Tag Archives: FOSS

On professional motivation (or changing the world isn’t just for entrepreneurs)

I came across this post by Micah Baldwin via Hacker News and I could empathize with the content just a few lines in. Although, I am not an entrepreneur (by choice), I agree with the essence of the post that …

The world is fucked up place. There are more problems than solutions.

But, with the acceleration of the capacity of technology to make important and
lasting change, we need more of our great minds caring about changing the world
than clicking an ad.

I’ve often wondered (and people have questioned me about this too) — why I do what I do ? why did I chose to work at the companies I did ? Especially since I know for a fact that there at least a few dozen of places out there, that would not only offer me a better pay packet but also offer the technical challenges and stimulation that I crave.

Every time this question crops up, it doesn’t take too long to come to the conclusion that it’s because, for me to feel like showing up, it isn’t enough that I enjoy the technical aspects of my job, or the flexibility to nurture creativity or the big monitors and comfortable chairs — all of which, yeah, I do care about — however, at the end of the day, I want to feel like my work, the stuff that I do on a daily basis, needs to have a impact on society at large.

This is why I worked at Red Hat …and at the UNFCCC …and now at Largeblue (focusing mainly on openideo.com ). I have worked at other places too and except for the places where I transformed and grew as a programmer, I wasn’t really satisfied just ‘pushing the bits‘ so to speak on the path to successful acquisition or market leadership.

Which brings me to the other point I’d like to make with regards to the Micah’s post — It isn’t just the entrepreneurs who are continually chasing the software industry equivalent of producing penile enlargement pills instead of cancer research, regular software developers, the foot-soldiers too do not see beyond the toys that they get to play with.

I am, by choice, a foot-soldier of technology[1]. I do not have the motivation nor the tenacity to be a entrepreneur. However, as a foot-soldier, I still deeply care about the cause I am committing to. So, it isn’t just a choice made by entrepreneurs. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that the foot-soldiers eventually make all the difference. You cannot change the world all by yourself even if you have the best of ideas.

Regardless of that last point though, ultimately it is the choice of every single one of us in the software industry to be part of either the ad-revenue generation business or that of ‘the agents of change’ in the world[2].

Thanks for reading. Please leave any thoughts/comments you might have.

[1] of open source technology specifically.
[2] Note that, I do not think these two things are mutually exclusive.

Is Red Hat really an Open Source company ?

This question keeps cropping up every once in a while on different LUG lists where I lurk. It is a fairly established fact now in the FOSS world (or for that matter in the software world) that businesses can be both Open Source as well as commercial (ie: for profit). However, the specifics of the mechanism for doing this is still not well understood.

As an example, there was a post on the Mumbai GLUG list, questioning whether the restrictions on the distribution of Red Hat Enterprise Linux were similar to restrictions of an ELUA of proprietary software and whether copying RHEL CDs was piracy.

Well, since a few people thought it was a good explanation, I’m posting my reply(*) here:


I think there are a few basic things that you need to understand before you understand the answers to your questions:

  1. Unlike the proprietary world, FOSS does not distinguish between developer, user and distributor. Each person receiving FOSS software, has the right to assume any or all of the three roles. There is no ‘END USER’ (for an ELUA to exist). So from that perspective, you are a distributor if you share something (using a CD, online, pen-drive …or any media).
  2. Piracy is the practice of hijacking a naval vessel and plundering it. Software Piracy is a silly nonsensical term. Software related violations include things like copyright violation, trademark infringement and unfortunately patent violations …etc.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, here is a simplified (IMHO) explanation of what everybody already said:
RHEL == Linux Kernel + GPL/BSD/MIT …etc licensed Software + Red Hat trademarks (artwork etc)

Q: How must does the RHEL distro cost ?
A: 0/-

Q: How does Red Hat make money, if the cost of the RHEL distro is 0 ?
A: Subscriptions, trainings, consultancy …and maybe more.

Q: How is the RHEL distro. distrubuted ?
A: The sources are available for free on redhat.com and Red Hat provides CDs/DVDs of the distro. to it’s customers (people who buy subscriptions or undertake trainings …etc)

Q: Can you ask Red Hat to send you a RHEL distro CD if you are not a Red Hat customer ?
A: No
Update: As Thomas Cameron, points out in the comments, it is possible to get the ISO images if you sign up for an evaluation at http://www.redhat.com/rhel/details/eval/.

Q: Can you download RHEL sources from Red Hat servers ?
A: Yes

Q: Can you use the downloaded sources to make a RHEL CD ?
A: Yes
Update: Another clarification, from Thomas, although you can compile the sources and create a CD, you cannot call it RHEL. It is a clone.

Q: Can you distribute (including sharing with your neighbor) the CDs you made ?
A: Yes ! IF you remove all the trademarks from the CDs (so that your neighbour is clear about the fact that what she is getting is not coming directly from Red Hat).
Update: This is exactly what CentOS does. (thanks jkanti, for pointing that out in the comments)

Q: If you have received a CD/DVD from Red Hat (because you are a customer), can you make /exact/ copies of that CD/DVD and distribute it ?
A: No ! That is trademark violation.

Q: Instead of making copies, can you use the same CD/DVD you received from Red Hat to install RHEL on more than one systems ?
A: Yes, you can..
Update: No, you cannot. Installation of RHEL on more systems than the number of subscriptions you have purchased is considered as redistribution, which implies trademark violation. Again, thanks Thomas, for the correction.

Hope that clarifies everything. If you have more questions, ask here or just contact Red Hat directly :).


(*) verbatim, except for reformatting for the purpose of this post. Thanks Raj Mathur, for the blog post suggestion ! Of the whole bunch of things need to learn about blogging …recognizing what would make a post is the most important šŸ™‚