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Richard Stallman on Steve Jobs (stallman.org)
102 points by akshay_surve on Oct 7, 2011 | hide | past | favorite | 118 comments

For those that are kneejerkingly chastising Stallman, understand his point of view.

OS X and iOS are not free, and Apple led by Jobs changed the way that people thought about installing Applications on desktop operating systems as something that requires manufacturer approval (App Store), which led the way for others like Intel to make AppUp, etc. This restricts what the user has access to install is more of a setback for the free software movement than anything Microsoft ever did.

Jobs also changed the licensing program for Macintosh clones, making it too costly for the manufacturers to continue making machines. If there were Mac clones, then eventually perhaps freedom would have flourished.

Basically, Jobs was the ultimate technology monarchist and Stallman the ultimate technology anarchist. (I almost said capitalist and communist, but Stallman is all about free, not about centralized distribution and control.)

I'm not saying I agree with the man, but this is what he means by jail.

Look, all respect to Stallman for writing Emacs and the GNU toolchain. Among technologists he's clearly one of the few figures on par with Jobs. Indeed, he's also personally a difficult figure and a bit of a totalitarian about his craft, much like Jobs himself. [Though I don't think Jobs would ever publicly emit something like Stallman's "eulogy".]

Where Stallman falls short is in supposing that open, hackable systems are an unmitigated good. "Just works" and "highly configurable" are often antonyms, rather than synonyms.

Should open, hackable systems always exist or be developed as a check on Tivoization? Yes. Are they ever going to get a dominant market share, in the sense that the masses making voluntary decisions will choose Free software/hardware? No.

  more of a setback for the free software movement than 
  anything Microsoft ever did.

iOS exists because it can make tons of money to pay back its development costs. Android exists for the same reason.

And at some point, a true mobile/touch Linux (perhaps a fork of Android) will also exist, and the free knockoff will owe a great deal to the hundreds of billions in dollars in capital plant installed worldwide by the for-profit, closed originals.

Indeed, Linux itself exists because of the fact that AT&T could make a profit off Unix, and that IBM could make money off selling computers.

So: iOS is not a setback for the free software movement. In the long term it's a massive boost in the arm.

> Where Stallman falls short is in supposing that open, hackable systems are an unmitigated good. "Just works" and "highly configurable" are often antonyms, rather than synonyms.

It's not really about "good". As far as Stallman is concerned, potential user freedom simply trumps everything else, including the ability to actually use a device of piece of software due to technical incompetence.

And I respect the man, not necessarily because I agree with him but because he's never (as far as I know) hurt anything but feelings (you've got to admit the guy is not exactly diplomat material) and he actually walks the walk (how many "open-source rha rha" zealots do you see trying their damnest to use open-source and free everything — including hardware — even if it limits their choices and the intrinsic quality of what they end up with? RMS does)

> So: iOS is not a setback for the free software movement. In the long term it's a massive boost in the arm.

You're doing yourself a disservice by thinking Stallman cares about software that much. Non-free hardware is just as big (if not even bigger) a deal for him, and on that point Apple is an even bigger sticking point than on software: non-serviceable, non-replaceable devices galore (the Mac side has gotten better but the devices side has not), non-free everything, generally in support of more semi-proprietary to proprietary (and freedom-restricting, such as DRM and "trusted") technologies, ...

The iPhone and iPad, and their popularity, only make things worse as far as RMS is concerned, as they flood the world with devices neither free in hardware nor in software and beholden to the "mothership". Likewise, I don't think RMS sees anything cloud with a teary eye for any reason than the loss of user freedom it translates into for him.

    more of a setback for the free software movement than 
    anything Microsoft ever did.
Of course RMS would say something like this. Microsoft's business practices gave RMS followers; Steve Jobs took them away. As any RMS-style self-proclaimed bearded prophet/politician/priest/father-figure knows, it's never been about making things but about gaining followers. The beard is not ironic.

Stallman has never left any room for doubt that his motives are genuine. It's not about followers. There's no shortage of people telling him how to moderate his message to attract more, yet he won't do it. I think this is another thing people are going to grudgingly acknowledge he was right about, after a decade or two—but that might have happened more quickly if not for the harsh delivery.

In this situation it's not as much a question of personal ideology as it is basic interpersonal skills. You generally avoid telling the world you're happy someone's gone immediately following their death. It's completely arbitrary, and no one's going to throw you in jail if you do it but it's just one of these things.

How you think software should be developed doesn't really come into at this level. It's just a question of how you deal with people and that's where Stallman's fallen short here.

And yet, the market has spoken, and here's why:

Only technology monarchism has been able to deliver a good user experience.

The organized chaos of OSS has delivered excellent technology but a piss-poor user experience by comparison. I can't imagine using Linux as anything other than a web-netbook without having a thorough understanding of it, and the UI still blows by comparison with anything by Apple.

Microsoft's UIs aren't that great, but that's because Microsoft's corporate culture is a lot less monarchistic than Apple's. Too many cooks in the kitchen. A fundamental requirement of good aesthetics is to have someone who can say "no" repeatedly to "ideas" that just clutter everything up. Minimal is a synonym for good.

When it comes to computing, it seems to me that most people would rather have a pretty prison than freedom.

"pretty prison" is a nonsense term. For millions and millions of people, OS X and iOS and the relevant hardware are not prisons--they give them the freedom of the Internet, of usable software and of easy to use hardware to do what they want to do. Without commercial computing vendors, many people wouldn't be able to use a computer and would be a lot less free.

Freedom for 0.1% does not trump freedom for the masses and RMS is just engaging in shameless self-promotion.

Mostly because freedom is not really accessible for most people, in matter of computing.

You can have freedom to install what you want, the way you want... only a minority ultimately knows how to. The rest is left without a clue in front of their supposed freedom.

When the iPad is presented to people, of course it's no "revolution" to most of us. But for the regular person, it's an easy way to access something which they could have had difficulties to access, before. At this point, choice matters less than the actual possibility to use something, even if this thing is framed and safely guarded, for most.

There are some people who do think freedom and accessibility can coexist; interestingly enough, some of the very people whose work Apple built on (but focusing more on the accessibility part of their work). For example, Alan Kay and Ted Nelson have both long pushed the idea that computer systems can be both hackable and user-friendly / broadly accessible, rather than having to be split into a dichotomy of consumer-appliance versus hackable-nerd-toy.

A closed computing environment isn't a prison. I have the choice of using an iPad or something more open. If I choose an iPad and later wish for something more open, then I can replace it with a more open tablet or a laptop. I find the implication that I "prefer a prison to freedom" disingenuous and off-putting.

OK, so it's only a prison to the extent you use it.

Better not let your important data get locked up in any non-portable formats though. A literal prison is far easier to release someone from.

It's not a prison even if you do use it. The defining characteristic of a prison is that you cannot leave it. I can stop using an iPad any time I wish.

And yes, important data should not be locked in non-portable formats. At the same time, I've never found myself in a situation where I simply could not extract important data from a non-portable format into a more portable one.

Stallman doesn't need market approval.

If you are a shareholder it is a legitimate point, but the FSF's concerns are far deeper.

Someone died though. The polite thing to do would probably be to say nothing at all ...

This is just it. Implying the world is better off without Jobs or what Jobs did (however you want to slice that part of his comment) is insensitive beyond measure: someone is dead. Show a little respect if for nothing else than the fact he was a fellow human being, be him your greatest enemy or your dearest friend, where is the fucking humanity? Better to have said nothing at all than to make such a distasteful post.

Why should people be stifled just because somebody died? What exactly are we concerned about? Steve Jobs becoming disgruntled, rising from his grave, and sucking the blood of virgins during the night?

This "dead people are off limits" thing is a relic from the superstitious dark ages. If we can praise the actions of dead people, we can criticize them too.

He has a family that he left behind. His wife and children. If your father just passed away 48 hours ago, would you want to read about how somebody is glad that he's finally gone? I sure wouldn't... It's called respect.

I somehow suspect that they aren't reading RMS's blog right now...

Sounds like we seriously need to get some of that superstitious dark ages politeness back ASAP.

I think XKCD had it right -- people should have to listen to their comments read aloud before they're published on the internet.

Because people have feelings.

Why should it hurt anybodies feelings to point out that Steve Jobs wasn't all fairy dust and benevolence? This need to whitewash people when they die is truly bizarre.

We're not trying to whitewash it. It's just empathy. Would it have been so bad to wait a week or 2 after the funeral?

People also have opinions and they should be free to express them.

And my opinion is that RMS is being a D-bag.

Freedom to express isn't freedom from bad responses.

I think your comparison of Jobs and Stallman are spot on, they are essentially polar opposties of each other. I know I will misststae this, and I hope someone more eloquent than me can rephrase it, but what I find interesting is how much they share in common, in terms of how much control they want. Jobs's total control of the walled garden, Stallman's total control over the source (i.e. you must give others access to the source). In that sense, Jobs favors the ditributor, and Stallman favors the recepient. Neither approach favors true freedom, in the sense that the creator decides how she wants to distribute her product...

Makes me wonder whether a free software Steve Jobs (equivalent) would be possible. Maybe you need to be a powerful autocrat to generate enough directed force to dent the world?

It certainly seems like the divide between computer consumers and computer developers is getting ever wider. One side has their computer experience made ever simpler, whereas the other has to deal with ever more complexity (cf. Ryan Dahl rant).

The ultimate revolution might be to simplify programming to the point where anyone can do it.

Shuttleworth is trying... :-)

The ultimate revolution is to provide an operating system and applications simple enough that anyone could use them. Programming on the other hand should be easy and fun- simple doesn't have to play into it; something can be complex and still fun, and fun is what keeps people coming back.

I am not a Mac fan, in fact the only thing I have from Apple is the iPad. I have an Android phone and I have a windows machine.

Still, Stallman, as a public figure should have remained silent. These kind of comments don't help anybody, specially not the community.

Now I do understand his point of view, what I do not understand is why he can't see the whole picture. That is all. He should have remained silent if he had nothing good to say. His comments have no value at all to anybody.

Yes ... And most of the enlightened (here at HN) seem to approve of Jobs - voting with their wallets. I don't own a recent Apple computer, but I have a Powerbook (Wallstreet) that's still running after after more than 12 years ... I think that says something about the quality of the engineering.

I'm curious- what do you mean by "enlightened"?

I mean that the readership here is much more likely to understand the DRM and license implications of purchasing Apple products and services and yet there seems to be a disproportionately larger percentage of Apple users here than in the general population ... Or perhaps my perceptions are just plain wrong?

lightened of money from their wallets?

Stallman is consistent and vastly intelligent and whilst his comments can be seen as insensitive he is quite correct that Steve Jobs did suppress software freedom.

We don't go to Stallman for sensitivity (you're a dolt if you do), we go to him for the truth, no matter how painful. We can all do with that sometimes - http://www.skepticblog.org/2011/10/06/steve-jobs-succumbs-to...

Equating the iPhone to a "jail" is goofy political hyperbole. Normal people don't even view software in that context. It's just a piece of hardware and software they choose to use or not use.

Stallman represents the strain of computer nerds who want to view their hobby as the bold movement of a freedom fighter. They are out-of-touch and don't understand what normal people think and feel. They want their nerd playground to remain in place because it's a world they have control in.

To paraphrase you, it's sad but true.

It's hard for me to say how representative my non-techie friends are, but nearly all have some understanding that the App Store is tightly controlled by Apple, and not always in ways they agree with (apps being banned or not approved makes mainstream news semi-regularly). They accept it because they still like the iPhone more than the alternatives, but I wouldn't say that they are 100% happy with the way the App Store is run. Some join random "tell apple to unban [thing]" groups on Facebook periodically.

I would say that the very fact that they join "tell apple to unban..." groups makes them non-representative.

Well as long as we're giving anecdotes, nearly all of my friends who have iPhones are happy that the Apple Stores has that quality control.

But you paraphrase me without really 'getting it' :(

Stallman represents what a lot of people would think if they really though about software freedom - it is in fact the only common sense approach. Computer software runs the world (along with JP Morgan ;) so it is very important that is adheres to these common sense, though rather hard-to-think-about ideals.

Maybe the iPhone will ultimately be inconsequential in historical terms, but it should adhere to the same principles; everything should.

Sorry - I meant 'thought' and not 'though'

> Equating the iPhone to a "jail" is goofy political hyperbole.

Isn't jailbreak an accepted term now to root an iphone?

Oh come on, grow a spine people. Quit whining about 'insensitive'. Just because you die doesn't give you a free pass from criticism for more than about 24 hours, and most people don't even get that much.

Stallman is right. Computer-as-a-jail is Jobs' legacy and I too hope it dies with him.

vvv Edit vvv

Look at it this way: Jobs and Apple did truly amazing things in the usability department. For that they should be rightly praised.

But none of that requires jailed computing. Most of that happened before the lockdown got underway in earnest with the iPhone.

It would be a total tragedy if all the good and the bad concepts got conflated here.

His claim is that the negatives outweigh the positives and that its a good thing that Steve Jobs no longer actively influences computing. I can't disagree with this sentiment more. Making technology that people can actually use is far better than making unusable technology that is open.

But it's a false dichotomy. There's nothing inherent about usability that requires jailed computing.

I submit two examples:

1. The Apple Mac was unquestioningly a pioneer in computer usability. Yet it didn't need a kernel that refused to run apps that weren't "approved" with a cryptographic signature from some central authority. (Yes the original Mac case was closed but there was a high voltage monitor in there and it had no upgrade plan anyway. Most later models were expandable.)

2. I have Google Nexus S running Android that's every bit as usable, even for nontechnical folks, as an iPhone. It's not carrier locked and the OS is predominantly open-source, much of it even GPL. It doesn't need rooting or jailbreaking because there's no jail to break. And guess what: there are way more people "actually using" Android phones than the jailed ones from Apple. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Smartphone_share_current.p...

Jobs was good at many things: leading Apple, leading product development, advancing quality and usability, making products people want to buy, making great profit margins. He was an incredible guy.

But just because the same person and company also embraced jailed computing doesn't mean that it's somehow a necessary condition for usability, any more than the dictator is a necessary condition for the trains to run on time.

In fact, I think the evidence points to the contrary and it would be a shame for this confusion to send computing on a step backwards in one direction or another.

> There's nothing inherent about usability that requires jailed computing.

Not a requirement, but there is a correlation. Programming for an unjailed ecosystem takes more effort to support the vastly wider environments on the devices. Classic example (in an industry largely orthogonal to Apple, to factor Apple out of the discussion): game programming for a PC versus a console. The PC game company has to support a million different combinations of video and sound and input hardware and operating system, which takes mountains of effort (or cost) that the console company can put into the actual game experience instead (or save the costs.)

This happens at smaller scales too. An iPhone developer has to support exactly one form factor, exactly one screen size, exactly one input method. An Android developer needs to contend with a wide range of screen sizes and resolutions and keyboards and touch responsitivity. Sure, it's possible for the Android developer to accommodate all those devices. But we live in the reality of the capitalist market, where the resources to make that investment of time and effort may not be available.

Taking choice away from the user, imposing a jailed environment, can indeed lead to a better experience overall, in that the content producers can focus more tightly.

Yes, this was always the argument given in support of the monopoly Microsoft Windows used to have on commodity computer operating systems. Some proposed that having only one platform choice was more economically efficient for the industry as a whole. I don't think Apple was really on board with this idea back then.

I do not think that requiring all computers have only one display resolution for the convenience of software developers ends up being a winning strategy in the long run. It may be a winning strategy for Apple's business of course, at least until Apple decides to do an iPad or a "retina display" or for whatever other reason decides that a different form factor is in their own interest.

I didn't say it was a necessary condition for usability. I said that Jobs positives greatly outweighed his negatives and that it is ridiculous to claim that it's a good thing that he's no longer influencing technology.

Did anyone expect him to say something different?

It's the first time I've seen his political blog. I'm always disheartened when I find out guys who used to do cool stuff now just spend their days tweeting or blogging about politics. It's like visiting your grandpa who used to do woodworking and finding out he now just watches Fox News all day.

> Did anyone expect him to say something different?

He could have said nothing at all.

He had the opportunity to remain silent for sure.

I agree. But the fact is Mr. Stallman is more prone to choose to make really bad remarks. Silence is something he needs to practice more.

I used to admire him a lot, but he is really not here anymore, he lives in a place far far away from reality.

Copy pasted from the page for convenience:

Steve Jobs, the pioneer of the computer as a jail made cool, designed to sever fools from their freedom, has died.

As Chicago Mayor Harold Washington said of the corrupt former Mayor Daley, "I'm not glad he's dead, but I'm glad he's gone." Nobody deserves to have to die - not Jobs, not Mr. Bill, not even people guilty of bigger evils than theirs. But we all deserve the end of Jobs' malign influence on people's computing.

Unfortunately, that influence continues despite his absence. We can only hope his successors, as they attempt to carry on his legacy, will be less effective.

What an arse!

Made me laugh at the very least, RMS is a nutter.

Wow, reads like something a psychopath would write. Reminds me of Cat's diary entry: http://www.goodeatsfanpage.com/humor/otherhumor/dog_cat_diar...

Wow. How really? He was writing his opinion. Is that considered psychopath?

Lack of empathy is the definition of psychopathy. A psychopath will look at someone ran over on the street and think "too bad it ruined that nice jacket" or something similarly disjointed form the fact that a human being is dead. Stallman's comment is similarly unempathetic.

A psychopath might also feel kinship with someone they've never met and defend them like family.


Or we could stop calling each other psychopaths.

> A psychopath might also feel kinship with someone they've never met and defend them like family

No, psychopaths don't feel kinship with anything but themselves.

I lost a point for suggesting that we not bandy about a medical term as a pejorative. I apologize for offending anyone.

No hard feelings; nice little site you have. I would drop reference to bitter humor from "hire me" page though; not many bosses I know like bitter people.

(Reply to bluekeybox). I appreciate the compliment and advice. I may tone my language down but I figured I should be honest! :)

Lighten up, I was only half-serious. Even if RMS is indeed a psychopath, he's not a very dangerous one.

It's interesting - I question why Stallman felt the need to say anything. Have some respect in death - and even if he chooses to ignorantly portray himself as an arse by continuing to poor criticism on someone 1 day after their death - I put this to you.

If Stallmans "dream" of "everythings free" truly prevailed. Most of the technology that we use would never have been invented anyway. The capitalist nature of society demands returns for injections of investment, and indeed, this is how investment generates advancement and so on. Stallman continually criticises closed environments - and while I do applaud what he is trying to advocate in terms of "open source" computing - I do strongly disagree with "we all deserve the end of Jobs' malign influence on people's computing."

Really ? That "malign influence" across 4 decades is what has shaped computing. Indeed, the typefaces representing the letters in your poorly timed comment, Mr. Stallman, wouldn't even align. Malign indeed.

There is nothing about death that demands respect. Anyone can do it, and eventually we all will do it.

This brutal rationality about death guff misses all sorts of points. People dying makes other people feel sad, it's just how the world is. Everyone dies and yet it's still a big deal.

It's really hard to explain to someone who doesn't get it why death is a big issue but if you don't take into account that death is a sad thing for some people you just end up looking like a dick at the funeral.

The world needs freedom, and the world needs order. Stallman was and is about freedom. Jobs was about order.

Exactly. It is important to note that while RMS does hold himself to his own high standards, he's been on the record numerous times that he doesn't actually expect people to do as he does. He recognizes full well that pragmatism is a factor.

The last straw ... Good-bye Mr. Stallman - we may not agree but I won't spit on your grave. And I'll continue making money from closed source software and contributing to open source communities whether or not you approve.

I agree, what an asshole. Saying that the world will be a better place after someone dies should be reserved for mass murderers and lobbyists - it's a harsh and inappropriate statement about a leading industry figure, whether you agree with that figure or not.

For example, I violently disagree with RMS on a lot of things, but I still believe he is a visionary, and Open Source is a valuable concept that will always be an important part of my life. And I won't be "glad he's gone" when his time comes. Too bad he can't do exactly that for Steve Jobs and give the man some respect. What he displays here is nothing but irrational hate, a mean and low move on RMSs part.

>Saying that the world will be a better place after someone dies should be reserved for mass murderers and lobbyists

Yep. Certainly not for people that hire lobbyists though. Nothing wrong with paying people to do something despicable, its not like you're actually doing it yourself.

Look, I don't advocate that Jobs was a saint, far from it actually. But I don't think the world will be a better place without him either. So yeah, I believe people like RMS are despicable for being jubilant about another person's demise and that won't change - no matter how hostile or snarky you lot are about it.

Edit: obviously, I should not have used hyperbole to imply that whenever a lobbyist dies, the world is a better place. That was rather stupid of me. I do believe the world would gain something if lobbyism didn't exist though. So if Steve Jobs had done nothing else in his life but paying lobbyists...

I'm glad you called it "Open Source"; RMS hates that :)

So I guess I should have mentioned that I'm a Linux user? But I use Ubuntu Linux instead of that GNU/Linux ;)

"We can only hope his successors, as they attempt to carry on his legacy, will be less effective."

Or perhaps the hope should be to make more "effective" free software instead of having ill wishes towards your competitors. I mean, Stallman can really preach about free software all he wants, but most people in the consumer world probably wont turn down a superior closed source product based on that merit alone. The biggest factor in deciding winners or losers here is the quality of the products being created by the two methodologies, and I am yet to be convinced that the free software approach consistently creates the better product.

Fun with circles:

Nobody cares about free software. Free software then becomes the domain of technical folks paid by big companies and amateurs. Because of this, nobody cares about free software, so it remains the domain of:

It's worth remembering that even Stallman himself admits he is mildly autistic. Autism is often characterized by black and white thinking and lack of empathy towards others - both of which are displayed to excess in his comment.

This is fascinating and very relevant -- do you have a source?


From end-note 2. "Stallman considers himself afflicted, to some degree, by autism: a condition that, he says, makes it difficult for him to interact with people."

Since when has Stallman ever been subtle? At least he is consistent. I saw nothing wrong with his statement.

Stallman is as clueless about communication as ever. That’s no way to convince people.

I don't think Stallman cares about convincing -- his role is to be an uncompromising extremist, which he does quite well.

In any movement, you need people to set the goalpost so far away that others can seem reasonable by comparison. They serve a purpose to the movement, but they themselves risk being ostracized and marginalized.

On the facts, I think he's wrong about Jobs -- Apple has done a lot to make it possible for free alternatives of some important software to exist. What they are doing to make the web (HTML5) a reasonable alternative to Flash is almost enough. In fact, closing iOS to Flash is the main reason that it's happening.

No, I don’t think Stallman furthers his goals in any way.

"That’s no way to convince people."

Why is convincing people the be-all and end-all of communication? Doesn't just being right count for something?

Obviously you need a lot of people who are willing to do the work of convincing folks, but you also need other people who are willing to be right whether it's popular or not. Every book I have ever read on selling change within organizations says that you need to start by talking with the people who are the most receptive to new ideas, regardless of where they are in the hierarchy.

Unfortunately, when you are right but don't communicate it well, people will tend to discard your truth.

I personally don't think Stallman is entirely right, but I think he articulates his ideas quite clearly. Anyone who doesn't listen to him because he has a beard or whatever clearly doesn't care about the truth in the first place.

That's not to say that it's not worth convincing people who don't care about the truth, but rather that you need different kinds of people willing to play different kinds of roles in order to create social change. Just because Stallman isn't going to be the guy who convinces the masses doesn't mean that what he's doing (in general) isn't vital to the movement.

Stallman has never been able to convince people. In fact I've argued his cause is worse off because of him. For as good of a programmer he may be, he seems just as bad at human interaction.

I consider this another fitting tribute. To be despised by Stallman in this way is something to be proud of -- IMO, it means you probably did something right.

You know, I have some feeling surrounding Jobs' passing (while I never met him, I've known a number of people who did -- mostly from 20+ years ago), and I've appreciated the tributes. But there is also the desire and need to discuss it in context. Some respect may well be warranted, and there may not be the need to rush headlong into critical analysis, but Jobs' passing does promote a lot of attention and focus that will not continue indefinitely.

Richard's statement may seem in some ways including timing somewhat harsh, but it's entirely consistent with his position and it is a valuable counterpoint to the notion, and sentimentality, of Jobs as a savior of the technical -- and broader, in various definitions (U.S. industry, design, personal achievement, etc., etc.) -- world.

I felt that HN's front page organically filling with Jobs posts was a fitting, and moving, tribute. But this is also HN, where we analyze and discuss things critically. And I would expect the stories and comments to move to a full and varied spectrum of views.

The resurrection of the Mac, and of Apple, was built in good part upon BSD. Safari was born of Webkit. There is not just an either or in this story, there is a co-opting and commercial progression that is quite worthy of consideration and discussion.

There is also the fact that UNIX/Linux systems remained and remain expensive in the commercial sphere and difficult for the typical end user to manage in the free sphere. More and more people have been appreciating Apple products because, for they most part, they can plug them in, turn them on, and they "just work". It's a relief to have someone else managing "that security stuff" (whatever latent and perhaps nascent weakenesses may as yet remain largely unknown to the general public). And to have someone else deciding, we won't cheapen the design and manufacturing further, to the point where things break in six months or are uncomfortable to use.

Most of us never knew Steve, personally. It's a mark of his influence how we nonetheless feel the effect of his passing on our lives -- at a personal level.

But there needs to be room for a larger conversation. In part precisely because and as a reflection of this influence, there are important matter to discuss. Not all aspects will be flattering of Mr. Jobs. But that is the nature of the position he inhabited and the decisions he made.

So, lets make some room for that discourse.

For my part, "free" vs "walled garden" is a critical distinction playing out right now in the computational and communcations space. What Apple has done and offers really does need close consideration. Monitors and controls are general tools, readily turned to the purpose of the hand that wields them. So, what really will work for us, on this spectrum from "anarchy" to "jail"? Is it really a spectrum, or is it a slippery slope leading inevitably to one extreme or the other?

Steve Jobs made some important decisions and executed them superbly. Were they -- will they be -- the right ones?

Well said.

I generally don't agree with Stallman's viewpoint, but his voice is important. I would neither like to see an all encompassing Jobs-world nor a Stallman-world. As long as the one exists with the other we all have more opportunity. The Jobs approach enables mass consumption of technology. The Stallman approach enables fully detailed exploration of technology. Either, on their own, severely restricts access to technology. In the case of the former, through disseminating technology by fiat. In the case of the latter, through disseminating technology only to the dedicated and skillful.

I don't see how either one can disappear and leave the other as the complete dominating implementation of technology. It doesn't appear to be a possibility. Even with market domination of the walled-garden approach, the hacker will always have the opportunity and capability to start from scratch. There's nothing stopping anyone from building a better mobile OS.

Ironically, Jobs would be perfectly acceptable in Stallman's world -- he (Jobs) took free software and did what he wanted with it, exercising his right to tinker (and profit).

...I would expect the stories and comments to move to a full and varied spectrum of views....there needs to be room for a larger conversation.

You said this well, but it's been said better:

"Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify and vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as crazy, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do."

I find myself wondering which one you're referring to with that quote - Jobs or Stallman. That's probably a good thing.

It is obvious he means both.

Well, more accurately, Safari was born from KHTML. WebKit was Apple's massive retooling of it, and was widely acknowledged as superior to KHTML (someone correct me if I'm wrong) and in time replaced it. However, your point isn't necessarily invalidated, as iirc the changes were simply dumped in one large mass rather than as patches.

Additionally, OS X was created from NeXTSTEP, which - again, if I recall correctly - was built on a licensed, proprietary UNIX, so claiming that using BSD for the underlying system in some way took something away or co-opted it, as opposed to made use of it as the license allowed, seems slightly inaccurate.

That said, while I am a big fan of Apple's APIs I am astoundingly opposed to the App Store's walled garden - I surprise even myself, a self-professed fan of many things Apple - with the complete and utter disdain with which I view the terms of the App Store. It really is a jail, and it's a huge problem for the company I work at. Other than the BS about how some of our content might offend sensibilities according to some nebulous standard of western values (disclosure: I work at a company that streams anime), the policies applied seem to do little else than stifle competition.


With Siri, I see something bad as well. It seems that controlling the user experience of search - the user experience, the anointed services - leads down a path where it is not the search providers with the best results or presentation which win, but the one which Apple anoints with their approval. Apple seems to think that producing the device entitles them to applying rules which enable Apple to step in and compete with an advantage on things which are not their core competencies. I think this is dangerously close to anti-trust territory, in which a monopoly (not bad by itself) could be abused to foster anti-competitive acts.


You are right, I incorrectly conflated Webkit with KHTML. It is really KHTML that I had in mind.

I seem to recall that OS X ultimately picked up -- sigh, I'm getting old; was/is it the Open variant? -- BSD when Apple's own kernel efforts became too unwieldy. Yes, portions of the "higher" ecosystem are in more significant degree Apple -- and NeXT -- productions, but the root of it all, so to speak, became BSD. Unless I'm wrong -- corrections welcome.

How many of us remember, with the "walled garden", a few years ago a number of... "appeals" reaching Jobs personally, who not entirely infrequently intervened to override a bureaucratic decision made by the organization? That is a significant factor with this walled garden. Whatever else one thinks about him, Steve had really good taste in these matter. The walled garden worked as well as it did, in once sense, because ultimately it was Steve's garden.

With Steve's passing, that oversight passes to a fairly walled off organization. And we all know, or should know, how well organizations do with such decision making, over time. And have at least a nagging intuition about the coincidence of increased secrecy with increasingly bad decisions.

This is one aspect that, I think, bothers a lot of people about Steve's passing, whether consciously or sub-consciously. Steve developed an organization that worked very well for Steve and with Steve at the helm, the ultimate arbiter. With him gone, it's not at all clear that this direction -- and effectiveness -- can continue.

Ideology should never compromise basic decency. I should hope. It seems people in this comment chain are assuming they are mutually exclusive: they are not.

RMS: standing on principle at any cost until the bitter end. What a trite, insensitive comment to make.

I agree with rms on a lot of things, but this was truly tasteless and disrespectful.

I always thought he was a bit of an a-hole but this is very disrespectful.

IMO I agree with him.

I don't have any problems with his beliefs, he can believe what he wants. But publishing that 1 day after Jobs death is disrespectful. Better to just not say anything.

Ah. Your right anyways. I'm just agreeing with him.

I would've never say that he is crazy, but this crosses the line.

Steve Jobs created products that people love and are more than willing to pay for, even wait in long lines in the rain for. Even during the slowest economy the Apple store at my local mall is filled with life. Stallman loves his "freedom" - well Steve Jobs was free to create a profitable company and do it his own way, apparently Stallman would like to do away with such freedoms.

I wonder why some people still hear a guy who uses email to access the internet.

Because he still makes good points.

Judge the value of statements on their merit, not on how their writer surfs the web.

I can't believe I actually need to say that.

I am just wordless. Probably 'jerk' is the best I can say.

link seems down and google's cache seems old, any mirror ?

Constant Jackass.

Interesting, the first guy not gushing over Jobs and hastily putting together a tribute is Stallman.

I like it. :)

Unfortunate comments by a deluded man.

I wonder if this guy thinks there is ANY software that is worthy of being purchased or is it all tainted in some way? Has he ever purchased a can of soda, a movie ticket, a laptop computer, etc.? How does he even subsist in our corporate consumerist society without compromising his highly developed sense of right and wrong? I don't know but gathering from his hateful disposition it must not be easy.

What Stallman's for is free as in 'free speech'. Free as in 'free beer' is something completely different.

As far as I understand his philosophy, it has nothing to do with paying for software and all to do with your freedom to modify said software whether you paid for it or not to suit your needs.

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