source code documentation

Richard Sharpe sharpe at
Fri Dec 17 08:03:59 GMT 1999

I think, as I sit here in the Qantas Club lounge, once again, that this
deserves further comment.  Perhaps it is the alcohol :-)

At 10:02 AM 12/18/99 +1100, crh at wrote:
>> This whole attitude bothers me.
>The conversation has gone back and forth a bit, so I'm not sure to which
>attitude you are referring.

I think that the original poster (OP) was referring to Luke's statement
that he was negative about documenting the code because people 'steal' the
info and never offer anything in return.

I think that there are organizations that do just that, and would not be
surprised if significant parts of Samba turns up in propietary products.

Good thing I put that fingerprinting code into Samba a while back, eh :-)
When we catch them, we can sue the pants off them!

>> The whole idea of  GPL is to put a good implementation out in the
>> public.  If someone steals ideas, the GPL version should still be
>> better and more commonly used.
>First off, someone who (like you) learns from the code, uses that
>knowledge to do a job, but who also returns the favor by sharing any 
>additional insites.  That's a good thing.

Damn right it is a good thing.  That is why I invest effort, because (some)
others then do other interesting things, and we all win.

>Also, I'd love to see all aspects of SMB/NetBIOS/CIFS documented.  The
>more people know about this the better.  I'm sure that there will be
>charitable organizations set up to help them over the shock.  ;)

Well, there was that crowd that Luke found who mentioned an interest in
funding this.  I put my hand up as someone who has accumulated a lot of
knowledge of the SMB protocol (from Samba and from writing SMB support into
Ethereal).  Unfortunately, they have gone very quiet.

>Regarding the topic of corporate 'use' of GPL software in general, there
>are two levels here: 
>1) Richard's message talked about companies contacting us with the 
>   expectation that we would spend our time and effort helping them, with
>   no compensation.  I seconded Richard's observation that there are a lot
>   of folks out there who are expecting (sometimes demanding) us to happily 
>   give them our time, effort, and knowledge with nothing offered (to us 
>   or the commuity) in return.  This is not acceptable.

Indeed.  I have offered consulting help to these organizations, but they
all seem unwilling to part with any dollars.  Stinks really.

>   When we give that same time, effort, and knowledge to the community we
>   are adding to the general pool.  Since we also derive benefit from the 
>   pool, it's a worth-while exchange.  The key thing, though, is that 
>   *everybody wins*.
>2) The other level has to do with people making lots of money by 
>   leveraging Open Source software indirectly.  I'm talking talking about
>   everyone from VA & Red Hat to companies that learn from OSS code and
>   then use that knowledge for their own gain.  This all gets a bit more 
>   grey. 
>   The argument has been made, for example, that VA and Red Hat are 
>   earning all that money on the value-add they provide, and not on the 
>   sweat of the OSS developer's brow.  Also, both companies are supporting
>   (financially and otherwise) further OSS development.  At the same 
>   time, there is a feeling that the developers themselves (except for 
>   the high profile ones) are not getting invited to the multi-million
>   dollar party. 

I think that the companies like VA and RedHat are deriving more than they
are giving back, but that is a business phenomena, and at least they are
giving back, unlike the organizations that have contacted me.

>   Those who use Open Source code as a learning tool don't bother me as
>   much, though it is annoying when they make money off of someone else's
>   work and don't even acknowledge it.  The BSD license requires that
>   attribution be made, and the GPL goes further by requiring that
>   changes and fixes be made publicly available.  Both of these, however,
>   apply only to the code and not to the ideas & knowledge that went into
>   writing that code. 
>Chris -)-----

Richard Sharpe, sharpe at, Master Linux Administrator :-),
Samba (Team member,, Ethereal (Team member,
Co-author, SAMS Teach Yourself Samba in 24 Hours
Author: First Australian 5-day, intensive, hands-on Linux SysAdmin course

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