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"I faced the same question at the beginning of the GNU Project. I decided that I would rather do something good with no monetary reward than profit by mistreating people."

Thank God Stallman helped all of those sick kids with Malaria in Africa with by giving them GIMP and GCC.

Way better than the billions of dollars and thousands of vaccinations Bill and Melinda Gates gave to them.

In all seriousness, if we're going to argue the ethics of charging for software,at the end of the day who has done more good? Bill Gates who made himself rich, gave thousands of people jobs, created products that made the lives of millions of other people easier (all snarking about Windows and Office aside, they ultimately made computing more accessible to everyone), and has created the world's most well-funded charity which actually goes out and does good, like giving vaccinations to sick kids around the planet.

When I compare the more calculus of capitalism and propreitary software against Stallman's dogmatism, it's obvious to me that capitalism is utlimately more moral and does more good.




You're comparing apples and oranges, I think. Bill and Melinda Gates have done tremendous good in the world, and anyone who thinks otherwise is either crude or uninformed; but what does that have to do with software? Or freedom? Their being tremendous philanthropists has little to nothing to do with whether or not the way they earned their money is ethical -- and I hope that, in this day and age, it's clear that it's not only possible but easy to get money in a way that isn't ethical.

You can mock RMS's contributions all you want, but the fact is that he has done a good deal for the world. He created the basis and licensing for the operating system that's been on more devices than any other operating system that's ever existed, that's run on more processors than any other operating system that's ever existed. This thing he started is the basis for the bulk of the internet, for the architecture that runs web sites; people don't give it this credit often enough, but Gnu/Linux in many ways has made the modern technological world possible, and without things like GCC and the standard utilities, it would have died a sad death in 1991. Heck, just for his work on Gnu AWK alone, I think Richard Stallman deserves a few geek medals. And finally, his Gnu Public License and its derivatives (the Apache License et al) have been instrumental in filling the world with an open architecture that makes many of the amazing things we're able to do now possible.

It is possible to admire Bill Gates for his humanitarian work while believing that much of his Microsoft legacy has been bad for software and for freedom in general. I know Stallman can seem like a cranky old man, but he's more careful and thoughtful than you're giving him credit for. When people ask him whether Microsoft (or any company) is "evil," he usually says that you can't say that a whole company is evil, and you have to think about particular things they've done. I believe that his argument that some of Microsoft's business practices are unethical is sound; and while I think Bill and Melinda Gates are wonderful philanthropists, that doesn't mean that I have to think that they're great for software, too.


> Bill and Melinda Gates have done tremendous good in the world, and anyone who thinks otherwise is either crude or uninformed.

Their foundation has done a lot of good, but it doesn't exist in a vacuum. Why does it have all that money in the first place?

Well, mostly because Microsoft managed to work itself into a monopoly position with dirty tactics, and the proliferation of their own proprietary file formats. This meant that millions of people and organizations had to pay the Microsoft tax, which was later used to start the B&M Gates Foundation.

How many millions of US$ would those people have donated to charity if their budgets hadn't been constrained by purchasing Microsoft software? Some of them were probably African countries that could have used that money to buy vaccines 10 years ago.

Don't get me wrong, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is doing some good work now, but to only look at their current donations is to only see the tip of the iceberg.


This is an extremely naive diatribe.

There are few OSS projects that have done anything more than steal ideas from commercial software in terms of innovation. Programming languages are the only place I can think of that OSS is cutting edge.

MS pushed the boundaries of software to the extreme. Go look at any of their competitors at the age of their dominance. Man, look at Netscape navigator in its bloated unusable form when IE6 came out. Compare Excel to Lotus 123. Or Outlook to Lotus Notes.

MS didn't win because it was evil. It won because it was very, very, very, very, very good.

Google is winning now, with its even more extremely closed source software known as google search, because it is very, very, very good. It's just pretending to support OSS. Without actually giving away the crown jewels.

And MS still is very good in a lot of fields, OSes being the primary one. Only Apple is a close competitor and it's a lot more expensive.

So get off your soapbox and smell reality. The overall benefit MS software has donated to the world is worth many more trillions of dollars than the licenses cost.


>There are few OSS projects that have done anything more than steal ideas from commercial software in terms of innovation. Programming languages are the only place I can think of that OSS is cutting edge.

Surely you're joking? Outlook is a crappy email client. Mutt which is older than I am, handles mail better than Outlook does, I hate using Outlook. It means archiving my mail every month (several accounts over several PST files over an a very high mail volume). Ever since it's beginning outlook was the crappiest mail software. You can't figure out what the hell it's doing and it crashes all the damn time without error or with generic/cryptic ones. The only way to fix it is to wipe your settings from the hard drive, and reset registry keys to defaults. And if that doesn't work reinstall office.

Not to mention compiz/beryl had desktop effects before any other operating system. Linux in the kernel level has removed the need for file polling, replacing it with iwatch. Linux has on demand file system and virtual file system mounting. There are hardly any drivers for file systems or virtual file systems on Windows. Dokan is the only place where you can get FUSE or SSH and the software is crappy.

MS to this day hasn't standardized it's own security structure (EX: runas.exe in XP will have the processes pass on administrator rights to all child processes 7 doesn't neither does Vista). And lets face it on the top of it's game Windows default security could have been over-riden by pressing cancel on the logon screen. On anything but a fickle consumer and ease level Windows and to some extent OSX (although the use of a BSD kernel and the growth of MacPorts mitigates this a bit) don't hold a candle to the features found in Linux.

You seem to equate success and innovation with sales and press releases. In this case you probably think that MS is doing something revolutionary by letting Xboxes read usb drives.


> Surely you're joking? Outlook is a crappy email client.

Surely you're joking. First, Outlook isn't for anyone who'd be comfortable operating mutt. Period. Second, sure, Outlook has stupid design-decisions. But nobody claimed that Outlook is perfect, it was argued that Outlook was better than Lotus Notes which is was competing against when it was launched. And it was (and is), leaps and bounds. Third, Outlook isn't just a mail client, it's an integrated communications suite. It has taken OSS years and years to catch up with this. You may not agree that it's a critical feature, but for millions of business users, it's a deal-breaker.

There's good innovation in the kernel-space, too, but user-facing apps are playing catch-up.


>Third, Outlook isn't just a mail client, it's an integrated communications suite. It has taken OSS years and years to catch up with this. You may not agree that it's a critical feature, but for millions of business users, it's a deal-breaker.

KDE has had very good PIM software for a while now even before KDE4. Kontact has always been a suite for that kind of stuff, and it's possible to do most things in Outlook in Kontact. Also if you're talking about Exchange and groupware servers there are a few for Linux like Zimbra. However I haven't even seen Fortune 500 companies make most of the use of Exchange features.

Also your measure for success is very shallow. Essentially you don't see OSS as competition, which belies your actual position and tells me that there's no point in arguing this with you considering your mind is made up about OSS. As far as I'm concerned all vendor software loses out because it's missing basic features from a IT management standpoint. Also from my experiences millions of business users are too stupid to use Outlook in any shape or form because they lack basic computer proficiency skills.


> Not to mention compiz/beryl had desktop effects before any other operating system.

You’re joking, right? Mac OS X has always had some sort of desktop effects. Hardware accelerated Quartz Extreme was part of 10.2 in 2002. And Exposé was introduced in 2003… All before Compiz/beryl.


You're right OSX did have Quarts and expose before linux did. I was talking about Microsoft Operating systems but I wasn't clear enough.


> Linux in the kernel level has removed the need for file polling, replacing it with iwatch

As long as we're comparing who did what first (as if that's relevant today), ReadDirectoryChangesW came in Windows 2000. inotify came in 2005.

> MS to this day hasn't standardized it's own security structure (EX: runas.exe in XP will have the processes pass on administrator rights to all child processes 7 doesn't neither does Vista)

Given that Vista overall has a rather different security structure from XP, I don't see how this is relevant.

> And lets face it on the top of it's game Windows default security could have been over-riden by pressing cancel on the logon screen

Amusingly, this just displays your own naivete. The only way to get security if someone has physical access is through cryptography. Pressing cancel on a local login screen is equivalent to booting into single user mode or just using a boot disk and wiping out the local administrator's password.

> You seem to equate success and innovation with sales and press releases.

Microsoft Research is the most prolific non-university academic CS research lab in the world. The people that work there are all truly brilliant. (disclosure: I did an internship there this summer)


>As long as we're comparing who did what first (as if that's relevant today), ReadDirectoryChangesW came in Windows 2000. inotify came in 2005.

Inotify was a replacement for dnotify. Which was there since 2.4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dnotify

Also comparing the two subsystems is entirely wrong. ReadDirectoryChangesW is still a polling mechanism, inotify and dnotify are kernel level events.

>Amusingly, this just displays your own naivete. The only way to get security if someone has physical access is through cryptography. Pressing cancel on a local login screen is equivalent to booting into single user mode or just using a boot disk and wiping out the local administrator's password.

You're just being an obstinate child here. There's a difference when anyone can defeat your security, and when knowledgeable people can defeat your security. Why do company's take people of the premises when they're fired? Because it's easier for them to lash out, and cause damage. Well it's certainly easier for a passerby to break into your system by pressing cancel. Outside physical threats are always there, especially in the form of delivery men. What's the point of even password protecting something when the UPS guy can come and hit cancel cause he has 95 at home? Not only that but you still need a password for single user mode, and it would take a bit longer for him if he had a boot disk.

>Microsoft Research is the most prolific non-university academic CS research lab in the world. The people that work there are all truly brilliant. (disclosure: I did an internship there this summer)

This isn't about Microsoft Research, this is about Microsoft products. This is a completely irrelevant point. MSR is a fine institution which is a great place for academic papers, they don't generally develop products for Microsoft.


This isn't about Microsoft Research, this is about Microsoft products. This is a completely irrelevant point. MSR is a fine institution which is a great place for academic papers, they don't generally develop products for Microsoft.

Don't talk shit about stuff you know nothing about.


dnotify wasn't sensibly designed. inotify/ReadDirectoryChangesW are.

> Also comparing the two subsystems is entirely wrong. ReadDirectoryChangesW is still a polling mechanism, inotify and dnotify are kernel level events.

ReadDirectoryChangesW sleeps while there aren't any changes and only returns once there are some changes. Efficiency-wise there isn't any real difference between kernel-level events and sleeping on a different thread, and I don't see one as clearly better than the other. After all, waking a thread up is also a kernel-level event!

> Not only that but you still need a password for single user mode, and it would take a bit longer for him if he had a boot disk.

Who cares? The difference in the level of security you get is a small epsilon. You either don't care about physical attacks, in which case you don't care whether it takes 5 seconds or 5 minutes to break, or you do care about physical attacks, in which case you encrypt your data.

Of course, your entire point is irrelevant -- calling Windows 9x "on the top of it's [sic] game" in terms of security is lying. Windows 9x was insecure in much more serious ways than a stupid login prompt. Windows NT-based systems, especially Vista onwards, are much more effectively designed.

> This isn't about Microsoft Research, this is about Microsoft products. This is a completely irrelevant point.

You used the words "success" and "innovation". The fact that MSR exists and is as good as it is, is an important part of Microsoft's success as a whole, and there's no lack of innovation on display there (witness Street Slide for a recent example). To consider "success" and "innovation" only in terms of released products is myopic.


> Google is winning now, with its even more extremely closed source software known as google search

Google search is not closed source as it is a hosted service. It would be if it was redistributed under closed source license. This is why RMS himself said he uses Google.

> It's just pretending to support OSS. Without actually giving away the crown jewels.

It has not given sources, but Google gave many papers about the technics they use such as map/reduce and compression which enable projects such hadoop, yahoo search and even Bing.


>This is why RMS himself said he uses Google.

Where exactly did he say this? He's opposed cloud services from the beginning and designed GPLv3 to attack web apps.

Last I checked, the man scarcely browsed the web.


RMS opposes software as a service, Google Search is no such thing http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/who-does-that-server-really-se...


The only mentions of Google concern Google Docs being SAAS and thus being unacceptable.

Hence, he was still lying about Stallman "using Google search".

My cry of shenanigans stands.


“Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish and you have fed him for a lifetime".


"Light a man a fire, and he'll be warm for a night. But set a man on fire and he'll be warm for the rest of his life."


Perhaps if we'd have taught Africa how to make IE6 they'd not need our our code today. Ah, what a missed opportunity Bill Gates had to solve poverty.

Or your point is totally fucking retarded. One or the other...

I really can't make the distinction.


I'm surprised at how high your comment is rated.

Bill Gates didn't become rich because Microsoft managed to work itself into a monopoly position with dirty tactics. The whole problem people have with Microsoft is that they abused their monopoly in one area to gain a foothold in another! They already had a virtual monopoly on desktop computers. How did they get there? By having smart people and making really good software that more or less worked everywhere.

When Microsoft started becoming evil they were already fully entrenched in the market.

How many millions of US$ would those people have donated to charity if their budgets hadn't been constrained by purchasing Microsoft software? Some of them were probably African countries that could have used that money to buy vaccines 10 years ago.

Yes, I'm sure that any money left over from a large corporation's IT budget would have gone straight into the donation budget.


Microsoft got into its initial monopoly position because of an "interesting" deal with IBM. Specifically Microsoft got a contract with IBM to deliver a product, turned around and bought the product from another company that had already developed it, and then delivered that to IBM. Microsoft then hired the person who developed said product because they didn't actually have the expertise to support it themselves. See http://inventors.about.com/library/weekly/aa033099.htm for confirmation.

About charity, Microsoft may have improved, but a few years ago standard operating procedure was for the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation to tie charitable work to large Microsoft purchases. If a government bought from Microsoft, the foundation would come in and start providing assistance. If the government went to Linux, the foundation would pick up and leave.

The use of this tactic has left me with a bad impression of said foundation, despite all of the unquestioningly good work they do. (They may have gut this out more recently. I no longer pay attention to Microsoft now that it is clear that they aren't going to be able to destroy the parts of the IT world that I care about.)


Its pretty hard to say that the only way MS leveraged its monopoly was to enter other markets. That may have been the biggest problem, but I doubt it is the 'whole' problem. You really believe that MS didn't gouge consumers on the price of their OS? Or their Office suite?

Regardless of your opinions on their specific business practices, I think the OP's point still stands: its difficult at best to laude someone for giving away money that to some extent was derived illegally.


The foundation itself isn't completely blameless. They have some of their n billions invested* in the very companies who's environmental and social policies are are causing harm to people they are trying to help with their clinics, etc.

*I heard about this several years ago so would be happy to be told they've changed this. Their response was that the fund management and philanthropic arms of the foundation were firewalled and the former's directive was to simply maximize growth. I find this unfortunate at best.


It appears that the Gates Foundation works under certain contstraints, dictated of course by the elite family which runs it. For example, they appear to strongly respect intellectual property and corporate profits, as you might expect from a Microsoft founder. (This may take the form of ensuring that companies like Monsanto benefit from aid.)

There was an informed article in The Nation which touched upon the undemocratic vision the Gates Foundation allegedly has; people affected by poverty do struggle to fix their own problems in a self-governing way. Elite benefactors like Gates or Soros may conceivably help to strengthen the systems which make it hard to self-govern, along with whatever benefits they accomplish.

http://www.thenation.com/article/gates-foundation-and-africa...

(Incidentally, I don't see why Gates is considered a particularly predatory businessman. He just happened to be the one who succeeded, as usually happens; and other businesspeople don't like an entity with the resulting market power. He might be a much nicer guy than many of his competitors, for all I know.)


it's obvious to me that capitalism is utlimately more moral and does more good.

That is a heavy statement, and highly contextual. I expect it to be popular in this forum where people view technology as a way to make life better, but keep in mind that strong control over technology can do amazing evil more easily than it can meager good.

Gates' philanthropy may appeal to you, but only because as individuals we cannot fathom the whole of an industry. Imagine that for every dollar of aid sent to Africa, one thousand dollars have been spent on extravagance and inefficiency. Maybe not by Gates himself, but certainly by the whole of the industry he profited from.

The last ten years of technological progress have largely been run on Linux, mostly as a cost saving tool but also due to the merits of Linux. The efficiency gains are enormous, much larger than if every computer needed a buggy, licensed copy of Windows that automatically updated in the middle of your slideshow (happened in the office yesterday). Compare the revenue that Microsoft would have made to the idea that an operating system could be free-as-in-beer, and you might have a different perspective of the meager billions that Gates has put to good use. We detonate more of our tax money in anger every year than he will ever use to help the poor and needy.


Fundamental attribution error - rebooting in the middle of a presentation is not an inherent property in Windows. You could have configured Windows Update to not do that. (I'm guessing it was "do it x minutes after bootup", or similar).

Especially in a discussion mentioning Linux, configuring a piece of software to behave how you want should be a basic sort of thing to do.

The efficiency gains are enormous

It was so much more efficient the other day when I had to cobble together a bash script to poll MySQL to show running queries, then realise it wasn't running fast enough, switch on query logging, find a reference telling me SIGHUP doesn't cause MySQL to reload config files, restart the database, run some tests, disable the logging, restar the database again. I was so pleased I couldn't just open SQL Server Profiler/Tracer and see live database activity in a couple of mouse clicks and no restarts.

The efficiency gains are arguable and situation (and person) dependent.


Most of the new technology has been run on Linux because Linux is an operating system for programmers. Windows is an operating system for consumers. These are different concepts, that explain why programmers love Linux so much, and why normal people hate it and use Windows/MacOS instead.


"The efficiency gains are enormous, much larger than if every computer needed a buggy, licensed copy of Windows that automatically updated in the middle of your slideshow (happened in the office yesterday)."

yawn, welcome to 1995 again.


> Thank God Stallman helped all of those sick kids with Malaria in Africa with by giving them GIMP and GCC.

>Way better than the billions of dollars and thousands of vaccinations Bill and Melinda Gates gave to them.

RMS and the free and open source community have given way more billions of dollars and jobs that Gates ever has. Let me explain. Many governments have switched to Gnu/Linux and are saving billions of dollars each year for the last ten years such as Brazil ($1 billion per year http://www.brazzil.com/2004/html/articles/mar04/p107mar04.ht...). Given that many governments have switched to gnu/linux and free and open software, that's billions of dollar saved each year for the last 5 to ten years. Those are billions that can be spent on health, education, employment and more, it's an invaluable gift to humanity. I know Bill Gates fortune doesn't exceed $50 billions so I'll let you do the math. RMS and the free software world have given way more to the world than Bill Gates ever will. And Free Software will continue to give while Bill's fortunes will soon be over.

> In all seriousness, if we're going to argue the ethics of charging for software,at the end of the day who has done more good?

See above.

> Bill Gates who made himself rich, gave thousands of people jobs, created products that made the lives of millions of other people easier

Free and Open Source software give millions of jobs too. I'd say even more especially with the internet. Do you think Google could have been done without Gnu/Linux when they needed to install thousands of servers and didn't have yet the money to pay licenses? How about the internet? It's all free/open source software, a way bigger revolution than the PC which was a boring work machine before for most people.

> When I compare the more calculus of capitalism and propreitary software against Stallman's dogmatism, it's obvious to me that capitalism is utlimately more moral and does more good

Well, think and try to calculate again. Gates' done way less.


"Many governments have switched to Gnu/Linux and are saving billions of dollars each year for the last ten years such as Brazil"

It's funny how you can make the argument about money that "would have been spent". Many open source zealots (and Stallman himself) talk about how the software industry can't equate piracy to dollars people would have spent. Why should this be any different?

Software licenses are also a very small part of the entire cost. The biggest costs are support (this is how most open source companies make their money).

Even if governments had saved as much money as you want us to believe, I seriously doubt it would go into healthcare, education, and employment.

"Do you think Google could have been done without Gnu/Linux when they needed to install thousands of servers and didn't have yet the money to pay licenses?"

There are other variants of unix that have even less restrictive licenses. BSD comes to mind. Gnu/Linux was a means to an end.

"It's all free/open source software, a way bigger revolution than the PC which was a boring work machine before for most people."

Most users don't use a variant of linux on their desktop. Microsoft brought computers in every home and made computers "interesting".

"Well, think and try to calculate again. Gates' done way less."

Gates has proof that he has helped the poor with billions of dollars. Stallman has possibilities and no direct proof of anything.


Stallman has possibilities and no direct proof of anything.

Stallman is the guy who pushed the asteroid and watched it sail harmlessly past. In alternate reality, Gates is the guy on the ground helping the survivors clean up after the asteroid hit.

Metaphorically, of course. Stallman's good is causing unknown amounts of freedom restriction and consequent problems to not ever have happened - which isn't really tangible.


"Metaphorically, of course. Stallman's good is causing unknown amounts of freedom restriction and consequent problems to not ever have happened - which isn't really tangible."

Without Stallman and the GNU, we would still have just as much software on the market. Many of the people and companies would have most likely released it under the BSD license (or public domain).

..and like I said. I still don't buy it. Piracy causes unknown amounts of damage to commercial software companies. If the community comes to terms with this, I might be more apt to come to terms with the amount of unknown "good" Stallman has done.


> It's funny how you can make the argument about money that "would have been spent".

It's still billions of saving that are not being used in taxes/licensing and being used for doing actual things for the public which is the job of the government and yes, that includes health, employment, education among other things.

> Microsoft brought computers in every home and made computers "interesting".

No, the internet did. I have yet to find "regular" people who were actively using computers at home before the internet era. Give a computer with no internet connection to a non geek, in most case he'll tell you it's useless.

> Gates has proof that he has helped the poor with billions of dollars. Stallman has possibilities and no direct proof of anything.

The cost of a Gnu/Linux distribution is estimated to the billion dollar, not to forget other big free software projects such as Samba and others. And it's all for free. Plus the saving done by governments are very real, they are real proof. This is huge for both governments, people trying to build a business and people living in 3rd world like myself (Peru) where people cannot afford to pay billions in licensing. I'm glad our governments is not wasting their money on Microsoft licenses as they are switching to free software. This is real proof, real benefit no matter how much you want to deny it and it's way bigger than all of Gates billions put together because once spent they won't be there unlike Gnu/Linux and Free Software which will benefit the world for many many generations to come.


> This is real proof, real benefit no matter how much you want to deny it and it's way bigger than all of Gates billions put together because once spent they won't be there unlike Gnu/Linux and Free Software which will benefit the world for many many generations to come.

The Gates Foundation vaccination programs are expected to save 7.6 million children's lives over the next 10 years. You don't think 7.6 million children living who would have otherwise died isn't a benefit that will last for many generations?


By the way the estimated cost of Red Hat 7.1 (not RHEL) is 1 billion dollars, so it's comparable with funds of the Gates foundation. [1]

[1] http://www.dwheeler.com/sloc/redhat71-v1/redhat71sloc.html


The link you cite for your numbers does not support your numbers. In fact, the link has almost nothing to do with what you are citing it for. Did you by any chance paste in the wrong link?


Dead people can't use free software. Nothing you've cited comes anywhere near matching or exceeding the good the Gates Foundation as done with its global health initiatives.


When I compare the more calculus of capitalism and propreitary software against Stallman's dogmatism, it's obvious to me that capitalism is utlimately more moral and does more good.

Free software have nothing to do much with capitalism. Stallman probably agree with the idea of competition improving life. What he disagree with is what he called combat.(Or what I least remember from reading one of his essay) Rather than improve over your competitors and sell great stuff to customers, you seek to annihilate your competitors by unethical means and gain control over your customers.


"Free software have nothing to do much with capitalism."

So why does the GPL make it so difficult to make any kind of money. Many of the supporters are also against any and all forms of commercial software.

"What he disagree with is what he called combat.(Or what I least remember from reading one of his essay) Rather than improve over your competitors and sell great stuff to customers, you seek to annihilate your competitors by unethical means and gain control over your customers."

His answer to this is to force everybody to the same level (IE: as soon as a company improves their software, all competitors should get those improvements).


So why does the GPL make it so difficult to make any kind of money. Many of the supporters are also against any and all forms of commercial software.

How many Free software supporters did you count said they're explicitly against profiting from software?

Beside, if GPL make it difficult to earn money, than it's a pure side effect.


"How many Free software supporters did you count said they're explicitly against profiting from software?"

Do I really need to keep count? Look at any discussion involving the GPL.

"Beside, if GPL make it difficult to earn money, than it's a pure side effect."

A side effect? I just don't believe it. Stallman and many people from the community are very focal about being anti-corporation and anti-profit.

If you can't see this, then I don't know what to tell you.


Do I really need to keep count? Look at any discussion involving the GPL.

I have not detect any anti-business bias in the discussion where I was involved. I didn't hear free supporters hating the profit motives in the time I been around.

A side effect? I just don't believe it. Stallman and many people from the community are very focal about being anti-corporation and anti-profit. If you can't see this, then I don't know what to tell you.

The FSF sold software packages in the past. Stallman keep saying that he isn't opposed to software developers not being able to make a living.

Ever consider that your views of the world might be colored about what you think you see in Stallman and the others?

Now, it seem that you and I hold the same views about business and the profit motives. The only difference is that I don't see free software as antagonist to the profit motives and the ability to make a living, partly because I actually try to make money off free software and free content.


Red Hat is making pretty good money supporting GPL'd software, over $700 million in FY 2010.


that's support. I'm talking about selling software. There's a difference.


What is the difference? Is it possible for the difference to not matter?


Selling support implies that your software needs support and beyond needing it, your users need the support enough to pay for. This creates quite a disincentive to make your software intuitive.


it's obvious to me that capitalism is utlimately more moral and does more good.

It's a mighty big leap from the charity of Bill Gates to the essential moral quality of capitalism.


When RMS made his decision, BG was just another robber baron. Nobody knew what BG would do with his money back then. It's only in hindsight that we know he became a great philanthropist.

EG, we can't judge RMS's decision then based on what BG later became.


While I might not agree with Stallman on a lot of things he is my hero for championing the cause of a computer where you can understand things on most layers of the stack. Comprehensibility of the underlying system is an important side effect of Free as in freedom.


Agreed. I've learned much more about computers and computing using Linux for a relatively short time than from years of Windows. Such a gift.


In all seriousness, if we're going to argue the ethics of charging for software

Which RMS isn't, he's arguing the ethics of restricting freedom. Which means he'd probably disagree with your claim "[Microsoft] created products that made the lives of millions of other people easier" and frame it as a negative not a positive.

Bill Gates made his money restricting the freedom of hundreds of millions of people, from which he bought a huge house and then gave some of the remainder back to the world.

Freedom is nothing without survival, but stealing freedom from some to buy survival for others, at a personal profit, is not clear cut moral or good.


I think that Gate's work of software and philanthropy has been both beneficial and detrimental. Call me a sick kid, but I would deeply question some of the so-called "philanthropy" of the Gates Foundation. http://www.lavidalocavore.org/diary/3059/gates-foundation-mo...

Stallman has given us GCC which is free in the many senses of the word free. The Microsoft C compiler has been good too, but it comes with strings attached, just like vaccinations and bio-tech.

"Alone, I have seen many marvellous things, none of which are true."


The Microsoft C compiler has been good too, but it comes with strings attached, just like vaccinations and bio-tech.

What are these strings?


Before you can sit down and use VC++ you need to have already shelled out money for a windows license.


I respectfully very much disagree with your assessment.

The only reason you can write that is because there is a dollar value attached to the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, which in turn allows you to measure how much money is being pumped in to those projects.

But the effects of open source on the way the third world is operating are much harder to quantify, it could very well outweigh the effects of the money that goes in to helping those sick kids with Malaria, by enabling a solution to the problems around them rather than just curing a disease they've got.

Both are good, both have a place in this world, don't take the easy way out and use the money as the yardstick, and no, capitalism is not more or less moral than open source and does not do more good, after all for every Bill Gates there are lots of Larry Ellissons.


Let's put aside the specific instance of Gates/Stallman and extend your argument to the general case. People in the philanthropic-billionaire camp usually only exist in countries with basic rights that roughly approximate those in the civil liberty camp. Consider the wealthiest charitable foundations [1]. The only outlier is a foundation from the UAE (whose endowment is a relatively small percentage of the sum). This is only a basic analysis, but I hope you get the gist of my argument: you can't naively separate the contributions of businessmen and civil rights activists; it is a mutualistic relationship.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wealthiest_charitable_f...


I don't know, but it seems more likely to me that the causal relationship runs in the other direction: a society is likely to become more free as the median resident becomes more prosperous.


Well, in that case, you're stubbornly wrong about things.

The US was and is far more liberal than most countries, and prosperity has followed liberalism (not democrat/republican liberalism, dictator/freedom liberalism) in every case where freedom has been allowed to prosper.


Bill G cost the world far far more than he donated. Lost productivity in the first world = less money = less giving. But, 30 billion in chump change is a lot easier to locate than 100's of billions in economic harm.

PS: Consider how much time/money was wasted because IE tried to avoid standards compliance. IMO, the world would have been far better off if MS had spent an extra billion making better software and Bill never donated a single cent.


"I faced the same question at the beginning of the GNU Project. I decided that I would rather do something good with no monetary reward than profit by mistreating people."

Bang! Nailed it. This I think is the source of all problems in the friction between open source philosophies and the general populace. At his heart, RMS is an economic theorist, not a social or technological one. This is because software takes time to make, and time = money. Yet he continuously fails to understand this because he's never personally had to feed himself with the fruit of his daily labors. In RMS's mind, making money from your effort = mistreating people.

The analogies between RMS and various communist thinkers all derive from the simple fact that none of them ever had to feed themselves in that way and simply don't understand how basic economics work and all come up with various economic ideals that simply aren't modeled on how the world works.

By his model, all people have to do is write software, give away all their labor for free to be "ethical" and then feed themselves off of reward payouts and speaking engagement fees (or some other mysterious source of money RMS has left unspecified because he simply doesn't know how people actually make money in the real world). This is clearly a model that doesn't scale beyond maybe a few dozen people on the planet. The rest of us need to eat, arguing that we are bad people because we demand our supper after a day of work is what makes RMS's arguments ultimately unethical. He would rather people starve to death than charge for software -- this is ultimately what his equation balances out to.

If I ignore this type of prattling nonsense, I have to say that RMS has been on the balance a force for good in the world. But he's fantastically out of touch and seems perfectly oblivious to it.

Now, if he changed his message and said "it's a good and useful thing, it's 'nice' for people to release free software, and we all can benefit from sharing and pooling our labor together" I don't think anybody would have a problem with him. But like many here have said, RMS represents the extremist goal posts of the idea, and on the balance, that is a good thing, just so long as everybody is aware that a world at the end of the field is not one conducive to people eating.


When I compare the more calculus of capitalism and propreitary software against Stallman's dogmatism, it's obvious to me that capitalism is utlimately more moral and does more good.

That's what I've always believed - if you want to do any sort of significant and impactful good in this world, you have to have capital. I can't help but give Gates the nod here when it comes to the greater good.


Stallman's words are framed by his belief that freedom (as he defines it) is more important than doing the job. That is why he isn't giving proprietary vaccines to sick children.




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