Firefox is a PIG on memory var: Respectful critic - thanks.

Eric S. Johansson esj at
Wed Oct 26 15:47:28 UTC 2005

Art Alexion wrote:
> Nonsense.  The strength of Open Source is its openness.  Lots of talented
> people get to see the code, spot and diagnose problems and correct them
> quickly.

this is true only for a subset of open-source projects.  In a posting I 
made to private mailing list titled "the death of open-source universe 
approaching", I pointed out a series of problems which effectively all 
boil down to "there's no effect of way of paying someone so they will 
notice your problem and help you fix it".

Most open-source projects are subsidized by an employer.  The subsidy is 
direct (i.e. Red Hat), or indirect (Joe sixpack Company employee).  In 
either case, free support can only be given to the limit of available 
resources.  In open-source projects I've been involved with, I need to 
trade off development time versus support time.  So if I spend my five 
hours a week on support, no development happens and vice versa.

This support subsidy also limits the size a project can grow to.  If the 
project support requirements exceeds the capabilities of the primary 
developers, then you have a higher proportion of ignored requests and 
frustrated users.  You might argue that other skilled users may be able 
to step in but as I've seen on a couple of projects and have personally 
experienced on IP cop, even with this willing group of support people, 
the project can grow beyond their abilities to support.

A second factor is the expectation of free support.  I tried selling 
consulting services to support IP cop but gave up because of customer 
expectations.  Anyone who lives in an interrupt driven environment knows 
that an interruption costs at least 15 minutes to get back to what they 
were doing.  Doctors know this, lawyers know this, accountants know this 
and they all bill in minimum of 15 minute to 30 minute increments.  Even 
with explaining this, I still had people getting really upset that five 
short phone calls cost them five 15 minute charges.  After having to 
deal with more than a couple of these "customers" who expect for fee 
service to cost nothing, I gave up.

On the other hand, at times I've had the budget to pay someone for 
support to help subsidize a project but it wasn't possible.

on the gripping hand, pay for support does not necessarily encourage 
greater openness of solutions.  Organizations like Red Hat etc. have an 
economic incentive to not disclose problems and their solutions because 
to do so removes a revenue source.

Quite the problem.

as to the assertion and there are lots of talented people looking at 
code finding bugs, again only true for small number of projects.  The 
vast majority of projects I've been involved in have maybe three to five 
people at best looking at problems because of the level of knowledge 
needed to understand what's really going on.  At best the average user 
can do is give good bug reports.

personal example.  in a past life, I worked with filesystems at a very 
deep level and designed a remote procedure call based distributed file 
system.  When I run into problems with LVM2 or EVMS, I'm sure I could 
figure out the problem at the cost of two weeks to a month of study. 
The systems are not trivial.  A simple change can screw your disks and 
therefore, changes should be left up to the people with deep knowledge 
(six months or more of bug fixing involvement).  I'm not going to do 
that because I have other itches to scratch.

fwiw, my personal projects from hell are samba, apache (destructive 
complexity) LVM2, EVMS (insufficient documentation, diagnostic information)

> With proprietary software, only a few get to see the code, and
> non-monumental problems have to wait for "the next release" to get fixed 
> -- and then it may get superceded by the needs of the marketing department.

and with open source, only a few understand the code.  I think the real 
difference is that with open source you get a chance at understanding 
the code.  It's up to you to decide whether or not it's an itch you need 
to scratch or can sit back and ignore.

--- eric

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