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Re: GNUStep: An Apology for Announcing Donation of Proprietary Software

From: Pascal Bourguignon
Subject: Re: GNUStep: An Apology for Announcing Donation of Proprietary Software to the Project
Date: Sat, 22 Dec 2001 01:24:57 +0100 (CET)

"Scott Francis" <address@hidden> wrote:
> i'm curious about something (yes, genuinely curious) - i am a fan of
> opensource, and free software.  but i've also been working in the
> corporate world for quite a few years, so i'm a little out of touch.  
> my questions:
> 1.  is it the position of GNU that all "paid-for" software is bad?  

No. If the software is GPLed, it can be "paid-for".

What's bad is  when a customer ask you as a  consultant and says: "Hey
look here I have this software  and that software, and I would like to
add a small  feature here to be able to forward  data there." Then you
call the providers of these software  for the sources to be able to do
it and  it's "No way. We  keep the sources for  yourselves."; then you
ask them to include this feature as soon as possible, and it's "Thanks
for asking,  please come back  and buy next  version, and in  the mean
time pray enough people ask for the exact same feature."

Not to speak about the innumerous companies running software for which
the source is no more available because the developer closed its doors
and the sources were on hard drives reformated before being sold at an

> 2.  is it ok to pay for the "service" that someone supplies (ie, hours
> of time and toil), rather than the finished product?  can someone be
> "paid" to write "opensource" or gnu software? i mean, rather, is that
> considered "legit"? 

Yes, of course.

Up  to  now,  what has  been  developed  as  OpenSource has  been  the
platform, the OS,  and the tool used by the  developers. This has been
mostly developped on  unpaid time because it was  developed by its own

But I  guess (and I hope) we're  going into a second  phase where some
user/business  oriented  software will  be  contributed or  developped
under GPL license and paid for their users.

The beneficiaries would be all the small companies that don't have the
budget to develop their applications from scratch, but that would have
the budget and do have the need to develop their specific features and

> 3.  the logical extension of this thing seems difficult to understand to
> me... the position that you should not buy software seems interesting to
> me... ie - don't buy the operating system, use the free one.  or help
> write the free one.  so far so good.  but how about the hardware?  do we
> all need to use only free hardware?  how do we acquire such free
> hardware?  how about the firmware that runs much of the hardware?  does
> that need to be opensource as well?  

We should need to buy and  use only free hardware. Free hardware being
hardware fully documented, built from  parts available from a range of

When you  buy a Logitech  QuickCam and have  to fight nights  long and
reverse  engineer its  protocol  to be  able  to use  it  on your  non
MS-Windows system,  or when  you buy a  Matrox video card  and they're
nice enough to provide a Linux  driver but only in binary form and you
start  wondering if  it'll still  work with  the next  version  of the
kernel, then you'll understand the meaning of free hardware.

Also, that's  the existance  of "proprietary" closed  and undocumented
hardware that prevent  us to use, or slow us  porting free software on
most of them (Linux on NeXT computer comes to mind).

Of course, the firmware should be free in the sense that source of the
firmware is available too.

Have you  seen what's inside you  GSM phone?  Have you  seen what's on
your hard  disk controler?  Can you tell  the difference? Now,  if you
don't have  the source of the  firmware of your  hard disk controller,
and if  you don't compile and  download yourself, how can  you be sure
that there's not some spyware in your firmware? Or some delateware?

Note that  one of the things  that initiated the  OpenSource ideas was
the inability of Stallman to correct  a bug or either get a correction
of a bug in the firmware of a printer.

Personnaly, I have  this criteria: imaging you're on  a spaceship with
that hardware or that software and the provider's lightyears away. Now
it breaks. What do you do?

> adam, i understand why you are declining accepting the gift from vmware,
> and that it doesn't fit with the gnu paradigm, but i don't think it
> makes you a "dolt" :)  there are people who are wanting to contribute to
> gnustep who are not quite as committed to GNU in general - ie, they use
> windows (god forbid) and other paid-for software, but are also
> contributing to free software projects.  i don't see anything wrong with
> that, personally, but that seems like an individual choice.  getting the
> free licenses was a way to encourage those people to contribute and to
> test their code on multiple platforms without having to buy multiple
> machines, or dual boot them.  however, advertising the provider of those
> licenses doesn't fit with the free software motif.

In  the sense  that VMware  may  be viewed  as some  kind of  hardware
platform. Or a mere tool _used_ to build better free software.

Also  since there's  no need  of adapting  GNUstep to  make it  run on
VMware,  VMware don't  gain  much if  anything  at all  giving to  the
GNUstep project some licenses. They  would gain much more giving it to
Linux of OpenBSD or FreeBSD developers.

Therefore I  think that the licenses  could be accepted and  used as a
mere tool, but effectively this should  not have been the object of an

> i've used a trial version of vmware, and it is a very professionally
> written product, i've enjoyed using it.  i'm not willing to shell out
> $300 for it though :)  no matter how well advertised :)  

Yes, at that price you can get one true hardware CPU.

> if they drop to
> $50 though, then i'm in!  hey, i pay for games, so why not for some
> other random piece of cool software :)  its entertainment value as
> well... i pay for dvd's and movies and lots of other stuff...  
> let me close by saying:  my apologies if any of this post is offensive,
> i just haven't participated in many discussions on free software
> philosophy, so i'm missing the FSF/GNU points of how should software
> developers support themselves, when (if ever) is it okay to ask for
> compensation for software written (finished product), and when (if ever)
> is it okay to pay for software, hardware, services, or goods in general
> (not just software).  
> please, feel free to take this offline and just reply to me if you want
> to educate me without spamming the list :))
> cheers,
> scott

> Subject: GNUStep: An Apology for Announcing Donation of Proprietary
> Software to the Project
> http://linuxtoday.com/news_story.php3?ltsn=2001-12-21-005-20-OP-CY

__Pascal_Bourguignon__              (o_ Software patents are endangering
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