[K12OSN] OT: Open Source counter-arguments

Almquist Burke balmquist at mindfirestudios.com
Sat Jul 14 20:30:02 UTC 2007

On Jul 14, 2007, at 1:25 PM, ahodson wrote:
> Look at GIMP for instance. Whenever Adobe comes out with the latest  
> Photoshop, THEN the GIMP community comes out with an update that  
> tries to match the feature set. Sometimes they do, sometimes they  
> do not. But, GIMP is NOT Photoshop. That is because Photoshop, like  
> many other commercial programs, have an ecosystem built around them  
> that simply cannot be  matched by the OS community. Plug Ins,  
> peripherals, books, training video, websites, all revolve around  
> the commercial product.

	The ecosystem doesn't exist because the product is closed source, it  
exists because Photoshop has been around a long time and has a lot of  
users. Look at the ecosystem around Firefox. There are tons and tons  
of great extensions and plugins for Firefox. Far more than any other  
	It's true that Photoshop has functionality that GIMP doesn't, and  
the reverse is true as well. There are a few little features that  
GIMP does that Photoshop does not (at least according to some GIMP  
users. I don't do much photo editing so I really can't tell you.)  
GIMP and Photoshop were designed to tackle similar, but not  
identical, tasks. GIMP wasn't originally aimed at publishing, just  
web graphics, so it doesn't (IIRC) support CMYK color.
	The broader point is that the "copycat" argument cuts both ways. Yes  
some OSS is simply designed to be a drop in replacement for existing  
closed source programs; mostly, because they simply wouldn't port the  
closed source software to the "small" linux market. They also  
couldn't be included in the linux distribution, since they are not  
freely re-distributable.

> I can get something that MAY be like the plug in I want to use in  
> Photoshop, but to say a program IS JUST LIKE another program is in  
> fact, a terrible misstatement.
	This is true of any alternative to favorite program X. No two pieces  
of software are exactly identical. That's not an argument against  
open source, it's an argument that they can never switch to a  
different software package because it doesn't have the EXACT same  
feature set. Sometimes people really need a certain piece of  
functionality. Sometimes doing it the other way is just as good or  
better, but it's different, and people don't like to change. Office  
doesn't save to PDF. Yes you can buy another software product, but  
it's integrated into Open Office.  Every piece of software has  
functionality that its competitors don't. The question is how much  
you heavily you depend on those features, and how exclusive are those  

> Finally, you cannot be in any conversation with an OS person  
> without these words being uttered: "Why should we pay Microsoft for  
> this or that?" Interesting. Why pay for anything? Why pay Dell for  
> hardware? Why pay AT&T for connectivity? Why pay EXXON for gas? I  
> don't understand the aversion to having to pay for something. The  
> entire economy of the free world is based on this. You pay for  
> goods and services.

	Open Source isn't about free as in beer. Although much of the  
software is free of cost too . It's about openness. Dell and Exxon  
have a marginal cost for their product (so does the printer of the  
Cathedral and the Bazaar ), meaning that each additional computer or  
gallon of gas cost them additional money to produce.  Software (like  
movies and other intangible things have marginal costs that are zero  
(or approximate zero). This means that an additional copy of Office  
2007 or Firefox costs basically nothing to produce. It's all just  
bits. All the cost for software (and music and movies..) is upfront  
or fixed. This means that software can be free, as long as fixed  
costs are covered (These costs and payments may or may not be monetary).
	The writer of the C&B talks about people "scratching their own  
itch" (or their company's itch). You'd be surprised, but the number  
of people employed to write software for private use far exceeds (by  
like ten times) the number that write off the shelf software (stuff  
that others buy or license.) Most of these people aren't in the  
software business, so why on earth would they want to try to sell  
this stuff. The value is in its use. If even a small outside  
community wants to use or develop their software, then it's no skin  
off their back. Others are in a service business. They are writing  
this stuff to help a customer. Making it open source means they can  
reuse code from one project to another, regardless who has the  
copyright. The customer doesn't worry they will be cut off from the  
code base of the software they use either, they always can find  
someone else to develop it, even if the original developer owns the  

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