Okay, Everybody's Talking About Non-Free Bundles…

Wow. So GNU/Linux is just another product to some people. I find that concerning. Torvalds didn’t write it to be a product, Stallman didn’t write the compiler to be a product, and I don’t think the KDE or GNOME folks did it for that reason either. I know I certainly don’t hack to make a product that others can sell while they marginalize my motives. I don’t mind if folks make money, but the very idea that they feel okay with bundling proprietary software with what was supposed to be a system with complete freedom does bother me greatly.
You can marginalize me by pointing out practicalities and hypocrisies, and that’s all fine and dandy. People are monetizing something that they didn’t even participate in making–short of packaging it–and they’re not even paying lipservice to the freedom that it is supposed to represent. It’s not that they ignore it even, it’s that they actively suppress the ideas that founded GNU/Linux and made it great. The concept of Open Source is one with origins in businesses trying to do just this. They wanted to distance themselves from the political and social motivation behind free software, so they couldn’t very well call it free software… so they focused on source code and call it Open Source. It’s not a development methodology, it’s a means of viewpoint discrimination and suppression of ideas that they don’t agree with.
To Redhat and Novell, there is something wrong with you. Your ethics are questionable and you need to seriously reconsider how you’re using software written for social benefit for your personal financial gain. Stop enabling the subjugation of users.
To Canonical, thank you for your mission statement but be very careful with this Linspire deal. Linspire is a proprietary software company that just happens to distribute Free software. They think nothing of distributing proprietary software that exploits users and restricts freedom. I know there’s a lot of money in those revenue shares, but is it worth subjugating Ubuntu users to these proprietary software vendors?
To the open source people, quit taking the work of those who are making software for the purposes of freedom and ignoring their opinions. As much as people like to marginalize Stallman, the guy did coordinate and write the vast majority of the GNU/Linux system. cp, ls, mv, less, emacs, gcc, ld, ar, tar, gzip, grep, gawk, ed, all of these things are GNU programs. Stallman wrote many of them himself. This isn’t open source, this is free software, and it’s worth mentioning the difference.
It is possible to have a company sell Free software responsibly. We need to make sure that in our efforts of commerce that we continue to respect freedom. Thanks for reading my rant. Feel free to flame.

23 Replies to “Okay, Everybody's Talking About Non-Free Bundles…”

  1. If you license something, and someone works within those terms, and you don’t like it, shame on you for not thinking through it and spending more time on a license.
    I know plenty of free software hackers who don’t code because they are on a mission to spread freedom, but to scratch an itch they had, nothing more. Don’t group everyone into your blanket statement.

  2. I don’t think you understood my point. I’m not talking about all of the programs, I’m just talking about the common denominator. The parts that make things go. The compiler and the linker are programs written by the Free Software Foundation for the explicit purpose of furthering freedom in software. You’re pointing at exception cases and claiming them as the majority. You’ve missed the point.

  3. I think Ubuntu should take a stand against the Novell/Microsoft deal by rejecting Mono. Right now, Mono is a required dependency of ubuntu-desktop and a part of the Gnome environment, and the reason why I’m planning to switch to Kubuntu.

  4. First, freedom is amazing. Love it. At some point though, you’ve gotta ask yourself what you want more: freedom, or functional hardware. Freedom is the preferable option, but it isn’t there yet for a lot of people, including students like me who don’t have 100% freedom compatible hardware.
    Linux is about the freedom to do what you want with your system. I want to make it function as well as possible, so I use binary bundles for a few of my drivers. I also use a closed-source browser, Opera, simply because it beats the pants off Konqueror’s web browser mode. You’ve got to admit, a lot of closed source software is simply better then the open alternative.
    Frankly, I’d be perfectly happy if more of my hardware got some good binary drivers. Why? Because it simply dosen’t work properly at the present time. In a choice between “working” and “not working”, you have to admit that most folks will choose the former.
    I think most users will support the Linsipre/Canonical deal simply because it lets them legally and easily obtain things like the multimedia codecs that have been pirated for ages.

  5. I do not think the ethics of Redhat or Novell are so questionnable, they contribute back to free software, by paying people to work on free code.
    And they can pay people because they earn money. This is a business, yes, but they have the right to do it, and this benefit back to all of us because coders do not have to do proprietary software to live.
    Take a look at kernel changelog, at gnome changelog, at X, alsa, mono, etc.
    And they share this code under the gpl, or write new one under the same license ( like http://virt-manager.et.redhat.com/index.html for exemple )

  6. While I do use proprietary and closed software because of practical concerns, I really like and agree with what you are saying – and for every day it feels like I’m coming closer to the goal of total freedom. More apps, more drivers, more awareness, it’s all happening.
    I’m not so unhappy about what Canonical and Linspire is doing though. As long as Compiz/Beryl (which are just effects and not in any way “essential”, no matter how stable, unless someone actually goes the Metisse route and add some real benefits) aren’t used to add non-free stuff that *isn’t needed* I’m fine with closed stuff for now.
    And CNR offers all free software freely for free, while proprietary stuff costs money, putting the descision exactly where it belongs – at the end user. I don’t think Linspire is a bad company, they fund and give back a lot of free software to the world, just like Red Hat. Could they be more free? Of course, but I think they are doing ok as it is. Novell was fine until they slept with MS, of course.

  7. Michael Scherer: I would say that we are in disagreement. Redhat and Novell both engage in developing and distributing proprietary software and expecting the Free software community to thank them for it.
    James: I fundamentally disagree with your use of the word “piracy.” People have been working around these codecs by making them work. The developers of these codecs have no right to restrict users like this. I see nothing wrong with people exercising freedom, even those that others would try to take from them. I also disagree with your assessment of Opera. Konqueror is a far superior browser, there’s no need to go into it. I also don’t think it’s okay to use non-free software when there are perfectly functional free software alternatives out there.
    I also disagree with the idea that non-free solutions provide freedom of choice. If you have the freedom to choose between death by hanging or death by firing squad, that’s hardly a choice. If you’re given the choice to eat pizza with sausage and pizza with pepperoni or no food at all, that’s hardly freedom. Please reconsider your use of the word “freedom” in the context of choices which are artificially limited by those who are trying to limit your choice.

  8. I agree that the concept of freedom as the ideal is a good starting point. However, I think some of your comments with regard to Redhat and Novell are a little OTT.
    If you are so anti-Redhat/Novell, do you remove/not use any patches/code that were submitted by employees of these companies? I’m thinking of the countless kernel contributions of RedHat employees, OpenOffice from Novell, etc., etc..
    I also understand your reluctance to see the commercialization of free software, but without some commercialization there’s no way for anyone to get paid to work on free software, and while a large portion of free (as in freedom) software can be developed for free (as in beer), there are some cases where this isn’t the case.

  9. At no point did I say I was anti anybody. I’m pro-freedom. If others are willing to respect my freedom, I’m more than willing to be for them as well. When someone is releasing software that respects freedom–e.g. patches–we should embrace it. When someone is releasing software that restricts freedom, we should reject it.
    I have no problem with people getting paid to write free software. None at all. I don’t even mind selling free software. I have a problem with the restriction and intentional suppression of freedom. That is what this argument is about. You’ve missed the point.

  10. One of the benefits of capitalism is that consumers can force the market to suite their demands. GNU/Linux or software libre people can force hardware vendors to support their ideals, if only they would approach it in terms of freedom and compatability. Novell/Redhat seem to be approaching it in terms of sales/monitary traffic as a means proving the freedom. These two points are not the same.

  11. > I also disagree with the idea that non-free
    > solutions provide freedom of choice.
    That’s not what’s being said. What’s being said is that as long as Ubuntu proper is free, people who want to use free software can use it while people who want to pay (in either money or vendor lock-in restrictions) can do so.
    So the Ubuntu versus Linspire choice isn’t “death by hanging or death by firing squad”, it’s more along the lines of “walk across the safe community bridge” versus “walk on a risky tightrope without a net — you may be okay for now and it may provide you with a shortcut to your destination but if the winds change you’re SOL”. Using proprietary software is risky but if you don’t “have to use it” (e.g. a safe bridge is available) then it would be wrong to prevent people from taking the less safe path just because the community decides.

  12. Ok, I hear you on Canonical and Novell. But Red Hat?! What are they doing that is questionable? Every bit of code they ship is freely available in source code and they PAY numerous developers all the way up the stack to develop, support, and promote this free software.
    I understand you’re partial to Ubuntu of proprietary driver and codec fame, but to cite Red Hat first is just plain wrong.

  13. i find it okay what novell and red hat do.
    on the one side, they sell their software but on the other side, they improve opensource software and contribute it back upstream (rh and novell have lots of people working upstream)..
    for example, look at yast.. it is a great tool and everyone one who wanted could take it and make it available to other distributions.

  14. Talking about freedom…
    When would you feel more free – having 100% free software operating system and 90% working hardware or having a 90% free software operating system and 100% working hardware?

  15. Let’s say that our target is freedom, free software for everyone, everywhere. Let’s exclude difficulty to handle such economy without serious bargain (I can’t see how it is possible, but what a heck, let’s just imagine that). But hey, it is possible.
    So how do you achieve that? Throwing everything in cold, stingy water and let them swim or let them go down, right? How to get free software system _serious_ and _self-sustaining_? Get more developers. Where to get more developers? From _more users. How to get _more_ users? …. !@$!@$@% watermelon, let’s go back to coding like hobby.
    You can’t have it both – total freedom and improving free software. Choose either one.
    For watermelon sake, just stop act like children – la la la, everyone must love freedom, la la la, companies are bad – and give watermelon reasonable account WHY this is bad. There are more lot practical reasons. Can’t say that they are not fixable, though.
    Under no circumstances is it acceptable for you to utilize profanity on my blog. Your opinion is welcome, but that language is not. The profanity has been removed.

  16. I understand that something is bothering you but it is less than clear to me exactly what it is.
    You seem to be lumping all open source coders into a “Freedom fighters” group. I’ve coded and released a few things over the years but I didn’t do it to promote freedom, I did it because it was something I enjoyed doing, it produced something that was useful to me and it possibly produced something that was useful to others.
    Your average non-technical computer user could care less about freedom. They simply want something that “Just works.” Companies have to have something that “Just works.” IMO, this “freedom” discussion (food fight) that seems to be the norm in the Linux community is detrimental to the spread of the operating system.
    Everything has its time. Keep up the food fight for long enough and Linux could become a footnote in history books.

  17. Nick: I suppose you didn’t check my previous response to a previous post. I’m perfectly okay with Linux becoming a footnote. I’m not an apologist or advocate for Linux. I’m an apologist and advocate for freedom in software. If I could find another kernel that could power my GNU operating system, I would be more than happy to experiment with it. If this bothers you, I suggest you simply not read what I write.
    If the Open Source community disagrees so much with the Free Software community, perhaps they should write their own operating system instead of trying to shoehorn their ethics into Free Software.

  18. “If the Open Source community disagrees so much with the Free Software community, perhaps they should write their own operating system instead of trying to shoehorn their ethics into Free Software.”
    Questionably sane, indeed. Rolling eyes…

  19. One thing that bothers me with this whole 100% freedom thing is that those who are involved in it seem to want to restrict the freedoms of those who use free-as-in-freedom software as a platform for non-free software.
    For example, you’ve stated that you take issue with people like me running opera instead of konquorer. While konq is amazing; the swiss army knife of file managers, I strongly dislike it’s web browsing mode. I like opera’s interface more, and I feel that opera has a better download manager. I am but a clueless user, so take my opinion as you will. It *is* my opinion however, and if I was forced to use konq instead, I would be rather unhappy.
    Aren’t you taking away my freedom to use whatever I want if you restrict me to your standards of strict free-as-in-freedom freedom?
    Another example would be the discussion on weather or not to include the binary bundles for 3D graphics drivers in Ubuntu. Most windows users don’t know anything about how to set them up, and many would be hard pressed to figure it out. If you don’t include an easy on/off option for them, you’d essentially be limiting their freedom of choice. Does the user want to choose freedom and perform general tasks, or do they want to choose the evil proprietary drivers and play games?
    I dunno. To me, the issue looks a lot like “free as in freedom” vs. “free as in choice.”

  20. Interesting that you claim that Red Hat sell software: If you can name the two proprietary products that they sell I’ll buy you a beer, because the odds of you having heard of them, let alone used them, are very slim indeed.
    All the other money RH make are from services of one form or another.
    I just cannot understand what it is you have against RH. You clearly have some weird misconception that RH take and don’t give back.
    And the simple fact is this: RH takes money from companies who don’t give a monkeys about the Free Software, and ploughs a substantial amount of it back into Free software. Yes, some of that money goes to shareholders. That is small price to pay for what the Free software world gets back.
    But the alternative would be that *all* the money from all those companies would go to deeply closed source companies.
    I also have a very strong feeling that RH spend way more money on Free software than Canonical do.
    So next time you decide to go off on a rant about some random subject, how about actually getting your facts straight?
    Note: I should perhaps disclose that I am an employee of RH, a (inactive) debian developer, and also run Ubuntu on all my laptops. I can’t comment on Novell beyond that I thought Suse was awful when I last tried it out some 7+ years ago, and that their deal with MS stinks.

  21. If you want a company that sells Free Software responsibly, look no further than the FSF.
    You can’t get any more Free than that.
    But I agree.

  22. My thing against Redhat is that they have single-handedly marginalized Free Software. I never claimed that Redhat didn’t give back to the community, I merely stated that they encourage proprietary bundling and actively marginalize the views and opinions of those who created the core of the operating system that is the bread and butter of “their” primary “product.”
    Redhat *does* sell Redhat Enterprise, and Redhat *does* promote “Open Source” while marginalizing “Free Software.”
    That, my good sir, is my issue with Redhat. If you can prove me wrong here, I would be more than happy to publish a retraction.

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