07.23.09

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Are Speakers for FOSS Actually FOSS Supporters?

Posted in Deception, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, GPL at 4:27 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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Summary: Is the Free software debate being captured by those who just exploit it?

THERE is a growing concern that companies whose products are either purely proprietary or are closed but built with some Free software components in them will be seizing the debate about Free software and even rename it. A month ago we wrote about Black Duck, which weeks afterwards (and shortly after ushering Microsoft) said that GPL adoption was declining; the evidence was unconvincing because this black box study neglected to say that many projects from CodePlex (serving Microsoft for the most part) had just been added, thus diluting the relative value of the rest of the dataset [1, 2].

In general, as Black Duck is a proprietary software company, we have warned for about a year that it was becoming a problematic spokesman for Free software. Like with “open source” people, they step inside an existing strand and change it from the inside. According to this new press release, Black Duck Software will moderate a panel on FOSS (again). But since Black Duck does not believe in FOSS, what can be expected regarding biases?

WALTHAM, MA — (Marketwire) — 07/17/09 — Black Duck Software (www.blackducksoftware.com), a leading provider of products and services for accelerating software development through the managed use of open source software (OSS), will moderate a Birds of a Feather session at the upcoming OSCON open source convention.

What we see a lot of in general are groups of people who enter FOSS and then daemonise their surroundings by finding others who enter similarly, sometimes with the intent to exploit (Free software and as in cheap software to proprietarise). Consider Microsoft employee Jonathan Wong for example. He’s running a smear campaign against us and he is citing known anti-Linux crowds, pretending that they are pro-GNU/Linux. There is a rebuttal to this daemonisation attempt for those who are interested.

It is written by a chap called Johnathon Wong and he works for Microsoft. He decided to make his opinions known on the website Boycott Novell and Roy (the sites owner)

Other crowds that have awoken recently are the anti-GPL and anti-FSF crowds (including the Linux Action Show). There is an illusion of consent only among those whose convictions on these matters are long held.

Another last group of people who argue to be favouring FOSS are the .NET proponents/developers, who use Mono to help Microsoft. Here is a new post which summarises ways in which Mono makes Microsoft stronger.

* Spreads Microsoft standards
* Spreads Microsoft mindshare
* Increases FLOSS dependency on Microsoft
* Good PR value for Microsoft
* Mono apologists are often obliged to defend Microsoft
* Mono evangelists are often obliged to be Microsoft evangelists
* Divides, distracts and delays the community
* Makes it easier for FLOSS developers to develop on Windows
* Provides some nice FLOSS applications for Windows
* Provides developer tools
* Helps in Microsoft’s fight against Flash
* Helps in Microsoft’s fight against Java
* Decreases effort in general for non-Microsoft tools

None of the above talks about software patents. The issues are many and the list still partial. Here is another new post about Mono — one which does mention the patent dilemma.

Spitting in the wind – Mono 180?

[...]

The cost of waging a war on patents is more than any one company wants to bear. We have the open innovation network to help out there, but consider the TomTom case. Notice that out of the 7 or 9 patents at stake, only three related to Linux. Is TomTom going to go to bat for those 3 patents if the other 4 or 6 infringe? No, they are going to have to find a settling point. Since right off the bat a company is facing 8 to 10 million US dollars to fight a patent suite, it makes more sense financially to settle, especially when there is the possibility that you may be found guilty. This does not mean that the Linux patents were legitimate, but sprinkle a few illegitimate patents in with more genuinely infringing patents and you’d be a fool to step up to the plate. Even more, TomTom was facing an injunction, which they could not suffer for the length a trial would take.

Free software came to being through Richard Stallman, who founded GNU and the FSF. As the FSF (with the SFLC’s consent) does not endorse Mono and is not a fan non-Free software, maybe it is time to think about the roots of the movement. This includes the GPLv3, which is merely a patch that closes a loophole exploited to work around core philosophy.

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20 Comments

  1. Nemesis said,

    July 23, 2009 at 6:34 am

    Gravatar

    Seems like he is questioning your accuracy and integrity, which is exactly what everyone should do. I do, I question everything you say Roy for example your integrity takes a beating when you make statements like this:

    “Free software came to being through Richard Stallman, who founded GNU and the FSF. As the FSF (with the SFLC’s consent) does not endorse Mono and is not a fan non-Free software, maybe it is time to think about the roots of the movement. This includes the GPLv3, which is merely a patch that closes a loophole exploited to work around core philosophy.”

    You are saying that before stallman and the FSF there was no such thing as free software or shared software, that is plain wrong. Free software DID NOT come into being because of Richard Stallman, Yes, I agree he started the FSF the free software movement, but BS (Before stallman) there was FOSS yes FREE OPEN SOURCE SOFTWARE.

    Do you reaseach, you dont have to go further than wiki, or or google”Richard stallman” or “free software”.

    And if you do even the smalest amount of checking you will see that you are wrong on that one simple and easy checkable fact. That lead people to wonder if you can get something as basic as that wrong what else have you mis-reported on ??

    Im glad there are people who are willing to take the time and confirm your “facts”. And who take the effort to report on your poor and misleading “research”.

    And NO I do not work for Microsoft, or Red Hat or philips or sony or anywhere that is your business.

    zatoichi Reply:

    I may make jokes about Microsoft at times, but at the same time, I think the Microsoft hatred is a disease. I believe in open development, and that very much involves not just making the source open, but also not shutting other
    people and companies out.

    There are ‘extremists’ in the free software world, but that’s one major reason why I don’t call what I do ‘free software’ any more. I don’t want to be associated with the people for whom it’s about exclusion and hatred.

    —Linus Torvalds

    See http://www.linux-mag.com/id/7439/

    zatoichi Reply:

    I think the big question now is whether Linusis a FOSS supporter. Sounds like he’s more of an “OSS supporter” to me. Linus ain’t down wit’ da “free” thang.

    I guess you guys will be moving to the HURD soon. Great. I expect we’ll never hear from alla y’all again.

  2. aeshna23 said,

    July 23, 2009 at 7:35 am

    Gravatar

    Roy makes an extremely important point, but it’s a subtle. I try to explain what Roy is saying to people and it takes much longer to explain than it feels like it should. I feel like I should be able to say “some people say they favor free software, but they are in fact spies serving the dark lords of proprietary software.” Most people would think I’m lunatic if I just said that one sentence. You have to explain what their motives are, and why their actions are not in the interest of Linux. The average Joe not interested in software loses patience before you get to the point.
    This gets me to my chief disagreement with Roy. Roy sometimes seems to think all disagree with him disagree based on financial interest like working for Microsoft or a related firm. I think that there are some people who find the idea that some individuals and firms are acting in bad faith too complicated. They blame Roy as the messenger.

    sabayon.user Reply:

    When you frame your arguments hysterically and rely on gut feelings and vagueness, you do come across as lunatic. When you confuse issues that need no confusion then you come across as dishonest. When you use issues as a trampoline to push your agendas, then it seems you’re an opportunist.

    So yeah.

    When you compare Lefty to Hamas (as you did recently) for example, you come across as desperate and generally off your rocker.

    Avoid all that, and people will respect you. Simple, no?

  3. zatoichi said,

    July 23, 2009 at 10:34 am

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    Nemesis is correct. In the late 70s and early 80s, most software was free, and in fact, unlicensed. I rewrote a chunk of the DECsystem-20 operating system to strengthen security at the bank I workds for around 1983. All the source code was open and available. (Because you couldn’t do anything with it without the hardware, see?)

    sabayon.user Reply:

    Software was given away as an afterthought by hardware vendors like IBM, Wang and DEC. This was before “hardware” came to mean “IBM-compatible PC clone made in Taiwan”.

    “Oh you’ll need the bits to run this EXTREMELY EXPENSIVE thing you just purchased… wait… here we go, some tapes. Have fun!”

    Sharing of said code (and enhancements to it) was also alive and well by the time Stallman showed up.

    Jose_X Reply:

    I think the GPL came out to combat the closed-source trend that followed http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/14/Bill_Gates_Letter_to_Hobbyists.jpg

    zatoichi Reply:

    What Jose thinks, and the actual (easily verifiable) facts, turn out to be at odds with one another. From the Wikipedia article on “Richard Stallman”:

    “In 1980, Stallman and some other hackers at the AI Lab were refused access to the source code for the software of the first laser printer, the Xerox 9700. Stallman had modified the software on an older printer (the XGP, Xerographic Printer), so it electronically messaged a user when the person’s job was printed, and would message all logged-in users when a printer was jammed. Not being able to add this feature to the Dover printer was a major inconvenience, as the printer was on a different floor from most of the users. This one experience convinced Stallman of people’s need to be free to modify the software they use.”

    zatoichi Reply:

    So you can thank a recalcitrant printer manufacturer and Stallman’s unwillingness to walk upstairs for “free software”!

    Jose_X Reply:

    What is unclear is whether the printer incident was part of a closed source trend.

    If it was, then what I thought was correct unless you can show 1976 came after 1980 or that the quotes/links we provided have the wrong dates.

    Yes, I did not know precisely why RMS decided to work on the GPL. I was not suggesting it has anything directly to do with Gates.

    I’m also not sure what defines a “closed-source” trend, btw.

    zatoichi Reply:

    I think the GPL came out to combat the closed-source trend that followed…

    What is unclear is whether the printer incident was part of a closed source trend.

    I’m also not sure what defines a “closed-source” trend, btw.

    Words completely fail me.

    Jose_X Reply:

    This looks to me to be a silly little argument we are having, but thanks for the quote since it’s interesting trivia I suppose.

    Let me explain where I was coming from..

    RMS would likely not have said: hey, people need help keeping software open/free (through license terms) because everyone already keeps source code open but there is this one printer company.. and in case we ever have to deal with them again or with the very few other companies that might also go crazy, we’ll want some tools here.

    >> This one experience convinced

    Maybe the trend was becoming clear, but Stallman had not yet realized the threat (in his mind) until the printer incident. Your quote doesn’t suggest there was or wasn’t a trend or, if there was one, the impact it might have had on Stallman (in 1980 or throughout the rest of the decade). Additionally, looking towards a license to exploit copyright law in a copyleft fashion is one possible solution to a problem that is significant (otherwise, Stallman’s response might simply have been to go talk with the company execs of any other rogue companies).

    So, an effort to carefully build and to strongly encourage the use of a license people could adopt to help promote FOSS is not really something you do if you think the closing off of source code is an odd event and not likely to gain traction. Hey, no one closes off the source so I decided to invest all of this effort to build this license because some day someone else might want to exploit a few other people.

    Before the GPL was finalized (1989, according to wikipedia), I’d guess Stallman felt he was working on an important tool to fight a real problem.

    Well, like I said, this looks to me to be a silly little argument we are having.

    zatoichi Reply:

    Just to definitively lay Jose’s unfounded speculations to rest, here is a definitive statement from Stallman himself on the matter:

    On Feb. 3, 1976, Bill Gates wrote his famous “open letter to hobbyists” where he stated that software should be paid [for] just like hardware. Did you read that manifesto at the time? What was your impression back then?

    Stallman: I never heard of it at the time. I was not a hobbyist, I was a system developer employed at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab. I had little interest in 16-bit microcomputers, because the lab’s PDP-10, with a memory equivalent to 2.5 megabytes, was much more fun. Pascal is both weak and inelegant compared with Lisp, our high-level language, and for things that had to be fast, assembler language was more flexible.

    I don’t know how I would have reacted at that time if I had seen that memo. My experience at the AI lab had taught me to appreciate the spirit of sharing and free software, but I had not yet come to the conclusion that non-free (proprietary) software was an injustice. In 1976 I did not use any non-free software. It was only in 1977, when Emacs was ported to the non-free Twenex time-sharing system that I started to experience the nastiness of proprietary software. After that, I needed time to recognize this as an ethical and political issue.

    zatoichi Reply:

    Well, like I said, this looks to me to be a silly little argument we are having.

    Of the two of us, you’re the only one still having it, Jose.

  4. zatoichi said,

    July 23, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    Gravatar

    “I may make jokes about Microsoft at times, but at the same time, I think the Microsoft hatred is a disease. I believe in open development, and that very much involves not just making the source open, but also not shutting other people and companies out.

    There are ‘extremists’ in the free software world, but that’s one major reason why I don’t call what I do ‘free software’ any more. I don’t want to be associated with the people for whom it’s about exclusion and hatred.

    Linus Torvalds

    Discuss. I double-dog dare ya.

    zatoichi Reply:

    I think I’ve decided that if “free”isn’t good enough for Linus, it’s not good enough for me, either. I do open sourcesoftware.

    I won’t, however, refuse to even speak to you if you refer to it as “free software”.

    zatoichi Reply:

    More from Linus: “Does anybody complain when hardware companies write drivers for the hardware they produce? No. That would be crazy. Does anybody complain when IBM funds all the POWER development, and works on enterprise features because they sell into the enterprise? No. That would be insane.

    “So the people who complain about Microsoft writing drivers for their own virtualization model should take a long look in the mirror and ask themselves why they are being so hypocritical.”

  5. Nemesis said,

    July 23, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    Gravatar

    It’s good to see Linus distance himself from the extreamists in the FOSS and yes I do think he’s more OSS.

    Open source and free software was around and in common use well before Stallman and the GPL. Anyone over 45 whos’ worked in the industry since 16 would attest to that.

    And ofcourse we are talking about the GPL here, the GPL actually forms a very small percentage of all Operating System and applications.

    Much free or open source is public domain, MIT, apache, proprietary and so on. Even OSX which is based on open source is based on BSD.

    But the FREEDOM should be the freedom to choose what you want to use, be it Linux, BSD, Windows, AmigaOS, or the Sinclare ZX81 you should be free to do so.

    Open, if you want you should also have the freedom to make your software open and public, or have the freedom NOT to make it open.

    You should be free to give it away, or sell it if you think you can make something people are willing to pay for.

    I see the hatred in the FOSS in poor taste and I do think it does more damage than good.

    zatoichi Reply:

    Linus has done a fine, good thing.

    I’m wondering how the locals are going to take it though. He doesn’t do “free” software (and, as of today, neither do I) and he’s called the boys here “extremists” and “diseased”.

    I wonder if this all makes Linus something other than a “supporter of FOSS”? I mean, he rejects the “F” part, at best, he’s a support of “OSS”, right?

    I wonder if this is all giving Roy an ulcer, or migraines, or anything. Seems like he’s having nothing but bad luck lately.

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