Re: Please let's not talk about "clouds"
On Sat, Apr 20, 2013 at 09:05:23PM -0400, Richard Stallman wrote:
> The nebulous term "cloud computing" refers to many different
> scenarios, and they raise different issues. Thus, attempting
> to discuss "the issue of cloud computing" is an invitation
> to go astray. It is setting out on the wrong path.
I understand your concern about the issue but one thing that is clear
to me is that you didn't developed on the fact about the use the term
"cloud". Most of your email is related to the term "SaaS", which is a
related but rather different topic.
Being Debian not so related to it, since we do ship packaged software
to be used by individuals in the ways and for the purpose they find it
fits their needs. We are not neccesarily interested or promoting this
form of software delivery model, nor also interested on forbid any
particular use of the software we ship, as our social contract states.
> One specific case, which is specific enough to say something about, is
> SaaS (software as a service). The article
> http://wiki.debian.org/Cloud/www.d.o-draft/philoshphy compares SaaS to
> various things, but I think those comparisons are all mistaken.
> A library is nothing like SaaS. A library is, traditionally, a place
> where you look at others' publications. The Internet analogue of a
> library is a ordinary web site such as gnu.org.
> The postal system is nothing like SaaS. The post office is a system
> of communication. The Internet analogue of the post office is email,
> or the Internet itself, used in the end-to-end form that it was
> designed for.
> A restaurant is nothing like SaaS. A restaurant sells a product that
> you consume, and that's not much like any digital activity.
> Food varies in regard to nutrition and taste, but it always goes in
> the same opening and gets digested the same way. Food is consumed;
> using digital data does not consume it, and doing computational
> activity is not consuming anything except electricity.
> Computing carries out a wide variety of activities, nothing like the
> uniformity of eating. Food can be unhealthy, but it can't be used to
> spy on you or manipulate you in subtle ways, not even if it is
> drugged. Thus, food is not comparable to software. The analogy is
> What is SaaS? SaaS means doing your own computing on a server run by
> someone else. It means losing control over your computing. A better
> term for it could be SaaSS: Service as a Software Substitute. It
> means that instead of doing your computing the right way -- by running
> your copy of a free program -- you hand your computing over to someone
> else, who has total control over it.
> Usimg SaaSS is equivalent to running a nonfree program with spyware
> and a universal back door (capable of forcible remote installation of
> software changes). There is no way to make SaaSS ok.
Technically speaking, there has been "SaaS" like models in the past for
example, in the days of the mainframes, software was consumed by time
due to the restricted resources, you had little control over it.
When you use an email or DNS server siting somewhere to deliver your
emails is also a form of using a software service, otherwise you'll
have to run your own email server and other Internet services own
machine, which doesn't fit everyone (due costs involved -ISP,
electricity, hardware, etc-, or just time required to take care of
those services running properly). That's has been part of the way
Internet works, but they are not related neccesarily to the means you
are required to access to the service and the control of your data.
Generally speaking there are also SaaS-like services in the society,
such identity management, the energy system, the health system. All
manage your personal information and you also have little control over
it, however you find the benefits win over the odds. If we want to be
philosophical about it, government under democracy is also a form of
> However, other network services are a totally different issue. For
> instance, the Debian servers distribute copies of software. That's a
> different kind of activity, and raises different issues. The only
> thing that can be bad about this is if the software is nonfree.
Your point here is that SaaS is equivalent to non-free software and I
rather disagree. In the begining you define SaaS as running your
software on someone else computer, which raises an issue on control of
the software and your data. However, your statement here implies that
free software cannot be offered for use to people that cannot run their
own software due the above mentioned reasons. Wikipedia comes to my
mind as a example of this. There will not be a lot of people running
their own Wikipedia due the nature of the content the software
delivers, as it happens with Internet services, the resources required
and also because it doesn't make much sense to do so instead of
contributing to the project. However, Wikipedia is ran on free
software but on private servers. You are not 100% sure about the
version of the software the servers are running. For me, the issue
here is trust.
> "Cloud computing" is the wrong kind of generalization -- it includes
> cases that raise totally different issues. To have a sensible
> discussion we should focus first on the different kinds of network
> services, to see which of them are inherently bad and find the ethical
> rules for the other kinds.
I think that for the purposes of clarification we should be clear
about the technical terms definition then use them when refering to
ethical issues. Otherwise it will endup in creating more confusion.
For me, technically speaking the idea of "cloud computing" has no
relation with network services but with computing resources offered in
a way that they can be used in a way that the old software on hardware
model is transformed in a software on software model, which offers a
lot of practical benefits for people who uses computing resources.