Monday, February 28, 2005

Q: What's the major drawback of Open Source

A: Nobody to sue.

Now that I’ve spent weeks making public the inner most workings of my daily neurotic fretting, I’ve been thinking that I really should be doing more tech blogging. After all I do code for a living and have managed to make a reasonable, although sometimes turbulent livelihood in the software industry. So, I’ve been trying to think of some sort of topic that I could expound upon in a dazzling way that demonstrates my infinite technical wisdom and abundant programming prowess. Can't do it. I just don't remember stuff any more, nor do I want to. I simply leave little notes to myself in the form of browser bookmarks, overly verbose function names, and little scribbles in a little black notebook that my girlfriend gave me.

(Sort of weird that when you get to be fifty years old and you are involved with a woman with whom you have no matrimonial tie, the moniker for the relationship becomes that which you used by in High School. Sorta of weirder that the moniker fits most of the times. You’d think that I’d have learned a thing or two about the nature and execution of intimate relationships with the opposite sex since the horror of adolescence.)

Yet, a few days ago I was slinging some .NET code against a mySQL database and the transactions were behaving like an eight year old that wanted to go to the bathroom more than put away his toys. The transaction would fail, but only some of the data writes would rollback. Needless to say I found the scenario less than comforting in that we’re talking about handling real financial records. I wondered if betting a portion of the enterprise's cash disbursement behavior on a technology that is Open Source and wonderfully free for the download was wise. But I figure, hey with Apache running 60% of the web servers in the known universe, who am I to bitch?

Still things were not happening in the program in the way that I wanted them to. Most likely there was something in my code that was making the numbers crunch in a somewhat asymmetrical, somewhat unreliable manner. I’ve been doing this long enough to know that if something sucks, it isn’t going to get better just by blaming the tool or obsessively recompiling the code. But misery loves company. So I lamented to Frank, the guy who works over next to me, in a cube distinctly different than mine. Frank was also a bit antsy about Open Source in the Enterprise, not that there is anything more abhorrent about the technology than that which the commercial providers sell for hard cash, a government PO or a credit card with a CNP number.

Our big qualm was this: That if something goes wrong in our code, and it is not of our own doing, then who do we sue? Some 17 year old graduate school prodigy who is writing brain surgery kernel code as a way to get a Ph. D. in Computer Science and impress girls, as if all the girls we wanted in High School really care about the delicacies of programming an operating system?

I mean we’re modern software developers. We know all about writing tight efficient loops, avoiding null pointers, doing proper error handling, the fundamentals of design patterns, attracting venture capital, protecting intellectual property, defining a proper exit strategy, and compensatory litigation. We demand reliability and accountability. We know the meaning of treble damages.

After all we've got a world to run here for chissakes; can we really leave the well being of our ego and our patron's wealth to the whims of a cooperative group that might just have ulterior motives that might be of benefit to a certain company that has a name with three letters and promotes blue suits and red ties and is rival to a company that is headquartered in an area of the world where it rains a lot? The Trojan War was not a David and Goliath thing. There was no little guy involved. Both Troy and Greece knew a thing or two about waging war.

Besides, what good is a product if you can't sue the manufacturer?

And to think, at one time all we wanted to do was put a man on the moon and change the world.

I’m tired now. I am going to bed.

18 Comments:

Blogger Rob Miles said...

I reckon you are right on the money on this one. I don't want to base my software on something written for a bet. I want the person originating code I use to have something more tangible than "street cred" to lose if it all goes wrong. And I want to know where they live...

4:59 AM  
Blogger Randy Charles Morin said...

And I thought the advantage of open source is that you could fix the bugs in the underlying libraries.

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Blogger Bob Reselman said...

I am reminded of the sign that I saw in my favorite Italian Deli and Accessory store in Santa Monica:

"What you break, you own. Be careful."

:>

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Blogger Ralph Loizzo said...

I never did ask you Bob, which data provider were you using? The connector provided by mySql.com or third party?

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