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GNU is Not Unix Caldera

RMS on SCO, Distributions, DRM 711

Posted by michael
from the beard-talk dept.
Letter writes "Open for Business has an interview with GNU founder and free software zealot Richard M. Stallman (RMS) discussing the SCO situation, the single RMS-approved free Linux distribution and DRM in the Linux kernel. RMS also describes non-free software as a 'predatory social system that keeps people in a state of domination and division.'"
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RMS on SCO, Distributions, DRM

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  • by dzym (544085) on Sunday August 17, 2003 @05:08PM (#6718556) Homepage Journal
    That sounds like an awful stab in the back for Debian for the level of devotion and dedication the project has always shown for Free Software ideals.
    • by grolschie (610666) on Sunday August 17, 2003 @05:10PM (#6718565)
      Non-free programs are not officially considered "part of Debian", but Debian does distribute them. The Debian web site describes non-free programs, and their ftp server distributes them. That's why we don't have links to their site on www.gnu.org.

      Debian are very pedantic about free and non-free. Probably just the right balance in their attitude, as they still allow non-free to be download easily. RMS is just ridiculously over-the-top, and should wake up and smell th coffee.
      • by grolschie (610666) on Sunday August 17, 2003 @05:13PM (#6718587)
        ....oh yeah, even after Debian is called "Debian GNU/Linux" like RMS demands. Talk about RMS being anal!
      • by ninthwave (150430) <slashdot@ninthwave.us> on Sunday August 17, 2003 @05:41PM (#6718768) Homepage
        I agree with you about Debian striking the right balance. I disagree with your comment on RMS being over-the-top. I am a big fan of balance, but in issues like this I take the viewpoint that we need people with very strong ideals that push for a model that is opposite of what society is doing. Ideals are needed because you never reach an ideal but if you aim towards it you can strike a balance.
        But this is probably a symantics game.
      • by Wolfrider (856)
        --It's kind of nice to have something of a "star to navigate by" in the person of RMS, but when you get a distro recommendation based on "ethical considerations" rather than WHAT FITS THE USER'S NEEDS, you have to decide if RMS is really the person you should be asking. RMS is rather hard to take in un-diluted doses, this is why the RMS Filter should be applied to all his output so that a happy medium can be found.

        --Part of Linux's appeal is the freedom to CHOOSE. If the *only* software that RMS ever use
        • by RALE007 (445837) on Monday August 18, 2003 @12:52AM (#6720510)
          "...when you get a distro recommendation based on "ethical considerations" rather than WHAT FITS THE USER'S NEEDS, you have to decide if RMS is really the person you should be asking...."

          I think it is completely resonable to make decisions based soley on your ethics. To give an example, I have big feet. If the only shoes available in my size were made in 3rd world sweat shops, I would choose not to wear shoes, rather than rationalize "I need shoes and my only option is what comes from sweat shops." My feet would most likely quickly become worn and sore, I couldn't go into many businesses, yet I would still survive.

          I see RMS as being disgusted with the proverbial "shoe sweatshops" of the software industry. The companies who pimp and profit at the dire expense of others. I think of his fanaticism as an equivilant to someone screaming "Don't buy Nike's! don't you know where they come from? Don't you know what you're supporting?!?"

          It is up to each individual to decide if RMS is full of B.S., if the proverbial sweatshops even exist, but that has nothing to do with the idea of basing decisions off of ethics instead of gratification as being flawed.

          --Part of Linux's appeal is the freedom to CHOOSE. If the *only* software that RMS ever uses has to be "free" then sorry, he's missing out.

          Your last statement implies that "free" software might be the only thing RMS ever uses. I think it is quite safe to say it is the only thing RMS uses. He is quite the zealot, he not only started Gnu/FSF, but gave up his employment at the time due to his refusal to sign NDA's and use proprietary software. Many of his writings on Gnu/FSF's website reference his complete refusal to use any software that isn't "free" (speach). The whole point of Gnu/FSF is due to refusal to ever use non "free" software.

          Lastly, I'm not exactly an RMS supporter, but I don't hate the guy either. I do believe in one deciding what their ethics are and standing by them. I also felt your reference to what "RMS might use" put into question his level of fanaticism so I felt obliged to respond that from reading what he's put on Gnu's website, I think it would be a cold day in the seventh ring before he used any software that wasn't "free".

    • by __past__ (542467) on Sunday August 17, 2003 @05:13PM (#6718583)
      Additionally, recently Debian has decided that the GNU Free Documentation License isn't free enough for them, and that therefore many GNU manuals have to go to non-free. If this isn't a huge holier-than-thou contest, I don't know. Some people really need to get out more.
      • by Frater 219 (1455) on Sunday August 17, 2003 @05:38PM (#6718745) Journal
        Additionally, recently Debian has decided that the GNU Free Documentation License isn't free enough for them, and that therefore many GNU manuals have to go to non-free. If this isn't a huge holier-than-thou contest, I don't know.

        From what I can tell, RMS sees these things in terms of abstract principles, whereas Debian sees them as guarantees that it can offer its users and society at large. Hence RMS comes off sounding "religious" to some, while Debian hies to a document it calls its "Social Contract".

        Because it's in the business of offering assurance to its users that they will be able to redistribute and modify the packaged software, Debian has to be exceedingly careful of license conflicts and the like. They took a good deal of heat for excluding KDE until Qt's license ceased to conflict with the GPL. (It's a myth, by the way, that Debian demanded Qt be GPLed. In fact, the problem was that while KDE components were GPLed and Qt's license was also Free, Qt's license and the GPL on KDE could not be simultaneously satisfied.)

        The difficulry arises with the GNU FDL because people can add sections called "Invariant Sections" to covered documents. These are portions excluded from the freedom of the license -- portions which future maintainers may not modify. Debian guarantees that the materials you get from its mainline distribution are things you may modify, so obviously Debian can't include FDL Invariant Sections in its mainline distribution.

        It isn't a matter of fanaticism, advocacy, or holiness. It's a matter of plain and simple contradiction: Debian can't give something away as freely modifiable software if its license says it isn't -- and an FDL Invariant Section is no more freely modifiable than is Microsoft Word.

        If someone says, "I'm making a CD of software that's all BSD-licensed," then obviously they aren't going to include gcc in it. Calling them fanatical or "holier-than-thou" for simply keeping their word, makes you seem to be fanatically advocating hypocrisy and deceit.

        • by Klaruz (734)
          You're not allowed to modify the file named "COPYING" in most packages either. Why does debian distribute those? The way I understood it Invariant sections were for things like author credits and whatnot. Things that shouldn't be modified, just like the COPYING file that must be distributed with a package. Yes, I suppose invariant sections could be used for other things (like the whole manual), but wouldn't RMS have thought of that and written the license to prevent that?

          Not trying to bash debian (It's my
          • by ciaran_o_riordan (662132) on Sunday August 17, 2003 @07:30PM (#6719300) Homepage
            As a Free Software zealot myself, I have problems with the GNU FDL.

            Any section that does not contain subject related content can be flagged as invariant. Companies can add a spiel about what a great company they are and no one is allowed to remove this from the document. Ok, so they get credit. Big Deal.

            If I write a manual, a company can update it and add their invariant section. If I later decide to add the new material from the company to my copy of the manual, I have to add their invariant section, despite being the author of most of the content.

            Also, if someone decides to translate a GFDL'd document, they are not allowed to translate the invariant section, so they have a 400 page book in spanish with 12 pages of some silly language that the readership cannot understand stuck at the back.

            Invariant sections should be removable. (Copyright notices are automatically non-removable)

            Ciaran O'Riordan
    • by Arker (91948) on Sunday August 17, 2003 @05:49PM (#6718820) Homepage Journal

      Where did he say it was not recommended? Come on people, quit trying to manufacture flame wars. He said he ran Debian on his laptop, for christs sake.

      He recommends the Extremadura distribution because it has no unfree software at all. He didn't say don't use Debian, he said it was the best commonly used distribution, but as 'Mr Free Software' of course he has to prefer the only distribution with absolutely no unfree software in it, now that it exists.

      • by sanvila (659083) on Sunday August 17, 2003 @09:33PM (#6719770)
        Unfortunately, RMS seems to be a little bit confused about this. The current ISO CD image for the distribution he recommends contains some non-free packages (for java and nvidia support), while Debian (official) CDs do not contain any non-free software at all.

        Being a Debian maintainer myself, I'm of course absolutely delighted to see a lot of people here in Extremadura to use a Debian-derived distribution, but I have mixed feelings about the fact that it's advertised as a free-software-only distribution when it's not completely true.

  • RMS disses Debian? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MoxFulder (159829) on Sunday August 17, 2003 @05:12PM (#6718571) Homepage
    I admire RMS but I think he's a little nuts for insisting that for a Linux distribution to be acceptable to him, it must not even include the option of non-free software in the basic install.

    Debian is in my mind a scrupulous free-software-only distribution. If they include any non-free software, it's basically in the form of, "Okay, here's a directory of packages people have made to allow easy installation of non-free software under Debian."

    I think considering Debian to be anything less than pristine free software is vaguely silly.
    • by CountBrass (590228) on Sunday August 17, 2003 @05:29PM (#6718687)

      You completely miss the RMS's point, and the difference between FREE and OPEN. (This is of course a simplification.)

      RMS's stanbd point is that non-free software is inherently a bad thing; doesn't matter if it's "superior" in terms of functionality or quality - it's inherently a bad thing.

      Open software says Open software will, inherently, evolve into the best software - lowest bugs, best functionality etc etc - but whilst there is better non-Open software it's ok to use until Open catches up.

      That difference in view point is something very few people, it seems, who ramble on the subject and about RMS, understand.

      RMS has always, and I suspect always will be, completely consistent in his view point. The only variable has been peoples (lack) of understanding that RMS/FSF != Open software. Edward

      • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Sunday August 17, 2003 @06:17PM (#6718960)
        You completely miss the RMS's point

        No, I don't think we do. You keep implying that we don't see RMS's philosophical point, and that we think he's making some claim about "free-as-in-RMS" software being better than "non-free" software. I assure you, we (or at least I) understand his arguments perfectly; we (I) just disagree with them.

        The problem is that most of us aren't going to accept that free-as-in-RMS software is a good thing if it can't produce better products than the current commercial (or other, free-as-in-beer) offerings. He claims that non-free stuff is inherently evil, IP has to go, etc. But unfortunately, if free-as-in-RMS doesn't come up with the goods, I see no reason to agree with him. As long as that's the case, clearly the commercial software world, current IP laws and other targets of RMShate do offer an advantage to the community as a whole, so why should we give them up just to match his code of ethics?

        • by slux (632202) on Sunday August 17, 2003 @07:04PM (#6719191)
          <i>But unfortunately, if free-as-in-RMS doesn't come up with the goods, I see no reason to agree with him.</i>
          <br><br>
          Then you see no reason to agree with him at all. You don't truly agree if you're only compelled by the practical benefits. You should look at their arguments and ask yourself whether or not you think that non-free software is truly unethical. If not, you're in the open source camp.
          • by ciaran_o_riordan (662132) on Sunday August 17, 2003 @07:41PM (#6719348) Homepage
            I find the practical benefits of Free Software very compelling.

            With GPL'd software, the distributor has to give the user what they want or the user will find a new distributor. And if a software package does things that users don't like - the package will be forked.

            I can trust GPL'd software not to: ..be crippled to encourage me to buy more software ..throw ads at me ..disappear ..etc.
            If the software did these things, it would be forked.

            Free Software is practical, OpenSource (which is usually a mis-used term) generally means short sightedness. When an executive allows a companies data to be managed by a piece of software they have no control over, they are being impractical. For practicals sake, people should demand Free Software.

            Ciaran O'Riordan
        • He may not care (Score:5, Insightful)

          by phr2 (545169) on Sunday August 17, 2003 @07:54PM (#6719397)
          If you find those advantages so compelling that you're willing to trade your soul for them, RMS may simply prefer to sadly write you off, than to make concessions of his own soul.

          The free software movement is like a group of people who decided to become vegetarian out of ethical concerns about animal rights. Not everybody thinks like them and they're practical enough to understand that. But suppose a Free Vegetable Movement starts a foundation to make vegetarian utensils, publish vegetarian cookbooks and so forth, and get a lot of followers. If non-vegetarians now start also using the recipes, that's fine with them. There's even a splinter "open vegetable movement" of people who don't care about the animal rights issues but have discovered the benefits of eating more vegetables (such as having fewer heart attacks). The OVM may have mixed meat/vegetable diets but the FVM doesn't want to have anything to do with that.

          What's happening in these threads sounds to me like non-vegetarians somehow claiming the vegetarian foundation is foolishly restricting people's options because it won't link to restaurants that serve meat dishes, and no longer recommends a particular cookbook with good vegetarian recipes, because that cookbook also has meat dishes and there's now finally a comparably good cookbook which is 100% vegetarian. IMO it would be crazy for the veg foundation to do anything else, given its values. All you can decide is that its values are not your values. Asking them to turn against their very principles by also presenting the "meat option" is ridiculous (do you also ask your xtian church to present the "satan option"?). They did a lot of work making their cookbooks and recipes what they are, and the changes you're asking for show that you're trying to impose your values on them, not the other way around.

    • by einhverfr (238914) <chris@travers.gmail@com> on Sunday August 17, 2003 @05:34PM (#6718713) Homepage Journal
      I admire RMS but I think he's a little nuts for insisting that for a Linux distribution to be acceptable to him, it must not even include the option of non-free software in the basic install.

      I agree. I think RMS would call me apolitical because my primary reason for being involved in open source is that I think it is a better development model. However, there is a deeply political side of me that has a vision and political agenda behind my support of open source. It is in no way as one-sided or as focused as RMS, but I can see where he is coming from.

      IMO, I think that the real battle of our lifetime is the battle over proprietary vs open systems and information. This goes beyond computing and affects everything from our food supplies to our software. The problems include companies such as Microsoft holding the rights to the filesystems that are the lifeblood of companies and companies such as Monsanto holding the patent rights to foods which could become the lifeblood of countries. It is also about the CTEA and fighting against perpetual copyright of our cultural icons.

      The thing is, though, copyright has its place if it is not overextended. And I am so confident in this that I don't even care that much whether a distro recommends non-free packages. As long as customers start to see the difference. That is important. In fact, it is GOOD IMO, that Mandrake, RedHat, etc. offer commercial software with their distros because it shows the contrast and can help people see why free software is important. On this point, I disagree with RMS.
      • Hm...but how does providing people non-free software, maybe with a note tucked away saying "you really shouldn't use this", compare as a way of letting customers see the difference to not providing the software, and tucking in a note saying "Here's why we're not including this"?
        • Hm...but how does providing people non-free software, maybe with a note tucked away saying "you really shouldn't use this", compare as a way of letting customers see the difference to not providing the software, and tucking in a note saying "Here's why we're not including this"?

          The difference seems subtle at first-- the user doesn't see that much difference... And that is OK. It gets rid of the culture shock.

          But now look at it from an IT manager's perspective or that of a software developer. These pe
    • by stevey (64018) on Sunday August 17, 2003 @05:51PM (#6718837) Homepage

      Thankfully if you want to be reminded of the error of your ways you can install the Virtual RMS package [debian.org] - which will send you mail if ever you install non-free software!.

    • by frdmfghtr (603968) on Sunday August 17, 2003 @06:58PM (#6719161)
      He also said the following:

      TRB: What about Debian GNU/Linux, which by default does not install any non-free software?

      RMS: Non-free programs are not officially considered "part of Debian", but Debian does distribute them. The Debian web site describes non-free programs, and their ftp server distributes them. That's why we don't have links to their site on www.gnu.org.


      I refer you to http://www.gnu.org/links/links.html and look under the "Collections of Free Software" section.
  • by drdink (77) * <smkelly+slashdot@zombie.org> on Sunday August 17, 2003 @05:12PM (#6718578) Homepage
    Sorry, but I find it very difficult to take anything this man says seriously after once reading his views on the `su` command supporting a wheel group:
    This program does not support a "wheel group" that restricts who can su to super-user accounts, because that can help fascist system administrators hold unwarranted power over other users.
    Maybe this is why ftp.gnu.org got rooted? Is RMS supporting those who find weaknesses in systems and break them? Even his own system? Crazy.
  • zealot? (Score:5, Informative)

    by njchick (611256) on Sunday August 17, 2003 @05:13PM (#6718582) Journal
    According to Merriam-Webster dictionary [m-w.com], zealot is
    1 capitalized : a member of a fanatical sect arising in Judea during the first century A.D. and militantly opposing the Roman domination of Palestine

    2 : a zealous person; especially : a fanatical partisan

    I don't think RMS is fanatical, even when I disagree with him.
    • Re:zealot? (Score:4, Informative)

      by gregfortune (313889) on Sunday August 17, 2003 @05:25PM (#6718659)
      By zealot, the writer almost certainly meant the second definition. A zealous person is one filled with zeal (also Webster..) and zeal means:

      : eagerness and ardent interest in pursuit of something : FERVOR
      synonym see PASSION

      eagerness, ardent interest, fervor, passion... Yeah, those all fit pretty well ;o)

      Also, note that fanatic probably doesn't mean what you're thinking...

      : marked by excessive enthusiasm and often intense uncritical devotion

      Again, excessive enthusiasm fits pretty well. The intense devotion is probably critical rather than uncritical, but I'd say zealot is a pretty good fit.
    • Re:zealot? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Vicegrip (82853)
      What's even more humorous is having people who are zealots themselves about their own beliefs levy that insult at the FSF.

      I don't agree with the FSF on a number of points. I take exception, however, at the unwarranted insults I've seen directed at them. Especially since the majority of the hecklers I've seen here on Slashdot have never contributed a line of open-source code in their lives.
      • Re:zealot? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Overly Critical Guy (663429) on Sunday August 17, 2003 @06:52PM (#6719131)
        Especially since the majority of the hecklers I've seen here on Slashdot have never contributed a line of open-source code in their lives.

        You're right. You must become a programmer first before you get that special "Critical Guy" ID card that lets you interject your opinion about the operating system you use on your own computer. Linux and anything involved is only for programmers, and only they are allowed to discuss and decide its future. All matters are only open to a small cross-section of the community.

        Come on, that's silly.
      • Re:zealot? (Score:4, Funny)

        by hawkstone (233083) on Sunday August 17, 2003 @07:44PM (#6719368)
        the majority of the hecklers I've seen here on Slashdot have never contributed a line of open-source code in their lives

        While I understand your point, I find this statement a little amusing. It's like saying "the majority of people heckling Manson have never killed a single person in their lives."

    • Re:zealot? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Overly Critical Guy (663429) on Sunday August 17, 2003 @05:55PM (#6718852)
      Many DO consider him fanatical. He is the antithesis of common sense and practicality.

      He believes in ideals to the point that they become inapplicable to the real world, and so becomes as limiting as the commercial world he so despises. That's the reason some people tend to dislike what he has to say, because of its fundamental contradictory nature. He preaches against limitation and yet imposes it.
      • Re:zealot? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Dan Ost (415913) on Sunday August 17, 2003 @06:56PM (#6719147)
        It's interesting you should say that when, after years of following RMS in
        the news, it appears to me that, in the long run, RMS is correct more often than
        his hecklers.

        Seriously, who thinks that OSS would be in a stronger position now if the GPL
        had never been written?
  • by freeio (527954) on Sunday August 17, 2003 @05:13PM (#6718586) Homepage
    From the RMS perspective, this makes perfect sense. One of his charms, if you will, is that he does not deviate from his ideals, even when it offends a large group. Free is free, and anythoing that compromises that is less than perfect.

    Like any other outspoken issue-perfectionist, this grates on those who are less tough about that issue. But make no bones about it, he would be less respected in the end if he compromised.

    So be it.
    • Free is... what? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Sunday August 17, 2003 @05:33PM (#6718708)
      Free is free, and anythoing that compromises that is less than perfect.

      The problem with that, of course, is that GPL'd software isn't really free (as in speech). It's just a different set of requirements governing distribution and modification, and it relies just as much on copyright law for protection as any closed source, commercial product.

      If some code were completely free, then anyone could take it, compile it, change it, give away the results in any form they wanted, incorporate into a paid-for product with or without the source, or otherwise do as they wished.

      The GPL is a great way for people with a shared philosophy to gain mutual benefit from their labours. I have absolutely nothing against that, or their right to protect their agreement via the legal system should that become necessary. If they produce software that is better than commercial alternatives, and choose to give it away, good for them. If not, well, we users can always choose to spend our money buying an alternative we prefer.

      But please, calling this "free software" is just as much a misleading propaganda term as calling copyright infringement "intellectual property theft". It's about time a better term was coined.

      • by Big Sean O (317186) on Sunday August 17, 2003 @06:39PM (#6719067)
        I've been giving the word 'free' a lot of thought.

        Your definition of 'free': "anyone could take it, compile it, change it, give away the results in any form they wanted, incorporate into a paid-for product with or without the source, or otherwise do as they wished." maximizes freedom for yourself. I think personal freedom is necessary in a free society.

        The 'free' that RMS believes in maximizes freedom for all, not just you. Here's how:

        1. Users: Anyone is free to use GPL'd software.
        2. Vendors: Anyone is free to distribute GPL'd software, heck, they can even charge money for it.
        3. System Administrators: They are free to modify GPL'd software for their own internal needs. The only time they have to provide their source code is if/when they choose to distribute the program. That's how the White House's webserver can use a heavily modified version of Linux.
        4. Programmers: This group gets benefits not covered by regular copyright law, but they also have restrictions. Under copyright law, programmers can't use the copyrighted source code. Under the GPL they have access to all of it, but since it's benefitted you, you in turn have to share it with others. They're even free to NOT use the GPL: They can write their own code.


        In essence, the GPL is a legal hack of the copyright system in order for it to behave closer to the perfect world RMS has in mind.

        Daniel Quinn's book Ishmael suggests that modern man has lived a simple agrarian lifestyle for 100,000 years. He states that "Civilization" really got started around 10,000 years ago when somebody got the idea that you can control people by locking up the food. RMS made it his life's work to make sure this doesn't happen in the information age.
        • by Aapje (237149)
          The 'free' that RMS believes in maximizes freedom for all, not just you. Here's how: [blah]

          All those freedoms are provided by the BSD license. It's even more free because it doesn't require you to open source your code in certain circumstances. It's true that the GPL is more free than copyrighted code without a license and you may certainly use the name "More free than copyrighted software without license". However, to qualify for "Free Software", you should be able to argue that the license is the most f
    • History is littered with the forgotten corpses of men who compromised on their principles. We only remember the truely unflexible souls who insisted on changing the world around them. Unstable people like Socrates, Martin Luther, Ghandi fought like hell for their beliefs. We remember them preciesly because they did not waver against the winds of change.

      One man's nutcase is history's next great thinker.

  • "Zealot" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by squiggleslash (241428) on Sunday August 17, 2003 @05:15PM (#6718594) Homepage Journal
    Interesting points:
    • RMS comes out in support of trademarks and a company's right to protect its trademark (in this case Mandrake)
    • On the issue of mutual defense clauses in licenses, RMS thinks they're a good idea in theory but suggests people considering adopting them be careful not to alienate users
    Some "zealot."

    RMS has always struck me as being a fairly opinioned person who wants to stick to his principles. I see that as good in someone. I don't always agree with everything he says, but it's absurd how much abuse he takes for saying what he thinks. Suggesting that The OS That Includes A Linux Kernel And The GNU UserLand be named after both shouldn't, in my view, no matter how obnoxious some find it, result in the Z label.

  • by notque (636838) on Sunday August 17, 2003 @05:18PM (#6718612) Homepage Journal
    RMS also describes non-free software as a 'predatory social system that keeps people in a state of domination and division

    So anything not free is a predatory social system that keeps people in a state of domination and division?

    My MP3 addiction finally has a flag bearer.
  • by brassman (112558) on Sunday August 17, 2003 @05:20PM (#6718625) Homepage
    Apparently they're only one year old, too. Happy first anniversary slashdotting, amigos.

  • by GoatPigSheep (525460) on Sunday August 17, 2003 @05:21PM (#6718634) Homepage Journal
    After reading this article, which I found quite interesting, I did come to a rather shocking conclusion. Although RMS is obviously a very talented and intelligent individual, he seems hellbent on enforcing his ethics and morals on others.

    He refuses to have anything to do with anyone who even has the slightest relationship with a non-free program. In effect he and his cohorts are effective enforcing their beliefs on others or cutting them completely off from their organization.

    How can you promote "free software" when you don't promote the "freedom to choose". Personally I think a person or company should be allowed to use free as well as non-free software together without reprimand from RMS and his organization.

    It's better to use some free software then no free software, and RMS is effectively limiting his friends and support by enforcing his views on them. Maybe he needs to learn to respect that some people might want to go down a middle ground, and the results of doing that can be great neverless. For example, OS X, a brilliant combination of free as well as proprietary software.
    • by squarooticus (5092) on Sunday August 17, 2003 @05:42PM (#6718779) Homepage
      ...when they are followed by consistent action.

      I find his stance re: Debian rather amusing in light of the fact that, when I was a grad student there, I caught him on the third floor of MIT LCS in 1998 playing Master of Orion at one of the Mac's in the hallway. Not that I think there's anything wrong with that---I play loads of non-free games and use one non-free application once a year (tax prep software)---but I'm surprised he's not having an ulcer from the contradiction. :)

      Cheers,
      Kyle
    • I wrote a long comment, but I accidentally deleted it (goddamn windows explorer!) Anyways, the essence is read Steven Levy's [echonyc.com] "Hackers" which provides a historical background of the first couple of generations of computer geeks. It's toward the end of the book (predating the internet or linux) that RMS appears, fighting to maintain a culture that is under assault by commercial interests that are raiding labs for talent, locking up code under nondisclosure, and promoting incompatibilities to try and get a l
  • Non-free? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rmdyer (267137) on Sunday August 17, 2003 @05:23PM (#6718646)
    What about non-free material goods? Does that also create a "...predatory social system that keeps people in a state of domination and division."?

    Does RMS even understand physics? It takes "work" to change random states of bits into useful tools and information. Work doesn't come free. Working a material good out of rock, wood, sand, etc, and working bits out of random noise, turns out to be equivalent.

    People who do "work" probably are more deserving of the prizes. The betterment of one's self should always be our higher goal. Be contructive, not destructive. Lend a helping hand to those who are trying, but don't offer any favors to those who are not. In the end, everyone gets their just rewards.

    Just my 2 cents.
  • Slashdotted (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 17, 2003 @05:24PM (#6718655)
    GNU Questions: RMS on SCO, Distributions, DRM
    August 13, 2003, 22:51:30 EDT

    In September of 1983, a computer programmer working in the Massachusetts Institute for Technology AI Lab announced a plan that was the antithesis of the proprietary software concept that had come to dominate the industry. The plan detailed the creation of a UNIX replacement that would be entirely free, not as in the cost of the product, but as in freedom. That announcement would eventually catapult its author, Richard M. Stallman, into someone known and respected around the world and, perhaps more amazingly, a person that companies such as Apple and Netscape would alter their plans because of.

    Stallman is not your average advocate of a particular cause. Nearly two decades after the announcement of his GNU System, he has stayed firm on his positions and has founded and guided the Free Software Foundation into an organization capable of promoting and managing the GNU System, a set of components that form more of what is often mistakenly known simply as "Linux" than the Linux kernel itself does. That might be somewhat unusual in today's society where causes popular today quickly become forgotten in tomorrow's priorities, but there is something even more unusual about Stallman. He is always open and available to those who drop him an e-mail, and not just the media, but also the the individual user or developer. This is not because he has nothing to do -- Stallman is a busy globetrotter constantly doing whatever it takes to promote the philosophy of free software. In his characteristic form, he was kind enough to agree to an encore interview with Open for Business' Timothy R. Butler.

    Timothy R. Butler: IBM announced this week that part of its countersuit against SCO is based on SCO's violation of the GPL (by distributing the GPL'ed Linux kernel while demanding licensing fees for it). What are your thoughts on this?

    Richard M. Stallman: I have not thought about it very specifically because I have not seen the details of their claims. My general feeling is that I'm glad IBM has found a way to counterattack SCO.

    TRB: Does the fact that, as is often pointed out, the GPL has not yet been tested in court concern you?

    RMS: No wise person looks forward to a major battle, even if he expects to win it. Rather than being concerned that we have not yet tested the GPL in court, I'm encouraged by the fact that we have been successful for years in enforcing the GPL without needing to go to court. Many companies have looked at the odds and decided not to gamble on overturning the GPL. That's not the same as proof, but it is reassuring.

    TRB: In an article you wrote for ZDNet about the SCO lawsuit and related matters, you said, "Linux itself is no longer essential: the GNU system became popular in conjunction with Linux, but today it also runs with two BSD kernels and the GNU kernel." Does this mean that you see Linux as unimportant to the future of GNU, or simply something that the Free Software community can live without if need be?

    Stallman: "Freedom to redistribute and change software is a human right that must be protected."
    RMS: The kernel Linux is still important for using the GNU system, and we should hardly abandon it without a fight. At the same time, it is good to have alternatives.

    TRB: Bruce Perens has proposed the idea of incorporating a mutual defense clause into Free Software licenses. He suggests that if you attempt to sue a Free Software developer, that the litigator would have their license to use any software with the defense clause automatically terminate. Is this a good idea?

    RMS: Some kind of mutual defense clause might be a good idea, but designing what it should say is a difficult problem. It needs to be strong enough to protect the community from a serious threat, but not so intimidating as to cause those who don't like it to fork all our important software. The problem is complicated by the fact that most users have not yet ceased to consider Windows a viabl
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 17, 2003 @05:25PM (#6718660)
    The interview is down, Slashdotted. Here's the original text of the interview:


    Q: So, let's get the ball rolling here. How is the state of Linux in your --

    A: That's GNU/Linux.

    Q: OK, and uh, Richard, how is GNU/Linux doing as a whole, given the current --

    A: That's GNU/Richard.

    ... and it went on like that for a while... at one point RMS apparently flails around on the floor in some sort of seisure-like movement shouting "GNU GNU GNU" for two and a half minutes on end.
  • Question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bogie (31020) on Sunday August 17, 2003 @05:27PM (#6718677) Journal
    Are future submissions always going to have some sort of character assasination buzzwords attached to them as well?

    For example. "Bill Gates noted closed source zealot and pro-monopolist met with shareholders today."

    Hmm, doesn't seem right does it? Leave the defamation to commenters, we do a plently well on our own thanks.
  • by heironymouscoward (683461) <heironymouscowardNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Sunday August 17, 2003 @05:28PM (#6718682) Journal
    It is one thing to put amazing amounts of energy and discipline into one's work, as the Debian developers have done. It is something else to foresee the battle between free and commercial software, as RMS did, and try to plan a course through this battle.
    RMS is pedantic, painfully self-righteous, and needs a shave. But he is one of the greatest thinkers of our time, a genius, and a mind to be treasured and revered.
    As a programmer and the developer of many free applications, RMS is for me a hero, someone who has anticipated many of the problems I would face in protecting the viability of my work.
    He once refused to accept a t-shirt with our team's logo on it, but he's a great man nonetheless.
    • by Larthallor (623891) on Sunday August 17, 2003 @08:36PM (#6719554)
      I concur in many respects, but would prefer the term "respected" rather than "revered".

      RMS is a lot like what the Founding Fathers of the USA must have been like twenty or thirty years after things got running. He is worthy of respect in many of his actions and intentions. He clearly had the skills, intelligence, and drive to breath life into his beliefs, many of which the majority of us have at least some level of agreement. But this doesn't mean he's perfect. We can admire Jefferson's brilliance while shaking our heads at his ownership of slaves.

      Another analogy I think is useful (if I can be allowed to pigeon-hole him some more), is Sigmund Freud. Freud is respected in psychology for what he was: a brilliant man who moved things forward a great deal. And, similarly to Freud, we can look at the contributions RMS has made with gratitude without believing he is right about everything. No one today really believes that Freud's theories were totally accurate models of reality. But many of the concepts and methods he introduced still have relevance and utility today.

      Finally, for those role-playing geeks out there, I have one more analogy: Gary Gygax. He deserves respect for what he did for the genre, but will fall well short of any expectations placed upon him by those experiencing the emotion of "reverence".

      It is very tempting to state the RMS, or anyone, is either "good" or "bad", "right" or "wrong". The reality is that he is a complex person with ideas with which not all of us agree. That doesn't mean we can't look up to him for what good he has done, but to proceed beyond this to "reverence" would be a form of hero worship that would only cloud one's ability to evaluate his statements today.
  • by MoobY (207480) <.ten.snekeil. .ta. .ynohtna.> on Sunday August 17, 2003 @05:30PM (#6718695) Homepage
    Open for business is now officially closed for business.
  • by Bodysurf (645983) on Sunday August 17, 2003 @05:39PM (#6718756)

    GNU Questions: RMS on SCO, Distributions, DRM

    Date: August 13, 2003, 22:51:30 EDT Topic: Free Software

    In September of 1983, a computer programmer working in the Massachusetts Institute for Technology AI Lab announced a plan that was the antithesis of the proprietary software concept that had come to dominate the industry. The plan detailed the creation of a UNIX replacement that would be entirely free, not as in the cost of the product, but as in freedom. That announcement would eventually catapult its author, Richard M. Stallman, into someone known and respected around the world and, perhaps more amazingly, a person that companies such as Apple and Netscape would alter their plans because of.

    Stallman is not your average advocate of a particular cause. Nearly two decades after the announcement of his GNU System, he has stayed firm on his positions and has founded and guided the Free Software Foundation into an organization capable of promoting and managing the GNU System, a set of components that form more of what is often mistakenly known simply as "Linux" than the Linux kernel itself does. That might be somewhat unusual in today's society where causes popular today quickly become forgotten in tomorrow's priorities, but there is something even more unusual about Stallman. He is always open and available to those who drop him an e-mail, and not just the media, but also the the individual user or developer. This is not because he has nothing to do -- Stallman is a busy globetrotter constantly doing whatever it takes to promote the philosophy of free software. In his characteristic form, he was kind enough to agree to an encore interview with Open for Business' Timothy R. Butler.

    Timothy R. Butler: IBM announced this week that part of its countersuit against SCO is based on SCO's violation of the GPL (by distributing the GPL'ed Linux kernel while demanding licensing fees for it). What are your thoughts on this?

    Richard M. Stallman: I have not thought about it very specifically because I have not seen the details of their claims. My general feeling is that I'm glad IBM has found a way to counterattack SCO.

    TRB: Does the fact that, as is often pointed out, the GPL has not yet been tested in court concern you?

    RMS: No wise person looks forward to a major battle, even if he expects to win it. Rather than being concerned that we have not yet tested the GPL in court, I'm encouraged by the fact that we have been successful for years in enforcing the GPL without needing to go to court. Many companies have looked at the odds and decided not to gamble on overturning the GPL. That's not the same as proof, but it is reassuring.

    TRB: In an article you wrote for ZDNet about the SCO lawsuit and related matters, you said, "Linux itself is no longer essential: the GNU system became popular in conjunction with Linux, but today it also runs with two BSD kernels and the GNU kernel." Does this mean that you see Linux as unimportant to the future of GNU, or simply something that the Free Software community can live without if need be?

    Stallman: "Freedom to redistribute and change software is a human right that must be protected." RMS: The kernel Linux is still important for using the GNU system, and we should hardly abandon it without a fight. At the same time, it is good to have alternatives.

    TRB: Bruce Perens has proposed the idea of incorporating a mutual defense clause into Free Software licenses. He suggests that if you attempt to sue a Free Software developer, that the litigator would have their license to use any software with the defense clause automatically terminate. Is this a good idea?

    RMS: Some kind of mutual defense clause might be a good idea, but designing what it should say is a difficult problem. It needs to be strong enough to protect the community from a serious threat, but not so intimidating as to cause those who don'

  • by Farley Mullet (604326) on Sunday August 17, 2003 @05:40PM (#6718763)

    The actual interview is already slashdotted, but from the discussion it seems that he reserves his endorsement for the "GNU/Linex [linex.org]" distribution (Linex's site also seems to be down at the moment -- collateral slashdotting?), because it doesn't even provide the option of installing "non-Free" packages. This is just nuts -- it's clear to me why RMS uses the word "Free" instead of "free" at this point: because the meaning of "Free" (and I defy anyone to give a consistent definition of the way that RMS uses the term, aside from "Whatever RMS thinks it should mean at the moment") has shifted so far from what any reasonable person would expect the word "free" to mean.

    RMS: Linex is more Free because it doesn't allow you to install certain programs by default!

    Use:: But since it restricts my ability to do things, doesn't that make it less free?

    RMS: No no no. We're talking about Free, not free here. . .

    (As an aside it's funny to see people denouncing michael for describing RMS as a zealot. For goodness sake FSF-guys, michael is on your side. That kinda attitude doesn't bode well for how this comment will be moderated, I suspect.)

  • by nagora (177841) on Sunday August 17, 2003 @05:43PM (#6718785)
    RMS's view of non-free software is that it is like a vampire: it might looks good and be really, really cool and do all sorts of things you'd like to do (fly, never age, meet girls) but in the end it is evil and will suck you dry.

    No ethical compromise is possible with such a thing - some evil is all evil - that's why he won't support even "conveniance" non-free software or those that associate with it.

    I see his point but I still don't know where I, as a programmer, am supposed to earn my mortgage payments. Telling me to become a marketing droid is not a reasonable answer.

    TWW

  • by Eric Savage (28245) on Sunday August 17, 2003 @05:58PM (#6718867) Homepage
    Does anyone have any good links about this? It sounds like a scary crackpot idea, so of course I'm curious about it. If my interpretation of it based on the article is remotely correct it seems hypocritical of RMS/Perens to even consider this, as it would be a major freedom limiter. If I can't sue someone who actually did steal something from me for fear of losing my right to use a large amount of software out there, I don't have much freedom do I?
  • ftp.gnu.org (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Isaac-Lew (623) <`isaaclew' `at' `gmail.com'> on Sunday August 17, 2003 @05:58PM (#6718868)
    I guess this article was written before the ftp.gnu.org compromise. However, has there been *any* reason given on why ftp.gnu.org was running wu-ftpd ( which has a restrictive license [216.239.41.104]) when there are at least 2 GPL ftp daemons ( proftpd [proftpd.org] and vsftpd [beasts.org]) available? Especially given wu-ftpd's long, sad history of insecurity.
  • by Michael Iatrou (681428) on Sunday August 17, 2003 @06:17PM (#6718958) Homepage
    $ links -dump http://www.ofb.biz/modules.php\?name\=News\&file\= article\&sid\=260 | grep -i emacs | wc -l
    0
    He must be ill or something...
  • by Ambush (120586) on Sunday August 17, 2003 @06:25PM (#6719001)
    It could be beneficial or harmful--only time will tell. Ximian was once a good example of a successful free software company, but that changed in 2002 when Ximian introduced a non-free product. (I won't say what it does, because I don't want to promote a non-free program.)

    Whoops, maybe he shouldn't have previously mentioned both Windows and StarOffice in the same interview. I'm now vaguely motivated to go and purchase both. Thanks Richard.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 17, 2003 @06:33PM (#6719035)
    I first used GNU/Unix and C in 1978. I rediscovered GNU/Unix in 1987. I have administered GNU/BSD,
    GNU/Ultrix, GNU/HP/UX, GNU/SunOS 4.x, GNU/SunOS 5.x and more flavours of GNU/Linux than I can
    remember although I started out using GNU/SLS with kernel 0.9.x.
    GNU/Linux has progressed so much in such a relatively short amount of time that I am in awe at
    where it is today.

    To GNU/gentoo. Then I remembered someone on cola mentioning a new distro named GNU/gentoo.

    Once this stage has been reached GNU/gentoo is as easy to maintain as any GNU/Linux distro I know.

    There is excellent documentation on the GNU/gentoo website. There is an excellent GNU/document
    describing the USE variable which should be read before installing GNU/gentoo.

    Apart from everything being compiled from source so that it is optimised for your hardware and the
    USE variable to tailor the type of system you want, GNU/gentoo has another little gem. This is the
    GNU/gentoo init system. It is based on the excellent GNU/SYSV init system but enhances it and
    makes GNU/gentoo a class apart from any other GNU/*nix system I have administered. To be brief,
    GNU/gentoo init GNU/scripts allow you to specify GNU/dependencies. There is no need to GNU/worry
    about S script numbering as in GNU/SYSV or where GNU/you place the startup code in GNU/BSD type
    GNU/init scripts (I'm referring to GNU/BSD 4.3 here. I don't GNU/know if the free GNU/BSD's have
    changed GNU/things).

    To summarise: GNU/gentoo is a very special GNU/Linux distro. It may not GNU/be for the the
    GNU/Linux GNU/neophyte (I'm sure GNU/someone posted to GNU/cola recently that GNU/gentoo was their
    first GNU/Linux GNU/install) although if GNU/you read the GNU/docs and GNU/understand what is
    going on GNU/gentoo is an excellent GNU/distro.

    GNU/Support GNU/is GNU/excellent GNU/via GNU/the GNU/gentoo GNU/forums GNU/and GNU/mailing
    GNU/lists.
  • I wonder (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Quill_28 (553921) on Sunday August 17, 2003 @07:21PM (#6719256) Journal
    >RMS also describes non-free software as a 'predatory social system that keeps people in a state of domination and division.'"

    Does he also believe that non-free architects, authors, musicians, is a 'predatory social system that keeps people in a state of domination and division.'

    I fully believe Stallman's goals do NOT stop at software.
    • Re:I wonder (Score:4, Interesting)

      by ciaran_o_riordan (662132) on Sunday August 17, 2003 @09:32PM (#6719765) Homepage
      > Does he also believe that non-free architects,
      > authors, musicians

      He distinguishes between technical works, works of art, and personal expressions. His "must be Free" mandate only applys to technically useful works.

      He believes that non-commercial distribution of all works should be allowed. Some works should be alterable, some shouldn't.

      He admits to not having a solution that he's completely satisfied with for non-software works.
  • GNU/LinEx (Score:3, Funny)

    by sinserve (455889) on Sunday August 17, 2003 @07:29PM (#6719295)
    RMS: When I recommend a GNU/Linux distribution, I choose based on ethical considerations. Today I would recommend GNU/LinEx, the distribution prepared by the government of Extremadura ..

    I, for one, welcome our new Free Software using Extramaduran overlords.

    Seriously, WHOTF are these guys?

  • by Qbertino (265505) on Sunday August 17, 2003 @07:43PM (#6719359)
    TRB: Would you say that easing into Free Software slowly (as opposed to jumping from completely proprietary to completely Free Software environments) by using software such as WINE is acceptable ever?

    RMS: Taking a step towards freedom is a good thing--better than nothing. The risk is that people who have taken one step will think that the place they have arrived is the ultimate destination and will stay there, not taking further steps. Much of our community focuses on practical benefits exclusively, and that doesn't show other users a reason to keep moving till they reach freedom. Users can remain in our community for years without encountering the idea. As a result, I think that we should focus our efforts not on encouraging more people to take the first step, but rather on encouraging and helping those who have already taken the first step to take more steps.

    TRB: Do you have any closing thoughts you would like to share with Open for Business readers?

    RMS: A non-free program is a predatory social system that keeps people in a state of domination and division, and uses the spoils to dominate more. It may seem like a profitable option to become one of the emperor's lieutenants, but ultimately the ethical thing to do is to resist the system and put an end to it.


    Though at one point (when he goes at Debian) I was about to consider this guy a real prick I changed my mind. After finished reading this interview - which gives a good insight into RMS for those who don't know him or his motives that well - I must say that he has a rock-solid point in case.

    I allways like to say: Thought is free. And with machines around that somewhat emulate basic algorithims of human thinking we have to be very carefull not to permit companys to patent thoughts.

    RMS actually does make sense when he emphasises his Freedom thing. Oh, sorry, was that GNU/RMS? :-)
  • by mec (14700) <mec@shout.net> on Sunday August 17, 2003 @08:24PM (#6719508) Journal
    I'm not kidding.

    Look at the world of software today and trace how much impact he has had. Emacs, gcc, gdb. The GPL. The idea that people can give away what they want, and other people (or the same people) can charge money for making distros and providing support.

    Entire companies operate now in the intellectual eco-sphere that Stallman invented.

    To be sure, several other people have also had an impact bigger than Stallman's. So what? Out of the millions of people who have spent their careers working with computers, he's easily in the top 0.1% of impact -- of people who made the world more like the way they want it.

    That's practical.
    • by ciaran_o_riordan (662132) on Sunday August 17, 2003 @09:26PM (#6719734) Homepage
      > several other people have also had an impact
      > bigger than Stallman's

      It's also worth noting how unlikely Stallman was.

      Bill Gates has had a bigger influence on the world, but anyone could have predicted him. If he was never born, there would be someone else in his place.

      Would there be another RMS if this RMS was never born?

      His biography is really interesting, and of course it is Free. (www.faifzilla.org)

      Ciaran O'Riordan
  • by frater_corvus (537255) on Sunday August 17, 2003 @09:05PM (#6719666)

    In all seriousness, I think RMS has a good concept. Free software is a great idea. However, implementing free software would require changing the thoughts of every person in the entire world so they see that free software is a good thing. Take the following, for example:

    TRB: One difficult thing for end users is proprietary codecs and plugins. Two examples that seem especially prevalent are Macromedia Flash and Real Networks' RealMedia files. Without these technologies, a lot of interesting content becomes unavailable. What do you think the short-term solution for this problem is?

    RMS: I think we should modify browsers to encourage and help users to send messages of complaint to those sites, to pressure them to change.

    Why? Media-types think flash and real media are a great technology. RMS is suggesting taking a step backward through this suggestion. What purpose could it possibly serve? Unless you can change the mindset of the folk at Real and Macromedia, you're stuck. Comply and remain interoperable or just don't view it.

    By this same argument, folk should quit using Quicktime, WMV and WMA. Does anyone see thing happening anytime soon? I think not. People will go where their technology takes them, be it a Mac, Windows, *nix or *BSD user.

    The key, at this point, isn't to subjugate the masses and foisting Linux on them. It's to make Linux interoperable with the other operating systems first. After Linux has gained, say, 50% of the market, then Linux can make demands. As it stands, if every Linux user were to send a letter of complaint to every site that used Flash, RealMedia, Quicktime or WM*s, people will probably more or less laugh. What purpose does it serve to suggest alternatives when there is no reason for said people to switch?

    Linux is great. But it isn't so great that it will inspire change in the mind of everyone in the world. At least, not yet. ;)

  • by SIGBUS (8236) on Sunday August 17, 2003 @09:06PM (#6719675) Homepage
    It's called file permissions. Of course, it isn't the Hollywood-wet-dream type of DRM...
  • by sootman (158191) on Sunday August 17, 2003 @10:04PM (#6719917) Homepage Journal
    OK, so free-as-in-free is the most important thing in the universe, and there is only one distro on the planet he recommends due to "ethical considerations"... but he runs Deb on his laptop because it was "the best at the time." what fucking bullshit. if it's so important to you, switch distros right-fucking-now. OTOH, why didn't you just go with LFS or something in the first place? c'mon, if absolute purity is your number one concern, why use a distro at all? oh, you're too busy? using a distro is more convenient, you say? so you're saying there are practical reasons for not being as pure as pure can be, and that real life must sometimes intrude? So it's OK for you to be impure for practical reasons, but not the rest of us? OK, now I see.

    "When I recommend a GNU/Linux distribution, I choose based on ethical considerations."

    Practice what you preach, brother.
    • by awol (98751) on Monday August 18, 2003 @05:23AM (#6721159) Journal

      but he runs Deb on his laptop because it was "the best at the time." what fucking bullshit. if it's so important to you, switch distros right-fucking-now.

      Look I have more issues with RMS than most, but I think you are going one step too far. It's not like he would have anything from the debian release that is not free on his machine. It's like,... building a house, at the time you built it the company you bought the wood from sold both old growth and plantation wood products. They didn't actively promote old growth wood, but they would get it if a customer demanded that particular wood, so they were the best "ethical" provider available at the time. However you only used plantation wood products in your house so you complied with your ethics. And now, if you were building again, there is this new company that offers no old growth wood at all, so you could use them even more comfortably, indeed you might recommend them at the expense of the former company. The situation with Debian and LinEx seems the same to me so there is no reason to switch distros for him in order to remain consistent with his stated ethical position.

  • by The Revolutionary (694752) on Monday August 18, 2003 @12:43AM (#6720470) Homepage Journal
    According to this [wired.com] Wired story on the distribution, Extremadura GNU/Linux is a Debian GNU/Linux install.

    I'm calling you out, Richard Stallman. You claim that the GNU project website will not link to the Debian project because the Debian project provides for the description and download of non-Free Software. Yet, you can recommend a Debian install?

    Most certainly Extremadura Linux contains the standard dpkg/apt facilities. Just like with a standard Debian install, a user must explicitly specify that he or she would like access to the seperate repository which contains non-Free Software, in order to access these repositories with the apt system. This is done either at install (in the case of a standard Debian GNU/Linux install), or after install by modifying the /etc/apt/sources.list configuration file.

    The default of a Debian GNU/Linux install is to provide for the installation of only software which is Free Software.

    Extremadura GNU/Linux no doubt provides in its package management system to describe non-Free Software, and to provide for the download and installation of non-Free Software. These are the same reasons that you have stated you will not link to the Debian project from the GNU project website.

    Mr. Stallman, how dare you take a stab like this at the Debian project.

  • by The Revolutionary (694752) on Monday August 18, 2003 @02:00AM (#6720716) Homepage Journal
    Since this is a story about RMS and his values and goals, I'd like to comment briefly on his values and goals.

    I believe that share many of Stallman's political and ethical goals and committments, but I question his committment to the apparent grounds of his ideals in the case of non-software copyright issues.

    RMS does not appear to believe that the right to Freely modify and redistribute "software" is an absolute right, and likewise does not believe that one's moral obligation to make "software" available in a form which is Free is an absolute right.

    I agree. This is not an absolute right. It is a right which arises from more basic rights of all humans, and this obligation from obligations to satisfy these more basic human rights.

    Stallman appears to ground our moral obligations regarding copyright, like myself, on the value that those rights which these obligations satisfy have to society at large.

    Unfortunately, Stallman openly appears not to be consistent on these grounds concerning novels, music, video games scenarios, and certain embedded software.

    See this 1999 interview [unam.edu] as a reference.

    That an "offer to obtain the source" of a piece of software be provided is not an obligation to those who can not benefit from obtaining the source code, but rather it is an obligation to society, that the source code be made available so that those who can benefit society by obtaining the source code, can obtain it. It must be offerred to every one, because the original software distributor has conflicting interests and can not be trusted to, and may not even be capable of, properly determining which individuals or institutions particularly can benefit society by obtaining the source, so as to provide it only to these individuals and institutions.

    For this reason also, I disagree with Mr. Stallman. I believe it is unacceptable that source be provided only to those who are also distributed a binary or other copy of the application. All institutions and individuals must have the right to request and obtain a copy of the source -- whether or not they have been distributed another copy of the software -- again, at a fair price for the material cost of doing so, and within fair time constraints.

    If you have written a piece of software, the source of which could benefit society were a copy of it obtained by some individual or institution, then you are without excuse for not providing this source at a fair material cost and within reasonable time constraints. Whether or not you actually distribute your software does not significantly affect your obligations to advance and better society, which you has a software creator have the full ability to do. It is because of society that you are alive, have prospered, and have had the sort of education and upbrining which you have had, and so in the sort of environment which you have been in. To say that these obligations to society only arise when you actually distribute software, is at the very least to give the appearance of inconsistent, arbitrary demands and goals. I can see no justification for them.

    To the other matters which he is asked to comment on in the above interview:

    Being able to modify a novel, to make it suitable for a more particular audience or culture, is a good which we are without excuse to fail to advocate.

    Being able to modify a musical composition, to make it better, more satisfying, or more targeted, is a good which we are without excuse to fail to advocate.

    Being able to correct, maintain, or modify embedded software is a good which we are without excuse to fail to advocate.

  • by fidget (46220) on Monday August 18, 2003 @09:19AM (#6721863)
    I was discussing this with a friend this morning, and he suggested that I post it, so here goes...
    I think I figured out RMS' real service: His constancy. Sometimes it's just nice to have a lighthouse on the breakers by which to set a course. You wouldn't actually want to go where he is, but you like to know where you are in relation to it.

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