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GNU is Not Unix

Stallman On Free Software and GNU's 20th birthday 698

Posted by Hemos
from the pontificating dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Richard Stallman has written a piece on the state of free software and where it needs to go now, in celebration of GNU turning 20 today. It's available both on NewsForge and Linux.com."
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Stallman On Free Software and GNU's 20th birthday

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  • by CreamOfWheat (593775) * on Monday January 05, 2004 @12:00PM (#7881297)
    Stallman asserts that "non-free software carries with it an antisocial system that prohibits coopoeration and community." This is MOST certainly overstating the importance of software's influence on each person's ability to cooperate and experience community. And I assert that this is where the open source movement fails. While open source software promotes cooperation and community for the developers involved in its creation, it doesn't attempt to build community by creating more user friendly tools. The general popluation doesn't care about the right to see the source code, most of the users of computers can't do any thing with the code any way. Open source project managers and developers need to better consider their end users. End users are not always other programmers, some are teachers, doctors, lawyers, engineers, housewives, grandparents. Usability must extend into high quality instructional programs that provide the information at the user's fingertips. Job aids and other electronic performance support tools that address the needs of the non-developer community will do more to foster cooperation and community between the developers and their users. After all what good is any application free or not without a high probability of end user acceptance?
    • I think that you could correlate cooperation between developers with cooperation between those same developers and their user community.

      Once developers get into team mode, they are more likely to seize the momentum it can provide. The end result can be improved user friendliness.
    • by gustgr (695173) <rondina&gmail,com> on Monday January 05, 2004 @12:13PM (#7881405) Homepage
      First of all, Open Source is a movement and Free Software is another. They have completly differents phylosophies and objectives as well.

      The main concept of this kind of freedom is to give users the power to copy, modify and redistribute a software or a manual. This improves life quality and the karma (not the /. one) of the human beans. This is all the GNU Project is about: try to improve socially the humans.

      If you have a free software but it isn't working well and doesn't do what you exactly need, no matter: you can just fix it because you have the source code. But if you don't know how to program, you can ask some friend of your to do it. If you don't have a programmer friend, you can hire someone to do it. That's all the beauty.

      People need to see free software as a social movement. It gives you a chance to be a better human being by sharing your knowledge with your neighboor.
      • by squiggleslash (241428) on Monday January 05, 2004 @12:54PM (#7881781) Homepage Journal
        First of all, Open Source is a movement and Free Software is another. They have completly differents phylosophies and objectives as well.
        For those curious about the differences, ESR's take on it is here [catb.org]. ESR is adamant that there's no philosophical issue other than a simple issue of how to frame the movement so that people's prejudices aren't rankled. Stallman himself writes quite a good bit on why he's not happy with the Open Source movement and believes the framing is doing more harm than good which someone quoted in my journal:
        "At a trade show in late 1998, dedicated to the operating system often referred to as ``Linux'', the featured speaker was an executive from a prominent software company. He was probably invited on account of his company's decision to ``support'' that system. Unfortunately, their form of ``support'' consists of releasing non-free software that works with the system--in other words, using our community as a market but not contributing to it.

        He said, ``There is no way we will make our product open source, but perhaps we will make it `internal' open source. If we allow our customer support staff to have access to the source code, they could fix bugs for the customers, and we could provide a better product and better service.'' (This is not an exact quote, as I did not write his words down, but it gets the gist.)

        People in the audience afterward told me, ``He just doesn't get the point.'' But is that so? Which point did he not get?

        He did not miss the point of the Open Source movement. That movement does not say users should have freedom, only that allowing more people to look at the source code and help improve it makes for faster and better development. The executive grasped that point completely; unwilling to carry out that approach in full, users included, he was considering implementing it partially, within the company.

        The point that he missed is the point that ``open source'' was designed not to raise: the point that users deserve freedom."

        The full quote is here [gnu.org]
      • by Bootsy Collins (549938) on Monday January 05, 2004 @01:20PM (#7882054)

        If you have a free software but it isn't working well and doesn't do what you exactly need, no matter: you can just fix it because you have the source code. But if you don't know how to program, you can ask some friend of your to do it. If you don't have a programmer friend, you can hire someone to do it. That's all the beauty.

        And it sounds great in principle. It's in practice that it runs into trouble. Imagine, for instance, that I'm a freelance graphic designer, or do 3D visualization work, or whatever. And imagine that there are features of Photoshop or Quark or Maya or AVS that aren't available to me in the Gimp or Sodipodi or Blender or OpenDX or whatever (actually, I think the latter two are open source but not free software, but anyway). The suggestion above would be to roll up my sleeves and program in those features. But, in our example, I can't: I'm not a programmer. Nor do I have the time to become one and do that work when all my time is spent doing the actual work for which I get paid.

        So then the second answer is to ask a programmer friend. But, even assuming I have said programmer friend, and assuming that programmer friend doesn't have something he/she would rather be doing, these aren't trivial enhancements we're talking about and such functionality will take a while.

        So then the next suggestion above is to hire someone. With what money? And how can I justify spending ten times or more the cost of some proprietary software package hiring programmers to improve (or create) a free software competitor? Especially when my hypothetical freelance business probably isn't exactly rolling in the dough.

        Well, RMS would say that the justification for spending that money to improve free software options is a dedication to freedom. And if it's really not possible to spend that money on that purpose, because I simply don't have it, then dedication to freedom demands foregoing that proprietary option, and simply doing without that feature set. But in my hypothetical case, that means doing without that client, or that income. So much for my hypothetical business; time to find another way to feed my kids.

        My example is contrived, of course. For many (most? dunno.) users of proprietary software, free software alternatives exist that will do everything they want, and do it well. But for many others, that's not true. And telling those users to simply forego doing what they want or need to do as a stand for a cause is a very big request. Of course, people have sacrificed their economic health, and much more, for the cause of freedom before. But not for something as seemingly esoteric as free software; rather, it's been the freedoms accompanying equality of race or gender or religious background under the law.

        Until RMS can persuade people that the freedom to modify the software one uses is as important as the freedom to work in the field of your choice without being held back by race or gender or religion, people and businesses are going to have a tough time justifying sacrificing their financial security for that freedom.

        Oh, and it shouldn't matter, but just in case it does: I don't have any propriety software installed on my machine, and very little open-source-but-not-free-software stuff as well. I'm not making this post because I don't believe in free software; rather, because I don't think some free software advocates really realize just what big a thing they're asking people to do, and consequently how large a burden of justifying it they have.

        • So then the next suggestion above is to hire someone. With what money? And how can I justify spending ten times or more the cost of some proprietary software package hiring programmers to improve (or create) a free software competitor? Especially when my hypothetical freelance business probably isn't exactly rolling in the dough.

          You are partially correct. OSS should not end up costing more than proprietary solutions. Personally hiring 3rd-party developers to improve the OSS you use rarely works.

          This is
    • by passthecrackpipe (598773) * <passthecrackpipe&hotmail,com> on Monday January 05, 2004 @12:14PM (#7881410)
      Your assertion fails when you state what open source developers should and should not do in order to gain end-user acceptance. Whereas a commercial outfit has a motive to sell as many copies of the software they create just in order to survive, and must therefore carefully think about and target their audience/market, most open source developers are simply "scratching their itch", and if others can benefit from that, then fine. If they can't, then, well, tough... Projects that directly target the non-developing enduser, such as OpenOffice, and to a lesser extent KDE etc. should, of course, take the non-developer end user as their main audience, something that is very, very difficult. If you are an end user and you need easy-peasy, non technical, non developer software, you can always go for the paid-for open source software (not Free Software, usually) such as Xandros, Lindows, StarOffice, etc. there is plenty of hand holding there.

      Unless, of course, you expect handholding for free, a different case alltogether.....
      • The old Open Source dodge and weave. Your argument is a cop out. Either OSS is ready for the prime time or not. You either are a bunch of backroom hacks or serious players. Decide. Can't have it both ways. Don't want to answer to the end user experience? Don't bitch about Microsoft owning the desktop market AND the server market. No, really. Stop. Want end users to USE your software? Well, then you have to answer for the work you've done. Sorry, that's how it works. You see I don't care about source code. I
        • by demi (17616) on Monday January 05, 2004 @06:20PM (#7885134) Homepage Journal

          I think this sentiment is exactly why we need to understand RMS's point in this article about the difference between the goals of popularity and preserving freedom (the core difference between the Open Source and free software movements).

          The Open Source movement is completely compatible with your philosophy: they tell you that source code availability is a good thing because it produces software that's better.

          On the other hand--and this is a point I think you've missed--free software is better because it's free. Preserving freedom is the goal, and the availability of the source code is only one necessary step on the way to that goal.

          If you choose a piece of free software, you have important freedoms, regardless of whether you ever read the source code (these are taken from the GNU project's Free Software [gnu.org] page):

          • The freedom to run the program, for any purpose - It's your damn computer, right? Don't you think you should be in charge of what you're using it for and why? Or should your software vendor? I don't want Adobe telling me I can't paint pictures of elephants because the CEO got scared by one.
          • The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor - I like to help my friends. If I want to give my friend a bite of my sandwich I don't want Safeway telling me "Sorry, your friend must buy his own sandwich from me."

          And even though you yourself do not enhance the software, when you choose free software you enjoy the side benefits of others' exercising that freedom.

          RMS makes the very clear point in this article, and in his other writings, that you are mistaken when you say:

          So for me, you're no different than MS.

          The Open Source movement would have you believe this: that Open Source software is but one competitor for popularity. But the free software movement's goal isn't popularity, it's freedom, and that is very different from Microsoft (for you and other users), because Microsoft isn't interested in preserving your freedom (which by the way doesn't make them bad guys, in my opinion, they just have a different goal).

          You see I don't care about source code

          That's fine. But you should care about freedom.

    • by 10101001 10101001 (732688) on Monday January 05, 2004 @12:18PM (#7881446) Journal
      Apparently you didn't fully RTFA. Stallman doesn't believe the goal of getting people to use free software is popularity but because they want the freedom that comes with it. As copyright enforcement through copy protection or other means becomes progressively harsher for the end user, it'll become more clear that the reason that can motivate people to use free software isn't that everyone else uses it but because they don't want to live in an entrapped world of software. To that end, Stallman admits that people will end up using free software that's inferior to non-free software, but given enough users some might begin to help with the project. Maybe it'll be only words of support or a little money to add a feature they want, but the free software can be made superior to the non-free one and people can choose to use the free software as encouragement until it gets to that point. If anything, Stallman is encouraging the communitizing of the people in free software, not the simple leeching of something that's free. In the long term, the former will help everyone. And if end users realize that, they can accept inferior software until it becomes superior.
      • Stallman has changed his tune a bit. I saw him give a presentation a few years ago in which he said that it was OK to use proprietary software until there is an open source alternative. He even mentioned a few examples of such software that the GNU project had used in the past.
        • by Feztaa (633745) on Monday January 05, 2004 @01:57PM (#7882423) Homepage
          Stallman also believed that it was ok to use proprietary software for developing Free Software (the idea was that since it was impossible to operate a computer without proprietary software at the time, it must be acceptable to use proprietary software for the purpose of developing Free Software to replace the proprietary software with).

          I'm not sure if he still believes this.
    • by emil (695) on Monday January 05, 2004 @12:20PM (#7881466) Homepage

      I read today that Win98 is nearly 25% of the desktop clients on the internet.

      If Win98 were open, somebody would be stepping in to support it as Microsoft bowed out.

      Win98 is not open, and now everyone who drank the coolaid is beginning to feel the effects of the arsenic.

      Commercial software is always a ring in your nose. The GPL can also be a ring, but it is lighter and the developing entity generally does not hold the chain as tightly.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Stallman asserts that "non-free software carries with it an antisocial system that prohibits coopoeration and community." This is MOST certainly overstating the importance of software's influence on each person's ability to cooperate and experience community. And I assert that this is where the open source movement fails.

      Tell that to people in developing nations that can't afford to buy licenses for proprietary software. Those who wouldn't have access to a computer or the internet at all if not for Free
    • Stallman asserts that "non-free software carries with it an antisocial system that prohibits coopoeration and community." This is MOST certainly overstating the importance of software's influence on each person's ability to cooperate and experience community. And I assert that this is where the open source movement fails. While open source software promotes cooperation and community for the developers involved in its creation, it doesn't attempt to build community by creating more user friendly tools.

      Wel
  • I agree mostly.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 05, 2004 @12:01PM (#7881309)
    Richard, I agree with your pitch on free software to some extent, but how exactly are we in the IT business going to make a living if all (or most) of the software is free in the future? Why shouldnt someone charge for their software if its good and useful, why should they give away the design or their work, and isnt a little commerical competition good? If software developers should work for free, why not electronic engineers, architects, every profession? Like you, I dont agree with monopolies and those that abuse them, but thats another issue. If being a professional (charging) software developer becomes "bad" or "unfashionable", then isnt that a bit unfair on good, honest and reliable developers? We dont live in a 23rd century moneyless community, and communism didnt really take off in its various guises, so what are you promoting, a utopian future in every sense, a turn away from capitalism? But how can this just apply to software?
    • by BJZQ8 (644168) on Monday January 05, 2004 @12:04PM (#7881338) Homepage Journal
      You make money like everything in the GNU/FOSS movement...by charging for services, installation, operation. Electronic and engineered items are harder to pass on to someone else, who can also make a contribution; software, on the other hand, allows you to make a copy, change it, and pass it on to someone else who might also make changes. That's hard to do with a bridge or a VCR.
      • You make money like everything in the GNU/FOSS movement...by charging for services, installation, operation.

        The problem is, if your application is well designed and well documented (as in documentation for users - not just code comments) then there should be little to no need for users to require support for installation and operation.

        Which only leaves you coding new features. Which if you code is suitably well written and commented, then it might be cheaper for them to do the majority of small things i

        • Already and issue (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Synn (6288)
          This is a valid point, but it's also an issue with commercial software.

          Why should I upgrade to Office XP when Office 97 does everything I need? The only real way around that is forcing your clients to upgrade(which Microsoft has been doing with a number of their products) and that hasn't generated a lot of goodwill with customers.

          If your product is "done", then it might be time to move onto creating a new product.
    • Remember that only 10% of commercially produced software is ever sold. I would happily accept a 10% decline in the software industry as the price for living in a Free world.
    • by gustgr (695173)
      What the FSF proposes isn't to give away your software for free. You can charge for your work and you are encouraged to do this. But once you've sold your software to another you, you may let he/she to redistribute it for free or sell it under the same terms you used. You people who use the software are not ruled by the software or by the company.

      Stallman doesn't encourage comunism or non-profit activies. He encourage the free software for the freedom of the users.

      I could explain a lot of things here, but
    • by squiggleslash (241428) on Monday January 05, 2004 @12:25PM (#7881524) Homepage Journal
      but how exactly are we in the IT business going to make a living if all (or most) of the software is free in the future?
      The same way most of us programmers make a living in the IT business - being paid to write software. Most software is not written for commercial sale, and while I have no difficulty understanding why people outside of the industry aren't aware of this (as the software they see advertised on the TV, etc, is obviously for sale), I do question how anyone in the computer industry could fail to spot this rather obvious fact.

      Most software is written to solve particular problems. In my case, my business needs software to maintain and analyse volumes of financial information provided for a particular industry. A factory needs software to run its machines and process its payroll. A bank needs software to run its ATMs, to process financial transactions, to enable and log all communications between offices in a standardized way. Most of this software is customized for the needs of the end-user.

      And elsewhere, hardware manufacturers will always want operating systems to be developed and have an incentive to pour development time into improving them, as they will basic tools such as word processors and spreadsheets. Games will continue to be developed, the trend right now is to build amazing games as data hooked up to standardized, centrally developed, game engines, and I suspect we may even see game engines become a part of operating systems in the long term (something a hardware manufacturer has an active incentive to further develop) - meanwhile, nobody's going to be concerned about the notion of selling maps/scripts that use these engines.

      I see no problems with a shortage of jobs for programmers, and I believe the incentives to develop that tiny percentage of software that actually is sold today will continue to exist, just in a different form.

    • by anthony_dipierro (543308) on Monday January 05, 2004 @12:40PM (#7881654) Journal

      Math is free, but we still have mathematicians. Laws are free (usually), but politicians still get paid to write them. Phone books are free, but people still get paid to compile them. Land title histories are free, but employees of title insurance companies still get paid to research them. "Free Software" doesn't mean software developers work for free. It's simply a matter of whether or not you want your job to be recreating stuff made by other people or creating new things.

      • Re:I agree mostly.. (Score:3, Interesting)

        by abe ferlman (205607)
        Water is free, even given away in public fountains- but people still pay for the bottled stuff.

        All you libertarians out there who trust the invisible hand- it's put up or shut up time.

    • IT Business (Score:3, Informative)

      by Synn (6288)
      Well, let me give you a hypothetical example. Document imaging is big business and let's say you have a company called XYZ that specializes in document imaging solutions for hospitals.

      One day all the leading industries decide to take an open source document system and spend a few million dollars to code in the features they want. That way they'll have an open source(free) document management system and in the long run spending a million to get it up to speed will save them money over paying companies like
    • Re:I agree mostly.. (Score:4, Informative)

      by nysus (162232) on Monday January 05, 2004 @12:54PM (#7881782)
      You shouldn't try to make Stallman out to be something he is not. Stallman's whole argument for free software hinges on one single principle: that making an unscarce resource artificially scarce to make a profit is wrong. If you want to debate this one point, that's great. But to insinuate he is some kind of hippie-communist-crackpot for his belief, you do a disservice to logical debate.

      The goal of free software is not to create software jobs, it's goal is to promote ethical conduct. Besides, Stallman has never argued it's "bad" to charge for writing code. If someone needs their free software modified, it's perfectly OK to get paid for your work.

      So I pose this question to you, and answer it without referring to Stallman: Is it ethical to limit a naturally limitless resource to make a buck?

      • by 2short (466733)
        "Is it ethical to limit a naturally limitless resource to make a buck?"

        Yes. If I have created something, it is mine to do with as I will. I have no ethical obligation to give it away, even if doing so would cost me nothing. Giving it away might well be a very nice thing to do, but that doesn't mean not giving it away is wrong.

        People (not necessarily me) think Stallman is "some kind of hippie-communist-crackpot", because they can't see why he would disagree with this seemingly obvious assertion, unless
    • by Anonymous Coward
      RMS doesn't say you shouldn't charge for software, he says that the software should come with the FREEdoms to modify, share and copy it. Notice that the FSF sells GNU software on CD on their website...
    • by DG (989) on Monday January 05, 2004 @01:16PM (#7882002) Homepage Journal
      Here's my answer to you:

      Software is a Service, not a Product.

      By far the largest population of people employed in IT do NOT sell software as a product to be sold. Instead, we work for other business entities providing IT services to them as part of their daily business.

      Think of the software managing bank transactions. Or shipping/receiving/supply chain management for manufacturing industries. Or common essential business services like HR/Payroll, email, web services, LDAP services, computer security, desktop management etc etc etc.

      We outnumber the people who develop software for eventual sale probably 100:1

      And not to put too fine a point on it, people like you cause people like me enormous headaches when you manage to convince my management that we Reall Really Need To Buy Your Stuff, and then it's buggy and we can't get it fixed, or you decide to End Of Life something that has been working fine for 5 years, or you go out of business, or you purposely break compatibility with similar products such that making MY crap work with that Other Product that some other sales guy managed to convince some other business unit's management to buy (to do the same thing) is nearly impossible... yadda yadda yadda.

      For us, Open Source/Free Software is a huge breath of fresh air. It is the correction of the anomaly that was "software for sale". And accordingly, we are adopting it just as fast as we can, whenever it makes technical sense (ie, the FS version meets the technical requirements) to do so - and if the Free version isn't quite up to snuff yet, we often donate time and effort to working on it to improve it to the point where we CAN use it - because one day, we'll be able to get out from under your stupid licencing charges, persistant bugs, and God knows what else.

      My quality of life depends on how often my pager goes off, and Open Source/Free Software contributes directly to that AND doesn't cost me anything to set up. The sooner I wash my hands of commercially-produced software, the happier I'll be.

      You might well be a "good, honest and reliable developer", and I feel for you, but there were "good, honest and reliable" buggy whip designers too. You may have had a good run while it lasted, but the world is changing, and it's adapt or die time.

      DG
  • RMS.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tirel (692085) on Monday January 05, 2004 @12:02PM (#7881321)
    Moderators: this isn't meant as a flamebait.

    I don't want to be the one dissin' RMS, but I think he needs a sanity check or just stop being a "spokesperson" for the Free software community. It is true that he has done a lot to further it's progress, but lets face it, this is the person who hates debian simply because they include THE OPTION (which, mind you, has to be enabled by editing a text config file) of downloading non-free software. This is the guy who refuses to follow the proper procedures laid out hundreds of years ago by the French revolutionaries (you
    all know what I mean), etc

    He gives the Free software community a bad name, and with him on the forefront, Free software will never be part of corporate america (which is becoming more and more synonymous with America itself.)

    Thank you for reading this.
    • Re:RMS.. (Score:2, Insightful)

      by kinzillah (662884)
      I agree, someone less... zealous would make a better proponent for free software. I like my free software, but I like money too. Some things are better free, and some you need to pay for. Everything in moderation.
    • by dada21 (163177) <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Monday January 05, 2004 @12:09PM (#7881379) Homepage Journal
      Why did you say something so untrue? How is corporate American becoming America? I own corporations, yet I have very little control over other citizens. If they don't want my products, they don't buy them from me.

      The average citizen has far more control over my corporation than I have over them. They can refuse to buy. They can open their own competitive business. They can vote in the town I am in to ban my product or my business. They can zone me out of their neighborhoods. They tax my sales and use that money in ways I disagree with. They tax my property. They tax the money I pay my employees. They tax my profits, too.

      How is Corporate America a bad thing? Corporations that are friendly with the government are given benefits (cheap loans, tariffs against competition, and even regulating competition out of the business) is NOT a free market, but a mercantilist one. America was never supposed to be mercantilist, it was supposed to be capitalist. Capitalism allows no monopoly, but mercantilism does.

      And mercantilism can only happen from government getting involved in economic planning -- ruin from the start.
      • I tend to agree with his statement. Maybe your corporation doesn't control citizens, but some corporations are in a position to influence and exert pressure. Record companies, Microsoft, many others... what OS do you use? Do you listen to music by artists that aren't associated with the RIAA? Corporate America is certainly becoming more synonymous with America in general. A hundred years ago, the major players in the world were the rich guys - Rockerfellers and whatnot. Now, it's corporations.
    • GNU/I GNU/thought GNU/that GNU/he GNU/demands GNU/GNU GNU/placed GNU/before GNU/everything GNU/when GNU/speaking GNU/to GNU/him.

      GNU/But GNU/I GNU/am GNU/could GNU/be GNU/wrong GNU/on GNU/this.
    • Re:RMS.. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Trashman (3003)

      He gives the Free software community a bad name, and with him on the forefront, Free software will never be part of corporate america (which is becoming more and more synonymous with America itself.)

      I disagree. Without people like Mr. Stallman, The free software movement would not be where it is today. His "problem" is that he envisions a perfect world where all software is free. This is a noble goal, but the reality is that this will never be. There will always be need (and a market) for non-free

    • Re:RMS.. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Gumshoe (191490) on Monday January 05, 2004 @12:20PM (#7881468) Journal
      It is true that he has done a lot to further it's progress, but lets face it, this is the person who hates debian simply because they include THE OPTION (which, mind you, has to be enabled by editing a text config file) of downloading non-free software.


      He doesn't "hate" Debian at all. That's patently untrue. He has said [ofb.biz] however, that he doesn't recommend Debian because of the free vs non-free issue and instead encourages the use of GNU/LinEx.

      This is the guy who refuses to follow the proper procedures laid out hundreds of years ago by the French revolutionaries (you all know what I mean), etc
      I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about.
      • This is the guy who refuses to follow the proper procedures laid out hundreds of years ago by the French revolutionaries (you all know what I mean), etc
        I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about.
        What I think he meant is that we are meant to chop off the kings head. I guess the analogy would extend to Bill Gates, but I'm not sure...
      • Re:RMS.. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Valdrax (32670) on Monday January 05, 2004 @01:08PM (#7881920)
        He has said [ofb.biz] however, that he doesn't recommend Debian because of the free vs non-free issue and instead encourages the use of GNU/LinEx.

        This goes to the core of what I and many others don't like about RMS -- he dislikes choice. Debian strongly encourages Free Software. Heck, they were founded on the concept of a Free Software distribution of Linux. However, because Debian offers users the option of non-Free Software, RMS no longer recommends it. In his somewhat Orwellian stance, RMS boldly claims that to be free one must not have the choice to use commercial software. He's so wrapped up in the concept that not sharing your source is an inherently Evil idea that he forgets that true Freedom includes the option to shoot yourself in the foot.

        I dislike the polarized, fanatical "either with us or with the terrorists" stance that he takes towards proprietary software. I don't like it in politics, and I don't like it in the philosophy of software development. Plus, I don't like how he has only words of criticism and scorn for those who are making moves towards his stance but have not yet fully committed to it. You're just not good enough unless you're pushing for a total abolition of non-Free Software.

        He's certainly more civil nowdays than to openly claim to hate Debian, but he certainly doesn't think it's good enough, and that's pretty much the parent poster's point.
        • This goes to the core of what I and many others don't like about RMS -- he dislikes choice.

          Your evidence of this is where, exactly? I don't see him telling people they shouldn't write any particular program. I see him telling people that if they intend on distributing the software they are writing, they should distribute it as free software.

          Heck, they were founded on the concept of a Free Software distribution of Linux.

          Actually the GNU project predates the development of the Linux kernal by

    • He gives the Free software community a -bad- name? Hell, he's the one who gave it -A- name.

      Yes, he's extreme in his vision of a software utopia. But if Free software is a good thing, it's not completely unreasonable to say an only Free software rule might be a great thing - and it's usefull to have someone around who insists that's the way things should be, if only to make the moderates look, well, more moderate.

    • Re:RMS.. (Score:2, Insightful)

      by squiggleslash (241428)

      I don't want to be the one dissin' RMS...

      Irony alert, irony alert! Damn it, why does Slashdot not support the <BLINK> tag?

      but I think he needs a sanity check

      Stop right there.

      but lets face it, this is the person who hates debian simply because they include THE OPTION (which, mind you, has to be enabled by editing a text config file) of downloading non-free software.

      No, this isn't the person who hates Debian or any other distribution. This is the person who chooses to use a different distrib

  • by sulli (195030) * on Monday January 05, 2004 @12:02PM (#7881325) Journal
    but also RMS' beard. Send the Fab Five to do something about it!
  • linux.com? (Score:5, Funny)

    by SmilingBoy (686281) on Monday January 05, 2004 @12:03PM (#7881327)
    But will RMS be happy that this artcle is posted to www.linux.com and not www.gnulinux.free?
  • Hurd... (Score:2, Funny)

    by TWX (665546)
    So, was the Hurd mentioned as the new GNU kernel that Stallman still wants to use? I mean, Linux is supposed to be replaced by the Hurd, any day now...
    • Re:Hurd... (Score:2, Funny)

      by lxs (131946)
      As Basil Fawlty would say:

      Don't mention the HURD.
    • Re:Hurd... (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      That's the beauty of the GPL, every version of Hurd that I run is forked from the latest linux. I just search replace "linux" with "hurd" in all the files and I am running a state of the art hurd kernel for my GNU system.

  • by Meat Blaster (578650) on Monday January 05, 2004 @12:08PM (#7881364)
    Before the contributions of Stallman, and those designing software under the GNU banner, who would have noticed the horrid direction proprietary software and hardware have us headed in?

    They've demonstrated not only that it is possible to roll your own system (GNU/Herd, GNU/Linux, EMACS, and the myriad utilities), but also why it is necessary. What must come next in this new era of DRM are those who can create their own hardware, free of the oppression and lock-in that tomorrow's systems will have. But we will not ask ourselves what we can run on our homebrew hardware, because an answer is ready thanks to the efforts of the Free Software Foundation.

  • GNU/Hurd (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mhesseltine (541806) on Monday January 05, 2004 @12:08PM (#7881366) Homepage Journal

    Ok, since the Linux kernel allows binary modules, it's not necessarily "free software". Does that mean that the Hurd kernel won't allow binary modules, or open wrappers (Nvidia)? If not, does Stallman think that developers can create drivers for proprietary hardware that are at least as good as, if not better than, those provided by the manufacturer?

    Or, is "free software" just the first stepping stone to "free hardware," where every innovation is public, and any competitor is free to use your innovations?

    • Re:GNU/Hurd (Score:3, Informative)

      by GammaTau (636807)

      Ok, since the Linux kernel allows binary modules, it's not necessarily "free software". Does that mean that the Hurd kernel won't allow binary modules, or open wrappers (Nvidia)?

      Linux is licensed under the GPL. Hurd is licensed under the GPL. Neither has any exceptions or additional grants. GPL goes as far as the copyright does. Everything that is derived from Linux and Hurd will have to be GPL. Now it happens to be that not all kernel modules can be considered to be derived from Linux so whatever Lin

  • by jasonbowen (683345) on Monday January 05, 2004 @12:09PM (#7881374)
    Anybody else envision some larger than life figurehead standing at a podium telling you exactly what you need to do to be happy and that they have all the answers? I enjoy the spirit of cooperation and the quality of code that has come out of open source and free software but I'll be damned if I think it's the only way to do things.
  • by goldspider (445116) <ardrake79@ g m a i l .com> on Monday January 05, 2004 @12:13PM (#7881403) Homepage
    "non-free software carries with it an antisocial system that prohibits coopoeration and community"

    If most people's expectation of software was to create "cooperation and community", RMS mmight be onto something here. But the truth is that most people and businesses want software that fulfills a particular need (or set of needs).

    As long as RMS continues to deny the purpose of software for most people, free software will never meet the needs of the masses.

  • Where to go party? (Score:4, Informative)

    by DrMorris (156226) on Monday January 05, 2004 @12:15PM (#7881419)
    There is a webpage [gnu.org] for the 20th anniversary of the GNU project, but I can't see any planned events. Does anybody know if there are or have been some GNU parties around the world?
  • by DAldredge (2353) * <SlashdotEmail@GMail.Com> on Monday January 05, 2004 @12:17PM (#7881429) Journal
    What happend about the Savannah compromise? According to a LWN.net interview with FSF director Bradley Kuhn it appears that the FSF is NOT trying to figure out what really happened.

    Why not?
  • by IamTheRealMike (537420) * <mike@plan99.net> on Monday January 05, 2004 @12:19PM (#7881457) Homepage
    This is the problem with RMS - he is too black and white.

    If you have read his writings, he has fairly convincingly argued from first principles that software should be free. I, and many others, have read this and been inspired, because the world he ultimately wants to live in is about co-operation and sharing.

    However, RMS often leaves people behind with his extreme on/off view. This sentance is pivotal:

    Users cannot be free while using a non-free program

    This is seriously distorting his already bent definition of "free". Freedom, as he defines it, can be applied to software (and with a bit of work books, music etc) and while you might argue with the word used it's a useful concept to have.

    Here though, he applies the word free to users, and this is a different thing entirely. Worse, he asserts that all it takes is one piece of non-free software to spoil his utopian dream.

    I think a lot of people like the idea of free software, but we're willing to accept compromise. It's not an all or nothing proposition. Free software have inherantly good vibes because we're not imposing arbitrary limitations on what people can do with what we made (which is ultimately beneficial) but it's not like I'm a slave to the machine because I use the NVidia video drivers.

    Yeah, I'd like to have free drivers, but Alan Cox himself has said he cannot think of a way to justify NVidia freeing their code - their fears of what would happen to their business if they did that are justified, he thinks. That's good enough for me. In this case, it just isn't practical. I don't like it, but that's life.

    RMS sees it differently. That alienates people.

    • by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Monday January 05, 2004 @01:26PM (#7882104) Homepage Journal
      Here though, he applies the word free to users, and this is a different thing entirely. Worse, he asserts that all it takes is one piece of non-free software to spoil his utopian dream.

      The thing is, though, that he seems to be proven correct every single time this comes up. Remember when BitKeeper restricted their license [berlios.de], effectively prohibiting anyone from contributing to the Linux kernel and, say, Subversion? Or when Darren Reed re-interpreted the license to IPF [deadly.org], forcing the OpenBSD team to remove it from their system? Or any of the other stories on Slashdot where a closed-source company lures users and developers with gratis copies of their new, shiny product - and then changes licensing terms once everyone's hooked?

      The fact is that if you use non-Free software, then you are beholden to the whims of someone else. I always recommend Free software solutions to my employer when remotely possible, not to save a few pennies, but to ensure that we have the right to use our systems as we see fit, not as someone outside our business allows us to.

      RMS is loud, obnoxious, and irritating to a lot of people. He's also right almost every time when he warns of the dangers of non-Free systems. Although you might not like the delivery, the message seems to be dead accurate.

  • RMS and Linus (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sgtron (35704) on Monday January 05, 2004 @12:19PM (#7881459)
    God bless Richard Stallman for giving us GNU.
    God Bless Linus Torvalds for making it usable.
  • by NixterAg (198468)
    The most effective way to strengthen our community for the future is to spread understanding of the value of freedom--to teach more people to recognize the moral unacceptability of non-free software. People who value freedom are, in the long term, its best and essential defense.

    I don't think Mr. Stallman defines freedom in the same way I do. I don't think Mr. Stallman's concept of morality is anywhere near mine either. I just can't take someone seriously who tells me that non-free software is morally un
    • "The open source community is much better off gaining credibility and notoriety by making better software and being an inclusive place where developers and tinkerers hone their craft than by suggesting non-free software is immoral."

      ...And this can happen quite easily, as more developers and managers realize that open-source and free-software are not bound at the hip.

      I think many would agree that open-source can be an extremely effective development methodology - I have benefitted both personally and

    • by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Monday January 05, 2004 @01:36PM (#7882211) Homepage Journal
      The open source community is much better off...

      That's the core of your misunderstanding. Open Source is not the same [yukidoke.org] as Free. The concepts are orthogonal. While Open Source is about pragmatism, Free Software is about morality, and it's not reasonable to expect arguments about practicality to influence someone's moral beliefs.

      The ideals you mention belong to the Open Source movement, and your thoughts will be most welcome there. RMS and his co-believers will not agree with you, ever, and you need to know the differences between the groups to understand why.

  • by jdreed1024 (443938) on Monday January 05, 2004 @12:21PM (#7881476)
    The first line reads: "It was twenty years ago today that I quit my job at MIT to begin developing a free software operating system, GNU."

    Did anyone else start thinking up new lyrics to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band when they read that first sentence? Perhaps a new Free Software Song is in the making....

    • by TeknoHog (164938) on Monday January 05, 2004 @03:26PM (#7883284) Homepage Journal
      Hmm, I guess this would go better with the 2.4.24 release.

      It was thirteen years ago today
      Col. Torvalds let the source away.
      We've been going in and out of drives
      but we guarantee to raise uptimes.
      So may I introduce to you
      the hack we've known for all these years
      Col. Torvalds' Linux slash GNU band!

      We're Col. Torvalds' Linux slash GNU band,
      we hope you will enjoy the code.
      Col. Torvalds' Linux slash GNU band,
      just hack and let the evening go!

      Col. Torvalds' Linux
      Col. Torvalds' Linux
      Col. Torvalds' Linux slash GNU band!

      It's wonderful to post here,
      it's certainly no troll.
      You're such a lovely userbase,
      we'd like to merge your code with us,
      we'd love to take you /home.

      I don't really want to freeze the code,
      but I thought you might like to know
      this release is going to fix the root
      and we want you all to patch for good.

      So let me introduce to you
      the one and only Billy's fear
      Col. Torvalds' Linux slash GNU band!
  • by randyest (589159) on Monday January 05, 2004 @12:21PM (#7881480) Homepage
    Stallman says:

    The most effective way to strengthen our community for the future is to spread understanding of the value of freedom--to teach more people to recognize the moral unacceptability of non-free software. People who value freedom are, in the long term, its best and essential defense.

    The current U.S. administration says (my paraphrasing):

    The most effective way to strengthen the world for the future is to spread understanding of the value of freedom--to teach more people to recognize the moral unacceptability of non-free peoples. People who value freedom are, in the long term, its best and essential defense.

    Isn't it odd that two apparently unrelated, or even diametrically opposed, groups can have such similar sentiments as their "mission statements"? I guess some will claim that my paraphrasing is optimistic or even naieve, but I believe it, and I believe a lot of others do as well.

    So, we have now a view of Stallman working on free software as a microcosmic version of the U.S. working on world freedom. Discuss!
    • This will be taken as flamebait, but I don't care.

      Freedom right now in the USA is only limited to what can make them more money, not other countries that might limit/threaten their freedom.

      By this I DO NOT mean in a direct assault on freedom itself, but by affecting the standards of living in the USA. The recent exposed plan in the 70/80's to invade oil rich countries to protect their oil needs is only one example. Need I mention DMCA and other laws to protect the corporate companies rather then the cons
  • by Cytlid (95255) on Monday January 05, 2004 @12:24PM (#7881508)
    I can see where he is going with this. But before much of this can happen, other things have to happen. I recently changed my sig to compare RMS to Abraham Lincoln. I did some (quick, incomplete) research on the emancipation proclimation. One site describes is as "The first of many documents that slowly freed human slaves in the United States." The operative word here being "slowly". Much of the tech industry is still in its infancy. The best we can hope for right now is a "melting pot" effect. As people become more tech-aware and tech-savvy, maybe they'll embrace free software more, and even contribute to it. All it takes is enough of proprietary software, commercial entities and monopolies to get on the nerves of most people before radical change can take effect. I just believe that RMS is really ahead of his time. He could very well be the "first of his kind that slowly freed people from technical constraints."

    Just my $.02.

    • by s20451 (410424) on Monday January 05, 2004 @12:45PM (#7881705) Journal
      Are you a troll? Or are you actually comparing the moral courage that eliminated slavery, and triggered the bloodiest war in US history, to a particular method of software methodology?

      Don't get me wrong, I think the GPL is a good idea. But what really turns me off about GNU is their casting of the GPL as some sort of ideological crusade between good and evil. Nobody is being oppressed or having their human rights violated by using proprietary software. The market should be allowed to decide which model should prevail (or if both should coexist), without being tainted by some sort of acquired "morality".

      I believe future historians will judge RMS as having done about as much harm as good.
      • by dido (9125)

        I live in the Third World, and what I can say is that the use of proprietary software IS a form of oppression indeed. For the first time in human history the advance of technology has practically removed all barriers to accessing useful information, but corporations like Microsoft are using the same technology to erect artificial barriers in the name of their profits. They would condemn whole nations and peoples into ignorance and backwardness because these nations and peoples cannot afford to get around

  • Another RMS post (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LittleLebowskiUrbanA (619114) on Monday January 05, 2004 @12:25PM (#7881521) Homepage Journal
    RMS is all talk and no walk. Take a look at what ESR and Perens have been doing to combat SCO. Then you see comments where all he does is worry about Linux being identified as GNU. Reminds of the zealots who have to pronounce GNU (guhnew" and Gnome similary and always have to say GNU/Linux not just Linux. Who cares?! It's just words.
    Here's Stallman's comments:
    ""I am concerned about long-term entrenched confusions such as referring to a version of our GNU OS as 'Linux' and thinking that our work on free software was motivated by the ideas associated with 'open source.' These confusions lead users away from the basic issue: their freedom. By comparison, the events involving SCO are transitory and almost trivial," Stallman says".
    • by nuggz (69912) on Monday January 05, 2004 @12:55PM (#7881792) Homepage
      RMS is all talk and no walk
      RMS has done a lot for free software.
      He has written significant amounts of it.

      He doesn't want Linux called GNU/Linux, he wants a GNU system with the Linux kernel called GNU/Linux.

      Think of this like buying a GM vehicle (system) with a Honda engine(kernel). You wouldn't call it a Honda, Likely either a GM, or GM/Honda vehicle.

      The SCO mess is a temporary trivial harrassment, not really a serious problem. They have no proven claims, and unless they actually document one, they will probaly collapse under IBMs countersuit.

  • GNOME? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nonmaskable (452595) on Monday January 05, 2004 @12:27PM (#7881543)
    Why, then, does he advocate GNOME when it (more than anything else in the free software ecosystem) enables closed, non-free propriatory software?

    GNOMErs gleefully point this out as the major selling point for GNOME over KDE.

    I don't have a problem with the license choice, just the hypocrisy.
    • Re:GNOME? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mobiGeek (201274)
      I don't have a problem with the license choice, just the hypocrisy.
      There is no hypocrisy here. RMS does not advocate GNOME because people can develop non-free software. He advocates it because you can develop any software, unrestricted (i.e. free).

      Others in the GNOME community may push the non-free angle of the above, but this doesn't make RMS or other FSS proponents hypocritical.

    • Re:GNOME? (Score:3, Informative)

      by steveha (103154)
      Why, then, does he advocate GNOME

      "Because it's part of the GNU system."

      GNOMErs gleefully point [LGPL] out as the major selling point for GNOME over KDE.

      There are many reasons why GNOME fans like GNOME. That is only one, and certainly not one that motivates RMS.

      Bruce Perens has cited that as the reason why GNOME is better for a business distribution. He believes that if businesses want the option of running proprietary software, a business-oriented distribution should provide that option. RMS belie
  • by gosand (234100) on Monday January 05, 2004 @12:29PM (#7881561)
    I asked this question in the Slashdot interview [slashdot.org] questions to Bruce Perens back in July. (What ever happened to that interview anyway?)

    My question was modded +5, and I would really like to hear one of the "leaders" answer on it. Here it is as I posted it then...

    A lot of people equate Open Source with Linux, but what are your opinions on Open Source on Windows? Of course Open Source works well on Linux, it falls more in line with the philosophy of the OS. In your opinion, is it more beneficial to keep the concepts of Open Source and Linux coupled, or to get the message of Open Source out there in any way possible?

    The question still applies to Free software too. Is it possible to run Free software on Windows, and not get RMS' hackles up? OpenOffice is a great example that runs on Windows. Is it worth it to get the word out about alternative to proprietary software, or is the whole movement about alternatives to proprietary OSs?

  • by leoaugust (665240) <leoaugust@g3.14159mail.com minus pi> on Monday January 05, 2004 @12:30PM (#7881564) Journal

    I love free software esp. when it is the underdog. The following comment is only meant in the sense of what will happen if free software becomes the Big Kid on the Block.

    Simply by using a new and unfinished free replacement, before it technically compares with the non-free model, you can help encourage the free developers to persevere until it becomes superior.

    I see an analogy with Economic Models where they talk of Perfect Competition and a Level Playing Field leading increasingly towards profits approaching to Zero. It is not really a bad situation in the Creative-Destruction evolution of the market economies.

    This economic destination would be perfect if the 'free" software was being written in time that was "leisure" time, or even in "professional" time if it is going to lead to professional and career advancements. Then the concept of Zero Profits is not unreasonable as there are other intangible benefits.

    But for many other people the time spent writing "free" software is going to entail expenses - esp. if they they don't have the above two mitigating factors. In that case the programmers are then paying themselves for the software they write - i.e. negative profits.

    I know this question has been asked a million/gazillion times. But, hey, it's GNU's 20th Birthday, so why not nostaligically revist it.

    1. Does this mean that people should accept "negative Profits?"
    2. Does it imply that the "free" software users are being subsidized by the programmers themselves.
    3. How will the "societal benefits" of "free" software turn into some profits for the programming community - directly or indirectly.

    I guess, all I am asking is that if the users are going to benefit from "free" software, and that becomes the dominant mode of software usage, how are the large number of programmers going to be compensated directly or indirectly -esp. the ones who are not Hobbyists and Resume-builders.

  • by bain (1910) on Monday January 05, 2004 @12:32PM (#7881584) Homepage Journal
    I respect RMS for his work and some of his views, but I think that his notion that only OSS is right contracdicts his beliefs. By saying everybody should shun non-FS he's limiting their freedom of choice is he not.

    I have always seen FS/OSS as choice rather then a need. I introduce people to it and leave them to choose if they want to use it or not. I think the FS should promote Freedom of Choice when using software, and point out the advantages of choosing FS rather then promoting using only Free Software to promote freedom.
  • All or nothing? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ShaggyZet (74769) on Monday January 05, 2004 @12:55PM (#7881787) Homepage
    RMS seems to believe free software use should be an all or nothing proposition, especially with regard to proprietary ports to free systems. That's a fine argument to make.

    But what about a more gradual approach? So what if someone wants to run Weblogic and Oracle on Linux instead of Weblogic and Oracle on Windows? Maybe the transition to Tomcat and PostgreSQL on Linux is too much for them right now, for technical or political reasons. Maybe they'll switch eventually.

    Or, maybe they won't. Isn't it still a positive change, a change providing more freedom? Would RMS rather that that user just stay on Windows forever, using no free or open software at all? I realize that RMS in his ideology above all else, and certainly above any pragmatism, but this kind of transition is a win for everyone. Even if the example user never switches to 100% free software.

  • by IGnatius T Foobar (4328) on Monday January 05, 2004 @01:00PM (#7881833) Homepage Journal
    Software is a tool to get a job done. People do not turn on their computers to experience freedom. They turn on their computers to write, communicate, calculate, or whatever.

    Any given set of software will succeed in the marketplace when it presents a greater value proposition than all the other options. Linux has been growing like gangbusters in the server space because it represents a better value than proprietary Unix, and more recently, Windows servers. Linux is starting to make inroads on the corporate desktop for the same reason: customers are beginning to see the lack of value in Microsoft's offering (think ratio of price to functionality), so as free software's value proposition continues to become more attractive, more customers will make the jump.

    RMS seems to think that computer users will suddenly say "oh, I want to be liberated from the chains of proprietary software!" and make the jump because they value freedom. In the end, they don't care. They just want to get their work done with the least amount of effort required. This is why Open Source PR campaigns have succeeded where RMS's efforts have failed: the message was presented in terms of value to the user rather than as a philosophical abstract that your typical IT manager simply doesn't care about.

    Yes, there are people who value software freedom as an end in itself. I happen to be one of them. But unless Microsoft starts slaughtering puppies or something, there aren't going to be enough of us to make a difference. Software freedom, for the rest of the world, is a means to an end: that end being "software that doesn't suck" (as ESR once put it), and that lack of suckage is being brought on by the benefits of collaborative development we already know about.

    RMS was a visionary. He started the free software movement, and he contributed a brilliantly built compiler suite and a bunch of other tools. But his PR has been a 20 year disaster, and it is definitely time for him to step down.
    • RMS still doesn't get it (Score:2) by IGnatius T Foobar [SNIP]

      Software is a tool to get a job done. People do not turn on their computers to experience freedom. They turn on their computers to write, communicate, calculate, or whatever.

      [SNIP]

      Free speech thrives at UNCENSORED! BBS - http://uncensored.citadel.org [citadel.org]

      Tell me, then, why should we care about Free Speech but not Free Software? I can buy perfectly good outlets for my speech, as long as I'm rich, what's the problem? I don't want to

  • by telbij (465356) on Monday January 05, 2004 @01:18PM (#7882017)
    RMS argues that the goals of open source development ought to be freedom rather than popularity. Yet popularity serves a very real purpose in that it attracts money and interest in free software. To that end, proprietary software that makes GNU/Linux more usable to the masses is a good thing in that it makes the system more palatable to end users who have specific needs. RMS is a great torch bearer for altruistic geeks, but actual paid jobs developing free software do not automatically spring up from the rhetoric.

    I don't care how much you hate profit and business, they get things done.
  • Competition (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Julian Morrison (5575) on Monday January 05, 2004 @01:32PM (#7882159)
    The thing he misses is the principle of competition. Basically, by its mere existence, a free alternative threatens the nonfree version into playing nice.

    He alludes to Java. The GPL implementation is a piece of crud, so nobody uses it. But its existence is enough to prevent Sun from playing at silly buggers. Regardless of the theoretical license terms. If they tried, IBM or some such would just pile behind kaffe.org and grind them into dust.

    Thus freedom spreads outwards from comparatively humble free software efforts, de-facto freeing the proprietary software too.
  • Heresy! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by i_r_sensitive (697893) on Monday January 05, 2004 @02:08PM (#7882500)
    Users cannot be free while using a non-free program.

    Hey RMS, didn't they offer intorductory logic at MIT?

    Seriously, there is no logic to the above statement, it is totally bereft of value as a supporting argument. Particularly since it is patently false.

    What should have been said is: Users cannot be free until the M$'s and RMS's of the world let them make their own software choices free of obfuscation and misrepresentation.

    Do you really seek to abridge the rights of end users to use the product which does the job best for them? Do you seek to abridge the rights of developers to dispose of their work as they see fit?

    This argument is more akin to religious extremism than reasoned argument. I do not debate your right to have strong (and wrong) opinions. I will hotly debate the conclusions you would have people draw from your opinions.

    Your assertion about the Invidious Video Driver Et. Al demonstrates this clearly. Your position seems to indicate that using any non-free software to resolve a problem is somehow wrong. Nothing can be further from the truth. Given two pieces of software X and Y where X is non-free but conforms to the requirements, and Y is free but does not satisfy all requirements, that users should select Y over X, despite the fact that X performs the required job and Y does not. This is where the argument gets it's religious flavor. What other term can I apply to a position which exhorts users to deny the evidence of their senses in the pursuit of some (likely unattainable) Xanadu?

    As for those who create software, who has the right to determine how they dispose of their property? Your position on this is merely the antithesis of the Microsoft/SCO position. Nor is your position any more tenable than theirs. Microsoft/SCO assert that free software is somehow immoral, and you assert the opposite. I suggest that neither of your opinions matter a hill of beans.

    It is unseemly for anyone who purports to support Free, as in freedom, to seek to villify developers for exercising their freedoms.

    The simple fact of the matter is that your extremist position is no more valid than the extremist positions of your antagonists. Like most such positions, it has no place in the real world. In the real world, you seek solutions which work, regardless of their dogmatic purity. Several times in the last century people tried superimposing dogma over reality, by and large those experiments failed. Those that still are with us have had to yield to reality to continue to exist.

    There is no one "right" answer in the free v. non-free software debate. The "right" answer is not blanket dogma, but the result of an unbiased analysis of the situation, and a choice based on that analysis and the constraints of the real world we live in, wether you are a producer or a consumer of software.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 05, 2004 @02:19PM (#7882613)
    If Linus was never born, eventually, someone else would have written a kernel. It might have come a few years later, and it might not be as good as the linux kernel, but it would come.

    If RMS was never born, BSD would be closed/proprietary. So would KDE and gnome wouldn't exist. The GPL wouldn't exist and the face of Free software would be completely different.

    "The less a man makes declarative statements, the less he's
    apt to look foolish in retrospect." --Quentin Tarantino

    Thats true. Ever try to debate religion with an agnostic? it aint easy!
    Linus takes this approach with Free Software. Its hard to find fault with anything he says because he says very little. He is a good diplomat; he unifies the clans and presents a pleasant face for bussness.

    The only problem with this is there are important things that need to be said! RMS is the one saying them. He gets down and dirty despite it being a position of less dignitty. He is not socially conscious enough to be diplomatic, he is blunt and to the point like a laser and i respect that.

    There are 2 types of GNU users:
    -Those who use it because they feel its the best tool for the job, the Open Source Movement
    -Those who use it because they feel that Freedom is a philosophically superior position, the Free Software Movement

    If the situation was reversed, and windows was Free and GNU/linux was closed, I would be a Windows zealot. So, in a way, the license is more important then the code.

    Its unfortunate that some newbies have the impresson that he is trying to take credit for "linux". He deserves more credit then he is asking for. Also unfortunate, that its easier to understand Linus' contribution then his, because his is more complex.

    He is not trying to "steal linux". He is the granddaddy of us all, and where he leads i will gladly follow.
  • by Aidtopia (667351) on Monday January 05, 2004 @02:26PM (#7882679) Homepage Journal

    Today, I can choose to write free software or closed software. It's my choice, and I like it that way. I have nothing against the free software movement, but I disagree with RMS when he suggests that I shouldn't have the freedom to develop software and try to make it a commercial product of it. Why should I only be allowed to market services like installation and support?

    Software developers should be like academians? OK. Not all mathematicians share their advances. I know some who develop proprietary models of the stock market for an investment company. It's not for everyone, but shouldn't they have the freedom to choose such a pursuit.

    And what makes software so special? Shouldn't hardware be open? Aren't chips mostly designed with source code now? Aren't production costs getting so low that they are essentially commodities like software?

  • by PWBDecker (452734) on Monday January 05, 2004 @02:55PM (#7882933)
    I develop open source AI software, and I once emailed RMS about modifying the GPL to include a provision that my software could never be used by any military organization, for the simple fact that intelligent algorithms are too powerful to be allowed to be used to the detriment of others. He replied saying that any software which restricts its users is NOT free, by means of GNU principle #5 - Software must not discriminate against its users. I, however, strongly feel that any form of militarism is a VERY strong form of discrimination altogether (against human life), and still feel that my software should be licensed non-usable by militaries. Does anybody else agree/disagree?
  • by Peaker (72084) <gnupeaker@@@yahoo...com> on Monday January 05, 2004 @08:17PM (#7886246) Homepage
    The vast majority of replies here seem to be critics of RMS who try to explain why they disagree with his "extreme position" (while implicitly suggesting that they understand what they're disagreeing with).

    It seems that in every single one of those cases, the critics did not really get RMS's point and what he is trying to say.

    Most of the questions being raised are actually answered (almost literally) in the documents in the GNU Philosophy [gnu.org] documentation.

    I'll list some of the common misunderstandings anyways, and answer them as I understand Stallman's approach:

    How are we going to make a living?
    See the Why Software Should Be Free: Economics [gnu.org] argument.
    Its immoral to release non-free software, and therefore it should not be done. If you cannot make a living writing software without resorting to immoral deeds, by all means do something else to make a living.
    Also note that Free Software can cost money (First copy, packaged copies, supported copies, etc), and that programmers can still work on Free Software by-contract.

    He is evil because he does not support Debian/etc only because they support non-free software.
    That's not true, he has supported Debian, even throughout times in which they supported non-free software. Thing is, now that non-free software is no longer essential to a system, Stallman believes we should move to the next step and use purely Free Software. Now that there are 100% Free GNU/Linux distributions, he recommends those instead.

    Why is Stallman opposing the choice between Free and Non-Free software?

    Because that choice implies that using and creating Non-Free software is acceptable, a view that is not agreeable.

    Why is he persuing the GNU/Linux naming issue? Its just words!

    Because words are important. Labelling a GNU system with a Linux kernel GNU or GNU/Linux rather than Linux is a matter of proper attribution of credit. As one of the main authors of GNU, he is totally within his rights to ask for the deserved credit. He believes that raising awareness to "GNU" (rather than just "Linux") will make people aware of the Free Software movement, rather than just the Open Source movement.

    Software does not require Freedom. Users don't want Freedom when using software.

    This is analogous to claiming that Speech does not require freedom. Lack of Freedom in software means that when your neighbour asks you to share some piece of software, you have to refuse. It means that if you are a programmer, and want to create modifications, share insights, be inspired to create new works, etc. you are out of luck.
    It means that if you are not a programmer, you cannot ask your programmer friend, or hire a programmer to do these things for you.
    It means that the vendor has some degree of control over your life, and that directly translates to lack of freedom in an increasingly important part of people's lives.

    Software is there to fulfill a need, and if Closed/Proprietary software fulfills it, then it should be used.

    Using Closed/Proprietary software is morally unacceptable and should be replaced by Free Software.

The meat is rotten, but the booze is holding out. Computer translation of "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."

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