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Fork it Over!
April 18, 2011 6:57 AM   Subscribe

Oracle didn't see this coming. There were some significant concerns when Oracle took stewardship of Sun's open source projects like MySQL and OpenOffice, and these concerns led to contributors to OpenOffice asking Oracle to fork over control of the project. Oracle refused.

Questions about Oracle alienating previous developers, dropping support, making commercial versions of the applications with features unavailable in the free version but nonetheless built on the same foundation, and refusing to work with previous contributors as was the case with OpenSolaris were asked. Forks resulted. OpenIndiana from OpenSolaris and LibreOffice from OpenOffice. On April 15th, Oracle gave up its commercial OpenOffice ambitions.
posted by juiceCake (108 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
None of this was hard to predict. Who in hell are these people hiring to do their strategy?
posted by CautionToTheWind at 7:07 AM on April 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


The same people who've successfully kept Oracle (the database) at the top of the market., that's who. But it doesn't work when you don't have a strong lead to abuse...
posted by Fraxas at 7:08 AM on April 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think I'm starting to see why the technologically astute aren't usually of the "yay capitalism"/"privatize industry NOW!" predilection.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 7:09 AM on April 18, 2011 [21 favorites]


None of this was hard to predict. Who in hell are these people hiring to do their strategy?

Business Majors
posted by Rubbstone at 7:16 AM on April 18, 2011 [47 favorites]


Happy to see that OpenOffice has been liberated from Oracle, but herewith, a naming quibble: ecchh, "LibreOffice?" There's a GIMP waiting in the basement for whomever came up with that one. It's somehow even less appealing and relatable than "OpenOffice.org," which I always found annoying. No one outside of a very small community of enthusiasts gets the "Free as in beer versus free as in libre" thing. They should have taken a page from Firefox and gone with a slightly sexier suite name...
posted by killdevil at 7:16 AM on April 18, 2011 [25 favorites]


"Didn't see this coming?" I would say this is exactly what Oracle was hoping for.

Oracle sees Open Source as the enemy. Always will. When OOs forked, Larry's reactions was likely nothing more than a shrug of the shoulders. The articles assertion that the fork is in someway "is becoming detrimental to some aspects of the company's long-term business agenda" is made up of whole cloth. Nothing Oracle does that actually makes money depends on OSS in any way.
posted by FfejL at 7:17 AM on April 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


Bathtub Bobsled: "I think I'm starting to see why the technologically astute aren't usually of the "yay capitalism"/"privatize industry NOW!" predilection."

Well, mostly that died along with their stock options in 2000. I still worked alongside plenty of Republicans and Ron Paul libertarians as late as 2010. But Oracle makes the dangers of consolidation and monopoly extra clear.
posted by pwnguin at 7:18 AM on April 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think I'm starting to see why the technologically astute aren't usually of the "yay capitalism"/"privatize industry NOW!" predilection.

I don't think I agree with that- there's a ton of ubergeek neckbeards with extremely strong libertarian leanings (esr, etc). It might be fairer to say that a bunch of technologically astute folks hate being locked into platforms- whether it's by government regulation, IP law, corporate monopoly, or clueless management.
posted by jenkinsEar at 7:19 AM on April 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


For more background on how Oracle deals with the community, see the Hudson/Jenkins fork.
posted by papercrane at 7:23 AM on April 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Anything a random MySQL user needs to worry about?
posted by shothotbot at 7:28 AM on April 18, 2011


Anything a random MySQL user needs to worry about?

Other than the fact that Oracle owns the product you use?
posted by verb at 7:29 AM on April 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


shothotbot: "Anything a random MySQL user needs to worry about?"

Data integrity?
posted by pwnguin at 7:30 AM on April 18, 2011 [55 favorites]


Nothing Oracle does that actually makes money depends on OSS in any way.

Well there is this little known database product Oracle sells that runs on Linux.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 7:31 AM on April 18, 2011


Have the libreoffice leaders responded? Can we expect to see the projects consolidated now? (I hope so.)
posted by oddman at 7:38 AM on April 18, 2011


Fair enough, CautionToTheWind. I should say that nothing Oracle does that actually makes money depends on Oracle developing or contributing to OSS in any way.
posted by FfejL at 7:38 AM on April 18, 2011


Fair enough, CautionToTheWind. I should say that nothing Oracle does that actually makes money depends on Oracle developing or contributing to OSS in any way.

Oracle Linux.
posted by papercrane at 7:40 AM on April 18, 2011


Well there is this little known database product Oracle sells that runs on Linux.

I deal with clients who save hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in licensing costs alone when they switch to MySQL from Oracle. I'm no rocket scientist, but it's always seemed obvious that Oracle's purpose for MySQL is simple: keep it from growing upwards into the highly profitable Oracle Database Server market and eating the company's cash cow. By owning both, and clearly spelling out what kinds of low-end tasks they feel MySQL is 'appropriate' for, they are better able to manage competition and preserve their bottom line.

On a larger scale, this story is a interesting (and encouraging) example of why the annoying, smelly hippies that talk about 'Free As In Freedom Software' all the time are right about some important stuff. In particular, Freedom #3 in the FSF's list of fundamental freedoms -- the right to make modifications to software and give others your modified copies without restriction -- mean that a company's ability to co-opt and hobble (or neglect) an OSS project are limited.
posted by verb at 7:41 AM on April 18, 2011 [10 favorites]


ecchh, "LibreOffice?" There's a GIMP waiting in the basement for whomever came up with that one

I know, it really is terrible. They could have just gone with "LIBRE" and it would have been a hundred times better.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:41 AM on April 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


Someone in the comments over at Ars technica is saying that all this doesn't matter, because everyone can use Google Docs.

Which is ridiculous - I work full time on OpenOffice, and there is no way I would ever switch to an online system. Not able to open a spreadsheet unless I have a wireless signal? That's ridiculous - There have been times I've done data-entry on a subway train.

I didn't know about the fork - I'll be installing LibreOffice now. I'll be interested to see what improvements there has been, but I hope they don't start changing stuff for the sake of change -- too many developers seem to have forgotten "If it works well, don't fix it.". Also, it took so long to get word count -- the programmers wouldn't believe the writers that that is an essential feature of any word processor.
posted by jb at 7:43 AM on April 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


None of this was hard to predict. Who in hell are these people hiring to do their strategy?

Management consultants!
posted by Damienmce at 7:46 AM on April 18, 2011


jb I've been using LibreOffice for a few months now, and it's great. I didn't notice any compatibility issues, and it crashes a good deal less than OpenOffice on my laptop. One comment about Google Docs though, I do find my self using it more and more for stuff that I know will need sharing in future. It's just so darn easy.
posted by Duug at 7:52 AM on April 18, 2011


I think I'm starting to see why the technologically astute aren't usually of the "yay capitalism"/"privatize industry NOW!" predilection.

I don't think I agree with that- there's a ton of ubergeek neckbeards with extremely strong libertarian leanings (esr, etc). It might be fairer to say that a bunch of technologically astute folks hate being locked into platforms- whether it's by government regulation, IP law, corporate monopoly, or clueless management.


How in god's name do they expect to make money without IP?
posted by Ironmouth at 7:52 AM on April 18, 2011


No one outside of a very small community of enthusiasts gets the "Free as in beer versus free as in libre" thing.

This is true, and I hate the LibreOffice name as much as any able-minded person. But I predict that the general public is going to get acquainted with the various subtleties of the meaning of the word free over the next few years. Also in many other languages, the two frees are not spelled the same way, so the confusion of terms might be limited to english speaking peoples, even if a deep understanding of the consequences of those words eludes pretty much everyone.

Particularly free as in facebook. We are gonna get schooled on that one.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 7:54 AM on April 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


How in god's name do they expect to make money without IP?

jenkinsEar clearly referred to "Being locked into platforms by IP Law," not the abolishment of IP law entirely. That said, the question of how to make money without charging rent for IP is pretty well-trod ground in open source circles. My company does it, and we're not exactly suffering. At the end of the day someone has to build stuff and execute on it. Ideas are cheap, execution is hard. People pay money for execution.
posted by verb at 7:55 AM on April 18, 2011 [10 favorites]


How in god's name do they expect to make money without IP?

Working.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 7:56 AM on April 18, 2011 [39 favorites]


How in god's name do they expect to make money without IP?

I do it. I charge for my labor.
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:05 AM on April 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


We recently started using continuous integration in our build process, and when my coworker mentioned his install of "Jenkins" I said, "Wait, wasn't that called 'Hudson' when you set it up?" By way of response he just said, "Oracle," and I immediately understood.
posted by nev at 8:05 AM on April 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


They should have taken a page from Firefox and gone with a slightly sexier suite name...

Agreed, but I bet a bunch of the best ones with "Office" are already taken ... and an anagram of the individual applications--W, D, C, I, B, M--doesn't spell much. Wicked Bum (Boom)? (WICDBM).

Even if you go the generic route and pick a Greek mythology name like ... Techne. Taken.

Also in many other languages, the two frees are not spelled the same way, so the confusion of terms might be limited to english speaking peoples, even if a deep understanding of the consequences of those words eludes pretty much everyone.

Yeah, not even mentioning how different names work in different languages...

They should just make up a word like ProductoCreate.

How in god's name do they expect to make money without IP?

Why
posted by mrgrimm at 8:16 AM on April 18, 2011


I do it. I charge for my labor.

And without IP, that's all you'll ever be able to do: charge for hours worked instead of for the value of your work. That's OK though; the world needs ditch diggers too!
posted by three blind mice at 8:18 AM on April 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


Well all you rentseekers won't be so cheerful when your intestines are all tangled in my pitchfork. Plus to put your hopes on IP law, the one and only law the vast majority of the population of most contries openly disobeys is natural selection in action.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 8:20 AM on April 18, 2011 [13 favorites]


IP law is actually very important to the open source movement- without strong copyright protections, the GPL (among others) simply couldn't exist. I don't think that thoughtful folks want to abolish IP law. Instead, there seems to be a desire to reduce the opportunity for rent-seeking on independently developed ideas. Paul Allen and the other patent-troll microsoft alums are symptomatic of the issue here.

I'd rather people get paid for doing work and for shipping code than for seeking rent on an idea. I'd prefer that your code is open source, but if it isn't, well, that's up to you as the owner of the code. Patents undermine your ownership of your own code, and that's the part of IP law that coders seem to object to most.
posted by jenkinsEar at 8:21 AM on April 18, 2011 [11 favorites]


comma after disobeys
posted by CautionToTheWind at 8:22 AM on April 18, 2011


And without IP, that's all you'll ever be able to do: charge for hours worked instead of for the value of your work. That's OK though; the world needs ditch diggers too!

Just wait 'til the ditch diggers start charging rents on the "value" of their work.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:22 AM on April 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


That's OK though; the world needs ditch diggers too!

I think we can give credit to each other's ideological differences without this sort of nonsense.
posted by seanyboy at 8:27 AM on April 18, 2011 [22 favorites]


How in god's name do they expect to make money without IP?

Vertical integration, support services, and bespoke development/configuration. This seems to be a workable model for servers and commercial systems (like POS systems). For a variety of reasons, it's not been as effective on the consumer desktop.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:30 AM on April 18, 2011


I don't think that thoughtful folks want to abolish IP law. Instead, there seems to be a desire to reduce the opportunity for rent-seeking on independently developed ideas...I'd rather people get paid for doing work and for shipping code than for seeking rent on an idea.

This. FOSS computing isn't about "neckbeards" waxing utopian about the withering away of the concept of ownership; it's about (in part) wanting a legal, political, and economic environment that encourages innovation, discourages rent-seeking, and preserves the freedom of coders and end-users alike to use their machines as they see fit.
posted by a small part of the world at 8:32 AM on April 18, 2011 [20 favorites]


(also, am I the only one who likes the name "LibreOffice?")
posted by a small part of the world at 8:33 AM on April 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


I love how OSS so often has such terrible product names. It's almost like a coder's version of "The Aristocrats" joke.
posted by BeerFilter at 8:34 AM on April 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


And without IP, that's all you'll ever be able to do: charge for hours worked instead of for the value of your work. That's OK though; the world needs ditch diggers too!

There's a considerable spectrum of options between "charging people money because they want to use 1-click checkout" and "digging ditches for a living."


This. FOSS computing isn't about "neckbeards" waxing utopian about the withering away of the concept of ownership; it's about (in part) wanting a legal, political, and economic environment that encourages innovation, discourages rent-seeking, and preserves the freedom of coders and end-users alike to use their machines as they see fit.

Some do insist that anything that isn't fully Libre is wrong. But most don't. It's nice having the wacky ones out there pushing the overton window.
posted by verb at 8:34 AM on April 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


How in god's name do they expect to make money without IP?

Simple, I work for a contractor. When we build a roof we go to roofing sub contractor. If construction worked like software here is what would happen:

Roofing contractor 1, "Well you can have an asphalt roof, but if you're building a roof that big you really should go with ProtectRoof Enterprise Edition. Now that roof will cost initially $250,000, plus $50,000 every year and another $25,000 for Enterprise Support."

Me, "I see. You mean instead of a warranty we have to pay for Enterprise Support?"

Roofer 1, "Correct, but with Enterprise Support we'll fix any leaks, guarenteed, within 6 hours. Also we're building the roof to be twice as long as your actual building, so you can grow!"

Me, "Um, okay, so if we grow it won't cost us more, we just build a bigger building under the roof?"

Roofer 1, "No! You win on the upfront costs. If you add more employees you'll have to pay an additional $1,200 per roof user license."

Me, "Hmm, let me get another bid."

Roofer 2, "I can do it for cheaper! But you already used Roofer 1 for the support beams."

Me, "Um, yes, okay."

Roofer 2, "That is not compatible with my roof, you will have to start over. Also, unlike Roofer 1, we don't support snow."

Me, "You don't support snow?"

Roofer 2, "That's correct, not in our Professional Edition product. That's an Enterprise feature ..."

Me, "Well let me get another bid ..."

Roofer 2, "You can't Roofer 1 and I bought all the other roofing companies and our products are hopelessly incompatible so you get to chose either of us. And if you hire someone else to build a roof we'll sue you because we invented the concept that something on top of a building that prevents rain and the elements, but not snow!, from getting in."

Me, "..."
posted by geoff. at 8:34 AM on April 18, 2011 [84 favorites]


Some do insist that anything that isn't fully Libre is wrong. But most don't. It's nice having the wacky ones out there pushing the overton window.

Fair enough, and nicely put.
posted by a small part of the world at 8:35 AM on April 18, 2011


I think this puts them at a disadvantage to Microsoft in big data and analytics. Microsoft is really doing well at pushing excel as the client for complex data analysis with ws from sharepoit and other datamarts consuming the data. At the same time there is a growing perception that Oracle is too expensive and doesn't meet webscale challenges because of inherent weaknesses in the RDBMs locking and storage model. All the cool kids are leaving mysql and Oracle for Cassadra, Couchdb, Riak, etc. The RDBMS is a shitty backend for most applications. Making it work at very large scale ends up breaking integrity and logging feature that were the some purpose of using and RDBMs to begin with.
posted by humanfont at 8:37 AM on April 18, 2011


Sidebar: Given Oracle's poor OSS track record, should I worry about using VirtualBox for virtualization? Are there any good OSS alternatives?
posted by a small part of the world at 8:38 AM on April 18, 2011


In other news Microsoft et al seek to make it easier to challenge US software patents.
Can't think why.
posted by SyntacticSugar at 8:39 AM on April 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Sidebar: Given Oracle's poor OSS track record, should I worry about using VirtualBox for virtualization? Are there any good OSS alternatives?"

You could use Xen
posted by numbskeleton at 8:40 AM on April 18, 2011


I use Virtualbox a lot and I believe Oracle will keep it alive, improve it and try to charge money for certain functionality. I can tell you 2 facts about Virtualbox since Oracle bought them:

- They are still improving it, but that just might be the same old team taking pride in their work.
- They separated USB virtualization from the default install for no good technical reason. My bet it that it will soon cost money.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 8:41 AM on April 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm a *AMP web developer in a couple small-time environments, working mostly with Linux and Solaris servers. As a Mac and Linux desktop user, of course I long ago substituted OO for MS-Office. Let's see, that's 1, 2... 3 products I use on a daily basis that Oracle is screwing with.

A year ago, I didn't really care about Oracle one way or the other. But I'm rapidly growing to hate them. Is this a strategy?
posted by richyoung at 8:45 AM on April 18, 2011


They separated USB virtualization from the default install for no good technical reason.

It has different licensing.

My bet it that it will soon cost money.

It already does. You're supposed to pay for VirtualBox if you use it in a business setting or somesuch. The separation is quite sensible, actually. There are already GPL forks of VirtualBox that don't include the USB functionality, IIRC.
posted by fleetmouse at 8:45 AM on April 18, 2011


Fair enough, CautionToTheWind. I should say that nothing Oracle does that actually makes money depends on Oracle developing or contributing to OSS in any way.
posted by FfejL at 7:38 AM on April 18

Look, I know it's cool to hate on Oracle and all, but you are not in possession of the facts.

As mentioned upthread, Oracle builds, maintains, distributes and supports Oracle Linux. That distribution is available with Oracle's Unbreakable Linux Kernel. Oracle also builds, sells, maintains and supports the Xen-based Oracle VM.

Need more? Here's a list of open-source projects Oracle contributes to.

Oracle Linux is the base development platform for the database and many other Oracle products - in other words, it is built, run and tested on Linux before any other platform.

I deal with clients who save hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in licensing costs alone when they switch to MySQL from Oracle.
posted by verb at 7:41 AM on April 18

Oracle does not charge its customers annual license fees, it is perpetually licensed. Support is the recurring charge - you know, the same thing that customers pay to every open-source support company in the world.

I'm no rocket scientist, but it's always seemed obvious that Oracle's purpose for MySQL is simple: keep it from growing upwards into the highly profitable Oracle Database Server market and eating the company's cash cow. By owning both, and clearly spelling out what kinds of low-end tasks they feel MySQL is 'appropriate' for, they are better able to manage competition and preserve their bottom line.
posted by verb at 7:41 AM on April 18

You don't understand how Oracle makes money. The bulk of Oracle's revenue stream comes from Support, so ultimately it doesn't really matter whether a customer is using Oracle database (a closed-source, paid-license product) or MySQL (an open-source product), so long as there's a Support revenue stream attached.
posted by kcds at 8:46 AM on April 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Jesus people. POSTGRES IS THE ANSWER. This is silly stuff.
posted by xmutex at 8:46 AM on April 18, 2011 [13 favorites]


OpenIndiana????
Please tell me this was, in some convoluted way, named as a geek homage to Raiders. 'Cause I can't imagine why anyone would name it after the Hoosier state.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:47 AM on April 18, 2011


Making it work at very large scale ends up breaking integrity and logging feature that were the some purpose of using and RDBMs to begin with.

Depends along what dimension you are scaling on. It is true that scaling by adding more machines means you must sacrifice either consistency or availability. But most applications don't really get close to the limits of RDBMSs on even a single server.
posted by Jpfed at 8:50 AM on April 18, 2011


Oracle are into dickish behaviour on a scale that make the other tech players look like saints. Nothing good should be expected of them. Nothing.
posted by Artw at 8:51 AM on April 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


...so long as there's a Support revenue stream attached.

And the support revenue stream for Oracle is going to be larger than the stream for MySQL, in most cases where it makes sense to compare the two.
posted by lodurr at 8:52 AM on April 18, 2011


Other than the fact that Oracle owns the product you use?

The big MySQL forks have been great for years. Percona, MariaDB, etc will all still be there no matter what Oracle does or doesn't do with mainline MySQL.
posted by kmz at 8:53 AM on April 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think this puts them at a disadvantage to Microsoft in big data and analytics. Microsoft is really doing well at pushing excel as the client for complex data analysis with ws from sharepoit and other datamarts consuming the data. ... All the cool kids are leaving mysql and Oracle for Cassadra, Couchdb, Riak, etc. The RDBMS is a shitty backend for most applications.

How do these statements go together? Sharepoint's backend is SQL Server, right? If the RDBMS sucketh for most apps, why would Oracle be at a disadvantage to Microsoft?

And while I see some advantages for some of the NoSQL databases in terms of scaling across hardware, meeting more requests faster, and handling document-like/semi-structured data, it seems to me that if you don't have those needs, the traditional advantages of the RDBMS are going to work in your favor.
posted by weston at 8:54 AM on April 18, 2011


Could someone fork Keynote from Apple?
posted by parmanparman at 8:55 AM on April 18, 2011


Cringely used to like to say that the difference between Gates and Ellison was that for Gates, he didn't care whether you thought you'd won, as long as he got what he wanted, while for Ellison it wasn't enough that he won -- you had to lose.

As old and slow as Microsoft seems these days, I see indications that they will still be around 10 years from now. I can't say I feel the same way about Oracle.
posted by lodurr at 8:55 AM on April 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was very happy to learn about MariaDB, and to see that it's now available on some hosting packages. My stepson asked me what it was a while back, and I told him "Insurance against Oracle." He understood immediately.
posted by lodurr at 8:57 AM on April 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


I wonder if maybe everyone would have been happier if Google had bought Sun - they understand open source, they actually give a shit about Java (love it too much some would say) , and they're (mostly) not evil. On the other hand that's maybe putting too much in one pool.
posted by Artw at 8:59 AM on April 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


You don't understand how Oracle makes money. The bulk of Oracle's revenue stream comes from Support, so ultimately it doesn't really matter whether a customer is using Oracle database (a closed-source, paid-license product) or MySQL (an open-source product), so long as there's a Support revenue stream attached.

I've been working for companies that either used Oracle products, indirectly competed with Oracle, or built on top of Oracle competitors like MySQL, for over a decade now. I definitely have a working understanding of where Oracle makes money, at least in the world of RDBMS.

MySQL enterprise support contracts are good money, but nowhere near as lucrative as Oracle licenses and Oracle support contracts. There are orders of magnitude separating the two, and Oracle understands that. Owning MySQL allows them to position it as a 'feeder' for their more lucrative business, rather than a much less expensive competitor eating away at the low end of their market.
posted by verb at 9:02 AM on April 18, 2011


Cringely used to like to say that the difference between Gates and Ellison was that for Gates, he didn't care whether you thought you'd won, as long as he got what he wanted, while for Ellison it wasn't enough that he won -- you had to lose.

Nobody knows what Balmer is like when he wins because it has never happened.
posted by Artw at 9:07 AM on April 18, 2011 [15 favorites]


All I know is that I was using a database program with Oracle's brand on it, and it was terrible and unreliable. Perhaps, yes, it was a product that they wanted to kill and have nothing to do with, but they put their branding on it while they were killing it. The end result is that I, even though I will probably not have anything to do with databases in the future, to me the Oracle name will always be associated with crashing databases. Who knows what the future holds, but all I know is that I'll be avoiding all of Oracles products in the future.
posted by fuq at 9:08 AM on April 18, 2011


It's sad to see Oracle thrash around and trample people. OpenOffice is a sideshow, Jenkins is certainly a sideshow. Oracle can be as dumb and abusive as they want and it won't really matter to their bottom line.

The other half of the story is how Oracle is slowly squeezing Java. That platform is already on the downward slopeoif it's cycle and Oracle trying to wring every last dollar out of it is not going to build mindshare. Too bad, the JVM is an amazing piece of engineering.

Google didn't buy Sun because they already hired everyone from there they wanted.
posted by Nelson at 9:08 AM on April 18, 2011


three blind mice: And without IP, that's all you'll ever be able to do: charge for hours worked instead of for the value of your work. That's OK though; the world needs ditch diggers too!

The value of manual and mental efforts is more than minimum wage, depending on the job and the location. In fact, it seems that those who make money from IP are far fewer than those who charge for work alone.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:12 AM on April 18, 2011


And the support revenue stream for Oracle is going to be larger than the stream for MySQL, in most cases where it makes sense to compare the two.

Moreover, with closed source there's a lot less competition for that revenue. Oracle get to protect the castle, and MySQL can be messed with if required.
posted by jaduncan at 9:16 AM on April 18, 2011


In fact, it seems that those who make money from IP are far fewer than those who charge for work alone.

Excellent point. Related: If you're renting the IP, you're staking a claim on the creative efforts of anyone who ever uses or rediscovers that "IP", so you have a potentially huge revenue stream. This is, of course, a relatively recent idea -- 250, 300 years, I'm thinking. That it corresponds to the growth of industrial society is almost certainly not accidental, but I doubt it's as directly causal as it's usually held to be.
posted by lodurr at 9:20 AM on April 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


charge for hours worked instead of for the value of your work. That's OK though; the world needs ditch diggers too!

I so have a dating site for you.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 9:26 AM on April 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


My guess is that the decision to handle MySQL (and possibly OpenOffice) this way happened at the Executive VP level.

As a percentage of revenue, MySQL would not matter much to Oracle. Also, it's disruptive to Oracle's flagship product; even if someone at Oracle wanted to profit from MySQL or improve it, the internal fighting over this would have been tremendous.

No, acquiring MySQL was a strategic move, either to keep it out of the hands of a competitor (say, Google, Amazon or Microsoft), to retard its adoption among commercial Oracle customers, or simply to delay its development via FUD.

Even if Oracle managed only to delay by six months companies switching from Oracle DB to MySQL, they will, I suspect, have done well for themselves.
posted by zippy at 9:30 AM on April 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


One thing that seems much more consensual than a few years ago is the value of open source licenses for project continuity through all these mergers and acquisitions. If open source software could be bought and killed, rather than just bought and FUDed with, we wouldn't even have ls anymore.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 9:38 AM on April 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


> ecchh, "LibreOffice?" There's a GIMP waiting in the basement for whomever came up with that one

My bottle of white rum and my lime both think CubaLibreOffice would be awesome.
posted by jfuller at 10:07 AM on April 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


You could use Xen

KVM is now the favored solution for virtualization on Linux. Xen has started to fall by the wayside since Linus rejected their request to be merged into kernel mainline.
posted by spitefulcrow at 10:08 AM on April 18, 2011


Is it just me... the first question I have with any open source project is "What language is it written in?" (Or more generally: What would I need to know to mess around with this?) And it always seems to take a ridiculous amount of digging around to find out that basic fact.
posted by philipy at 10:23 AM on April 18, 2011


Yeah, KVM is the shit, although they've managed to pick an acronym that already has an established headspace in the IT community. Also, VMWare has a free version of ESX that isn't too bad, but the really good stuff is (as always...) in the enterprise or enterprise+ editions.

Xen was being pushed hard by Novell for the longest time. I never put any time into it.
posted by synaesthetichaze at 10:32 AM on April 18, 2011


That is not compatible with my roof, you will have to start over.

I know this was meant as a joke, but in all seriousness there's tons of shady tech-company-esque shit being done by companies outside the tech sector. I'm not sure it's entirely new, but they do seem to be taking a page or two from companies like Microsoft and Oracle, at least in terms of language.

A while back I was looking at some shingles for a shed I wanted to build, ones that advertised some ridiculously long warranty. (I think like 30 or so years, longer than I'd really expect a roof to last.) But in the fine print there were a bunch of limitations about having to use the company's shingles in conjunction with their underlayment, nails, etc., and that the warranty was void if not used in this manner. Now I'm not even sure that's enforceable (it violates my understanding of Magnuson–Moss), but it struck me as shady as hell to even try.

But it's exactly the same sort of crap that software companies try all the time, except there we let them get away with it, and it doesn't even occur to a lot of people that it's shady.

And without IP, that's all you'll ever be able to do: charge for hours worked instead of for the value of your work. That's OK though; the world needs ditch diggers too!

Thus explaining why software developers are paid the same as ditch-diggers, right?

The problem with any discussion about software development is that the most visible parts of 'software development' as an industry -- desktop PC software that gets sold at retail -- is a fairly small part of it. It's the part that most consumers interact with, but it's not where most developers actually work.

Most software, in terms of overall LOC written, at least according to most estimates that I've ever read, is custom code written for a specific client or customer. (Until recently a lot of it was in FORTRAN; now I suspect the biggest single language is Java.) It's not sexy stuff; it's a lot of business rules and glue code and one-off bits of middleware helping one system talk to another. And it's all custom; it's not really even reusable, much less resellable. It's like custom cabinetry put into a very oddly-shaped kitchen: it costs a ton to put in and is worthwhile because it works in that context, but if you don't want it there anymore it's just a lot of garbage to anyone else. And like the guys who do custom cabinetry, the developers and analysts who do this sort of stuff bill for their time. It's skilled labor, pure and simple.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:41 AM on April 18, 2011 [10 favorites]


> Is it just me... the first question I have with any open source project is "What language is it
> written in?" (Or more generally: What would I need to know to mess around with this?) And
> it always seems to take a ridiculous amount of digging around to find out that basic fact.
> posted by philipy at 1:23 PM on April 18 [+] [!]

True, dat. The last three times I was curious about what a piece of FOSS software was written in I didn't even bother to try locating where that was documented, I just downloaded the source and looked. (The answers were C, C, and C.)
posted by jfuller at 10:50 AM on April 18, 2011


It's not sexy stuff; it's a lot of business rules and glue code and one-off bits of middleware helping one system talk to another. And it's all custom; it's not really even reusable, much less resellable. It's like custom cabinetry put into a very oddly-shaped kitchen: it costs a ton to put in and is worthwhile because it works in that context, but if you don't want it there anymore it's just a lot of garbage to anyone else

I agree with you on this. But most of the "enterprise" software I have been involved with in the last couple of years has been to "productize" exactly these types of systems and make them available to customers in some form. There has been a pretty big shift in that technology departments,even in a massive stodgy company such as mine, are attempting to become profit centers as opposed to simply more red ink. The way it usually works is we find something a customer service rep is spending time doing,they usually are using an internal app written 10 years ago that looks like a dog chewed on it. We put a web frontend on it and announce to the customer "Hey! you can do this by yourself now!". The great part is, since our tech group is now showing a profit, we get bonuses and incentives that are usually reserved for sales.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:03 AM on April 18, 2011


Anything a random MySQL user needs to worry about?

Typically the user picked at random isn't using MySQL - they are using something MySQL is using and it is all packaged together in the randomly selected GNU/Linux fork of the month. Many of the applications have an option to use PostgreSQL so the end result will be the random end user will switch to a different GNU/Linux fork of the month that has the target application using a PostgreSQL backend instead.
posted by rough ashlar at 11:13 AM on April 18, 2011


But I'm rapidly growing to hate them. Is this a strategy?

Yes. Its part of you joining the rest of us who dislike Oracle.
posted by rough ashlar at 11:15 AM on April 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


philipy: "Is it just me... the first question I have with any open source project is "What language is it written in?" (Or more generally: What would I need to know to mess around with this?) And it always seems to take a ridiculous amount of digging around to find out that basic fact."

Actually, there's a handy web tool I include in open source adoption analysis, called Ohloh. Here's what they say about Libre Office: mostly C++, mature code base, large set of developers, and very few comments. This is just the bare minimum though. Any serious deployment should also check for bugzilla/trac/jira traffic, release schedules, and distribution packaging.
posted by pwnguin at 11:27 AM on April 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Generally speaking, if a piece of software isn't flouting the language its written in all over its project page as if it were a selling point, it's C or C++.
posted by cj_ at 11:33 AM on April 18, 2011


I would think the worry with MySQL is how many patents Oracle holds and whether they would choose to use them as leverage against forks of MySQL -- or against specific customers as they did with Google and Dalvik.

Oracle's official position has previously been against software patents, but we're starting to see the gloves come off as companies start acquiring stockpiled strategic weapons for "defensive purposes."

The GPL is nice, but it doesn't do squat to protect against patents.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 11:37 AM on April 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


For those of you on Mac, try NeoOffice, which is aligned with Libre but with better native GUI elements. Pretty nice I'd say, but I still have MS Office installed and in use.
posted by nutate at 11:44 AM on April 18, 2011


rough_ashlar: Many of the applications have an option to use PostgreSQL so the end result will be the random end user will switch to a different GNU/Linux fork of the month that has the target application using a PostgreSQL backend instead.

This is how I first became aware of MariaDB -- it was one of the DBs offered in a VPS package. I think you had to get MySQL installed if you wanted it. Can't remember the host, though.

In my experience, most of the common F/OSS web apps aren't quite so portable yet that you can run them on PostgresSQL. Anyway, what I'm being told by people who've tested Drupal at various scales using MySQL and PostgresSQL is that MySQL works better for low loads and Postgres works better for high loads (assuming you have enough hardware to service them). So, most of us on the low-end will still have a need (or at least a desire) for something less industrial-strength than Postgres.
posted by lodurr at 11:49 AM on April 18, 2011


I'll second NeoOffice. It's been better than OpenOffice for, well, forever. If you're on a Mac, that should probably be your first stop, not OpenOffice. (Used to be kind of ugly, but it was always more stable and faster than OpenOffice. Last time I updated, it had been facelifted to look really nice.)
posted by lodurr at 11:51 AM on April 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oracle Linux

...is a rebadged RedHat. Hardly a big value add, Larry's speeches notwithstanding. In fact, their main pitch to sites is, "We'll sell you RedHat for less!", with an unspoken code, if their history with Sun is anything to go by, of "and then we'll buy RedHat and quadruple the price!"

And without IP, that's all you'll ever be able to do: charge for hours worked instead of for the value of your work. That's OK though; the world needs ditch diggers too!

Aren't you the guy complaining his consultancy made no money in another thread to butress some rhetorical point or another? Perhaps you could consider working out a way to earn a living and pay some damn taxes yourself before casting aspersions at those who already have?

I wonder if maybe everyone would have been happier if Google had bought Sun - they understand open source, they actually give a shit about Java (love it too much some would say) , and they're (mostly) not evil. On the other hand that's maybe putting too much in one pool.

I'd be happier if IBM had bought Sun. Then we wouldn't be staring down the barrel of the Javaverse degenerating into "One company and however much of the market Oracle let IBM have to stave off antitrust regulation".

It's not sexy stuff; it's a lot of business rules and glue code and one-off bits of middleware helping one system talk to another. And it's all custom; it's not really even reusable, much less resellable. It's like custom cabinetry put into a very oddly-shaped kitchen: it costs a ton to put in and is worthwhile because it works in that context, but if you don't want it there anymore it's just a lot of garbage to anyone else

Yeah, and this is the bit Oracle really want, "Like the IBM of the 60s", in their own words. Larry wants to own Linux, Solaris, Java, and your hardware. He thought he wanted to own the office suite in big corps, but he's obviously decided against it for whatever reason.

Nobody knows what Balmer is like when he wins because it has never happened.

Kinect has won, in spite of Balmer, and he hasn't realised it.

Yeah, KVM is the shit, although they've managed to pick an acronym that already has an established headspace in the IT community. Also, VMWare has a free version of ESX that isn't too bad, but the really good stuff is (as always...) in the enterprise or enterprise+ editions.

Neither KVM or XEN are replacements for VirtualBox if you want desktop virtualisation that lets you get tolerable performance in your VM for things like 3D.
posted by rodgerd at 11:52 AM on April 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


And without IP, that's all you'll ever be able to do: charge for hours worked instead of for the value of your work. That's OK though; the world needs ditch diggers too!

Aren't you the guy complaining his consultancy made no money in another thread to butress some rhetorical point or another? Perhaps you could consider working out a way to earn a living and pay some damn taxes yourself before casting aspersions at those who already have?
That's a bit harsh, rogerd. The company I work for is grappling with some of the same questions -- it's very hard to scale up pure consulting and contract development work, and very hard to make it stable, because it's all about hourly billing for demand. On the other hand, it is worth noting that ditch diggers do in fact get paid for their hours.

The key, IMO at least, is to not rely on the idea of magical knowledge economy but rather to remember that knowledge is just something that makes you better at accomplishing a task. That task is what everyone else cares about.
posted by verb at 12:24 PM on April 18, 2011


Was StarOffice, or for that matter, Commercial Solaris in recent years a successful product line? Sure Oracle is evil to FOSS developer communities, but both StarOffice and Solaris strike me as marginal players with little innovation fighting over a shrinking commercial market dominated by other companies willing to invest more developer time and marketing.

I was a bit of an OpenOffice evangelist back in the day, but now I can't say I'd recommend it.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:23 PM on April 18, 2011


Aren't you the guy complaining his consultancy made no money in another thread to butress some rhetorical point or another?
Yes, while at the same time complaining that people in the U.S. should be happy to have people working unpaid internships while sucking off the Swedish social system's tits. It's a bit more of a challenge when you have to buy your own health care and don't get unlimited unemploymen if you don't make any money.
posted by delmoi at 1:32 PM on April 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


NeoOffice actually is quite a bit nicer than OpenOffice, FWIW. Though you have to be on a Mac to use it. It's just less of a pig.

As for whether StarOffice was ever innovative, I can tell you what I know about it from the 90s (never actually used it myself). It was mildly innovative in its original form in that it was built on the model of presenting a single interface for all apps, and my understanding was that in itso original German versions, it had a single file format, too: Spreadsheets, documents and presentations, all just documents. That's how it was explained to me -- I never actually used that version, as I was pretty chronically underemployed and it was expensive. (The lack of full-blown word processing software is probably the single biggest reason I left OS/2, which is the original platform StarOffice was written for.)

The earliest version I used had completely done away with all of that.
posted by lodurr at 1:46 PM on April 18, 2011


Parenthetically I had to write a fairly large (30 pages) technical design document in NeoOffice and I found it excruciating - I burned countless hours trying to get section header numbering(!) to behave in an intuitive way and it seemed to be next to impossible to modify styles on a global level, and have the changes apply to text I hadn't explicitly selected. I eventually gave up and found a windows machine to work on. I suspect the problems stemmed from the fact that I'd imported a Word .doc file in the beginning (instead of creating the document from scratch), but it really soured me on OOo.
posted by whir at 1:49 PM on April 18, 2011


What I've been hearing over on Linux Weekly News is that LibreOffice (ack, horrid name) is under extremely rapid development now; being out of the shackles of SunOracle was probably the best possible thing that could have happened to it. The code is a tangled snarl, and it's going to take a long time to clean up and get to a really outstanding state, but it's underway, and to all reports, coming along very well. Refactoring working code is typically MUCH faster than rewriting it from scratch... there's a huge amount of knowledge embedded in a program that's lost on a rewrite.

The belief there seems to be that Oracle was already completely irrelevant to the project, as everyone of note in that community had already switched over. This announcement is just formalizing that Oracle doesn't have a development community anymore.

On the DB front: I'm not really a database guy, I just do very light-duty stuff, but I really, really like Postgres. The transaction support is integral to the system, and it's very difficult to put a database into an inconsistent state. I believe session setups are slower with Postgres, so it's not as good for applications where you're opening a million tiny connections over and over, but that particular use model is sort of an accident of MySQL -- pretty much only MySQL has those super-fast session setups, and a lot of code kind of grew up around that idea.

If you're in a position where you can maintain persistent connections for any length of time, it seems to me that Postgres is compellingly better in nearly all use cases. It's far more robust, and only a hair slower. It was written for correctness first, and then optimized, and you can trust it far more than you can trust MySQL.
posted by Malor at 2:30 PM on April 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've largely come to the conclusion that just about everything in the word-processing world is horrible and annoying in different ways.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:16 PM on April 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Malor: " I believe session setups are slower with Postgres, so it's not as good for applications where you're opening a million tiny connections over and over, but that particular use model is sort of an accident of MySQL -- pretty much only MySQL has those super-fast session setups, and a lot of code kind of grew up around that idea. "

For most every use case I can think of, including a DB backend for some PHP "thing" running in Apache or nginx, it's relatively easy to get persistent connections without using any extra memory. PostgreSQL has come a long way since I started using it back in the late 90s. Of course, so has MySQL. It finally gained ACID compliance and a modicum of reliability a few years back.

MySQL's biggest problem now is SQLite. Oh, what I wouldn't have given for that back when I was writing a database driven application for the SL-5500. Historically, the only reason to use MySQL was because it was fast. SQLite blows it out of the water. I love it for tasks that don't require concurrent access, stored procedures, constraints, triggers, or any of the other things PostgreSQL shines at.

My biggest complaint with Postgres was and still is the defaults. It ships with stupid defaults that make it much slower than it needs to be out of the box. It's easy enough to fix, but still rather annoying to have to tweak it every..single..time.
posted by wierdo at 3:20 PM on April 18, 2011


And without IP, that's all you'll ever be able to do: charge for hours worked instead of for the value of your work. That's OK though; the world needs ditch diggers too!

Actually, I do intellectual work and get paid pretty well for it. None of it is patented, though I suppose if I wanted to go through the grind, I could. But it would change the nature of my work in ways that would be distasteful to me and money isn't my highest priority.
posted by Mental Wimp at 4:30 PM on April 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Kinect has won, in spite of Balmer, and he hasn't realised it.

Tou might be right there, on both counts, though from what's coming out of MIX it seems like they are realizing they are on to something.
posted by Artw at 7:40 PM on April 18, 2011


Hey, if you don't like the state of word processing software, LYX might be for you.
posted by LogicalDash at 7:50 PM on April 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Like everyone else, I hate the name "LibreOffice". They should call it Red Stapler.
posted by delmoi at 8:36 PM on April 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't mind the name "LibreOffice" and am indeed amused by the objection of some (in the Ars comments) based on the "re" being hard to pronounce, which reminds me of the whole Brett Favre thing.

I always thought Adobe missed out on a great opportunity to make a word processor with FrameMaker as a basis, but with a better interface. That they never improved the interface of FrameMaker did not this make a promising wish.
posted by juiceCake at 8:56 PM on April 18, 2011


They should call it Red Stapler.

Hah! You know, that could work. :-)
posted by Malor at 9:03 PM on April 18, 2011


I do it. I charge for my labor.

And without IP, that's all you'll ever be able to do: charge for hours worked instead of for the value of your work. That's OK though; the world needs ditch diggers too!
I don't understand this attitude. People with high-value skills command high rates; although you won't get rich as a contractor, you can make a very comfortable living by exercising rare skills. It's not like selling your bone structure and musculature as an unskilled laborer; that's why a contractor can make $200 an hour and a ditch-digger makes $10/hour (unless he's an illegal).
posted by sonic meat machine at 9:06 PM on April 18, 2011


Yeah, the world need ditch diggers, and it also needs airline pilots and doctors and nuclear technicians. People with different skill sets will command different rates.
posted by delmoi at 1:38 AM on April 19, 2011


The GPL is nice, but it doesn't do squat to protect against patents.
posted by RobotVoodooPower



Doesn't GPL3 have some software patent protection (as opposed to GPL2)?

Oh and:
/ Oracle : One Rich Asshole Called Larry Ellison.

posted by blue funk at 4:06 AM on April 19, 2011


Remember that software patents are only valid in kleptocracies.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 4:11 AM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


LogicalDash: Hey, if you don't like the state of word processing software, LYX might be for you.

LaTeX has its own flavors of horribleness should you stray away from the core styles and classes. I have a dissertation that's not portable because it depends on installing a half-dozen libraries and can't be compiled as anything other than PDF because it's incompatible with HTML and the RTF converters. The last minor tweak required for acceptance required almost a half-day of research into figuring out how to override my outdated stylesheet's behavior.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:40 AM on April 19, 2011


Just spent about 8 hours kicking the tires on OpenOffice.org to get a feel for it. (Wasn't able to install NeoOffice.) And I promptly ran into decade-old weirdness regarding bullet symbols and font substitution.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:52 AM on April 22, 2011


MySQL people might be interested in what Percona is doing. Not only as an alternative for support, but their XtraDB engine is an InnoDB replacement which fixes a lot of annoying bits of InnoDB.
posted by mendel at 8:39 AM on April 22, 2011


Gah, Oracle bought MySQL and OO precisely to kill them. The businessmen over there don't care about advancing the state of technology.. It's the almighty dollar to them.
posted by frwagon at 8:47 PM on May 10, 2011


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