Open Source

Vol. 2 No. 3 – May 2004

Open Source

Curmudgeon

A Bigot by Any Other Name...

I've been responsible for hiring many software engineers. I tend to ask lots of elaborate technical questions so I can really get to know how the candidate thinks and works with me while solving hard problems. QA (quality assurance) engineers will appreciate this one (it's a "negative test" for intellectual honesty): "Explain the relative strengths and weaknesses of FreeBSD, Windows NT, Solaris, and Linux."

A Bigot by Any Other Name...

Josh Coates, Internet Archive

Are you an Open Source Bigot?

I’ve been responsible for hiring many software engineers. I tend to ask lots of elaborate technical questions so I can really get to know how the candidate thinks and works with me while solving hard problems.

QA (quality assurance) engineers will appreciate this one (it’s a “negative test” for intellectual honesty): “Explain the relative strengths and weaknesses of FreeBSD, Windows NT, Solaris, and Linux.”

by Josh Coates

Interviews

A Conversation with Sam Leffler

The seeds of Unix and open source were sown in the 1970s, and Sam Leffler was right in there doing some of the heaviest cultivating. He has been actively working with Unix since 1976 when he first encountered it at Case Western Reserve University, and he has been involved with what people now think of as open source, as he says, "long before it was even termed open source."

A Conversation with Sam Leffler

A Unix and BSD pioneer discusses the open source movement

The seeds of Unix and open source were sown in the 1970s, and Sam Leffler was right in there doing some of the heaviest cultivating. He has been actively working with Unix since 1976 when he first encountered it at Case Western Reserve University, and he has been involved with what people now think of as open source, as he says, “long before it was even termed open source.”

While working for the Computer Systems Research Group (CSRG) at the University of California at Berkeley, he helped with the 4.1BSD (Berkeley Software Distribution) release and was responsible for the release of 4.2BSD. He has contributed to almost every aspect of BSD systems, most recently working (again) on the networking subsystem.

Articles

From IR to Search, and Beyond

It's been nearly 60 years since Vannevar Bush's seminal Atlantic Monthly article, "As We May Think," portrayed the image of a scholar aided by a machine, "a device in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility." Unmistakably in this is the technology now known as search by millions and known as information retrieval (IR) by tens of thousands. From that point in 1945 to now, when some 25 million Web searches an hour are served, a lot has happened.

From IR to Search and Beyond

Searching has come a long way since the 60s, but have we only just begun?

Ramana Rao, Inxight Software

It’s been nearly 60 years since Vannevar Bush’s seminal Atlantic Monthly article, “As We May Think,” portrayed the image of a scholar aided by a machine, “a device in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility.” Unmistakably in this is the technology now known as search by millions and known as information retrieval (IR) by tens of thousands. From that point in 1945 to now, when some 25 million Web searches an hour are served, a lot has happened.

In the mid-1980s at Xerox PARC I witnessed the beginnings of a research effort related to search that has swept me along for nearly 20 years. By that time, search and the desktop metaphor had become serious commercial forces. It was also clear, at least to many researchers, that both search and graphical user interfaces would reach their limits as the amount of networked information grew and as a broader range of users and uses became common. Yet, rapidly increasing processing power and graphical capabilities would allow us to build information workspaces that could go much further in allowing people to use personal, organizational, commercial, and public information.

by Ramana Rao

Is Open Source Right for You?: A Fictional Case Study of Open Source in a Commercial Software Shop

The media often present open source software as a direct competitor to commercial software. This depiction, usually pitting David (Linux) against Goliath (Microsoft), makes for fun reading in the weekend paper. However, it mostly misses the point of what open source means to a development organization. In this article, I use the experiences of GizmoSoft (a fictitious software company) to present some perspectives on the impact of open source software usage in a software development shop.

Is Open Source Right for You?

A fictional case study of open source in a commercial software shop

David Ascher, Activestate

The media often present open source software as a direct competitor to commercial software. This depiction, usually pitting David (Linux) against Goliath (Microsoft), makes for fun reading in the weekend paper. However, it mostly misses the point of what open source means to a development organization.

In this article, I use the experiences of GizmoSoft (a fictitious software company) to present some perspectives on the impact of open source software usage in a software development shop. My intention is to help managers, architects, and developers answer these questions:

by David Ascher

Open Source to the Core

The open source development model is not exactly new. Individual engineers have been using open source as a collaborative development methodology for decades. Now that it has come to the attention of upper and middle management, however, it's finally being openly acknowledged as a commercial engineering force-multiplier and important option for avoiding significant software development costs.

Open Source to the Core

John Hubbard, Apple Computer

Using open source in real-world software products: The good, the bad and the ugly

The open source development model is not exactly new. Individual engineers have been using open source as a collaborative development methodology for decades. Now that it has come to the attention of upper and middle management, however, it’s finally being openly acknowledged as a commercial engineering force-multiplier and important option for avoiding significant software development costs.

To put it another way, what object-oriented programming often promises in terms of encouraging “code re-use,” open source software is definitely delivering. This does not come without certain costs and potential pitfalls, of course. This article describes the open source adoption process at a typical commercial software operation and discusses some of the more important checklist items that any evaluation of open source as an engineering option should include.

by Jordan Hubbard

TCP Offload to the Rescue

In recent years, TCP/IP offload engines, known as TOEs, have attracted a good deal of industry attention and a sizable share of venture capital dollars. A TOE is a specialized network device that implements a significant portion of the TCP/IP protocol in hardware, thereby offloading TCP/IP processing from software running on a general-purpose CPU. This article examines the reasons behind the interest in TOEs and looks at challenges involved in their implementation and deployment.

TCP Offload to the Rescue

Andy Currid, iReady

Getting a toehold on TCP offload engines—and why we need them

In recent years, TCP/IP offload engines, known as TOEs, have attracted a good deal of industry attention and a sizable share of venture capital dollars. A TOE is a specialized network device that implements a significant portion of the TCP/IP protocol in hardware, thereby offloading TCP/IP processing from software running on a general-purpose CPU. This article examines the reasons behind the interest in TOEs and looks at challenges involved in their implementation and deployment.

THE NEED FOR TCP/IP OFFLOAD

Both TCP and IP are hardware-independent networking communication protocols defined by the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force).1 TCP/IP is the predominant protocol suite for information exchange across the Internet; as such, the performance and efficiency of networking applications running over TCP/IP are of great interest. To understand the motivations behind TCP/IP offload, it’s important to realize that TCP/IP operates as one element within a network infrastructure that consists of many additional elements. For example:

by Andy Currid

There's No Such Thing as a Free (Software) Lunch

"The licenses for most software are designed to take away your freedom to share and change it. By contrast, the GNU General Public License is intended to guarantee your freedom to share and change free software to make sure the software is free for all its users." So begins the GNU General Public License, or GPL, which has become the most widely used of open source software licenses. Freedom is the watchword; it's no coincidence that the organization that wrote the GPL is called the Free Software Foundation and that open source developers everywhere proclaim, "Information wants to be free."

There's no such thing as a free (software) lunch

Jay Michaelson, Wasabi Systems

What every developer should know about open source licensing

“The licenses for most software are designed to take away your freedom to share and change it. By contrast, the GNU General Public License is intended to guarantee your freedom to share and change free software to make sure the software is free for all its users.”1 So begins the GNU General Public License, or GPL, which has become the most widely used of open source software licenses. Freedom is the watchword—it’s no coincidence that the organization that wrote the GPL is called the Free Software Foundation—and that open source developers everywhere proclaim, “Information wants to be free.”

As the GPL indicates two paragraphs later, however, “To protect your rights, we need to make restrictions that forbid anyone to deny you these rights or to ask you to surrender the rights.”2 As most open source software developers know, this means that, in practice, the GPL is actually one of the less “free” software licenses out there because it requires anyone who modifies a GPL’d program to make the program’s code freely available, if the program is “distributed” to others.

IS THE SKY FALLING?

by Jay Michaelson

Desktop Linux: Where Art Thou?

Linux on the desktop has come a long way - and it's been a roller-coaster ride. At the height of the dot-com boom, around the time of Red Hat's initial public offering, people expected Linux to take off on the desktop in short order. A few years later, after the stock market crash and the failure of a couple of high-profile Linux companies, pundits were quick to proclaim the stillborn death of Linux on the desktop.

Desktop Linux: Where Art Thou?

Bart Decrem, Open Source Applications Foundation

Catching up, meeting new challenges, moving ahead

Linux on the desktop has come a long way—and it’s been a roller-coaster ride. At the height of the dot-com boom, around the time of Red Hat’s initial public offering, people expected Linux to take off on the desktop in short order. A few years later, after the stock market crash and the failure of a couple of high-profile Linux companies, pundits were quick to proclaim the stillborn death of Linux on the desktop.

Then a funny thing happened: the GNOME and KDE desktop environments kept getting better, Mozilla and OpenOffice.org reached their 1.0 milestones, and a new batch of Linux desktop companies sprang up (Lindows, Xandros, Lycoris). Rumors of the death of Linux on the desktop had been greatly exaggerated. Over the past year, a steady stream of new developments and announcements has added to the desktop Linux drumbeat. Perhaps most important, big IT companies, including Novell and Sun Microsystems, have placed bets on desktop Linux.

by Bart Decrem