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 Linux in the corporate world

 Author:  Topic:  Posted:
Jul 09, 2001

As a top-flight consultant who has previously worked with some of the top Fortune 500 companies, I am engaged in an ongoing research project into the social and technical phenomenon known to its advocates as "open source," started in 1991 with the birth of the Linux (or is that GNU/Linux? Nobody seems to have a good answer for that. In fact, nobody seems to have a polite answer for that) operating system and championed by noted anti-capitalist Richard M Stallmann.

Here is my prelimary report on the shadowy world of "open source."


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Open source software (hereafter referred to as OSS) started in 1991 when a young Finn named Linus Torrvolds decided that he could do better than the commercial OS vendors, and began to write an operating system himself, using the code from Andrew Tanembaum's mini-operating system Minix as his initial code base. For reasons currently unknown to myself, he chose to use an obscure license written by an acedemic who had a grudge against Xerox, called the GNU Public License (or GPL).

In the years since then the takeup of Linux in the technical community has been immense, helped mainly by the rise of the Internet during that time rather than on any other merits. The ability for so many people with social maladjustments and personality flaws to connect has encouraged dangerous levels of fanaticism and groupthink - I myself have encountered anger and vitriol on websites such as Slashdot, a site I now know is little more than somewhere for the unimportant to feel important.

Alongside the rise of Linux has been the rise of the open source movement, bouyed by the use of the GPL for Linux and the tireless crusading of Richard Stallmann (hereafter referred to as RMS, as he is known in the "open source" community). Many programs of varying quality have come out (as can be seen on sites such as "Freshmeat" or "SourceForge"), although only one or two have got to anything like the level of quality commercial software has displayed, and innovation has been sorely lacking.

In recent years the "open source" community has suffered from an ideological split, with the anti-capitalist side being championed by RMS and the pro-capitalist side being champtioned by Eric Raymond (also referred to as ESR). It is my opinion that in dealing with the "open source" community, it would be beneficial to approach ESR, as current indications show he is willing to pander to corporate concerns over the trivial concerns of end-users. The two sides in this debate argue tirelessly, only stopping to launch rabid and incoherent attacks at "Micro$oft".

So what is the benefit of "open source" for the business world? Very little I am afraid. While low-end businesses may benefit from the low initial costs of setting up "open source" solutions, such systems have poor scalability, innumerable support problems and leave customers at the mercy of the frenzied hordes of developers who seem to think this "bazaar" approach (bizarre more like it!) to software development is superior, despite a complete lack of proof that this is so.

Indeed, the fact that so much "open source" software has been tainted by the anti-capitalist GPL means that it is worthless to the business world as a raw resource. It may well be possible to challenge this in court given the resources - despite rabid zealotry, few "open source" proponents are willing to put their wallets where their mouths are and fund those organisations that represent "open source." So far the only reason that no company has challenged the GPL is because of the inevitable negative publicity it would generate, and possible reprisal DDoS attacks from angry "hackers."

However, my investigations will continue, for if nothing else the "open source" community is ever changing, if not progressing.

Jon Erikson,
Senior consultant, NPO Technologies


but sir (2.50 / 2) (#1)
by johnny ambiguous on Mon Jul 9th, 2001 at 05:42:23 PM PST
While Open Source software may have but poor profit-generating potential from the pov of a computer-oriented consultant such as yourself, does it not offer a means by which other corporations, not involved in the creation of computer software except as end-users, can get hold of programs which are frankly cheaper than the top-quality but also top-dollar wares you and yours flog - in fact not just cheaper but out-and-out free - thus improving their all-important bottom lines?

Yours WD "corporate buyer" K -

ps: "Trolling is not tolerated here. Any comment may be deleted by a site admin, and all trolls will be deleted. This is your fair warning." "Not tolerated"?! hoo hah! Youse guys!

Getting into my Chevrolet Magic Fire, I drove slowly back to the office. - L. Rosen

Sweeping generalizations (3.00 / 2) (#2)
by kezgin on Mon Jul 9th, 2001 at 07:11:59 PM PST
This article was looking remotely promising until the phrase people with social maladjustments and personality flaws was brought in. It seemed to go downhill from there. Characterizing everyone who uses/advocates open source in this way is just downright wrong. And I believe there are many ways in which people support open source financially. Here is proof that people do. Here's some more. I know I have supported GAIM and other oss projects in the past; I know others have as well. I seriously want to know who considers this article to be anything but trolling, especially since this site is run on oss and was advertised on at least one site that is frequented by such "people with social maladjustments and personality flaws".

Make a difference in our society. End it.

Poorly done (2.00 / 1) (#3)
by Anonymous Reader on Tue Jul 10th, 2001 at 06:46:38 AM PST
I have to admit I didn't get very far into the article. I was immediately turned off by the glaring factual error in the first sentence.

Saying that OSS (or more properly Free Software) started with Torvald's Linux in '91 is akin to saying that science started with a fellow named Isaac Newton.

Another obvious example is calling RMS an anti-capitalist. While his primary personal concern would seem to be freedom, he has done nothing anti-capitalist that I am aware of. Further, he actively encourages the sale of Free Software. (See From that page "we encourage people who redistribute free software to charge as much as they wish or can." which sounds like the very definition of capitalism to me.

Free Software is anti-capitalist in the same way that Libraries, or Boy Scouting, or a Bible study group are, that is; not at all. Capitalism is largely irrelevant to these things.

One can hardly be surprised that Jon reached faulty conclusions, since they are based on "facts" that don?t seem to have any particular correlation with reality.

It is a powerful article (5.00 / 1) (#4)
by Anonymous Reader on Tue Jul 10th, 2001 at 06:58:52 AM PST
Because it shows how the business community thinks. It is not the hackers that will make or break linux; as always it is the MBE's and people in controlling positions in Fortune 500 compenies.

A lot of people think like the author of the article; it is not the task of the Open Source Community to be superior about this, and whine about irrelevant details, but rather to attack the broad sweep of his allegations.

don't be ridiculous (5.00 / 1) (#7)
by jsm on Tue Jul 10th, 2001 at 09:16:28 AM PST
Stallman is a socialist; not that this has anything to do with anything, but he's never made a secret of the fact. You should check out his website

... the worst tempered and least consistent of the editors
... now also Legal department and general counsel,

This is a sham (3.00 / 1) (#5)
by Anonymous Reader on Tue Jul 10th, 2001 at 07:58:45 AM PST
As a core *BSD developer I feel the need to post here. I feel this article is a sham because it gives more attention to GNU/Linux and takes away precious moments that could be used to discuss the ultimate superiority of *BSD. Lets look at the facts, shall we?

1)BSD has true kernel space threads, Linux has a hacked implementation of pthreads wich actually uses fork().
2)BSD has true SMP support. Linux has a kludged user-space fine grain locking mechanism which doesn't give crap for performance.
3)*BSD has full security implemented while GNU/Linux allows little endian machines to overwrite suplemental registers with any buffer overflow code, thus giving root to any user.

These are just a few of my gripes, please, I beg of you, please stop this Linux nonsense and use *BSD.

Not only that (5.00 / 1) (#9)
by Anonymous Reader on Tue Jul 10th, 2001 at 09:34:51 AM PST
Linux stole code from BSD for the TCP/IP stack. No wonder RMS got pissed. Never mind calling it GNU/Linux they should call it GNU/BSD/Linux.

As a user of NetBSD since the very early days (0.8 on infomagic CD) I have to say I am very upset at the way Linux has taken all the publicity when *BSD is clearly superior.

Oh well, there's no justice in the world. Perhaps its time to run GNU/Heard.

It says trolling is not tolerated (2.50 / 2) (#6)
by Anonymous Reader on Tue Jul 10th, 2001 at 08:59:59 AM PST
But this whole story is a troll.

If OSS doesn't offer anything to "Big Business" why is IBM spending $1B on it this year?

If OS is of little benefit why is half the email on the internet handled by Sendmail (an OSS MTA) and why are there more Apache installations than all commercial webservers combined?

OSS certainly has been "helped [. . .] by the rise of the Internet" but it also made the rise of the internet possible. If there was no OSS, there would be no IIS or .NET.

By the way, the server that is serving up this poor excuse for an article is running . . . you guessed it, Linux and Apache.

You are obviously on crack (5.00 / 1) (#8)
by Anonymous Reader on Tue Jul 10th, 2001 at 09:27:43 AM PST
If there was no OSS, there would be no IIS or .NET

If you believe this, it is YOU who are the 'troll'. I see nothing trollish about pointing out that the open source emperor has no clothes. IBM are not actually spending $1bn on Linux. They are spending considerably less than that. This is what is known in Business terms as 'hedging your bets'. In the very unlikely event that Linux actually becomes a popular choice for the desktop, IBM wants some of that action. But it is hard to see how Linux can succeed on the desktop, since Microsoft OWN it, due to their questionable, but undeniably legal business practices.

you are a brit (5.00 / 1) (#10)
by Anonymous Reader on Tue Jul 10th, 2001 at 02:41:18 PM PST
But it is hard to see how Linux can succeed on the desktop, since Microsoft OWN it
And I claim my five pounds.

IBM/Linux/desktop (none / 0) (#12)
by Anonymous Reader on Sat Oct 20th, 2001 at 10:35:33 PM PST
<<This is what is known in Business terms as 'hedging your bets'. In the very unlikely event that Linux actually becomes a popular choice for the desktop, IBM wants some of that action.>>

It doesn't have anything to do with the desktop. IBM is developing hundreds of application for Linux and designing many Linux ran systems. IBM isn't looking at Linux for use on desktop systems.

is trolling art? (0.50 / 2) (#11)
by alprazolam on Tue Jul 10th, 2001 at 03:12:09 PM PST
what's the point of this? to show that the best troll is one where you stick to the original rules? hasn't trolling moved past where it was 2 years ago? reading this gives me a sense of watching an iron chef morimoto vs ohta battle, where the challenger complains that morimoto's cooking is not japanese.

What? (none / 0) (#13)
by Anonymous Reader on Sun Dec 2nd, 2001 at 11:19:28 PM PST
Excuse me but as far as businesses are concerned, you seem to know squat...

Many businesses run Linux servers because Linux is known for being the hacker platform for one reason. Security. Why launch cyber attacks agianst others when you're as vunerable..... and this power is brought to you by open source...



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