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Re: Mostly free software...

On Thu, Mar 25, 1999 at 11:03:37PM -0500, Havoc Pennington wrote:
> On Thu, 25 Mar 1999, David Welton wrote:

> > Supporting is quite distinct from developing.  Who is making a
> > living developing free software?  I'm quite interested in hearing
> > about it -

> I am!

> > there are a number of models floating around there now, and I'm
> > anxious to see which ones prove successful.  Abisource is one of
> > the few that I can think of that is purely free, and is actually
> > creating their own product, instead of bundling, or supporting
> > other's stuff...

> Keep in mind that a large proportion of software is *not* developed
> to be a shrink-wrap product, and free software may well be poorly
> suited to that business model. The figure I heard once is that 75%
> is written for in-house custom applications.

> Often there's no particular reason for these in-house apps to be free, but
> often there is, and there's certainly no harm in it most of the time.

Sure there is, if there is someone else who is paying nothing to use
the work that you had to pay a developer for.

> Guppi (http://www.gnome.org/guppi/) is my main work responsibility
> right now, for example. There are also all the guys at 

> Mozilla,

Started out proprietary, only went open source when it looked like
they wouldn't make money off it anyway.

> Red Hat,

Not to knock them, I think they have done some great things for the
community, but they don't *develop* much at all.  I would be surprised
if they do %1 of the code in their distribution.

>  Cygnus,

Once again, others did the work, and they are making money from it,
although they are putting a lot back into it.  They also have several
proprietary apps (I don't know when or how they decide to draw the

> AbiSource

These guys are interesting.  They are the only ones that I know of
that are writing their own app, from the ground up, and releasing it
as free software, and at the same time, doing it as a business, and
not just as a cool project.  I really hope they can make a go of it.

> ... I am willing to bet lots of the admin-related applications are
> written on company time to meet some local need. I wouldn't be
> surprised if many Debian developers do this.

One distinction that I have heard in several different places is
"infrastructure".  Some people seem to think this is a good place to
draw a line between where free software is a must and where it is an
optional, and maybe not the most sensible thing if you want to make

> Still, I worked on free software before I was paid to do so and I still
> work on non-work-related things in the evenings.

Of course:-> I think we all do.  I love working on this stuff - it's
not that I want to get rich, it's that I want to do it all day long;-)

> > I never said anything about making compromises, I was just
> > grousing:-) I think free software is *right*, but don't see any
> > real clear answers regarding the economic side of things.

> It may well be that there are no clear answers, and free software
> will remain a largely volunteer effort. There's nothing wrong with
> that really.

It would be cool if the state of the art were free, and you can't do
that in your spare time.  Universities seem to be one place that can
produce really good free software, but they are not really profit
oriented institutions...

> "I'd like to get paid to write free software so I'll write non-free
> software" seems a little silly though, this seems to be what people
> like Larry McVoy are saying.

How about "I have this really cool idea for a hot product - how can I
spend all my time hacking on it, improving it, and making it cool, and
make it be free software, at the same time?"

> However I think it would be kind of lame if I tried to say "Since
> I'm writing proprietary software to make a living the free software
> community should use my software and not try to create a free clone"
> (Larry McVoy)

Has he said that?  I thought the idea was just that his stuff was
supposed to be better than CVS.

> Some people and companies are trying to get the debugging, the
> community accolades, all the benefits of free software, without
> giving the community the software. 

Yeah, this is kind of bogus, but I think it varies from case to case.
In a lot of situations, these things are driven by an individual, a
small group, a corporation that has already put a lot into a
particular product.  It isn't as if the community will add a great
deal in the immediate future.  See Jamie Zawinski's comments about
people not helping out with mozilla (and that *is* free software).

Let me reiterate that I *do not* advocate relaxing our stance on free
software.  At all.  I just don't want to follow RMS' example of giving
up such things as a family, house, car, etc just because I like to
write free software;-)

David N. Welton               |   Fortune rota volvitur - descendo minoratus
davidw@prosa.it               |    alter in altum tollitur - nimis exaltatus
http://www.efn.org/~davidw    |        rex sedet in vertice - caveat ruinam!
www.debian.org - www.prosa.it |        nam sub axe legimus - Hecubam reginam

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