|May the source be with you, but remember the KISS principle ;-)|
|Contents||Bulletin||Scripting in shell and Perl||Network troubleshooting||History||Humor|
|Apologetics||RMS own articles||Articles about RMS||Photochronicle||Controversial issues||Random Findings|
Free as in Freedom Table of Contents pretty apologetic biography from O'Reilly. Still useful.
O'Reilly Network How Will History View Richard Stallman [Feb. 28, 2002] interview with Sam Williams, the author of a book about Stallman Free as in Freedom. Looks like pretty superficial author: "What surprised me the most was the lack of enthusiasm by people closest to Richard within the Free Software Foundation to help out with the book.". If this surprised him after he characterized RMS as "...a control freak, he's very meticulous...", I really do not know what to say...
... ... ...
Stewart: Stallman has a pretty testy reputation. Did he help you with the book? And if so, what was it like working with him?
Williams: [Laughs] We're in a key stage right now to find out how much he's going to like this book or support it or pan it. He was definitely very helpful. One thing about Richard is he's incredibly candid. There's nothing hidden -- there's no guile, there's no "this is going to be off the record" -- everything's just out there. So I knew that it would not be hard to get him to interview, just because he wants to spread his free software message.
But at the same time there was a lot of negotiating in terms of what the conditions of the interview were going to be. Usually he puts the request out that when you write about the operating system, you call it "GNU/Linux," and you use "free software" instead of "open source." He didn't really make those demands to me, but we were planning it as an electronic book with a restrictive content licensing mechanism, first. I was originally going with another publisher who wanted to do it as an electronic book, and he was steadfastly opposed to the idea of helping out with an electronic book -- even if it did publicize his message.
So I didn't feel comfortable doing an unauthorized biography of him in an electronic book medium. I just felt it was kind of like doing a biography of Mahatma Ghandi and printing it on a calf vellum and selling it in India. It just would have been a lightning rod. So we said to the publisher, "Let's not do this topic," and eventually my agent brought it over to O'Reilly. O'Reilly was pretty enthusiastic about it, and there were still negotiations and conditions for interviews, but again he was very forthcoming. Now we're in the tense phase, though, where he wants to audit the book and change perceived errors, and that's causing a lot of tension right now.
Stewart: How do you think his personality has helped or hindered the Free Software Foundation in achieving its goals?
Williams: That's really the meat of my book. I think a lot of people will go to this book and say, "Oh, you know, I was really hoping to get an idea of how he writes code, how he approaches code." Well, I'm not a hacker and that's not my level of expertise. I really spent a lot of the book focusing on his personality, and he's got a very seductive personality, which various people have commented on.
His rhetoric is very seductive, but he's also got a very repellent side of his personality. He's a control freak, he's very meticulous. I knew all of this going in and I pretty much have firsthand accounts that can demonstrate it. But how this has helped or hindered? I'm definitely of the opinion that nobody but him could have had the patience, and the stubbornness, and the will to build something this big. There are other people writing free software, but he's the one that made it an issue. He's the one that provided the initial gravitation that everybody else could gather around.
And then again he's also repelled a lot of people, and that's why you're seeing a kind of jockeying for power right now in the hacker community, with some people holding up Torvalds or other leading programmers, like Larry Wall -- people who are a little bit more accepting of people with conflicting viewpoints. That's just definitely because Richard's very orthodox in a lot of his beliefs.
Stewart: How do you think future generations will view Stallman and the Free Software Movement?
Williams: This is the closing theme of my book. I think they will view him very favorably. I think in the historical view his stock is definitely going to rise. In terms of developing the GPL (GNU General Public License), every year that passes people realize that it's more of a significant innovation than originally thought, and that seems to be the character of a lot of his work. It looks simple in retrospect, but just the fact that he was there to propose the idea, or to make the hack that opened up EMACS development, or had the idea of codifying the hacker social contract into the GPL. These are major things that are going to really become more important in the coming decade.
Stewart: How successful do you think the Free Software Foundation has been at achieving its goals?
Williams: That depends on what you think the goals are. The original goal was to support the GNU project and to develop a GNU operating system. They obviously fulfilled that goal. They didn't do it in the timely manner that a lot of people expected, but they were really one of the few groups of people actually making this kind of effort. They were definitely one of the few groups that saw it as a political cause.
About the time that Linux came on the scene, and kind of filled the gap that they hadn't been able to fill with the Herd kernel, it seems like their goal morphed a little bit into "free software everywhere." I think in terms of that goal they've done a fairly good job. Probably the biggest thing is that they are the steward of the GPL, which I describe at one point in the book as the big stick in the software industry, you know, like the old Teddy Roosevelt quote: "Speak softly and carry a big stick."
Stewart: Do you see the free software movement progressing or stagnating at this point?
Williams: I don't know. I don't think those terms really apply to the movement. It's not dependent on the market. It's not judged in terms of acceptance or non-acceptance. In talking to Richard there's a definite theme that without eternal vigilance all could be quickly lost. But I think it's been largely successful.
Stewart: One of the criticisms of the Free Software Foundation ideals is that they don't really give developers true freedom -- such as the freedom to pick whatever license they want for software they write. How do you think Stallman would respond to that?
Williams: Yes, that's a definite criticism. That's sort of where Torvalds and Stallman kind of split, and where Stallman splits with people like Tim O'Reilly. This whole idea that people should be free to choose whether or not they want their software to be free software and open source goes against the Stallman world view that says it should always be free software. Richard's argument has always been that the people on the open source side, these people advocating this extra degree of freedom, are really just arguing for the freedom to make themselves a slave again. A lot of his effort over the last decade has gone into providing a counter-argument to these conciliatory viewpoints.
I think we're at a weird inflection point period right now, and the next two to five years will be very important, but I got the sense when I started this book that the GPL was really beginning to pick up steam, mainly because it doesn't allow people to break off proprietary offshoots, like the BSD license and other more liberal licenses do. A lot of its recent endorsements have come from people and organizations not traditionally associated with Stallman or the FSF. For instance, a number of companies and organizations switched their software over to the GPL in 2000 -- Sun Microsystems, Troll Tech, MySQL, etc.
It's hard to gauge the momentum of a license, because software is such an evolutionary marketplace, but the fact that the GPL is gaining new adherents while Stallman spends most of his time travelling the world and evangelizing on other, related issues, is an indication that the GPL is selling itself.
Stewart: In many ways the free software movement parallels the anti-WTO movement and other grassroots efforts to counteract corporate power, and Stallman's personal Web site is full of links to progressive political causes. How has Stallman's political vision shaped the community around him?
Williams: I would say not very much. He's a definite liberal, and you can see when he's fighting over this schism between the free software and open source movement that it does kind of come down to political values -- on the one side you've got these libertarian people that just say, "Let my people make their own decisions," and then you've got Stallman, who's got kind of the liberal approach of, "Let people make their own decisions, but at the same time protect people from exploitation."
One of the things that interested me, and this goes back to his personality, is that he's not really a coalition builder. There's so much opportunity to link the free software movement to other similar movements, like the environmental movement ... I mean it's all generally the same thing. Capitalism, expansion, growth, corporate culture -- those are all good things, they all help, they're all better than the alternatives -- but at the same time there's notions of responsibility, ethics, and stuff that he has gone a long way in terms of voicing in the software community, but I find it very surprising that he hasn't really expanded beyond that.
At one point he said free software was his "small puddle of freedom," and he really can't move out of it, or he doesn't really have the confidence to move out of it, and I think that that has definitely hampered his visibility in some ways.
Stewart: Would he be a more effective leader if he knew how to compromise, or is his political charisma entirely dependent upon staying away from the main stream?
Williams: I think the latter. His charisma is dependent on being non-compromising and this is the role that he has adopted -- whether consciously or unconsciously. People that do compromise can say, "Well, at least we have Richard Stallman over there on the periphery." One person I talked to, I don't know if it made it into the book, but one person called him kind of a "pole star." You can always measure yourself against Richard's position because his position doesn't budge.
... ... ...
Stewart: What one thing surprised you the most as you researched this book?
Williams: What surprised me the most was the lack of enthusiasm by people closest to Richard within the Free Software Foundation to help out with the book. I really thought that a lot of these people that helped to found the Free Software Foundation would be the most eager to participate in this, and in fact the opposite was true. There was a lot of questions like, "Why are you doing a biography on him?" And then people would give me interviews but off the record, and other people wouldn't respond to emails or calls. I don't know what to make of it, if it's bad blood, or if it's just academia, or if they saw me as an outsider and thought, "It's going to be a waste of time to deal with this guy because he doesn't know the issues or he doesn't know software," but it surprised me.
The significant thing, according to Stallman, is the freedom to cooperate. And this is what he was thinking about 17 years ago. "I looked closely at the practices of software development and decided that non-free software is anti-social," Stallman says. "It divides people, and when you divide you can more easily conquer. The user who cannot get free software is essentially helpless."
He already had some experience with this utopian world of programming. "In the 1970s I was part of a free software community at MIT. But by 1980, that community was gone. I was still working in the AI [artificial intelligence] lab at MIT, and I wanted to build a new community dedicated to the principle of free software," Stallman explains.
Richard Stallman on freedom and the GNU GPL (Nov 04, 1999)
Audio Broadcast: An Interview with Richard Stallman (Aug 31, 1999)
Fight For Software Freedom Far From Over -- Interview with Richard Stallman (Aug 19, 1999)
LinuxWorld: An interview with Richard Stallman (Aug 15, 1999)
Richard Stallman Interview -- Freedom Baby! Yeah. (Apr 01, 1999)
rms @ UBC LG #47 By Eric Hayashi
[Aug 17, 1999] LinuxWorld Today An interview with Richard Stallman by Joe Barr
[May 17, 1999] Stallman Receives Rubinsky Award At WWW8 [more]
[May 17, 1999] HP, O'Reilly Set Up Shop In Open-Source Bazaar [more]
[March. 22, 1999] www.oreilly.com -- Ask Tim
Some Open Source licenses, such as the Berkeley-style license used by FreeBSD, Apache, the X Window System, and much of the Internet infrastructure software--is truly free. You can do anything you like with it--including building a proprietary derivative that is not free--as long as you acknowledge the copyright of the creator.
Richard's GPL, for which he claims the term "free software", is actually encumbered by a protective copyright, which he calls a copyleft, that prohibits anyone from creating a derivative work that is less free than the original. The GPL is "viral"--that is, if you include any GPL'd software in a work you create, its terms apply to the entire work. This means that people who are doing any form of proprietary software can't use GPL'd software.
Kirk McKusick, one of the leaders of the Berkeley UNIX project in its heyday, puts it something like this: "Copyright is designed to protect the intellectual property rights of the people who create something. Copyleft is designed to protect the rights of the users. The Berkeley license is copy central: Take this stuff down to the copier and make as many copies as you want, for whatever you want."
Richard is happy to support Berkeley-style licenses as free, but he is adamantly opposed to anyone building proprietary derivatives--even the creators of the original software! (For example, he called John Ousterhout, creator of tcl, a parasite, for creating additional tcl tools based on it, which are not free!)
At bottom, Richard believes that the rights of the users of software take precedence over the rights of the creators of that software. He thinks that software should be free, even if its creators don't want it to be. (And so, for example, if you write some piece of software he likes, he thinks it is his right, and perhaps even his obligation, to clone it and make his version free.) I think that the creator of software should be free to put it out under whatever license he or she likes.
But there's a further dimension to this disagreement.
There is a large group of us who just don't see the moral dimension in free software that is so important to Richard. I like to say that Open Source is science, not religion. Making source code freely available is good not because of some inalienable right belonging to the users of software, but because it's good for the creators of the software: giving your software away makes it more useful to you because more people use it; they give you bug reports, they suggest new features, they validate your ideas.
But for me, the choice of proprietary or Open Source software is purely a pragmatic one. I applaud anyone who feels that they want to give their software away in order to enrich what Eric Raymond calls the software "noosphere", but I don't have a problem with people who want to try to go the proprietary route.
It seems to me that the principles of Open Source either work, or they don't. (And my guess is that they work better for some kinds of software than for others.) So I encourage developers to experiment with licenses, to see which ones best achieve their ends.
Ultimately, the question you're asking--the differences between me and Richard (which aren't really the differences between "free software" and "open source") is one of whether free software (or open source, which is a closely related but somewhat more inclusive term) is a moral issue or a scientific one. Do we make software free because we have to, or because we want to? I argue that we want to. The free movement of ideas always trumps restrictions on ideas in terms of innovation and quality. So let Open Source be tested in the marketplace, not in the pulpit!
[Mar 17, 1999] Richard Stallman -- 15 Years of Free Software
[March. 10, 1999] Richard Stallman opens Singapore Linux conference
"Without the freedom to adapt software for your own needs, to help your neighbor by redistributing the software, and build the community by adding new features, you get caught in a horrible proprietary tyranny and lose your morale and enthusiasm."
[Feb. 4, 1999] Why you shouldn't use the Library GPL for your next library
Proprietary software developers have the advantage of money; free software developers need to make advantages for each other. Using the ordinary GPL for a library gives free software developers an advantage over proprietary developers: a library that they can use, while proprietary developers cannot use it.
Using the ordinary GPL is not advantageous for every library. There are reasons that can make it better to use the Library GPL in certain cases. The most common case is when a free library's features are readily available for proprietary software through other alternative libraries. In that case, the library cannot give free software any particular advantage, so it is better to use the Library GPL for that library.
This is why we used the Library GPL for the GNU C library. After all, there are plenty of other C libraries; using the GPL for ours would have driven proprietary software developers to use another--no problem for them, only for us.
However, when a library provides a significant unique capability, like GNU Readline, that's a horse of a different color. The Readline library implements input editing and history for interactive programs, and that's a facility not generally available elsewhere. Releasing it under the GPL and limiting its use to free programs gives our community a real boost. At least one application program is free software today specifically because that was necessary for using Readline.
[November 10, 1998] The code of the freedom fighter -- Interview for the Guardian (UK).
GNU Coding Standards - Table of Contents -- document written by RMS in 1993
My own view is that the FSF's ultimate goal is unrealistic, unnecessary, and perhaps even undesirable. There's no doubt in my mind that there's a very large place in this world for freely redistributable software. This has already been proven by the success of GNU software and Linux, but if all software were freely redistributable I think we'd see an end to major new innovations. Such is the nature of a market economy, and as long as people are willing to pay for software with restrictive licenses I see no reason why it shouldn't be sold.
Copyleft is a reality tunnel
The concept underlying the GPL is dubbed copyleft, and it's intended to be the opposite of copyright. In "What Is Copyleft?" Stallman explains it simply enough:
In the GNU project, our aim is to give all users the freedom to redistribute and change GNU software. If middlemen could strip off the freedom, we might have many users, but those users would not have freedom. So instead of putting GNU software in the public domain, we "copyleft" it. Copyleft says that anyone who redistributes the software, with or without changes, must pass along the freedom to further copy and change it. Copyleft guarantees that every user has freedom.
Specifically, the GPL works by:
- Granting broad permissions. Copyleft grants most of the permissions typically withheld by traditional proprietary licenses. These include unlimited royalty-free use of the software, permission to make and distribute copies, permission to study and reverse-engineer it, and permission to create, apply, and share modifications to the program.
- Tying the source code to compiled binaries. If the program is compiled into binary form, then the GPL requires that you either include, or pledge to provide at no extra charge, the source code to the program.
- Virally self-propagating. Not unlike the amusement park signs that say, "You must be at least this tall [52 inches] to ride the Screeching Weasel," the GPL says, "Your work must be at least this free [as free as the GPL] to be combined with GPLd work."
If you can think of accepting the terms of copyleft as jumping through Richard's looking glass into Stallmanland, then you can see the hack value of copyleft. The power of the GPL is that people believe in the model of information ethics that it promotes. Copyleft is a reality tunnel, and the people on opposite ends of the tunnel have fundamentally different views of how information should be treated.
The worlds of copyright and copyleft are the worlds of intellectual product and incremental progress -- the lure of private ownership versus the call of public service -- each struggling for the hearts and minds of knowledge workers everywhere.
GPL = consumer protection + anti-copyright + anti/Law
I draw a rough distinction between the GPL's mandate to share unobfuscated source code and its anti-copyright properties.
Wooing all source code out into the open is an important consumer-protection measure. Tying the source to compiled binaries is good for both the stability of the software and the sanity of developers who rely upon it. It's also good for users tired of being used as sacrificial pawns in the ceaseless battles over platform dominance.
The anti-copyright component of the GPL is perhaps somewhat misguided, but some copyright reform is clearly necessary. Viral infection through contract law between developers is a good way to work out a better consensus on the proper limitations of intellectual property. Copyright terms are way too long for software, and "fair use" provisions have been eroding over time, but dealing a fatal blow to the author's copyright seems unwise. By wholly subscribing to the copyleft worldview, one loses the freedom to hack on copylefted software and later pay off one's bills by charging many users for small fractions of the value of the resulting work.
anti/Law is the contractually
reinforced worldview of one community
locally overriding the statutory worldview
of another one. It's a poetic construct
as much as a legal one.
Although GPL gives me pause, the way in which it undermines the very law from which it draws its power is definitely its most fascinating quality. The GPL is an agreement among peers to collectively disregard state law. I call this property of the license anti/Law.
anti/Law is the contractually reinforced worldview of one community locally overriding the statutory worldview of another one. It's a poetic construct as much as a legal one.
Viral licenses are like zoning laws
Now that the network economy is booming away, viral has become an extremely fashionable word. Silicon Valley's Sand Hill Road is abuzz with venture capitalists drooling over "viral marketing," so perhaps the appellation GNU Public Virus can be a compliment if it's drooled over instead of spat upon. After all, "language is a virus" too, wrote Marshall McLuhan, who also predicted that World War III would be "a guerrilla information war, with no division between military and civilian participation."
The effect of viral licensing on the software developer culture is pretty much like the effect of zoning laws on towns and communities. Viral licensing partitions software development into different socioeconomic cubicles. Systems software needs to always have a stable outpost in neutral territory.
Sometimes residents of the Proprietary Zone borrow software from the Free Zone, but they often toss improvements back into the Free Zone so as not to be overly rude. The Free Zone people don't seem to mind.
There's a holy war going on between the residents of the Proprietary lowlands and the dwellers of the Copyleft highgrounds, but nobody's been killed yet and residents of one zone often secretly support those in the other. The Proprietary Zone is quite large, but its population suffers from high levels of stress. The Copyleft Zone has a higher birthrate and lots of enthusiastic new immigrants.
The newer Mozilla and Community Zones are also experiencing population growth and high immigration.
Quality-of-life studies for all of the Licensing Zones are still under way. Only you can decide which viral license zone is most supportive of your own software or your business (or political) objectives.
Is the GPL too much?
While the GPL does a great deal to empower artists by ensuring continued access to source code. It can also keep them weak as it works to dismantle the copyright framework that had originally been created to empower them.
The creeping propertization of information must be curbed, but copyleft takes away an important economic tool that independent software artists might use to remain independent.
Mandatory cooperation is an oxymoron.
Michael Tiemann, one of Cygnus's three founders, puts a positive spin on the GPL's requirement of mandatory cooperation: "What I like about the GPL is that anyone who wants to compete with us must also complement us at the same time. The GPL gives a tremendous advantage to the first company to offer support for a GNU program."
Other companies -- like Red Hat, Cygnus, and the FSF -- also thrive on GPLd code. All of them also give great value to the community, but because they're also all publishers by merit of their brand power, the GPL ensures that they have no responsibility to independent members of our software community. It will be interesting to see how new licensing models that combine openness, cooperation, and some inducement to pay for the software will succeed.
3) I commented that, given the FSF's objectives, FreeBSD was doing a better job than Linux.
He (and no doubt many readers) was surprised by this affirmation and asked for an explanation. I reasoned that since the objective behind the FSF was providing free software, and Linux was being heavily commercialized while FreeBSD was not, FreeBSD was nearer to the objectives. In those days, the newly born Caldera's distribution had a lot of commercial goodies and their base distribution couldn't be downloaded anywhere, I also commented that no one could stop the companies like Caldera from gradually replacing free parts of GNU/Linux with commercial elements until they would effectively replace the complete OS (I also mentioned the linux emulation in BSD in another context). To this final point, RMS responded that the only thing we could do was write more free software.
Nowadays I personally think that Richard Stallman is a good person but he is confused (I hope he thinks the same of me when he finishes reading this article :), and I am not going to analyze the answers RMS gave because that is not the objective of this article. I arrived, however, to two important conclusions:
- the GNU Public License will not save the world,
- there shouldn't be a universal license; different situations require different licenses.
The GPL is a long license; sometimes I think it was made so that people would get tired of reading it; something like those big contracts with small letters on it. Until here I had no real problem with the GPL, and since Microsoft was evidently afraid of the rebirth of UNIX (of course Microsoft considers everything a threat), I even considered it a good thing: like most things that are evil, the GPL seems beautiful on the surface. Of course I saw the truth later on...when I saw it and it was clear to me what people that adopted the GPL were doing to the other people. I was aghast. It was not communism or socialism, this was simply and plainly anticapitalism, a game of trying to break the system with it's own logical rules!
Of course no one cares that big software companies that exploit their developers and their customers die, but big companies will have better chances to survive against free software: small companies will simply die. Let's say that you are an independent software developer, such as a compiler writer, and you spend hours, or many years, developing your product; you will find it's very difficult, probably impossible, to compete against a free software product, as egcs, that has many more man-hours than your product.
In capitalist countries people live for money. Careers are expensive, technical people have to live off what they know. Who makes money out of free software? At first glance no one, that's why it's free. Some redistributors and support people make money out of it, but they surely make less than the vendors of commercial products. Free software vendors can offer better prices because they don't have to hire developers, not because they are particularly efficient redistributing software. Most importantly, authors won't receive anything or will receive a misery if they beg for it.
If you don't want money from your code, that's OK, but by releasing software under the GPL you are forcing other software writers to use the same poverty license even if they add significant features to your code. They must also take care in using different algorithms; no one wants to be sued for changing variable names and indentation from GPL'd software.
One of the most ridiculous reasons for adopting the GPL is..."oh but if Microsoft takes my code...", well, what makes you think they will? I understand they bought and paid their own TCP/IP stack, even when the free BSD version was available; they simply didn't want to give credit to anyone. If they take your code and do significant improvements everyone wins, if they don't do any significant improvements the resulting product will probably not sell well, and people can still get your sources; no one will "take away" free software from you.
Boy, I dislike Bill Gates and his practices, but admittedly he learned his dirty tricks in the same economical system, and he gives jobs to the people. If he could offer a good OS with full added value I would buy it, and I wouldn't have any problem with him, or any other developer, becoming rich from his work, in the meantime, Hotmail should have a "Powered by FreeBSD" logo.
It's also ridiculous to choose Linux over *BSD because of it's license: how many people would choose Windows NT over Linux if Microsoft adopted the GPL?? Linux users are usually confused, they adopt Linux because it's popular "and cool" and hide their ignorance in completely subjective reasons like the license or some technical merit that they heard about but they don't really understand.
All in all, Ken Thompson is right: people are choosing Linux, and the GPL, because it's an alternative to Microsoft. I hope this popularity goes by, otherwise I'd recommend Jeremy Rifkin's excellent book on what will happen in the next years.
Of course, this is all my personal opinion and some food for the thought, please don't email me to say that you disagree or how unfair I have been :).
Daemon News- Restrictively Unrestrictive- The GPL License in Software Development
CPU Review- Why you SHOULD use the LGPL for your next library
InfoWorld- Fetch your flamethrowers- It's time to argue the finer points of software licenses
Linux Today osOpinion Software Freedom -- an interesting point of view of free software
The Free Software Foundation takes great pains to explain that Free Software is not about price or the absence of cost, but about freedom. But they do not define "freedom", taking it for granted that the reader knows exactly what they are talking about. They also bemoan the fact that English has only word for "free" whereas other languages have two; French as both "gratis" and "libre". But again, they fail to define "free". Since "free" and "freedom" are highly emotional words, it is important that they are properly defined in relation to Free Software (1). But as I mentioned above, my dictionary has two definitions for "freedom". The first definition is "the quality or state of being free". The second definition is "a political right". There are many sub-definitions as well."
There were 4 panelists. Nick DiGiacomo, a consultant, Michael Robertson of mp3.com, Howard M. Singer a2b music, Dick Wingate, liquid audio. The discussion was good. I was planning on just attending this panel for a short while and then go off to other panels and talks, but the discussion was so good and of relevance to our life on the Internet that I stuck it out. The deal with digital music is the following. The bandwidth and compression algorithms have converged such as to allow the free availability of CD quality music over the Internet. This is very much to the tune of open sourced software about 10 years ago, but now the general public is getting into the act. The problem; a large, powerful, wealthy establishment is fighting very hard to control its market and preserve the status quo. Three of the panelists, the guy from a2b music, the guy from liquid audio and the consultant are clearly trying to work with the industry. They talked on and on about how to restrict content. On the other hand, Mike Robertson from mp3.com made a very brave statement. He said that talking about security was like talking about morality. You cannot talk against it. But he continues to say that it is impossible to try to restrict the distribution of music. He then says that freedom over content will rule the market. Talk about security is nonsense and driven by the oligarchy protecting their business model which is music distribution via CD. The audience applauds. (The only applause during this session.) What I got from this session is clear. Battle lines are forming on the distribution of digital music over the Internet front. On one side you have you, me and the artist, on the other side you have the rich and powerful establishment. The establishment is working hard to introduce "security" into the distribution of music content. "Security" only deals with how one can restrict access to the content. It has nothing to do encrypting the music itself. (I'm not sure how you would restrict access without encrypting the music itself.) This was emphasized by the consultant. This will be done by adding restriction signatures to the music. For example, a two day license for a song would work such that you download the music, your hardware gizmo or software applet plays it for two days and then plays it no more. The control of who and for how long one can listen to the music is under control of the artist, or so says the industry consultant. Reading his lips, I hear, the music is controlled by those who sell it, those being the establishment. And it's clear that the establishment is starting to wake up to the fact that distribution of music over the Internet could very well destroy their whole business model, and them with it. MP3.com is on the road to changing this. It has a 50-50 deal with the artist for what ever is sold over their web site. And the artists keeps ownership of their work. Right now, when a band cuts a record, the music is then owned by the recording company and belongs to the band no more. The band then gets about a 20% cut of the sales. Also, a band must sell more than 250,000 CD's in order not to get dumped. These are very large obstacles for bands to overcome in order to get their music heard by the general public. And guess what, the new music I hear over the radio and on MTV all sounds the same. To me, this is a clear fallout of the restricted access musicians have to the general public, set up by the music industry. But the Internet and web sites like mp3.com will change all that. Another point made by the Mike Robertson from mp3.com, the record industry is not going broke with the current method of music distribution via CD. It is making lots of money. So to them, it is important to maintain this status quo. Clearly, the Internet has the power to change all that. Other side issues which were discussed were audio formats. a2b and liquid audio were all hot about their standards, those being closed ones. The guy from mp3.com commented that open standards win on the Internet and I'm sure time will bear this out. There was more to the discussion which I cannot remember and I failed to write down in my notes, but it was a good prelude to the next session I was going to attend, the free software panel.
The free software panel was being held in building C and I was in building A. So down to the lobby I go in search of building C, somewhere on the campus of this Fashion Institute of Technology. In the lobby, I find Jay Sulzberger at the problem desk. It looks like web registration technology failed him as well. Jay is the moderator for the free software panel and who also invited me to be a panelist on another panel held last fall for one of the LXNY meetings. The subject of that panel was something like free software in your business. It was my first chance to talk about my work to a non-physicist audience and I jumped at the chance, even thought the subject was not physics. I figured I used enough free software in my work that I would be able to fit that topic in somehow, amongst my aerial photo transparencies of high energy physics laboratories across the nation and the world. So, as implied in what I just said, I have already met Jay. I waited for him as he finished up with his problem at the problem desk, (web based registration technologies, hmmm....) This gave me a chance to walk with him over to building C in search of the classroom where this free software panel was to take place. On the way we chatted about something, I can't remember if it was quantum computers, free software or his admitting to being a gun nut, as is someone else who is an acquaintance of ours.
We found building C, we found the 3rd floor and room C324, the room where Richard Stallman was to grace us with his presence. Richard Stallman was not there when Jay and I showed up. The rest of the panel and about 20 people who made up the audience were there. The class room was wide and set up in such a way that the desks were close to where the speakers stood to address the class. The desks were these long tables with a black hard surface table top, no tablecloths. These tables were certified notebook friendly. The chairs were high and rather comfortable. They kept you at attention as you sat in them. I got a chair two rows back from where the speakers were to address the audience, centered in the room. I wanted to be in the center of this room in order to absorb all that was to transpire. I set up my notebook, popped open the netscape browser editor window, and Jay came over to continue his talk about quantum computers. I think this was just an excuse to come over and checkout what kind of software I was running on my notebook, since I noticed his subtle glance towards my notebook screen as he leaned over to tell me about NMR probes, coffee cups, statistical mechanics and how engineers can make work what physicists dream up. (Which is true, sometimes...)
Things start to settle down in the classroom. I notice that most of the people who made up the audience for this panel discussion are guys like you and me. We don't wear formal clothes. We have a solidity and ruggedness in our manner. Jay definitely is heavy on the ruggedness side. We have thoughts to be shared and passion in our hearts about the work we pursue in our daily lives. But to counter balance this atmosphere of technology pioneers, there were about 3 or 4 guys who sat together towards my right in the back corner of the class room. These guys stood out. They were formally dressed, each one. They have a fragility to their manner. It's different with these guys. They obviously have thoughts to be shared, I can't really account for the passion in the heart, but they do have something the rest of us don't. Money in the wallet. Lots of money in the wallet. These guys are "the establishment" and will play a very interesting role in the events to unfold.
So there I sit, waiting for the panel discussion to start, Jay is outside trying to give away free software to anyone who walks by the classroom door, and we are all waiting for Richard Stallman to show up, so that we can start this damn thing. Jay has now scared off half a dozen people who were unfortunate enough to have walked by the door, and has given up waiting for Richard. Jay begins. He tells us a story about how the free software movement started with Richard. Back some time ago at the MIT software labs, Richard was trying to print to some ding dong printer and couldn't. There was a software bug which stood between him and his printout. Richard wanted to solve the problem by getting the source code and fixing it. He couldn't, the source code was not available and more important, could not be made available because the company who sold MIT the printer would not hand over the code. The code was locked up behind legal doors and Stallman was not going to be able to solve this problem. Thus the beginning of the free software movement which has evolved into what we know today. With that story told, he introduced the panelers who were present. Jesse Erlbaum, a man who wrote or uses object oriented perl extensions, Elliotte Rusty Harold who is an XML expert, Jim Russell from IBM, who is "a herder of serious cats", and Dave Shields, also from IBM who would talk a bit about Jikes. Jesse, the perl guy and the XML guy went first in introducing themselves. The first one talked about how he couldn't do his work without source code available software. The second guy talked about how XML will be a replacement for a lot of file formats including RTF. One of the big problems with word processing is that for all practical purposes, file formats are not convertible thus forcing you to buy the software in order to read the file. An MS business model no doubt. XML will fix all that. Then went the two guys from IBM. The first one talks about Jikes, how IBM was able to release the source code to the Internet (but under a restricted license agreement which I'll go into later), and the /. effect. Once Jikes was released, there was a post to slashdot about it and the Jikes upload site experienced that /. effect. The Jikes project went from #5 on the IBM upload list to #2 in two weeks. He showed a nice plot of the integrated number of downloads of Jikes for different platforms. It looks like the windows version was released first. 15 days later, the linux one was released and about 5 days after that, it over took the windows binary upload count. IBM now has hard concrete data to show the linux does count! The second IBM guy, Jim Russell, talked about how it was not so difficult to convince higher management at IBM, that it made good business sense to release the source code to something like Jikes, and thus earning Jay's title of "herder of serious cats".
At some point during these introduction talks, Richard Stallman walks into the room. I get to see the man for the first time in flesh and blood. He stands about 5 foot 5 inches, has long black hair and a beard. He carries a cloth bag in which, as I later learned, he keeps a notebook, amongst other personal objects. He would melt right into any university setting, (or high energy physics laboratory for that matter). He starts to clown around with Jay. He starts making horn signs above his head from behind, as Jay continues to read his introductory remarks for the next panelist. This goes on for a bit and the audience is getting a real kick out of it. Finally, Jay turns to see Richard, he freaks and this kidding around ends. Jay continues with his introduction and Richard starts to make himself at home in the classroom. Off go his shoes, out comes his notebook, and he finds a quiet place under one of the tables where he fires up his notebook and begins hacking at some code or other. Jay continues with the introductions, the panelist continue with their opening remarks and Richard is oblivious to all this. He gets up from under the table, paces back and forth around the entrance to the class room, (in his socks,) getting ready to address his audience. It's like he is doing mental laps, warming up for the upcoming discussion on free software. (Don't forget, we have the establishment sitting in the back right corner of the room. It's going to be Richard vs the establishment.) Jay finally gets around to re-introducing Stallman. Stallman starts by saying that he is the president of the Free Software Foundation. He continues by saying that he is not speaking about the "open source" movement, and he does not care about making computers easier to use. At this point, I sort of lose the specifics of what he has said, (since my notes are rather jumbled) and I will try and paraphrase what he said. Basically, his concern is on a global social historical scale. The free software effort is about freedom, not software which costs nothing. A freedom which goes beyond source code and into the way we interact as a community. Free software is a manifestation of this freedom and is an example of it.
I think it's best to see this in the opposite sense. When you are encumbered with software which you cannot change, even if you have the source code in front of you but are not allowed legally to change and distribute the changes, then your personal, inherent freedom has been taken from you. That same freedom the US constitution gives you which is the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Some other important points which Stallman says during this discussion is that people confuse Linux with GNU. Linux is only the kernel, and works in conjunction with all the software on your PC. I would describe Linux has being the conductor of a symphony. The musicians are all the apps we run, and GNU being the concert hall itself, which with out one cannot have a concert. (This is my metaphor, not Stallman's, but I think Stallman was trying to get this point across.) He does not like web sites which are set up for the public good which run add banners. (I think he is talking about sites like /., linux.org, etc.) And he pointed out that he runs debian GNU/Linux on his notebook. (Which fits right in with his persona.)
Stallman's introductory remarks never really end. The more he talks about the freedom of software development, very much on the same plane as freedom of expression, the more the intensity of the room discussion heats up. The best word to describe the rising level of the intensity of the discussion is passion. And there was lots of it. The passion level took a step function when the "establishment" chimed in. The elder of this group asked the question, what if MS opened up windows 98 source code under the GPL? At this point in time Jay was out in the hallway offering free software to some innocent person passing by, hears this, jumps back into the classroom and exclaims, "What? Open Source Windows!", and just about collapses on the floor. The question needed to be answered, the room goes silent and Jay takes the floor to answer the question. The question being more broadly if MS would continue to make money if Bill Gates GPL'ed the source code to windows '98. Jay's answer is no. There is a free market economy which you must deal with and in such an environment, Microsoft would perish if it GPL'ed its OS source. He continues by emphasizing that justice would be served and the company would die a rightful death. (Jay also holds this sentiment for Apple.) Stallman forces his way into the discussion; No, MS would be redeemed if it GPL's its source code. Jay has a fit. Jay exclaims that MS and Apple should both die. MS would have to live through a million cockroaches lives before it could be considered for a redeemed life! But Stallman is adamant. MS would be redeemed if it fully GPL's its source. But Stallman if firm, MS cannot take half steps and do something like IBM did with Jikes and just release the source under a restricted license. Its full GPL or it's worthless. In the meantime, the guys in the establishment corner are trying to force the issue that one cannot make money on software if you release the source code. The back and forth on this subject goes on, issues such as opening up file formats to help free up the software industry rise and are batted around. Jay finally ends the discussion since we have run out of time.
As the session ended, people broke up into smaller discussion groups. I packed up my notebook and headed over to the group which surrounded Richard. There was one female who had his attention at the time. (I think there were 3 in the room.) She was a reporter of sorts, from England, trying to get some private time with Richard for an interview. He was all booked up and really wouldn't give her the time of day. I don't know why, she was all in a tizzy to get time with Stallman, and she was full of spunk too. (I think she would have given Stallman a better writeup than I'm doing now...) Somehow the discussion started on Linux vs GNU and the confusion thereof. This gave me a chance to butt in and I asked Richard about his kernel. "Yes, I have a kernel project called the GNU/Hurd". I knew about this project already, but I just wanted to get a word in. "So what happened to it?", I asked. He starts to tell me about some of the key architectural features of his kernel and clearly it was a big complicated implementation of a distributed kernel. I guess any type of distributed kernel would be complicated and thus it seems to have not made much progress. He made a comment that he did find one guy who has actually tried to run it. One of the "establishment" guys was there listening in on this discussion. The conversation then turned to patents. I made a comment that patents are there to protect the "investors" and not really the inventor. Richard agreed with me. The guy from the "establishment" tried to argue that patents are there to protect the inventor and to help market the inventions so that the general public can benefit from them. He continued, "if you could write software which would cure cancer, then a patent on it would get the cure out to the masses." (I'm paraphrasing here...) My comment was that in principle, this is what you would argue, but in practice, the inventor gets a very small piece of it. Its the large corporations and those who run them, who end up owning patents and who get the profits from such patented inventions. I continued by telling Richard that I, working for the Department of Energy, signed a work contract which had a clause in it that said that all my ideas would belong to the government. The federal government now owns all the intellectual properly which comes out of my brain. And if there are some kind of patent rights given to me, the lab makes no effort in telling me what they are, since I have no idea if I have any such rights. This must be the case with a lot of research firms across the world; Lucent, IBM, etc. The discussion continued further in terms of how we can try to protect ourselves from the "establishment" abusing the patent system. Finally I stuck out my hand and introduced myself to Richard and told him I wanted to thank him for all the good he has done for the software community. He shook my hand and then turned to this "establishment" guy who was leaving and said that he was going to work as hard as he had to, to defeat him. He said this in a raised, angry and attacking voice. I was taken back by the strength in his conviction. It was genuine though. I then wandered off to another small group, and talked to Jim Russell. I introduced myself and asked the question, "Why do we get so passionate about software?". The idea being that, those who write software and publish it on the Internet should do so and that's it. What's all the fuss about? We talked a bit more about distributing source code. I stuck around a bit after that, but finally decided that I better get back over to building A and get lunch. Lunch was included in the registration fee and I was not about to miss out.
I got to the cafeteria where lunch was being served. Not bad, they had real plates and silverware, unlike the BNL cafeteria which now serves everything on paper plates or plastic containers, with plastic utensils. As I got there, everyone had already eaten and the keynote speaker was starting to deliberate. He is NYC Comptroller Alan Hevesi, talking about the woes of the software industry in NYC. The city is in 9th place across the country when you measure the software industry on a per-capita scale. Some of the comments which stuck in my mind are the following. (I didn't take notes on my notebook since I wasn't about to open it next to my chicken lunch. There was the remainder of a large coffee spill on the table cloth next to me. That could have been on the key board of my notebook. Ahhhh....) NYC had to pay out $900,000,000 to the new york stock exchange in tax exemptions to keep it from moving to NJ. The speaker blamed that on those attending the summit since the attendees had made it is so easy for anyone to set up an information system anywhere to do their business. The EZpass system is a wonderful piece of technology which allows traffic to flow past the toll booths surrounding Manhattan. But, this means that the toll collectors are out of a job. The speaker was quite sensitive to the dangers of high tech information systems. In a few years, there will be no more phone operators. There will be one recording serving all business and those who worked at those jobs answering phones will be looking for other work. Another comment he made was that a new tax break was being put on the books. Anyone in NYC who uses hardware to write software, does not have to pay taxes when they purchase that hardware. This statement caused a great round of applause. Another comment the speaker said which I want to share is this. (It is taken out of context but it stands on its own.) When the phone system was being installed in Russia, Stalin gave orders not to install phones in every home in Moscow. Stalin was afraid that he would loose control over the exchange of information amongst the citizens, if they had access to phones, and thus his control over the citizenry and his hold on power. To me, this was a very insightful comment about the power of information technology and ties right in with another article I wrote a couple of months ago.
The term "Linux system" is relatively easy to say (once you dispense with whether it's a soft or hard "i"), and most people know immediately what the term means. It's economical with words and has easily become a part of the Linux lingo. On the other hand, those in our world who believe in manipulating language for political means insist on the term GNU/Linux in order to pay forced homage to the FSF and GNU.
GNU leader Richard Stallman, hardly one for compromise, is barely satisfied with Debian's level of homage. He believes there's no such thing as a plain old Linux system. Did you know that what we've been calling Linux systems all this time are just GNU systems, with Linux kernels temporarily killing time until the GNU HURD kernel is ready to take its place?
...Some parts of a Linux system, including its compiler and base libraries, come from the GNU Project. The X server comes from the XFree86 Project, Perl comes from Larry Wall, the filesystem design from somewhere else, etcetera.
But that hasn't deterred the GNU/Linux crusade. At a press conference at the March LinuxWorld show in San Jose, Stallman told a reporter, "the use of the term 'Linux system' is highly inappropriate," and that he would take it as a personal insult should the term be uttered in his presence.
Stallman and his followers believe that the issue is significant based on the belief that simply calling it Linux denies the FSF of its rightful place in history. An article in Salon magazine expresses Stallman's fears best, but those who need the direct approach can read it in his own words.
Stallman has never missed an opportunity to impose his linguistic philosophies in any forum possible. The latest was in early May and started with a joke posted in the mailing list of the Greater New Hampshire Linux User Group (GNHLUG). GNHLUG member Lee Rothstein wrote a fairly innocent joke about How Linux users "do it".
Stallman's response? "Linux users are people who use the GNU system and don't know it." This comment, and others that followed, have led to a flame war on the GNHLUG mailing list that continues even as I write this.
The worst part of Stallman's ongoing tirade is that it appears to have the opposite effect of the one he desires. His humorless approach, designed to create controversy unless he gets his way completely, has increased the ranks of reactive GNU bashers who would belittle the FSF's role in the evolution of free software. The more Stallman obsesses with the naming issue and less with the code itself, the more adversaries he makes among Linux users. Stallman's greatest single software contribution to Linux -- the gcc compiler -- is now out of his control and in the hands of the once-splintered egcs team.
Some have called him divisive or destructive. Others -- even worse -- would dismiss him as a crank for insisting that he (and the GNU project) be credited in the proper names of all Linux products. The last thing the community needs is to have Stallman's plea for recognition be answered with an equally humorless retort of "what have you done for me lately?"
... Thankfully, some light is emerging from the heat. It so happens that Linux International (LI) Director Jon "Maddog" Hall is a member of GNHLUG and has been following the above-mentioned e-mail confrontations. He refined an idea by GNHLUG member Matt Herbert into a solution that, to me, deals masterfully with the issue.
The plan is to create a "GNU Inside" logo, that would adorn every Linux package,
in much the same way that Apache and Netscape and other logos grace Linux system
boxes these days. It could also be used by BSD Unix variants and any other product
that comes packaged with GNU software.
Like a Russian revolutionary erased from a photograph, he is being written out of history. Stallman is the originator of the free-software movement and the GNU/Linux operating system. But you wouldn't know it from reading about LinuxWorld. Linus Torvalds got all the ink.
The battle for ideological control of computing's next wave is being waged between two factions. One seeks to increase the collective IQ of the software development community by loosening industry's grip on intellectual property. The other wants to do away with intellectual property altogether.
In one corner stands the Free Software Foundation, conceived, championed, and largely engineered by the impracticably messianic Richard Stallman. In the other, the Open Source Initiative, advanced most prominently by the cantankerous, opinionated, and confrontational Eric Raymond. Both leaders are longtime programmers. Both are significant contributors to Internet culture, each with his own high place on the heap of information-age theoreticians.
Both sides agree that distributing a computer program's source code -- the essential blueprints required to modify the program -- is a good thing. Both believe that empowering users with the opportunity to change and extend their software will have a positive, reinvigorating effect on software development at large.
And Raymond -- strong as his position may otherwise be -- still has something to prove. Never has the Open Source concept really been tested in a radically competitive arena like the computer industry has lately become. It's not clear that corporate hard-chargers will be able defer their attention from IPOs, quarterly reporting, and intercorporate knife-fighting long enough to recognize how the Open Source proposition may ultimately appeal to their self interests. After all, these aren't the Regents of the University of California we're talking about; these are hip-gunning cowboy capitalists. Ideological high-ground aside, it will be interesting to see if the Open Source concept holds up in the cross-fire. Whether it's ultimately about the beginning of a new cooperation or the end of intellectual capital, the Open Source alternative is going to have to withstand a lot of manhandling in the marketplace. It wouldn't be the first golden opportunity to be lost in the rough-and-tumble.
One of the greatest programmers alive saw a future where all software was free. Then reality set in.
Stallman was always a champion of free software. Throughout the 1970s, he was one of the most prolific members of the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, and one of many exuberant hackers who thought that powerful computers, free software and free information would change society. Then in 1982 he saw the Lab's premier operating system licensed to a computer company and turned into a proprietary tool for making money.
Since then, the GNU project has finished dozens of other programs. Half the work has been done by volunteers who have written programming tools, a free implementation of the PostScript language, and a C++ code compiler, among others. The foundation has attracted more than $350,000 in grants from private companies, money that allows Stallman to hire a staff of programmers and technical writers.
But lately, things seem to have bogged down for Project GNU. Stallman learned long ago not to make promises about delivery dates. This winter, FSF will release EMACS version 19 -- nearly three years later than originally planned. And the basic GNU operating system has been delayed for two years by Stallman's decision to base it upon the Mach microkernel developed at Carnegie Mellon University (university lawyers have spent most of those two years working out terms for the software license, said Len Tower, a member of the FSF board of directors).
Although the original Unix operating system was written in less than a year by two programmers at AT&T's Bell Laboratories, the system that Stallman is trying to clone has been evolving for more than 20 years. "He's trying to build a complete system. That is just a tremendous undertaking," said Keith Bostic, the No. 2 person at the University of California at Berkeley's Computer Systems Research Group, which oversees Berkeley's own brand of Unix.
In the meantime, two competing Unix clones have appeared on the market. But both of those systems are limited to personal computers using Intel's 80386 chip, while the GNU operating system is designed to be portable.
Ironically, the problem now is money - the very thing that Stallman is trying to avoid. Predictably, it's hard to sell tapes to people when they can easily acquire the software free. In better economic times, customers were willing to pay the FSF for a tape as a sort of charitable contribution; but recently those good Samaritans have disappeared. And FSF's grants, which once accounted for half of the foundation's income, have dried up. "There's a recession on," said Lisa Goldstein, the foundation's business director. Last year the FSF was forced to lay off three of its 15 full-time employees.
Brian J. Fox CTO -- In 1985, Brian joined Richard Stallman at the Free Software Foundation as their second employee.
Some responces in no particular order:
Some responces in no particular order:
Inventor of FidoNet, guerilla ISP wholesaler, and all - around homo punk activist, Tom Jennings -- another interesting figure.
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The Last but not Least
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Created May 1, 1996; Last modified: June 04, 2016