[Fsf-friends] Queries about FLOSS...

Harish Narayanan harish@gamebox.net
Tue Mar 30 00:01:15 IST 2004

I will keep it as short as I can since the questions have already been 
answered quite satisfactorily.

>>I am greatly interested
>>in opensource and free software. 
Good. But these are two distinct ideas, and it is a good idea to read up 
on their philosophies.

http://wahgnube.org/links/#fs for related links I find useful.

>>i would like to make a career in open source but i
>>have some doubts which i think u can clear:
Noble and brave. Good luck sir.

>>1) There are so many versions of linux so how do the
>>common people come to know what is best for them.    
By Linux, I guess you are referring to the various distributions of 
GNU/Linux present today. Yes, there are many, but the really major ones 
are just a handful actually. Some of the big ones are listed here: 
http://distrowatch.com/dwres.php?resource=major . The "common people" 
will know what is best for them based on their needs. You should read up 
about who the distribution is designed for, from pages like I just 
listed and make an informed decision. All the major ones are simple 
enough to use. As a new user, you could first try Mandrake. It is 
pretty, and it almost "just works".
The term 'Linux' is usually used for the kernel of the OS itself, 
available at kernel.org as pointed out. In general you will use the 
latest stable version of this.

>>2)in linux community is there someone controls the
>>development and expansion of the open source free
>>software(someone who is the pathfinder).if there isn?t
>>anyone don?t u think ultimately there will be
>>fragmentation of linux like it happened in the past
>>with Unix.    
The answer to this and a lot of other questions, is just one word - 
meritocracy. It is the fundamental basis of the development model. In 
the community, there are "project leaders" such as Linus Torvalds for 
the linux kernel that control the general direction of the project. But 
usually, they get to be in that state by founding the project, and 
retain it with their technical ability. If someone is better, they will 
come along and do a better job. Then that software will become the 
standard version adopted by everyone. So to answer your question, there 
is a lot of fragmentation, as different people are involved in projects 
doing similar things, but this turns out to be a good thing. First, 
there are many choices for the end user, and the "best choice" is purely 
based on a meritocracy. Therefore the programs that end up on your 
distribution are usually the best of breed. Since this is a technical 
decision, everyone usually adopts similar/the same things, which reduces 

>>Secondly why is there no democratic body at the core
>>which oversees development of software in open source
>>arena I am talking especially about linux
>>development.A democratic body if formed would not only
>>help development of software and oversee it but at the
>>same time convenience people that linux is not going
>>to get fragmented like Unix did and rise confidence in
>>minds of the common user about linux and open source
>>which could further be strengthened by the
>>participation of linux user groups.    
Again, though democracy is a nice word, meritocracy is how all of this 
functions. Choosing the best of breed, since that is all you need to get 
the job done usually, reduces fragmentation. Sure, there are some 
competing projects of comparable level of quality, for instance GNOME 
and KDE. This results in most distributions bundling them both or 
choosing one. This sort of '"fragmentation" is ok, as the competition 
ensures they both become as good as they can be.

There are some standards in place (which not everybody necessarily 
follow), such as the Linux standard base project: 
http://www.linuxbase.org/  which attempt "To develop and promote a set 
of standards that will increase compatibility among Linux distributions 
and enable software applications to run on any compliant system. In 
addition, the LSB will help coordinate efforts to recruit software 
vendors to port and write products for Linux."

I think this is the sort of thing you are worrying about.

>>3)The companies supporting free software&open source
>>are supporting with what motives is quite
>>questionable. .Is it to bring down a monopoly or make
>>their own (this refers to the current battle between
>>big blue & Redmond giant.and the takeover of SUSE
>>Linux by IBM and NOVELL)    
Every company aims to make money through the course of their business. 
So their motives will always be "questionable". But employing highly 
skilled developers costs money, and they are willing to do it, to make 
sure the changes they want in the codebases be added. Of course, they 
primarily do this to forward their own interests, but since the code is 
free from that point, everyone benefits. Arguably, the software projects 
with a lot of corporate backing progress faster than other "hobby 
projects" in general. Plus, for instance, such backing gives the 
developers access to expensive and high end machines to test their cool 
code, which they would otherwise not have access to or been able to 
afford. So it does have its benefits.

>>4)After the SCO case I think developers who develop
>>open source software and especially linux must come
>>together ,sit and decide that further such an event
>>does not happen.(it may not affect linux and open
>>source community but it does drive out companies who
>>are ready to embrace linux by bringing suspicion in
>>their minds.)
There are some fundamental advantages to the development model being 
open. There is no need to sit down and talk. Everything is very well 
documented and everyone knows who put what in when and so on. Any source 
control mechanism is fairly sophisticated. Any questions regarding the 
origin of code can be traced back to the author who committed it fairly 

>>5) Why is everyone trying to make a new package
>>(distribution) of linux by adding or deleting some
>>applications and some core requirements .Do people
>>need more distributions of linux or applications. The
>>same goes with applications. How many music players is
>>a person supposed to install on his pc.then why
>>develop so many players instead come togethar and
>>develop a music player which is absolutely mind
>>boggling in terms of features. Wouldn?t this be more
To scratch an itch. Maybe existing software or distributions doesn't do 
exactly what you want it to do, how you want it to do it.
To learn. Don't you think some people might find it a fun and learning 
experience writing an ogg vorbis decoder, or rolling out their own 
distribution? I know I did.
To try something new. Nothing like technical minded people without 
social lives, and resulting free time and infinite curiosity.
To implement something differently, or for philosophical reasons. Sure, 
KDE existed, and did a good enough job. But at one point, QT wasn't free 
software. GNOME was born. Though on the surface it was a redundancy, its 
existence ensured the freeing of QT on X and other platforms.
There are many more I could add to this list, but the common theme is, 
"a need exists" which might not be apparent to everyone.

No one is forcing you to use or install any of it. Again, it is a 
meritocracy. The ones that aren't so good (be it distribution or music 
player) will die a natural death as everyone uses, and forwards 
development of, the other better ones.

>>What do you think please do tell me ur remarks and do
>>correct me if my line of thinking was wrong somewhere.
>>I would like to have a word from u please do send me a
>>Yours faithfully;

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