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GNU is Not Unix Sun Microsystems

Sun's COO Distorts Free In Free Software 346

sebFlyte writes "Jonathan Schwartz, Sun's COO and president, said at JavaOne that 'the most important initial in free and open source software, to me, if you want to reach the broadest marketplace in the world there's one price that works for everyone, and that's free". As you can imagine, this interpretation of 'free' in terms of software has angered a few people somewhat, including Richard Stallman..." From the article: "The free software movement stands for 'free' as in freedom. The open source campaign doesn't present freedom as an ethical issue, but it still formulates its criteria in terms of what users are permitted to do,"
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Sun's COO Distorts Free In Free Software

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  • by Torgo's Pizza ( 547926 ) on Friday July 01, 2005 @03:50PM (#12964734) Homepage Journal
    I thought the most important definition of free was free as in beer.
    • nope "free as in freedom" is much much more important ;)
    • The "as in beer" definition is just a shorthand for free of charge -- so it's really the same as free of licensing restrictions.

      In any case, the name isn't catching on; it's persistently misinterpreted. Time to call it "open source" and tell the FSF to EAD.
    • Any sufficiently popular Free (as in speech) software will be available free of charge (as in beer). The two are inexorably linked.

      Basically if others can redistribute it, there will never be a way you can keep the cost above free for long. Sure you can sell services but this is the point.

      Indeed, I think that Stallman is just making sure that everyone knows that Free Software is not the same thing as free adware.
  • I get it. (Score:2, Funny)

    by krell ( 896769 )
    Now it's 'free as in free iPod' or 'free as in Buy Four Get One Free'.
  • by Exitar ( 809068 ) on Friday July 01, 2005 @03:52PM (#12964753)
    It cannot be!
  • by OsirisX11 ( 598587 ) on Friday July 01, 2005 @03:52PM (#12964765)
    Lets end all these issues by calling OUR definition of free by a different word. Take their power away.

    Suggestions?
  • Idiots. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by autopr0n ( 534291 ) on Friday July 01, 2005 @03:54PM (#12964775) Homepage Journal
    Look, you can't just go out and define a word to mean whatever you want. Free means freedom and costless depending on the context, wether you're talking about software not. Getting upset that someone used the word 'free' to mean 'no cost' while talking about software is simply idiotic. Its one thing to educate people, but its an entirely diffrent thing to try to own a word, especialy one thats been around for centuries. Words can have more then one meaning.

    Idiots like ESR tried to do this with "hacker", to mean only what they wanted it to mean so that they could call themselves "hackers".
    • Yes, but.. (Score:3, Informative)

      by Marc2k ( 221814 )
      Now normally, I'd agree whole-heartedly with your disgust re: their pedantry. However, I must admit, in the context of the keynote speech, Schwartzman actually went out of his way to say the acronym, "FOSS", meaning "Free and Open Source Software". If you tried to correct me on the street when I said "free", and meant free as in beer, then yes, I'd immediately stop talking to you. In this case though, the Free and Open Source Software community defined their unorganized collective by coining that phrase/nam
    • Actually, Lewis Caroll had quite a nice sketch, in Alice's conversation with Humpty Dumpty on the meaning of words, with Humpty Dumpty proclaiming that a word could mean whatever he wanted it to mean, that it was a matter of who was master.


      It seems obvious that Sun is very much through the Looking Glass, these days.

    • Re:Idiots. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Bob Uhl ( 30977 ) <eadmund42 AT gmail DOT com> on Friday July 01, 2005 @05:48PM (#12965680) Homepage
      Idiots like ESR tried to do this with "hacker", to mean only what they wanted it to mean so that they could call themselves "hackers".

      You do realise that it was the crackers who wanted to be called 'hackers.'

    • Who is "defin[ing] a word to mean whatever you want" or "[g]etting upset that someone used the word 'free' to mean 'no cost'"?

      I can point to where the FSF patiently acknowledges the ambiguity [gnu.org] and patiently explains why they are focusing on the freedom meaning (including explaining which specific freedoms you get). I've heard speeches where Eben Moglen, counsel for the FSF, uses the word to mean zero cost and freedom in the same speech.

      As for "hacker", the term did not originally mean what the popular p

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 01, 2005 @03:54PM (#12964779)
    Wookey, a Debian developer, shared Stallman's view and accused Schwartz of deliberately twisting the definition to justify not releasing Java as open source.

    If anything, he probably did it because a large percetange of the population (and especially the business world) don't care to understand "free" in any terms other than money.

    Free Software (as RMS believes) is something that is way too radical for most businessmen. I'm sure that Schwartz was just trying to interact with his audience on their level.

    Yes, it's wrong and yes it negates all the crazy stuff RMS has talked about over the years but I really don't think it was meant to hide or purposefully deceive anyone. Then again, RMS wouldn't have anything to get his name in the news about then, would he?
  • He is quite right (Score:3, Insightful)

    by white1827 ( 848173 ) on Friday July 01, 2005 @03:57PM (#12964812) Homepage
    Many open source projects are mimics of commercially available software. They were adopted because they were free for the most part - not because the source code was available. Very few people and companies customize the software or utilize the source code in any way.
    • Very few people and companies customize the software or utilize the source code in any way.

      In my experience that's false.

      Every company I've seen that actually ships a product based on free software encounters bugs or has demands for new features, and in a minimum download patches for the stuff that often come in source format.

      The only exceptions I know are the ones who buy customized open source software from support organizations (like Red Hat - and yes, they use a non-standard kernel) where the

    • by ComputerSlicer23 ( 516509 ) on Friday July 01, 2005 @04:18PM (#12965034)
      Curious, that's precisely why we use it. We run pretty much all RedHat derivative stuff (either a version we purchased, or a one of the rebuilds). I use the source fairly frequently to track down bugs. I apply small bug fixes to problems I run into. I know we have a machine we have patched: xpdf, ghostscript and apache on.

      I have patched various machines with little kernel fixes (adding PCI_ID's to support the i810 chipset).

      I've used the source when someone posted error messages to various mailings lists to see what section of the kernel was generating certain errors to troubleshoot the problem.

      I've added lines of code to e2fsck and mount to support new functionality I wanted to simplify my problems.

      I could run Solaris, but when I have a problem, I can't track it down. I can't read the source to see how critical an area the bug is or if there is a way to work around it. I can't ask the author's of the code if they can fix it by e-mailing them directly.

      I know that the plural of annecdote isn't data. However, a lot of technical people I know feel the same way. We aren't the majority of people. However most sysadmin's I know would much prefer to have the source, even if they are never going to edit, or re-compile it. A lot of the people who support the users would much prefer they used open source. I'm a developer not an SA, but I play an SA from time to time.

      I'm happier as a user if I am using free software, if only because I'm not beholden to the keeper of the secret source to provide me with a fix. If I feel like it, I can pay someone else to do it, or I can investigate the problem myself. If it is important enough, I'll fix it.

      Kirby

    • Many open source projects are mimics of commercially available software.

      Yep. And many are not. The key item though is that ALL of the current commercial software products are also mimics of previous commercially available software or non-commercial software (the first text editors for example).

      They were adopted because they were free for the most part - not because the source code was available.

      Really? So you'd use a word processor that didn't work instead of one that did just because the one that d

    • > Very few people and companies customize the software or utilize the source code in any way.

      According to a study in Western Europe [techworld.com], you (and he) are quite wrong! While one might expect that the zero-dollar price tag would be the big incentive, companies are actually quite willing to pay for software if they think they're getting value for their dollar, and it's the quality and flexibility of Free/Libre/Open Source Software that is the real attraction among those who are actually installing and deploy
  • Couldn't we (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rbanffy ( 584143 )
    Couldn't we moderate Jonathan Schwartz as a troll?

    Now, seriously, the guy must do whatever doesn't break the law to increse Sun's shareholder value. What would you expect, ethical behaviour? Free as in speech is dangerous for Sun - their edge in hardware is eroding fast and he can do nothing about it. He can reduce the erosion in software by creating confusion.

    It's not surprising.

    Not at all.
    • I hate to resort to personal attacks, and Mom always said "If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all."

      There's a reason Jonathan Schwartz has a pony tail - He's a HORSES ASS.

      I'm the troll, he's clueless.

      Sorry Mom.

      Soko
    • We are entitled expect ethical behaviour from corporate leaders. Thise expectations may be increasingly unrealistic in certain cases, but we are entitled to expect and require ethical conduct.

      And we are entitled to disaprove when someone like Schwartz repeatedly disappoints those expectations.

      There's a presistent meme lately that it's acceptable for corporate execs to behave like scumbags because we can't expect any better. A bit like the way we tolerate misbehaviour from small children who are too you

  • Actually.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [ecirpdrahcir]> on Friday July 01, 2005 @03:58PM (#12964826)
    Id hazard a guess that for 99% of the people who take advantage of the 'free software' movement do so precisely because its zero purchase cost, not because it gives them freedom of code. Seriously, how many people using apache do so because of the open codebase as opposed to the fact that they got an enterprise level web server for zero cost? MySQL? Perl? Linux? How many people that you recommend a GPLed application to dabble with the code? How many would have paid for that software instead of using something else?
    • Re:Actually.... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Glomek ( 853289 ) on Friday July 01, 2005 @04:13PM (#12964987)
      Id hazard a guess that for 99% of the people who take advantage of the 'free software' movement do so precisely because its zero purchase cost

      ...and they get better software because the other 1% does use their freedom.

    • I don't generally use it because *I* am going to go poking in the code, but I do use it because I know that some company isn't going to go out of business and completely abandon it or be bought up by Microsoft or some other company who will intentionally kill the product. I also don't want to be forced to upgrade the software to keep it running or be prohibited from upgrading the OS to keep some version of a program running.

      Regardless of whether the code is "free" and wanting to change it, there are a lot

    • Id hazard a guess that for 99% of the people who take advantage of the 'free software' movement do so precisely because its zero purchase cost, not because it gives them freedom of code.

      Perhaps, but how many do it so as to be free of proprietary systems? With MS for example you never know when critical software will be end-of-lifed. When the source is Free you don't have to worry about this. This is a direct consequence of the ideal instead of the price.
      • With MS for example you never know when critical software will be end-of-lifed. When the source is Free you don't have to worry about this.

        That argument falls more than a little flat with those of us that were more or less forced to upgrade Linux distros back in the disastrous libc5 to glibc2 transition of a few years ago.

        I'd argue that in reality, commercial OSes are supported *far* longer than open source ones, where every version is effectively end-of-lifed with the release of each new version. That
    • I agree 100% At work, we use Tomcat, Linux and Apache serverside. We use Eclipse, Spring, Hibernate, Apache Commons for developement. We do so, purely because they cost nothing to buy.

      In our line of business, we'd be better off with Websphere or one of the other 'heavyweight' J2EE containers, but those cost serious wonga.

      We use WindowsXP and 2000 for our development - a sure sign that "Linux isn't ready for the desktop" (tm) because if it was - we'd be using it!
  • Heh... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Otter ( 3800 ) on Friday July 01, 2005 @03:59PM (#12964829) Journal
    Sun's president Jonathan Schwartz has angered some in the free software community by appearing to misrepresent what open source is.

    Somehow, I'm thinking Stallman has just found something new to be furious about...! Ingrid, better check your email!

    By the way, did the article leave out thefirst name of "Wookey, a Debian developer", did I somehow miss it or is that ZD's idea of a source?

  • His opinion (Score:5, Informative)

    by i_should_be_working ( 720372 ) on Friday July 01, 2005 @04:02PM (#12964870)
    He didn't distort the definition. He just stated what he admitted was his own opinion on what the most important part of free software is.

    From TFA:
    Now just to relay my bias, if you had to ask me what's the most important initial in free and open source software, to me, if you want to reach the broadest marketplace in the world there's one price that works for everyone, and that's free...
  • In spanish there are different words for free.
    Libre = free as in Freedom
    Gratis = free as in beer

    This might play havoc with acronyms though, Goodbuy FSF, Hello LSF.
  • So? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by millennial ( 830897 ) on Friday July 01, 2005 @04:02PM (#12964878) Journal
    Somehow I just don't care.
    Sun may be shooting themselves in the foot by refusing to join the FOSS movement. Simply offering software for free is obviously not good enough; they need to make it totally accessible for it to meet its potential.
    But this doesn't matter, really. If Sun decides that they're going to keep their toys to theirselves, the FOSS community will come up with something to rival it. It happened with lots of other programs, and now we have OpenOffice, Linux, MonoDevelop, Audacity, PDFCreator, GiMP, Blender, Firefox, 7-Zip, and more. It can happen with Java, too.
    Regardless of the fact that the new alternatives would no doubt mimic Java, the fact that their source would be universally available would give them an edge over the original.
    • Simply offering software for free is obviously not good enough; they need to make it totally accessible for it to meet its potential.

      I guess the truth of this depends on what you consider is 'good enough'. Java is offered for free, and it has become the most used language for new commercial development, at least for now.

      Regardless of the fact that the new alternatives would no doubt mimic Java, the fact that their source would be universally available would give them an edge over the original.

      I would
    • I don't know if Sun will mind much though, free software implementations of Java is only healthy for the platform, and since Sun derives no profits from the platform itself it is a purely good thing.

      One might even say that making their implementation free would be worse for Java since it would be more likely to end up a monoculture that way.

    • Re:So? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dublin ( 31215 )
      OK, I'm going to give up the mods I've done here because someone needs to point out that we have Open Office for only one reason: Sun spent millions of dollars of its own cold, hard, cash to buy StarDivision (the original developers of StarOffice.) They then spent millions more going through the code and making sure they *could* give it away, before actually doing so. There is simply no greater example of corporate commitment to the ideals of open source.

      Stallman hates Sun because Sun has more successfu
      • Re:So? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jmorris42 ( 1458 ) *
        > Sun spent millions of dollars of its own cold, hard, cash to buy
        > StarDivision...
        > ...There is simply no greater example of corporate commitment to the
        > ideals > of open source.

        No, Sun was pissed at Microsoft at the time and saw OO.o as the only way to hurt them. The Office monopoly is now what drives the Windows monopoly, not the other way around. Or at least that was Sun's thinking, and they are probably pretty close to the mark. Doesn't make em our friend though.

        If you want proof, l
      • So, let's take your list of Sun's supposed contributions to open source.

        OpenWindows,

        Sun tried for years to kill off X11 and replace it with their proprietary, non-free window systems. When it became finally clear even to their own managers that their own customers were de-installing the crap Sun shipped and replacing it with X11, Sun finally dumped the remains of their failed efforts on the world as open source.

        For you youngsters out there, you ought to know that virtually all Linux distros used Sun'
  • If Stallman and his ilk had had the simple foresight to refer to it as the "software freedom movement" or some such instead of the "free software movement," then it would've been a lot easier to promote the F/OSS agenda. There are plenty of ways to express the concept of freedom in software without confusion. You'd think Stallman would've seen this.
  • When I think of Freedom in the aspect of software I don't think of GPL software first to which I am sure this is all directed. What I think of as true freedom is BSD.
  • One man's distortion is another man's monopolization of a term
    is another man's marketing opportunity
    is another man's opinion.

    --
    is another way to say 'YAWN'
  • by rpdillon ( 715137 ) on Friday July 01, 2005 @04:10PM (#12964958) Homepage
    I was lucky enough to go to JavaOne, and was sitting in the room as he said this, and it indeed annoyed me.

    Politics aside, Richard Stallman makes a very clear distinction between Open Source software and Free software. When people refer to FOSS (Free Open Source Software), they have added BOTH "free" AND "open source" to their acronym - this is to make a clear distinction between software that is merely open source, and software that is both free (as in speech) and open source.

    Sure, free means "free of charge" as well as "free speech". I wouldn't dare argue that one definition is more valid than another.

    But in the context of "FOSS" or "F/OSS" or even "FLOSS" (Free/Libre Open Source Software), the whole reason to add "Free" to the more traditional "OSS" was to convey "Free as in speech."

    Why does it matter? I think Sun wants to confuse the community, and make people think that they are on a bandwagon that they *are not on*. I think Jonathan Schwartz knows what the "free" in FOSS means, and intentionally misused it to make people think that he was really buying into FOSS, when in fact, he hasn't, at least with respect to the the JVM and class files. This is the exact reason Apache Harmony was created.

    If this doesn't make sense, try downloading the "Free" Sun JDK from anywhere other than java.sun.com. Try getting it to come bundled with a Linux distribution. You can't do these things, because it *isn't* free, they just don't make you pay for it (at least, for now).

    The only other point I want to make is that the "free beer" definition buys you something right *now* - the ability to download the Sun JDK without them charging you for it. If you're getting it without paying, what's the big deal? The big deal is that tomorrow, they *could* start charging for it. And then you can only run as long as it takes for you to need some new feature, or support for new hardware or a new OS. Then you pay.

    If it were really free, you don't just get it now, but you also get a guarantee that it will always be available free in some form, as long as people need it and are willing to work on it. And really, that is a big difference.
    • Sure, free means "free of charge" as well as "free speech". I wouldn't dare argue that one definition is more valid than another.

      I would. If you use the phrase "free software" with anyone who hasn't already been introduced to the FSF's definition, what will be their immediate assumuption for its meaning? That the software has no cost. Even worse, what will be their confidence that their assumed meaning is correct? It will be very high. This means that anyone who wants to use the phrase "free software

      • None of the replacements for "free software" you mention work well, and this is usually cleared up in every FSF talk at the top of the Q&A session. Liberated/unenslaved/freed software doesn't work for software that was always free from the start (like GNU Emacs). Entities can't be liberated if they were always free. This same problem plagues all but one of your other suggestions. Liberty software might have worked, but by now you're about 20 years too late. The term "free software" is already liste

    • I agree with all of your points, but would like to try and clarify one a bit:

      The only other point I want to make is that the "free beer" definition buys you something right *now* - the ability to download the Sun JDK without them charging you for it. If you're getting it without paying, what's the big deal? The big deal is that tomorrow, they *could* start charging for it. And then you can only run as long as it takes for you to need some new feature, or support for new hardware or a new OS. Then you pay.
    • How about you guys come up with some terminology that you can explain to a stranger on the street in 30 seconds or less?

      Even as a computer professional of many years (Mac user), I find statements like this:

      But in the context of "FOSS" or "F/OSS" or even "FLOSS" (Free/Libre Open Source Software), the whole reason to add "Free" to the more traditional "OSS" was to convey "Free as in speech."

      completely baffling.
  • Why get mad? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Sheetrock ( 152993 ) on Friday July 01, 2005 @04:10PM (#12964961) Homepage Journal
    As a thought exercise, if you asked the average user of Free Software or Open Source why they used it, which would be the most likely answer?
    • I choose to support a culture that fosters and encourages the open development of software and hardware, allowing me to profit from the shared wisdom and ability of like-minded people towards the end of commercial lock-in and discouragement of fully enjoying my creative impulses with regards to computing.
    • I like not having to pay for software when I don't have to.
    The ideals are all well and good, but I wouldn't bet that they are the prime motivation for people to switch. There's very little to be upset about; who cares what the initial reasons are if the end result is more users developing a personal interest and stake in the rationale for open development methods and willingly sharing what they create?

    Advocates would do better to recognize this than go after this guy for not quite getting the message right -- the users themselves would be quite turned off if they had to understand and adopt the full ideology (never create closed software, try to earn a living off providing support or alternatively as a waiter, never use closed solutions if open solutions exist) before using the software. Carrot before stick and all that.

  • Can someone please explain this "free as in beer" thing to me? I have seen this term used for a long time and I still don't understand it, being that I don't drink alcohol or associate with anyone that does.
    So this thing keeps going right over my head.
    I'm not trolling, I totally serious..

    Thanks..

    • Re:free as in beer? (Score:2, Informative)

      by dfiguero ( 324827 )
      AFAIK the word free could have two meanings in the English language:

      1) related to liberty (freedom)
      2) related to price

      Free as in beer associates with the second definition. As in "would you like a free beer?"
      Free as in speech associates with the first definition. As in "I am free to speak as I please"

      Please correct me if I'm wrong.
    • Re:free as in beer? (Score:3, Informative)

      by Infonaut ( 96956 )
      Free beer on Fridays used to be a Silicon Valley tradition at some companies (Apple for one) back in the day, which is probably why people latched onto "free beer" as a way of saying "you get something without paying for it."

      "Free as in free speech" makes sense to me, but a replacement for "free as in beer" might be "free as in free contraceptives." Of course, here in the United States that phrase would probably provoke boycotting of Open Source software by enraged fundamentalists.

    • Re:free as in beer? (Score:4, Informative)

      by spitzak ( 4019 ) on Friday July 01, 2005 @05:39PM (#12965596) Homepage
      RMS has spent most of his life at a college, and many of the people he works with are students or workers at the college. For students, beer is a very common item to get for free (ie at a party), yet it has enough value that they are willing to pay for it when free beer is not available.
  • ""I want to talk about FOSS -- free and open source software. Now just to relay my bias, if you had to ask me what's the most important initial in free and open source software, to me, if you want to reach the broadest marketplace in the world there's one price that works for everyone, and that's free... and so the free part is what we've been focused on," said Schwartz."

    By using the term 'free and open source', there should be no problem with defining free as 'free as in beer' since the 'open source' part
  • Please. For the sanity of us all. End the "free... and by free we mean..." crap.
  • In Europe free means as in freedom, and nothing else. We have a separate word for gratis, gratis.

    In US free has something to do with money. Oh well, at least you are not commies. ;-).

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