From the Editor, July 2005: Win-Lose Situations

Can't we all just get along? The answer is no, we can't, so we'd better at least be polite about it.

We go to press at what we hope is the end of a nasty brouhaha over kernel development, with Linus Torvalds finally forced to abandon BitKeeper, his favorite source code management system, and develop an alternative. Samba guru Andrew Tridgell developed a free tool to pull data from BitKeeper repositories, BitKeeper's Larry McVoy responded by pulling the free-of-charge version that kernel developers had been using, and a lot of people's carpal tunnels took a beating in the resulting—well let's be nice and call it a discussion.

Much as we like to find the win-win situations where we can, people have different goals. Are you writing a really good operating system kernel, are you building a proprietary software business or do you want to keep up with what's going on without having to accept BitKeeper's non-compete clause? The Linux business is all grown up in a lot of ways, moving billions of dollars in hardware, software and services, but now that we are the IT marketplace, it's time to be more honest with ourselves about conflict.

Some of us are always going to sound like software freedom zealots, and some are always going to sound like greedy swindlers. The answer isn't to flame the other side with the “if you'd just compromise on my issue, it would be good for Linux” argument. Understand you're in conflict and sell your alternative as well as you can. Here's where Linux Journal comes down on a side that has to be in opposition to some of the other participants in the market—but we're not going to say it's for the good of “Linux”, or start flaming when people won't act against their own interests.

In the long run, we say it's worth a lot of late nights, hot coffee and risking getting flamed on a support list to get your organization's directory service away from a proprietary choice and onto one of the freedom-friendly, standardized alternatives. Although you might be able to move some applications to Linux sooner if you just plug Linux in to your existing proprietary directory, that is the road to lock-in. Letting readers get locked in is bad for us because we're here to help everyone do new, innovative projects on all kinds of systems, not just whatever is in the directory vendor's interest to support.

When Craig Swanson and Matt Lung proposed the now-famous “OpenLDAP Everywhere” in 2002, it was as a piece on making your whole business run on Linux. That's a big subject, so Craig and Matt decided to narrow the focus. Strangely, they still managed to cover the essentials for getting your whole company running right. A lot has changed since 2002, so Craig and Matt are back on page 40 with a new, updated version that covers new software versions and lessons learned.

It's not all controversy this month, though. The best tools don't force you into hard choices. Joshua Bentham has an intro to a cross-platform, easy-to-use way to develop database apps on page 54. Enjoy the issue.

Don Marti is editor in chief of Linux Journal.


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