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Nikolai Bezroukov. Portraits of Open Source Pioneers

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Summing up

"How essential to the open exchange of knowledge is the notion that none of the participants are getting rich off the exchange?"

From Slashdot post by  Jon Palmer

"As idealism approaches reality, the cost becomes prohibitive."

William F. Buckley

Is there a world outside of computers? Are you ever afraid you'll wake up one day and feel you wasted your life in front of a computer?

Lars Wirzenius interview question

The home teems with the Linux mascot, from porcelain penguins in various sizes to partying penguins on a blue hand towel in the guest bathroom. But his favorite toy is a sunburst-yellow Mercedes SLK32 sitting in the garage. Still, it's the rear end of the black Acura SUV next to it that draws my attention. The faithful can be seen up and down Highway 101 in Northern California, driving their 7-year-old Hondas and used Volvos outfitted with bumper stickers that proclaim them Linux rebels. But the gleaming silver license plate frame affixed to Tove's car reads: coffee, chocolate, men: some things are better rich.

... ... ...

We head out to his car, and any lingering bad feelings seem to fly away as he gets behind the wheel of the Mercedes. The top is down, and the hot Silicon Valley sun glints off his forehead. Dressed all in white, with his paunch pressing against his shirt, he looks like a contented pasha seated on his throne. He is an unusual king, but then, he and his loyal subjects are an equally unusual and amazing lot.

From Dan Gillmor article in Wired, Nov 2003

Please note this is a "slightly skeptical" chapter and you need to take it as such. As I already stated several times the main reason for writing this chapter was the desire to prevent "cult of personality"  exaggerations with Linus as a supermen that was in the center of events of a very important OSS project. I tried to demonstrate that essentially events were far larger then Linus and soon after he allowed independent commercial distributors  he became a pawn of powerful commercial forces he cannot control ("Let the Genie Out of the Bottle" so to speak).

Essentially under the Linux banner the corporations (and first of all IBM) took advantage of a possibility to start moving jobs overseas to cheaper labor markets, and then expanded from there. Outsourcing was really a creation of the Internet and cheap PC. Linux also contributed to this development by driving the commodization of the Unix market.  It was big corporations like IBM, HP, Sun, etc that drove Linux adoption and that used open source communities as their subcontractors. It's important to understand that it was why and how Linus got his millions...

I would like to stress it again that there was a kind of historical necessity for the kernel with free access to the source code to emerge, but the success of Linux was to certain extent political (it happened to be associated with the rise of outsourcing) and in no way based on its technical superiority. We should definitely respect and support other OSS projects, including FreeBSD, Open BSD and Hurd. Please remember that BSD project were more advanced for the period covered and achieved more then Linux using a tiny fraction of the resources.

Actually after version 1 which was a tiny and pretty capable kernel, Linus made no contributions to the state of the art of OS development. From this point of view it looked almost like a Microsoft project and at the end the level of bloat made it indistinguishable from commercial offerings. 

I think that as Linux commercialization had shown, the commercialization of open/free software under licenses that prevent creation of closed source derivatives (like GPL) produced a highly unstable and in many way internally contradicting  situation (what is so open about Red Hat Enterprise Linux other then PR hype ?) that negatively affect not only commercial software developers, but the software ecosystem as a whole.  Unlike software licenses under classic BSD license (with the attribution clause) GPL creates the situation of "law of jungles" where only the strongest survive (as IBM crushing of tiny Linux startups that tried to profit from selling Linux support had shown).

The 10-th anniversary of Linux kernel is the event on which this chapter ends. Technically is was a challenging year, not as successful as previous and the problems with kernel architecture were more evident than before. It would be interesting to look into the future, but our resources are limited and we will move to the most technically interesting area of open source, the area were open source communities managed to make a real contribution, the scripting languages.

As a final touches we will mention some aspect of the most explosive problem connected with Linux: "Outsourcing and Linux.". There is a deep irony in the Linux development.  When in 1991, Linus Torvalds created what became the Linux, it was an act of rebellion against the commercial software and IT giants who were raking in millions of dollars a year from their closely protected operating systems and applications. Who would have thought that, less then one decade later, the same giants he sought to undermine would give him (via Linux startups that they financed)  stock options and he embraces this opportunity to became rich with a passion Don Juan would have envied? And that IBM became the godfather of Linux and set  up a billion dollars fund to grow its (largely outsourcing-based) business in India and elsewhere.  Who would ever think that Linux would ever became symbol of both "brain drain" from Europe and symbol of programming jobs outsourcing to South-East Asia ? As David Lancashire aptly observed in the "The Fading Altruism of Open Source Development" (First Monday, volume 6, number 12 (December 2001))

...the very communities so quick to celebrate the open source movement have in the past been those quickest to "cash-in" on the phenomenon. Slashdot is part of the Open Source Developers Network (OSDN), and it is hardly coincidental that the site cheerleads for sister company Sourceforge when the stock price of parent company VA Linux swings with the productivity of unpaid developers. If cultural arguments hold merit, it seems equally plausible to argue that the true causal arrow points the other way, and that dynamism in the open source community is the product of wealth generation in the American software industry. Hackers may flock to open source largely because of the wealth potential of programming. Corporate interests might influence developer behavior, and culture may be better conceptualized as an intermediate (and not true casual) variable.

... ... ...

Historically, the United States has always been the country most commonly associated with the free software movement. From the late 1960s through the early 1980s, it was almost singlehandedly responsible for the vast majority of free software produced around the world. Early programs were given-away without-thought by academics and research scientists at leading American universities including MIT and UC Berkeley, and private research facilities such as Xerox PARC. The modularization of computer architectures around open standards in America further encouraged software-sharing in ways which never materialized abroad. Development in the rest of the world (and particularly in Europe and Japan) remained hidebound even into the early 1980s. At a time when Microsoft was gaining dominance over the American consumer market with early versions of MS-DOS, leading European firms such as Micro Focus continued to produce software for proprietary hardware architectures in "outdated" languages such as Cobol, and to target their goods to corporate - not consumer - markets [26]. Backing this record of technological leadership, the United States is also the undisputed center of an increasingly global culture prone to equate free software with political liberty. It is home to the world's most notable free software advocates, from Richard Stallman to the San Francisco Cypherpunks. As this record of cultural leadership is already well-documented in the work of Steve Weber and Stephen Levy, it suffices to ask a single question: how can we explain the apparent erosion of American support for free software development?

... ... ...

Primarily, it should be clear that if the opportunity cost of working on open source projects is lower for European developers than their American counterparts, the potential benefits Europeans gain from working on them are much greater as well. In a global economy lacking perfect labor mobility and characterized by wage-inequality across countries, we expect individuals to produce free software if doing so can help them shift to a higher wage-level. This "fixed-cost" analysis implies (as Lerner and Tirole suggest in their paper) that developers may embrace open source work as a way to tap-into lucrative corporate networks abroad. This may explain why open source development is more popular in Canada than the United States, although the data from Europe is inconclusive on this question. This also helps to explain why the majority of open source developers are relatively young [40]. Older, settled programmers have less need to establish a monetizable reputation than their younger, more mobile counterparts, given less time in which to amortize its immediate costs.

In other words, the appropriate analogy for open source development may not be to "cooking-pots" and "cauldrons" so much as to the Mayflower. Addressing the similar debate over the causes of migration to the New World, Hatton and Williamson propose that:

"Those who emigrated had the most to gain from the move, and were likely, therefore to be the most responsible to labor market conditions. By emigrating when young they were able to reap the gains over most of their working lives. By moving as single individuals they were able to minimize the costs of the move, including earnings forgone in passage and during job search" [41].

Conceptualizing open source work as a "fixed cost" young programmers face in order to establish a quantifiable reputation offers a convincing explanation for the peculiar demographics of open source development, and helps explain in particular why the phenomenon seems prevalent among young college-educated men. This nicely supports the observation made by Bezroukov that the romanticization of the open source movement in academic circles may have played a vital role in fuelling its early growth.

The analogy between open source development and historical migration is hardly perfect, but it is useful to consider even for its obvious differences. The most striking of these involves the type of labor assuming the fixed costs. Historically, the bulk of international migration has involved the extremely uneducated - those with few capital-invested skills, and little ability to earn a reasonable income in their local communities [42]. In contrast, contemporary open source programmers can accurately be thought of as "hyper-skilled" and in many cases "over-qualified" for national markets. A programmer extremely knowledgeable about thread-management and memory protection under Unix, for instance, may find him or herself employed by the private sector in a completely different manner - writing Web-based applications or producing software through a mass-market integrated development environment (IDE). Establishing a reputation as a skilled specialist may help programmers transcend the limitations of their local markets - a pressure much more likely to influence decision-making in niche European markets with a less diverse production base.

The truth is that commercialization of Linux (especially after Red Hat IPO and related Linux gold rush) drastically changed the movement. Linus himself became a hostage of investment banks and venture capital firms that first were trying to milk the Internet bubble and then switched on moving jobs oversees.  Some characters depicted in this chapter became very rich. Some got petty cash. No one went jail. Still this commercialization of Linux presented some interesting moral problems and challenges to Linus Torvalds and his participation in Linux IPO craze and the process of conversion of poor Finnish researcher into newly minted millionaire presents (with his personal participation in layoffs of his colleagues in Transmeta in between) an interesting illustration of why  "Ye cannot serve God and mammon".

In a sense Linus betrayed the key idea of open source: " keep it simple" or to be more correct sold it to the highest bidder.  In its acquired due to the commercialization complexity (and lack of stability) of  Linux kernel that makes it now is so non-distinguishable from the close source rivals (in a sense opening of Solaris by Sun was a really cruel joke on Torvalds ; that's why he is so adamantly opposed to it.  It's like reminding him that in Orwell's story pigs eventually became humans.  Nothing was left of the initial simplicity of the initial versions of the kernel that really was a breath of fresh air in early 90th. Drunk with power, flush with cash and convinced that he is on the right side of the history, this "mission over complexity" at the end became the same megalomania that is characteristic of the Larry Ellison: it's the same will to dominate that used to drive 19th-century followers of the nihilist Sergiy Nechaev, upon whom the author of The Possessed modeled his characters.

Despite minor legal troubles "Linux IPO pioneers" turned multimillionaires nicely escaped jail. In 2003 Red Hat founder Bob "Get rich without making any profits" Young moved to his new venture, Lulu Tech Circus. He said that the idea occurred to him a year ago after he argued with journalists about whether the open-source story was over or just beginning. "The implication of all of their questions was, "Now that the bubble around the Linux phenomenon has burst, are you going to have to get a real job?" Young said. Lulu Enterprises is also created a custom publishing arm that will produce customized textbooks.  Another superrich Red Hat founder who recently got a "real job" is former CTO Marc Ewing. He founded a glossy $12.50-per-issue climbing magazine called Alpinist, set to launch in November 2002. So much for the "liberation"...  The luster continued to fade on that buzzword, but we will stop here. The first ten years of the development were over and with them this chapter is finished too.

I would like to stress my final conclusions:

Although I agree that open source software is better, and I enjoy using and working on it, are we all just enabling large corporations to make loads of dough off our work while we starve in relative obscurity? Are we acting in our own self interest when we basically work for free and allow anyone to use the fruits of our labor?

I wonder if this is the end of programming as a career that you can live off of. Garbage men don't go pick up garbage for fun in their spare time, the problem is programmers enjoy what they do and don't think of the economic consequences of doing so.

Someone please explain how programmers will make a wage they can live off of in the future. I've heard a lot of pie in the sky types of explanations (as I did about the Internet). Sure I believe that companies can make money off of open source, by selling supported and packaged "solutions" but that doesn't mean they need to pay the people who created the software they sell.

I think its time for us to start working in each other's interest. It seems that programmers are the new exploited class, and perhaps it is time to organize for better labor conditions and stop screwing ourselves over.

Real money losses of those who boldly and naively invested in Linux companies stock and folding of dozens of "Linux" companies in late 2000 and 2001 definitely contributed to the growth of realism in Linux community and quick depreciation of honk-ho evangelists (especially Raymondists: members of the "Linux cash community"). But the cult itself survived.

As Brett Glass mentioned at Linux Today forum the whole situation with "Linux is replacing Windows" promises reminds of the situations of numerous doomsday cults that have forecasted the end of the world -- or the New Testament "Second Coming" -- for a particular day.  The day comes and goes, and the world does not end. But what's amazing is what often happens next with the members of the cult.  If the cult is not a suicide cult, its members nearly always regroup and reset the deadline for a later date. (The Jehovah's Witnesses did this twice before they deciding to abandon the idea of a fixed "doomsday." They now preach, in much more vague terms, that a doomsday is coming, but do not attempt to specify the date; in fact, they even deleted all references to specific dates from their writings and their logo.)

Faith so completely triumphs over reality and common sense that the failure of the first prediction does not hurt the cultists' faith in the next one.  Many people were so blinded by the rhetoric that they fail to recognize that it outside implicit outsourcing that using volunteers for development of their product as Red Hat exemplify creating a viable business strategy for GPLed product is a non-trivial task and that any company that sell GPLed product is not very scalable as they are more selling services then the product.   As one Slashdot reader noted in the discussion of my paper in First Monday:

... critique the whole essence of which, IMHO, can be phrased like so:

OSS is not exactly such a novel thing--it has been known in scientific community for a long time. Current hype and success of it has to be largely attributed to Linux, but it is too naive to claim that OSS as a new software development paradigm means the total obliteration of any other way of developing software.

Before you flame, I know that I have left much of the article out. But I think that pages and pages that are left behind are just illustrate and support the above stated points.

Bezrukov does attack ESR as much as having his name in the article name. Why? Because ESR represents exactly this naive, on the border of blind-folded chauvinism, view of OSS. ESR, propaganda is one thing, reality is whole a lot different.

Yes, Linux popularity grows and it is the only OS rapidly gaining ground. This growth is not solely canibalistic (at the expense of other *nixes) as Microsoft would want it to look. But there are problems as well: there still are problems with fitting Linux in a business environment (office productivity suits like StarOffice, Applixware are not exctly a good match to Microsoft Office, while they may actually be as good if not better than Lotus SmartSuit and Corel PerfectOffice). I am not sure that making Linux easier and easier to install will matter as much to success: good publicity, applications, credibility will make a much better job than a no-pain-five-minutes-see-mom-no-hands Linux distros. After all, if business community is the target, their users will not be installing the system--IT people will. Home user is a whole another matter--and a topic for a separate discussion.
... ... ...

Linus Torvalds as an accidental creator of a new BIOS

Huge social success of Linux became a definitely important historically important phenomenon, similar to success of DOS (with its first BIOS). As nothing succeed like success. In fact has many technological revolutions were a success of  the "good enough" technical solution not the best one. Classic example is  DOS success against very similar and somewhat technologically superior CP/M-DR/DOS.  This "tragedy of technological innovation" now is replayed in Unix/Linux space: a copycat implementation became more viable that the original. 

I think that Linus Torvalds succeed first a foremost as an author of a "new BIOS", a POSIX-compatible kernel implementation which became a de-facto standard, creating a kind of new Microsoft: driving down the cost of  software, and promoting the outsourcing.  Even Linux marketing is not unlike BIOS marketing: what we have on the marketplace is not Linux but carious distributions that are based on common Linux kernel but might have completely different "software personalities". 

Like Microsoft with DOS and later with its Office applications,  Linux opened a whole new market. In case of Microsoft it was personal computer market, in case of Linux it was software outsourcing market.  Of course, the displacement of expensive proprietary systems with commodity hardware and software and outsourcing is not a new story in the computer business and the history of companies like IBM (mainframes) and DEC (minicomputers) are good historical examples of  this trend. 

I think that Linus Torvalds succeed first a foremost as an author of a "new BIOS", a POSIX-compatible kernel implementation which became a de-facto standard

Still, it was Linus Torvalds who managed to be at the right time in the right place and to fire this new spiral of diminishing costs. This time due to distributed world-wide poor of developers (free or low paid) connected via Internet and working of low cost (due to Microsoft success) but very powerful PCs that constantly improves.  And I would like to stress that we all should be grateful to Linus "Unix BIOS" Torvalds  And not only to him but, what is more important, to all developers of the Linux kernel as well as to Stallman and all the developers who participated in GNU project: the precursor of Linux development.

Linus decade-long marathon for the stable Unix-like PC BIOS stands out like an achievement similar to the creation of  Phoenix BIOS.  Like creators of Phoenix BIOS made possible the PC boom, Linux distributions actually make outsourcing a business reality. 

One thing is clear, the success if Linux as a new PC BIOS is intrinsically connected with the success of Intel architecture and the success of Microsoft. I think that a large part of the Linux success was and still is connected to the fact that it is the most PC-friendly and Microsoft-friendly Unix implementation. As Microsoft creates and distributes without charge its "reference PC standard" Linux can piggyback of hugely discounted due to Microsoft success hardware.

From the user view of a Unix, the operating system has changed surprisingly little in the last 30 years. Users still "run programs" -- either by typing in a command line or through a graphical user interface. Programs read data from files, write and create files, and then terminate. Data files stored on disk are generally viewed as static repositories for information. Virtually all of the work done by a computer on behalf of an individual is done as the result of an explicit command. The keyboard, screen and mouse remain the dominant forms of human input/output.

While key architectural concepts of the Unix operating system  have remained largely static, the computers have changed dramatically. Desktop computer of 2001 is a supercomputer of 1972.  And what was pretty heavy footprint OS in 1985 became quite suitable for BIOS in 2000.  Linux kernel now  is a pretty standard kernel. "Almost" Posix-compatible (never certified) with IO subsystem, some services on top and some standard utilities. Everything else was moved to packages and despite being an example of a monolithic kernel Linux accelerated this modularization trend. In a way Linux kernel can be considered as a new incarnation of microkernel if you wish (that's why probably Linus so passionately hates Mach kernel ;-). This new generation of BIOS provides much more capabilities than old CP/M BIOS. Among them:

There are supporting elements on top of the kernel, such as drivers, libraries, etc. But almost everything else outside the Unix kernel is considered a driver, a utility or something extra, not part of the core BIOS.

That means that in a technical sense Linux was and is a very conservative operating system kernel, not a revolutionary one like many incorrectly assume.  To covert an OS into "new BIOS" you need to be conservative, otherwise it will be rejected. Standards should always be behind the current cutting edge technology. 

Technically Unix kernel was and still is one of the world's greatest operating system kernels. At the same time in the list of available Unix kernels (Solaris, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, AIX, HP-UX, UnixWare, True Unix, etc) Linux kernel is far from being the best (IMHO that place belongs to Solaris with AIX 5.3 as a close contender). Paradoxically, Linux revolution can be viewed more like a  conservative revolution or even as a counterrevolution.

Overall in this chapter I tried to show that the evolution of Linux kernel, especially after Linus moved to the USA has been guided more by demands by big business, rivalry with Microsoft and FreeBSD, one-upsmanship, "IPO craze" and the glee born of technical cleverness that is characteristic of the "hacker culture" than by purely technical considerations. Nevertheless due to infusion of huge amount of capital from IBM and likes this chaotic process has eventually produced more or less industrial strength "BIOS".  Still it should be noted that Linux kernel was never able to surpass  even FreeBSD kernel which was developed with just a tiny fraction of resources and no crazy IPO money. At this point, 10 years since the first Linux kernel release, FreeBSD retains better virtual-memory performance and a faster SCSI subsystem.  On the other traditional points of technical comparison, for example TCP/IP stack performance, the two are now close enough.

We also need also to understand that Linux is not the final step in the OS technical evolution, although it is can serve as a symbol of stagnation of the field. In twenty of fifty year from now there will be a need to something better. VM environments (like lightweight VM as implemented by Solaris 10 zones, or "full scale VMs" as in AIX 5.3 software partitions) look like a very promising new development trend and it probably will influence further evolution of the Linux kernel. Like before in this area Linux is a follower, never a trend breaker.

From the pure open source standpoint it's also pretty contradictory: more like one step forward, two steps back. Steps back that I would like to mention is betrayal of the KISS  principle and inability (and lack of desire) of Linus (because of Linux gold rush) to preserve the simplicity of the kernel. Which essentially closes the system by sheer weight of complexity. He really wanted to successes at any cost and that presuppose emulating Microsoft. That's how Linux kernel became a complex CMP-enabled kernel that essentially betrayed the ideal of simple open source kernel with adherence to KISS principle.  In a sense true advocates of open source should all migrate to OpenBSD or other simpler kernel ASAP ;-).

The view of Linux kernel as a new SuperBIOS also helps to explain why most Linux distributions are so ordinary and uninspiring in a technical sense of this word, despite all this "Linux revolution" blah-blah-blah.  Trying to be as conservative is the only realistic strategy for BIOS developers and that partially explains why Linux failed to jump into VM bandwagon and was dragged into it by events beyond its control.  Linux distributions also ignored most of the other important technological trends of late 80th (integration of scripting into OS (REXX in Amiga and OS/2),  virtual filesystems like fpfs (Plan 9, Hurd), distributed execution (Plan9).  For me personally, it's really sad that Linux as an operating system was never able to capitalize on the scripting languages revolution (feeling backward in this sense even to discontinued by IBM OS/2), but its role as a new BIOS explains the current situation. In a sense even Microsoft did better as they manage to adopt a single macro language in all major applications (VBScript) and later even manage to add other languages to the mix using common intermediate code (first JavaScript was added to the mix, then .NET extended this options to any .NET compatible language.). Later they added even Korn-shell style shell to the mix (PowerShell).

I would like to repeat my emphasize on the importance the usage of scripting languages in an OS, the area were Linux is weak. IMHO this is a major, not minor weakness, although it has nothing to do with the kernel.  While both Perl and Python are now installed in most standard distributions neither of them are used as a macro or scripting languages for applications. In this area Linux is still remain in prehistoric, dinosaur  level. Most utilities can and probably should be rewritten and integrated with the scripting language.

Developing Unix tradition scripting language regular expression engine should also be more tightly integrated into the operating system permitting its usage in all utilities and as a part of common macro language for applications.

This idea of shell serving simultaneously as a macro-language for applications was pioneered by Amiga and OS/2.  Later this idea was brilliantly transplanted into Unix world by TCL. In Unix world there was a small windows of opportunity when Sun was flirting with TCL, but Sun became distracted by Java and the idea died. Now it needs to be resurrected. It is really sad that Microsoft products that most Linux advocates (incorrectly) treat as inferior, in reality are vastly superior to open source applications because of their pretty uniform usage of  VBScript and availability of VBScript as a shell language (JavaScript can be used instead). 

At the same time the emerging status of Linux kernel as a new SuperBIOS can really repeat PC BIOS success on a new level;  if this is true then Linux will play a huge role both in the server market and the appliances market.  Thus,  the key role of Linux Torvalds in converting his POSIX-compatible kernel into de-facto "UNIX BIOS" for a large variety of systems  actually may qualify him as an important contributor to the computer science.  Only history will tell...

Outsourcing and Linux

 "The Trotskys make the revolutions, and the Bronsteins pay the price."

Chief Rabbi of Moscow to Leon Trotsky (born Bronstein)

I find it ironic that Slashdot is worrying about offshoring of programming. These are the same folks who cheer everytime a country like Israel or China chooses to go with free software over software written in America that costs money. Nice to know they care.

Robert Scoble's post about offshoring and Open Source:

There is no doubt that Linux distributions were the early examples of massively outsourced labor. Sold mainly by American companies Linux distributions contained code from all over the globe (with Europe as a dominant "work pool"). In a sense, enterprise move to outsource programming operations to developing nations was hugely simplified due to Linux. You do not need to move expensive equipment and software: all you need are PCs. Linux development exposes exactly the talent pool outsourcing firms are looking for: motivated, highly educated, technical talent that costs a fraction of what it commands in the USA. For me as a university professor the sad thing is that the career my students studied for at the University and spent a lot of money on probably won't sustain them for their working life. This probably means that their future success will come from moving up the software development tasks chain, focusing more on business, design and analyst skills and less on the pure programming skills that are becoming commoditized. But the number of such people needed is very low.

High speed Internet connected previously inaccessible pools of work force on different continents making possible to do Linux-based development almost everywhere. What's more, the new outsourcing is occurring at a breathtaking pace. Given the technology, there's very little that's sacred and thus can't be offshored.  Only a decade ago, programming and applications (especially databases) as well as systems  maintenance (Unix system administrators) were considered complex and secure ways for aspiring USA students to make a living. Now, it's considered "rote work," and many companies move it elsewhere to places like India, Ireland, Belarus, Ukraine etc.

Programmers jobs outsourcing became a sensitive political issue in connection with open source around year 2000, when there was a need to update a trivial bug in the huge amount of legacy code and it was too expensive to do it in the USA. It was partially resolved by increasing H1 quote and tapping retirees, but partially by moving the work offshore. According to the UC Berkeley report, “Outsourcing that began as a response to very tight labor markets in the US in 1999-2000 has continued, becoming a factor in the ‘jobless’ or ‘job-loss’ recovery of 2003. As in the last downturn in the early nineties, recession-based cost-cutting by firms may end up as the permanent loss of jobs that remain abroad even during the subsequent recovery.” Here is one interesting post borrowed from the paper Freedom Can Be Slavery:

Although I agree that open source software is better, and I enjoy using and working on it, are we all just enabling large corporations to make loads of dough off our work while we starve in relative obscurity? Are we acting in our own self interest when we basically work for free and allow anyone to use the fruits of our labor?

I wonder if this is the end of programming as a career that you can live off of. Garbage men don't go pick up garbage for fun in their spare time, the problem is programmers enjoy what they do and don't think of the economic consequences of doing so.

Someone please explain how programmers will make a wage they can live off of in the future. I've heard a lot of pie in the sky types of explanations (as I did about the Internet). Sure I believe that companies can make money off of open source, by selling supported and packaged "solutions" but that doesn't mean they need to pay the people who created the software they sell.

I think its time for us to start working in each other's interest. It seems that programmers are the new exploited class, and perhaps it is time to organize for better labor conditions and stop screwing ourselves over.

An "Anonymous Coward" posting in a Slashdot discussion

Corporations employ outsourcing largely as a means of cutting costs by replacing highly paid workers in one country with lower-paid workers who perform equivalent jobs in other countries. The availability of low-wage, educated, skilled and highly skilled programmers in countries such as India, China and Russia along with high speed Internet connections provides a key motivation for US corporations to outsource jobs. And the availability of Linux as a cheap software development platform also played its role, although minor...  For example since 2002, database company Oracle, the world’s second largest software company, has moved several high-pay research and development (R&D) projects to India and has more than doubled the number of employees in India to 4,200 workers. Oracle also moved development to Linux from Solaris.

According to Forrester's survey, momentum is huge in Linux and Linux-connected outsourcing  will grow:

But to say the truth, the Linux vendors has been doing outsourcing since the beginning: ability to profit from volunteer labor by private enterprises that was the essence of Linus "deviation" from Stallmanism (in Stallmanism volunteers were by-and-large expected to work for RMS's charity, although Cygnus demonstrated the possibility of doing this independently). If you think about it, it is clear, that by their business model Red Hat and other Linux companies were essentially outsourcers from the very beginning. Their main "business" was coordinating volunteers (zero pay workers) and, if necessary, hiring key talent around the globe (either locally or by moving it to the USA) while selling the resulting product mainly at the domestic market. As we saw above, Red Hat is extremely restrictive licensing  make perfect business sense as the defense of its USA franchise. Without this subscription model the only way Red Hat can survive is by becoming mutual fund and living of proceeds from investing IPO money in other companies. In a sense, after Red Hat IPO, volunteer period for many developers become like post-university internship: short period before the best and brightest were hired by the corporations.

In the US, the rush to outsource programming jobs internationally is increasingly being seen as the part of globalization. One corporate behemoth after another: first IBM, then Oracle, then HP, then Google move a  significant portions of their programmers offshore. Of course the problem is not limited to programming, programming was simply highly visible "guinea pig" for outsourcing. According to a Gallup Poll, in 2004 58% of Americans say that outsourcing will be "very important" when they decide their votes for president. And 61% say that they are concerned that they, a friend or a relative might lose  a job because the employer is moving work to a foreign country.

More then a million of programming jobs are likely to be lost to outsourcing by 2010, and that the rest are vulnerable to foreign competition. That means that USA-based software development suddenly converted from growing to shrinking industry. And it have turned India into the new Japan for many American programmers: an ominous economic threat to their economic prosperity.  For US programmers the nagging question "How can you compete with a colleague who makes a 10th of my salary?" remains open.  Sharp drop of salaries is already on the way. Gone are times when student fresh out of college, could get $40K-50K a year.

It's somewhat ironic that Brian Behlendorf  of Apache fame is a founder of CollabNet, the outsourcer tools producer. As Salon noted:

Behlendorf, as befits his open-source roots, is an idealist. Taking a global perspective, he believes that spreading the wealth internationally is good for the world in the long run. He and his fellow executives want CollabNet to be a truly global company, with no distinction made between employees in one country or another. But even more to the point, CollabNet's main product, SourceCast, is a set of software tools that facilitate development among teams of programmers working in different locations.

In other words, CollabNet's developers, both in the U.S. and India, are hard at work writing code that makes it easier for workers on opposite sides of the globe to work together effectively. CollabNet even "eats its own dogfood," as the saying goes, using its main product as the development environment for writing the SourceCast code.

Similarly VA software  (with Eric Raymond on board) declares that is perfect for outsourcing operations and even can minimize outsourcing risks:

Sending applications and product development projects to offshore outsourcers creates numerous risks. These risks can jeopardize and delay expected benefits while threatening project success...or worse. While more due diligence to front-end planning processes helps alleviate risk, it is when the work is actually being performed and managed that real benefits are either won or lost. To minimize risk and maximize the gains of going offshore, you must strengthen governance of globally-sourced development via best practices and solutions that help you manage and execute more efficiently and effectively.

The following table summarizes the Top Ten Risks of Offshore Outsourcing, according to META Group, a leading industry research firm. It also highlights how VA Software's Global Development Platform™, SourceForge, mitigates risk while providing more visibility and control, improved savings, and better results from your offshore efforts.

Top 10 Risks of Offshore Outsourcing SourceForge Solution
1. Cost Reduction Expectations

» Companies mistakenly assume savings will quickly approximate the simple difference in labor costs
» Hidden costs stemming from knowledge transfer, lost productivity, and additional management expenses decrease offshore savings. Companies must overcome hidden costs by modifying operations to align with a globally-distributed model
» Hidden costs from lost productivity are largely attributable to breakdowns in communication, collaboration, and coordination between the U.S. company's internal staff and offshore teams
» SourceForge reduces hidden costs by providing a secure, web-based workspace that improves management visibility and control as well as distributed team productivity
» SourceForge helps you keep projects on track and on budget with real-time dashboards and other management, monitoring, and reporting tools
» SourceForge improves operational efficiency by enabling you to more quickly align internal operations with offshore teams and to coordinate and streamline workflow and collaboration

2. IP Security and Protection

» The risk of security breaks or IP theft is inherently raised when working in international business
» Security requirements must be documented and the methods and integration with vendors defined. Ideally, security methods should be auditable
» SourceForge protects your IP by providing a secure, centralized repository for your IP behind your corporate firewall in your own data center, meeting strict internal corporate standards
» SourceForge allows you to control access to site, projects, tools, and IP (documents, code, communications, etc) on a per-user basis
» SourceForge increases visibility and control over company IP by allowing managers to know who is accessing and changing what IP and when, and to enable/disable access at their discretion
» SourceForge facilitates audits by automatically capturing and logging all changes to artifacts

3. Process Discipline (CMM)

» Offshore vendors are typically at SW-CMM levels 4 or 5 and require a standardized and repeatable model
» Potential offshore cost savings will be undermined by process maturity gaps between U.S. organizations and offshore vendors. These gaps slow projects and require additional on-site resources, reducing cost savings
» SourceForge provides a common, integrated workspace that fosters more mature processes, helping internal organizations close the process maturity gap with offshore vendors and reduce hidden costs
» SourceForge comes with a flexible, best practices guide for implementing standardized, definable, and repeatable processes, and including process improvement guidelines to help your own organization attain SW-CMM levels 2 and 3

4. Loss of Business Knowledge

» Many IT and R&D organizations have proprietary business and technical knowledge within their developers
» Companies must carefully assess if moving critical business knowledge outside their company will compromise company practices or competitive advantage
» High attrition rates among leading offshore service providers increase the risk that this knowledge may disappear suddenly, threatening projects and potentially weakening competitive advantage
» SourceForge helps preserve business and technical knowledge by providing a secure, centralized, searchable repository for your IP, including documented technical, project, and industry knowledge, code, and project communications
» SourceForge improves knowledge management by preserving the contextual history of projects and changes, as well as the source or original author for any stored IP, helping connect people with the expertise of others, whether they are still in the enterprise or not

5. Vendor Failure to Deliver

» Even with superb quality methodologies and good intentions, outsourced project failures sometimes occur
» Many organizations fail to have a contingency plan. Organizations should consider the implications of project failure, perform risk analysis, potentially shift outsourcing strategy (e.g. from single to multiple vendors), and have a documented contingency plan
» Projects may need to be rapidly transitioned between vendors and teams to minimize impact of problems
» SourceForge helps ensure project success by giving managers real-time visibility and control of projects-regardless of location-plus automated escalation and notification features to give them the earliest possible warning of potential issues. SourceForge makes it easier to spot and manage issues before they become problems, decreasing the chances of project failure
» SourceForge helps contingency plans succeed by making it much easier to transition work to from one vendor or team to another with minimal time-to-productivity

6. Scope Creep / Project Scope Changes

» The scope of most projects changes by 10-15% during the development cycle
» Outsourcing contracts typically require the client to pay the difference in cost if actual work varies from baseline assumptions and estimates
» While some changes may be necessary, SourceForge helps control scope creep and unexpected costs by monitoring and automatically notifying accountable team members of changes (or attempted changes) to project documents or unauthorized change requests
» Managers can keep projects on track by monitoring changes and workflow status of key artifacts, documents, tasks, and milestones

7. Gov't Oversight / Regulation

» Financial services, healthcare, utilities and other industries face stringent regulatory compliance requirements (e.g. Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPAA, etc.) and must ensure that offshore service providers comply with regulations and have sufficient "transparency" and traceability to comply with audits
» SourceForge helps you meet regulatory requirements by providing full traceability for regulatory compliance audits, such as those required by Sarbanes-Oxley or SAS70
» SourceForge automatically tracks and logs work performed by both in-house staff and offshore service providers, creating an auditable trail of project activities, document versions, change requests and histories, approvals, and more
» Because SourceForge is hosted at your corporate location, you retain full control over site and data access, document retention actions, back-up and data recovery policies, and degrees of "transparency"

8. Cultural Differences

» Even in offshore countries where English is widely spoken (e.g. India) strong accents, pronunciation differences, and cultural norms of interpretation compromise the effectiveness of verbal communication. Time zone differences further exacerbate communication difficulties
» Issues around verbal communication can persist even when offshore vendors have cultural training programs. These issues reduce productivity and can lead to misunderstandings that contribute to poor service delivery, rework, and extra costs
» SourceForge helps multi-cultural teams overcome communication barriers by encouraging communication and collaboration in written form. Communications can be reread, studied, associated with related information for added clarity, and automatically stored for future reference
» SourceForge helps geographically-distributed teams be more productive via robust support of asynchronous communication methods such as email and forums. Team members can collaborate via email, participate in or catch up on news and discussion forums, get the latest information pushed to them through mailing lists, and more. These features help overcome cultural and language barriers, just as it has done in the open-source community, by giving people time to understand issues and frame responses, ask clarifying questions, and collaborate on design challenges. SourceForge focuses teams on results through better communication and clarity

9. Turnover of Key Personnel

» Rapid growth in offshore outsourcing has created a dynamic labor market in India, with high turnover of key personnel
» Common turnover rates of 15-20% create liability and risk to your projects
» Turnover also increases time spent on ongoing knowledge transfer for incoming project team members
» SourceForge mitigates the impact of turnover by capturing the work of project team members-both internal and offshore-including historical context (what's been done or changed, by whom, when, for what reason), complete with dependencies. New team members can view logs of all work done by the previous member (tasks, issues, changes, notes, comments, and more), minimizing the time-to-productivity

10. Knowledge Transfer

» Companies rarely account for cost and time required for initial knowledge transfer to outsource service providers
» Transfer of technical and business knowledge to outsourcing firms reduces the productivity of most IT organizations by 20% during the first year of an outsourcing agreement
» SourceForge facilitates knowledge transfer by providing a secure, centralized repository for all documented technical and business knowledge. This helps during the initial knowledge transfer phase as well as with ongoing knowledge transfer as projects proceed. This can reduce the duration and costs of on-site service provider resources while helping to maintain productivity in IT organizations during the knowledge transfer process

But for American programmers and IT staff this is not an abstract humanitarian theme that newly-minted millionaires like Brian Benkerdorf are free to pursue. Here are some quotes from the letters to Fortune after pro-outsourcing paper was published:

Some US leaders are worried. In the recent interview Bill Gates noted that "The IT systems are your brain. If you take your brain and outsource it then any adaptability you want (becomes) a contract negotiation".

In his Forbes interview Andrew Grove is depressed the chairman of Intel said that the United States is facing a competitive crisis that puts the country is danger of losing its lead as the world's most innovative technology provider. 

"I'm here to be the skunk at your garden party," Grove told a group of about 150 beltway types gathered in Washington, D.C., this week for the Global Tech Forum, hosted by lobbying group Business Software Alliance.

Why is the United States waning? Grove says it's because of offshore outsourcing, lack of federal support of sciences education and a "ho-hum" telecommunications infrastructure. "We've lost more than 500,000 tech jobs in the last two years to foreign competitors."

Indeed, many U.S.-based companies are either thinking about or have already sent white-collar jobs outside the country. Companies can often cut costs and boost productivity dramatically by hiring skilled labor in India and other countries. Much of that work lately has involved software development and professional services.

It is this area where Grove fears the United States will lose technical leadership and market share. As proof, he said that the U.S. market share for steel and semiconductors has dropped precipitously over the years.

"Is software and services next? It's a very valid question, and it would be a miracle if it didn't happen," Grove said.

His solution: "We must fight protectionism here and abroad, double our productivity and raise the hurdles for intellectual property litigation. We must rally around this goal.". Not everybody agreed with his as for the strategy. As Christian Science Monitor  reported in the article Strategy to fight the US backlash:

LONGWOOD, FLA. - Michael Emmons had logged almost six years as a software developer when he and more than a dozen colleagues received bad news: Their employer was replacing them with workers from India.

And instead of outsourcing the jobs to India, Siemens ICN had a plan that was every bit as controversial - importing Indians to do the work here. The Americans even had to train their Indian replacements in order to receive severance pay. "They told us this is the wave of the future, and we just have to go with the flow," Mr. Emmons says.

The experience radicalized him. Once casual about politics, he is planning to run for Congress from Florida's Seventh District to fight anti-outsourcing.

It's uncertain whether he'll go to Washington, or whether broad restraints on outsourcing will be enacted. But the issue has already captured public attention and sent both federal and state lawmakers scurrying to respond.

The economics of outsourcing are complicated, making it difficult to craft a broad policy response. But to Emmons, action can be taken on the particular challenge that cost him his job: programs that let high-skilled foreign workers into the United States when sought by certain employers. Some in Congress agree, and are sponsoring bills to change the visa programs in question.

Emmons blames his pink slip on the L-1 visa, which allows multinational corporations to transfer overseas employees to their US subsidiaries for up to seven years. Critics argue that the practice drives down salaries for American employees because foreign replacements often work for lower wages and no benefits.

Paula Davis, a Siemens spokeswoman, describes the company's decision to hire Tata Consultancy Services in India as "part of a global restructuring effort." She says it is "more economical to outsource this particular function." Referring to the company's requirement that laid-off employees train their foreign replacements, she adds, "It's industry standard when you're outsourcing work to any firm that you're going to have to train the new consulting firm."

As one sign of the company's commitment to American workers, Ms. Davis says, Siemens expects to add about 3,200 manufacturing jobs in the US.

That is small consolation to people like Emmons. "My job still exists," he says. "It's being done by foreign workers."

Relaxing at his home near Orlando on a Saturday afternoon as his children, Hanna and Troup, play with the family's dogs, Emmons recounts the events beginning in July 2002, when he learned that Indian workers would be filling the department's jobs. Although as a contract worker he was not eligible for severance pay, his colleagues were Siemens employees.

"It wasn't fun training our replacements," he says. "There was a lot of rage going on in the building. Two people left without taking severance." He trained three Indian workers to do his job.

Emmons now works as an application developer at the state district attorney's office, but he took a sizable pay cut. Some of his colleagues struggled to find new jobs. One cut grass, another worked at the post office before eventually landing a job in South Carolina.

"The visa program has got to be fixed," Emmons continues. "Visas have got to be for what they say they're for - when employers can't find American workers."

As one way to prevent such job losses, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D) of Connecticut has introduced a bill requiring companies to pay L-1 visa holders the prevailing wage. Any firm that has laid off American workers within the past six months would not be eligible for L-1 visas.

"It's a very serious problem," Representative DeLauro says. "I'm supportive of guest-worker programs. They have a place in our economy. But L-1 visas are just being used as a way to bring in people to take jobs from Americans and not pay benefits or prevailing wages."

Her bill would cap the number of L-1 visas issued each year at 35,000. Currently there are no limits. H-1B visas, granted to workers from other countries in fields such as computer programming, engineering, and healthcare, are capped at 65,000 a year.

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services recently announced that it reached its H-1B quota seven months early. This could result in a spurt of L-1 visa applications, officials say.

Other bills introduced by Rep. Nancy Johnson (R) of Connecticut and Sen. Christopher Dodd (D) of Connecticut would reform L-1 and H-1B visas to prevent unintended job losses in the US.

Defenders of the visas argue against such legislative protection. "We're hopeful and optimistic that Congress will do the right thing and ensure that US companies have access to the best talent in the world," says Jeff Landy, senior vice president of the Information Technology Association of America in Arlington, Va.

Talent is the justification that spokesman Brad Russell uses in explaining why USAA, a financial services company in San Antonio, employs 600 contract workers from India. "The expertise they bring is unmatched," he says. On one scale ranking software expertise from 1 to 5, Mr. Russell explains, the Indian workers score at the top - level 5. "At USAA, we're just achieving level 3."

But Emmons notes that some replacement workers at Siemens needed extensive training. In general, he sees a threat to knowledge jobs. "Basically, any job that can be done at a desk is at risk of being moved abroad," he says - or of being done in the US by a worker who moves here from abroad.

"We shouldn't have to train foreign workers in our own country to take our jobs," he says. "I have nothing against these people who want to better themselves. But that shouldn't be at the expense of Americans."

Additional Reading: "Vanity Fair" of Linus Torvalds

Coming soon:
Linus - The Action Figure
Linus - The Breakfast Cereal
Linus - The Fragrance
From Slashdot posting

When politicians are having problems they know that that best way out is to publish your autobiography. Around year 2000 Harper Business (the same publisher, which published Canter and Siegel's book, "How to make a fortune on the information superhighway") decided to contribute to the cult of personality and make some money in the process. The result was  Just for Fun: The Story of an Accidental Revolutionary published in June 2002.  It was funny to read such a ego-serving book.  Especially ironic was total omission of FreeBSD/OpenBSD information. The book was written for non-technical audience and as many host-written autobiography mixes true facts with fiction. It never mentions any of Linux kernel co-authors like Alan Cox.

It is clear that the book was written just as a cash cow for Linus and the publisher and try to milk general audience, not so much Linux of Unix enthusiasts, and that fact explains a lot about "for dummies" style of the book: dumped down, self-serving contents with details skimmed over.  It's not "Summing UP" type of the book, it's "How Great Am I" type (or "vanity fair" type, if you wish) type of autobiographies  typical for Hollywood actors and entertainers. The important thing is that Linus himself can well be  considered to be partially a PR-manufactured "technical entertainer" figure.  The moment of publication was more or less OK: despite stock crash and problems of Linux companies the movement still have a lot of press coverage and that stimulated interest for such a book.

The book was published in early June and almost instantly became a bestseller on Amazon. For a month of so it has a rating of less than 1000, which is much better than the book of another "Accidental Revolutionary".

All-in-all in this book Linus reiterated his fragmented  (and opinioned) views on a lot of different subjects including but not limited to  Mach microkernel, Java, Netscape-Mozilla project, Apple+SteveJobs, Sun+BillJoy, etc. The book is poorly organized, and looks more like a poorly-edited collection of notes:  much of it's information is repeated two or sometimes even three times. The same analogies were used over and over again. As a Finnish reader noted on Amazon:

American journalist David Diamond has followed Linus in the making of the book. His notes all around it make undoubtedly the worst part -- excluding hype-quotes on the back cover.

Slashdot discussion  was pretty interesting as a slice of reactions of a very pro-Linux community to this wonderful news. Even in this community reaction was mixed ;-), but it did not hurt sales of the book, see below:

Linus Gates (Score:1)
by magnum32 on Tuesday November 28, @10:50AM EST (#15)
(User #171166 Info)
Yeah, Hes got another kid now and daddy has to make some extra money to feed the new mouth!!
Hmm. (Score:1)
by alcohollins on Tuesday November 28, @10:51AM EST (#18)
(User #64804 Info)
I wonder if he'll write his autobiography by accident, like he did his favorite OS.
Aha! (Score:1)
by Snowfox
([email protected]) on Tuesday November 28, @10:51AM EST (#19)
(User #34467 Info)
"AHA, I say! So THAT'S how you make money when you give your code away..." - Snow's PHB
Re:Too Young? (Score:1)
by Abcd1234 on Tuesday November 28, @12:33PM EST (#156)
(User #188840 Info)
Didn't Brittany Spears' autobiography come out a year or two ago? I would think Linus would have more to say than she did

Now now, that's not a fair comparison at all... virtually everyone has more to say than Brittany Spears. Yeesh. ;)

Re:Too Young? (Score:1)
by eric17 on Tuesday November 28, @02:16PM EST (#198)
(User #53263 Info)
Heh. On the other hand, she did a great job with semiconductor physics. Maybe it's time for "Britney's Guide to the Linux Kernel".
Revolutionary? (Score:4, Funny)
by Rombuu
([email protected]) on Tuesday November 28, @11:16AM EST (#65)
(User #22914 Info)
So, reimplmenting a 30 year old OS is revolutionary now?

Thompson and Richtie may be revolutionaries for designing unix in the first place, but redoing someone elses work hardly seems revolutionary.

Heck, someone is going to call Gjs Van Sant's Psycho original next...

Space is Big / Space is Dark / It's Hard to Find / A Place to Park - Burma Shave

Re:Revolutionary? (Score:5, Insightful)
by Sloppy
(sloppy@spam^H^H^H^ on Tuesday November 28, @12:13PM EST (#137)
(User #14984 Info)

So, reimplmenting a 30 year old OS is revolutionary now?

Yes, because amazingly, after he reimplemented a decades old OS, people started using it. Something about his project attracted people, and that's a social achievement, combined with good luck/fate (e.g. BSD's legal troubles).

Luck, being in the right place at the right time, resulting in social achievement ... sounds like every revolution I've ever heard of.

Have a Sloppy night!

Coming Soon... (Score:5, Funny)
by jonfromspace
([email protected]) on Tuesday November 28, @11:32AM EST (#98)
(User #179394 Info)
Linus - The Action Figure
Linus - The Breakfast Cereal
Linus - The Fragrance

Lotteries are a tax on people that suck at math

"Linus - The Unstoppable" The Movie (Score:1)
by Sabalon on Tuesday November 28, @01:36PM EST (#185)
(User #1684 Info)
      Linus take on Tannenbaum and obliterate Minux

      Linus take on Bill and Lynne Joltz and leap ahead of 386BSD

      Linus take on the Devil (either BSD or Bill Gates)

      Linus rescue a colony of furry penguins.

Re:Coming Soon... (Score:2)
by dmuth
([email protected]) on Tuesday November 28, @02:33PM EST (#202)
(User #14143 Info)

Linus - The Action Figure
Linus - The Breakfast Cereal
Linus - The Fragrance

Ya know, if they ever release "Linus - The Toilet Paper", I think Microsoft will be the biggest customer of that particular item. :-)

What I would like to read about (Score:2, Insightful)
by dbmartin00 on Tuesday November 28, @11:41AM EST (#113)
(User #226655 Info)
How did he know so much about running, organizing, succesfully managing a project of such size when he was just a grad student?

I know it didn't all just happen over night, but the man has some serious organizational skills. Did he have a mentor, or was it just natural?

Re:Linus the movie, Linus the musical .... (Score:1)
by omay on Tuesday November 28, @12:34PM EST (#158)
(User #192614 Info)
Who should play Linus in the movie? John Denver would have been good, but he needed more flying lessons.
Arm yourself with knowledge.
EXCLUSIVE! (Score:2, Funny)
by theroge on Tuesday November 28, @12:24PM EST (#150)
(User #214016 Info)
A quote leaked from the manuscript at the publisher:

"I wanted to create an OS better than the example OS use in my OS class: MINIX. I never did succeed in making Linux better, but I had a lot of fun on the way."

Doesn't this say it all?

Presumably... (Score:1)
by ColdGrits on Tuesday November 28, @12:35PM EST (#161)
(User #204506 Info)
...the book will be available for free download. After all, information wants to be free, right?
Slashdot - Open Source : Closed Minds (I know it's not original - but then, nor is most Open Source, so sue me!)
It's just his versioning system (Score:3, Funny)
by vees
([email protected]) on Tuesday November 28, @01:18PM EST (#177)
(User #10844 Info)
When he wants to publish "Linus Version Two: Just Outta Beta" forty years from now, will HarperCollins still have the rights?

He's just getting a head start, just like other famous "younger" people like Tiger Woods. When he's in his seventies, he'll publish all over again to appeal to the gray-haired Geek Generation.
The opinions of my employers are unimportant and often boring, so I'm replacing them with my own.

Well he needs SOME income! (Score:2)
by piku on Tuesday November 28, @03:35PM EST (#210)
(User #161975 Info)
Its not like you can survive selling free software... (please forget the technicalities for this post)
"Accidental Revolutionary"? I've seen it before... (Score:1)
by nidarus on Wednesday November 29, @01:09AM EST (#232)
(User #240160 Info)
Wasn't the printed version of "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" called "The Cathedral and the Bazaar - Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary"?
So who is the Accidental Revolutionary? ESR or Linus? Or maybe it's all the people who are celebrities in the world of Open Source (so I guess RMS is an Accidental Revolutionary as well).
Re:The reason (Score:1)
by AFCArchvile
([email protected]) on Tuesday November 28, @01:15PM EST (#176)
(User #221494 Info)
Okay, here goes:

I loathe the idea of an autobiography of Linus Torvalds because the book's primary topic would inevitably revolve around how Linus tweaked with Unix, made it work (marginally), and released the source code for free. Furthermore, there's an almost 100% chance that the text would be peppered with megalomaniacal remarks, making this autobiography reminiscent of Mein Kampf.

Furthermore, the combination of a megalomaniacal mentality with a slapdash work ethic is disastrous. You shouldn't be able to take over the world with a folly, but Linus has proven that he can. One example is a quote from Linus himself:

"Testing? What's that? If it compiles, it is good, if it boots up, it is perfect."

That line alone makes me hate Linus and fear his creation. If Nikita Khruschev had that same sense of pig-headed ethics, then we wouldn't be here. The Earth would be a cratered mass stuck in nuclear winter due to certain events which took place in October 1962.

Software designers are so infatuated with the fact that they can, that they don't stop to think if they should.

Amazon reviewers as always were mostly positive, like in the example below:

5 out of 5 stars Linus is god and this is his bible!, December 27, 2001

  Reviewer: Vidar Holen from Norway

This book is really great. It's full of funny stories about Linus life, and has a complete history of the early days of Linux. It's even better for me, being both scandinavian and nerdish. A very inspiring book about Linus, Linux and open source.

And I mean, who can't love a guy that opens a speech with "I am your god."?

but some negative reviews cropped in:

1 out of 5 stars Expecting much better, April 28, 2004
  Reviewer: [email protected] (see more about me)

First problem Mr. Torvalds co-wrote the book - should've left it to the professionals. Though one gets the impression from the book that he's such a control freak that wasn't an option. Considering his ego I'm suprised the book wasn't longer. A lot of drivel, negative comments about industry people he's met, ego stroking, self-important blather. He's cashed out, made his millions and good for him - think he'd acknowledge the Free Software Foundation/GNU etc. instead of critizing them. Nothing wrong with being a sell-out, just don't deny it and minimize the contributions others made to your success.

2 out of 5 stars interesting and annoying at the same time, December 6, 2003

  Reviewer: Roman from Zurich, Switzerland

Frankly speaking, I'm usually too lazy for writing reviews.
Because I was so disappointed by the book, I write one now.

The good aspect of the book is that one gets a glimpse of what kind of guy Linus Torvalds is. That's quite interesting - since his regarded as being a kind of superstar.
The bad aspect (for me) is that this guy's arrogance and overestimation of his merits is so annoying.

The book delivers what you might expect in a biography about a 34 year old operating-system-programming-know-it-all ... but not more.

2 out of 5 stars It's OK, but nothing new, January 20, 2003

  Reviewer: Rodrigo Vieira (see more about me) from Oslo Norway

I read the excellent "Rebel Code" and thought that reading "Just for Fun" would be a nice idea, to know more about Linux and its author through his own words. The problem is that Linus and the journalist who helped him failed to make the book interesting, so it becomes a sequence of chapters like "yeah I needed a new driver for my modem, so...well I did it"

In one page he's doing Linux version 0.01 alone in his bedroom in Helsinki, 15 pages later he's talking about having 10 million users, and leaves no clue HOW it happened, or who was involved (guys like Dave Miller and Alan Cox, so important to the Linux community, didn't get one single mention)

So if you want to really understand not only WHAT happened but HOW it happened, I recommend "Rebel Code" instead. And it covers not only Linux, but the whole open-source movement. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition

3 out of 5 stars sophomoric self indulgence, January 1, 2003

  Reviewer: railmeat (see more about me) from Mountain View, CA USA

I certainly hope that Linus Torvalds and David Diamond had fun writing Just for Fun. They did such a poor job of it that I was not able to enjoy reading it.

The first thing that bothered me about the book was the poor proofreading and editing. The book switches between second person and first person. There does not seem to be any reason for this in the narrative. I think it is just sloppiness. There are also a number of fairly obvious typos. You would think they could have hired a proof reader who knew that ls is a UNIX command.

Another problem with the book is that it really offers little new information about Torvalds or Linux. Linus has given many interviews over the last few years as Linux has become popular. Anyone who has read a few of those interviews will know most everything in this book.

Linus has accomplished something quite remarkable with the creation of his operating system kernel, and with the popularity he has brought to the open source movement. Unfortunately Just for Fun offers no insight into why Torvalds was the person who was able to do this. What makes Linus Torvalds so special? After reading this book that question remains unanswered.

This book would be of value to a reader who is interested in Linux and the open source movement, but some how had not read anything about it up to now. For any one other than that reader this exercise in sophomoric self indulgence is a waste of time. --This text refers to the edition

2 out of 5 stars A disappointing hacked-together jumble of words., January 16, 2002

  Reviewer: carlashley from Essex Junction, VT United States

Linus' "theory of life" attempts to frame this book. I am a bit surprised that "Just For Fun" contains several grammatical errors which are typical of second-language English speakers; particularly since Linus teamed up with an American journalist, David Diamond, to write the book. Some people might be more forgiving of the poorly organized words in this book, but I am a bit disappointed. It is a good thing that the Linux kernel went through more reviews than his book, "Just For Fun".

I found the computer-loving geek at the beginning of the book a bit likable. The book seems to follow Linus from his beginning as a holed-up in the bedroom geek to a purest who didn't want to comercialize Linux by working for a Linux related company to a money-lusting American capitalist.

I'm going to donate my book to our library; it isn't worthy of my library shelf. By the way, Linus' theory of life is incredibly obvious and boring as seen through the eyes of an object oriented programmer.

Please be warned that you will find the book's text somewhat insulting if you take your religion seriously and if you are a devoted Linus Torvalds fan.

Where its all going

Commercialization of Linux ensured its initial success, help to fight BSD and raised Linus to prominence. But it went too far and Linux now became just a wheel in huge money making machine called Linux. Machine that is not unlike Microsoft but instead of own developers uses outsourcing as the main development paradigm. 

Linux now develops independently on Linus opinions as the development is driven by the needs of commercial distributers like Red Hat and Novell. And this huge momentum drags Linus with it. In his paper Is Linus Torvalds even speaking for Linux anymore   Don Reisinger noted that

The truth of the matter is Linux was originally developed to abandon the idea that beauty and "hand-holding" was necessary to create a great operating system and it became somewhat of a counter-culture. And as Torvalds continues to hold on to that dream, he is seeing his valued community take on a life of its own and he is being pushed even deeper into the realm of insignificance.

... ... ...

Linux is moving away from its founding ideals and not even Linus Torvalds can change it

"Linux is moving away from its founding ideals and not even Linus Torvalds can change it"



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Groupthink : Two Party System as Polyarchy : Corruption of Regulators : Bureaucracies : Understanding Micromanagers and Control Freaks : Toxic Managers :   Harvard Mafia : Diplomatic Communication : Surviving a Bad Performance Review : Insufficient Retirement Funds as Immanent Problem of Neoliberal Regime : PseudoScience : Who Rules America : Neoliberalism  : The Iron Law of Oligarchy : Libertarian Philosophy


War and Peace : Skeptical Finance : John Kenneth Galbraith :Talleyrand : Oscar Wilde : Otto Von Bismarck : Keynes : George Carlin : Skeptics : Propaganda  : SE quotes : Language Design and Programming Quotes : Random IT-related quotesSomerset Maugham : Marcus Aurelius : Kurt Vonnegut : Eric Hoffer : Winston Churchill : Napoleon Bonaparte : Ambrose BierceBernard Shaw : Mark Twain Quotes


Vol 25, No.12 (December, 2013) Rational Fools vs. Efficient Crooks The efficient markets hypothesis : Political Skeptic Bulletin, 2013 : Unemployment Bulletin, 2010 :  Vol 23, No.10 (October, 2011) An observation about corporate security departments : Slightly Skeptical Euromaydan Chronicles, June 2014 : Greenspan legacy bulletin, 2008 : Vol 25, No.10 (October, 2013) Cryptolocker Trojan (Win32/Crilock.A) : Vol 25, No.08 (August, 2013) Cloud providers as intelligence collection hubs : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2010 : Inequality Bulletin, 2009 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2008 : Copyleft Problems Bulletin, 2004 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2011 : Energy Bulletin, 2010 : Malware Protection Bulletin, 2010 : Vol 26, No.1 (January, 2013) Object-Oriented Cult : Political Skeptic Bulletin, 2011 : Vol 23, No.11 (November, 2011) Softpanorama classification of sysadmin horror stories : Vol 25, No.05 (May, 2013) Corporate bullshit as a communication method  : Vol 25, No.06 (June, 2013) A Note on the Relationship of Brooks Law and Conway Law


Fifty glorious years (1950-2000): the triumph of the US computer engineering : Donald Knuth : TAoCP and its Influence of Computer Science : Richard Stallman : Linus Torvalds  : Larry Wall  : John K. Ousterhout : CTSS : Multix OS Unix History : Unix shell history : VI editor : History of pipes concept : Solaris : MS DOSProgramming Languages History : PL/1 : Simula 67 : C : History of GCC developmentScripting Languages : Perl history   : OS History : Mail : DNS : SSH : CPU Instruction Sets : SPARC systems 1987-2006 : Norton Commander : Norton Utilities : Norton Ghost : Frontpage history : Malware Defense History : GNU Screen : OSS early history

Classic books:

The Peter Principle : Parkinson Law : 1984 : The Mythical Man-MonthHow to Solve It by George Polya : The Art of Computer Programming : The Elements of Programming Style : The Unix Hater’s Handbook : The Jargon file : The True Believer : Programming Pearls : The Good Soldier Svejk : The Power Elite

Most popular humor pages:

Manifest of the Softpanorama IT Slacker Society : Ten Commandments of the IT Slackers Society : Computer Humor Collection : BSD Logo Story : The Cuckoo's Egg : IT Slang : C++ Humor : ARE YOU A BBS ADDICT? : The Perl Purity Test : Object oriented programmers of all nations : Financial Humor : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2008 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2010 : The Most Comprehensive Collection of Editor-related Humor : Programming Language Humor : Goldman Sachs related humor : Greenspan humor : C Humor : Scripting Humor : Real Programmers Humor : Web Humor : GPL-related Humor : OFM Humor : Politically Incorrect Humor : IDS Humor : "Linux Sucks" Humor : Russian Musical Humor : Best Russian Programmer Humor : Microsoft plans to buy Catholic Church : Richard Stallman Related Humor : Admin Humor : Perl-related Humor : Linus Torvalds Related humor : PseudoScience Related Humor : Networking Humor : Shell Humor : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2011 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2012 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2013 : Java Humor : Software Engineering Humor : Sun Solaris Related Humor : Education Humor : IBM Humor : Assembler-related Humor : VIM Humor : Computer Viruses Humor : Bright tomorrow is rescheduled to a day after tomorrow : Classic Computer Humor

The Last but not Least Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage and those who manage what they do not understand ~Archibald Putt. Ph.D

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