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The FSF's Bradley Kuhn Responds

timothy posted more than 12 years ago | from the it's-bearded-at-the-top dept.

GNU is Not Unix 370

Last week you asked Bradley Kuhn, VP of the Free Software Foundation (FSF) questions about working with RMS, his views on software freedom, and much more. He's answered at length below, on everything from becoming a saint to the "web app loophole," perl, and the next iteration of the GPL.

on freedom?
by merlin_jim

How do you view FSF's goal, that stated on their website as The FSF promotes the development and use of free (as in freedom) software ---particularly the GNU operating system(used widely today in its GNU/Linux variant)--- and free (as in freedom) documentation. In particular, how do you interpret what the word free means in respect to software and programmer's rights?

Bradley Kuhn: I believe strongly that all published software should be Free Software. Users should get all the freedoms as defined in the Free Software Definition. Namely, each person who receives a copy of a software program should have the freedom to study, copy, share, modify, redistribute and (optionally) redistribute modified versions of that program.

But that's surely no surprise--if I didn't believe that, I certainly wouldn't enjoy working for the FSF. ;)

As for the other half of your question, "programmer's rights," I certainly think programmers, like all users, have a right to all those freedoms I mention above. However, programmers don't deserve any "rights" that infringe on the freedoms of others. Often in society, we decide that the right to act a certain way should be limited because it infringes on the freedom of others.

For example, in the USA, white people used to have the right to own slaves. As a society, we eventually decided that this right was too restrictive on the freedom of the people who served as slaves. Because of that decision, it is now illegal to own slaves in the USA.

Our society took away the "freedom" to own slaves. Today, no one would even argue that owning slaves is a freedom. People now say that slavery is an inappropriate power that one person holds over another person.

Today, some argue that the "right to choose your own software license" is the greatest software freedom. By contrast, I think that, like slavery, it is an inappropriate power, not a freedom. The two situations both cause harm, and they differ only in the degree of harm that each causes.

Proprietary software is an exercise of power, and it harms the users by denying their freedom. When users lack the freedoms that define Free Software, they can't tell what the software is doing, can't check for back doors, can't monitor possible viruses and worms, can't find out what personal information is being reported (or stop the reports, even if they do find out). If it breaks, they can't fix it; they have to wait for the developer to exercise its power to do so. If the software simply isn't quite what they need, they are stuck with it. They can't help each other improve it.

Discussions of rights and rules for software use have usually concentrated too much on the interests of programmers alone. Few people in the world program regularly, and fewer still are owners of proprietary software businesses. But the entire developed world now needs and uses software, so decisions about software determine what kind of world we have. Software developers now control the way the world lives, does business, communicates and is entertained. The ethical and political issues cannot be avoided under the slogan of "freedom of choice (for developers only)."

The real question we now face is: who should control the code you use--you, or an elite few? We (in the Free Software Movement) believe you are entitled to control the software you use, and giving you that control is the goal of Free Software.

Current copyright law places us in the position of dictator for our code, whether we like it or not. We cannot escape making some decisions for others, so our decision is to proclaim freedom for each user, just as the bill of rights exercises government power by guaranteeing each citizen's freedoms. That is what the GNU GPL is for: it puts you in control of your usage of the software, while protecting you from others exercising their dictatorial power. This is the ethical choice, in a situation where laws give us and others such power.

New term for "Free"?
by abischof

Is the FSF brainstorming any ideas on alternatives to the term "Free"? Unlike many other languages, it seems that English does not have separate words for "without cost" and "having freedom." So, we in the Open Source community end up using phrases such as "free as in beer" or "Free with a capital 'F'" (neither of which are immediately intuitive to the public at large).

Much better, I think, would be to come up with a new adjective to describe such Free software ("Free" with a capital "F", that is). One idea that has been batted about is "liberated software," but that has the connotation of "stolen software" to some people. Of course, this isn't to say that the term "Free" wouldn't be used anymore -- but it would be nice to have an alternative for use at, for example, picnics or family gatherings.

BK: I find it odd that you talk the question in terms of the "Open Source community". The term "Open Source" is typically used to focus the discussion away from talking about freedom. Thus, a question about the drawbacks of the adjective "free" seems strange when in the context of "Open Source". But, nevertheless, I am glad to see an Open Source supporter talking more about freedom! Thank you for doing that.

By the way, I don't think about the "Open Source community" as a distinct entity. There are two movements afoot: the Free Software Movement, whose focus is the political and ethical issues of software freedom, and the Open Source Movement, whose focus is to avoid political issues of freedom, and to talk about the technological benefits of "Open Source". The movements differ greatly because their fundamental philosophies and motivations are different.

However, together we form one community---the same community that started in 1984 when the Free Software Movement started. In 1998, within that community, we had another movement start up with a different focus, but we've always been together in one community. Thus, I hope you'll think of the community as including both the Free Software Movement and the Open Source Movement, and remember that it originally started as the Free Software community. At the very least, please call it the "Free Software and Open Source community", so that Free Software isn't left completely out of the picture.

As to your question about the adjective "free," we in the Free Software Movement have never come across a term that has any great advantage over the term "Free Software."

The term "liberated software", which you mention, has a clear drawback in that it only applies to software that was once proprietary software, and is now Free. GNU Emacs, for example, was never proprietary software, so it isn't "liberated software."

Fortunately, there are lots of ways to clear up the confusion, and make up for English's shortcomings. Many of us say "free (as in freedom) software" when there is ambiguity.

Others say "software libre" or "free (libre) software", using the Spanish word to make things clear. In fact, whenever I am speaking to an audience that I know will fully understand what "libre" is (in Europe, for example), I favor the term "Libre Software".

Also, when talking about the general concept of what we stand for, I always use the term "software freedom". This doesn't change what we call the software *itself*---that's Free Software---and there's really no other good term for it. But, the term "software freedom" gives an easy way of talking about the overall concept that is completely unambiguous.

So, while the term Free Software does have some drawbacks, the confusions are easy enough to clarify, and the drawbacks here are fewer than the other alternatives. Also, using the various methods that I mention here can work well together to help clear up any confusion.

Next big technical effort?
by Lumpish Scholar

Congratulations on the release of version 3.0 of the GNU Compiler Collection. This is the cumulation of a lot of work by contributors to the GNU project from all over the world. What do you see as the GNU project's next big release? Mono and DotGNU? Bayonne? Something else?

BK: You are quite correct that the GNU project is a collaborative work of contributors from around the world. It's the work of a cooperating community---no one person deserves the credit: the congratulations go to the GNU project as a whole. (BTW, I encourage you to thank the GNU project by reminding people that the system so often called "Linux" is actually the GNU system with Linux as its kernel).

As for the next "big" release: it's hard to say. We don't force any sort of schedules on GNU developers---they work as best they can, and put a release out when they see it as ready. So, I might be surprised to find out next week some major project is ready for a big release. So, I cannot make any prediction as to what the next big release will be, as I could easily end up being proven wrong later. (However, FWIW, a project that I know is getting close to a big release is GNU Emacs 21.)

FSF and the cause?
by Lumpy

What is your stance on Software protection? In the FSF stance, what would you do or recommend to be done if (check that if -- WHEN) a GNU program and programmer is attacked in a way that will be very like what we see with Dimitri. Many of the GNU programs and software packages are, as far as I am concerned, in real danger of being attacked or persecuted by large corporations. With laws like the DCMA and other unbelievable laws that are being drafted as bills every day, What do you think can be done to protect this freedom?

BK: We must all act politically and speak out to defend our freedom. I feel as you do that we are about to enter a rough period in the history of the Free Software Movement. Large corporations such as proprietary software companies and entertainment companies now have a financial interest in restricting various software freedoms that many of us currently take for granted.

We might very well have to fight for this freedom in courts in the USA or elsewhere. We are preparing ourselves for this possibility, and we will rise to the challenge if it comes to that. The FSF is saving up money in case we need to fight a legal battle. Eben Moglen is also working with large donors to set up a separate Free Software Legal Fund.

Meanwhile, the best thing we can do is to work hard to get laws like the DMCA repealed. We encourage everyone in the USA to contact their congressional representatives, and explain why the DMCA is harmful.

Another way you can help fight the DMCA is to attend the "Free Dmitry Sklyarov March" on the Federal Building in San Francisco on Thursday, 30 August 2001. The USA government is prosecuting Dmitry, under DMCA, for making a particular program available to the public. Please join the protest---everyone is meeting outside the Moscone center in San Francisco at 11:30 in the morning on August 30th.

On another matter, please make your congress-person aware of the threat of software patents! Software patents are harmful to Free Software, but they also hurt just about any software developer who doesn't work for a big corporation that has access to large patent pools. Let people know the threat that software patents have for small software businesses and Free Software.

If you live in Europe, please help fight the possible EU decision to approve software patents.

At home?
by cnkeller

So, what types of software do you use at home?

BK: I use only Free Software on all computers that are under my control, which include the ones I use for my work at the FSF and my home computer.

I use Official Debian GNU/Linux ("testing" on my work laptop, "stable" on my home desktop machine).

As for specific programs, I spend most of my day using an email client, and I use mutt running inside GNU Emacs' ansi-term. (It sounds weird, but it really works well for me.) I use GNU Emacs for all of my editing, text manipulation, and the like.

I have always been more command-line-oriented than GUI-oriented, so I run a minimal X Windowing System desktop. I use sawfish as my window manager, which I really like, because I can script it so I rarely have to use the mouse.

I use Mozilla when I need a graphical web browser, but also use a mix of links, lynx, and Emacs/w3 when graphics aren't needed.

I use GnuCash to manage my personal finances. I really enjoy that program, as I am pretty pedantic about keeping track of ever penny I spend. If you ever go to dinner with me, you'll notice that I ask for a receipt for everything: that's so I can come home and type it into GnuCash. ;)

Related to that, I'll mention this additional amusing story since someone else asked what my "position" is in the "Church of Emacs". I officially became a saint in the Church of Emacs on 31 December 1999. I had given up nearly all non-Free Software in April 1998, but until December 1999, I still used one non-Free Software program: Quicken running under WINE. I finally got the time to convert my files over to GnuCash, and decided that I'd make a clean break with the new year (2000), and fully switch to GnuCash.

Thus, GnuCash made it very easy for me to move into full sainthood. ;) And, I've never looked back. I feel so much better using and developing only Free Software now.

The one thing I am still missing is a "saint name". At one point, I'd thought of another existing saint whose name sounded good with a "gnu" in the middle (like IGNUcius). Sadly, I didn't write it down right away, and promptly forgot. If anyone has ideas for a saint name, let me know. ;)

But, please keep in mind the the entire idea of a "Church of Emacs" and saints therein is just a joke. Sometimes, people get confused and think that Emacs really is a religion. It's not a religion, even if it is a way of life for some of us. ;)

Apple and the FSF
by imac.usr

Now that Mac OS X and Darwin are out, Apple obviously has a vested interest in supporting the FSF. They have been trying to get changes to gcc for Altivec support and PPC optimization merged back into the tree, and they are showing at least some support for both Open Source and Free Software. Plus, development of more Cocoa software should in theory lead to better support of GNUStep in the future. With these changes, has the FSF's opinion of/relationship with Apple changed since the boycotting of the '80s, or is it still more or less adversarial?

BK: Today, our feeling toward Apple is like our feeling toward most software companies who do both Free Software and proprietary software. We thank them for their Free Software contributions, but still push them to go further in supporting software freedom. We have to judge each action separately. Some things that Apple does are good for the Free Software community, and some things it does are bad Free Software community.

Apple has allowed many of its employees to contribute to various GNU programs, and we are glad that they have done so. But Apple still develops lots of proprietary software and for that we criticize them.

Also, I wouldn't say that Apple "obviously has a vested interest in supporting the FSF". They clearly have some interest in helping certain Free Software projects (such as GCC and GDB), but I don't think they are really dedicated to the goal of software freedom. For them, it's likely only a pragmatic necessity that leads them to support some Free Software projects.

I also should mention that it was only a partial victory for freedom in January 2001 when Apple released APSL 1.2. They came much closer to a Free Software license than the APSL 1.0, but they fell short by continuing to require that "deployed" versions in an organization be published. Thus, they still restrict the important freedom of private modifications.

I hope that Apple will take that final step in the next version of the license and make the APSL into a Free Software license. I urge those of you who use code released by Apple under the APSL to work at convincing Apple to make the change.

How can you get the average person to support FSF?
by ColGraff

How is the FSF going to compete with Microsoft and other closed-source-companies in public relations with the non-tech-savvy masses? Microsoft has legions of corporate and individual clients (and partners in other projects) extolling the virtues of closed-source, and spreading all sorts of vile lies about the Free Software Movement. How do you and Stallman plan to bring the goals and ideology of the FSF to the average person in a way he/she can understand and appreciate? It seems to me that without widespread public support of the FSF, judges and legislatures will tend to support the big corporate interests that (in the case of the legislators) pay for their campaigns in any conflict, such as a GPL violation case or software laws.

So, how will you rally the non-techie public to the FSF and GPL, dispelling the image of both as the product of socialist, somewhat freaky nerds? And how will you pay for such a campaign?

BK: Fortunately, we are fighting for rights of people---the same people who ultimately elect the legislators who represent us. Today, many people are beginning to feel corporate interests encroaching on their rights, and we simply need to empower them with tools to do something about it. We began our efforts reaching out to highly technical people and have been quite successful at creating momentum for Free Software alternatives to proprietary software.

Now, reaching non-technical people is an active goal for us, and we are open to ideas. I am a hacker (in the original, positive sense of the term), so I am much more comfortable talking to those who develop software. However, I am trying to retrain myself to learn how to think as non-hackers, politicians, and judges think, so that I can better deliver our message to them.

Recently, I changed my mode of dress to be a bit more traditional, and I cut my long hair. I did this in part because my fiancee wanted me to, but also in part because I realize that non-hackers are sometimes threatened by the "typical hacker style." This actually wasn't my idea; I got it from Jello Biafra, a social commentator and spoken-word artist (who is most famous for leading the now-defunct punk band "Dead Kennedys"). Jello pointed out that the "Halloween costume" approach (i.e., wearing clothes that seem like a costume to you, but are "normal" to most people) can really work when trying to reach people who don't agree with you. Some people are uncomfortable enough with our ideas, and if our dress, clothing, piercings, or mannerisms turn them off, they won't even take the time to listen to our ideas. Since I was never that attached to long hair and my "t-shirt and jeans," I decided to make the changes, in case it might help to reach such people who would otherwise be turned off. I kept the beard, though, because I really don't want to shave every morning!

That's an example of a superficial change that I've personally done to make myself more accessible to non-hackers. I also think a lot about how our work can improve everyone's life, and I always try to address my points to a person's individual concerns. For example, when talking to teachers, I often point out that proprietary software puts students at a disadvantage. The best way to learn to be a great programmer is to study the historical works of programming and to try to make them better. Only Free Software gives the freedoms required to learn well. Teachers often connect with this point, or at least it raises for them some cognitive dissonance about their school's use of proprietary software.

The point here is that you have to give each person reasons for software freedom that are relevant to her daily life. The best way I've found to do this is to imagine that person's use of software, and express to her how freedom could make her life better.

If you are trying to convince a large group of non-hackers about Free Software, please keep in mind that the FSF has a speakers' list and several on the list are excellent at reaching non-hackers. Eben Moglen, for example, is a law professor and is an excellent speaker on our behalf. Tony Stanco, who started FreeDevelopers, is also a lawyer and is good at reaching non-hackers. We also have Robert J. Chassell, who has been involved with the FSF since its inception, and he is very good at speaking with the non-hacker business community.

But, it's up to each of us to speak out about software freedom when we talk with others. Please help us. If anyone has additional ideas on how we can reach non-hackers with the message of software freedom, we'd love to hear from you.

As to the question of how we will pay for it, this is the reason we are 501(c)(3) charity. Part of what we use our funds for is these sorts of advocacy efforts.

BTW, just as "Open Source" is not what we advocate, "closed source" is not what we're against. The opposite of Free software is proprietary software. We have been working for 17 years now to replace proprietary (non-Free) software with Free software. All closed source software is non-Free, but some open source software is also non-Free.

GPL for web-apps
by webmaven

As both Bruce Perens and Tim O'Reilly have pointed out, it is possible to publicly deploy a web-app that is derived from GPL'd software without having to distribute your modifications.

While I certainly feel that it should be possible to do this for applications that are deployed internally without having the deployment count as 'distribution,' I am less happy about deployments on public websites. I would want web-applications that I create to have an additional 'public-performance' clause in their license that would require modifications that are publicly deployed to be made available in source form.

This is the so-called 'web-app loophole,' and I was wondering what your thoughts on the matter were?

BK: When a web application is run to provide a service to the public, I believe that the service provider has an ethical obligation to make the software available as Free Software to the users of that application.

Of course, we realize that the GNU GPL, version 2, does not require this. But, calling it a loophole is an exaggeration. The GPL does prohibit the worst possible wrongdoing, which is to publish a non-Free version of a Free program. In the case of web services, it doesn't prohibit a lesser form of wrongdoing.

As it turns out, it is a hard legal problem to figure out if a copyright license can even try to make this sort of requirement. This is something RMS and Eben Moglen are working on for the GPL, version 3.

Work on the GPL, version 3, has been on hiatus for nearly two years. First, work stopped so that we could do the GNU Free Documentation License (GNU FDL). After that was done, GPLv3 work was slowed substantially by personal matters that kept Eben Moglen from doing pro bono work for us during much of late 2000 and early 2001. Work on GPLv3 is just getting moving again.

I should note that it was well worth it to spend the time on the GNU FDL. It has gained adoption, as print publishers are discovering that there is a way to license their books that gives freedom and is profitable. For the first time, we can begin recommending that GNU users buy some books released by the commercial publishers. It's a very short list, but it is growing. (You can see this list on our website).

RMS
by Cirvam

How is working with RMS? If compromise is needed does he give in or does he stick to his line no matter what?

BK: RMS never compromises on matters of ethics. This is, of course, something that makes me quite glad. The last thing we want is the president of the FSF saying: "Oh, well, we might as well permit people to distribute proprietary versions of GPL'ed software." And, fortunately, I agree with the ethical positions that the FSF takes, so I never have disagreements on ethical matters with RMS.

RMS and I do disagree from time to time on matters of tactics, and on practical and technical matters. In these cases, I have found RMS to be strong-willed, but not uncompromising. In fact, when I compare RMS to other hackers that I know, he is among one of the most fair and even-handed. RMS always hears out the point of view of all sides and asks good questions to clarify the data and people's positions.

I have never known him to make a decision rashly, and he always seeks feedback from others before making any major decision. And, if we can prove to him that we have a better way to do something, and can back it up with evidence, he will change his mind.

In short, it's easy to lump "taking a firm ethical stance" together with "uncompromising". I believe these are separate issues, and I would say that RMS takes a firm ethical stance, but is willing to compromise on issues that don't impact an ethical position.

'Raving Lunatic' Image?
by Bilbo

In spite of all of RMS's great understanding of the working of Free Software, and his passion for promoting real Freedom, he has unfortunately picked up this image of a foaming-at-the-mouth raving lunatic pinko. How to you plan to combat this image, without compromising on the real issues behind Free Software, or the passion with which the FSF promotes these ideals?

BK: It's easy to dismiss someone as a "lunatic" if they are the only a few people standing up for a particular point of view. Some people once thought that abolitionists, suffragettes, and union organizers were "foaming-at-the-mouth raving lunatics", too.

For years, RMS stood up firmly for software freedom, and thus some people attacked RMS in that unfair and inaccurate way. He is still standing for software freedom all these years later, but now there are many more standing with him, including me. The best way for us in the Free Software community to combat the "lunatic" image is to stand for software freedom with him. As more people take a strong ethical stance for software freedom, those who use this underhanded tactic will find it less useful.

The ultimate solution is to change USA political sensibilities, so that USAmericans don't immediately label someone as a "lunatic" or "pinko" simply because (s)he puts freedom, community and goodwill as higher goals than the profits of shareholders. RMS has said publicly that he isn't a communist, and he isn't. As for "foaming-at-the-mouth" and "raving", those are just insults designed to turn those who don't know him away from what he stands for.

We responded to that attack by pointing out that our positions are actually in the spirit of what the USA is all about. I wrote an essay about this, and RMS did, too.

You know, when I hear the word "pinko", I can't help but associate it with the first time I ever heard that word. "Pinko" was the word that Archie Bunker always called his son-in-law, Mike "Meathead" Stivic, on the USA television show All in the Family.

It's interesting to me because, as a child in the early 1980s, that character, Mike Stivic, was the first person I ever saw on television talking about the kinds of social change and political views that I believed in. Of course, Mike wasn't a pinko, except in Archie's distorted thinking about the issues. Today, I can't hear the word "pinko" without thinking of Archie Bunker.

Your opinion on Java
by jsse

Your perljvm -- The Perl to Java Virtual Machine Compiler -- is impressive. I believe you've the authority to answer this question.

Sun has its sole control to their Java VM, and the control is extended to other JVM versions. As Richard said, free software build on non-free platform/program is useless to Free World.

We had much expectation on kaffe. However, it has halted its development long time ago, since Microsoft made business deals with Transvirtual. The only free JVM is basically dead now.

I'd like to have your opnion on this: do you have Java in your vision of Free World?

Thanks!

BK: You didn't ask the perljvm question that I was expecting: "Why isn't it done yet?" ;) (The answer to that one is: I've been working so much for my official duties at the FSF, I haven't had time to hack on it!)

But, your question is an interesting one. I certainly agree that we have to watch Sun, or any other company that exerts efforts over a 'de-facto' standard, closely, to make sure we can implement that standard in Free Software.

However, in the case of the Java environment, I am not too worried. I agree that Kaffe development seems to have slowed, but that is likely because the VM itself is quite stable and usable. (I use it as a development environment for perljvm.) I have heard they are pushing to make it compatible with newer versions of the Sun's proprietary software JVM, and I am happy to hear it.

In addition, now that GCJ has been fully integrated with GCC, Java, the language, is a first-class citizen in the GNU system. I think as time goes on, we'll see even more Java support on GNU systems. I recently saw, for example, that the GNOME-GCJ bindings are getting pretty good. So, I think that support for Java in the Free Software World is going to grow and get better, not wane. Eventually, I believe that the installed base of free Java platforms will grow enough that Sun won't be able to make incompatible changes without coordinating with the Free Software community, lest they have an outcry from the user base.

But, with Java, as with any software technology, we must keep watch for proprietary software twists that can leave the Free Software community constantly playing "catch-up". This threat exists for any technology, though, as long as we continue to live in a world with proprietary software.

In practical terms, for users of this technology, this means that we must only use those features of a technology supported with Free Software. If you are a Java programmer, make sure that your software runs in Kaffe and GCJ first, and don't make changes that require the use of a proprietary software Java environment.

Hardware Companies?
by 2400-n-8-1

Do you and/or the FSF support any certain hardware or hardware companies to go with free software?

Does the FSF have anything in mind to deal with hardware issues in the future?

BK: The important issue with hardware is to make sure that it can be controlled completely with Free Software. Some hardware companies are friendly enough to release their drivers as Free Software. Others cooperate enough to give full specifications, so that at least we can write our own drivers to compete with their proprietary ones. Sadly, some hardware companies still work against us, by keeping the interfaces to the hardware secret.

You, the hardware-buying public, have the power to change this situation by not purchasing any hardware that can't be run with Free Software. You can do even more to help by informing hardware companies that you would have bought their hardware if they'd only made a Free Software driver available.

There's a threat to freedom every time a new hardware device is released. We as a community have to watch closely and make sure that each exciting new hardware technology is fully supported with Free Software.

For a long time, we've wanted someone to build a full list of hardware vendors and note how friendly they were and are to Free Software. Compatibility HOWTOs exist, but this would be a list that gave reports of how much a given vendor helped us. If anyone wants to work on this, please let me know.

The Middle Initial
by Emil Brink

So, I notice that you share a middle initial of 'M' with RMS. The natural question then, becomes: what does your 'M' stand for? ;^) Also, for comparison's sake, what does RMS' stand for? I've actually wondered this for quite a while, but my (obviously worthless) attempts to surf it up have all failed. Thanks. BK: As people already noted on the slashdot comments, RMS' M stands for Matthew, or its pun variant: "Math You." ;) My M stands for "Michael," which sadly has no pun variant that I can think of. ;)

Food (ask, he'll understand)
by nowt

Gold Star or Skyline? Aglamesis or Graeters?

BK: I was amazed at how many people referenced my time in Cincinnati in the questions. I lived in Cincinnati for only four years before moving to Cambridge, MA. I lived in Baltimore for nearly 24 years, yet no one asked me my favorite restaurant in Baltimore ;), (which, BTW, is now closed: the Hacienda on Bel Air Road at Moravia).

But back to nowt's question: I never even went into Gold Star, but it seemed like they didn't have any vegetarian options on their menu. (I've been a vegetarian for about nine years.) Skyline had a few vegetarian items, so I ate there occasionally. My friend Matthew really hated eating there, so we stopped going on his account.

I heard of Aglamesis, but never went there. There was a Graeters not too far my apartment (I used to live near Clifton and Ludlow, as a slashdot comment mentioned), and my fiancee really loved Graeters' Chocolate cake with chocolate icing. We made sure we bought one a few weeks before leaving to have it one last time.

The Cincinnati food item that I miss most, though, is Adriatico's pizza. When he visited Cincinnati, RMS tried a piece and liked it too. I like Bertucci's, which is a brick oven pizza chain that started here in Somerville, MA, but I really miss that Adriatico's garlic crust.

Of course, I'll have to give it all up if I go completely vegan, which I've been thinking about doing. (For now, I have just resolved to reduce my dairy and egg intake by about a half.)

"Why do you answer Richard's email for him?"
by Anonymous Coward

Bradley, I've heard that you read Richard Stallman's email and replies to it, signing Richard's name rather than your own with no indication that someone else wrote the reply. In fact, I've gotten a couple of emails from "Richard" that definitely seemed like they were not written by him -- they directly contradicted things he'd said in other emails and did not sound like his style. How can you ethically justify this? Isn't it totally dishonest to sign email with someone else's name?

I do not recall ever posting nor emailing something with RMS' name on it unless RMS himself specifically gave me the text and said: "Send this as me." I do this from time to time, since RMS' network connectivity is sometimes spotty when he travels. Once or twice, I may have made very trivial edits to the text, if I saw a typo or an incorrect URL, but if I did that, I sent the text back to RMS so he knew what change I made.

One of the tasks that I was originally hired to do at the FSF was help RMS handle his huge email spool. The original idea we had was that I'd compose candidate responses, send them to RMS, and he'd decide whether or not to use them.

This ended up not working out, because RMS had to spend time editing the candidates, and it didn't save much time. However, there may have been times that RMS sent a response that was mostly written by me. But, he always saw the text and agreed that he wanted to say that first.

We at the FSF never say something came from RMS unless he approved the text (save a very rare minor typo fix, which we always inform him of after the fact).

Note, though, that there have been a number of cases of people impersonating RMS, particularly on slashdot. I believe that the slashdot staff got this under control, but what you may have seen are RMS impostors.

Most of these impostors do make statements that contradict what RMS would say. However, there's one particular case of an RMS imposter who made good points about software freedom that we agreed with. We tried to get in touch with him, to enlist his help in a non-imposter way to make points about Free Software. But, sadly, we never found him.

BTW, I'd like to note that unless I am in a big hurry or not at my own machine (both of which are rare), I GPG-sign all my messages with my GPG key. Even when I answer a general-contact addresses, such as <gnu@gnu.org>, you'll know that I answered by the GPG-signature.

RMS also has a GPG key, and occasionally he might be willing to sign a message if you are unsure about whether or not he wrote it. But, it's somewhat inconvenient for him to GPG-sign messages, so if people ask for it too much, he will likely not be able to oblige everyone.

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370 comments

Great interview, but... (3, Insightful)

S5o (102998) | more than 12 years ago | (#2111202)

I don't think RMS and Bradley Kuhn understand that there are quite a few of us who cannot make a living by giving keynotes.

Slavery == Good (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2112325)

Today, no one would even argue that owning slaves is a freedom. People now say that slavery is an inappropriate power that one person holds over another person.

I would. It is entirely appropriate in certain situations. Bleeding-heart bullshit attitudes forced unnecessary changes in freedoms that got the US to the point where it is - the most powerful country in the world. Now these damned attitudes have turned htis country into a bunch of fucking pussies that dont cause the fear and intimidation and allows piss-ant sand pits like Iraq to fuck with us for more than the last decade. This needs to change or the Communist fuck ups in Red China will smash the US.

Tyranny of the majority (1)

starling (26204) | more than 12 years ago | (#2112935)

Does anyone else find this quote downright scary :

Discussions of rights and rules for software use have usually concentrated too much on the interests of programmers alone. Few people in the world program regularly [...]

And fewer than that earn their living by writing programs, so presumably it must be even more justifiable to ignore their rights.

I agree with many of the FSF's goals, but arguing that the welfare of a group of people is irrelevant just because that group is a minority betrays a very ugly mindset.

Re:Tyranny of the majority (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2137660)

He didn't say programmers are irrelevant, just that they have gained a disproportionate amount of discussion.

Imagine a country where there were one hundred people who were trying to recover from a flood, and one million people who were starving to death. Then imagine in the Red Cross office, 99.9% of the resources were going to the flood victims.

No one's saying we should ignore entirely the flood victims, but the needs of the hunger victims are more pressing.

Gratis (1)

petersp (21294) | more than 12 years ago | (#2114356)

There might not be a good substitute word for Free (capital F), but there is one for free (as in beer): GRATIS

.peter

Libre (4, Informative)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 12 years ago | (#2116655)

Free speech software : Libre software
Free beer software: Gratis software

Roll it around on your tongue. It's not hard to get used to.
-russ

Re:Gratis (2, Interesting)

bkuhn (41121) | more than 12 years ago | (#2154831)

Indeed, I usually use this. Or, I just say "available without charge" or
"available without price".

The missing italic is in this part.... (1)

frleong (241095) | more than 12 years ago | (#2114424)

... <i>As both Bruce Perens and Tim O'Reilly have pointed out, it is possible to publicly deploy a web-app that is derived from GPL'd software without having to distribute your modifications.<p> ...

What I am thinking is the following: should there be any HTML checker (unbalanced italic tag in this case) for slashdot editors? I mean, the former can be dispensed if we have a WYSIWYG web-based HTML editor or an X-Window app. Writing directly HTML is becoming a nuisance these days. I am against a spelling checker, because we will miss funny comments from readers.

Scary implications (4, Interesting)

invenustus (56481) | more than 12 years ago | (#2119292)

I feel indebted to the FSF for a lot of the software they've provided me and the effect it has had on my personal and professional life. However, I have to take issues with some of Mr. Kuhn's responses....
However, programmers don't deserve any "rights" that infringe on the freedoms of others. Often in society, we decide that the right to act a certain way should be limited because it infringes on the freedom of others.
This is a path that leads to less freedom, not more, I fear. Yes, most of us believe that the government should intervene in acts of violence or acts that violate other people's rights to life or property. But Kuhn is implying here that proprietary software should be illegal, and that's dangerous....
For example, in the USA, white people used to have the right to own slaves. As a society, we eventually decided that this right was too restrictive on the freedom of the people who served as slaves. Because of that decision, it is now illegal to own slaves in the USA.
Legalized slavery meant that slaves were considered a person's property, and were protected as such by the government. If a slave ran away, the government could force him/her back to the owner. Helping a slave escape was considered theft and punished as such. Abolishing slavery only forced state governments to STOP infringing on people's freedom. This is an important distinction.
Today, some argue that the "right to choose your own software license" is the greatest software freedom. By contrast, I think that, like slavery, it is an inappropriate power, not a freedom.
So the alternative is what? The right to choose the terms forced upon everyone who wants to develop software? At the risk of being overdramatic, I'd call that the right to tyranny.

Can't these guys see what has happened whenever government force has gotten involved in software licensing? You don't have to look too hard. Jon Johansen [slashdot.org] and 2600 [slashdot.org] . Dmitry Sklyarov [slashdot.org] . Edward Felten [slashdot.org] . And most frightening of all, Microsoft's vague threats about what should be done with software that "threatens the American way" [slashdot.org] .

Let Free Software succeed on its own merits, as I believe it will. Don't use the gun. There is no real freedom down that path.

Re:Scary implications (5, Insightful)

Ridge2001 (306010) | more than 12 years ago | (#2113395)

Let Free Software succeed on its own merits, as I believe it will. Don't use the gun. There is no real freedom down that path.

It is not Free Software advocates who are wielding the gun. It is "intellectual property" holders who are doing so. If you violate intellectual property laws, jackbooted government troops bearing firearms will break down your door and drag you to jail at gunpoint [google.com] .

Free Software advocates want less force-based coercion in society, not more. To claim otherwise is simply Orwellian.

Re:Scary implications (1)

invenustus (56481) | more than 12 years ago | (#2109993)

Free Software advocates want less force-based coercion in society, not more. To claim otherwise is simply Orwellian.
I'd agree that that's what MOST Free Software advocates want, judging by their writing. I was responding to certain comments by one advocate, Bradley Kuhn, which I found frighteningly contrary to that idea.

Re:Scary implications (3, Insightful)

bkuhn (41121) | more than 12 years ago | (#2116164)

Keep in mind that it is government intervention that allows for copyright and patents. Without government-created copyright and patent law, people wouldn't be able to create proprietary software.

I don't call for complete abolition of copyright and patent laws. I do think we should reevaluate all copyright and patent laws to see if they do what the constitution says they should: "promote Science and the Useful Arts". If copyright and patent laws do not do that, they are not in harmony with the original intent (at least in the USA).

Binary-only distribution and the law (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2127581)

I have the technical means to download the source code for gcc 3.0, add some more features to it, compile it for a target platform, and distribute the resulting binaries without source code. But it is illegal for me to do this, and if the FSF has its way, it will always be illegal for me to do this. So they need a government-created law of some sort to prevent me from doing this. As long as the FSF's legal claim is rooted in the fact that they wrote gcc 3.0 and I didn't, such a law is fine with me.

But now Bradley Kuhn wants to make it illegal for me to distribute binaries without sources for my own software, written from scratch. Note that I do not need any government IP law to enable me to do this. In fact, the FSF would need new IP law to forbid me from doing this.

Fuck that. I'm with Linus Torvalds, Tim O'Reilly, and Microsoft (!), who recognize my right to choose my own license. "He who writes the code chooses the license." -- Linus Torvalds

Freedom For All(Or Why Should Authors Get More?) (3, Insightful)

EXTomar (78739) | more than 12 years ago | (#2158454)

Kuhn's quote: However, programmers don't deserve any "rights" that infringe on the freedoms of others. Often in society, we decide that the right to act a certain way should be limited because it infringes on the freedom of others.

invenustus' quote: This is a path that leads to less freedom, not more, I fear. Yes, most of us believe that the government should intervene in acts of violence or acts that violate other people's rights to life or property. But Kuhn is implying here that proprietary software should be illegal, and that's dangerous....

You misunderstand. Making a license that puts *everyone* (users, creators, learners) on equal footing is the only way to be fair. This leads to more cooperation and more software and code that is free(as in bear and freedom) for everyone.

This "fear" of the GPL taking freedom and rights away from authors of code is bizare and unfounded. Why do authors instinctively want and think they deserve "more rights" than everyone else when it comes to the stuff they create to freely distribute? Trying to get more rights for a group of people takes away rights from all the rest.

The idea that one group can have more rights and more freedom over a thing that is Free is silly. That is more dangerous than you think. Its what keeps all of the players in close software like Microsoft in power.

Adriatico's Pizza! Hurrah! (3, Informative)

Moe Yerca (14391) | more than 12 years ago | (#2119800)

If a fearless reader is fortunate enough to spend any time in Cincinnati, a pizza from Adriatico's is definately on the agenda.

When I was an undergrad at the University of Cincinnati my physics professor would order in Adiaticos when my small honors class would take exams... that was my first experience with Adriatico's... grrreeeaat pizza.

Unless you want to spend the evening on the toilet, I suggest you stay away from both Skyline and Gold Star. Cincinnati chili is good, but a bit purging. :)

Re: Cincinnati lore and more... (4, Informative)

justin_w_hall (188568) | more than 12 years ago | (#2154376)

You're nuts. Skyline is by far the best cuisine edible on this planet.

For non-Cincinnatians... Skyline and Gold Star are two competing chili franchises. Skyline's the hometown classic and Gold Star is the upstart. Their main ingredient is Cincinnati-style (less thick, more flavorful and spicy) chili, and they put it on everything. Skyline pioneered the cheese coney, a hot dog with Cincinnati-style chili and cheese, and it's probably the best food ever dreamed up by a person. For more information, check out their website [skylinechili.com] . Gold Star.. ugh.

I do live in Clifton, though, and I must agree that Adriatico's is the best pizza in the city. LaRosa's is of course a close second. And how can ANYTHING compete with Graeter's?

On a side note, I used to work for the ISP young Bradley here used when he lived in Cincinnati, and I remember some of the more interesting discussions he was involved in on our local newsgroups. He was just about as... uh.. passionate.. then about free software. One of our systems admins actually wrote a script to place the prefix "GNU/" before random words in his newsgroup posts... Bradley wasn't thrilled, but it was one of the funnier things I've ever seen.

Feeling good and hungry? It's Skyline time.

Re: Cincinnati lore and more... (1)

Moe Yerca (14391) | more than 12 years ago | (#2137768)

Skyline is definately great grub, I eat it regularly, I'm just saying for part of the population it causes foul and mysterious odors. One of my brother's ex-girlfriends works at the Skyline in Hamilton and the bill is usually an order of magnitude smaller than it should be. Reason enough to eat there. :)

I didn't realize that this was the same Bradley Kuhn that posted to the one.net newsgroups. It's a small, small world.

LaRosa's is a close second, but they actually HAVE a LaRosa's in my town. I guess that makes it the best pizza within an 30 minute drive. :)

p0rn stream! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2124967)

check out this streaming baby: http://www.sunpoint.net/~dreamstream yeah!

Loose pussy rules! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2126360)

Nuthin better than feeling your dick rolling around inside a tunnel. Oops, that was the poop chute. Dammit, I got turds in my short hairs again.

My Little Bit To Help "The People". (1, Flamebait)

istartedi (132515) | more than 12 years ago | (#2126949)

Proprietary software is an exercise of power, and it harms the users by denying their freedom.

If I use program X, I have the freedom to do what program X allows me to do. "Free" software that lags in features actually conveys *less* freedom, not more. Furthermore, Joe cannot oppress me simply by offering a product for sale. Suggesting otherwise is inherently elitist, tantamount to suggesting that we simpletons are capable of being held up by sending a letter that says "i have a gun".

When users lack the freedoms that define Free Software, they can't tell what the software is doing, can't check for back doors, can't monitor possible viruses and worms, can't find out what personal information is being reported (or stop the reports, even if they do find out).

In order to exercise these freedoms, you need only have access to the source, not the right to distribute it without compensating the developer. MFC meets these requirements, as do products under the SCSL and other licenses that reveal the source without stripping developers of their copyright priveleges.

If it breaks, they can't fix it; they have to wait for the developer to exercise its power to do so.

With Open Source/Free Software, you still have to wait for a developer to fix it, unless you yourself are a developer. While it's true that turnaround times for critical security fixes are often faster in OSS than closed source; new features often lag by months, even years. Why? As you said yourself, few people are software developers. People still have to wait for developers to add features, but because those developers aren't directly compensated for their work, the wait is often longer. The best example is Linux drivers.

If the software simply isn't quite what they need, they are stuck with it. They can't help each other improve it.

They can buy some other product. If they are developers, they can compete and win. It's called the Free Enterprise system. It's my system. It's America's system, and God willing it will continue to be our system.

That's my little bit to help "the people". I know, I could have done more, but you have a responsability too. You have to think for yourself. Don't let yourself be swayed by rhetoric; not leftist rhetoric, not my rhetoric, not anybody's.

Wake up and smell the coffee! The FSF is just another "special interest" that falls under the umbrella of the Democratic Party. When the time is right, they will push for government intervention, regulation, and the expansion of beurocracy to serve their cause. They will make things *worse* in the long run, not better.

this guy is like a religious zealot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2127562)

notice that in almost every one of his answers, he prefaces by spouting off on what free software is, how it is the only thing the world should use, and how it is evil if you don't believe in what he believes.

i guess Free Software is officially a religion now. Trying to convert people like fundamentalists do, and if you don't believe in their God (Free Software) you are condemned to hell.

If his answers had been filtered out this garbage, this interview would have been a little enjoyable to read but his testifying is really too much to take.

Black people owned slaves, too (2)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 12 years ago | (#2131996)

Bradley, black people owned slaves, too. And some of those slaves were white. Slavery wasn't originally a black/white thing. That doesn't make it any better, but you should be factual when you talk about it.
-russ

Re:Black people owned slaves, too (2, Informative)

bkuhn (41121) | more than 12 years ago | (#2147515)

Again, my apologies for my inadequate knowledge of USA history. Please
remove the word "white" from the phrase "white people" in my interview.

the Hacienda (2)

Mr. Sketch (111112) | more than 12 years ago | (#2132620)

If it's the same chain of La Haciendas we had in Charleston, SC then I wouldn't be surprised if they got raided by immigration. They claimed to have 'authentic mexican cuisine' and they had the best mexican food I've ever found in the states. But they got raided because their employees were illegal immigrants, which explained why the food was so good :). Fortunately they have reopened and I'm assuming they're legal now, but they still have really good food, so I gotta wonder...

Re:the Hacienda (2, Interesting)

bkuhn (41121) | more than 12 years ago | (#2158918)

No, this Hacienda was independently owned and operated. And, sadly, now,
is no more.

White people owning slaves (2)

ceswiedler (165311) | more than 12 years ago | (#2133531)

Just to be pedantic, it was not legal for "white people to own slaves." It was legal (in some states) for anyone to own slaves.

Re:White people owning slaves (1)

jotaeleemeese (303437) | more than 12 years ago | (#2155744)

Where there any black slave owners?

Re:White people owning slaves (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2133123)

Yes. I remember reading about one in Luisiana. He was treated the same as the white slave owners when the north army invaded, farm burned and slaves set free. The book was one american history brick, from the 20's.

Re:White people owning slaves (2)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 12 years ago | (#2159973)

Yes, a fair number of them. Originally, slavery wasn't a hereditary condition. Slavery was something that happened to you because you were captured in a war, or because you had sold yourself into slavery, or because your parents sold you into slavery (nice parents, eh?) And it was also possible for slavery to be time-limited, in which case it was called indentured servitude. Quite a number of people paid for their passage across the Atlantic by putting themselves into indentured servitude for a half-dozen years. They had nothing else to pay for the voyage but their future labor.
-russ

Spreading free software (4, Interesting)

jeffy124 (453342) | more than 12 years ago | (#2133806)

But, it's up to each of us to speak out about software freedom when we talk with others. Please help us. If anyone has additional ideas on how we can reach non-hackers with the message of software freedom, we'd love to hear from you.

I think the way I found out about FSF and GNU and Linux and all that jazz was best. I heard about it from my nextdoor neighbor in my college dorm. But he did more than just show me it, he got me to install it and practive with it. While I am still in college, Linux has sparked interest in my girlfriend, a hotel management major and total computer illiterate. It's because I use it in front of her, and she sees that I can use the free software for non-technical courses. Now she sometimes uses MY machine for HER work! While it pisses me off sometimes that I cant do my work whie she's there, it means that another person has been exposed to free software and sees you can still reach your bottom line: getting work done and being productive.

Point is, my neighbor got me using linux and other gnu stuff by showing me it. My girlfriend has started using the apps open-source has produced for actual real life uses, because she saw me doing the same.

Ideas for others: Teach your spouse on how to use free software, even if the software runs on proprietary OSs. Teach co-workers and friends the same. By teaching others real life uses for FSF/Gnu/OSS/etc software, word will spread to get others on the bandwagon. The story from Largo, FL, can be used as an excellent start.

Bradley, I've told you this is wrong. Stop it! (5, Insightful)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 12 years ago | (#2134779)

The movements differ greatly because their fundamental philosophies and motivations are different.

This is complete, total, and utter nonsense, as I've told you repeatedly. Freedom is just as important to the Open Source Initiative as it is to the Free Software Foundation. It's just that we don't clobber people over the head with the insistance that all code must be free, that anyone who doesn't free code their immediately is an unethical software hoarder. That is NOT HOW YOU CHANGE THE WORLD.

Speaking of slaves, you would do well to follow the instruction of John Woolman. He was a Quaker who convinced, practically single-handedly, the entire Religious Society of Friends to stop owning slaves decades before the rest of America came around to that idea. How did he do it? Not by pounding everyone on the idea with the idea that slavery is immoral, unethical, people-hoarding.

He did it by convincing Quaker slave owners that slavery was bad for THEM. We have a model for success, and we're pursing it, by quietly talking to software users about the benefits to THEM of the open source process. You, on the other hand, have a model for failure. And as much as I've tried to talk you out of it, you continue down the same path that kept the FSF mired in obscurity (except among programmers, natch) for a decade and a half.
-russ

Cooperation of different groups is key (3, Interesting)

bkuhn (41121) | more than 12 years ago | (#2116659)

I certainly agree that some people in the Open Source Movement may have the same philosophy as those of us in the Free Software Movement. For example, in my long talks with you, Russ, I have come to realize that you really do tend to support software freedom more than most Open Source supporters.

However, I meet many Open Source supporters who think that a mixed model---some proprietary software and some Free Software, is acceptable and even required. We in the Free Software Movement something fundamentally disagree with that.

To the extent that the Open Source Movement does a good job at convincing business people and others that would not agree with the message of the Free Software Movement, I think that's great. There are many ways to get a job done, and I even refer people to the Open Source Movement if they are trying to convince people who fundamentally disagree with the Free Software Movement.

What I'm calling for is to keep in mind that this is a big community that includes both the Free Software Movement and the Open Source Movement. Calling the whole thing the "Open Source community" leaves us Free Software folks out of the picture, and that's not really fair.

I am glad that there are people like you, Russ, convincing people that we don't reach in the Free Software Movement. But, the Free Software Movement takes a firm ethical stance, and we aren't going to change that. You mentioned the Quakers doing a good job on abolition of slavery. But, there were many different abolitionists all using different ways of talking about the issues, and that's what finally ended slavery.

It takes many points of view, cooperating together, to change the world. When our goals overlap, I call for the Open Source Movement and the Free Software Movement to cooperate, and I am open to any form of fair cooperation on common goals.

Bad news about Adriaticos in Clifton (1)

martinde (137088) | more than 12 years ago | (#2135273)

It's closed now! Anyone know if the one in Oxford is still open?

Re:Bad news about Adriaticos in Clifton (2, Insightful)

justin_w_hall (188568) | more than 12 years ago | (#2155388)

No it's not! It just moved to Jefferson Ave, right by UC's East Campus.

It's still there. I would have noticed if it closed. :)

513.281.4344. Don't forget, $12 Bearcat pizzas the size of my car on Monday and Tuesday.

Re:Bad news about Adriaticos in Clifton (1)

bkuhn (41121) | more than 12 years ago | (#2155845)

In fact, the only one I ever got pizza from was the Jefferson
Ave. location. Don't remind me about the Bearcat specials. Monday will
roll around, and I will be quite jealous of all you living in Cincinnati
who can take advantage of it. ;)

Yee gads. (5, Insightful)

IPFreely (47576) | more than 12 years ago | (#2135988)

Today, some argue that the "right to choose your own software license" is the greatest software freedom. By contrast, I think that, like slavery, it is an inappropriate power, not a freedom. The two situations both cause harm, and they differ only in the degree of harm that each causes

I like freedom too, but this is a bit of a stretch. People have rights, including their own freedom. Software does not have its own freedom, it is a tool used by people. Controlling software is like controlling your own car or your own bank account. It won't do anything by itself. It needs someone to use it. This is not even in the same conversation as slavery!

Stating arbitrarily that noone should be allowed to determine the outcome of their own work is nuts. Patents are abused heavily, but copyright has its place. Copyright cannot prevent competition by alternative implementation, patents can.

The best action for Free and OS is to compete with a better implementation, not to take away what the competition (Closed source) has. Taking away their basis for existance is as bad as them trying to take ours through IP, patents and crazy restrictive laws. Its no more right for us than it is for them. Open competition on features/licence terms is good. Restriction on what licence terms/implementation restrictions/legal activities are available is no good for either side.

Re:Yee gads. (4, Informative)

rknop (240417) | more than 12 years ago | (#2154589)

People have rights, including their own freedom. Software does not have its own freedom, it is a tool used by people. Controlling software is like controlling your own car or your own bank account. It won't do anything by itself. It needs someone to use it. This is not even in the same conversation as slavery!

I think you missed his point. His point isn't that those who release proprietary software are taking away the rights of the software. Rather, by releasing software with a restrictive proprietary license, they are taking away the rights of the people who use the software. The FSF sees the rights of users of software as important and fundamental; some others do not. But he's certainly not talking about enslaving software!

Re: control over your own creations, the FSF does support a sort of control over that. You always have the right not to release your own code or modifications. Indeed, the FSF objects to software licenses that require people to release private modifications. However, once you release your software to other people, the FSF asserts that it is not ethical to restrict the freedom of other people to use that software. It's part of the social contract of free democracies; your freedom only extends so far as it does not infringe on the freedoms of others. The hard part, and the point of disagreement, is where to draw that line. The FSF thinks that proprietary software goes too far infringing on the rights of others.

Rather than a car or a bank account, a better analogy might be a workplace. An employer who owns the workplace and employs nobody can do an awful lot with that workplace. But once he starts hiring employees-- opening it up to the public-- he's got certain restrictions in what he can do, so as not to infringe on the fundamental rights of his employees.

-Rob

Re:Yee gads. (1, Redundant)

jweage (472545) | more than 12 years ago | (#2156381)

No, I don't think he missed the point. Using a particular software package is a choice made by the user. It is not forced on the user as slavery was. Claiming that this is an infringement on rights is backwards, you can't make a choice and as a result of that choice, claim that your rights have been infringed.

your freedom only extends so far as it does not infringe on the freedoms of others

Yes, and by demanding that an individual release source, you are taking away that individuals right to use his IP as he sees fit.

Source code is the raw material used to produce a product. If you give a user the source code, you have given them essentially all they need to recreate the product. What if I demanded access to a production factory's machinery so that I could modify and produce my own widget? It doesn't make sense.

Re:Yee gads. (2, Insightful)

ethereal (13958) | more than 12 years ago | (#2168183)

Not that I don't agree with you, but I'll point out the obvious contradiction: many people in the past felt that slaves weren't intelligent or driven enough to govern their own lives, and that controlling and using them for someone else's good was beneficial to everyone involved. The big difference was deciding that slaves were people and not property; as long as slaves were property then you could make the same argument about a slave that you have just made about software.

I don't expect that software will become people any time soon (although maybe by the end of my lifetime), so I still agree with you, just for different reasons.

Pun for Michael (1)

Tharsis (7591) | more than 12 years ago | (#2137643)

My M stands for "Michael," which sadly has no pun variant that I can think of

How about "My Call"

Re:Pun for Michael (1)

bkuhn (41121) | more than 12 years ago | (#2155508)

Cute, but RMS' "Math You" is funny because he used to study math
intensively. I don't think "My Call" relates to my life in any way I can
think of.

I really wanted to admire this guy... (1)

Canyon Rat (103953) | more than 12 years ago | (#2138013)

But then he came out with that whack analogy between commercial software and slaveholding. This may take the all time record for stupidest statement on /.

What's scary is he seems to believe it. It's as if at some level he thought Intuit would track him down and lynch him for switching to GnuCash.

How can anyone take him seriously after that remark? Both the Open Source and Free Software movements have so many articulate advocates. Surely /. could have found someone better.

Programming morally wrong? (4, Insightful)

Linux_ho (205887) | more than 12 years ago | (#2138436)

Today, some argue that the "right to choose your own software license" is the greatest software freedom. By contrast, I think that, like slavery, it is an inappropriate power, not a freedom. The two situations both cause harm, and they differ only in the degree of harm that each causes.

Proprietary software is an exercise of power, and it harms the users by denying their freedom.
This offends me. If I choose to spend time developing software that I could have spent playing with my kids, it is not MORALLY WRONG for me to demand compensation for my efforts in a way that does not comply with Free Software standards. I am a Free Software developer. I also write proprietary software.

If people's freedoms are limited by the fact that they do not have access to the source code of my proprietary software, they are in no way harmed. They are certainly no worse off than they were before I wrote it, are they? In fact, the only people whose lives were affected in any way by the fact that I released a proprietary software package are those who benefitted enough from using it that they were willing to pay for it.

In spending my own available time, energy, and resources to help other people by writing some proprietary software, yes it's true that I am taking some power over the people I help when I limit the way they use my creation. But that is not morally wrong in itself. Comparing proprietary software developers to slave owners is obviously just designed to dramatize the issue, but it's extremely offensive to many of us developers who write both Free and proprietary software. Apparently the FSF has decided that rational argument is not as effective as hyperbole. Well, hyperbole cuts both ways, guys. Here's a little bit of my own:

If I ran a halfway house for homeless teenagers, you're damn right I would exert power over them and limit their freedoms, in the interest of ensuring that I could continue to provide a service to help as many of them as possible. If I didn't limit their freedoms, the police would shut the place down and all the kids would be completely free again - but without a place to sleep. Is it morally wrong to run a halfway house?

Limiting other people's freedoms is not inherently wrong - that's what laws are for. Taking away someone's freedom to steal, rape, and kill is a very good idea. The FSF has made a golden calf of "preserving peoples freedoms" without looking any deeper than that. No wonder they are commonly viewed as extremists. They have turned a blind eye to common sense.

I applaud the FSF and all Free Software developers who have donated their time to the community and have worked to create the wonderful variety of Free software that is available today. But don't tell me that the way I feed my kids is morally wrong.

wake me when the preaching is over (1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2139687)

this is why many people can't stand the FSF and RMS and his cronies.
endless preaching about why software should be free, how it harms people, blah blah blah. very few people in their right mind would believe this crap. I don't want to drag this into the old tired debate, but why should these guys impose what freedoms a software publisher should give??

I love the benefits of free software(linux, etc) but there is a place for closed proprietary software and there is nothing wrong with using them. It is not worse than slavery.

Re:wake me when the preaching is over (2)

Sludge (1234) | more than 12 years ago | (#2139515)

There is no point in which Bradley Kuhn tried to make an anaolgy between the severity and repercussions of slavery's freedom lost and the severity and repercussions of people who have no choice but to use non-free software. The analogy was given in order to assist the reader in finding an objective comparison between which freedoms are the rights of citizens and which freedoms impose on others. (The right to swing your fist stops where my face starts.)

I love the benefits of free software(linux, etc) but there is a place for closed proprietary software and there is nothing wrong with using them.

Right now there is a place for free software and proprietary software in the same world. However, in many cases, the philosophies of the two cannot naturally coincide, and there is conflict. If, in the future, we are left with one of the two, it will be because of the efforts of the people fighting(working) for the philosophy that they choose. Advocacy starts now.

Re:wake me when the preaching is over (1)

praxim (117485) | more than 12 years ago | (#2160477)

"...not worse than slavery."

Ahh, yes, and slavery is not worse than murder, so... =)

But, yes, I agree with your point. Commercial software has its place, and it doesn't hurt that it tends to put food on the table.

way to go... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2140166)

on making the entire article italicized. and messing up the formatting on a few questions.

Ack, too many italics! (3, Funny)

ethereal (13958) | more than 12 years ago | (#2140168)

Remember, if the posted story looks wrong, you should have used Preview :)

Re:Ack, too many italics! (1)

ethereal (13958) | more than 12 years ago | (#2135272)

OK, how was that flamebait? I fully expected to be Offtopic or Redundant with that post (not that I would agree with that, but I expect it), but remember, even when you really really really want to moderate someone down, you will look slightly less stupid if you pick a moderation type that's actually germane to the post at hand.

Gah, why do I even bother...

Re:Ack, too many italics! (1)

Sheridan (11610) | more than 12 years ago | (#2140231)

(+1, Funny), I'd have thought, but then unclosed italic tags are a pet hate of mine

hypocrisy in record time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2140234)

first sentence:
(BTW, I encourage you to thank the GNU project by reminding people that the system so often called "Linux" is actually the GNU system with Linux as its kernel).

then on the very next sentence:

We don't force any sort of schedules on GNU developers---they work as best they can, and put a release out when they see it as ready

So... you don't force schedules, but you do force naming software down peoples throats?? I'm confused here. "Linux" is actually anything people want it do be, and no amount of screaming and whining will change that.

impersonating RMS (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2145398)

In particular, the posts saying

"I am a goat fucker"

left me rather confused as to whether the author was RMS or not.

Comments and Corrections (4, Insightful)

David Greene (463) | more than 12 years ago | (#2147495)

I liked this interview and wish Bradley all the best in his FSF work. However, I must take issue with a couple of his remarks.

For example, in the USA, white people used to have the right to own slaves. As a society, we eventually decided that this right was too restrictive on the freedom of the people who served as slaves.

Today, some argue that the "right to choose your own software license" is the greatest software freedom. By contrast, I think that, like slavery, it is an inappropriate power, not a freedom. The two situations both cause harm, and they differ only in the degree of harm that each causes.

No, they differ in a lot more than just that. The two situations are incomparable. Slavery results in the removal of freedoms from people. Developing proprietary software does not. Users still have the choice of whether or not to actually purchase and/or use the software. Victims of slavery have no choice in their situation.

Bradley is confusing the actions of the developer with those of the user. Developers can code under whatever license they choose. This does not mean users must make use of the product.

I still can't believe this analogy was made.

Others say "software libre" or "free (libre) software", using the Spanish word to make things clear. In fact, whenever I am speaking to an audience that I know will fully understand what "libre" is (in Europe, for example), I favor the term "Libre Software".

I've always liked this term and its counterpart, "Gratis Software." Using them in combination makes a clear distinction for the receiver. "Free" is just too loaded a term, at least in the US.

The ultimate solution is to change USA political sensibilities, so that USAmericans don't immediately label someone as a "lunatic" or "pinko" simply because (s)he puts freedom, community and goodwill as higher goals than the profits of shareholders.

Its ironic that Bradley makes this statement given his wonderful explanation of how to connect with non-hackers about Free Software. This is exactly the sort of statement that turns people off and creates the impression of a raving lunatic rebellious dangerous hacker culture.

Not everyone who develops or supports the option to develop proprietary software is working in the interests of corporations. Moreover, I'd bet that most people in the USA are quite concerned about excessive corporate power and have been for quite some time, something that Bradley has obviously missed given the above statement.

Please don't stereotype and generalize. Stereotyping and generalizing is what made Archie Bunker, and makes us, raving lunatics.

Many jobs require proprietary software (2, Interesting)

bkuhn (41121) | more than 12 years ago | (#2120182)

I certainly see your point that people can often choose not to use proprietary software, and to that extent, it differs in another way from slavery.

However, that difference is rapidly disappearing. More and more, it's becoming difficult to get a job in the USA that doesn't require the use of proprietary software. For example, I always used to cite "waiting tables" as a profession that never required using proprietary software. The other night, I made that point, and someone pointed out that the restaurant we were at had a proprietary software point-of-sale system. Even in that profession, people are required to use proprietary software when they weren't before.

In the industrialized world, we are rapidly approaching a day when you cannot work in any field without using software---and in nearly all cases, that software is proprietary software. The difference in the analogy you introduce disappears completely when that is the case. It's nearly disappeared already.

Re:Many jobs require proprietary software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2116654)

Bradley,

Software based POS systems have always been proprietary. The cost of the system and custom development of menus and food inventories is way too high for anyone to give away.

The reason you thought that was because, not all restaurants had a POS system at all (apart from a cash register).

So, I am sure those owners would rather go back to a pad and pencil. They don't see their freedoms as being infringed upon. They are getting work done, and serving customers better.

I think you have gone way off the deep end when you start using bizarre analogies to get your points across.

Name one restaraunt that serves any significant number of people that uses a free POS based computer software package. You can't, because they don't exist.

GPL (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2154397)

= virus!

Re:GPL (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2110474)

PS close your fucking italics tag, idiot!

Something I'd like to know... (5, Interesting)

Wind_Walker (83965) | more than 12 years ago | (#2154708)

I wish I had known about this interview, because I would have asked him how he feels about Ulrich Drepper simply bashing [linuxprogramming.com] RMS in a recent changelog for glibc.

If you scroll down to the bottom of that page (or just search for the words "not so nice things") you'll see Ulrich Drepper, a Red Hat programmer, discussing his own personal involvement with Stallman.

I submitted this as an article and it got rejected, but I really think that it's a good glimpse into the behind-the-scenes power struggles that go on.

Thoughts?

Ego meets ego... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2118335)

Drepper certainly isn't known to mince words. Here's one example [iu.edu] from l-k. Judge for yourself, who is more/less rational...

Mirror in case of slashdotting (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2144081)

And now for some not so nice things.

Stallman recently tried what I would call a hostile takeover of the
glibc development. He tried to conspire behind my back and persuade
the other main developers to take control so that in the end he is in
control and can dictate whatever pleases him. This attempt failed but
he kept on pressuring people everywhere and it got really ugly. In
the end I agreed to the creation of a so-called "steering committee"
(SC). The SC is different from the SC in projects like gcc in that it
does not make decisions. On this front nothing changed. The only
difference is that Stallman now has no right to complain anymore since
the SC he wanted acknowledged the status quo. I hope he will now shut
up forever.

The morale of this is that people will hopefully realize what a
control freak and raging manic Stallman is. Don't trust him. As soon
as something isn't in line with his view he'll stab you in the back.
NEVER voluntarily put a project you work on under the GNU umbrella
since this means in Stallman's opinion that he has the right to make
decisions for the project.

The glibc situation is even more frightening if one realizes the story
behind it. When I started porting glibc 1.09 to Linux (which
eventually became glibc 2.0) Stallman threatened me and tried to force
me to contribute rather to the work on the Hurd. Work on Linux would
be counter-productive to the Free Software course. Then came, what
would be called embrace-and-extend if performed by the Evil of the
North-West, and his claim for everything which lead to Linux's
success.

Which brings us to the second point. One change the SC forced to
happen against my will was to use LGPL 2.1 instead of LGPL 2. The
argument was that the poor lawyers cannot see that LGPL 2 is
sufficient. Guess who were the driving forces behind this.

The most remarkable thing is that Stallman was all for this despite
the clear motivation of commercialization. The reason: he finally got
the provocative changes he made to the license through. In case you
forgot or haven't heard, here's an excerpt:

[...] For example, permission to use the GNU C Library in non-free
programs enables many more people to use the whole GNU operating
system, as well as its variant, the GNU/Linux operating system.

This $&%$& demands everything to be labeled in a way which credits him
and he does not stop before making completely wrong statements like
"its variant". I find this completely unacceptable and can assure
everybody that I consider none of the code I contributed to glibc
(which is quite a lot) to be as part of the GNU project and so a major
part of what Stallman claims credit for is simply going away.

This part has a morale, too, and it is almost the same: don't trust
this person. Read the licenses carefully and rip out parts which give
Stallman any possibility to influence your future. Phrases like

[...] GNU Lesser General Public License as published by the Free
Software Foundation; either version 2.1 of the License, or (at your
option) any later version.

just invites him to screw you when it pleases him. Rip out the "any
later version" part and make your own decisions when to use a
different license since otherwise he can potentially do you or your
work harm.

In case you are interested why the SC could make this decision I'll
give a bit more background. When this SC idea came up I wanted to
fork glibc (out of Stallman's control) or resign from any work. The
former was not welcome this it was feared to cause fragmentation. I
didn't agree but if nobody would use a fork it's of no use. There
also wasn't much interest in me resigning so we ended up with the SC
arrangement where the SC does nothing except the things I am not doing
myself at all: handling political issues. All technical discussions
happens as before on the mailing list of the core developers and I
reserve the right of the final decision.

The LGPL 2.1 issue was declared political and therefore in scope of
the SC. I didn't feel this was reason enough to leave the project for
good so I tolerated the changes. Especially since I didn't realize
the mistake with the wording of the copyright statements which allow
applying later license versions before.

I cannot see this repeating, though. Despite what Stallman believes,
maintaining a GNU project is NOT a privilege. It's a burden, and
the bigger the project the bigger the burden. I have no interest to
allow somebody else to tell me what to do and not to do if this is
part of my free time. There are plenty of others interesting things to
do and I'll immediately walk away from glibc if I see a situation like
this coming up again. I will always be able to fix my own system (and
if the company I work for wants it, their systems).

Re:Mirror in case of slashdotting (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2159084)

Mod the parent. Thx.

--
Wind_Walker (W_Walker@kumkuat.org)

STFU (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2159021)

If you had been paying attention, you'd know that I always post logged-in. Idiot.

--The REAL Wind_Walker

P.S. (-1, Offtopic)

Wind_Walker (83965) | more than 12 years ago | (#2155624)

I also realize that I'm gonna get bitchslapped by an editor for this. I don't fucking care.

For those of you who don't know what a bitchslap is, it's when an editor with unlimited moderator points goes through every fucking one of your posts and tosses several "Troll" and "Offtopic" moderations until they're at -1. Then, because of the terrible hit to Karma that comes from it, your IP gets banned and you are basically fucked.

Don't believe me? I've had it happen before. Fortunately, I only had 4 posts, and so my karma stayed positive.

Check the moderation totals, and you'll see that I'm posting at +1 right now. But if you look at my past posts (if I get bitchslapped) then they'll all be at -1, regardless of how good they were.

Re:P.S. (2, Informative)

sllort (442574) | more than 12 years ago | (#2126922)

That's nothing. Keep at it and they'll ban your ip.

Don't believe me? I've had it happen before. I had 50 karma and went straight to -25, but I've clawed my way back. My user info contains all the details. But I still have to use proxies to access slashdot.

Enjoy!

Re:P.S. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2132549)

I'm a moderator, and I modded up your first post, but I'm afraid I had to mod down this other piece of junk because its nothing more than a flamebait troll.

bitchslapping (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2132622)

Well you are are served

Re:P.S. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2133944)

I think I would just mod you down for a wild post like that... The first one was offtopic, but intersting, but the second was just plane... I don't know, because either it protected you from being flamed, or it's way too offtopic to look at.

Re:P.S. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2135989)

Well Sir,

Based on your prior posts, I (anonymous council of the AC's) hereby name you a Karama freak and flaimbaiter. And in my just ruling you will forever be banished into the Troll land of -1 postings.

So said I, and it is done.

Re:P.S. (2)

JWhitlock (201845) | more than 12 years ago | (#2147668)

For those of you who don't know what a bitchslap is, it's when an editor with unlimited moderator points goes through every fucking one of your posts and tosses several "Troll" and "Offtopic" moderations until they're at -1. Then, because of the terrible hit to Karma that comes from it, your IP gets banned and you are basically fucked.

I really don't think it's an editor that does this. This it how I see it happening:

Someone posts an EXTREMELY off-topic response to a popular thread, very early in the game. Any moderator coming along would mod it down, but many who read it respond. Eventually, the original post get to -1 teritory, and everyone who responded to the off-topic post looks like they responded to the original topic. While I think any post that respond to the parent is on topic, others believe that responces to an off-topic post are off-topic as well, and I can't argue with that. For whatever reason, those get modded down as well. It's no bitchslapping editor - it's normal folks with mod points, perhaps acting in a less than ideal way.

Why are you doing this? The only thing I can think of is some game, where you try to go from 50 to -25 as fast as possible (pretty easy with this tactic), then go back the way you came. Hard, but not impossible, especially when you have friends / other accounts with mod points.

So, I think Slashdot is right in banning your IP address. There's a good chance that you are using multiple account to play this game, or have co-conspirators. I think it's a good thing that the Slashdot crew has made it harder for you to play the game - doesn't that make it more challenging?

However, I don't agree with automatic promotion. If a parent gets modded down below my filter, then all responces should be invisible as well. You should have to select -1 comments to see the trolls AND the biters.

So there. Moderators, be aware of this "automatic promotion", click on the Parent links, and do what you think best.

Re:P.S. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2155436)

...editor with unlimited moderator points goes through every fucking one of your posts and tosses several "Troll" and "Offtopic" moderations until they're at -1. Then, because of the terrible hit to Karma that comes from it (-5 points) , your IP gets banned and you are basically fucked.

You're right. This has happened to me on numerous occasions recently, it only seems to have started happening over the last few months. What makes this worse is if you're, like me, unlucky enough to be sitting behind a firewall along with x other people in your office. /. sees all of you as the same IP address, and if you have some prick who works in your office (you don't know who) who spends all day trolling /., he/she gets banned, which also means you do too as you share the same IP address.

This is a real pain in the ass, /. should ban accounts, not IP addresses. These over zealous moderators should also read the moderation guidelines which advises people to use positive as opposed to negative moderation. After all, if /bots don't want to see the -1 comments they can browse at a higher level.

Posting AC because I know some facsist moderator is gonna mod me down...

Re:P.S. (1)

Mike Schiraldi (18296) | more than 12 years ago | (#2155484)

But if you look at my past posts (if I get bitchslapped) then they'll all be at -1, regardless of how good they were.

I don't see any -1 posts in your User Info. There are some 0s, but IMHO you deserved them.

That's because... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2168181)

the bitchslap hasn't happened yet. It usually takes the moderators, who are against censorship by the way, to find me and bitchslap me.

And fuck you, you're an asshole and a karma whore. IMHO you deserve that

Idiot.

Re:Something I'd like to know... (5, Interesting)

miguel (7116) | more than 12 years ago | (#2156021)

Ulrich is telling the truth, which is the scary thing.

I do not want to work with RMS anymore (for other, but similar reasons). I realized too late that I should have listened from other people who had been burned in the past.

I will keep writing free software and I appreciate some of RMS's comments and his early vision. But his new vision is now blurred with different objectives that I do not agree with or am sick of.

Miguel.

Re:Something I'd like to know... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2156136)

Wow, a guy named Ulrich, raising a ruckus over intellectual property -- that's something we never heard before [slashdot.org] .

Re:Something I'd like to know... (2)

update() (217397) | more than 12 years ago | (#2159000)

I submitted this as an article and it got rejected, but I really think that it's a good glimpse into the behind-the-scenes power struggles that go on.

I was going to submit that story too, but figured the queue already had it hundreds of times. It's hard for me to see how feuding over the control of glibc and threats of a Red Hat fork are less newsworthy here than yet another forum for pointless Microsoft bashing taken straight from CNN's front page.

I thought the most interesting bit was:

The glibc situation is even more frightening if one realizes the story behind it. When I started porting glibc 1.09 to Linux (which eventually became glibc 2.0) Stallman threatened me and tried to force me to contribute rather to the work on the Hurd. Work on Linux would be counter-productive to the Free Software course. Then came, what would be called embrace-and-extend if performed by the Evil of the North-West, and his claim for everything which lead to Linux's success.

-1 Troll (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2160417)

enuf said.

Ironically... (3, Interesting)

devphil (51341) | more than 12 years ago | (#2160480)


...this was just touched on yesterday in a slashdot post [slashdot.org] ... anyhow.

Ulrich is only one of the maintainers of glibc; there are many others. All of them (including Ulrich) are very very skilled programmers, and all of them (including Ulrich) are basically decent people.

I've worked with Ulrich a very little bit before, for the GNU C++ library. Personally, I found him to be a bit abrupt and condescending, but there's no question that he knew what he was talking about.

I am a little surprised that he would post his rant as part of the glibc release notes, rather than as a separate message. That does seem rather unprofessional.

Enh... none of us are perfect. I too have ranted in public inappropriately, and I didn't contribute a kernel or system library to make up for it. :-) Those members of the OSS community who perform great service are entitled to some leeway.

Who cares about this fist fuck? (-1)

CmdrTaco on (468152) | more than 12 years ago | (#2154891)

He's just a troll

in ths words of homer simpson... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2154892)


BORING!!!

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* g o a t s e x * g o a t s e x * g o a t s e x *

In other words... (2)

rabtech (223758) | more than 12 years ago | (#2155067)

In other words, he wants programmers to become the Janitors of this world (not that there is anything wrong with being a janitor.)

If all software can be distributed freely, then there is no money to be had writing software. None. Nada. All you can make money on is support/service, which isn't working so well for Redhat right now.

I agree with some of what the FSF proposes, but I must also say that individuals deserve the right to dictate how their works are used. If that means under a GNU license, great. If that means for-sale, that's great too.

Here are the freedoms they propose:
-The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).- Great! I agree.

-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. - Again, I agree. I have no opposition to a law requiring all software to be sold in source-code form, or requiring source to be made available upon request.

-The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2). - Here is where the problem comes. I'm supposed to spend three weeks developing an application, only to have someone give it away? No thanks -- I've got rent to pay and food to buy. If I choose to program on my spare time and give that away, great. But I shouldn't be forced to.

-The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits. (freedom 3). Access to the source code is a precondition for this. - Again, we have an issue here. This so-called "freedom" actually restricts my right to control what I have created.

I also thought his comparisons to slavery were a poor attempt to evoke an emotional response. If anything, allowing anyone to distribute any software freely is more akin to slavery... Forcing all programmers to give their work away for free, much as the slaves were forced to work for free. And despite RMS' desire to distance himself from communism, what the FSF proposes is exactly that... except only applied to programmers. It requires all programmers to program only for the good of all of our society, allowing them no personal benefit, and thus removing the incentive to program.

Corporations will always need some things done, so they will hire programmers on staff to do them. But that puts us back at the mercy of big corporations, who's business is NOT software, which means they do NOT have to answer to my software needs. That leaves my only option to writing it myself and gaining nothing from it, or waiting for someone else on a project funded by people's personal time to develop it, from which they gain nothing.

Perhaps in an ideal world... but in reality, if all software were of the FSF's vision, or all software were closed/commercial, then it just wouldn't work. The only system that works is the one we have now: a healthy mix of everything from closed-source, commercial to open-source GNU/FSF.

Re:In other words... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2134677)

-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. - Again, I agree. I have no opposition to a law requiring all software to be sold in source-code form, or requiring source to be made available upon request.

A law requiring you to give away your source code. I see you have bought into the cult mentality when it comes to the word "free."

How about a law requiring you give everyone in your apartment building a copy of your key so in case you aren't there they mught be able to put out a fire before it spreads?

Re:In other words... (1)

praxim (117485) | more than 12 years ago | (#2113312)

When I buy a car, I don'y expect the hood to be sealed. If I purchase a car, or a piece of software, I should be able to play around with the insides or make repairs as necessary.

Dark Matter (1)

IPFreely (47576) | more than 12 years ago | (#2135732)

If all software can be distributed freely, then there is no money to be had writing software. None. Nada. All you can make money on is support/service, which isn't working so well for Redhat right now.

There is still a market for straight development. If someone wants a program that does some specific task, and that program does not exist anywhere, they have to write it. That usually involves hiring a programmer. Tada, work!

This mostly involves custom, highly specific, vertical tasks. But, today, a majority of software developed is like this.

We see lots of general software out there, like OS, editors, compilers, databases, whatever. But hidden inside most companies is a warehouse of custom code developed in house for very specific tasks. These are the dark matter of the software world. There is a lot of it, but few people ever see it.

Eat my turd prost (-1)

fp_troll_bitch (320424) | more than 12 years ago | (#2155559)

A big slimy one. Long too.

Great (-1, Offtopic)

angry_clown_penis (261127) | more than 12 years ago | (#2155714)

Great!

How about 'Freed' Software? (1)

Duncan Cragg (209425) | more than 12 years ago | (#2159310)

How about 'Freed' Software?

Re:How about 'Freed' Software? (2, Interesting)

bkuhn (41121) | more than 12 years ago | (#2124864)

Freed software has the same problem as "liberated software". It refers to
software that wasn't Free, but now is. GNU Emacs isn't Freed Software; it
was always Free Software.

Re:How about 'Freed' Software? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2135733)

How about Freedom Software?

Re:How about 'Freed' Software? (2)

JWhitlock (201845) | more than 12 years ago | (#2160353)

How about 'Freed' Software?

Again, the PETA-like conotation of stealing from the wrongful owners. People that didn't like it could call it 'Peed' software. And some software, like Emacs, was never "not free".

How about "Liberty Software", as in "Liberty and Justice For All"?

Re:How about 'Freed' Software? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2135001)

I'm sticking with software libre. It rolls off the tongue and it implies a certain political aspect.

Other options:

  • autonomous software might be better applied to software in the public domain as opposed to software libre
  • sovereign software (nice illiterative phrase) might work well. Just like a sovereign nation can't legally be incorporated into an attacking nation, sovereign software can't legally be incorporated into proprietary software.

Re:How about 'Freed' Software? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2158593)

The problem with "liberty software" is that "liberty" is not an adjective. "Liberal software" would be more correct, but USians have twisted the meaning of the word "liberal" beyond recognition, unfortunately. If only the English language had the word "freedomful".

Re:How about 'Freed' Software? (2)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 12 years ago | (#2160445)

I suggested that years ago. Various people didn't like it, so it didn't fly.
-russ

Freedom and property rights (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2159311)

The FSF crowd abuses the concept of freedom; this interview shows that rather well. There is a big difference between freedom from coercion, and the "freedom" to another man's work. By Kuhn's line of reasoning, my owning property is limiting the "freedom" of others to it. I wonder how Kuhn would like it if I "liberated" his home, computer, and other possessions. Comparing software licensing to slavery is an insult both to those who toiled in bondage, and software developers everywhere. Intellectual property is just as valid as physical property. It recognizes one's right to live and profit from his work. The same capitalist system that protects Microsoft's or any other company's/individual's IP also protects the GPL. Show it some respect.

Features or Freedom? (3, Insightful)

pbryan (83482) | more than 12 years ago | (#2160310)

Proprietary software is an exercise of power, and it harms the users by denying their freedom. When users lack the freedoms that define Free Software, they can't tell what the software is doing, can't check for back doors, can't monitor possible viruses and worms, can't find out what personal information is being reported (or stop the reports, even if they do find out). If it breaks, they can't fix it; they have to wait for the developer to exercise its power to do so. If the software simply isn't quite what they need, they are stuck with it. They can't help each other improve it.

This could just as easily read in the following manner, which hopefully illustrates the fallacy of this position.

The colonel's secret recipe is an exercise of power, and it harms consumers by denying their freedom. When consumers lack the freedoms that define Free Recipe, they can't tell if the chicken was cooked correctly, can't check for inappropriate ingredients, can't monitor quality control, can't monitor fat content (or lower the fat content, if it's too high). If it gets lost, they can't cook more themselves; they have to wait for the restaurant to exercise its power to cook more. If the chicken simply isn't quite what they need, they are stuck with it. They can't help each other improve it.

Proprietary software does not limit our freedom. When you purchase and use proprietary software, you, the user, are making an informed decision. You implicitly agree to the limitiations of using such software, and can always uninstall it, and choose an alternative. If no alternatives exist, you are free to develop your own alternative.

Free (speech) software just makes more sense to users. More and more, the decision to use proprietary software becomes untenable, because of the lack of features, namely, the ability to enhance the product, to find bugs, to sniff out backdoors.

Let's not confuse features with freedom.

comments (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2160418)

1. Bradley is being annoyingly PC when he mentions that "white people" used to have the right to own slaves. In truth, blacks and hispanics had the same right and they did own slaves as whites did, although of course hispanics probably did so more than blacks and whites put together, looking at all the Americas put together. 2. I notice the use of the word "rights" rather a lot, which is inappropriate: it's a matter of societal responsibility that programmers write free code, because it rescues users from the clutches of for-profit companies. Just as if you see a person being mugged, it is your responsibility to call the police (and possibly intercede but that's legally a bad idea these days). However programmers can certainly intercede and they (including myself) are doing so vigorously.

Re:comments (3, Interesting)

bkuhn (41121) | more than 12 years ago | (#2138432)

I apologize for missing that point. 24 hours ago, I was under the
impression that in most states, when slavery was legal, only white people
could own slaves. Now it appears I was mistaken. My apologies.

vegan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2160491)

being vegan isn't really that bad. Actually, that's wrong. it's not bad at all - it's a good thing. You should definitely try it.

Re:vegan (1)

bkuhn (41121) | more than 12 years ago | (#2113311)

I am working on getting there. I became a vegetarian over a period of
years, and I am working in that way toward being a vegan. It will
take a while, but I hope to get there in the end.

Only slightly hypocritical. (1)

IPFreely (47576) | more than 12 years ago | (#2161473)

Today, some argue that the "right to choose your own software license" is the greatest software freedom. By contrast, I think that it is an inappropriate power, not a freedom.

(BTW, I encourage you to thank the GNU project by reminding people that the system so often called "Linux" is actually the GNU system with Linux as its kernel).

If it is not appropriate for people to own or control software, is it appropriate for people to own or control (or even suggest) attribution of software? Or is that just another restriction being placed on software that shouldn't be allowed.

I wish the HTML of this article was free software. (1)

JWhitlock (201845) | more than 12 years ago | (#2162701)

Sure, I can change my local copy to remove the annoying continuous italics, but I can't really share my improvements with others...
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