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

On Thu, 9 Dec 1999, Craig Sanders wrote:

> On Mon, Dec 06, 1999 at 01:56:31AM -0500, Caspian wrote:
> > I'd just like to add my two cents (they're rather big...perhaps
> > they're two dollars?) to this little discussion.
> > [342 line rant deleted]
> i think you exaggerate just a little :)

I think you're not paranoid enough.

> some points that need to be made in response (in random order, as i
> thought of them):
> 1a. free software survived - flourished, even - long before your Joe
> WinIdiot even noticed that it existed. there is no reason at all that it
> will not continue to do so.

Sure there is. That reason is called the "Open Source Initiative." See my
further comments below.

> 1b.  Joe WinIdiot is irrelevant to the success of free software because
> Joe Winidiot will *never* contribute a single line of code to any free
> software project. success for free software depends on developers, not
> users.

When Joe WinIdiot starts adopting the latest offerings from the "Open
Source" community, and when those offerings start depending on proprietary
libraries, apps, etc. from said community and the traditional proprietary
software community-- which I feel that they -will- -- we will suddenly
find that we cannot work for Joe WinIdiot, we cannot write software for
Joe WinIdiot, we cannot help Joe WinIdiot with his problems... and since
software (e.g. Winders) spreads upwards from the Joe WinIdiots to the
PHBs, pretty soon that will go for the PHBs too. Eventually, we'll all be
forced to use the 75% proprietary Corel Linux 3.0 at work, even if we're
still stalwartly running free software at home.

We will be made incompatible as soon as they replace libc, the kernel, X
or some other major component with a proprietary "product" veiled in
secrecy. Which they will, "for the sake of "product integrity"".

> 1c. free software is getting better every day. more programs, better
> programs. things that nobody would have even considered doing as a free
> software project a few years ago are now being done. we've got the
> operating system, and the tools...now the apps.

The sucky apps, most of which are being released for use under KDE, which
I don't trust... the rest of which are being released for use under GNOME,
which sucks even more than KDE does.

> 1d. critical mass. see points 1a and 1c. there's no way of stopping the
> chain reaction now.

The chain reaction is going on in the "Open Source" world, not the "free
software" world. We are being left behind.

> 2. you are confusing "pretty and easy to learn" with "easy to use". i've
> ranted about this before, so i'll spare you now. suffice it to say that
> you shouldn't believe what marketing types want you to believe.

Joe WinIdiot-- on whom the future of the computer world hinges,
unfortunately-- wants (and thinks he NEEDS) all three-- pretty, easy to
learn -and- easy to use.

> 3. we *are* doing this for ourselves. if others benefit too, that's
> great, but not essential.  IMO the heart and soul goes out of free
> software if your primary motivation is to scratch someone else's itch
> rather than your own.

Excuse me?

My standards are based on a quest to be as altruistic as I can be; are you
telling me that altruism is somehow un-free-software-ish? What the hell
about generously writing a software package that you know you won't use,
but thousands or millions of others will love, lacks "heart and soul"?

> 4. the ratio of free software developers to free software users may be
> shrinking, but the total number is increasing. in more concrete (but
> only example) figures: 5% of 100,000 is a whole lot less than 2% of
> 1,000,000.

Let's run with those hypothetical figures for a moment.

1990: 5% of 100,000, of whom 100% are free software developers
2000: 2% of 1,000,000, of whom 80% are "open source" developers and 20%
      are "free software" developers.

Why am I stressing the whole "open source"/"free software" dichotomy?
Simple. "Open source" people care more about money than about freedom -or-
quality, and they are willing to sacrifice _both_ freedom and quality for
the sake of money. They are the same sorts of minds who would have signed
on with Microsoft in the early '80s-- it's just that they're emerging into
a community where things, at least at this moment in time, are more
open...so, for the moment, they can't get away with all the dirty tricks
they would otherwise pull.

> 5. who gives a damn if redhat, or corel, or whoever makes money from
> free software? money's not the issue. as long as the software remains
> free, it doesn't matter what they do. even better, some of them even

Money is not the issue. The software -isn't- remaining free and it -won't-
remain free. The only thing about 'money' that is important to my case is
the fact that all of these nasty things are being done to various
GNU/Linux distributions because of moneylust.

> contribute a lot of free software back to the community (RH may
> have their faults, but they *have* contributed a lot of software,
> and they have paid for a lot of programming hours on free software
> projects...overall, they have been a force for good in the free software
> world - although this will undoubtedly change within 3-5 years as they
> turn into just another amoral corporation)

That's a lot of my point right there.

> 6. there are sometimes extreme contradictions between what clueful geeks
> want from a system and what your Joe Winidiot might want from a system.
> these contradictions are often mutually exclusive. simplicity (aka "easy
> to learn") is most often achieved by sacrificing flexibility and power
> (aka "easy to use").

Three words: Mac. OS. X.

> just slapping on a GUI will not and can not solve this inherent
> conflict.  A GUI is NOT a magic wand.

To Joseph Q. WinIdiot, yes, it is. Before GUIs, the J.W.s of the world
could not use computers easily-- now, they can. Poof-- magic!

> software is NOT "one size fits all". that's one of the reasons why free
> software is essential. if it doesn't suit you, hack it until it does.

Joe WinIdiot cannot hack.

> 7. error messages are primarily for the programmer, not the user.
> their main purpose is to provide enough diagnostic information so the
> programmer can figure out what/where the bug is.

Error messages frighten computer illiterates.

> 8. we *have* good GUIs.

Like what? GNOME? Don't make me laugh. KDE? Almost as laughable.

> the fact that they may not be the same kind of GUI that your Joe
> Winidiot might choose to use is irrelevant. our needs are different to
> Mr JW.  Hell, our needs are different from each others which is why we
> have dozens of window managers and several GUIs to choose from.
> 9. we don't need visual C++ or anything like it. we really don't want
> the illiterate barbarian hordes of windows programmers filling the free
> software archives with incomprehensible cargo-cult programming crap.
> if someone can't program without such tools then they have no business
> calling themselves a programmer and they should start studying for a
> more appropriate career (practicing "would you like fries with that,
> sir?" would be about right)

If we don't make the people who code for Joe WinIdiot feel at home,
they'll keep running Winders... Now, naturally, you may have a point, in
that if they come to the GNU/Linux world, they'll start flooding the free
software world with garbage software.. but do you really think that we can
create software that Joe WinIdiot wants to use IN THEIR STEAD? If so,
okay, fine... eliminate the VC++ thing.. maybe put in a Visual BASIC
clone so the users-who-are-not-quite-coders can make their little GUI

> 10. build a system so simple that even a moron can use it and only a
> moron will want to use it. cf. Microsoft Windows.
> 11. i'm frankly sick of the whole damn world focusing on the lowest
> fucking common denominator! why not expend some energy on smart people
> for a change? that's why i'm in debian, that's why i'm involved in free
> software - because it's mostly smart people doing clever things for our
> own benefit.

This doesn't jive very well with my beliefs. I think free software is all
about altruism, and I want to use free software to advance my altruistic

> i don't write or contribute to free software because i want to make yet
> another meaningless toy for the morons in consumerland to waste their
> lives with. i do it because it solves some problem for myself and also
> so that i can share my ideas and code with my peers - hopefully they can
> learn from and be impressed or amused by what i do, just as i can learn
> from and be impressed or amused by what they do.
> i.e. it's about community, not product. participation, not consumption.

I think of it as giving, not taking.. programs, not "products"..
individuals, not companies.. Apparently, you see things from a slightly
different perspective.

> 12. there's no way that you can simplify complex tools for Joe Winidiot
> without losing the value of those tools. complex tools require
> knowledge, and they require intelligence to operate. e.g. you need
> to know certain things, like "what is a string?" or "what does case
> sensitivity mean?" in order to get any use out of tools like grep.
> this means that documentation is key, not simplication. help to educate
> those who can be educated and to hell with the rest. they aren't worth
> wasting time on, let them eat microsoft.
> 13. yes, i am an arrogant elitist bastard.  i don't care.

I've noticed. This is a very common trait in the Unix world. I was once
like that...now I've realized that I'd rather help the JWs of the world.

> 14. the Joe Winidiots of this world may not be capable of installing or
> running Linux by themselves, but they aren't capable of installing or
> running Windows or MS Word either. this is why most companies spend a
> fortune on technical support staff, help-desks, and support contracts.

You're missing my point. I will repeat-- again. JW's computer came
preloaded with Winders. He won't change to anything else unless he can
install that "anything else" HIMSELF-- _and_ not be scared shitless of it.

> 15. most of those support staff are barely more computer-literate
> than the people they are helping...but it's damn easy to sound like
> an "expert" when your boss isn't capable of understanding what you're
> talking about either.

I know.

> 16. if you see a need then start coding. don't waste everyone's time by
> telling us what we *should* be doing.

I fear that that is what I'm going to have to do.

> craig
> --
> craig sanders

 = Jon "Caspian" Blank,  right-brained computer programmer at large =
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