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Re: Dangerous precedent being set - possible serious violation of the GPL

On Wed, 8 Dec 1999, Nate Duehr wrote:

> Forgive me, I'm not a developer, but I can't stand this thread any longer,
> even though one like this has come up every year I've been using computers
> (since 1982).

I'd doubt that. Most people who want to get decent software into the hands
of Joe Sixpack are motivated by desire for money. I'm motivated by the
desire to keep the flame of free software alive. I don't want a cent from
any of this.

> So I have some questions...
> Explain why any JoeSixpack needs a Unix-based OS for me, someone?  Please?

He doesn't.

You obviously weren't listening to me. My point is that if the free
software community does not create a viable end-user OS, the "open-source"
community-- in alignment with the proprietary software world, which it is
becoming more and more like every year-- will. They will capture enough
"market share" to make 100% free OSes less and less viable to exist in the
real world-- and eventually, the only people using free software will be
the hardcore hackers who are actually willing to do without Corel
Must-have Office Suite for Linux, Caldera Must-have Development Tools for
Linux and Red Hat Proprietary GUI Libs for Linux. They would be
increasingly crippled until eventually, it would be all but impossible to
run nothing but free software and still do real, meaningful work for
anyone but oneself.

> Explain why he needs to know ANYTHING about OS's or even to have a traditional
> OS even installed on a computer he uses?

He -doesn't- need to -know- anything about OSes. That's the point. What he
needs is an OS that he doesn't have to know anything at all to use-- like
(much as I hate to say it) Winduh.

> He *needs* a web appliance -- someone could (and some already are) certainly 
> be making these devices with Linux -- but he doesn't *need* a user friendly
> machine with a full-blown OS any more than do most people.

You know, people in the "industry" (how disgusted I am to have to refer to
the computer sciences as a mere "industry") have been proclaiming the
demise of the PC for years.

It hasn't happened.

It won't.

Even the idiots who don't know how to use a computer generally -want- a
computer. Not a set-top box. Not a glorified XTerm. Not a WinCE device. A
full-fledged, whole box.

> Why create an "alternative to Windows" when most people don't need or use
> half the features of that highly annoying and non-free OS?
> I keep seeing threads like this pop up over the years, but Unix remains Unix.
> New X desktops come and go, and people still want Unix for what it does best...
> Give the power users the ability to get things done that you just can't do
> as easily or as quickly on other plaforms.  The learning curve is steep and
> lasts a long time, but it pays immediate dividends in insight into how things
> REALLY work in computers, and GPL'ed software with the source there for all
> to see helps this along even more.

I am not arguing with you here. I agree with what you just said.

But you are missing my point.

Twenty years ago, most people who used computers were geeks.
Ten years ago, fewer.. maybe half, maybe not even that.
Now, Joe Sixpack is your average user.
In five years, it'll be 99.9% Joe Sixpacks and .1% "people who have even
the SLIGHTEST inkling of a clue about what they're doing".

The "open source" people who keep breaking tenet after tenet of the free
software philosophy, who are turning into exact replicates of their
proprietary-software forbears-- the Red Hats and Corels and Calderas of
the world-- they are going to beat us to it.

When they do that, free software will become less and less viable every
year until finally, it will be like back when the GNU project had first
started, and the best anyone could say about GNU software is "yeah, well,
they can code some nice utilities and toys, but let's see them do a viable
OS." We'll have been beaten back into the stone age by the encroachment of
proprietary software into the GNU/Linux world.

> Just a silly analogy, since we had to do some network troubleshooting today...
> Folks who need to run tcpdump on a regular basis don't want Windows and
> JoeSixpack doesn't want to know that things like tcpdump exist.  Really.  It's
> a poor analogy, but it's how I feel.
> I've always warned people that if they're not willing to learn a whole lot of
> new concepts, techniques, technology, etc... don't buy a PC.  Go get a Sony
> PlayStation, you'll be happier.
> If you're naturally inclined (or were taught by your folks) to learn new things
> constantly, then computers are a great place for you to be.  Jump in, and
> you'll probably find yourself at my doorstep asking for a Debian CD-ROM once
> you learn that Window's isn't a "learning man's" OS, it's just an exercise
> in frustration that most companies use, so it's a "standard", and people are
> used to seeing it on PC's.
> Use the best tool for the job.  Unix is not the best tool for JoeBeerStud,
> nor should we try to make it be, IMHO.

It doesn't -have- to be Unix.

The point is that the status quo-- that is, Windows-- is on the verge of
crumbling. People are sick of it, and the number of GNU/Linux users is
going through the ceiling. One coding philosophy will come out of these
events victorious-- it will either be the free software ethic, in which
case the proprietarizing interests of the commercial world will be held at
least partially at bay, or it will be the "open source" ethic, in which
case free software as we know it will become completely worthless, once
all the major distributions have come to depend on proprietary libs. I
don't TRUST the "open source" people. I don't like them and I don't like
their interests. Corel's age-restriction debacle, Red Hat's dabbling in
proprietary software sales (not just bundling in-- SALES. They SELL Red
Hat Motif, just as one small example) and the like give credence to my
statement that those who seek only money (and not freedom and quality) are
-not- to be trusted in a world whose two hallmarks are freedom and

Free software can win-- or free software can lose. And I feel that whether
it wins or loses will hinge on whether it can capture the desktop world.
Why? Very simple. Microsoft has demonstrated how computer technology flows
in today's world-- it flows UPHILL. First, the users adopt a platform
(Microsft Windows '95, for instance)-- then, the PHB-types say, "Hey, why
don't we standardize on the server OS made by the same people who made our
desktop OS." It's stupid logic-- but remember that it's the same sort 
of warped logic that led people to trust IBM to make decent home
computers-- after all, they were making decent mainframes, right? People,
quite simply, tend to follow simple lines in their thinking-- if they're
using Brand X Product A, and Brand X Related-Product B is available,
they're going to stick with Brand X for both. After all, they're related
technologies, they can't lose, right?

What this means is that by the time we see a Corel Linux 3.0, which will
include not just a proprietary installer, a semi-free (KDE?) desktop and
an age clause (all of which it has now), but a proprietary installer, a
proprietary package manager, a proprietary X setup tool, a proprietary
shell, a proprietary set of GUI tools, a proprietary desktop -and- the age
clause......or Red Hat 8.0, which will include not only a complete lack of
segregation between free and non-free software (which their distro has
now) and a Red Hat Software catalog advertising their various non-free
offerings, (which they sell now) but a similarly wonderful collection of
proprietary elements, some or all of which would be critical to have a
running system and/or will be installed by default, or at least
recommended........ well, by the time these things come out (remember, as
companies move out onto the Linux landscape, things are going to get
-LESS- free, -NOT- more free. Always keep that in mind.) on the desktop
end, PHBs are going to start to say, "Hmm, we like these new "Linus-X"
things on our desktops. Let's sign a big contract with [Red
Hat|Corel|Caldera] to put their OSes on -all- of our machines..
workstations -and- servers!"... just like they did with Windows. ("Gee, we
already have all these Win95 boxes and Microsoft is telling us that it's
best to run a 100% Windows shop.. okay, so let's put Windows on our
servers too!") At that point, the money-grubbers who run the big
commercial Linux makers are going to have control of -both- the desktop
and the server end-- just like Microsoft does, to some extent, today.
Debian will no longer be suitable as a server OS, because it won't do any
of the fancy proprietary things people will demand-- things coming out of
the commercial Linux houses.

It's quite simple, guys. This isn't FUD. This is reality. Five years ago,
none of this bullscheiBe existed. None of it. "Linux" meant Slackware or
another geek-spawned distro, it was not driven in the least by money,
basically nothing was proprietary, there were no age clauses or the like,
and the people who called the shots in the GNU/Linux world were hackers--
not suits. Today, all of that has changed. Draw a line between then and
now, and extrapolate that line into the future-- what we are heading
towards is yet another Microsoft. I don't know who it will be, but whoever
it will be, their Linux-based (not GNU/Linux) OS will be just as horrible,
and almost as proprietary, as Windows is today. After the world's brief
initial fascination with GNU/Linux, the suits are moving in to "normalize"
the situation-- to bring the GNU/Linux world back into the familiar
territory of cover-your-ass EULAs, proprietary software, poor quality, and
lots and lots of moneylust.

> Open source projects survive because people are willing to crack open the
> code.  Joe SixPack isn't going to do that, he's not going to give anything
> back to the community (other than to put another $70 in RedHat's pocket),

Don't you see? That $70 in Red Hat's pocket is the whole point. Every time
Red Hat-- or Corel-- or Caldera-- gets another $70 (or $150, or whatever),
they grow bolder. The crap that Corel and Red Hat and the ilk pull just
reeks of money-lust-- they make absolute garbage, for one, but more
importantly, they sell, advertise and in all way advocate all manners of
non-free code, from the "slightly" non-free (pico) to the blatantly
non-free (Caldera's non-free installer stuff-- I believe it's bundled with
Partition Magic) to the offensively, ridiculously non-free (Red Hat Motif,
$99.95-- when LessTif is available, and getting better every year).

As long as the money-grubbers continue to gain control, we will see things
like this-- an increased dependency on proprietary/non-free software, and
a decreased level of quality-- become not just a trend, but an
irreversable trend. Once the money starts flowing in, businesses stop
caring about anything else. This was demonstrated quite clearly in
Microsoft's case, and now it's starting to occur in the most unlikely of
places-- the Linux world.

Let me put it to you bluntly. Would you like to spend a night hacking with
Robert Young? With Ransom Love? With any of Corel's executives? No? Why
not? Well, for one thing, they're not hackers. They're businesspeople. And
their actions in the GNU/Linux arena demonstrate quite clearly why we
should not just sit back and watch as software that is some
businessperson's baby-- not some hacker's baby-- devours the desktop

> so why cater to him?  Just a thought.  (And before you even type it, I know
> that technically RH is "giving back to the community"... don't go there).

I think it's pretty clear that Red Hat takes a lot more than it gives.

> Perhaps I'm mean-spirited, and I'd better grab my flame-proof undies
> for saying that, but it's true.  Anyone who "runs the gauntlet" and
> figures out how to install a distro and get it up and doing what they
> want it to do then has learned invaluable skills (like using MAN!) that
> will carry them much further in computing than if they decided to load
> Win98 on their box and then Word.  If the overall Linux community thinks
> something is too hard to use, it usually gets updated to a point where
> most folks can figure it out that have sense enough to know to
> look in /etc for the configuration files and (at least in the case of Debian)
> in /usr/share/doc for the documentation.  And yes, there are some areas we'd

The people who will determine the future of computing are the nameless,
faceless, brainless masses-- not the people who even understand what the
hell "/etc" IS, let alone know how to open files in it.

> all like to see development in, but making a JoeBillyBobJimbo-proof GUI isn't
> worth the time and effort, IMHO again.

You are entitled to your opinion. And I am entitled to pass a deep sigh
and a sadly spoken "I told you so" in your direction in five years, when
Linuxsoft Corporation goes public, and Debian's total installed base falls
to 10,000 boxen, mostly in third-world countries.

> Instead of working hard to make the distros more "user-friendly", let's make
> them more "intelligent-person who has a clue-friendly".  Write good

That would be a nice step too. What I'm looking for is a distribution
where one can enter as a total computer illiterate and, perhaps some years
later, end up as a hacker-- without having to rip out the very guts of the
OS in the process, if possible. An OS that scales with your mind.

> documentation for your code and UPDATE it regularly or have a FAQ that gets
> updated.  And contribute time to finding someone who likes writing docs and
> would like to help document your software in the LDP.  That's going to help
> EVERYONE more than making programs ask 20 times, "This is dangerous, you might
> be an idiot, are you sure?  ARE YOU SURE?".
> So as an amusing final note...
> My wife falls somewhere between inquisitive and "don't care" and wanted a 
> computer for the basics -- word processing, small databases, e-mail, etc.
> She actually has a true use for a computer because she likes to print out lots
> of graphical notecards and flyers and such, which I doubt any net-appliance
> will ever do.  She's slightly beyond the "appliance user" and not really ready
> or willing to tackle anything really complex.  And I do so much computer stuff
> at work, that when I'm home I want to PLAY with my computers. I absolutely
> did not want to do any tech-support for hers.
> So we bought her an iMac. It's the right tool for THAT job.  All my
> machines run Linux or FreeBSD, aside from the one machine that I keep
> Win on for some games.
> They're the right tool for what *I* want to do.  Don't turn them into
> "Unix for Dummies" X-based "Are you sure?" machines!  :)

Believe me, the -last- thing that I want to see is a Unix distribution
that's offensive to Clueful people. I want one that will adapt. One where
the installer will ask you: "Are you a [N]ewbie, [I]ntermediate user,
[A]dvanced user, [H]acker"... then "N" will drop you into a cheezy GUI
installer for a cheezy set of GUI tools, "H" will drop you into the
traditional Debian installer (or something along those lines), and "I" and
"A" will do something in between...


> Nate, nate@natetech.com
> On Wed, Dec 08, 1999 at 12:36:34AM -0500, Caspian wrote:
> > On Tue, 7 Dec 1999, Bruce Perens wrote:
> > 
> > > Folks,
> > > 
> > > I don't think we have to evaluate Linux _relative_to_windows_ when we talk
> > > about user-friendliness. It is sufficient to look at Linux and realize that
> > > there is much that could be improved and would make the naive' user's life
> > > easier without making life more difficult for the rest of us.
> > 
> > The "relative to Windows" bit isn't the important part, but it does
> > matter. The important thing is merely to get a system that Joe Sixpack can
> > use. However, the sad truth is that at this point in time, Joe Sixpack is
> > also Joe WinIdiot. Unless something looks like an attractive __alternative
> > to Windows__-- for that is precisely how Joe WinIdiot will view anything
> > !Windows-- he will not switch. So, in this particular world that we
> > live in, the only way GNU/Linux will even -get- into the naive
> > users' lives is by using Windows as a yardstick. That's just the way
> > things go. (As a side-note-- look at what the commercial GNU/Linux dists
> > that are targeted at "desktop" users are doing. They're impersonating
> > Windows! There's a reason.)
> > 
> > I don't like Windows and I don't like using it as a yardstick. But unless
> > we want to lose the war to the profiteers, we're going to have to act now
> > to create a 100% (or as -damned- close as humanly possible) free-software
> > GNU/Linux dist that WinIdiots will like.
> > 
> > As for the "help naive users without hurting the rest of us" bit-- yeah,
> > of course. We should look for ways to accommodate all. But there are
> > always ways to add user-friendliness without screwing real hackers if
> > one's clever enough, so that doesn't negate the very real need to take
> > immediate action towards making 100% free GNU/Linux systems feasible for
> > Joe Sixpack, as well as J. Random Hacker.
> > 
> > > 
> > > 	Thanks
> > > 
> > > 	Bruce
> > > 
> > 
> > 
> > -- 
> >  = Jon "Caspian" Blank,  right-brained computer programmer at large =
> > .--------------------------------------------------------------------.
> > |  Freelance coder and Unix geek / Founder, The Web Union (twu.net)  |
> > |          Information wants to be free! Visit www.gnu.org.          |
> > | WANTED: Writers who share the GNU philosophy. www.forsmarties.net. |
> > | -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  - - |
> > | E-mail: caspian@twu.net                Web: http://caspian.twu.net |
> > |     Send a short message to my cell phone: caspiancell@twu.net     |
> > `--------------------------------------------------------------------'
> > 
> > 
> > -- 
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> > with a subject of "unsubscribe". Trouble? Contact listmaster@lists.debian.org
> > 

 = Jon "Caspian" Blank,  right-brained computer programmer at large =
|  Freelance coder and Unix geek / Founder, The Web Union (twu.net)  |
|          Information wants to be free! Visit www.gnu.org.          |
| WANTED: Writers who share the GNU philosophy. www.forsmarties.net. |
| -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  - - |
| E-mail: caspian@twu.net                Web: http://caspian.twu.net |
|     Send a short message to my cell phone: caspiancell@twu.net     |

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