[Top][All Lists]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[Fsfe-france] Re: chapters on Stallman, Wall & Raymond for new book

From: Loic Dachary
Subject: [Fsfe-france] Re: chapters on Stallman, Wall & Raymond for new book
Date: Tue, 27 Nov 2001 19:10:33 +0100


        I enjoyed reading these texts, thanks. 

        Here are some comments on this chapter and I will try to review
the other by tomorrow. I'd be happy to contribute more extensively (I mean
beyond mere corrections) if the chapters were published under a free
documentation license. Could you tell me if it is (or will be) the case ?

        Please understand that I'm not a native english speaker and that
my remarks may be inapropriate because of misunderstandings. 

        I better like to see Free Software written with capital letters
but that's a minor point.

        Although I'd like to write more remarks, I'm running out of fuel for


Adam Brate writes:

 > There wasn’t any easy way for programmers to share and distribute their
 > creations. Many now worked for institutions and corporations who didn’t want
 > them to give away anything. So those who still wanted to live as they had

        I'd rather say "who forced them to keep their knowledge and software
secret". I find that "give away" in the context of corporation is and will
always be unatural (for profit => no give away). By saying "secret is imposed"
or something along these lines, we avoid the profit/give away opposition while
making the point.

 > before, the hackers, surreptitiously worked on pet projects, sneaking them
 > out the back door. The spirit of sharing cool stuff freely, for personal
 > pride and communal good, had been forced underground but still existed,
 > aided by the growth of the ARPANET and then the Internet and Web. The
 > worldwide network let hackers punch holes through the proprietary shells of
 > the companies they worked for and sneak programs, like notes under the desk,
 > to one another.

        There is a problematic cunjunction of hacker and
sneaking. Most people believe hackers are just people who break
security or break the law in general.  Attaching the two in the same
phrase at the beginning is taking a chance that the reader will read
the following occurences with this in mind, although the context tend
to make clear that hacking is a state of "playfull cleverness". 

        I guess there are a few ways to avoid this, such as saying that
most hackers continued to write software as a hobby, on their free time.

 > Two people, Richard M. Stallman and Larry Wall, grew to embrace the
 > philosophy of openness and collaboration and led the charge to establish a
 > technological, social, and moral alternative to the cut-throat
 > commercialism. 

        I would change to something like "grew to define their philosophy
of ..." since it becomes obvious by the end of the chapter that they share
a lot but have different philosophies nevertheless.

 > Thompson and the rest of the Bell Labs researchers in his team found that
 > their scientific approach was paying great dividends. They soon had a usable
 > Unix system up and running. In 1973 a friend of Thompson from UC Berkeley
 > saw their talk and was impressed enough to ask for a copy of the system.
 > Berkeley soon became the second great center for Unix development, led by
 > the graduate student Bill Joy. In 1975, the same year as the first personal
 > computer debuted, Ken Thompson came to Berkeley on sabbatical from Bell
 > Labs. Under his guidance, Bill Joy and another graduate student, Chuck
 > Haley, began to improve and extend the Berkeley Unix system. By 1977, the
 > year Steve Jobs founded Apple Computer, Joy put together the a computer tape

                                                            ^^^^^^ a

 > with the Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD) of Unix, sending out thirty
 > copies to those who had the necessary AT&T Unix licenses. Soon enough, Bill
 > Joy had become a one-man missionary for Unix, whose popularity was steadily
 > growing. But the explosion was just around the corner, when personal
 > computers would converge with these professional tools.

        By reading the text related to Unix there is a feeling that it
was in the middle of the proprietary world and the Free Software
world. It's true that AT&T was one of the first to lend the system to
universities, with access to the source code. That was unprecedented
and was an important factor of success. Nevertheless, it was pure
proprietary and it took a long time to get rid of the left overs, as
you mention later. I think the strange "Free Software" effect associated
to Unix could be partly avoided by changing:

"Berkeley soon became the second great center for Unix development, led by
the graduate student Bill Joy."


"Berkeley soon acquired a source license and became the second great
center for Unix development, led by the graduate student Bill Joy."

        The fact that the license was almost free is not relevant, the 
important point, IMHO is to make clear that they did not have it in the
usual sense of a hacker sharing code freely with his friends. It was a
contract with an NDA.

 > of Unix changed their lives. AT&T realized Unix could be a commercial
 > product, and stopped contributing the Bell Labs developments to the rest of
 > the Unix licensees–thereafter, Berkeley became the central focus of

        Maybe it would be more accurate to say "the Unix source
licensees" ? I'm not sure since I can't remember the exact policy of
that time and can't find the answer in my "Life With Unix (a guide for
everyone)" book ;-) When did the distinction between a source licensee
and a licensee appeared in AT&T Unix distributions ? From the very
beginning ? If not, when ? I should ask someone.

 > community advances. Meanwhile, DARPA (the renamed ARPA; the D stands for

        Using community here is probably misleading since the reader will
attach this to the Free Software idea of a community where it really was
a community of people who all had to agree with a NDA or a proprietary 

 > on which Stallman’s system could run. The AI Lab would have to use a new
 > operating system. And it looked like it would probably be proprietary.

        Wouldn't it be more accurate to say "And the only operating
systems available were proprietary" ? It seems to me that the "looked like"
kind of imply there could be a non proprietary solution.

 > Symbolics, and LMI. But Symbolics made their system proprietary. Moreover,
 > they forced the hackers to choose sides: for or against them.

        This is a bit unclear. Do you mean that it's a consequence of
their choice of proprietary licensing ? Or do you mean they did
something in addition ? Should I understand "Moreover" as "As a consequence"
or "In addition" ? 

 > would have to be compatible with Unix. He decided that when 1984 began, he
 > would quit the AI Lab and begin his fight against the Orwellian forces that

        I think "resign from MIT" would be more accurate since, after all, 
he still is in the AI Lab ;-)

 > When corporations started getting involved with Linux, Stallman started to
 > have a problem with Linux developers and users not giving credit to GNU. It
 > became obvious that the companies that adopted Linux were deliberately
 > avoiding mention of Stallman, the FSF, the GPL, and GNU–deliberately
 > avoiding mention of the principles of free software. 

        The core of the problem is not credit to GNU, it's that people
forget the very reasons why the Free Software movement was started and
drift away from it's ideals. Maybe it's too long to say. Giving
credit to GNU is only a mean to lead people to the philosophy of Free 
Software. While almost all GNU related web sites have pointers to the
Free Software philosophy, only rarely the so called "Linux" sites have
sunch links.

 > But he believes that Stallman pushes too hard, that his opinions are too
 > extreme to be the best kind of leader. RMS, from the beginning of the GNU
 > project, has antagonized people simply by living the nonprofit life. When
 > the free software movement began, the only way to make money by programming
 > was to write proprietary software. There was no infrastructure to support a
 > commercial model for free software. The only possibilities were to
 > compromise, like Larry Wall did, and work for proprietary projects for a
 > salary but write free software whenever possible, or to make very little
 > money, as Stallman did. And Stallman was an especially brilliant hacker
 > without a family to support.

        I feel uneasy with this. Is there, nowadays, an infrastructure
to support commercial models based on Free Software ? There is a wider
acceptance of the models imagined by companies or individuals. But I
don't have the impression that an infrastructure is there and was lacking
twenty years ago.

        The FSF did money by selling tapes and manuals. It was also
possible to teach computer languages. But these are not programming
activities, only ways to make money to pay Free Software
programmers. As early as 1990 Cygnus Support was successfully running
a business providing services on Free Software and paid programmers to
write Free Software. In the early 80's doing business by writing Free
Software surely required imagination and vision but was not
impossible. A free lancer could do it (providing his own Free Software
code to the corporation he worked for). There probably are some
forgoten companies who tried other ways. Even before the GNU project,
could LMI be taken as an example ?  The code they used to run their
business came from RMS.  I know nothing of the details but I imagine
their employees wrote software that would qualify as Free Software as
we know it since they had to work with RMS / reuse his work.

        In short I feel that saying "the only way" could be replaced
by "difficult" and "no infrastructure to follow" by "no example to follow
to build". It is more accurate to say that nobody really tried than to
say that there was no other possible choice. "I had no choice" looks to
much as an excuse for not trying where "I did not have the energy to try"
is more humble and still makes the point : most people don't have the
energy to inovate in every aspects of their profession.

 > two of the largest and most popular free software projects in the world: GNU
 > and Perl. They are popular speakers and prolific expositors of an
 > alternative to the world of commercial software development. They love their
 > work.

                               ^^^^^^^^^^ proprietary software

 > And yet the differences abound. Stallman thinks people like Tim O’Reilly are
 > opportunistic corrupters of a good system; Wall thinks people like publisher
 > Tim O’Reilly are the best thing that could happen to non-proprietary
 > software. Stallman founded, lives, and breathes the Free Software Movement;
 > Wall sometimes compares them to communists. What that really means is that
 > Stallman is perfectly happy to use a carrot-and-stick approach to expanding

        I don't know what carrot-and-stick means. Could you please expand into
a non-idiom version ?-)

Loic   Dachary         http://www.dachary.org/  address@hidden
24 av Secretan         http://www.senga.org/      address@hidden
75019    Paris         T: 33 1 42 45 09 16          address@hidden
        GPG Public Key: http://www.dachary.org/loic/gpg.txt

reply via email to

[Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread]