Thursday, February 14, 2008

Free Software is Good, m'Kay

A few days ago a story was posted to FSDaily with the assuming title of "Can we please stop fighting FUD with FUD?" from Free Software Magazine. The gist of the article is the author's opinion that some, especially new, free software users have a habit of spreading FUD (Fear Uncertainty & Doubt) when comparing it to proprietary software.

In some ways he is right. Free Software usually wins on it's merits, if not it's philosophy. But I want to comment on a few of his statements.

If you’re to going run down Microsoft products then you need to be specific. What products suck, why and how do they suck?

Whoa, this may require more space than I really want to devote.

I see a lot of this type of thing that simply shows the proponent has rarely used the product in question. Aside from that, is this really a good argument to make?
It is a great argument, if the ways proprietary software sucks could easily be improved if it was released as free software.
Are we really going to be so arrogant as to imply that free software doesn’t suck at all? By running down the opposition aren’t we implying there are no issues with “our” software?
Excellent point, some free software does suck or has issues or both.
The only problem with this being that when we or someone else complains about how or why free software sucks, someone (the developers, you or anyone else) can come along and address those issues.

The article concludes by throwing down the gauntlet.
I—for one—would like to see more blogs and comments on why free software is good rather than why Microsoft is bad. So let’s start here. Your task is complete the sentence “Free software is good because…” in less than 50 words.
I pick up your gauntlet Mr Cartwright and offer my answer. Ahem...

Free Software is good because it offers you choices unavailable with proprietary software. It also eliminates vendor lock-in, patch dependence, forced upgrades, and per user license policing.


28 Words.

I would like to expound on the word choices above. These Choices or Freedoms give you the ability to :

Study the source code to learn how portions of the software work.

Modify the source code to adapt to your circumstances or fix problems.

Modify the source code to create new works and even compete with the original work.

Distribute the software freely, given that you follow the licensing terms.

Anyone who writes for Free Software Magazine already knows these points, but he felt it necessary to ask for them to be written, rather than write them again. I'm going to join Ryan Cartwright and ask that we all stop the FUD.

I mean really, hasn't Microsoft been through enough?

MrCopilot

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

I would like to point out that the user does not have to understand anything about computer programming to benefit from having access to the source. As long as the user has the right to study and modify the source code, the user will also have the liberty to find a person that is skilled enough to tinker with the source code. This is like wanting live music at a gathering - you can do it yourself if you know how to or you can hire some musicians to perform for you.

Rufus said...

I respectfully disagree.

You wrote: "Free Software usually wins on it's merits, if not it's philosophy."

I believe this is misleading. You may prefer the merits of "free" software but that's just your subjective opinion. Of course, you're entitled to your opinion and to your preference what works best for you.

The philosophy of "free" software, however, is all about restricting other people's choices of useing proprietary software. That's the deeper meaning of calling proprietary software "immoral" -- it means: You shouldn't be allowed to do that!

Restricting other people's choices is an immoral act in itself, unless there's good reason to restrict it.

I haven't been able to find such a reason in Stallman's essays yet. Lots of fallicious arguments -- Yes! Good reasons - No!

So, you can hardly say that "Free Software" wins on its philosophy.

Next you wrote: "Free Software is good because it offers you choices unavailable with proprietary software."

And proprietary software is good because it offers you choices unavailable with free software. So what?

Again, I'm not saying you should use proprietary software if you don't like to. But by supporting the "free" software movement and its basic idea that proprietary software is immoral, you say I should use free software althought I may not want to.

Is this indeed the right thing to do?

Next you wrote: "It also eliminates vendor lock-in, patch dependence, forced upgrades, and per user license policing."

Every of these words is debatable (this is: I consider them misleading), but that's just too much to deal with right now.

This is what the author of the original article failed to note, too, IMHO: The free software movement is all about spreading misleading statements -- or FUD, in other words -- since its beginning.

Anonymous said...

The freedom we refer to when we talk about free software allows us to control our own computers and cooperate within a community. Cooperate within a community means (among other things) having the liberty to share copies of the program (and associated source code) and having the liberty to publish modified copies of a computer program (as well as the associated code for that program).

Proprietary software does not allow us the liberty to do these things; we do not consider ourselves to be free if we choose to accept any proprietary software. Open source philosophy places less emphasis on software freedom. Proponents of open source teaches that it is acceptable to not demand freedom if it is convenient to do so.

MrCopilot said...

@Rufus

On it's merits, refers to its technical superiority, For example Firefox over IE, Apache over IIS, iptables over just about anything. And so on.
Now not all free software is technical superior to its proprietary counterparts. But software is a long distance race not a sprint, clearly free software in most cases will surpass proprietary in the long run.

The free software movement is composed of primarily developers. As such, they feel that creating proprietary software is immoral as it robs users and other developers of freedom. There is a wide array of opinions on this matter and it is not addressed in my 28 words. Stallman is at one end, which holds the belief that all proprietary software is immoral . But there are quite a few along the spectrum with less antagonistic beliefs.

The philosophy that free software wins on, is the guarantee of those freedoms.

Restricting other people's choices is an immoral act in itself, unless there's good reason to restrict it.

Guaranteeing the freedom of the user is a good reason. You disagree. Proprietary software restricts to far greater degrees that Free Software. So haw about we just say Free Software is "Less Immoral".

And proprietary software is good because it offers you choices unavailable with free software.
For instance?

Every of these words is debatable (this is: I consider them misleading), but that's just too much to deal with right now.

Not much of a debate.
I purposely was limited to under 50 words remember. But here let me spell it out for you.

Vendor Lock-in.
Example MS OFFICE vs Openoffice, Star Office, Koffice, GNOME Office, Google Docs.

Patch Dependence.
Waiting on Microsoft to release a critical patch, or hiring a programmer to write it.

Forced upgrades.
MS Office, every new version forces upgrades across the company.

Per User Licensing Police
CAL vs GPL.

Where is the debate?

Where is the FUD?

Anonymous said...

This article seems to enhance the FUD by muddling points:

I have only linux machines. I've used unix for 25+ years and linux for nearly 15, so when I need to do a (complicated) document and after hours of fiddling with OO, to pick up word and achieve my goal in 30 mins says something HUGE.

Denying MS makes good software is FUD, cause they do. (Specially since I don't use winders/word and I can still do so, but this has little to do with the advantages of FOSS)

MrCopilot said...

@Anon
I don't remember denying Microsoft can make good software. It is not something I say often though.

Visual studio is a fine development environment. Visual Studio Express is also a nice treat for new users.

Office, if you say so. As far as I remember it did the job especially for the single user. For the cost, it better be adequate. It fails when put in an actual office with many clients due to version incompatibilities.

Want to articulate your OpenOffice problem?

Rufus said...

@ MrCopilot

There's no such thing as "less immoral". Rules can either be applied universally or not. In the later case, moral is not an issue and everybody is free to pursue his own good within the usual boundaries set by law. In western countries, this means: If you find someone to supply the goods you demand, be happy!

The FUD starts with the idea that other developers can "rob" users and developers of "freedom":

(1) Without their initial decision to publish in the first place, there would be nothing you could use, change, modify, or share. Zero freedom minus zero freedom is zero robbering.

(2) They cannot rob you since you cannot be forced to use their code. Nobody's holding a gun to your head.

So that is nothing but a strawmen argument.

And yes, I disagree that guaranteeing "the freedom of the user" is a good reason since you didn't ask all users. You were not elected to do so. You just assume your subjective beliefs hold true for everybody.

Would users really agree to forbid all proprietary software if they knew the consequences? I doubt so. I certainly don't.

There's another obvious counter-example: people offereing proprietary software are always willing to use proprietary software. They don't want to be forced to obey your personal definition of "freedom".

This simple counter-example also shows that "All software should be free" can never be an universal rule. Following Kant's ethics, this means the question of "free" vs. "non-free" is not a matter of moral.

To pretend you act on behalf of someone else's interest is just what religous leaders do to justify their actions. That's not moral, that's propaganda.

Proprietary offers advantages for me as a user, and most of the time I don't care about your so-called "lack of freedoms".

And in fact, I don't see why I should bother explaining them! They are subjective, anyway, and "free" software is unable to provide these advantages. For example, to be able to install application in a decentral way; not via distributions.

So, let's now look at your sentence I did not discuss above: "[Free Software] eliminates vendor lock-in, patch dependence, forced upgrades, and per user license policing."

According to Wikipedia, vendor lock-in is due to switching costs -- a much better term since it does not imply an either/or situation.

So, your argument makes two assumptions:

(1) Free software has no switching costs.
(2) Proprietary software has always switching costs.

To reject the first assumptions, a simple counter-example is sufficient: Just develop 20 applications with Trolltech's Qt -- officially declared free software by Stallman -- and then try to switch the vendor. You'll observe massive switching costs.

A different example: Write a book with LaTeX. Use grafics and formulars extensively. Then try to switch the software. Again, you'll observe high switching costs.

Your first assumption is obviously wrong.

To reject the second assumption, another counter example is sufficient. Let's look at WinZip, Nero Burning or Opera. While all are obviously non-free programms, nothing stops you using a different programm from a different vendor. Nothing stops a proprietary office application from adopting the open ODT format.

Your second assumption is obviously wrong as well.

It's easy to see why this is FUD: This intention is to make users think they cannot trust proprietary vendors.

But just a little bit of critically thinking reveals that your arguments are invalid and nothing but FUD. Your examples indicate a part of the problem: You fall prey to the availability heuristic. Just because Microsoft is such a prominent example, you equate it to all proprietary vendors. Most prorietary vendors, however, have no monopoly.

Similar points can be made on the rest of your stuff:

(1) Microsoft is not releasing patches because it's a monopoly and a burocraty, not because it's proprietary. On the other hand: What do you do when the original developer of a free software project simply stop maintaining it? Paying someone else? Bloody expensive, and you cannot even share the costs because everybody will be expecting you to publish the fixes, anyway.

(2) There's also such a thing as forced upgrade in the "free" software world: Ever noticed the ABI breaks introduced by GCC in the recent years! Do you ever tried to fork all the software in a distribution? The theoretical option exists, but it's not economic.

(3) Per User Licensing Police is also made by free software developers who critically watch whether the terms of the license are met. Additionally, there's the free software watch dog police that creeps around in forums and blogs, yelling and shouting as soon as a proprietary programm is made available for Linux.

And you do try to tell me I should trust people in the free software community to have "less antagonistic beliefs"?

As shown above, you repeated Stallman's arguments without any thinking critically whatsoever. Why should I trust you (and others with "less antagonistic beliefs") to object Stallman's ideas if necessary?

Would you even be able to see when it would be necessary to object Stallman? I doubt so.

And this is why I call the free software movement nothing but a propaganda movement to satiesfy their own selfish goals.

MrCopilot said...

@Rufus

I personally find nothing immoral bout requiring users/developers to share. Especially when I write the code. When it is provided to me in that manner I see no moral ambiguity with the terms.

The FUD starts with the idea that other developers can "rob" users and developers of "freedom":

(1) Without their initial decision to publish in the first place, there would be nothing you could use, change, modify, or share. Zero freedom minus zero freedom is zero robbering.


Uh, yeah. But once that choice to publish is made the situation becomes USE, and robbed of the freedom to modify, share.

(2) They cannot rob you since you cannot be forced to use their code. Nobody's holding a gun to your head.

You got at least that right. And therein lies the crux of the argument. Why CHOOSE less freedom? Not a strawman.

And yes, I disagree that guaranteeing "the freedom of the user" is a good reason since you didn't ask all users. You were not elected to do so. You just assume your subjective beliefs hold true for everybody.

No, I assume as a developer that I can choose how to distribute my code. As a User I can choose what to use.

Would users really agree to forbid all proprietary software if they knew the consequences? I doubt so. I certainly don't.

Nobody is forcing that choice on anyone. Stallman makes the argument that all proprietary software is immoral. Yet Many of us in the movement use Proprietary software in conjunction with free software all the time. I use NVidia drivers, I keep a Windows VM, I love me some Halo, Unreal and Half-Life. However I prefer Free to Not Free. That is why all of that runs on my Linux box.

Following Kant's ethics, this means the question of "free" vs. "non-free" is not a matter of moral.

And Yet you said Free software is immoral.

To pretend you act on behalf of someone else's interest is just what religous leaders do to justify their actions. That's not moral, that's propaganda.

So you recommend we all act in our own self interest never thinking about the next guy?

Proprietary offers advantages for me as a user, and most of the time I don't care about your so-called "lack of freedoms".

And in fact, I don't see why I should bother explaining them!


Well, you miss the entire purpose of this post then. The challenge was to complete the sentence "Free Software is good because ...."
In your case it would be Proprietary Software is good because...."

For example, to be able to install application in a decentral way; not via distributions.

Well that is one example, though not a particularly good one. Software in a distribution is a collection of various independent pieces of software which can in almost all cases be installed independent of the distribution. Many many many applications and games are in no distribution and are distributed in binary or source form.


According to Wikipedia, vendor lock-in is due to switching costs -- a much better term since it does not imply an either/or situation.

Um, no it doesn't. It is one component of vendor lock-in. I encourage everyone to read the entire entry at Wikipedia not just the first few sentences. Pay special attention to this bit:

In the 1980s and 1990s, public, royalty-free standards were hailed as the best solution to vendor lock-in[citation needed]. The weakness of such standards was that if one software vendor achieved a dominant market share, "embrace, extend, and extinguish" (EEE) tactics could be used to render the standard obsolete. The history of SQL is an archetypical example.

Since the late 1990s, the use of free and open source software (FOSS) has been pushed as a stronger solution. Because FOSS can be modified and distributed by anyone, the availability of functionality cannot tie a user to one distributor. Also, FOSS tends to adhere faithfully to standards. The ineffectiveness of distributor lock-in means there's no incentive for FOSS developers to invent new data formats if usable (royalty-free) standards exist.

In particular, copylefted FOSS is particularly resistant to the above mentioned "EEE" tactics since anyone distributing modified versions cannot legally prevent free or competing redistribution of the modifications and their source code.

Your QT and Latex examples are ridiculous. You can keep your QT code forever, nothing Trolltech or Nokia can do will change that. If you want to use a different toolkit and port your code it is up to you. Your choice to do so will require changes but if your code was written modularly (separating GUI and Logic) the switching costs are minimal.

Programs that use open formats have very little vendor lock-in potential, although not all are equal. Nero does a fine job at making backups, but depending on the format you use, you could be stuck using Nero for life.

It's easy to see why this is FUD: This intention is to make users think they cannot trust proprietary vendors.

I propose we all read the licenses that comes with our software, no matter the vendor. I prefer licenses that offer freedoms not restrictions.

Your points in order.
(1)What do you do when the original developer of a free software project simply stop maintaining it?

Turn it around and ask the same question with proprietary? Do you have any options? If your company's data is invested heavily in a piece of software thats developer went belly up, an expensive developer may be far more attractive to no developer.

(2) No sense whining about this, Static Compile the binary you need. Don't upgrade. There are options because of the freedoms you enjoy.

(3)1 Guy on a message board asking you to comply with the license of his software is hardly the same as $5000 per copy fines.

Stallman and I have discussed areas where we differ. I have no problems telling him when I think he is wrong. And look around neither does anyone else.

And this is why I call the free software movement nothing but a propaganda movement to satiesfy their own selfish goals.

Yeah the goal of sharing totally selfish.

Rufus, lets start over. Tell me why Proprietary software is good. I'll listen and consider, really I will, I always do. Leave Stallman out of it. (you don't want me to start pulling out proprietary names do You, don't make me threaten you with Ballmer quotes.)

You strike me as a bitter developer who has had his niche filled by a free software program, but if I'm wrong please enlighten me to the problem you have with Free Software and why I should choose Proprietary instead.

Ryan Cartwright said...

Hi,

I have responded to your post as a comment to my
original post.

thanks
Ryan Cartwright

Rufus said...

Hi, MrCopilot!

Sorry to disappoint you but I'm no developer -- unless you call somebody a developer who's able to follow a tutorial up to "Hello, World!"

Additionally, you seem to have misunderstood my post in a very important point: I cannot leave Stallman out because his "philosophy" is the FUD spread by the FSF and GNU, not yours.

I'm not talking about your opinion because I know nothing about it. You're still just a nickname for me.

This is also why your explanantion that you can choose how to distribute your code as you like is irrelevant. Oh, I agree to the statement! But Stallman does not agree: Of course, he entiteld to his opinion but he's not entitled to spread FUD about others.

My point is that -- one day -- you might not be able, anymore, to license your code as you like!

Whose influence is likely to be stronger for next generation of developers: Yours or Stallmans?

So, I'm asking you: If you differ in important aspects with that what free software is all about -- namely its so-called philosophy that free software is immoral and should not exists --, why are you still supporting a political campaign you don't agree with?

You seem to cherry-pick: "This part of the philosophy I like, this I don't." One day, though, you may find yourself in the minority position.

Ok, you asked me what I like about proprietary software. Interesting question since you seem to use some "non-free" applications yourself. Why do you do that?

However, where non-free software rocks:

* In a competative situation, they'll work to offer the best product for their customers.
* Development costs are shared among user in the most easy way: Hardly any transaction costs, no tragedy of the commons, and the risks of exploring the market preferences is due to the supplier.
* More features and better service!

So: I might ask you the same question: Why CHOOSE less features and less service?

This hopefully makes it clear that your question is misleading. Of course, every rational person would prefer a combination of "features" that contains more of some features while not less of the rest.

In other words: You prefer "free" software, all else being equal. Of course, so do I.

In reality, though, the options are not that easy. When choosing "free" software one pays a price: Free software is often (from a subjective point of view) not as good as non-free software.

This is inherent in its definition: There's less incentive to satiesfy end-user interests because they are not (always) the paying customers. It's development is slower and there's less investments in innovation because its easier to wait for a competitor to pay the necessary investments and copy the resulting code.

So, let's come to my examples:

My QT and LaTeX examples are just as ridiculus as your Microsoft Office example. To people who print every document to paper or Postscript or to a PDF generator, Microsoft's closed office formats is no threat. They can keep their PDFs forever, too. There would be no vendor lock-in either.

In other words: This is just the same as my Qt and LaTeX example. Of course, you can talk yourself out of the Qt example by citing subjective habits that prevent vendor lock-in, but I can talk myself out of your Office example, too, by citing subjective habits that prevent vendor lock-in.

Either you compare both cases in a similar manner or you're not acting scientifically.

And of course, I can also provide examples for other reasons of vendor lock-in. You mentioned network effects? No problem! I have examples for network effects in "free" software, too.

Ever tried to fork Ubuntu? If so, you have noted that you may be able to fork the code but not the community. And the community is what makes Ubuntu valueable to its users. In fact, this is the deeper reason for Debian's critizism about Ubuntu: They say it splitted their community.

I can present some more examples of network effects for free software if you like.

It's true that "free" software developers have no incentive to provide closed formats. But open formats do not imply that there's no vendor lock-in, ever: free software suppliers still have lots of incentive to create vendor lock-in by increasing switching costs and using network effects. For example, you may have noted that it's hard to have one binary package for all (major) distributions. Guess what this is? Yeah, the attempt to raise switching costs and create vendor lock-in! RedHat does not want you to switch to a different vendor.

Some other remarks:

* I did not say that "free" software is immoral but that the the philosophy of free software is immoral.

* No, I'm not recommending that nobody should never think about the next guy. But one should not pretent to do so to justyfing actions that are only meant to support one's subjective goals. This is using the next guy as a means to an end (and again, this is immoral according to Kant).

And yes: Stallman's position is selfish. Remember, his position is not about sharing stuff he owns himself. Nothing wrong with that. But Stallman's position is about enforcing other people to share code that he does not own (ie. created himself). And yes, that's selfish since this serves his own interests about how code should be licensed but not the interests of all people in sociaty.

MrCopilot said...

Hey Rufus,
I hate being put in the position of defending Richard Stallman, as he is quite adept at it in his own right, but so be it.

You see, I am a developer. I choose the GPL, as such the philosophy of the FSF and GNU is mine as well. Take another look over the text of it. Do a search for immoral or proprietary, come up empty.

As for Stallman's personal beliefs, they are his own. He has rationalized them to his own liking. I respect his decision, and he respects mine to continue using proprietary software when I see fit.

This is also why your explanantion that you can choose how to distribute your code as you like is irrelevant. Oh, I agree to the statement! But Stallman does not agree: Of course, he entiteld to his opinion but he's not entitled to spread FUD about others.

Hunh? He cannot force anyone to choose his license. This is where you are going to use the any later provision. Let me save you the trouble and point you to a very popular piece of software that chose not to use that provision. The Linux kernel.

My point is that -- one day -- you might not be able, anymore, to license your code as you like!

you are off the rails. Under no circumstance is this even remotely possible.

Whose influence is likely to be stronger for next generation of developers: Yours or Stallmans?

As the developer, Mine.

So, I'm asking you: If you differ in important aspects with that what free software is all about -- namely its so-called philosophy that {non}free software is immoral and should not exists --, why are you still supporting a political campaign you don't agree with?

I support free software for all the reasons I stated. I believe sharing is better than hording. I benefit greatly from the movement and will support it up until it is unsupportable. I actually like having people in the movement who believes so strongly in their cause that they actually live by it.

You seem to cherry-pick: "This part of the philosophy I like, this I don't." One day, though, you may find yourself in the minority position.

Umm, no I said that Stallman is at one extreme and many fall in between.

However, where non-free software rocks:

* In a competative situation, they'll work to offer the best product for their customers.


Like IIS vs Apache or Firefox vs Internet Explorer?

* Development costs are shared among user in the most easy way: Hardly any transaction costs, no tragedy of the commons, and the risks of exploring the market preferences is due to the supplier.

According to Wikipedia:
* Search and information costs are costs such as those incurred in determining that the required good is available on the market, who has the lowest price, etc.
* Bargaining costs are the costs required to come to an acceptable agreement with the other party to the transaction, drawing up an appropriate contract and so on. In game theory this is analyzed for instance in the game of chicken.
* Policing and enforcement costs are the costs of making sure the other party sticks to the terms of the contract, and taking appropriate action (often through the legal system) if this turns out not to be the case.

I fail to see an advantage for proprietary software in this realm.

* More features and better service!

Okey dokey. I'll give you Photoshop and even Office. But you got to give me just about every modern linux distribution . Windows Desktop Service is terrible. Features Terrible.

So: I might ask you the same question: Why CHOOSE less features and less service?

I didn't. I am lacking exactly one feature. A driver for my nearly ancient USB Scanner. Fair trade considering I gained a host of productivity improvements in my workflow. I also gained a HUUUUGE library of applications free of charge saving literally thousands of dollars. As for service, I find the service of the community to be far more responsive and inviting than the old way. It is awfully nice to email a developer and see patches arrive the next day. It also doesn't hurt when you can submit your own.

In other words: You prefer "free" software, all else being equal. Of course, so do I.

Stop putting it in quotes, it denotes that you disagree. You cannot disagree with the name, we are never going to get anywhere. It is Free Software, and I'm glad you prefer it as well. And as you say all things are not equal. One side restricts your freedom the other enforces it.

It's development is slower and there's less investments in innovation because its easier to wait for a competitor to pay the necessary investments and copy the resulting code.

Slower Development, yeah I know Every six months is glacial compared to Windows lightning quick 5 to 7 year release cycle. And the innovation yep you got me there. You are aware that major corporations fund development of most software. IBM, Red Hat, Novell, Sun, Canonical. They pay to get what the customer wants at the same time absorbing every interesting feature or enhancement that comes from independent developers.

Open format documents verses uneditable paper or PDF and closed obsolete Office doc. Hardly a case for not being Locked in.

Subjective habits. Like saving or converting your document in an open format like RTF or ODT? Why take the extra step? Better yet why pay to?

Your examples of network effects are bullock, if you'll pardon my french. Ubuntu has been forked and is itself a fork of Debian.Xubuntu, Edubuntu, Kubuntu,Now official but here are few true forks: Ever hear of Mint? Freespire? gNewsense? gOS? Fluxbuntu? Wikipedia has few more

There are a binary distribution methods for all. Autopackage, Klik and more. Distributions are not trying to create vendor lock-in they want to make package management easy. They provide free tools and documentation for creating your own packages. Developers can build for each but usually leave it to someone else or only package for "their" distro.

* I did not say that "free" software is immoral but that the the philosophy of free software is immoral.

Ok, why? Forget Kant, why do YOU think so.

* No, I'm not recommending that nobody should never think about the next guy. But one should not pretent to do so to justyfing actions that are only meant to support one's subjective goals. This is using the next guy as a means to an end

Why must you assume the motivation is insincere? Reams of pages have been written constantly explaining the position. Where do you get these Machiavellian motivations from?

Kant on Wiki, correct me if I'm out of focus here.

The specifics of Kant's account generated immediate and lasting controversy. Nevertheless, his theses -- that the mind itself necessarily makes a constitutive contribution to its knowledge, that this contribution is transcendental rather than psychological, that philosophy involves self-critical activity, that morality is rooted in human freedom, and that to act autonomously is to act according to rational moral principles -- have all had a lasting effect on subsequent philosophy.


And yes: Stallman's position is selfish. Remember, his position is not about sharing stuff he owns himself.


The dude wrote the code, he wrote the license, other people chose to use it. Are you hanging him for a popular belief that he imagined and made real.

But Stallman's position is about enforcing other people to share code that he does not own (ie. created himself). And yes, that's selfish since this serves his own interests about how code should be licensed but not the interests of all people in sociaty.

I disagree completely, I write the code, I let you share with the condition that you share your changes. I fail to see how that is selfish. And saying that it somehow is worse than "no I won't share the code and will sue you for sharing what I wrote (and compiled for you)" is completely round the bend.

I also must say to you, you have utterly failed to convince me how any of this is not in the interest of all people in society. Try harder, I really would like that part explained.

MrCopilot

Rufus said...

Hi, MrCopilot!

First, let me say that I must write "free" software. This is due to my understanding that the word is used as a rhetoric devise, see Scope Fallacy. The meaning of the word Freedom changes during discussions from "software freedom" to "civil freedom", with the later being a completely different thing. If you cannot respect that, then any discussion is useless.

Back to your question of the interests of sociaty. Stallman says:

"All software should be Free Software."

I believe, as soon as there's one guy who'd like to use "non-free" software for whatever reasons, this statement cannot be though as universal. It is thus not subject to moral reasoning.

In contrast, murders do not want to be killed, so the statement "You shall not kill" can be though of as universal. It is thus subject to moral reasoning. Specifically, it's immoral to kill people.

However, this is quite a difference to suppliers of "non-free" software who have no problem buying "non-free" software from other "non-free" vendors. That's the first hint that's something's wrong with Stallman's philosophy.

Why would it be in the interest of sociaty to enforce "free" software? It doesn't matter how this is done -- whether by law or by moral accusations. We have to ask if this the right thing to do, at all. And it's not.

These guys produceing or consuming "non-free" software do not harm anyone. In fact, it's the other way around: These guys are better off since the software is worth its price, so sociaty is better off in total. To outlaw their ways of getting and useing software means to harm sociaty!

This hopefully makes it clear why the statement "All software should be Free Software" is not subject to moral reasoning and trying to make it sound as if it was is immoral itself. Nobody wants to be deceived to consider something as subject to moral reasoning that is not.

As a consequence, the statement can only be considered as Stallman's personal and subjective preference how things should be. Trying to maximise your subjective preferences is basically the definition of what being selfish is all about. Consequently, I consider Stallman to be selfish in his attempts to enforce his personal beliefs onto others.

Note, there's nothing wrong with the statement:

"Some software should be Free Software."

From a sociaty's point of view, some people want "free" software and they can organize the supply somehow, so there's nothing to worry about. These guys are obviously also better off and this is a good thing. However, this is not the offical position of Stallman. In fact, this is closer to the open source philosophy.

The intention of the Stallman's statement is to surpress the wants and needs of a group of people that are arbitraily distcriminated and accused to be "immoral" or "evil" -- without any sound reason or proof!

You say, enforcing this "philosophy" is not even remotely possible. Are you sure?

Stallman obviously disagrees. Otherwise he would speak differently, wouldn't he?

But he doesn't. Why that? In interviews, he made quite clear that he wants copyright for software removed so that proprietary is effectivly impossible. He's even in favour of laws prohibiting proprietary software -- "as a means of consumer protection", IIRC.

And given enough developers and consumer who are influenced by his propaganda, this might even be possible. It's just a matter of political power and influence.

And you are one of the guys giving him the political power.

You are wondering where I do get these Machiavellian motivations from? That's simple. Read Stallman's essays with a critical but open mind. You'll soon discover lots of rhetorical figures and fallicious arguments. For example, I explained one at osnews.com some time ago.

I'm not hanging Stallman for a popular belief. I critizes him for spreading lies and FUD and false conclusions to the population.

I'm glad a friend of mine pointed me to these issues some time ago. Otherwise I might have also been falled prey to Stallman's delusion.

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