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
> 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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com