Subject: Re: Computer Survey on perceived advantages of Open Source
From: Adam Turoff <>
Date: Fri, 13 May 2005 19:49:21 -0400

On Fri, May 13, 2005 at 01:57:27PM -0700, David Fetter wrote:
> On Fri, May 13, 2005 at 03:45:21PM -0400, Adam Turoff wrote:
> > Aha!  You're using vendor lock-in vs. standards adherence as a proxy
> > for open/vendor owned/proprietary.  Sorry, but that's a specious
> > argument.  
> How is it specious in this case?  Or are you going to the general case
> when the one at hand is MySQL?  If so, you should say so.

I don't have a horse in this race.  I raised the issue because Cliff was
making a general case demonstrated by PostgreSQL <=> MySQL <=> Oracle.

This was an attempt to get Cliff to clarify his position, which he did.

> > You could make an equally compelling argument for the converse: better to 
> > use MySQL and its implementation of SQL-92[*] instead of Oracle+Extensions.
> > 
> > [*] Or the subset of SQL-9x that MySQL implements; ISTR MySQL does
> >     everything shy of stored procs.
> As somebody making as strong a statement as this, you should have done
> some more checking, 

Um, you deleted the part where I said:

> > Sorry, but I didn't check standards compliance among database
> > vendors this week....

If you read my full argument, you'd see that I wasn't arguing that about
MySQL's compliance, but highlighting that Cliff's point wasn't about
corporate open source vs. proprietary, but about vendor lock-in vs.
vendor lock-in.  

Which is why I further clarified that I wasn't stating that MySQL is 
a fully compliant SQL-* implementation, and that if you put forth the
subset of MySQL that's compliant with a standard, you can hold _that_
against Oracle + Extensions.  

> > That doesn't prevent "vendor lock-in" from occurring in
> > community-run open source projects, either; look at PL/Perl and
> > friends.
> Are you saying that somebody somewhere should deliberately attempt to
> write FLOSS software which only and exactly follows a standard?!?
> Who's going to fund one of those?

No.  I'm saying that "vendor lock-in" can happen with open source
software just as easily as it has with proprietary software, even when
that open source package doesn't have a nominal "vendor".  PL/Perl
is just such an example -- an extension to open source software without
a vendor that can lead to lock-in.

> > MySQL rewrites every patch contributed to the project, so they
> > maintain copyright, and preserve their right to dual-license the
> > software.
> I'm not sure how this protects them from the patent issues you
> mention below.  Could you elucidate, please?

Sure.  I didn't mention patents.  The claims in the SCO case I'm
referring to are about copyright infringement (like the code that got
committed verbatim by SGI from an ancient Unix release).  

Does that clear things up?  ;-)

> > In that respect, where is the lesser risk?
> I don't know for sure, but I do know that PostgreSQL has a track
> record to stand on, and MySQL's track record is...well...let's say
> they've established male fides in a lot of different arenas.

The question was somewhat rhetorical.  Risk can't be assessed by that
one factor in isolation, especially when MySQL could be sued for
copyright infringement at some indeterminate point in the future,
regardless of its policy to rewrite patches.  (And, it goes without
saying, that such a hypothetical case may have dubious merit.)

Again, in the general case, my point remains that blanket statements
about risk across community open source projects, corporate open source
projects and proprietary software are somewhat specious.

-- Adam