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GNU is Not Unix

Stallman And Bero Interviewed 262

Juraj Bednar writes: "I have done two interviews: one with Bero from RedHat and one with Richard Stallman, the GNU and FSF founder. I usually write in my native language, but since these interviews were done in English, I asked myself why not to share them" Readers may want to also visit Bero's shared-source.com, and bookmark it as a FUD antidote.
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Stallman And Bero Interviewed

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  • Q: For example when Borland introduced Kylix for GNU/Linux, we'll see a software, that is itself free, but can't be built with free tools. Do you consider this really a free software?

    A (Stallman): It is free software, but not usable in a free operating system, not available to people who want to keep their freedom


    I can understand Stallman being annoyed that Kylix is a free-as-in-beer closed source compiler. Still, this is a tool for generating free-as-in-speech software (or non-free commercial software, developer's choice). Does Stallman not understand the difference between Delphi (for programs running under MS Windows) and Kylix (for programs running under GNU/Linux, as Mr. Bednar so tactfully called it during the Stallman interview)?

    The previous question is a more general one about non-free compilers. Stallman described software compilable only with a non-free compiler as something that "can't run on a non-free platform ... useless in the Free World." (He then pats himself on the back for having written the GNU C compiler.)

    Stallman considers "GNU/Linux" to be a free operating system, right? Does he consider an installation non-free if every byte can't be generated from free source code?
  • "Q: Do you think, that the idea of free software will survive or we'll be eaten by software companies and proprietary software?"

    Let's hope the hell its survives then!

  • by osgeek ( 239988 ) on Monday August 06, 2001 @03:22AM (#2126498) Homepage Journal
    I just have to shake my head and chuckle whenever I read anything from Stallman. Does he always have to be so intense and extreme?

    I mean, I like "Free" software, and I've devoted some of my time to its creation and improvement - but when I see Stallman throwing around the word "freedom" as though the only thing between utopia and the world are those evil non-free software writers, I'm just more than a bit turned off to the rest of his message.

    Free software is great for hackers sharing some code and for people who just like doing things that way. But it's not always the answer. Who's going to write the crappy quilting software that my 60-year-old mom enjoys using so much? A bunch of Linux heads? Yeah, right. If someone wants to write a piece of quilting software and sell it to my mom without giving away the source, than more power to them.

    I think the root of this problem is Stallman's propensity to use a concept that's best maintained in a relative sense in an absolute sense. If I have absolute freedom to do anything I want, I can bash your skull in with a shovel. Yeah, now that's real freedom, right? Oops?

    As with many things in life, freedom is best when it's balanced properly. As computer people, we probably like the whole binary concept, and we think it'd be great to have something like "freedom" be an on or off thing. Real life is just a bit more complicated than that.
  • "I usually write in my native language, but since these interviews were done in English, I asked myself why not to share them"

    The scary thought is, for most of the geeks out there, what do they consider their native language? How long before we get entire interviews in Perl?

    Humourous example ommited because of lameness filter and general poor quality of my Perl.

  • when asked wether GNU was similar to communism RMS said it wasn't really like the Soviet Bloc at all.. that's not really answering the question... but I'm sure he's answered it somewhere else before.. because every time I read his FSF philosophy stuff I think of communism... I need some pointers to places that can help clear this up...
  • Basic Politics (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I disagree with RMS more often than I agree with him, however, calling him a 'communist' or saying that open-source/free software has 'alot in common with communism'shows that you have not even the slightest clue as to what communism or probably any other political view/party is. open-source/free software is all about *voulentary* cooperation, and people *choosing* to work together, and people *choosing* to give part or all of their creative work to the masses. Socialism and especially communism, have absoultley nothing in common with that at all. Socialism and communism *force* you to give up your rights to your creative works, and *force* you to work together with others. open-source/free software, to give an analogy, is like donating money to your favorite cause, so you can help it reach a goal, or solve a problem Communism/socialism, is when you find that a large amount of money has been taken from your pay check, and parts of that money go towards a cause, maybe helping out not so well off people in another country, or paying to keep people on welfare (US residents only). So being against communism/socialism does *not* mean you are against sharing and voulentary cooperation, it means you are against being forced to "cooperate" through taxation, loss of ownership, having your house destroyed to allow for a road to be made, the selective service etc. Anyone well versed in politics will tell you that open-source/free software has the most in common with Anarchism and especially with Libertarian ideals. RMS, ESR, and all other open-source/free software "representitives" advocate *voulentary* cooperation, that is, people cooperating and working together from the bottom up, not "cooperation" and extortion of property/funds imposed by the government from the top down.
  • by Louis Savain ( 65843 ) on Sunday August 05, 2001 @08:31PM (#2163012) Homepage
    Richard Stallman: With free software, you are free to make a modified version and use it, and free to publish the modified version if you want to, but you are not required to publish it. That's you choice.

    Freedom is the key. Intellectual property owners accuse those who copy the stuff they publish of stealing their property. They want to prosecute (persecute is a better term) those who do, fine them and/or put them in jail like common thieves.

    My question is this, who's going to prosecute IP owners who steal my freedom?

    Let's face it, if you can't put a fence around it, or chain it, or lock it up in some manner, it does not belong to you. It does not matter if it's music, writings, software, ideas, inventions, drawings or what have you. Once you release it, it becomes like the air that we breathe: it belongs to nobody and to everybody.

    You say, "Well, I worked hard and I must get paid for my work." Right. Well there are a million things in society that you never paid a scent for and you enjoy them freely. Time for you give something back. "Well", you say "how am I gonna make a living?" Good question. It is one that you need to ask your governement.

    They instituted the slavery system that you live and work in. Tell them it's no good. Tell them that everybody should be given a piece of the earth, an estate if you will, for you and your descendents. Ask them what they're going to do when AI and advanced technologies finally make human labor obsolete. How is the slave system going to work then? What will your worthless intellectual property going to support you then?
    • slavery system? (Score:1, Insightful)

      by NineNine ( 235196 )
      This nutball gets 'insightful'? This guy has obviously skipped his medication today, and he gets 'insightful'?
    • Let's face it, if you can't put a fence around it, or chain it, or lock it up in some manner, it does not belong to you. It does not matter if it's music, writings, software, ideas, inventions, drawings or what have you. Once you release it, it becomes like the air that we breathe: it belongs to nobody and to everybody.

      Intellectual property can be fenced/locked up. It's called "copyright". Let's say I'm a professional musician. You copy my music without paying for it so I persecute you like a common thief. That's because you are a common thief. Intellectual property only has value by virtue of the fact that other people want it but can't get it without paying for it, so by copying my music you are depriving me of the one thing I produce that has any value.

      Let's say there is no intellectual property. This means that music has no value, which in turn means that there is no music industry, which means there is no music available to people who have no musical talent. Sounds kind of dull to me.

      If all software was free, then the ability to write computer programs has no value which means that nobody would do it, or at least people would only do it as a hobby. The quality and variety of software would suffer. Who wants to write a payroll package? Who wants to spend their time QA'ing software?

    • Let's face it, if you can't put a fence around it, or chain it, or lock it up in some manner, it does not belong to you. It does not matter if it's music, writings, software, ideas, inventions, drawings or what have you. Once you release it, it becomes like the air that we breathe: it belongs to nobody and to everybody.

      Property and its offspring intellectual property are simply societal constructs. We live with them by convention, and I see no basis to just disregard intellectual property because you don't like it. We could just as easily say, "Let's face it, if you leave your car in a public parking lot, it belongs to nobody and to everybody." But would society benefit from such a rule?

      Personally, I think that society is better off with property rights, including some measure of intellectual property rights. Human motivation is just way too bound up with obtaining things to do with out such basic tenets.
    • It's not as simple as all that.

      For instance, I would like Linux to be used even by people who sell proprietary apps. If they cannot do this for fear of having to Open Source those proprietary apps, Linux will not take off. This is the FUD that MS is sowing, and it needs to be answered with real argument, not with complaints about slavery and non-sentences like "What will your worthless intellectual property going to support you then?".

      Those real arguments could be, for instance: "Point out which elements in a typical distro you can use without having to Open Source your proprietary app." We can be constructive and in doing so, achieve much more free software adoption.

      Michael

      • The "open Source is a virus" argument is completely spurious.

        When a fully lawyer-ed up company like IBM is prepared to release versions of its software on LINUX (free to non-comercila users -- but no source code!).

        Among the products released on Linux are DB2, MQ & Websphere which togther account for about half of IBMs considerable software revenues.

        If IBM seriously considered that I might be able to claim all the source code for a major revenue generating produc there is no way they would be releasing it on Linux.

        • ...the point is, IBM are indeed super lawyered-up. The perception is, you need a lwayer for this stuff. And that will hurt the adoption of Open Source.

          Take my company, for instance. We have one product that runs on an Open Source platform. To see where we stand legally, I would really like a lawyer to look at it. And who needs that? Yet is it necessary, as one day soon a competitir may call and say "can I have your source code please?" - and we need to then know what to do. The FUD is based on some real facts.

          Michael

          • Is it an app? If so, ignore the lawyer, just do it. Apps are NOT required to be GPL'd. Oracle sells them, Sybase sells them, IBM sells them, . . .

            If it's a kernel mod, then you need the lawyer. But first of all, ask yourself - what are you selling? And what, exactly would be the damage from Open Source? Example: You're doing a HW board, and need a driver. Fine. That HW is yours. To copy it, someone would need to literally reverse-engineer the HW, AND have the manufacturing capability to build it economically. Oh, and while they're reverse engineering, you're building a better board.

            OK, you say, but wouldn't the driver give them info? Well, if they've got the talent & money to reverse engineer the board, they've got the talent & money to RE the driver (as opposed to all those Linux geeks with no money who RE the drivers). So, no, it doesn't prevent them from Reverse Engineering it.

            However, let's look at what you lose by not Open Sourcing (GPLing - and yes, I mean this license) the driver. Remember, you DON'T make money on the driver - it's a cost of building the HW, because without it, the board is useless. So, as a cost, you want to minimize it. By not Open Sourcing it, only YOU can build & fix the driver. I.e. you have all the cost. By GPL'ing it, you enlist the rest of the community - i.e. more developers, less cost.

            Now, I specifically said GPL. Why? Because, if you Open Source via, say BSD license, you run the risk of your competitors using the code, improving it, and NOT giving back the changes. However, by GPL'ing it, you can be certain that, if anyone improves the code, and releases the improved code, you have as much right to it as anyone else on the distro list.

      • "Point out which elements in a typical distro you can use without having to Open Source your proprietary app." We can be constructive and in doing so, achieve much more free software adoption.

        But the goal is not "more free software adoption" but "more free software". As such, telling people how to port their proprietary software to free systems in counter productive.

        • I think that if you get more Open Source adoption, you get more Open Source development.

          Also, it seems to me that development of apps that run on Open Source Operating SYstems (GNU/Linux) lead to adoptions of these operating systems. In fact, the lack of apps is the one major thing holding back Linux and with it, Open Source.

          Michael

    • by Alpha State ( 89105 ) on Sunday August 05, 2001 @08:59PM (#2163073) Homepage

      There is value in the capitalist system, I'm sure most people would agree. To me the value is this: in the capitalist system if I contribute to society by producing something of value, I make money. If I am intelligent and work hard I can make a very good living, even become "rich". Those who are too lazy to contribute do not make money. Thus there is a very high incentive to do something worthwhile. Of course, this is in theory and there are plenty of holes in the system, but it does work.

      If there is no intellectual property, the capitalist system will not work for it. Thus there will be no incentive to work on IP and loafers will get a free ride. I do not believe this really appplies to free software because it is produced by cooperation between people who need the software, I write a program because I want to use it and share it because I wish to, and it may make the program better.

      There are other ways to provide incentive for IP, such as the above, or commissioned work, or street performer protocols, etc. But they won't work for every kind of IP, and there will be big problems in integrating with the capitalist system.

      I agree that IP laws are becoming more draconian, but before the relatively recent WIPO treaties and associated laws there was a fairly good balance between the needs of IP producers and consumers. What will happen when this balance is disturbed? I predict that IP consumers (ie. the general public) will become more and more willing to break the restrictively laws. It could end messily unless the laws are changed, just like most regimes who have sought to enslave their citizens.

      • Capitalism (Score:2, Insightful)

        by FredGray ( 305594 )
        Those who are too lazy to contribute do not make money. Thus there is a very high incentive to do something worthwhile. Of course, this is in theory and there are plenty of holes in the system, but it does work.

        The most obvious problem is that plenty of hard-working people don't make enough money to afford decent housing, food, and medical care. Meanwhile, some people who seem much lazier live in luxury.

        $6/hour * 40 hours/week * 50 weeks/year = $12000/year. That's barely enough to live some places in the U.S. (here in Champaign-Urbana, IL, for example), but definitely not in major urban areas.

      • Capitalism, just like communism, is slavery. Communism confiscates all property and enslaves everybody. Capitalism gives all property to the givernment and a few super rich and enslaves the rest. The only value is to the slave masters. Unless you own incoime property, you are a slave. If you have to go to work for someone to make a living, you are a slave. If you think your taz burden is only 30%, think again. If you count all the hidden taxes, it's more like 60 or 70%. You are a slave and you don't even know it.

        The earth has existed for billions of years before homo sapiens showed up. It belongs to nobody and should not be bought and sold as property. It should not be divided for a price. Doing so invariably ends up putting the vast majority of people into abject poverty and servitude because a few ends up owning 90% of the land and its wealth and resources. The land and its wheath should be divided as an inheritance to be passed to our children and their children. What we do with our piece of the pie is up to us. Demand freedom! Always!
        • Dude, put down the bong and chill out. You're making Stallman's interview responses sound reasonable and calm. I know the '60s were rough, but shit, man, it's time to move on.

          By the way, the US is what we call a "mixed economy". Real communism places all property in trust of the government (which is really just "the working class"); real capitalism doesn't let the government take anyone's property. If the US were a true free-market capitalist economy there'd be no income taxes, a very small fed. gov't., and we'd probably all be working in factories or massive farms for 50 cents an hour and being beaten by security guards for complaining.

          I may take it up the ass when they calculate my paycheck, and I may have to (gasp!) pay for the music I listen to, but I still enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world. Works for me.

          -Nat
          • Real communism places all property in trust of the government (which is really just "the working class"); real capitalism doesn't let the government take anyone's property.

            Actually, these are philosophical distinctions which have little to do with the actual practice of either system.

            "Communism" in the Soviet or Chinese sense is a political system where the government controls all aspects of political and economic life and many aspects of social life. Decisions are made at high levels and passed down. The schools and youth organizations are designed to indoctrinate children and to identify and cultivate those children who show promise through their devotion to the communist philosophy. This system is also designed to discourage or punish independent or different thinking.

            The U.S. system is not so different in many respoects, e.g. schools do a lot of indoctrination and peers discourage different thinking. However, economic organization is delegated to the "private sector," which is mainly dominated by a few large corporations with interlocking ownership (via the stock market) which discourages any real competition. Again, decisions are made at high levels by unaccountable "business leaders" who hand them down to corporate peons to be executed. We have a government that is accountable to the people, but elections are so swayed by corporate money that representatives' allegiance is divided between their voters and their financial sponsors. Small enterprise is alive, but overall it has little power to control the direction our economy heads, which makes it hopelessly vulnerable to the encroachement of big business on sectors traditionally dominated by small business: witness the spread of corporate restaurants, drug stores, grocery stores, farms, etc. in recent years. This is the spread of top-down, unaccountable economic control.

            Where does the government play into this "capitalist" system? Sometimes as a referee, but very often as an accomplice that helps corporations make even more money, from the local scale (say, hiring a favorite contruction company for government projects and giving them extra pork for the job), all the way up to handouts by the federal government. Take Exxon, for example, who was ordered to pay for the Valdez cleanup, but was then allowed not to pay any taxes to make up for their losses. In fact, taxes from previous years were refunded. So, in effect the government simply handed them a lump of cash for the inconvenience of having to comply with the law.

            I wonder if I can get some back taxes refunded this year to pay for my parking tickets.

            But, more importantly for our discussion here, the real implication of our system is that government and Big Business go hand-in-hand, and the implication for Free Software is grave: the government has already begun passing laws that deliberately threaten our freedom to share code amongst ourselves according to the terms that we choose. This is not because it threatens the economy, it is because it threatens the vested interests of a certain group of rich people who aren't making money as fast as they would like to.

            </rant>

        • by osgeek ( 239988 ) on Monday August 06, 2001 @04:10AM (#2135784) Homepage Journal
          The land and its wheath should be divided as an inheritance to be passed to our children and their children. What we do with our piece of the pie is up to us. Demand freedom! Always!

          So, how is this division of land being decided, kind of a divide the area of the earth by the number of people on it and we each get a slice of that size?

          • Do I get to keep my slice for as long as I live?
          • Can I give my kids only my slice, or can I give them pieces of other peoples' slices as well?
          • Will there be some sort of redivision of the earth at some point?
          • If my next-door neighbor breeds like a fucking rabbit and has like 26 kids on his slice, do they all have to make do with less?
          • Can I trade my slice to someone else for some other type of goods or service?
          • If I can do whatever I want with my slice and I give it away, where do I sleep? Am I fucked?
          • I'm really into PCBs, can I pollute the hell out of my slice?
          • If I die and I don't have kids, who gets my slice?
        • It belongs to nobody and should not be bought and sold as property ... The land and its wheath should be divided as an inheritance to be passed to our children and their children.

          Your system sounds great. As one of the first to sign on, I'm taking dibs on a particular stretch of beach on Maui that I'm really fond of.

          My recommendation to anyone reading this is to sign up for your parcel before all the good spots are gone. You don't want to be stuck with a radioactively contanimated section of desert in a former part of the Soviet Bloc.

        • Unless you own incoime property, you are a slave. If you have to go to work for someone to make a living, you are a slave. If you think your taz burden is only 30%, think again. If you count all the hidden taxes, it's more like 60 or 70%. You are a slave and you don't even know it.

          You are right, by your own definition of slavery. I have to work to make a living, but I have absolute freedom in how I choose to do it (although some choices will make me less well off than others). I can choose to earn income on my wealth or I can choose to spend it as I see fit. I know some people start better off than me, and have to do no work in order to live but I do not envy them - they have chosen to accomplish nothing. If everyone was "free" by your definition, no work would be done - each person would be scratching around in the dirt trying to grow enough food for himself to survive. If that is freedom, give me slavery.

          As for taxes, this is how my society has chosen to create things cooperatively. I may not agree with all the ways this money is spent, but if people did not pay them we would have no transport systems, schools, law enforcement or other common services. Some things I can accomplish on my own, for other things I must rely on my society. This also includes relieving poverty and hardship - my country does not have people starving to death, mainly because of taxes.

          The earth has existed for billions of years before homo sapiens showed up. It belongs to nobody and should not be bought and sold as property. It should not be divided for a price. Doing so invariably ends up putting the vast majority of people into abject poverty and servitude because a few ends up owning 90% of the land and its wealth and resources. The land and its wheath should be divided as an inheritance to be passed to our children and their children. What we do with our piece of the pie is up to us. Demand freedom! Always!

          So I cannot sell my land to another person, becuase that would give them an unfair advantage? If everyone must tend my own crops, who is going to do all the other jobs? Don't I have the freedom to do something other than run my land? What the hell kind of system is this anyway?

          I understand the problems you are pointing out, but I do not understand your solution. If you are advocating all ownership passing to common property upon death, that is an interesting concept but how will stop people avoiding it? If you wish to stop corporations from owning assets, OK but how is business going to be conducted?

  • by Faux_Pseudo ( 141152 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `oduesP.xuaF'> on Sunday August 05, 2001 @09:00PM (#2163078) Homepage
    If you read the whole shared-source.com page there is a section on "if open source is so unsafe then hack this computer". It lists all of the software and version numbers the box is running.

    It would be nice if a MS website where able to be that bold.
    • by DeeKayWon ( 155842 ) on Sunday August 05, 2001 @09:15PM (#2163106)
      Right here. [slashdot.org]
  • by bwalling ( 195998 ) on Sunday August 05, 2001 @09:09PM (#2163091) Homepage
    I'm serious about this - I'm not trying to be a troll.

    If software is to be free, then who can we expect to write it. Obviously, I have a need for a paycheck. Since I have this need, I have an employer. In order for my employer to pay me, I have to contribute to their revenue.

    Is it reasonable for companies to only make money from services, and to offer the software for free? Are there companies who are successfully doing this? (Yes I saw the RedHat Quarterly report, but that was a little number fudging - they still lost money). Do we just have to wait out a certain transition period before the idea of Free Software pervasively existing is realistic?
    • The question is really more like: "_Why_ will anyone write software, if it's Free?"

      ESR has the answer to this.

      I saw him speak to a roomfull of maybe 400 people.
      "How many of you", he asks, "write software for a living?"

      4 out of 5 hands go up.

      "How many of your companies, your jobs, depend on the _sale_ of that software?"
      Maybe a dozen hands are left.

      Truly, 95% at least of the software development going on is done in house, to solve in-house problems, and is never sold.
      None of the stuff I've ever written or maintained was ever sold. To anybody. For any price. The _output_ of that software is my boss' product, but the software itself is so specialized it's completely unsalable.

      As a straw poll, how many of you develop software for _sale_, and how many develop software that is used completely inside your company?

      Hey, Rob: This might be a good topic for a /. poll.

      For commodity software - OS, compilers, utilities, GUIs, drivers, et al, the Free Software model has demonstrated itself to be perfectly viable. There's a _large_ community of people out there willing to create, and share, the things that everybody needs.

      Specialized applications - now that's what software authors can make their living on.
    • If software is to be free, then who can we expect to write it.

      Someone who needs it - most free software projects have started out by someone deciding he needs something for himself and just coding it up.
    • by dmaxwell ( 43234 ) on Sunday August 05, 2001 @09:56PM (#2163232)
      There is a certain prevalent mentality that assumes the only significant motivation for doing anything is the desire to make money. There are a great many craftsmen (and women, I know) who would not say money is their prime reason to be doing what they are doing. Most of the best art falls in this category. The stuff made primarily for BIG SALES tends to suck. Britney Spears anybody?

      Some people write this stuff because it is fun to run their own code. Others do it because the software in ancillary to their true goals. The Apache web server came about this way. Apache wasn't developed to make Webserver Inc a pile of money. Some webadmins needed a httpd daemon that was reliable and featureful. The original Linux kernel that Linus made available to his fellow hackers wasn't going to make anybody mounds of cash: it would barely boot a 386. The additions from volunteers was what made it valuable.

      I'll agree that anybody who wants to make money trying to sell something that is free is on a fools errand. However there is nothing wrong in taking something free and using it as part of something larger that is sold. The school district that I work for uses a product called the Firebox. It is not marketed strictly as a Linux box. It is sold as an easily configured firewall and proxy server. The middle school tech guy loves that thing. Oh yeah, and they pay the guy who works on iptables. IBM and SUN are hardware companies and are all for anything that helps them sell hardware. Incidentally, the bulk of RedHat's profit doesn't come from selling the boxed distro. They also sell customization and consulting services.

      Open source only fails to make sense to those who sell boxed software. It is a moneymaking or moneysaving opportunity for others with different models. Think about independent music for a monent. With the RIAA gone there wouldn't be many pop music multimillionaires. There would be and ARE a lot of people who earn honest livings writing and performing. The same is true of open source. No one will be a multibillionaire selling it but it will enable many others to earn decent livings.
      • I own a small software company. I use free software to build my products (it's an web based ASP). But, I charge a HELL of a lot of money for products and services. And no, they don't get the source. I have sent diff patches in for software that I use and have found bugs in or fixed, but that's it.

        Why don't I give my code and products away? Because I wouldn't have a business if I did. I sell goods to make money.. if it wasn't software it would be Beans or Cabbage. Whatever.

        Monopolies will come and go, but as long as there is a need for premium or niche services (almost any business now days).. there will be commercial software and there will be people getting rich.

        Unfortunately (the brutal truth).. the people who are business minded are FEEDING on people like us.
        • Unfortunately (the brutal truth).. the people who are business minded are FEEDING on people like us.

          You say this like it's a bad thing. Dung beetles feed on what I produce, too (well, not literally, but they could), but you don't hear too many people complaining.

          OSS only works for commodity software. Kernels. Web servers. Mail servers. Toolkits. Stuff that people use to get other forms of business done. The software you're writing is not a commodity, so you can sell it. But you rely on a certain level of infrastructure (Apache, say), so it's in your interests to fix Apache if it's causing you a problem. You could fork Apache, and start bundling Pengo-httpd with your product, but who would want that?
    • If software is to be free, then who can we expect to write it.

      I dunno, me? I enjoy writing programs. I want to give them away for free. I enjoy this because free software helps the world.

      You forget that some programmers enjoy programming as a hobby. I'm definitely not the only one. So who will write this free software? Everyone, of course. 99% of the free software out there is written by hobbyists.

      -Justin
      Psi [jabbercentral.com] - an ICQ-like Jabber client
    • If software is to be free, then who can we expect to write it. Obviously, I have a need for a paycheck. Since I have this need, I have an employer. In order for my employer to pay me, I have to contribute to their revenue.

      You have made the classic mistake (and it's an honest and reasonable one given the dual meaning of free) of software that is available at no charge with software that's free of restrictions. Mr. Stallman has never suggested that it's wrong to charge money for software (to the contrary [gnu.org], in fact), only that it should not have obnoxious restrictions placed on it. RedHat, Mandrake, et. al (even non-proft Debian) charge money for Free Software and it doesn't make it non-free.

      And, of course, there are ways of funding free software other than trying to sell it. Linus is being paid partly to hack Linux because his employers think that it will help sell their products (microprocessors). Larry Wall is being paid to hack Perl because his employer thinks that it will help them sell their product (reference books). And now a number of big companies like IBM and Sun are paying developers to write Free Software at least in part because they think that it will help them sell their products (mostly expensive hardware).

      • I don't think what he said was a mistake.

        Free as in Speech(which is a misnomer of it's own) implies Free as in Beer. Read the GPL and see what it says on your rights for redistribution of the work.

        Also Stallman has made it pretty clear that he doesn't feel programmers should be paid. He rails about it, calling it greedy, etc. This is certainly the case in the early versions of the GNU Manifesto, although he's recently revised it to be less harsh. At any rate, I think it's clear especially after reading Levy's book what motivates Stallman and it is a desire to prevent people from making money off software.
        • I think that if you're going to write something like this, you should really provide some evidence to back it up. For example, why is Free as in Speech a "misnomer"?

          As for your last paragraph, the poster you're replying to gave a link [gnu.org] which sets out the FSF's views on selling free software. Can you give us some idea of what Levy says that contradicts that? Without this it's hard to see why you would believe Levy (whoever he is) when you don't believe what Stallman's own organization says.


          Failure is its own reward.

          • The FSF's views on selling software are childishly innocent and trusting of society. When redistribution is essentially unrestricted, you have an essentially infinite supply of the product. Infinite supply means that demand no longer affects the price...and the price drops to zero. We already see this with proprietary software...many people pirate Windows, Photoshop, whatever on a regular basis. The only time most people will bother to pay up is when threatened with legal action. If the license allows unrestricted redistribution, that club is not there. The only people who will pay for free software (meaning just the software, not any services/documentation/whatever) will be those who want to support the people/companies making it...and people with that mindset are pretty rare.

            • I don't think the FSF is at all naive.

              They give their view on selling software because they are trying to be deceptive. They know exactly what they are doing, but want to misdirect criticism.

              It's kind of weird for me as I'm a dyed in the wool Liberal Democrat. But yet I can see in the tactics of the FSF the same things which the GOP has long accused liberals of doing.

              • Earlier in this thread, I did you the courtesy of assuming that you were a serious poster with a serious opinion. But this post is purely and simply a troll. You cannot seriously claim that Stallman and the FSF are trying deceive people, as you can barely go a week without an opinion of theirs being promulgated through the Linux community. If you do find that you've not heard from them in a while, there's a whole website [fsf.org] dedicated to a detailed explanation of their philosophy.

                Perhaps I've misjudged your intentions. If so, please post an explanation of this comment of yours:

                They give their view on selling software because they are trying to be deceptive. They know exactly what they are doing, but want to misdirect criticism.

                If you can't provide an example of how the FSF is deceiving people, could I suggest that you should think a little harder before posting?


                Failure is its own reward.

                • Interesting.

                  I have already responded to you in a different message providing you quotations from the GNU website backing up my opinion of them.

                  Yet you choose to respond to this other message with further requests for clarification.

                  Why exactly do you feel you have to rely on tactics of misdirection instead of countering the statements on their own merit?

                  It doesn't sound to me like you are a serious poster at all.
          • It amazes me how eagerly people will believe that the kool-aid they are being fed doesn't contain poison. Why do you find my points to be so controversial that I need to back them up? Have you never bothered to think about these issues yourself?

            Free as in Speech is clearly a misnomer, as Free Software has little if anything to do with Free Speech. It's a rather poor attempt to misdirect criticism by wrapping oneself in the flag.

            As far as my last paragraph, maybe you need to go read the GNU Manifesto again:

            "What the facts show is that people will program for reasons other than riches; but if given a chance to make a lot of money as well, they will come to expect and demand it. Low-paying organizations do poorly in competition with high-paying ones, but they do not have to do badly if the high-paying ones are banned. "

            Are you familiar with the definition of the word banned?

            Go read Levy on your own.
    • Almost all of Linux and BSD was written simply because there was a giagantic need to have a flexible OS freely available and no software around to fill the void. People got together and wrote it because who else but them was going to?

      These days there is still that kind of modivation present(ie. someone releases new hardware someone has to write a driver for it or its just dead weight in the box). But also present is the tinkering and experimentation. Do you want to experiment with different scheduling methods in the kernel? Go for it! Did you hear about some wacky advanced method for heap walk allocation and want to implement it? Go for it! Where else are you going to try this on? Windows? Bwahahahah! ^_^
    • by Chris Johnson ( 580 ) on Sunday August 05, 2001 @11:36PM (#2163491) Homepage Journal
      Easy: people.

      What gives you the notion that writing software must be constrained to programmers?

      At http://www.airwindows.com/dithering/index.html [airwindows.com] you will find an elaborate program for high-end digital audio mastering from >16bit word lengths. It includes a number of very killer vertical-market type features like multiband sidechain compression. It does NOT have remotely professional file-reading and writing, because those are more 'real programmer' things, and I'm not a 'real programmer'. However, no 'real programmer' has shown any interest in writing such an app, and the market is so tiny that the few people building stuff for it tend to charge in the kilobucks- and the app I did is GPLed and just to have it costs nothing.

      So it is not a question of 'so if you wanted said mastering software, how would get it if nobody will write it without money?'. Surprise! Nobody wrote it anyway. The 'market' did not lead to any such software existing, even though I needed it desperately.

      And it is not a question of 'yeah, right, like a programmer is going to do hard work like that for free': clue jet coming in on runway six, a programmer didn't do that. I did. It's not done in the way you'd want to sell as shrinkwrapped greedware, but then the market's too small anyhow. The point is, this program _exists_ and grows and evolves based on just one person's ability to mostly sort of program. It's GPLed making it that much easier for the _next_ person who has a personal task to accomplish, to get a head start. And that's how it goes...

      I really have little patience for programmers. Programmers are like the people who put the spyware boobytrap 'dial up and invalidate the registration number if the person's reinstalled the program too many times' code into an mp3 player app that I _bought_ and ended up demanding my money back on. There's a lot that you don't really need a programmer for- you need one for good games, for serious server apps, for the _computery_ stuff, but there's a million other things that can be done more crudely by just regular people with a bit of determination.

      (I'm not _really_ against programmers- not like that- but I grow very sick and tired of the 'software can't be free, how will you survive without paying US?!?' refrain. Maybe you're not as indispensable as you think.)

  • RMS phoned it in (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gmhowell ( 26755 ) <gmhowell@gmail.com> on Sunday August 05, 2001 @09:18PM (#2163114) Homepage Journal
    Hey, unlike many, I like what Stallman says, and frequently how he says it. But it looks like Stallman just copied and pasted some boilerplate. Heck, I bet Jim Allchin could have written those responses to the question on behalf of Stallman:)

    But seriously, I think the interviewer wanted a solid answer in the first question: How does your view help me? We got the standard "someone can make a change". Maybe a better question is: how will this help my grandmother?

    • by stevens ( 84346 ) on Sunday August 05, 2001 @09:35PM (#2163159) Homepage
      But it looks like Stallman just copied and pasted some boilerplate.

      Well, he wasn't asked a question he hasn't answered five hundred times. I'll bet I could find decent answers to every question in that interview on the fsf website.

      If you want novel and thoughtful responses, ask novel and thoughtful questions.

  • FUD antidote? (Score:3, Informative)

    by bentini ( 161979 ) on Sunday August 05, 2001 @09:23PM (#2163129)
    This page is supposed to be an FUD antidote? What?

    This describes what Microsoft USED to do. Microsoft no longer restricts it to their biggest companies (or universities, which for a long time have had access, which noone here seems to realize), but instead allows anyone to look at WinCE code. You can even mess around with it, modify, recompile, as long as it's not for commercial use. This is pretty cool. You can hack with it, play around with it, etc., as long as you don't try to steal Microsoft's code.

    Granted, it's not open source by a long shot, but it is a way for Microsoft code to become friendlier.

    Oh, and if you check it out, they even allow you to use code in your own. So it's NOT the "Oh-my-god-if-your-seventeenth-cousand-thrice-remo ved-looks-at-this-you-can't-make-anything-more-tha n-shell-scripts-or-Linux-will-be-fucked." Indeed, they're willing to give you ideas.

    Shared source isn't what we're into, granted, but it is a lot nicer than we give it credit for. If we're going to be opinionated, let's at least be right.

    • This describes what Microsoft USED to do.

      It's what the initial announcement of "shared source" was like.

      The WinCE license happens to be a bit different and more open - precisely because of this, I've added a comment about it on the top of the page, leaving the rest of it intact because I assume further "shared source" code will fall under the terms from the original announcement (this is actually explained on shared-source.com/wince.html).

      WinCE is an end-of-lifed product, so it makes sense for them to release it under a slightly more sane license.

      I'm quite sure that if their cashcows (Windows, Office) become "Shared Source" at all, they'll be released under the original terms, that's why I didn't change the comment on the original announcement.
    • The very first paragraph of his page says that the Windows CE source code was released under a Shared Source license. A mere five sentences later (note that this is also five paragraphs later, since he's one of those idiots who uses a new paragraph for just about every single sentence he writes), he's telling us that Shared Source "gives only some selected (by Microsoft) large companies the permission to view parts of the source code [...]" This is also a point (entirely incorrect, by the way) that he continually harps upon. Is he senile or something, or did he forget what he wrote only 5 sentence earlier?

      As if that weren't enough for one sentence, he continues by saying, "[...] under the provision that it is not modified, compiled (turned into an executable file the computer rather than the programmer understands), or redistributed, in modified or unmodified form." Please note that this is complete bullshit, and anyone reading the short and very easy-to-understand license will see this immediately.

      Let me know if the rest of it has anything useful, but because he so bolloxed up the first page length of his article with lies, I'm not going to bother with the rest of it.

      • The very first paragraph of his page says that the Windows CE source code was released under a Shared Source license.

        And points to a new page that deals with the specifics of the WinCE license, which happens to be somewhat different (and closer to acceptable) than their original "shared source" announcement.

        The sentence you're referring to clearly states
        The first "Shared Source" code, Windows CE, has been released, and the license is slightly different from what the initial announcement made it look like. You can find a more detailed comment on the Windows CE Source License here..

        I've left the comments on the original announcement of "shared source" unchanged because I presume that any "shared source" code that does not belong to an End-of-lifed product like CE will be released under the original terms.
  • by selan ( 234261 )
    In the Stallman interview, he discussed several commercial companies that sell free software. I'm becoming very committed to the ideas of open source and, to an extent, free software. (It's very addictive--I find it harder and harder to go back to the closed source stuff.) However there are some points that I'm still trying to understand about the free software idea. These are sincere questions and I'm really not trying to troll here, so please have patience with me!

    RMS listed several companies that sell commercial free software. From what I understand, his idea is that software should be free as in speech but need not be free as in beer. As far as I have seen, the main ways to accomplish this and make money at free software are
    1. The source is free as in speech, but companies can sell compiled binary versions so the users don't have to go to the trouble of compiling their own.
    2. Some companies also charge for support, documentation and services, while the software itself is free as in speech.
    What I am trying to understand is how well this will play to general, non-technical users, the real market that needs to be conquered in order to compete with Microsoft et. al. and get a foothold in the industry.

    1. By giving away source and charging for binaries, the result is that the technical elite who can compile source will get free as in beer software, while the masses will have to pay. How can they be convinced that this is fair for them?
    2. Most traditional closed source companies (as well as in most industries) charge for the product and then provide support for free, and feel obligated to provide customer service. (Unfortunately this isn't always true today, but it was the traditional ideal.) How would everyday users accept the idea of receiving a free product and then having to pay to get it to work without feeling swindled?


    I think that in order for the free software/open source movements to succeed, they need to appeal to everyday users. I think that there also need to be mainstream companies that make money with free software so that the programmers creating the free software can do it as their day job. So please help me understand, in all sincerity, how we will accomplish this?
    • 1. By giving away source and charging for binaries, the result is that the technical elite who can compile source will get free as in beer software, while the masses will have to pay. How can they be convinced that this is fair for them?

      By looking at the prices. Those companies may be allowed to charge for the software, but there are limits on just how much they can get away with charging. You can get a RedHat boxed set for $30, which includes not just the OS proper but also a large suite of applications, games, and other goodies. That's a pretty good deal compared to Windows. And the price should be kept down to reasonable levels because the GPL ensures that the barrier to entry is very low. When anyone who wants can burn the CDs and sell them for as much money as they can get away with, the amount that they can get away with is necessarily limited.

      2. Most traditional closed source companies (as well as in most industries) charge for the product and then provide support for free, and feel obligated to provide customer service. (Unfortunately this isn't always true today, but it was the traditional ideal.) How would everyday users accept the idea of receiving a free product and then having to pay to get it to work without feeling swindled?

      I think that this is less of a problem than you'd think. As you correctly point out, the actual level of service that most companies now offer to their ordinary customers is pretty pathetic. Most people I know who run Windows don't ask Microsoft for support when they have a problem; instead they ask their computer savvy friend for help. My guess is that they'll do pretty much the same thing when they decide to give Free Software a try, and they may be very happy with the results. There are already lots of Linux Users Groups out there who are interested in helping newbies with their computers (though their goal tends to be more one of making generally computer savvy people who are unfamiliar with Linux into Linux gurus, rather than helping newbies with every little problem). If Free Software takes off in a big way those groups should get bigger and more able to provide help.

  • by joneshenry ( 9497 ) on Sunday August 05, 2001 @09:56PM (#2163231)
    I'm sorry but I don't believe that Bero is being completely accurate when he claims that the "GPL makes no claims to data generated, processed, or stored by something covered by it." According to the text of the GPL [gnu.org] "The act of running the Program is not restricted, and the output from the Program is covered only if its contents constitute a work based on the Program (independent of having been made by running the Program). Whether that is true depends on what the Program does." IANAL, but in my opinion, for a company to be completely safe about using the output of GPLed software, they must examine every line of the source code. The reason is that it is possible that the program will inject portions of itself into the output. An example is Bison whose license was modified. To quote documentation from an older version of Bison 1.20 [utah.edu] "Bison grammars can be used only in programs that are free software. This is in contrast to what happens with the GNU C compiler and the other GNU programming tools. The reason Bison is special is that the output of the Bison utility--the Bison parser file--contains a verbatim copy of a sizable piece of Bison, which is the code for the yyparse function. As a result, the Bison parser file is covered by the same copying conditions that cover Bison itself and the rest of the GNU system: any program containing it has to be distributed under the standard GNU copying conditions." The license was later changed [princeton.edu] in version 1.24 and beyond: "As of Bison version 1.24, we have changed the distribution terms for yyparse to permit using Bison's output in non-free programs. Formerly, Bison parsers could be used only in programs that were free software."
    • Well, I was thinking more along the lines of people implying that if you use a GPLed editor to write your code, you have to place the code under the GPL. I've heard some people actually making that claim, so I thought it was important to mention that it's not the case.
    • Bison is an interesting example, but as far as I know it is somewhat unique. And now that version is obsolete so the whole point is moot.

      The spirit of the GPL and precedents are pretty clear that the GPL does not put restrictions on data generated but only on derived works.

      Technically, of course, you are right there have been GPL programs where the output also had to be placed under the GPL. But I cant think of any GPL program included in a major distribution that has this problem now. Or perhaps I just havent looked far enough?

    • it is possible that the program will inject portions of itself into the output

      If you look in a Visual C++ header file, you will see something like this:

      Copyright (c) 19xx-19xx, Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.
      People love bringing up the Bison example to demonstrate that GPL code poses some sort of secret threat to take over everyone else's code. Yet people include header files in their C++ programs without worrying that their code will become a derived work of Microsoft's.

      Why is GNU held up to a higher standard than Microsoft?

      • What standard would you like to hold Microsoft to?

        Yes, their header files are copyrighted, so is the compiler and the libraries, etc.

        But which provision of the Visual C++ license do you find remotely similar to that from the bison example?
  • PHP? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Cardhore ( 216574 )
    Apparently these interviews are dynamically generated.
  • by reaper20 ( 23396 ) on Sunday August 05, 2001 @10:20PM (#2163310) Homepage
    I'm glad we finally get an interview with bero, one of the most underrated hackers out there imo, i've always been fascinated with the Bero Linux distribution from a while back and everything he's done with RH so far. I would have asked some other questions, so since we all know he reads slashdot I have a few questions:

    1) You apparantly host dot.kde.org and post regulary, though RH 'sponsors' GNOME. Anyone at redhat have any comments towards you? Hate mail? Unexpected nerf ambushes? Do they sign you up for GNOME mailing lists? Do they make fun of the 'KDE guy in the corner'? (BTW, this is what makes open source so cool, the freedom to choose what you want).

    2) Any of the ideas from bero linux make their way into the main RH distro? I know Mandrake did, but since RH is mostly conservative, I'd like to hear your opinion.

    3) Does it piss you off that every complaint about the gcc in RH is answered on your website and you have to post the URL for the last 2 red hat releases including the betas? (that must suck).

    4) You get paid to work on Linux, that rocks! What do you think needs the most attention?

    5) Any chance that prelinking stuff will make KDE2.2? How about any of the other RH packages?

    Thanks, and thanks for the kde daily builds ... they rock.
    • Thanks, and thanks for the kde daily builds ... they rock.

      KDE daily builds? Please post the URL!

    • You know, I could personally think of many more questions that I'd like to ask Bero. Since he's a slashdot pseudo-regular and might just end up reading this, maybe he should contact the Powers That Be (if they don't get to him first!) and set up an actual slashdot interview where we get to ask him our ten most highly moderated questions.

      Some of the most obvious questions are already answered on some of his websites (bero.org comes to mind), but I'm sure we could collectively come up with some that are interesting for both him and us!
      • I did end up reading it. ;)

        maybe he should contact the Powers That Be (if they don't get to him first!) and set up an actual slashdot interview

        I won't ("Hey! I haven't done anything in particular worthwhile, but I want to be l33t h4x0r of the day! So go ahead and interview me on /.! If you comply, I promise I won't try to get first post on that article!")

        I don't really think many people would be interested in the "Ask someone you never heard about anything!" column. ;)

        Maybe I'm wrong (and if I am, I have no problems with answering); in any case, this is definitely not something I should be asking for.
    • by bero-rh ( 98815 ) <bero AT redhat DOT com> on Monday August 06, 2001 @05:13AM (#2149185) Homepage
      First of all, this is not some generic interview section - it's just a pointer to some questions about "shared source" I answered a while ago.

      But since I'm reading this, guess there's no reason not to reply. ;)

      1) Ever since the Qt license problems have been resolved, RH hasn't had problems with KDE. Actually, most people in this office use KDE.
      There have been a couple of internal flamewars of course, but nobody really takes them seriously.

      2) Sure - some of the most serious gripes I've had with Red Hat Linux when I started BeroLinux have been fixed for quite a while - for example, the lack of a possibility to add a non-root user during installation (added in 6.1), KDE integration (initially added in 6.0, updated to a sane version in 7.1), or wasting space by not compressing man/info pages (fixed in 6.1 or 6.2, don't remember), or the lack of optimizations (all 7.x releases are compiled with -march=i386 -mcpu=i686). There are still some things I'd do differently, but overall, I'm quite satisfied with the current version (the current beta in particular).

      3) Yes, to an extent. It annoys me even more that RH never bothered to make an official statement regardning the compiler.
      I think the whole thing wouldn't be the way it is if someone in power had taken the time to communicate it correctly, preferrably before the 7.0 release.

      4) That strongly depends on what you want to do - I personally want to eliminate the need for non-free OSes, which means usability (and thereby KDE) needs the most attention at the moment. But then, things like scaling down to embedded devices and up to high-end servers are not exactly useless either... I think going ahead in all directions the way it's happening now is a good thing.

      5) We have a more generic approach to prelinking (needs a patched ld.so and binutils though). This is part of the current beta of RHL.
  • good interview with stallman except his dance around the communism question. Alot of what the FSF and stallman yell about is common to utopian communism. Instead he pulled out the Soviet reference without answering what was probably the true intention of the question.
    • good interview with stallman except his dance around the communism question.

      Why do you insist that he "danced"? RMS has made clear for years that his movement has nothing to do with communism. Can you not take the man at his word?

      Alot of what the FSF and stallman yell about is common to utopian communism.

      In the same sense that the spirit of sharing and cooperation in general is common to utopian comumnism. Does it surprise you that many people consider sharing and cooperation wonderful, but loathe the lack of personal economic freedom and concentration of power implied by communism?

      Please see my other message in this thread for more.

    • by Chagrin ( 128939 ) on Sunday August 05, 2001 @10:43PM (#2163377) Homepage
      There is a huge gap between communism and socialism. The GNU manifesto follows much more closely to socialism.

      Socialism: Any of various theories or systems of social organization in which the means of producing and distributing goods is owned collectively or by a centralized government that often plans and controls the economy.

      Communism: A system of government in which the state plans and controls the economy and a single, often authoritarian party holds power, claiming to make progress toward a higher social order in which all goods are equally shared by the people.

      I don't see where we have any authoritarian parties holding power, so please don't compare the GNU movement to the Soviet system of government.

      • Socialism: Any of various theories or systems of social organization in which the means of producing and distributing goods is owned collectively or by a centralized government that often plans and controls the economy.

        Thank you for a definition! Often when I discuss this, there is no agreed upon definition, and since I'm not an expert in socialism, I hesitate to provide my own.

        That said: GNU does not anywhere propose a "system of social organization". Nor does it talk about collective ownership; indeed RMS emphasizes "Our emphasis is on freedom, decentralization, and voluntary cooperation" (from the interview). There may be similarities, but the core ideas of socialism are not in GNU, and vice versa.

        On the other hand, consider all the flattering things RMS says about America and the american economic system: 'As in "free enterprise" and "free speech", the "free" in "free software" refers to freedom' (from The GNU GPL and the American Way [gnu.org].

        It is plain to any person who actually reads RMS: GNU is not about communism or socialism! Neo-socialists: please do RMS the courtesy of not adopting him into your cause.

      • stallman has often said many a time about how he wished the world were completely free software oriented, and im sure he'd love to abolish the current system. That sounds like quite an agenda to me.

        One could consider the GPL to be the authoritative power (if it actually has any power..its never been tested), but i guess its a matter of interpretation.

        My point was that stallman didnt answer the question. Instead he pulled out the Soviet reference..while the soviets were 'communists', they were also almost dictatorial and not in the sense that marx was looking for. I dont think that the question was comparing the FSF to a dictatorial organization, nor should Stallman have answered it as such.

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