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Somebody splain this

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Why is it that the big free-software-GPL-open-standard-Microsoft-is-an-evil-empire people I know embrace Java? Check me if I'm wrong, but Java is the only programming language of any size that's 102% proprietary and closed. In fact, the only revenue stream that the owners of Java seem to have left involves suing anyone who tries to extend it! Case in point. . .

  • Free software advocates attacked Unisys for claiming ownership of LZW and insisted that they drop their lawsuit threats against people including the algorithm in the GIF spec.

  • Free software advocates venomously attacked SCO for claiming ownership of parts of Linux's code-base and insisted that they drop their lawsuit threats against Linux distributors.

  • When Sun asserted that Java was all theirs and sued Microsoft for trying to extend the language, those same advocates of free software were nowhere to be found. And why? Because Microsoft is evil, of course, and when Microsoft tries to do the right thing then it must be the wrong thing because Microsoft is evil.

And eventually Microsoft was forced to drop all Java support and fold their VM-efforts into the creation of an unrelated (on paper) language. And what's the first thing they did once they finalized the language? They handed it off to a standards board to be made into an open standard. And yet the free software crowd wants nothing to do with it, even though it's the free and open standard and the other is closed and proprietary.

And that, my friends, is a double standard. One of the reasons that I have bottomless respect for the National Organization for Women is because they offered to help finance Paula Jones' sexual harassment charges against Bill Clinton. While it was certainly not in the best interest of NOW to back charges against a president who was clearly a friend of NOW's point of view, they did realize that it would be a clear double-standard if they fought sexual harassment on all fronts but one.

And if you're gonna be an advocate of a particular point of view, whether it be free software or womens' rights, you need to defend that viewpoint everywhere, even if it makes you hold your nose from time to time.

And that's why I have little respect for free software as a movement. It doesn't seem to have any kind of driving philosophy that would lead it to reach consistent conclusions over issues like the ones I pointed out above. Its driving personality, Richard Stallman, strikes me as pretty poorly thought-out about his position, and whenever I seem in interviews, his main points seem to boil down to some pseudo-socialistic "workers of the world unite" platitudes and soundbites.

Wouldn't surprise me if someday free software went the direction of the new efforts to privatize space exploration. That whole movement scrambled about for decades accomplishing essentially nothing until a couple of people with the ability and means to actually make it worthwhile scrapped the whole movement and rebuilt it in their own image. Private space exploration made bigger strides in the past two years than it did in the previous forty, and for that very reason. Maybe that'll happen to free software someday. Somebody will pick up the whole blanket, shake it out, and make it something philosophically coherent.

We'll see.
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I imagined you standing up in front of a big audience with that speech [grin]


In one of the more civil and intelligent threads on open source in the lounge, I spotted a few good arguments that the real problem with open source is the people - not the ideas or technologies. It's their attitude that pretty much guarantees it isn't going to "win".

At the end of the day, I'm content with leaving them to it - they dont get in my way. At times I praise the existence of slashdot - keeps them all entertained in one place such that they dont cause a nuisance elsewhere [lol]


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On the Sun/Microsoft thing it was a two way street. Microsoft did not want to add any of Sun's tech that competed with their own, notably Swing and RMI. On Sun's part they wanted Microsoft to ship Java and the VM for them but not to do anything else. Both companies were jerks about the whole thing and as usual the paying customers lost. It slowed down the evolution of of both platforms by several years.

I wished that Microsoft had turned the non-standard JVM code switch to be off by default, shipped the Sun libraries and let the market sort it out. Then Sun would have had little to complain about. I liked WFC much better than Swing. Even though it was not cross platform it made Windows application development so much easier. I was happy to see it come back in .Net. I also liked the fact that Visual J++ let me debug java applets while they ran in the browser. It was teh first place I could do that. But then the Biz guys could not get along.

I remember when we had a Microsoft rep visit us. He was complaining that Sun would not allow Microsoft to "innovate" with Java. I asked him if they would let Sun or anyone else "innovate" with Windows or any of their major platforms in the same way that Microsoft wanted to innovate with other people's software. With a grin he admitted that they would not.

Open/Free/Whatever software is like everything else. People like to cherry pick the parts they like and ignore/denounce the parts they don't like. Even when it does not make sense. Most people don't take time to sit down and come up with a consistant philosophy on anything. If we don't currently feel it biting us on the ass then for a lot of us it does not exist/is not important enough to devote resources to.

I like open source. Why? It gives me tools that makes my life easier and provides competition in some areas that don't have enough competition. I like closed source. Why? It tends to concentrate more on the "less fun" applications/details and tends to be more polished*. I want both of these models to exist. Why? It gives people a better chance to be able to find the right tool to solve the problem at hand.

*With notable exceptions on both sides and everything in between.

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I cannot find it at the moment but there was a really funny interview With Sallman and FSF's attorney. Stallman was saying that basically anything that touched any FSF code was GPLed. The lawyer was saying there are different licenses for different purposes (for example the GPL and LGPL) and closed source software could co-exist with open source software. However Stallman kept saying this was not the case and all software must be open source.

With that sort of mixed message no wonder why there was been so much confusion over open source, gpl, etc... It starts making Microsoft's draconian license agreements with Visual Studio make more sense when they say you're not allowed to use GPL tools anywhere near Visual Studio.

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I've never really understood the position that there needs to be a 'philosphy' of open source. Somebody makes a cool program and they give it away to others. Bingo, end of philosophy. All this mumbo-jumbo about unifying philosophies etc... is just rubbish, IMO, especially that sort of rubbish RMS spouts.

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I think you splained it just fine...
Because Microsoft is evil, of course, and when Microsoft tries to do the right thing then it must be the wrong thing because Microsoft is evil.
People can be really stupid...that's my 2 cents.

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Maybe that'll happen to free software someday. Somebody will pick up the whole blanket, shake it out, and make it something philosophically coherent.

I think this was tried with the coining of the term "open source" (vs. "free"), and the creation of the Open Source Initiative. In fact, IIRC Stallman was intentionally left out of the proceedings, the idea being that without him there, they were much more likely to actually get something done.

I think it's a little unfair to characterize the open source/free software movement as being synonymous with Stallman - that's like saying that someone like Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell represent the viewpoints of Christians. I suspect that among OSS supporters you've got a small group of hardcore zealots who are making a ton of noise, and drowning out all the moderates.

Take a look at a book like Open Sources: Voices from the Open Source Revolution. There's an interesting book making the case for OSS from many of the big names. It has chapters by Brian Behlendorf (Apache), Scott Bradner (IETF), Jim Hamerly (Netscape), Kirk McKusick (Berkeley Unix), Tim O'Reilly, Tom Paquin (Mozilla), Bruce Perens, Eric Raymond, Richard Stallman, Michael Tiemann (Cygnus), Linus Torvalds, Paul Vixie (Bind), Larry Wall (perl), Bob Young (Red Hat).

For the most part you've got a number of people explaining what they see in OSS. With the exception of Stallman (and to a lesser extent Eric Raymond) there isn't much fanatic devotion to a cause - just intelligent arguments and case studies of how they've found it useful.

More interesting reading can be found in Rebel Code: Linux and the Open Source Revolution by Glyn Moody. It's more of a history of OSS, but it's pretty fair (especially compared to something like The Cathedral and the Bazaar - which is essentially propaganda).

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While you have a generally good point, I don't really think it's fair to group ALL open source people together.

I used to be a big fan of open source; but I got really annoyed of the whole "it's better if it's impossible to use!" ideology.

I tried really hard to like that community; I even wrote a book on MUDs with an open source tilt in mind. But setting up linux and the compiler and everything was like pulling teeth. Documentation all over the place and oftentimes contradictory, impossible to understand interfaces (LOL COMMAND PROMPT RULEZ!!), etc. The worst part was that whenever I went to find help for this stuff, the most typical response was "LOL NEWB" and "OMG UR DUMB".

Well excuse me if I hate spending time trying to figure out things that I shouldn't have to waste time trying to figure out. Someone once told me something along the lines of "Well it's not our fault you're not smart enough to deal with our interface". Well gee. Good job keeping me with your comminity there...

Private space exploration made bigger strides in the past two years than it did in the previous forty, and for that very reason

I don't know if I agree with this. There really isn't any "private space exploration". There's a company that managed to send a rocketplane above 100km for 3 seconds, but gosh, I barely consider that spaceflight.

Don't get me wrong, it's one hell of an impressive feat for a private entity... but it seems kind of pointless.

No one even came close to Rutan in the competition, and he didn't even have any motivation to do this until money was involved.

I hope I'm wrong, but I can't see private space flight doing anything significant for at least the next 50-100 years.

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I wasn't referring to Rutan's spaceplane. I was referring to the privately-owned rocket that'll be lofting a satellite early next year. It was supposed to go off on my birthday (11/26), but it was delayed and will be moving back to the US for launch there.

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Why is it that the big free-software-GPL-open-standard-Microsoft-is-an-evil-empire people I know embrace Java?

They like Java, they just don't like the Sun implementation of it. The proper zealots will use a third party, free implementation of Java (which of course isn't "offical Java" since it doesn't participate in the JCP) such as GNU Classpath and GCJ, and that causes its own problems when it comes to deployment.

Most people who use Java however, in my experience, don't tend to care about all that and just use the Sun RPMs.

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