proprietary? anti-free? hmmm...
Posted May 28, 2006 20:34 UTC (Sun) by jabby
In reply to: SafeDesk Puts Bounties on STS Open-Source Development
Parent article: SafeDesk Puts Bounties on STS Open-Source Development
My guess as to why the STS "products" haven't captured a wave of interest is that they are commercialized versions of Free and Open Source Software. Of course, I know that there's nothing inherently anti-commercial about FOSS. The problem is that there's something inherently anti-free about commercialism, particularly the way it's being practiced here...
Allow me to quote from an article in eWEEK from May 30, 2005 (http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1759,1822061,00.asp):
"SafeDesk Solutions' updated SafeDesk Server is a thin-client software package that has modest system requirements, low licensing costs and lightweight architecture."
"SafeDesk Server Standard supports as many as 30 users and can be downloaded for free... Sites that must support more than 30 users or companies that need to integrate SafeDesk with existing domain controllers can purchase the $99-per-user SafeDesk Server Enterprise edition, which runs on SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 and comes with the same client application package as the Standard version."
"SafeDesk Server Standard edition LTSP models do not have built-in support for integration with other thin-client solutions. In contrast, the SafeDesk Server Enterprise edition provides built-in support for RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) and Citrix Systems Inc.'s ICA (Independent Computing Architecture) protocol..."
"SafeDesk Solutions works with customers to provide the proprietary hooks that allow LTSP to work with Microsoft's or in-house applications that would normally be difficult to configure. For example, SafeDesk Server can be deployed with CodeWeavers Inc.'s Wine applications for Windows-centric organizations."
"SafeDesk can run on most Intel Corp. x86 hardware, but we recommend a fairly robust server with capacious memory. For a 30-user environment, the company recommends that a server have at least one Intel Xeon-based processor, 2GB of memory, three 36GB SCSI hard drives with RAID 5 and dual Gigabit Ethernet."
I've included these excerpts in the order in which they appear in the article. Note the conflict between the first excerpt and the last ("modest" requirements?!). Note that the "Standard" edition is hobbled and you have to pay more for what we are led to believe are "Enterprise" features, like RDP support.
By the way, links to this article and another paired article were posted to the LTSP-discuss mailing list by a Curt Craig of SafeDesk Solutions on 6/7/2005:
So, to pull all of the strings together, it appears to me that for all their talk of being complementary to LTSP, SafeDesk Solutions is actually using it to support a business model that peddles hobbled versions of Free Software to the uninitiated. These people who could be freely using LTSP itself and joining the wider community are instead encouraged to pay money to SafeDesk Solutions and pay no attention to that community behind the curtain. Moreover, SafeDesk Solutions seems to have no compunction about using the tactics of "proprietary hooks" and a tiered structure to divide and conquer their user base.
SafeDesk Solutions may offer something that people want, but they do not offer freedom. Like proprietary video drivers that rub Free Software advocates the wrong way, the proprietary BitKeeper that threatened to hold Linux kernel development hostage, and all proprietary, vendor lock-in-based "solutions", they may be flashy and shiny but they are not the way to freedom.
Supposed "improvements" like CIFS instead of NFS (if they truly are improvements in the eyes of the users) will make their way into the true LTSP to benefit everyone, not just those who can afford them. Wine integration shouldn't require proprietary glue... I'm sure the community can figure it out (probably already have). Basically, SafeDesk would draw people away from the community and that's bad for everyone.
The lack of a wild response to this "gift" suggests to me that the target audience for this software is savvier and smarter than was anticipated. They have learned not to settle for "not quite free"... not to settle for an x86-only, hobbled, put-up-or-shut-up environment. I say, more power to them!
I worked with LTSP for a while in its earlier versions (over 4 years ago). I haven't been involved (on the mailing list) in a long time, but I've followed the release announcements and cheered on Jim McQuillan and his cohorts with every successful release and advance. They recently released version 4.2 with redesigned local device support, swap over NBD (instead of NFS), udev, initramfs, and multi-head X support:
And they're not resting on their laurels... Last I heard, the current big initiative (Project MueKow) is to make LTSP more distribution-centric. It's hard to describe, so I direct people to their wiki:
Oh, and LTSP is now part of Ed/K/Ubuntu, the most popular distribution(s) on the planet. Good luck getting people to pay for LTSP now...
Maybe SafeDesk should read up on the meaning of the word "ubuntu" and re-examine their relationship with their customers and the community.
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