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GNU is Not Unix

RMS Says Free Software Is Good 215

Posted by timothy
from the and-mundie-is-wrong dept.
A few city blocks and many philosophical lightyears away from the New York University auditorium where Microsoft Senior Vice President Craig Mundie extolled the virtues of proprietary software a few weeks ago, Richard M. Stallman spoke this morning instead on the reasons that software developers, CEOs and every citizen whatsoever should prefer the Free software movement's methods and results. Stallman, founder of the GNU Project and the Free Software Foundation, said a lot of things that he's been saying since 1984, but also threw in some zingers aimed at Microsoft's recent public criticism of open development models. Update: 05/30 01:56 PM by T : Correction: I incorrectly reported in the story below that David Touretzky of CMU introduced Richard Stallman at this speech; in fact, it was Mike Uretsky, Administrative Director of NYU's Center For Advanced Technologies (CAT) and professor in the Stern School of Business; the text below reflects this. With many apologies to both professors and to readers, timothy. (Read more.)

NYU Information Systems chairman Mike Uretsky and NYU computer science professor Edmond Schonberg briefly introduced Stallman to a standing-room-only crowd at NYU's Courant Mathematical Institute.

Stallman drew laughter and applause during Uretsky's introduction by calling out "I do Free software, Open Source is a different crowd" when Uretsky made a reference to Open Source software. Rather than a point-by-point rebuttal of Mundie's speech advocating Microsoft's current "shared source" initiative, Stallman's speech presented both an overview of the Free software movement -- several times emphasizing how it differs from the more pragmatic Open Source movement -- and a defense of Free software at several levels. Though peppered with jokes and historical asides, the bulk of Stallman's talk was devoted to explaining the benefits of Free software and comparing community-based, non-proprietary software development to the "deliberately inflicted waste" of proprietary software.

The publicity that Mundie's speech has stirred up around software licensing is obviously not forgotten, though. Stallman began by saying "I'd like to thank Microsoft for providng me the opportunity to use this platform. For the last few weeks I've felt like an author whose book was fortuitously banned somewhere, but all the articles about it are giving the wrong author's name, because Microsoft describes our license as an 'Open Source' license." Stallman emphasized at several points that the approach he and GNU project have is at its core philosophical, not merely pragmatic.

Beginning with cooking rather than computers, Stallman pointed out the advantages of being able to share functional documents in the form of recipes. He pointed that while nearly everyone cooks, "unless you're great, you probably use recipes. You've probably had the experience of getting a recipe from a friend -- and unless you're a total neophyte, you probably have also had the experience of changing the recipe. If you've made changes and you make it for your friends, and they like it, you can write down your changes for them." Imagine, he said, if recipes were packaged in black boxes, unavailable for inspection.

Stallman named the qualities he uses to define Free software. He began with "freedom zero" -- the freedom to run the software for any purpose -- noting, "If you're not even free to run the software for anything you want, it's a pretty damn restrictive license."

He went on to describe three additional freedoms which distinguish Free from proprietary software: the right to change software to suit user needs; to redistribute the software; and to publish improved versions.

These freedoms are absent in proprietary software, Stallman said, and cited what he said was his first taste to the evils of non-disclosure statements, which took place while he was working as an operating system developer at MIT's Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

Stallman knew of a computer scientist at Carnegie-Mellon University with a copy of the Xerox source, and asked for a copy in order to add this feature. He found his request was denied, because his fellow academic had signed a non-disclosure agreement.

"He had refused to cooperate with just about the the entire population of the planet Earth, because he had signed an non-disclosure agreement. This was my first encounter with a non-disclosure agreement, and I was the victim -- my lab and I were the victims. The lesson it taught me is that NDAs have victims, they aren't harmless."

Toward the close of his speech, Stallman pointedly applied the advantages of Free software to businesses, giving examples of ways in which a community of more than 100,000 developers leads to more robust and maintainable software, all issues of price aside.

Describing his experiences after releasing GNU-Emacs in 1984, Stallman said "I got a msg that said 'I think I saw a bug, and here's a fix.'" Others emailed him with new feature requests and bug reports, and in many cases, the code to implement an improved version, "until they were pouring in on my so fast that just making use of the information I was getting was a big job. Microsoft doesn't have this problem."

The iterative, inclusive software development process resulted in constantly improving code for the GNU Project's various pieces of software, said Stallman. "What people began to note around 1990 was that our SW was better -- it was more powerful than the proprietary alternatives."

Since that time (before the Linux kernel was developed and employed alongside many GNU utilities), Free and Open Source software has increased dramatically in use and public acceptance.

Citing the large number of companies now paying to develop Free software, and that the majority of pages on the World Wide Web are served with Apache running on GNU/Linux systems, Stallman scoffed at claims that the GPL was unfriendly to business. "Microsoft says that busineses can't get along with the GPL. So if businesses don't include IBM, and HP, and Sun, then maybe they're right."

Addressing one persistent myth, Stallman said "It's not true, sometimes I wish it was true, that if a company uses GPL in any project, that the whole project has to be GPLd. If programs operate at arms' length from each other, then they're legally separate, in general."

Again, though, Stallman was careful to point out that the advantages and intent of Free software had more to do with ethics and social good in a variety of fields than any particular bottom line. Closed software, he said, "causes psychosocial harm which affects the spirit of scientific cooperation. Progress in science crucially depends on people being able to work together. Nowadays you see scientists act as if they're in gangs at war with other little gangs of scientists ... we're all held back." And not just scientists -- of anyone who uses computers in the workplace, Stallman said that in the absence of a broad right to modify and improve the software they use, "Their lives and jobs are going to be frustrating -- people protect themselves from frustration by deciding not to care. When this happens, it's bad for those people and for society as a whole."

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RMS Says Free Software Is Good (in progress)

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    The question is, how do you expect a software user to buy your proprietary code when they can usually obtain Free Software which is as good as or better than your product?

    This sounds like flamebait, but I really am interested. Sure, there are cases where proprietary software is better (technically) than all the Free alternatives, but in my experience that is the exception rather than the rule. Perhaps your software is one of the exceptions. But even in these cases someone eventually will write a Free alternative that is technically superior to your product.

    It is true, you may lose if you make your software Free. But even if you keep your software proprietary, I suspect you (and all other proprietary software makers) will be defeated by Free Software somewhere down the road anyway.

    So, like it or not, the GPL will get you -- one way or another.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    The lesson it taught me is that NDAs have victims, they aren't harmless.

    Free Software has victims too. It's intent is to undermine the commercial software world, and put thousands of programmers out of work. What makes one kind of victimization OK and the other not?

  • by Anonymous Coward
    If programs operate at arms' length from each other, then they're legally separate, in general

    In other words, if you are prepared to sacrifice performance you can mix GPL and non-GPL code.

    Exactly who does that hurt, Mr Stallman, except for the users of such products?

  • by Anonymous Coward
    just like when you get a cold sore virus, it stays inside your body for life. It's a little bit disruptive and annoying, but far from harmful or life-threatening. When the GPL first came up, it did nothing to MS, when the Linux craze came up 3 years ago, MS took notice and reacted and now have resumed full speed ahead. The notion that the GPL model will do anything is laughable, considering how many companies are making money on GPL software (a handful at most), but propietery closed sourced is here to stay, and there is really nothing inherently evil or wrong with it.
  • According to the ZDNet EWeek story, Microsoft emailed reporters suggested questions to ask Stallman about the GPL:: "Stallman also had retorts to some of the suggested GPL-related questions forwarded to some reporters by Microsoft before Stallman's address. Microsoft's list, distributed via e-mail, called into question what Microsoft presented as ambiguities in some of the licensing terms and conditions outlined in the new Free Software Foundation Frequently Asked Questions document." www.zdnet.com/eweek/stories/general/0,11011,276634 1,00.html
  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...but can anyone please tell me how a company such as mine, which has invested over $3 million in R&D, can possibly hope to recoup even 10% of this money by releasing the code under the GPL? We use third party software which costs thousands of dollars per month in developer fees, and also have to cover numerous training trips.

    I guess this sounds like flamebait, but I really am interested. We develop software for a very small niche market (~500 possible installations).

    When the rubber hits the road, what do I tell the stock holders in the Annual General Meeting?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @04:02PM (#190026)
    The argument was not that businesses can't get along with the GPL.

    The argument was indeed that. Read it straight from Microsoft [microsoft.com]:

    Even businesses who may believe they are "mere users" of GPL software are threatened since they combine what they believe to be separate applications with GPL code. This licensing model has the effect of foreclosing a business's choice of what IP to share with the community and on what terms.
  • If our world were to suddenly switch to the utopia of horseless carriages, which provide travel and faster delivery of goods and services to the common man, how many people would be out of paying jobs?

    What of the blacksmiths who make horseshoes? And the tanners who make reins and tackle? Are we not dooming them to a life of poverty?

    And this "electricity" thing. Won't this kill off the lucrative whaling industry? What price is progress! Down with Free Software! Join the amish!

  • Maybe he missed _your_ boat but he certainly got in the one I customarily use :)

    You _cannot_ produce sharing, cooperation, society, on the grounds of direct self-benefit and greed. Actually I think the crux of the biscuit here is greed: it seems quite reasonable that you can have a gentle self-benefit through sharing and cooperation, but you can't have greed. It is always possible to take and refuse to give, and thereby to get a temporary, isolated advantage, and greed mandates that you MUST take every advantage, that you can't pass up any chance at personal gain. Otherwise it wouldn't be greed, just only need.

    Those of us who are normal people with normal need, but who are not obliged or accustomed to operate on a basis of greed, have an easier time indulging in sharing and cooperation- historically this has led to great benefits in science and industry. You can zoom down the road a hell of a lot quicker if you don't feel compelled to dig it up each step of the way and take it with you so nobody else can have it... or maybe just no slower, but you have more company when you leave the road there for other people to follow you on...

    bleh, metaphor madness. All I'm trying to say is that fixating on the economic benefit is wrong because it allows an underlying assumption, greed, to go unquestioned. And cooperation and sharing may be better at furthering knowledge and science, but nobody ever claimed they were better at furthering greed. If a person's gotta have greed, if they insist on being able to _impede_ others as well as furthering themselves, they really shouldn't be messing around with Free software at all as it will only frustrate them. They should be true to their beliefs and go act on them, for instance writing a commercial web browser to defeat IE, or an OS to unseat Windows, or a word processor to replace Word. That would be fairly useful.

    Those of us who are ready to give up greed and settle for just furthering our own goals, will instead choose to ignore all that, and write Free software to share amongst ourselves. We may never get rich but at least we can take care of ourselves. At bottom, GNU _is_ a philosophical argument, and no sort of economic or pragmatic argument. The fact that aspects of free software are competitive in realworld situations with proprietary software is just gravy. People don't always choose things based on rigid estimation of immediate benefits.

  • It amazes me that nobody who introduces RMS ever seems to be familiar with him, his work, or his positions. This has to be at least the fifth or sixth time I've either seen or heard about an introducer who was corrected (sometimes rather testily) by RMS that "i do free software damnit, not open source!" That's sometimes followed by a decently-long explanation of how "this [confusion] is an error we must work hard to correct" and how open source is not about freedom.

    Now regardless of what you think of RMS's position on this matter, one should at least have the courtesy to introduce him as a "Free Software advocate," and a founder of the "Free Software movement" since that's what he calls himself. And you'd have to be very uninformed to not know that's what he calls himself, which leads me to believe that the people doing the introductions are unfamiliar with him and his work, and didn't bother to do even such simple research as reading fsf.org.
  • I think Microsoft's real fear is that the U.S. government will start using more Linux.

    For the government, switching to Linux and Star Office can mean a real cost savings over Windows and Office. They're a big enough customer that a name manufacturer would set up Linux machines in bulk, or provide ones without an OS, for less than the cost of a Windows/Office machine. The government could code what it needs (we've already seen the NSA doing this) or fund the fixes it needs for less than the cost of many, many Windows licenses and the paperwork to keep track of them. Multiple similar machines mean they only need to solve configuration hassles once.

    That's one of the two ways I see Linux with the chance to make a real inroad on the desktop.
  • he's [RMS] also not that great of a programmer (ever looked at the emacs code? bloat bloat bloat)
    Why are people always dissing RMS's coding? First, Emacs is far more than most critics realize it is. Yeah, it's big, but it does everything you could want and much more. There aren't that many large programs still being so actively used and developed after so many years. Sure, there's legacy systems much older, but Emacs is by no means a legacy system.

    Anyway, RMS wrote more than Emacs. He was the first author of gcc, which even the BSD folks somehow manage to use despite the license. He wrote ls for GNU's fileutils, for instance. His name is also on a lot of other little programs that he wrote out of idealistic dedication, not because they were interesting. If you don't notice active development from him, it's probably because he hasn't written much in a number of years due to RSI, from my understanding.

    And anyway, who looks at code and thinks "bloat"? You look at programs and think "bloat", which is probably all you've looked at in Emacs... if you look a bloated program's code you think "cruft". Get your terms straight!

  • A question... if our world were to suddenly switch to the idyllic utopia of free software comletely, for every job, and it were developed collaboratively, instead of competitively, how many people would be out of paying jobs? The only paying work in the field that I can identify would be the solutions providers, the people who take existing tools, and adapt them to work for a particular company's needs. As far as I can tell, that's not enough to buy the bacon for the existing base of computer scientists/software engineers

    now, considering the case where we just talk about making the world free [speech] and not necessarily free [beer], that might create the kind of world that we're actually looking for, but I think we blur the distinction way too much.
  • Actually, most high class restaurants publish their recipes. The trick with amazing food isn't the recipe, but the cooking process itself and the quality of the ingredients (restaurant grade butter makes just about anything taste heavily ;-).
  • disruptive technology, noun:

    A new product or service that disrupts an industry and eventually wins most of the market share.

    The term "disruptive technology" was coined by Clayton M. Christensen in 1997 to describe new technical inventions that distrupt the established industries and economic patterns and cause existing, dominating companies to be replaced by new players based on the new inventions. Yet the distruptive inventions do not have to be technical. Can the GNU GPL, a 12-year-old software license and a hack on the copyright law, also be called a distruptive technology? It seems so. Microsoft is the most successful example of the proprietary software business model and dominates today's software market. Microsoft's recent attack on the GPL shows the attempt of an established player to try to suppress something new, up and coming. Except this time, the new player does not play by the rules. Instead, through viral-like propagation properties, the GPL establishes a new social model where software is passed freely and shared. The GPL distrupts the proprietary business model by social engineering, building a new way of life based on freedom and cooperation. Microsoft can assimilate anything following the proprietary business model but will have problem dealing with the social model of Free Software.

    As the GPLed software domain further expands, the proprietary business model is graduately pushed aside. How will the Borg assimilate the virus inherently incompatible with the Borg's nature? Will the virus distrupt and ultimately destory the Borg?

  • by Jason Earl (1894) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @04:57PM (#190035) Homepage Journal

    Everyone knew that RMS was going to be critical of Microsoft, but I personally didn't expect him to lay into Ransom Love.

    Here's how eWeek [zdnet.com] is reporting it. To whet your appetite here's a direct quote from the article:

    "Caldera's not a free software company at all. They are just a parasite," Stallman claimed in a press conference following his talk. "Who in the world is Ransom Love to have any ideas about what's good for our community?"
  • I've decided that I'm no longer happy being CIO of Sodablue.org. I'm giving myself a promotion to CEO.

    Now that I'm CEO and don't have to worry about technical issues I just want to point out that our website runs off Windows 2000. It's a really cool new thing this web stuff, and correct me if I'm wrong but I don't believe you can do that on Linux.

    Anyway, my new CIO(aka the neighbors dog) tells me that most commercial building access systems he's encountered run off a small PC in the security office using DOS or Windows. Actually a surprising number of them are still old 386 computers running DOS because it's not that demanding of an application.

  • McDonald's Secret Sauce is Thousand Island Dressing.

    damn, I hope I didn't ruin the surprise for you. :)
  • What happens if your product breaks or is only available on an obsolete system and your company is out of business? They will have to find another solution. If they had the source and knowledge, they could continue using it long after your company has ceased operations. I guess it goes back to the 'Give a fish/Teach how to fish' parable.

    Besides, given the amount of money you've spent on it and the size of the market, the cost of your product would have to be enormous to just break even. If a business is going to lay out that amount of cash, they're still going to want some form of support.

  • That depends on how it is to be used. If it is not going to be distributed, then you can mix them as much as you want. There is a FAQ [fsf.org] concerning this. If you think about it, it's not much different than some proprietary licenses. Go to the about: [about] screen with Netscape. I'm sure they had to follow the licensing terms of all those companies in order to distribute the program.

  • Cygnus was profitable for several years before being bought by RedHat. I'm sure there are other small consulting firms around the world that do this too.

  • What about companies' in-house developers? IIRC, they significantly outnumber the number of developers that are employed by for-profit software concerns. I've read before that the early IBM mainframe customers did just that what you describe. The source was delivered with the product (Even the Tech Ref Manuals for the early IBM PCs had the BIOS code). Someone at GM would solve a common problem, report what he did to other, incorporate other people's patches, etc. Universities were like this also. This was the sort of environment that Stallman came from and the ethic that he's wanting to preserve. It's not an original idea of his.

  • by ksheff (2406) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @06:37PM (#190042) Homepage

    This only works when dealing with B2B contracts. The model falls flat any time you try to live off of service fees in a B2C relationship,

    IBM makes tons of money with B2B support contracts and consulting. That's where RedHat makes a lot of their money too. The software needs of a business is much different than the needs of Joe Sixpack. Because of this, they hire someone to create custom solutions that never leave the business. This is done by B2B consulting firms and/or in house developers (most of the programmers in the world fall into this category). This is the market where using free software and selling service (support, customization, training, etc.) has a lot of potential. Businesses are willing to pay for this sort of service. Just ask any SAP or PeopleSoft consultant.

    Microsoft's "Software as a service" model is probably more accurately described as the "Your data is our hostage" model. You pay the ransom, and you get to use your data until the subscription runs out. Then you pay again. They're going to this because the biggest obstacle to keeping sales revenue up is the perception by their customers that the version of the software they currently use is good enough for what they need it for.

  • 60% of the webservers in the Netcraft survey run Apache but this makes no claim for the OS. This would be 84% of the Apache sites are running Linux. Since Apache ships standard on MacOS X and runs without flaw on Solaris, FreeBSD, and damn near any other Unix varient, I find this number an exaggeration at best or more of Stallman's bullshit at worst.
  • I think I'll approximate my groan with a low frequency sine wave in either case....

    For the non-engineers out there, the typical RMS approximation assumes the input is a sine wave. (At least, as I recall.) That means that the approximation works for measuring things like wall current (aka. "the mains" for you non-'merkins), but not for more complicated signals, such as audio or noise or what-have-you.

    --Joe
    --
  • This is in response to a quote from Ransom Love in Mundie's speech, where Love was expressing doubts about the use of open source. Of course Ransom Love ... isn't making a whole lot of money selling GPL'd software; the advantages of GPL'd software go primarily to the users of such software, not to the purveyors of it.

    Actually, as RMS backed up with several examples, the advantage can also go to the purveyor of support (especially the author), also there are some that are willing to pay large money for free software that they are unable to get (conveniently) any other way.

    • RMS claimed that when GNU emacs was the only GNU software, he was asking and getting $150/per copy for it.
    • As an example of my own, a company called Austen Code Works was asking (and apparently getting) similar prices for GNU software by mail order. What I know for sure is that they were running full page ads month after month in several programming mags in the 80's (DDJ, Computer Language, etc). Draw your own conclusions.
    • RMS made the claim that after sufficient copies of the burgeoning GNU software had been distributed (both directly by FSF and by pass-along), that he asked (and got) $500/hr to make specific changes to his own code. The rationale apparently being (quoting from memory) that as the author, he was more familiar with the code and would require significantly fewer hours to do the work than an outsider hired or contracted to do the same job.
    • Also per RMS, Cygnus Support was doing quite well supporting Free Software (mostly gcc) and paying their programmers competitive salaries until they "got greedy".
    Conclusion: if you had as many people using your software as M$ does, you might just be able to operate on their scale using this model.

    In that sense, Ransom Love is a lot closer to the Microsoft viewpoint than the RMS viewpoint.

    No company will become Microsoft-sized based on GPL'd software. It remains to be seen if the GPL will support even a Caldera-sized company. But the GPL allows software innovation to come from the grassroots users rather than from Microsoft on high, and in the end GPL'd software will provide more of what users want.

    And suppose you are a user (or a company w/ lots of users) and you want a feature and don't have the ability (or perhaps simply the will) to make the changes yourself. What do you do? If you want the changes bad enough, you will pay some outside agency to do the work for you.

    As RMS daid in this regard, "If your want some carpentry done, you can do it yourself or hire a carpenter." This further applies to plumbing, electrical work, getting a car maintained, enhanced or customized, etc. "Similarly for software. You get someone to quote you a price and a delivery date, tell them to go ahead. If they fail to deliver on time, they get no money and you get someone else."

    DISCLAIMER: While I was at the talk, I don't have a transcript and didn't take verbatim notes. All "quotes" above are from memory and may not be entirely accurate.

  • I was there too, and while I have no transcript or direct quotes, I do have four pages of notes which could be turned into some 20 .. 50 KB of HTML if desired.

    BTW, the article that was posted is pretty accurate and has some details that will not be part of my writeup.

    I exapect to be writing this up this evening. If you want a link when it is ready, please send me email [mailto]. I will send the link directly to all the mail me, and if I get enough requests I will post that link as a reply to this.

    I submitted the following "story" earlier this evening, apperently just a little too late. Someone else beat me to it and was on the queue (210 items long) when I submitted mine.

    New York, New York 2001-05-29 18:00 EDT
    Courtesy of the AnyNix Sig [nyct.net]

    Preliminary report on RMS talk at NYU.

    RMS spoke from 10:15 to 12:00 today at NYU to nearly a capacity crowd (only about twenty seats vacant of about 250 capacity).

    In general, RMS talked about the history and philosophy of the GNU project, the GPL, and the FSF; as well as their relation to Linux, other free but not copylefted software, and non-free "open source" software and the inclusion of proprietary software on "Linux" Distros.

    The last 30 minutes or so were about how Free Software is good for business in general and Software Developers in particular.

    People started leaving sometime after 11:00 until about 2/3 of the original crowd remained.

    All in all, this reporter thinks the whole thing went well. RMS seemed to come across as a mild-mannered zealot for software freedom, with well reasoned and well presented arguments. This reporter has no idea of how many of the crowd were already users/advocates of "Free" or "open source" software, but is of the opinion that any who were not, but willing to "think" rather than simply react were at least somewhat moved toward his point of view.

  • What an incredible movie.

  • Yeah I get it. How's that working out for you?

    What?

    Being clever.

  • Now that's the kinda headline that would usually make me scroll on past and not read the article - to me, Stallman saying "free software is good" is akin to the American Dairy Association saying "milk does a body good".


    Reading on though:

    He pointed that while nearly everyone cooks, "unless you're great, you probably use recipes. You've probably had the experience of getting a recipe from a friend -- and unless you're a total neophyte, you probably have also had the experience of changing the recipe. If you've made changes and you make it for your friends, and they like it, you can write down your changes for them." Imagine, he said, if recipes were packaged in black boxes, unavailable for inspection.

    Now that's good. It's a nice little metaphor than non-geek buisness type folk can actually understand. It'll make a hell of a lot more sense than trying to explain "free as in free beer" to a PHB.

  • Ok, so how about telling GE to stop dumping PCB's in the rivers? It's certainly more profitable than disposing of them safely.

    RMS believes that the creation of proprietary software has negative externalities. He will, even, admit that they're smaller than, say, dumping PCB's in the rivers. But still, it is a valid reason to tell companies not to do that thing.

    Besides, freedom of speech. He's got the right to tell about anyone, not to do just about anything. Another beautiful thing about America.

  • RMS Says Free Software Is Good

    Of course. But, why on Earth would he not say that?

    I'll admit that after having read the whole thing (and no I haven't really read much of the other similar stories that have been posted on the subject) that there are good points in it.

    I feel like I'm in school. "Do insert-3rd-grade-task-here." 2 days later: repeat.

    It is just a little ridiculous. Why do we keep beating the horse?

  • Recipes can be propietary, expensive, and for good reason. Good luck trying to get that famous chef to tell the secret ingredient.

    Not so -- great chefs often give away their recipies. Emeril tells you how to make essence, Paul Proudhomme publishes the Turducken recipie, but McDonalds jealously guards the Secret Sauce. The difference is in the experience and skill of the great chef to improvise, adjust and flow with differences in the raw product, or the patience and precision that brings it together (which is what makes them great).

    Sure, there are reasons to be proprietary, but there's a model where you pay the chef for preparing the food well, and there's a model where you pay for the formula regardless of the quality of the product. I prefer the former :-), and I agree that the latter is only sometimes worth while.

  • In other words, our expertise in this particular market is built right into the product. If someone else spent the thousands of hours required to reproduce this knowledge, we'd be out of business before Friday.

    Can you separate the knowledge from the product? If so, you can possibly GPL the source for the product, make the data format for the knowledge base an open spec, and then license the data separately. Your customers (and anyone they passed the code on to) would have the code under the GPL, but the data that the code worked with would be owned by you and licensed to them for their use with a standard commercial license.

    This is something that probably would not fly with the die-hard GPL crowd. <shrug> Despite that, it's one way to address your situation.

  • There is no reason to waste an amazing amount of money reinvinting the wheel every time one needs a new text editor or just because one is trying to circumvent someone else's IP. What a waste

    Can you please explain to me then Gnome & KDE for starters? And how about FreeBSD vs. Linux vs. HURD? OpenOffice vs. Emacs? Mozilla vs. Konqueror? MySQL and PostGres?

    etc. etc. etc.

    Source is available and people still go and make their own incredibly complicated software rather than join into an existing enclave... Or are you just calling Linus an idiot for not developing something based off of AT&T's source code...?
  • I don't want to get into the whole rock-em sock-em battle over commercial vs. GPL, but you have missed something:

    The notion that the GPL model will do anything is laughable, considering how many companies are making money on GPL software (a handful at most)

    Of course companies that try to sell GPL'd software aren't doing so well; but those aren't really the parties the GPL is designed to help anyway. The GPL is user-focused; users of GPL'd software will have lower costs and/or more value in the long run, and so it is an advantage to use GPL'd software and to contribute back into that community. It's a Good Thing for software users that it's tough to make a profit on GPL'd software - Microsoft is an example of what you get when it's easy to make a profit on software.

    Caution: contents may be quarrelsome and meticulous!

  • by ethereal (13958) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @05:27PM (#190056) Journal

    This is in response to a quote from Ransom Love in Mundie's speech, where Love was expressing doubts about the use of open source. Of course Ransom Love (whom I agree is pretty much a waste of flesh) isn't making a whole lot of money selling GPL'd software; the advantages of GPL'd software go primarily to the users of such software, not to the purveyors of it. In that sense, Ransom Love is a lot closer to the Microsoft viewpoint than the RMS viewpoint.

    No company will become Microsoft-sized based on GPL'd software. It remains to be seen if the GPL will support even a Caldera-sized company. But the GPL allows software innovation to come from the grassroots users rather than from Microsoft on high, and in the end GPL'd software will provide more of what users want.

    Caution: contents may be quarrelsome and meticulous!

  • Imagine, he said, if recipes were packaged in black boxes, unavailable for nspection.

    Maybe someone needs to explain to RMS that not all recipes are available to public inspection. See: Coca-Cola formula, KFC seven herbs and spices formula.

    He went on to describe three additional freedoms which distinguish Free from proprietary software: the right to change software to suit user needs; to redistribute the software; and to publish improved versions.

    But then it takes away the right to keep the changes to yourself. So much for freedom.

    Citing the large number of companies now paying to develop Free software.

    Did he also happen to cite the fact that so many of these companies are going tits up lately?


    Cheers,

  • I believe that free software should be subsidized by the government because it is as beneficial to society as roads and telephone lines.

    That would be horrible. Software should only be paid for by the people that use it or value it. That isn't all taxpayers. If I don't use KDE, I don't want to pay for it. Having government pay for more things is just another way to guarantee that your money and my money gets wasted without accountability as gets skimmed many times by shadowy beaurocrats, with whatever that gets through the strainer, spent on stuff that we may or may not want.

    The way to fund Free Software is for someone, who wants the software, to pay to have it written. This revenue model is almost exactly identical to contract programming, which is quite proven and mature.

    Wanna make money writing Free Software? Do the same thing a bunch of people are already doing now: Find someone who wants a program, and send 'em a bid. My paychecks for the last 15 years have been about half-supported by that type of revenue. The difference (between what I do and what you want) is that instead of just giving a the customer a binary, give 'em the source and a GPL too. Of course, that means they won't necessarily be locked into rehiring you when they want mods later (that's where the other half of my paychecks come from ;-) but that's the price of your user's freedom. Either impress them with your work so they'll come back for maintenance, or increase your rates for the initial work.


    ---
  • Maybe someone needs to explain to RMS that not all recipes are available to public inspection. See: Coca-Cola formula, KFC seven herbs and spices formula.

    Well...no. Imagine your friend buys a recipie book, and cooks you a dinner. You like it, and ask for the recipie. She tells you her (slightly changed) version of it. You go home, and make it. You can't do that with non-free software.

    But then it takes away the right to keep the changes to yourself. So much for freedom.

    Again, wrong. You don't have to tell people the changes. You only have to show the changed if you re-release the software. IOW, you can't build non-GPL'd products off of GPL'd products.

    Did he also happen to cite the fact that so many of these companies are going tits up lately?

    Last time I checked, IBM was doing fine. So was hp.

  • Did he also happen to cite the fact that so many of these companies are going tits up lately?

    Are we to infer that you believe the opposite; ie., that companies who make proprietary software do not go out of business?

    --
  • Citing the large number of companies now paying to develop Free software, and that the majority of pages on the World Wide Web are served with Apache running on GNU/Linux systems, Stallman scoffed at claims that the GPL was unfriendly to business. "Microsoft says that busineses can't get along with the GPL. So if businesses don't include IBM, and HP, and Sun, then maybe they're right."

    The argument was not that businesses can't get along with the GPL. It was that businesses can't prosper by relying solely on the GPL. The example given by Microsoft was giving away your most valuable property (your software), and then hoping to make money on the marginal business of supporting that software. IBM, HP, and Sun do not follow that pattern. They're large enough to be able to finance some GPL'ed projects, but they're not giving away their cash cows. Solaris is not GPL'ed, HP-UX is not GPL'ed (if you could really consider HP-UX a cash cow any more), Java is not GPL'ed, WorldSphere is not GPL'ed, and so on. And while you might argue that these companies support linux, which is a direct competitor to their own unices, they're making their money on the hardware, not the software. That's like calling Apple out for supporting MkLinux back in the day because it competed with Mac OS -- They still sold hardware either way, so they were happy.

    <flamebait>RMS is not some messiah. He's not a good businessman, and he's also not that great of a programmer (ever looked at the emacs code? bloat bloat bloat). He's just a man, with an over-ambitious vision and the ego to back it up.</flamebait>

  • by Pope (17780) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @03:57PM (#190070)
    TruRMS software only runs on Digital equipment.
  • by Mike Schiraldi (18296) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @03:36PM (#190072) Homepage Journal
    Headlines for today:
    RMS: Free Software Good,
    Dog Bites Man, Sky Blue

    --

  • Your business model is aimed around selling software. The truly successful computer companies (other than Microsoft) have all been services companies. What a GNU world would say is, "Don't sell the software, lease your expertise in the software." In other words, support, customize, redesign the software, and let your customers help. Run the best *software* shop you can, because that's how you compete.
  • Don't forget that Microsoft does give away (some) of its valuable IP, such as IE.

    So far as I know they don't, because you have to sign a EULA. This can hardly be counted as "giving away" their IP, as they will be the first to tell you.

  • by hey! (33014) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @07:26PM (#190091) Homepage Journal
    Does that mean your aunts are the Sisters of Mercy?
  • by hey! (33014) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @07:21PM (#190092) Homepage Journal
    I think you (or perhaps RMS) hit it on the head.

    The question isn't: why would a company in the business of producing proprietary software embrace GPL? Self evidently, they cannot, except in a limited way.

    It isn't from the perspective of the would be future Microsofts, but of the GMs and Citibanks of the world. The question is -- why would you pay millions of dollars for the privilege of having your precious IP converted and stored in a secret format that you have no rights to and for which you may be forced to pay tribute if you wish to have future access to?

    I'm pretty neutral on the Free/proprietary software issue. I think free software is great, but if propietary developers can deliver enough added value to justify their existence -- fine. However, from my fairly neutral vantage point, it is very clear that Microsoft's argument is essentially circular: In a nutshell, they say we need proprietary software because proprietary software developers can't live without it.

    My own view is that proprietary software is like any other monopoly -- useful when it attracts investment to areas of high risk or of public interest but limited profitability. Otherwise it serves no useful function. For that reason, I would like to see a situation where all source code is automatically licensed without restrictions to buyers after a limited period, perhaps seven years. If you can't innovate enough in seven years to justify your ongoing existence, you should go away and do something else. This would, not coincidentally, allow users unfettered access to their legacy documents. Many a group has discovered the futility of trying to read an MSBACKUP file with a later version of MSBACKUP.

  • So, is Richard Stallman an approximation or is he True RMS?

    Yes, yes, I can hear you groaning...
  • This isn't bullshit at all because all but Solaris are considered free software.
    Not exactly. The only really free Unices are the BSD triumvirate and Linux. Solaris, as you said, is not. Nor is MacOS X - Darwin is free, and can run Apache, but OS X is not. Nor are, to the best of my knowledge, HP-UX, AIX, SCO, BSDi, IRIX, et cetera.
    Nitpicking aside, I still say that Apache itself is the finest example of Community Software at its best.

    --
  • Huh, I may have gotten an email intended for him a few years ago. OTOH, I am hoping to hide away in academia in the future and I do like dogs and Greek gods -- maybe I help invent a time machine in the future and travel back to meet you. Shame my Palm doesn't work, or I'd put it on my planner; I don't suppose your me is absent minded as well?
  • "but propietery closed sourced is here to stay, and there is really nothing inherently evil or wrong with it."

    Well according to RMS there is something inherently wrong and evil about it. He cites for example that you don't have the right to use the software in the manner you want nor do you have the right to redistribute the software (re-sell it or give it away). I agree with him that both of these things are WRONG and EVIL. If I can resell my car, give my toaster to my mom, or use my screwdriver as a chisel I ought to have the same freedoms with my software. Propietery software companies strip you of rights you would have with ordinary products and that is wrong, wrong ,wrong.

    PS. The GPL is not for businesses, it's not for moguls, it's not for CEOS, it's not for investors, it's not for stock brokers. The GPL exists to do the greates good for the society and ordinary people. Maybe you disagree that it's good but it's goal is not to further profit of corporations.
  • But you can never be assured that the waiter did not spit on your food (cos you pissed him off), that the fish is five days old, and that the hollendaise dressing was made this morning and has been sitting under a heat lamp for 6 hours (a recipe for illness).

    If you cook yourself you can pick and choosee the freshest and most flavorful ingredients and can control the degree of cleanliness of your own kitchen.
  • If your software took $3 million in R&D AND you are paying thousands of dollars per month in developer fees that you are going to fail with a userbase of 500. You are basically going to have to charge 6K per install just to make up what you already spent. You are going to have to probably triple or quadriple that to make sure your bills are paid and your employees don't bail on you. Even then you will eventually saturate the small market you are going after. What then?
    Your best bet is going to be licensing the software on a per year basis so you can still get cashflow after the saturation occurs. I don't know what you monthly expenses are but if you have dozen or so programmers it's going to be pretty massive just in payroll.

    It seems to me that eventually somone is going to jump in here and kill you. Maybe by using GPLed software instead of the software costing thousands of dollars per month, maybe by using shortcuts who knows. If it's a lucrative market then MS may jump in and give away their product to kill you off. Really it's very, very hard to make money selling software anymore especially if are not already established. Three out of four businesses fail within a couple of years and in the software market it's even worse. Go to the library and get a three or four year old computer magazine and look at the software ads. How many of those companies still exist?
    If I were you I'd start looking for contingencies.
  • When MS decided to cut off the air supply of Netscape by giving away every product Netscape made lots of people lost their jobs.
    When MS decided to kill Novell by giving away NT licenses cheaper then Novell licenses lots of peole lost their jobs.
    When MS killed stac by stealing their technologies lot's of people lost their jobs.
    When MS killed OS/2 by pre-announcing windows 98 by 4 years lot's of people lost their jobs.
    Whenever one corporation kills another one lots of people lose their jobs. That's capitalism for ya eventually they'll find other jobs.

  • Hey I knew a James Lanfear once. He was a professor and owned a huge dog with a greek name.
  • Even so. He has to survive 9-12 months before the cash starts flowing in. He is in debt of at least 3 million and his debt is growing by leaps and bounds every month because he has to pay outrageous fees himself and he has to keep paying programmers. 25 million in revenue seems like a whole lot but it's all dependent on what your expenses are. Paying a dozen programmers could rack up 100K per month in no time let alone managemenent, building, equipment, lawyers, accountants, marketing etc.
    He provided no figures of anything so it's hard to guess.
  • by Malcontent (40834) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @09:03PM (#190105)
    Where to start....

    The world got along just fine without Ip for thousands of years. IP is a recent invention. Somehow we got relativity, calculus, fire. wheel automobiles, airplanes, steam engines and the corron gin despite the lack of IP laws.

    No you can not resell your software go read your license sometime.

    Adam Smith is the most misquoted, least understood person in the history of mankind. If he knew the kind shit that was being shoveled in his name he would haunt you and you progeny for generations to come. Not only that but his understanding of ecosystems and scientific principles is from a couple of centuries ago. I would not let a doctor treat me by using medical techniques from the 18th century so why would I let some politician or economist handle my country using principles from them. We have learned a whole lot since the then my friend.
  • You're right. It is a troll, and you caught me. Some of what you said had some point, but most of it was poorly thought out, or just plain false.


    If you're not yourself a coder, then the "If I don't like it I can change it" arguement carries no weight.


    I'm not a sufficiently skilled coder to make a difference in most applications, yet that argument carries weight with me. Why? Because it means that so can someone else, and since people in general aren't all that different, it is very likely that someone who is a skilled coder feels the same way and will decide to change it.

    Add to that the fact that in general Open Source[1] projects tend to be more likely to fix bugs and add requeste features. Closed source alternatives tend to only add things if a "significant" protion of the user base wants it.

    But the bulk of open source projects are still distributed as "here's a tarball with the source, have fun."

    That hasn't been my expierence. I have seen a few programs distributed in a tarball only method, but those were either extreme alpha, (for coders, not for average users), predating Linux and designed for most unices, or fairly simple programs, designed for greatest portability.

    The rest of your argument tends to fall apart since the assertion that most linux software is in a tarball only distribution. I myself haven't seen anything that was totally unavilable in RPM format in quite some time.

    Also note that having rpms available should in no way exclude the available of source files. They are valuble to make Open Source work.

    why do I want to have 15 different editors to pick from if they are all more complicated than I want?

    So what if you do have more software than you need. Use what you can, and let the rest sit. It's about choice. At my university there are student use computer labs. Over 90% of the software available is only useful to a very small minority of the users. There is dietary software, numerous stastical packages, and things for subjects I've never heard of. I have yet to see anyone complain because extra software was there.

    Linux incluses so many different versions of the same thing because different people like different things, and shouldn't be held back simply because a very few are confused by choice (that number is going up because of exposure to microsoft software however). A reasonably intelligent person will ignore things they aren't interested in. Joe user will probably find gedit in his menus, and just use that. So what if far more powerful tools are available. Just because you have the choice doesn't mean you have to learn to use every piece of software presented to you.

    The latest version of Linux-Mandrake (8.0) comes with three different FTP servers. Er, why?

    Because it gives choice, that's why. Joe user isn't going to care about FTP servers anyway. Just because they are there doesn't mean that you are forced to use them. If you are just setting up a home system it would be wise not to have FTP installed anyway, now many distributions enable all sorts of services that shouldn't be, and I have no idea why. It would be far better to ask the user what he wants rather than sucking cycles for something that won't be used, and that will reduce security.

    Configuration, while vastly improved over earlier versions, is still scattered over a half dozen configuration utilities, and that's just the graphical ones. Why? Welcome to the Bazar.

  • We develop software for a very small niche market (~500 possible installations).

    Let's look at what would be different if you released under the GPL:

    • A customer could purchase one copy and do multiple installations. You can adjust your pricing model and support plans to deal with that, no big deal.
    • A customer could purchase one copy and give copies away to other potential customers. But if your market is that small, your potential customers are probably all competitors with each other, so why would they help out the competition? Ask yourself how likely such sharing is for your application.
    • A customer could fix bugs themselves. If you're competent and giving good value, though, it should be easier and cheaper for them to pay you to do so. The fact that they're not 100% locked in to your support should be viewed as an additional selling point.
    • If you're making something for other programmers to use, you're got a strong selling point in that code is the best documentation. (I wish we had source for the third party software I'm trying to work with now!)
    I think that for custom development and niche markets, the GPL doesn't necessarily change things all that much, because you're naturally closer to the "software as service" model.

    Tom Swiss | the infamous tms | http://www.infamous.net/

  • As far as I can tell, that's not enough to buy the bacon for the existing base of computer scientists/software engineers

    Maybe. For the sake of argument, assume so. So what?

    Is our goal quality software, or is our goal make-work jobs?

    Sometimes I think that a large percentage of the existing base of computer scientists/software engineers probably shouldn't be in this field anyway...they'd be happier and more productive doing something else, but fell into this for the money.

    but I think we blur the [free beer / free speech] distinction way too much.
    Who does? RMS and the FSF are quite clear on it. [gnu.org]

    Tom Swiss | the infamous tms | http://www.infamous.net/

  • This is in contradiction to the GPL which says that I can't run the program as a subroutine...

    Nonsense. You can have a subroutine that executes (via fork()/exec(), or system()) a GPLed program. You just can't create a subroutine that is a derivative of a GPLed program without GPLing that subroutine.

    Say it with me now: Activities other than copying, distribution and modification are not covered by this License; they are outside its scope. [gnu.org]

    Tom Swiss | the infamous tms | http://www.infamous.net/

  • How did we get from "I can't run the program" to "I can't link the library"?

    Anyway, static linking most defintely makes your code derivative - you're including the object file in your program! If I write a book that include verbatim the text of another book, even if the footnotes in my work only refer to a fraction of the included book you can bet that that will count as derivative.

    Linking is only an issue if it falls under "copying, distributing, or modifying" the code in question; static linking would imply copying and distributing, dynamic linking would not.

    Dynaminc linking would be ok since you are not creating a derivative work, only making references. Note that the GPL does not say anything about linking in its conditions [gnu.org], and its "How to Apply These Terms to Your New Programs" [gnu.org] section mentions only "incorporating".

    Tom Swiss | the infamous tms | http://www.infamous.net/

  • Without intellectual property, and associated copywright laws, where is the incentive for the thinkers of this world to produce any more of the intangible goods? [...] Music [...] SOFTWARE.

    Hmmm, I hope I'm not replying to a troll, but here goes.

    Music: Are you saying that composers such as Bach, Beethoven, Mozart et al. would never have written anything without copyright existing? Does anyone seriously believe that it's possible to stop a true musician (classical or popular) from composing or performing?

    Software: (1) the amount of free software that gets written must show you that intellectual property is not necessary to make this happen. I think it's been shown that financial incentives to write software can still exist in a world without copyright restrictions and patents.

    HUH?!? You can resell your software... as long as you haven't kept any illegal copies lying around
    If you look at the license on a recent copy of Windows (or Office?), you'll find that this is false. You can't resell the software. You can't even install it on a new computer if you upgrade!
    One last thing... the invisible hand is guiding the markets in the direction that is best for the consumer...
    This would be true in a completely free market. But today's software market is not very free; e.g. there's a desktop OS monopoly. I think that the excessive strength of today's copyright and patent rules is one thing which is distorting the software market, and making that market less able to evolve in a direction which is good for consumers.
  • The notion that the GPL model will do anything is laughable, considering how many companies are making money on GPL software
    Consider the huge number of businesses that use Samba. Now consider the significant number of those who have contributed something towards Samba development (e.g. a bug report or a bugfix). All those businesses are helping themselves by helping to develop Samba. This applies to any other GPLed package, too.
  • > If my receipe were "GPLed", she would then not be allowed to serve her modified dish to anyone without telling them the entire receipe.

    Not entirely.. you don't actually have to distribute the recipe with the dish, you have to provide a good way for people to get your recipe, like a stack of papers on the corner of the table, at a cost no higher than the medium (=the paper its printed on). If they're not interested in the source, the GPL doesn't force you to stuff it down their throats. (try a distro from the cover of some magazine.. they usually don't include sources)

    //rdj
  • Poor Stallmann. He's struggling against the common confiusion between Open Source and Free Source since pretty long.

    And now people will qoute him and his Open Sauce analogie ;)

  • Again, though, Stallman was careful to point out that the advantages and intent of Free software had more to do with ethics and social good in a variety of fields than any particular bottom line. Closed software, he said, "causes psychosocial harm which affects the spirit of scientific cooperation. Progress in science crucially depends on people being able to work together. Nowadays you see scientists act as if they're in gangs at war with other little gangs of scientists ... we're all held back."

    I takes a tremendous amount of time an effort to write good software. I am not sure if RMS has addressed this issue but I think it's worth thinking about. In a labor-based economy where one's livelihood is dependent on one's labor, it is not easy to create free software without a source of income. I believe that free software should be subsidized by the government because it is as beneficial to society as roads and telephone lines. After all art is subsidized.

    But we should not wait for government subsidies. You can support your favorite artist/inventor/programmer/organization by writing them a personal check now! All philanthropists and charitable organizations should take notice. The FSF should be the recipients of billions of dollars in subsidies and support from the government and industry.
  • I takes a tremendous amount of time an effort to write good software.

    Wrong - Writing software is easy! It takes a tremendous amount of time to make software good. Anyone, including myself, can hack out a piece of code that functions for the limited use of a single person. It takes a community of users to use the software, and in the process find the rough edges, and wear them down. The polishing process is what is responsible for truely great software, with many users putting it through it's paces, pushing the limitations and extending it into unintended new applications.

    I once wrote a Forth compiler for OS/2, in assembler. I did it just to learn about assembler in OS/2. A user of the software decided my documentation truely sucked and wrote better documentation. Other users submitted feedback, and it did fairly well, finding use all over the place. My efforts were really just in providing the rough hewn stone, the users provided the true grit and polish.

    If Microsoft were truely consistent, users would be paid to find problems in their products. This is because when a user finds a problem, and assists in fixing it, they are giving time and experience (value) to Microsoft.

    Microsoft and crew try to push the idea that any person involved in creating software has to some how be paid, or it's a communist/socialist conspiracy against the world. They obscure/overlook the fact that most of the work in open source/free software is actually done by the users of the software, just by using the software . If I'm using Microsoft Word to write a document, and it does something wierd, I have have very few options, mostly all involving paying money to Microsoft, and NOT getting my problem fixed to my satisfaction. If I'm using something written as open source, or shareware, I'm either going to give feedback to the author(s), or fix it myself, and possibly make that fix available to others.

    Fortunately for Microsoft, in the real world, the users of software aren't expected to be paid for using the software in any software model. They paid to be users, in terms of money if it's commercial, and time learning in ALL cases. Free software doesn't make any socialistic or altruistic demands on the users, just the people who provide the rough hewn starting material.

    I believe RMS when he says just processing the feedback was almost overwhelming. A thousand real users can do at least a hundred times the work of a crew of 10 paid debuggers. They can do this because they have a vested interest in the software doing what they want it to do. They will notice things, and make all sorts of suggestions and comments which might never cross the mind of someone set out to build a product for one specific, highly engineered use. This is incredible leverage, and it's free, and even in the interest of the users.

    --Mike--

  • Here here....

    Though I agree with other points RMS makes and that Mundie is wrong about a lot of the negativity towards the GPL, there is a fine point made here: Free Software is not for every company, and Open Source is not for every company.

    It really is quite a simple matter of economics: If your sole buisness is to provide software, then giving it away for free is not an option. If your sole business is NOT to provide software (but, say, hardware for example), then giving away software might be OK. I know this is a dramatic oversimplification of the argument, but it's a point nonetheless.

    Open Source is a vital model for *certain* communities -- and the "i want to make money selling software" community is not one of them. :)

    nlh

  • In that case, I reject RMS's argument -- that's like telling Coke to stop selling Cola and instead focus on their food division because they might make more money there (not actually true, but you get the point)

    It is neither his nor any of our business to tell companies how to most effectively make money.

    If you think that selling services is a better business to be in, then fine -- go start a services company and prove all the software companies in the world wrong. That's one of the beautiful things about America.

    If you disagree with the philosophy of closed-sorce/for-sale software, fine. I happen to like the Open Source/Free Software models a lot -- but I recognize their limits and applications, and profitable commercial software is not necessarily one of them.

    nlh

  • Isn't the cooking process a part of the recipe? The recipe is not just a list of ingredients, it is also an explanation of what to do with them.

    ----------
  • Altough what you say is right, I think you're taking the metaphor a little too far. What's your equivalent to "freshest and most flavourful ingredients" in Free Software vs. Closed Source?

    The software is run the same way every time by the CPU, while different cooks make different quality meals out of same recipes. So, I think this metaphor doesn't go any further than RMS has taken it.

    ----------
  • MS's IP approach is perfect for microsft at the expense of everyone else (want to measure that expense? just add up your software expenditure)

    That's what every business is about -- doing something, and other people paying for it. M$ is evil, but not because they're charging people for their work. Almost everybody is the world would be evil, according to that argument.

    ----------
  • by CaptainCarrot (84625) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @05:14PM (#190136)
    I shouldn't reply to an obvious troll, but I'm being obtuse today.

    Maybe someone needs to explain to RMS that not all recipes are available to public inspection. See: Coca-Cola formula, KFC seven herbs and spices formula.

    And can you get Coke, or "Kentucky Fried Chicken" anywhere other than from the companies that own the recipies? Can you make them yourself? Can you improve on them if you don't find them satisfactory? No?

    You've actually made RMS's point quite succinctly. Closed software is like buying prepared food made to a secret recipie. Free software is like cooking for yourself -- it's a bit more work, but it's a whole hell of a lot cheaper, and generally tastes better and is better for you.

    He went on to describe three additional freedoms which distinguish Free from proprietary software: the right to change software to suit user needs; to redistribute the software; and to publish improved versions.
    But then it takes away the right to keep the changes to yourself. So much for freedom.

    This is just false. There is no language in the GNU GPL [gnu.org] requiring you to distrubute modifications to GPLed software. It only imposes conditions that must be met were you to distribute it. You don't want to share your changes? Don't! It's that simple.

    Did he also happen to cite the fact that so many of these companies are going tits up lately?

    What, like IBM [ibm.com]?

    Doofus.

  • This isn't bullshit at all because all but Solaris are considered free software. Besides, these are very viable alternatives to closed systems, and because apache is itself free software, it only goes on to prove that free software is a very viable model. Not bullshit but proof, if you actually decide to look at what he's really saying rather than lashing out at the numbers.

    "I may not have morals, but I have standards."
  • Following from the comment you quoted, the exammples of Sun, HP, and IBM surely carefully check that their own GPL'ed projects are not contaminating their proprietary code (then again, as I'm not employed by any of those companies, I couldn't tell you for sure).


    GPL code cannot "infect" other code. This is an error. The license, the GPL, grants the recipient of the software right to redistribute, and the right to redistribute changes. As long as the GPL goes with it.

    However, if some other piece of code interacts with a well-described API in the GPL work, then the other piece of code is not governed by the GPL. For example, if the GPl code is a library, and the library API is public in the sense that multiple implementations for that API exist, then code that calls functions in the GPL code are not governed by the GPL license - they do not constitute copyright derivatives, since they match a public API and are not reliant on a specific wording of that API in its source code.

    In the case of a unique GPL library, the court is currently deciding on whether linking to that is a copyright violation.

  • Open source programers are noble fools who get themselves taken advantage of when in actuality should be the ones lavished in money.

    No one should be lavished in money. Not businessmen, not artists, not programmers, open source or otherwise, not anyone. Every cent of the unnecessary wealth of the rich is taken from the poor. Economics is a zero-sum game.

    Do you think you somehow deserve a sports car and a SUV, vacations at luxury hotels, meals at expensive restaurants every day and a million-dollar home just because you happen to be a programmer? Do you think your work is so much more worth than that of the guys and gals who wait on you and do the shit work for you? I have news for you: It is not.

    And in a fair world, you would not get away with it. But of course, the laws are written by the rich, for the rich.

    IMO we should concern ourselves with trying to reduce the vast differences in income, not increase them. This is not only the ethical Right Thing to do, it is smart for yourself in the long term too.

    Society is built upon cooperation, and large differences of income undermine that. Unless our society changes, it is heading for disaster (police state and/or revolution and/or civil war). More and more people are parasites on society today (day traders e.g.) who do not contribute anything and yet expects not only to get fed but to get rich! Loathsome. IMHO such people ought to be shot.

    Accumulating money and possessions for yourself only should not be the purpose of life. Making a better world should. I applaud RMS for his uncompromising stand in this.

    /Dervak

  • I'd say that GPL is more friendly for small locally based group of consultants than to big companies that attempt to establish a world-wide business based on GPL software and related services.

    Many of the advantages of big companies (bigger investment capability, exclusive knowledge of their product) are not exploitable with GPL software. And big companies have large overhead costs, which allows small companies to be able to offer similar products for less money.

    Big companies still have some advantages: organization, more resources and overall a well-known brand name. They can do well if they avoid to put too much investment in software development ( because they won't be able to recover it in the usual way, i.e. by exclusively selling the resulting product ).

    None of this apply to companies wich just _uses_ software (90% of business world), or that sell software as a non-strategic side-product (like some big hardware-selling name is attempting to do ). For them, GPL and open source in general is a big plus.

  • On a medium term, we are probably going toward a 'mixed' situation, with open-source (GPLed and not) and proprietary software competing for users and market.

    The existance of a free (and cheap) alternative will force proprietary software vendors to produce better products, and to improve them often. On the other hand, proprietary software vendors may use open source as a gigantic R&D department (they connot exclusively sell GPL software, but they can reuse ideas, they can link their product with LGPL(and similarly licensed) software ; and they can use free OSes as platform for products aimed to vertical markets.

    Maybe a trifle on the optimistic side, but we are already seing some of it.

  • Bill Gates: Commercial Software is Good
    Linus Torvalds: Open Source Sofware is Good
    Craig Mundie: Free Software is Bad

    Oh please. This is like posting a headline saying that Linux is better than Windows. Next time, try to tell us something we don't know.
  • Speaking in his defense, we all now know [slashdot.org] that Mike isn't responsible for lame posts such as this horrific "Haiku" -- his account has been h4x0r3d [slashdot.org].
    --
  • The notion that the GPL model will do anything is laughable, considering how many companies are making money on GPL software (a handful at most),

    I am not sure why people keep saying nobody can make money on GPL software. I know several consultants who make plenty of money on GPL software. You'd be suprised how open a business is to GPL software when they are told, they can have it based on Microsoft software for $30K or based on GPL software for $10K. These guys aren't Bill Gates rich, but they are doing well and even the economic slow down hasn't had much of an effect on the their cash flow.


    Jesus died for sombodies sins, but not mine.

  • I think the GPL might actually work in your situation. Just charge each user something like $50,000 for the code. Now, even though they can share it, they are extremely unlikely to do so.

    The only way you can get screwed is if your customers engage in collusion and agree to form a purchasing pool. If your customers are not aware of eachother, this rather risky business model might succeed.

    The only business model for GPL that is gauranteed to work is a one-time sale. For example, I spend $5 million to develop an AI interface to Gnome that does what I want it to do, not what I tell it to do. It's very valuable. I sell it *once* to RedHat for $10 million.

  • Or you go to an expensive restaurant, pay an exhorbitant amount of money for crap.

    ---

  • Mundie, and you, confuses whats good for Microsoft with whats good for everyone else.

    Our company's most precious assets, or even IP, are not software.

    MS's IP approach is perfect for microsft at the expense of everyone else (want to measure that expense? just add up your software expenditure)

    For businesses that use computers to help them do other things, things that are actually what makes us money, good quality public domain software is a godsend. Some stuff we modify, under the terms of the GPL but those mods aren't crucial to our competitive advantage and we're happy for them to be incorporated into the next version. It saves us the time of remodifying the next version.

    Don't confuse what's good for Bill Gates with what's good for you.

  • by Bodrius (191265) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @05:10PM (#190181) Homepage
    Or you go to an expensive restaurant, pay an exhorbitant amount of money, eat the best dish you have ever tasted in your life and still have no idea how it was made, maybe not even what it was.

    Recipes can be propietary, expensive, and for good reason. Good luck trying to get that famous chef to tell the secret ingredient.

    The lesson? If you're paying for prepared, closed-recipe food, and you're paying big money, it better be good. Really good, to be worth it.

    Win9x is the OS version of the Hungry Man dinner.
  • I posted a real audio file on here already. You may want to check it out.
  • Here is a link to some Real Audio:

    Ahh, this speech is 3 years old, as the other poster mentioned. My bad. Still, it would be nice to have some transcripts and maybe a stream.

  • by fantom_winter (194762) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @04:23PM (#190185)
    I am listening to RMS speak right now, and at first I thought he was a horrible speaker.. That he wouldn't relate to people on a simple enough level. But what I am finding when I give him a chance is that he really puts his own experiences for everyone else to understand, in his own words..

    I can only hope that people will be able to understand his perspective, because whether he is right or not, I think that Free Software/GNU needs to at least be a part of software philosophy in the future.

  • So I guess all you slashbot doomsayers were wrong. RMS was exactly the right person to deliver that speech. He didn't drag it into a point by point debate, he emphasized those things that are important to free software developers, exactly on the same playing field as Mundie. I really hope this catches the attention of the "Open Source" community. Free software is a philosophy and a choice, not a bright idea to get your source code used.

    Well, your fingers weave quick minarets; Speak in secret alphabets;
  • anyone know where to get a transcript of RMS's speech?
    weather you like RMS or not, this is history in the making folks.
  • Is that Microsoft could easily be successful by opening the source to their code. It would go like this: 1) They release their code, they GPL it. 2) No longer selling their software, they sell technical support. Since their software is currently bloated, buggy, and insecure, they make a fortune charging for tech support. 3) People slowly begin improving MS's GPL'd software 4) As the software is improved, they change their focus from supporting their software, to providing custom computing solutions for businesses. (*GASP* PROVIDING A SERVICE, who'da thought eh?) This is the business model that many of the original dos-based software companies were modeled on. It worked then, it can work again. 5) Christ returns to the earth and blesses Microsoft for seeing the error of it's ways, and repenting.
  • by WillSeattle (239206) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @03:44PM (#190195) Homepage
    In news today, Bill Gates, upon hearing RMS reply promptly said "Oh!" and vanished in a puff of smoke. The smoke, of course, was blue, tinged with streaks of red.

    In related news, all multinational corporations trying to extend and embrace their software and hardware patents and copyrights promptly decided to throw in the towel, and relinquish all rights to the public good.

    As a result, previous estimates of GDP growth for the world have been quintupled for the forthcoming year, due to the increase in useful knowledge for the world's citizenry.

    Refusing to comment at press time are holders of patents for biological innovations in gene therapy.

    (c) 2001 All Of The Above (TM)

  • by Topgun1 (261377) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @06:37PM (#190202)
    First, my credentials. I'm a CEO of a small corporation, and we've been proudly using Linux for two years, and counting.

    I suppose Linux was a no-brainer for us. All of the people on the executive board are technical people (either engineers or CS majors). Also, as a smaller, private corporation, we didn't have a lot of money to cover startup costs...and starting a company of any kind ain't cheap.

    At any rate, we (credit: IT people) were able to configure Linux to allow us to create a secure system to allow swipe card access to our building. This, among other things, would not have been possible under Windows. If I'm wrong, I stand corrected.This is a rather small example, but the idea is there: Linux is a cheap and, more importantly, mallable solution for us. I know the IT people love it, since things can be tailored. Sorry I can't specify, but I'm not a coder...that's how I got the CEO job. ;-)

    So I'm out here, telling other CEO's that I meet that making the switch is, in the long run, definately worth it. Our case was easier, since we started with Linux originally. My thought, however, is that this is also a trend; if the word about Linux spreads and is used by startup companies, EVENTUALLY Linux will be much more mainstream. Or, perhaps, we're the exception and have a crew of people on the EB that all have technical/coding/etc know-how (to some extent) and Linux will never catch on with startups.

    Well, that's my two cents on the Free Source/Business issue. Hope it helps to some extent. End Sermon. ;-)
  • Nelson Mandella says Apartheid is bad.

    Dr. Ruth thinks sex is good.

    And Larry Ellison thinks that having a shitload of money just might not be that bad.
  • Of course it was predictable. 90% of Slashdot is. - including your comment
    What were you expecting/hoping?

    I read it to see how he makes his comparisons. It was too bad he didn't try to make a point by point rebuttle. That could be a good read.
    I liked the receipe anology but of course many people eat fast food all the time. Kentucky Fried Chicken doesn't publish their receipe. People wanting food and lacking the skills and/or time can enjoy fried chicken without going through the process of cooking the bird themselves. Sure they might get something a bit better if they cooked it themselves, but if you don't have the same equipment, you can't get the same thing.
    Most Computer users aren't even aware that they can get any alternative to Closed Source Software just the same way that people who have never tasted a free range chicken haven't a clue what they are missing.
  • by klykken (310263) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @04:27PM (#190212)
    What Stallman said about the recipes awakens some interesting thoughts. IMHO, it's a brilliant metaphor for the open source situation.

    - You get a recipe from an online database, go to the store and buy (or order online from the comfort of your own toilet seat) the ingredients. You cook and improvise. You eat. You enjoy. Next time, you improve your skills and the resulting meal by improvising even more.

    - You buy a finished heat-and-eat meal in the store, witch may or may not be protected by several patents and trademark protections, you nuke it, eat it, burp and discard. You'll never know exactly what you just ate, and it's difficult to make improvements the next time you want something to eat.

    .../Bosse
  • Personally, I'd say something that comes between 'give up' and 'good luck'. The GPL isn't something that can come in and bail out a failing shop, all it will ensure is that when you *do* fail, it will allow your work to continue with a life of its own.

    You should probably have your business plan down pat *before* you get to this stage...

  • If you don't notice active development from him, it's probably because he hasn't written much in a number of years due to RSI

    Which is kind of ironic, since there seems to be a lack of Free (TM) voice recognition software out there.

The flow chart is a most thoroughly oversold piece of program documentation. -- Frederick Brooks, "The Mythical Man Month"

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