The Cathedral & the Bazaar
Author: Eric S. Raymond
Publisher: O'Reilly & Associates
Price: $19.95 US
Reviewer: Peter H. Salus
Beginning in 1992, Eric S. Raymond has jotted notes and comments that were (and still are) net-accessible. Since 1996, several of his essays (most notably “The Cathedral & the Bazaar”) have become required reading. If anything, the obloquy heaped on Raymond by the PR folks in Redmond, WA (e.g., in the “Halloween documents”) has made him more important.
O'Reilly has done us all a good favor by collecting a number of Raymond's pieces and making them readily accessible at a price everyone can afford.
The volume contains “A Brief History of Hackerdom”, “The Cathedral & the Bazaar”, “Homesteading the Noosphere”, “The Magic Cauldron”, “The Revenge of the Hackers” and “Afterword”, plus two appendices.
These are the “commonsense” or the “Federalist papers” for the Open Source movement. They are the testimony of just why the BSDs and Linux, Perl and Python, Tcl and Java are successful: we have tens of thousands of programmers all over the world contributing to the excellence of programs and systems. We don't have an encapsulated proprietary system which no one can debug.
When I was writing A Quarter Century of UNIX (Addison-Wesley, 1994), I realized that essential to the “UNIX philosophy” was something alien to commercial programming: the changes to the kernel, the applications and the programs were all written by one or two or three hackers, not by teams of programmers. Eric Allman wrote Sendmail; Mike Lesk wrote the original uucp (even the mid-1980s version, HoneyDanBer, was by Peter Honeyman, Dan Nowitz and Brian Redman); Steve Johnson wrote yacc; Bill Joy wrote vi, etc. Brian Kernighan once told me AWK was the toughest project he ever worked on “because there were three of us” (Aho, Weinberger and Kernighan).
Of course, it's all the Internet's fault. Even with the semi-annual USENIX tape-swaps and uucp, stuff passed about more slowly. It's the Net that enabled a Finnish student to send his work to nearly every corner of the world and enabled thousands to contribute and feed stuff back to him.
In some ways, “The Magic Cauldron” is my favorite essay of Raymond's. Here, he shows that he understands the underlying economic reasons for the success of open software. This understanding is based on the anthropological study of gift exchanging and the concepts of what happens in a gift culture when “survival goods are abundant”, and therefore, the exchange is no longer interesting.
This is tied together with the notions inherent in the fact that software has two distinct values: use value and sales value. As Raymond says, use value is value as a tool; sales value is value as a salable good. One of Raymond's most interesting discussions is founded in this.
Food, equipment and books all retain value independent of the producer. If a farmer sells his farm, the food produced retains its value, etc. When a computer manufacturer (hardware or software) goes out of business or a line is discontinued, the price users are willing to pay plummets. The price users will pay is limited by “the expected future value of vendor service”.
Open-source software forces the vendor into a world of service-fee-domination and exposes “what a relatively weak prop the sale value of the secret bits in closed-source software was all along”.
The true advantage for all of us lies in the notion of high-quality software being built upon by the community, rather than being locked up in a vault or discontinued.
Raymond believes that in 2000/2001, Linux will be “in effective control of servers, data centers, ISPs and the Internet, while Microsoft maintains its grip on the desktop”. Most likely, that's correct. But with the advent of products like StarOffice and WordPerfect for Linux, there may well be inroads into the desktop market as well.
This is a fine, thought-provoking book that should be read by anyone interested in computing: open, academic or proprietary.
Peter H. Salus, the author of A Quarter Century of UNIX and Casting the Net, is Editorial Director of SSC. He can be reached at email@example.com.
|Using Salt Stack and Vagrant for Drupal Development||May 20, 2013|
|Making Linux and Android Get Along (It's Not as Hard as It Sounds)||May 16, 2013|
|Drupal Is a Framework: Why Everyone Needs to Understand This||May 15, 2013|
|Home, My Backup Data Center||May 13, 2013|
|Non-Linux FOSS: Seashore||May 10, 2013|
|Trying to Tame the Tablet||May 08, 2013|
- RSS Feeds
- Making Linux and Android Get Along (It's Not as Hard as It Sounds)
- Using Salt Stack and Vagrant for Drupal Development
- New Products
- Validate an E-Mail Address with PHP, the Right Way
- Drupal Is a Framework: Why Everyone Needs to Understand This
- A Topic for Discussion - Open Source Feature-Richness?
- Download the Free Red Hat White Paper "Using an Open Source Framework to Catch the Bad Guy"
- Tech Tip: Really Simple HTTP Server with Python
- Home, My Backup Data Center
- Android is Linux -- why no better inter-operation
37 min 31 sec ago
- Connecting Android device to desktop Linux via USB
1 hour 6 min ago
- Find new cell phone and tablet pc
2 hours 4 min ago
3 hours 32 min ago
- Automatically updating Guest Additions
4 hours 41 min ago
- I like your topic on android
5 hours 28 min ago
- Reply to comment | Linux Journal
5 hours 49 min ago
- This is the easiest tutorial
12 hours 3 min ago
- Ahh, the Koolaid.
17 hours 42 min ago
- git-annex assistant
23 hours 41 min ago
Enter to Win an Adafruit Pi Cobbler Breakout Kit for Raspberry Pi
It's Raspberry Pi month at Linux Journal. Each week in May, Adafruit will be giving away a Pi-related prize to a lucky, randomly drawn LJ reader. Winners will be announced weekly.
Fill out the fields below to enter to win this week's prize-- a Pi Cobbler Breakout Kit for Raspberry Pi.
Congratulations to our winners so far:
- 5-8-13, Pi Starter Pack: Jack Davis
- 5-15-13, Pi Model B 512MB RAM: Patrick Dunn
- 5-21-13, Prototyping Pi Plate Kit: Philip Kirby
- Next winner announced on 5-27-13!
Free Webinar: Linux Backup and Recovery
Most companies incorporate backup procedures for critical data, which can be restored quickly if a loss occurs. However, fewer companies are prepared for catastrophic system failures, in which they lose all data, the entire operating system, applications, settings, patches and more, reducing their system(s) to “bare metal.” After all, before data can be restored to a system, there must be a system to restore it to.
In this one hour webinar, learn how to enhance your existing backup strategies for better disaster recovery preparedness using Storix System Backup Administrator (SBAdmin), a highly flexible bare-metal recovery solution for UNIX and Linux systems.