OSS, once more

>>My guess is that a poorly encapsulated, communal gloop of organisms lost out to closely guarded species for the same reason that the Linux community didn’t come up the iPhone: Encapsulation serves a purpose.

>First of all, this presumes that the Linux (or Open Source) community WANTED to “come up” with the iPhone. I would argue that the community is decidedly NOT interested in that. Therefore, failing to create the iPhone is not proof of the community’s failure to innovate, replied Jim.

Oh, shut. up.

If the community had decided to not come up with an iPhone-like device, then this itself is a proof that OSS is not the panacea that RMS wants us to believe. To come up with something like the iPhone software (I am not even talking about the hardware), you need more than one person. You probably need anything between 25 and 100 people. And you need them closely working. Not via IRC, not via mailing lists. But face to face, daily, for a couple of years.

It’s because of that exact same reason why there is not a single serious video editor on Linux that works as well as Vegas or Final Cut Express or even iMovie. Because it’s not a small hack that you put together in the afternoons with your buddies over IRC. It’s a very complex problem and it requires a lot of experience with graphics, video, audio and a need to work perfectly together. I was talking with JBQ the other night about video editors and he agreed that it’s much more complex to write a *good* video editor than to write a *modern* web browser.

I’ve said it a thousand times, I will say it one more: the BeOS was great at its time because the engineers working on it could walk at the cubes and offices of the other engineers and discuss, ask, argue in real time and take architecture and engineering decisions in minutes. This created a cohesive, small, fast and beautiful OS as the iPhone feels today to most. The OSS community does not have this luxury because of its very nature of its contributors being scattered in the globe and work at their own leisure. Complex applications that do well in the OSS world (e.g. Apache, PostgreSQL) is mostly because the core individual contributors work full time on them, or because companies are behind them. Not Joe Programmer from his mommy’s basement. Joe can certainly offer a patch to a complex OSS application, but anything more than that would be overkill. Joe can certainly still write “Yet Another Image Viewer” though.

I won’t be able to reply to most comments btw, holidays are coming.


Jim wrote on November 21st, 2007 at 2:27 PM PST:

Funny you mention the iPhone software since it’s really the hardware people are buying. However, don’t forget that Apple didn’t “invent” the software. They licensed BSD which is just a flavor of UNIX and built a GUI on it that came from NeXT (albiet a Steve Jobs company).

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Eugenia wrote on November 21st, 2007 at 2:36 PM PST:

Oh come on Jim. Do you really want to tell yourself these lies? People buy the iPhone for the cool software, not for the S4534D chipset and the ARM32 CPU. And as for the BSD layer, this is not what the people “see” when they use the iPhone. They see and admire the iPhone interface and applications. Besides, Apple did MAJOR engineering in fitting OSX into an embedded device. If you think that they took BSD verbatim and used the “open source solution as is”, then again, you are lying to yourself.

Linux and OSS people had *many* goes into the “embedded UIs”, and each and every one of them SUCKED compared to the iPhone. Let’s be real here, ok? And give credit where it’s due.

Shawn wrote on November 21st, 2007 at 8:25 PM PST:

Totally agree Eugenia.

People brag about OSS all the time, but the reality is that the best OSS software has people employed full-time working behind it.

There are a few exceptional projects that are done in people’s spare time, but those are very few.

google_ninja wrote on November 21st, 2007 at 10:02 PM PST:

The problem with OSS is the lack of high level innovation. People tend to blow up when you say there is no innovation in open source, then proceed to list off dozens of things like TCP/IP, BIND, and DNS. The problem is that for anything remotely high level, everything is clones. Some of them are really good clones, some of the clones even surpass the origional, but it is hard to find that kind of thing in OSS.

To be fair, you don’t really need innovation to be successful in the industry. MS tends to implement stuff that already exists, and then move it forward in a very evolutionary way. Apple is actually one of the few very big tech companies that consistently comes out with genuinely new ideas when it comes to hardware and UI. The real issue is that to those who have a more religious attitude, any implecation that OSS has any weakness will result in flames.

thebluesgnr wrote on November 21st, 2007 at 10:21 PM PST:

You keep using the terms “Free Software” and “OSS” as if they meant the same thing, and they don’t. This is important when you want to discuss this issue in particular.

You seem to be talking mainly about software development models, in which case you should be familiar with “The Cathedral and the Bazaar”. For example, Linux follows a completely different development model from Sun’s OpenJDK, and yet both are licensed under the GPLv2. So it’s not the license that matters, really, although you can only have the model you don’t like if the license is a free one, and it works best if the license has a clause like the GPL has.

Regarding Sony Vegas; the problem is not that it’s too complex to write it, but if you couple the complexity with the number of people interested in this kind of software then you have a problem.

Do you really think a video editor is more complex than a C compiler (written by a Joe called RMS, used today by Apple to build it’s own software), or an OS kernel such as Linux or even a display system such as Xorg? The three projects I mentioned have one thing in common: they’re all free. But they use different development models, some very much like that of most proprietary software and others full of Joes in their mommies basement.

You can argue all you want, but the fact is the world is full of examples of great Free software applications that surpassed and obsoleted proprietary applications; some use a development model you don’t like, others use a little bit of both.

If you want to keep complaining about this issue I would hope you at least stop confusing the license the software is released under with the development model used by its engineers to create it.

Richard wrote on November 22nd, 2007 at 12:08 AM PST:


actually some Linux Video People do meet in person, last week in Bergen, Norway, we did some brainstorming about what are hard but well defined problems in Video Editing, that need a solution, and we came up with this:

Linux Video Editing Discussion

Vassilis 'vasper' Perantzakis wrote on November 22nd, 2007 at 5:02 AM PST:

True that the OSS community can’t do some things.

And I really don’t see the point in doing them. Projects like a professional Video editor are just that.. Professional.

Also, why combine the lack of such software with OSS and then talk about Linux? Why not Windows? OSS development can very well be done on Windows too. Does MacOS X have a professional OSS Video Editor?

The fact that Linux doesn’t have a Video Editor as good as “Vegas or Final Cut Express or even iMovie” is true only because the companies that make “Vegas or Final Cut Express or even iMovie” didn’t create it for Linux. If they did, Linux would have it…

This is good enough by the way… for an OSS project:

Dimitar Uzunov wrote on November 22nd, 2007 at 7:11 AM PST:

Open source isn’t that hippie dream of hacker communes or teenagers in basements working for no money to build socialism new opportunities for the underprivileged and for fun. Its companies and institutions colaborating when they have common interests only on a larger scale. I don’t know who maintains the NT kernel but I guess he/she makes less money than L.Torvalds (many people mistakenly believe that he is still a poor student having a strange hobby – he is a millionare, and is employed fulltime) – though probably Dave Cutler isn’t in a bad shape.

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Eugenia wrote on November 25th, 2007 at 6:41 PM PST:

>Projects like a professional Video editor are just that.. Professional.

Wrong. Being a professional video editor does not make it less wanted. GCC is pretty “professional” too, and yet it exists. And Cinelerra sucks btw. There is no OSS video editor right now that even works in non-professional terms as well as a user needs it to be. Especially when we talk about HD.

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