Richard Stallman (younger days)
Summary: Microsoft, Novell and Apple fanfare proves challenging to GNU/FSF; the OSI may also face a new hurdle
MOMENTS ago we posted an important statement from the FSF, which was long coming. The FSF still advises against C# and Mono. Other new posts about Mono reveal that attack on messengers is the preferred tactic of Microsoft or Mono proponents. Some of them cannot defend what they advocate or do, not on a technical level anyway, let alone the legal. Just watch how Stallman gets attacked [1, 2] following a tactless remark that occupied less than 10 seconds in a 2-hour talk (or thereabouts). People who wish to eliminate Stallman from the discussion would simply accentuate, exaggerate, spin, take out of context, fail to interpret humour (it was a Cult of the Virgin Mary parody), etc. it’s intended to incite against him and capitalise on lack on research. This is not to justify poor stage act from Stallman; au contraire, but to either quote-mine or to ignore a track record of advocacy for women’s rights from Richard Stallman would be foolish at best, if not altogether dishonest.
This post is not so much about the above incident, which was blown out of all reasonable proportions though. It is actually to do with longtime critics of Stallman, who include Apple fans (e.g. Matt Asay — one who ignores the fact that Apple is still attacking Linux phones, harming GNU/Linux desktops and deliberately stifling interoperability with Linux, quite repeatedly in fact) or those who sometimes seek to ‘proprietarise’ GNU and/or Linux. Stallman stands in their way, so by illegitimatising him — along with his message and establishments of course — they can proceed more easily with personal agenda of gain.
First of all, for the record and for those who have no heard yet, Apple is once again attacking Linux devices.
The pettiness of Apple continues… Last month, Apple warned potential buyers of the Palm Pre that it might break that phone’s ability to sync with iTunes. It didn’t take long for Apple to follow through. In an upgrade to iTunes, which Apple claims was for “bug fix” but also to handle “verification” issues, it has blocked the Palm Pre from accessing iTunes.
This rogue behaviour from Apple has even gotten attention from the KDE news site.
One of the things that was touched upon was the recent release of the Palm Pre smartphone which relies on Apple’s iTunes software for synchronising music with a computer. An interesting question asked was what would happen if Apple decided to block the Pre from using iTunes. Now, just over a week later, this is exactly what happened. Apple has indeed blocked the Pre from using iTunes with its latest update.
Unfortunately, this is just business as usual in the world of proprietary software. In the end, Palm will surely find a way around this, but in the meantime, the users are being held hostage. Adding insult to injury, many Palm Pre owners have likely been purchasing music from iTunes to put on their new smartphones, thus becoming Apple customers as well, so in the end this move hurts Apple’s music sales too.
It is with that it mind that people must remember that Apple is hardly a friend of GNU/Linux. Sure, it has its dealings with and handle on CUPS, WebKit and some other projects, but Apple likes harmony and sharing as long as competition like GNU/Linux stays out of the way. Apple too is using patents against Linux and for that matter, FFII’s president told us yesterday that “IBM is the biggest patent troll. They use software patents as a competitive advantage [as in] ‘Come to us, you will be protected.’” We addressed this critical issue before.
Many people fail to remember that the vast majority of IBM’s and Apple’s application layer is as proprietary as it gets. This includes even Lotus Symphony and Apple’s Web browser, which exploited the work of KDE (KHTML).
It is with great regret that we find Matt Asay, the man who some regard as the reason for Microsoft’s infiltration into the OSI, more or less inviting more of Microsoft into the OSI. This is atrociously naive and fortunately he is no longer in the OSI, but neither is Bruce Perens. At the same time, Asay is dismissing (almost mocking) those who are aware of Microsoft's endless malice, writing them off as extremists. Jason has already responded to this in length.
In the first article Mr. Asay asserts that the Open Source community is “stagnant”, “insular”, full of “group-think”, and the tent needs widening. He also suggests that the community rejects “anything that fails to discuss knighthood and/or sainthood for Richard Stallman”
His solution: include representatives from Microsoft and Oracle on the OSI board.
A better solution would be for Michael Tiemann and the OSI to improve their relationship with the FSF. Now more than ever we know that Microsoft is attacking “open source” by attempting to change it and exploit it for revenue (FOSS hoarding), just like it did with ISO. As Steve Ballmer put it, “I would love to see all open source innovation happen on top of Windows.”
As Jason points out, Asay’s convictions are systematic.
Well, I came for the Stallman/Open Source talk, but I stayed for the stupid. I just thought it a bit of interest that the man relases two articles in two days each with a bit of anti-GPL / anti-Free Software / anti-Stallman angle in them.
Here is an excellent long comment from GreyGeek:
EVERYBODY is, or will become, an “extremist” by that logic. Those who attend a specific church or social group. Those who are members of a specific organization. Democrats. Republicans. Independents. Americans. Chinese. The dead, although they keep their opinions to themselves, if psychics are lying.
Matt Asay’s “solution” is what Microsoft is already working as hard as possible to achieve, and it sponsors the most extremist group (in computers) that I am aware of: Technical Evangelists. James Plamondon’s children.
Microsoft also has created or funded several front organizations, which are similar to James Plamondon’s “stacked panel”, because while they appear in public to be neutral they actually work on Microsoft’s behalf and in Microsoft’s interest behind the scenes. The ACT is an example. ACT was created to lobby congress during the DOJ trial in order to paint the DOJ as “punishing success” or “being against” capitalism. When Microsoft ran into trouble in Eruope the ACT suddenly found it necessary to open an office in Switzerland in order to lobby the EU in Microsoft’s behalf. When other computer related US companies had problems in Europe the ACT didn’t find it necessary to lobby the EU on their behalf. Only for Microsoft.
Another Microsoft front organization is the “Initiative for Software Choice”, which always seems to favor proprietary lock-ins over Open Source applications, except for the lip-service.
According to Asay, they qualify as extremists because they always associate with Microsoft and adopt Microsoft’s attitude and position on each and every topic that would affect Microsoft’s bottom line. Actions by people or government that would be unfavorable to Microsoft’s bottom line would be unfavorable to these proxy organizations — their CEO’s, their sales, their existence DEPENDS on their selling Microsoft’s products. Failing to broaden their market reach they have become part of the most extremist organization ever to infect the computer world.
Using Asay’s definition Microsoft and its proxies are extremists. In fact, they are by any definition. Just be careful you don’t run afoul of another Microsoft front organization, the BSA.
It is astounding to see the same themes recurring. Those who are criticised by Free software folks (people like the above) would often ask, “why don’t they like me?”
“Only by imposing ignorance upon them will they tolerate or even defend such abuse.”The answer is simple: because those companies are taking away people’s freedom and stomping on people’s rights, so no wonder those people don’t like it. What else can be expected? Only by imposing ignorance upon them will they tolerate or even defend such abuse. This includes Apple/Mac enthusiasts at times.
The context of Asay’s remark ought to be understood. He is hoping to change how people perceive open source by weakening the definition and giving up on more essential rights in the process (what Stallman might call “ruinous compromises”). It is further distancing from libre software, so to paraphrase and slightly change something Stallman said about Linus Torvalds, if you care about Freedom in software, don’t follow Asay. This is intended to be said politely, not abrasively. From Asay alone, Stallman bashing or at least critique goes a long way back (before his time in CNET). We found an impressive string of posts criticising the GPL after posting Stallman-hostile essays for several years. Eric Raymond was among the recent inspirers.
Examples of other attacks on the GPL include Black Duck's black box surveys (mentioned briefly in [1, 2]) and a variety of posts that are innocently taking “open source” just where Microsoft wants it to be. Maybe it is not innocent, but these sources will be given the benefit of the doubt.
Microsoft is not trying to hijack only “open source” by the way. We repeatedly warn that Microsoft is trying to control the virtual gateway to servers and in the process it hijacks the virtualisation market leader, apparently by initially colluding with EMC. Here is the latest addition:
VMware bulks up on former Microsoft exec
VMware is starting to look a lot like the good old days at Microsoft, at least in terms of its executive ranks. The Palo Alto, Calif. virtualization company — led by former Microsoft exec Paul Maritz — recently recruited former Google and Microsoft big shot Mark Lucovsky to an unnamed position.
Does the OSI want to end up like VMware? Once you get Microsoft inside the village, experience suggest that it will open up the gates for more Microsoft to enter and occupy what used to a rival. █
“That would be because we believe in Free Software and doing the right thing (a practice you appear to have given up on). Maybe it is time the term ‘open source’ also did the decent thing and died out with you.”
–Alan Cox to Eric Raymond