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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Review: After the Software Wars

After the Software Wars is Keith Curtis' book (with free download) about the future of software. In this case, you pretty much get what you pay for.

The first section of the book is interesting --- Curtis believes that the the software field will only progress when software is open-sourced and GPL'd. His argument is that today's software industry is a lot like alchemists in the middle-ages: all sorts of software techniques are considered secrets, and so very little information occurs --- that means improvements don't accumulate from company to company, and one discovery doesn't benefit the next engineer since it's either buried and embedded in a product that you don't have source code to, or it's documented but the source code is not available.

I definitely believe in this theory, since one reason gtags was open sourced was so that I would never have to re-create the code again, if I were ever to work for another company with a huge source base. I don't believe that this means that GPL software is destined to takeover, however --- we've had Linux for well over 15 years, and Linux still isn't something I could give my mom to use, and printing is still a disaster for me in the office.

If he stopped there, I think it would have made a great web article or blog entry. But like many newly converted, he gets carried away with grand visions and soon goes into irrelevancies like Space Elevators and Carbon Nanotubes. He then proceeds to destroy all his credibility by pontificating on his favorite subject, the religion of Libertarianism (which some day I'll write more about).

All in all, this book is not worth paying money for, and I've summarized the most important part of the book so you can skip it. But since the download is free, if you have a Kindle, go ahead and download it and skim the relevant parts. Not recommended.

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