Open Source articles in ITNow (2010, July, pp.06-25) 1


Dear OSSG member

Just received my July 2010 edition of ITNow and note that there are many pages devoted to Open Source. Unfortunately the BCS Open Source SG (OSSG) were not made aware that ITNow would be covering Open Source.

Therefore I would be interested to know your thoughts on the articles in the July edition of ITNow be they good, bad, or indifferent.

Mark Elkins
chair@ossg.bcs.org
OSSG

Comments received

“First, it was great to see such a focus. However, the articles are quite light-weight but they do make many key points relating to the generic advantages and considerations of embracing open source. Overall they provide a reasonable introduction to the topic however there are clearly many specific topics relating to the exploitation of open source in relation to virtualisation, cloud, satellite server, licensing, support etc that would probably be of much more interest and value to the typical reader.

Regards”

A

“I did not find the articles particularly informative, bit of a wasted opportunity in my view.

“A Quiet Revolution”? There’s not much that is quiet about Richard Stallman, or any other FOSS advocate, in fact its hard to shut them up! The quiet revolution was not Open Source, it was Closed Source, some time around the late ’70s to early ’80s. Before then everyone shared code.

Not one mention of the ideological and political reasons for using FOSS. Those are major motivators behind many uses of FOSS. “I like Linux because it is not Microsoft”, how many times have you heard that? Any discussion about the adoption of FOSS is incomplete without it.

Worse was the article on Open Source Software Licenses, clearly Rachel Burnett does not have a clue. It contains phrases like “the OSS license”, as if there is only one! There was not much detail, but it appeared that the GPL was the target license of the article, although that did not get named (the fact that there are several GPL versions is probably over her head). How many OSS licenses are there? Over 300? I have lost track.

Open Source licenses are a minefield, and I would have liked to have seen an informed comparison. I know that the FSF do a comparison, but they tend to be rather biased towards GPL”.

B

“It is always good to publish the news regarding opensource. that is very much helpful.

Best regards”

C

“Haven’t received mine yet, but I’ll feed back to you when I do. I have to say I don’t have a lot of hope that it will be inspired articles”.

“When I got home I did read the latest IT Now.  I would prefer to be positive about the issue, but find it hard to be so.
The front page sets the tone.  “Open Source – Now is the time to investigate alternative software solutions” That’s at least 10 years out of date.
The articles have been covered pretty well in other comments, particularly the Securiy one.  Steve Smith seems to have done a bit of a Gerald Ratner for his company – who will use him as a security consultant now?
I felt there was a missed opportunity here.  There were no real life examples.  Open Source is being used extensively today and has been for many years.  Who would run an HTTP server other than Apache?
I was quite excited when I saw the comment “There’s a huge difference between open source and free software…” But there was no explanation after that.  I assume the “free” is free as in beer and “open source” free as in speech, but that never came out.
Over all it makes the BCS look like a bunch of people who can talk business, but wouldn’t know a computer if it hit them in the face and are living sometime in the 1980s or 90s.
Disappointing.

Regards”
D

“I had intended on commenting via the membership LinkedIn group that I thought the BCS magazine was particularly vacuous this month. The OSS articles I felt were extremely shallow and although they put the case for OSS adoption there was no real analysis or justification. To be perfectly honest July’s ITNow looks more like a glossy brochure for private dental care than a computer society’s members magazine”.

E

“My thoughts were, is there any open source software that BCS could usefully be using?”

F

“Did the BCS put any effort at all into contacting the OSSG membership about the latest issue of IT-NOW?

No. Thought not.

I’m not sure I’ll renew my membership. Not happy!

Best wishes”

G

H made a comment with regard to the article “Can Open Source Be Secure” that appeared on pages 18-19 of the July edition of ITNow and also at : http://www.bcs.org/server.php?show=conWebDoc.36428

“I wondered if the OSSG was approached to comment on this article?

Working with OSS in many small and medium businesses, I find many of the
points unfounded and somewhat misleading”.

H


“”Like most IT Now issues/articles, I’m afraid it’s rather feeble. They seem to write assuming the technical knowledge of a 4th-form GCSE IT student. Mostly harmless vanilla waffle. But the legal article on OSS licenses by “Past BCS President and IT lawyer” Rachel Burnett is appalling – she states without qualification that when you create a derivative work, it must be licensed on the same terms as the original: “This means that any investment in creating commercial software products
which use the OSS source code cannot be realised by charging for use of those products”. How can someone with that level of ignorance become an IT lawyer, let alone BCS President?


But perhaps it was bad sub-editing: since the intro says that she ‘discusses the Open Source Initiative’, but the article only mentions it very briefly in the last paragraph, one suspects that a lot has been cut to make room for a large irrelevant picture of a penguin.””

I

Quoted from http://network.bcs.org/group/179/discussions/580
“I appreciate…comments on the recent ITNow article on Open Source . It is normal practice for the BCS publishing team to consult with our Specialist Groups or other expert members about the topics we cover in the magazine but unfortunately this time a mistake was made and this step was missed , and I apologise for this.

However, this and other recent comments about the content of the magazine have been taken on board and we are reviewing our approach to the magazine to ensure it meets the needs of our members. We are keen that members contribute to this process and have set up a group in the member network to begin discussion on what they want the magazine to be. I hope you will get involved, the group is called ITNow Evolution.

Best wishes.

Elaine Boyes
Head of Publishing and Information Products
BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT”

“I rarely find any article of interest in IT Now since they usually consist of lightly modified corporate marketing pieces, all fluff and no substance. The Open Source issue was equally disappointing because although they did not feel like sales pitches, the articles were vague and anecdotal rather than informative and analytical.  For example, the “Cracking the Desktop” article fails to mention Firefox, one of the most successful open source desktop applications. A case study of the challenges faced in deploying this faster and more secure alternative to older versions of IE would have been informative, yet the article looks at the cost benefits of switching to OpenOffice an obsolete technology compared to online office tools such as Google Docs.

“Can Open Source Be Secure?” also exhibits the lack of editorial rigour in IT Now. The phrase “Experts do not agree” should not be allowed without referencing at least two sources (i.e. the “experts” on either side of the argument) yet the article contains no citations at all. The label ‘Journalist hiding their own opinions by using phrases…’  from http://www.tomscott.com/warnings/ should perhaps be applied here.

I have renewed my BCS membership for another year on the basis that my local branch and Specialist Groups provides some value, and I will give the new Academy of Computing project a chance, but my opinion of IT Now is that it is not worth reading.

Best wishes”

J


One thought on “Open Source articles in ITNow (2010, July, pp.06-25)

  • jeremybennett

    I was deeply disappointed by this edition of IT Now. Seven articles on deploying open source, none on developing open source. Not the right balance.

    It does not surprise me that “IT Now” did not approach the OSSG. The BCS has been neglecting its member and specialist groups for some time. One reason we ended up with a divisive EGM and confidence votes in the CEO and Trustees.

    Jeremy

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