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Android Cellphones Google Handhelds Open Source Privacy Technology

RMS: 'Is Android Really Free Software?' 433

Posted by Soulskill
from the android-is-no-braveheart dept.
An anonymous reader points out an article by Richard Stallman in The Guardian which questions whether Android should be described as 'free' or 'open.' Quoting: "Google has complied with the requirements of the GNU General Public License for Linux, but the Apache license on the rest of Android does not require source release. Google has said it will never publish the source code of Android 3.0 (aside from Linux), even though executables have been released to the public. Android 3.1 source code is also being withheld. Thus, Android 3, apart from Linux, is non-free software, pure and simple. ... Android is a major step towards an ethical, user-controlled, free-software portable phone, but there is a long way to go. Hackers are working on Replicant, but it's a big job to support a new phone model, and there remains the problem of the firmware. Even though the Android phones of today are considerably less bad than Apple or Windows smartphones, they cannot be said to respect your freedom."
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RMS: 'Is Android Really Free Software?'

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  • Marketing (Score:3, Insightful)

    by suso (153703) * on Monday September 19, 2011 @02:28PM (#37445952) Homepage Journal

    Marketing: The art of making something seem better than it really is. And sadly, most people fall for it, which is why they keep using that approach.

  • 3.x is errata. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Asten (674521) on Monday September 19, 2011 @02:30PM (#37445998)
    Isn't a developer free to license something however they want, within the constraints of the licenses of whatever is being used? If Google suddenly said they weren't ever publishing source again, I'd be pretty peeved, but they had reasonable, non-evil reasons for not releasing 3.x, and have committed to releasing Ice Cream Sandwich. I'd like to see 3.x released, but as long as it's a non-regular occurrence, it doesn't bother me any - but i'm not quite as idealistic as RDS - if that were possible.
  • Of course not (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bonch (38532) on Monday September 19, 2011 @02:32PM (#37446040)

    Of course it's not. Not only is it not free in the RMS sense of the world, withholding source [arstechnica.com] is not the openness Google always claimed it was promoting. Android exists solely to get people onto Google services for purposes of web advertising. The only reason it got so much support from techies is because it runs on Linux, and Google's PR department convinced them that it represented the usual unrealistic OSS fantasies about free ecosystems. Most users don't even care about such things. Apple is still the #1 smartphone vendor, and iOS the #1 mobile operating system counting iPads, iPhones, and iPods.

    Remember, Google's main business is a closed, proprietary product--the search engine. Web traffic is regulated by a closed product run by an advertising megacorp. They are not some benevolent cheerleader of openness. They won't even implement Do Not Track [wired.com] in Chrome because it would interfere with their ad business.

  • Re:RMS? Who cares? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bonch (38532) on Monday September 19, 2011 @02:36PM (#37446104)

    Because Google has been promoting its supposed openness for years now, so it's kind of a big deal when one of the founders of the movement calls them out.

  • by bonch (38532) on Monday September 19, 2011 @02:43PM (#37446214)

    Then Google can't keep pretending it's an "open platform."

  • Re:Marketing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmh@NoSpAM.gmail.com> on Monday September 19, 2011 @02:43PM (#37446228) Journal

    More specifically, I call it "openwashing."

    Named after "greenwashing," the act of selling something as eco-friendly when it actually isn't, openwashing is the act of selling something as open when it actually isn't. Like those "open" phones that you can't get the source code for and run locked bootloaders so you can't even jai- uh, "root" the phone.

    I'm not against open phones, I want open phones. That's why I don't want anyone to accept an openwashed substitute.

  • Re:RMS? Who cares? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by The Dawn Of Time (2115350) on Monday September 19, 2011 @02:44PM (#37446248)

    Small correction for you - The world doesn't even care that it's open.

  • by tepples (727027) <tepples&gmail,com> on Monday September 19, 2011 @02:48PM (#37446300) Homepage Journal

    WHY are they less bad? For whom?

    Because Android respects at least freedom 0 [gnu.org] with respect to user applications: "The freedom to run the program, for any purpose."

    What does this mean? Phones running Android are less bad than phones running iOS or Windows Phone 7 for people who use applications distributed as free software because Android has the "Unknown sources" checkbox.* This lets the user obtain free applications from anywhere and hire anybody to improve them without having to seek the OS maker's permission to run them.

    *Yes, even AT&T lately; citation available.

  • by drevange (2365548) on Monday September 19, 2011 @02:49PM (#37446316)
    You don't really get to submit to Android like you do other open source software programs. There is a NIH (not invented here) attitude. It is "open sauce". Add your favorite sauce on top of it after it is done, but that is truly about it,.
  • Re:Of course not (Score:3, Insightful)

    by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmh@NoSpAM.gmail.com> on Monday September 19, 2011 @02:50PM (#37446322) Journal

    I think the reason that Google isn't releasing Android 3 source is that they don't want it installed on every crappy phone and tablet coming out of China, and giving it a bad name.

    This sounds a lot like the argument Apple fanboys use for not allowing other OSes on iShinies.

  • Re:RMS? Who cares? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Monday September 19, 2011 @02:55PM (#37446402) Homepage

    The world, aside from the ranks of the rabid Stallmanites, only cares whether it's open, not whether it meets Stallman's ethical standards.

    That's only true if you define "world" to be people who want it open.

    If you want to define the "world" as every potential user of Android, the vast majority DON'T CARE if it's open. They care that it works, that's all.

    People who rigidly cling to the notion that any software which hasn't been provided in a ideologically pure enough way is a Great Evil ... well, those people are as rabid and narrow minded as any other fanatic.

    It's sad you got a Troll mod for pointing out that not everyone cares what RMS has to say. Because, an awful lot of us tuned him out years ago. Sure, he's a smart guy who has been an advocate for free software ... but his completely inflexible view that all software must live up to his notion, well, I just can't agree with him.

    To me, he's that crazy guy on the corner with a "The End is Nigh" sign. Most of the times when I hear what he has to say, I disagree with him and then tune him out.

  • Re:RMS? Who cares? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by c (8461) <beauregardcp@gmail.com> on Monday September 19, 2011 @03:00PM (#37446518)

    > so it's kind of a big deal when one of the founders of the
    > movement calls them out.

    Not really.

    RMS has called out damn near everyone with anything to do with free/open source software. I think it's almost at the point now where most projects/organizations should take it as a badge of honour when they've gotten large and important enough that RMS considers it a problem if they aren't 100% compliant with his concept of freedom.

  • Re:RMS? Who cares? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by couchslug (175151) on Monday September 19, 2011 @03:03PM (#37446582)

    Without Stallmanites sticking to their convictions, there would be little or no Open or Free software, THAT'S FUCKING WHY.

  • Re:Marketing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zerth (26112) on Monday September 19, 2011 @03:10PM (#37446730)

    Considering that many of the apps in the Google android store are ad-supported or just free instead of paid, I'd say store sales are a lousy way to measure success of the platform.

  • Re:RMS? Who cares? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Monday September 19, 2011 @03:11PM (#37446744) Homepage

    Disagreement is fine, calling people "rabid Stallmanites" is insulting and gets a troll mod from me automatically. If you seriously want to make that point you can make it a bit more politely.

    It's sometimes difficult to not think like then when you're confronted with someone who has a rigid, ideological position, whose starting point in all discussions is that they're right and you're wrong, and there is no room for any give.

    RMS and some people who agree with him are sufficiently fixed in their ideology that it's hard not to end up saying "rabid Stallmanites".

    You might as well try to convince someone their religion is wrong as try to convince RMS that not all software needs to be open. He and others are pretty inflexible on this position.

  • Re:Marketing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tsingi (870990) <graham.rick@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Monday September 19, 2011 @03:13PM (#37446774)
    Openwashing, good term.

    It is a sad day, Android is no longer open.

    RMS might seem idealistic and harsh, he isn't very diplomatic, but he is right. We know that the NSA has no back doors in a GNU/Linux platform because we have the source for everything. Do you know that about Windows?

    If Google doesn't release the source for Android 3.0, then you have to take what is in there on faith. Has it occurred to anyone to question why they are becoming secretive all of a sudden? Maybe because "do no evil" does not apply?

    I have a nexus one, it's open, hardware and software, (I suspect that there are proprietary things in there, but it's as open as it gets FTW) I won't be moving to another phone any time soon.

    RMS's version of free doesn't mean no cost, it refers to your freedom to do as you please with your software/hardware. You won't be able to do that with an Android 3+ device. FAIL.

  • Re:Marketing (Score:1, Insightful)

    by tomhudson (43916) <.barbara.hudson. ... bara-hudson.com.> on Monday September 19, 2011 @03:19PM (#37446882) Journal

    Marketing: The art of making something seem better than it really is. And sadly, most people fall for it, which is why they keep using that approach.

    ... which is what RMS has been doing all along, and continues to do. Marketing.

    The fact is that his own software fails to meet the ideals laid down on the front page of the fsf website [fsf.org]:

    1. "free from restriction"? The GPL license is full of restrictions, on copying, on redistribution, etc. That's not "free as in free speech".

    2. "free to share and copy"? ... but only within the restrictions of the GPL. That's not free as in "free speech" either.

    3. "free to learn and adapt?" While you're free to learn, you are NOT free to adapt, except within the restrictions of the GPL. Once again, that's not free as in "free speech" either.

    4. "free to work with others"? Have you seen the restrictions on linking in the GPL? Or the list of licenses that it's not compatible with? That's not free as in "free speech" either.

    Stallman is a hypocrite to be taking pokes at Google, while claiming his own license is "free as in free speech". Most licenses, by their nature, impose restrictions. Nothing wrong with that - but don't claim that yours doesn't when it does, and then be a bigger hypocrite by claiming others aren't "free".

    Maybe it's another side effect of eating too much foot cheese [youtube.com], just like the FSF pushing anti-google / anti-linux FUD last month in a lame effort to get some attention for that ugly stepchild, the GPLv3, as reported on slashdot [slashdot.org].

    I'd suggest Stallman first clean up his own act, except that his apparent disdain for the frequent use of soap and water makes that unlikely.

  • by QuantumRiff (120817) on Monday September 19, 2011 @03:20PM (#37446902)

    Of course, that same freedom does not apply to REMOVING applications. unless I root my phone, there are several applications pre-installed that I cannot remove, and nag me every few weeks to buy.. CityID, i'm looking at you, as well as my cell phone companies "Navigator" product, which is much less useful than Google Maps, which is also installed on the darn phone...

  • Re:RMS? Who cares? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Monday September 19, 2011 @03:45PM (#37447308) Homepage

    Nobody seriously dedicated to something is flexible in their dedication. All the people who got something big done were uncompromising about it.

    Yes, but unlike Martin Luther King and civil rights, I'm in favor of software not always being something which needs to be open.

    Sure, RMS believes in it ... that's fine. But not everybody agrees with him. At a certain point, his opinion becomes him telling other people what they're free to do.

    If he holds a rigid "either/or" position on if, for example, software that I write needs to be open or not ... well, he can go to hell because he doesn't get a vote on what it I do with code I write.

    If all you're doing is trying to tell me that I'm committing some form of sin because I write proprietary software, you're a rabid zealot, and I will treat you as such.

    Which, is what a lot of people do with RMS ... they just tune him out as someone who has a very loud opinion, but that it's none of his damned business.

  • Re:RMS? Who cares? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by vadim_t (324782) on Monday September 19, 2011 @04:03PM (#37447612) Homepage

    I don't get what you're getting at.

    Yes, but unlike Martin Luther King and civil rights, I'm in favor of software not always being something which needs to be open.

    Whether you agree or not with his position doesn't have anything to do with what I'm saying.

    My point is that during MLK's time there were plenty people around who didn't agree with him. But if he just had shut up and decided to compromise he wouldn't have got anywhere.

    The same way, it makes no sense for Stallman to shut up, because then he wouldn't be saying anything at all. Your agreement or disagreement is entirely irrelevant, if Stallman really wants to get something done, he's got to keep saying what he does, whether you like it or not.

    If he holds a rigid "either/or" position on if, for example, software that I write needs to be open or not ... well, he can go to hell because he doesn't get a vote on what it I do with code I write.

    Sure he does. He for instance can choose not to buy proprietary software if he wishes, and that's effectively a vote because there's no point in writing any if nobody buys it. If he manages to convince enough people that he's got a point that's your vote right there.

    You do the same thing every time you decide to buy or not to buy a music CD, that sort of thing is effectively a vote on whether the next album get made.

    If all you're doing is trying to tell me that I'm committing some form of sin because I write proprietary software, you're a rabid zealot, and I will treat you as such.

    I'm not saying anything about my own opinion on the matter actually. And I don't really care if you think I'm a zealot or not, that's your own business.

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