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Ask Eric S. Raymond Anything 254

This week's Slashdot interview subject is Eric S. Raymond. You already know who he is, and may even know that his new book, The Cathedral and the Bazaar, subtitled Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary, will be published by O'Reilly in October. We anticipate lots of questions for Eric. Please try to avoid the obvious ones he's answered thousands of times already, and try to ask only one question per post! We'll forward the selected 10 - 15 questions deemed most interesting by Slashdot moderators and/or editors to him Tuesday afternoon. Answers will appear Friday.
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Ask Eric S. Raymond Anything

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    We Christians are anti-evil. (That's kind of the point. :-)) And if you in any way whatsoever believe that anything is objectively true, then you will eventually be forced to the conclusion that Christianity is TRUE - a realization that comes very hard to some of us...

    "If God does not exist, then all things are permissable" - Dostoevsky

    Note: That means if you believe that there should be ANY limits placed on human behaviour (ie, no rape, murder, etc.), then you believe in God. You may just not have finished thinking it through yet. BTW: Even the most humanist philosophers agree with Dostoevsky's quote above, they just reach the conclusion that all things ARE permissable, taking the nihilist view that everything is meaningless.

    Seriously, why is it that /. is intolerant of other forms of racial/religious slander, but doesn't seem to respect the rights of Christians?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    This has been my experience too, in both of the open source projects I have been peripherally involved with.

    Essentially, the guy who comes in with the code gets to call the shots, whether anybody agrees with his way or not.

    The less code there is in existence at the time the discussions start, the longer those discussions go on and the less actual work gets done.

    If anyone is thinking of getting an open source project up and running quickly, bypassing most of the arguments, then it's necessary to develop a comprehensive framework at least, before opening it up.

    But remember that unless you're one of the very best you're unlikely to get all the answers right all by yourself. So for the sake of the finshed product, maybe it's better to start with a heated debate after all. Just don't expect quick progress.

    In summary: the logical way to proceed is to start by knocking together some code that demonstrates an arbitrary design, right or wrong, just as a seed to get potential codevelopers' interest and start them talking about how to do it right. Then when the dust settles, throw it away and start again.

    Actually now I think about it that's pretty much what happened with Mozilla.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Eric, have you ever had a "First Post"?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Which would you prefer: Ginger or Mary Ann?
  • I've been following a discussion on this very topic, with RMS present.

    He doesn't care for the term "viral". IMO it's somewhat accurate, not pejorative, and is actually a hot buzzword among Internet-related VCs -- viral marketing is what the idea behind HotMail was dubbed.

    Alternative terms suggested:

    • hereditary -- the terms of the GPL are inherited by all derivative works.
    • inherited license -- the GPL license is (must be) passed on to all derivative works.
    • partnership -- the GPL creates|fosters a partnership among developers and users.
    • persistant -- the GPL license and terms persist through all derivative works.

    I'd just as soon the proponents of the GPL latched on to the term "viral" as a positive portrayal of the nature of the license.

  • Why not just rewrite the HURD servers in INTERCAL? It would
    do a lot for their clarity.
  • Strictly speaking, a programming language is Turing-complete, if the programs you can write in this language can compute the same set of functions as the set of all Turing machines can. The typical proof to show this simply shows that your programming language can be used to simulate an arbitrary Turing machine.

    A Turing-machine is a very simple computer that has an infinite, linearly organize memory, has a finite number of states, and may, depending on the current state and the character at the current memory address, perform some simple actions like increase or decrease the memory pointer by one, or write a character at the current location.

    There are a large number of different but equivalent specifications for Turing machines, and the so-called "Thesis of (Alonzo) Church" states that everything that can be computed at all can be computed by a Turing machine. So far, most computer scientists do agree.

    Less strictly speaking, a programming language is Turing-complete if it can be used to compute all Turing-computable functions if we abstract from the limited memory in real computers. Any language that allows assignments, simple arithmetic and conditionals, and either goto or while, is Turing-complete.

    There is a fairly good description at this web site [stanford.edu].

  • Of course, it's the use that make them evil, but guns are supposed to hurt people. So, what's the fun of it?
  • What's your take on the emerging Virtual University concept -- do you think that learning out of the traditional classroom setting has any bearing on the development of a student, particularly a Computer Science major?
  • Audin Malmin! How's your fan club doing?
    I noticed
  • Eric,
    What do you feel is the role of Crackmonkey in the new gift-culture information economy? Is GAR a resource currently in artificial scarcity? How does Crackmonkey help or hinder participating in the reputation game? What future developments would you recommend for Spock Mountain Research Labs?
    I noticed
  • Given the ethics, morals, and integrity that you've shown to this community, would you ever consider running for political office?

    Anything from State Rep, to Vice President, or (ceartinly to the information revoultion's gain), President?

    If Jesse can win a govenership in the midwest, why couldn't we elect ESR to a similar office?

  • ...for someone without a sense of humor, or the ability to interpret a ;-)

  • > Oh, I get it. When I fuck up and sell you the results, it's your fault, not mine.

    You bet it is. If I'm foolish enough to buy your fucked up product, well, I'm fucked, not my neighbor, not the society as a whole.

    > I can drive my car through your living room,
    > and it's your fault for not anticipating my
    > actions and building your house elsewhere

    Sorry, that's a really poor analogy. You fucked up this time and I didn't buy it. Your fault. If OTOH, I didn't have any insurance and couldn't extract the damages from you then that's my problem, not my neighbor's, not my town's, not my state's, not my gov's. If you committed some crime, assuming reckless driving or DUI is a crime in this libertarian fantasy world, then the gov does have a responsibility to prosecute you. As it stands the state today, here, now in the USA does not have any responsibility to protect me from the likes of you. The police and the criminal courts are there to enforce the law at the whim of the state, not to protect us.

    > Libertarians tend to be young and naive

    Ha ha, this is a laugh. The most libertarian people I know are really *old*. They remember how nice it was 60-90 years ago when they were really free. Since the Depression the gov has been fucking with them all they way. They've bought the Rep/Dem party line one time or another and have now realized that what both of those parties want is for the state to have more control and the people to have less. They have seen "programs" for this, that, and the other thing and what they have realized is that the state doesn't help people at all. It only works to perpetuate itself. People can and do help people and more would if only the fucking state would get out of their way.

    Those old people can look back and calculate: what if I had had the opportunity to save/invest all those thousands of dollars that I had to pay to Social Security? Well, their retirement checks from SS are pretty pitiful compared to what they could have made with even a simple savings account. Think about how that program for helping people has actually fucked them royally.
  • > Do unto others what has been done to you

    Then laugh.

    If you can't do that, then spend some time examining the principles behind libertarian thought. At least then you won't make a fool of yourself with comments like:

    > Probably the same people who think that
    > limiting the basic freedoms of people you
    > disagree with is funny too.
  • ...the answers are:

    Anything that increases the flow of information and the general level of education and literacy of the population will help to reduce the "need" for government, whether it is a perceived need or real one.

    > In what ways can OSS be an enabling technology
    > for advancing libertarianism?

    OSS can enable the flow of information, that is: information conduits become less expensive and thus available to more.

    > Do OSS business models teach us anything about
    > being better libertarians?

    OSS business models do not include "blame" for failure. YOU must be responsible for your own decisions, successes and failures. There are no scapegoats available.

    > Can OSS be a factor in reducing the size and
    > power of government?

    OSS directly costs less. That in itself can facilitate a less expensive, AKA smaller gov.

    > How can we non-coercively ensure that RMS never
    > sings again?

    Murder is not coercion. ;-)

  • I've seen it said that open source projects go through a growth stage, where hackers work diligently to provide patches that cause the software to have the features they desire. After a while, contributions slow as the software matures, meeting the general needs of most technically minded people.

    Unfortunately, if the software has potential to make it in non-technical circles, it often has to jump several remaining hurdles -- documentation, better user interfaces, etc.

    Some have suggested that going "commercial open source" is the only way to get through this period of stagnation. Basically, you have to pay people money to do the unrewarding, tedious work that must be done to make software "ready for public consumption".

    First, does this characterization match your experience? Second, do you see any alternative to going commercial?

    --------------------------------------- ----------------
    "For I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words
  • Very unlikely. I think his wife would probably have noticed by now. Of course, he could be bisexual, but that's not what you asked...
  • Erik,

    with Linux becoming more and more a second x86 binary standard, do you think there will be more binary releases and network centric applications in the future leading to less software released as open source?

    Have you ever tried out FreeBSD? :-)

  • Why did you choose to stay in Pennsylvania? It looks like you never moved. Your resume [tuxedo.org] shows a few different companies (all in PA?) until '85, and then you list yourself as an Independent Consultant for over eight years. I'm sure you got many offers in that time, many of them interesting, but likely most of them located in Northern California too. At the same time, your choices in PA must have been pretty slim.

    If you could enlist Supermans help and reverse the rotation of the Earth and turn back time, would you make the same choices? What advice would you give to graduates and others that face the choice of whether to move to an area like Silicon Valley, or whether to stick it out and blaze their own path at home?

    Thanks for fetchmail, by the way...

    P.S. would you take the blue pill or the red one?

  • If you wanted a real life example, this is more or less what Dave Winer (Userland) has been saying.
  • Obsessed with Beer?

    That's the first I've heard of it.

  • 10 years ago I used WordPerfect and Lotus to produce reports and spreadsheets on an XT. Today I need a Pentium to do the same sort of work with most office products, even though what I produce isn't a lot different.

    It seems that our software is becoming far more demanding of our hardware, and yet the rise in functionality has not kept up (don't get me wrong - databases, scientific computing and games have all benefited, but most offices don't use these applications). Open Source software would appear to offer a solution, in that people could find the inefficiencies and eliminate them, however this does not often occur. Sure, the Linux kernel is fast, but have you tried to run Enlightenment or KOffice?

    Do you feel this is an issue which should be addressed, or do you see the availability of ever faster hardware as the solution?

  • I can ask anything?
  • Do you, or do you have ideas on having some sort of way to find reputable consultants to help any sort of business create a plan on intergrating opensource into their IT services? People who can talk tech, but know the legal and business sides of opensourceness.

    I am worried that people will start going out there and saying "I can be a consultant for that!" like some people that are currently "NT consultants" because the money is there right now.
  • The X Consortium requests that the following names be used when referring to this software:

    X Window System
    X Version 11
    X Window System, Version 11
    -- see X(1)
    Why do people insist on calling it X Windows? It isn't frickin' windows! ok?!? :) thank you.
  • Will Open Source dominate the world?
  • by Nimmy ( 5552 )
    I suppose where we disagree is in our definitions of "compel." As you see it, the GPL compels others to make their source code free. As I see it, the GPL merely
    gives a choice:

    1) Use the GPL'd software, and follow its restrictions.

    2) Do not use the GPL'd software.

    Nobody is *forcing* you to choose #1.

    What I think Tom is saying is that with the BSD license, you have 3 choices:

    1) Use the code, publish your code under any random license you want.

    2) Use the code, keep the code secret.

    3) Don't use the code.

    Obviously, these are more choices, and #1 is broader too. Thus you now have more freedom of action than you did with GPL software. This is a good thing.

    Personally, I think the GPL helps both the free software and the opensource camps, but I think that BSD type licenses [and systems] help the whole software industry. Obviously having big companies publish their code is good, but the GPL does not cause them to do that, it just causes them to write their own inferior code and ram it down the poor user's throat!

    require 'no_flame_me.pm'

    --Nick Martin
  • Eric, Have you ever had to resort to using your martial arts skills in order to protect yourself? If so, what was the situation? Also are you still active in martial arts?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Each language has it's own merits and uses but everyone has a favorite. If you could program something in any language without any loss in portability, functionality et al... which one would be your choice and why? plaXion
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Ok, so just about everybody hates Microsoft, that's just a fact. So what can Microsoft do fix it's self? Not just it's image of the 800 pound gorrila or the Evil Empire - but how it functions as a company.

    I'd rather be pro-microsoft than pro-aol (the 8000 pound gorrila that most people don't see coming).
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Free Software will eventually achieve dominance.
    Do you think it's possible that you're actually
    hurting the free software community, and thereby
    reducing software quality - since fully free
    software has characteristics which help it achieve
    higher quality - by encouraging commercial companies to embrace partially free software
    which allows them to complete more effectively
    with truly free software? (Not totally free
    contributions such as Mozilla, MPL, APSL & IBM's Opensource efforts (IBM holds more than 10% of all existing software patents.))
  • I read an interview you gave the Philly Inquirer in which you spoke about your use and collection of guns. What are your thoughts regarding free software vis-a-vis the 2nd amendment? vis-a-vis the Bill of Rights in general? Do you feel ideas have influenced in the Open Source movement? If so, how?

    I don't mean to stir up a gun debate, but rather, derive a possible source of the Open Source philosphy.
  • > Apple has turned to BSD not Linux.

    It probably has more to do with history than anything else. Apple _used_ to be into Linux (with MkLinux) until they bought NeXTSTEP, which already included a BSD on top of MACH. They have released the non-GUI part (Darwin) of MacOS X as free software, so I doubt that the GPL requirement to do that was significant in the decision.
  • In which of the application areas currently dominated by proprietary solutions do you think free software would work best? And which areas do you think free software are least likely to succeed in?

    Or are there no way to guess?

  • What conferences are you planning to attend this year? Do you have plans for organizing Geeks with Guns outings during them? If so, is there a mailing list or some other source of information about how to join?

    Beer recipe: free! #Source
    Cold pints: $2 #Product

  • What influence, if any, do you think the Open Source movement will have on companies whose sole value is in the software they sell? (i.e. they don't sell support or services -- just closed-source binaries.)
    -------------------------------------- -----------------
    "For I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words
  • he sang it alright, and heres the url [gnu.org]


  • what ten albums and ten books would you want with you?

    Eric's a major science fiction fan, and I'd guess that the works of Robert Heinlein would figure prominently in any such list...

  • I'm a big fan of the idea behind open source software, and I do play around with Linux, but most of my time is spent with "closed source" operating systems. Due to the viral nature of many open source licenses -- most notably the GPL -- it seems like there should be a way to increase the amount of open source software on proprietary platforms, which would (in theory) make proprietary systems more open and strengthen open source software in general.

    How would you suggest going about doing this?

  • If you were stranded on a desert island, what ten albums and ten books would you want with you?
  • by Signal 11 ( 7608 )
    Did RMS really sing 'join us now and share the software'? :^)

  • Well thanks alot... you spoiled the whole thing. I wanted ESR to come out and admit that he too has been recording himself singing in the shower (and post some links to boot!). *sniffle* :^)

  • Most critical battles of propaganda war have already been won, haven't they (the turnout has sure been fast-paced this year)? Now some efforts have to be focused to getting all the big corporations to really work together in open source spirit, but it's likely FSF will do a lot of the preachery :)

    Do you have a vision of how to maximize the prize - would it be a neat idea for the next decade to talk about other relevant areas of sharing (non-computer IP issues, global poverty), or should the open source movement not be used as an example for a more general gift-culture based alternative society?
  • ORA's website on your book says that your essay, the Cathedral and the Bazaar, has been updated and expanded. Did you add anything to reflect the sweeping changes that have been ocurring in the industry due growing acceptance of Open Source Software? I'm not suggesting anything like Bill Gates's revamp of The Road Ahead (when he realized the internet, not the cd-rom, was the Next Big Thing). In short, has your outlook on the Open Source Movement changed at all since you initially wrote CatB, and if so, how?
    Really? Tell that to the people trying to use the GPLed readline(), back before I freed it from GNU.
  • The Berkeley licence guarantees that the code will always be free. So does the Artistic Licence. So do a lot of licences. They simply refuse to try to tell others what to do with their own code enhancements. BSD code is forever free. The BSD licence makes no claims about non-BSD code, and this is only reasonable. The GPL makes claims about non-GPL code. This is not reasonable. Keep your licence to your own code, and let others live as they will without any holier-than-thou intrusiveness. If someone wants to make a value-added version of BSD and sell that without also giving away their investment money they put in to make the added value, they can do that. And they have. And this is great. It doesn't affect the original BSD-licenced code, which remains forever free. It's remarkably how many people don't understand this. GPL isn't forever free. It's forever in coercive bondage. Hence the whole virus matter. If you want something free, SET IT FREE AND STOP POKING YOUR NOSE INTO OTHERS' CODE!. Your code is and always will be free. No one can change that. Please stop saying they can. That you expect to infect others is immoral.
  • The free software movement seems to span many political and religious viewpoints, and you must have met more of the movement than most people. Do you have and feeling for what worldviews are more common in the free software movement? Is it every difficult working on a shared cause with people with very different motivations?
  • "Lying"? If facts annoy or disturb you, feel free to refute them - it keeps the conversation productive. Personal perjoratives are out of line unless you can support your accusation.

    The revenue streams that sustain most "Open Source" companies have little to do with software development - They derive primarily from redistribution and support (RedHat, SuSE, Caldera), are subsidized from other aspects of the business, or are "burn-rate" statistics in the Internet Stock phenomemon. There are exceptions, such as development tools (Cygnus) or open source reverted to quasi-commercial via value-add(sendmail).

    Wasn't Cyclic one of the first true open source companies to turn a balance sheet profit on support sales of an open source product? But they spent years and had a tremendous market share before doing so.

    Allow me to clarify: Being a software engineer, when I say "software" "may never be used commercially again by any other party", I mean the source code may never be used again in a commercial product. (In the future I'll be more careful r/e my choice of vernacular in this point, I can understand how a non-programmer [and some programmers] could easily misunderstand this.)

    To me and many of my peers who write code for a living, the intellectual value of those subroutines and libraries, once placed under GPL, is forever wasted to any other developers unless they can place their entire application under GPL. So we continue to reinvent the wheel, and release what we can under a non-GPL license that is open and unencumbered.

    Personally, I find the use of the term "open source" in conjunction with "GPL" to be offensive. "Open" source should be unencumbered source.

  • What about rewriting Linux and Gnu software on Intercal and building an Intercal Operational System that only Intercallers would know how to use?

  • Let me begin where we agree: the GPL was not meant to support the rights of commercial developers. I agree that coding effort should not be wasted. I also notice that in your entire post, you managed to make your point without using the objectionable term "viral".

    The GPL was written to ensure that free software continues to be made free. Such effort is not wasted. It can continue to be included in free software

    Open only means you have the right to look. Additional rights may or may not be granted by particular licenses. That's why I personally dislike the term "Open Source". It's too vague, although it is useful as a "Big Tent" moniker.

    In reference to other points brought up in this thread (not just your article):

    The term self-perpetuating is, as most words are, somewhat inaccurate. But it is not pernicious. Although we may have to coin new language to deal with the terms of the debate, I don't think that something that connotes disease is really appropriate. The FSF deals with some of these linguistic issues [fsf.org].

    I wish only to focus on why the term viral is inappropriate in this debate.

    Let me begin by attempting to understand, without malice, the the other side. The basic point of the other side seems to be "Once I put GPL'ed code in my program, the program becomes freer than I would have originally liked". This injection of freedom that changes the program into "something else" is what people are referring to when they call something viral. Am I correct in my understanding?

    I don't agree with this position, because it says that any precondition for use and anything that imposes additional responsibility is equivalent to a disease. Also, the GPL itself does not appear to support this position. I admit there is some language that made me think twice, but it is heavily qualified.

    I am trying hard not to quote the GPL itself because:

    • It's here [fsf.org]
    • I am not a lawyer.
    • RMS can do a better job defending it than I can.
    • I start to feel like a missionary quoting the bible. The world has many of those.

    However, I do think that Open Source is annoyingly complicated for me. I know that with free software, I can take it and reshape it, and redistribute it without worrying about taking away anybody's rights. I find these redistribution rights too restrictive in other licenses (some of which merely give you the right to look at the source- whooopee).

    I had no idea this would take me an hour to write. I've got to get back to work.

  • /rant on/
    I wish distinguished people such as yourself would stop calling the Gnu GPL "viral". Viral has a hostile connotation that the GPL doesn't really deserve. Self-Perpetuating is not synonymous with viral. You may not like the GPL's restrictions on re-use in proprietary software, but that does not justify use of a term such as "Viral" that implies a definite mens rea .

    People in leadership positions should be more careful of the language they use because it will be duplicated. You are entitled to your opinion, Mr. Christiansen, but you do not benefit the tone of public debate when you use terms such as "viral" to describe the GPL. Less heat, more light, remember?
    /rant off/

  • If by some odd quirk of fate this question actually gets submitted, could someone please replace "unambiguously" with "ambiguously"? Usually I would consider the chances slim, but since without that mild correction I would look like even more of a fool than I probably do already.. ;) Silly typos.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 27, 1999 @07:32AM (#1656800)
    The Cathedral and the Bazaar was initially a attack on the mandarin system setup by the FSF, but in the last year it has seemingly metamorphasized into an attack on all closed source software development.

    Some, usually small shops that develop proprietary software, have charactized this as a matter of convienience for the author. These people typically see the essay as an attack, as they earn their living writing code and the two most prominant figures in the Open Source and Free Software movements do not.

    What would you say to these small development houses to assuage their fears and/or point them in a better direction.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 27, 1999 @07:54AM (#1656801)
    Are you tenured-for-life somewhere like RMS?

    How does this affect your attitude when you're writing about or discussing the future of programmers whose career is tied to the commercial success of non-Open Source software development?
  • by Mike Hicks ( 244 ) <hick0088@tc.umn.edu> on Monday September 27, 1999 @07:43AM (#1656802) Homepage Journal
    I guess I don't exactly know how to phrase this question properly, but here goes:

    What do you think is the 'coolest' piece of open source software you've ever seen?
  • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdot@nosPAM.hackish.org> on Monday September 27, 1999 @06:32PM (#1656803)
    Thank you as always for your kind words.

    You are quite welcome.

    What I happen to personally desire -- to wit, a completely free operating system -- is somewhat beside the point of my question for Eric. I hoped through that question to generate a well thought-out response to the somewhat unpleasant but nonetheless important situation of the relationship of the various classes of software currently grouped under the term "Open Source". I'd like to solicit comment on the effects both benign and malignant that these shadings might hold on the development and the business communities. Is this effect changing? Do some versions of "open source" prove more efficacious than others?

    I understand your question - I was merely commenting on a somewhat tangental point. You had expressed an intention in the past to create a completely BSD-style licensed version of Linux (with the exception of the kernel, I assume), so I was wondering whether you had progressed significantly in that regard. Apparently not.

    Some software currently classed as open source is clearly saddled with restrictions on use. For example, anything that cannot be effectively used in a value-added, commercial licensing situation. This is not unique to code under the GPL, although it is the only one that is particularly popular. Most are related to money. Some licences say no one may make money off licensing. Others say no one but the original author/owner can. Still others are "open" only if you buy the licence, and aren't allowed to resell it.

    Since the copyright author is free to license his code in any manner he sees fit, obviously there will be a myriad of license restrictions with which various coders may wish to encumber their code. That's why, as you noted, we have the Debian Free Software Guidelines (which the OSI has, with some minor changes, renamed the "Open Source Definition"). These specify which restrictions are onerous and not allowed (such as discriminating against different groups in the licensing), and which are okay (such as the BSD's advertising clause, or the GPL's "all derivatives must be Free" clause). AFAIK, there is almost no code actually licensed under what you consider to be a truly "free" definition. The GPL and BSD licenses certainly don't qualify, and the QPL, MPL, APSL, and NPL are even worse in that respect.

    Now, regarding your personal attack on me. I don't like to any sort of restrictions on the use of code, none whatsoever. That doesn't mean I'm some anarchist who wants to enable others to pretend authorship of what isn't theirs. I simply want to return to those precupidinous days when giftware reigned, back when software was source code and the only letter of the law was "Do as thou wilt."

    The problem is that the majority of corporations do not like participating in this sort of giftware culture. The GPL is designed to force them to either join the mutually beneficial development, or to write their own code. Without such a "viral" clause, the giftware culture could certainly continue on its own, but there would be virtually no chance of corporations joining or contributing their own code. In effect, the authors will have created code for someone else to modify and make money from. The GPL at least requires that the other party contribute the changes back for the good of everybody.

    You seem to be in favor of freely available source code - why, therefore, are you against an incentive for businesses to make their source code freely available?

    Linux does not reach into other people's closed-source, dynamically loaded device drivers and blow them up to the whole world, despite at least one popular but untested interpretation of the GPL which would dispute that. Linus said it doesn't, and it's his code, so that's that. And everyone is happier that way.

    A minor nitpick - Linus has interpreted the GPL this way. However, his interpretation does not carry any legal weight, since, despite your assertion, it is really not "his code." Some of the code is indeed his, but the majority of code is still copyright to its author, which in most cases is not Linus. Unless Linus has obtained permission for this license exemption from the authors of all the other code he has accepted (and the authors of other GPL'd software he's "borrowed" code from), his exception carries no legal weight. Moral weight, sure, as it certainly discourages a lawsuit on those grounds, but no legal weight. Linus cannot relicense code he did not write, and he is not a legal authority on the interpretation of the GPL (his view may be right, but it is not guaranteed to be right, so his "exception" doesn't guarantee anything).

    As for your BSD vs. Linux point, I tend to agree regarding the better integration of BSD systems. I assume, however, that you haven't forgotten that the various free software BSD operating systems use the Free Software Foundation's GCC (licensed under the GPL, incidentally) as their compiler.

    Regarding the FSF, they believe that the only way to perpetuate free code is to require that all code based on their code (or similarly licensed code) is also free. Since it is indeed their code, they have every right to do this. I tend to agree, but if you disagree, you are free to do so. Nobody is forcing you to use GCC - the Free Software Foundation wrote it, and you can accept or reject their license terms.

    And, finally, strangely enough, this is the first follow-up to your message. No massive flame-wars today, I suppose.
  • by RobbieW ( 4330 ) on Monday September 27, 1999 @07:17AM (#1656804) Homepage
    Eric, what do you think needs to be done about the increase in military style attacks on civilians by our police agencies. These (Waco, Ruby Ridge, assorted "drug busts") invasions have killed far too many innocents. What can we do?

    "You can twist perceptions, reality won't budge." --Rush
  • by kevin lyda ( 4803 ) on Monday September 27, 1999 @07:56AM (#1656805) Homepage
    How well do you think your message for free software will be received in Europe since you frequently include references to your political position on guns? Since most people in Europe have chosen not to equate guns and freedom, don't you feel that your message on free software gets lost as "rantings of a crazy American?"
  • by rho ( 6063 ) on Monday September 27, 1999 @09:17AM (#1656806) Homepage Journal

    Do you think that the Bazaar model of software development will be taught as an economic model in a more traditional educational setting (i.e. the modern university)? As an ancillary question, would you be interested in participating in the authoring of the material neccessary to include the Open Source economic model in a textbook, or would you leave it to "suits"?

    My personal opinion: the free-wheeling nature of community development is such that codifying it into a dead-trees book would be an excercise in futility. Not only is the development evolving, but the model of development is evolving as well, making the theories and concepts nearly moot by the time they reach the press.

    Also, I wouldn't want ESR wasting his time, that could be spent teaching and coding, on sitting in on editorial meetings educating publishers.

  • by Arandir ( 19206 ) on Monday September 27, 1999 @10:56AM (#1656807) Homepage Journal
    Richard Stallman stated for years that he wished there were a better term than "Free Software", since that was often confused with freeware. Then you and some fellows come along an coin the term "Open Source Software". However, Richard says that's worse because it doesn't emphasize Freedom. Others lambaste you as a heretic, scoundrel and ideological impure for it.

    Other than the FSF checklists of Free Software attributes, what exactly does the "Free" in "Free Software" mean? Is it "Liberty" in the sense that we can defend it with force and make war on those that would take it away? Is it "Free" as in "free to use" like your neighbor's swimming pool? Is Free Software akin to Free Verse since they're both creative works? Is it really "gratis" since every example of it out there can be obtained for zero dollars? Is the use of "free" just an emotionally positive word meant to build a following? Or does the "Free" mean something else entirely.
  • by LL ( 20038 ) on Monday September 27, 1999 @08:37AM (#1656808)
    In your paper The Magic Cauldron [tuxedo.org] you talk about the sale value (final cost to consumer) and use value (what economics would consider a capital good). Modern capitalist societies have evolved very complex and sophisticated instruments (a la the profit motive) to price these goods and signal to the market what is valued. With OpenSource, this pricing information is missing and thus time/effort is spent on "sexy" projects like 3D interfaces (what economists call malinvestments) instead of really important stuff like good optimising compilers.

    Question 1) Pricing of OpenSource Software How can OpenSource software be fairly priced given that it is always possible to undercut a distributor?

    Question 2) Distribution of Resources Instead of vertically integrating all the profits at the sale end (distributions like Red Hat), how can the creators of the intermediate goods get enough funding to continue refining their products?

    Question 3) Scaling to Megaprojects Given the limitations of no capital pool of funding so that intermediate software can maintained, will OpenSource projects be limited to "small" projects that can be supported by 1-6 key designers and wouldn't this be an inherent constraint?

    Question 4) Bazaar Rules of Conduct At the moment, the Software Bazaar is controlled by gentleman rules of conduct (no encroaching on projects, equal sharing, etc). Do you see this continuing with the increasing commercialisation (and potential moral corruption) of the hacker's "gift culture"?

    Question 5) Software Patent Roadblocks In a situation where time-to-market is becoming a key factor in dominating the bulk of the profits (see some notes on game theory of software patents [drexel.edu]), how can OpenSource work around limitations of key locks on irreplaceable algorithms?

    Question 6) Freedom to Copy. While big companies like SGI have the resources and name-brand equity to release and protect their OpenSource efforts, how will smaller entry level players survive long enough without their ideas being poached by bigger companies?

  • by MoxCamel ( 20484 ) on Monday September 27, 1999 @07:47AM (#1656809)
    Typically, at the conclusion of a successful revolution the "founding fathers" don't hang around to enjoy the fruits of their success. So where will you and what will you be doing be when Free/Open Source becomes the norm, and the need to evangelize is gone?
  • by Woodblock ( 22276 ) on Monday September 27, 1999 @11:01AM (#1656810) Homepage
    As a Libertarian, how do you think laissez-faire capitalism fits in with Open Source software. That is to say, how can people manage to seek payment for their intellectual labour when it is freely distributable, and how will large software vendors make a profit off their products.
  • by laktar ( 22519 ) on Monday September 27, 1999 @07:33AM (#1656811) Homepage
    What do you think will happen to the traditional OS development model you described in the Cathedral and the Bizarre as more companies hop on the OS bandwagon? Do you think it will be able to sustain itself as the primary software development model? How will it need to change?

    -Laktar, a.k.a. Nick Rosen, laktar.dyndns.org

    If I Ever Became An Evil Overlord:
    30. All bumbling conjurers, clumsy squires, no-talent bards, and cowardly
    thieves in the land will be preemptively put to death. My foes will surely
    give up and abandon their quest if they have no source of comic relief.
    -- Peter's Evil Overlord List, http://www.eviloverlord.com/lists/overlord.html
  • by laktar ( 22519 ) on Monday September 27, 1999 @07:49AM (#1656812) Homepage
    I've read a lot of your accounts of travels and the like and you seem to be very flirtatious in nature. What does your wife think of this?

    -Laktar, a.k.a. Nick Rosen, laktar.dyndns.org

    If I Ever Became An Evil Overlord:
    27. I will never build only one of anything important. All important systems
    will have redundant control panels and power supplies. For the same reason I
    will always carry at least two fully loaded weapons at all times.
    -- Peter's Evil Overlord List, http://www.eviloverlord.com/lists/overlord.html
  • by Remus Shepherd ( 32833 ) <remus@panix.com> on Monday September 27, 1999 @07:34AM (#1656813) Homepage
    All right, I think it's been proven pretty thoroughly that Open Source methods work for software engineering. Tell me, do you see Open Source being applicable to other real-world problems? Could scientific research/teaching/politics/other endeavours benefit from a 'Bazaar' approach of distributed design? To what other fields would you like to see OSS applied?
  • by Tom Christiansen ( 54829 ) <tchrist@perl.com> on Monday September 27, 1999 @07:01PM (#1656814) Homepage
    The GPL is designed to force them ...

    You seem to be in favor of freely available source code - why, therefore, are you against an incentive for businesses to make their source code freely available?

    It's quite simple: compunction is immoral. Period. And when you create a world without choice, you no longer have a moral world. You have an iron world full of exacting laws but bereft of goodness. I don't want people to join my song because they were forced at gunpoint to do so. This is immoral. People must be able to choose if there is to be any virtue in that choice. If they have no ability to choose, they cannot make good or evil decisions, or even good or bad ones. They remain amoral automata.

    Of course it would be good if all programs were in free source code. But it is completely immoral to attempt to effect this goal using coercive means. And that this whole matter is misrepresented merely adds insult to injury. It's all very unpleasant.

    As for getting a more coherent and more free Linux O/S by using BSD instead of you know what, I found that someone else had already done a lot more of the work, so let them run with it. I haven't checked to see how they were going, and may even have lost their contact information.

    As for the compiler, this is not a big issue, and I just can't understand why you and others keep bringing it up. The kernel is GPLed as well, but as with the compiler, Linus refuses to buy into the viral bit. I want reasonable tools that fit together, run quickly, follow standards, and have good documentation. And I'd prefer they were free instead of GPLed, since it was my frustration with the FSF's disdain for standards combined with the self-tooting "GNU/Linux" embarrassment. The wickedness and prevarications in trying to use library APIs to infect innocent programs that no FSFer or GPLer ever touched just fueled the fires.

    As for your dispute with Linus's statement on the kernel's not being viral, all I can say is "whatever". I would dearly love to see the thing in court. I'm tired of the fear. You can't use an API for infection. I refuse to believe it. Mere use does not suffice. The kernel's API was designed to be used, whether it be the syscall table or the device driver API. Same with libraries, no matter whether it's glibc or libfoobletch. Use of a library API whether your a shared library or a remote procedure core or eventual static linking is just not material inclusion, and can be no grounds for the iron bar of viral coercion.

    But we've been through this all before, and I think everyone knows where I stand. Barring a court decision that shows the real score, the best thing to do is follow Linus's lead and just ignore the coercive and abusive senses that the GPL tries to ram down whatever orifice is handy. Don't try to infect other people. Do goodness for its own sake, not through strong-arming. Hope others do so as well. Never make someone do something against his will.

  • by SLOfuse ( 68448 ) on Monday September 27, 1999 @09:17AM (#1656815)
    Is the LSB really a good idea for Linux distributions and Open Source software or is it in conflict with the ideals of Open Source? I have followed the activity on the LSB lists for over a year now, and it looks more and more constraining to me. I wonder if we are giving away too much in the rush to attract more ISV's, many of whom will provide "closed source" products. Don't get me wrong - I want more products, open and/or closed, but I also want to retain the "anarchist" innovation that we enjoy.
  • by Kitsune Sushi ( 87987 ) on Monday September 27, 1999 @02:54PM (#1656816)

    I found the paranthesized section of the "Linux" entry of the Jargon File to be rather curious. The original reason for wanting to refer to the system as whole as GNU/Linux and the kernel as Linux was far from the reason given by the Jargon File (or, more specifically, that the term "Linux" not be used unambiguously.. which isn't precisely the same thing). Richard Stallman simply wanted to promote understanding, not recieve more credit. I'm not sure how this could be considered "trivial learning" unless we are all content to live in a world where the truth is hidden behind a veil of misconceptions and lies.. What was the rationale behind the inclusion of such a slanted view in this particular entry of the Jargon File?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 27, 1999 @08:02AM (#1656817)
    Dear ESR:

    (No GIFs due to patent problems)

    I'm sure everyone at Slashdot is familiar with the internal strife and conflict that can currently be found in the Mae Ling Mak Naked and Petrified movement, a primary cause of which is YOU and your cronies and your watered-down version of the ideals of Mae Ling Mak Naked and Petrified, which you laughably refer to as Mae Ling Mak Immobilized and Not Fully Clothed. You've taken what was good and pure about Mae Ling Mak Naked and Petrified and watered it down so it would be more tolerable and acceptable to conservative blowhards who are afraid to think outside the terms of society's established notions and conditions. This is detailed on our web page (no GIFs due to patent problems!!!) in our founder's document "Mae Ling Mak Naked and Petrified vs. Mae Ling Mak Immobilized and Not Fully Clothed," so I won't repeat what's already been said.

    You state that by changing "Petrified" to "Immobilzied" you placate those who are afraid of the idea of petrification, and by replacing "Naked" with "Not Fully Clothed" you placate those who fear nudity. I SAY THAT THIS IS WRONG!!! The entire HEART of Mae Ling (No GIFs due to patent problems) Mak naked and petrified is MAE LING MAK.... NAKED.... AND PETRIFIED. The nudity and the petrification are the essential elements!

    This bastardized philosophy you preach flies in the face of the Mae Ling Mak Naked and Petrified movement, which you ONCE claimed to support! (No GIFs due to patent problems) Now you've stomped on our heads on your rise to glory with your own hacked-up version of our philosphy. "Immobilized and not fully clothed" indeed! Why, that could be referring to a paralyzed Polish cowboy wearing a bikini for all we know! (No GIFs due to patent problems)

    We know what's GOOD for the people, even if the people don't know what's good for themselves. What's good for the people is Mae Ling Mak, naked, and petrified. The people (No GIFs due to patent problems) NEED a naked Mae Ling Mak statue. You can't dispute this. You believe this yourself. And yet you refuse to stand up for what you believe! You say, "Well, maybe it's okay if she's not petrified, as long as she can't move," or (No GIFs due to patent problems) "Well, maybe she doesn't have to be naked, but she could at least take her shirt off or something." You BELIEVE she should be naked and petrified, but you ALLOW other lesser variations on this perfect theme into what could otherwise be a strong, world-dominating paradigm! (No GIFs due to patent problems)

    You've sold out to the court of popular opinion. You're a blight on the face of the Mae Ling Mak Naked and Petrified movement. I hope you enjoy your Mae Ling Mak Immobilzed and Not Fully Clothed movement while it lasts, because guess what, we're going to run you (No GIFs due to patent problems) out of town!

    FURTHER (No GIFs due to patent problems) NOTE: Please see THIS COMMENT [slashdot.org] in which several misconceptions of a person referencing Mae Ling Mak Naked and Petrified incorrectly were addressed.

    Anyway, my QUESTION, is in your official response to (no GIFs due to patent problems) our founder's attack on the Mae Ling Mak Immobilized and Not Fully Clothed movement, you left SEVERAL major points unaddressed.

    1. How you expect EITHER of the two Mae Ling Mak immobilization movements to compete with its competitors, the FreeMLM, OpenMLM, and NetMLM movements, with all this silly infighting that's going on.

    2. The accusation that you simply watered-down Mae Ling Mak Naked and Petrified not for any real moral reason, or even to make it more acceptable to the general public, but simply to make it more acceptable to big business and help to increase profit potential? (No GIFs due to patent problems) Do I smell the rancid stench of Capitalism on your breath, ESR??

    3. Ain't Mae Ling Mak really cute?

    4. (No GIFs due to patent problems)

    5. Just what's the big idea, anyway???

    Those are all the questions.





    A GOOD STATUEPHILE WEBSITE [oaktree.net] but it contains a GIF so it's bad!!!!!

    ANOTHER GOOD STATUEPHILE WEBSITE [xoom.com] but it contains GIFs so it has to DIE!!!!

    I hope you'll be able to clear this up. Thank you for your time.

  • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdot@nosPAM.hackish.org> on Monday September 27, 1999 @07:15PM (#1656818)
    I suppose where we disagree is in our definitions of "compel." As you see it, the GPL compels others to make their source code free. As I see it, the GPL merely gives a choice:

    1) Use the GPL'd software, and follow its restrictions.

    2) Do not use the GPL'd software.

    Nobody is *forcing* you to choose #1. You are free to use a similar package under another license (if one exists), to write your own, or to forgo its use altogether. Nowhere are you *forced* to distribute your software under the GPL. You agree to do so in exchange for using that person's code. If this bothers you, don't agree, and don't use the code, and you're not subject to any sorts of restrictions. Similarly, if you're unhappy about the "viral" nature of GPL'd libraries, don't call them from your programs (incidentally, glibc is LGPL, so this particular case isn't a problem).
  • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdot@nosPAM.hackish.org> on Monday September 27, 1999 @11:41AM (#1656819)
    So, Tom, how has your "Linux with no GNU software" distribution been coming along? Have you gotten around to writing a BSD-licenced compiler yet?

    Or was that big rant you had here on Slashdot a while back just idle ranting with no real substance (or code) behind it?
  • by planet_hoth ( 3049 ) on Monday September 27, 1999 @07:19AM (#1656820)
    Recent interest shown by large commericial tech companies (IBM, SGI, Sun) seems to signal a new chapter in the history of Linux. Do you see the participation of these companies strenghtening the linux communitity? Destroying it? Or transforming it into something completely different?
  • by planet_hoth ( 3049 ) on Monday September 27, 1999 @07:28AM (#1656821)
    (Not that I anticipate any of this happening, but...)

    What if Linux "fails" in the commercial/business sector? (By failure I mean "not adopted in any significant numbers", "a flop".) What if, for whatever reason, the current pro-Linux trend is reversed, and in 5 years most current Linux users have moved on to some other, non-Free/Open OS? If the Linux movement fizzes out, would this be a blow to the Free Software/Open Source movement? Do you believe the future of these ideas are tied to the success of Linux?
  • by rotenberry ( 3487 ) on Monday September 27, 1999 @10:19AM (#1656822)
    Your essay "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" used fetchmail as an example of open source software development. Given the number of people who have examined the source code, one could argue that fetchmail is now one of the most mature applications in use anywhere.

    You have discussed fetchmail's infancy. Is there anything to be learned from its "old age"?
  • by rawlink ( 5781 ) <rawlink@gmai l . c om> on Monday September 27, 1999 @07:40AM (#1656823)
    I have a growing concern that some commercial organizations are only becoming involved in the Open Source movement because it is a common front to attack Micro$oft. Once they believe parity has been achieved do you think they will turn on the community and go back to their old tactics (IMHO several of them are just as guilty as Micro$oft in their unethical business practices)? And, if that happens do you think that OSS will have a large enough install base and IT/Enterprise presence to not only survive, but continue to thrive?
  • by Studmonkey ( 6821 ) on Monday September 27, 1999 @08:05AM (#1656824)
    Who does your hair? :)
  • by Skipio ( 13086 ) on Monday September 27, 1999 @10:50AM (#1656825)
    What I am very curious about is whether it would be worthwhile for companies to Open Source their already existing software products.

    I ask this because most/all of the successful Open Source software (Linux, Sendmail, Apache) have been developed by individuals as a community projects, not by companies with profit as the objective. The companies have jumped on board later (Redhat, Sendmail Inc, etc) when the software has grown popular. Can it really be justified for a company that has spent millions of dollars on a software project to start giving their crown jewel away, especially as "Real Open Source [opensource.org]" under the GPL license? Perhaps they could release the source code, just not under GPL, and retain the redistribution right themselves but I just don't see much good in doing that because then the bazaar effect would mostly be lost.

    I just don't see any of the four methods, described on opensource.org ( Support Sellers, Loss Leader, Widget Frosting, Accessorizing [opensource.org] ) as viable ways to get back the investment for already existing software products.

    • Every company could undercut the original developer of the software in selling support, as the original developer would have to get their investment in product development back.
    • Obviously the Loss Leader method hasn't worked very well for Netscape (probably because of lousy code and code not being Real Open Source).
    • Accessorizing, Come on :)
    • Perhaps the only real way, is Widget Frosting but that would only work for hardware companies and I don't see many hardware companies doing other software than OS'es.
  • by Stephen Williams ( 23750 ) on Monday September 27, 1999 @07:13AM (#1656826) Journal

    I'm glad to see that, after a three-year break, the Jargon File has been updated over the past few months. Is version 5.0.0 in the works? Are there any plans to release an update to the print version, The New Hacker's Dictionary, any time soon?


  • by dublin ( 31215 ) on Monday September 27, 1999 @07:59AM (#1656827) Homepage
    At the Open Source Forum here in Austin a couple of months ago, we briefly spoke about the impact of Open Source on the price of commercial software. We both agreed that Open Source software is driving the cost of commercial software down to something closer to its "true" value than its current benefits-based valuation in the marketplace.

    At the same time, "free" (in the beer sense) does not adequately reflect the amount of effort required to develop and test software, particulary software that is thinly used (attractive to a limited user base), and hence would not likely be able to generate a sufficient base of Open Source developers. A few questions:

    Is there a "Natural Value" of software to which the Open Source pressures are driving commercial software prices?

    Can Open Source development efforts be adequately encouraged in vital but thinly populated user bases?

    Fianlly, although Linux and other Open Source projects are improving more rapidly than their commercial counterparts, they tend to lack significantly (and not surprisingly) in areas which require an overall architecture. (An example would be the apparent lack of an Open Source *equivalent* (there are subsets) to Microsoft's Active Directory, which, regardless of one's view of Microsoft, is a pretty impressive piece of technology.) What part(s) of the Open Source community do you foresee as being able to step up to the plate and address the "big picture"?

    (I'll air my own views if these questions are chosen...)

  • by bgarcia ( 33222 ) on Monday September 27, 1999 @07:16AM (#1656828) Homepage Journal
    I've heard that you're a libertarian, so I'm interested in hearing your views on this subject. Although you'll probably have to put on the asbestos undies before responding:

    With the recent shootings at schools across America, people are calling for further bans on guns. Many people would like to see all guns made illegal. Please discuss your views on this subject.

    99 little bugs in the code, 99 bugs in the code,
    fix one bug, compile it again...

  • by Tom Christiansen ( 54829 ) <tchrist@perl.com> on Monday September 27, 1999 @05:20PM (#1656829) Homepage
    Thank you as always for your kind words.

    What I happen to personally desire -- to wit, a completely free operating system -- is somewhat beside the point of my question for Eric. I hoped through that question to generate a well thought-out response to the somewhat unpleasant but nonetheless important situation of the relationship of the various classes of software currently grouped under the term "Open Source". I'd like to solicit comment on the effects both benign and malignant that these shadings might hold on the development and the business communities. Is this effect changing? Do some versions of "open source" prove more efficacious than others?

    Some software currently classed as open source is clearly saddled with restrictions on use. For example, anything that cannot be effectively used in a value-added, commercial licensing situation. This is not unique to code under the GPL, although it is the only one that is particularly popular. Most are related to money. Some licences say no one may make money off licensing. Others say no one but the original author/owner can. Still others are "open" only if you buy the licence, and aren't allowed to resell it.

    Sometimes the software is branded as "open", but its terms in fact are actually much worse than any of these. Sometimes it's quite tricky to tell the one from the other. Bruce Perens has to his credit done what to me appears to be a commendable job in separating the wheat from the chaff in these areas.

    My own personal suspicion is that the general public doesn't care, and the media doesn't understand. I don't class myself as either, for I do care, and I believe I understand. But that's not the point. I want to know whether this helps, hinders, or both, and if so, whom it so affects.

    Now, regarding your personal attack on me. I don't like to any sort of restrictions on the use of code, none whatsoever. That doesn't mean I'm some anarchist who wants to enable others to pretend authorship of what isn't theirs. I simply want to return to those precupidinous days when giftware reigned, back when software was source code and the only letter of the law was "Do as thou wilt."

    I do not find software such as gcc, bison, or the Linux kernel to be particularly onerous in their approaches to licensing of those particular programs. I refuse to refer to them as "products"; when programs become notionally products, something vaguely unsettling has occurred, something I admittedly cannot really quite put my finger on, however. In fact, although I've heard people preach to the contrary, I am not convinced that those programs' being GPLed has led to more aggregate harm than good. Certainly if those three programs had been released under a less restrictive licence, a different set of benefits and disadvantages would have manifested themselves. I don't know what those would be, and I don't see that it would do us much good to fantasize about them, either.

    In some senses, however, those are all three special cases when it comes to software released under the GPL. The compiler does not pretend to contaminate its own output product when used on your non-infected code, and neither does bison -- both despite obvious potential for infection. Linux does not reach into other people's closed-source, dynamically loaded device drivers and blow them up to the whole world, despite at least one popular but untested interpretation of the GPL which would dispute that. Linus said it doesn't, and it's his code, so that's that. And everyone is happier that way.

    My displeasure with the myriad Linux operating systems currently installable is somewhat different. I find each of them that I've tried (only a few compared with the total number, of course) rather less "coherent" than the BSD systems I'm more accustomed to. This includes not just documentation, but rigorous adherence to POSIX standards as well. There's something beautiful about make world that is sometimes hard to explain to followers of a less integrated operating system. The importance of coherence extends to many other areas, including but not limited to documentation and to administration. No version of Linux I've seen does as much here as I'd like to say, nor, in fact, as much as I'm accustomed to seeing.

    My displeasure with the FSF is also well known, and quite different. I feel they twist words just like any other self-promoting marketing organization would, be it droves of sales droids or wild-eyed prophets spreading a quasi-religious cult. This is their worst sin, for it is a sin of deception. I can't stand that, and I'm not going to kiss up to them about this mendacity just because I happen to use a program or two from them.

    The other of the FSF's major sins is how they immorally try to subject work they did not create to the same onerous licencing as their own work. In short, the GPL bosses people around and tells them what they can do with code that isn't GPLed. This is the sticking point that raises the hackles on so many. It's not hard to understand why. And when the FSF tries to pretend that the GPL doesn't govern use when it patently does, and when they go telling people that mere use of a library API is infective, this blending of their first sin with their second one is quite enough to make any honorable man blanche in disbelieve. I strongly believe they are wrong about a library API, since calling a library is mere use and no more a matter of code stealing than is calling a program. Even Bruce Perens concurs with this, although he does not think people should flout the situation. Perhaps not. But you must call a lie a lie, and not support it, even if its cause is for good. Lying for the sake of good is still evil.

    Returning to the original point, no matter what you think of the perpetual virus wars that Richard breeds, that isn't the real point of my question. And no, I'm not going to be dragged into your trolling again after I post this message.

    I very much want free software, and do not believe that the FSF provides this despite their claims to the contrary. In fact, were it left to them, we'd be stuck with a lot less non-free software than we now have. But it wasn't left to them, and we're a lot better of because of this. Somehow, "open source" captured far more notice than the FSF ever managed to. We have more giftware than before, and we have more open source than before. And we have a lot more good software that hackers can use than we used to have, and this is not in a small part attributable to the media awareness of open source that Eric and others have fostered.

    In short, I wanted to know whether some open source models work better than others to promote software use and reuse by furthering advancing technology and general hacker happiness, and whether there aren't some that merely pretend to be open or free or butterscotch yet instead are really working completely contrary to those goals. I was really thinking more of the commercial forms of quasi-free open software licences as the bad guys here rather than the GNU flavor of quasi-free open software licences.

    And I definitely think the religious flames and petty insults hurled between the Big Endians and the Little Endings, or if you would, between the Free Endians and the Open Endians and the GNU Endians, are causing us all phenomenally more harm than good. If you don't believe me, just watch for followups to this posting. :-)

  • by Paul Crowley ( 837 ) on Monday September 27, 1999 @08:07AM (#1656830) Homepage Journal
    In "Understand my job, please!" [tuxedo.org] you described Bruce Perens's proposal [perens.com] that we have a team of Linux advocates sharing the load as "glib". Could you say more about why you feel this way - isn't it more likely that a job where the load is shared would be more attractive?

  • by Q*bert ( 2134 ) on Monday September 27, 1999 @07:15AM (#1656831)
    We all know that you are a staunch advocate of libertarianism. Do you see the open-source / free-software movement turning into a larger political push for libertarian, minimal government?

    Beer recipe: free! #Source
    Cold pints: $2 #Product

  • You say you want to live in a world where software doesn't suck. I couldn't agree more. However, do you see closed source software on an open source OS as a step in the right direction, or just likely to be a more stable platform on which to run your potentially bug-ridden software?
  • by Signal 11 ( 7608 ) on Monday September 27, 1999 @07:06AM (#1656833)
    What's your position on the chasm that's developed between the "Free Software" and "Open Source" camps? Is there a genuine reason for having two seperate movements? Lastly, is there any hope of consolation between these two movements...are they even on the same track??

    I know these are tough questions to ask.. but the good ones are always controversial.


  • by chromatic ( 9471 ) on Monday September 27, 1999 @07:04AM (#1656834) Homepage

    Astute readers know why you've reluctantly taken a position as a Linux evangelist, open source sociologist, and prime target. Taking the opposite approach, is there anything which would convince you to step down, that your posts were no longer necessary?

    This is not meant to be inflammatory ... it's just a roundabout way of asking how far along your goals are, and what your plans will be if you ever meet them.

    Thanks for your time!

    QDMerge [rmci.net] 0.21!
  • by banky ( 9941 ) <greggNO@SPAMneurobashing.com> on Monday September 27, 1999 @07:27AM (#1656835) Homepage Journal
    Linux, like all things in the computer world, will eventually become obsolete or maybe just too much work to keep "up to date". Linus (er, Dr. Torvalds) even said in his "Open Sources" essay that (paraphrasing) someone else could come along and write something better which will take Linux's place. How long do you think before someone will have an offering that will obsolete (or at least prove a competitor to) Linux and the BSD's? It certainly won't be the offering of that company in Redmond..
  • by K. ( 10774 ) on Monday September 27, 1999 @07:39AM (#1656836) Homepage Journal
    Why isn't there an entry for "free software"
    in the Jargon Dictionary? Was this a
    politically-motivated decision?

  • by cemerson ( 21094 ) on Monday September 27, 1999 @07:31AM (#1656837) Homepage
    Which of the coders working on open source projects do you admire the most? A particular big name like Linus, or someone less well-known?
  • by meersan ( 26609 ) on Monday September 27, 1999 @07:12AM (#1656838) Homepage
    This has probably been asked before, but I can't recall seeing the answer to it anywhere. What originally led you to write The Cathedral and the Bazaar? -- what I'm interested in is if there was some event or impetus that prompted you to write it down. Obviously you'd have no way of predicting the firestorm that followed, but it's always intriguing to know about the spark that started it all.
  • by Ivo ( 26920 ) on Monday September 27, 1999 @07:05AM (#1656839) Homepage
    A while ago, we read from you that being the Open Source advocate you are was wearing you down and influencing your life very badly. Did you cut down on advocating and did it help? In other words, did you get your life back?

  • by Plugh ( 27537 ) on Monday September 27, 1999 @09:24AM (#1656840) Homepage
    Intentionally or not, you are a role model for a certain type of kid/teen-ager -- the kind of kid who prefers to write code than to watch TV or play football. [Fifteen years ago, when I was in that stage, it wasn't chic to be a geek and there really weren't contemporary role models...]

    Do you get contacted by young people looking for guidance / validation / advice? What's your reaction? Give us some interesting anecdotes. Also, do you have any sort of general words of advice for the young programmers of today? (go ahead, pontificate, here's an excellent opportunity)
  • by Tom Christiansen ( 54829 ) <tchrist@perl.com> on Monday September 27, 1999 @07:17AM (#1656841) Homepage
    I don't know how to ask this question without it sounding like stirring the pot, but what about the growing chasm between free software (giftware) and GNU software (the viral kind, not the nice LGPL kind)? This is a real issue for some people in some situations. Think about the many BSD resellers and vendors who have custom packaging in highly competitive fields, like video editing? Doesn't the friction hurt everyone? Apple has turned to BSD not Linux, and the GPL is cited as one reason why. This seems to be devisive. There are no end of flamewars on /. and elsewhere, and the heat diminishes the light. What kind of reconciliation is possible? Or is "take no prisoners" just the way it has to work?
  • by teraflop user ( 58792 ) on Monday September 27, 1999 @07:10AM (#1656842)
    Eric, in your papers you've put forward many political, sociological and technical reasons why open source software is a good thing. (For example the gift culture is a political model, peer aclaim is a motivation for some programmers, peer review leads to less buggy software).

    Every individual will be differently influenced by these different arguments, depending on their political leanings, emotional makeup, and the problems they are trying to solve. Which justification is the one which is most persuasive to you personally?
  • by jflynn ( 61543 ) on Monday September 27, 1999 @08:19AM (#1656843)
    Starting an open source project from nothing but people with a common interest is difficult. It's been my experience that it is very easy to founder with a bazaar approach to architecture and design. The issues tend to get confused with religious wars about toolkits and license choice, and just a lot of differing opinions about how to best structure a program, no one of which may be *obviously* better.

    Is it essential for individuals to first create a working model, incomplete and buggy it may be, before applying bazaar development? Or what would you suggest in terms of managing a bazaar approach to creating programs from a bare idea?
  • by asad ( 65703 ) on Monday September 27, 1999 @07:23AM (#1656844)
    I know that you are on the board of directors at VA Linux, what does your job entail ? Could you describe to us what a typical work day is work you ? (If there is such a thing as a typical work day).
  • by shawnhargreaves ( 66193 ) on Monday September 27, 1999 @07:12AM (#1656845) Homepage
    You've always been involved in hacker projects outside of just coding (eg. the Jargon File), but over the last year or so the spokesperson role seems to have grown into a fulltime job. How long is it since you last sat down to write a major piece of software? Do you expect to go back to fulltime development work anytime soon, and if so, what would you work on? How do you manage to cope with the withdrawal symptoms?
  • by scumdamn ( 82357 ) on Monday September 27, 1999 @07:29AM (#1656846)
    Is the friction between Gnome and KDE, BSD and GPL, Free Software and Open Source, and the other sources of flame war a bad thing or a good thing for the movement? Many people seem to feel that the competition is devisive, but isn't it the opposite? We're always preaching that competition is a good thing for the entire market, but then we complain when any of our pet projects are pitted head to head with another. The passion felt by the proponents of each philosophy seems to result in better, more quality work. Isn't this proof that competition is the Good Thing we've been saying it is all along?