Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

ESR Advocates Proprietary Software 422

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the well-not-all-the-time dept.
mvdwege writes "Apparently, Eric Raymond has decided that proprietary software is now a good thing, according to The Register. I must say it is rather revealing how easily he is willing to compromise on this particular freedom. Is his earlier vocal proclamation of the importance of freedom (still visible on his homepage) mere posturing? And if so, how about his vocal support of other freedoms?"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

ESR Advocates Proprietary Software

Comments Filter:
  • by squiggleslash (241428) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @10:41AM (#15940437) Homepage Journal

    Much as I'd love another excuse to blast ESR here, that's putting an awful spin on an article that doesn't quite say that about a speech that doesn't quite say that.

    ESR is suggesting the open source movement concern itself with making sure GNU/Linux et al works out of the box, and if that means in the short term accepting some proprietary software, then that may be necessary. His belief is predicated upon the notion that the move to 64 bit computing means people are about to make choices about the next generation of operating systems. If they get a 64 bit machine, they're going to either chose GNU/Linux, or a proprietary system like Windows, and once that choice has been made that's it.

    I think ESR is wrong in believing that. But if he believes that, then it's legitimate for him to believe that a short term acceptance of some proprietary software, that can be rewritten later, may be necessary to "get us through" to the point that the system most likely to end up being 100% FOSS is the dominant operating system.

    My belief is that this is all bollocks, and the move to 64 bits will make no difference whatsoever in terms of which 1970s technology OS is used, as ultimately the major candidates are. But it's legitimate for him to think otherwise, and doesn't even represent an ideological "shift" (as the article implies) to believe that in order for FOSS to win-out, it may need some non-FOSS code in the short term. That's always been the case. Even the FSF accepts that, hence the LGPL, a license they like to discourage the use of but nonetheless one they invented anyway and want to see used for certain projects. The entire point of the LGPL is exactly the same as ESR's point: you have to integrate with proprietary software in the short term if you want to move beyond proprietary software in the long term.

    The only way to read the meaning the submitter attributed to ESR is to believe ESR cares more about GNU/Linux's popularity than he does about free software. I seriously doubt that's the case.

    • by jmorris42 (1458) * <.gro.uaeb. .ta. .sirromj.> on Saturday August 19, 2006 @10:56AM (#15940493)
      Yup, I also disagree with ESR's reasoning somewhat but agree that if you accept his reasoning his conclusion is perfectly rational and pro Free Software. But this is slashdot and for some reason there is a large contingent that loves to slag ESR so the editors are throwing a little raw meat out to get some pageviews on a slow Saturday.

      I think ESR is wrong because most people aren't ever going to notice the 64bit transition, at least nothing like the 16-32 bit horrors of the 1990s. Both Linux (almost flawlessly on RH based distros and fairly useable on Debian ones) and Windows have made it all but unnoticable whether one is using 32 or 64 bit apps for 90+% of users and uses. Only those who need to malloc gigs need concern themselves.

      But even ignoring all that we might want to consider compromising enough to capture desktop share. It wouldn't be unprecedented, GNU itself was developed on closed platforms because ALL platforms were closed, and after all the FSF is still wanking with HURD.

      It isn't the 64 bit barrier we need to worry about, it is the ability to play multimedia content, which ESR also is concerned about, that is a real problem. We CAN'T write and distribute Free Software for most of that stuff because of patents. Yes I hate them as much as the next geek (and had the consistency to launch a big "Fuck you" to Tivo over yesterday's patent troll by them) but until we can change the rules of the game we are mostly stuck with them. Yes [I] can go get mplayer and most of [YOU] can get it, but corporate america isn't going to take a lawyer bumrush from the MPAA/Franhaufer/etc over the issue. And newbies are being put through a horrible rite of passage when they try to join us.
      • Mentioning patents this really all doesn't make very much sense. ESR is advocating the newest GPL which has some serious impedments when it comes to patents, but THEN recommends using closed source for these devices. Doesn't he realize the contradition.
      • by kripkenstein (913150) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @12:10PM (#15940795) Homepage
        We CAN'T write and distribute Free Software for most of that stuff because of patents.

        We can't write free software - but we can get multimedia stuff to work, if we pay for the license to do so. You can get your DVDs to work 'out-of-the-box' on Linux - just use Linspire. People who believe in the ideals behind Free Software won't (including me), but for those that are worried about 'losing the desktop', options are available.

        If this was the thing holding Linux back from being a massive success, Linspire would be selling millions of copies. That they aren't says something.

        (Note: I wish Linspire all the luck in the world, even though I don't use their product.)
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Stickerboy (61554)
          >>We CAN'T write and distribute Free Software for most of that stuff because of patents.

          >We can't write free software - but we can get multimedia stuff to work, if we pay for the license to do so. You can get your DVDs to work 'out-of-the-box' on Linux - just use Linspire. People who believe in the ideals behind Free Software won't (including me), but for those that are worried about 'losing the desktop', options are available.

          If this was the thing holding Linux back from being a massive success, L
    • [...] in order for FOSS to win-out, it may need some non-FOSS code in the short term. That's always been the case.

      To win what, exactly—popularity? For free software advocates popularity is not a goal. Freedom is a goal, a goal that is not achieved by installing non-free software on one's computer.

      Even in the essay discussing the LGPL [gnu.org] (formerly known as the "Library GPL" now known as the "Lesser GPL") one can see the FSF making this point:

      Proprietary software developers, seeking to deny the

      • You're taking the views of the FSF beyond what they actually are saying - note, for example, that glibc remains LGPL'd, the base libraries for GNOME are also LGPL'd - and you're also ignoring network effects.

        The issue isn't being "popular", it's being widely used enough to be relevent. Without relevence, the rug can be pulled from underneath you simply by the introduction of a market where everything software has to interact with is proprietary, be it the formats of content or the hardware it runs upon.

      • "To win what, exactly--popularity? For free software advocates popularity is not a goal. Freedom is a goal, a goal that is not achieved by installing non-free software on one's computer."

        In that regard, ESR is more of a realist than an idealist. From his opinions in the past, and also talking with him (Talking to him in person is EXTREMELY interesting) and seeing one of his lectures back from a year or so after The Cathedral and The Bazaar, I think he has always been a realist that considers open source to
      • To win what, exactly--popularity? For free software advocates popularity is not a goal. Freedom is a goal, a goal that is not achieved by installing non-free software on one's computer.

        I don't believe that Eric Raymond has never declared himself a partisan of "Free Software" so I don't know why you, the article submitter or the Slashdot editor are acting as if he did. Eric Raymond was one of several people who created an ALTERNATIVE movement to the Free Software Movement. The Open Source movement was sp

    • by AHumbleOpinion (546848) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @12:42PM (#15940895) Homepage
      His belief is predicated upon the notion that the move to 64 bit computing means people are about to make choices about the next generation of operating systems.

      Then this writing fails. 64-bit OSs as overrated and overhyped. The move from 16- to 32-bit was dramatic. A lot of people, including those around here, seem to naively believe the move from 32- to 64-bit will be a similar event. It will not. 64-bit will be meaningful for some servers and some other high end applications, for the rest there will be no appreciable immediate benefit. *IF* Joe User gets all excited about 64-bit in the near term it will probably be due to a successful Micorosoft marketing campaign designed to artificially create an upgrade cycle. Barring this there will be a slow migration to 64-bit as Apple and Microsoft make the 64-bit versions of their OSs the default version, not an optional upgrade. In other words Joe User will get 64-bit when he happens to buy some distant new machine (4-5 years ?). The near term upgrades and build-to-order options will be a minority. I'll do it, I'm a programmer, I want my code to be 32/64-bit clean.
      • 16 to 32 transition (Score:3, Interesting)

        by metamatic (202216)
        The move from 16- to 32-bit was dramatic.

        Only for DOS/Windows users. For Mac users it was largely a non-event, bar some software incompatibilities. Ditto most flavors of Unix.

  • by vdboor (827057) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @10:42AM (#15940440) Homepage
    Slashdot seams to have picked up a wonderful kind of humor. When I opened the article it showed the "Nothing to see here, please move along"-404 page :-) Guess they're right after all. I'm out of here.
    • I don't get this premise from the submission:

      I must say it is rather revealing how easily he is willing to compromise on this particular freedom.


      Using proprietary software means I've somehow lost my freedom? I'm free to choose whatever software I wish to use to get the job done, proprietary or otherwise. Can someone explain to me what is meant by compromising on freedom by using proprietary software?

  • Like they say on the TV cop shows: Follow the monry and the truth will be revealed.
    • by thelost (808451)
      monry sounds like a kind of cheese. is it smelly, it would be very easy to follow then.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by heinousjay (683506)
      Do you intend to insinuate that anyone who doesn't believe all-out in free software must be lacking principles?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Mateo_LeFou (859634)

        I don't know what GP is insinuating, but I'm personally tired of this attitude to the discussion. As explained in many many places, the free software movement is about building free software because (they/I feel) it is the right thing to do. On principle. The priorities are 1) Freedom; 2) Practicality. You can (and apparently do) order them differently and peace be with you. Why do you want to pick a fight with GP?

    • by westlake (615356)
      Like they say on the TV cop shows: Follow the monry and the truth will be revealed.

      Sun funds and staffs OpenOffice.org., wohich serves Sun's corporate interests. Following your logic. anyone who posts so much as a word in favor of OpenOffice must be on Sun's payroll.

  • ESR has a point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by yagu (721525) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [ugayay]> on Saturday August 19, 2006 @10:44AM (#15940449) Journal

    One of the most salient paragraphs from the fine article:

    With iPod holding a massive market share and Windows Vista coming down the pipe, Raymond warned that Linux risks getting locked out of new hardware platforms for the next 30 years unless it proves it can work with iPods, MP3s and WMP.

    This is true. This is the nature of the commercial world. And this will kill linux if it isn't addressed.

    I already have various "paid for" applications on my linux machine -- I think it's a responsibility to support the linux and open source world -- not everyone can afford to put something out there for nothing.

    And, almost the only reason I still maintain Microsoft machines and use them is there are certain critical applications I use still not available on Linux. Why? I've corresponded with some of these vendors and their responses to my gentle request for a Linux version of their applications were surprising.

    What I expected was a dismissive "not big enough market" argument. While that was part of the argument the surprise was from a couple where they said they weren't about to give their product away for free -- they just couldn't afford to do it.

    Again, they said they weren't about to give their product away for free! So, like it or not, there is a perception out there by vendors/providers that the Linux community not only is a small community and not likely to bring in big money, but they see the Linux community as cheap! Network trailer trash. Open Source crackers.

    Really, until the mantra "free" is clarified (and I don't think it is entirely), businesses and providers will only take from the Linux community, not give.

    In my discussions with some of these providers I've assured them the Open Source community is willing to pay for product. Maybe we aren't. But if we're not, and continue with the attitude that everything should be free, ESR is right, Linux stands to eventually lose a war regardless of any battles it wins.

    It's the nature of the beast.

    • Re:ESR has a point (Score:4, Interesting)

      by rolfwind (528248) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @10:59AM (#15940503)
      That's true. You can't exactly sell "service" for most application (except perhaps access to an online service forum, etc). But many people I know, who are on Windows, take the software for free as well, legally or not. Many people, not just Linux users, are accustomed to "free" software in this day and age. The age of buying boxes at CompUSA is mostly over and has been killed by the internet, except for things like Photoshop, etcetera (where a lot of people still get it for free).

      That said, it's just perplexing to me that Apple doesn't provide an iTunes app for Linux, presumably binary for the DRM. They make money off the users using it, not from the app itself.

      Anyway, the people who pay for many of the apps like Photoshop are businesses, it's irrevelant if it is on MS or Photoshop, they still will pay to remain compliant. Are you sure you weren't being thrown a curveball, since another very public side of Linux is the one IBM is displaying?
    • Re:ESR has a point (Score:4, Insightful)

      by MoneyT (548795) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @11:15AM (#15940568) Journal
      To a degree I think they might be right. Or at least that the vendors mght be on the right track. While I relize that slashdot is not a representative sample of computer users, it probably contains a high portion of open/free software users, and somehow I don't see a positive reaction to either of the following senarios:

      A linux version with closed source, just like the companies mac / windows / what have you version.

      or

      A linux version with source, but A) you have to pay for it and B) you're not allowed to distribute/share source or even more restrictive the source is under an NDA.

      both of which are the most likely commercial releases of a linux product. I think the only release that would be welcomed with open arms (no pun intended) would be a release that while paid for, still releases the source code and rights to use and distribute it. Unfortunately, to a comercial company, even if the initial software is paid for, that's still very much like giving their product away for free.

      What honestly needs to happen is that FOSS and the general Linux distributions (the one's looking to make headway in the home market) need to become seperate causes. FOSS has a goal and a noble goal at that to have all free and open software, but most comercial vendors don't see that as viable, and the FOSS tie in with Linux is keeping many from even trying linux. So in the end, you can't even begin to get companies to see the benefits because you can't get them to take that first step.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jmorris42 (1458) *
        > I think the only release that would be welcomed with open arms (no pun intended) would be a release that while paid for, still releases
        > the source code and rights to use and distribute it.

        And just why would the source have to include redistribution rights? Commercial 'open source' software is a perfectly reasonable thing once you get past the mental blocks put up by a generation of commercial==closed thinking. Binaries are a technical artifact caused by compilers having a speed advantage over scr
        • by MoneyT (548795)
          And just why would the source have to include redistribution rights?

          It shouldn't have too, but the FOSS comunity (or at least the vocal ones) would demand it, and anything less would be derided as half assed. Further more, you still have to account for the fact that many companies have competition and sometimes a big trick to do something that's hidden away because you don't have the source is their upper hand for the moment.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by jmorris42 (1458) *

            Further more, you still have to account for the fact that many companies have competition and sometimes a big trick to do something that's hidden away because you don't have the source is their upper hand for the moment.

            Oh yes, I know that is the current reality. I'm arguing that we as a society have zero reason to permit it. You should not be able to have both a trade secret and a copyright on the same thing. If you manage to obtain the secret formula for Coke you can publish it because they opted to ke

    • by jmorris42 (1458) * <.gro.uaeb. .ta. .sirromj.> on Saturday August 19, 2006 @11:17AM (#15940580)

      Again, they said they weren't about to give their product away for free! So, like it or not, there is a perception out there by vendors/providers that the Linux community not only is a small community and not likely to bring in big money, but they see the Linux community as cheap! Network trailer trash.


      There is a lot of FUD among the commercial vendors, much of it probably being spread by a certain behemoth vendor and allies. Yes, many less clueful ones still think a Linux port has to be free, as if the GPL would taint their code or something. Others do subscribe to the belief that Linux users are either Free Software zealots who wouldn't pay regardless or are all a bunch of poor starving students. Some of us are hard nosed realists who refuse to be fooled again by being subject to the whims of vendors to the greatest extent possible. Some of us realize the Free stuff usually works a hell of a lot better than the piles of steaming crap vendors want to exchange a pile of cash for.

      We just have to educate them. I will pay for software under very limited circumstances. If there is NO Free Software that can do the work I'll pay. If it isn't important (games) I'll pay. If it is going to process content I create it MUST write that in an open format, I won't be locked to a single vendor's whims. So I wouldn't buy Photoshop, even if Hell froze over and they ported it, unless I had an absolute requirement that The GIMP couldn't satisfy but since it writes many open formats I would buy it if I had to. Games are't a problem though. I really hated to see Loki go out, I did buy stuff from them.

      At work we do the same thing. We have bought software before and will almost certainly buy it in the future. Just because I prefer Free Software doesn't mean we can refuse to computerize an operation just because there isn't a Free program available and we certainly don't have the man hours available to write an accounting system from scratch. That is just an example, yes there are some free offerings but none are anywhere ready yet. None can yet handle vital functions like payroll.
      • by King_TJ (85913) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @01:21PM (#15941019) Journal
        ... to more than just a few commercial software developers, they're "the enemy" - simply because the OS is centered around the concept of encouraging contributions of free software to the community.

        This "battle" goes on all the time, regardless of the platform being coded for, but Linux is rather unique in the fact that it gives sort of a centralized "scapegoat face" to the issue.

        As just one example (from the Windows world), I was at work several weeks ago, and ran into a need to convert a really oddball image file format to something more typical like GIF or JPG. I located a shareware product selling for about $40 that was perfect.... but before paying out the money, I did a little more searching. Just as I was about to give up, I found a free product some guy wrote to solve the same problem at his work.

        Now, realistically, who knows if the shareware author was even aware that someone else made a free product that competes with his? But if he did, don't you think he'd probably be at least a little bit annoyed, disappointed, or upset that somebody just cut into his potential revenue stream?

        Now, take this to a corporate level ... where you hire a whole team of developers to build a piece of software you're planning to get hundreds of dollars a copy for. Some unemployed software developer comes along and codes a Linux equivalent that's completely free, just because he wants the name recognition and the challenge of doing it. Some companies are going to see this and think Linux isn't their friend.
    • by daigu (111684)

      That's why the phrase "open-source" was developed. Unless you are Richard Stallman, you don't want to have to write long articles [gnu.org] explaining what you mean by free. Further, even if you do want to do write these articles, the executives at the companies you are writing will not read them. You even have an interest in the topic, have you read them?

      The bottom line is that most business executives do not want to put themselves on the line to come up with a creative product strategy, and even those that do hav

      • That's why the phrase "open-source" was developed. Unless you are Richard Stallman, you don't want to have to write long articles [gnu.org] explaining what you mean by free.

        So instead, we have confusion over what "open source" means. That term is no more clear and comes with its own long essay on what the term means (a 10-part definition, last I looked, which is longer than the definition of free software). At least with the FSF you get respectful descriptions of how things are complete with references and quotes

    • by Anonymous Coward
      I'm not entirely sure I understand the article, or your comments. Do the companies think that software for linux must be given away for free, or that there is only a tiny market willing to pay $500-$2000 for Linux softare? Are they worried that people are going to rip them off, or do they not want to compete with F/OSS software that has similar features at no cost? There are many companies that distribute precompiled versions of their Windows/Mac packakges for Linux. In some markets it makes sense - for
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by NoMercy (105420)
      I think OpenSource, Free(GNU) and Propitary software should mingle more. There should be more GNU software available on windows, and more propitary software available on Linux and other OSS operating systems.

      Some things will never be Free, some things will always be free... they should at least work together though. It's insane in this age that applications are still written only to work on one platform and virtually impossible to move between them.

      Id like to see for example KDE applications on windows and
    • Re:ESR has a point (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Mr. Slippery (47854) <tms@infDALIamous.net minus painter> on Saturday August 19, 2006 @02:48PM (#15941370) Homepage
      [From TFA]: Raymond warned that Linux risks getting locked out of new hardware platforms for the next 30 years unless it proves it can work with iPods, MP3s and WMP.

      Nah. The question is not "Why doesn't Linux work with my iPod?", it's "Why don't iPods work with my choice of operating system?"

      While digital personal music players are certainly here to stay, the iPod itself is a fad, a trend, which in 30 years will be as meaningful as the original Sony Walkman is today. For the Free Software community to compromise its core principles for compatibility with a fad would be foolish.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by asuffield (111848)

      Really, until the mantra "free" is clarified (and I don't think it is entirely), businesses and providers will only take from the Linux community, not give.

      Or alternatively and preferably, until these ingrates have all been implemented around and driven out of business. Yes, I would far rather live in a world where the people who seek only to accumulate wealth and power (at the expense of all else) end up losing. And that's the only reason why these 'providers' act in this manner.

      Nobody has a 'right' to end

  • Uhhh, duh. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RingDev (879105) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @10:47AM (#15940462) Homepage Journal
    OS Software is good, proprietary software is good. The two will always balance eachother in order to match the market, demand, and availability of developers. Saying one is "evil" compared to the other is just blind fundamentalism.

    -Rick
    • by jmorris42 (1458) *
      > OS Software is good, proprietary software is good.

      No, I do agree with RMS on that part. Closed software is ALWAYS bad. Sometimes I'm willing to compromise principles a bit and use it anyway but it is always bad. I would have a lot fewer problems with it though if when I bought a program a got the source. At least I wouldn't be totally tied to the whims of the vendor. If a bug were biting me hard enough I could fix it, when I upgraded the OS/hardware I could fix things myself if the vendor either w
    • by kclittle (625128) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @11:42AM (#15940696)
      Rick, you are being logical, rational and open-minded. Your privileges here at Slashdot is hereby revoked.
    • Such a simplistic view purposefully rejects the effect on the user; which is precisely why we should discuss and pursue user's freedoms to run, inspect, share, and modify published software.
      • by RingDev (879105) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @12:06PM (#15940782) Homepage Journal
        And we must also discuss and pursue the developers freedom to keep private, protect, and profit from published software.

        -Rick
        • I believe that is what I'm doing—from the perspective of the effect of that behavior on the users.

          I don't mind paying for free software, in fact I've done so for individual programs as well as entire free operating systems. But I refuse to believe that the effect on users is unimportant or that one can't run a business by distributing and building upon free software. Plenty of large and small businesses (including my own) would prove me wrong by their mere ongoing existence. I would rather do busin
      • by westlake (615356)
        Such a simplistic view purposefully rejects the effect on the user; which is precisely why we should discuss and pursue user's freedoms to run, inspect, share, and modify published software.

        "Inspect and modify" has meaning only if you are a programmer or can employ a programmer. That excludes the home market and huge chunks of other markets.

  • Um.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by antifoidulus (807088) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @10:49AM (#15940467) Homepage Journal
    Isn't the definition of "freedom" choice? So apparently this guy has made a choice to use proprietary software. How is that not freedom? I hate when Open Source software people get all preachy about "freedom" because to me it just comes off as "You are not free unless you do what we tell you to do". Which doesn't strike me as particularly "free"....
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by babbling (952366)
      You're misunderstanding the stance of the Free Software community. Even the FSF says that it should be up to people to choose whether they will accept proprietary software. They say that they have chosen not to, except in certain circumstances that usually don't arise anymore. What they do say is that people should not be forced into using proprietary software.
    • Re:Um.... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Stalyn (662) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @11:43AM (#15940697) Homepage Journal
      Isn't the definition of "freedom" choice?

      That's only half of it. You also have to include "as long as my choice does not restrict the freedom of others". Without that clause simply "choice" would lead to less freedom than more freedom. I think the majority of FSF advocates have no problem with a person using proprietary software as long as it doesn't restrict their own freedoms. For example having proprietary software forced upon you, like certain kinds of DRM. But as long as there remains a choice between Free and Non-Free there shouldn't be an issue.
    • by jbn-o (555068) <mail@digitalcitizen.info> on Saturday August 19, 2006 @12:03PM (#15940773) Homepage
      No, the definition of freedom is not choice.

      Choice can be a scam that can railroad you out of something more important, such as your software freedom.

      For some time, web users who wanted a (then) modern GUI web browser had Microsoft Internet Explorer, Opera, and Netscape Navigator to choose from. You only need two alternatives to have "choice" but here one had three to pick from.

      None of these choices respect a user's software freedom because all of those programs are proprietary.
  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @10:52AM (#15940479) Journal
    Sorry, had to be said [geekz.co.uk].
  • by Scarblac (122480) <slashdot@gerlich.nl> on Saturday August 19, 2006 @10:54AM (#15940486) Homepage

    Raymond, a champion of all things open, said it is vital to the future uptake of Linux that the community compromise to win the new generation of non-technical users aged younger than 30. This group is more interested in having Linux "just work" on their iPod or MP3 player and "don't care about our notions of doctrinal purity",

    Indeed they don't. So?

    It seems that ESR has started believing that "overthrowing Windows" is the end goal of Linux. It's not, it's having a completely open and Free Unix system. That group he talks about, they'll just use Windows or whatever, and be happy. I don't see how that matters for Linux' direction.

    • by babbling (952366) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @11:35AM (#15940661)
      You're right, but I think the idea of overthrowing the Windows empire is often played down. It would definitely benefit Free Software if there was a greater diversity of operating systems being used by the general population. All of a sudden every document being in Microsoft Word's format wouldn't be acceptable, and open standards might become important.

      Proprietary software isn't a threat to Free Software, but proprietary standards are, because then Free Software users begin to be excluded from the rest of the population. Open standards are an issue of fairness and equality.
    • I don't believe ESR's focus here is winning the number one market position from XYZ, rather, merely addressing obstacles to healthy growth.
  • GNUpod, gtkpod etc. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Psionicist (561330) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @10:59AM (#15940502)
    "We have a serious problem. Whenever I try to pitch Linux to anyone under 30, the question I get is: 'Will it work with my iPod?," he said. "We are not yet as a community making the painful compromises need to achieve widespread desktop market share. Until we do, we will get locked out of more hardware."
    Of course it works with iPod. Take a look at:

    * GNUpod [gnu.org] and gtkpod [gtkpod.org]
    * iPod Shuffle Database Builder [sourceforge.net]

    And then there's another one with a funky name I cannot remember.
    • And then there's another one with a funky name I cannot remember..

      Yes, and the funky naming of major applications is a whole 'nother issue that has an impact on consumer acceptance of Linux. Given that most users of computer systems will give up on something if they can't figure it out in half a minute, making said user waste any of that precious thirty seconds trying to figure out that his browser is called "Konqueror" is silly, and most of the other standard Linux apps have equally off-the-wall names.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by shreevatsa (845645)
      Yes, this was already covered yesterday — The iPod can be used [slashdot.org], very well [slashdot.org], and easily [slashdot.org].
    • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @04:39PM (#15941714)
      Of course it works with iPod. Take a look at:

      * GNUpod and gtkpod
      * iPod Shuffle Database Builder

      And then there's another one with a funky name I cannot remember.


      I think your post, and the majority of other posts on this thread, serve to illustrate the fundamental disconnect that's in play here.

      From GNUpod's home page [gnu.org]: GNUpod is a collection of Perl-Scripts which allow you to use your iPod... If you really think this is what your typical person (you know, the type who have better things to do in the evening than sit around hacking Linux kernel modules) wants, then I don't think I can explain it to you.

      gtkpod [gtkpod.org] is much closer to what these "normals" would want. But it looks like there are still problems with iPod Mini support; you need a separate program to handle podcasts; there's no support for DRM'ed AAC (one of ESR's exact points, I believe); you have to use a different program to rip CDs to mp3/aac/whatever, and then manually import them.

      Plus if you go to the troubleshooting links, you'll find "solutions" that talk about manually editing /etc/fstab. You may think "oh, this is simple stuff" (and for a lot of us, it is); but most people don't want to deal with the system at that level for something as trivial as getting an iPod to work! It's why a lot of Linux users (like me) defected over to OS X in the first place.

      Frankly, I think ESR's thoughts on this are spot-on; and most of the posts here today are serving to prove his point, although the posters don't realize it.
  • by l3v1 (787564) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @11:02AM (#15940516)
    unless it proves it can work with iPods, MP3s and WMP

    This is the usual media crap we see these days popping up everyplace. And we also should tell everywhere that it's not true, iPods are easy (try Amarok or choose your poison), mp3/ogg/every other music format is easy, wmp is easy (think next realplayer version, think mplayer, etc.).

    Whenever I try to pitch Linux to anyone under 30, the question I get is: 'Will it work with my iPod?

    While this is not a question anybody should be surprised about, I'm still happy that where I live is apprarently not like where he lives :)

    at the end of 2008. After that the operating system gets locked in for the next 30 years

    I don't think we (linux or not) need such close-minded people. This smells more rotten than anything else.

  • Comprimise is Good (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Foofoobar (318279) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @11:09AM (#15940544)
    Well all I think him and Maddog are saying is that a comprimise must be met. People expect multimedia play from their PC's and thus far, evn though progress is being made, it is slow. It's a small sacrifice to make in order to win the bigger battle.

    At the same time, it will win software manufacturer support and more people will realize that they can make software for Linux that is proprietary. While the Linux community has always said this, some software manufacturers are still scared due to the militant ideal of keeping EVERYTHING free. I too think everything should be free but I don't think it's going to be possible without making concessions. Allow some through the door to get others involved and then once critical mass has been achieved, people will start creating their own options.
    • Can't win that way (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Tony (765)
      Giving up your freedoms is not winning, whether it's some ill-defined "war on terror," or getting Linux to a larger audience.

      Why should *we* become what *they* want? If Linux is good for them, they will use it. If not, they won't. Big humongous liver-flavored deal. I don't care if businesses adopt Linux or not. I just care that I have the freedom to use Linux on hardware I purchase, and have the freedom to work on the software I want without danger of a slap-happy patent lawsuit.

      If we go down the path of sa
  • One thing I've seen a lot of around here is something that many also criticize big organizations, the government, etc for generating. FUD. Like if you put proprietary Nvidia drivers on your linux box, thats it..game over, you're giong to hell no collecting $200, no trying again. The FOSS Utopia is a nice dream, but its hardly realistic. Most Free open source projects are run by volunteers with their own schedule and their own day job and responsibilities. As a business, where time is money, do you want cr
    • by rubycodez (864176)
      Of course there are open source projects that have paid tech support available. There are companies that support the major pieces most business/government Linux users use, like Apache, Tomcat, Postgresql, MySQL, OpenOffice. There will be more and more of that available as Linux share increases worldwide, regardless of what the U.S.A. does. The money in software isn't in selling the product, its service and support. if any proprietary product in wide use by business were to go open source tomorrow, but fac
      • by crossmr (957846)
        and while a few major ones have support, there are thousands of open source projects out there. Those don't all have support. If I drop $50 for a game from EA Games, I have several avenues of support open to me for the product. I can call them or e-mail them (or use an online tech support form whichever they have). I couldn't download and expect any kind of personal support, I'd be relegated to the forums. You can always find an exception to the rule, but as a general rule when it comes to FOSS software, y
  • by iabervon (1971) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @11:23AM (#15940604) Homepage Journal
    He's absolutely right that, in order to stay relevant, Linux will have to be able to work with iPods, MP3s, and Windows Media. It's a good thing that it works with all of these, and has for a long time. I'm not sure how easy distributions make it, but the support definitely exists, so it's now not a technical problem but a distribution policy issue, and isn't at all a matter of using proprietary software, which is neither necessary nor particularly helpful.

    There are certain vague caveats: there are some theoretical issues with valid patents related to MP3. But the holder doesn't seem to want to cause problems, unlike the holders of invalid patents on practically everything else. Getting the latest and best support for Windows Media files requires using a freely-available but proprietary codec as a plugin to the player program.

    The actual issue, so far as I can tell, is that people conflate the iTunes Music Store with iPods, and so they ask ESR about iPods (which are easy) when they mean to ask about the iTunes Music Store (which is difficult).
  • by Theovon (109752) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @11:24AM (#15940606)
    Compromising what makes Linux Linux is not a compromise at all. It's taking the very thing that makes it great and throwing it completely out of the window. Maybe not right away, but there's that slippery slope. Eventually, Linux would make itself irrelevant.


    In my opinion, the real solution is for us to start designing our own hardware.

    www.opencores.org [opencores.org] is a repository of open source hardware designs.
    www.opencollector.org [opencollector.org] is another.
    The Open Graphics Project [opengraphics.org] is about to release real open hardware. They're focusing on graphics right now, but they have aspirations toward other kinds of hardware.

    Rather than giving up control of the software just to get the hardware, take control of the hardware!

    (BTW, I'm much less concerned about proprietary apps than closed-source drivers. Drivers are a major source of potential system instability. They need to be open source. Applications are isolated to their own process spaces and can't crash the system when they crash. I think a closed-source iTunes for Linux would be wonderful!)

  • by Prototerm (762512) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @11:25AM (#15940617)
    The problem Eric Raymond is running up against is the cold reality of a shifting market share. Once upon a time, the Gnu/Linux community was composed mainly of programmers, system administrators, hackers, and the like. In other words, people capable of adapting to the learning curve of a Unix-like system. Now, however, an increasing number of people are interested in it who do not have those skills, or who feel that those skills should not be necessary to operate a computer.

    If you cringed while reading that last sentence, if you felt a burst of bile rise up into your throat, then you're gonna *love* the future, because more and more people who feel precisely that way are joining the ranks of the Penguin every day. As the article says, "This group is more interested in having Linux 'just work' ... and 'don't care about our notions of doctrinal purity'". There will continue to be friction between the Old Guard and the N00bs, as more and more people abandon the Redmond Upgrade treadmill, until Gnu/Linux either fades into obscurity, collapses into chaos, or a compromise is found that's satisfactory to both groups. In a way, FOSS is becoming a victim of its own success, although that success has not been the sort Raymond and others had hoped. Somehow, it will have to find a way to adapt.
    • by Ant P. (974313)
      "Both" groups? If someone comes to me expecting free 24/7 Linux support all the time I can just tell them to get a Mac.
  • Raymond warned that Linux risks getting locked out of new hardware platforms for the next 30 years unless it proves it can work with iPods, MP3s and WMP.

    Easy one... just install gtkpod for the first, XMMS/Amarok for the second, and shoot yourself if you still need the third :)

  • by 3seas (184403) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @11:34AM (#15940658) Journal
    ... and that is Free Software, open source software is a result of consumer choice. And that not all consumers are programmimng ignorant. And that programming languages have only to get better, easier to use (a matter of developer market drive.)

    The thing about FOSS is that it's not one company or even a collective of companies that have rules to follow where if you don't you get kicked out, but that it is individuals who only have their own rules to follow or break.

    The only rule is to not use, or at least do not distribute Proporiety Software code, unless permission is given.
    But this doesn't stop finding other ways too do things. And its findiong other ways to do things that can be motivational to the programming wise consumers.

    Its never really been about this license vs. that license, but rather about human choice, consumer choice.
    Its wrong to assume all consumers here are programming ignorant.
    • by Tony (765)
      Its never really been about this license vs. that license, but rather about human choice, consumer choice.

      Ah! So it *is* about the license. Some licenses are designed to protect choice. Others are designed to remove them.

      Choose wisely.
  • Linux has a better chance of winning the Desktop Wars on the Corporate Battlegrounds, and for that, it doesn't need integration with MP3 players, camcorders, etc. For that, it needs to keep coming out with better and well-marketed administrator management tools. There are a huge number of users who use Windows just because it's what they're used to at work. Put a Linux workstation in every cubicle first. A lot of home users will follow.
  • by dido (9125) <dido@@@imperium...ph> on Saturday August 19, 2006 @11:42AM (#15940694)

    ESR, as much as I have my misgivings about him, didn't quite say that proprietary software was a "good thing". All he said was that in today's changing landscape of computing, GNU/Linux risks being left behind if it cannot achieve a compromise with proprietary software and systems. In other words, far from saying that proprietary software is a good thing, he is saying that compromise with proprietary software is a necessary evil in ensuring that GNU/Linux does not become irrelevant. A valid point, but I must ask ESR how far he is willing to take compromise. His mention of iPods and the like seems to indicate that he's willing to go far enough as to compromise on the issue of DRM, which remains a deeply contentious issue for the entire Free Software/Open Source community. I for one believe that compromising on the issue of DRM to the level required by the media conglomerates would mean that the Free Software/Open Source community will become shackled and closed, no different from the proprietary software systems that F/OSS has been so touted as an alternative. Compromise is a very dangerous game... Frankly, I don't believe that F/OSS should be playing to the twenty-something-iPod generation demographic if the goal really is to dominate the desktop. What we need to do is convince the corporate IT procurement departments that GNU/Linux is a viable alternative to Windows. That's how the IBM PC became the de facto standard. If GNU/Linux can own the corporate desktop, owning the home desktop will be a lot easier. Using different systems at home and at work is extremely painful, and once more businesses start using GNU/Linux workstations, this will drive GNU/Linux home desktops.

  • by argoff (142580) * on Saturday August 19, 2006 @12:14PM (#15940806)
    Sometimes a group of individuals will take an initiative, start to move in a direction - and then someone will run to the front of the crowd and say that he is leading them when he really isn't. This is the case with ESR. Even though he looks like a leader because he is always out in front giving direction, the truth is that he is a follower and it shows because the future is not about ipods, or embeded devices, or 64 bit platforms, but about freedom and liberty in the information age. If you have the freedom, then all the rest of the stuff will eventually follow. If you don't have the freedom, then the other stuff really doesn't matter much.

    Notice how linux took off inspite of not being "enterprise UNIX" like SCO, or "for the data center" like Sun, or "pro corporate commecrial software" like Microsoft. This is because contrary to popular belief, (ESR and) the corporate world does not lead, but follows. And who do they follow: individuals exercising their liberty to act in their own best interest. And how do you guarantee liberty in the information age, by having the minimal amount of restrictions on what people can copy by not using proprietary software whenever possible.
    • by bladesjester (774793) <slashdot@NOSpam.jameshollingshead.com> on Saturday August 19, 2006 @01:17PM (#15941004) Homepage Journal
      You're off on why Linux took off. Linux took off because it let the sysadmins and programmers that were used to using unix at work to use something like it at home without having to shell out thousands and thousands of dollars for the hardware and software necessary to do so.

      After that, they just started making it more and more like the unix systems that they used at work and eventually it became an enterprise useable system (for the most part).

      It was a hobby project (Linus admits that himself) that people thought was neat, so they kept tacking things onto it. They didn't do it because it was "Free". They did it because it was sort of kind of like what they were used to using, so they took steps to make it more like the commercial programs that they were using.

      The license allowed them to do it, but it was not the driving motivation. If it wasn't for the fact that people thought the project itself was neat or useful, it would never have gotten anywhere at all.
  • I'm not following the logic there. Apple isn't keeping iTunes/iPod support off of Linux because of open vs closed driver support issues. Apple could make a package that would install on Linux and talk to your iPod without that. It could sit right next to the Windows download for iTunes, or they could even include it on the CD that comes with your iPod.

    Apple doesn't do such a thing because the Linux desktop market is too small to merit the effort of doing so. Even if the Linux desktop market were quite a bit larger, Apple still would probably resist because they don't want to lend support to a rival desktop environment. They only did it with Windows because that market is so gigantic that the revenue and dominance temptations for iPod outweighed the cost to their propietary OS and hardware platform.
  • by capsteve (4595) * on Saturday August 19, 2006 @12:49PM (#15940923) Homepage Journal
    not everything about linux/OSS has to be a major battle. a binary driver here and there for better acceptability is a pretty small concession to make. not every box i run has linux/bsd running, and its usually because i have equipment that requires drivers that don't yet exist/aren't ready for primetime in the *nix world.

    Free and freedom are excellent goals to strive for in the computing realm, but it needs to be balanced with usability and stability. i'm not always able to retrograde to 10 year old technology, sometimes i need current technology, and i can't wait for a reverse engineered driver/hack to make it work with my system. ESR is correct, ipods, cameras, phones, pda, these are the trappings of the modern computing experience, and if you can't get it to work right with one OS, you'll use an OS that items will work with.

    sometimes it's better to conceed the small fights, like binary drivers, and worry about the bigger battles, like market share. you vote with your wallet by saying "i have your product, i've spent my money and i want to use it with linux. if you can't make it work with linux i'm taking it back". refunding money is taking money out of their pocket, and most manufacturers don't ever want to do this. and invariably they will communicate with you on some level, because you are a customer, and they have an obligation.

    remember a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush and if your a paying customer, you the bird in the hand that they don't want to see fly away...

    threatening/posturing that you will not buy a product because it doesn't run on linux is a wasted effort. you haven't spent any money, so your not a customer. if you're not a customer, they're not gonna listen to you, 'cause manufacturers listen to their installed customer base not their potential customer base. i'd gladly pay you tuesday for a hamburger today is a piss poor way to convince manufacturers to work strongly with OSS.

  • Ironic much? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by makomk (752139) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @01:55PM (#15941179) Journal
    I mean, it seems like the main reason the transition to 64-bit is taking so long is closed-source drivers (and software) that are only available in 32-bit versions. For example, the only reason I'm still running 32-bit Linux on my Athlon 64 machine is that I need closed-source wireless drivers (32-bit only), and various closed-source plugins and software that's also 32-bit only (Flash, codecs for various audio/video formats, Java, ...)
  • by borgheron (172546) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @12:58AM (#15943017) Homepage Journal
    He's advocating that Open Source start to engage the interest of younger people by making open source work better with things like iPods and other proprietary formats. This is a far cry from "advocating closed source." Being useful is part of the deal here. How else is FOSS supposed to catch on, if no one wants to use it?

    GJC
  • by petrus4 (213815) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @12:18PM (#15944281) Homepage Journal
    ...and wrong on others, IMHO.

    I tend to believe that Linux has got to the point where "the mainstream" have *heard* of it, but still not necessarily to the point where they're actually *using* it. I also don't believe that being truly mainstream would be good for Linux, however I don't advocate RMS' brand of cultic insularity, either.

    The stuff about 64 bit architecture is wacky, IMHO. Vista could cause problems for the adoption of Linux, but that won't necessarily have anything to do with 64 bit architecture. Something tells me that Eric has possibly been spending too much time with his corporate friends lately, and forgotten about what the real world are doing, if he thinks *everyone* has gone 64 bit.

    Although I'm not running Linux right now, (I've just had to do a large re-install) when I do I don't give a damn about whether drivers are binary or not, and neither does anyone else with a brain, as far as I'm concerned. Most of us primarily care about being able to use our hardware. I'll agree with anyone who says that hardware specs should be published so that OSS drivers can be written, but unfortunately that isn't how capitalism (or at least contemporary capitalism) works, and hardware manufacturers generally adhere to capitalist economics.

    If by being locked out of "the desktop" for 30 years, Eric means a scenario where casual computer laypeople can use Linux to the same degree they can Windows, then I think he needs to change "30 years" to "never", at least other than specialised applications. Last I saw, Linux at its' core was still command line oriented, systems like Ubuntu notwithstanding. I don't consider that a bad thing...but it isn't a characteristic that lends Linux to being used by novices.

An adequate bootstrap is a contradiction in terms.

Working...