Thoughts in the Middle of the Night

I am just coming off an all-nighter – it has been a long time since I got so wrapped up in coding that I worked all night.

After I got to tired to code effectively, I got reading some blogs and thinking on various topics. One the things I was thinking about (obviously not for the first time) is the whole open source software movement. As always, there is a fair amount rhetoric out there regarding the superiority of open source software, the TCO of OSS applications, the advantages of development under the open source model, etc., and even conjecture about the ultimate demise of all non-OSS development.

A number of questions have always nagged at me about the claims of OSS:

  1. Believers frequently claim that OSS produces better software, with “better” defined in various ways – fewer defects, better functionality, more secure, etc. Is there empirical data to support this on a broad scale? Yes, there are examples frequently given, but usually it is a comparison of one or more highly successful OSS project against one or more bad examples of commercial, closed-source applications. Is there any broad, unbiased comparison of large numbers of OSS projects to large number of non-OSS projects?
  2. Similarly, Believers often claim that the process of open source development is much more efficient, effective, and innovative that its non-OSS counterparts. Again, OSS success stories are frequently compared to horror stories form the non-OSS world. Is there any large scale, unbiased comparison out there? For example, it is often quoted the a very large percentage of software projects are late, over-budget, or complete failures. Is the open source world any better? People always talk about the successes of OSS, but take a browse around SourceForge some time – there are a huge number of projects there that are never completed, never deliver anything, never get past Alpha, etc. The OSS statistics always seem to be somewhat selective.
  3. Many people predict the demise of closed-source development (and have for a long time). Are there any clear statistics out there as to the number of developers working on OSS versus non-OSS development (I know, many do both). Or is there information as to the economic force of OSS versus non-OSS – how much economic activity in the IT world is driven by OSS?

I don’t have answers to any of these right now – just some thoughts which occurred to me through the night – hopefully I will have time to dig deeper into this over the next while.

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Interesting post – Conspiracy Theorists and free software

Here is an interesting post on the prevalence (or at least existence) of conspiracy-theory-types within the free software movement (actually, they exist within any community). However, this article points out something which I have said before, which is that these people, and other zealots in the open source world, do far more damage to the credibility of open source as a whole than any opponents of open source ever could.

Eventually, the pitch “we are better because we are not Microsoft” is just not enough, and in fact, begins to hurt the movement.

New laptop & Another try at Ubuntu

Well, as I dicussed in a previous post, I have been in the market for a new laptop. I have finally bought one. I decided to go for a Dell XPS rather than Apple (mostly due to cost). Such is life – maybe I will try a Mac next year. It is my intent on my new laptop to either dual boot Vista and Ubuntu, or (if I have a good enough experience with Ubuntu), just run Ubuntu and do all of my Windows stuff in hosted virtual machines.

So, last night I take my brand new laptop, and my newly burned Ubuntu CD, and set out. Ubuntu boots up from the CD just fine, but the screen resolution sucks because Ubuntu is philosophically opposed to loading the drivers for my video card. No big deal, I can live with 800×600 until I get a proper install done. So, I click on the install icon, and away I go. Or, actually, I don’t. It seems the Installer UI is not expecting 800×600 resolution, and the buttons to let me proceed through the installation are lost off the bottom of the screen. I also do not seem to be allow to resize this window. It being midnight and all, I gave up. I am sure there is some way around this, but I did not feel like screwing with it.

I will probably have another shot at trying to set up Ubuntu or some other Linux distro this weekend. Maybe I will have better luck and not just give up on Linux (sorry folks – this is stuff that should just work!)

PS – Vista is working fine on my new laptop. Transfered my files and settings from my old machine using “Windows Easy Transfer” – not a problem.

Eight compelling reasons why you should not even think of using Office 2007?

I read Eight compelling reasons why you should not even think of using Office 2007, and I think I would like to respond to these “eight compelling reasons”.

  1. New default file formats? Microsoft offers the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack so that users of Office XP and Office 2003 can work with the new file formats. I am not really worried about OpenOffice, since I do not know anyone who uses it. If you really need to, save as .DOC or PDF from within Office 2007.
  2. OOXML is Evil? FUD from the open source, anti-Microsoft crowd. While I do not support fast-tracking OOXML (or anything else) through ISO, the rest of the rhetoric is just noise propagated (largely) by Microsoft’s competitors (remember, they are in this to make money, too).
  3. The learning curve? The learning curve on the UI is minimal, unless you are a potato.
  4. Need too much hardware? I am running quite nicely on a 2 year old Tablet PC with a 1.5 GHz Centrino, and 1 gb of RAM. Hardly a high end machine.
  5. You will get viruses? More FUD. The DOCX format is safer than the .DOC format.
  6. Open Source is Good for the World? This is a philosophical opinion. If that is the way your philosophy points you, then by all means, stick with OpenOffice.
  7. You have to pay for it? No argument there – if you cannot afford to buy it, don’t buy it.
  8. It is proprietary? More FUD. Apple is worse the MS in terms of being proprietary, but no one cares, right?

Just my thoughts. Cheers 

Why No One Plays on CodePlex

In response to the post Microsoft’s Open Source Software is Junk? and the article which triggered it, I would like to offer a few comments:

  1. CodePlex is not “Microsoft’s Open Source Software”. CodePlex is a sandbox where others can create open source software based on the Microsoft platform(s). 
  2. To say there are no interesting projects on CodePlex is something of an exaggeration. To say that it is “all junk” is just a sensationalistic headline trying to suck in readers. That said, much of the more interesting stuff actually comes from Microsoft’s Patterns and Practices group (such as the Enterprise Library), and so open source zealots do not recognize it. I would agree that there are few, if any, mature projects there which did not originate inside Microsoft.
  3. Do people not enjoy developing in .NET? Well, given the number of people using it, I would say many do enjoy developing using .NET (and no, they are not all Microsoft cronies, and they are not all forced to by evil, imperialistic employers). 
  4. While there are few mature .NET projects on CodePlex, that does NOT mean open source project based on .NET do not exist. Look around SourceForge. There are a lot of successful, valuable projects there based on the .NET platform.
  5. Look at the profile of the typical open source developer. Typically, they are coming from a very anti-Microsoft state of mind. Given that, they are not likely to develop their great idea on the .NET platform (even if it would be an ideal platform for it – they are making emotional and philosophical decisions, not technical ones). Even if they can bring themselves to use a Microsoft platform, they are definitely not going to host that project on a Microsoft-controlled site, where the evil empire could steal their radically brilliant work.
  6. Until relatively recently, there were no Microsoft-supplied free tools to develop on .NET (there have been a couple of open source tools, such as #develop, which is of course hosted on SourceForge). Open source developers are even less likely to pay Microsoft for the privilege of developing on .NET.
  7. Look at the life cycle of “successful” open source projects. Apache and Linux have been around for a very long time. Of course they are going to be much more mature than anything on the .NET side (though I am not sure many open source projects in any context will have the level of success these have had). FireFox hardly started from scratch, but from a large code-base of pre-existing code. A significant advantage. If Microsoft were to open source IE, you might see a big jump in open source browser development over top of it (though I doubt it, given point (4)).
  8. The existence of successful open source projects (again, leaving aside Apache and Linux) is largely a by product of having lots of open source projects. It is like ideas, the more you have of them, the more likely you might have a good one. There are not enough open source projects on .NET to have that “critical mass”, and given point (4), there may never be.