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RE: [zzdev] Re: :gbg: Flame: User-hostile ethic of the Linux comm un ity
- To: "'rms@xxxxxxx'" <rms@xxxxxxx>
- Subject: RE: [zzdev] Re: :gbg: Flame: User-hostile ethic of the Linux comm un ity
- From: Joshua Allen <joshuaa@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Mon, 16 Oct 2000 15:01:22 -0700
- Cc: ted@xxxxxxxxxx, zzdev@xxxxxxxxxx
> Definitely. What you call "usable" is really a matter of greater
> or lesser convenience, and freedom is more important than convenience.
The distinction between "free" and "freedom" could be confusing to some (and
calling it 'free software' when you mean software that contains mom and
apple pie and my definition of freedom could be considered immoral by
others), but that confusion does little damage to your cause, so I doubt you
will be revising the phrasing anytime soon. "Freedom" is a subjective word,
and your definition of freedom is rather arbitrary. (I'm not objecting to
it, I am just pointing out that freedom does not mean the same thing to all
people). All people have free will. Software doesn't change that, because
software does not have coercive power. The laws of voluntary exchange mean
that purchases take place only when buyer and seller are both satisfied that
they would be better off without the exchange.
On the other hand, suppose I want to be free to change the behavior of my
word processor to allow (for example) certain formatting behaviors to be
automated. Usability testing shows that most users can quickly figure out
how to record behaviors with macros and customize their system's behavior.
With *literally* one line of code, I can tell my machine to play a song out
my stereo. If you say that "Free Software" gives me that freedom, you are
telling the truth. It is a simple matter of programming (SMOP) to recompile
the word processor, change and debug all the code, etc.
Now from the other side, I have the freedom to modify the Linux kernel if I
see fit. Of course, I am free to do that with something like MacOS if I am
skilled enough to be hired by their kernel team and can convince them that
such changes are wise. In fact, I could reverse-engineer the MacOS X kernel
and make the changes myself if I wished; it may violate a license, but I bet
you would only get prosecuted if you started sharing your decompilation with
others for payment in glory or ego gratification. Or you could just change
raw bytecodes ... nothing in the kernel is encrypted. Of course I am being
facetious here, but the point is that saying users are "free" because they
can change source code is not much different than saying developers are
"free" because they can change bytecode. If all software vendors were to
provide an unrestricted license for users to reverse-engineer and modify
machine code of their applications for personal use, would this fit your
definition of "free"? I doubt it, but it shows how arbitrary your
definition of freedom is.
Ted's original point fits well here, I suppose. The people most often
associated with FSF/OSI tend to highly value the freedom to modify low-level
source code and recompile apps, while users of commercial software value the
freedom to use their time for things that they want instead of recompiling
code. An ideology which produces software slanted towards the "freedoms"
that developers and technical gurus want can fairly be considered forbidding
to users. In fact, I do not see much (if any) demand for software with the
"freedom" to recompile the kernel on the part of users. Users don't call up
saying, "if only I could recompile my kernel", or "if only I could pay
someone to recompile my kernel". The fact that
"freedom-having-by-fsf-definition" software needs to be given away without
price, pumped up with ideology, or tied to hardware/services revenue shows
that it is not quite there as far as user demand. Freedom in the sense that
"I am free to do my job without being a programmer" is more what people want
to pay for.
In any case, semantic bickering wasn't my initial intent -- I simply meant
to point out that FSF *is* perceived as inhospitable by many. And by
pointing that out, I simply meant to offer potential explaination for Ted's
statement which you found so objectionable. I'm not speaking for Ted or for
anyone other than myself, just trying to say that maybe you and he agreed
more than you thought.