Ok, I know I’m just opening up a flame war, but…

After reading a recent post here called ‘If you need in 3D engine’ I decided to check out a few of the engines. While poking around the Crystal Space site I found a link to a dialog between Jorrit and Richard Stallman. At first I didn’t know who Stallman was (I’m new to the free software and open source thing). After looking him up I read some of his articles, this one in particular:

and although I agree with the philosophy in theory, realistically an entire society cannot operate this way. Look at it from this perspective, if no one received anything for his or her work, who would do it? Well people that enjoyed it, right? Well the system breaks down when it comes time to find someone to clean the toilets. Anyway the people that enjoy doing a particular activity are not always the most qualified to do it. Example if I were in charge of developing video games (based on the fact that I like to do it) the shelves at Best Buy would be empty (based on my current perpetual development cycle ).

Anyway I was just wondering how some of you felt about this?

My take:
Is free software good? Yes, however like everything in life you do need, at one point, to put aside ideals and be realistic, not all software can be developed this way.

Maybe I totally misunderstood the whole point (wouldn’t be the first time ).

I hope no one takes offense to this. I’m not questioning the use of free software and open source, I’m all for it.

Thanks for your comments…


It’s obvious that you didn’t read this: http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html

Yes, people will still be paid to do the work, but the point is that when they’re done, everyone has access to the source code.

The person who wrote it, the person who purchased it, and potentially even their competitors. If everyone plays by these rules, then the software itself is not the limiting factor, it’s the rest of the business - as it should be.

The fact that people are paid to write software today is a little analogous to people hundreds of years ago being paid to add long lists of numbers together, or perform other simple numerical calculations. It’s tedious, and you don’t typically do it just for the sake of doing it - you do it to achieve some other goal.


But no, this is not a real good place to talk about it. =)

Actually, maybe there’s a better analogy. In the time of Pythagoras, mathematical formula and algorithms were closely guarded secrets - punishable by death in some sects. Now, the idea is almost laughable that people were actually killed for revealing the Pythagorean Theorem - a^2 + b^2 = c^2. Today, formulas and ideas like this are shared almost freely. Look at http://mathworld.wolfram.com for some great examples.

But think about it, that’s just a formula - a process - an algorithm. It’s a way to take data, and process it to achieve some goal.

If people shared the ideas of software code as freely as we share the functions of mathematics, wouldn’t we have a lot better progress?

[This message has been edited by VikingCoder (edited 03-18-2003).]

I already read that doc, but your right I did misunderstand it. I got so caught up in the ‘not open source’ tirade that I focused on that instead of the similarities. I have to admit that by reading the dialog Stallman had with jorrit, I was immediately put off of the free software idea. I thought the ‘I only speak of free software’ was a little full of himself, when I assume he was actually trying to avoid confusion similar to what I just had. I guess I was thinking of the ‘free beer’ (or I saw the word beer and my eyes glazed over ‘mmmm… Beer…’ ).

Btw: I think bringing this up here was all right. There are a lot of people here whose opinion I respect. These people are working on software similar to mine and a lot of them give back to the community through demos and open source code. I was curious to get the opinions of those people. Sounds legit to me.

Thanks for setting me straight…


Btw (for anyone who’s interested): after reading that ‘3d engine’ post, I checked out the following engines:

Crystal Space

The new renderer for the Crystal Space engine puts it way ahead of the others (if only they would get it done… ETA??). Also PlaneShift is neat, the fx are a little Q2 meets Q3, but it is a lot of fun to poke around in the world.

My 2 cents…


The software industry is unique in that there are almost no manufacturing costs and almost no distribution costs.

You perform the equivalent of what in any other industry would be called designing, prototyping and testing, then you can make infinite copies and distribute over the internet for almost nothing (at least it’s possible and it’s done by some).

Given this reality it is not unreasonable that some software can be free (to copy distribute view and modify) and that it sould do very well at it.

Some people get paid for this design work, others do it voluntarily for the rewards it offers. Others get paid to support a product that’s in the public domain. Nobody isn’t getting paid for their work and all of society will NEVER operate on this basis.

You might equally say that society cannot function with a monopoly battling interoperability and open standards while charging everyone hunreds of dollars for a product that physically costs a dollar to make and the design costs of which are amortized by a tiny fraction of the market, but it does operate this way today.

[This message has been edited by dorbie (edited 03-18-2003).]

You are just asking for a flame war, aren’t you.

A few years back I wrote a letter to the editor to “Login” magazine (Usenix journal) suggesting that OSS was a dangerous threat to the software profession. I guess I stirred up a real hornet’s nest.

I’m not about to get involved in a flamewar (I simply don’t have the time for it), so I’ll just post my opinion without further elaboration: OSS (especially but not exclusively in its GPL variant) is a radical and destructive software ideology based on opposition to intellectual property.

That’s the one-sentence summary; I could write a whole book on the topic.

There, I’ve said it. I’ll say no more in this thread.

  • Matt

Going open source is fun

It allows you to drop your ‘fun projects’ into everyone else’s hands. That way, if anyone is still missing a feature they can add it themselves. This is especially important if the original author loses motivation/interest to go ahead. Much better than completely abandoning a project. If you keep it closed source it’s essentially already dead at that point.

I understand that it’s hard to argue that way in a corporate context. But yes, in general, I am opposed to ‘intellectual property’, mostly because I don’t believe in (overly trivial) software patents …

As for Matt’s stance, drivers are a real tricky issue. Somehow they’re an extension to your overall hardware package and you don’t want competitors to get the scoop on that.

Umm, has it hurt Brian Paul to work on Mesa? Heck, I know his name, otherwise I surely wouldn’t …

[This message has been edited by zeckensack (edited 03-19-2003).]

When people talk about Open Source Software it would be great if they could do some research before saying anything at all.

That is the only thing I’m going to say in this offtopic topic.

> Is free software good?

Is TV good? It depends? Same for free software.

Now, if you actually refer to open-source, then yes, it’s good, in that it blasts away the notion that you can/should patent ideas, which leads to ridiculous abuses
(like the college-level patented math formula on fish eye and panoramic rendering).

However, license-wise, GPL is evil because it’s contaminating, and can theoretically legally affect source that isn’t related, while not bringing much to the pot. It’s as evil as patents on ideas, just from the other extreme. So LGPL maybe, MPL yes, but GPL no.

Finally, if patented ideas are IMO dangerous, copyrights are completely necessary, whatever the licensing scheme or the openness of the source, just like patenting devices and actual working solutions is necessary (in opposition to patenting abstract ideas).

Originally posted by mcraighead:
I’m not about to get involved in a flamewar

But apparently quite happy to start one…

Copying, distributing, seeling, changing the source is part of this “free software foundation” thing.

The idea is to operate as service providers.
You offer the software for free and charge money for the manuals and user support.

The problem with this is that not everything can be done this way. Games for example, small utilities, very user friendly software, …

For my case, even when using complex programs, I rarely look at the user manual.
I go straight to a search engine and look for tutorials. Sometimes I ask questions on usenet.

The one thing I hate about OSS is that sometimes they dont have the binary and compiling it myself is a pain in the ash.

Too bad Quake3 isnt open source. Doom3 should be as well.


From what I understand so far (obviously limited) open source seems like a good community for certain types of software, however I think some software will always be proprietary and I certainly respect you opinion.


Ya, it sure seems that way. I never realized how big the open source community is. I was brought up on MS and all of my jobs have developed proprietary software, so I never had the exposure. I was also surprised to see the list of services that Source Forge offers to open source projects, nice. I think at this point I’ve given up on my engine. Modifying an existing engine and releasing the source back into the community sounds like more fun. Starting from an existing engine I can eventually just declare that the engine is good enough to use without having a mountain of other necessary features backed up in the development pipe. Besides I want to start work on the game.


Well at least you didn’t bother to educate me on the subject.


If free software means watching commercials 50% of the time I’d rather just pay. TV is evil. I’ll definitely check out the differences in the licenses, so far everything I’ve look at has been LGPL.


Sometimes the training can be an even more sinister racket than anything done through the software. Look at MS and Oracle training. Just by having a certification system from these companies makes people with the certification more desirable and full certification ONLY requires several dozen test at a few hundred dollars a pop. It takes a few years to complete the training for the current version while trying to work fulltime, but new releases are out every 18 – 24 months. It’s just sick. The idea is good it just seems like there is always some company twisting good ideas into something sinister. In Oracles defense the software changes a lot between versions and is complicated, but MS?

Thanks for the comments. I’m going to check out the licenses more closely, but I think I’m going to with an open source engine. I would like to think that even if I scrap the project someone might find the code useful. That’s better than the code just sitting on a shelf somewhere collecting dust.

Open source may be a dangerous threat to software engineering, in the sense that software engineers have been paid by their millions over the years to continually reinvent the wheel. This lack of productivity is a greater threat to society at large. Open source is nothing more than a collaborative agreement to allow entities to pool their resources developing what would have been impossible before, and to use existing software for a task instead of having to reinvent the wheel every time.

Open source does not threaten intellectual property one bit. It cannot take or use anyone’s intellectual property without permission any more than you or I can. It’s just hysterical nonsense to suggest that open source threatens intellectual property, particularly when you consider that most of it’s licenses (particularly for libs) are specifically designed to allow you to use the software without contaminating your own code & intellectual property with obligations to publish.

In the rare case where a company has stolen open source code and incorporated it into a core product without publishing, a compromise where the offending code is removed is invariably the solution, as when NVIDIA managed to “accidentally” include some open source code in their graphics drivers without permission. Makes me wonder just who is threatening the I.P. of whom.

[This message has been edited by dorbie (edited 03-19-2003).]