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Letters to the editor should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Preference will be given to letters which are short, to the point, and well written. If you want your email address "anti-spammed" in some way please be sure to let us know. We do not have a policy against anonymous letters, but we will be reluctant to include them.
March 15, 2001
From: "Kapil H. Paranjape" (user: kapil host: imsc.ernet.in) Date: Mon, 12 Mar 2001 12:12:44 +0530 To: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Does free mean "free from" or "free to"? Hello, While there is a lot of discussion on the "free beer" versus "free speech" distinction along with the emphasis on free as in "freedom", there is perhaps not enough said about the *duties* that go with freedom. In High School civics (in India) the fundamental rights of people were always tied to the fundamental duties---there's that uncomfortable "d" word again. One of the duties that goes with free (mukta) software is that of climbing the learning curve. Users should be continually encouraged to step beyond the boundaries of their current knowledge---not sit tight in beautifully designed boxes of their favourite desktop/window manager/user interface. I have yet to see an interface that encourages such exploration the way (for example) adventure and nethack do at the level of games. When we emphasise the development of software that makes computers easy to use we should also beware that this should not lead to the "computer is a toaster" analogy that many proprietary vendors like to promote. Let us not bring more users into the free software fold by telling them that life is easier here--rather that there are more opportunities to use ones' abilities to the creative fullest. Unfortunately, as long there will be people willing to "take the easy way", there will also be a MicroSoft that leads them to a beautifully decorated creative dead-end. Kapil.
Date: Thu, 8 Mar 2001 12:18:29 +0000 To: email@example.com Subject: Mozilla Matters From: firstname.lastname@example.org RE: Luke Subert, 'Will Mozilla 1.1.1 be released in 2001?', 2/3/2001. How Mr Subert is able to talk of the 'slow pace of Mozilla development' defies belief. For anyone who has been using the software, the rapid advancement (particularly noticable recently with the 0.8 release) is obvious, and to further state that Mozilla 'will [not be ready] until [release] 1.1.1' is bordering on ridiculous. Can I ask if Mr. Subert has used Mozilla? It is now my primary browser, and I can say I am very happy with it. To further compare Mozilla to other browsers shows Mr. Subert's lack of actual usages of these products. Mozilla compares very well to Galeon (it should do, Galeon is based on Mozilla!), and already is more feature-rich than either Konq or Opera (no disrespect to those browsers). Further, Mozilla is being used in more and more projects (Galeon, as mention, SkipStone, as well as a host of Gnome projects using Mozembed, and countless others). Mozilla is in far wider use than Mr. Subert obviously recognises, and is not only complying with standards, but setting them also (witness XBL 1.0, for example). I suggest Mr Subert downloads the current 0.8 build of Mozilla (or perhaps wait for 0.8.1, or 0.9) and actually try it. Try building Galeon with it. I think he would be surprised. Let's get off the Mozilla teams' back, shall we? Try the software, it's actually really rather good :-) Kind regards, Alex Hudson. --
From: "Matt.Wilkie" <Matt.Wilkie@gov.yk.ca> To: email@example.com Subject: RE: Free Software has forgotten release often? Date: Thu, 8 Mar 2001 17:47:13 -0800 > While free software has many advantages, many projects > seem to have forgotten the "release often" rule. Long > cycles for projects like Mozilla (4 years to the 1.0 > release) and GIMP (2 years between 1.0 and the next major > release of 1.2) leave ordinary users wondering just where > the added value of open source really lives. ??? There is a new release of Mozilla every day via the nightly tarballs if you like the leading edge, and if you prefer a little more stability, more or less quarterly milestones (now minor dot releases). I don't follow GIMP development as closely; I've only upgraded my installation four or five times in the last twelve months. Yes I wish Mozilla was "done". Yes I wish for a couple of new GIMP features (not that can think of many). However I'm quite willing to trundle along with not quite perfect versions while the coders sweating in the smithy bang away, folding the metal over a hundred times to build the best possible edge. Not that I'm above the occasional whiny "are we there yet?" ;-) The proprietary softwares I make my livelihood with have fairly regular "releases" about every 18 months or so. For minor programs it is standard policy to wait an extra 6 months to a year before forking out the dough ("never buy a .0 version"). For our major program (ArcInfo) we pay the multi-thousand dollar yearly support fees and get the latest and greatest. However we've been using the last major version for about a year, and we -still- haven't rolled it out into production use because it's too slow and crash prone. In my grumpy opinion it's still a beta version (feature complete but not stable or optimised) and should be labeled as such. So, version numbers can be a useful tool when wielded appropriately. Unfortunately too many major players in the industry play fast and loose with them so they don't really mean much anymore, if they ever did. -matt ----------------------------------------------------------------- These are my own opinions and do not necessarily represent my employer. -----------------------------------------------------------------
From: Anton Ertl <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: What is a Linux Distribution? To: email@example.com Date: Sun, 11 Mar 2001 10:34:57 +0100 (MET) To me a "Linux" system feels quite different from a plain NetBSD system (as well as out-of-the-box proprietary Unices), mainly because a typical "Linux" distribution is a GNU distribution and thus offers many practical commands and command features that non-GNU systems lack. And I use these features quite frequently, as I noticed when I worked on a NetBSD system: I had problems on most commands I entered, because I used some GNUicism (starting with bash features). OTOH, a proprietary Unix with lots of GNU packages installed feels much more familiar. Strangely, even tomsrtbt, which replaces many of the GNU tools with smaller programs, feels much more GNU/Linux-ish than other Unices do out-of-the-box. - anton
To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Debian GNU/Hurd is a ``Linux distribution?'' From: Gordon Matzigkeit <email@example.com> Date: 08 Mar 2001 10:37:56 -0600 Greetings, However, we would not call NetBSD a "Linux distribution". Why not? Well, to start, the NetBSD folks might very well get offended, since they've been around a lot longer than Linux. You might also find some GNU folks who would be offended at having GNU called a ``Linux distribution,'' since they've been around a lot longer than Linux. Debian GNU/Hurd is free applications (many of which are officially GNU), running on the GNU C Library, on the GNU Hurd kernel servers, on a GNU variant of the Mach microkernel. That makes GNU at the very least two out of three of the core system components you described. People once argued that you could call something a ``Linux system'' no matter what its makeup, so long as it ran the Linux kernel. Now, it seems, the argument is that you can call it a ``Linux system'' if it shares any applications at all in common with systems that run Linux kernels (so long as it doesn't have BSD heritage). Rationale? To me, it's a problem of credit, and the unfortunate thing is that it's probably impossible to reconcile ``Linux camp'' and ``GNU camp'' notions of where credit should lie. This issue doesn't come up in proprietary systems, because there's a single vendor who owns the system, and says what the system is called. I see the GNU/Linux, and GNU/Hurd designations as a compromise to give both idealists and kernel hackers credit. Of course, there could be other groups who feel underrepresented, but they haven't been as vocal as the kernelists. Until I see a better naming proposal, that's the one I choose to use. BTW, thanks for your excellent coverage of Debian GNU/Hurd... it's a high compliment when what I read in LWN makes the issues clearer than being subscribed to the mailing lists. -- Gordon Matzigkeit <firstname.lastname@example.org> //\ I'm a FIG (http://fig.org/) Committed to freedom and diversity \// I use GNU (http://fig.org/gnu/)
Subject: What about Domino? Date: Thu, 8 Mar 2001 16:15:23 -0500 From: "Sightler, Tom" <email@example.com> To: <firstname.lastname@example.org> I'm writing to point out what I believe to be an inaccuracy in the following statement on the Main Page of your March 8th, 2001 issue. You make the following statement: 'OpenMail is the only "enterprise ready," Exchange-compatible mail server product which is available on Linux. Its demise leaves an important corporate function with no Linux-based solution; all that's left is windows-based, proprietary systems - and not very many of those.' Unless there's been an anouncement that I've missed, Lotus Domino still fully supports running on Linux, as well as quite a few other platforms as well. They also support Microsoft Outlook 98/2000 with their iNotes Access for Microsoft Outlook product. I certainly think Domino qualifies as "enterprise ready" and offers many features that Exchange does not have. Domino supports all major internet standards such as SMTP, POP, IMAP, and LDAP so I don't really see how this makes them a worse choice than OpenMail (maybe you just liked them because they used sendmail). Some have critisized Lotus for supporting their server platform on Linux without providing a Linux client, but they do at least offer step-by-step instuction on setting up the Win32 client to run under Linux by using Wine, which is more than many companies do, and of course you can use any standard POP or IMAP client for basic email services. I did like OpenMail very much, but I think Domino on Linux still means that Linux has can server this very critical corporate function. Tom Sightler
To: email@example.com Subject: Source code From: Ketil Malde <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: 09 Mar 2001 08:34:45 +0100 Hi In Leon Brooks' letter concerning the DVD-CCA's threats against Dr. Touretzky the issue of whether source code can be seen as a "device" - more specifically, a "circumvention device" - is raised. I think this issue may have bearing upon more than the DeCSS case, and that some exploration of the concepts involved could be fruitful. Clearly, source code in high level languages exists for the benefit of humans, not computers. Source code is only a means to express algorithms in a manner close enough to natural language that humans can understand them, yet precise enough to not be ambigous. The compiled, binary (machine) code, on the other hand, exist only so that together with the appropriate processor and other hardware, some task can be performed - in other words, the hardware and software form a "device". Or, to analogize: Source code is the floor plan, machine code is the building. Given the former and the right tools, you can construct the latter, which is actual useful. The interesting thing is that if this view is accepted, it seems source code might be a way out of a lot of problems for free software. For instance, I find it hard to accept that patents can apply to anything but the compiled program. The source code is just an exact description of the (patented) process involved, you need the compiled program to actually *perform* the process. If distributing source code is a breach of the patent, then so must distributing the actual patent text be, since it contains the same information! Surely I don't have to license a patent to read it? -kzm -- If I haven't seen further, it is by standing in the footprints of giants
To: email@example.com Subject: LWN: perltidy From: Andrew Hilborne <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: 12 Mar 2001 18:24:33 +0000 <RANT> Well, I like what perltidy did to dailystrips: dailystrips is a *real* mess and it _appears_ that perltidy didn't break anything... ..except: it wrote an output file by default. Happily it didn't overwrite the input file, which would have been the greatest of sins, but even this isn't good enough. Unix programs should obey the principle of least-surprise, and they should behave like filters by default. This makes them easier to stitch together in ways unthought-of by their authors, with the minimum of extra flags. (Another good rule is that an invocation with no flags should perform the "most common task." Eg look at pr(1).) While I'm at it, let me note that, to paraphrase someone from an old Bell Labs Journal, "Unix is a mute slave: it assumes you know what you're asking for and, so long as there are no errors when it does it, doesn't report anything back. This lets you, the user, get on with the next task as simply as possible. Many programs break this rule: the BSD Mail program started the trend, and GNU bc continues it. I'm sure you know all this stuff, but I wish those who don't would read, for example, "The Unix Programming Environment," by Kernighan and Pike. </RANT> -- Andrew Hilborne
From: Eric <email@example.com> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Thomas Hood's LTE Date: Thu, 08 Mar 2001 10:46:46 -0800 Thomas Hood's letter describing the goals of the open-source and free-software movements as "socialistic" is dangerously confused. "Promoting a social goal" is not the same as "socialism"; the key difference is whether cooperation is voluntary or not. In our community, cooperation is voluntary -- we don't force anyone to write or share software. Under socialism, if you do not choose to "cooperate", you will be oppressed, imprisoned, and quite possibly killed. The difference is important. -- <a href="http://www.tuxedo.org/~esr/">Eric S. Raymond</a> A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and all that is necessary to close the circle of our felicities. -- Thomas Jefferson, in his 1801 inaugural address
From: email@example.com (Andrew Pimlott) Date: Thu, 8 Mar 2001 13:51:38 -0500 To: Thomas Hood <jdthoodREMOVETHIS@yahoo.co.uk> Subject: Re: Stallman on Freedom and the American Way Thomas Hood wrote: > The GPL is socialistic in that it is designed to promote a social > goal You make with this statement both a marvelous insight and a terrific blunder. Your insight is that Free Software is above all a social mission: it seeks to create a community based on certain ideals (a utopia, if you will), into which anyone may enter. It does not (to a first approximation) seek impose change on any individual or state, beyond any natural outcome of voluntary choices. Anyone who doesn't appreciate this is encouraged to read the GNU Manifesto. Your blunder is to confound a "social goal" with "socialism". I am not prepared to enter into a debate on socialism, but it is generally considered a political movement, and so is inherently different from a social movement. You ascribe to socialism the tenet, "To each according to his need; from each according to his ability". But this is not espoused by the Free Software movement. Indeed, the Free Software movement is happy to give software to anyone, independent of need; and does not pressure anyone into contributing. It argues that, if you write software, making it free is the right thing to do; but this is very different. I challenge you to find a statement from RMS to the contrary. The Free Software movement does have a political aspect, I will not deny (the politial and the social can rarely be separated entirely); but I believe it is clearly overshadowed by the social aspect (and also by the philosophical and ethical aspects). Andrew
Date: Sat, 10 Mar 2001 18:38:00 -0500 From: Steve Waldman <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com Subject: Thomas Hood on "Stallman on Freedom and the American Way" In your March 8 2001 letters, Thomas Hood writes: I think we should be frank. There is no point in fighting a war of propaganda. There is no denying the accusation that one of the main aims of the free software movement is a socialistic one... The goal is to revolutionize the means of production of software and to establish a new mode of software distribution: To each according to his need; from each according to his ability. As a software developer who releases code under the GPL, I too think we should be frank. I, like may others in the free software community, am a filthy capitalist bastard, and offer absolutely no apologies for that. I hope and expect to derive from my work far more wealth than I in any sense need, by virtue of fully exploiting my own abilities. I participate in the free software community and release code under GPL out of a carefully calculated self-interest. Proprietary software licenses have created a distorted and inefficient market for the skills and services that I sell. In the proprietary software world, success derives largely from incumbency and interoperability requirements; from the ability to define and the wherewithal to enforce crafty licenses, contracts, and patents; from strategic connections and marketing reach; and (as Mr. Allchin's comments underline) from political influence. As a programmer, I am confident that I can compete successfully in fair contests with my peers based on skill. Thus, I am directly harmed by a situation where market power, rather than technical ability, determines how wealth is allocated in my industry. I am also harmed when, to use the tools prerequisite to my trade, I must cede rights over my own work to parties that may exact monopoly rent from me or my clients, or otherwise interfere with my full enjoyment of the fruits of my work. GPLing code serves my interest in several ways. A vibrant, copyleft free software community harms powerful incumbents who compete against me unfairly. Since what I sell is expertise at solving problems, not software that I have already been written, it harms me very little to make the code I write generally available. No matter how much free software there is, I am not concerned that the world will run out of software problems to solve. There would be some harm if my competitors had no-strings-attached access to my software tool-set while I was prevented from free (in both senses) access to theirs. Here the GPL makes for a fair bargain, a level playing field: you can use mine if I can use yours, under the same terms. Lastly, but importantly, making code widely available is excellent marketing, increasing demand for my services and the rates I can charge. There is no conflict between the RMS-style, copyleft free software movement and a very deep capitalism. In fact, the free software movement is just capitalism working well, destroying through competition inefficiency and corruption in the marketplace. If Thomas Hood and Jim Allchin (strange bedfellow, I'm sure) wish to emphaisize analogies to socialism in the free software movement, they are entitled to. But the socialism they see is in their own eyes; it has little to do with free software itself. respectfully, Steve Waldman firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: 13 Mar 2001 12:16:08 -0800 To: email@example.com From: P Jones <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Stallman's Alleged Hidden Agenda I wish to respond to Mr. Hood's false assertion that Richard Stallman has a hidden agenda, namely socialism, behind his Free Software Foundation. I have directly inquired of Mr. Stallman as to his position on this very issue. He told me pointblank that he believes in the free enterprise system. I have seen Richard accused of being a socialist/communist many times on various boards. This is not true, and he has denied it publicly, on Slashdot, to mention one forum. It wasn't until I read Mr. Allchin's remarks that I began to seriously wonder if there is an organized campaign to misrepresent Stallman's views, as in FUD. While I cannot speak authoritatively on this, obviously, my warning bells are going off and I think everyone else should be on the alert as well. I think it is important to respond and assert the truth. No one should be able to casually slander a man just for fun. Not for profit either. A public forum isn't the same as a private dinner party conversation, where any number of foolish things can be said, and often are, without serious consequence. But when you publicly defame someone, as Mr. Hood did, he ought to at least provide some proof of his opinion. He certainly did not do so. Nor can he, because what he wrote is not founded on truth, though he may not know it, having been himself influenced by what I now suspect is a campaign of vilification. Richard Stallman isn't a socialist. Period. There is no hidden agenda. If there is one thing that *can* be authoritatively stated it is that Richard Stallman has *nothing* hidden. His views are well known. He isn't a politician. He writes software. He encourages the use of and openly promotes free software, free as in speech. Selling the software is fine with him, and he does so himself. What Stallman wrote in response to Mr. Allchin's remarks on the American Way came from his heart. That is who he is and what he believes. To accuse him of lying, which is in essence what Mr. Hood wrote, is calumny, and you really ought not to have printed Mr. Hood's letter. It was irresponsible, in my opinion. Yours is not an open forum, like Slashdot's, where all kinds of idiotic comments can be posted (and are). Because you have editorial oversight of what is posted on your site, you are responsible for what is posted. I hope you will find a way to correct the error and that you will be more careful in the future. A man's reputation is a very precious thing. P. Jones <email@example.com> _________________________________________________ FindLaw - Free Case Law, Jobs, Library, Community http://www.FindLaw.com Get your FREE @JUSTICE.COM email! http://mail.Justice.com