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

Art Alexion art.alexion at
Fri Oct 28 11:21:00 UTC 2005

Eric S. Johansson wrote:

> 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".

Of course there is.  I know a lot of unemployed, underemployed or freelance
developer who would love to get paid to address or fix your open source

Try hiring someone to tweak Internet Explorer or MS Office code...

> 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.

I think confusing support -- as in how do I do this -- with development,
improvement and security and bug fixes, is a mistake.  Apples and oranges. 
Anyway, when was the last time you asked for and got good support from a
commercial software company (unless you purchased some sort of premium
support service)?  The support people generally know less than you do about
their product, and can only answer questions you don't need to ask.

> 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.

I am sure you are correct here, but the same is just as true with small
commercial projects.  In fact, I'd guess that most small commercial
projects don't have the resources to ever seriously happen at all.

>> 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.

No doubt true, but that is the beauty -- while you may not understand the
code, the openness allows others who not only understand it, but coming
from a fresh and different perspective than the original development team,
may see things that the original developers overlooked.  That sort of peer
review is totally inconsistent with the trade secrecy surrounding
proprietary software.

If there is anything that I have learned about software and cigars -- the
addage "you get what you pay for" is rarely true.  Even when "the best
things in life are[n't] free", they are often much cheaper than an inferior

Art Alexion
arthur [at] alexion [dot] com

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