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GNU is Not Unix

Minutes to the NYSIA/WWWAC Software Summit 23

Stephen Adler has writen up his experiences going to the NYSIA/WWWAC Software Summit and the presentations he attended: the Java Breakfast, the digital music panel, the free software panel with RMS, a CORBA talk and, the keynote panel on the future of the Internet/software industry over the next 5 years. It also talks about patents and slashdot (well I never!).
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Minutes to the NYSIA/WWWAC Software Summit

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  • I don't think Stallman means "free market" in the libertarian sense of the word. When you him say "free market in tax breaks" you should probably read "rent seeking", something libertarians are dead against.

  • You must have missed the link to Stallman's letter. He corrected the author and explicitly stated that he was not going to write an SAP replacement himself, but rather that someone eventually would.
  • SAP has two strikes against them when it comes to wide public recognition: they only sell to big business, and they are based in Germany. SAP seels ERP (enterprise resource planning) software. They have modules that basically do anything your business would need to do, ranging from financials to manufacturing control, to distribution, inventory, etc. It is red hot. The occupy (roughly) the same niche as companies like PeopleSoft, Baan, and the Applications side of Oracle (eg, Oracle Financials).
  • IMO, Stallman doesn't believe in socialism much at all. I don't think he really cares one way or another about it government from a philosophical standpoint. I just think he cares how a particular structure would affect the freedoms of ordinary people. But most of what he advocates is pure capitalism. Copyright and patent monopolies on software are a classic example of the fruits of corporate rent seeking. He only seeks to eliminate those distortions from the market.

    OTOH, he as at times written proposals that are socialistic (his software tax in the GNU manifesto) but I haven't heard any of them lately. Perhaps in the early 80's when free software was not nearly as viable as it is today he thought maybe this was an area where the government needed to step in to provide funding. As it turned out, he was wrong.
  • Stallman is clearly not a mainstream kind of guy. But that's no crime. And it's clearly not a reason to refute his free software philsophy.

    BTW: I think you are wrong about his view on property rights. Stallman appears to support property rights in all physical objects. He is smart enought to recognize that property rights are just social inventions we created to arbitrate access to scare resources though. He is willing to question the current definition of property rights when he finds that they are not benefiting humanity. But in general he seems to support strong property rights.

    Where he has a problem is in non-scare property rights in such items as software. Even there he doesn't claim there should be no rights. In fact he claims that there is no compelling reason to allow people to modify postings like this one that explain our thoughts and actions. What he does have a problem with are property "rights" that hurt humanity and that enrich rent seeking corporations at the expense of everyone else.
  • Just because someone is seeking a tax break doesn't mean that they are not engaging in rent seeking. Lots of corporations/industries seek to obtain favorable tax treatment for themselves in order to make more money without seeking tax relief for anyone else. A tax break can be equivalent to a subsidy.
  • by slim ( 1652 )
    The world needs idealists, or extremists... whatever you want to call them... RMS has an ideal, and he's actually working hard towards building that ideal -- he's devoted his life to it.

    So, sure he's creepy. And he doesn't make compromises to try and appeal to the "norm" - I mean, taking his shoes off at lectures, and stuff -- not the way to win over suits, is it.

    This is where ESR would like his place to be - the spokesperson...

    I dunno if you Americans realise this, but to us in the UK, gun-toting libertarians are pretty creepy too. It's just not an ideal we're used to.
  • Thirdly, I believe this "free market" in tax breaks will be just for those that RMS mentioned: the corporations. Let's see income taxes go up and up, while the corporations pay nothing. That would hurt the poor the worst and break us into the poor, who get poorer and the rich, who would get richer. No thanks. America of the people and for the people really beats America of the corps and for the corps.
  • Stallman's right. The competition for tax rates is a disaster. What it means is that those who can easily move (corporations, the wealthy) will pay zero tax, while those who cannot (people with mortgages) will pay higher tax. Someone has to pay for police protection, fire protection etc.

    What's more, the cities and states engaging in the practice only lose: they and their citizens get nothing in exchange for the breaks, except for the opportunity to offer even more breaks. If the city or state doesn't dramatically cut its budget, they have to tax others more to give tax breaks to the favored few.

    If a company gets a deal where they don't pay any tax, it means that you and I are paying to give them services for nothing. They will claim "but we provide jobs". No, they don't provide anything. If company X doesn't offer you a job, you go work for company Y. It's not a charity. In the case of NYC, most people getting the jobs NYC is subsidizing live in Jersey or Connecticut or suburban New York anyway.

  • That was great reading! Thanks for putting that up, and thanks to the other guy for doing the writeup. I was very pleased.

    It was especially nice to see Stallman standing up for principle. I would have loved to have been there to see the look on the politician's face as Stallman (indirectly) reprimanded him for his payback to the NY industries.

    I also loved his comments about ``whom do you sue?''. I like Stallman's vision: moving to a society where we can trust each other rather than one where we each try to look out for our own interests only. And besides, when was the last time you sued Microsoft because NT crashed?

    Joshua. (I realize my website is down. xfsttos2 is on Hobbes if you want it. Roadrunner has decided to block *all* traffic except to their stupid proxy server.)

  • Think a compelling OSS desktop is tough? GPL'd line-of-business manufacturing and supply chain management software . . . free-SAP; that's the work of a patriot!
    I'll assume he wasn't just saying this argumentatively (I'm convinced he almost never gives over to palaver). This sort of software goes for $2500-$11,000 per seat (depending on reputation it seems). Is this a declared project? Where do I sign up and what can I contribute (equipment, money, industrial eng research, code, APICS pulp, blood)?
  • A very enjoyable piece.... as if you were
    there yourself.
  • What could they have to say about slashdot and patents???? /. isn't doing anything illeagal!

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