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Letters to the editor should be sent to email@example.com. 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.
April 18, 2002
From: Richard Stallman <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com Subject: iSCSI and patents Date: Mon, 15 Apr 2002 16:00:45 -0600 (MDT) Dear Editor Tom Wu in a letter on April 1 takes issue that the statement that SRP "appears to be covered" by three patents. However, when we look at his version of the facts, it is not entirely different. Wu tells us that Lucent "has not asserted" a claim, but that doesn't mean it won't do so later. Lucent could be hanging back so that SRP will be accepted a standard, and planning to attack its users once they are hooked, much as Unisys did with GIF format. Phoenix says its patent "may" apply to SRP. Unless we have reason to be sure it does not, that is reason aplenty to consider SRP a booby trap. Wu clearly wants his work on SRP to be a contribution to human knowledge and available for unrestricted use. The tragedy of software patents is that they don't allow him to contribute: his work can be privatized by others, and there is nothing he can do to protect it from patents. In his wish for his contribution to be of service, he faces the temptation to believe that it is safe, so he argues that a mere possibility (rather than a likelihood) of a patent problem is not cause for real alarm. Believe this at your peril! A chance that patents cover a protocol is like a chance that food has salmonella: don't find out by eating it! Of course, any protocol might perhaps be patented, just as any piece of food might perhaps be poisoned; safety is never guaranteed. But when you see a specific reason to doubt the safety of a particular piece of food, you wouldn't risk it. Likewise, if a protocol is menaced by a known patent, it must not be part of a standard. We must speak with a firm voice, telling the iSCSI committee that SRP must be optional and no more. We must insist on free standards also for web services, and for every area of computing. Any company that wants to be a friend of the free software community should take a clear stand for patent-free standards. Please take a look at www.programming-freedom.org and www.ffii.org, and please join the campaign against software patents--in Europe, and elsewhere. Sincerely Richard Stallman Founder of the Free Software Movement (www.gnu.org/why-free.html) Initiator of the GNU/Linux operating system (http://www.gnu.org/gnu/the-gnu-project.html)
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Bryan Henderson) To: email@example.com Subject: The right to the fruits of one's ideas Date: Wed, 17 Apr 2002 00:25:07 +0000 A letter in the April 11 LWN talks about the need for private property and the moral right of a free person to profit from his labor or inventions to the full extent that the market will bear. The writer says Patents, copyrights and trade secret protections are a cornerstone of modern Western civilization. ... The founders of the United States felt the issue was sufficiently important to put it in the Constitution." Because the US Constitution is usually associated with its guarantees of individual rights, this statement could be misleading. The reference is to a part of the Constitution that defines the powers of Congress, not that defines rights of citizens. It reads, The Congress shall have the power... To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries; What this means is that Congress can, where it sees fit, create patents and copyrights and such. It doesn't mean Congress has to create patents or that anyone has a right to one. In fact, in "for a limited time," it goes exactly the other way -- preserving the right of people to sponge off other peoples' work. People like Richard Stallman who hate what intellectual property law has become don't think there should be no (private) intellectual property. They just don't think it should be distributed the way it is today. For example, if a patent allows an inventor just enough exclusive use that inventing the thing and telling the world about it are worthwhile, but beyond that allows everyone free use of the invention, it's done it's job to "promote the progress of science and useful arts." It isn't necessary for the inventor to get rich off his great idea. -- Bryan Henderson Phone 408-621-2000 San Jose, California
From: Dan Stromberg <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com Subject: RAND Date: Thu, 11 Apr 2002 08:03:31 -0700 IMO, the biggest problem with RAND licensing isn't that it's unreasonable to exclude Free Software as it does (I don't like it, but that's big business' prerogative); it's that the acronym itself makes it sound as though it isn't discriminatory, while it is very much so. -- Dan Stromberg UCI/NACS/DCS
From: Nick LeRoy <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com Subject: Gateway's Consumer Advocacy Campaign Date: Fri, 12 Apr 2002 21:34:25 -0500 Cc: firstname.lastname@example.org Ted Waitt, CEO Dear Mr. Waitt: I would like to take a minute and personally thank you for standing up to Hollywood for consumer's rights. It's great to have you on our side! I'd also like to let you know that next time that I'm shopping for computer equipment, Gateway will be my first stop. Thanks again!! -Nick
From: Kay Hayen <email@example.com> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: http://www.lwn.net/daily/perens-robertson.php3 Date: Mon, 15 Apr 2002 18:52:58 +0200 Cc: email@example.com Bruce, gratulations for a well-done rebuttal of the Robertson letter, but your comment "my surmise is that over the long term a non-profit like Debian supported by hardware manufacturers and other businesses will work best. But I'd be delighted to see you prove me wrong. " I agree with that Debian will win in the end. I do not agree with the reason you seem to give, calling Debian "non-profit". To me, this is more like the question of wether a closed system of a company that does not share with others can win over an open system like Debian where everybody can contribute to their own benefit. If companies want to make Suse or Redhat support their system or make it go in a certain direction, they need to give them money. With Debian this is not needed, but instead companies like HP can provide their skills to improve the system. So, like Free Software wins over proprietary software, the open system, I dare say, the Free Debian, is going to win over the closed systems that exist so far. I do not necessarily think an open system needs to be non-profit. I believe there is at least one effort to make profit in an open system company. Yours, Kay Hayen
From: joey tsai <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com Subject: waiting for a configuration system in 2.5 Date: Thu, 11 Apr 2002 01:29:02 -0400 With this week's announcement of Keith Owens kbuild 2.5 (http://lwn.net/2002/0411/kernel.php3) I remembered ESR's CML2, last mentioned during a flamewar (http://lwn.net/2002/0221/kernel.php3). While Guillaume Boissiere 2.5 status still shows CML2 as "Ready" the last CML2 update released was weeks ago. Were the many flamewars and its long non-inclusion in the kernel nails in its coffin? I was looking forward to the new configuration system, but I certainly understood the hostility some developers had against it. I figured (probably like Eric) that any obstacles would be eventually overcome, though. Many times when I'm programming, I have "gut feelings" about whether I'm approaching the solution correctly or not. And the more I thought about CML2, the more I tended to agree with the dissenters, it was simply a huge overkill. The fact is that though it certainly has warts, the configuration system works improperly only for a small number of cases. I still think that the kernel needs a better configuration system, but right now it doesn't appear to be CML2. Unfortunately, there is no other feasible option ready now, so we may have to continue waiting. -- | PHILANTHROPIST, n. A rich (and usually bald) old gentleman who joey tsai | has trained himself to grin while his conscience is picking his | pocket. | -- Ambrose Bierce, "The Devil's Dictionary"
From: Emile Snyder <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com Subject: RMS, property, and freedom Date: Thu, 11 Apr 2002 14:52:39 -0700 Cc: firstname.lastname@example.org In last weeks edition Mr. David Walker wrote a letter responding to an interview with Richard Stallman that LWN conducted. I believe that by conflating two very different kinds of property laws Mr. Walker fundamentally misunderstands Mr. Stallman's points. He asserts that "In the world of computing, Mr. Stallman says that a programmer who goes to school and thinks up a unique, marketable hack must give it away." And later that "In fact, there is no freedom without private property. Freedom starts with the absolute ownership of your own body and your own labor." In taking this position Mr. Walker ignores the fundamental distinction in kind between physical property, and so called intellectual property. Namely, the non-replicable nature of physical stuff; if I have a sandwich and I sell it to you, I can't eat it, it's gone. Contrast this with digital information distribution where we can all, so to speak, eat the same sandwich. Physical property law is intended to advance a particular social good: that individuals need not fear being *deprived* of physical stuff; you can't just take my sandwich and leave me with nothing. Copyright and patent law (in the US at least) is intended to advance a very different social good: "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts" (US Constitution, Section 8, Clause 8). Ie., the problem is "how do we motivate people to create interesting ideas/books/music" and the particular answer chosen is "grant them an artificial limited monopoly over reproduction." Mr. Stallman's (consistent) position in regards to software is that copyright and patent law fails in this "promotion of the arts and sciences" goal, and that other social goods which are more important are harmed by the application of copyright and patent law to software production and distribution. However, Mr. Walker's letter appeals to a conception of intellectual property as basically interchangeable with physical property, as when he says "In a free society if a guy writes a program, it is his. He can sell it or give it away as the spirit moves him." But the FSF and Mr. Stallman have never argued otherwise. They have only pointed out the social harm in then punishing the buyer from giving away copies to his/her friends and neighbors. This is why the physical/informational distinction is at the crux of the issue. One may disagree with RMS's analysis of the failings of copyright law, but it is irresponsible to impugn his position based on specious analogy to physical property law. Regards, Emile Snyder
From: Xavier Bestel <email@example.com> To: David Walker <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Re: Date: 11 Apr 2002 15:45:38 +0200 Cc: email@example.com David Walker wrote: > It would appear from these quotes that Mr. Stallman does not think people > should be allowed to make money from their own labor, but should "donate" > it to the common good or have it taken from them. > > As a health professional (physical therapist), I am familiar with this > thinking. There are many who contend that health care should be a "human > right", available to all at no cost. Nice idea until you get to the part > where I must work for free. Health care is a service, not a right. > Otherwise, who will pay for my lunch? Just try to think out of the box. Here in France, everyone has nearly free access to health care, and rest assured that therapists don't work for free at all ! They are generally very well paid, and are independant. Moreover your comparison doesn't work very well: GPL software can be written by professional and sold by companies. It just can't be proprietary. Cheers, Xav
From: Leon Brooks <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com Subject: Open Letter to Jerry Sanders Date: Wed, 17 Apr 2002 11:54:39 +0800 Cc: firstname.lastname@example.org AN OPEN LETTER TO JERRY SANDERS [PLEASE FORWARD] Jerry Sanders, You appear to have made some critical mistakes which may impact AMD's image. In your testimony in the Microsoft monopolistic remedy trial, you said, (quoting http://news.com.com/2100-1001-883701.html): > most non-Microsoft server operating systems only run on specialized > microprocessors, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, NetBSD and Linux run on a wide variety of processors, including AMD's own architectures. Even Sun's Solaris will run on `Intel' (ie, Athlon etc) processors. Many of these operating systems will run on AMD processors which Microsoft do not support. > Sanders praised Microsoft for helping to bring standardization to the > computer industry. "Standardized platforms promote competition," he > asserted. The absence of this standardization "would diminish overall > competition as many software and hardware vendors would have to > decide which particular operating system(s) to target as a > development platform." I agree that standards provide for uniform interfaces and behaviour across a wide variety of platforms and systems, including many of those running AMD processors and support chips. Thus they support competition. Microsoft do not promote standards. Standards are called standards because they are freely available, and do not contain restrictions peculiar to one entity. The vast majority of Microsoft's software technologies are entirely proprietary, and where Microsoft do approach standards, their implementations (such as Kerberos, CIFS, Java, HTML, UniCode) are sufficiently non-standard that they do not successfully interoperate with standard systems. In short, Microsoft break standards. They `demote' them. Microsoft break standards, even their own defacto `standards', deliberately. Has anyone told you about `DOS ain't done 'til Lotus won't run'? How about `100% seems like a fair share [of the wordprocessor market] to me'? The enormous number of technical and semi-technical people who know about this and have to live with the consequences daily will notice a vast dichotomy between what actually happens, and what you are reported as having asserted in court. There are two obvious conclusions which follow from your words as quoted, pending the availability of background information to the contrary: (1) `this man is incompetent'; or (2) `this man is following a hidden agenda'. Now I know, and you know, that you didn't get to where you are by being a liar or a nitwit. But that won't stop people from coming to those conclusions. Neither of these understandings will help AMD's reputation. They will induce people in a position to dispense technical advice - which is where I sit - to recommend against AMD. That means recommending someone like Intel or Samsung. I don't want to do that, because Intel and Samsung need stiff competition to keep them honest and busy, and AMD is that competition. Please take steps to reassure me, and the many people like me, that either your statements have been misreported, or that the agenda behind them is genuinely in the public interest. Cheers; Leon