "good" or "bad". They can be either, but more often are simply amoral.

    For instance, if I was to compare Red Hat to Microsoft, Red Hat would win every time on ethics, being a good citizen and so on. They’ve grown into a succesful large company while still holding onto their founding principles – they have to, if they changed those principles half their engineers would quit. Microsofts principles have been revealed in the courts time and time again however. And what of IBM? Well, they’re more in the amoral camp. They had no founding principles and never gained any along the way. They are, in effect, fair-weather friends.

    So I don’t think it’s reasonable to paint the movement about being "unencumbered by commercial interests". Various people with agendas have of course jumped on it along the way, but the founding principles of the free software/open source movement have always been about openness, sharing, community and technical excellence. The presence of companies only changes that if you let it.

  65. huge says:

    re: huge

    "you didn’t have much idea to refute in your earlier post, in your first post you talked more like a slashdot idiot, only in the second one I found your opinions much more clear and meaningful."

    Fine with that, the discussion will be better for all of us.

    "I agree on the idea that GPL is more consumer friendly than commercial licenses, but there are issues that you don’t think about or do not want to think about."

    You’re perfectly right, my view was more on the consumer side. Why ? Simple:

    I used to be a shy, black dressed, IT student. Then, I began to work. And I learned at least one thing : your paycheck come from your customers. You better off give them something valuable. The customer is the king. As a customer, I think that OSS is better.

    And I think, more and more, customers will act this way, simply because this is their interest!

    We’ll see in the future, but if it’s true, yes, it will be sad for producer, it’s a conflict of interest between producers and customers. I think this is the same for RIAA and protected CD, and DRM : as a consumer, I am not OK with all of this since a few years : I won’t give them my money anymore and I’m buying second-hand CD, go to Magnatune, etc.

    So, the only question worth asking is : will be there enough customers to change the rules or not ? I do think it will depend. For HTTP server for example, with a good product like Apache, it has. With Linux on the server, it has. With Linux on the desktop, I don’t think.

    It will depend of the product also : no one can make a living selling an hex-dec convertor because it’s so easy to build, so to give. It’s not easy to build an ERP and to give.

    But remember : the customer has the money and the power.

    "Those issues lie a little deeper from the surface. First remember that GPL is not merely making sure that software is open, it is also a way to force other software to be open. LGPL for example does exactly what you want, but GPL is more than what you describe. It is also trying to force other developers to reveal their source code under the same, exactly same terms. That is as soon as your software touches GPLed code your software becomes GPLed also."

    Could you give some more details on "touches" ? If you’re using an API of a GPL software, you don’t have to release your code as GPL. If you’re are using a lib (more LGPL than GPL), you don’t have to release your code as GPL. If you’re are making changes and not distribute the changes (in-house use), you don’t have to release your code as GPL.

    And, in the end, I don’t see the thing : if you don’t like GPL, don’t use software with GPL licence. Or, more accuratly, don’t add code to an existing GPL codebase if you want to make the result not free.

    You can use GPL to build infrastructure in a number of way without releasing all your code in GPL.

    "That’s a lot different than what you simply try to show. Unfortunately you are so full of hate against big cos that you just don’t see this. Believe me, you can’t hurt big money by this copyleft stuff. You are going to hurt only software developers in the short and long term, and consumers in the long term."

    Why it will hurt consumers in the long term ?

    "Big money will always make money, you guys are so stupid by thinking that by bringing down Microsoft you would somehow get a revenge from Bill Gates. Bill Gates is rich, he doesn’t need anymore money than what he alrady has. It is 50’000 Microsoft employees and far more other developers around the world who would have problems."

    I really don’t care about Bill Gates. For the developer thing, yes OSS can hurt, but hey, computers has hurt the typesetters, etc.

    It’s just than, in some area, OSS will be a better deal for customers so customers will go for it. But, in others (lots of) area, it won’t. There is something to do here.

    In the end, things like HTTP server, low-end SQL servers will be commodity. Which is good : you will setup a SQL server, an HTTP server and begin now to build your idea. HTTP servers vendors will sell you others things.

    " You just don’t think about the effect that all GPLed environment will create. It is going to disrupt the whole software industry, of course I don’t think it will ever do that because as you probably realized more and more people find slashdot type idiots disgusting communist pigs or simply losers."

    Yes it will disrupt the area. It already has in some area. The PC disrupted the area also.

    "I am a software engineer and what RMS tells me is to work for free."

    I am also a software engineer. This OSS stuff is disruptive. I’m sometimes scared also with this question : "How I will make a living ?". But then, I thought of 2 things : the customer has the money and the power and some old stuff disappeared, but some new stuff came.

    No, I don’t think RMS told this, not verbatim nor in spirit.

    "You would probably mindlessly disagree with that and point me to Redhat, but again you don’t think. Redhat is a service company for servers. Server business has been like that all the time. Sun had Solaris, IBM had AIX, HP had its own unix, SGI had its onw Unix, etc… These guys always had employees to develop these operating systems and make money through support, hardware and so on. "

    Yes, all this OSS stuff is really useful for servers.

    "Redhat’s contract says that you are going to pay money to the company for free software and you can’t buy one single Linux and apply the same patches to other clones, you buy support per linux installation, that’s what the contract says."

    Didn’t know that. But, if their patch are GPL, I don’t see why you can’t share them. Also, I’m not very fond of RH.

    But hey, if you got a RH SQL server with a MySQL for example, it is far easier to switch to another distro and to manage the server with your knowledge of Linux, MySQL, etc than to switch from Windows / SQL Server to another platform/RDBMS.

    "That’s exactly how Redhat makes its money and it is like Microsoft telling people to rent their software. Microsoft supports its operating systems more than Redhat supports its own software. Telling me that open source is somehow better for us is simply bullshit propaganda, just like the propaganda of communism, not that I am very against communism, but the same mentality plays."

    As a side note, I am also against communism for two things :

    – As a theorical thing, I’m not really fond of a "supremacy" of one "class" on another one. I first read the "Communist Manifesto" in French, and the translation use "dictature" (dictatorship), which is stronger.

    – As a practical thing, just look at the old East countries …

    "For this big players (I speak of IBM, Sun, MS et al), as long as the only players in town were them and some little players, the rules were simple : against the little players, you bought them or you enter their market."

    If you were really concerned about small players you would be against GPL. GPL effectivelly makes IBM and Sun bigger. Certainly it is against Microsoft, but if it becomes larger, the money from Microsoft would find its way to the open source to make money. Only developers lose here, because you lose your chance of making money out of your work. You effectively shut down that door to developers. You are not protecting the small guys, you are protecting the big money. It is the big money which supports GPL and Linux now, not the little guys. There are millions of developers around the world, only few dedicated people commit to these open source projects. KOffice is being developed by only 3-4 developers, there are not much people around."

    Yes, some big projects are backed with big commercial interest. I’m fine with it.

    But, I don’t see the big companies winning here.

    On example : you want to install a groupware software.

    1st solution : you go with a closed one.

    2nd solution : you choose a free one.

    What if you want maintenance or modification ?

    In 1st solution, you just have as a choice, the vendor or a limited list of companies with a support certification.

    With the 2nd one, you have choice : if you’re a fortune 500 company, you can go with a big player, IBM Global Services for instance to have a worldwide contract. Or you can choose a little company, with a lot of service, you know very well the guy. Ok, you have to choose the best partner for you, but you have choice, and, as long there is a market for the product you choose, there will be some companies doing support.

    "Open source indeed use internet, so did the shareware industry, so did the freeware, so did microsoft, ibm, etc… What’s the point?"

    The point is, OSS would not have been here without the Internet. The GPL has 20 years, the BSDL more than that. OSS rise since 10 years. Shareware and Freeware were here before the Internet, with CD in magazines, etc, a very good distribution channel. But not a very good collaboration channel.

    For OSS, you need a very good collaboration channel.

    "Chris mentioned defense patents in the sense that defense against other big competitors. You completely missed that too and probably knowingly distorted it."

    But this leverage is even better against little ones if it works against big ones!

    "Also, open source has so many major obstacles before coming to patents. In a typical slashdot idiocy, you are talking about something that is not an issue today. Which open source project is being sued by these patent holders now? Which open source project has to shut down or change its code or pay huge fines because of patent infringement."

    * In the past, there was the Unisys patent : Debian has some restriction on shipping code with gif handling. see http://www.wingimp.org/faq.php?conid=13

    * The JPG patent thing could hurt GIMP :

    http://business.newsforge.com/business/04/04/23/186208.shtml?tid=85

    * If the EOLAS patent stuff have been kept, it would have hurt everybody, including Mozilla and Konqueror.

    "There is a danger of course, but not something we should be talking about now as something as fact."

    The GIMP/LZW patent is a fact.

    "Another idiocy from you is that, if you have the opportunity you have to patent something or another person would. By accusing Microsoft for patenting these, you are actually becoming a Slashdot idiot. You simply deny the obvious fact, instead focus on something else."

    Sorry, I don’t agree with this common argument.

    I don’t have the time, money, etc to fill patents and to enforce them. MS can afford to put lawyers on defending patents even if they will lose at the end. I can’t afford to throw money in a black hole.

    In theory, I can fill patent (if I were in the US). In practice, I can’t.

    "If you haven’t noticed yet, in this world, big money always has the advantage.It doesn’t matter, in any industry, if you are a small player you are in a disadvantage position."

    It depends. At work, we gain some contracts over big companies.

    The only thing is : for the interest of everybody, you have to have a good balance of things so that anyone can compete on the same level.

    "Software is not the only one, but obviously in software the play field is a little bit more even. Now I would be happy to discuss the bottomline of these issues, since I also wonder whether we can do something for software patents so that small companies also have a chance to compete. However, as I said, I don’t see this issue coming up as a big problem for small businesses or open source yet. The danger is out there, but talking shit about this is totally meaningless now. The problem doesn’t exist now, however it could happen and that’s definitely not good."

    I agree.

    "Let me tell you something, I also read this from some of the few comments in slashdot, but obviously the slashdot articles do not tell the part of the story I am going to tell. It looks like the EU issue is really about making a fussy issue more clear. According to lawmakers, the patents already cover the software, they only want to make it more clear and software patents are already issued. So, please go ahead and read something more than Slashdot article itself, dig up more and find the real truth."

    You know, I read lots on patents in the EU. Yes, a patent can be issued if the software is part of a physical system. But you can’t have a patent for a pure software thing. Some people tried and got patents on pure software things.

    But the real question remains : are patents good or bad ?

    "As an example here, let me share you something I found myself. Slashdot and Cnet News were reporting that during the anti-trust trial of Microsoft, "Microsoft denied making different versions of Windows". So News.com and Slashdot were saying that Microsoft was denying to be able to modify Windows and produce a different version of Windows. I was really suprised with that, since that means Microsoft is really evil and that they are also stupid because we all know they can probably produce different versions of Windows. Anyway, I couldn’t believe that Microsoft can be that much stupid and I decided to read the court documents myself to see what’s going on. What I found was extremely shocking. What the court documents was saying that, states and the government asked the judge to order Microsoft to produce different versions of windows based on the directions of OEM licensees (like Dell) with a certain threshold (like more than 100’000 windows licenses). For example Dell should be able to say to Microsoft to remove any of the features they want and also pay less amount based on the proportion of the code being removed. The thing is that, it is not just 3 different version of windows, it is possibly thousands of windows versions all should be working quite well, all the responsibility is on Microsoft. That’s exactly what the court documents said. I read it myself. But technically Slashdot and Cnet was saying the truth, Microsoft did really say that it is impossible to implement a different version of windows, but of course in that particular context. So what I learnt from that is that people are idiot, they simply read and believe in what they read, they don’t even realize they are being manipulated. That’s when I really understood exactly what average joe mean. Cnet and Slashdot is clean, because they are not exactly lying, yet our average joe thinks that Microsoft is evil."

    This is not the first not the last times some journalists make faults, as everyone else. They also made lots of faults on OSS.

    "Alex, I’m waiting for your thoughts on this, because you are a lot more clever than I am and you will prove it to me."

    I use the "Slashdot idiot" word against real idiots who are stubborn and counter-productive. It is really not the way I discuss with normal people. However, unfortunately, some people are convinced that they are fighting with a big enemy with a great moral cause that they just don’t listen. Not only that, they attack me whenever I am discussing purely a technical issue. Like Windows vs Linux on desktop. It is so stupid by being attacked some of these idiots that, it is also quite funny. Almost all of them assume that by being able to use linux they are somewhat superior, whereas for me windows is the challenge, not linux. I know linux upside down quite well. As a simple user windows is great, I know how to use it, but when it comes to development stuff, I have to bring in my unix experience to windows through cygwin and other open source tools. But these idiots just assume automatically that if you are using windows, you probably can not use linux. Another idiocy i.e, when it comes to development stuff I always mention that I like visual studio .net, and then an idiot shouts "hey I am the real coder because I use emacs" whereas I am an expert on emacs and with that experience I say visual studio .net is a great platform, because it scales to large projects, whereas on emacs you have to setup your own development environment and can not come close to visual studio .net in terms of productivity, except the editing stuff itself possibly if you are an emacs user like myself. But these idiots always miss these important points, and thanks to slashdot they always think they are right."

    Oh yes, it’s the setup you prefer. Maybe they prefer their own setup.

    Endless holy wars …

  66. huge says:

    Just one last thing on patents.

    Just look at this :

    http://webshop.ffii.org/

  67. Ben Martin says:

    In reference to Mr. Pratley’s original post, I am not sure what you are getting at with copying innovations in Word. Back in the day you could copy an interface if I recall correctly (at least video games used to do it anyway), can that still be done and if so, why not just do that? (Yeah, I should know the state of that since I am an IP law buff, but, well, too busy keeping track of how it relates to content industries rather than software.)

    Incidentally, we should be careful with interfaces I think though. I mean, you can do research in the quality of an interface, so within certain boudaries we can do some usability testing and come up with nearly identical solutions. How much protection should an interface that can be arrived at through some sort of brute force be afforded? Some seems appropriate, as no two designs are going to be identical even after usability testing, unless they started out related. But should you be able to tell me to move some menu command becuase it is too similar, even if it is demonstrably better one way, and I could have found that out without looking at yours? (Currently there seems to be no real level of protection for interfaces practically speaking; at least not based on comparing OpenOffice with MS Office… ANd believe me, as an OSS user I wish they would actually do some orginial interface design. First because it is not tacky, second because diversity is good, and third because MS went through a phase when their interface design was not so great… do we really need to copy that? 🙂 )

  68. Guy You Sued says:

    Yeah, I’m sure you guys never used patents to push around the little guy. Oh wait…

    http://www.advogato.org/article/101.html

    I think one guy counts as "the little guy" and Microsoft counts as the "bully" in this case, right?

  69. The premise of your problem with the GPL seems to be that software has no value if it is GPL’d.

    Value is a subjective thing, and while your comments are interesting I think you neglect the fact that software itself is a service. This is what the GPL license is based upon.

    Proprietary licenses, and yes, even some Open Source licenses, are a mixture of the two values.

    Yet writing software remains a service…

  70. Soulhuntre says:

    Software authorship CAN be a service, but software itself can also be a product. Surely you see that?

    Carpentry can be a service, but a table can be a product.

  71. quanta says:

    First off, I don’t know what about software discussions make people so rude, but I personally believe that many of these personal attacks are totally uncalled for. We are professionals.

    Second off, of course the patent system should still exist! However, it does have issues (i.e. submarining), and it makes sense to fix them.

    Third off, OSS are just imitators? Everyone stands on the shoulders of giants. There is enough room in this world for both proprietary and open source development models.

    Can we all at least agree on these points?

  72. Last week, eWeek posted an article about the real purpose behind Longhorn: to make sure that it defects Linux, once and for all. The author’s reasoning for this is due to all of the patents that Microsoft has been acquiring…

  73. kwyxz says:

    <a href="http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1759,1579765,00.asp">This one ?</a>

    Well, I guess some people out here will call the author a Slashdot idiot, say that patents are for everyone’s good, that Microsoft is never acting against the consumer interest, and possibly that open standards are for morons.

  74. kwyxz says:

    Don’t understand why the link didn’t do it. Damn.

  75. huge says:

    kwyxz : you just have to past the link like this :

    http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1759,1579765,00.asp

    I think HTML is not allowed here because of XSS fear. It would be great to have a little notice saying that.

    I read this article this morning. and sorry, but at this day (05/05/2004) this is speculation.

    We’ll see.

  76. kwyxz says:

    Yep, this is pure speculation, of course. Just feels great to hear other opinions.

  77. Nekto says:

    Have you seen:

    http://randomfoo.net/oscon/2002/lessig/

    ?

    Just Google for "free_culture".

    There is presentation of Lawrence Lessig

    It relates to the "patent" subject and "common knowlage of community"

    And you point out that you can’t distinguish "ideas" from innovations? AFAIK in other countries (not US) it is not a prolem. You just can’t get patent so easy for something related with software at all 🙂 Software is treated more like "work of art" and protected accordingly (Russia and exUSSR). AFAIK only US had this nonsence with protecting URLs and 3d shooters 🙂

    You creating software and making license which should protect you from stealing. But if you see some painting of great know Painter and recreate it yourself it is not a problem 🙂 You just banned from calling that image to be work of someone else. It’s protection of artworks.

    For algorithms this means you can’t steal exact code from binary executable, but you free to create your own (with it’s own bugs and perfomance issues) code which produce same result from same input data. And patenting of the code (algorithm) actually nonsense. (hard to explain these details in foreign language)

    And if you courios about "cloning" in OSS. It is only becouse there are many people trying to sell software (Linux based solutions). The first step is to ask users "what do you want". For you it was "something like WordPerfect, but better". For current OSS developer the answer would be "something like Word". So users persuading "commercial" OSS developers to clon. Normal OSS developer is pretty fine with paper-less life 🙂 So they have no need in Word-like applications at all. They had their "vi" or "emacs" and it solves all their needs.

  78. Lan Yingjie says:

    <blockquote>

    I do worry that there is some naïveté in the open source community now though. As some of the people who comment here

    mention, as soon as something moves from being a hobby to something that can make money, innocence is usually lost. Right

    now, I think it is clear that some major players in the business world who make their money in other ways than selling

    software are taking advantage of the open source movement. That may not be a problem for many, since one view is that they

    are just more people taking part in the open source movement, but I don’t think you can say any longer that open source is

    unencumbered by commercial interests, which is what I thought part of the movement was about. Remember that before Microsoft

    (BillG is actually famous for insisting that software has value), software was considered just a no-value part required to

    make hardware run. “free“ software helps companies that make money from consulting, services and hardware, by lowering the

    parts cost of the the software to near zero, and they are taking a free ride on the open source movement. I donlt think there

    is anythign inherently wrong with that but the idea that this activity is somehow more virtuous because it is related to open

    source than is developing and selling software as a business confuses me. I think many open source advocates are sad to see

    it happen – although one could argue it is sort of required for open source products to move out of the hobbyist world and

    really go places. Certainly software comapnies can’t get fully behind open source (especially the GPL), since it is anathema

    to their business model. So it has to be the hardware and services companies. If the open source people fully realized that

    they are effectively working zealously and for free to help one type of corporate entity over another, would they still be so

    dedicated to donating their time and energy? Interesting to ponder.

    </blockquote>

    My response: It is still possible to profit, through a business model, which is radically different to what most companies

    have. Look at Red Hat. It doesn’t sell Red Hat Linux and profit that much. It’s main source of revenue is from the service

    sector. The support it sells. For example, for a copy of Red Hat, I pay $25. But for the service, I can have different

    packages. I can choose what plan I want, depending on the level of expertise I have. If I am a full time geek, then I can go

    towards the cheaper plans, since I won’t need that much support. On the other hand, if I am a new computer user, then I can

    pay for better support. A common argument is that as such, companies profit even less, since they only provide service to a

    restricted number of users. However, this is wrong. This base would expand rapidly, since that means piracy becomes legal, as

    it doesn’t exist. All the people are doing are merely distributing free things. As such, since it is impossible to pirate

    support, then the current user base would expand enormously and support would be needed. As the current situation, support is

    free, but unfortunately, limited to the licensed customers. In many parts of Asia, piracy is a major problem. Much money is

    spent to combat it, but it is through open source and free software where this will be eradicated. Furthermore, with the cost

    of the Operating System effectively nil, the price of computing will drop drastically. I have experimented with building a

    Linux machine which is as cheap as possible. I managed to run Red Hat Linux 9 on a computer costing under $150. The items

    were brand-new. It consisted of 64 MB RAM(generous enough), an AMD Athlon processor at 300mhz(too fast, but they didn’t sell

    lower speeds any more brand-new), a 16MB Video card(for the same reason as the processor). This is substantially cheaper than

    any Dell PC on the market right now and would help many families in getting on the information superhighway. With OpenOffice

    replacing Microsoft Office Educational Edition, another $269 would be saved. With GIMP(GNU Image Manipulation Program)

    replacing Adobe Photoshop and the like, another $200 is saved. With GCC, mingw compilers, Mono and SharpDevelop replacing

    Visual Studio, another $700 is saved. Assuming an OEM version of Windows XP costs $110, the total savings in software is a

    total of $1279 would have been shaved off the cost of a PC. That would make computers more accessible to the needy and not so

    privileged. With that, the use of computers would truly explode and the software companies would definitely have a customer

    base in terms of 30-40 times their current base. That would result in a world where computing is truly available to all,

    while the software companies still get to survive.

    <blockquote>

    There are many different kinds of open source licenses. I don’t have a problem with any of them – but things like the GPL

    need to be treated with caution by anyone hoping to build software in that area and later make money from the software. That

    shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, since the goal of the GPL was to make it hard to "own" software rights and therefore to

    make any money from it directly (services, support and consulting aside). Other types of open source are more about sharing

    and less about enforcing that sharing on everyone, and that’s fine too.

    </blockquote>

    The GPL does not try to make it hard to own software rights. It was designed to prevent people from grabbing the source code

    and running away with it, claiming full credit for what was originally a community resource. It would be ridiculous if

    somebody grabbed the GCC compiler source code and add a statement saying "Copyright Foo Bar. All Rights Reserved." That would

    be outright theft of Intellectual Property.

    <blockquote>

    As for implementing all the ideas in Word in a "clone" word processor, that starts to fall into the area of intellectual

    property. I think there is a growing awareness recently that the idea of intellectual property has taken a bit of a beating.

    Thanks to technology, it has become remarkably easy now to trample on the rights of artists and other creative or innovative

    people. So because it is easy to "steal" music, movies, software, etc in this way, a lot of people have started doing it, and

    then by mob mentality rules, it has become acceptable behavior (in some circles). Note that the same sort of behavior happens

    during a riot – if the rule of law breaks down, and breaking the law seems to be so easy and punishment seems unlikely, a

    certain type of person breaks the window of the nearest store and starts hauling off TVs, stereos, jewelry, whatever. Then if

    that person is not caught, the onlookers move in, and you have a looting session. While it is happening, people who resist

    are told they don’t get it, and they’re missing their chance because this stuff is "free". Afterwards, most people recognize

    that the whole thing was not a sustainable activity, but at least it only went on for a day or so.

    </blockquote>

    Granted it is a wrong activity. However, you must also consider the reason behind it. Why would I go buy a pirated copy of

    Office 2003 at $8(the standard pirated CD cost) if I can get one orignal legal at $20 or so, with support, my legal rights as

    a user and the comfort of legality. I personally do download pirated software to use, but if I feel that it is worth it, I

    buy it. (I downloaded a copy of Visual Studio .NET before purchasing my current copy) I have even paid $50 for shareware,

    when it was $10, merely because I felt that the author had done a good job. Even if I did not pay the author, I offered him

    space on my server(the very box I mentioned above. 3 reboots in its entire lifetime(2 years) so far) as a mirror. If software

    companies are willing to lower costs of software, which are ridiculously high at the moment, then people would not steal. Why

    steal if you can get it at a low price. $800 just to try Microsoft Office 2003 and see if I should use it, is outright

    ridiculous.

    <blockquote>

    A subset of people argues what I would call the "Robin Hood" argument. Essentially, it is Ok to steal, as long as the entity

    being stolen from has more money than you. The more money they have, the more Ok it is to steal. To me this is equivalent to

    communism, but not enshrined in law. In effect the philosophy is that resources should be equally shared across the

    population. My mother brought me up to think that stealing is stealing. Stealing because you don’t like someone or because

    they can survive it doesn’t make it any better.

    </blockquote>

    Definitely this is wrong, but as I mentioned in my earlier comment, why steal if you can avoid it.

    <blockquote>

    The USA and other countries have supported the idea of intellectual property ownership since nearly the beginning of the

    industrial era because they recognized that for someone to innovate they need to have protection for their ideas. If anyone

    can simply steal your idea as soon as you mention it, then why bother coming up with the idea? That’s why the police need to

    exist – to protect the rule of law and allow commerce and basic life to work properly. Now, some might say that they

    personally would develop and offer their ideas freely even without remuneration. That’s fine – but most others would not, and

    in any case, a sustained effort to develop something hard to develop is only done if you can expect a return on investment,

    or if you are treating the whole thing as a hobby, and you have a "real" job that pays you what you need to survive. If you

    doubt that, then you might want to take a quick economics refresher course. Capitalism, while not perfect, provides a system

    whereby individuals or groups of individuals are rewarded for taking risks, working hard and being creative. The alternative

    – where everyone contributes as they can, anyone can take an equal share, and no one benefits from providing input or value

    above and beyond what is expected is known as communism, and has been shown to provide a relatively small economic engine

    compared to one hooked up to individual interests.

    One of the methods for protecting intellectual property is the patent system. Now, everybody hates the patent system. After

    all, it is pretty broken. The original idea of patents (I gather) was to promote the spread of ideas and inventions. With no

    protection for ideas, inventors resorted to secrecy. e.g. the exact method by which a chemical was made was kept secret and

    locked up in a factory vault, so that society could not benefit from the idea except to the extent that the inventor used it

    himself. The patent system offered what seemed a reasonable proposition. In return for explaining the idea in great detail so

    that others could understand and use it, the inventor was protected for a period of years where they had exclusive rights to

    use the idea, or to license it to others. If someone stole the idea, the inventor had legal recourse.

    Well, fast forward to “now”, and the patent system is used almost entirely differently. At Microsoft, we used to pay little

    attention to patents – we would just make new things, and that would be it. Then we started getting worried – other big

    competitors (much bigger than we were at the time) had been patenting their inventions for some years, and it made us

    vulnerable. One of these big companies could dig through their patent portfolio, find something close to what we had done,

    then sue us, and we would have to go through an elaborate defense and possibly lose. So Microsoft did what most big companies

    do, which is start to build what is called a "defensive" patent portfolio. So if a big company tried to sue us, we could find

    something in our portfolio they were afoul of, and counter-sue. In the cold war days, this strategy was called "mutual

    assured destruction", and since it was intolerable for all parties to engage, it resulted in a state called "détente", or "

    standoff". This is what you see today for the most part in lots of industries.

    </blockquote>

    Granted, but you must see that Microsoft has also benefited much from copying other people’s ideas such as the GUI from

    Apple,etc. Microsoft also uses its patents and trademarks to kill other companies such as Lindows, which is only

    indistinguishable from Windows by the most stupid person who has been in an Himalayan cave for the past 10 years.

    <blockquote>

    There are lots of other problems with the patent system. For example, Microsoft gets "submarined" quite often. A small

    company or individual has an idea, which they patent as quietly as possible. Then they sit back and wait (years if necessary

    ), until some big company develops something (independently of course) that is sufficiently similar to their idea that they

    can surface and sue us. I have been involved in a couple of these, so I can speak from experience. The people involved often

    never had any intent of developing their idea, and they also make sure to wait until we have been shipping a product for

    several years before informing us they think they have a patent on something related, so that "damages" can be assessed as

    high as possible. This simply makes innovating the equivalent of walking into a minefield. This doesn’t seem to be helping

    the process of moving humanity forward.

    </blockquote>

    There’s something called a patent office and patent lawyers to help you check…

    <blockquote>

    Another view is that big companies patent lots of things, and then by the implicit threat of suing the "small guy", prevent

    innovation from moving forward. In practice this is harder than it sounds, since the damage to the image of the company can

    be considerable if it tried to sue a small target – that’s why you rarely see it happen. I think this works both ways of

    course as I described in the last paragraph. Basically whoever has the patent has the power.

    </blockquote>

    That is a ridiculous argument, because Microsoft IS already seen as a bully, going by it’s previous tactics. If Apple tried

    to sue an independent developer, perhaps there might be support for Apple. However, when the case involves Microsoft, people

    look at the track record and immediately damn it, whether it is at fault or not. One bad action, the whole image gets screwed

    up.

    <blockquote>

    Another complete perversion of the original patent system is that because there are triple damages if the plaintiff can show

    the infringer knowingly infringed on a patent, there is a huge disincentive to look at the patents on file at the patent

    office. If you do a "patent search" to see if what you want to do is patented already, and you find nothing, you are still

    liable for triple damages if someone sues you and can show that you looked at their patent. This matters because even if you

    think their idea is irrelevant, a court may not agree with you. So the only safe thing to do is not look. So much for the

    patent system working to share human ingenuity.

    </blockquote>

    Then simply make sure you don’t infringe in the first place.

    <blockquote>

    Patents on software run afoul of the system particularly badly, since there is so much going on in software and the

    competition is so fierce, and so much money at stake. A lot of patents are being filed. It is clear to me at least that the

    patent office is overwhelmed, and a lot of shaky patents are being issued. And patents have a long lifetime – that comes from

    the slower pace of industrial development in the past or in other industries (e.g. pharmaceuticals). In software though, a

    lot of technology is ancient history before the patent runs out. But as long as those are the rules of the game, we have to

    play by them, while working to reform or modify the patent system to adapt to changes.

    On the other hand the patent system, flawed as it is, is still better than no patent system. Some people say the current

    patent system is biased in favor of one constituency or another, but the one thing in common is that the people with the

    ideas are protected in some way. Without the patent system, we would return to the world where there is no way to protect

    your invention, so any clever idea can be immediately ripped off and sold for cheap. A world like this would actually favor

    any organization or country that can muster the cheapest possible manufacturing or development resources – certainly not the

    individual or corporate inventor that the patent system is trying to help.

    </blockquote>

    Definitely a patent system is good. But if software is patented for the slightest forms of innovation, then people with more

    innovative ideas that spring from that little innovation protected in the patent will suffer.

    <blockquote>

    So back to the question. Imitation, as they say, is the sincerest form of flattery. Borrowing other people’s ideas is as old

    as humanity, and is common in the business world too. But copyrights, trademarks, patents, etc have grown up as society’s

    ways of protecting the investments that people make, so these need to be respected. Would I like to see a world where I and

    my colleagues do loads of research and hard thinking to develop something new and creative only to have it copied and

    devalued immediately after we made it available? Hardly. But that’s why we have these intellectual property systems, flawed

    as they are. I love competition, so if someone is out there putting some heat on us, that’s great. As a designer I’d prefer

    it if the competition was creatively moving the state of the art forward rather than cloning us, but I don’t get a say in it

    I guess :-). I am also quite confident that we can stay far enough ahead of cloning efforts to show the value of our

    products.

    </blockquote>

    Going by the way Microsoft purchases it’s assets, I doubt so. DOS was purchased too. Imagine,the flagship product of the

    Microsoft Empire happens to be purchased and not homegrown. Visual Basic? Purchased. Hotmail? Purchased. Office? Copied from

    other productivity suites of that time. Microsoft just cannot innovate in terms of software. It needs to purchase software

    and then develop on what was other people’s idea.

  79. Lan,

    I appreciate that you took the time to make such extensive comments, but (please don’t take offense) I am not sure that you read my posts closely enough, since I have already addressed several of your points. Here’s a quick response to your points (I’ll summarize to avoid huge quotes):

    You comment that companies can make money not by selling software but by selling support or consulting. I think I pointed this out in my original post, and my argument was not about that, but that building a (significant) software business (not service or consulting) is not really feasible with GPL-style open source. See my post for details including discussion with others.

    You mention that there are some products that don’t cost much or nothing and do some useful things. Great. People should pick what works for them. Cheap software has existed for a long time, yet the more expensive stuff still sells well – that’s because not everyone wants the cheapest thing. For the value that our software delivers I think it is a bargain for most potential customers. Unfortunately it is hard to price software according to what a particular customer can pay – instead it has to be priced uniformly (more or less). The price of products is not random or a mistake – it is calculated very carefully to maximize revenue. Lower the price to get a few more buyers, and all the people who thought it was worth it at the old price get a bargain, so your net revenue goes down.

    BTW, there is a free downloadable trial of Office2003 on the web – you don’t need to buy it to try it. And where is it $800? It’s $149 for Student/Teacher, which includes the right to install on three machines for three different users.

    Re: Lindows: trademarks are very different from patents. The law requires a trademark holder to defend its trademark or lose it. That is very different from patents, which have no such requirement. Note that some courts have already agreed that Lindows was infringing on the Windows trademark, and that company has decided to cease using the term in those markets – so Microsoft is not the only one who shares that position.

    Next couple of comments about checking with patent office and making sure you don’t infringe: I think you missed my whole point here. The act of checking to see if you infringed gets you in jeopardy, and often determining an infringement is extremely difficult and can be argued subjectively. If your point is that we should not develop any software in areas that might be merely *similar* to what people might have patents on, then that gives the patent holders more credit and power then they have a right to, and shuts off the majority of the software world from additional – not practical. There isn’t some big database in the sky where you submit your idea to find out if it infringes on a patent – that only gets determined by going to court – too late.

    I am not sure what you are terming a "ridiculous argument". The public’s opinions of different companies are not uniformly held and are not black and white. They vary in degree. If you say that you perceive Microsoft to be a bully, well, there are many others who see Microsoft as defending its rights, or whatever. The point is that the tougher a company defends itself and its rights, the more some people turn against it. Likewise the more time passes that the company does nothing like that, the better some people’s impressions become. That’s not ridiculous. It’s a tradeoff.

    Regarding your last point about innovation – if you are determined to show that any company is not innovative, you can do it, since every company builds on ideas in the marketplace and on what came before. You imply that Apple invented GUI – in fact Jobs licensed it from Xerox. Was that innovative? To dismiss all of Office and everything me and my colleagues have done for the last 15-20 years as a mere copy of something else – well, what can I say to that? I guess all that original thought we did and the fact that we delivered the first "office suite" counts for nothing, since you can dismiss history with a mere sentence…

  80. Craig says:

    I found your post very interesting. I do think you may be confusing the Free Software and Open Source movements, though (enough people who’re involved in them do).

    The FSF and the Free Software crowd are the ones who talk about closed-source software being "wrong". The FSF created the GPL, though it’s widely used outside strict Free Software adherents. "Free software" makes much more sense as "software libre" thanks to an unfortunate double meaning in English.

    The (more recent) Open Source

    bunch tend to focus more on open source being an interesting development model that seems to work well. "Open source" is usually used to include "Free Software" but the reverse is less common. Of course, sometimes things like the GPL are still useful – for example, one of the most interesting things about the Linux kernel is that it’s harder for vendors to fork it off into secret, incompatibly enhanced versions. This has the bizarre result of making vendors more willing to contribute, as (eg) IBM knows that Sun will have a harder time taking their work and not give any of Sun’s work back in return.

    Of course, there are any number of people and resources that can explain that better, more clearly, and probably more accurately than I can.

    As for your comments on open source developers working for commercial interests – sure, it’s true to an extent. There’s often a flip side though – many of these same developers will see the choice by large companies to use and sell their software as a handy way of getting better exposure, testing, and probably enhancements into their software, software that they use. So it’s often win/win. Remember that many open source developers are working on the code because they use it and want it to be better for their purposes, too.

    When it comes to cloning, I see that as an issue too. Quite a harmful one in fact. Personally, I think that most of the time, cloning leads to apps that are inferior to the app being cloned and inferior to what they could otherwise have been, too. OpenOffice… sorry, "OpenOffice.org" *ahem* comes to mind as an excellent example of this, as do some aspects of the KDE user interface.

    On the other hand, software has always drawn from ideas in other software. Ideas have flown, for example, from Xerox to Apple to Microsoft then back to Apple again – and on it goes. Where do you draw the line between the normal running of the industry and something inappropriate?

    Anyway, that’s my 0.2 AU$.

  81. Lan Yingjie says:

    Thank you for you interesting response. However, when Microsoft tries to take something in the open like Kerberos and modify it slightly and patent it, that is definitely inappropriate.

  82. Craig, thanks for the clarifications. I realize there are many flavours and factions involved – I sort of alluded to that in my post. But thanks for the details – I learned something.

  83. Lan Yingjie says:

    In response to Chris’s reply.

    But you must agree that when Jobs licensed the GUI from Xerox, it was a fairly crude implementation. However, Jobs and co then developed it to the point where it was actually usable, from the state where it was just a proof of concept. Therefore, I consider Jobs to be the true father of the GUI.

    I also feel that I should clarify some points. I am not dismissing all that the Office team has done. In fact, I agree that it is pretty intuitive for people who have used Office earlier on to use. However, you mentioned OpenOffice.org as a "clone". Excuse me? OpenOffice is not a clone. It is an wholly different software. It doesn’t base itself on Microsoft formats for everything. It has its own open formats for storing data. It even warns that saving in .doc or .xls format might cause some formatting to be lost. Is that a clone? I beg differ and question your view of what constitutes a clone.

    No hard feelings in saying this, but I think you should download OpenOffice to try before you decide and pass it off as a clone.

  84. Lan, you’re welcome to consider Jobs the father of the GUI if you like; most people credit others such as Alan Kay et al. The Xerox Star was actually marketed as a product and was not just a proof of concept – although that shouldn’t matter really. But I am glad that you agree with me that people who take existing ideas and build/improve on them are also worthy of respect and should be viewed as innovators.

    I have tried OpenOffice, and you’re right that to say it is a 100% clone is a little strong. It doesn’t have nearly the capabilities of MS Office (particularly in the spreadsheet and presentation apps), and those it has are similar but not exactly the same in most cases. Of course, the original context for this is that people asked me what I thought of it from a design sense, and I was lamenting that it didn’t have interesting or novel UI design, and so far no one has volunteered any – they have just mentioned file formats and a couple of features with essentially no UI. People seem to confuse functionality with design – these features are not showing any of the UI design I was interested in hearing about.

  85. Lan Yingjie says:

    UI design IS stuck in a rut, sadly. Though I sincerely hope Longhorn will remedy that. Unfortunately, Longhorn will chew up too much system resources for me… Honestly speaking, I think Office has excellent features, but for conveniece and the sake of my wallet, OpenOffice is the way. Office 2003 Educational Editionn and Adobe Acrobat and Flash will cost too much. OpenOffice comes with that free.

  86. Ellen says:

    Hey, I’m just one of those (ugh) end users, nosing in on a techie discussion. <g>

    My biggest problem with shareware/freeware/OSS products is that oftentimes they just don’t work, or they work badly, or the help files are borderline unintelligible. Stuff like that. I’m a HUGE fan of Things That Work Right. 🙂

    For example, I tried AbiWord once upon a time and abandoned it after about an hour because it was (to me) plain unusable. If I remember correctly, the simple act of typing characters on the screen gave me fits. Aaargh!

    (It’s very possible that the OpenOffice of today is better than the AbiWord of a few years ago; I haven’t tried it. However, AbiWord had enough buzz on the net at the time that I selected it to download.)

    If I can’t afford the current versions of Microsoft-everything, my STRONG preference is to try and acquire somebody’s discarded older versions when they upgrade. That is how I got MS Office 97 and 2000. (Note: No pirating involved. Just luck 🙂 This practice has its own drawbacks, of course, BUT I reap the benefits of all the rigor MS builds in. (Thank you 🙂

    Then again, there’s some free-ish stuff out there that’s just splendid. I adore my AVG Virus Scanner and my SpyBot.

  87. Sam Smith says:

    I am not an overly tech-minded user. However, when I try to use Open Source software I find much less in the way of documentation and support, and less friendly interfaces. I believe that recieving payment for making the software is a big incentive to add these things, and think people will pay for it.

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