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REVIEW: "Open Sources", Chris DiBona/Sam Ockman/Mark Stone

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  • Rob Slade, doting grandpa of Ryan and Tr
    BKOPNSRC.RVW 20000611 Open Sources , Chris DiBona/Sam Ockman/Mark Stone, 1999, 1-56592-582-3, U$24.95/C$36.95 %E Chris DiBona chris@dibona.com %E Sam
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 21, 2000
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      BKOPNSRC.RVW 20000611

      "Open Sources", Chris DiBona/Sam Ockman/Mark Stone, 1999,
      1-56592-582-3, U$24.95/C$36.95
      %E Chris DiBona chris@...
      %E Sam Ockman
      %E Mark Stone
      %C 103 Morris Street, Suite A, Sebastopol, CA 95472
      %D 1999
      %G 1-56592-582-3
      %I O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.
      %O U$24.95/C$36.95 800-998-9938 fax: 707-829-0104 nuts@...
      %P 272 p.
      %T "Open Sources: Voices from the Open Source Revolution"

      The distinctive of open source software is that the source code is
      available to everyone who wants to look at it. This means that users
      and even independent observers can ascertain exactly what the software
      is doing, determine whether it is safe, and make improvements or
      modifications to it in order to best suit their own needs. It also
      means that anyone can get a copy of the source code and use the
      program, which makes business models for open source systems just a
      little bit different than those for companies selling proprietary
      software.

      While many see open source software primarily in terms of being
      inexpensive (read "free"), the concept basically refers to the
      unimpeded flow of ideas. As the authors in this volume frequently
      repeat, open source software is "free as in speech, not as in beer."
      However, the proponents of the open source movement would also point
      out that this liberal exchange of thought has a benefit in the
      increased production of high quality software, generally with a lower
      investment or effort. Therefore, it is quite valid to examine the
      open source concept in terms of business and economics.

      Which seems to be why business is a major thrust in this book of
      essays on a software methodology. The introduction equates the open
      source movement with science, and looks at economic, as well as
      technical and social, drivers of open source software. Eric Raymond's
      history of hackerdom makes similar points, although it shows an
      interesting UNIX bias. While making a good point about the relative
      paucity of MS-DOS freeware, it ignores the cultural contributions made
      by the Amiga, Apple, Atari, and Fidonet communities that paved the way
      for the Internet explosion of the mid 1990s.

      A history of the Berkeley UNIX (and Berkeley Systems Distribution)
      gives detailed stories of developmental directions. There is a brief
      outline of the history, functions, and operations of the Internet
      Engineering Task Force, pointing out that it has done rather well for
      an organization that doesn't actually exist. Richard Stallman's
      history of the GNU project presents a jarringly different philosophy
      from a number of the others in the book, but ultimately it indicates
      the strength of a work (and movement) that can accommodate such
      diversity.

      A piece from Cygnus presents a story of open source business success.
      There is a comparison of software engineering in terms of both the
      standard process and open source. Linus Thorvalds' piece on Linux
      makes interesting observations on kernel architecture and portability.
      The story of Red Hat's experience with retail marketing is important,
      although the analysis of the proliferation of Linux versions is not
      completely comforting. Larry Wall's philosophical meandering is, as
      always, fun, thought-provoking, and eminently re-readable. The
      strongest part of Brian Behlendorf's article on business strategy is
      the discussion of licensing models. Bruce Perens expands on this with
      his commentary on the open source definition, and comparison with
      other licences. Oddly, for a publisher, while Tim O'Reilly's piece
      touches on some hot buttons, it doesn't really say much. The story of
      the Netscape Mozilla project, and the opening of the Navigator source,
      is an intriguing glimpse into a story that is still ongoing. Eric
      Raymond closes off with his hacker's revenge wrap-up of a number of
      the stories mentioned in previous essays.

      Appendix B is a copy of the open source definition and GNU's General
      Public Licence. Appendix A is a collection of Usenet postings
      comprising a debate, in early 1992, primarily between Linus Thorvalds
      and Andrew Tanenbaum, on the viability of Linux. As such, many people
      would think that the material would be about as interesting as
      watching paint dry. Instead, the debate brings out some absolutely
      fascinating points, and is well worth the space it is given.

      I can readily commend this book to a wide variety of audiences:
      programmers, analysts, business managers, computer hobbyists, and even
      philosophers. The subject matter is much larger than programming
      methods or Linux history alone. Perhaps a future edition might expand
      to include a look at open hardware, or the copyright meditations from
      David Brin's "The Transparent Society" (cf. BKTRASOC.RVW).

      copyright Robert M. Slade, 2000 BKOPNSRC.RVW 20000611

      ====================== (quote inserted randomly by Pegasus Mailer)
      rslade@... rslade@... slade@... p1@...
      `Notwithstanding'--that is the metaphor for Canada - A Fotheringham
      http://victoria.tc.ca/techrev or http://sun.soci.niu.edu/~rslade
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