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Re: (OT) non-proprietary software merits

on Mon, Oct 01, 2001 at 09:12:47PM -0700, Jaye Inabnit ke6sls (ke6slsalt1@home.com) wrote:
>    Greetings,
> Today in CIS class, we talked about how software is kind of dangerous
> if it isn't proprietary. Also mentioned was Shareware, Freeware and
> Public Domain.

Where?  The reeducation committee shall be dispatched.

The first action is to call the accuser to task.  Rather than you
proving the negative (contra defense), ask the person to justify their
statement.  Fun part is you can often do this in a way that doesn't
immediately show your bias:

   Gee, that's interesting.  Professor, can you tell us why proprietary
   software is less dangerous than free software?

...then let the person spin out some rope.  Generally they'll trot out
some well-known (and debunked) FUD.

> ...I am really kind of amazed that these professional instructors
> don't even know what GPL is or that they would recommend proprietary
> software over anything else.

People argue their biases.  Particularly when they feel threatened.
There's a life lesson in there for you somewhere.

> If you have some good info that you wouldn't mind sharing with me
> privately, I would really like to collect a sample and present it to
> both my current instructor and the staff of my college. I am not
> currently subscribed to debian-users, so if you reply to the list,
> kindly add my address as a CC.

Suggested references:

  - http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html
    The Free Software Definition - GNU Project - Free Software
    Foundation (FSF)  

  - http://www.opensource.org/
    The Open Source Initiative

  - http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/opensources/book/toc.html
    Chris DiBona, Sam Ockman, and Mark Stone (editors), _Open Sources_
    O'Reilly & Associates, January, 1999.

    In particular:

      Bob Young, "Giving it Away"

      Paul Vixie, "Software Engineering"

  - http://www.unix-vs-nt.org/
    John Kirch's Unix v. NT page

  - http://emoglen.law.columbia.edu/publications/anarchism.html
    Eben Moglen, "Anarchism Triumphant"

  - http://www.eruditum.org/linux/myths/myth-dispeller.html
    The New GNU/Linux Myth Dispeller

    In particular:

      "System Myths"

Microsoft itself is a wonderful source of pro-free software statements.
This is not without its own small measure of irony.

  - http://www.opensource.org/halloween/
    The Halloween documents.
    The first two of these are documents produced internally at
    Microsoft, as strategy and evaluation documents in battling free
    software.  They are a frank, and in some cases, troubling, view into
    the belly of the beast.  The name comes from the date on which the
    first of these was released to Eric S. Raymond, free software

    In particular:

      - "Halloween I", Vinod Vallopillil, Microsoft Corporation
	 A strategic assessment of free software (termed "OSS" by

	    OSS projects have been able to gain a foothold in many server
	    applications because of the wide utility of highly
	    commoditized, simple protocols. By extending these protocols
	    and developing new protocols, we can deny OSS projects entry
	    into the market.  

      - "Halloween II", Josh Cohen, Microsoft Corporation 
        A technical assessment of the Linux kernel and GNU/Linux OS.

	    Linux represents a best-of-breed UNIX, that is trusted in
	    mission critical applications, and - due to it's open source
	    code - has a long term credibility which exceeds many other
	    competitive OS's. 

  - http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/exec/craig/05-03sharedsource.asp
    Craig Mundie of Microsoft, "The Commercial Software Model".
    Noteable for its inaccurate, or frankly false, statements of the
    free software (Microsoft refers to this as OSS) development model.
    Comments interspersed, original denoted with '|'.

	| The OSS development model leads to a strong possibility of
	| unhealthy "forking" of a code base, 

	Actually, "forking" is both healthy, and low risk.  Instances of
	persistant forks are rare.  Notable are emacs/xemacs, gcc/egcs,
	and various window managers.  In the first case, though the fork
	is maintained, compatibility remains close.  In the second case,
	the fork was resolved.  In the third, the reason for the forking
	was largely functional -- fvwm has spawned a number of window
	managers:  fvwm2, AfterStep, Enlightenment, and others.
	Fundamental compatibility between X clients and window managers
	is maintained -- in most cases, it's possible to swap out window
	managers on the fly, within an X session.

	| resulting in the development of multiple incompatible versions
	| of programs, 

	Not.  Particularly under the GPL.  Licenses which allow
	proprietization (particularly the BSD license) are accused with
	some merit of leading to considerable forking within the
	*proprietary* Unix space.  Many technical, social, and
	development dynamics forces make persistant forks rare.

	Forks are likely to arise only where:

	  - The license allows for same.

	  - Significant technical differences require forking.  These
	    may be end-user requirements (e.g.:  window managers as
	    discussed above), or platform requirements.  There's some
	    suggestion that very small-system Linux ports may
	    eventually fork from primary Linux kernel development due to
	    technical constraints of these platforms.  This remains
	    theoretical as the fork has not yet occured.

	  - There are significant differences in project leadership.
	    Differnent models of development or ideas for progress can
	    lead to each side demonstrating its best abilities.  This
	    happens rarely.  It usually results in one survivor moving
	    forward.  However, it allows both sides to demonstrate
	    without prejudice their vision.

          - More often:  forks are small, and good.  A small fork is
	    really an exploration of an alternative development path.
	| weakened interoperability

	Microsoft should talk "weakened interoperability".  GNU/Linux
	and free software are *based on* interoperability:  GNU/Linux is
	interoperabile with the open POSIX/UNIX standard.  Services such
	as mail, Web, Usenet, messaging, DNS, and timekeeping, are
	interoperable between platforms divergent on the basis of
	operating system, hardware, and physical location.  It doesn't
	get much more interoperable than that.

	Microsoft, by contrast, has exploited *lack* of
	interoperability, often with its own products, to force an
	upgrade treadmill.  It has also driven incompatibility wedges
	between itself and its competition, from DR DOS to Samba.

	The snake speaks with a forked toungue.
	| product instability,

	Boys and girls, can you say BSOD?

	| and hindering businesses ability to strategically plan for the
	| future.

	I think I've determined Microsoft's strategy of critiquing free
	software:  stare in the mirror, describe what you see, and
	ascribe it to the opposition.

	Microsoft has been shown, as a legal fact, to have exploited a
	monopoly position, and have violated US anti-trust laws.  Need I
	say more?
	| Furthermore, it has inherent security risks 

	An absolute truth.

	*All* computer systems have inherent security risks.

	However, an absolute lie, when turned to a relative comparison:
	free software, both applications and operating systems, have
	been demonstrated again and again, to be more secure, less
	vulnerable, and more effectively adminstered, than Microsoft
	| and can force intellectual property into the public domain.  

	...which is bad because....

	I detect an unstated assumption.

> Thank you so much. I hope I can collect some useful information
> organized and presented in a kind yet assertive way.
Oh shit, I guess I blew it ;-)

Karsten M. Self <kmself@ix.netcom.com>        http://kmself.home.netcom.com/
 What part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?              Home of the brave
  http://gestalt-system.sourceforge.net/                    Land of the free
   Free Dmitry! Boycott Adobe! Repeal the DMCA!  http://www.freesklyarov.org
Geek for Hire                      http://kmself.home.netcom.com/resume.html

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