But then I took another look at the article and at Open Source software in general, and I saw what he saw, and possibly the context that he saw it in. Until about a year or so ago, the mainstream press generally ignored Open Source and didn't really know what was going on in the field. Now everyone is jumping on the Linux bandwagon and the press are following the field for the first time. Look at Linux, Apache, Bind, and the rest. They were mature projects by the time the rest of the industry took notice. Since then, except for Mozilla, there have been no major Open Source projects that made a major impact on the market.
I guess I've just made myself serious flame-bait for all of you out there, but take a close look at the announcements on sites like freshmeat, SourceForge, or even LinuxBerg. For about the last eight months now, all I've seen in the line of new projects have been small utilities that do something that is often meaningless in the bigger picture. Sure, every one of us wants his ICQ client to look the way he wants, so those who can write their own and publish it for those who can't. I know I'm guilty of doing exactly that with my gView and gRun applications. They have been small tools I needed and that I decided the rest of the world might take an interest in.
I am not saying that those small projects should not have occurred, or that they are meaningless in themselves. My point is that these small projects are the only new items to come out of Open Source for the last while. Where are the killer applications, the Dream Weavers, the Visual Studios, the Exchanges, GroupWises or Lotus Notes, and the massive network management platforms? They are just not there, and while we don't do anything about it, the commercial programmers will either ignore the platform, or write their own versions and charge for them. And they will do it.
Maybe we should take a step backwards and look at the overall picture. There is something wrong with the image that we can see close up, like a puzzle where the pieces have fit, but are in the wrong place. Maybe it is a lack of seasoned developers and project leaders to create new projects, or a lack of programmers who feel that they have what it takes. I can tell you what it is not. It is not a lack of ideas or needs. There are plenty of those out there for us to take hold of and fill. We just need something to kick us in the butts and shove us into the deep end.
Right now, the rest of the world is looking at us with great expectations. We have made huge claims about how Open Source is the only way and that it produces better programs than the closed system. We know that is true. They see it as a claim, an unfulfilled claim on our part. We need to stop shouting to gain attention; we have it now. Now we need to start producing results to prove that Open Source is not just a handful of highly successful projects and a sandstorm of small, single utilities, or they will shrug their shoulders and pat Uncle Bill on the back again. And we don't need that.
So let's make a deal with ourselves: Let's pull the fingers out of the nether regions, climb down off the high horses, and get down to some serious work. I am working on a new project, been tinkering for a few months now, in fact. The project, tentatively entitled Rainfall, is a distributed backup system that can be used to perform backups on multiple systems from a single controlling console. It isn't as big a project as some, but it is something that I think we need. If you agree, contact me and we can try form a project team. If you disagree, contact me as well.
To Linus, Alan, Manish, Frederico, and all the rest of you that are out there: I give you a major vote of thanks and my eternal gratitude for what you have done. It has taken an lot of commitment, dedication, and endeavor from you to do what you have done. Now the rest of us must take up the rope and help pull as well. Otherwise, commercial software will win the war.
I invite comment, criticism, and anything else that you may feel is necessary to be said.
Bruce A. Smith <firstname.lastname@example.org> is 24 and a 4th year IT student at the Port Elizabeth Technikon in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, with qualifications in chemistry and computer programming. He works as a general troubleshooter in Tech's Computer Services Department on a part-time basis. In short, a single white male with mild delusions of grandeur.
We're eager to find people interested in writing editorials on software-related topics. We're flexible on length, style, and topic, so long as you know what you're talking about and back up your opinions with facts. Anyone who writes an editorial gets a freshmeat t-shirt from ThinkGeek in addition to 15 minutes of fame. If you think you'd like to try your hand at it, let email@example.com know what you'd like to write about.