Do we really need more (of the same) browsers?

http://www.gnu.org/software/gnuzilla/

Honestly – I think that GNU/FSF are just sore that 99% of their software is to open source and commercial software what a cardboard box is to a house. It’s a roof over your head, isn’t it? Having something as sexy as Firefox/Mozilla in their archive probably makes them feel sexy: they tried cross-dressing but apparently Victoria’s Secret doesn’t have a Free Knickers Foundation competitor yet. ;)

No software is free. Someone has to feed, water and clothe the developers, pay for the computers, the electricity (or the solar panels to make the electricity free), the connectivity, the storage, host the wiki, host the forums, etc, etc.

You know what pays for that for GNU? People making money. From/with computer software: Spammers bring down their overheads by using Free Software to reduce operating costs; endless numbers of commercial web sites run a free apache on a free linux….

Here’s the big question: How good would Linux be today if it didn’t have competition from the likes of commercial software like Windows and MacOS? I remember when I used to use Linuxes because they were better than Windows. Oh, no argument from me that Microsoft isn’t the great innovator they claim to be – they buy, refactor and reinvent. But hard cash is at stake when Microsoft releases software, and they became very focused on what matters to users. So while we gripe about the security headaches and blue screens, most people are happier served Windows or MacOS than FVWM or Afterstep.

I love Thunderbird, but would it really be half the product if they hadn’t started out by Microsofting Outlook?

And forking Firefox because of add-ons? I’m a Firefox hater, but even I wouldn’t do that to it.

If you release software to the public domain, someone is going to make money from it. All that FSF and GNU have achieved, IMHO, is to scare money away. Making money from or with software creates software consumers.

We don’t need the Stallman virus which tries to take away the freedom to make money from software. I mean, really, why is software any different than any other human act: literature, art, music, clothing, food, housing, air travel?

A clarification is due: Richard Stallman isn’t against making money by selling software, he believes the source code should be available and modifiable: that you should have the freedom to customize software yourself. But then Stallman is a hacker (in the old-school sense).

But does he also believe the you should have the freedom to modify the 777 you are flying in? Or that you should have the freedom to walk into a library and alter books you have a disagreement with? Or a musem and alter works of art? Or walk into a Starbucks and modify the fecal levels of the chocolate chip cookies?

Stallman is a profound privacy advocate, except when it comes to source code. I haven’t seen him complain that comic books don’t supply their source pencil sketches to allow end-user customization, or that he isn’t “free” to modify his neighbors house.

The software industry has grown in size at least  10,000 fold since GNU was founded and, IMHO, the GPL/FSF have well exceeded their expiry dates. We need to promote and encourage open source / free / public domain software as a means of general quality control and standards maintenance. What programmers are concerned about today is not whether they can add the 150,000 lines of code to their realm of responsibility, but whether you can provide them with good enough APIs and standards compliance.

I am convinced that FSF/GNU/GPL do more harm than good: I believe they have increased the amount of proprietary, closed source software by scaring people away with the GPL. It takes a large corporation, like Google, or an academic organization to decide to create an open-source replacement for GPL software. Most companies look at the extra cost of re-inventing GPLed software and decide they want to protect their investment by ensuring that the code they pay to have created becomes part of their IP portfolio.

If there is a god, Richard Stallman will have a Damascus moment and realize that GPL is evil. He will convert to Open Sourceism and will invent a new license which allows free copying, modification, duplication and inclusion of source in free and/or proprietary software with no obligation (other than credit and-or licensing: if you wish to keep your open source components secret, you pay the author(s) in lieu of credit) on the consuming-developer. And he’ll switch his evangelism to encouraging proprietary development houses to embrace standards through the use and support of open source components, and promote the concept of NDA-sourcing, which allows limited, licensed (potentially at a cost) access to the source code – free or not.

Software needs to be free (as in freedom, not as in $0.00), and that includes having the ability to ship without giving you it’s source code. The world needs less whimsical forks and branches of software products: all that creates is yet more compatability bloat. GNU = GNU is Not Unix. You got that right: in Unix, small is beautiful.

I imagine that a driving force behind this fork is one particular plugin: Flash, by Adobe. I’m anything but an Adobe fan. But I’ll take an Adobe offering over a GPLed offering, thanks.

6 Comments

I think your argument is completely misguided here…

“But does he also believe the you should have the freedom to modify the 777 you are flying in? Or that you should have the freedom to walk into a library and alter books you have a disagreement with? Or a musem and alter works of art? Or walk into a Starbucks and modify the fecal levels of the chocolate chip cookies?”

If I own the 777, am I not be free to modify it? Am I not free to modify books to my hearts content? (Yeah, I can’t *redistribute* them, that’s a different issue.) I can take a picture of the Mona Lisa and modify it as much as I want. Or buy the cookies and do with them what I want.

If I buy something physical, a car or a 777 or an iphone, it’s *mine* and I’m allowed to hack it as much as I want. I just can’t buy one to see how it works and then start selling them to others. The question is: why do you think software should be any different? Why do you think your freedom should include making money off of the work of others? And why do you think me buying a piece of software should not give me the right to tune it to my needs like I can with any physical object?

In fact, you are already free to take GPL software and run it in your servers that you use to make money. And you are already free to contact the owner of a GPL’d package and ask to pay money for a version that you can redistribute with your proprietary software. The owner can give you access to the software under any terms he wants.

And blaming the GPL for spam… classy.

And yet you have no issue using a WordPress blog ( http://wordpress.org/about/gpl/ ), hypocrite.

Lut: I didn’t blame GPL for spam — Apache is not GPL. And I’m not blaming Apache for spam either. You missed my point.

I guess my post was more disjointed than it seemed when I proof-read it.

Many software developers who are pro-GPL are so because they see it as a champion of software developers’ rights. But GPL doesn’t deny people the freedom to make money from using software obtained freely — I made that point. You just have to be careful to use the software rather than use the source.

My problem with the GPL, as opposed to say the LGPL, is the part where source inclusion requires you to publish the code into which you include it. I find the distinction between usage and inclusion arbitrary and … dumb. Why should the use of machine instructions of software – e.g. GCC to build your closed source software – be different from the source? That, to me, is just one aspect demonstrating that the GPL is flawed.

The 777 example wasn’t as trite as you took it – infact your reply actually echoes the intent.

BTW, the original game server systems were developed without the use of GPL software, and the only GPL software involved currently is GCC (I was using the autotools chain for a while, but now I’m using CMake which is BSD licensed, and I’m just about done switching over to ICC to replace the last piece of GPL software; although this is not an act of GPL protest).

Grifter: You linked “wordpress.org”. I’m not using wordpress.org, I’m using WordPress.com, which is a service that provides me limited control over my blog. I don’t care about the software or the source code, and I’m quite satisfied with the level of control I get for free, and the costs of the additional control options available to me. I could really care less that the source is available – they provide me with sufficient APIs and standards compatability to suite my needs. And, if you recall, I was originally using Blogger.

And I don’t recall calling for a boycott of GPL software. Maybe your response was provoked by my comment on Flash? Mouse over the link to Adobe. Adobe is a cesspool of the kind of software that could almost make me pro-GPL :) But to-date, there isn’t a free or GPL alternative to Flash that I would choose to use. Unlike the alternatives to Adobe Reader.

Clarification on my reply there: We do use some pieces of LGPL software. Yes, I am aware of LGPL. But things like IceCat remind me that LGPL is the red headed step child as far as Stallman is concerned; a stepping stone to bringing people onboard of the GPL.

I think we’ve reached a point where source availability is no-longer significant or relevant and the issue today is the software patent. As long as we tackle/address that, then the free market deals with the issues that originally drove the creation of the GPL.

I’m not anti-GNU/FSF, perhaps I should have included more smilies rather than assuming people would remember my generally tounge-in-cheek tone ;)

Ok, that makes more sense, though I’m still not sure I know exactly what your point is. The “forming one executable” issue with the GPL I’m almost willing to agree with you, especially given the fact that more and more software runs “in the cloud” and the real user never gets to see the source even if it’s GPL.

So if the GPL were amended so that it did not transfer its GPL-ness to the “included” software (ie you can include a GPL-piece of code in your proprietary software and when you redistribute it you need to provide the source for the GPL-ed part and any modifications you make to it, but not the rest of the code), would that satisfy you? (I don’t recall the exact differences between the LGPL and the GPL, maybe that would be exactly the LGPL?)

And I’m totally with you on patents. Hopefully that abomination will get swept away soon.

My problem with the FSF/GPL is the extremeism of the concept that ALL software must be open sourced that leads developers to feel “ethically” compelled to fork something like Firefox as a protest over it’s support for closed-source addons.

The LGPL would be fine for me, but clearly it’s not enough for some – so I’m assuming that some intermediate is required. I can’t imagine what, hence no attempt to offer a suggestion :)

Grifter calls me a hypocrite for using a blog that is GPLed. Again, I’m a remote end user, and also I neither chose nor run away from the software because of it’s license.

We need the FSF’s attention on things like DRM issues (which is an important and well-worthy part of what they do), not on creating forks of software because they are proprietary. We don’t need them diluting Firefox’s market share and creating yet-another set of browser strings for webadmins around the world to manage and maintain :(

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