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Linus Responds To Mundie 497

Posted by Hemos
from the destroying-intellectual-property-since-1991 dept.
Thanks to Dan Gillmor for pointing out Linus' reply to the comments that Mundie from Microsoft made this week. The response is vintage Linus - but the points he raises regarding openness vis a vis science & learning and open source is very cogent.
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Linus Responds To Mundie

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  • Look, I'm sick of this BS about how the internet would have gone nowhere if MS hadn't turned around and embraced it. They started getting into the net only when it became obvious that people wanted it badly enough that they would have it any which way they could, even if that meant dinking around with Trumpet Winsock. What would we have today without MS embracing the net? Simple, the same damn thing we have today, but via third-party vendors. And if you don't think it's possible for a third-party product to become a de-facto Windows standard, just look at PKZIP.

    Windows embraced TCP/IP simply because the trend was already in place. First they mocked it, then they fought it (MSN, the proprietary dial-up version), then they embraced it and convinced idiots that it was their idea all along to do so.

  • Every OS I can think of that wasn't Microsoft had a TCP/IP stack by default. The problem is I don't know what you would consider as a "mainstream OS". If you define "mainstream" narrowly enough, then only Windows would qaulify, and your statement would become a useless tautology. If, on the other hand, you define "mainstream" to include anything not from MS, like the Mac, or OS/2, or the wide array of Unixen, then your statement is false. So you've got two choices - your statement is false or if it is true it's only because it's a useless tautology.
  • "Woah.. woah.. did I say the Internet would have gone nowhere? I didnt say that."

    Uhm, actually, that pretty much *is* what you said. The pertinent point of your post that sparked my comment was this one I quote below:

    "Like it not, that really marked the beginning of an explosive growth in the popularity and availability of Internet access to the masses. With only the flavors of Unix, early Linux distro's, and other non-friendly OS's, Internet access would have been rare."

    I'm not typical, but I can remember that internet access was the chief motivator behind my trying out FreeBSD and Linux after getting out of college in 1994. Windows didn't have what it takes without a lot of third-party add-ons, inlucuding a TSR just to make basic TCP/IP work. It was *that* threat that made MS put tcp/ip into windows. MS realized that they were starting to look bad by comparasin, and the only thing keeping people away from alternatives was the application availability, and that's a problem that fixes itself over time if people really want to switch badly enough. MS embraced tcp/ip in order to avoid the techies leaving their system, not because they actually wanted to do it. The college-educated programmers coming out all had exposure to the internet and knew how much better it was than AOL, Prodigy, Compuserve, and MSN. (I'm speaking here of the older dial-up proprietary versions of those services, before they became nothing more than internet portals.)

  • But there are very few examples of scientists creating consumer goods for the love of discovery. One or two perhaps - I'm not sure what the intention behind invention of the lightbulb was.

    But nobody creates a passenger aircraft, or an automobile, or a new, nicer design of personal computer for pure creative self-actualising joy.

    Well, Thomas Edison was rather a sharp fellow, in particular as far as money was involved. However, he would probably have developed the light bulb nevertheless. Moreover, this is a typical innovation that was in the air at that time - Edison was by no means the only one to work on it, nor even the first one to get a working model. He was just the first to make it to the patent office - ironic, isn't it?

    And early PCs have been build witout any patent protection for the machine. Even today, patented components, like IBMs microchannel architecture, do not play a major role in PC design.

    Consider e.g. Intel. They have a lot of patents, but their real advantages are name recognition and first-mover status. Without patent protection, they would be forced to move even faster.

    And in the field of software, the free software movement is a fine example of people creating "consumer goods for the love of discovery" (or at least without serios financial expectations).

  • They dont make the best products, they dont make them first, and they dont make them cheapest or free-est. But despite that, they are the dominant software company. And despite everything, the mainstreamed computers.

    True, they managed to make enormous profits despite the fact that they did nothing better than someone else, and they made very few innovations themselves, instead buying out the companies that were innovating. I think their success is attributable to a few things. Number one, IBM didn't realize what it was creating when it began distributing DOS on all it's PCs. Number two, customers didn't really have expectations when it came to computer software. Bugs, crashes? They were considered normal. Number three, Microsoft had absolutely no compunctions about using any method they could, legal or illegal, to destroy their competitors. This is evident from the internal email and documents that were revealed during their anti-trust trials.

    Is this a good thing? I don't think so. Had they not used those sort of practices and beat down their competitors, the innovations would still have been made (since MS wasn't the one innovating really) and consumers probably would have gotten more for their money. Without one monolithic corporation controlling 90%+ of the desktop OS market, there would have been more choices and more focus by individual companies to make sure that they adhere to standards so that their software interoperates with others. Instead, we have MS, which gives us the minimum amount of interoperability that they can get away with. All in all, I think that the mainstreaming of computing was inevitable, and it would be better for all of us if Microsoft didn't dominate it.

  • by Danse (1026)

    Just so long as we understand:

    significant != positive

    Just because they were the ones that were dominating and profiting the most from the mainstreaming doesn't mean that that's a good thing or that what they did was really good for consumers or the industry in general.

  • > where COULD we be on the technology timeline ?


    Oh, maybe somewhere between 1940 and 1970? :)


    you've also gutted corporate research spending in the process . . .


    hawk

  • I don't think RMS usualy sounds like a total loon, However Linus is much better at puting the same argument into words that are easer to understand by someone who is not a computer person. RMS tends to say Free software for free software sake and leave it there. I like Linus's comment about Sir Issac Newton etc. It puts a nice spin on the argument and puts in a broader context.
  • by jafac (1449)
    GO Linus, GO!
  • Another point is, many many of the scientists of the classic age WERE aristocrats.

    Today's aristocrats are busy buying the next big SUV, snorting coke off of a stripper's tits, or getting that nose job.
  • The same is partly true for commercial middleware. Working on RDBMS, I don't see that feature wall coming for many years yet - there are many requests made by customers for features and enough things we want to get done internally to last another quarter-century at least.

    Read up on Disruptive Technologies http://www.zena.net/htdocs/FAQ/DisTech.shtml

    Your high-end RDBMS product is exactly the kind of thing that's vulnerable to disruptive technologies, when for many "small-fry" potential customers, something like PostgreSQL or even MySQL is sufficient and far cheaper.
    --
  • Actually, most toys get developed first, and then a company is formed around the toy to market it.

    The PC is a perfect example of this trend. It wasn't the corporations that created the PC, it was folks working in their garages. Once they had designed their gizmos they formed (or united with) corporations to sell their work.

    Corporations aren't bad, but they certainly aren't necessary for the creation of new technologies. This is especially true in the realm of software development where the barrier for entry is so low. A punk kid with $500 can buy all the equipment he needs to start developing software.

    Other industries (say pharmaceuticals) require far more expensive research tools, and therefore incur much higher costs. But even these industries have lately been abusing the patent system to a degree where one has to wonder if there is a net gain for the populace. It is very easy to say that without strong intellectual property rights that no research would be done, in the business world this is a truth that they hold to be "self evident." But Free Software currently proves that this is not the case, at least for software. Plenty of interesting advances are being made every day in the Free Software world, and many free software projects are at least as innovative as anything Microsoft has ever done.

    In the long run it almost doesn't matter what Mr. Mundie and Mr. Torvalds say. Software is becoming a commodity, despite whatever Microsoft will try to do. The days when you could charge money for something as basic as an operating system (or even an office suite) are coming to a close. Microsoft can drag it's feet all it wants, but if they make things too difficult for their customers their software will be replaced.

  • There are Open Source "forks" but they generally are due to personality problems. The BSD splits and the Emacs/XEmacs fork are good examples.

    The other major difference is that the different Open Source forks generally are highly compatible between themselves, and foster the type of "good" competition that makes both projects better. The Samba/Samba TNG and the former gcc/egcs forks are good examples of forks that have been very healthy for the long term viability of the software in question. All in all I would take a Free Software project fork over the differences in the various versions of Windows any day of the week, but that's just me.

    Mundie, on the other hand, is almost certainly referring to the Unix wars. His audience will likewise remember them well. The primary reason that the entire world doesn't run everything on Unix right now is that the various and sundry Unix vendors took the original BSD code and turned it into a pile of incompatible vendor specific versions. If Mundie can get his audience to believe that the same thing will happen to Linux, then he will definitely scare some of them away from Linux.

    Personally, I don't see it working very well. Especially since anyone with a brain can see that Linux is actually consolidating the Unix field. Two years from now Linux emulation is going to be a major feature of every commercial Unix.

  • If the Oil community could purchace the patent on that engine and keep it from the general consumer, it would effectively keep potential users from weening ourselves off of our Oil dependencies

    Sadly, this stuff has been going on for years. Philips bought up the patent on an everlasting lightbulb, for example, but you don't see it for sale, because it would hurt sales of their traditional bulbs. There are numerous other examples that are happening right now. Heinlein wrote about this in one of his books (Expanded Universe, I think).

  • both essentially came up with calculus at the same time

    2000 years after Archimedes [st-andrews.ac.uk] did.

    Karma karma karma karma karmeleon: it comes and goes, it comes and goes.
  • I don't think there are enough people who have all three of - 1) a day job, 2) significant expertise in a certain area, 3) the desire to use the expertise without financial reward - to provide us with the consumer goods we desire to enhance our standard of living.

    Well, if you want to ignore the government-imposed financial class structure here in the states, there are some people who conceivably *could* fit this bill.

    The children of the excessively wealthy.

    You're right in the fact that holding down a day job, and trying to do research "on the side" is just unrealistic - people who are holding down a day job to make ends meet aren't going to have the time nor the drive to do that kind of research. They're going to be much more concerned with paying rent, and keeping food on the table.

    Once those things are easily afforded, the person in question becomes "middle class", where the government wants a MUCH bigger piece of his/her earnings - making it tougher to put aside money and time to research, or even into investments, where the return on small investments is almost nil.

    The excessively wealthy don't have this problem. The legal/financial atmosphere here in the states caters to them, with tax shelters and loopholes and such, which keep their money in their pockets - and the stock market, which keeps their money growing (the return on very large investments is quite good).

    The children of the excessively wealthy generally don't have to "put in their time" working as a bagger in a grocery store, or as sales staff on a retail outlet while they are young. Granted, they're quite often sent to boarding schools - but they have so few worries that it's not inconceivable a few brilliant minds could be polished.

    They don't have to worry about keeping the family fortune growing -- they hire people to do that.

    Conceivably, once they finish their education, they could use some of that money to better humankind, by doing research themselves, or even by using a small portion of their vast fortunes to fund other scientists and/or universities to research things which MAY NOT produce a direct benefit, but which may raise our collective level of scientific understanding and lead to other, side benefits.

    Of course, this will never happen. Our society here is so firmly entrenched in greed and personal gain that I doubt those of high financial standing even care about advancing the species. They're too busy advancing their own wallets.
  • Although I'm sure Linus knew that /.ers would read his reply, it definitely was not written in technical terms.

    Who wouldn't acknowledge that DaVinci, Newton, Einsten, etc... were fundamental to our current understanding of science? I don't think even the marketers would go so far as to scorn their achievements.

    Who hadn't heard that quote from Newton before (even if it was WAY back in grade school) - I'd imagine even many business majors would remember that one. It's powerful, and VERY relevant.

    Linus' reply was VERY well-written, and I doubt that even the stuffed shirts will disagree with the points that he makes. He may not have responded in financial terms - but the terms he did respond in should be fairly universal.

    Even my fiancee, who isn't technically minded, said "wow - he's good" when I read Linus' response to her. I'd say that's a pretty good indicator. =)
  • "But nobody creates a passenger aircraft, or an automobile, or a new, nicer design of personal computer for pure creative self-actualising joy."

    So you are telling me the Plymoth Prowler style car would have never come around with out a Chrysler? I thought they were imitating home built style hot rods. I thought hot rods were almost always built at a loss from scratch. ;-|

    What about the home kit that morphed into the early Apples?

  • The classic example, of course, is Watson and Cricke (sp?) celebrating the error of another Linus, Pauling in this case, when he announced that the structure of DNA was a triple helix. Pauling had made a simple calculation mistake, which thanks to Pauling's son they were aware of. Rather than notify Pauling prior to his publishing his information, they kept quiet and continued on their own researches.

    Really? I have never heard this one. Got a reference?

    In any case, while a lot of actions and behaviour in science is selfish, it works on the openess principle. If you want people to believe you, you have to tell them how you did it. These methods can then be verified and refined, much like how we want to see open source work. I think the analogy is quite valid.


    Lars
    __

  • Economic analysis of open source (such as this one [badtux.org] and this one [nber.org]) come to the conclusion that open source software is often a loss-leader for individuals to advance their careers, or for corporations to sell support, hardware (e.g. VA Linux), hard copies (Red Hat), or books.

    I think that we do also need to keep in mind that by significantly reducing the price-of-entry of computers and servers, open source expands the number of people and companies using computers and the Internet, which itself is often a return on the time investment, and drives plenty of for-profit business.
  • Isn't open source about keeping IP intact? just open?

    Open Source may be - Free Software certainly is not. Actually, this may be the most accurate way to describe the difference between the two terms in one short sentence.

  • I think what it is, is a demonstration that Linus doesn't give two shits for what Microsoft has to say. In other words, Linus has no respect whatsoever for Mundie. The man isn't worth the effort it would take to write a respectful rebuttal.

    As a minor aside, the opposite of love is not hate. Both hate and love are strong emotions: flipsides of the very same coin. Love and hate both indicate that you really, strongly care.

    The opposite of love, and of hate, is apathy. It's not caring, in the least.

    What I see in most messages is that everyone cares enough about Microsoft to hate them...

    --
  • So basically the standard Newton quote was a typically nasty, snide put-down to Hooke, saying "even if I did steal these ideas, I certainly didn't steal them from a dwarf like you"

    Not necessarily. The idea that his quote was an insult never appeared in any print at the time. That is, there is no response from Hooke claiming insult or no further nasty letters from either side. The idea that it was an insult first surfaced in "Portrait of Isaac Newton" published in 1968... nearly 300 years after the fact!

    That doesn't mean that it wasn't an insult.. it's just not as obvious as you make it sound.

    The two main arguments that it was an honest compliment go like so:

    • The letters, read in their entirety, are not insulting or defamatory at all. They spend most of their time praising what the other has done
    • Newton wasn't one for "beating around the bush". When he insulted people (which he did frequently), he was crystal clear in doing so. Insulting by sarcasm was possible, but quite out of character for him
    This essay summarizes all the arguments far better than I could ever:
    http://www.newton.org.uk/essays/Giants.html [newton.org.uk]

    Kurt Granroth

  • > I think the problem with your argument is simply
    > that it's not generally possible to design
    > aircraft or cars for the joy of it.

    Okay, I'll bite. How much DID Orville and Wilbur Wright get paid? How rich did Chuck Yaeger and Verner Vohn Braun get?

    Rob

  • It's not a troll if you sincerely believe what you've posted. It's not a troll if you want to start a discussion.

    A troll is posted only to get an argument started. Flamebait and troll are really just synonyms.

    Fact is, large corporations do often stand in the way of true progress. Take a good look at history.
  • Who says we *NEED* money? Imagine what I said going on in a world without money. I'm not talking about the world you've been told you live in. I'm talking about a world that doesn't exist, but could exist. All it takes is a different perspective.
  • Would reading Das Kapital count? :-) You're right, though, I am agreeing with the common view of Marxism, particluarly as it has played out in recent political climates.

    I much prefer Kropotkin's view of the world over that of Herr Marx.

  • Linus wasn't talking about Mundie's body odor. He was talking about the psychological halitosis coming from Mundie's mouth.
  • Um, I believe they made quite a bit of money actually. The wright's were aware of the value of their inventiveness and marketted the wright flyer to the military. I don't know numbers but I don't think they died poor.
  • Sure they do. It costs about $15 a bulb and folks don't want to front that kind of money for a lightbulb when you can get 8 bulbs in a package for $3. I live in an old house where the circuitry means I get about 4 weeks on average before any bulb goes out...Its a chore just running around changing these things. I found one of these with a buy one get one free sale a year or two back and picked them up. They are the only bulbs in the house that haven't burned out.

    Will I buy any more? Probably not, because I'm cheaper than I am lazy. I'm sure if they were the same price as standard bulbs, I'd buy them in a heart beat but they ain't

    clif
  • Someone is still going to create the product that was previously protected. Just because a company can not monopolize the product does not mean they will not make any money off of it. Just look at cars. No one has a monopoly on car engines or bodies or airbags. You can get most features in any car in any other car. Yet when you look at the road, there are 100's of different types of cars from so many different manufactures.
    No, someone is not necessarily going to. In fact, for many products that is simply untrue. Furthermore, your example is flawed. Car manufacturers have many patents of all different sorts. Although these many innovations may go without your notice (e.g., an engine, tires, brakes, etc), that does not mean you're not benefiting from their efforts, and consequently from patents. They spend millions of dolllars each every year improving their product or even licensing from each other. Cars have been continuously improving.

    If IP rights were taken away from all companies, I don't see it as the Doom of the information age, I see companies having to compete for quality products. IP rights only cover an idea, companies then have to implement that idea into a product. Companies can then compete on the quality of their product, not just the one little idea the product holds. And for companies that fear people stealing their code if they open source it, you can't cut and paste quality out of a product.
    Oh Hogwash. Companies in technology industries compete very much on the quality of their idea, not just on the quality of the finished product (the finished product ultimately derived from those idea(s)). If you kill IP, you may see lots of people competing on better manufacturing existing products, but there would be no incentive in the vast majority of cases to actually create new ideas/innovations. Although it may sound better if you can get the idea AND have competition in developing the idea, this ignores the fact that if they originator of the idea is competing on equal footing, they by definition have achieved no competitive advantage. In addition, contrary slashdot's belief, mere posession of a patent or two does not mean you no longer need to worry about quality. Take, for instance, the car industry. They own patents, but that does not mean they have no competition. They may have no competition on that ONE innovation, but there are thousands of others out there to draw the consumer with. To compete in most industries, competetive markets, you need idea AND quality.

    In your totally unfleshed out world, WHY spend money on R&D? So why innovate at all if it costs you and you get no (or nominal) advantage? If competitors and/or consumers can easily and legally copy your innovation, then your efforts are wasted doing R&D. Make no mistake about it, if you kill IP, you kill technological innovation with it, for all intents and purposes. Although there may be some rare and notable exceptions, these are but a drop in the bucket.

  • I seem to remember that he was a bit of a 'closed source' kinda guy. He basically (iirc) sat on a lot of his discoveries and did not share them. This is why he is listed as the co-discover of Calculus, because it was unpublished for so long.
    No, he's listed as the co-discover of calculus because Leibniz independently discovered it at about the same time. Newton made some discoveries in the late 1660s, but didn't publish his Principia Mathematica until 1687. Liebniz published in 1684.

    Also, their notations were different. Newton used what we call summation notation and limits. Liebniz used his "Characteristic Triangle" with legs dx & dy and hypotenuse an infinitesimal segment of the curve y=f(x)
  • Since your follow-ups seem to indicate that you don't think people are getting your message quite right, I'm going to try to be particular about this reply...

    The internet is cool stuff. but really, how useful or widespread would it be if not for MS?
    No less than it is now, and possilbly more. Seriously. I recall using the net *Way* before MS got interested in supporting it, and in those days it was significantly easier to find what you wanted. A higher signal-to-noise ratio, if you will. I believe that qualifies as being more useful than it is now.

    As for widespread, well I don't believe the utter bullshit myth that MS brought computing to the masses. MS didn't bring us innovations or ease of use, they stopped anyone else from doing it. PC users from back in the day will tell you about MS superior competitors: Geoworks, DR-DOS, OS/2. Guess what? MS's monopoly is universally attributed with the death of hundreds or thousands of good products. Now, you may notice that over the years every part of the PC has decreased in cost except for the OS/software, which has increased, largly because it's MS and no alternatives are left. In most cases, the software bundle included in a PC is the most expensive component: more expensive than the CPU, more expensive than even the monitor. Expensive enough that a lot of people who can't afford a computer now could afford one if not for the cost of software. I suggest that you consider that MS has actually hindered the spread of home computing, not helped it, and that widespread computer access and use is a reality despite MS, not because of them.

    The ability for average non-technical persons to use a personal computer... With only the flavors of Unix, early Linux distro's, and other non-friendly OS's, Internet access would have been rare
    Now, the post to which you were replying was counting the *contributions* of MS vs. Open IP, so you *are* suggesting that MS is responsible for this here. I don't believe that MS really is responsible for or contributed to the ease of use of computer systems. As a matter of opinion, MS has always been behind its competition in terms of ease of use. Always. It still is. Maybe it's true that with only UNIX, Linux or unfriendly OS's internet access wouldn't be as widespread, but that wasn't all that there was. As mentioned before, MS out-marketed most of those competitors that stood to really bring ease of use and widespread computing to everyone.

    The inclusion of web-browsers
    I hate to repeat arguments, but... again, what leads you to believe that this was a contribution? It was being done before MS did it. Netscape was available with new computers before IE was, but MS killed that because it was allowing customers to grow at a pace and along a course that MS could neither keep up with nor control.

    Like it or not, MS filled a serious demand in the computer world. They broke lots of laws, squashed lots people, and did it the closed way, but...
    I'm not going to argue that MS filled that demand, but the point that has to be made is that the demand would have been filled by someone else if not for MS. Squashing competitors, killing products, and stiffling the growth of an industry isn't something that MS should be lauded for just because they ended up with a lot of cash and customers. And, they may have made more money than any other company, but if their prospertity came at the cost of the jobs and businesses of thousands (easily tens of thousands) of competing developers, so they've cost us as Americans more than they've made us.

    Writing MS off because we don't like they way they do business isn't "a serious mistake", it's the responsible course of action.
  • Newton was, in fact, responding sarcastically to claims that he had stolen ideas from either Leibnitz or Hooke (I forget which).

    That would probably be Leibnitz; if I remember my Maths classes correctly, they both essentially came up with calculus at the same time, but it was Newton's "version" that ended up being adopted.

    (Of course, I am dredging long-term memory now, so I may be way off :-) )

    Cheers,

    Tim
  • In your reply, you are assuming that COBOL/MVS, the writer of the original comment, is of english origin. I am a foreigner and I too misunderstood that last sentence from Linus. I thank you for clarifying it but I find it disturbing that you assume everyone here is from english speaking origin.


    "When I was a little kid my mother told me not to stare into the sun...
  • I'm sorry. Someone speaking publicly on an issue saying outright FUD to the public IS speaking to everyone, and FUD should be called as FUD.
    Those who knowingly spread FUD should be called for what they are. Mundie said a bunch of misleading bullshit, so why shouldn't linux call it as he sees it? Mundie is responsible for what he says.
  • Ok, stop driving on public roads, stop calling the police, don't use a hospital. Don't use anything invented by/during the space program (basically, any modern plastics, or alloys). Don't consider getting any modern prosthetics, or artificial organs. The list goes on. Don't read any books, they were all written by authors who went to public schools or used other publicly funded infrastructure.

    These things are publicly funded because we're much better off with them, the number of people who could afford these things on their own is very small (could even Bill Gates have funded all the research that NASA did?) And those who could afford these things are that rich through theft (ie. hereditary rulers, offspring of the 'rober barons', etc.)

    If you want to cough up the bill for your share of all the publicly funded works, throughout the ages, that you rely on to be where you are, we'll let you out of paying any taxes.
  • I do believe that there are probs with Newton.

    I seem to remember that he was a bit of a 'closed source' kinda guy. He basically (iirc) sat on a lot of his discoveries and did not share them. This is why he is listed as the co-discover of Calculus, because it was unpublished for so long.

    Mind you, I could have this mixed up or just plain wrong ... anyone care to back me up, or refute this ??

  • Your right - I may have overstated my point (or not been clear enough). As a personal aside; I am generally polite and respectfull of strangers. I am not rude in public - i dont swear at waitersses/waiters. I didnt really mean to suggest otherwise.

    I expect that you fell into the same trap that Linus did -- it's easy to drop into brain-dump mode when you're typing on a computer and say things you'd never say in public to somebody's face.

  • Respect is earned, not just given out of hand, and the statements that Mundie is making certainly don't give me any reason to grant him respect.

    Some forms of respect are earned; others are not "given out of hand" but are every human being's due. If you don't believe this, then at the very least consider that the way you treat others reflects on you. Social psychologists have found that when you talk about somebody else's shortcomings, people tend to attribute the same shortcomings to you.

    You should also consider the effect that the way you treat somebody has on how people process your position. Abe Lincoln was a very effective lawyer, whose favorite tactic was to concede everything he new to be irrelevant so that he could make a bigger impression using his strongest argument. Following this tactic, there's absolutely no reason to personally attack somebody from a position of strength -- it just distracts from your strongest position. Linus's response is a perfect example of this. Many people coming into this argument from the outside and reading superficially through it will be most struck by the "stinking the place up" rhetoric, which is the weakest link in the whole piece.

  • If I have been able to see further, it was only because I stood on the shoulders of giants".

    That's one of my favorite quotes, and coming from anyone else I would applaud it...but not from Linus. Why not? Because Linus has one of the worst "my farts smell better" attitudes I've ever seen. It's well known that one of the *worst* ways to get an idea incorporated into the Linux kernel is to say that it's been tried and found successful in some other OS. Linus, and the other senior Linux developers, seem to loathe the idea that someone else thought of something before they did, or - heaven forbid! - better than they did. The spiffy new Linux way of doing things - union mounts, kiobufs - is always assumed to be better than anyone else's way of doing the same things just because it cam from Linux people.

    Getting back to the topic, people need to read some of the exchanges between Linus and Andrew S Tanenbaum of MINIX fame. Does that look like proper acknowledgement of a debt owed to another for inspiration or ideas? No, Linus has one of the worst records out there of failing to thank the giants on whose shoulders he stands. For him of all people to throw that quote in someone else's face is the very height of hypocrisy.

  • But there are very few examples of scientists creating consumer goods for the love of discovery.

    Scientists don't create consumer goods. They discover the science which lets Engineers design consumer goods.

  • Well, Thomas Edison was rather a sharp fellow, in particular as far as money was involved. However, he would probably have developed the light bulb nevertheless. Moreover, this is a typical innovation that was in the air at that time - Edison was by no means the only one to work on it, nor even the first one to get a working model. He was just the first to make it to the patent office - ironic, isn't it?

    Except, didn't get the patent on the lightbulb because the prior art showed that he didn't do sufficent innovating. At that time, the Patent office was doing it's job, and ensuring that only things which are patantable were actually patanted. Comparision with the current US Patent office is left to the reader.

  • I think the problem with your argument is simply that it's not generally possible to design aircraft or cars for the joy of it. It's just too specialized,

    But there ARE people who design & build planes & cars just for the fun of it. John Denver was killed in such an experiemental aircraft.

  • Here here. The layer of bullshit is so thick that it's more and more rare to find people who can cut through it... Kinda reminds me of an old George Carlin routine that traces the path of military language from "Shell shock" through "battle fatigue" to "post-traumatic stress disorder". The cloaking is not accidental; it's there to hide very nasty realities.

    The truth is that you can't fight it with language on the same level; blunt words are needed.

    You can't say "Lasting innovation in computing has more often been acheived by solidifying the gains of public research institutions into a lingua franca via the appropriate standards bodies than it has via proprietary extensions enshrined in the standard forms of intellectual property; patents, copyright, and trade secrets protected by non-disclosure agreements." The PHBs at whom Mundie directs his fear-mongering have fallen asleep. You can say "Mundie is a lunatic. Open Source created the Internet and E-mail, which I hear even Bill Gates uses. Microsoft didn't even invent windows. Mundie doesn't wear a funny hat and stick his hand between his jacket buttons, does he?"

    Allchin sounds like a genius next to Mundie. I guess with Ballmer kicked upstairs, Microsoft is still looking to fill the position of Loudmouth Attack Dog.

    Boss of nothin. Big deal.
    Son, go get daddy's hard plastic eyes.

  • The 'Total loon' comment reflects how the 'interested public' would percieve Stallmans (and RMS's!) comments on this sort of issue.

    Mundie was not speaking to us (people who are experienced in a technical sense), he was speaking to investors, legislators, CEO's etc.. not stupid, but lacking full exposure to all the arguments.

    Linus was speaking to exactly the same audience, in language and concepts they understand and are familiar with. He made a bloody good job of it too.

    I severely doubt if either ESR or RMS could have written anything so accessible to the same audience

    EZ
  • it has that paper clip thiong to help you get more confused!
  • The U.S. Intellectual Property protections were designed to be a compromise, by giving inventors (not discoverers) limited protection for their inventions. This was done in order to harness the profit motive for the common good. Unfortunately, Congress has extended patent and copyright protections far beyond what they were originally.

    - - - - -
  • by panda (10044) on Friday May 04, 2001 @08:08AM (#246507) Homepage Journal
    Large corporations, national gov'ts, what's the difference?

    The entrenched institutions and stone age ideologies greatly inhibit freedom when they tell you that your options are more limited than they are.

    The first step to achieving anything is to visualize that which you wish to achieve. I ask you to imagine a world without gov'ts, religions or other entrenched interests. I ask you to take the Free Software ethic, which is at it's core the socialist ethic of "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need," and extend it to every facet of life. Consider it a mental exercise if nothing else. Do it as a favor to your Nintendo-addled brain.

    The capitalist system of exchange is predicated on a world of scarcity. No matter what the corps tell you, we DO NOT live in a world of scarcity. There is plenty of food, plenty of land, and plenty of power (a practically unlimited supply of energy hits us on the head every day and we don't utilize the smallest fraction of it efficiently) for everyone. The scarcities that do exist today are artificial ones, created and maintained by the greedy systems of power spawned the very real scarcity of the past.

    We now face a very critical juncture in history. We can make choices now that no society on this planet has ever been able to make. We can obliterate ourselves in a heartbeat. We can slowly use up the non-renewable resources on this rock and starve ourselves into oblivion. We can choose to the follow the path of our ancestors, or we can choose to use and to share the world's resources wisely and improve the life of the entire planet, until the Sun goes red giant and swallows us whole.

    You can laugh and joke and call me a hippie, a communist, a crackpot, any name you like. (I prefer Anarchist, myself. :-) Take some time to look at the world from a different perspective. Stop thinking about what you want, and focus on what you need, on what we all need. Greedy capitalism is responsible for creating the world we live in today, and are you proud of that world?

    Don't point to the Soviet Union and try to tell me communism failed. First, I am not a communist, and second, anyone who has actually read Marx knows that the Soviet Union never even came close to "real" communism. Anyway, Marx is fundamentally flawed because he talks of replacing one tyranny with another. I am for the abolition of all tyranny.

    I'll leave you with one last quip: "Free your mind, and your ass will follow."
  • by Sloppy (14984) on Friday May 04, 2001 @07:04AM (#246508) Homepage Journal

    Could it be that information monopolies retard technological advancement by sequestering knowledge?

    Yes and no. Not all research is done for The Benefit of Mankind. Some is done for commercial reasons, and this stuff is sometimes of very high value. The purpose of IP law giving monopolies to creators, is to let them recoup development cost. In the case of software, that cost is usually very small. In the case of Mr. Fusion and CancerBeGone, that cost may be very high.

    What is really needed, is for the extra profit given by the legal monopoly (which is likely to be some function of the monopoly's duration) to be equal to the development cost. When the monopoly is too long, technological advancement is retarded. When the monopoly is too short, technological advancement is also retarded.

    If you want to optimize the function, then the fixed duration (e.g. 17 years, 70 years, etc) of the monopolies should be abolished. When one submits a patent, an accounting of the development cost (and maybe a marketing study to predict sales?) should be submitted as part of the application. Then the patent duration could be set to whatever appropriate.

    The concepts for copyrights are identical.

    Sounds like a lot of overhead and a pain in the ass, though. Optimization of advancement would not come without a real cost.


    ---
  • by SoftwareJanitor (15983) on Friday May 04, 2001 @10:01AM (#246509)
    Here is why Microsoft and/or Mundie won't sue Linus...

    If they did, it would be a huge PR disaster for them.

    For one, it would be publically acknowledging that such a simple statement, flippant though it might be, could piss them off. It certainly wouldn't make them look like the kind of mature and rational company they want the heads of large businesses to think they are.

    Secondly, it would give Linus and Linux a huge amount of free publicity, and while their 'declaration of war' already is doing that, an actual lawsuit in a court of law is more difficult to control than the court of public opinion. Microsoft can afford to spend billions on astroturf campaigns and use advertising dollars to strongarm the media, but judges have this damned independant streak that make them unpredictable. Microsoft has maybe learned a little about that recently, and I think they might not want to go there if they don't have to.

    Thirdly, if Microsoft thinks they are too often the target of the ill will of the technical community now, attacking a well respected figure like Linus would certainly worsen that situation.

  • by hey! (33014) on Friday May 04, 2001 @06:47AM (#246510) Homepage Journal
    Mundie is really just a talking head - paid for his white teeth and quick wit - why should some dishonest puppet be given respect?

    How about because some form of respect should be the default attitude grown ups take towards other human beings?

    Respect means lots of things. Some of them have to be earned: respect for business or technical acumen. Other forms should be extended to everyone, such as the respect of basic courtesy; the respect of being heard with an open mind.

    By the way I agree with you about PR-speak, but for a reason that also covers schoolyard taunting: it is speech that is designed purely to achieve an effect, not to communicate the truth.

    I'm not that disappointed in Linus though. E-mails are regarded by most normal folks as informal and not for the record. Linus is usually more circumspect in formal interviews or speeches. You have to be more careful with journalists. Journalists deal in the same speech-as-blunt-instrument practices as PR people, except they are more interested in the magnitude than the direction of the response.

  • Really? You are making two assumptions that are demonstrably false:
    1. A better product is not an advantage if others are also permitted to make a better product.To which i reply; bullshit. Keep a few things as trade secrets, and it's likely you've got a five year lead on anyone trying to copy you. Any invention worth promoting with a monopoly tends to be a hot market in the end, which means that your product is beginning to slide into obsolescence in 5 years.
    2. Corporations go head to head and win market share with competetive excellence. This is also bullshit and there's a PhD in economics to the first person to demonstrate this well. Sprint builds a good wireless network in NYC, AT&T sucks there and builds well in LA. They are AVOIDING competition, by dividing markets qualitatively. Companies find specialties and niches, and reign in those niches. Look in most economic markets, and you'll see one dominant player, one minor player, and a host of smaller players who get assimilated or crushed.
    3. Companies in strong competition use substantive technological advances to compete with each other Not usually. A really nasty fight involves distribution channels, price wars, threats, advertising, and underhanded tactics that will work QUICKLY enough to matter. On the other end of the scale, look at how much research and how many patents came out of Bell Labs. They weren't competing with anyone. Somewhere in the middle, you have IBM, which isn't really competing with anyone in particular on some of their wilder research stuff. They are just ensuring their seat at the table next hand, not playing a patent trump card.
    There are exceptions to these observations; I would say biotech is the only sphere that really shows why we have patents. They invest in ideas and compete for big payoffs that patents make possible. On the other hand, they haven't produced all that much compared to research divisions in old-line companies. So it's early to say that patents are really useful here. Don't even bring up (medical) drugs in general, because it's pretty clear that the biggest cost is advertising, second is the FDA, and research is last. Patents don't prevent - and may even contribute to - the orphan drug phenomenon.

    In a world without patents, corporate research would be on a shorter leash, but the longer leash typically benefits basic research, much of which is done at universities anyway. You might argue that corporations would be more profitable, since the distance to a manufacturable product would be less.

    From a different angle, if it takes your competitors five minutes to copy what you did, it's clever, but not enough of an invention to be worth a patent. Like those little cardboard things Starbuck uses to insulate your hand against the heat. They have a patent pending mark on them. 100,000 years of humans using tools, and no one ever thought of angling the cut against the grain to make a strong, cone-like shape? Bullshit. If that impresses you, you are feeble minded indeed.

    Boss of nothin. Big deal.
    Son, go get daddy's hard plastic eyes.

  • by wiredog (43288) on Friday May 04, 2001 @04:53AM (#246512) Journal
    Actually written before the speech. At Linux Today [linuxtoday.com].

    And ,from the Times, this story [nytimes.com]. Favorite quote, on the "threat" of the GPL:"an I.B.M. vice president, said, "If we thought this was a trap, we wouldn't be doing it, and as you know, we have a lot of lawyers.""

  • > But please, show each other some respect. Calling RMS a 'total loon' (or, like ESR, making vicious remarks about his personal hygiene) is way out of line, IMHO.

    But that's what Linus basically did, when comparing Mundie's body odor to that of a 300 year old cadaver...

  • by OmegaDan (101255) on Friday May 04, 2001 @04:13AM (#246514) Homepage
    If the last 100 - 200 years of technological development hadn't been driven by IP such as patents / copyright ... If all the things discovered by companies were free for other people to learn and use -- where COULD we be on the technology timeline ?

    Could it be that information monopolies retard technological advancement by sequestering knowledge?

  • by tylerh (137246) on Friday May 04, 2001 @11:10AM (#246515)

    Defending Bill Gates on /. does seem foolish, but I have some spare karma. here goes

    Bill bought the Codex Leicester [phm.gov.au] from noted ego-maniac and proven liar Armand Hammer. Dr. Hammer had renamed the book "Codex Hammer" and not allowed public viewing.

    Since acquisition, Bill has loaned it out for public display [ovationtv.com] and now keeps in a museum in Seattle.

    Yes, Bill, through his solely ownded Corbis [corbis.com], did buy the Betteman Archive and Corbis does charge for access.

    BUT, the Archive was in private hands, was (literally) falling apart, was in a building the NY Times deems a "fire risk," (on old warehouse), and only a teeny portion of it was digitized.

    Corbis has given the archive a proper physical home and moved much of the archive online. No one else was willing and able to invest these kinds of millions

    Bill is stil an evil, rotten bastard -- even Nero did some good public works

  • by HiQ (159108) on Friday May 04, 2001 @04:21AM (#246516)
    Yep, nowadays science is more and more driven by what there is to gain. Science per se is out of the question; those projects / studies will unlikely get the necessary fundings. All too often people will ask for the direct benefits of some research, thereby disregarding the fact that most great discoveries are mere side effects of some other research (and all too often you don't exactly know where research will lead you).
  • Call a spade a spade. I prefer the direct honesty to a roundabout attack, not mentioning names, but implying snidely without coming right out and saying what you feel.
  • Look at this page [microsoft.com] on the MSDN site. They have incorporated regular expressions into their scripting languages.

    They have so closely copied the Perl regular expressions, that there is nearly no difference. I've even tried undocumented things like matching underscore characters which, although not documented, work in the MS implementation.

    So, it appears to me they have taken the Perl source code to implement regular expressions in their scripting languages. Yet, they haven't even bothered to credit the original author, much less provide source code to their implementation.

    Anyone know if they have violated the Perl artistic licence or not?

  • "If I have been able to see further, it was only because I was surrounded by dwarves."

    --
  • by danheskett (178529) <{danheskett} {at} {gmail.com}> on Friday May 04, 2001 @08:29AM (#246520)
    Thats a bit trollish, but let me respond with my possible manners.

    The Internet. The internet is cool stuff. but really, how useful or widespread would it be if not for MS? Would 66% of Americans have daily access to it? Would it have grown in acceptance faster than telephone, radio or television? I don't know, perhaps, and perhaps not.

    The World Wide Web. Again, same as above. What use would the WWW really be if only the original academics/nerds were into it? If every site on the 'Net was like slashdot.org, how great would that be?

    Linux. Linux is cool stuff. I personally prefer FreeBSD over RedHat or other flavors any day. Its a matter of choice. And hurray for Open Source for bringing us linux, its a cool OS.

    Now on the MS Side of things, how about a few additions:

    The ability for average non-technical persons to use a personal computer. Let's face it, Windows 95 was a watershed for personal computer users. It was an operating system that was affordable (~$120), ran on commodity hardware (non-Sun, non-Apple, non-proprietary vendors) that required no command line skills to operate. All its major flaws aside, those are the facts. A person could go to a store, and buy an inexpensive machine that did not require any archane (or even obvious) commands to be entered manually. Like it not, that really marked the beginning of an explosive growth in the popularity and availability of Internet access to the masses. With only the flavors of Unix, early Linux distro's, and other non-friendly OS's, Internet access would have been rare.

    The inclusion of web-browsers and a tcp-ip stack as "standard equipment" in an OS. Monopoly or not, its an important step forward in terms of usuable functions and end-user satisfaction. Laws and evilness aside, MS recognized that computer users wanted their OS's for a few key tasks - email, internet access, web-browsing, etc. MS integrated IE (poorly, at first) into its operating systems. No more third-party stacks (Trumpet Winsock, anyone?) or third-party browsers (Netscape/AOL/TW) required. Show me an Operating System today that doesnt ship with a browser and a stack, and I will show you an unsuccessful OS.

    The fullfillment of a consumer demand. Like it or not, MS filled a serious demand in the computer world. They broke lots of laws, squashed lots people, and did it the closed way, but people in the mid-to-late 1990's wanted and got a fundamentally easy to use and fundamentally complete computing "experience". MS delivered. BSD Unix didnt, Linux didnt, BeOS didnt, AtheOS didnt, and niether did Solaris. Windows and MS. Thats an accomplishment. And in delivering on this demand, and we can debate the means some othet time, they made more Americans more money than any other company in the history of publically traded stock.

    Look, we can both bash MS for trying to quash Open Source. I am not a huge OSS zealot, but I recognize the theories and the principles behind it. MS has made a whole load of crappy-ass, bug-ridden, overprice crap. In my mind, thats clear. There are thousands of reasons to hate MS - so many so that we don't have to belittle the accomplishments and contributions they have made.

    Linus' point stands on it owns weight, and for what its worth, I agree. MS doesn't "get it". They don't understand OSS. But to suggest that MS is evil or bad or nasty because it has given back to the world the same amount as Newton is silly. Few things will ever match such a seemingly important contribution - even in the OSS world.

    So at the end of this comment, I will say this: I am impressed by what MS has contributed. It may not be perfect, or been done even close to legally, or even done morally, but it is significant. Writing MS off because of personal biases is a serious mistake.
  • by RedWizzard (192002) on Friday May 04, 2001 @04:36AM (#246521)
    Many of the greatest scientific developments of the past 50 years have come out of industry because there are certain things only industry can do.
    Nope. You only have to look at NASA and high energy physics research to see that there isn't anything that only industry can do.
  • by tmark (230091) on Friday May 04, 2001 @04:33AM (#246522)
    One one hand he seems to be eschewing patents and protection of intellectual property. On the other hand, he is collecting a big fat paycheque from, and probably owns a stake in, a company which I assume has oodles of patents on its code-morphing technology and almost certainly plans to defend them vigorously. I am not necessarily taking a stand one side or another, but is it too much to expect some consistency on the part of advocates ??
  • Where would we be without the Internet? As I recall, this was one of those taxpayer-funded NSF/Pentagon projects that "went public". It is perhaps the most useful military project of all time. Sounds a whole lot like "open source" to me.

    What has the "copyright/patent/intellectual property" world contributed to networking? NETBEUI? Appletalk? IPX? Where are they now? Could the Microsofts of the world ever "innovate" anything like TCP/IP without endless copyright/patent litigation and an IRS-like licensing scheme?

    If Microsoft's approach was so great, they would simply ignore open source, much as they ignore Corel. Instead, you see them treating open source like it's a five-alarm fire.

    To me, it looks like Microsoft's "respect for intellectual property" begins and ends with THEIR intellectual property, not the intellectual property of others, even though it is the basis for everything Microsoft does.

  • "My university claims ownership of anything I write while attending, so I make sure they can't profit off my hard work without granting others' freedom."

    How can they legally do that? Are you on scholarship? Do you PAY them to attend? Does this university "claim" ownership of books and papers the professors are constantly writing and having published? (usually leaving graduate students to actually do their "inconvienient" teaching duties? Professors also use the school's facilities/computers to do these papers/books) Do they also claim "ownership" of anything you write on your own machine?

    I have a real problem with most of academia these days. I find it ironic that the Jesuit teaching philosophy at my Catholic High School was FAR more open, particulary in the way they teach you how to THINK for yourself, than any college I attended.

    College educations these days are becoming steadily less and less valueable in the real world simply BECAUSE academia refuses to allow the real world in. Colleges are the LEAST likely place these days where you will find freedom of speech or any academic freedom.

    If they claim to own all your works irregardless of where and how you create it, but not all works of their professors, I'd think that their blanket claim to own ANYTHING you write isn't worth the paper it's printed on.

    But then again, we have a totally fucked up court system that has little to do with justice and more with awarding judgment to those with the deepest pockets.

    The point being, if the university's claim to own all your code is valid, then you cannot license it under the GPL without their permission. Otherwise, you could simply release under the BSD license, then download your own source code and, whammo, you own it again, and could then license it as modified under the GPL with you as the owner.
  • by OSgod (323974) on Friday May 04, 2001 @05:39AM (#246525)
    ..so well. Most other systems end up with either a glut of theory and no application or a glut of application and no theory.

    Capitalism is the system that actually seems to balance both out over time. Applied science -- production of product (see Microsoft or Edison). Theory -- this is the foundation structure (see Newton or Einstein). Without the theory it is difficult if not impossible to make true advances -- incremental only. Without the application you will never be able to drive theory to any next level -- application refines theory and allows you to start building "products" and refining them over time -- the bedrock that a lot of new theory rests on.

    Some theory goes off on a tangent and then you get real breakthroughs. This is rarely it seems the realm of the corporation although many times it is funded by the corporation either directly or indirectly (university and government are both indirectly funded by the tax base of the capitalist country -- which is either the corporation directly or employees of the corporation). Think food chain.

    Implication: if a corporation can apply theory and make money they will have either a direct (funded research) or indirect (food chain) effect on making theory better over time. Without application you have less opportunity for more theory. Without application you have no economy. Without application you have stagnation.

    MS is relatively good at iterative application. Some other companies excel at it as well. MS also has thinkers (both direct and indirect [ps: Linus is an indirect thinker that MS uses as a resource -- as is the entire industry and if Linus is smart MS is the same for him]) who it strives to use to improve theory. It is not a company so married to it's own interpetation that it will not adopt outside interpetations or models when MS sees the benefit for the application.

    Do not understimate a company ready, willing and able to re-interpet itself based on a changing world scene and the concept that over time and releases it will prevail.

  • by jgandrews (449299) on Friday May 04, 2001 @06:23AM (#246526)
    What Linus said makes interesting food for thought... he uses Einstein (a German), Rutherford (a New Zealander), Newton (a Englishman) and himself Finnish... Then think about Turing, Church, Hilbert, von Neumann etc etc all pivotal in the creation of the modern computer... all not American yet America has gained so much. What if all that "IP" had been locked up? Would there be a Microsoft? It seems the "American economy" has been profiting from the IP of "other nations" for a long time now itself... Would America be where it is today without the free flow of ideas and information from people like those mentioned above? I dont think so. Add to that America itself (and corporates that are part of the USA) profits the ideas of its people on a grand scale. Hell the internet itself was publicly funded from the begining, even the digital computer was invented pretty much exclusivly using public funds. Now Microsoft tells us that the only way to survive is by covetting knowledge for profit? Sounds awfully anti-democratic to me! There is no one correct "model" but any idea which promotes the free flow of learning and knowledge transfer has my vote any day of the week... I'm all for making a good crust, but monetary profit isnt the only sort of profit in this world...Linus is right... some people just dont "get" it.
  • by neo (4625) on Friday May 04, 2001 @04:29AM (#246527)
    Linus brings up an interesting problem with society, although he doesn't go into length about it. That problem is the reliance of capitalism in our society for intellectual advancement.

    Attempting to equate success with having capital (and hence property) has created some obvious paradoxes. Take the example of designed obsolescence. Because corporations only live if they can sustain an income, products are created that will fail to function in a timely manner. This creates a revenue stream and keeps the corporation "alive". However, the products that are created are not the best possible products.

    Competition is supposed to push better products to the fore. If that worked, we'd have light bulbs that laster for 30 years, cars you bought for a lifetime, and software for life. Ask yourself this question: How much better is Word 2000 from Word 5.1? We upgrade because it is forced upon us by file protocals, not because there's any innovation in word processing.

    Until we can divorce the pursuit of capital from advances in science, we are doomed to have any advance kepted restained by the barriers of the a accumulation of that wealth. If at any point, an advancement is deemed to be a money killer, it will be abandoned. [Napster being a slightly trollish example]

    I don't have the answers to these problems, but from what I've read on Slashdot, I'm not the only one thinking about them.

  • I'm very grateful for Stallman's contribution to the software field, but in speaking and writing he often sounds like a total loon. Linus' writings are always so relaxed, eloquent, and poingent, even when he's basically calling someone an idiot.

    Torvalds certainly has a very readable writing style. Stallman tends to be more thoughtful, and that may make his writing less accessible to the casual reader, but he never sounds like a "total loon". The fact that you think so says more about you than about RMS.

    Many, if not most, people here on Slashdot seem to prefer ESR-style 'Open Source' over RMS-style 'Free Software'. That's fine, I like to think we can "agree to disagree" about the details.

    But please, show each other some respect. Calling RMS a 'total loon' (or, like ESR, making vicious remarks about his personal hygiene) is way out of line, IMHO.

  • by Ian Schmidt (6899) on Friday May 04, 2001 @09:18AM (#246529)
    At the risk of being a bit trollish myself, let me just say from deep personal experience that anyone who thinks Win9X is usable by unassisted non-technical people has never given their parents a computer.

  • by HardCase (14757) on Friday May 04, 2001 @07:33AM (#246530)
    Clearly Microsoft issues forth a lot of rhetoric on the subject of being a technology and innovation leader, and by raising the BS flag, I certainly agree with Linus that something is fundamentally awry with their position.

    On the other hand, it's important to note that when Linus points out the great discoveries made by the men that he listed, he's making a list of individuals whose work was done primarily with public institutions...schools, foundations or institutions. Even men like da Vinci, who did work privately, worked with the goal of simply publishing his (scientific) work.

    Fast forward a few hundred years...

    If a private company dumps a load of money into research and development, they deserve the opportunity to get something back for it. Patents are a way for them to recover their expenses, try to make some money (because in a capitalist society, they have that right) and give us the opportunity to use their ideas.

    In fact, I would submit that good old fashioned science is still being done for the public good in those very places that science has always been done: colleges and universities and in national laboratories. The IP patents that we complain so bitterly about are really only incremental improvements in existing technology, rarely breakthrough developments.

    It is good for the economy to charge, not only for intellectual property, but for any property. Trade is how the economy grows. The Microsoft comment is flawed in that it assumes that if charging for IP is good then not charging for it is bad. I'd say it's pretty clear that that is an unsupportable position. But the other extreme, that everything should be free isn't much more supportable either.

    -h-

  • by WNight (23683) on Friday May 04, 2001 @11:54AM (#246531) Homepage
    Perhaps there would be less people using the web, but you ignore Apple, Amiga, and all the other companies that would have been here had MS not. You assume that MS exists in a vacumm. Computers would be no less than two years behind where they are now. Commodity hardware is nice, but Apple had allowed clones before, stopping only when they were losing money. If their apps sold to more people they'd probably have gotten out of the hardware market, controlling it only through 'Apple Approved' programs, like MS through their 'Made for Windows' program.

    Similarly, Apple was the leader in usability and had they had more of a market share, they would doubtlessly have kept improving. If not, some other company could have done it.

    How great would the web be if only geeks were on it? That's not just theoretical. Many of us here remember how great it was. No banners, no 'free registration', no spam bots, free information easily arranged to be shared with other academics. I doubt begrude anyone the right to be on the net, but the crass commercialization of it sucks. Mainly thanks to big companies like MS making sure that any idiot could connect. (Though I realize that had MS and AOL not done this, others would have.)

    Finally, for your idea that MS should be forgiven all their illegal acts, putting other companies out of business, and forming a monopoly to the detriment of the consumer. What? Are you mad? Should we start forgiving crimes simply because it's been a while and the victim isn't around to complain anymore?

    MS and their upgrade-itis (the refusal to patch products, only release a new version) have cost the public *much* more than it has helped them.

    I'm all for not bashing big companies just because they're big but MS really is a scum lord, they really did compete only through illegal actions.
  • by Ender Ryan (79406) on Friday May 04, 2001 @05:42AM (#246532) Journal
    Linus doesn't have anything against intellectual property. If you paid more attention to him you'd know that. He respects people's work and respects copyright. But he also believes that collaboration and sharing knowledge is the best way to promote progress, but that doesn't mean that he thinks patents and such are never appropriate.

    Please get a clue before you go calling someone a hypocrite.

  • by e-Motion (126926) on Friday May 04, 2001 @05:26AM (#246533)

    If that worked, we'd have light bulbs that laster for 30 years, cars you bought for a lifetime, and software for life.

    To paraphrase Chris Rock:

    They ain't _never_ curing aids. That'd be like Chrysler making a car that lasts forever. They can make a space shuttle that can withstand temperatures of thousands of degrees; you mean to tell me that they can't make a car where the bumper don't fall off?

    Not a direct quote, but you get the point.

  • by TomV (138637) on Friday May 04, 2001 @04:50AM (#246534)
    "If I have been able to see further, it was only because I stood on the shoulders of giants".

    Linus never ceases to amaze.
    Perfect quote from Isaac Newton to counter all that Microsoft has been saying.
    Great reply

    Except...

    This quote is often used to illustrate the humility of Newton. In these cases, it's a misquote.

    Newton claimed to have discovered that white light was made up of mixed colours. Robert Hooke claimed that Newton had stolen the idea from his own Micrographia. Hooke is generally described as 'crooked and low of stature' and Newton and Hooke were long-standing rivals for primacy at The Royal Society (we're talking big money prizes here). The quote is from Newton's rebuttal of this accusation.

    So basically the standard Newton quote was a typically nasty, snide put-down to Hooke, saying "even if I did steal these ideas, I certainly didn't steal them from a dwarf like you"

    Maybe Linus is saying if he wants commercial ideas he'd rather get them from Bell Labs than from M$?

    The man was a genius, certainly. But an angel he was not.

    Newton was also an alchemist, who learned his stuff from one Thomas Vaughan (alias 'Eugenius Philalethes')

    TomV

  • by MongooseCN (139203) on Friday May 04, 2001 @10:33AM (#246535) Homepage
    If all intellectual properties were taken away from a company so that anyone could use the product that was previously protected, then the company will go out of business and no one will sell that product. Right? No not really... Someone is still going to create the product that was previously protected. Just because a company can not monopolize the product does not mean they will not make any money off of it. Just look at cars. No one has a monopoly on car engines or bodies or airbags. You can get most features in any car in any other car. Yet when you look at the road, there are 100's of different types of cars from so many different manufactures.

    If IP rights were taken away from all companies, I don't see it as the Doom of the information age, I see companies having to compete for quality products. IP rights only cover an idea, companies then have to implement that idea into a product. Companies can then compete on the quality of their product, not just the one little idea the product holds. And for companies that fear people stealing their code if they open source it, you can't cut and paste quality out of a product.
  • by sallen (143567) on Friday May 04, 2001 @04:58AM (#246536)
    MS simply shoot itself in the foot.

    Mundie shot himself in the foot numerous times in that speech. It can be torn apart. An example:

    The OSS development model leads to a strong possibility of unhealthy "forking" of a code base, resulting in the development of multiple incompatible versions of programs, weakened interoperability, product instability, and hindering businesses' ability to strategically plan for the future. Furthermore, it has inherent security risks and can force intellectual property into the public domain.

    In a word. kerberos. MS took instead of PUBLIC standard, 'forked' it (so to speak, but modifying it and making the change any but part of the original open standard). This lead to 'incompatible versions of programs', 'product instability' of other products, and 'hindering businesses' ability to strategically plan for the future'...all but their own of course, the public/and therefore the customers/be damned. Did it also not come out that in the trial that there were times code was changed to intentionally 'break' competitor software (applications)? Again, see above. If anything, I feel this actually supports the breakup of MS. They use the proprietary standards to thwart competition in the app area. It's good from the OS/app vertical market, of which they are the monopoly. And that's just one paragraph. What they've done is NOT good for the software market (EXCEPT for MS itself) in the applications area, which is 99.99 percent of the software companies. Hell, and that's only one paragraph. Of course he mentioned the bad business model of 'free expecting to be paid later' hmm...Explorer comes to mind. What his speech does day, if one reads between the lines, is that MS must thing Linux is ready for prime time. That's quite an endorsement. It's a little like announcing vaporware a year before you have a product because someone announces a product you think is a good idea. You keep the competitor at bay while you write it or buy it (never having thought about it in the first place).

    My feeling of the positive aspect of the open source model is it means applications will compete on MERIT, not be shoved down your throat. If an app vendor enahnces/corrects an OS under GPL, then every vendor, once that's included, will have the same benefit for their application products. (And applications can remain proprietary, if they like. But they'll have to be good. no BSOD every other keystroke and service/support, knowing a customer DOES have the option of going elsewhere.) It's all about control... MS wants it 100%. OSS give the control back to the customer/consumer/business client... the place it belongs. Even those that are strictly the profit driven software houses, it's sill a BIG plus for them IF they have a product that people want to purchase and IF someone doesn't invent a better mousetrap and put it under GPL, at which point they probably failed on that innovation, research, or service that MS seems to speak of so frequently.

  • but nobody creats ... a new nicer design of a personal computer for pure creative self-actualising joy.

    Steve Wozniak - Apple 1 and ][

  • by Phillip2 (203612) on Friday May 04, 2001 @04:47AM (#246538)
    "Perfect quote from Isaac Newton to counter all that Microsoft has been saying. "

    Its sad actually that this quote is frequently produced to show what a nice guy Newton was. Newton was actually refering to another quote when he made this, which was "we are but dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants". The "dwarfs" bit is the relevant point, because he was actually being extremely rude to Robert Boyle (him of the gas law), who actually rather on the short side.

    Newton was actually a very nasty piece of work. He was massively anti-semitic. Although he hated catholics ever more. He only took a seat in parliament because someone came up with the nasty idea of admitting catholics to the Cambridge college that Newton was a member of.

    His only recorded contribution to debate in parliament was on a motion to open the window. It is believed that his speech was "Mr Speaker, it is rather hot in here."

    The thing with the apples was good though.

    Phil

  • But I'm glad Linus beat him to the punch. I'm very grateful for Stallman's contribution to the software field, but in speaking and writing he often sounds like a total loon. Linus' writings are always so relaxed, eloquent, and poingent, even when he's basically calling someone an idiot.
  • by micromoog (206608) on Friday May 04, 2001 @06:31AM (#246540)
    . . . that Linus feels the need to respond so childishly.

    [As a quick note, this is not a troll or flamebait, though it will likely be modded as such.]

    Please, set aside for a moment the fact that Linus is god and M$ is the devil. Linus makes some very astute observations in his message, but for a reader who is not already sold on the gospel of Lin, it comes off as childish, snotty, and rude. A few examples:

    • Gee, what a surprise.
    • I wonder if Mundie has ever heard of Sir Isaac Newton?
    • I'd rather listen to Newton than to Mundie. He may have been dead for almost three hundred years, but despite that he stinks up the room less.
    Valid points, yes, but this kind of attitude is not what OSS needs to get respect in the business world. And, yes, ultimately what OSS needs to succeed is respect by the general, non-Slashdot population.
  • by Idylwyld (324288) <aehaar@nOSpAM.hotmail.com> on Friday May 04, 2001 @04:09AM (#246541)
    Damn he's good. That last line about stinking up the room is one of the harshest direct responses I've seen in a couple of years. I just hope M$ doesn't sick the lawyers on him for libel against Mundie. Illegal we do immediately. Unconstitutional takes a little longer.
  • by Jeremy Erwin (2054) on Friday May 04, 2001 @05:20AM (#246542) Journal
    Interesting that you mention Thomas Eedison. Although Edison was a prolific inventer, he (or his companies) was rather ruthless iun defending his patents.
    As I recall, he attempted to leverage his invention, patent, and resulting monopoly on the movie projector into a monopoly on film production.
    Many (if not all) of his projectors were licensed, not sold, with the stipulation that they only be used to project films distributed by Edison controlled companies.
  • by BJH (11355) on Friday May 04, 2001 @06:20AM (#246543)
    Not necessarily. Look at it this way - if companies weren't able to abuse the patent system, I think they'd put even more money into R&D, because they would have no artificial means of suppressing competitors.

    For example, there's a brand of vacuum cleaner available in the UK that has a TV commercial trumpeting the fact that their latest model has 136 patents on various parts of it, so "If you want a Dyson, it's going to have to be a Dyson." This is unbelievable - they're actually proud of the fact that consumers can't obtain a similar cleaner from any other source, because they've got it locked up so tight with patents that no other company could reasonably produce a similar model.

    Once upon a time, patents were given on entire devices, not little bits of such devices. If Dyson had only one patent, their IP would be protected, while other companies could make improvements on that design. But no, Dyson have 136 patents, so any improvement is likely to be obstructed by at least one of them. And then they have the gall to say that you can't get one from anywhere else, because they've got it stitched up tight.

    Now, consider the case of software patents - in many cases, the patent is on an algorithm that can't be implemented any other way, because it's based on fundamental mathematical calculations that can't be done any other way (such as multiplication and division). What does that do for R&D at other companies? Kills it dead, that's what.

  • by clifyt (11768) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [rettamkinos]> on Friday May 04, 2001 @04:17AM (#246544) Homepage
    The strength of open source is not the source, but the intellectual property that goes with it - exactly the part that Mundie seems to hate so much. The fact that when you get involved in open source, you get equal rights to be involved. You can be another Leonardo da Vinci, you aren't relegated to just paying for viewing his works.
    The sad fact of this is that Bill Gates OWNS all the rights to most of Leonardo's works today including the Cotex. This was bought through his digital media / stock photography group last year.

    If someone has more info on this please post it...I just remember seeing the announcement in one of the Adobe Photodisc type thingies and don't have much else.

    clif
  • by Gihadrah (13265) on Friday May 04, 2001 @04:57AM (#246545)
    The Betteman Archives was a collection of Photographs (and drawings?) that was availible online for free. Way back when... I used to grab free pic's of famous people off of thier site. A perfect example was Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin at Teran. A rather famous photograph.

    Corbis [corbis.com] now owns the rights and these pics can only be had for a price. Corbis is owned by Bill Gates.

    THIS is probably the #1 reason I dislike the man.
  • by divec (48748) on Friday May 04, 2001 @05:38AM (#246546) Homepage
    I thought it would be Stallman to respond first [...] But I'm glad Linus beat him to the punch. [...] Linus' writings are always so relaxed, eloquent, and poingent, even when he's basically calling someone an idiot.

    Actually, Alan Cox responded [wideopen.com] before either of them. I think he does a better job of refuting Mundie in general; Linus focuses on a specific part of what Mundie said and is [IMHO] more inflammatory.

    Shame the PHBs won't've heard of Alan Cox cos I think he often has things to say which are worth listening to.

  • by fanatic (86657) on Friday May 04, 2001 @05:13AM (#246547)
    Scorecard:

    Open Intellectual Property ("open source", "free software", whatever)
    • The Internet
    • The World Wide Web, including HTML
    • Linux
    Microsoft:
    • A paperclip with nasty eyeballs


    Wow, I'm so impressed with MS's contribution.

    --
  • by molog (110171) on Friday May 04, 2001 @05:57AM (#246548) Homepage Journal
    Why can't Linux users just let Windows users use Windows, and Windows users just let Linux users use Linux?

    Why can't Microsoft let Linux users use Linux, and stop trying to impose restrictions on what they can build in the OS? Why can't I buy a pre-made computer without the Windows tax?

    People have the right to choose their OS!

    You are right, people have the right to choose their OS but we have Microsoft here trying to take that right away. With MS coming out and saying that they need to educate (buy off) legislators to the dangers of open source that means they want to pass a law making it illegal. I have no problem with people using Windows and I think most people on /. don't mind that either as most of them use it. I think most people don't like being told what to do which is what MS is trying to do.

    All of this hatred and "I'm not wrong, you're wrong" type stuff does nothing for either side.

    I don't think this is what we are seeing here though. This is not Linus saying that Windows users suck. He is replying to allegations that open source is bad thing.
    Molog

    So Linus, what are we doing tonight?

  • by heikkile (111814) on Friday May 04, 2001 @04:28AM (#246549) Homepage
    If Microsoft has not got further, it must be beacuse of all the giants standing on its shoulders: DoJ, Linux, IBM, Gnu, Netscape, Word Perfect, Lotus, Borlans, Apple, Corel,
  • by nlvp (115149) on Friday May 04, 2001 @04:13AM (#246550)
    I agree wholeheartedly with Linus when he says that Newton, Einstein and countless others have done more for mankind and todays level of scientific achievement than any modern company - theirs are the shoulders that modern scientists stand on.

    But there are very few examples of scientists creating consumer goods for the love of discovery. One or two perhaps - I'm not sure what the intention behind invention of the lightbulb was.

    But nobody creates a passenger aircraft, or an automobile, or a new, nicer design of personal computer for pure creative self-actualising joy.

    I think that whilst the great discoveries of our time and times gone by will more often be found by scientists and visionaries of the academic kind, it takes a profit incentive to push discovery into the final phases of development, manufacture, distribution and sale.

    So I think that governments should be extremely careful when they give patents away, and the more general the patent, the more value it ties up by preventing the development of those ideas by third parties.

    But where discoveries require significant investment to bring them to a consumer-ready stage, compensation must be guaranteed for that investment, otherwise there is no incentive other than charity to undertake the work, and the most intelligent minds may not have the funds to obtain the necessary equipment and assistance to leverage their genius - they will need to leverage a future asset to borrow those funds in the present.

  • If the pharmaceuticals weren't over-exploiting this system quite so ruthlessly, they would be a good example, as things stand, I'd be on pretty shaky ground defending their recent actions. But if you took away all protection for any of their discoveries, their business model would fold overnight as people (like myself) bailed out of their shares as fast as the markets would allow us.

    Bingo. You've hit it exactly.

    If IP reigns supreme, companies will ignore what's best for humanity in favor of the bottom line. If freedom of information reigns supreme, companies will simply not develop products.

    What I believe the world discovered during the cold war was that neither pure capitalism or pure communism was a viable system. In retrospect, that seems pretty obvious. The only viable system is to take away between 25% and 75% of every person's income and redistribute it. The U.S., right now, is going with a figure of something like 45%, I believe. Yet we still call ourselves "capitalist". Ha.

    What the information age will teach us, I believe is that neither IP nor OSS are viable systems, alone. One leads to the stifling of information and technological progess; the other damages incentive and introduces a fair deal of entropy.

    If I believed for a minute that Mundy was serious about adopting a "shared source" vision for Microsoft, I would hop out of my chair and cheer. A system where Windows, like Debian, was reviewed and updated constantly, where feedback from the community was instantaneous, and yet where applications tended to be mature, user-friendly, and compatble with each other (as they're developed by a large team of well-compensated designers) sounds almost too good to be true. Eventually, I believe, we will discover the beauty of the "middle ground". It's my prediction that, at some point in the not-too-distant future, we will finally start seeing a business model that practices what Mundy preaches: incorporating the benefits of open source (review, speed, innovation) with those of IP (incentive, compatibility, coherence).
  • by G Neric (176742) on Friday May 04, 2001 @05:03AM (#246552)
    I can see the cause of your angst, but this wasn't a personal attack. rather, you seem ignorant of the fact that "stinks up the room" is a common idiom meaning "performed badly and disappointed the audience."
    "How did do?"
    "Jerry, you really stunk up the room," said Kramer.

    Linus was using the phrase in a to make a rather mild joke. How it is that Linus, a foreigner, has a better command of English idiom than you, well... it's just one example so there is no conclusion to be drawn.

  • by SubtleNuance (184325) on Friday May 04, 2001 @04:54AM (#246553) Journal
    This is a rather personal attack...but the last remark was at best childish. Stick with the issues. I don't believe Mundie/Microsoft made any such direct remarks about Linus...

    I completely disagree. Humanity has cloaked itself in a thick layer of Bullshit and PR speak. This is cased by the palm-pusher corporate types who seek to maintain a fine 'artificially constructed' reality that is suitable to their Marketing Plan(TM).

    I say fuck it all - if Mundie is a jackass - I say we openly SAY IT! This is reality - not a fucking Game Show.

    Mundie is really just a talking head - paid for his white teeth and quick wit - why should some dishonest puppet be given respect? Because of his Job Title? I would assert that Mr. Mundie has done nothing to earn our respect (in spite of his impressive jobtitle - which i say is irrelevant). Mr. Mundie is a blatant liar and a despicable person, his very character is soiled by this display of shallowness and greed.

    The people cited in Linus' email are people deserving of respect - they have made contributions to humanity, and by most accounts did so with passion and vigour. Mr. Mundie is a lap-dog, deserving of only ire and loathing.

    This is not flaimbait. I am suggesting that people start re-evaluating who is regarded well in public - lets re-asses how we choose our 'leaders' - and most certainly; lets call a spade a spade.

  • by glebite (206150) on Friday May 04, 2001 @04:17AM (#246554)

    Doing my best Bob Newhart, I imagine that a conversation over the phone between Einstein and PhysicsX Inc product managers:

    Ah, good morning Albert - how are the wife, the kids? Did you catch the game last night?

    Oh - you don't watch football - well, that's just swell there. Say, we here in Product Management want to talk to you about that project you've been working on.

    Uhuh - yeah - that whole grand unification project and all that. Yeah, we need to know if we can patent any of this stuff?

    Oh - it's really prior art then eh? Okay - listen, we've put a lot of money your way and Susan from Marketing would like to know what would people get from moving near the speed of light...

    More mass, length shortened? Wow - listen Al, we've got idea down - we'd just like you to downplay the more mass thing. We're kind of looking towards changing some of the text such as shortened length to "slimming".

    I can see how you're upset about this one Al, I'd be too, but heck, they're just words, and we are trying to sell this stuff...

    Okay I'll talk to Susan about that. Listen, packaging is wondering how we could fit this whole Theory of Relativity thing for home use...

    Ah - yes Al, I did get that memo about impossibility of approaching the speed of light. Listen, I've got Frank from Advertising here - he's concerned that your paper has too much math - could you trim it back?

    Al? Al? Funny - I seemed to have been disconnected.

    Just off the top of my head, I agree - the business model of running r&d has proven itself to be a pain and a dinosaur. What we need to do is present an environment where more people would express what they know and come up with new discoveries. And these discoveries don't really have to come from scientists or researchers.

    Have you ever had one of those neighbours who could fix anything? Go spend some time with them and see their workshop - inspiration beyond belief! No corporate sponsership, a true love of whatever it is they are working on.

  • by Zero Sum (209324) on Friday May 04, 2001 @04:12AM (#246555)
    It can't be Libel. It's true. Anybody who has been dead for 300 years is going to be well past the smelly stage. Mundie, however, is still alive and will therefore smell more. Case closed.
  • by Kragg (300602) on Friday May 04, 2001 @04:10AM (#246556) Journal
    To be honest, Microsoft have contributed massively to the modern world.

    I mean, where would we all be without minesweeper. lost...
    "God is dead." - Nietszche

  • But nobody creates a passenger aircraft, or an automobile, or a new, nicer design of personal computer for pure creative self-actualising joy.

    Well, not to point out the obvious... But the open source movement seems to be doing exactly that. I think the problem with your argument is simply that it's not generally possible to design aircraft or cars for the joy of it. It's just too specialized, and when you've completed the design, you don't have access to the specialized tools necessary to make it real. It's a situation we've lived with so long that we simply take it for granted that only a corporation could ever produce a useful product.

    I would even go so far as to state that open source has a sort of darwinian marketing advantage over corporate products; only products that the market needs will ever survive. Think how many corporate products have, after millions in R&D and thousands of hours of market research, tanked miserably. Companies can't afford to suffer too many failures like that, so consequently they limit their experimentation. Open source has no such restrictions.

    But where discoveries require significant investment to bring them to a consumer-ready stage

    You have to be careful how you define the 'significant investment' required to get something from concept to market. Certainly it took millions of man-hours to produce something like Linux. If you accept what MS would have you believe, that's multi-millions of development and marketing dollars that only a large software company could ever afford to spend. In reality, it's nothing of the sort-- open source is just a more efficient way to aggregate programmers' spare cycles. The same might be true of a lot of industries, if manufacturing and distribution were ever to become simple and inexpensive.

    Something that interests me is these new 3D printers, that overlay sheets of plastic to build things. If technology like that were ever to become cheap and ubiqutous, and were also capable of printing circuitry and LCD displays, then I bet you'd see something similar to open source, with a lot of consumer electronics companies complaining about unfair competition.

  • by 47PHA60 (444748) on Friday May 04, 2001 @05:20AM (#246558) Journal
    Newton gave particular credit to Kepler, another "open science" advocate. In Max Caspar's bio of Kepler, when told that Galileo was in Italy presenting Kepler's discoveries as his own, Kepler basically said that this was OK, since the truth spread by anyone was still the truth, and that the world would be richer for it. How could he possibly give up his 'property' like that? Becuase he did not think of knowledge as his.

    Galileo, on the other hand, was persecuted by the Catholic Church (an intellectual property monopoly), and lost his right to even present his findings in public.

    Many of the scientific conclusions Kepler and Galileo reached are incorrect, but science is nearly as much about seeing thought processes at work as it is about finding the truth. According to Mundie's speech, this process has no value to Microsoft, unless it is paid for by the governement and then given to them to use as their own.

    I like to think of OS and GPL in terms of the US legal system; when a lawyer does 'pro bono' work, it does not mean "for free," it means "for the public good." Refusing payment is one characteristic of pro bono work, but the term also means that you put yourself on the line for something you believe in, something that will otherwise be ignored or left undone. Can you imagine the trial system if a lawyer says "Your honor, I bring to your attention Brown vs. the Board of Education" and a lawyer in the audience says, "Wait! Part of that decision is my intellectual property! You must pay me before you can use that in your client's defense!" So how does anyone make money if legal work is in the public domain? Lawyers pay for their law books, and they pay for Lexis-Nexis access to legal research. And so, lawyers charge a high hourly or contingency fee for most of their work, and if they do good research and make good arguments, they deserve it.

    In the same way, I am permitted under the GPL to sell my improvements in the form of binaries on CD-ROM, but I need to make the source available as well. I can charge $100 to access my online archive of source. If it is a great archive that is kept up-to-date, people, companies, and universities may pay, and there is nothing in the GPL that prevents this. I cannot stop you from redistributing it, though, just as Lexis-Nexis cannot stop a law researcher from teaching his students the public info found in their database. In fact, my reading of the GPL says that I can refuse to release my changes without payment. If anyone wants to pay me, they can. In fact, a lot of my consulting work is based on this, and I get paid well because I do a good job.

    Computing began as a government/university venture, including Bill Gates' first major programming project, an implementation of BASIC on a Harvard-owned, government funded machine. The field has been taken over by rich private interests. The GPL is one attempt to restore some balance in favor of research, and based on the progress the Linux kernel has made in just 8 years, it's succeeding.

If it's not in the computer, it doesn't exist.

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