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Interview: Ask Bruce Perens What You Will 129

Bruce Perens is a computer programmer and one of the most important advocates for the open source community. He co-founded the Open Source Initiative with ESR and has worked towards reforms of national and international technology policies. He is an amateur radio enthusiast, and has pushed for open radio communication standards. He is also our interview guest today. As usual, ask as many questions as you'd like, but please, one per post.
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Interview: Ask Bruce Perens What You Will

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  • Unbalanced (Score:5, Funny)

    by Hentai ( 165906 ) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @12:13PM (#46650187) Homepage Journal

    Can you please convince ESR to change his name to Eric CloseParens? It's been bugging me for like, decades.

  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @12:19PM (#46650247)

    Having lived through the entire lifecycle of "open source," it seems like its place in development communities and businesses is well-established, with a mix of different licensing and deployment models for whatever anyone wants to do. there really anything interesting left in "open source" to talk about? (Software patents, maybe, but even that's picked up some case law.)

  • Question (Score:3, Interesting)

    by u38cg ( 607297 ) <> on Thursday April 03, 2014 @12:21PM (#46650273) Homepage
    What do you think of Slashdot Beta?
    • Re:Question (Score:4, Informative)

      by aardvarkjoe ( 156801 ) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @12:38PM (#46650477)

      Given that Bruce restarted in response to the Great Slashdot Beta Uprising, this question is certainly not offtopic.

      • I'd like to know if there's any real hope for ..? it re-started, i've followed it fairly frequently, and now it already seems rather moribund
        • No, there isn't. I wish there was, but the problem is that all the stories that this community really cares about are here and not on technocrat. The only way technocrat could ever hope to succeed is if somebody were absolutely shameless about copypasting stories they saw here so we could talk about them there instead. Since much of slashdot's content is links to other websites anyway, there's not really much reason that can't happen, but nobody's doing it, and I can't get hold of Peren* to ask about his po
          • by turgid ( 580780 )

            No, there isn't. I wish there was, but the problem is that all the stories that this community really cares about are here and not on technocrat.

            The quality of stories here has been in steady decline for 10 years and the standard of the associated discussions is pretty abysmal. Occasionally there's something good but it's 80% filler and non-stories.

            You can't have a decent discussion about anything because it's all anti-FOSS zealots, ignorant newbies and pro-MS "sensible" people these days. Gone are they d

        • Soylent News [] is probably a more realistic alternative to Slashdot than One of the major problems with is that Bruce has already killed it a couple times in the past when he lost interest -- so why would people move there now?

          Also, although Soylent News is using old Slashcode, it's still much more functional than the technocrat software.

          • Better yet, people should be moving to:


            Modern features like UTF-8. Fast clean interface. Its what beta should have been. Keeps everything good, throws out the bad. Plus, better name than solyant. Less drama.

          • Or better* [] which also forwards posts to Usenet - so there is a permanent archive that isn't locked in to any one site and a potential community of the millions of Usenetters.
            * for sufficiently small values of better
  • systemd (Score:4, Funny)

    by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @12:23PM (#46650301) Homepage Journal

    systemd - why?

  • I saw you giving out flyers regarding codec2(a free audio codec intended for amateur radio purposes) at the Dayton Hamvention a few years ago. Are you still involved with the codec2 project? Does it still exist or did it die?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The garden is becoming closed, because the people with money want more money. Open source is nice until there's lots of money to be made, then it goes away.

  • Newton (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Major Blud ( 789630 )

    After the Newton School shooting you posted on Slashdot that you would be willing to give up your second amendment right to prevent something like that from happening again. What other rights would you be willing to give up?

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You think the 2nd amendment actually keeps you safe and free?

      That's cute; you just keep believing that.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Major Blud ( 789630 )

        You think the government actually keeps you safe and free?

        That's cute; you just keep believing that.

        • Easy to prove - try a place where there isn't much of a government and see the differences in safety and freedom.

          It's also disturbing to see such ignorance dismiss an actual informed view as "cute". It's a "jock" bashing "geek" sort of situation just because the "jock" wants to make fun of someone that actually spends time thinking.
    • Re:Newtown (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Lord Kano ( 13027 )

      What makes him think that he has the right to decide that for me?


      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        Probably the fact that unlike many personal rights, this particular right granted by the second amendment is actually not-so-personal: it affects lives of all people besides the person in question to a much larger extent than, say, the right to say whatever you want. People can choose not to listen, but they can't avoid the bullets.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Major Blud ( 789630 )

          My owning a firearm does not affect you in any way whatsoever. I've never fired it at anyone and I never plan on it either. If you're that worried about the your' safety and that of others around you, there are far more deadlier things that can be outlawed (cars, alcohol, high-fructose corn syrup, etc).

          I wish I never posed the original question, I'm getting modded into oblivion :-)

          • > there are far more deadlier things that can be outlawed (cars, alcohol, high-fructose corn syrup, etc).

            That is a great list. Mod parent up!

            Another example:

            A person can legally kill themselves by
            a) smoking themselves to death, or
            b) drinking themselves to death

            but yet suicide is illegal. Only the time frame is the difference; yet the former are legal while the latter is not??

            Addictive drugs such as Alcohol, Nicotine, and Sugar are legal yet a harmless plant (Cannabis) is still illegal.

          • by vux984 ( 928602 )

            Here's the issue I have with your question. It's framed such that "giving up the 2nd amendment = gun ban" and that's fallacy.

            The 'trouble' with the 2nd amendment is that it's too strong, too absolute. It results in absolute permission, and one is not required to display any competence with guns, have any knowledge about guns, nor even observe common sense safety practices to have a gun. That's ridiculous.

            A "better" 2nd amendment would be one which treats guns much like we treat cars in practice. Anyone can

          • Don't worry. After 6 PM, the people with jobs get home from work and start balancing things out.


    • After the Newton School shooting you posted on Slashdot that you would be willing to give up your second amendment right to prevent something like that from happening again. What other rights would you be willing to give up?

      Bruce Perens is on record [] as a notorious hoplophobe.

      I lost a lot of the respect I had for him based on his public vitriol in the Newton post on Slashdot. I don't think it's respectable to pick and choose which human rights you support, and the individual right to keep and bear arms is fundamental to the universal right to self-defense.

      At least ESR is consistent in supporting liberty in all its forms, in computing and in real life (much to Bruce's obvious chagrin, per the above link).

    • The fundamental problem with the second amandment is that the only group I can actively imagine making use of it against the government is also the group I least want to see use it against the government.

      • .... the only group I can actively imagine making use of [2nd amendment] against the government is also the group I least want to see use it against the government.

        Then perhaps you should read a little history and see who has actually used privately-owned guns against their own govrernments - and what has happened when privately owned weapons were banned and confiscated.

        You should also consider that privately owned guns are "used" against governments by simply being there, rather than fired.

        Example: Richar

  • Bruce,

    Why do you act in such an abrasive and hostile manner when you discuss social issues about which you have opinions?


  • I'm sorry, I keep misreading these interview headlines. I do not think Bruce Parens knows what I will do, what I want, or what the contents of my will are.

    So Bruce, do you happen to know what I will do, what I want, or what my will says?

  • by UnknownSoldier ( 67820 ) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @12:58PM (#46650719)

    I'm an Graphics + UI + UX expert and use open source when I can (I also contribute to a minor open source emulator.)

    1. What can we as a community do to address the weaknesses of Open Source?
    That is, I see time and time again in open source:

    * Functionality not on par with certain commercial apps,
    * Bad UI,
    * Poor documentation such as man files that don't have any freaking examples,
    * A million and one clones that duplicate basic functionality

    2. How do you respond to trolls who call open source "open sores" ?

    3. How do we overcome the perceived image that "you get what you pay for" That is, some people think that if it is free it isn't worth anything, or it is only "worth" something if I must pay $$$ for it ?

    4. Finally, is there an up-to-date list that shows all the various open source "equivalents" of commercial software?


    Only Cowards Censor

    • by Tiger4 ( 840741 )

      More to the point, how do you reply to the criticism and practice that Open Source is worthless because there is no company to back it? I run into this all the time. First, no one stop shop to get tech support from if we have trouble.
      Second, No company to go after for liability
      And Third, no company to maintain regular bugfixes and general currency and freshness.

      We don't have a policy against Open Source, we just have a standard the vast majority of (perfectly adequate) software can never meet

    • by jez9999 ( 618189 )

      I'm an Graphics + UI + UX expert

      I have always found self-professed "UX experts" to be people who completely ignore what large numbers of users want and change GUIs for the sake of being trendy. Tell me, what do you think of Firefox's drastic UI changes since Firefox 3?

      • > self-professed "UX experts"

        Self-Professed?? My smegging JOB TITLE says "Senior User Experience Developer"
        I work for a Fortune 50 company. Yes, 50.
        These days I do mostly WebGL and Javascript work.

        My boss _starts_ with 60 FPS for UI. As someone who can tell the difference between 120 Hz, 60 Hz, and 30 Hz, I appreciate people who understand the technical and psychological issues in UI and name & shame those that don't have a clue about good UI design. Now if only the rest of the people in the comp

        • > because of 3 things:

          Programmer Irony: Fence-Post Bug. Should be 4 things. ;-)

        • by jez9999 ( 618189 )

          Yeah, your rather hostile attitude isn't doing much to change my opinion of people who generally like to call themselves "UX experts". I'm a programmer, but I wouldn't have the gall to call myself an "expert developer".

          Anyway, my specific question about FF is, why do UX "experts" think that it's OK to run roughshod over those of us who prefer a fuller browser chrome (even if we are a minority) and want tabs-on-bottom? Why is it OK for UX people to just force their mockups down everyone's throat? Because

          • I'm an expert because I have 20+ years of graphics programming & design. I not only know what TO DO, but also what NOT to do (which is JUST as important.)

            There is one answer to all your questions:

            Most UX people don't know what the fuck they are doing!!!

            They failed the 0th lesson:

            * Form MUST FOLLOW Function

            Sadly they are delusional and want "bling" at the expense of function. They want all sex appeal and forget that the best UI is one that gets out of your way!

            IMHO Good UI _must_ _first_ give th

            • The layout and shouty style of your last 2 posts (not to mention the rambling dump of superfluous information) ain't giving me a very good user experience. If this is a display of your professional skills, then I hope I'll never come across a man page written by you. Style aside, flooding people with random opinions is not the best way to convince others of your expertise. Neither is over-the-top hyperbole (Adobe Flash, really???) I'm not necessarily disputing you are what you claim you are - you could easi
              • Focus on the message not the messenger otherwise you just look like you are focusing on pointless ad hominem attacks.

              • > Neither is over-the-top hyperbole (Adobe Flash, really???)

                If you fail to understand BOTH the strengths and weakness of an application then you aren't really qualified to comment.

                > what I can tell you is that you seriously need to rethink your strategy to impress people

                I couldn't give a fuck what people think. If you want to focus on the messenger instead of the message then grow the fuck up.

                • Just trying to help. I presume you posted "the message" with the intention to be taken serious, else you wouldn't act so offended by jez9999 not taking you serious. I'm merely pointing out that your mode of communication is to blame for you not being taken serious. You really make yourself sound like a demoscene teenager trying to bluff yourself into a position of authority. People on this site are hidden behind the relative anonymity of their nicknames, so appeals to own authority don't work here. Even if
          • I now like tabs on top, it makes the URL bar easier to reach (and the search bar for occasional lusers who use my browser)
            It helps that Firefox comes with the "File edit view.." menu bar intact and title bar intact by default, on the OSes I use.

          • > I'm a programmer, but I wouldn't have the gall to call myself an "expert developer".

            At the risk of sounding offensive it sounds like you haven't programming very long. if you lack confidence in your own skills then try programming for another 20 years. Eventually you'll master it. I would recommend essential books such as:

            * Godel Escher Bach
            * The Mythical Man Month
            * Code Complete
            * Javascript: The Good Parts
            * The Pragmatic Programmer
            * The Design and Evolution of C++
            * Modern C++ Design

            For a more comple

    • If you're the same kind of "UI expert" that screwed up Google Maps on Android, I can safely say we don't need any of that crap and that OSS is doing fine. The problem is that you have a flawed metric for evaluating what's "right" and "wrong".
      • You are blaming the wrong party.

        I work in R&D.

        Change for the sake of change is a *horrible* UI philosophy. See my other reply for more details: []

      • by jez9999 ( 618189 )

        Amen to that. I've had to install the old Maps to get the old Navigate back again. Combining Navigate into the Maps interface was a HORRIBLE decision. If Google had a fucking clue about UI design they'd reverse the decision and separate them out again. It's 2 separate things god damnit!!

    • I'm an Graphics + UI + UX expert and use open source when I can (I also contribute to a minor open source emulator.)

      1. What can we as a community do to address the weaknesses of Open Source?

      The fact that you're asking that question tells everyone you are not a ui expert

      If you were, you'd know exactly what YOU could do to help.

      Maybe ... consider fixing the shitty UI options?

      • > The fact that you're asking that question

        Only a fool pretends to know. The wise man isn't afraid to ask to find out why.

        Or in the famous words of Neil Peart:

        "What is a master but a master student?"

        . /sarcams I guess you were born knowing ALL the answers. Sorry that I wasn't.

  • The OSI is 16 this year and in many ways has experienced a difficult childhood but has grown stronger as a result.

    What challenges do you forsee out child for the future?

  • I'd like to know your perspective on the future need for programmers while automation technology continues to displace workers in many industries.
  • by MouseTheLuckyDog ( 2752443 ) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @01:34PM (#46651099)

    Should the software used for Obamacare be open source. I don't just mean the website, but also things like the software controlling pharmaceuticals, X-raya, MRI, maintaining health records etc. ?

  • Did Bruce ACTUALLY agree to this, or is this another one of your retarded 'ask blah blah blah whatever you want' that just vanishes into nothing because the person in question never agreed to any such thing?

    Do you feel that you can continue to act like morons and continue to have any visitors at all?

    Being that timothy seems to have the highest IQ of the group, how does it feel to work with a group of 5 or 6 people that have a combined IQ of less than 100?

  • Is anyone working on a auto play blocker?
  • by bluefoxlucid ( 723572 ) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @01:47PM (#46651231) Homepage Journal

    Have you patched things up with Lee yet or are you still having a falling-out? Fans are eagerly to see another collaboration, perhaps a new steak sauce or rub.

  • What can you say about your activities geared towards eliminating the use of D-STAR, C4FM, and other proprietary digital codecs in Amateur Radio? It seems the scourge of these proprietary technologies continues unabated. Have you done any work to develop any open digital standards for Amateur Radio? If so, where does that work currently stand?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 03, 2014 @02:18PM (#46651545)

    Some years ago, around 2006, I attended a talk from Eric S. Raymond at a venue large enough to accommodate his massive ego and still leave room for attendees. He informed that he had essentially given HP their Open Source strategy. Your name was not mentioned once. I am curious what were your discussions like at HP during your time there, specifically in regards to the ideals of Free Software versus Open Source. My question specifically:

    What legal and financial hurdles and impacts, if any, did HP (and other companies) face when deciding between Open Source and Free Software models? I.e., what proprietary assets/IP could not be completely "freed"? What were the savings/costs associated with the decisions?

  • Why has the ARRL and FCC stalled on non-closed models for hams? D-Star is a travesty; but is the deeper problem that digitized voice trunking induces tracking fears-- especially across spread spectrum?

  • With predictability now almost certainly in many encryption algorithms, how can we be sure that root certs at CAs aren't jeopardized or compromised by algorithmic weakness?

  • by postbigbang ( 761081 ) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @03:10PM (#46652077)

    What are your five biggest fears for safety on the Internet today, and where do you believe responsible admins should put their efforts for those five?


  • by symbolset ( 646467 ) * on Thursday April 03, 2014 @03:35PM (#46652277) Journal
    Do you find your views on blended/mixed license models evolving over time? Is it time to lay down the pitchforks some of the time?
  • by unixisc ( 2429386 ) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @03:54PM (#46652431)
    What are your views on Open source hardware? Is it as important as open source software, or less important, or not important at all?
  • You are on record [] as being rather firmly against private ownership of firearms. Frankly, I thought this extremity of anti-gun zealotry was a Republican myth, a straw man used to rile the rabble. I understand that people in less civilized territories will on rare occasion use guns for murder and atrocity, I am not aware of this impulse being a general hazard of gun ownership.

    I'm from Alaska. All the people that I know who have guns have only ever used them for hunting. I'm less sympathetic to those who can a

  • I ran across an article which is hilarious in hindsight, [] relating some of the drama about the use of the closed-source tool BitKeeper for managing the Linux kernel. [] You told Linus to "cool it", and whether or not that worked, the result was the git source control management tool. This in turn has led to GitHub, and an increase in open-source projects, although it's hard to measure such things at the best of times. Do you feel like you were on the right side of that debate? Do you think git deserves the hype

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      I'll add to that:
      Bruce, since you seem to have considered it OK to violate the bitkeeper licence (correct me if I'm wrong) why do you consider it not OK to violate the GPL?

      Since people are bound to go for an attack on me I'd better state my view that if you use software you should stick to whatever rules the people who wrote it want and if you don't like them use something else. I prefer the GPL, but consider the bitkeeper, qt, iceweasel and other licence debacles very stupid storms in teacups.
      • Since I doubt that this sub-question will get through the editor, I'll give you my answer now. My objection was to the use of bitkeeper due to its license. This is not the same as being in favor of violating the license. What Tridge did (invoking the "HELP" command on a TCP stream connection to the bitkeeper server) was not a license violation.
  • It's kind of funny: I don't think any of these interviews have any responses from their subjects. Ask away! Then forget.

  • Did you donate money for Prop 8 one way or the other? If so, when do you plan on announcing your resignation?

  • What is the most important thing the open source community needs now? A display server?
  • Even though the total number of licensed hams continues to rise, the prevailing view of those who are not part of the hobby is that it's a thing of the past. How do you see the Amateur (Ham) Radio evolving when there is so much attention on the Internet, cell phones etc.? (The go-to answer here is almost always emergency communications, and while that's important, that's not enough to keep people engaged in amateur radio as a hobby.)

"For a male and female to live continuously together is... biologically speaking, an extremely unnatural condition." -- Robert Briffault