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August 2, 2001
From: Lutz Horn <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com Subject: Is proprietary software a valid option? Date: Sat, 28 Jul 2001 19:47:07 +0200 Cc: firstname.lastname@example.org -----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE----- Hash: SHA1 Dear folks at LWN, Thanks for publishing my letter regarding your coverage of the Caldera licensing scheme. To this you added the honour of quoting it as an example for an opinion 'common among certain types of free software advocates' in your july, 26th Main Page. Since you take some trouble of argueing against something you claim can be found in my statement, let me respond to your editorial. There are some points in your article that need to be addressed. 1) You start of by asking 'Is it immoral to use proprietary software?'. Of course, I never asked this question in my original letter. You, too, are aware of this, since only three paragraphes later you rephrase the question to 'Is it truly "no valid option"', using my words. Let me point out that I'm not talking about morals. I restricted myself in talking about valid or invalid options which is a completely different issue. Since, as far as I can see, inside the Free Software community there is no generally agreed idea about what is morally right or wrong in everyday live, said community focuses on one goal: Free Software and ways to further it, increase it's use, etc. Everything that is said and done about Free Software has to be judged under consideration of this goal. If something does or doesn't further this goal, it's not moral or immoral but a valid or invalid option. 2) Regarding the use of proprietary software, you ask 'What, exactly, is the harm in doing so'. The infliction of actual harm is only one thing why using proprietary software is no valid option. It is no valid option since proprietary software keeps people from helping each other, from learning while using software, and generally keeps them in a state of dependence. There may be no actual harm done from this but it sure is against the spirit of Free Software. 3) After restricting yourself to the actual harm done by the use of proprietary software you cosider the 'biggest fear' which you detect in proprietary software 'block[ing] the development of a free package'. Of course this is a major problem but the arguments you present to calm the fear down are worth considering. I agree with you that there is no need to discuss this issue. There are, of course, different problems in the use of proprietary software which do actual harm to Free Software even though no developer is discouraged from developing Free Software. If there is no Free alternative to some proprietary tool the use of this tool does strengthen it. By increasing the user base of proprietary software users make it more difficult for late coming Free Software to get a food in the door. We all know that switching tools is an undertaking not readliy done. Or is there some other reaseon why people are still using the proprietary Netscape browsers even though Mozilla is Free and ready to use? 4) You appease the users of proprietary software by saying that they need not 'feel an outsider just because the programs they need to get their work done now are not available under a free license.' In this you assume that they are being thrown out of the community by the 'Church of the FSF'. I don't think this is the case. Being a member of the Free Software community is not a question of conforming to some church rules. But of course if somebody considers himself a member of the Free Software community he has to ask himself where his priorities lie. Do they lie in getting 'their work done' or in working for Free Software. If they lie in the first, the use of proprietary software may be a valid option. If they lie in the second, it is not. Regards Lutz Horn - -- Lutz Horn <email@example.com> For PGP information see header. -----BEGIN PGP SIGNATURE----- Version: GnuPG v1.0.6 (GNU/Linux) Comment: Weitere Infos: siehe http://www.gnupg.org iD8DBQE7YvpPzQ+com69o1kRAvNXAJ9slnohfn1aSX7fHnmvthHdbtRNOwCfXQ+u Xfnmml7UEPXLtdsfm1HEYos= =WMH4 -----END PGP SIGNATURE-----
From: Mark Koek <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com Subject: Is it immoral to use proprietary software? Date: Thu, 26 Jul 2001 13:13:55 +0200 While I generally appreciate LWN.net's editorials for their clarity and insight (although I occasionally disagree with them), today I was disappointed to see that you have been unable to resist the temptation of joining in all the RMS-bashing that seems to be so popular these days. Aside from the fact that you are making claims that I find difficult to believe and are unsubstantiated (the "little fact that Richard Stallman and the GNU project developed much of its early code on proprietary Unix systems" for example - I would venture that RMS used free Berkeley systems in the eighties), the general tone and direction of the article reveal a shocking lack of understanding of (or worse, lack of respect for) the way Richard Stallman thinks and works. Even though I am on your side where the basic question is concerned (I used Netscape when there was no free alternative, and I don't think that's morally wrong), you approach the issue not from a moral perspective such as the FSF would do, but from an "Open Source", "how-do-we-convince-the-managers" viewpoint, which I think is entirely wrong. In fact, your text perfectly illustrates why I agree with Bruce Perens that Open Source has had its day, and it's time to talk about Free Software again. RMS takes the moral high ground, certainly, but unlike most people who do that he consistently abides by his own rules, at his own personal expense. If only because of that, he deserves fairer commentary than an editorial concluding that his actions are inappropriate and unhelpful. They most certainly are not. Mark Koek
From: "Michael W. Gilbert" <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com Subject: In response to "Is it immoral to use proprietary software? " Date: Thu, 26 Jul 2001 10:34:13 -0400 Cc: Jeremy P Lemieux <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Michael W Gilbert <email@example.com> Dear Editors, In response to "Is it immoral to use proprietary software? " http://lwn.net/2001/0726/ It is this writers opinion that an essential freedom is the right to choose one's software tools, free or proprietary, without the fear of so-called excommunication. By using, enhancing, contributing to, and spreading the word about free tools, these free tools will be ameliorated to a level where they become a real choice, not by virtue of their political status, but by virtue of their usefulness, quality, and community-oriented support. To suggest, however, that when no free tools exist, the only moral choice is to create them and not use proprietary ones, indeed smacks of political correctness, and will only serve to divide a community that could better be served by working together wherever possible. Many creators of software, faced with the reality that the commodity of their daily bread requires payment at the bakery (no FBF?), have opted to exchange their work for money so they can eat (and have time to develop free software as well). While it may be somewhat politically expedient to view this issue in absolute terms, it is more an issue of continuum, on which one must find a workable place. Denying individuals the freedom to come to their own definition of what this place may be for them, or suggesting that it immoral to do so, in the name of freedom, strikes me as somewhat hypocritical. The debate is far more valuable to all parties than is the dogma. -MWG MICHAEL Wm. GILBERT firstname.lastname@example.org Technology Development and Special Projects Office of Information Technology (OIT) Lederle Graduate Research Center A115 University of Massachusetts at Amherst 740 No. Pleasant Street Amherst, MA 01003-9306 Voice: 413-545-3124 Fax: 413-545-3203
From: Paul Sheer <email@example.com> To: Jonathan Corbet <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Re: Free software Date: Mon, 30 Jul 2001 19:45:06 +0200 I am constantly surrounded by anti-microsoft bigotry on the one hand, and Free Software Foundation / RMS bashers on the other, so it is worthwhile presenting a view that everyone can live with, that holds together practically, ethically, and philosophically. In the first place, RMS is not ``wrong'' in his ideals. Anyone who is asked to paint a utopia, will doubtless come up with a sharing, socialistic world, however unattainable it might be in the present. As an ideal, the Free Software Foundation's essays are mostly correct: we ultimately want all useful technical information to be in the public domain, as well as the revocation of all policies that result in the duplication of human effort. The less secrets there are, and the more we all collaborate, the better. However, it is true in any age that ideals must cope with the capacities of the population at large. The assumption that all history is made through political decisions is not correct: often culture has to evolve before a political decision is viable. A classic example is drug abuse: it is my *right* to consume whatever substance I like. However, removing all drug controls from the law would result in instant chaos, so I prefer that drugs stay illegal for the time being. I suppose this is why the FSF does not call for a law forcing the release of all source code. Such a law is probably not practical. They merely try to appeal to people's ethical responsibility. And there are three ways a person can respond: The classic response is denial. In this mode, the person tries to find some fallacious rebuttal to the arguments of the FSF. Ultimately, this is self-defeating, since there is little in the FSF's essays that each of us does not really want anyway. The second response is quite rare: complete acceptance of the ideals, *and* the resolution to put them into practice. The third response is the acceptance of the validity of the ideals, while acknowledging ones inability to follow because of ones own personal limitations. That is: "I know I should, but I am to selfish to share." The last two are responses that make sense. I myself refuse to release certain of my own work under the licenses recommended by the FSF for two reasons: First, I am to selfish; and second, society has not evolved to the point were it would ultimately be of more practical benefit to do so---my work has reached a level of quality that I don't think would be possible unless it were a proprietary venture. There is nothing wrong with admitting that people need, at this time in history, to be competitive and selfish in order to function. With regard to last weeks front page, the very juxtaposition of Free and proprietary software does not make sense. Free software pundits are trying to create a Free system. Until that goal is entirely met, the existence of proprietary packages logically poses no interest to them. Also, there is a tremendous difference between proprietary free software and proprietary commercial software. "...there is no moral _need or purpose_ in trying to _prevent_ others from using the tools that work best for them..." Trying to make someone feel guilty about using proprietary software does not come within the definition of the word "prevent" in the preceding quote. There are also several "need or purpose"s that this sentence erroneously groups together. There are the needs of a Free Unix system, the need to popularize Free software, the need for IPOs to get a return on their investment in Linux, and the needs of the thousands of non-software companies who now depend on this Free system. -paul Paul Sheer Consulting IT Services . . . Tel . . . +27 21 761 7224 Linux development, cryptography, installations, support, training http://www.icon.co.za/~psheer . . . . http://rute.sourceforge.net L I N U X . . . . . . . . . . . . The Choice of a GNU Generation
From: Brad Hards <email@example.com> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Article Comment: Linux: The electoral test that pencil and paper meet (I.T Austrailia) Date: Sun, 29 Jul 2001 12:32:26 +1000 I noted the LWN coverage of the Software Innovations press release. You might be interested to know that some of the work on this project is being done by "big name" open source people, including Andrew Tridgell (aka Mr Samba), Dave Gibson (orionoco wireless LAN driver), Martin Pool (apache), and Rusty Russell (netfilter and other gross kernel hacks). The code is available for public review in CVS, see http://evacs.samba.org/ Brad
From: Marshal Newrock <email@example.com> To: <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Proprietary Document Formats (PDF's) Date: Thu, 26 Jul 2001 14:42:02 -0400 (EDT) With all the fuss against Adobe, I'd like to point out that there are Free Software versions of most of their products available. I'll focus on Acrobat. There's quite a few programs I've noticed which will create a PDF, some from text, some from HTML, doubtless from other formats too, even dynamically. What I haven't seen is anything that can replace Acrobat Capture. Capture is a part of Acrobat that will convert images scanned as a PDF into a PDF with text and images. The OCR works pretty good, and the resulting document looks the same as the original image. Perhaps the biggest feature is it does not convert words it's not sure about, but leaves them as images of the words, along with information for a suggested replacement (usually wrong, of course). Software that does OCR within an image would be extremely helpful. PDF's seem easily enough created, so it could save to a PDF, or perhaps also to an open format. If there are no open formats suitable (which I don't know if there are or not), then I'm sure the Free Software community would have no trouble creating one. And doubtless it would have a better encryption/password protection scheme than Adobe's, which I've read can be gotten around using Ghostscript. Perhaps there could be an On The Desktop segment about Adobe alternatives. -- Marshal Newrock, Simon's Rock College of Bard Answers are easy. It's asking the right question that's hard.
From: Jarkko Santala <email@example.com> To: <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Usage of SSH Date: Sun, 29 Jul 2001 09:02:48 +0300 (EET DST) Hi, I've just been wondering why every time there is a problem with Secure Shell from SSH Communications Security Corp (which, believe me, is really rare), it is so clearly stated that the problem is only in the commercial product, but when the problem is in an open source implementation of the protocol, quite a few sites don't bother making the point of specifying the product. They just talk about SSH. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for open source, but looks like open source folks are quite good at FUD too. Annyoed, -jake ps. on the 3.0.0 incident, anyone who has a valid shell for a pseudo-user is asking for it anyway.