Subject: Re: the walls have ears
From: Brian Bartholomew <bb@wv.com>
Date: Mon, 31 May 1999 13:17:48 -0400

> I thought having the source code to programs was important, but it
> turned out to be a bad thing because [bad experience] so now we have
> a rule in our organization to not use any product for which we
> actually have the source code, although we are permitted to use
> products that are derived, by others, from BSD'd and PD'd code, as
> long as we get only the proprietary binaries.

Such an argument was made to me by network managers with real impact
on a purchasing decision.  This was at a state university about ten
years ago.  The program was MD-DOS/IP, an NFS stack for DOS which we
could have purchased a site license for source code for $5K.

We had a couple hundred Novell sites campuswide.  My proposal was to
replace all the Novell with NFS.  This upgrade would eliminate the
limitations of the Novell client, permit managing the file server
sensibly, and terminate the ongoing license payments to Novell.  The
$5K site license price should have been irrelevant to a University.
At each site, the Novell server hardware would move to someone's desk,
and get replaced with a cheap used Sun 3/60 using the money budgeted
for the next Novell upgrade.

A large subset of the managers for the DOS shops, and the campus
backbone manager, told me they didn't want their users to have source
code.  If users were given knobs they would frob them.  If users had
source, they would be forever tinkering and hopelessly breaking
things.  Nothing would ever work.  These "managers" didn't have the
political clout to police their shared network commons, so they
enforced their authority with technical obscurity.


A member of the League for Programming Freedom (LPF) http://lpf.ai.mit.edu
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Brian Bartholomew - bb@wv.com - www.wv.com - Working Version, Cambridge, MA