Ugly Huge BSD Monster
tlambert2 at mindspring.com
Thu Sep 4 00:39:03 PDT 2003
Bill Moran wrote:
> Terry Lambert wrote:
> > Bill Moran wrote:
> >>Nonsense. There are a number of companies that are making a go at it
> >>with that model. Look at Adobe with the free Acrobat viewer. How
> >>about MySQL for goodness sakes? Redhat may not be the richest company
> >>in the world, but they're riding out a lousy economy.
> > Adobe gives away only the viewer. They sell the creation tool,
> > and they do not give away source code to the viewer. They guard
> > the file format and third party tools via vigorous enforcement
> > practices utilizing all tools at their disposal, including the
> > DMCA.
> See ... to me, that's kind of like saying that
> because drunk drivers kill people, nobody should
> be allowed to drive.
> a) Yes the Adobe model is not exactly the same
> what's being discussed, but it's a similar
> b) Just because Adobe abused it, doesn't mean
> it can't work. And it doesn't mean that the
> abuse is necessary to make it work.
This kind of begs the question of why you chose them as one
of your examples of companies that were successfully balancing
Free (a stretch in the first place, when we were talking about
Open Source, not free-of-chare closed source) vs. commercial
> > Don't tell me you've forgotten the Skylarov case already. They
> > "backed off", but claimed "our hands are tied", after triggering
> > the events leading up to his arrest. It didn't matter if they
> > paid lip-service after pulling the trigger: their bullet was
> > already headed inexoriably towards their intended target, and it
> > was in their best interests to paint the enforcers of their will
> > as the bad guys, instead of themselves.
> I'm not familiar with that case, so I can't
> discuss it with any intelligence. Do you feel
> that Adobe's business model would have failed
> if they had not taken the actions you despise?
> I mean, that's the real question of relevence.
Do I feel that their business model would have failed as a result
of third parties being able to circumvent their protections on
eBooks? Yes, I believe that their eBook business model would have
Do I feel that their larger market for Adobe Acrobat business model
of giving away the reader to encourage the purchase of the Acrobat
and Distiller products would have failed had they not vigorously
defended their territory with as much lack of restraint as they
have so far shown, and Open Source authoring tools became prevalent?
Yes, I believe that business model would have failed, as well.
In general, there is room for only one company per Open Source
product per any given niche market, and the Open Source product
will out-compete anything else in that market, and effectively
drive its competition out of business. This is true because there
is no way to amortize research and developement costs across a
price that ranges from "free" to "cost of duplication", and not
much above that.
The costs of establishing a business to compete with an entrenched
standard bearer for such a product, charging the same fee as the
company you are trying to displace are inherently prohibitive: the
entrenched standard bearer can afford to lower their margins to
zero, which would not allow you to recoup your initial investment.
Short of establishing a "consortium", as many of the Linux vendors
attempted, and thereafter (effectively) engaging in price fixing,
there's no such thing as "live and let live".
The problem here is the same as the problem with the grey-box
vendors in Computer Shopper, which operate at or below cost for
the first little while "in order to establish market share, after
which we can raise prices": it doesn't work, because there's
always someone else willing to undercut you after you've left
your "first little while" period, and they are entering theirs.
> > "Software is all...", he said, making vigorous hand
> > motions around and above his head, "...is all up
> > here. I don't sell software. I sell manuals".
[ ... ]
> I agree. Microsoft probably makes as much off
> books and classes as they do selling software.
> And, frankly, despite their whole market slant
> of "easy to use", I find that their software is
> actually _more_ compliated than other choices,
> usually in such a way that it's obvious that it
> was intentionally made so.
> On the other hand, I've found the MySQL docs to
> be very well done, so I'm unsure how you're
> applying this issue to them.
They will adopt this model, or they will not succeed. Don't
tell me otherwise, unless you have looked at their books, or
they have made their books public "in the spirit of Open Source
and full disclosure".
> You have a lot to say about Redhat and GCC that's
> well founded, but let me turn the tables on you,
> because (to me) this is the meat of the whole
> How, exactly, am I supposed to pay my bills?
The same way everyone else does: you exchange your time for
money. The rate of exchange is highly dependent on a lot of
factors, but it generally comes down to the value of your
time on the open market, and that is dependent on whether you
can charge "what the market will bear", or whether the value
of your time in the market is being artificially depressed by
an external factor.
If you are young and foolish, you trade four years of your
youth which you will never be able to reclaim by pulling the
handle of a slot machine, and hoping to hit a jackpot (read:
go to work for an under-market wage and stock options at a
> How do you pay yours, Terry?
> I started my own business years ago because I
> reached a point where I was simply unwilling
> to continue working for people who were either
> lying, cheating, blankety-blanks, or in control
> of my job while being too stupid to ensure
> any level of stability (which is terribly
> upsetting, because I don't consider myself
> all that smart, so trying to accept that the
> person who ultimately decides if I'll have a
> job next week is stupider than me is a bit
> too much)
I've done it various ways. For a short time in High School,
when the only reason I and my three sisters had breakfast or
lunch at all was because there was a government-granted
breakfast program and a government-subsidized lunch program,
I worked as an outbound-call telemarketer for The Police
Benefits Association. When I got home from that, we generally
had macaroni and cheese or on Fridays, "hamburger bean stuff":
1/2lb of hamburger mixed with a large-size can of pork-and-beans
mixed with ketchup, with bread from the Hostess Bakery "day old"
outlet store, where they sold the bread that had been taken back
from the store shelves because it was on the wrong side of before
its expiration date.
You might say I've been strongly motivated in my life to avoid
depending on other people for my next meal.
> I don't want to make a gazillion dollars (OK, I
> wouldn't mind) I just want to work in conditions
> where I don't feel like I'm violating everything
> I think is right.
This is really interesting; however, I have to point out to you
that by devaluing your work product from "something you write
once and sell multiple times" to "something you write once as a
work for hire, which is then subsequently given away by someone
else for nominal copying costs" is not in line with your stated
The problem with doing the latter is that you are effectively
*guaranteeing* your position as a wage-slave, by turning all
work you do -- all work available for you to do -- into works
for hire. This includes integration of Open Source components
into coherent products, which is one place I've made my wages.
The difference is, I recognize that they are wages, and I'm
aware of the long term consequences of second-order actions
like this, and while they are bad, they are not as bad as first
I'm not saying that you don't, in some ways, benefit society by
doing this: society gets the benefit of your labor, and the
difference in what you would have made vs. what you did make is
in effect a contribution to society. But by the same token,
you are not contributing to society by creating jobs for more
people, or by increasing the number of times a dollar can be
turned over in order to provide value to society. In general,
Keynsian economics tells us that there is a multiplier of ~10 on
a dollar that's turned over, and ~1.5 on every one that's held.
You may not agree with Keynes theories; if not, pick a different
economist, and I can argue from that perspective, instead.
> And I believe if Adobe, and people like Adobe,
> thought more like me, they could make their
> business models work _without_ resorting to
> Nazi shock troops.
> I suppose it's possible that I'm living in a
> dream world.
Adobe is a good case in this regard, because they are being
marginalized by a monopolistic competitor, Microsoft. They
are fighting tooth-and-nail in order to hold onto their existing
market, while at the same time they are trying desperately to
create new markets.
The Skylarov case wasn't really about the DMCA, it was about
Adobe defending its attempt at creating a new market, a market
for eBook-readers -- both software, and hardware devices -- on
which they expected to be able to collect transaction costs, in
a transfer of wealth from the publishing industry to the
They resorted to shock troops because they weren't as clever as
they thought they were: if they had used a cryptographically
stronger algorithm, the Skylarov case never would have happened,
because his company never would have been able to circumvent the
protection mechanism. But such an algorithm requires that you
do things for which Adobe either does not have the infrastructure
(per copy encryption and out-of-band key distribution) or the
will (call the op code in Intel processors to enable the unique
CPU ID, which is easy to reenable, to ensure unique ID numbers
for eBook reader authorization). It's hard to get "the will"
up for some things, if you can't prove to the satisfaction of the
public that the authorization mechanism can't also be used to
implement non-repudiation and/or authentication, as well...
especially when we know it can.
I actually look at the Adobe v. Skylarov matter as having been
inevitable, as soon as they started reversing the eBook data
format. And they did it (or so they claim) for all the right
reasons: the ability to provide access to eBooks to visually
imparied people, the ability to provide access to eBooks for
people with non-Microsoft platforms to which Adobe has not
discovered a way to recover their developement investment, were
they to do the port themselves, etc..
But doing something for the right reasons, and doing the right
thing, are two different things. The eBooks format isn't a
standard, it's a distribution mechanism; distribution mechanisms
must be, by their nature, closed things. The best way to accomplish
the goals they *said* they wanted to accomplish -- to achieve their
"right reasons" -- would have been to establish a real standard
format, implement that, and throw it out under a commercially
Like it or not, what they *did* do, trying to break into Adobe's
distribution chain at one of the end points, when the transaction
was defined as needing to include *both* end points, was ruin
things for everyone (you would have to be an idiot publisher to
put out a first run Robert Ludlum, etc., book as an eBook now).
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