An Open Source Resource List

Copyright (c) 1999-2001 by Rich Morin
published in Silicon Carny, December 1999


The Free Software and Open Source communities have developed a fair amount of literature; here are some (annotated) pointers.

The Free Software and Open Source communities have developed a fair amount of literature over the years. Aside from information on specific packages (not discussed here), there are quite a few documents that cover more abstract issues such as economics, philosophy, and sociology. Here are some (annotated) pointers to documents that could entertain you on some long Winter evening.

O'Reilly & Associates

O'Reilly & Associates has several offerings of interest to Open Source aficionados. Their Open Source web area (opensource.oreilly.com), aside from listing a plethora of products, links to a number of essays, interviews, etc.

It also links to a substantial Open Source Bibliography, which covers books from a wide range of publishers. Speaking of books, I strongly recommend that you obtain both "Open Sources" and "The Cathedral and the Bazaar".

"Open Sources" is a set of essays by prominent members of the Open Source community. The authors (Behlendorf, Bradner, Hamerly, McKusick, O'Reilly, Paquin, Perens, Raymond, Stallman, Tiemann, Torvalds, Vixie, Wall, and Young) should be quite familiar to any Open Source user. Not surprisingly, the essays are well worth reading.

Open Sources:
Voices from the Open Source Revolution
Edited by Chris DiBona, Sam Ockman & Mark Stone
O'Reilly & Associates, 1999, ISBN 1-56592-582-3

"The Cathedral & the Bazaar" is a hardbound snapshot of Eric Raymond's essays on the Open Source phenomenon. For better or worse, Eric is largely responsible for the recasting of "Free Software" into "Open Source". Acting as a historian, organizier, publicist, and gadfly, he has had a tremendous influence on recent events.

The Cathedral & the Bazaar:
Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary
Eric S. Raymond
O'Reilly & Associates, 1999, ISBN 1-56592-724-9

Eric also edits "The New Hacker's Dictionary", which is a really enjoyable collection of definitions and anecdotes. If you'd like to learn about some of the origins of hacker jargon (e.g., "feeping creaturism") and folklore, this is a really good place to begin.

The New Hacker's Dictionary, 3rd ed.
Edited by Eric S. Raymond
MIT Press, 1996, ISBN 0-262-68092-0

O'Reilly also sponsors assorted conferences on Open Source topics. Their Open Source Convention, which started as a Perl event, now covers a range of Open Source topics (e.g., Apache, Linux, Python, sendmail, Tcl/Tk).

The most recent conference (August 1999, in Monterey, CA) had bound procedings, but getting your hands on a copy may be a challenge... You can, however, view most of the presentations at conferences.oreilly.com/cd.

Open Source Institute

The Open Source Institute, another of Eric Raymond's activities, is a good source for essays, news, and more.

In particular, the site has complete information on the Open Source Definition, including a (partial) list of qualifying licenses.

While we're on the subject, here are some pointers to some other licensing resources:

Apple Public Source License (Apple/Darwin)
www.publicsource.apple.com/ps-faq.html
www.publicsource.apple.com/apsl

Community Source License (Sun/Java, ...)
www.sun.com/microelectronics/communitysource
www.sun.com/981208/scsl/principles.html

Debian
www.debian.org/social_contract

The Open Source Software Licensing Page
www.stromian.com/Open_Source_Licensing.htm

Free Software Foundation

The Free Software Foundation's "First Conference on Freely Redistributable Software" has not (yet) been followed by second event, but you might wish to look at the conference proceedings.

First Conference on Freely Redistributable Software
Free Software Foundation, February 1996

One of the most interesting papers, to my eyes, was a detailed analysis of licensing alternatives, along with an analysis of their economic implications. "Licensing Alternatives for Freely Redistributable Software", presented by L. Peter Deutsch (author of Ghostscript), is also available as frs96.{fm,html,ps,rtf,txt} and frs96vg2.ps in:

ftp.cs.wisc.edu/ghost/papers/

Richard Stallman, the FSF's founder and principal spokesman, has written a number of essays about free software, including several that deal with licensing issues. Take a look at them in

www.fsf.org/philosophy/philosophy.html

USENIX

The USENIX Association has long been a vital resource for Unix experts who wish to exchange technical information, hammer out informal standards, or merely socialize.

USENIX runs a variety of events, many of which produce bound proceedings. In particular, you might wish to look at:

www.usenix.org/publications/library/proceedings/usenix98/freenix/
www.usenix.org/publications/library/proceedings/usenix99/technical_freenix.html

Free Software Business (FSB) List

The Free Software Business (FSB) mailing list carries a diverse range of discussions on licensing issues, FSB economics, etc. The participants include many well known members of the Free Software community (e.g., Behlendorf, Bostic, Delorie, Deutsch, Henkel-Wallace, Gilmore, Lang, O'Reilly, Perens, Raymond, Stallman, Tiemann, Torvalds, van Rossum, and Young), but cogent comments are welcomed from anyone, famous or not.

If you think you might be interested, you can look over the list's archives. If you find them to your taste, you can subscribe to the list itself (via fsb-subscribe@crynwr.com).

About the author

Rich Morin (rdm@cfcl.com) operates Prime Time Freeware (www.ptf.com), a publisher of books about Open Source software. Rich lives in San Bruno, on the San Francisco peninsula.