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Re: "MIT/GNU/Linux"

From: Tim X
Subject: Re: "MIT/GNU/Linux"
Date: Sun, 31 Dec 2006 13:36:52 +1100
User-agent: Gnus/5.11 (Gnus v5.11) Emacs/22.0.92 (gnu/linux)

Matthew Flaschen <address@hidden> writes:

>> I think you missed the point. RMS does not like the use of the term
>> open source, but prefers free software. 
> I'm well aware of that.
> The problem is that open source does not necessarily mean free (as in
> liberty) as you can have
>> software in which the sources are open, but the licensing is
>> restrictive and non-free. I personally agree with this distinction
>> unless I have misunderstood his arguement (which is possible and why I
>> mentioned it.).
> This is mostly a misconception.  The reason that Stallman doesn't like
> the open source movement is that it is based solely on practical
> expediency, while free software is about morality.  I agree with him
> here, and prefer "free software".  However, in practice, almost all open
> source (as defined by the Open Source Initiative) licenses are also
> free.  The Open Source Definition
> ( has detailed requirements,
> including free redistribution (modified or unmodified) for free or for a
> fee, and access to source.
Maybe we are getting down to "hair splitting" a little too much.
However, in an interview I heard with RMS on a podcast, he was very
critical of OSI and the problem with the use of the term open source.
Your quite correct regarding is arguments concerning expediency and
the danger this can represent for general freedom, especially in the
long term. However, he was very very clear about not using the term
open source and I have had e-mails from him correcting me for
referring to GPL's software as open source (this was software released
under the GPL, but not GNU software). AFter a few exchanges and after
listening to that interview, I think I understand exactly what his
concerns are and I have to say I agree. In the interview, the
arguement centred around provision of MS media codecs - one side
argued that it should be easier for people to obtain and install these
codecs as this would increase the number of people switching to GNU
Linux. On the other side, RMS argued that the cost to freedom this
would result in was too high and he would rather see a truely free
system used by less people than pseudo free OS used by a lot. Being a
bit of an old idealist and readily admitting to finding Marxist
theory, while flawed, better than any other, I could appreciate this

>> You might believe that this is all self evident, but I have been using
>> systems based on the Linux kernel since the first release of Slackware
>> and the terminology and how it is applied has not been a static thing.
>> The move away from the general term "Linux" to GNU Linux, while
>> positive in reducing confusion between the OS and kernel references,
>> was not emphasised initially as much as it seems to be now.
> Yes, the FSF says ( "It
> took a few years for us to realize what a problem this was and ask
> people to correct the practice. By that time, the confusion had a big
> head start."
>> Open source was considered as synonymous with "free software" until Eric
>> Raymond and the OSI blurred things
> If I understand right, "open source" was not much used at all until the
> OSI (and their founders) popularized it.

Hmm, not sure. The OSI wold seem a bit of a late arrival in my
chronology. The CS department at the University I worked at in '94 was
already starting to make a bit of a 'big deal' about the fact they
were moving to open source then and even started using the term in
their publicity in '94/95. All PCs in the CS labs were running
slackware at that time (but to be honest, a fair part of this was
because MS Win 31 and DOS were just crippled pretend OSs at that time
and even early, limited and buggy GNU Linux was better). 


tcross (at) rapttech dot com dot au

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