Not that long ago the Giga Group - not one of the more friendly
analysts-for-hire out there - warned businesses
away from desktop Linux until 2005. More to the point, desktop Linux has
long been regarded as a distant dream, even by many strong Linux
supporters. It is commonly assumed that Linux is still far from where it
needs to be to move out of the server and onto the desks of "ordinary
The Giga Group may be right that it will take another year or two before
Linux is a common and safe choice for desktop deployments. For everybody
who does not seek permission from analysts, however, desktop Linux is
becoming a viable option rather sooner.
Consider, for example, the deployment
of 80,000 desktop Linux systems in Extremadura, Spain. Linux and the GNOME
desktop were considered to be more than good enough for students across the
region; Linux systems were also used to set up 33 centers for general use.
Or consider CorelRescue, a
shareholder effort to block the acquisition of Corel by Vector CC
Holdings. This group, which claims to have over four million shares
committed to voting against the acquisition, believes that Corel would be
better off to continue as an independent company and reinvigorate its Linux
desktop efforts - especially WordPerfect. Tux was even drafted as the
For the clincher, consider this
Business Week article about Apple, which happens to mention the
Long maligned as a desktop nonstarter, Linux should pass Apple in
market share for desktop operating systems on computers sold in the
coming year. That means from 7% to 10% of all PCs shipped won't
bear the Windows icon.
Apple's MacOS is generally considered to be the most advanced desktop
operating system out there. That perception may not change, but the fact
is that users are voting with their keyboards. Linux will displace MacOS
as the second most popular desktop operating system within the year.
Once, not all that long ago, Linux was considered to be a toy system
suitable only for hobbyists. Over time, Linux has proved its worth in many
contexts, from personal video recorders to supercomputers - a Linux cluster
is now the third fastest computer on the planet. Success on the desktop
has taken longer, but it is now within reach. Nobody can say that a system
which has surpassed Apple in the marketplace is not suitable for the
Comments (10 posted)
As mentioned here last week
, there has been
a renewed push for the adoption of software patents in Europe. It now
appears that the final scenes will be played out even more quickly than
to the European Parliament Observatory
, the full plenary vote on
software patents could happen as soon as June 30. That does not leave
a whole lot of time for concerned Europeans to contact their MEPs and get
their feelings across. According to some sources (see, for example, this writeup by Xavi Drudis Ferran
), it should
not be assumed that the plenary session will simply rubber-stamp the
software patent directive. Efforts to educate parliament members over the
next few days could have a significant effect.
On the other side of the pond, representatives Zoe Lofgren and John
Dolittle have announced
their intent to introduce the Public Domain Enhancement Act into
Congress. The PDEA was covered here in the
June 5 Weekly Edition; it would require that copyrights be renewed
after fifty years. Any material for which the copyrights are not
explicitly renewed would pass into the public domain. This law would not
reduce the copyright protection available to anybody; it would just ensure
that works which are no longer being commercially exploited become part of
the intellectual commons. The idea should not be particularly controversial, but the
media industry is likely to lobby against it just the same. So it could be
a long path between the introduction of the PDEA into Congress and its
becoming law. That introduction is a necessary step in the right
Comments (2 posted)
[This article was contributed by Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier]
The Linux Router Project is dead. So says Dave Cinege, the creator
of the project. Though the project has been stagnant for some time, it
still came as a surprise to see it officially pronounced dead,
particularly given the bitterness of Cinege's eulogy for the project:
The operating system that helped to create the embedded Linux
marketplace, the Linux Router Project (LRP), is dead.
As of January of this year I have finally accepted the fact I will
likely never be able to develop LRP into the operating system it could
have been. A full 6 months later I'm forcing myself to update this page
to reflect this. It is not an easy thing to give up on your life's work.
Apparently the cause of death was Cinege's inability to translate his
work with LRP into a source of income.
My many contributions to the computing community has reaped very little
personal benefit for myself. As I now struggle to pay the bills I can
not help but feel quite pissed off at the state of affairs, for myself
and the other authors who contributed massive amounts of time and
quality work, only to have it whored by companies not willing to give
back dime one to the people that actually created what it is they sell.
Acknowledgement and referral would have at least been acceptable. Few
companies do even that.
While it's unfortunate that Cinege didn't benefit financially from his
work on LRP, it's also an illustration that developers shouldn't depend
on their contributions to free and open source software to land them a
job or otherwise put money in their pockets. While a number of
developers have, indeed, landed jobs as a result of their work with open source,
it's hardly a guarantee of gainful employment. And it's true that
companies may not even choose to publicly acknowledge the projects
they've used to build their products. Vortech Consulting, for example,
based Coyote Linux on LRP, but
there's nary a mention of the Linux Routing Project on the Coyote Linux
The relationship between free software developers and companies is often
uneasy. A recent bit of company bashing on the linux-kernel list led to
These discussions always make me wonder if the open source crowd is
ever going to realize it's reasonable to be friendly with
The world is not going to end up with all software working
perfectly and being free. Software is hard work, software tends to
rot if you don't take care of it, there has to be an business plan
- Give it away.
- Make lots of money.
While Cinege and many others see commercial companies as parasites using
their work for profit without any kickback for the original contributors,
open source as a parasite on proprietary software. There is a fair
amount of mistrust and misunderstanding going in both directions. Many
unknowns remain in the equation of how free software and
money-making enterprises will work together; this situation is likely to
persist for some time.
It's very clear right now, however, that if a developer hopes to earn a
living off of their contributions to open source, he or she will need
to come up with a workable plan beyond releasing software and hoping for job
offers, contract work or grants to fund further development efforts. Even
then, as with any entrepreneurial enterprise, it's no guarantee that
they'll be able to pull it off. And, it's possible that someone else
will come along and do a better job of capitalizing on your work. Part
of releasing software under an open source license is giving up full
control of the work.
Writing software is just one aspect of what makes a software company,
open source or otherwise, successful. Brilliant software isn't enough to
ensure a steady flow of clients. Developers who want to make a living
off of their open source project will also need to wear the marketing
hat, the sales hat, and so forth to turn a freely-available project into
money. Some developers aren't interested or adept at doing those things,
which is fine. In that case, they need to align themselves with partners
or a company that will do that work for them if they hope to turn open
source development into a money-maker. That, or resign themselves to the
idea that someone else may do it without them.
Comments (5 posted)
Page editor: Jonathan Corbet
Inside this week's LWN.net Weekly Edition
- Security: Greylisting; new vulnerabilities in ethereal, osh, xterm, ypserv, others...
- Kernel: Multiple initialization functions; fixing cryptoloop; looking forward to 2.7.
- Distributions: Lindows.com - Friend or Foe?; Debootstrap/LVM with LNX-BBC 2.1; KnoppiXMAME
- Development: Contracts for Python,
New versions of SAP DB, FreeMED, mnoGoSearch, Plone, WebSphere SDK,
BEAST/BSE, CheeseTracker, Horgand, WaveSurfer, Mozilla, BZFlag,
Sodipodi, SPTK, Netatalk, Wine, AbiWord, KOffice, GnomeMeeting,
OpenMCL, PHP, Zsh, GDB.
- Press: Another pile of SCO articles, Linare offers cheap Linux PCs,
Linux in the Airlines, desktop Linux history, Torvalds interview,
Linux supercomputer is third fastest.
- Announcements: 4th Libre Software Meeting, Linuxtag in Karlsruhe,
EuroPython report, International PHP Conf. CFP, GU4DEC slides,
Ogg Vorbis Help.
- Letters: Finding SCO's code in Linux