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Re: A Misguided View of Free Software

By gnuchris in News
Mon May 22, 2000 at 01:31:29 PM EST
Tags: Freedom (all tags)
Freedom

After reading Bertrand Meyer's, recent essay, "The Ethics of Free Software", I have written a response titled Re: A Misguided View of Software Ethics...

"While browsing the web late Saturday night, I became suprised at how some people still don't understand "Free Software". Bertrand Meyer, recently in an essay titled "The Ethics of Free Software", slandered Free Software, The GNU, Richard Stallman and Eric Raymond, often connecting unrelated points in an attempt to thrash the Free Software movement. "


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Re: A Misguided View of Free Software | 88 comments (88 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
This would inspire more conversatio... (2.75 / 4) (#11)
by bobsquatch on Sun May 21, 2000 at 03:30:29 AM EST

bobsquatch voted 1 on this story.

This would inspire more conversation if the original essay was linked alongside the rebuttal.

Meyer's essay has generated a great... (3.00 / 2) (#8)
by mattm on Sun May 21, 2000 at 03:53:37 AM EST

mattm voted 1 on this story.

Meyer's essay has generated a great deal of discussion in SD Magazine's Reader Forum. Unfortunately, comments about all articles seem to be lumped together into one forum, and you have to select a given message to see a list of replies to it -- tsk tsk, you'd think they'd have learnt something from more organized sites. ;) A quick skim suggests that public opinion is about half in favor of Meyer's views and half against.



First of all, the start of the arti... (3.00 / 2) (#25)
by Camelot on Sun May 21, 2000 at 06:46:08 AM EST

Camelot voted 1 on this story.

First of all, the start of the article is brilliant. Meyer starts by defining terms like ethics and free. It is too bad that the rest of the article fails to match the premises in quality. He makes so many logical fallacies (the ESR gun argument is a classic) that, given the excellent manner the article is started, it cannot be an accident. He is trying to further his own agenda (whatever it is) . Even though he sports a few very good points about free software in general, I might still classify his article as FUD.

The way he dismisses critique of Gates is an example of his stance. To claim that everyone who criticizes Gates is driven by "greed and envy" ? Pot, kettle, black. Meyer himself is envious of the successes of the free software movement, and the article is a testament of a bitter man.

No link to the Meyer essay, or to t... (3.25 / 4) (#10)
by Dacta on Sun May 21, 2000 at 06:52:12 AM EST

Dacta voted -1 on this story.

No link to the Meyer essay, or to the Slashdot discussion, which this was obviously prompted by. Kuro5hin isn't an extention of the Slashdot comment system.... (is that too harsh? It just seems like this should have been posted on the Slashdot story, or possibly here if it included some - a lot more - background)

I've seen links to this (Myer's ess... (3.00 / 2) (#1)
by rusty on Sun May 21, 2000 at 07:43:29 AM EST

rusty voted 1 on this story.

I've seen links to this (Myer's essay) floating around for a while, but hadn't gotten around to actually reading it. His whole argument is rather amusingly ill-founded. This is a person who quite clearly Doesn't Get It At All. I'd enjoy everyone else's thoughts on this. And your rebuttal is pretty good, but for God's sake, man, get that puppy to an editor! "Linux Torvaldos"? Ouch. :-)

____
Not the real rusty

Re: I've seen links to this (Myer's ess... (5.00 / 1) (#37)
by FlinkDelDinky on Mon May 22, 2000 at 04:24:15 PM EST

"Linux Torvaldos"?

Okay, Rusty, I'm guess I'm the guy who has to straighten this out because you obviously don't 'get it at all'.

  • Linux Torvaldos
  • Linux Torvalwindows
  • Linux Torvalmacintosh
  • Linux Torvalamiga
  • Linux Torvalsun
  • Linux TorvalOS/2

I could go on but I'll spare you the humilation :-)

[ Parent ]

ROFLMAOISC (none / 0) (#43)
by kmself on Mon May 22, 2000 at 08:33:11 PM EST

.

--
Karsten M. Self
SCO -- backgrounder on Caldera/SCO vs IBM
Support the EFF!!
There is no K5 cabal.
[ Parent ]

Re: ROFLMAOISC (none / 0) (#51)
by FlinkDelDinky on Tue May 23, 2000 at 01:33:45 AM EST

Okay, I know what the ROFLMAO means but what's the ISC?

[ Parent ]
Re: ROFLMAOISC (none / 0) (#65)
by rusty on Tue May 23, 2000 at 11:45:22 AM EST

In Ski Chalets?
In Sam's Cubicle?
If Santa Cares?
In Serene Comfort?

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Re: [ROFLMAO]ISC (none / 0) (#71)
by kmself on Tue May 23, 2000 at 05:29:34 PM EST

  • in solemn composure
  • in scanty clothing
  • internal server conflict
  • internal stack conflict
  • indeterminate sobriety code
  • in stitches, crying

I'd meant the last.

--
Karsten M. Self
SCO -- backgrounder on Caldera/SCO vs IBM
Support the EFF!!
There is no K5 cabal.
[ Parent ]

+1: It's important to counter such... (2.66 / 3) (#21)
by Greyjack on Sun May 21, 2000 at 08:27:00 AM EST

Greyjack voted 0 on this story.

+1: It's important to counter such misguided opinions -1: You're preaching to the choir here

--
Here is my philosophy: Everything changes (the word "everything" has just changed as the word "change" has: it now means "no change") --Ron Padgett


Would like a little more introducti... (3.00 / 2) (#14)
by scorpion on Sun May 21, 2000 at 10:13:02 AM EST

scorpion voted 1 on this story.

Would like a little more introduction to an article.

It's already been on Slashdot, and ... (2.33 / 3) (#2)
by sakico on Sun May 21, 2000 at 11:38:17 AM EST

sakico voted -1 on this story.

It's already been on Slashdot, and all that it is is yet another article poking fun at the zealots associated with open source. Nothing wrong with this, but do we need to see outraged response from same zealots on this site as well as the other one? (Provided a fair number have made the move)

FUD. It's what's for breakfast. ... (3.00 / 2) (#12)
by eann on Sun May 21, 2000 at 11:45:40 AM EST

eann voted 1 on this story.

FUD. It's what's for breakfast.

Fortunately, I can live with the assumption that no one who's considering working on a free, Free, or Open Source project will be dissuaded by Mr. Meyer's suspiciously cloudy rhetoric.

Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men. —MLK

$email =~ s/0/o/; # The K5 cabal is out to get you.


However, I would have liked to see ... (3.50 / 2) (#16)
by Pseudonymous Coward on Sun May 21, 2000 at 12:40:23 PM EST

Pseudonymous Coward voted 1 on this story.

However, I would have liked to see a larger excerpt instead of having to run off and read all the references before participating in a discussion. The posting contains only the most minimal context and very few facts other than "I wrote something."

Consider taking a crash course in the inverted pyramid style for some ideas on how to establish the context of an article quickly before providing some in-depth information.

This should go to a K5 style guide (none / 0) (#44)
by kmself on Mon May 22, 2000 at 08:40:51 PM EST

The one portion of K5 that's getting to be bothersome at the moment is the submission queue and cycle itself. Ability to remand stories for revision, and guidelines on submission (as well as a mandetory spell-check) would be very good additions.

Now, where'd the love of my life end up at....

--
Karsten M. Self
SCO -- backgrounder on Caldera/SCO vs IBM
Support the EFF!!
There is no K5 cabal.
[ Parent ]

Re: This should go to a K5 style guide (3.00 / 1) (#55)
by Pseudonymous Coward on Tue May 23, 2000 at 02:34:30 AM EST

In terms of a style guide, perhaps if I get a little time (I'm off to bed just now) I'll cobble something rudimentary together and submit it for discussion & refinement. I've got a small list of writing resources and a vague grasp of what I, at least, would consider good k5 form.

'course, I'm just another reader, so what do I know?

[ Parent ]

Re: This should go to a K5 style guide (4.00 / 1) (#63)
by rusty on Tue May 23, 2000 at 11:34:12 AM EST

Hey, the readers *are* K5. I'd love to see a style guide.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
After reading the higher-rated /. c... (2.66 / 3) (#3)
by Demona on Sun May 21, 2000 at 12:51:39 PM EST

Demona voted 1 on this story.

After reading the higher-rated /. comments I look forward to an in-depth rebuttal in this forum. It would have been nice to at least include the introductory paragraph of your writeup, though.

The response needs some revision, a... (3.50 / 2) (#20)
by YellowBook on Sun May 21, 2000 at 01:14:01 PM EST

YellowBook voted 1 on this story.

The response needs some revision, and probably a bit more quoting, but it's interesting and reasonable. I think a critique of Meyer's essay could be written that attacked it at a more fundamental level, however (e.g. the idea of property rights enshrined in Meyer's concept of ethics).

As an advocate of open source (and ... (3.00 / 3) (#31)
by Zuid on Sun May 21, 2000 at 01:19:36 PM EST

Zuid voted -1 on this story.

As an advocate of open source (and to a lesser extent, "free") software, I was actually quite thrilled when I read this man's essay. He has done what nobody else dares to do and spoken _against_ the seperatist attitude of many self-proclaimed visionaries and gods within the free software movement. Many people (who presumably didn't do very well in english comprehension tests at school) have claimed that he makes false connections between the views of the two prominently featured people in the article, many have jumped up and down claiming that he shouldn't bring gun arguments into the ethics of software, and others still seem to feel that his notion that Microsoft are as much a part of the computer revolution as anyone else makes him an MS sympathiser and co-hort. I found the essay to be extremely supportive of open source ideals while retaining a realistic view of how the software market (and indeed most other markets) work. Those points he makes regarding the specific philosophies of personalities are perhaps too concise. His detailed reasoning for gun control is a bit of a rant, but is well within context. In cases where people criticise religions or cultures or political parties or anything similar, they are more than happy to use parallels and contextual relationships to outside issues to discredit the [group] in question. ("The church says being gay is bad, so I denounce the church in its entirety!", or "the [right wing] party don't want to increase hospital funding, so their ideas on how to boost the economy are disgusting to me!", and so on.) Yet, arguments such as "This man is in no position to make claims about his heightened morality because he advocates laws which are evidently bringing horror and violence to the streets of innocent citizens" are met by hordes of incomprehending idiots rebutting with what rarely amounts to much more than "yeh well u like microsoft so your dum". I have voted -1 for this post because I feel that the poster's apparent need to include his opinion almost entirely negates any chance the reader might have of seeing either/both articles without bias.

Meyer needs a whack with the cluest... (3.00 / 2) (#15)
by Wah on Sun May 21, 2000 at 02:20:54 PM EST

Wah voted 1 on this story.

Meyer needs a whack with the cluestick.
--
Fail to Obey?

Unfortunately... (none / 0) (#42)
by kmself on Mon May 22, 2000 at 08:29:50 PM EST

...that would only benefit the person weilding the cluestick. There's nothing in his essay to suggest he'd be improved by the event.

--
Karsten M. Self
SCO -- backgrounder on Caldera/SCO vs IBM
Support the EFF!!
There is no K5 cabal.
[ Parent ]

Re: Unfortunately... (none / 0) (#83)
by Wah on Wed May 24, 2000 at 12:05:48 PM EST

aah, you haven't seen the new Cluestick 2.0. Like the venerable UglyStik, CS2.0 convers upon the target it's own properties. Leaving the target with a bruised head, and a clue. :)
--
Fail to Obey?
[ Parent ]
Good article, though it could use a... (4.00 / 1) (#17)
by mdxi on Sun May 21, 2000 at 03:05:05 PM EST

mdxi voted 1 on this story.

Good article, though it could use a little proofreading (there's one place where "as" is spelled "ass" that was fairly amusing). But that's not so important:

We all need to keep standing up for what we believe and pointing out the mistakes other people make when talking about us.

It's like the pamphleteering that went on in Europe and the US in the 1700-1800s, where people published article after article on their beliefs...everything old is new again.

--
SYN SYN NAK

Having read both essays, here's my ... (3.00 / 2) (#13)
by Ozymandias on Sun May 21, 2000 at 03:36:36 PM EST

Ozymandias voted 1 on this story.

Having read both essays, here's my opinion;

Bertrand Meyer makes some good points, and some bad ones. You, on the other hand, are incorrect.

He isn't saying that all software is written by companies or on company time. He's saying that software is like any other commodity or service; it has value. And he is entirely correct. The fact that it might be written by an individual on their own time, as a hobby or whatnot, is irrelevant. It has value. You have put time, energy, thought, and possibly cash (in the form of books on the language used, other software you might have used to study methods, the partial cost of your computer and the electricity to run it, even the paper and ink you might hve used to lay out your program) to create that software. Why on Earth should anyone expect you to simply give it away? Commercial or not, that software has a measurable value, and you have every right to charge money for it.
- Ozymandias

Re: Having read both essays, here's my ... (2.00 / 1) (#40)
by soulhuntre on Mon May 22, 2000 at 06:30:24 PM EST

"Commercial or not, that software has a measurable value, and you have every right to charge money for it."

It constantly amazes me that such a simple reality is so often overlooked by RMS and others. Writing software is creating something, the same as building a house or making sculpture. I made it, I can sell or I can give it away - why the heck does RMS think he has any claim on it?

Amazing.

 



[ Parent ]
Re: Having read both essays, here's my ... (5.00 / 1) (#41)
by rusty on Mon May 22, 2000 at 07:07:37 PM EST

If I can just pretend to speak for RMS for a moment: This argument mistakes price for liberty. RMS is simply *not* against selling software for money. He financed the GNU project for several years by selling emacs. What he insists upon is that he cannot, in good conscience, consent to a method of selling in which it is necessary to strip the buyer's right to see and modify the source code, which are the terms the majority of commercial software happen to be sold under. This is a really key point that Myer totally distorts. No one is against selling software. What the open-source and free software movements are advocating is the *freedom* to treat your purchase as your own, and poke around inside it if you want to. Think of the old "cars with the hoods welded shut" metaphor. This is what closed-source, binary-only software companies are selling us, and we generally feel enough is enough. And we all wish you the best selling your software, and hope that your choose your license to protect the freedom of your users, and yourself. :-)

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Re: Having read both essays, here's my ... (2.00 / 1) (#45)
by Ozymandias on Mon May 22, 2000 at 09:09:29 PM EST

Who has more right to the work; "the People," who did damned little for it, or the developers and coders that spent days, weeks, months, years coding it? What gives you the right to claim someone else's work simply because you want it?
- Ozymandias
[ Parent ]
Re: Having read both essays, here's my ... (3.00 / 1) (#52)
by FlinkDelDinky on Tue May 23, 2000 at 01:51:39 AM EST

I agree with you. Even though I'm a GPL advocate type guy I have no problem with non-GPL/non-free licesensing. I think software is intrinsically valuable and if you want a commercial style license to it fine.

The GPL should be entered into by free will, otherwise it's just another form of totalitarianism communism. As a libertarian that's repugnant.

[ Parent ]

Re: Having read both essays, here's my ... (3.00 / 1) (#47)
by Ozymandias on Mon May 22, 2000 at 11:56:39 PM EST

OK, so I shouldn't reply without reading the whole comment...

But you're still wrong. <G>

RMS and the other Free-Software nuts by and large AREN'T just asking for the same rights you have as the owner of a car or a house. They're asking for the rights to set up an assembly line and create more houses and cars without giving credit or paying a fee to the original creator. If it were a simple matter of "poking around under the hood", then there would be no problem. But you want the right to poke around under the hood and steal the design for the sparkplug. And there is no way around it, that's what you're doing. You might put that sparkplug in something totally different - a lawnmower, or a really inefficient kerosene lamp. But you've stolen the sparkplug, regardless.

Now, no, it isn't quite the same thing. It's much harder to replicate spark plugs than program code; one takes a complex factory and material base; the other takes a text editor and the "copy" command. That's what companies - and independent coders - would like to prevent, with software licensing and copyright-based ownership.

You say it's wrong to prevent them from allowing you to modify the program code. After all, you own that copy; why can't you modify it like you would your house or car? The problem is, you're comparing apples and oranges; hell, you're comparing apples and Wednesday. It's much more like a book. You can resell your one copy of a book; whole industry based on that, with the used book sellers. What you can't do is photocopy that book and republish it without permission. You can't even legally copy out a book for your own use, simply because it's too hard to prove that "I only made one copy, honest, officer."

That doesn't mean Free Software is wrong. If the author wants to publish his/her work freely, with no restrictions - fine! If you want to publish your software with the only restriction being that it can only be edited in emacs, fine. But do not try and tell other authors that they are somehow "morally" wrong simply because they don't agree with your licensing.
- Ozymandias
[ Parent ]

add more commentary next time. ... (2.33 / 3) (#4)
by davidu on Sun May 21, 2000 at 04:08:48 PM EST

davidu voted 1 on this story.

add more commentary next time.

The essay contains some pretty glar... (2.66 / 3) (#33)
by iCEBaLM on Sun May 21, 2000 at 04:09:29 PM EST

iCEBaLM voted 1 on this story.

The essay contains some pretty glaring spelling/grammar mistakes, so much so that some parts are intelligable. However, we must be vigilant in refusting works such as those by Meyer or else the FUD piles up too high for us to dig out from.

I've read both articles. I found a... (3.00 / 1) (#7)
by FlinkDelDinky on Sun May 21, 2000 at 04:26:59 PM EST

FlinkDelDinky voted 1 on this story.

I've read both articles. I found a lot of what Meyer's had to say was intresting. As a libertarian I enjoyed his reclasification of 'free' software as 'donated' software. His position in that regard kind of made sense.

As a gun nut I'm somewhat perplexed about how ESR's gun views have anything to do with open source or why Meyer felt the need to spend time on them. After all, ESR isn't including them in his papers about 'open source'.

Meyer pretty much lost me from the beggining on an emotional basis. I'm a GNU advocate but I don't hate commercial developers, I buy games all the time :-) I just feel that there's something else motivating Meyer. I can't put my finger on it though. He's obviously a smart guy capable of putting together reasonable arguments which makes his wandering non-'open source' attacks all the more strange.

I keep seeing the Ken Thompson quote about how rotten some of the Linux code is. This time the quote is dated in 1999 but I swear I'd heard it back in the 1.x kernel days. Is this the same quote or is it a new one? Why is he saying that NT is more reliable than Linux. Everything I hear says otherwise. I think the quote makes sense in the pre-1.0 days (I cut my teeth on SLS). But now? Also that quote is in just about every paper that's criticle of GNU and Linux. Does anybody know what Ken thinks now?

Re: I've read both articles. I found a... (4.00 / 1) (#35)
by Paul Dunne on Mon May 22, 2000 at 02:16:29 PM EST

The quote is pretty recent -- here's the interview. I'm not competent to judge the quality of the kernel code, but based on my experience at user and admin level, Thompson's claim that "if you want to use Linux in firewalls, gateways, embedded systems, and so on, it has a long way to go." is simply wrong; as as for `worse than Microsoft', well... Evidently, the fact that the guy wrote (the greater part of) (early versions of) Unix doesn't make him infallible.
http://dunne.home.dhs.org/
[ Parent ]
Re: I've read both articles. I found a... (4.00 / 1) (#38)
by FlinkDelDinky on Mon May 22, 2000 at 04:32:42 PM EST

Yah, I did a google search after I voted and found it, he backs off a bit here.

[ Parent ]
Re: I've read both articles. I found a... (4.00 / 1) (#60)
by Paul Dunne on Tue May 23, 2000 at 06:03:23 AM EST

Yes, I found that too. Unfortunately, I think that's just Eric Raymond trying to put a good spin on things.

Hmm, wonder when they'll make Plan 9 free?
http://dunne.home.dhs.org/
[ Parent ]

Re: I've read both articles. I found a... (3.00 / 1) (#73)
by FlinkDelDinky on Tue May 23, 2000 at 06:13:43 PM EST

I still don't get the negative comparison to NT though. I don't do anything serious with my computer so I can't speak from expierence but from the analysis I've heard Linux is more reliable by far than NT (X needs a lot of work, if X freezes my keyboard I still have to reset even though the kernel may be unaffected).

I've heard that Plan 9 is cool. Isn't there something called Ameoba(sp?) that goes along with it? I wonder if they can 'free' the code? Maybe it has various licenses attached to it from various vendors.

For myself, I'll probably stick with Linux for the forseable future. The hurd may be pretty cool someday. I saw a cool looking FreeBSD book at B&N, that might be fun for expiermenting, someday, maybe. Mostly what I want to see improved is X's reliabilty, maybe GGI + Berlin.

[ Parent ]

Re: I've read both articles. I found a... (none / 0) (#87)
by Paul Dunne on Wed May 31, 2000 at 12:32:29 PM EST

Amoeba doesn't ring any bells with me. I last played with Plan 9 in 1995, when Bell Labs released free binaries for non-commercial use. It fits on four floppies! Actually, I dug it out the other night and had a go at installing it on an old 486 (what am I saying, *all* my machines are 486s -- but I digress), but it didn't like the hardware. I can't be bothered to fiddle about too much with it, really. From what I remember of my install in '95, it looks good, and there are some great ideas there; but why the *fuck* didn't they just release the damn thing as free software? It obviously has no commercial future, but there are some great ideas in there. And look at who wrote it. As it is:

"We're happy to announce the release of Plan 9. This edition is available for noncommercial use by anyone, using a shrink-wrap license. It can be ordered just like a book; click here for information. The cost for the full kit is US$350 plus shipping; the ISBN is 0-03-017143-1. The manuals can be ordered by themselves for US$125"

I can't see myself paying $350 for it, somehow.
http://dunne.home.dhs.org/
[ Parent ]

Re: I've read both articles. I found a... (none / 0) (#88)
by Paul Dunne on Wed May 31, 2000 at 12:33:03 PM EST

Amoeba doesn't ring any bells with me. I last played with Plan 9 in 1995, when Bell Labs released free binaries for non-commercial use. It fits on four floppies! Actually, I dug it out the other night and had a go at installing it on an old 486 (what am I saying, *all* my machines are 486s -- but I digress), but it didn't like the hardware. I can't be bothered to fiddle about too much with it, really. From what I remember of my install in '95, it looks good, and there are some great ideas there; but why the *fuck* didn't they just release the damn thing as free software? It obviously has no commercial future, but there are some great ideas in there. And look at who wrote it. As it is:

"We're happy to announce the release of Plan 9. This edition is available for noncommercial use by anyone, using a shrink-wrap license. It can be ordered just like a book; click here for information. The cost for the full kit is US$350 plus shipping; the ISBN is 0-03-017143-1. The manuals can be ordered by themselves for US$125"

I can't see myself paying $350 for it, somehow.
http://dunne.home.dhs.org/
[ Parent ]

[Browsing the web I'm surprised how... (3.00 / 3) (#28)
by _cbj on Sun May 21, 2000 at 06:56:29 PM EST

_cbj voted -1 on this story.

[Browsing the web I'm surprised how many people can't spell surprised. I'd never normally be pedantic like that, but it's quite a remarkable phenomenon. Same with "truely". Yuck.] I'm not interested in high school level philosophical fisticuffs, yours or Meyer's. Code first, contrive ethics later when some idiot says not to code. A last resort before punching the fucker. These demonic nemeses Slashdot wants us to fear and hate they aren't real for me, not yet. I have no need for ethics.

Needs more of a writeup... Kuro5hin... (2.66 / 3) (#24)
by ishbak on Sun May 21, 2000 at 07:07:47 PM EST

ishbak voted -1 on this story.

Needs more of a writeup... Kuro5hin IMO needs actual content not link throughs.

I'd only read the first chapter and... (4.50 / 2) (#6)
by Perpetual Newbie on Sun May 21, 2000 at 07:25:55 PM EST

Perpetual Newbie voted -1 on this story.

I'd only read the first chapter and a half of the original essay earlier, didn't see anything thought-provoking or disagreeable, and went away. Now that I know people were insulted by it, I went back for another look. My god, this guy's a maniac. Sorry Chris, your essay's a bit short and while you make a few good points, you're only hitting a few parts of his essay. It needs to be torn apart line by line. There are also a few points you make that you might be better off not making, like using Mozilla as an example of stable OSS or Linux's 84 bugs to NT's 99 as an example of superior quality.

Bugs vs. TTL (none / 0) (#75)
by kmself on Tue May 23, 2000 at 09:16:12 PM EST

Raw bug counts by themselves are less critical as a measure of system security or quality than time-to-live of a known bug or exploit.

There are actually two windows of vulnerability for a security exploit:

  • Time of creation to time of discovery, in which individual crackers may be aware of an exploit, and can generally use it at will.
  • Time of discovery to time of fix, during which an exploit is well known, but not yet secured.

Both windows are hazardous. The first is relatively low risk (knowledge of an exploit isn't widespread), but you don't know what to look for. There's a significant chance your systems may be compromised without your being aware of it, or with you suspecting other sources of trouble. The second is high risk (knowledge is widespread), but you may be able to look for indications of practice.

Where free software development wins most significantly over proprietary software is in closing both these windows. With review (and ready access to code), exploits tend to be found (and disseminated) quickly. Simiarly, with code and ability to modify it, exploits are also closed fairly rapidly.

This was a large omission in recent reports of raw bug counts in Linux, other free *nix, proprietary Unix, and legacy MS Windows. Though I haven't seen a formal study, most security problems on Linux and *BSD tend to have very short TTL, often measured in days or hours.

--
Karsten M. Self
SCO -- backgrounder on Caldera/SCO vs IBM
Support the EFF!!
There is no K5 cabal.
[ Parent ]

The article refutes most of the maj... (3.50 / 2) (#23)
by adric on Sun May 21, 2000 at 08:20:56 PM EST

adric voted 1 on this story.

The article refutes most of the major objections I had to Russell's article quite well, with a couple exceptions: In an article about ethics and morality, it's unseemly to use such a negative, seemingly vengeful tone throughout the piece. In places it seems a better title would be "Why I Hate RMS, ESR and All They Have Wrought" from the character assasination tactics he uses. He bases quite a lot of the bottom portion of the article, and it's conclusions on GNU's inability to release an OS. This is a factual error, as the HURD as been ion development for awhile. The HURD is not yet usable for most people, but it would have been, well, _ethical_ to include some of RMS' morivations for not building a kernel earlier iin the GNU project. I am quite unhappy with the tone of Russell's piece, and that's only if I ignore his infuriating dismissal of the NRA, the Second Amendment, and related issues. -adric

Although your rebuttal does have ma... (3.00 / 3) (#22)
by tidepool on Sun May 21, 2000 at 08:58:38 PM EST

tidepool voted -1 on this story.

Although your rebuttal does have many good points, I do not think this should be posted for the following reason:

As your title states (Re: A Misguided View of Free Software ), his essay is nothing but a viewpoint - a simple opinion. While I do not agree with his opinion, I do feel that everyone deserves their own opinion without being harassed about it, no matter how incorrect they are

My two cents, eh.

Hurray! Someone else who is as anno... (3.70 / 3) (#30)
by Prospero on Sun May 21, 2000 at 08:59:32 PM EST

Prospero voted 1 on this story.

Hurray! Someone else who is as annoyed by this Meyer article as I am.

For someone who is so deeply involved in software engineering, Meyer has demonstrated a remarkable lack of insight into the free (liberty) software development process. I would have thought that someone involved in software engineering would have been able to see the incredible benefits of having free and open access to the source code of base libraries.

Unfortunately, this appears to not be the case. Meyer seems unable to move beyond the status quo models of software development, to see a bigger, better picture. This appears to be due to a fundamental inability to separate the ideas of code being freely (liberty) available, and code which costs nothing.

RMS has NEVER stated that he is anti captitalism, anti commercialism, or anti profit - but the vast majority of people (Meyer included - read the /. commentary if you don't believe me) don't seem to grok it. RMS is NOT against the exchange of money for a piece of code; he is against people exchanging money for the EXCLUSIVE use of that code - i.e., closed access to source.

However, free (beer) access to source is generally a consequence of his free (liberty) position. The problem is that monetary exchange for open access to source is not economically viable under present buiness models. Noone, not even the author, has exclusive control over a source pool. If I charge someone $10 for the source, a free (liberty) license allows the buyer to also sell the code, depriving me (the author) of income. I cannot derive an income by exploiting my ownership of the source pool, because everyone else can do the same thing. That is, RMS is is not against charging money, but charging money is pointless if you follow the consequences of his philosophical position.

However, programmers need to eat (or at least, drink caffinated beverages), and that means making money. IMHO, there is a real need for new business models which handle libertarian access to source. Anyone got any bright ideas? How do you convince a venture capitalist that you can make money if you intend to give your product away for free? I've read ESR's Magic Cauldron, but I can't see selling t-shirts, manuals and online help as a salable model...
... and never, ever play leapfrog with a unicorn.

You misinterpret Stallman (2.00 / 2) (#48)
by PresJPolk on Tue May 23, 2000 at 12:43:29 AM EST

Richard Stallman doesn't care whether money is exchanged or not.

Does the 13th amendment to the US Constitution, that bans slavery, care whether the slave is compensated for his freedom?

That's why Stallman is so committed to his cause. He sees the web of copyright and patent laws, as a system of enslaving people. He feels that sharing, an instinct natural to people but repugnant to corporations, should not be restricted by laws.

Who cares whether you can "convince a venture capitalist" about anything? Shall we structure our society by the whims of those interests?

[ Parent ]
Re: You misinterpret Stallman (4.00 / 1) (#74)
by Prospero on Tue May 23, 2000 at 07:19:35 PM EST

Richard Stallman doesn't care whether money is exchanged or not.

Exactly my point. Money is a secondary concern (if that) to the philosophical position that RMS holds.

If MS were to GPL the source to Windows, there is nothing in the GPL to stop them from still charging $100 a copy. However, there is also nothing stopping me from giving my copy to someone else. It would therefore make little sense for MS to charge anything. (unless they are going to offer a service for the $100)

Does the 13th amendment to the US Constitution, that bans slavery, care whether the slave is compensated for his freedom?

Bad example. The parents of the slave (the person who `made` them) must give up all rights to the child; the author of software gives up no rights to their code, and can give the software to as many people as they see fit with 0 duplication costs.

But it does highlight a related problem. Why do people sell their children into servitude? Because they are desperate for money, and have no other means by which to generate income. This is the one issue that RMS has never addressed. It doesn't make slavery (or proprietary software) right, but it's worth remembering that for all things there is a cause.

That's why Stallman is so committed to his cause. He sees the web of copyright and patent laws, as a system of enslaving people. He feels that sharing, an instinct natural to people but repugnant to corporations, should not be restricted by laws.

To which I say "here here". I agree wholeheartedly with this aspect of Stallman's thesis.

Who cares whether you can "convince a venture capitalist" about anything? Shall we structure our society by the whims of those interests?

RMS eeks out an existence by living cheap, and by making a name for himself that commands international respect (with which comes grants, awards, and other sources of ethical money). We can't all do this (the second part, anyway), but nonetheless, we all need to eat. I don't want to live my life on terms dictated by VC's; but I do want to eat, and I'd like to pay for it by writing free software (something that I enjoy doing).

The quality and quantity of free software can only improve if more people can concentrate all their attentions on producing it; but for this to happen, they need to have an income stream. At the moment, VC's are a lucrative income stream for tech companies - seems a shame to waste them :-).
... and never, ever play leapfrog with a unicorn.
[ Parent ]

Grants (none / 0) (#86)
by zotz on Wed May 24, 2000 at 09:15:14 PM EST

OK, here is a thought:

I was just this week talking to a friend who has been making his living for 20 years in the following way...

Write a grant proposal to develop a piece of software. Get it funded. Write and deliver the software. Repeat.

How much would General Motors have to pay for a free software word processor to be developed before it would be more economical to buy a non-free package for the corporation?

If the current big purchasers of non-free software grok the benefits to themselves of free software, there will be a lot of money to fund free software.


zotz forever! ~~~the raggeded~~~

bslug.org
[ Parent ]

GNUCHRIS should become functionally... (2.66 / 3) (#29)
by Graeme on Sun May 21, 2000 at 09:23:50 PM EST

Graeme voted -1 on this story.

GNUCHRIS should become functionally literate before he attempts to have his essay posted on K5.

I've got an idea - just post your r... (3.00 / 2) (#19)
by homer on Mon May 22, 2000 at 12:27:42 AM EST

homer voted -1 on this story.

I've got an idea - just post your rebuttal as a story.
-----------
doh!

Two thought provoking essays.... :)... (3.00 / 2) (#9)
by kraant on Mon May 22, 2000 at 01:47:47 AM EST

kraant voted 1 on this story.

Two thought provoking essays.... :) Neat

Personaly I think that free software is the most ethical choice because of the long term implications to avoid information loss
--
"kraant, open source guru" -- tumeric
Never In Our Names...

SOS.... (3.00 / 2) (#34)
by benson on Mon May 22, 2000 at 02:34:50 AM EST

benson voted -1 on this story.

SOS.

I think this should be posted, alth... (3.00 / 2) (#5)
by PrettyBoyTim on Mon May 22, 2000 at 09:06:27 AM EST

PrettyBoyTim voted 1 on this story.

I think this should be posted, although I disagree with the author's opinion. Should make a good discussion.

I normally don't support "random li... (3.00 / 2) (#27)
by Rasputin on Mon May 22, 2000 at 10:40:14 AM EST

Rasputin voted 1 on this story.

I normally don't support "random link propogation" (tm), but this particular essay has definately spawned a lot of discussion. A really good dissection of the essay is available at Advogato . I would guess that Bertrand Meyer has struck a nerve, unfortunately with an essay that a lot of people have problems with.
Even if you win the rat race, you're still a rat.

A very misguided view of software. ... (2.00 / 1) (#18)
by cthulhu on Mon May 22, 2000 at 11:43:58 AM EST

cthulhu voted 1 on this story.

A very misguided view of software. What particularly distresses me is the portrayal of software developed in academic institutions being developed solely at taxpayer expense for the purpose of supporting the FSF.

It's not that the software is being developed in support of research. No, that couldn't be it. It couldn't be developed in support of education by both undergraduate and graduate students. No, that couldn't be it either. In fact can anyone in the Linux community please name one single body of work that was developed by a student?

Overall, very poorly researched. Send him back to an academic institution.

Honestly, I think Bertrand Meyer's ... (3.70 / 3) (#26)
by DemiGodez on Mon May 22, 2000 at 11:51:11 AM EST

DemiGodez voted 1 on this story.

Honestly, I think Bertrand Meyer's article is very good and I agree with a lot of it. I disagree with mostly one thing. All the stuff about guns he gets into is stupid and totally unrelated. He did himself a disservice in touching this area. (Good to point that out, gnuchris)

As far as gnuchris' other comments, I think you missed the point on a couple of things. First, you list Coding as a Hobby, Free Software Developed in a Service Economy, and Free Software Companies as things Meyers missed. But he didn't. Those scenarios were there in his article. He says "The developer may then, in his free time and using his own resources,...develop products that he makes available as free software. " Sounds like Coding As a Hobby to Me.

He also says "Companies may find it beneficial to release some of their software products without asking for a fee. " Sounds like Free Software Companies to me.

Lastly, Free Software Developed in a Service Economy is not directly addressed, but it seems to me this is more a use of free software than a production. Granted, if you make changes are release them to the public, this is a scenario he didn't address.

While gnuchris is correct that Meyers focused on a couple of people, you must admit that he clearly demonstrates the attidues of a few leaders of the movement. But gnuchris says, "Very few people would think it was odd that a vegetarian would not want to speak with a leather coat manufacturer, but if Stallman feels so strongly about Free Software, he is not justified to feel the same way towards a programmer who wishes to hoard code." This is not the same case. What Meyers points out is that the motives of many people who make free software are just as self serving as those who make commercial software and to attack somethine without which you would not have the freedom to make free software is hypocritical and unethical.

I don't make much of a secret of the fact that I am not a big supporter of free software. I fully support people's right to create it and enjoy doing it. (I like gnuchris' fishing example) but I don't like the aspect of it that tries to attack commercial software. The reality is that there is value in what I create and I have just as much right to cash in that value as someone else has to give it away.

Re: Honestly, I think Bertrand Meyer's ... (none / 0) (#85)
by zotz on Wed May 24, 2000 at 09:06:11 PM EST

"I don't make much of a secret of the fact that I am not a big supporter of free software. I fully support people's right to create it and enjoy doing it. (I like gnuchris' fishing example) but I don't like the aspect of it that tries to attack commercial software. The reality is that there is value in what I create and I have just as much right to cash in that value as someone else has to give it away."

OK, I am figuring that what you are creating is not a physical object. If you are creating a physical object, I have not seen anyone in the free software space sy you shouldn't sell it, or say the anyone else in the free software space says that you should not sell it.

Let's say you have some knowledge. That knowledge has value. Where does the value come from? How can you trade the value of your knowledge for something else of value? How can you do this where copyrights are not contemplated? How can you do it where copyrights are contemplated?

Let's say I make up a joke and tell it to you. Now this joke is copyrighted. (Or is it? Given that I would like it to be so.) I say that you cannot tell it to anyone, but that if you like it, you can give them this 900 number and they can call and hear it for themselves. Are you a pirate who deserves jail time if you tell the joke to a friend?

Many want to make out that IP is equivalent to physical property. If they are the same, where are the fair use doctrines for physical property?


zotz forever! ~~~the raggeded~~~

bslug.org
[ Parent ]

Interesting; why not put the conten... (3.00 / 2) (#32)
by robin on Mon May 22, 2000 at 12:57:39 PM EST

robin voted 1 on this story.

Interesting; why not put the content where the discussion is going to be though? ie on Kuri5hin itself?
--
W.A.S.T.E. (do not antagonise the Horn)

Why this guy writes what he does (3.00 / 1) (#36)
by drivers on Mon May 22, 2000 at 04:07:52 PM EST

I was going to put it in my own words, but like a game of telephone I'm sure I would change something in the telling. So...

Bertrand wrote:
(paste)

For example the GNU Eiffel compiler was developed at the University of Nancy by employees of that university who (in contrast with commercial Eiffel vendors, who need paying customers to survive) get every month a salary from the State, whether the users are happy or not with the product. This is a typical case of taxpayer-funded software.

"Lumpish Scholar" wrote:
(paste)

The "commercial Eiffel vendors" include Meyers' company. He's got to compete with free software.
Ironically, a free Eiffel distribution is probably the best thing that ever happened to those vendors; it increases the population of Eiffel programmers, and thus, of the potential employees of projects that want to spend money on commercial Eiffel implementations.

The original comment was here:

http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=00/05/20/1533253&cid=139

Bertrand Meyer is an ASSHOLE (3.50 / 2) (#39)
by Alhazred on Mon May 22, 2000 at 06:09:11 PM EST

I don't think I've ever felt more personally offended by an article on this subject in my entire life.

Maybe him and Eric Raymond should have a nice discussion on this subject over in Eric's basement, with a baseball bat? (j/k) but in all seriousness this guy must think we are all idiots if he believes that attacking "free software" based on the fact that he doesn't like ESR's stand on gun-control or believes that RMS is myopic is not a completely illogical bunch of balderdash.

He steamrollers over the often deep philosophical differences dividing various parts of the "movement" if it can even be called a single movement, which I dispute. Then he creates a bunch of straw men, first RMS's statements about the immorality of charging for software, and then about ERS's gun stance, NEITHER of which have the slightest bearing on the purported subject of the article.

Even just examining his statements about RMS's ethical objections to commercial software he shows a PROFOUND LACK of understanding of the deep importance of economic issues on the moral quality of our society. For what person can be free who lacks the ability to control his or her own economic fate? Is not the basis of slavery economics? Of course it is. Bertrand Meyer is a fool, and an obnoxious one at that!
That is not dead which may eternal lie And with strange aeons death itself may die.
Why? I agree with a lot of it (3.00 / 1) (#59)
by spiralx on Tue May 23, 2000 at 05:15:04 AM EST

I can see that his article has thoroughly offended you by daring to criticise something you have quite obviously formed an opinion about already.

As for your little rant about ESR's gun fanaticism well, personally I think rants like this show a childish grasp of ethics, politics and psychology which are freely mixed together in a disturbing way. That page alone makes me suspicious of anything else he has to say, since glaring errors of logic applied to one thing have a way of spilling over into other subjects as well.

And anyway, the article was about the "ethics" of free software, not the "merits" of free software. There's a distinct difference which you should grasp before blindly flaming away like a zealot.


You're doomed, I'm doomed, we're all doomed for ice cream. - Bob Aboey
[ Parent ]

Re: Why? I agree with a lot of it (2.00 / 1) (#66)
by pwhysall on Tue May 23, 2000 at 12:04:26 PM EST

ESR's essay scares me. A lot.

It also makes me very, very glad that the Atlantic Ocean separates the place I live from the place he lives.
--
Peter
K5 Editors
I'm going to wager that the story keeps getting dumped because it is a steaming pile of badly formatted fool-meme.
CheeseBurgerBrown
[ Parent ]

Re: Why? I agree with a lot of it (2.00 / 1) (#79)
by Anonymous Hero on Wed May 24, 2000 at 03:22:26 AM EST

>ESR's essay scares me. A lot. > >It also makes me very, very glad that the Atlantic Ocean >separates the place I live from the place he lives. Why? He raises some good points, especially with his mention of the many massacres which have taken place throughout the 20th century at the end. Such killings comprised the greatest cause of death for humanity in this century.

[ Parent ]
No, I'm afraid that it's Richard Stallman who is t (2.33 / 3) (#46)
by Anonymous Hero on Mon May 22, 2000 at 10:37:50 PM EST

I read with great interest all of Bertrand Meyer's essay today at lunch. The great interest was due to finally hearing the voice of reason, backed up with researched evidence (as in Mr. Meyer's liberal use of quotations). The great interest was also due to the fact that it's about time someone pointed out the tragic (and unnecessary) flaw in Free Software.

It comes down to this. I am a professional software developer. That means that, one way or another, I sell software that I write. That is how I put food on my family's table. Richard Stallman claims that this makes me evil, and that given his choice, he would take away my livelyhood. He thinks this is ethical. Bluntly, this makes Richard Stallman, not Bertrand Meyer, the asshole.

It is an unnecessary, and tragic, flaw in the Free Software ideaology that commercial software can not exist. The Free Software movement would do equally well, if not better, if it would cast commercial software as a less desirable alternative, not as something evil. This would leave people Freedom of Choice. And isn't that what the Free Software and Open Source movements *should* be about?

I think you have it backwards (5.00 / 1) (#53)
by drivers on Tue May 23, 2000 at 02:13:32 AM EST

I don't know if you will read this, but I think you have it backwards. Stallman has stated he does not believe it is ok to agree to not help your neighbor (that is, agree to a user agreement that says you can't copy the software), and therefore he needed to either stop using computers, or else write his own system of software, GNU. It is more referring to himself as a user, and secondarily as a developer.

[ Parent ]
Re: I think you have it backwards (1.00 / 1) (#57)
by Anonymous Hero on Tue May 23, 2000 at 04:28:05 AM EST

Please do not encrypt your posts.

[ Parent ]
Re: No, I'm afraid that it's Richard Stallman who (4.00 / 1) (#56)
by Anonymous Hero on Tue May 23, 2000 at 03:03:59 AM EST

...backed up with researched evidence (as in Mr. Meyer's liberal use of quotations).

Almost all of which are taken out of context. This is the easiest thing in the world for someone who has an agenda to push. It works in the short term, but in the long run it simply serves to discredit the author ( Meyer ).

Richard Stallman claims that this makes me evil, and that given his choice, he would take away my livelyhood.

Niether RMS, ESR or even Linus Torvalds can really speak for "the movement". We are not an organized conspiracy. We are simply people who share some common objectives ( and who argue a lot ), so RMS's remarks are not as universally held as you seem to think.

As to the issue of producing closed source commercial software, why have you even raised the issue? No where in the GPL does it say that *you* cannot create and distribute your own software in this manner.

What it *does* say is that you cannot take the source code for an existing GPL'ed product, modify it and distribute it ( for money *or* for free ) as a binary only product. If you use GPL'ed code, then you must abide by it's terms.

If your product does not contain any GPL'ed code, then you can distribute your product under whatever licensing agreement that you wish. In the majority of cases, this simply means distributing copies of the source code of any standard libraries that are linked to your main program code ( that were written by someone else ). You are free to retain or distribute the code that you have written yourself in any way that you see fit.

Why is it that people ( including Meyer ) can't get their heads around this little fact?

The whole point of open source/free software/insert the current cliche here is to give people a choice. If you want to re-invent the wheel from scratch, that's your buisness and you don't have to abide by the GPL. On the other hand, if you want to save time, you can use GPL'ed code but you must abide by it's terms.

...if it would cast commercial software as a less desirable alternative, not as something evil.

Please go and read the Jargon file. When we speak of "evil" what we mean is "evol and rude" as it is defined in this document. Insisting that the term is in any way related to the generally accepted meaning of "evil" ( which involves far more theology than many, including myself, have time to waste on ).

In short, Meyer's article is superficial in the extreme. He deliberetly distorts the facts with sweeping generalisations and by taking the personel attitudes of certain members of the movement out of context. In short, it is gutter journalism at it's worst and I have no doubt in my own mind that if he was subjected to such treatment by someone else he would no doubt sue them ( and yes Rusty, that's a hint - if you do a more detailed followup on this story, just be careful ).

You might be strangling my chicken, but you don't want to know what I'm doing to your hampster.



[ Parent ]

Re: No, I'm afraid that it's Richard Stallman who (2.00 / 1) (#58)
by spiralx on Tue May 23, 2000 at 05:02:47 AM EST

Why do you always post anonymously? I've seen you post on both here and /. with the same sig but always as an AC/AH. Why?


You're doomed, I'm doomed, we're all doomed for ice cream. - Bob Aboey
[ Parent ]

Re: No, I'm afraid that it's Richard Stallman who (3.00 / 1) (#78)
by Anonymous Hero on Wed May 24, 2000 at 03:02:41 AM EST

...but always as an AC/AH. Why?

Because I value my privacy.

Some people don't mind being well known. I'm not one of them. By nature I'm something of a hermit. I don't mind talking to people on line and answering questions that are on subjects that interest me as long as I can retain my privacy.

Basically, I have learn't the hard way that that there is no shortage of people out here who will take offense over what you say and make a point of being pests if they can.

This can range across the spectrum of posting your email address to BS spam sites, mailbombing, attempting to compromise your system with buffer overlow exploits, etc, etc.

My attitude towards such individuals is simple - if they cannot offer a well reasoned refutation of my arguments and they must resort to such tactics, then they have no right to know who I am.

While individuals of this type are in the minority, there are enough of them to be a clear and present problem. This is why I don't take the attitude of "if your not doing anything wrong, then you have nothing to hide" argument seriously.

It fails to consider the fact that there is no shortage of people out here who have some very specific agendas to push and that far too many of them are "ethiclly challenged" in the extreme.

In spite of that, I feel that I am obliged to identify myself in some way, and hence my ridiculous sig. It makes me "annonymously identifiable" so that I can let people know "oh yeah, *that* idiot again". ;)

Sure, other people could use my stupid sig, so it isn't a certain form of identification, but that's about as far as I'm prepared to be at this point in time. That might change in the future if I can arrange a more secure connection, but not for now.

For the record, I have no reason *not* to trust the people at kuro5hin. Like they say though, "once bitten, twice shy".

And this is waaaay offtopic.

You might be strangling my chicken, but you don't want to know what I'm doing to your hampster.



[ Parent ]

Re: No, I'm afraid that it's Richard Stallman who (none / 0) (#80)
by rusty on Wed May 24, 2000 at 04:07:40 AM EST

I have to say, this is a relatively good use for a sig. One question though: You can make an account here, and the only person who ever gets a means of contacting you (i.e. an email address) is me. I don't even look at them, much less use them. The whole account thing is automated. So why not make some BS yahoo email account, and get a user acc't here? You'd be just as anonymous, but you wouldn't have to retype your .sig every time. Just wondering... :-)

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Re: No, I'm afraid that it's Richard Stallman who (none / 0) (#82)
by Anonymous Hero on Wed May 24, 2000 at 07:50:11 AM EST

So why not make some BS yahoo email account, and get a user acc't here?

I appreciate the sentiment Rusty. Likewise with the comments made by 'kmself' and the advice offered. Maybe sometime over the next few months.

At this point in time though, I'm not in any hurry. Way too many 'interesting' things ( as defined by our old friend, the Jargon file ) have happened in terms of my web useage over the last two years, and there will be some major changes in the not too distant future [ exit Linux firewall, enter Cisco Router configured as a firewall ].

I'm opposed to these changes but I'm stuck with them. After I have spent some time sniffing the system to ensure that some problems have been dealt with, I *will* seriously think about setting up an account. I might even talk about certain things ( if they are on topic to computer security issues ), but only if people promise to place cushions around their chairs first. I wouldn't want anyone to be injured as a result of falling of their chair laughing in an hysterical fit.

You might be strangling my chicken, but you don't want to know what I'm doing to your hampster.



[ Parent ]

Re: No, I'm afraid that it's Richard Stallman who (none / 0) (#84)
by rusty on Wed May 24, 2000 at 12:36:34 PM EST

No pressure. Having an account just provides some useful things, like easy reply-checking and a persistent .sig. But whatever works for you. :-)

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Anonymity, authentication, identification (none / 0) (#81)
by kmself on Wed May 24, 2000 at 04:29:06 AM EST

There's a continuum here. And relativity in anonymity anyway.

Having read a few of your posts (presumably you), it would be nice to know when they showed up. A suitably arbitrary handle would suffice.

If you need an email address, you can create one on a free webmail service, or use one of the various cypherpunk handles (I occasionally use cypherpunks@yahoo.com myself).

This would provide you with a weak form of authentication (as opposed to, say, strong authentication via digital signatures). Without something to tie it to, though, you're still pretty much anonymous. Advantage is that we know who you are, and that you're you, and not someone else. Likewise, it becomes somewhat difficult for someone else to claim to be you. Cuts both ways.

Anonymity is relative. Your IP address is logged by the webserver, and could presumably be tracked against ISP login records, static lines, or an employer IP. Then again, you could use an anonymizing proxy (or two or three).

My own preference for the web is a system in which people can provide varying degrees of authentication. There are times I'd really like to be me, times I'd really like to be nobody, and times I'd like to be somebody, but not just anybody, and in particularly, not somebody else pretending to be me without my say-so.

--
Karsten M. Self
SCO -- backgrounder on Caldera/SCO vs IBM
Support the EFF!!
There is no K5 cabal.
[ Parent ]

Re: No, I'm afraid that it's Richard Stallman who (3.00 / 1) (#64)
by DemiGodez on Tue May 23, 2000 at 11:35:20 AM EST

"Niether RMS, ESR or even Linus Torvalds can really speak for "the movement". "

Than who can? If you read Slashdot or any other place where there are a lot of free software / open source types, these people are often referred to as leaders and their words taken to represent the movement. And a lot of the stuff from RMS came from the the gnu website. I suppose that doesn't speak for the movement either? At the very least he clearly speaks for the GNU project.

I know there are some great people who enjoy writing and using free software and who are tolerant of my desire to write commerical software. Not everyone is like RMS, but you can't deny that he is a leader and that he often speaks on behalf of the entire movement. It is not unreasonable then to use his comments (spoken on behalf of free software) as a baseline for examining free software. Maybe you don't feel he ought to speak for the movement, but he often does.

[ Parent ]

Re: No, I'm afraid that it's Richard Stallman who (4.00 / 1) (#77)
by Anonymous Hero on Wed May 24, 2000 at 02:42:38 AM EST

Than who can?

Technically, no one. Certainly, people like RMS and Linus are highly respected by many of us and they often articulate ideals that I agree with.

Likewise, if they say something that I disagree with, then that does not mean that I am going to blindly follow them. This is one of the reasons why it works so well. People like RMS or Linux must *convince* us to follow their direction with well reasoned arguments.

At the very least he clearly speaks for the GNU project.

No. It's speaks for RMS. He doesn't allways see eye to eye with the other members of the Free Software Foundation, much less everyone else ( which was the point that I was trying to make ), and I would like to think that RMS himself see's this as a Good Thing (TM), since it makes their descision making process self-correcting.

Being surrounded by "yes men" is the surest way of depriving yourself of critical feedback that you need. It's the main reason why mega-corporations and governments are so bone headed - no one dares to tell the boss what they don't want to hear.

Argument and debate are often tedious and frustrating, but it helps to stop the spread of dis-information and makes the descision making process self-correcting.

I know there are some great people who enjoy writing and using free software and who are tolerant of my desire to write commerical software.

Join the club. I don't have any objections to people writing their own software and making money, just don't use any GPL'ed code in your system if you do a 'binary only' distribution of your product.

It's not that hard when you get down to it, and best of luck. If it's a good product, people will buy it.

You might be strangling my chicken, but you don't want to know what I'm doing to your hampster.



[ Parent ]

A Question for Rusty (2.00 / 1) (#49)
by PresJPolk on Tue May 23, 2000 at 12:52:32 AM EST

This isn't quite on topic, butI feel it relevant to this discussion.

It seems like half the messages in this thread have nothing to say, but to criticize spelling and grammar. It's so bad, that for the first time I've had to set the sorting to "Unrated, then highest" instead of "Ignore ratings."

Why aren't these little nitpicks and trolls considered spam, and thus deleted? While it is a little ridiculous that someone posted something for the world to read without showing some signs of proofreadng, the comments pointing that out add nothing to the discussion, and waste time and bandwidth.

Quips (none / 0) (#50)
by kmself on Tue May 23, 2000 at 01:10:21 AM EST

One problem with the boards here is the overloading of the functionality of the message window in the submission queue. It's meant as something of an either/or -- comments can be feedback to author (or other moderators) in the queue, or can be intended for the discussion thread following.

Unfortunately, there's no way to select one way or the other. Under the current regimine, I'd prefer the comment box was either dropped altogether, or that it be made specific to comment queue voting only, and not carried over. Comments beginning foo voted <1|0|-1> on this story were entered in the submission queue.

I tend to go through posts and moderate most of these down to 1 or 2, depending on merits. I feel a bit badly about it, but it's an artifact of the current system. I've stopped adding comments myself except in rare occasions, in the submission queue.

As far as having to use the rating scheme and setting your preferences to rank by moderation points -- well, that's what moderating is for!

--
Karsten M. Self
SCO -- backgrounder on Caldera/SCO vs IBM
Support the EFF!!
There is no K5 cabal.
[ Parent ]

Re: Quips (2.00 / 1) (#54)
by PresJPolk on Tue May 23, 2000 at 02:26:34 AM EST

One way to handle the overload would be not to show the posts, of the people who voted -1.

Those people clearly didn't feel the story was worth discussing. Why add their comments at all?

[ Parent ]
Re: Quips (4.00 / 1) (#62)
by rusty on Tue May 23, 2000 at 11:26:05 AM EST

Yes, it is broken. I'm sorry-- it tends to show up more in stories that spent longer in the queue. This is a priority for fixing, at this point, because I'm as unhappy with it as you all are.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
That's a kluge, not a fix (none / 0) (#70)
by kmself on Tue May 23, 2000 at 05:26:14 PM EST

The fix is to think through the submission process (been doing that a lot, Rusty, but no time to write), and work out what we want it to be and how it should work. There are about an equal number of annoying quip posts from favorable and unfavorable story mods, if not more from the favorable side.

Anna Karenina factor -- good submissions are all good in the same way, bad ones are each bad in their own way (well, sort of). I find a higher info content in many of the criticisms, actually.

--
Karsten M. Self
SCO -- backgrounder on Caldera/SCO vs IBM
Support the EFF!!
There is no K5 cabal.
[ Parent ]

Re: That's a kluge, not a fix (none / 0) (#72)
by rusty on Tue May 23, 2000 at 06:03:21 PM EST

Please write as soon as possible. I'm just a lowly coder, remember... you designed half of this system. :-)

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Some good points though! (3.00 / 1) (#61)
by HiQ on Tue May 23, 2000 at 06:21:26 AM EST

<body> He (Russel dude)  has some good points though, especially in the last chapter.
  • Micro~1 should open up more : good point!
  • Stop the constant bashing between opensource & commercial software : good point! I mean I am sick & tired of this us & them mentality.
  • Focus on quality : good point!
  • Respect each other: good point!
  • Both commercial & opensource have a role to play : good point!
What I don't like is the type of arguments this man uses: what the fsck have guns to do with this story. I mean I'm a gun nut, you can find me on the firing range almost weakly, but that doesn't make me a bettter or worse person, doesn't change my ethics & views!
How to make a sig
without having an idea
just made a HiQ
A worthwhile conclusion: (4.00 / 1) (#67)
by error 404 on Tue May 23, 2000 at 12:15:47 PM EST

The last line of Meyer's article is probably the key to the "hidden agenda". He's telling his readers (professional developers of mostly closed source software) that what they do is not evil, and is, in fact, something to be proud of.

There is something outstandingly right about open source software. That does not mean (despite what RMS may say) that closed source software is a moral outrage.

The rest of the article makes some serious mistakes. The ad-homenim stuff about guns is ludicrous (even though I consider the application of the second ammendment to individual gun ownership less than convincing, and reccomend that the NRA switch to smoking a better grade of crack) and the lumping of the entire cluster of movements into a single anti-commercial RMS cult unenlightening.

One way that open source software gets created gets missed entirely. I don't know how much software this source generates, but it is the one I am involved in.

My wife has a costume shop. She needs some software, and I haven't found a pre-packaged solution that does what she needs. I have found an open source program that comes pretty close, and I'm in the process of tweaking it to do exactly what she needs. I'm in no position to set up shop selling software. I'm too busy, between my day job and helping with the costumes. And the market is just not there. So I'll be sending the author my fixes to his code (there are some bugs) and might, possibly, release the costume shop system. By sending the author my fixes, I avoid having to re-code them in my copy if he updates the main code-base. By releasing the costume shop system, I might get fixes and upgrades from others.

In short, I'm not developing software for the open source community. I'm developing software to support a commercial venture, and the open source community is a resource. As a side-effect of my use of that resource, I will be adding a little bit to the resource. This isn't about being a saint, this is about getting a job done and making some money.


..................................
Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase
- Donovan

Ethics (3.00 / 1) (#68)
by Rand Race on Tue May 23, 2000 at 12:54:46 PM EST

Is it just me or does it seem that the definition of ethics Mr. Meyer used is making a huge assumption? The basis of the argument is that it is unethical to deprive developers of a living which OSS is attempting to do by insisting all software be free. This is saying that a situation created by an economic system (capitalism) is made unethical not by the system but by those rebelling against said system.

A parallell would be Uncle Tomism; ie &quot;How dare those northern white folks unethically deprive a slave of the care that his master gives him.&quot; (a common sentiment in the reconstructionist south).

It is ludicrous to call OSS/Freesoftware/whatever-the-hell-you-call-it unethical and yet consider a system that enshrines massive wealth disparity as a paragon of moral rectitude. Of course a little commie bashing (and the inevitable misidentification of all comunism with sovietism) certainly helps in swallowing such an ungainly pill.


"Question with boldness even the existence of God; because if there be one, He must approve the homage of Reason rather than that of blindfolded Fear." - Thomas Jefferson

Don't get me wrong (3.00 / 1) (#69)
by Alhazred on Tue May 23, 2000 at 04:56:54 PM EST

I'm no fan of ESR's gun fanaticism either. Quite the contrary. I was simply offended by the way Bertrand Meyer slapped out a bunch of cheap shots using innuendo, ad hominum attacks, gross oversimplification, and a series of straw men.

The sad truth is that he really didn't NEED to do that. He could have made some very valid points without all the dime-a-dozen class attacks. Does Meyer even KNOW squat about Marxist philosophy for instance? My reading of his essay would tend to say no, so maybe he should shut up about things he isn't educated enough to have an opinion about?

He certainly doesn't seem to know much about the open source community either if he thinks we all worship RMS. Stallman has his points, and deserves a fairer assessment than Meyer gives him, but the truth is that very few of us are anywhere near the radical ethics he espouses.

I just found the entire article to be offensive on multiple levels. I'm a very level headed and moderate person, and NOT easily offended. This offended me. I think a lot of the reason being that it was so superficially slick and so profoundly and fundamentally dirty.
That is not dead which may eternal lie And with strange aeons death itself may die.
False premesis, straw men, ad hominem, and other m (5.00 / 2) (#76)
by kmself on Wed May 24, 2000 at 01:40:55 AM EST

Meyer's essay is long-winded, ill-constructed, deliberately inflammatory, largely irrelevant, and based on false premises. Unfortunately, most of the critics have failed to note this last failing.

First, a useful resource in countering FUD such as Meyer's is a list of common logical fallacies. Atheism Web: Logic & Fallacies is one of the best on the web (however else you might feel about God).

Others have noted the ad hominem attacks, the irrelevant tangents, the broad brush generalizations, the selective and out-of-context quotations (essential anecdotal evidence), and general insulting manner of Meyer's essay. I won't revisit them except by way of acknowledgement. You'll find Meyer is an master of virtually every form of logical fallacy in existence, from ad hoc to tu quoque.

The false premise of Meyer's article is that "free" means "without cost", rather than "without restriction" [1]:

Is available from at least one source without payment (which does not preclude other sources from offering it for payment, for example to people who want a distribution on CD rather than downloaded, or require commercial support).

This is not a requirement of any of the common public licenses: GNU [L]GPL, BSD, MIT, MozPL, IBMPL, ApplePL, or Artistic. Limiting discussion to the GNU [L]GPL, the restriction is merely that third-party distribution of a covered work cannot be restricted. There is no obligation to make binary or source form generally available, only to make source available to those to whom binary is distributed [2]. Rather than prohibition, there is a specific allowance for both charging for the service of distributing software, and for the provision of warranties (beyond those of the [L]GPL itself). Nor are other commercial activities proscribed.

For the verbosity of Meyer's essay and the extent of his quotations, he's managed to omit the following short, yet complete, definition of freedom used by Richard M. Stallman, the Free Software Foundation, and the GNU Project [3]:

``Free software'' is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the concept, you should think of ``free speech'', not ``free beer.''

``Free software'' refers to the users' freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. More precisely, it refers to four kinds of freedom, for the users of the software:

  • The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).
  • The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
  • The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbour (freedom 2).
  • 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.

The straw man of "free means no cost" is propagated throughout Meyer's essay, e.g.:

  • "3. THE ECONOMICS OF FREE SOFTWARE The term "free software" (with the earlier definition, implying availability at no cost)"
  • "the idea that a low reproduction cost should imply a free product has no rational basis"
  • "commercial software being the most horrible thing on earth and a denial of everyone's right to freedom." [KMS]: most free software advocates distinguish between "commercial" and "proprietary". "Free" and "commercial" are not mutually exclusive.

The fallacy is confounded by using it to label all vendors of software as antithetical to the principles of free software: "anyone else who 'denies users their rightful freedom' (i.e. sells software) is just as satanic". Meyer has, by this point, divorced himself completely from reality. His straw man is complete, and much of the rest of the essay is completely irrelevant rant accusing free software proponents of opposing any right to sell software. This simply is not true.

By matter of cleanup, there are a few odds and ends of Meyer's essay which haven't been addressed in treatments I've seen.

Meyer's commentary on the difficulty of launching a new free software project approaches on interesting. The simple fact is that launching an enterprise, free software or otherwise, is a difficult undertaking. Over 50% of business startups fail in 5 years, likewise, most software initiatives, free, proprietary, or in-house, are also doomed. The difference with free software is twofold:

  • By reducing frictions between developers in different organizations, development can both incorporate a large base, and tap into the resources of several organizations. Several of the financing models -- hobby, corporate, state, and academic sponsorship, are possible. Proprietary development is much less flexible in this regard.
  • Failed free software projects leave code relics which other projects are free to use, assuming compatible licensing terms.

Elsewhere, Meyer notes the "dismal failure of Microsoft's competitors". If anything, this argues for both the overwhelming bias toward monopolization within the software industry, and the desperate need for a better way. With over 7,000 independent software firms in the United States, the overwhelming majority of them are either barely- or un- profitable. The bulk of profits and sales are concentrated in the top dozen or so firms. This is a tremendous imbalance. None of the critics of free software have argued that it has a greater proclivity for such monopolization and concentration of power, and the bromide of software as a profitable business is exposed as a lottery in which a a few lucky, or dare I say, unethical, firms succeed. This view of the software market is largely supported by University of California, Berkeley professors Carl Shapiro and Hal Varian in their seminal book Information Rules.

The "failure" of the GNU project to produce an operating system, and "ethics of acknowledgement" are simply ridiculous. GNU encompasses free software -- while the current kernel of choice emerged outside the FSF, the GNU project certainly laid the foundations. If not Linux, then the Hurd, one of the BSDs, or another free OS, likely Unix based, would almost certainly have emerged in the early 1990s as the Internet grew and personal computer power increased. I view Linux as a historical inevitability.

As for copycatting, sadly I have to admit that free software can't even take credit for this invention. Imitation, as flattery, predates GNU by millennia, and has certainly been practiced in the "commercial" world, be it industrial design or proprietary software. Witness Lotus 123, Quattro Pro, and Excel; the Alto, Macintosh, and MS Windows; WordStar, WordPerfect, AmiPro, and MS Word;.... Or Linux itself: a free copy (Linux) of a proprietary product (Unix) extended in a University environment (UC Berkeley and MIT) based on commercial work (AT&T) evolving from after-hours tinkering (Ritchie and Thompson) from a commercial consortium (Multics) extending an academic project (various precursors). The lists are long.

Regarding disclaimer of warrantee. This attempts to paint free software and proprietary licenses with the same brush. It handily neglects to acknowledge that most EULAs entail far greater waivers of personal rights, and the trend through laws such as UCITA to extend this power further. The "Product F" vs. "Product P" comparison is simply yet another straw man, hypothesizing high-quality proprietary software in the face of compelling evidence to the contrary.

In discussing software quality, Meyer treats free and proprietary (what he calls "commercial") software as static entities. In a departure from the Stallman camp, which accepts free software as superior on its own merits [4], I see it as a better method for constructing software [5].

Open-source projects, however, attempt to ship out minimally working prototypes at the earliest possible time. By doing this they begin to receive feedback on their features and designs very early in the overall development process. It is this prototype-based feedback cycle that distinguishes open source methods from a simple code-and-fix cycle. Indeed, open source is more accurately described as an unusually rapid and iterative form of Barry Boehm's famous spiral model of software development....all going on within loops that might take as little as hours to complete. It is this highly iterative process that lies behind much of the reliability of open source, because each new fix can be vigorously rechecked in the subsequent loops of the microspiral.

Even Microsoft realized this [6]:

to understand how to compete against OSS, we must target a process rather than a company

...it's the free software process, rather than static free software projects, that the old guard are up against. It's also this dynamic process aspect of free software, and the resulting code quality, which justifies freedom for software where we wouldn't call for similar terms to be applied to books, music CDs, and real property such as cars, radios, and real estate.



Notes:

[1] AKA "free beer" vs. "free speech". While copylefts such as the GNU GPL and LGPL do impose certain restrictions, these are of a form that other, more significant restrictions, cannot be practiced. I liken them to rules of conduct at a public park or other "common" ground, which ensure that many can partake of benefits, without despoiling the resource for others. Restrictions imposed by copylefts are largely bars against imposition of additional restrictions. This point is often misunderstood by critics of copyleft-style licenses.

[2] Though if binary forms are generally distributed, source must be as well. However, this requirement can be met by means other than, say, a web-based download site, see GNU GPL (3)(a)(b)(c).

[3] From What is Free Software, http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html.

[4] Personal conversation, Richard Stallman. Q: "Do you support free software because it leads to better products or because it is free?" A: "Because it is free".

[5] See: "Response: Open-Source Methods: Peering Through the Clutter", Terry Bollinger, Russell Nelson, Stephen Turnbull, and Karsten Self, IEEE Software, July/August 1999 http://www.computer.org/software/so1999/s4toc.htm. Copy available on request.

[6] The Halloween Documents, of course. VinodV, author.

--
Karsten M. Self
SCO -- backgrounder on Caldera/SCO vs IBM
Support the EFF!!
There is no K5 cabal.

Re: A Misguided View of Free Software | 88 comments (88 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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