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Re: I give up

Some time around  Sat, 08 Aug 1998 23:44:19 EDT, 
         Alan DeKok wrote:
 > > Just a short note to let you guys know I decided that netwinder is
 > > not a good computer for me.  Apparently, I misjudged the degree of
 > > openness of the netwinder itself and the community around it.
 >   Could you describe what you were expecting, and how the netwinder
 > doesn't fulfill that?
 >   Specifically, I'm wondering about what level of openness you
 > expected from the NW, and also from the community.

I liked the netwinder because it looked like a neat toy to play with, plus it 
looked to be the first computer of its kind that is being developed by people 
who understand free software.  I thought this meant that the software would be 
developed in the "bazaar model".  In other words, I expected the development 
versions of all of the software to be released to the public immediately.  I 
believe this is a superior way of software development.  

I also thought that the hardware itself would be open.  I was hoping that 
Corel would get around signing NDAs, and instead would have a truly hackable 
platform that would have detailed documentation for all of its hardware 
(possibly in a form of working code).  I admit I don't know how hard that 
would be to accomplish in the real world.  At this point, I should mention 
that I was not planning to actually do low-level hacking, but the openness of 
the platform assures me that it would not just die, and that all of its 
features would be exploited to the fullest producing the best computing 
platform possible. Those prospects are enough to justify investing my time and 
money into such product.

But... it turns out that Corel will only release enough of the source and 
hardware specs to maintain some kind of "we are open-source" PR, and do that 
only after being asked repeatedly.  Witness the flame war before the kernel 
source was released.  And still, the latest kernel, the one that can actually 
be compiled without a major pain (i.e. having a.out environment) is not 
available at all.  I am not saying Corel is obligated to provide it, I am just 
saying that if it would truly be open-source (i prefer the other term, but 
people around here don't), Corel would follow Eric Raymond's suggestion: 
"Release early and often."  Again, same thing with Xfree86.  We had to ask 
Andrew to make it available via CVS, but I would prefer those things to be 
done before someone asks.  

One pet peeve of mine is the "we don't provide source because you'll screw up 
your netwinder if you had it" argument.  This comes from the same people who 
say that netwinder is still a developing platform, so if you are not interested 
in playing with it, stay away for now.  We are all developers here who are 
supposed to have some clue as to what we are doing.  I think we can be trusted 
to do the right thing with the source.  

Now, on to what turned out to be the last straw: the firmware issue.  I don't 
have so much of a problem with Corel not releasing the part of it that talks 
directly to hardware since they did make the mistake of signing NDAs.  
However, I got the impression (it may be wrong) that whatever San's 
application is doing is not affected by NDAs, and the reason it's not being 
released is "just because".  This is what worries me.  I get the impression 
that Corel is only planning to release their source only for the things they 
_have_ to (i.e. required by GPL etc.), but whatever special applications that 
Corel will write for the netwinder would not be free software.  This goes 
right against my idea of what netwinder is like.

 >   The machine itself is open, with the exception of NDA's for specific
 > chipsets.  Even these NDAs can be bypassed by looking at kernel driver
 > source (GPL'd, and available), or by disassembling the small
 > firmware.
 >   I've tried to make my machines as open as possible, by giving the
 > Debian people user accounts long before any OCLUG people had a NW.
 > I've shared everything I know about the NW, except for confidential
 > Corel information.  (Future plans, hiring goals, etc.)

As you point out below, I am certainly not leaving because of your efforts.  
You have done a great job in helping us in every with the Debian port.  I am 
sure you know that it is appreciated.

 >   I know your leaving isn't because of my efforts, but I'm curious as
 > to what more you wanted out of the NW, that a only a PC can give you.

No, it's nothing that a PC can give me, but I made a decision to go away from 
PC due to the reasons described above.  Now that my reasoning turned out to be 
based on an idealistic vision, I might as well go back to PC.  PC's have their 
advantages, upgradeability and compatibility being very important to me, but 
openness is much higher on my list, however, netwinder and a PC are equal on 
that point.

I must admit one thing that contributed to my decision is Stany's attitude.  
He might well have been the first person to cause me to lose my cool on the 
net, and post a flame of a reply.  I didn't enjoy it.  I am still not clear 
whether Stany is even employed by Corel, so I am probably overreacting on that, but Andrew and San basically supported him, and that's when I decided I 
should probably cancel my order, and observe what happens to the netwinder 
from the sidelines.  I will still probably contribute some of my spare time to 
the debian port, but certainly not with the same  enthusiasm.

Proudly running Debian Linux! Linux vs. Windows is a no-Win situation....
Igor Grobman           igor@debian.org                 igor@igoria.net 

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