[sf-lug] FOSS community attitudes

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Fri Oct 17 13:12:46 PDT 2008

Quoting Jesse Zbikowski (embeddedlinuxguy at gmail.com):

> Currently there is no PC video card / free driver combo which offers
> the price / performance of NVidia or ATI with proprietary drivers.

Although I'm not a gamer and so am not held hostage to gamer punk
bullshit about how incredibly vital it is to have unsurpassed 3D frame
rates, I think you need to look at recent Intel offerings.  And, of
course, Matrox still offers the best video picture _quality_ for those
of us who don't give a damn about 3D at _all_, and are among the
minority in a position to deploy video cards (i.e., in certain
non-laptop workstation boxes).

> Now if the Linux userbase goes up to 25 million or 25% market share,
> suddenly there is a market opportunity for 25 million consumers who
> may prefer your offering if you sell a card with free drivers.

The phrase I used was "_perceived_ market opportunity" (emphasis added).

There is a perception, especially at Nvidia, Inc. that, to the extent 
video firms can offer video cards / motherboard video chips for
non-server use, the userbase is perfectly fine with proprietary drivers
that might break over 2+ years of kernel upgrades, except for a small
lunatic fringe of free / open-source software faithful.

Corporate perceptions are often irrational and, in such cases, the 
only real remedy is to start buying something else (in this case, Intel
and Matrox) and wait for the clueless firms to panic when they finally 
realise they're seeing a sea-change in lost mindshare to a competitor.
Or go broke or become irrelevant, whichever happens first.

I was at VA Linux Systems when exactly that sort of panic dawned on
Adaptec, Inc. management, who they quietly sent a couple of their top
engineers over to learn how to do open source, so as to stem the
mindshare (and business) migration over to Buslogic and Symbios / Tecram.

> Obviously this is more interesting to you as a company than 1 million.

Oddly, your example doesn't work, and thus becomes yet another minor 
example of someone trying to convince me of the theoretical importance
of a theoretical evangelism effort based on non-sequitur reasoning.

> (Not to mention, increasing the number of Linux users who contribute
> to the community in other ways besides being consumers, is also
> interesting.)

Hoping not to seem as if I'm complaining, but:  If you could be a few
orders of magnitude more specific, it might be possible to assess this
claim for truth value.  The past 18 years of Linux history have been
littered with some pretty sad examples of grandiose and vaporous claims
for what a theoretical massive increase in Linux users would accomplish
for "the community", which upon examination turn out to mostly mean
filling support mailing lists with erroneous bug reports.

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