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Stallman On the State of Free Software 25 Years On

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the industry-of-free dept.

GNU is Not Unix 367

TRNick writes "What's the state of free software, 25 years after GNU's birth? TechRadar has an interview with Richard Stallman to find out. Stallman thinks free software is making good progress: 'Nowadays hardware developers are also increasingly likely to publish the interface specs so that we can develop free software that works with the hardware. Perhaps we are turning the corner, but we still have a big fight on our hands before all computer users have freedom.' But how many of us actually run an operating system that Richard Stallman would consider free? Many of the more popular GNU/Linux distributions, including Mandriva and Ubuntu, bundle proprietary code with their free software packages. Perhaps free software has reached a large enough install base that companies are happy to use it for their own gain, but aren't quite so willing to make their own commitments to free software development. How important this is to the success of free software depends on how strong your stance is on freedom is."

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367 comments

Free NOT EQUAL TO freedom (0, Interesting)

MSTCrow5429 (642744) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320221)

"How important this is to the success of free software depends on how strong your stance is on freedom is."

I'm not anti-open source, but this horrifically mangles the concept of freedom. Freedom is the right to be left alone, and the obligation to leave others alone, unless there is voluntary association between all relevant parties. Being able to have a thing or service for free is nice, but it has nothing to do with freedom.

Re:Free NOT EQUAL TO freedom (5, Informative)

npcompleat (942042) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320253)

The term 'free' is an unfortunate consequence of there being no more specific word in English. The word is meant, to use the well-worn, free-software phrase, to be free as in speech rather than free as in beer.

Re:Free NOT EQUAL TO freedom (4, Informative)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320287)

Which is why we prefer the term "free-libre," which at least forces the uninitiated to ask, "What do you mean?" rather than jumping to the conclusion that we are talking about the price of software.

Richard Marx Stalin (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26320535)

fucking commie bastard

capitalism forever!

GOD BLESS AMERICA

Commie Bastards You Can All Go To (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26320541)

Where the hell do you think? God, you're stupid, too.

Re:Free NOT EQUAL TO freedom (4, Interesting)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320625)

In Germany, we have 3 different words for "free" when used as in beer, and a law defining what each word means, when used in business. There is "gratis", "kostenlos" (no cost), and some other term I forgot. Then of course there is the word "frei" (free) too. I noticed, that translating to German, and then translating all terms back to English, (both with dict.leo.org) gives me a pretty nice thesaurus. :)

Wow~! A German! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26320647)

I'm glad I don't have a whole country full of deceitful, greedy kikes stealing all my water and land anywhere near me. Fucking Jews can't just live in peace. They have to steal other people's land. Our national economy is collapsing from the Jewbanks doing their usual Jewthing. You see, with Jews, you lose. That's how THEY win. They WIN by making YOU lose. Let's lose the Jews.

The third word (2, Informative)

vorlich (972710) | more than 5 years ago | (#26321007)

"Umsonst " as in "this haircut is for free" and it also means "of or to no purpose" such as when you go into town on a public holiday or a Sunday and can't buy anything because the shops are closed.

Re:Free NOT EQUAL TO freedom (5, Funny)

3-State Bit (225583) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320693)

>The term 'free' is an unfortunate consequence of there being no more specific word in English.

That might have been true 25 years ago, but today you can just call it "freedom software".

(with the added bonus that if it's not freedom software it's terrorist software -- a pretty good description of the crap a convicted monopolist pushes).

Re:Free NOT EQUAL TO freedom (1)

Alomex (148003) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320779)

RMS is equivocating on purpose. Whenever confronted he claims the gratis interpretation of free, but when you read his speeches, he often hints at gratis, which is why he has never fixed the name of his foundation.

In contrast the OSS movement started by removing this ambiguity.

Re:Free NOT EQUAL TO freedom (5, Insightful)

isilrion (814117) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320307)

Fortunately, the concept of 'Free Software' has nothing to do with 'being able to have a thing or service for free'.

(btw, it says so on the second sentence of the second paragraph of the FA)

Re:Free NOT EQUAL TO freedom (2, Funny)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320417)

Fortunately, the concept of 'Free Software' has nothing to do with 'being able to have a thing or service for free'.

Indeed. And we are equally permitted to choose our preferred "degrees of freedom".

Which is why there is nothing shameful about using proprietary drivers from nVidia (to use a particularly useful and pertinent example) on our Linux or BSD machines, since they are simply providing commercial support for a truly "free" platform. If one wants to sit on a high horse and pontificate about the purity of our freedom, that is fine, but if we don't want to be treated as lepers, it makes sense to meet commercial interests halfway.

Re:Free NOT EQUAL TO freedom (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26320577)

The arguments against binary blobs are perfectly valid and unrelated to crackpot fanatism. If nVidia goes down tomorrow or just drops support for your specific card, all your hardware will stop working in few months with the next kernel update. This is why I bought Intel hardware. It might not be the best, but I know I will be able to use the hardware and all of its features until it physically breaks. Stallman, unfortunately, is in the crackpot zone, where if you are not with him and refuse to use any proprietary software even if it is your only choice, you are against him. Even just allowing your users to use proprietary software if they so wish will win you a big GNU fatwa. Is that free software? Free as in gulag?

Re:Free NOT EQUAL TO freedom (1, Interesting)

Neoprofin (871029) | more than 5 years ago | (#26321057)

That's been my big problem with the who movement lately. I don't understand how a group of people can espouse freedom and then go out of their way to put every possible roadblock in place to the end user making use of software that does not meet their standards of free. When are we going to get a free software movement that says "We will work for unlimited interoperability so our users are free to use any and all software and hardware, open source proprietary, to best accomplish their needs."

Microsoft for all the demonizing they get around here has been doing a lot less work to control my options in both senses of the word free.

(I know Windows costs money, but it's usually subsidized or pirated anyway, so in my personal domain the cost is 0. Professionally speaking is a whole other story on all fronts for a number of reasons.)

Re:Free NOT EQUAL TO freedom (5, Insightful)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320335)

Freedom is the right to be left alone, and the obligation to leave others alone,

if I give you the ability to do *anything* with my code and you turn around and tell your end users *you can't do all that much* who exactly is the one that is free here?

unless there is voluntary association between all relevant parties.

it's voluntary, no one's holding a gun to your head telling you that you must use the code, the only thing is that if you choose to use that code and distribute it to others, you can't turn around and weaken their ability to do the same as you. keeping the code in house without distributing it O.T.O.H you can do whatever you like with it.

Re:Free NOT EQUAL TO freedom (4, Insightful)

mgiuca (1040724) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320397)

if I give you the ability to do *anything* with my code and you turn around and tell your end users *you can't do all that much* who exactly is the one that is free here?

It's the code that is free, not the user.

I assume you're contrasting BSD or similarly permissive licenses with the GPL. BSD makes the end user free. GPL makes the code free. You can't really have it both ways (because there will always be end users who want to make the code non-free).

Thanks (1)

Mathinker (909784) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320491)

You've managed to eloquently summarize what has been bouncing around in my brain for a while --- I am greatly indebted to you. Kind of like when someone finally tells you what is the name of that tune which you can't get out of your head.

Re:Thanks (4, Insightful)

McGiraf (196030) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320707)

"You've managed to eloquently summarize what has been bouncing around in my brain for a while"

To bad because he is wrong.

Here's my reply to his post.

"s/end\ users/distributors/g

The end user can do whatever it wants to the code the GPL does not restrict usage or modification by the end user in anyway. It applies to the distribution of the software. So the code and the user are free, the distributor has restrictions."

Re:Free NOT EQUAL TO freedom (3, Insightful)

FishWithAHammer (957772) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320595)

You can have it both ways. That's why the CDDL and MPL exist. "Return your changes to our code, but you can use it with anything you like under any license.

They are, as far as I'm concerned, the best OSS licenses out there.

Re:Free NOT EQUAL TO freedom (1)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320615)

you're saying that the first developers on that code are end users but the people who use that code and software after them [Mac for example] are not and that is a mistake. Mac as an example is based largely on BSD'ed code- it can not be altered nor improved by anyone other than Apple- they are in effect much freer to do with that code than you. You are *not free* to build upon that code as Apple has done, if Apple's code has a flaw you can not fix it, you can not alter its behavior- it belongs to them the same as if it were MS's proprietary code, this is no more freedom than anarchy is, the original developer's ability to alter certain code and then *restrict* anyone else's use of that code is not freedom for anyone other than the first to touch that BSD'ed code, for everyone else it is indistinguishable from proprietary code.

Re:Free NOT EQUAL TO freedom (1)

mgiuca (1040724) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320665)

Well that's more or less my (unstated) point. What I said was that BSD makes the end user free, while GPL makes the code free.

The problem with the BSD model is that each end user is free to make the code non-free, and spoil it for everyone else downstream (which is the situation you describe).

The GPL model forces the code to be free forever. The users' freedoms take a back-seat - specifically those users who want to proprietarise the code, but also the users who want to port to BSD model lose out, as collateral. The GPL view is, oh well, at least the code is, and will always be, free.

So yes, I agree with you.

Re:Free NOT EQUAL TO freedom (2, Informative)

McGiraf (196030) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320767)

Grrr... how many times it has to be said:

s/end\ users/distributors/g

There is no restriction on the end user in the GPL, none, nada, zero.

Apple is not a end user, Apple is a distributor of software.

I can't believe this is still not understood by some ./ers.

Re:Free NOT EQUAL TO freedom (1)

mgiuca (1040724) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320863)

I understand your point, and I fully understand the issues. I'm just using terminology differently than you. I'm deciding to continue using the term "end user" as a blanket term encompassing all recipients of the software.

Once I receive a piece of software, I am the "end user", and I am restricted (by the GPL) in what I can do with it. Specifically, I can run it, with no restrictions. But I can't distribute it unless I agree to certain terms.

If you have a better term...? (Perhaps "recipient" is a better blanket term for "end users" + "distributors").

I can't believe this is still not understood by some ./ers.

I'm the same guy you explained it to last time...

Re:Free NOT EQUAL TO freedom (1)

McGiraf (196030) | more than 5 years ago | (#26321021)

"I'm the same guy you explained it to last time..."

hehe, sorry about that.

You say:

  "Once I receive a piece of software, I am the "end user", and I am restricted (by the GPL) in what I can do with it. Specifically, I can run it, with no restrictions. But I can't distribute it unless I agree to certain terms."

and then say that user and distributor are not the right terms?

"I can run it, with no restrictions. But I can't distribute it"

Distribution is not usage. The GPL does not regulate at all the use of software.

When you distribute it, your are a distributor, you can be both a user and distributor at the same time, you usage is still not restricted, but the GPL applies to what you distribute.

The disagreement/misunderstanding we have is caused by you considering "distribution" as being a "use" of software, while I (and the GPL) do not.

Re:Free NOT EQUAL TO freedom (2, Informative)

Zironic (1112127) | more than 5 years ago | (#26321087)

End user is a legal term and not something you're meant to redefine on a whim.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/End_user [wikipedia.org]

Read and understand. Then stop failing at communicating.

When you use the code, you're an end user.
When you give the code to someone else, you're a distributor.

It's not complex.

Re:Free NOT EQUAL TO freedom (1, Flamebait)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320995)

s/end\ users/distributors/g

I can't believe this is still not understood by some ./ers.

Maybe that's because all you're typing is a series of random punctuation and a couple words, some nonsense from some programming language or editor I don't know.

Have you thought about, hm, ENGLISH? Maybe?

Re:Free NOT EQUAL TO freedom (1)

McGiraf (196030) | more than 5 years ago | (#26321111)

I posted a more verbose explanation twice.

It;s the first time i use the s/xxx/xxx/g syntax in a post but I saw it used often here so I assumed it was understood by most.

But as they say:
Assumption is the mother of all fuckups.

It means: replace "end users" by "distributors" in the parent post.

and ./ers means slashdoters :)

Re:Free NOT EQUAL TO freedom (2, Informative)

McGiraf (196030) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320669)

s/end\ users/distributors/g

The end user can do whatever it wants to the code the GPL does not restrict usage or modification by the end user in anyway. It applies to the distribution of the software. So the code and the user are free, the distributor has restrictions.

 

Re:Free NOT EQUAL TO freedom (5, Insightful)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320433)

Freedom is the right to be left alone, and the obligation to leave others alone, unless there is voluntary association between all relevant parties.

Yes, yes. But the third part, even if voluntary and completely in the libertarian sense, is what brings government involvement to any degree. It's the entity that enforces contracts (a product of some voluntary associations) and also via copyright and patents which are abstract concepts in the Constition.

So, even by that definition, Stallman's concept is giving you more freedom by a) having less or no EULAs and b) less copyright concerns. I believe in this sense, the term "Freedom" is in context of being unencumbered of restrictive obligations of running code. I know when I install Ubuntu without seeing 100 Eulas pop up or asking me for my CD key plus various other nag screen I feel a little more unencumbered by BS. For the developer, it frees them from, well, developing the wheel over and over again. Seeing that all sides of the Open Source equation is a completely voluntary system, and not some communist dictatorship giving property to the masses, it works perfectly fine within the term freedom.

Freedom also allows you sell yourself into indentured servitude (perhaps called car/home/student loans today). However, if a spiritual philosophy came along, shunning pure materialism, converting people voluntarily to its way of thinking and they ended up happier: wouldn't it, too, fit into the freedom paradigm. Couldn't we judge one way of life in some ways ultimately freer than the other?

Anyway, fortunately for us and FTA, Stallman, as always, defined his freedom specifically:

1. To run the program as you wish.
2. To study the source code, and change it so the program does what you wish.
3. To redistribute exact copies when you wish.
4. To distribute copies of your modified versions, when you wish.

I will grant the GNU license isn't free in itself, but one is free to take it (or not).

Re:Free NOT EQUAL TO freedom (3, Informative)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 5 years ago | (#26321043)

1. To run the program as you wish.
2. To study the source code, and change it so the program does what you wish.
3. To redistribute exact copies when you wish.
4. To distribute copies of your modified versions, when you wish.

The problem is that he also has an implied:

5. You can't run anything EXCEPT Free Software.

rule, and that's the one everybody disagrees with. I mean, the first four as well and good, especially since I can take and leave them as I please, but that fifth one is a pain in the ass. That's the rule that makes it "wrong" for me to use Ubuntu because some of the drivers have "binary blobs" in them. Or makes me give up my Tivo.

Re:Free NOT EQUAL TO freedom (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320539)

Freedom is the right to be left alone, and the obligation to leave others alone

Which is pretty much what free software is all about.

Re:Free NOT EQUAL TO freedom (2, Insightful)

Pav (4298) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320763)

Why not GIVE the English language a term for free-libre eg. "liber". Languages are fluid things... and "liber" fits :
liber
liberate
liberation

    Yes, liber has some (uncommon) meanings in English already, but plenty of other words have multiple meanings eg. the word "free" itself! It's certainly not a step backwards, and there's a chance it could add something valuable to English in the longer term.

Eat no meat, RMS (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26320223)

Eat no meat !!

obligatory (5, Funny)

ionix5891 (1228718) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320263)

Richard S. Raymond && Eric Stallman? (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320915)

OMG. This is no joke: I thought Richard Stallman and Eric S. Raymond were the same guy, for the last YEARS! I never thought that there would be two crazy bearded men loving weapons and GNU!

The problem with Stallman's approach (5, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320269)

The problem with Stallman's approach is the assumption that most people want the free software ideal. The reality is that most people are not even knowledgeable enough about their computers to even understand what free software is all about, why it matters, and why they should care. All they see is Windows with driver support in one corner, Mac OS X working out of the box on bundled hardware in the other corner, and Linux/BSD/etc. in the last corner with poor (but slowly improving) driver support that may or may not work out of the box.

What Stallman needs to do is catch up with the biggest development in the computing world of the past 25 years: the growth of computer users who do not know anything about their computers, and do not care to know. Most people do not care about the legal or technical issues surrounding their software, they just want to get online and do stuff. Stallman insists that when somebody sends you a .doc file, you should refuse to open it and insist that they send you a PDF or ODT file instead. Great when you are dealing with engineers and programmers, but not so great when you are dealing with people who think you need to create a .doc file in order to attach an image to an email.

Disclaimer: I am a big supporter of free software, and I do wish that more people would learn more about their computers so they could at least understand that they have a choice.

Re:The problem with Stallman's approach (0, Troll)

beelsebob (529313) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320413)

That's not the problem at all. The problem is that he doesn't deliver what he promises. True software freedom would allow you to do anything you like with the software, and wouldn't be restricted to only people who carry on making it free. The GPL isn't freedom, it's just a different set of restrictions. If Stallman supported free software, he would use something along the lines of the BSD license.

Re:The problem with Stallman's approach (4, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320449)

The "freedom" that Stallman refers to has nothing to do with developer freedom, it has to do with the freedom of the users of software. You, as a user, can do anything you want with the software, but you, as a developer or distributor, must grant other users the same freedom. The GPL is about protecting the freedoms of users; your assertion about the BSD license is correct in that the BSD license "protects" the freedom of developers.

Re:The problem with Stallman's approach (3, Insightful)

beelsebob (529313) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320567)

The BSD license has nothing to do with users at all. It's not an EULA, it's a copyright license. It allows developers to make copies of the source code, under certain conditions, and it restricts the times when that's allowed. That's not freedom, that's "digital rights management" in its worst sense.

Re:The problem with Stallman's approach (1)

Oswald (235719) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320695)

Perhaps you meant to inveigh against the GPL here, rather than the BSD license? Really, if the BSD is too burdensome for your taste, what would that leave? Public domain?

Re:The problem with Stallman's approach (1)

LunarCrisis (966179) | more than 5 years ago | (#26321151)

The [GPL] license has nothing to do with users at all. It's not an EULA, it's a copyright license.

Users make copies too.

It allows developers to make copies of the source code, under certain conditions, and it restricts the times when that's allowed. That's not freedom, that's "digital rights management" in its worst sense.

It isn't. DRM artificially removes rights that users had beforehand, such as the rights given under fair use laws. The GPL, as a copyright license, provides the developers and users with certain rights, it doesn't remove any. That it provides fewer rights than, say, the BSD license, does not make it DRM.

Re:The problem with Stallman's approach (2, Insightful)

FishWithAHammer (957772) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320601)

And what exactly does the GPL do for users that the MPL or CDDL does not in a more elegant and developer-respecting way?

Re:The problem with Stallman's approach (2, Informative)

mgiuca (1040724) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320489)

That's not the problem at all. The problem is that he doesn't deliver what he promises. True software freedom would allow you to do anything you like with the software, and wouldn't be restricted to only people who carry on making it free.

Hang on ... you're confusing "freedom in software" with "free software". By "true software freedom", I assume you mean "end users being able to do whatever they like with software". That isn't his mission.

His mission is "free software". You say that true free software "wouldn't be restricted to only people who carry on making it free". Well there you go -- you said it yourself -- free software is, by definition restricted to the set of software which people continue to make free. Otherwise, it stops being free software.

If you want to go into the exact wording of what Stallman has always promised, look at the Four Freedoms [gnu.org] :

  • The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).
  • The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
  • The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2).
  • The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements (and modified versions in general) to the public, so that the whole community benefits (freedom 3). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

Nowhere in his mission statement does he say users should be totally unrestricted in what they can do with the software.

Re:The problem with Stallman's approach (2, Insightful)

beelsebob (529313) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320593)

His mission is "free software". You say that true free software "wouldn't be restricted to only people who carry on making it free". Well there you go -- you said it yourself -- free software is, by definition restricted to the set of software which people continue to make free. Otherwise, it stops being free software.
Not at all. I can license something under the BSD, and allow anyone to do what they like with my code (as long as they cite me). They are free to extend it and make their extensions closed source, they're free to extend it and make their extensions open, they're free to do anything they like, in the truest sense of free. What they can't do, is make my original closed source, because you know... I'm still distributing it under BSD, and they can't put that cat back in its bag.

The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements (and modified versions in general) to the public, so that the whole community benefits (freedom 3). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
And this is exactly where the GPL fails. It does *not* give the freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements. It only grants that freedom when you promise to carry on releasing said improvements in an open way.

Re:The problem with Stallman's approach (1)

mgiuca (1040724) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320729)

You make some convincing/interesting points.

But my main rebuttal is that the wording of freedom 3, "release your improvements ... to the public, so that the whole community benefits" -- well arguably (and certainly if you take the statement in the context of the FSF mission), if you release your improvements to the public in a non-free way, the whole community does not benefit.

Still, I can now see where you're coming from.

Re:The problem with Stallman's approach (1)

beelsebob (529313) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320839)

I see what you're saying, but I think that the GPL is doing more harm than good in this respect. I know several companies (the one I work for included), that will not use GPL code... ever, because it requires that their finished product be opened up.

On the other hand, we do use BSD based projects, and we contribute large amounts of code to them. Arguably, the GPL is stopping lots of good projects ever getting patches from us, and stopping the community from benefiting.

Re:The problem with Stallman's approach (1)

mgiuca (1040724) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320933)

I see what you're saying, but I think that the GPL is doing more harm than good in this respect. I know several companies (the one I work for included), that will not use GPL code... ever, because it requires that their finished product be opened up.

Right. Well once again, I see your point, and am somewhat convinced (wow this must be the most agreeable discussion I've ever had or read on Slashdot).

I think it's ultimately up to the developer in the first place. If he chooses GPL, that means he values the recipients of his code sharing alike more than he values any potential patches he gets back from them.

Re:The problem with Stallman's approach (1)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320759)

No, that's the problem for you. The GP points out the problem for the vast majority of users. Personally I lean a bit more toward the GPL ideal over the BSD ideal, but it's fairly immaterial. 99.9% of computer users will look at what I just wrote and say "oh look, letters." They don't care. They don't even know enough to know if they want to care. If the software is cost-free, and it works, they might prefer to something that costs money or doesn't work as well, but that's as far as the analysis goes.

Stallman likens software freedom to a house, even if you don't know how to modify it they can pay a professional to do so. That's a fair analogy to a point, but the problem is that most people don't know or care that their software is "like a house". For them it's more like a car, a modern car with computers and stuff. They own it, they pay some one to fix it when it's broke, they do basic preventative maintenance if they're smart and know enough (I'm likening AV and spyware software to oil changes and tire pressure here), but otherwise they use it like a tool. They might be vaguely aware that they could pay some after-market guy to come in and make major modifications, but they don't see the point. It's dangerous (the car may no work as well afterward), it's expensive (often more expensive than the modification seems worth), and the car already does what they want it to. Many of them aren't even aware that an after-market exists.

P.S. I'm aware that the car analogies are overdone, but it was the best I could come up with. Flog me is needed.

Re:The problem with Stallman's approach (1)

msuarezalvarez (667058) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320965)

it's fairly immaterial. 99.9% of computer users will look at what I just wrote and say "oh look, letters." They don't care.

That's absolutely irrelevant. Majorities have never been worried with the very most important issues and often, when presented with choices (from beta-vs-vhs to reelecting Bush) make the most irrational, wrong one. Arguments involving "most people" regarding software are broken from the start... How seriously would you take an argument regarding, say, quantum chromodynamics which is based on what 99.9% of the people have to say on the subject?

Re:The problem with Stallman's approach (5, Insightful)

mgiuca (1040724) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320445)

That's exactly right, and that's why the biggest things to happen in free software -- in promoting Stallman's cause -- in the past decade have been the very things he cries out against.

Dell putting Linux on PCs, preinstalled! Fantastic. It works out of the box, and your average user *just might* stumble upon it without having to go out of their way to learn about it. (But that's not cool, according to RMS, because it has some non-free software).

Ubuntu happened! Fantastic. Linux for human beings. For the first time, we can give Ubuntu CDs to our grandmas and get some degree of success. It's a Linux distro that's tuned for normal users. It looks great. It can play DVDs and do 3D graphics. (But that's not cool, according to RMS, because there are binary blobs).

I'm sure there are more examples. My point is that we aren't going to "win" by mouthing off every Linux-based OS or computer with non-free code in it, or, as you say, by refusing to open Word documents. That's just being stubborn. We're going to win by piece-by-piece showing the world what free or almost-free software can do.

Re:The problem with Stallman's approach (1)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320469)

I'm sure I'll get negatively modded for this but why has he been modded Troll? That's poor moderation.

Perhaps the parent's POV on what Stallman thinks of doc files might be a bit extreme to some people but he has a point. Most people don't care and that won't change until FOSS has marketing like MS or Apple as people don't realise how much of the internet is run on free or open software and how much it has done for them already.

After all good marketing has helped Apple come back from the brink of death.

Re:The problem with Stallman's approach (2, Informative)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320487)

"Perhaps the parent's POV on what Stallman thinks of doc files might be a bit extreme to some people but he has a point."

http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/no-word-attachments.html [gnu.org]

I really was not kidding: Stallman does believe that you should demand free media if you are sent entangled or proprietary media.

Re:The problem with Stallman's approach (1)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320675)

Then I'd have to agree with you. You can't undo decades of Office documents by demanding ODF documents as nice of a thought as that may be.

His heart is in the right place but we should focus more on getting people using something that uses both document types and then getting them to change to ODF will be easy.

As we know, if everyone uses Word then to the average person Word is as open as they need.

Re:The problem with Stallman's approach (2, Insightful)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320685)

The reality is that most people are not even knowledgeable enough about their computers to even understand what free software is all about, why it matters, and why they should care.
...
computer users who do not know anything about their computers, and do not care to know.

This is exactly the point. Why should people care if they don't need or want to modify code? The only thing most people care about is if the tool does the job it is intended to do. If it can't, they will find a tool that will. If you as a programmer want to cripple your code by not allowing other programs to link to your libraries, no matter what the reason (including license issues like the GPL), and if that impacts usability, then expect the end user to look elsewhere to find a tool that elegantly and completely does the job they need it to do. Don't expect them to modify the code to do the job. They just want to use the tool. And that is all a computer program is; a tool.

The GPL has to learn to get along with other licenses, or programs licensed under it will always find itself on the fringes in terms of users. Yes, Linux is a major player in the server market. But in terms of the number of total installs regardless of purpose (desktop or server), it is a fringe player. As the GPL becomes more stringent in its restrictions (e.g. GPL2 to GPL3), this will only increase. Thank goodness for the LGPL.

Personally, I use a computer as a tool. I am O/S agnostic. I use MS desktops (and occasionally Linux/Gnome/KDE), and am a former C/Unix programmer who can still code Perl and ksh scripts with the best of them. Better than many Java developers I see now-a-days whose target platform for deployment is on Unix or Linux (it puzzles me why so many know so little about their target deployment platform). I work in a company that uses Linux servers and open source databases. So don't think I am coming off as a MS troll. My bottom line is the best tool for the job. But I am sick of seeing the GPL shooting Linux and its associated programs in the foot.

how do I Open Office files with free software? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320973)

Stallman insists that when somebody sends you a .doc file, you should refuse to open it and insist that they send you a PDF or ODT file instead.

I don't see what's so important about returning .doc files unopened unless a popular piece of copylefted free software with three O's in the name fails to open it.

Re:The problem with Stallman's approach (3, Insightful)

Jamie's Nightmare (1410247) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320987)

What Stallman needs to do is catch up with the biggest development in the computing world of the past 25 years.

Not going to happen. This is a man who, by his own admission [lwn.net] , doesn't surf the web. He doesn't go into detail, but I feel it's pretty safe to assume he doesn't want to defile himself by viewing a website that might be hosted or created with non-free software.

The man is completely out of touch with today's computer users. Any why wouldn't he be? His legacy has been about holding onto the past. To maintain a world where people like him were the real power users. A lot of people give him far more credit than he truly deserves. There was free software before Stallman, it just didn't match his definition. His crusade is about trying to make his problem, our problem. No thanks.

Re:The problem with Stallman's approach (2, Insightful)

vorwerk (543034) | more than 5 years ago | (#26321135)

> most people are not even knowledgeable enough
> about their computers to even understand what
> free software is all about, why it matters, and
> why they should care.

To add to this, I think that there are many people who are familiar with free software, but who do not want to go to Stallman's extent of refusing to use or interact with non-free software.

Personally, I view software like I view any other tool in my workshop: I have some tools that I've made myself (on a lathe and all), I have some tools that I was given for free, and I have some tools that I went to Home Depot and bought outright. I use each of them, in different ways, for different tasks in order to maximize my overall efficiency and minimize my overhead.

In much the same way, I use free software for some tasks and commercial software for others. To blindly commit myself to using either free or non-free software would severely impact my productivity.

(I think that there are a lot of people who employ a similar, "moderate" philosophy.)

Compromise (3, Insightful)

Epsillon (608775) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320331)

Whilst I respect Stallman enormously, I still believe that absolutes and extreme ideals are damaging to any cause. For example, how many of us can say with hand on heart that we don't use an MP3 decoder? A nVidia graphics card? Firmware for the Intel wireless cards? In RMS's eyes we've tainted our freedom, but in reality these compromises allow us MORE freedom of choice, not less.

I'm a great believer in the BSD way of doing things: Here's some code, it's free, use it however you like as long as you don't claim it's yours and we're not going to treat you like a second-class citizen if you install Flash because, quite frankly, you need to make compromises such as this these days. Idealism is all well and good in the abstract, but when you need a piece of information that's hiding inside a Flash-covered web site, freedom should really be the last thing on your mind; making your life more difficult for an ideal is not going to change anyone's minds whilst the majority are accepting the status quo. It just makes you look ridiculous and you end up with rather less freedom, realistically speaking, than you started out with.

Re:Compromise (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320381)

"For example, how many of us can say with hand on heart that we don't use an MP3 decoder? A nVidia graphics card? Firmware for the Intel wireless cards? In RMS's eyes we've tainted our freedom, but in reality these compromises allow us MORE freedom of choice, not less."

One of the issues here is that most people need to work with others, and as free software remains in the minority, the need to work with others forces us to use proprietary or entangled software. If you asked for a sound sample from someone, what is the likelihood that you would receive an OGG? What is the likelihood that you would even know what they will send you? I have had professors record lectures and post Real encoded files, and forced me to paw through Livna just to find codecs. If you are given equipment for a lab, how often do you get to specify what sort of graphics or network cards will be inserted into your computer? More often than not, you'll be given whatever is on hand, and you'll just have to deal with that. Most of us are not in a position to demand free-software-friendly hardware or media, nor are we in a position to refuse non-free hardware or media. It is not that we really WANT to use MP3 (it is a pain in the ass to get MP3 support in Fedora), but sometimes, you just have to.

Re:Compromise (1)

Epsillon (608775) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320785)

Exactly my point, but worded in a far better way. I tend to use FLAC or Vorbis instead of MP3 and I try to choose my hardware with an eye to various HCLs. I use ATi or Intel graphics where possible (sorry, Via, your S3 offerings are simply not compatible enough, although you do try to be open) due to things like GEM and AMD's R6/700 information release. This goes to pieces when purchasing notebooks, naturally.

However, I am in the enviable position of being the final arbiter of what goes into the machines I have to use and I can justify the choices based on other, non-free software issues.

I note you mention Fedora. IMHO Red Hat have the balance just right: The base is untainted but there are methods to install what you need should you find it necessary. It's the same with FreeBSD: The base is pure free software (I can say that now since the Atheros HAL is fully open and the Intel wireless stuff requires a licence ack to activate). The ports, on the other hand, point to all sorts of non-free, possibly binary-only code (RMS has criticised OpenBSD's ports system [marc.info] for this publicly) which you may install if you feel the need. Note that ports/pkgsrc does not distribute the actual binary or source code, just provides a pointer to it. Quite how this is wrong I fail to see. As you so rightly said, getting some things to work can be a total PITA and anything that eases this workload has to be a good thing for free software in general. I think the bottom line we both agree on is that we have to be able to interoperate with non-free formats while we're in the minority. This may put us at odds with some people's version of "freedom" but still remains necessary to function properly in the current IT ecosystem.

Re:Compromise (5, Insightful)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320439)

I've always though Stallman's views were quite useful to have around.

I forget where I read it, but someone once pointed out that if you need a new computer at work you should go in asking for $10,000,000 - then when you get laughed out of the office and come back asking for a ridiculous gaming rig that costs $5000 you might just get it.

It's the same theory, in my view. Realistically he's never going to get what he wants, but just the act of having him there campaigning for it makes 'middle of the road' suggestions more reasonable by comparison.

Re:Compromise (1, Insightful)

LighterShadeOfBlack (1011407) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320591)

I forget where I read it, but someone once pointed out that if you need a new computer at work you should go in asking for $10,000,000 - then when you get laughed out of the office and come back asking for a ridiculous gaming rig that costs $5000 you might just get it.

It's the same theory, in my view. Realistically he's never going to get what he wants, but just the act of having him there campaigning for it makes 'middle of the road' suggestions more reasonable by comparison.

Except that's not what really happens is it? The guy who asks for the $10,000,000 computer might get the $5000 system in the end or he might get shown the door or otherwise told to shut up and get back to work. Even if he gets it, everyone who had to deal with that guy has silently written him off as a total asshole to be avoided and skipped over for promotions in future.

And so it is with Stallman. If (one of) the most vocal advocates of free software is a ranting loony who has no concept of the real world then a lot of people will write off free software and its supporters as ridiculous zealots who live in a fantasy world. People and software to be avoided.

I'm afraid the reasoning doesn't work in the anecdote or the real world scenario. Act like a dick and people will think you're a dick. Talk sense (for long enough) and people will listen. It's that simple.

Re:Compromise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26320623)

Yep, it's just like having a quad patty burger on your menu makes people more likely to buy a double patty burger.

Re:Compromise (1)

smoker2 (750216) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320649)

"If you don't have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true ?"

Re:Compromise (3, Insightful)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320901)

Dreaming is all well and good. Practically speaking however, in a world full of more than 3 people, some compromise is necessary if you hope to see any of that dream come to pass. Stallman can dream all he wants about of world of perfectly free software, but in the real world, those of us who wish to eat use the Windows box our company gives us at work. We deal with user that don't know the difference between floppies and CDs (alright, that was years ago, but not that many years), let alone the difference between free and closed OSes. There are three types of people that can afford to be zealots about open source: those who don't need to worry about money, those who never use a computer at work and are pure hobbyists, and FSF employees. As far as I can see everyone else has to make some sacrifices somewhere.

Re:Compromise (1)

Sebastian Reichelt (1241416) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320677)

I'd like to be able to agree with that. The thing is, most "free software activists" are not doing what you said. Once the issue is raised to an ethical level ("freedom"), people seem to feel the need for an all-or-nothing point of view.

I think that for example, the KDE/GNOME split is a direct consequence, since KDE not being "free enough" (at the time) is said to be one of the major reasons for GNOME's existence. Similarly, some BSD-affine developers seem to feel the need to rewrite GPL software just to make it "more free."

At the end of the day, free software is just vastly more useful than non-free software, especially because as a user, you can be sure that you will never be locked in to anything. The question is whether proprietary software is actually evil (as free software activists seem to claim) or whether free software is simply better.

As pragmatists such as Linus have acknowledged, that question does not even need to be answered; all we can do is develop free software -- for whatever reason we choose. What does matter, though, is whether we develop software for maximum utility (possibly compromising "freedom," see for example WINE) or maximum "freedom" (possibly lacking utility, Gnash anyone?). (Not really trying to criticise Gnash or support WINE, just giving some examples to illustrate my point.)

Re:Compromise (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26320827)

So you're kinda thinking the way I do. Let the idealists on either end fight it out tooth and nail, and the rest of us in the middle get a balanced product as the end result. Every time people whine about idealists, I point out that without them we'd lack a lot of the cool stuff we have these days.

Re:Compromise (2, Interesting)

FalcDot (1224920) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320563)

One person's freedom ends where another man's freedom begins.

So when a developer uses *his* freedom and develops in Flash, he ends up taking away everybody else's freedom because now they must use Flash as well if they want to see this site.

Installing and using Flash is *not* giving yourself more choice, it's taking back the choice that others took away from you. And that shouldn't happen.

Re:Compromise (2, Interesting)

FishWithAHammer (957772) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320645)

Do you realize how preposterous this is?

Flash is a tool. (Not one I like or even use, but that's because the abuses of Flash are generally worse than the benefits.) You don't have an inherent right to demand that everyone use shit you yourself have vetted as being oh-so-FREE-SOFTWAAAAAAAAAAAAAARE. If you want to view that developer's Flash, then you must descend from your holier-than-thou cloud and use Flash. It's not "losing freedoms," it's playing nice with others. Because you're free not to use their sites, as I do.

Testing on a free system before publication (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#26321097)

So when a developer uses *his* freedom and develops in Flash, he ends up taking away everybody else's freedom because now they must use Flash as well if they want to see this site.

But who loses freedom when a developer uses his freedom and develops in Flash and tests in Gnash? Or when someone writes a document in Microsoft Word and proofreads it in AbiWord or OOo Writer before sending it out?

Re:Compromise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26320569)

in reality these compromises allow us MORE freedom of choice, not less.

I use an nVidia graphics card, along with a GNU/Linux-based operating system. With regard to the closed-source drivers I use to access the hardware's features, I have only freedoms 0 and 2. I could choose other hardware whose drivers come with all four freedoms. Stallman hopes to persuade me to make such a choice.

when you need a piece of information that's hiding inside a Flash-covered web site, freedom should really be the last thing on your mind;

"Information"--heh. Are YouTube and pron really that important? I've been going without Flash for a while, mainly because its compatibility with Konqueror sucks. I don't miss much.

making your life more difficult for an ideal is not going to change anyone's minds whilst the majority are accepting the status quo.

While the majority have been accepting the status quo, the idealists have been bringing greater software freedom to us all. I'm grateful that not everyone's a pragmatist. I don't think "extreme ideals" damage the cause as much as just giving up.

I'm not a zealot on either side of this debate, but at least I understand the points both sides make. It's sad that after 25 years, so many people who seem to be paying attention still don't get it.

Re:Compromise (1)

argiedot (1035754) | more than 5 years ago | (#26321051)

Out of curiosity, what's wrong with an mp3 decoder? LAME is LGPL.

Personally, while I'm willing to make these compromises (I have nVidia graphics drivers - though personally I was happier with Intel's, and I have an Intel wireless card), I'm a great fan of Stallman. Someone's got to be the extremist for things to change.

Stallman is a zealot (4, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320371)

Sorry, but it's true. As such it is no surprise that few people use things he'd consider free. He has a very rigid definition of it, one that many people might disagree with. For example the BSD crowd might say his definition is messed up since it doesn't include the freedom to take something and make it not free.

Regardless, because of his stance on it, most people don't use software that's Stallman Free(tm). We live in a real world, and imperfect world. Most people have to be a bit pragmatic with things. If that means using software that isn't Stallman Free, well then so be it. Ubuntu is concerned with being easily usable and widely adopted, not with idealism.

Also there is still the large unanswered question of how everyone can make money in a free software world. Some software it's not a problem for. For example:

--Software that runs hardware. You are buying the hardware, the software is just something that helps make it go. Thus it isn't a problem to have anyone able to copy and redistribute it. Heck, might even be to your benefit as maybe they make it better. Your money is in the device, so the software needn't be restricted. Embedded devices would be an example.

--Software that needs support. You aren't selling the software here, what you are selling is service on it. The software is complex, and/or is used in a complex nature. Thus people are going to have difficulty doing it without professional help. That's what you sell, is the expertise to make it all work as they want. The software is free, the service isn't. Enterprise Linux would be an example.

--Software for a service. You offer a service, like hosting or something. You have software to make that possible and to interact with it. This works as free because people aren't paying you for it, people are paying for your service.

There are probably more too. However there are some major categories that don't work like that. The biggest would be a lot of consumer applications, like games and such. If you design the app well, with good tutorials and intuitive interfaces, people don't need anything else to make it work. Thus if you make it free software, where they are free to simply give it away, then they've no need to pay you for it.

Well this doesn't work if you want software to be made as anything more than a hobby. For someone to do something professionally, as in to devote most of their time to it, that thing has to pay. People have to eat, they have to pay rent, they have to buy things they need. That means they need a job that pays. So if there's no way to make money off their software, well then they can't have a job making it. It can be a hobby, but not a job.

For example I have a hobby redoing soundtrack from old games. It amuses me, and others seem to enjoy it. However it isn't my job, and can't be. For legal and practical reasons, I can't make money on it, certainly not near enough to support myself. Thus it gets relegated to hobby status. I work on it when I like, when I've free time. Ends up taking a long time for that reason. What takes me a year I could easily do in a couple weeks if I were being paid to do it and directing all my efforts at that. However I'm not, so it happens on my terms. I do only projects I like, only when I like to do them.

So unless we want to see large classes of software relegated to that sort of status, we either have to allow for non-free software, or to figure out a way that people can make money on all free software. Also please not by "make money" I don't mean "make a token amount of cash through a few donations." I mean "Make enough money to support themselves and their family in a manner befitting of their skill and education." A hobby can't become a job just because people toss you a couple hundred dollars now and again. It's got to be something you can support yourself on.

Thus far, I've heard no solutions and can't come up with any myself. So we have to deal with the reality that not all software can be free software.

Re:Stallman is a zealot (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320549)

"--Software that runs hardware. You are buying the hardware, the software is just something that helps make it go. Thus it isn't a problem to have anyone able to copy and redistribute it. Heck, might even be to your benefit as maybe they make it better. Your money is in the device, so the software needn't be restricted. Embedded devices would be an example."

This is an interesting issue in the free software world, that is difficult to approach fairly. It is becoming increasingly common to use programmable logic (FPGAs, CPLDs, etc.) instead of specialty ASIC microchips in hardware these days. That means that for the hardware to run, there must be firmware available, either on a flash cell (which increases the cost of the hardware) or in the driver (which now has a free software complication).

Take nVidia as an example. Many people are confused when nVidia says that they cannot release an open source driver because of licensing agreements with other companies, but this is probably true. nVidia likely subcontracted some of its logic designs, and implemented those designs in firmware for an FPGA of some sort. The firm they contracted with probably demanded royalties for the logic designs, and why shouldn't they? Even RMS does not demand to know the internal designs of his hardware, and the contractor that demanded the royalties probably had no idea (and no need to know) how the logic would be implemented. The same is likely true of Broadcom wireless cards, various video capture cards that have no free software drivers, and all that specialty hardware out there.

This is why, although I am a big supporter of free software, I draw the line with firmware. Binary blobs do not encumber free software, because really, FPGA firmware is not really software, it is a hardware design.

Penguin on the box as a bullet point? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#26321143)

That means that for the hardware to run, there must be firmware available, either on a flash cell (which increases the cost of the hardware) or in the driver (which now has a free software complication).

I've seen 2 GB USB memory cards for 5 USD retail, and I'd imagine that FPGA firmware would fit in a much smaller, cheaper flash chip. So aren't there specialty hardware makers willing to increase MSRP of a peripheral by $5 to cover the cost of proudly putting a penguin on the box?

Re:Stallman is a zealot (5, Informative)

_|()|\| (159991) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320639)

[Stallman] has a very rigid definition of [free] ... it doesn't include the freedom to take something and make it not free.

Actually, Stallman's definition of free is straightforward and intuitive, and it does include BSD, MIT, public domain, etc. What you may find objectionable is that he prefers copyleft. As a practical matter, due to the nature of copyleft, he prefers licenses that are compatible with the GNU GPL. Take a look a the FSF's page on licenses [fsf.org] for more information.

Re:Stallman is a zealot (0, Redundant)

Zebra_X (13249) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320805)

Actually, Stallman's definition of free is straightforward and intuitive

Yes, if you use Free Code in Your Code, Your Code becomes Free Code.

I would not regard this as intuitive - for the programmer it causes a great deal of headache as the parent mentioned.

Additionally it is easy for Stallman, as leader of this movement to profit from speaking about this Great Idea, he never has to worry where his next paycheck comes from. The reality is that it results in there being no way to protect others Great Ideas from less scrupulious users and/or companies that can easily look at the code and rewrite it (or just copy it).

Code sharing is fine, but I should be free to protect my innovations if I like and not have a zealot who gets paid for telling me that I am not allowed to do so.

Re:Stallman is a zealot (1)

argiedot (1035754) | more than 5 years ago | (#26321169)

You are really missing the point. The GPL is a license. A developer gives you a license to use the code on the condition that you release any changes to it. If you don't you don't have a license to the code, what you are doing is 'copyright violation'. Get that? It's copyright violation! Your code doesn't become free or anything like that.

I mean, seriously, you can just pay the copyright violation settlement costs if you want, and stop distributing someone else's code.

I've never understood how you can want to 'protect' your work but use everyone else's.

Re:Stallman is a zealot (1)

RicardoGCE (1173519) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320833)

A zealot he may be, but the "compromises" we're able to enjoy today are the direct result of his extreme positions. Starting a battle looking to compromise gets you killed. Starting with "all or nothing" gets you compromise.

And we should all thank Richard Stallman for launching the first volley. We wouldn't have gotten to where we are today with "compromise". It was Stallman's "fuck all y'all, I'm making my own damn system" that did it.

Re:Stallman is a zealot (1)

smoker2 (750216) | more than 5 years ago | (#26321125)

--Software for a service. You offer a service, like hosting or something. You have software to make that possible and to interact with it. This works as free because people aren't paying you for it, people are paying for your service.

And how is that different from "Software as a service - to your employer" ?

What if you find yourself working in an environment where you code, script or otherwise hack all your own tools to accomplish your assigned task. The masses aren't capable of it now, but then they've been conditioned to push buttons rather than create. This is changing. There are thousands of small firms going to the wall all the time. Money is tight, so which is the better option to run your small office on as a start up ? Pay for licences from MS/Apple, or do your own thing ? All that's missing is the awareness and the skill level. That is changing. New hires to the growing company will be hired on their ability to work with the tools available.

In such a job market, knowing how to access free and open tools and the ability to write your own will be just as much a desirable skill as knowing which button to push to print a Word document is today. With more people using open ended tools, more intelligent people will regard their computers as extensions of their brains, not machines they have to work for 8 hours a day. You task is gathering data, and reporting it up the chain. How you do that is up to you. The sysadmins take care of separation of privileges, duplication and protection of data.
Sure the low level money will be shit, but how's that different ? It's a job, you get paid. So there you have a way for "open source / free" software to make money and feed your kids.
Too many people appear to make the assumption that the individual has to "sell" to make a wage packet. Deriding free software for failing a straw man argument is misleading and pointless. Most workers today don't sell anything, but the firm they work for might.

And you might be thinking that all the previous relies on a level of education that doesn't exist. Correct.
Well how about teaching basic linux classes ? You can make money from free software quite well there, and there is the added benefit that my other scenario becomes more likely, sooner.

I get the impression there are a lot of homeless people standing next to piles of bricks, cement, timber and slates while complaining that they haven't got a house.

Re:Stallman is a zealot (1)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 5 years ago | (#26321129)

Sorry, but it's true. As such it is no surprise that few people use things he'd consider free. He has a very rigid definition of it, one that many people might disagree with.

The really funny part is that "The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2)" is bounded by edict (it has apparently been judged that people do not benefit from having a Tivo) rather than something sane like assuming that anyone who wants a copy probably does benefit from having it.

Mandriva (4, Informative)

phoxix (161744) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320407)

Mandriva comes in two flavors: One, and Free. The Free version [mandriva.com] is just what it sounds like: 100% free software. No proprietary browser plugins, drivers, apps, etc.

Cardware (1)

xippie (925090) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320425)

I like the concept of cardware http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postcardware [wikipedia.org]
to post a card to the maker, that you enjoy the free software.

Re:Cardware (4, Insightful)

FishWithAHammer (957772) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320673)

Too bad you can't eat postcards or deposit them in your bank account.

Re:Cardware (2, Insightful)

adamofgreyskull (640712) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320817)

Too bad indeed, but I'm sure it'd still be nice to be able to pin the 1 or 2 postcards you get (out of the thousands of downloads) to your noticeboard and say, "Someone got my software for free, and was appreciative enough to buy a postcard and mail it to me, even though they didn't really need to". Outside of the Free Software discussion, but still on topic, if/when I get a bonus from my employer, or an "attaboy" from my manager, I appreciate it, but it means 10x more to hear from someone who actually uses what I write and goes out of their way to thank me...maybe I'm getting less mercenary in my old age.

University programmers, eh? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26320503)

University programmers with tenure track (aka permanent, can-never-be-laid-off types) can afford to release "free" software. But let's not forget: Universities' tenure luxuries exist because we pay taxes, our very own tax money was used and paid to develop GNU. So is it really free? Are Universities free? Are roads free? For the rest of us from the world which does not enjoy Academia tax breaks and who can be and is laid off on a regular basis, there should be no obligation whatsoever to follow this path of self-destruction and indeed most do not (game developers is one excellent example.) We pay taxes, which is a real and honorable contribution to the society.
Freeloaders from Academia should be ashamed to propagate thieves ideology to the rest of us.

Linux Torvalds? (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26320585)

"While Linux Torvalds gets most of the plaudits nowadays for the Linux kernel, it was Stallman who originally posted plans for a new, and free, operating system."

Patents are the biggest danger (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26320627)

The idea of patenting software was a bad one and it is the biggest threat to the software industry. It makes the entire issue of open and freely available source minor in comparison.

It's free enough (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26320715)

At some point you have to stop nitpicking and just enjoy what you have.

Freedom through software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26320765)

Just want to note that we have now come to the stage where software is being developed which actively creates freedom. See, for example, Metascore [metagovernment.org] and the many similar projects which allow human societies to organize themselves without the oppression of elected leaders.

The term "Free Software" (4, Insightful)

mgiuca (1040724) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320815)

RMS is always so adamant that we call it "Free Software" and not "Open Source Software". Problem is, whether Free Software is a better name for it or not, it's got hideous problems. The main one being this (from TFA):

Search Google for 'free software' and the top result is a site dedicated to mostly proprietary software that's free to try, but often crippled by shareware licensing or demo restrictions.

You just can't use the term "free software" around normal people - they don't get it. They use the term "free software" themselves all the time, to mean Internet Explorer and Stupid Window Theme Pack For Windows 30 Day Trial and other garbage. Like it or not, the term is overloaded, and RMS's definition is not the default.

I prefer the term "open source". It's far less ambiguous (the ambiguity between "open source" and RMS-free is a much more subtle distinction than the ambiguity between "free software" and RMS-free). People either know what it means, or don't know what it means (and I can explain). Much better than people assuming it means something it doesn't.

You've come a long way, baby. (5, Insightful)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 5 years ago | (#26320859)

It's amazing that GNU is 25 years old now. In 1984 I was using a TRS-80, and the latest thing I knew about proprietary versus nonproprietary software was that Radio Shack had given up on the idea that customers would only be able to buy software from Radio Shack -- they had finally come around to the point of view that it was OK for third-party software houses to sell applications that would run on their OS. How many people are as far ahead of their time as Stallman was in 1984?

There are plenty of obstacles remaining, but I think it's impressive as hell how much you can do with free software today, and how easy it is to do it. My mother in law, who's in her 80s, installed Ubuntu on her computer this year, with just a little help from me over the phone. She actually had more trouble installing java (which she needed for her favorite online Scrabble app) than she did installing the OS. My neighbor came over for a beer yesterday and asked to see my Linux box. His main reaction to Gnome was, "Wow, I didn't expect anything so professional looking." When he contemplated the idea of using Linux in his home office, the main concern I couldn't answer satisfactorily was whether or not it would work with his multifunction fax machine/copier. So, okay, no, he probably won't run Linux in the foreseeable future. But it's amazing to me that the big obstacles are now confined to issues as peripheral as that. Heck, you'd probably have a lot of the same concerns if you were contemplating switching to MacOS from Windows.

Intellectually, I think Stallman was very clever with his invention of the GPL framework. No matter how many BSD-versus-GPL flamewars there are on slashdot, I think any impartial observer has to admit that the general approach (using copyright for a purpose diametrically opposed to most people's idea of the purpose of copyright) was pretty novel in 1984, and it's been wildly successful, even in other contexts. Wikipedia is a good example. The fact that WP is GFDL licensed is what makes people comfortable contributing to it.

Re:You've come a long way, baby. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26321165)

When he contemplated the idea of using Linux in his home office, the main concern I couldn't answer satisfactorily was whether or not it would work with his multifunction fax machine/copier.

Whether a printer or its non-printing features work under Linux is rarely a difficult question. If you know the model number, you can probably find it on OpenPrinting [linuxfoundation.org] (apparently the new name of linuxprinting.org). When I have looked up multifunctions in the past, I have found helpful information on how to get the scanner working.

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