Dismantling the Lunacy
In his recent article, 'Free' Software Isn't Free, Mr. DelBianco manages to commit gaffe after gaffe. Let's take a look at them one at a time.
Mr. DelBianco is wrong that "something for nothing" has been promised. In fact, Open Source as a machanism is based around the concepts of participation, giving back and the venerable service contract. Ask any of the Fortune 500 companies who are making a killing with that latter item, such as IBM.
Mr. DelBianco then tries to make it sound like the ability to modify and share those modifications is a false promise. He isn't actually saying that, he's just leveraging the ambiguities of English in the hopes to trick someone into thinking that's what he's saying. But really, Mr. DelBianco knows that the right to modify software is as real as the check The Heartland Institute received from Microsoft to write this tripe.
I agree with Mr. DelBianco here. Legislation that ends up costing more with no commensurate return on said investment is questionable. Of course, one needs to look at all benefits which is a tricky thing at best since those benefits are far reaching often derivative in nature. But Mr. DelBianco never explains how Open Source software would "[end] up costing more", making this nothing more than a hollow specter dangled to scare the timid.
By the way, I liked his turn of phrase positioning "burned" against "flame". Cute, in a grade 11 AP English class sort of way.
At this point in his position piece, Mr. DelBianco resorts to lieing. Contrary to what he posits, Open Source is well defined, as is Free software. All Open Source licenses adhere to these definitions.
As for differences in licensing, anyone who has dealt with closed source software knows that licensing terms vary dramatically between such products as well. This is not a new danger, but rather simply par for the course and therefore largely irrelevant. Nice strawman, though, Mr. DelBianco!
It certainly can. Which is why people need to do their homework, and if they do they'll discover that when used appropriately Open Source software leads to lower TCO time after time. Note that Mr. DelBianco never actually says that Open Source has a higher TCO. This is likely because he knows it doesn't.
This is a tactic I call "attacking with your weaknesses". If you lead with your weak foot you can deliver it as positively as possible in the hopes of limiting the damage your opponent can do with it. This is why in court lawyers will often race to expose the weaknesses of their own case before the opposing side can.
Unless, of course, your service contract covers this. Or unless you work with the upstream project or your service provider and they deliver supported packages with your changes. This also assumes that one will ever change the software themselves and then put it into production use in the first place. In reality, end users modifying production software is done rarely and only as a last resort. It is done when the benefits of doing so outweigh all the costs. At least with Open Source this is an option that can be called upon in times of need. With closed source software this isn't even an option.
Again, Mr. DelBianco is attacking with his position's weaknesses.
Here Mr. DelBianco appeals to a bureaucrat's sense of survival, which is to say the protection of their sphere of control. He threatens IT managers with the spectre of losing control over their subordinate decision makers. He never explains how this might happen nor does he mention that it's equally likely with closed source software. Mr. DelBianco just throws it out there and then abandons the concept without any proof to back it up in hopes some gullible public worker will buy it and act out of fear of losing relevance, which is often equivalent to professional suicide in public service.
Mr. DelBianco is completely correct here but he fails to mention that Open Source software has fewer of these viruses, spyware and worms that he warns about. Again, by attacking from a position of weakness, Mr. DelBianco hopes to spuriously convince (aka "trick") his readers into thinking that Open Source is less secure when the reality is otherwise. This is a strength of Open Source, despite how Mr. DelBianco attempts to spin it.
Maybe someone should tell Mr. DelBianco that this isn't unique to Open Source software. It applies to all sorts of software, and doubly so to the sort that you can't audit, namely closed source software. Of course, Mr. DelBianco undoubtedly already knows this, but his goal isn't truth but rather to pull the wool over the eyes of our hard working public servants.
Now we come to the quick of it! Nestled in amongst all this hoo-hah is the real point Mr. DelBianco wants to make. Everything else is just so much hot air to pad out the article to make this one sentence point.
Yes, Mr. DelBianco's true purpose is to remind legislators that Open Source is a threat to American software companies who are based squarely on closed source licensing and who are unable or unwilling to shift from this model.
He ignores the fact that giants such as Oracle and IBM as well as niche players such as Alias (makers of Maya) and CodeWeavers are doing just fine with closed products on Open Source software plaftorms. He also ignores that "pure play" Open Source companies in the Unite States such as Red Hat and Sleepycat are doing rather well these days, too.
Why does Mr. DelBianco ignore these successes and instead warn about failures? Simple: he is trying to save the buggy whip makers of today's IT industry. He is trying to remind legislators that free market, capitalistic competition is not good for companies whose business model becomes antiquated and who refuse to make the necessary adjustments to remain competitive.
Mr. DelBianco is being used as a hand puppet by the Microsofts of the world to say as non-alarmingly as possible, "We're getting our ass handed to us on a plate and don't know what to do."
Here's my suggestion to those interests: adapt. Others have, and so can you. You don't need second rate lobbyists writing third rate essays. What you need is a desire to compete and the strength to innovate. If you lack that, you don't deserve to survive, and in a capitalistic market you won't.