Open source: It's economically superior

Or so said Larry Augustin in his LinuxWorld keynote. But the VA Linux chief had precious little to say about his company's Andover.Net/Slashdot deal

In news that surprised almost everyone at LinuxWorld Expo here, VA Linux -- the leading Linux hardware vendor -- announced Thursday it was buying Andover.Net, a popular Linux news and online discussion site and the home of the famous (or infamous)

But VA Linux's president and CEO, Larry Augustin, had little to say about the Andover.Net deal in his keynote speech.

Instead, Augustin focused his remarks on the economic superiority of open-source methodology compared with less efficient closed-source methodologies. "Open-source is just more economically efficient than proprietary code," Augustin said.

Why? Two reasons, he said: First, open-source development is cheaper and faster than traditional development strategies.

"Open-source builds, it doesn't reinvent," he said. "There's no need to waste time reinventing the wheel over again." In short, he said, "open-source is evolutionary, not reinvention."

Augustin pointed to the Trillian Project as a perfect example open-source development at its best. He demonstrated the Trillian IA-64 Linux operating system, which the Trillian team released to open-source developers on Wednesday.

And second, Augustin said he believes an open-source business model, in which companies are intermediaries between unwashed developers and users, is not the right way to go for either the companies or the open-source community. "Separating users from the development process is a mistake. You want to encourage users to become developers," Augustin told the audience.

VA Linux says it believes the way to do this is via open-source development environments, such as its own SourceForge, a free online program repository and portal for open-source developers.

During his keynote, Augustin announced some new changes to SourceForge: hatch management and the ability to compile for specific Linux distributions, and FreeBSD using SourceForge-provided compilation tools.

Developers attending the keynote said they were particularly excited about the expansion of SourceForge's capabilities. "This will make making my open-source projects commercially successful much easier," one developer said.

Augustin's talk was far more of an open-source movement's rallying cry than a product pitch. But he failed to address, even in passing, the VA Linux takeover of Andover.Net -- a topic very much on the minds of show attendees.

Those not involved in the deal openly questioned the benefits that either company, VA Linux or Andover.Net, would receive from the deal. Some suggested that VA Linux's association with Andover.Net would help with VA Linux's name recognition.

Many wondered publicly and privately how would retain its editorial freedom now that its leaders are being paid by VA Linux.

As some noted, even if the open-source enthusiast crew retains its independence, its movers and shakers are now in the difficult position of "appearing" to be editorially compromised.

How "trustworthy" can such believers find a that is owned by a single vendor? Earlier in the day, Augustin said VA Linux's acquisition of Andover.Net would create "the Yahoo! for open-source developers."

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