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TheKompany.com: A New Approach to Linux Business - page 2

The Building Blocks for Linux

  • September 25, 2000
  • By Dennis E. Powell

There is a huge expanse of uncharted territory to be traversed by any company that seeks to become involved with existing open source projects. The existing developers are, of course, uninterested in having their work co-opted by someone else, never mind someone else who might hope to capitalize on it. Likewise, a company hoping to become involved can grow impatient with undefined or differing project goals. Gordon's job in this regard is eased by the fact that for his commercial applications to succeed, he would like to see Linux accepted as a corporate desktop operating system. Sometimes this is as simple as giving the programmers already working in their spare time freedom to code fulltime.

"That's how I got most of my programmers. I went around looking for a project that was similar to something I wanted to do. I asked the guy if he'd like to do that for a living. And everybody always says yes, strangely enough. They get to work at home in their countries, and some of them are making a lot more than the going rate there, and they're having a blast. They get to work whatever hours they want, they're working on what they enjoy, they're making a ton of money. The guys in Russia--average wage there is like $50 a month. I wish I'd known that before I gave them $20 an hour. So they're doing really well, and I can afford to keep them. Max, who designed KDE Studio, didn't know Linux or C++ two years ago. He wanted an IDE on Linux. He had a graphic design company, which is why he's so good on the visuals. He can't even really speak English, but I've gotten to where I can understand him. I have him doing the design for three projects, and he keeps wanting to know when he can start on more."

Still, there are areas where it's important and not always easy to avoid stepping on toes.

"There are some details to work out, in terms of what goes where and how it works. There is the KOffice site for development, and there's our site. Things that we're paying for to do, I'd kind of like to keep where I've got 'em, because it's our employees doing them, but it's also open, so I'm trying to figure out the details of how best to make that work. There are certain things that we want to get everybody involved in, and some things we'd like to control a little more closely because we have a specific objective of how we want it to work, and a thousand people jumping in could take it off in directions that have nothing to do with that objective."

While the KDE work is and will be open source and freely available, a contribution to the KDE effort, organization of those contributions, Gordon says, is still a work in progress, both within the community and within companies interested in participating. This applies especially to applications that are not part of a core distribution, but that he doesn't want to suddenly spring on the world.

"Part of what you can do is what they do with the Linux kernel to begin with. You've got Linus, who says this is what goes in. And it's open to the extent that everybody can work on it, but what they do may or may not get in it, depending on what Linus has to say about it. What do you call that? A benevolent dictatorship? That's part of what we have to do with some projects for the time being--and I don't know that there's going to be a thousand people jump out of the woodwork that want to work on this stuff, either. We would like to have some people jump in on KDB, because poor Prado is getting stretched pretty thin."

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