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GNU is Not Unix

Richard Stallman vs. Jorrit Tyberghein 483

Catharsis writes: "Jorrit Tyberghein, leader of an excellent open-source, cross-platform 3d engine recently posted a dialog he engaged in with Richard Stallman, leader of the Free Software Movement over whether it was kosher to sign an NDA with Sony to write a PS2 API wrapper. Now, I'm no pro when it comes to Open Source vs. Free Software vs. open source, but this dialog left me feeling a bit unclean. I'd be interested to see how Slashdot users react to the conflicting views portrayed here. Jorrit's stance was that he wants his software to be available to the largest possible audience. Richard's response was that any (ANY) concessions to a non-Free mode of thought was a failure and a defeat." This gets down to the core differences between 'Open Source' and 'Free Software.' Worth the read.
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Richard Stallman vs. Jorrit Tyberghein

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  • The poster was pointing out that some licenses, like the first run of Apple's license on Darwin (which is basically all BSD code that they borrowed) allowed Apple to revoke your rights to use the software at any future point in time. In other words they could release it as "open source" and then later (when it was popular) say:

    "Oops, it's not really open source anymore. Pay up or stop using Darwin."

    RMS, Bruce Perens and others pointed out that such a license wasn't really "open source" and it certainly wasn't free software, and the license got changed.

    ESR, and the Open Source boys, on the other hand, were willing to accept Apple's license.

  • If you violate the GPL, your license to the software terminates.

    Where do you get "license termination clauses are 100% non-free"?

    Either you're pretty confused on the issue, or else I am. :)
  • I now have concluded that Richard Stallman is a bit gone. Basically, his 'freedoms' are as constricting to others as certain current licensing practices are now.
    I really don't think one gets a full view of Mr. Stallman's opinions or methodology by reading this one link. His freedoms are not concerned with the needs of some developers. His freedoms are aligned with the freedom of users.

    I develop a program, spending my time and energy so to do. I need to eat, drink, surf and play Quake - and to do so I need to pay my electricity and grocery bills. How do I then make any money to repay my time and effort to enable me to live?
    Your so-called needs are not essential to this equation in the sense that user freedoms should be sacrificed in order for you to survive. There are organizational and financial models in existence which provide both incentive for programmers to program (i.e. they get funding in accordance with the service they provide) and users feel sufficiently incented to provide financial compensation to those providing the service (i.e. they send money).

    Merely because Mr./Dr./Prof. Stallman and others feel that they can devote their time to developing free software doesn't mean that all should be forced to.He certainly has no interest in forcing you to do anything. He has made this decision for himself. He has explained why he considers this a moral imperative. He has asked you as a developer to join him in this morally based change in behavior. He has beseeched users to accept nothing less than freedom for themselves-- and to support developers who support those freedoms. He certainly does not seek to use coercion (other than perhaps market pressure) to obtain freedom. How simple a contradiction would that be?

    As far as I can tell, his politics are merely the other extreme to Microsoft's and therefore just as suspect.
    Mr. Stallman operates a charitable organization (the Free Software Foundation), which subsists on donations and gives the world Free software and works on issues relating to that. Microsoft is a corporation which seeks to enrich itself and therefore its shareholders as much as possible through whatever means available (and apparently their ethics are quite questionable-- Mr. Stallman's ethics are quite clear, he believes it ethical to support freedom and that there are more important goals than personal wealth). One group works actively to better the world (although some might say that Free software is no great boon, others of us like it in spite of it's shortcomings), the other group seeks only to make a maximum profit. While I might disagree with Mr. Stallman, I certainly think trying to paint him as "suspect" in the same way that Microsoft is (and they are the ones under Federal investigation, mind you), is patently unfair and shows little examination of the topic.
  • Your interpretation of the APSL termination clause is wrong. Go read the license -- or, better yet, find a friendly lawyer and have him/her explain it to you.

  • I don't think those paragraphs were added in reaction to the OSD.

    I don't think they were either. They were added in reaction to APSL 1.0. While this is not `inconsistent', it does constitute publishing requirements nobody knew about before.

  • > API (Application Programming Interface) supposed to be public?

    Interface does NOT imply PUBLIC access.

    > If it is not public, then how is it called an Interface?

    Logically, it's called a PRIVATE interface. :-)

    let's say I have a driver for a video card. It has a front-end (OS interface) and a back-end (low-level register interface). I can sell the driver, and still kee the (low-level) interface private, right? *cough NVidia cough* Of course I can. Or I could expose the interface, and make you sign a NDA if you want to use it. *cough Sony cough*


    "Live Free or Die" ironically seen on the NH license plates.
  • If microsoft does it, and the FSF does it, why is only the FSF instance being contested?

    It would seem wrong to ignore one over the other, it would seem the hypocrisy would be on the original posters end.

    -- iCEBaLM
  • Since it's expensive, only the most dedicated and the ones with the deepest pockets come forward.

    There's less noise only because it's too damned expensive to play in that playground unless you're dead-serious about the games you're trying to produce. The PC games are a flop, not because of a lack of licensing, but due to a lack of good focus. (Any fool with some smattering of coding skills can come forward and try to make a game in the PC arena.)

    Drawback of the console licensing? Simple, it's more homogenous than in the PC world. How many of the games on Nintendo are Dokey Kong 64 "clones"? How many of them are Zelda 64 clones? Etc. How many of those 30-40 are truly novel things- different from much of the first offerings on each of the console brands? Gauntlet Ledgends? That's an arcade re-make. Any of the racing games? Ditto. What's truly novel in that arena? Not a lot. Why is that? The novel stuff comes from those PC developers and from the Arcade game developers.

    Which would I have? Both. The PC and the arcade stuff is an incubator for the novel gaming experiences. The console is the just-plug-it-in-and-make-it-go expression of these sorts of new and old experiences.
  • Ok, the FSF has produced a distro, it's called Debian GNU/Linux.


  • A constitution that is more strict provides more freedom than one that is more lax. A strictly enforced constitution has more restrictions on search and seizure, and thus provides more freedom for the populace.

    The GPL guarantees freedom downstream, by restricting the ability to restrict it upstream.

  • As other posters mentioned, its the nature of their business model. They lose money (or maybe break even) on hardware, their profits all come from liscensing costs, so they need to keep tight control of access to their apis.
  • Can someone please explain what his motives are? He is espousing free, but non-open source software.

    Well, he backs free software as defined by the freedoms listed at - the freedom to run the program for any purpose, the freedom to study how the program works and adapt it to your needs, the freedom to redistribute your changes to help your neighbor, the freedom to release your changes to the public.

    Back in the day, Stallman was burned by a proprietary vendor that refused him the source code for their buggy driver. He could fix the driver, but was not allowed to do so by software writers. He found this infuriating. He bought a piece of hardware, but he was not allowed to improve it for his own use, or to help others improve it for their use. Imagine this in a car. You buy a car, and can fix some nasty bug in the car. Under non-free software analogies, the manufacturer would not allow you to fix the bug, would force you to sign an agreement that you would not even try to fix the bug, and would strictly prohibit you from fixing the car of your neighbor in the same way.

    Stallman's views on software are not so different from most of our views on property. When I buy something, I want to be able to fix it (should I have the capability and need). I want to be able to share this knowledge with others, and even make it public. These freedoms are common with most properties, including houses and cars.

    So under this setup, programmers and developers should perform complicated feats of software engineering (which things like Mac and Windows ARE, whether you like/use them or not), but then give it away for free. What are these programmers supposed to live on? Do they eat floppy disks and old toner cartridges? Sleep under their desks?

    There are many programmers making lots of money writing free software. Some are paid by corporations to improve free software, like kernel hackers. Some are paid by distributions. Some are paid by GNU. Some of them provide support for their software. Just because your model of how software works is not supported by GNU philosophy is no reason to presume that no one could make a living doing it.

    In a very real sense, software is support. You make it easy for someone to get some function out of their hardware. That has value.

    Stallman seems to advocate a sort of software Marxism - "from each according to his ability, but to each according to his need".

    This is the most FUD tactic thrown at Free Software. Calling Stallman a Marxist. Top Free Software hackers are highly sought after - and make a good living at it. If you want to install GNU/Linux, you can do it from floppies via Debian for free. You can pay for Debian's CD and install floppies and documentation - that is more service, and costs a little. You can buy a slick distribution with a wicked installed for yet more money. The cost is basically reflecting how easy the distribution has made it for you - basically, how much service you get with your software. GNU philosophy actually makes few statements about making money. As long as freedom is preserved, money is not so relevant.

    Stallman urges people to preserve freedoms. He feels it is in the consumer's best interests, and would love to see consumers have more power, and software copyright to carry less. In a very real way software copyrights have completely perverted the copyright system. Now, software, protected by copyright, can actually forbid reverse engineering in the US using DMCA by proclaiming something to be copyright protection. Reverse engineering is only protected against by patents in the US - until now.

    It is becoming time in the US for consumers to stop corporations from rewriting copyright laws to take more basic freedoms away from consumers. Without those freedoms, we are all lemmings headed to sea.

  • RMS wishes to deprive me of my right to sell my ideas in the manner I see fit. I dont want to make money supporting software I write, I want to make (a whole lot more) money selling that software. Bill doesnt seek to deprive me of any right whatsoever.

    Shame on RMS for powerfully coercing you by deviously using the word 'please' when he should have gently lead you into the fold with hidden EULAs subject to change at his whim and an army of lawyers to back it up!

    Similiarly, your right to copy and distribute my software doesnt exist.

    Apparently, your fight is with the warez kiddiez rather than RMS. RMS has consistantly urged supporters of Free Software to never use non-Free software such as yours. He has also said (to paraphrase) that warez is not the answer to the problem of non-Free software. By all means, license it any way you like.

    Write your own damn software if you cant abide by the terms of my creation.

    Thank you, I will.

  • Yeah, but the fact that RMS says some licenses made by others are free does not change fact that the guidelines of their "freeness" are still set by him. Not everyone wants their freedom to be defined by RMS.

    Since he's the one who did the writing, of course he did the defining. If I write something, I will do the defining. I might choose to define freedom as 'whatever RMS says is freedom', or I might choose another definition. I don't feel coerced in either direction.

    The odds are, when you write that RMS is wrong, you will mean by your definition of wrong. By setting guidelines of what Freedom means to him, he is simply thinking for himself.

  • You have no obligation to give it to me. But once you do, I'm perfectly free to give it to someone else. You can't stop me without invoking the massive threat of force and violence of a large government. You can't even tell I've done it without invoking such an entity.

    Now, in this country, we have a societal convention, encoded in a set of laws, that say I'm not supposed to do that unless my friend has paid you some money for your idea too. This convention was made long ago with the hope of encouraging people to come up with new ideas and tell others about them. I submit that there is a means of accomplishing the goal without the high cost associated with not letting people share information.

    There is a very high cost associated with not letting people share ideas. That cost is the extra innefficiency introduced when not every can use the most efficient and best method of doing something because someone else 'owns' it. In the past, when sharing ideas was harder, this cost was not so noticeable, but now it's becoming more and more noticeable. It's time for something different.

  • No, instead he tries to convince users and developers that non-"free" software is "morally repugnant".

    And you are trying to convince users that it is not.

    As I said before, I have no problem with free software. I use free software, and I've also contributed to several projects. However, I think that stating that non-"free" software is immoral is at worst immoral itself, and at best exceedingly childish.

    Careful! That could be construed as you trying to convince me of someone's immorality or childishness! Next thing you know, you will be saying 'please'.

  • The key issue that makes the two mutually exclusive is the whole "And I have the right to give copies of it to anyone I want" clause of the GNU dogma.

    If I spend $50 million developing some new program, according to RMS I get the opportunity to sell it to one person to recoup my costs. That's it, from then on it's free game to everybody on the planet.

    Software doesn't have to be free to eliminate the proprietariness.

    If you can't see that, it's you who is thinking sloppily.
  • He doesn't have to have a monopoly.

    He could sell you licensing rights to produce your own energy saving devices.

    Besides, the monopoly would only exist for a short time, so yes eventually everybody would have free access to it. In the meantime the inventor get's to benefit from his work.

    Why do you think people shouldn't be compensated for their work?
  • > Until such time you can provide proof there
    > were no clause 3 violations go by the statement > and CONTIUNE to point out

    Of course you will. Your cause is far to important to let such minor consideration such as "the burden of proof is on the procecution" matter. It is basically impossible to prove anyone innocent, which mean you will be able to continue your groundless accusations.

    BTW: First, you *don't* lose your right under copyright if you don't defend them (you are confusing copyright law with trademark law), so UofC haven't lost any rights. However, they probably didn't have them in the first place, since clause 3 go beyond copyright law.
  • Oh RMS is definately right, in his own mind that is. My freedoms are described in The Constitution of the United States, the country I am currently a citizen of.

    I am already free, are you? According to RMS, we'll never be free until all software meets _his_ guidelines. Sure sounds like your friendly neighborhood dictator to me.
  • Why is Jorrit Tyberghein even bothering RMS about open-source, free software, or anything, when he's got a Non-disclosure agreement on his project?

    It's kinda like looking for Suzuki motorcycle parts at a Harley Davidson shop. It's not only pointless, but it annoys those in the shop.

  • by Zagadka ( 6641 ) <zagadka.xenomachina@com> on Sunday October 22, 2000 @11:12AM (#685202) Homepage
    Nice conspiracy.

    Actually, if you read the phiosophy section of the GNU website, and then look at how RMS behaves in public, you'll see that it's painfully obvious that this "conspiracy" is true. RMS is a control freak and an egomaniac.

    No, RMS wants us to have what was taken away. Freedom is the opposite of domination. Do I need to repeat that?

    It sounds like you have a very simplistic view of the world. Freedom isn't an absolute. For every freedom someone has, there is a freedom someone has lost. In a "fair" system, it generally boils down to each individual has freedoms by sacrificing others.

    For example. I don't have the freedom to go into your house and eat your food without your permission. But I don't mind this, because I also have the freedom from you coming into my house and eating my food without my permission.

    Supposedly* RMS wants everyone to have the freedom to get the source code to, well, to any software that's available; people should be able to distribute the source, as well as any derivatives, (like compiled binaries) without even getting the permission of the original devloper. They can also modify this as well.

    (* I say "supposedly", because many of his actions dealing with GCC and Emacs haven't been as "free" as they could have been...)

    Those are the freedoms RMS wants us to have, but you have to realize that if we accept these freedoms, we have to give other freedoms away. For example, developers can't reasonably expect to be able to sell their software. The only people who can really make any profit off of software are the packagers, and the "value adders" (support sellers, T-shirt sellers, etc.). Is that a reasonable trade-off? Many of us don't think so.

    I also think it's funny that you say "RMS wants us to have what was taken away". I assume you're talking about copyright here. In a "natural state", you can copy any data you want, but copyrights prohibit this. In that sense, you're partially correct.

    However, RMS also wants developers to be prevented from releasing code without source. In that respect, he's taking away something that was there naturally. (Think about it: If I write a program, and release it without source, have I taken anything away from you? Nope.)

    Personally, I think free software is great. But I think it should be the choice of the developer. Developers shouldn't be pressured into developing free software by being told that it's immoral. Having the source, and being able to distribute the code without having to pay royalties is merely a (very nice) feature. Software which doesn't have that feature isn't any more immoral than a text editor without a scripting language. Sure, I'd prefer a text editor with scripting support, but if I find a text editor that lacks this feature, I'm not going to accuse the developer of being immoral. That's infantile.

    Likewise, I'd prefer a text editor that's "free software". That's a nice feature too. I'm not going to accuse the developers of "non-free" text editors of being immoral either. Their software simply lacks a feature that I desire. (For the record, I use VIM [] which is "free", and has scripting support - both features I desire.)
  • This attitude of RMS honestly makes me want to vomit. Freedom does not come with a GNU label or with RMS's seal of approval. My advice to the game developer is to do what will benefit his customers, not what will appease some egomaniac with a cult following. Speaking to RMS on these issues is an obvious waste of time judging by these responses.

    I wonder if RMS refuses to use all forms of non-free software, i.e. bank terminals, electronic watches, etc... That would be quite a hoot!
  • by nevets ( 39138 ) on Sunday October 22, 2000 @11:15AM (#685205) Homepage Journal
    First, I don't think it was childish that he would not respond to the term Open Source. There has been a bitter feud between the two, and a lot of people (as he stated) thinks he supports the Open Source Movement. He supports the "Free Software Movement" where it may seem similar to you, he wants the world to know that it is not and that he disagrees with the other. The only way to accomplish that is that he has to act (as you say) "childish". It's not childish to me, just "loud".

    One wonders how he reconciles this with writing a gcc that supports closed source operating systems.

    Please read why not to use the LGPL []. He talks about this. It is also in line with the answer he gave at the end of this story. "If it will hurt Sony (for being closed source) than it may be of some use".

    Steven Rostedt
  • by bob x johnson ( 197558 ) on Sunday October 22, 2000 @11:17AM (#685207)
    After reading about half of this exchange, I have become convinced that RMS is not a human being at all but a somewhat modified version of the old "artificial intelligence" program Eliza.

    In the interests of both freedom and better software, I demand his source code.

  • by sylvester ( 98418 ) on Sunday October 22, 2000 @08:54AM (#685208) Homepage
    That was a link a frame. The actual article is here. []
  • "Something is proprietary if someone owns it and has legal authority to tell you what you may and may not do with it."

    That also meets the criteria of closed. Closed means that you can't extend it, change it, etc. If they have control over what you can/can't do with a protocol, API, etc. they can change it out from underneath you, etc. It's CLOSED.
  • First off, RMS is RMS. Everyone in Open Source likes to refer to him as "the crazy uncle we keep in the basement."

    It really doesn't matter what anyones personal opinion is of RMS; he simply "is", and he has a strong, unwavering belief in "Free Software". If you don't know that, you have never been to the fsf site or read any of his writings.

    Really, if the developer had done *any* (five minutes?) of research on the difference between "Open Source" and "Free Software", about 1/2 of those emails never would have happened.

    Clearly, there is NO WAY this person was going to get RMS to say "Yeah, distribute NDA protected binaries with Free Software you developed under my license. Thas' cool. Shit, sent me a copy."

    Please. Amyone who has every read anything on the fsf site knows he would say "Dump the PS2".

    This developer has benefited greatly from both closed and open source. Glide, DX, OpenGL, all published interfaces that allowed him to grow as a programmer. For the most part, it's people like RMS that gave us *some* freedom in computing.

    Is it really so wrong to just say "the PS2 is lame because it uses undocumented, NDA protected APIs. Don't use it?"

  • by dirk ( 87083 ) <> on Sunday October 22, 2000 @08:58AM (#685213) Homepage
    Maybe it's just me, but RMS seems as psycho as Bill Gates most of the time. He has the same basic philosophy as Microsoft (take over everything and make it fit with your agenda), and will accept nothing but complete and total compliance with what he feels is right. He has no concept of middle ground. Everything is not going to owned by MS and closed source, but everything will not be "Free" either. And everything shoudln't fall into either category.
  • If any conessions to non-Free mode of thought is a failure and defeat then what is the purpose of LGPL?

  • Uhh.... I never answered for any community of software developers. I just interpreted and expounded on what I believe Richard Stallman's opinion is. This is based on reading a lot of rants he's written, having a few conversations with him, and reading this correspondence. Do I agree with him? Sometimes. And sometimes I disagree. But I never implied that the sentence you quoted was what I felt.
  • Let me just fix up your title a little here:

    RMS Challenges Us All to Think in HIS Moral Terms

    I think the reaction against him is somewhat related to his strong attitude on the issues. I don't agree with him, however I do find them interesting as well.
  • Uhm, that's exactly what he does.

    How so? He has made every effort to make sure that everyone knows what his license says, and he offers you the option of sticking with the current version of the license if you don't like the revisions (which are few and far between anyway). To quote from the GPL use instructions:

    This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation; either version 2 of the License, or (at your option) any later version.

    Note that it says OR. In other words, your license only changes if you and the author BOTH agree to the change. Otherwise, it stays at version 2. Most EULAs don't give you that option.

  • RMS is a moral man, and like any moral man he is in opposition to Ayn Rand. No "misunderstanding" necessary, Ayn Rand is not a moral authority. Quite the opposite.

    And, no, RMS is not against making money. He just doesn't make it the ultimate goal, the final arbitrater between good and evil. Also in this he is in opposition to Ayn Rand.

    It *is* possible to make money without preventing other people from sharing information. The far majority of the population of Earth does this.

    Your examples are wrong:

    The Coca-Cola formula is *not* secret, Coca-Cola remain #1 mainly because they control the distribution network, and partly because they can afford to spend more money on advertisement than any of their competitors.

    Not knowing what is in a Big Rat is a pretty good reason not eat it (I promise you, whatever it is, it isn't healthy), but the best reason is that they taste bad.
  • Choice is the very definition of freedom. To quote Webster's: "a) exemption or liberation from the control of some other person or arbitrary power." If noone else is controlling you and making decisions for you, I believe you have choice.

    In a truly Free society, you are indeed allowed to own slaves, but the slaves are also allowed to sneak into your bedroom at night and axe you.

    RMS is a zealot. That's his job. Jesus did not politely ask the money changers if they would mind leaving the temple, did not say "Maybe do unto others...", or "I think I'm the son of God."

    The greater goal of Free Software must be at the very least clear to it's current guardian or it has no hope. (Look at what our obscured view of democracy hath wrought.)

    I'm sure if the above bash artists did not actually type their slander on a machine powered by free software, they have programs on that machine that are heavily influenced by it.

    I learned to program picking that software apart, much like I learned guitar from songbooks and tabs. Now imagine if noone ever published the "source code" for music. We always stand atop the shoulders of giants, and without free software non-institutionally trained programmers would have no prior art to learn from. (And who really gets a degree in programming nowadays?? OOh! I can learn fortran.... Instead of making $80,000 a year.)

    Anyone who has ever held strong convictions on a subject must surely understand the position RMS must take. Looks like many Slashdot users cannot come up with more of a conviction than "Bill Gates sux." (And even then they think their rebels for using Netscape on Winblows....)

    And on a final note, RMS never said don't do it, he simply said a) I would not do it, and b) It's not free software. From the author's comments it looked as though he knew both of these to be true and was looking for some approval from RMS to quiet his concience (Or at least "feel better" about it.). And with all of the links RMS was tossing out I'm suprised that he didn't resort to the old RTFM defense.

    Personally, if I decided to bug RMS without reading his foundation's philosophy, history, and license, I'd feel dumber than a bean pole at Weight Watchers.
  • > If any conessions to non-Free mode of thought is a failure and defeat then what is the purpose of LGPL?

    A license that RMS has taken to deprecating, renaming it the Lesser GNU Public License, and will almost certainly disappear when GPL3 comes out. If rumors about GPL3's restrictions are accurate, it might not even meet DFSG standards ... there's irony for you
  • I had an old sofa I didn't want any more. I decided to give it to Goodwill.
    Goodwill turned around and sold it for $50.
    Should I be screaming outrage? I GAVE IT TO YOU FOR FREE YOU MOTHER FREEAKERS!
    Don't you realize the difference? Only one person can use the sofa at a time anyway. Goodwill can't give the sofa to every single person in the world at the same time at zero (or negligible) cost to themselves. They can't patch a hole in the seat of just that one couch and in doing so fix all the holes in all the couches in every house in the world. They can't knit a matching pillow and consequently cause a matching pillow to magically appear on every couch in the world. These things cannot be done with couches, but they can be done with software. To not do them is acceptable -- there may be better things to do with one's time, or one may merely lack the ability -- but to prevent others from doing them is not acceptable, and so far as we can guarantee people the ability to do them, we should. That is why people support free software. You may disagree, but the knee-jerk dismissal you have presented is not a good argument for your position.

  • This constant Slashdot mantra of Freedom == Choice is both naive and self-centered.

    Freedom is not the ability to do whatever you want. A society that is Free because it has no slavery, is not "free" by your definition because people aren't free to own slaves. A society that is politically Free is not "free" by your definition because people aren't free to politically surpress others.

    Freedom always exists in context. We live in a society, and everything we do is strongly affected by those around us. The only way to ensure our freedom is to demand that the society actively protect our freedoms (and in turn, each of us individually protect each other's freedoms).

    It is only in this way that support for freedom can make any sense. With your argument you rail against RMS for wanting you to use Free Software, all because you don't want to be condemned for using proprietary software. And yet, that proprietary software very clearly restricts what you can do. All RMS is saying is saying what he thinks you should do, but the proprietary software makers not only tell you what you should do, but what you must do (or not do), under threat of legal action. And RMS is the bad guy?

    How does it help freedom to let a person sell themselves into slavery? How does it help freedom to impose voluntary censorship? How does it help freedom to accept proprietary software?

    RMS views software in a moral and principled manner. This bothers you, because you don't do so, and you don't even want to be reminded of moral distinctions. If you had larger moral goals which proprietary software helped achieve, I could respect that -- even if I didn't agree with your goals, I would still respect you for having convictions. But I seriously doubt you -- or all the other free==choice advocates -- have any moral passion that drives you to be critical of those who do.

    If you were a privacy advocate that developed encryption algorithms in the public domain so they could be used in proprietary programs, then it would make sense: you value privacy above the freedom of your code. If you were a misguided FBI programmer making closed email sniffing programs, at least I could see where you were coming from. And if you are someone who can only get a job developing closed software, then I can empathize. But why would you attack those who have chosen not to make compromises? If you learn RMS's convictions and say, "I cannot choose that path", that is a choice for you to make. But why do you fault RMS for expressing his convictions? Why do you fault him for defining what he thinks is right without compromise? Why do you fault him for making explicit the differences between his ideas, and the compromised and sanitized ideas of Open Source?

  • by Cryptimus ( 243846 ) on Sunday October 22, 2000 @12:16PM (#685241) Homepage
    According to the submitted website, it appears that RMS said:

    Do you know anyone who has an idea of what SONY's real motives are for this secrecy?

    This is the crux of the entire argument regarding "free(dom)" of the project. Why, oh why, is it that Sony would not want someone to release Free code that runs on their platform?


    Is it an argument for the almighty buck?

    Is it a historical corporate paranoia?

    Is it that their technology is so weak that simply seeing a bunch of API calls will allow competition to surpass them?

    Oh good grief. Do you have any idea what the cost model for a console is? Here's a gross simplification:

    Every PS/2 that Sony currently makes costs them around US$450 to manufacture. Go have a look and see how much a PS/2 sells for. Then factor in the development costs and do the numbers. Where do you think they make their money?

    Answer: It's the software. Sony makes money on titles shipped, not on the actual console. Obviously it's in their interests to ensure that software sells as well as possible. To this end Sony decides who can develop and publish for their console.

    Why? Quick history lesson. Back in the early 80's the Atari 2600 was king and those early game developers lived in a land flowing with milk and honey. Then the videogame bubble burst. One of the primary reasons attributed to this was the Z-grade standard of software available for the console. Any idiot with an assembler could throw together a so-called "game" and get it out on the shelves. Consumers got sick to death of buying crud and just stopped buying altogether.

    Nintendo, Sega and Sony learned that particular lesson very well. If you make a console ensure it has QUALITY titles available or you *will* go broke. That's why Sony restricts access to PS/2 development information. If they don't they're killing the goose. Given the massive investment required to actually produce a console, I think their approach is justified.

    I am considering getting a PS2. Now I am drastically having to reconsider. And I'm not joking.

    Sony couldn't care less. Really. They market the PS/2 to teenagers interested in entertainment, not slashdotters with obscure conspiracy theories. It's their console, they've made the investment, they've built the market. If you want to develop for it then you have to play by their rules. If you don't want to then tough. There are plenty of people who do.

    For all his lauded status, Stallman seems surprisingly ignorant. He has no idea what a console is and has never heard of the DirectX API. Given that console and DirectX targetted games sell more units - in total - than any desktop application or OS, I find this somewhat odd.

    Frankly I think Jorrit was talking to the wrong person. Game development wouldn't even be remotely feasible in Stallman's universe. Indeed, I'm sure he'd deride it as unethical. After all, how can creating entertainment for the masses compare with writing software to do something actually useful?

    Having said all that, I think Jorrit's intention to make Crystal Space available for the PS/2 is misguided. It benefits no-one but Sony and their authorised developers.

    It does not provide developers with access to the PS/2 platform because Sony controls the PS/2 and decides which software will be published. If you're an authorised PS/2 developer you don't need Crystal Space (indeed there are probably very valid reasons for *not* wanting to use it).

    If you do need Crystal Space (because you're on a tight budget) you're unlikely to be granted PS/2 development status. I think targetting Crystal Space at the PS/2 is a waste of time.


  • That works out great for the people who add custom tweaks to existing applications. It doesn't work well for someone planning on developing a new application from scratch. The people doing 1% of the work end up getting 99% of the payments.

    If you were running a business and needed a change to Free Software, would you prefer to hire the original author, or someone willing to study the source? The more complex the app, the stronger the preference I imagine.

    There's also the question of whether customizations are even useful to have "freed". Some of these will involve bug fixes and the addition of generic features, but a lot of customization work involves stuff that is of no use to anyone but the customer though.

    Then it won't matter very much either way.

    So you think all unsolved problems can be solved by adding tweaks to existing software projects?

    Of course not, I never said any such thing. I DO believe that many if not MOST unsolved problems can benefit from existing code, even if that code amounts to a wrapper (user interface, basic functions like hashes, etc) for the interesting part.

  • As my little cousin would say: "Ya, so?"

    This has little to do with essence of the post ...
  • "Who will help me cut the wheat," asked Henny Penny.

    "Not I," said Goosey Loosey. "Not I," said Ducky Lucky.

    [repeat 6 times for the various stages of breadmaking]

    "Who will help me eat the bread," asked Henny Penny.

    "I will!" said Goosey Loosey. "I will!" said Ducky Lucky.

    "Fuck you all," said Henny Penny. "You lazy little bastards didn't help me out one little bit. What the hell makes you so special that you get to leech off my labour?"

    Why should I *NOT* have a monopoly? It's *my* idea, *my* time and labour that created it, and *YOU* did sweet F-A to assist.

    Theft is theft. A crook is a crook.

    Intellectual property *IS* physical property. Through a simple conversion -- one that you perhaps see as alchemy -- it is changed into money, which is exchanged for food, clothing, shelter and other essentials for living.

    When you steal my intellectual property, you steal my loaf of bread.

    And *that* is fundamentally wrong. You want to share my loaf of bread, then you better be prepared to help make it. Either you participate in its creation, or you exchange *your* food money for *my* food.

  • You mistake me. I've no problem with GNU licensing.

    What I've a problem with is that RMS paints with a tarry black brush everyone who chooses to publish under other licenses.

    He argues that these other licenses are morally bankrupt, and indicates that he believes it is morally right to share software freely. The implication is that he believes it is morally okay to copy restrictively-licensed software.

    I don't think he comes out and says it, but it's difficult to not interpret him that way.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    It is rare to find someone who understands the rewards system; that when I produce something of value, I should expect to be rewarded for my efforts. I visited the link to RMS's why-free page and eventually turned away from the monitor, queasy.
    I think you need to read that page again. RMS is not saying that programmers should not be rewarded for their efforts. They should be! But if a system that requires them to hurt their users (infringe their freedom, RMS would say) in technologically unnecesary ways, merely to receive that reward, that is a bad system.

    Now, RMS thinks that if one cannot earn a living doing something in a moral way, one should earn a living doing something else. There are two questions here: whether hurting one's users merely to receive money is immoral, and whether it's *too* immoral to be write proprietary software at all. We know RMS's answers to that question, but we are free to disagree. However, you are misrepresenting his views -- and the views of most of the free software movement -- if you say that he thinks programmers should not be rewarded. That has nothing to do with his position.

  • I understand it perfectly well. You want to be rewarded with a perpetual monopoly on a good which naturally does not accept monopolies as your reward.

    Well, excuse me if I find you morally reprehensible.

    Well, that alphabet your using there was probably 'stolen'. You should find the descendent and pay him. Same with half the words you're using. Stolen from some author or someone who said them without being given their proper and due monopoly.

    I believe in rewards alright, but the one you want is based on a fundamentally flawed equating of physical property with ideas.

    Of course, it's a very convenient idea that you have that you somehow deserve this monopoly. It makes a nice tidy set of justifications for invoking political power and violence to try to prevent me from sharing ideas (at no cost to you I might add) you somehow feel you have an exclusive right to.

    I feel that your conclusion that you have a right to come over and beat me up because I told a friend something you told me is morally reprehensible. And, fundamentally, that's exactly what you're saying.

  • And I thought *BSD had something very similar to readline? (At least, the ash Makefile under linux says something to this effect.) I'd hardly say that as of February 1999 (when that page was written) readline provided a "significant unique capability...not generally available elsewhere." It's propaganda like that that hurts the FSF in the eyes of nonpartisan observers.
  • by sheldon ( 2322 ) on Sunday October 22, 2000 @10:43AM (#685272)
    I had an old sofa I didn't want any more. I decided to give it to Goodwill.

    Goodwill turned around and sold it for $50.

    Should I be screaming outrage? I GAVE IT TO YOU FOR FREE YOU MOTHER FREEAKERS!

    No, because I no longer wanted the sofa and to me it was more convenient to give it away than it was to try to find someone willing to buy it. It just wasn't worth that much to me. I gave it away knowing full well that I was giving away any rights I had to the piece of property.

    The same is true of software.

    Although very little software has ever been released under a public domain license. Most people would release it using a non-commercial only clause, etc which also would prevent the issues you bring up.

    Besides the key difference in your example... Gates would offer to give you money in trade for your cool product. Stallman would just say bad things about you to mailing lists and such to coerce you into giving it away under the GPL.

    Personally I find Stallman to be the morally reprehensible one.
  • Actually, no, I don't have any problem with that at all. Hell, I would be flattered. I consider BSD licenses to be the epitome of what a license should be and GPL licenses among the low end. I do not believe in restrictions, period.
  • You've turned the question around. You're asking if it is wrong to forbid people to develop for a platform. I don't like it, but I don't think it is wrong.

    Is it right or wrong to go to great efforts to protect a free codebase in order to comply with Sony's business model even though you happen to be enhancing their market?

    I personally think it is quite morally wrong.

    Yes, I'm ignoring market forces, the network effect and percieved value... If you were to include those, the objectives will have changed from freedom to dominance... which in turn can compel corporations to see your point of view and ensure your survival... but it doesn't make it moral. RMS answered on grounds of morality... and I agree with him. If I were to ask on the grounds of business strategy I would have been very clear about it, and I probably wouldn't have asked RMS.

    (And I'm not saying to boycott the PS2, simply to boycott developing for it... ditto for your microwave, and for other uncooperative hardware manufacturers.)

  • The FSF didn't produce Debian, the Debian group did. They aren't associated with the FSF in any way, they're a self-regulating community of developers.
  • I objected to APSL version 1.0 . The clause you quoted is in version 1.1 and does not have the part I objected to. Eric should indeed not have approved APSL 1.0 . However, the Open Source Initiative board has never approved of either license, to this day. Eric jumped the gun without their approval when he appeared to endorse the Apple license.



  • Sony would have no ability to require money from someone writing software for Crystal Space unless they managed to include in their NDA to the Crystal Space developer a licensing clause requiring Crystal Space to require its developers to pay a licensing fee.

    I wouldn't put it past them, but that developer wouldn't have those rights anyway.
  • You are correct. It had been a long time since I had taken a look at the APSL, and I couldn't remember exactly what was the source of the conflict when that license came out. I should have re-read the license, but I didn't, hoping instead that my recollection would be close enough. It wasn't. Here's an excerpt from the license that specifically tells you how the license can be terminated with prejudice:

    Notwithstanding the foregoing, if applicable law prohibits or restricts You from fully and/or specifically complying with Sections 2 and/or 3 or prevents the enforceability of either of those Sections, this License will immediately terminate and You must immediately discontinue any use of the Covered Code and destroy all copies of it that are in your possession or control.

    This frees Apple from responsibility should their software become illegal. It is certainly a far cry from the loophole that I cited in my origninal post.

    Sorry for the misinformation.

  • I got that idea, too -- that Sony won't open it, but if we take away the need for their NDA, then they might.

    I would say that it's okay in this case. It's like dropping a wrench in the machine in a totalitarian state -- you can't be totally free at the moment, but you can fuck up the totalitarianism a little. That's a morally justified choice.

  • They don't build a completely free computer system. They write free software. Intel doesn't make you sign an NDA in order for you to learn what the X86 instructions are. This is a completely invalid analogy.
  • by earlytime ( 15364 ) on Sunday October 22, 2000 @11:31AM (#685295) Homepage
    I've reached my breaking point. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but what i'm reading here looks much more like a RMS bashfest, than a reasonable discussion of the article at hand.

    As I understand it, the Free Software concept is by design an unreversible solution to the issue of proprietary (closed source, restricted, etc) software. Especially how in certain circumstances, companies/organizations with vested interests in proprietary software have co-opted/abused what was intended to be Free Software, and claimed it as a part of their proprietary software. Notorious examples include the ATT/BSD lawsuit, and the original Emacs written by RMS.

    What it seems RMS seeks to do, is define the concept of Free Software in a totally unambiguous way, such that both accidental and malicous abuse of "Software Freedom" will stand in clear violation of the software license.

    I personally agree with this philosophy, not because I want RMS to "win" any battle for power in the computer software industry, but because in my experience software that is "Free Software" (as in speech) does more to benefit everyone than the major alternatives. If you think of the software world as a matrix (no not the movie), you get something like this:

    ================================================== ===========================
    ====================== Source code available ====== Binary only ========================
    ================================================== ===========================
    == Freely redistributable ===== "Free Software" ======== "Freeware" ======================
    ================================================== ===========================
    == Licensed by contract ===== "Open Source" ========= "Billware" =======================
    ================================================== ===========================

    Well, that took forever. ;-) So the point i'm trying to make is this:
    RMS does not seek to force anyone to become an advocate of, or developer of any kind of software, what he does is try to persuade software developers and users to become advocates of Free Software, and thus refuse to use other types of software that restrict a persons rights to the following four things:

    1) The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).
    2) The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs (freedom 1).
    3) The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2).
    4) The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits. (freedom 3)

    I hope i've provided some clarity to those who may have misunderstood the topic, and to those who disagree still, I'm sorry that we don't see it the same way. I see it as a concept similar to political freedom in America, either you have the freedom to vote for a representative of your choice, or you don't. Having either a vote or a (selection of) representatives does not make you politically free, you need both. Just as having either the freedom to redistribute software or the freedom to access the source code is not enough. You need both. And only be guaranteing both, do we ensure that our software will always have both, and that it will provide the most benefit to both the user and developer communities.


  • After reading the article, I was amazed by how much RMS did not know. If he isn't aware of Microsoft's licensing strategies, how can he attack them effectively? It's difficult to wage a war _for_ something w/o also waging that war _against_ something, especially when you are fighting over ideals.

    Maybe that's why Stallman never really appealed to me. Without focusing on what is really happening in the industry, you end up just spouting the same argument year after year. Your views don't evolve, and you basically come down to a "It's a rock because I say it's a rock" mentality.

    Free software is what RMS describes as free software. It appears that if you ask for his opinion on whether something actually _is_ free, he can't really pin it down. He never once said, "Yes, the LGPL would apply to your case," "No, the LGPL will not apply to your case," or "Although the LGPL will apply to your case, I would suggest that you don't use it as that would corrupt the Free Software Movement's philosophy." It's his license. If he is so adamant about what is denoted as "Free," then he should do a bit more than say, "Well, what do you think?" It reminds me of George Bush's answer, "If Affirmative Action means quotas, then I'm against it." That's nice, but all that says is that you're against quotas. It's the answer with the minimal amount of information possible.

    Of course, it also bothers me that Stallman wasn't familiar with the game console market...does he own a TV? Is he on the Internet? I also realize that this is a petty pet-peeve of mine, so save your angry retorts.

    An El Haqq!
  • Since when is solving a problem not a step forward?

    Hitler: We have a problem; the German people are down, they feel they have been unjustly treated and have no vision of themselves as a nation.

    Goebbels: Let's make the Jews into a scapegoat for our troubles. No one really knows much about them and they don't mix well with non-Jews. People will be able to rally around a common cause and find a purpose in Nationalism without feeling guilty, since they have little emotional connection with the victims.

    Problem solved but not, I think, a step forward.


  • According to RMS, we'll never be free until all software meets _his_ guidelines. Sure sounds like your friendly neighborhood dictator to me.
    My god, to think someone would actually have a strong moral opinion on something! To think, someone would actually express that moral opinion in action, and ask that others do the same! This will certainly lead to the oppression and subjugation of all! Only if everyone believes in the post-structuralist undogma of unbelief, where no one gives a shit about anything, will we be free! We must dismiss and ignore anyone who does not follow our strict, but quintessencially tolerant, subjective viewpoints! Objectivity is the voice of reason, and reason is the voice of oppression! Relativism is the only right way!

    I fear RMS will practice cultural genocide now, or maybe rape us in a figurative manner, or somehow try to invalidate our personal narratives. That's a dialog I just don't need.

  • Read the exchange more carefully -- RMS clearly noted the difference between Microsoft keeping something secret and a putative free software author keeping something secret.

    Yes, you can buy the CD with precompiled binaries, but you will also get source. You can also download the source and compile it yourself. You could do so and then offer other people the precompiled binaries (with source) at zero charge and you'll hear nary a peep from the FSF. There's no hypocrisy at all here.

    When will people learn that RMS means precisely what he says, nothing more and nothing less? He has made it abundantly clear that "free software" does not mean "zero price", but rather "liberty", and that there is absolutely nothing wrong with selling GPL'ed software for any price as long as the terms of the GPL are upheld. For years, Cygnus charged as much as $50,000 for support contracts on GNU software; the more you paid, the more service you got, but all changes went right back into the common pool. If you purchased a top tier support contract you went straight to the head of the queue if you had a problem. All of this happened in plain view, and with no assault whatsoever on the principles of the FSF. Yet people persist in misinterpreting what RMS means by "free" and use this misunderstanding to accuse him of hypocrisy for selling CD's.

    I think it has been drummed into us constantly that the only way to make money from software is to sell it under proprietary terms, to the point that it is assumed that the only way that it is possible to make money from software is to keep it proprietary. Therefore, anyone claiming to sell free software must be guilty of GPL violation or of hypocrisy. This is one place where the Open Source movement has been more effective than the Free Software movement; it's a fundamental principle of Open Source that it is possible to build business models around what I'll call "free source" software. From an Open Source perspective, there's no particular difficulty here; ESR and friends have been proclaiming that it is possible to make money from "free source", and the FSF selling CD's is nothing more than an instance of this. It's not really an issue from a Free Software perspective either; it simply isn't addressed within that framework. However, since people don't (or won't) recognize this, RMS takes an undeserved thrashing over it.

    Back to the parent comment, RMS has no objection to porting the API to the PS2. What RMS does object to is the means by which this is proposed: signing an NDA with Sony.
  • by Duxup ( 72775 ) on Sunday October 22, 2000 @12:51PM (#685331) Homepage
    Richard Stallman vs. Jorrit Tyberghein
  • by Hollins ( 83264 ) on Sunday October 22, 2000 @09:06AM (#685332) Homepage

    A quote: "Nowadays, the free software philosophy is getting drowned out by the wishy-washy open source philosophy. There must be thousands of people who support the Open Source Movement because they think I do!

    Read: People support open source over free software because they're fooled into thinking I support open source. No intelligent person could do so otherwise.

  • greed == self-interest
  • by rlk ( 1089 ) on Sunday October 22, 2000 @03:22PM (#685334)
    He sees zero comprimise here, its his way or no way "Please don't develop non-free software".

    Well, I think the very fact that he uses the word "please" should make clear the difference between RMS and any proprietary software vendor out there. I would be quite surprised to see any Microsoft EULA with the word "please" in it.

    As far as Debian is concerned, the proper name for the Debian distribution is "Debian GNU/Linux".

  • Regardless of the specifics, it sounds as if Tyberghein chose the wrong licence, largely due to presumptions made influenced by the open source movement's adoption of the GPL as the "standard" open source licence from which all others will be based.

    It does highlight the fact that if you want to write open source software under the GPL, you do have to restrict quite heavily what you can do, and the audience you can work with. Regardless of the rights and wrongs of NDA'ing APIs as most games console makers do, that decision has been made without an open source programmer being able to do much beyond not support that particular platform, and if a platform with such restrictions takes up a sizable portion of the market, then a programmer has to make the choice between getting a licence that supports what sie wants to do, or ignoring that platform (and thus an audience) [Or designing something convoluted, such as building layers above and below an LGPL'd library that are potentially closed source]

    Given that the Open Source movement != Free software Movement, it's a shame the OSM has chosen to nail its testicles to the GPL (or LGPL, which is an improvement but not a perfect one) rather than create a licence that acknowledges that programmers are not working in a free software isolation. or build upon a licence such as the X11 one which provides for more freedom for a programmer working on such a licenced product at the expense of allowing them to potentially reduce that freedom for others.

  • by frost22 ( 115958 ) on Sunday October 22, 2000 @09:08AM (#685339) Homepage
    He has the same basic philosophy as Microsoft (take over everything and make it fit with your agenda), and will accept nothing but complete and total compliance with what he feels is right. He has no concept of middle ground. Everything is not going to owned by MS and closed source, but everything will not be "Free" either
    This is exactly the way it is supposed to be. RMS is, by every account, the visionary who defines the goals, and not the leader who weighs alternatives.

    Visions don't make compromises. Their main property is 'beeing clear'.

    But poeple do. It's your job to decide "well, RMS say this is wrong - and rightly so - but for this or that reason we have to balance this and make a compromise here."

    Now thou shalt go and sin no more.

  • by itp ( 6424 ) on Sunday October 22, 2000 @09:09AM (#685341)
    It doesn't strike you as a major difference that, in one case, we have a fanatic who wants to dominate the world, control all standards, and crush his competition, and on the other, we have a fanatic who wants to tear down the walls of secrecy, give us all the freedom to examine the tools we use, and give everyone, from the richest developers to the poorest college student, the same level of access?

    Ian Peters
  • (no text)


  • by Peter Dyck ( 201979 ) on Sunday October 22, 2000 @09:09AM (#685345)
    You have an opportunity now to stand up for freedom. You can announce "We don't support the PS2, because Sony refuses to allow us to support it with free software!"

    The text above is practically his point. I don't see any pedantic about this piece. It's very clear and concise and I agree with it.

  • by Xardion ( 215668 ) on Sunday October 22, 2000 @09:12AM (#685347)
    This entire article would have been completely avoided had Richard answered his question, "Is it possible to use a separate,closed-source module in a LGPL-licensed piece of software?", and not stuff his head full of dogma about how "Free Software" is better than "Open Source".
    I don't recall Jorrit asking "Should I make Crystal Space Free Software instead of Open Source?".

  • Aren't you pointing out your ego problem? RMS didn't say the words you'd like to put in his mouth.
  • Newcomers to GNU/ Linux are often also newcomers to the world of (freely available) source code. They can't interpret the term "F.S." correctly, because of a complete lack of context.

    On the contrary, I would say that newcomers to the Linux world read Slashdot and the other media and get the impression that "free software" culture has always existed exactly as it is today, with preoccupation with ideological figureheads, manifestos, VC funded startups, IPO's, jihads and endless yammering about the correct terminology for everything.

    In fact (I'm hardly a grizzled veteran but even 3 or 4 years of experience is enough to know this) while the FSF/Emacs/gcc world may well have been like that for years, for the most part free software was written and shared by a pragmatic, easy-going community that was happy to receive what they did instead of complaining that they were entitled to everything from video drivers to movies on their own terms. That's the world that produced Perl, Apache, Sendmail, BSD, Linux, Qt, KDE and all the rest of the stuff that the RMS's and ESR's retroactively claim for their own movements.

    The "lack of context" comes when people judge long-standing projects as if they were part of the 1998-1999 companies whose primary activities pandering to "the community" and keeping their stock valuation wildly overinflated.

  • Had Richard answered his question, Jorrit would sign the NDA, get Crystal Space to run on PS2 and everybody would be happy, right? But that's not the point. This is about standing for what you believe in. Just like some other reader pointed out, he isn't telling Jorrit what to do. Instead, he wants him to decide for himself, based on what he thinks is right or wrong. I think it was very wise of Richard not to answer his question. He believes NDAs are bad, and he's doing the right thing by not supporting them. By not answering the question he is sending a message to Sony, telling them to change their practices that are taking away our freedom.
    And btw: It's a good thing this article got posted on Slashdot. I think RMS makes a lot of good points and it's definitely an interesting read.
  • Yes, I know you can charge for "free software". I also know that you cannot prevent the buyer from making as many copies as he wants, which severely limits your ability to sell lots of copies (unless the product is so large that it is more convenient to buy a CD from a vendor, such as is the case with a complete linux distribution)

    So the market is reversed. You make money based on how much easier your software makes life for someone.

    Some people take linux and place all security risk deamons/programs into wrappers, and sell the resulting product. Bastille linux.

    Some people take linux and make it Japanese. Or German. Or French...

    Some people take GNOME and make it work with your distribution. Helixcode, for example.

    There are just lots and lots of ways to provide service by differentiating your wrapping of linux from someone else's. Bastille linux will have return customers if their systems stay secure. So will OpenBSD, for that matter.

    Redhat will keep customers coming back if their distro is easily installed/upgraded, and functions to their ease of use.

    A company could write tax software. The changes in the tax code are relatively fast compared to the time to wrap a new product, so having it open source would allow rapid fixing of bugs, without yielding a competitive edge.

    I could go on, but I think it is obvious that not maintaining that source code is intellectual property, but service, still allows for a whole lot of money to be made by the programmers. If you write good code fast it is your market today.

    However, it does not allow room for companies like Microsoft whose entire portfolio is based on intellectual property copyright value.

    As Bob Young of Redhat used to claim - the goal is not to compete with IP copyright companies at their own game - the goal is to change the game. The new game has service as the primary value of software, not intellectual property. The last 20 years of software development has been pretty perverse wrt intellectual property, and it is primarily the corporations not the programmers that are making the money.

    Last time I checked a seasoned 3l337 h4x0r was making 6 figures in Northern California - hardly starving. And that is largely independent of the type of hacking being done.

  • I also had engaged in a conversation with Mr. Stallman on a subject of different non-GPL open source software, and my impression was that he considers any non-GPL software as evil, and every commercial software as deadly sin. While appreciating integrity of his position, it appears to me too far from the Real World as we know it. Though, he appears to be in this point a politician, meaning it's not too useful to ask him about something if your primary goal is to get the work done, but only if your primary goal is to get a "kosher certificate" from FSF/GNU/whatever. If these goals contradict, one should choose what he wants first - certificate or thing done.
  • by Christopher B. Brown ( 1267 ) <> on Sunday October 22, 2000 @09:15AM (#685362) Homepage
    It shows that RMS is capable of carrying on dialogue with others; too often, what we see looks merely like demagoguery. (Which may be a "media spin," but I've tried talking with RMS, and found conversation challenging...)

    Trying to "nail down" RMS on precisely what he suggests as action is almost always nearly impossible, but it's interesting that the conclusion at the end can be fairly readily read to indicate that he considers the idea of building the "NDA-ed bridge" to be a good idea because it would annoy Sony!

  • As a huge wave of RMS-bashing gathers on the seas of Slashdot, I have to say that I find him, once again, pretty inspiring. He challenges us all to think about what we do in moral terms. This is such a rare thing to do that people often don't even understand what he's talking about. But think about it -- he says: Decide what to do based on what you think is right or wrong. Here is the decision that I have made. Here is why I have made it.

    Who else talks that way? Not -- "Here is a way that will benefit you the most..." or "Here is a thing to do which will protect you from something you fear" or "Here is a way to get back at someone you resent."

    But instead: "Decide what you think is the right way".

    I find that pretty exhilirating. -Dan Milstein

  • by Pflipp ( 130638 ) on Sunday October 22, 2000 @11:51AM (#685374)
    OK, this is only a Slashdot post. I don't dare to post it to (or whatever his email adress is) because I guess mr. Stallman is a kind of a busy guy, and I don't want to concern him with this if it's not his choice to be concerned with it.

    But what I'd really like to hear, is how many /. folks agree with this opinion, or disagree. (Patches are welcome, too ;-) If this turns out to be a more or less important point, we might send it to mr. Stallman after all.

    Anyway, here goes.


    Dear mr. Stallman,

    It has occured to me that you are trying hard to make clear to the GNU/ Linux community, as well as the outside world, what "Free Software" is, and why it is good. You do this by writing so-called "Free Software" yourself, as well as propagating the use of the terms "Free Software" and "GNU/ Linux".

    I won't discuss the use of the latter term in detail here; it would be an interesting, but not so important discussion about whether the term "GNU/ Linux" is accurate enough to describe any currently running distribution - but above all, the use of this term is a good advertisement for the FSF, and as such, it can only do good.

    But I strongly disagree with the widespread use of the former term, the term that you seem wish to be used, more than any other term: "Free Software". I think it does _not_ serve as an advertisement for the FSF case, at all. Allow me to explain why.

    You have noticed that "Free Software" easily gets confused with "Open Source Software" by the public, and you try to get rid of that confusion by stressing upon the strict use of the term "Free Software" when referring to GNU licensed software. However, I think that the main reason why people don't use the term "Free Software" too often, and rather fall back to the (more general) term "Open Source", is because the term "Free Software" is extremely confusing to outsiders. It gets confused with "free as in beer" and "freeware" way too easily.

    Some people try to clear things up by saying "libre", "liberated", etc. instead. But because there isn't a clear party propagating the use of these words, they are not used by a significant lot of people. So the undecisive amongst the purists still fall back to "Open Source" *by lack of a better term*.

    I support this fallback completely. Allow me to illustrate why I think that using the term "Free Software" does more harm than it can do good:

    - Newcomers to GNU/ Linux are often also newcomers to the world of (freely available) source code. They can't interpret the term "F.S." correctly, because of a complete lack of context. Lots of folks can't understand what "software" and "freedom" could possibly have in common. They have never seen a line of code in their life. Sow how to make clear to these people that they have the freedom of getting, modifying and redistributing the so-called "source code"? Saying that the software is "free" just doesn't do that trick; saying it's "Open Source" does, but you don't like this term because it is often used in a more general context.

    - Most people don't have your degree of software idealism. I imagine that when you use the term "Free", you mean "Free as in speech" in 90% of the cases. However, for most other people, "Free" most often means "free as in beer" - it's just inherent to our commercial society. So this word turns out to be more confusing for most common people, than you might imagine. It might inspire them to go shopping, but it doesn't really inspire them to change the world for the better, as I believe is your wish.

    - As a result of both points, when I explain to someone that "I solely use Free Software", he might respond with "Cool. Well, I got my copy of Internet Explorer as a free download, too."

    Well, I am not claiming to tell you something new here. But if you care about people using the correct terms (and, as a result, get inspired by your idealism) as much as you do, it is *really* important to use a less obfuscating term. If you continue to use the term "Free Software", I think you'll be making your mission unnecessarily hard.

    But if you manage to come up with a much more descriptive term, I think that the word will spread like it has never done before. I understand that it's very hard to change such a thing right here, right now, but I think that it is not yet too late, and, as I explained, I think it would really serve your mission, while the current term does more harm than it does good. Additionally, you are the right person in the right place to do this. (Yup, I think your influence in the GNU/ Linux world is bigger than you think -- it's only because of the term that you don't see references to the FSF that much nowadays ;-)

    (I personally like to use the term "copylefted": it's funny, it's used by the FSF already, and it's very descriptive too - it makes clear that the software is public property, and that the copyright owners do not place restrictions on it, except that no-one else can place these restrictions. However, I don't want to make a real proposal for better a term at this stage, so it should only be interpreted as an example.)


    Stefan Rieken <>


    It's... It's...
  • by /dev/kev ( 9760 ) on Sunday October 22, 2000 @01:31PM (#685381) Homepage
    Does your precious constitution allow you to modify and redistribute your favourite software? No? Oh then it seems your constitution doesn't make you as free as you might like to be.

    Honestly, I fail to see what the constitution has to do with anything in this matter. You're changing your definition of 'free' mid-stream. At one point you use the term to talk about your personal freedoms, next you use it to talk about the freeness of your software.

    The matter is simple. While software you use is non-free, you also are non-free. This is because you are denied the freedoms RMS advocates, most notably, the freedom to modify and redistribute. It is clear that if you had these freedoms you would be "more free" than if you didn't have them (as is the case when you use non-free software).

    Further, what is dictatorial about what he's saying? He's not saying you MUST choose free software, he's simply advocating it. He acknowledges your freedom to choose or not choose free software, and so he tries to convince you of why you should choose free software. I simply can't fathom why you people seem to read it as an ultimatum. He just wants you to consider the morals, and to do what is morally and socially right. He argues that denying your friends and colleagues the 4 freedoms described is not morally right, and so you should choose courses of action which do not deny these freedoms.

    But he can't stop you from choosing to do whatever you like, or advocating whatever you like. After all, that's all he's ever done. He's chosen to not ever use or write non-free software, and he's chosen to try and spread his message.
  • by Xardion ( 215668 ) on Sunday October 22, 2000 @09:19AM (#685389)
    Yes, but it didn't answer Jorrit's question at all, and even though it was very concise and to the point. Jorrit wasn't asking a philosophical question. It was simply "Will this work under the LGPL or not", which is pretty much a Yes/No/Maybe type of question. I think Richard was just barking to hear his head rattle there...
  • by ESR ( 3702 ) on Sunday October 22, 2000 @01:47PM (#685394) Homepage
    Richard writes:

    Actually the definition of "open source" according to the Open Source Movement is pretty close to our definition of "free software", but they interpret it in a somewhat lax way, so that they have accepted some licenses that we in the Free Software Movement consider too restrictive.

    Until early 1999, the definitions of "open source" and "free software" were, as far as anyone but RMS knew, identical. The set of necessary freedoms described in the Open Source Definition was (and was intended to be) the same as the set of necessary freedoms described in the FSF's white papers and propaganda.

    Then Richard started announcing additional requirements nobody had ever heard about before, including prohibitions on certain kinds of license termination clauses and on clauses requiring changes to the code to be disclosed to the vendor. It is due to these additional requirements that RMS says the definitions of "free software" and "open source" no longer coincide.

    Richard's claim is that these requirements were implicit in the definition of "free software" all along, and that people who use the Open Source Definition as a standard have fallen away from the path of virtue by not also adopting them. But bear in mind when you think about this that until less than eighteen months ago, nobody except possibly RMS knew that the OSD's "lax" definition was any different from his -- and if RMS knew, he wasn't talking.

  • I've contacted several "Open Source" advocates (Bruce Perens being one of them) about a recent licensing issue I thought was of some importance, but never received any response.

    RMS responded to me immediately (modulo his usual 24-48hr time lag) and although he was always very insistent that I speak very precisely, he was extremely helpful, and completely willing to carry on an extended conversation with me about the issue that I raised.

    Now, I understand that some people, who are used to speaking with fast and loose definitions, find RMS pedantic. But I don't think that really should be a cause for complaint. I wish our political leaders insisted on speaking as precisely...
  • by A nonymous Coward ( 7548 ) on Sunday October 22, 2000 @04:51PM (#685417)
    Suppose you have written a good old FORTRAN program. You ask a Java programmer if you can link it with a LISP program.

    Eh? What kind of sense is that! Well, none. And that's what RMS is pointing out here. This guy is writing a program using the LGPL, a deprecated part of Free Software, and asks RMS if he can use it in an Open Source manner with closed source code. RMS very politely says that he is a Free Software expert and cannot speak for Open Software. Yet this guy persists in playing as dumb as dirt.

    This entire article could have been completely avoided if Jorrit had paid attention to the very first response.

  • by Per Abrahamsen ( 1397 ) on Sunday October 22, 2000 @09:26AM (#685425) Homepage
    Bill Gates is doing what people in our society are expected to do, gather power and personal wealth. He is not a rebel, he is working within the system and for the system. He is just more succesful than most.

    RMS is the real madman, he is giving up both power and personal wealth in the pursuit of a dream of a better world. In our society, this is insanity.

    I don't agree with a many of RMS' views, but I admire his madness. We desperately need mad people like RMS to remind us of dreams that go beyond wealth, power or even the geeky technical goals most of us here follow. We also need people like ESR to reformulate the dream in socially acceptable terms.
  • by Mawbid ( 3993 ) on Sunday October 22, 2000 @09:26AM (#685431)
    Here's one explanation [] of what clean-room reverse engineering really is.
  • by Dr. Evil ( 3501 ) on Sunday October 22, 2000 @09:28AM (#685434)

    I think it is a very clear, noble and realistic point of view. Sony has manufactured a playstation. Why would they force you to sign an NDA to develop for it? Why shouldn't they make the consessions, open up their API and allow people to develop freely for their closed platform.

    This problem happens all the time in Linux. How many times have linux drivers had to reverse-engineer drivers becuause the manufacturers are not willing to share their product information.

    It is absurd. If you are not free to have the information about how to use a product, you should not buy the product. Never mind signing an NDA and tainting your codebase to expand the market for the uncoopertative manufacturer

  • by Stephen Samuel ( 106962 ) <samuel@bc g r e> on Sunday October 22, 2000 @02:10PM (#685441) Homepage Journal
    If Excel were open or Free source, and experienced a fork, it would be possible for both groups to get together at a later date and reconcile their formats and capabilities.

    If they were open source, people who wanted to make it work for other systems would be able to do so.

    Right now, MS can 'fork' their code anytime they want to. Take, for example, when word '97 (I think) came out. It was incompatible with earlier versions, and they (willfully, I think) didn't have a module that allowed users to save in the old format. As a result any company which bought the newest version for any of their machines was forced to buy it for all of their machines. If it were open source, people would have just fixed the problem and released it.

    This might have created a fork, but it would have been a more usable fork. Users would have then had a choice.

    As it is, with closed source, it's like Mr. Ford's "freedom" with respect to the Model T.

    "You can have any color you want, as long as it's black:

    I think that Stallman's attitude could be summerized as:
    "The road to hell is paved with good intentions"

    If Tyberghein had refused to release the NDA driver, somebody else might have been called to reverse engineer the API. Once that was done, people would have been able to create a completely free piece of software. It would have also made it easier to do similar work on other console systems.


    I'd like to point out here that the Open Source road was blazed by Free Source. If there was no committment to Free Source, there would have been no reason for the Gnu Project. -- I mean, why re-invent the wheel?? C compilers, grep, awk the shell, syslogd et. al. already existed. You could even get the source! All you had to do was pay $20K and sign an NDA with AT&T.

    Luckily, there were some radicals out there who insisted that the source code should be Free, so when Linus wrote his kernel, he had access to the rest of a Unix look-alike.

    As he said
    in the C't interview []
    Torvalds: I do not believe that there is a special point there. It's never been an individual project. Right at the start, for example, I was provided with all of the [[Gnu]] applications. Beyond my additional work on the Kernel - I already had parts of [[like?]] the shell, the compiler and the libraries. .....
    It should also be noted that, although Stallman believes that OS proponents are wrong/misguided, he doesn't say that they should all go to programmer's hell. He simply gives his opinion and makes sure to make the distinction clear. There is a method to his madness, and he wants to be sure that people have an understanding of both the method and the madness when they make a choice between FS and OS.

    I think that his biggest peeve is when people (try to) blurr the distinctions between the two.

  • by mindstrm ( 20013 ) on Sunday October 22, 2000 @05:11PM (#685445)
    The guy *asked* Stallman what he thought. Why are we making him out to be the free software nazi? 99% of the time he only says stuff like this when you ASK him his opinion.

    HOw low. I *HATE* it when the media does that... ask for an honest opinion then rip it to shreds.

  • by mobiGeek ( 201274 ) on Sunday October 22, 2000 @09:33AM (#685460)
    According to the submitted website, it appears that RMS said:
    Do you know anyone who has an idea of what SONY's real motives are for this secrecy?
    This is the crux of the entire argument regarding "free(dom)" of the project. Why, oh why, is it that Sony would not want someone to release Free code that runs on their platform?


    Is it an argument for the almighty buck?
    Is it a historical corporate paranoia?
    Is it that their technology is so weak that simply seeing a bunch of API calls will allow competition to surpass them?

    I am considering getting a PS2. Now I am drastically having to reconsider. And I'm not joking.
  • by rlk ( 1089 ) on Sunday October 22, 2000 @02:55PM (#685517)
    Your distinction between "Free Software" and "Open Source" makes no sense. GPLed code is "licensed by contract" (the GPL) while the Open Source Definition explicitely states that Open Sourec is freely redistributable -- in fact, it's the first requirement.

    NO! The GPL is not a contract. It is a unilateral grant of rights above and beyond what copyright law allows, and it states precisely this. If you choose not to agree to the GPL, you possess the rights you would otherwise possess under copyright law in any case. Please see section 5 of the GPL [].

  • by IKnowBux ( 229124 ) on Sunday October 22, 2000 @09:44AM (#685519)
    First, an ordered series of words from our local deconstructivist: 1. All Software that is Free (per the FSF) is also Open. 2. All Open software IS NOT Free! (The Open Source Movement accepts some licences that the FSF views as "non-free".) 3. All "Closed" (non-free) software programs are the Tools of Satan. (A somewhat loose paraphrase of RMS and the FSF.) 4. NDAs (Non-Disclosure Agreements) are the very Words of Satan. Signing an NDA is equivalent to entering into a pact with Satan. 5. The "One True Path" between the worlds of Free and Closed software is Reverse Engineering. Those platforms for which the One True Path of Reverse Engineering does not exist (in any practical manner), then that entire platform must be Banished! 6. However, when a thin software layer may be created that provides the means to convert a Closed platform to a Free platform, then it MAY be permissible to Dance with the Devil, for the express purpose of making that thin layer. Note: Any person performing Step 6 WILL NOT be granted a dispensation: They will still Rot In Hell, since they did Sign the Devil's Paper. However, if this saves the Free souls of legions of programmers, and if it also Royally Pisses-Off the particular Satan involved, then, well... It May Be OK.
  • by dirk ( 87083 ) <> on Sunday October 22, 2000 @09:58AM (#685521) Homepage
    It doesn't strike you as a major difference that, in one case, we have a fanatic who wants to dominate the world, control all standards, and crush his competition, and on the other, we have a fanatic who wants to tear down the walls of secrecy, give us all the freedom to examine the tools we use, and give everyone, from the richest developers to the poorest college student, the same level of access?
    To me, freedom is choice, and RMs doesn't want anyone to have a choice. It's GNU or nothing. With true freedom, you can make your own choices and choose either the MS way or the RMS way, but neither of them want to give us that choice. Having only one choice is never freedom, no matter how good you think that choice is.
  • by Rorshach ( 113150 ) on Sunday October 22, 2000 @09:46AM (#685526)
    I recently implemented a General Operations Daemon (GOD) that builds on the standard Linux system calls, but adds an advanced AI interface to handle all transactions. For instance, the core is able to manage processes by any user (at any level) on any host (on any platform) by superceeding the kernel with a set of Advanced Network Generic Extendable Languages (ANGELs). Each ANGEL is written to handle a specific platform. Currently the Linux ANGEL is having communication problems with the Win 9x/NT/2000 ANGEL and the BSD ANGEL seems to be so secure that it won't respond to requests made by the system (GOD).

    In addition to the extensive user coverage that the system provides, GOD also spawns its own processes for dealing with internal conflicts. In addition to squashing virus/trojan infections, GOD will also fry 31337 K1d3Z (and other violators) demoting them to negative user space where the Dynamic Extraction and Violator Inventorying Librarian (DEVIL) takes over and restricts the offending party by replacing their keyboard map with values retrieved from /dev/random and forcing all of their processes to execute at negative NICE values.

    So my question is, do I release my GOD, ANGEL and DEVIL modules as an Open Source solution, or do I follow the guidance of RMS and follow the practices of the Free Software Foundation?

    Oops, I forgot the GRAIN OF SALT tags. Forgive me.
  • glibc is under the LGPL, not the GPL. There is no conflict between the LGPL and the old BSDL.

    "mr" has a long history of spreading untruths about the FSF on /.. It seems clear that he is on some sort of personal vendeta, where truth no longer matter.

  • by Elgon ( 234306 ) on Sunday October 22, 2000 @09:46AM (#685543)

    thanks for the link, unfortunately having read the article I now have concluded that Richard Stallman is a bit gone. Basically, his 'freedoms' are as constricting to others as certain current licensing practices are now.

    I develop a program, spending my time and energy so to do. I need to eat, drink, surf and play Quake - and to do so I need to pay my electricity and grocery bills. How do I then make any money to repay my time and effort to enable me to live?

    Merely because Mr./Dr./Prof. Stallman and others feel that they can devote their time to developing free software doesn't mean that all should be forced to.

    As far as I can tell, his politics are merely the other extreme to Microsoft's and therefore just as suspect.

  • All free software is also open source, using RMS' definitions. You are allowed (morally and legally) to charge money for developing free (open source) software. RMS does so himself.

    He is not proposing anyone should starve to create software. Nobody has starved to create Linux, GCC, or Apache, which are all quite impressive feats of software engineering.

    PS: We don't need your "new license", it is basic copyright law. Your basic problem seems to be that RMS excercises his freedom of speech, to suggest other people what they do with their software.
  • by Markar ( 154019 ) on Sunday October 22, 2000 @09:48AM (#685549)
    why he didn't contact Bruce Perens, instead of richard Stallman? Richard told him he was a 'Free Software' advocate and that his answer would be based upon that. RMS made many attempts (sucessfully)to steer him to sources that explain 'Free Software.'

    Had he asked Bruce Perens his question about 'Open Source Software,' he would probably have gotten an answer in reply to his first e-mail. Oh well! It was an interesting read :-)

  • by Svartalf ( 2997 ) on Sunday October 22, 2000 @10:05AM (#685554) Homepage
    The moment that anyone working on Crystal Space signs the NDA, there can be no safe clean-room implementation. The court will likely NOT believe that you did it clean-room.

    Frankly speaking, while the PS2 support would be cool, I don't think that it's worth risking the Free Software aspects of Crystal Space (It's LGPLed!) to get "support" that's dubious at best (I mean, let's face it, CS is NOT ready for primetime yet- why are we even talking about this?). I'd wait, get it rocking and then use the games that are made by it as a cudgel to make Sony either make their own closed source driver for it or release the details without an NDA. Anything less is not really a good thing.
  • by kaisyain ( 15013 ) on Sunday October 22, 2000 @10:09AM (#685557)
    I'm surprised you read long enough to get past his childish "If you don't call it Free Software instead of Open Source I'm going to pretend I don't know what you're asking about."

    In particular Mail 5: Jorrit Tyberghein -> Richard Stallman:

    Note that in the first regards I'm asking a question about the LGPL license.

    Five emails into this exchange and RMS hasn't bothered to answer this guy's extremely basic and painfully obvious question all because the guy said Open Source.

    I also liked the end of Mail 11 when Jorrit Tyberghein begins to wonder what's the difference between writing software that depends on a closed source PS2 bridge and writing software that depends on a closed source libc or closed source X server and RMS lamely comes back with "if I can't write truly free software then I write no software". One wonders how he reconciles this with writing a gcc that supports closed source operating systems.
  • by luge ( 4808 ) <slashdot&tieguy,org> on Sunday October 22, 2000 @09:55AM (#685584) Homepage
    I think you (and most others) misunderstand RMS's goals when he advocates the use of GNU/Linux. This isn't about personal recognition for him- it is about spreading the understanding that without the philosophy of GNU, Linux would not have happened. Look at all the newbies who come to Linux and know who Linus is but don't understand thing one about free speech v. free beer. If they were told up front "you are installing GNU/Linux" they might have at least some curiousity to understand what GNU is and what GNU stands for. They might be more willing to stand up for principles and more willing to fight against the creeping corporatism infecting open source. Instead, because they are told merely that they are using "Linux" they never seek to understand what "free" is and ought to mean. That is what Stallman wishes would happen, and that is why he insists on using GNU/Linux. And that's why I do, too, especially when I'm around people who I know don't understand the libre v. gratis. It must be hard for Stallman to see things come this close to being a situation where the world really is safe for libre software, but it isn't because people are too dense to see the importance of words.

The party adjourned to a hot tub, yes. Fully clothed, I might add. -- IBM employee, testifying in California State Supreme Court