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Stallman Responds To GNOME Questionaire 542

Posted by timothy
from the hello-champion-city dept.
proclus writes: "Stallman's response to the GNOME board election process is a lesson in the application of free software principles. For Stallman, GNOME is a GNU project, and the main goal is to promote free software. His consistancy and ethics are admirable, but one wonders if GNOME has grown beyond its roots in the free software community. Is Stallman's view of GNOME too narrow? The GNU-Darwin Distribution and The Fink projects are a case in point. It is simply amazing how many people want to use GNOME together with Mac OSX, and yet in Stallman's view, this would be an example of GNOME falling short of its goals. If free software is used together with proprietary, then the movement has failed to displace proprietary software, and free the users. Is it possible to reach such users with free software ideals, and is it necessary to divorce free software from proprietary in order to accomplish that goal?"
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Stallman Responds To GNOME Questionaire

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  • I think (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nll8802 (536577) on Monday November 26, 2001 @10:08AM (#2613238) Homepage
    I think using Free Software with Proprietary software is a way to reach people who are not yet informed about Free Software. I dont think this hurts Free Software in any way, it helps promote it.
    • i second that!
      RMS has great ideals and i admire his strife.
      But i think there are commercial softwares that realistically can't be replaced with free (as in beer) ones in a tight time frame. It is necessary to therefore try as best we can to integrate the free with the necessary ($$ softs). CAD tools for instance. I'd love to run cadence and/or Pro/E on my gnome desktop linux cluster and get stuff done faster than my collegues on ultra 10s!

      free love/beer/software forever!
      :-)
      -eric
    • Re:I think (Score:2, Troll)

      by MSBob (307239)
      Yes. But guess what, it doesn't matter. Just like most muslim moderates believe that Islam can coexist with other religions, most of FS advocates believe different software licencing modules can coexist and compliment one another. However, every social movement (provided it's strong enough) tends to breed fanatics. Fanatics don't care about the cost of enforcing their viewpoint upon the rest of the society. Because they see their viewpoint as the only right way they will attack opposing views with full force of a blind zeal.

      This begs the question: is RMS at all similar to Osama bin Laden?

      Well, at first I thought, no. Osama bin Laden is a destructive force for the most part (terrorism) while RMS's actions have been mostly constructive (writing free software). But then I thought about the way he treated the KDE project and realised that RMS has a fair amount of "software terrorism" behind his belt. On the other hand OBL has indeed done some good in some parts of the world, such as building the highway network in Sudan. In other words RMS and OBL fight for completely different ideals but the methods they use are very alike. Both will trample on anything they don't fully agree with and both will show some compassion towards what they feel is a just and noble cause. We must ask ourselves however, whether we would like to have someone so strikingly similar in his behavioural patterns to OBL at the helm of the Free Software Foundation... Food for thought.

      • This begs the question: is RMS at all similar to Osama bin Laden?

        Comparing RMS to Bin Laden is nothing short of snotty. Sure, RMS can be abrasive, and I often disagree with him on all manner of issues, but to the best of my knowledge he's never threatened anyone with violence in his life.

        You owe him an apology.

        -jcr
        • I don't disagree. Like I said the tools they use to conduct their Jihad are different. RMS has not threatened with violence but he did cast a FSF Fatwah on a project or two. What I have a problem with, and my point stands, is that both RMS and OBL's behavioural patterns are too similar to ignore.
          • he did cast a FSF Fatwah on a project or two

            Oh, get serious. He expressed an opinion which you are free to disregard, as I did at the time. Comparing RMS to someone who engineered mass murder is completely over the top, and reflects far more on you than on him.

            -jcr
    • Re:I think (Score:4, Insightful)

      by JCCyC (179760) on Monday November 26, 2001 @11:06AM (#2613574) Journal
      He didn't say he is against porting GNOME to proprietary systems. He explicitly said, lots of times, there can be Free Software running on proprietary systems and it'll still be Free.

      On the other hand, I can see him disapproving of efforts like Wine, which have the potential of turning systems that already are 100% Free into less-than-100% Free. "Hey, MS Office runs in Linux now? Let's stop using KOffice!"

      GNOME on the Mac, on the other hand, is exactly the opposite - it takes a 100% proprietary system and turns it into something part Free, part proprietary. This is a good thing, and I'll bet RMS would agree. A beachhead if you will.

      Another interesting tidbit from RMS's responses is:

      From time to time I face the ticklish task of asking a complete stranger to change the license of his software package. Making this request is like waking up a dragon to ask to borrow its hoard: the developer is likely to find the request impertinent and could easily get angry. Nonetheless, I succeed most of the time.

      I wonder if he's had the opportunity to tackle Dan J. Bernstein [cr.yp.to] yet. Although his terms seem to meet the Free Software criteria for me, I hear all the time that Qmail isn't free software.
      • Re:I think (Score:2, Insightful)

        by aozilla (133143)

        I wonder if he's had the opportunity to tackle Dan J. Bernstein [cr.yp.to] yet. Although his terms seem to meet the Free Software criteria for me, I hear all the time that Qmail isn't free software.

        According to RMS, free software must have "The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits." DJB doesn't give that freedom, and that is why Qmail isn't considered "free software".

        Personally, I still use tinydns, despite the fact that it is not free software, but I wish there was a comparible alternative to bind which was free software.

      • He probbly doesn't see the need to gor after Bernstein. Qmail is written pretty poorly. If you look through the code you'll find an amazing number of poor choices that adversely affect performance. Free, poor quality software is useless to the movement.


        On the other hand, now that I think of it, if qmail were under GNu anyone could go in and fix those problems for redistribution. I must admit though, I've never read the license for qmail, so I don't know what rights it provides.

      • On the other hand, I can see him disapproving of efforts like Wine, which have the potential of turning systems that already are 100% Free into less-than-100% Free. "Hey, MS Office runs in Linux now? Let's stop using KOffice!"

        I once thought this very thing, then I saw him speak in January at ArsDigita University [aduni.org], and I asked him about this very thing. His answer, iirc and may paraphrase, was that projects that bridge proprietary and free operating systems and proprietary software are very important, and that GNU at first required and was developed with proprietary unices- but that as these requirements fall away (and we must make progress in making them fall away), they become unnecessary. But he approves of the WINE project specifically. Personally I think if there's a distinction to be made, it's that we should focus on making non-free apps run on free os's more than we should focus on making free apps run on non-free os's (and in non-free languages [java.com]), but that's just my opinion.

        Bryguy
  • No! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 26, 2001 @10:14AM (#2613272)
    It is not required to divorce free software from non free software. One of the main strengths that open source has is its portability. Stallman needs to recognize this and embrace it. Take away my right to run software where and how I see fit and it is no longer FREE. Stallman is extremely hypocritical in this respect. I can understand his goal of creating a completely free system that is accessible to users, but this freedom he talks about must be applied, even when he doesn't like it.

    EX. I may not like Microsoft bashing Linux, but I will defend their right to do so.

    Now, that is somewhat of a contrived example of free speech at work, but, it is vital to defend all aspects of freedom. If you take away one person's freedom (the freedom to run Gnome with proprietary software) then what good is the rest of the freedom that is associated with Gnome? How long until other freedoms are taken away in the interest of "the greater good"?
    • Re:No! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Trepidity (597)
      I think Stallman does recognize this, as evidenced by the nearly ubiquitous Win32 ports of GNU software (see here [gnusoftware.com] for a list).
    • Re:No! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by the_2nd_coming (444906) on Monday November 26, 2001 @10:33AM (#2613392) Homepage
      It is not required to divorce free software from non free software. One of the main strengths that open source has is its portability. Stallman needs to recognize this and embrace it. Take away my right to run software where and how I see fit and it is no longer FREE. Stallman is extremely hypocritical in this respect.

      Hypocritical os the wrong term. Stallman does not advocate free software then turn around and sell proprietary software. However, his idiology is cotradictory to his goal. he says that he wants freedom for software, however, in his thinking freedom means that everyone must use his modle. that is a contradiction not hypocracy.
      • by sydb (176695)
        However, his idiology is cotradictory to his goal. he says that he wants freedom for software, however, in his thinking freedom means that everyone must use his modle. that is a contradiction not hypocracy.

        You fail to see that his model is freedom. There is no contradiction. Understand this.

        His model ensures the freedom of the recipients of sofrware, defending against an artificial restriction on freedom created by copyright law.

        Also, your typing
        • There will always be people willing to sell their "rights" away. So in that sense, "forcing" people to retain theirs rights could be considered less freedom ("empowerment of users") than just letting them give them up in exchange for something. Bah. The semantics are awful.
          • by sydb (176695)
            IANAL. Without copyright law, would people 'selling their rights away' amount to contract law?

            Any lawyers?
    • Re:No! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Phillip2 (203612) on Monday November 26, 2001 @11:37AM (#2613736)
      "Stallman needs to recognize this and embrace it"

      He does. I am sure that he is quite happy for instance to be directly involved in porting Emacs to run under NT. And likewise for other projects that he doesn't directly work on.

      The point that he is making is that the purpose of free software is not to have as many people use it as possible, but to help develop the idea that software should be free. This is his aim, which you may or may not agree with, but is something that he stuck to clearly thoughout the years.

      GNOME is not important to him per se. Free software is important. Seems like an admirable position to me.

      Phil
    • Re:No! (Score:2, Informative)

      by trcooper (18794)
      Stallman believes software should be free -- as in speech -- as in Taliban ruled Afghanistan.

      RMS preaches percieved freedom of software not actual free software. I write software for several reasons, because I'm paid, because I'm curious, because there's a need, because I'm generous, because I can. When I release this software to the public I choose to do so because I feel it's right to do. I don't do it to promote a free software agenda, I do it to give people access to what I have done, do with it as you want, change it, correct it, rearrange it, buy it, sell it. That's free software. If I say you can use it, you can.

      RMS attatches conditions, and IMNSHO those conditions severely limit the freedom that we associate with free software. Most commercial software you cannot give away, GNU software you cannot truely sell. From most people's points of view GNU software looks like the better deal, but when you really look at it, GNU software while free as in beer, is not free as in speech. Both have licenses that restrict your use of the software in ways that may not be acceptable to you.
    • by jmccay (70985)
      I agree with you. I feel Stallman's problem lies in the fact that he is focused on the end goal. He lost track of the pathway that leads to that goal. Like him, I like the ability to look at, and modify if desired, the way a program, or group of programs, work. I also realize not everyone will agree with me, or see all the benefits of such an approach. As such, I think that there will need to be a middle ground for a while where free software co-exhists with it not-so-free counterpart. I see an entire system using free software as a goal with many steps leading to it. I think we need to focus on the small battles while keeping our minds o the final goal. I mean really, who ever heard of winning a war without first accomplishing smaller steps?
    • Absolute Freedom? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Dr. Evil (3501)

      One could say that to support freedom, they must support the freedom to oppress. Then I guess it could be said that the government is free to outlaw this, and people are free to rebel against the government, but the government is free to lock them up, just as these people are free to run.

      Wait a minute... we are 'free.' We are restricted only by limit of power we have in society.

      I suppose what we really need is not absolute freedom, but we need to impose our free will on the development of software such that the person who consumes the software faces as little hindrance as possible to the empowerment which software brings them.

      Whereas Microsoft et al. is imposing their will on the development of software such that the person who comsumes the software is minimally satisfied while driving maximum profits.

      At the same time, the government imposes its will on corporate citizen Microsoft such that their power in society is bolstered. They must balance the power they gain from Microsoft, against the power of Microsoft to bring them more power.

      Power is not directly in the form of money. But money can buy power. For Microsoft, thousands of people around the world depend on them to put food on their table. Which the government sees it in its best interest to not exercise its freedom to impede them... today. But the government can control software, it can control these tools of communication.

      Free software may put food on some people's tables, but no amount of government control over corporations can influence its development.

      If the software is free, and the people are free, the tools to communicate will be free.

      People will have the choice whether or not to put commercial software on their machines.

      The government will still be free to oppose the freedom of citizens, but they have one less covert way to do it.

  • Well (Score:3, Insightful)

    by beefstu01 (520880) on Monday November 26, 2001 @10:14AM (#2613275)
    A little healthy competition is good. People have to eat, you know, and proprietary software, if kept in a decent price range, can actually be complimentary to free software. Darwin, for example, could actually give back to the BSD community. I think the only problem w/ Linux is that here arent enough programs, because Linux geeks expect everything for free. If we start to show that you can sell things for linux, then more stuff will be developed, and BAM!, there you go.
    • Re:Well (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sydb (176695)
      BAM!, there you go.

      There you go with what?

      Lot's of proprietary applications for our nice Free system?

      Why exactly do you use Free Software beefstu01? Do you have a reason? If you don't have a reason, besides it idling away your time pleasantly, then why bother submitting posts to a discussion? If you don't have a philosophy, then what exactly do you have to say?

      It's not all about Market Share because it is not a Business.
  • Small victories... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by rekoil (168689)
    I have to agree that Stallman is being a bit shortsighted - just because the _entire_ system isn't free doesn't mean that the FSF's mission is a failure. The simple fact that there's a demand for open source software on a proprietary OS should mean something right there...

    In other words, don't discount the small victories just because they're small. Keep going for the gold, but accept the bronze graciously.
    • by NetSettler (460623) <kent-slashdot@nhplace.com> on Monday November 26, 2001 @10:30AM (#2613379) Homepage Journal
      I haven't talked to Stallman personally in 6 or 7 years, but unless he's changed his tune of late, his goal is not to change the world, so there is no notion of "small victories" for him.

      I think his goal is (and I think this because my recollection is that he's told me, not because of some analysis I've done) to make the world work for him personally in the way he wants. I've never heard him say he really wants to change the world for its own sake. On that point, he's said the world is full of people he doesn't really necessarily like and has no interest in helping. So doing things "for the world" doesn't seem to matter to him.

      People attribute all kinds of ethics and high moral principles to him, but I've never heard him say this was his motive. From all I can tell, and all I've ever heard him say, he's just single-mindedly selfish in a way that happens to have some positive community benefit. So people attribute all kinds of other attributes to him to explain the outcome.

      If I'm right about this, it should help you see why things that only partly address an issue don't really make him happy. He wants things to work for him today, not for people generally some day. And so a partial solution is not a solution.

      I'm 50-50 on the whole free software thing. I think it's got some pluses, but it also has some minuses. And definitely one of the minuses is having Richard at the helm. Because when I want to discuss social policy, I want to discuss it with someone who understands that compromise is not always evil, that partial solutions can sometimes be better than no solutions, and that there are ways of doing good for the world that don't fit into the narrow definition of free software. I get none of this from Richard.

      I think it leads to confusion when the community looks to him for leadership, becuase I don't think he is offering what some see him as offering, and so it never comes out looking like what they expect. Maybe this continued sense of "unexpectedness" makes him look "mysterious", and maybe that's why people have such a continued interest, never being able to predict him because the model they have for him is never aligned with the reality of him. Just guessing.

      • I'm 50-50 on the whole free software thing. I think it's got some pluses, but it also has some minuses. And definitely one of the minuses is having Richard at the helm. Because when I want to discuss social policy, I want to discuss it with someone who understands that compromise is not always evil, that partial solutions can sometimes be better than no solutions, and that there are ways of doing good for the world that don't fit into the narrow definition of free software. I get none of this from Richard.


        A very smart friend of mine once sat next to RMS at a dinner. He asked a few questions and all he could get was pontificating. He tried for about an hour to explain the fine points of an argument and RMS clammed up as a shell and carried on screaming. It wasn't that RMS saw the points and then still disagreed. He simply could not be bothered to listen to a mere mortal.

        If you want your side to win, choose your leader wisely. The wrong leader and a foolish move later and suddenly your entire, hard-built organization collapses in less than two months, if you know who I'm talking about.

        If I were Microsoft I would give money to keep RMS around. As long as he's there, OS will never trully succeed.

        It took Miguel a few years to realize this, thus the GNOME foundation, and the purported statement of regret about GNOME being part of GNU.

      • When I have seen him speak, he has bootstrapped his entire presentation from the simple principle that one should not be restricted from helping one's neighbor. Here [aduni.org] is an audio recording (in ogg vorbbis format) of a speech he gave last January at ArsDigita University.

        You seem to want to make him seem selfish. Why not listen to what Stallman himself has to say before drawing any conclusions?
  • Pure Bigotry... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MosesJones (55544) on Monday November 26, 2001 @10:18AM (#2613301) Homepage

    Might sound a tad tough but it is just pure bigotry. His definition of "pure" and his insistance that his way is right is down-right insulting. For me the whole point of Open Source is that I can do what I want with it, thats why I like the BSD license. Which basically trusts me to be a nice person and put stuff back, but also says "hell if you want to wrap it with summat else fine".

    Open Source is about freedom of choice, if I choose to use proprietary stuff then so be it, that is my choice.

    Anyone who mutters on about purity and ethos like this has me worried, I don't care how people use the Open Source stuff I've written, hell its nice that they have used it.

    Freedom isn't about purity its about flexibility and choice.
  • Isn't there a version of the Mac OS X kernel that can be downloaded for free? I know all about the whole "but Apple is just taking without giving back to the community" deal, and I'm not about to argue that fact now. But what about the users who use it, along with Xfree and Gnome? I know that there are people who want to have rootless X along with the Mac OS Finder in order to use Gimp, or whatever. While some of them aren't actually replacing their systems completely with free software, they have to start somewhere, right? For most professionals with some pretty demanding needs, Photoshop is still the only way to go. But there are also those who either buy, or pirate Photoshop, to be used in simple taks that can be easily accomplished with Gimp. In a sense, that is slowly displacing the proprietary software, isn't it?
  • by dustpuppy (5260) on Monday November 26, 2001 @10:20AM (#2613321) Homepage
    It seems to me that Stallman contradicts himself:

    If some day GNOME, GCC, GNU Emacs, and all of GNU are obsolete and forgotten, but computer users generally are free to share and change the software they use, these programs will have done their job well.

    This is all well and good.

    If, on the other hand, GNOME and the rest of the GNU system are widely used, but mainly in combination with proprietary software, they will have succeeded only part-way, and a big task will remain ahead of us.

    What happened to choosing the best software that does the task that I require it to do? If the goal is for users to be 'free to share and change the software they use', then that should also include the freedom to mix and match software (be it proprietry or open source) to meet their requirements.

    What Stallman is trying to do is ram his ideology (good aspects notwithstanding) down everyones throat in much the same way that Microsoft tries to ram their ideology down our throats.

    Ultimately, what is best for the users is what the users want. And generally if you provide what the users want, you won't need to force them to do what you want them to do. So Stallman, the fact that you feel you need to physically intervene to stop 'Gnome' going off in the wrong direction, is actually the first sign that you are heading down the wrong path.
    • What Stallman is trying to do is ram his ideology (good aspects notwithstanding) down everyones (sic) throat in much the same way that Microsoft tries to ram their ideology down our throats.

      YAWN. How many times have we had to read this babble on Slashdot? It's getting pretty tiring. Who the $#@! moderates this up?

      OK, one more time. Your statement is equivalent to the following: "What Gandhi was trying to do is ram his ideology (good aspects notwithstanding) down everyone's throat in much the same way that Saddam Hussain tries to ram his ideology down our throats."

      If someone is using government power to bleed people dry that is really in no way comparable to someone who is trying to find ways to give people as much freedom as possible within an oppressive system.

      Stop this nonsense now. Show the man some respect, he deserves it.

    • What Stallman is trying to do is ram his ideology (good aspects notwithstanding) down everyones throat in much the same way that Microsoft tries to ram their ideology down our throats.

      Ultimately, what is best for the users is what the users want. And generally if you provide what the users want, you won't need to force them to do what you want them to do.

      I don't think this is necessarily true. Let's use the pharmaceutical (sp?) world as an example. In that case, it is certainly not the case that what the customers want is what's best for them.

      RMS is saying, I think, that the software producing world should have the same responsibility to the public as the pharmaceutical world has. Computers are becoming more and more a critical piece of our infrastructure, and as such, we as a society should demand that our software producers are making software the complies with all of our better interests. RMS is saying that the only way to do that is to hold the software industry to the openness that the pharmaceutical industry is held. Before a drug can be sold to the public it must undergo incredible public scrutiny for the impacts it has on public health. Basically, this is scientific peer review. RMS would say that the same should be true for software and its impact on the overall well being of our critical infrastructure.

      Do I agree with this? Dunno, but it can't be easily dismissed. Code Red, ILOVEYOU, the Morris worm, et al, are prime examples of how software can cause actual damage, and these are just the tip of the iceberg. They didn't really cause any direct damage. Had the authors of these worms been bent on destruction, the impact could have been tremendously bad.

      I'd love to see the industry come up with a solution to this on its own, but so far our solution includes producing Microsoft. I don't see them volunteering to undergo the kind of scrutiny that Merck and Glaxo have to take on.

      • RMS may well agree with your points, but ultimately what he is saying is, "What use is a printer without a driver that works properly?"

        Because the only way he could fix it would be to have the source.

        Stallman's freedoms are actually the ultimate pragmatisms - the freedom to get things done when others no longer want to do it, the freedom to take the fruits of someone elses labour and build upon it, while retaining those freedoms for everyone else.
  • by sl956 (200477) on Monday November 26, 2001 @10:20AM (#2613323)
    I had a dinner with RMS last week in Paris. When I asked him that very question (why he was running for Gnome Board of Directors), he said that the first reason was to help improving the coperation with the KDE development team. He spoke of the duplicate development effort in the desktop area and he even made a parallel with the gnu-emacs vs x-emacs debate (just a couple days after he took the lead back in gnu-emacs!!!).

    I cannot understand why KDE is not even cited in this response. Is this only electoral bulls**t ?
    • I don't speak as KDE representitive (David Faure, Kurt Granoth and others can), but if I recall correctly, RMS did "insult" them with his "forgivness" back in the days where there were some problem with QT license & KDE license.

      A good co-operation between GNOME & KDE is more then welcome (look at freedesktop.org) but RMS pushing for this? I'll belive it when I see it.
  • There is no clause in the GPL that prohibits using GPL software with comercial or any other non-GPL software. If it RMS though a divorce from comercial software was required, it would be in the GPL. RMS can sit on it and rotate if he doesn't like me writing GPL software for Windows.
  • Stallman (Score:2, Troll)

    by supernaut (35513)
    You know, sometimes he remains calm enough to actually make rational and well thought out choices.

    But, OTOH, he has shown himself in the past to be a purveyor of utterly ignorant dogma, almost on the level of religious zeal, that, as such, I dont consider him a leader of anything. He does not stand for me. And, to be honest, I dont think he stands for anyone.

    He stands for the unrealistic little bubble world he has created in his own mind.

    Yes, I like Free Software. Yes, I like Open Software. But, I am not about to embrace a surrealistic, and wholly unrealistic and non reality based approach.

    OS/FS has its issues. But, if you ask me, there will be bumps in the road with any revolution.

    The real question is, can we find a happy medium, across the whole map. I think we can. But, I dont think Stallman is our Jesus. I think, while he is an intelligent man, he also has the propensity to come off as a flaming idiot.

    Which is why I really dont understand why OSDN gives him so much press. Yes, he has done his part. But, it really ticks me off how you think we all hang off his every word. I dont, and I am willing to bet only a very tiny percentage do.
    • But, OTOH, he has shown himself in the past to be a purveyor of utterly ignorant dogma, almost on the level of religious zeal, that, as such, I dont consider him a leader of anything. He does not stand for me. And, to be honest, I dont think he stands for anyone. He stands for the unrealistic little bubble world he has created in his own mind.
      I don't disagree, but the problem is that these statements describe just about anyone who was the catalyst for meaningful change in human society and/or commerce. Martin Luther, Larry Ellison, you name it. Change requires uncompromising, bull-headed obstinancy.

      Making change palatable to the average Joe, though, is another thing...

      sPh

    • But, OTOH, he has shown himself in the past to be a purveyor of utterly ignorant dogma, almost on the level of religious zeal, that, as such, I dont consider him a leader of anything.
      Can you give an example? I feel like a lot of people here are putting words into RMS's mouth -- but you don't need to do this, because this is the internet and you can link directly to most of what RMS has written. So exactly what utterly ignorant dogma are you speaking of?
  • While I agree with most of what Stallman has to say, he has a tendency to be confrontational and to come off as belligerent and antagonistic. This tends to make people uncomfortable. I personally think it would be bad for Gnome if he became a board member, but I'm not a voter. I don't question his commitment or his ability, but rather his approach.
  • If he were a realist, he'd realize that spreading free software in as many ways as possible is a good thing. If he doesn't want free software running on commercial systems then he's just ensuring the continued viability of commercial software, not that I see that as a bad thing, being a professional programmer!
  • If you say "GNOME shouldn't be used and/or worked with proprietary", then aren't you condeming GNOME as proprietary as well? The only way to break the proprietary mix is to make everything "work together"... this would mean GNOME working on MacOS... hey, In fact, I'd love to run GNOME in place of explorer.exe in WinXP. This would be great. If you're going to be narrow minded about the course of GNOME and other open source projects working *together*, then maybe we should start calling you Billy too.
  • Tough Medicine (Score:5, Insightful)

    by abde (136025) <`apoonawa-blog' `at' `yahoo.com'> on Monday November 26, 2001 @10:26AM (#2613351) Homepage
    Many people disagree with RMS. Many people hate him, many people flame him, many people have honest and sincere disagreements with him, many people have sterotypical understanding of who he is and many have an understanding of who he is based on extensive personal contact.

    In all of this, RMS has been a constant - he promotes Free Software.

    is presence on teh GNOME board would be a case of Tough Medicine. Without an avowed extremist to act as a "conscience" of sorts, it is easy to imagine that GNOME might be tempted to compromise a little here and a little there. As long as you have RMS standing in the corner, reminding everyone (obstinately, ruthlessly, pick your adjective) exactly when we are moving towards the many slippery slopes that can be stumbled across, the concept of Free Software will benefit.

    IMHO, RMS deserves a place on that board solely because of his constancy and vision. I personally may disagree with any number of his ideals or issues, but IMHO you need the full spectrum to ensure that the integrity of the project is maintained.

    Only be listening to the extremes can you triangulate the middle ground.
    • Re:Tough Medicine (Score:4, Insightful)

      by fredbsd (311595) on Monday November 26, 2001 @10:39AM (#2613420)
      Interesting take on keeping the board on their toes.

      However, most companies don't succeed with this type of leadership. If Gnome is to be successcul, they will need a board of like minded, energetic people to lead them. Do you think there was anyone on Microsquish's board who said "hey, I think we are doing the wrong thing here?".

      If the goal of Gnome is to simply encourage 'free' software, then RMS is a good choice. But if they want to be successful as a product, then RMS would simply cause to much dissention to be effective.

      Personally, as a businessman, I would never, ever have RMS on a board. He is quite good at pontificating his views, but he is absolutely horrible at seeing other sides of arguments. It's his way or the highway. Can you imagine the board meetings? He would drive everyone else crazy.

      My biggest complaint is with Mr. Stallman is the hypocrisy in his definition of 'free'. Freedom = Choice. Mr. Stallman thinks freedom = his way.

      But, I could be wrong.
      • Re:Tough Medicine (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ethereal (13958) on Monday November 26, 2001 @11:25AM (#2613670) Journal
        If Gnome is to be successcul, they will need a board of like minded, energetic people to lead them. Do you think there was anyone on Microsquish's board who said "hey, I think we are doing the wrong thing here?".

        If there was any justice in the world (or in the U.S. government) then Microsoft would right now be wishing that they'd had such a conscience. Most of the time, keeping a business focused on ethics (or at least on staying within the law) is a good business practice, not a mistake. It saves you money and time in the long run. Microsoft just happens to have been a giant exception to this so far.

        • by kaisyain (15013) on Monday November 26, 2001 @12:27PM (#2614070)
          Microsoft just happens to have been a giant exception to this so far.

          Sony, Merck, General Motors, Major League Baseball, Coca-Cola, Disney, Nike, Wal-Mart, Exxon, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Monsanto, McDonald's, Nestle, Allstate, Macy's, Bloomingdales, Levi Strauss, Abercrombie & Fitch, British American Tobacco, Doubleclick, Ford, Glaxo Wellcome, Tyson Foods, Titan International, The Gap.

          I'm sure if you really cared you could add more names to the list once you remove your anti-Microsoft blinders.
      • Re:Tough Medicine (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Ian Bicking (980) <ianb&colorstudy,com> on Monday November 26, 2001 @12:52PM (#2614198) Homepage
        Personally, as a businessman, I would never, ever have RMS on a board. He is quite good at pontificating his views, but he is absolutely horrible at seeing other sides of arguments. It's his way or the highway. Can you imagine the board meetings? He would drive everyone else crazy.
        As a businessman, what perspective do you have on Gnome anyway? Gnome isn't a business, its board is not the board of a business, large parts of the work are done on a non-commercial basis. There are many, many people who have contributed to Gnome without expectation of monetary reward. To businesses these people are just dopes -- and yet they are the only reason Free Software has succeded, they are the ones who have actually given for the cause. Businesses just make deals. One day they help you, the next day they change their mind, or maybe just go bankrupt.

        As a businessman, I think you can't appreciate what GNU is about, what Gnome can be, and what is important for the project. There will always be arguments and negotiations -- RMS will argue about important things, like freedom, while the businesses will be more apt to argue about territory.

  • Maybe I'm just on crack, but 2 weeks ago I ditched the Gnome desktop. I've always run Enlightenment as my window manager, and for a very long time now have run Gkrellm. So I looked at things and said, what am I running all this extra stuff for? Enlightenment has menus for apps, gkrellms holds any and all applet style things I need, and buttons for frequently used apps. Don't get me wrong, I love Gnome/GTK. All the apps I use use the Gnome and GTK libs, but there was no real reason to use the desktop environment. Plus my memory usage dropped about 20MB. Maybe this is off topic, but do we really need a desktop "environment"? I don't.
  • Stallman's honesty (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdotNO@SPAMhackish.org> on Monday November 26, 2001 @10:27AM (#2613361)
    Say what you will about his goals, but at least he's perfectly honest and up-front about them (and everything else), even going so far as to admit that he hasn't been following the GNOME development.
  • by brlewis (214632) on Monday November 26, 2001 @10:27AM (#2613363) Homepage
    He says that GNOME will have only part-way met its goals if it is used mainly in conjunction with proprietary software. The mere existence of projects that put GNOME in a proprietary environment does not constitute failure according to what RMS said.
  • by blayd (3655) on Monday November 26, 2001 @10:31AM (#2613380) Homepage

    Using free software with a non-free operating system should be viewed as a win, not a loss. More people using free software is a good thing. You start them off slow with a couple of nice applications. Then the user starts looking for free alternatives first before buying something proprietary. From there it's a short hop to running a free system.

    For example, I used to be an OS/2 user. There is a ton of free software out there that has been ported to the OS/2 platform. I started out with GCC and some of the GNU tools. Pretty soon I was using free software for about 95% of my computing needs. One day I decided that since I was primarily using free software, why not move to a free system. That was 5 years ago. Today I run free systems exclusively at home, and I am in the process of getting the same at work. The only non-free software that I own are my Linux and console games. I don't dual boot or use wine or some other emulator. Maybe some day I will be able to dump non-free software altogether.

    I realize that my use of non-free software, even just for entertaintment purposes, would get me blacklisted by Stallman and his fanatics. It is this my-way-or-the-highway, no compromise attitude that turns me off to Stallman and the FSF. In my opinion, this makes him more of a hindrance than a help to the free software movement.

    • Here's what Stallman said:
      If some day GNOME, GCC, GNU Emacs, and all of GNU are obsolete and forgotten, but computer users generally are free to share and change the software they use, these programs will have done their job well. If, on the other hand, GNOME and the rest of the GNU system are widely used, but mainly in combination with proprietary software, they will have succeeded only part-way, and a big task will remain ahead of us.
      As implied, their goal is that your whole computing experience is based only on "free" software. This is crazy. Computing can grow only if you have both commercial and "free" software. Remove one of the two and you have something like technology without science, or science without technology. We have to be realistic.

      I almost always mix "free" and non-free software without rebooting, and I'm OK with that. At least I have the freedom of writing GPL, Shareware or commercial software if I want to. That's what I don't like about Linux: you feel "forced" to write only "free" software...

      - Benad

    • Non-Free Software (Score:2, Insightful)

      by hotsauce (514237)

      The only non-free software that I own are my Linux and console games... Maybe some day I will be able to dump non-free software altogether.

      If you count consoles, you must also count washing machines, home security systems, and your automobile. Software has become as ubiqitous as screws. And in appliances, it is almost all non-Free.

      So I think more than just creating another Free copy of a non-Free package, the ideal should be to inform people's understanding of the issue. Show managers the advantages of Free software. Encourage thought on new definitions of ownership.

  • by avdi (66548) on Monday November 26, 2001 @10:31AM (#2613381) Homepage

    I think this response says a lot about RMS's personal character. Some salient quotes:


    In our community I often encounter personal insults, sometimes simply reflecting personal enmity, sometimes used as a tactic. You know what I mean. Could you face such hostility for years and respond as dispassionately as this?

    and:

    People have given me have a reputation for being uncompromising.

    and especially:

    By nature, I am not diplomatic at all.

    Whatever people say about his being "out of touch", I think this shows that he is well aware of the criticisms levelled at him. He is also admirably aware of his own stubborn nature, and of the ideals he stands for. This guy knows what he's fighting for, knows his personal limits, and has no illusions about how he comes across to others.

    • Just because he admits his problems and limitations doesn't make him right. I would say until RMS can listen to what people have to say instead of philosophize about it things won't get any better for GNU.


      There are always 2 sides to every story, and just because he admits his arrogrance doesn't me he has the right to ignore the other "story".


      He has to be the most un-interesting person to have on a board of directors, while a brilliant person, i couldn't imagine him having anything but a philispohical word on how things SHOULD be when in all reality someone just needs to give direction on HOW THINGS ALREADY ARE.


      And that includes software that makes money, manages money, manages business, manages computers, enables people to work effeciently and effortlessly.


      And if that costs a few bucks or ends up being proprietary everyone wins. Freedom is the choice of software, not the limitations of it. I don't want to be limited to only running free software and microsoft doesn't limit me to only running Commercial software.


      Let freedom speak for itself and let the people chose what they want.

  • He gives an interesting definition of success. He says that if, years down the road, GNOME is widely used, but is used in conjunction with proprietary tools, then it will have only been partly successful. If, on the other hand, it is obselete and forgotten, but users largely are using free software then it will have been successful.

    I must admit this is a clever way of looking at it. However, how would he compare these two worlds:

    A) propreitary software rules, but it is well within the budget of the average peasant. Hardware is cheap and powerful.

    B) free software rules, but hardware is expensive and not as powerful as A.

    I'm guessing Stallman would rather live in B than A, which is where he looses his sanity.

    The whole point, or bottom line, of freedom is that it works. Free soceities are rich, effective soceities. Libertarians sometimes forget this, thinking that freedom is the bottom line. It isn't, material welfare is.

    The same goes for software. Free software is better than propreitary software (as we know those terms today) because it allows more people to partake of greater computing power.

    To the extent that propreitary software mutates so as to serve this purpose as well as or better than free software, it looses its "badness" as we should embrace it.

    I can't imagine what such a mutation might be, mind you, and until I see such a thing, free software is that way to go.

    A fanatic is one who, forgetting his purpose, redoubles his effort.
  • by swb (14022) on Monday November 26, 2001 @10:33AM (#2613389)
    Really. If you have meet a sociopolitical standard to use free software, how free is it?
  • Stallman is right (Score:5, Interesting)

    by deno (814) on Monday November 26, 2001 @10:34AM (#2613399) Homepage
    GNU != freeware.

    The idea behind GNU software isn't "let's do something to help producers of propriatery software". Just on the contrary: the idea is: "let's do something AGAINST propriatery software".

    Those who disagree are free to use software which is "freeware", or licenced under one of BSD licences, but the point of GNU licence has always been very clear: Even in the case where licence itself allows some kind of mixed propriatery and GNU-licenced software, this is clearly an "unwanted artefact" by whoever choose to put his/hers software under GNU licence, and one should not expect to be greated as a hero if doing so.

    The fact that "oh so many people want to do it" is completely irrelevant, because these "oh-so-many-people" haven't written the programs in question, and thus have nothing to say about the way these should be used apart from kindly asking the author(s). Let me state this once more:

    GNU != freeware
    • My idea of Free Software is to give something to other people, should I so choose, safe in the knowledge that they can't (legally) bury it in their code and make a profit out of it. I don't care whether it makes other software Free, and I'm not stopping other people writing what they like and selling it for money. My motive is to make sure that what I give, no-one else can take away.
  • by ewe2 (47163)

    If you look at it the Microsoft way, then free software is only there to provide communities that you can sell to, providing it doesn't get in your way.

    If you look at it the FSF way, commercial software is only a hindrance to the march of progress.

    The truth is in between: freely-available and commercial software have lived side by side for years, and however Bill and Richard want to cancel each other out, its not going to change any time soon. Whether its GNOME or KDE on any proprietory OS isn't the point, its that users are getting something useful.

    We currently have almost a symbiotic relationship that is producing great results, and excluding one from the other isn't realistic, much less productive.

  • Good read! (Score:2, Insightful)

    AHHAHAHAHAHAAHAHHAHAHAHAHA!!! Ooh! ouch Oooohhhh... <sniff>...ooh my sides...

    Among other things question 9 stands out:

    Gnome: Will you represent the interests of GNOME and the GNOME Foundation over all other personal or corporate interests you may represent?

    Stallman: All personal and corporate interests, certainly. But there are two higher interests that rightfully apply to GNOME: the GNU system, and free software.

    Translation: No. I will use the BOD position to surreptitiously hijack the goals of this project and subvert them until I alone control all your projects and they are under my license. MUWHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

    Moderators, realise that if the comment was made about anyone else, it would be +1 Funny, so watch it.
  • by Craig Maloney (1104) on Monday November 26, 2001 @10:41AM (#2613436) Homepage
    How is this much different from GNU running on proprietary UNIX machines all these years? GNU wouldn't have had the visibility it does and the loyalty it does if they hadn't had Sun and HP versions of GNU tools. I think the real reason GNU is where it's at is because it's always been there to scratch the users itch. What's so wrong about having GNOME or other GNU tools there to scratch OSX users itches? I think it's a big win for GNU that people are ready to accept these tools on OSX.

    I think this is more of a purity issue than a political issue. Yes, in a perfect world users would prefer to run GNU tools on GNU operating systems and pass around GNU blessed formatted documents. We're closer to that goal if people become more familiar with the GNU tools, and not a moment before. I can't think how GNOME or other tools running on OSX hurts the end goal.

    • It is not RMS's goal to prohibit running GNU software with or on top of proprietary software. He simply doesn't want to provide proprietary software with free advertising. See the GNU Coding Standards [gnu.org]. I believe that explains his position fairly well.

      I'm not sure why people have a problem understanding this. Forget about RMS and GNU for a minute, and consider the point of view of any other software developer, say, Apple. Obviously, Apple wants to serve its customers as well as possible, so it wants to make software that can run on and interoperate with Microsoft systems. At the same time, Apple certainly does not want to suggest to users that they ought to rush out and buy the latest version of Windows XP. Like any other software developer, RMS wants to try to promote his own systems as much as possible, while providing compatibility as a convenience to its users. (Of course, that is probably where the similarities between RMS and proprietary software developers end ...)

  • After reading Stallman's responses to the poll, my impression of him has not changed.

    First of all, he should be commended for having the guts to go out and make the statements he does. Look at his responses - he's basically telling the GNOME Board "Look, you can get as enthusiastic as you want about GNOME, but it's an integral part of GNU software, and don't you forget it." Whether right or wrong, you have to believe strongly in something to say that to their [virtual] faces.


    The problem is, Stallman's viewpoint only serves to support the stereotype of the free software movement: "A bunch of opinionated geeks, who have all these high and mighty principles, but won't actually help Joe User learn how to use this stuff, because they don't consider him worthy."


    If you wish to obey both the letter and spirit of the "laws" of the free software community, then yes, Stallman's view that free is free, and proprietary is proprietary, and never the twain shall meet, is right on target. However, it's impossible to do that in the real world. In today's society of capitalism and instant gratificaton, you need to offer people an incentive to use your software. Simply appealing to their ideals isn't going to be that successful.


    Here's an example: Imagine Joe User is given a Windows PC. Let's pretend that Windows PC runs the GNOME desktop, but still runs Windows as the OS. Once Joe User figures it out, he's pretty happy with it. In a year or so, Microsoft wants to charge him some more money for his license. His friend says "Hey, you don't need to do that. Try installing Linux." Joe User sets it up, and when it boots up, he sees the familiar GNOME desktop. Joe User is a happy user, and sticks with Linux, and another ones bites the dust as far as MS is concerned. This is a good thing, right?


    Now imagine another scenario: GNOME can't be used with any proprietary software. It doesn't exist for for Windows. Joe User's friend comes along, and installs Linux for him to alleviate Microsoft's licensing. Joe User is very confused. "WTF is this bear claw doing where the Start menu should be?" he says. "Well, I see Netscape, but damned if I know how to manage my windows. I'm a busy man - I don't have time to read this documentation when I'm supposed to be working. I can't get anything done.", he laments. "Screw it," he says. "I'll just pay Microsoft the extra money."

    The difference between the two scenarios is that in the first case, the user can take his time to learn GNOME. It's not essential to get his work done. Joe User views the idea of having to learn about Windows as a done deal. To him, you can't use computers unless you can figure out Windows. Because of this, he can fall back onto Windows if GNOME is confusing. But he'll eventually master it, at his own pace. If you throw it at him, and say "You can't do squat until you figure out how to use this, he's going to be unhappy."


    There's lots of free (speech, not beer) software available for commerical OS's. I love Apache, but because of some applications I use, I can't boot into Linux 24-7. Thank goodness Apache is available for Windows, and not just because it's more secure than IIS - it's also a better product.
    Imagine if it wasn't available for anything but GNU/Linux.


    The point is, if you irreparably sever the connections between free and proprietary software, it can only serve to be detrimental to the movement. It's like opening "Joe's Fast-Food Burgers" right between a McDonald's and a Burger King, and wondering why no one is showing up to buy your food. You need to offer the average person an incentive to come to YOU instead of competitors.

    As much as we may hate it, "It runs under Windows" is a good incentive for some people. Then we can say: "Hey - why don't you try out CygWin? It looks a lot like a UN*X console, but it runs under Windows. If you get fed up with it, just click that "X" in the corner, and you can go back to what you were doing."

    Now it's up to the free software community to take it to the next step. As in, "Hey, buddy. I noticed you've got cygwin, Apache, and StarOffice on that Windows box. Want to try installing Linux? You get the exact same thing, but without paying money to Microsoft. Give it a try."


    The "free as in speech" idea will appeal to users once they're involved in the movement. The "free as in beer" is what is necessary to draw them into the movement. Stallman would do well to understand this.

    • I think Stallman would respond that you are arguing from a premise he doesn't hold. Stallman says that if GNU/GNOME, etc. become obsolete *but* still foster a community of code sharing and "freedom", then GNU/GNOME, etc. will have succeeded. Whereas you are saying these will only succeed if they start being used by the masses. I think Stallman would say "so what" about Joe Windows User, it's not worth compromising "freedom".

      Personally I think there's room for compromise, but by starting off with the presumption that the goal is to gain wider acceptence in the first place, I think you illustrate the ideological divide. Stallman would rather preserve the "purity" of Free Software than to convert users, whereas you seem to have the reversed opinion. Not making a judgment - just pointing it out.
  • by Dix (73628)
    He's a bit like the British royal family.
    They get endless flak in the press, but their reaction is a consistent non-inflamatory one-liner and a speech once or twice per year.
    Also, they have about as much power ...

    Nevertheless, somehow, they wield great influence.
    (Resting on past greatness perhaps?)
  • A lot of people (Score:3, Informative)

    by jd (1658) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <kapimi>> on Monday November 26, 2001 @10:45AM (#2613464) Homepage Journal
    condemn Richard Stallman, without bothering to make the effort to understand the perspective or the philosophy. IMHO, if there are bigots in the world, it is those who condemn that which they do not understand. However, if a guy nailed to a tree can forgive them, I guess the rest of us have no excuse not to.


    I don't pretend to understand all of RMS' ideas, but I do grasp the following concepts:

    • Boundaries are what define and distinguish freedom from chaos. They are why Free Software organizations can even exist. Nothing that exists can survive without boundaries. The important distinction with Free Software is that those boundaries are extensive, flexible and empowering.
    • Richard Stallman is NOT a "socialist" in the classic sense. Classic "socialism" is still a heirarchical model, although the heirarchy is intended to prevent extreme situations. RMS' GNU concept has no heirarchy. There is no leader. There is a "facilitator" (the FSF), but that is it.
    • Richard Stallman is not "anti-non-Free". He has said, repeatedly, that he accepts that there are certain things for which the non-Free model is the better solution. This means that he implicitly accepts that there will be links between the Free and Non-Free.
    • GNU is NOT about "Open Source". Open Source is a super-set of an amalgam of ideas, of which Free Software is but one tiny sub-set. Open Source has no clear definition, as it is an attempt to associate unrelated ideals & philosophies. At least one early Open Source advocate (Bruce Perens) has "repented" and accepted that such a strategy is too open to abuse.
    • RMS -cannot- be "extreme" in his views, any more than he can be purple in them. Rating someone's views, on some imagined continuum, is pure fantasy. No two people have exactly the same background, so no two people will have exactly the same continuum in mind. In consequence, no abstract, universal standard exists for such a comparison to be made. ALL you can do is say is how his views relate to your own. And even that is difficult, as no two people will even agree on what RMS' views even are. The only person who can say with any certainty is RMS himself.


    If a person is truly interested in freedom, then why not let RMS have the freedom to express his philosophies, without hinderence or abuse? Why claim a lust for "freedom", provided it is obtained by gagging or limiting someone else's? Is that -really- freedom? And if you would argue that you don't, then how are you differing from RMS in the first place?


    (After all, the entire GNU philosophy is based on the single tennent of: "You have the freedom to do anything, bar restricting the freedom of others". If you would claim that that is what you actually live up to, then what's you're problem?)

    • The important distinction with Free Software is that those boundaries are extensive, flexible and empowering.


      Absolute eyeroll-enducing jibberish. Sounds like it came from a Red Hat spokesman after his first day in Marketing 101.


      Richard Stallman is NOT a "socialist" in the classic sense.


      And? This argument is as tired as the whole "You label him a liberal like it's a bad thing, but lemme tell you what classic liberalism is really about!" thing. Well that's great, but words evolve, which is why we do things like preface them with the word "classic" to show that we're talking about something else. If someone doesn't use a similar word, how about assuming that they're not talking about the classic type, okay? Anyway, I don't care what term you want to use to refer to Stallman's philosphy, but I think a good summation would be: "People with lots of money and cool stuff are dicks. Let's take it from them and give it to people who don't have it, whether they've ever lifted a finger or not."


      RMS -cannot- be "extreme" in his views, any more than he can be purple in them. Rating someone's views, on some imagined continuum, is pure fantasy.


      Jesus Christ. Just like with that socialism thing, what's with this semantic mental masturbation you've got going? Or did you get this one from the professor who gave you those after-class tips about "flexible and empowering boundaries?" You're really not going to pretend to be so dense and/or narrow-minded as to not know what is meant when someone is described as "extreme," are you? And no, not the Mountain Dew type, either.


      If a person is truly interested in freedom, then why not let RMS have the freedom to express his philosophies, without hinderence or abuse? Why claim a lust for "freedom", provided it is obtained by gagging or limiting someone else's? Is that -really- freedom?


      Slamming his philosophy is surely not "gagging or limiting" what he says. There doesn't seem to be any shortage of RMS stories here at Slashdot for him to get his views out. His GPL seems to take away a lot more freedom than I've ever seen taken away from the man himself, especially where his right to speak is concerned.

  • no divorce (Score:3, Interesting)

    by aozilla (133143) on Monday November 26, 2001 @10:53AM (#2613499) Homepage

    It is simply amazing how many people want to use GNOME together with Mac OSX, and yet in Stallman's view, this would be an example of GNOME falling short of its goals

    I agree with Stallman on that point.

    Is it possible to reach such users with free software ideals, and is it necessary to divorce free software from proprietary in order to accomplish that goal?"

    Stallman knows that divorcing free software from proprietary is not always the right choice. This is why he created the LGPL.

    I think it is mandatory that free software not be divorced from proprietary in order to accomplish RMS's goals. But I'm not talking about OS X, I'm talking about Windows. OS X has very little market share, and can safely be ignored, but Gnome must work on Windows and work well, if a GNU system is to have any chance of replacing Windows. Perhaps if the Windows port is GPLed (Gnome is LGPLed) that would encourage free software even more.

    After thinking about it, maybe that is the solution with Mac OS X. Release the OS X port of Gnome under the GPL. Then the displacement of users from GNU systems to OSX will almost surely be outshadowed by the displacement of proprietary software (which possibly runs only on OSX) to GPLed software (which can possibly be easily ported to GNU systems).

  • by nomadic (141991)

    Someone starts bundling proprietary software with their open source, everyone here goes crazy.

    Richard Stallman criticizes the same practice, and everyone jumps on him.
  • His quest to destroy comercial software by creating free alternatives is admirable, but the goal is unattainable through his rigid guidelines.

    Realistically, you can't expect users to drop everything they already know and move to a completely free solution. The functionality of the application in question isn't the issue. The look and feel of the application in question isn't the issue. The issue is the simple fact that people, by nature, resist change.

    You could have an office suite that was a 100% clone of MS Office. Right down to the bugs and easter eggs. The functionality and look & feel would be exactly the same, yet people would resist using it simply because it isn't MS Office.

    Granted, not everyone holds such an aversion to change. You probably would see a slightly larger acceptance than the current Linux userbase, but all-in-all it would still be fairly insignificant. Most of the people that haven't already tried Linux will still be afraid to try it, simply because it's too much change too fast. It makes them uncomfortable.

    Now people can be cooed into change. In order to do this you need to take something dear to them, and mix it with something that is new, yet similar to something they already know. Like putting together a GUI that's similar to explorer.exe, and getting all of their Windows applications to run on Linux. Now they have all of their applications accessible to them, so their dear software is right there with them, yet they have to experience this strange new OS. "Good thing the user interface is mostly the same, or I wouldn't know what I'd do!", is what they'll think. At least at first.

    After a while, they'll get used to it. And during this transition time, they'll probably try a few of these 'new fangled open source thingies'. They'll get lost in the application (it always happens to Joe User), and they'll get scared that they'll break something, and they'll revert back to the lowest ideology that they know. Namely: click the X in the corner to quit. This will repeat a few times, and will probably take a year or so of time, but eventually they will learn to cope with the funny GNOME and KDE applications ("whatever that means"), and will begin to feel at home in their new surroundings. Hopefully they will even start to rely on some of these new found applications for their daily computing lives.

    Once they become reliant on a few pieces of OSS software, we can change the rules just a little bit more. Maybe move to a more Unix-like GUI, maybe introduce them to the command line. Utilities like cat, sed, grep, awk, and sort may not seem too useful to them at first, but they'll probably notice that copying and moving files is a hell of a lot faster in a CLI than it is in a GUI.

    But, none of this is possible without baby steps. No Joe User off the street is going to just throw away all of their data and start fresh, and they're too busy to learn a bunch of new interfaces. Remember that not everyone is a computer geek. Most of these people are barely literate enough to install applications on their own. A good number of people buy a computer from a store, and only use the software that it's bundled with. If there's a new app they want, they might buy it, so long as their 8yr old nephew says he'll install it for them.

    People in general are indeed becoming more literate, but we are over-estimating their competence. Baby steps are the key...
  • If some day GNOME, GCC, GNU Emacs, and all of GNU are obsolete and forgotten, but computer users generally are free to share and change the software they use, these programs will have done their job well. If, on the other hand, GNOME and the rest of the GNU system are widely used, but mainly in combination with proprietary software, they will have succeeded only part-way, and a big task will remain ahead of us.

    Does this paragraph indicate that RMS would support KDE, if KDE meets his definition of free software? Note: I'm not trying to start a flame war about GNOME vs. KDE. I'm just asking if RMS, in his answer to this question, would support stopping the GNOME project in favor of a more popular, more established, more whatever GUI environment for the GNU system. Maybe KDE is that system. If so, would RMS, if part of the GNOME board, work to further the goals of KDE if he felt that KDE was a better GUI for the GNU system?

    It's interesting that this discussion came up at exactly the same time that I'm browsing around looking at Pie Menus [piemenu.com]. And at one time they say that they are tightly integrated with IE and Active X, but in the next sentance they claim that they are free and unrestricted. My immediate reaction was that they can hardly be free if they're tightly integrated with something that is non-free. In other words, the use of free software obligates me to use non-free software, which obligates me to support a company I find reprehensible. Is that sort of thing extending or restricting my freedom?

    And then someone goes and posts this, and now I find myself taking the exact opposite stance. While I'd like to agree with RMS, I can't. Just because GNOME is a GNU project does not mean that GNOME must subjugate it's responsibilities to its own success in order to maintain "higher responsibilities" to the success of GNU and free software.

    That's kinda like the draft isn't it? When our country calls us to die for the furtherance of its goals. It's great if you, as a citizen, volunteer for that responsibility, but it's a whole other ball of wax when you're forcibly required to do it.

    What to think about this? What to think? Hmmm.....

    • And at one time they say that they are tightly integrated with IE and Active X, but in the next sentance they claim that they are free and unrestricted. My immediate reaction was that they can hardly be free if they're tightly integrated with something that is non-free. In other words, the use of free software obligates me to use non-free software, which obligates me to support a company I find reprehensible. Is that sort of thing extending or restricting my freedom?

      Well, I often feel the same way about most "open source" stuff. It's all written in C, which I find reprehensible. Well, not reprehensible, but too difficult for me. To use that C software, I'm obligated to learn C (to extend it anyway, which should be part of my freedom). Are they extending or restricting my freedom by only writing C code? I'd say it's restricting my ability to do useful things with it, because I now have a burden of learning something I don't want to learn.
    • Re:RMS supports KDE? (Score:2, Informative)

      by sl956 (200477)
      Does this paragraph indicate that RMS would support KDE, if KDE meets his definition of free software?
      He stated clearly last week in Paris (during the questions after his standard evangelisation conference in front of 400 attendants) that :
      1. KDE meets his definition of free software
      2. his primary reason to apply to the board is to support cooperation between GNOME and KDE
      As I wrote before [slashdot.org], I was so surprised I asked him again during the dinner after the conference. He confirmed twice.
  • Free vs. Open (Score:3, Informative)

    by DaoudaW (533025) on Monday November 26, 2001 @11:12AM (#2613600)
    This essay [gnu.org] is probably the best explanation of the philosophic difference between Free Software and Open Source Software. This difference is real and significant; RMS is not just making this up or being obstinate. Criterion 9 of the Open Source Definition [opensource.org] is the main point of contention.

    My reading of the debate is that at this point it is healthy and indicates the continued evolution and dynamism of OS/Free software. The danger is that the current popularity of the Open Source model would sideline advocates of the Free Software model and lead to a destructive schism. All voices need to be heard and understood.
  • I don't see why well written desktop software needs to be tied to a certain platform. Much of the GNU software is used on many different platforms. Is the main purpose of GCC just to have a free software compiler so that you can compile free software? Is the main purpose of EMACS really to provide an editor on GNU platforms? Do the majority of the contributors agree with these goals? It seems like the idea of GNOME's main purpose being to supply a desktop for GNU software is too narrow. I would think that the goal of GNOME is to supply the best desktop software that they can, and make it usable on as many platforms as they can reasonably support. But this is just my opinion, and other people closer to the issue will likely have more insight.
  • What about Sun.. ? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by brunes69 (86786)

    GNOME is not an independent software project; it is a part of the GNU system

    Somehow, I don't see Sun agreeing with this. Sun was one of the major backers of Gnome, and it's adoption in SOlaris was going to expose a whole new class of people to Free Software. But if GNOME exists soley for the GNU system, surely this is a bad thing? Personally, I think RMS is a bit of a fanatic, and shoul not be elected to this board.

  • On this page [gnu.org] the FSF states that "we cannot install any proprietary program on our computers except temporarily for the specific purpose of writing a free replacement for that very program".

    I guess they don't want disabled programmers working on free software for them.

    I have ulnar neropathy. My arms are pretty toasted from computer use. For the majority of my work (writing, quality assurance, and documentation) I use proprietary speech recognition software. Until there is a free replacement, I will continue to pay for and use such software.

    When Stallman refuses to work with or talk about proprietary software I hear him say that he feels my possible contributions aren't worth anything.

    As such I refuse to work on gnu projects, and put my efforts towards other open source and free projects.

    -Jeff

    • I guess they don't want disabled programmers working on free software for them.

      I have ulnar neropathy. My arms are pretty toasted from computer use.

      Does it affect your brain as well?

      If not, how is it that you were unable to read the part two paragraphs below the section you quoted?

      We don't insist that users of GNU, or contributors to GNU [emphasis mine], have to live by this rule. It is a rule we made for ourselves. But we hope you will decide to follow it too.
  • by toupsie (88295)
    If there ever was the ultimate reason to stay away from a GNU Desktop system its Stallman. His "advocacy" of the GNU/OS/Tools/Everything reminds me of a reformed drunk hosting an AA meeting. Its either sobriety or death. There is no middle ground. There is no listening to moderation. No common sense about other options. Its either HIS WAY or the highway. He evens admits he is not diplomatic in his questionnaire. Why deal with someone that sticks his fingers in his ears and screams "Nah-Nah-Nah" when you talk about your opinions. How can a group effort like GNOME benefit from that? Sure FSF has come a long way from its start with Stallman but how much further could it be today without this megalomaniac in charge? Would HURD be the defacto kernel? Would Microsoft be a just a minor player in the marketplace? Does politics and programming as a combination really make sense? I never heard about Chefs debating the freedom of speech contained in a recipe for Quiche Loraine (or is that now GNU/Quiche).

    If I were to put Stallman's writings and opinions in front of someone that was not acquainted with Open Source/Free Software movement, I think that they would find Bill Gates' opinion to be reasonable. The problem, as I see it, is the "GNU System" is more about a political goal than providing a system that I can plop down in front of my Grandmother on her fixed income that she could use without making me her full time tech support agent. My Grandmother is worried about sending e-mail not about some NAZI goose stepping through her operating system and limiting her right to source code (what the hell is she going to do with it? Needlepoint it into a sweater?).

    I really don't have a problem with Stallman's idea of Free Speech for individuals but I think he should listen to voices besides his own echoing around his skull. I frankly would rather deal with the megalomania of Steve Jobs than Richard Stallman. At least with Jobs, I get something very useful at the end and it doesn't come burdened by his extreme leftist political beliefs. The couple of bucks I have to pay for it is entirely worth it and the lack of source code, so far, has not prevented me in reaching my goals with my computer.

    If the GNOME community knows what is good for ITS future, I hope they vote NO on Stallman or GNOME will end up to be another HURD which barely anyone has HEARD about.
  • 1) Why are you running for Board of Directors?
    For the sake of closer connections between GNOME and the rest of the GNU Project.

    This is all well and good. However, consider it in light of the answer to question number 3:

    3) How familiar are you with the day-to-day happenings of GNOME? How much > do you follow and participate in the main GNOME mailing lists?
    I have not followed them before. I am starting now.

    I'm sorry, Mr. Stallman, but it does not seem to make sense to say that you want a closer connection to a project whose mailing lists you have not even been involved with. Or maybe it's just me.

    Also, the answer to the following is a bit ivory tower:

    > 9) Will you represent the interests of GNOME and the GNOME Foundation over > all other personal or corporate interests you may represent?
    All personal and corporate interests, certainly. But there are two higher interests that rightfully apply to GNOME: the GNU system, and free software.

    I'm sorry, but this doesn't compute, either. "free software" has been shown, time and time again, to be more even than a belief, but also a personal crusade; If GNOME were best served by somehow being non-free (I personally can't see a case in which this would be true, but bear with me) then you would have conflicting interests, and you've already stated that your personal interests in free software and the GNU project overall would come before GNOME. Therefore, the answer to this question must be "no".

    Supporting paragraph for my previous assertion follows:

    The GNU system does not exist just for its own success either. It has a purpose: to spread freedom and community to all computer users. So while people working on GNOME should try to make GNU successful (all else being equal), that's not the highest goal either. The highest goal is that software should be free.

    Now look, they asked you if your highest goal, at least in terms of representing GNOME, would be GNOME. You just said it wasn't, and that your highest goal is that software should be free. What gives?

    In any case, let's wrap up:

    10) Will you be willing and have the available time to take on and complete various tasks that the Board needs accomplished?
    My time is tight, but GNOME is important, so I will give it the time that it needs.

    Why even qualify this? This would have been much better without the "My time is tight" statement; Without it, it's an unequivocal "yes"; With it, it sounds more like a "maybe" to me.

    Now, before I write my closing statements, let me set the stage so you can see where I'm coming from; I've been using UNIX for a decade. I started using Linux relatively early on; I think the current kernel at the time was 1.1.47. Obviously many people pre-date me in this. I occasonally dash off a small utility in perl or something, and I formerly released them under the BSD license, but now use the MIT license (mostly since OSI considers them to be functionally identical and the MIT license is a simplest case.) I do believe in free software, of course, but what that means varies from person to person. I definitely believe in open source, even in non-free software.

    These days, I run only Windows on my desktop. For a server OS, I generally use OpenBSD. Since it's a server, I don't need a windowing system, so I am not using GNOME or in fact even using X at all. And in fact I have no real hope that I will be able to run everything I want to run on any UNIX for the next two to five years at least; I want the gaming performance delivered by windows, and I'm willing to suffer with the reliability delivered by windows to get it. While ultimately it would be nice if there were free versions of all commercial software, I don't think that getting rid of commercial software would be good for the world - With less money coming in, less money can go out to programmers, which means we will have less programmers on the job, and less quality software.

    But I DO want to preserve GNOME because I think it's the best shot at a free desktop which doesn't suck. I haven't used GNOME in a little while, but the last time I used it it was quite slick. If its evolution continues then a UNIX desktop can continue to become more of a reality, and ultimately I would like to be free of Microsoft on the desktop, as it is a mishmash of various only-partially-working proprietary systems and nightmarishly crafted APIs. So GNOME is important to me, and I don't want to see it caught up in the RMS holy war against programmers getting paid for writing code.

  • Perhaps a question that RMS and other free software advocates should ask themselves is: Why do some people choose to run non-free software?

    To be clear, let me state several things. I'm not talking about people who don't conciously make a choice. (i.e. I run Microsoft because it came with my PC.) I'm talking about people who make an informed choice to run (some) non-free software.

    I'm not against non-free software, although I prefer free software, when it offers a viable alternative. (This last sentence, strongly hinting at my answer to the first question I asked above.)

    My supposed answer to my question is: people choose non-free software when there is no free alternative, or when the free alternative is not up to par with the non-free alternative, and it is therefore *much* cheaper to use the non-free software. Imagine that. Is it possible that in certian settings, non-free could be cheaper dollar wise, than free? I said I prefer free. But some people need to take their blinders off and recognize that free software does not (yet?) provide acceptable solutions for every person for every possible problem to be solved, in every possible setting. Maybe someday it will, and I'll be glad to see it.
    • You are very right. However, Free Software will never fully replace commerical software for serveral reasons.

      The question that will lead to the answer to this is pretty simple: why do people write software?

      On answer is of course money. For most OSS and FSF types its altruism, community, or charity. However, look at what gets written: software for (mostly) hackers (and not just the *bad* hackers).

      This all great for consumer-style software. You know the type I mean - desktops, word processing, etc. This is also great for server style products - web, media, OS's, etc. These are areas that geeks often tread and also areas where a clear need is seen.

      But how about the software market for proprietary software? Each state has very specific requirements for municipal accounting software. Quickbooks or GNU Cash isn't going to cut it. On top of that, the software must do point of sale, generate tax bills and handle property assessment. It must be turnkey ready, and must be easy to use and modify (those bozo's keep changing the law, grr).

      Better yet, their are perhaps 50-100 clients per state (tops). Out of those clients, virtually none employ computer experts. These people are town clerks, and receptionists, accountants and other professionals. They aren't computer professionals, and certainly not programmers. Who is going to spend the *thousands* of hours to write this software? Who is going to adhere to the thousands of pages of documentation needed to produce software that fills the *legal requirements*? Its a full time job, and it very likely will never be done via free software/OSS principles. Why?

      Its not practical. The costs are too high - basically this type of software isn't a hobby- its a career - developing a robust finely tuned user friendly application could take five to ten years. Furthermore, the scope of developers is limited and the subject matter of the program is technical, legal, and specific.

      So RMS can spout off about his precious GNU and his beloved GPL. He can rant about the immorality of closed software and non-free software, but lets be clear. The world runs on proprietary software. And yes, strides are being made with Gnome and KDE and X-Windows, but as for the vertical market software of the world, OSS/FSF isn't even on the map yet.

What is mind? No matter. What is matter? Never mind. -- Thomas Hewitt Key, 1799-1875

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