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maddog: Forum Will Answer Enterprise Questions - page 4

Creating a New Kind of Conference

  • September 18, 2003
  • By Brian Proffitt

LinuxPlanet: Your record as an open source advocate has been exemplary and you personally travel all over the world sharing the benefits of Linux and open-source software. What drives you to put so much time and effort into these causes?

maddog: As I have said, I have been in the computer arena since 1969. That year was also the birthdate of two main driving forces in my life:

  • Unix
  • Linus Torvalds

I have seen software go from hand-crafted, warranted, contract-driven software costing huge amounts of money to create to "buy-it-off-the-shelf-and-good-luck" software costing tens of dollars for significant functionality.

However, I have also seen software go from "you have the source code, so you can change and fix it" to "binary-only, what it does is what you have" software.

This last issue is costing the world billions of dollars a year.

Mass-produced software was a good idea for a short period of time. It bridged the gap between the hand-crafted software of the 1970s and the Free and Open Source Software of today. It provided cheaper software for the ever-dropping prices and ever increasing power of the PC system.

But mass-produced software's time is gone. The cost of the software is (once again) greater than the cost of the hardware. And the real cost, the hidden cost of non-performing, crashing, virus-laden, non-tailorable mass-produced software is driving some enterprises to ruin.

As the Free and Open Source model takes the place of mass-produced software, we will develop a new model of creating software that will drive the software marketplace into the future.

I believe in this model. I believe that it is moving ahead, and as the marketplace for Free and Open Source Software grows, companies that are struggling today will become profitable, while at the same time enterprises who use FOSS software will see lower costs, more stable software, and software that they can tailor exactly to their needs.

I believe we need to go to FOSS software in order for the young computer science majors to develop their own businesses, create their own ideas, and make money in this new marketplace. As I go around the world I see the bright, intelligent faces who have new ideas and want to implement them without having to license their creative ideas to some large company.

I do it for them.

LinuxPlanet: Linux is weathering some stormy seas, with patents, SCO, and FUD, but you don't seem too concerned when the topics come up. What do you think is the biggest obstacle for getting Linux more accepted in the IT community in general? Or is is simply a matter of time?

maddog: I have brought out three or four (I have lost count) operating system/hardware combinations in my life, and I know that things take time.

I used to like patents, even software patents. Now I believe they are the wrong thing to do. I have seldom seen software patents used the way the founding fathers wanted them to be used, to allow new ideas to grow on top of already existing ideas. Instead, software patents seem to be used to prevent the creation of new businesses, instead of fostering them. The argument of where the arts would be if Michelangelo patented paint strokes or Bach patented the triplet strike chords (pardon the pun) with me, so I believe that software patents are bad. I have heard that over 30,000 software patents have been applied for in Europe in anticipation of the European Union enacting a software patent law. How could anyone write software having to deal with investigating and licensing 30,000 patents? So I am concerned with sotware patents and I tell people what I think. But there are lots of other people working this issue, and I support them.

People are all currently up in arms over the SCO thing. I have seen exactly the same issues before with closed-source operating systems. It eventually was worked out by having the offending code re-written and replaced. All that SCO has to do is identify the code they say is infringing. My history with this (and with Unix source and its history) hints to me that while there MAY be code of SCO's inside Linux by accident, that a judge using wisdom in addition to the law will determine the best course of action. Again, copyrights were created "for the common good." Law is balanced with Justice. And if Justice prevails, I think that Linux and FOSS will be find. Yet I am concerned with it. I send documents, information, etc. to the entities involved. I discuss issues with lawyers. But IBM, Red Hat and other organizations I deal with have both more lawyers and more money than either Linux International or I.

Then when the SCO issue is settled, we will go on to the "next thing" (whatever that is).

Linux is following the same path that other operating systems I brought out also took, but much faster. Many people look at Linux as being ten or twelve years old, since the kernel project was started in late 1991.

I look at Linux as "starting" in late 1998, when the large databases started porting, and now it is on one-third of all the servers shipping, widely used in embedded systems, on most of the superclusters/supercomputers being created today, and is making inroads on the desktop.

Linux has more than 4500 commercial applications, in addition to the large amount of functionality of FOSS software, three-tier software and various portable languages such as JAVA. This is way more than some commercial Unix systems have today.

So I just keep plugging away, going to various nations around the world and encouraging them to use FOSS software and save money, have better services, create more meaningful, high-paying local jobs.

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