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Letters We ran an article this week that posed the question "Is open source strategic?". The author argued that if it is, it is probably bad news for open source enthusiasts because it would expose the open source suppliers to the same scrutiny as commercial software vendors. A number of you wrote in saying that this wasn't quite the point:

>>that means that at some point in the future the market will consolidate and a number of these products will disappear.

What the?? Do you truly not get the whole concept of open source? The whole point is that anybody and any company can, if they so choose, maintain a software package that is open source.

If tomorrow Adobe was to announce that they would never make another version of Photoshop, that would be the end of the line for that product. If tomorrow the developers of PostgreSQL announced they would no longer work on that product, you can be damn sure within a few hours someone would announce that they were going to take over the project and start working on it. And there's not a damn thing anyone could do about it. In fact, you could have fifty different teams all announce that they were going to begin maintaining / developing it.

As long as a single person with development skills wishes to work on, say, MySQL, it cannot disappear. It matters not if tomorrow MySQL AB goes bankrupt or if Microsoft purchases them and shelves every product they make. The product is already open source. Redhat or Novell or IBM or me or you could take the source code and start working on it. MySQL cannot and will not disappear until there is nobody left who wishes to work on it.

The same goes for every single other open source product on the market.

Johann


With open source, like in closed source, some products do vanish and you don't want them to be the one you based your strategy on.

But, with open source, it is not how much money can be made of a product that determines its viability, but its popularity. A product that stays popular will attract third party support, while a big company supported product that doesn't attract people will be forgotten and abandoned (SAPdb anyone ?).

IBM has DB2 that can be seen as competing with Cloudscape. You can bet they won't support any evolution to bigger database installations of a free offer competing with their main commercial one.

CA Ingres has a very low adoption and is very far on the Open Source DB scope.

Meanwhile, Postgresql and MySQL, and in a lesser extend Firebird have huge userbase that are guaranteed to get long term community involvement even if companies initially creating/supporting the products disappeared (for MySQL AB) or ceased support (Borland).

While using ANY product, whatever its licence, require careful choice, factors dictating products lifecycles widely diverge in the various software worlds and this should also be taken in consideration.

Regards.

Christophe


This article can be summed up as:

"If you are making a strategic decision based on a product, you should try to ensure that the supplier of that product is not going to disappear in the near future."

- with 'open source' just tossed in there to grab hits. Absolutely every point he mentions in the article applies to closed-source DBs as well.

Peace

Will


Two points, The article on Open Source databases from Bloor Research concerns me as it seems to me to intentionally mislead readers to be concerned about open source on a point where open source has a clear advantage over other licencing models.

The article in effect says if you use open source then you should be concerned about the vender, in the same way as you would worry with traditional licencing. However with Open source, users have additional protection as they can always maintain the code themselves. In addition, traditional licensing products are not just at risk from business failure, but also from 'strategic decisions' from the vender to cease to support the version you use.

Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt are classic tools of propaganda, shame to see it in the Register!

Peter


The Bank of America is planning to hide mobile phone masts in flagpoles. Copycats! you cried:

G'day,

Re your story on the Bank of America hiding its mobile phone masts as flagpoles, that's an old idea they've swiped from us Radio Amateurs. I first read about the technique of hiding an HF vertical inside a flagpole some fifteen to twenty years ago in the ARRL (American Radio Relay League) handbook, an invaluable aid to all budding Amateurs.

Some Councils still have objections to antennas in back yards, especially tall towers full of aluminium, and so we learned the stealth techniques early on! Good to see the tradition being continued in the mobile phone age.

Kate Vine


Simon Davies of Privacy International suggested that we are entering a dark age in terms of privacy and freedom. For some of you, his dystopian vision was still not pessimistic enough:

The most disturbing thing about the article "Privacy 'Dark Ages' force activist rethink" is that it could yet prove an overly optimistic perspective. Over the past ten to fifteen years, there have been numerous incidents of theft of personal information and theft of classified material through the most trivial of methods. (People in Britain may still remember from the first Gulf War the theft of a laptop from a DoD official's car containing a complete set of Britain's warplans.)

Get people to care about privacy against Government intrusions? Why should people care more about some nobody the other side of the country, when they can't be convinced to care about all the other intrusions?

Remember when British banks fell under suspicion of "phantom withdrawals" from ATM-linked accounts? Maybe? Remember the protests and public outcry? Uh - there wasn't one, so you probably don't.

That's not to say the English won't stand up for themselves. After all, there was the rebellion that led to the signing of the Magna Carta (which King John ignored and continued plundering the country until he died of pneumonia in Kings Lynn, Norfolk). There was the Miner's Strike, which resulted in the NUM's money being seized and the miners being literally starved into submission. There was the Poll Tax rebellion - oh, that was mostly Wales and Scotland. Even the tale of Robin Hood is based on a Scotsman.

Of course, privacy is just an extra in an orderly society. The English do better in taking care of themselves in other regards, right? When a medical doctor can have a thirty-year killing spree go unnoticed, even when over 600 patients die in odd or inexplicable ways... When, shortly after HOTOL was cancelled by the Thatcher regime, six BAE engineers are gunned down in assassinations unsolved to this day... Frankly, the English have zero sense of self-preservation.

(For that matter, re-electing Margaret Thatcher should have been proof of that.)

Hey, now the British are good at many things. They have an R&D track record that is second to none, in every field they bother trying out. If you want bleeding-edge, built-to-last, powerfully creative or astonishingly inventive, that's where you probably want to look first.

Part of the problem is that a high level of Real Innovation demands a high level of cooperation, which requires a high level of trust, which is exactly the opposite of what you want in a privacy-conscious, self-secure society. But the moment you sacrifice the one really exceptional thing Britain can do (apart from producing legally-blind ski jumpers - although that might still qualify as innovative), there's no reason to bother with Britain. It's overcrowded, polluted and isolated.

I don't know the answer to this puzzle, but I think it may involve specialization at a national level. Instead of doing many things badly, do a few things exceptionally well, profit from that, and use part of the profits to buy in what it needs. (eg: Britain is useless at privacy, so bring in experts who do know what they're doing and have it done right.)

No idea if any of this makes any sense, but hope that the parts that do are half-way interesting.

Jonathan


Anyone who thinks that privacy is possible in this or any other era is delusional; it does not and has never existed. The only safe assumption is that anyone you would want to keep information from already has it, and proceed from there.

J Osako


Microsoft's attempt to hire black-hatters has not impressed the yoof market:

Great...

...huge increase in efficiency and effectiveness of MS products...

...now the vulnerabilities and security holes can be factory-fitted instead of being installed as add-ons.

I can see it now:

"Reduces the total cost of 0wned-ership..." :-(

RM


Do you think they would give a job to a 15yr old? I have spent the past 2 moths disassembling and rebuilding XP. Only one thing about the "invite" makes me question: are they being patronising, desperate or just insulting?

Screv


"you'd get to investigate the latest products being released by Microsoft before they are shipped for security vulnerabilities."

Read this again. Strangely true - isn't it!

Kirk


Surprisingly, the EU's plans for incorporating biometric technology into passports and the like got a (very) slightly guarded thumbs-up from its research centre, but a big nuh-uh from civil libertarians:

What with the recent reports of corporations compromising the data of hundreds of thousands to millions of customer records and the rapidly spreading problem of identity theft, I'm certainly convinced that governments and corporations are going to be making 'every reasonable effort' to avoid the loss of sensitive personal information.

Imagine the power this information is going to have. Corporations will go "GIMME!!" to get their hands on this kind of data. More worryingly is organised crime for which this kind of information is worth killing for. Literally. With computer systems being insecure, governments corrupt and lax, corporations indifferent and/or callous and/or criminal, people untrustworthy and buyable, putting this kind of very personal, very important, very vulnerable information into the hands of people only because it's a nice revenue stream, is offensively stupid.

I do not trust the government to handle my information with the utmost care. I do not trust corporations not to squeeze every penny out of my vital information and to sell it to the highest bidder for a handsome profit. I do not trust computer systems because they are easily compromisable and I do not trust people to make sound judgments, to take care of the information of others, to be beyond blackmail, corruption or plain greed.

In an ideal world, I can think of very useful, very worthwhile applications of this kind of technology, for the genuine good management of information about people and of the people[s] themselves. But we do not live in this ideal world, and we won't live in this ideal world BECAUSE capitalism is the ruling frame of mind. Time and again every system put into place to 'guard and protect' information has proven to be untrustworth, ineffective, flawed. The introduction of this system will not be any different. Information will be lost and 'very much regretted'; stolen 'by an untrustworthy employee who was immediately fired' and abused 'by elements of organised crime believed to be operating in all metropolitan areas throughout Europe'.

The difference is that this time it will be very personal, very individual and exquisitely vulnerable information. And god forbid you ever end up on the wrong side of the database. You will not have access to the database, it will not be clear who has what information on you. You will not be able to have false information corrected, or it will continue to be changed back for no apparent reason [replication of databases]. You will be haunted for years because someone abused your most personal information. In court, by government, by the banks. Millions of records will appear on public web pages 'through a bug in the system which has since been resolved'.

You will be demanded to trust those who do not trust you.

Jorge


Next, we turn to less serious subjects, and consider the possibility of Steve Jobs taking a post at IKEA. One of a few April Fool's jokes we ran, mostly to keep you lot on your toes. A mixed response, as you would expect:

Ah, I see - April fools day!

You almost had me.... almost :)

Rob


It's good but not as good as How to install Linux on a dead badger

That wasn't even an April Fools either :)

Alex


feeble.

Adrian


Please tell me this is your April fools joke.... I gave you the benefit of the doubt about the chair, but the cross.... Although I'm sure he'd love that...

Aoife


close but no cigar - the bush twins story was better!

like yer style, all the same - keep up the good work

&c


You must have overdosed on GoogleGulp:

The whole point is not to say April Fool, it defeats the whole purpose. Apple & Ikea HA! Ashlee is the clear winner with John Leyden a close second

Ian


John didn't file any April Fool's copy....we're not sure what he means...any ideas?

And lastly, we were a little alarmed by this gem:

> HAHHAH at least you recognize that Apple is quite a force to be > recconed with! I see much fear in the Peecee's users eyes! Much fear. > :)

JM


Lastly, some continental drift made its way into a piece about telecoms regulations. We said that a particular piece of the regulation covered "all of North America and Canada..." and went on to list several Caribbean islands too. One reader thought this level of clarification was superfluous:

Hi,

I figure that if you can poke fun at Microsoft for misplacing Switzerland that gives me license to poke fun at you. Somehow Kieren McCarthy has managed to move Canada out of North America and presumably somewhere in the Caribbean judging by our association with other island nations. I can almost feel that warm breeze already...

Chris D

Kieren writes:

I have consulted with England's finest cartographers and it would seem, Mr Dumont, that there is an element of truth in your observation.

We have reviewed typical pictures of both Canada and Jamaica (as a representative of the Caribbean) and can confirm that the differential in environmental conditions would strongly suggest that Canada can be found further south or north of the equator.

Since Brazil and Argentina have taken up the bulk of the space south of the equator, we can only conclude that Canada is somehow attached to the top of the United States and as such we offer you our most sincere regrets.

Had we known of the terrible burden that your home country endures on a daily, geographical basis, we would never have sought to add to your torment through sloppy reporting of telephone administrative regions.


That's all folks. ®

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