Ensuring the success of free software

20 respuestas [Último envío]
Lofenyy
Desconectado/a
se unió: 03/24/2020

Hey, I'm relatively new to Trisquel and free software in general. I'm currently dual-booting Windows 10 with Trisquel, but I plan on switching fully eventually. I'm only using Windows for Photoshop for the most part at the moment, until my monthly subscription expires. I'm looking for a decent alternative.

I'm curious, what resources do you believe are essential to ensuring the success of the free software movement? What do you think of people who use free software but can't really do a whole lot to contribute back? What are your thoughts on open source? I get the impression that a lot of people prefer open source to free software, why do you think that is?

Thanks

PublicLewdness
Desconectado/a
se unió: 03/15/2020

As far as resources I would say the most important are convictions. Seems cringy but if people were to just go for the easy option then they would probably drop a lot of free software as it is rarley the easy option. It is why I believe RMS is good for free software for instance. He is a polarizing figure but his convictions towards free software are as solid as they come and you just know that no matter what else he won't sell out the movement.

I think there are always things people can do to contribute even in small ways. I don't code for instance and never will but I can try to donate what money I can to projects I use. I can spread by word of mouth various projects to people who may not know their option. For instance when people mention they are looking to drop closed source messaging apps it is a good time to bring Matrix and XMPP to their attention. If you speak multiple languages you may be able to help with translations. You can always answer questions in forums when able. You can try to file good bug reports when you come across an issue. Lots of options for people who can't themselves code.

I'm going to assume you mean my thoughts on open source specifically and not free software. My thoughts on open source are "good intentions but not far enough". Code may be open but unless the license used allows one the freedom to modify it and distribute it then there are plenty of cases where issues may not get fixed or projects may die that otherwise could be forked.

My opinion on the popularity is that many people just don't know the difference. They have probably never heard the phrase "all free software is open source but not all open source software is free". I think many also hit a wall of caring. They may just want to use what they want to use without having to do so much research into what they use. If one wants to go the route of a totally free system then it is a ton of research needed into hardware; operating systems; software; licenses; etc. If you already work a 9-5 job then there isn't always a ton of free time in which to learn all of this. It takes effort and committment.

nadebula.1984
Desconectado/a
se unió: 05/01/2018

It is impossible for free software to achieve success in the current capitalist world. Free Software Movement, as RMS calls it, is a part of socialism revolution (so, the resources required to ensure its success are socialist revolutions), although RMS himself is counter-revolutionary (ultimately, he is a petty bourgeois, isn't he?).

There were successful socialist revolutions on the world. Unfortunately, all former socialist countries failed to defend their socialist state powers. They all became fascist regimes after capitalist restorations.

lanun
Desconectado/a
se unió: 04/01/2021

> There were successful socialist revolutions on the world. Unfortunately, all former socialist countries failed to defend their socialist state powers.

So they were successful, but ultimately failed. Do you have any idea why? Also, where would you put Cuba?

Apart from these nagging questions, I agree that the current political, economic and social systems most of us are living in are hellbent on transforming anything and everything into a commodity. I am already considering selling what functional organs I have left in order to be able to donate one last time to the FSF before free software goes the dodo's way.

I do not believe a revolution is a good idea, and I do not see one coming soon anyway. Especially not a communist one. What we can see is local efforts by people to recreate social bounds and rebuild from locally available resources. Free software can be of invaluable help in this effort, for it gives power back to users, including those who do not stand anywhere on the "political spectrum", for politics has long forsaken them. They are of course invisible from the academic ivory tower.

Avron
Desconectado/a
se unió: 08/18/2020

https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/open-source-misses-the-point.html partially explains the difference.

One point that is not reflected there is in fact the freedom to copy and modify, which stems from the fact that software is not material and you can easily make perfect copies without affecting anyone. The same would normally apply to any non-material thing, such as any text, music or knowledge but we live in a stupid society that is materially able to provide a decent life to everyone but is actually making people to struggle for it and is promoting restricting the right to copy as the only way for people who spend time creating them to earn the money they need to live.

Personally, I doubt we can get free software everywhere without a radical change in society.

koszkonutek
Desconectado/a
se unió: 03/19/2020

> One point that is not reflected there is in fact the freedom to copy and modify

It seems some people here assume "Open Source" to relate to software with code publicly available. Well, the name itself suggests that. However, in order to meet the actual official definition of "Open Source" (which is, btw, based on "Debian Free Software Guidelines"), a program must allow modification and redistribution, just as in case of free/libre software. If we look at the Wikipedia list of licenses[1], we can see OSI and FSF approvals differ only slightly. FSF rejects software available under copyleft even stronger than its own (e.g. one that requires all modifications to be given back to the copyright holder). OSI accepts these but I saw someone claim this is by mistake... Besides that, OSI reject public domain waivers and some other, seemingly fair licenses.

OSI-approved licenses rejected by the FSF seem to be some obscure ones. One is unlikely to come across one of them on a typical day.

If Open Source only concentrates on practical benefits like better audited code, community contributions, etc., this could explain why it might be unwilling to accept licenses that give all 4 freedoms but make public development somewhat difficult or risky.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_free_and_open-source_software_licenses#Approvals

Lofenyy
Desconectado/a
se unió: 03/24/2020

Thanks for all of your interesting responses. Sorry for all the questions, but this is interesting stuff.

Can you recommend me a free alternative to Photoshop? Generally speaking, is it more important that the free software movement have stronger leaders, or that more people use free software? Is it a popular belief that the free software movement needs Socialism to thrive? Is it the free software movement that needs to change to fit society, or the other way around? Is simply using free software is a contribution to the movement, or is it leeching, in a sense? Do you think that the Open Source movement poses a threat to the Free Software movement? Is Open Source more popular, generally speaking? Why don't people care about free software?

Magic Banana

I am a member!

Desconectado/a
se unió: 07/24/2010

Learn GIMP while (not after, for a smoother transition) abandoning Photoshop. Maybe starting with non-urgent and easier projects. I suggest GIMP for being the most cited free software alternative to Photoshop, in particular (but not only) for picture editing. GIMP is in Trisquel's default installation. If you more precisely explain what you do with Photoshop, users of that forum who are into image creation/edition (unlike me) may recommend other programs too.

https://www.fsf.org/about and https://opensource.org/about clearly explain the values behind "free software" and "open source". Respectively, "having control over the technology we use in our homes, schools and businesses, where computers work for our individual and communal benefit, not for proprietary software companies or governments who might seek to restrict and monitor us" and "a development method for software that harnesses the power of distributed peer review and transparency of process". To sum it up even more: the free software movement cares about respecting essential freedoms of every computer user, whereas "open source" proponents care about developing technically-better software.

As a consequence, the free software movement criticizes proprietary software developers, whereas "open source" proponents usually do not see anything wrong with developing proprietary software. In fact, the term "open source" was coined to specifically *not* talk about user freedoms and *not* criticize proprietary software developers. The section "Fear of Freedom" in https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/open-source-misses-the-point.html explains it well and http://producingoss.com/en/introduction.html#free-vs-open-source (a section in the book "Producing Open Source Software", hence in favor of "open source") confirms it.

From a practical (rather than philosophical) point of view, "free" and "open source" are almost identical (but philosophy matters!), as koszkonutek already explained: there are only a few obscure licenses that the Open Source Initiative deems "open source" but that the Free Software Foundation does not accept, or vice versa.

https://www.gnu.org/help/ lists ways to help the free software movement in general and the GNU project in particular. The items listed under "Spread awareness about GNU and the Free Software Movement" are certainly the most accessible. They are not the least: most people have simply never heard they deserve essential freedoms in their computing and that is the first step for anybody to take control over her computing. The overall goal of the free software movement is to free the cyberspace and all its inhabitants.

I do not think it is "a popular belief that the free software movement needs Socialism to thrive". On this forum, nadebula.1984 is essentially the only user who constantly relates the free software movement to socialism. That said, free software supporters usually lean to the left side of the political spectrum and open source supporters to its right side. "Free software" indeed insists on human rights, whereas "open source" is business-oriented.

That orientation gives "open source" wealthy corporate advocates, who can have their words printed in newspapers. That is certainly a significant reason for the success of "open source" as a term. Another reason is that supporting "open source" is easy, not radical at all. Indeed, contrary to "free software", "open source" is not a political movement. It only promotes a development method that is supposed to produce technically-better software (what is actually unclear), not even criticizing proprietary software, the opposite approach.

In contrast, proprietary software is the enemy of the free software movement. "Open source" is not the enemy! It actually helps us have more and better free software. That said, "open source", which purposefully never talks about freedoms, does not help users discover they deserve essential freedoms in their computing. Many GNU/Linux users who call themselves "Linux users" have never heard of GNU or of the free software movement. They listen to Linus Torvalds and other open source figures who do not even value their own freedoms (and accept proprietary firmware in the Linux kernel, in the case of Linus Torvalds).

koszkonutek
Desconectado/a
se unió: 03/19/2020

> They listen to Linus Torvalds and other open source figures who do not even value their own freedoms

While the "open source figures" are not dedicated to freedom the way we are, statement they "do not even value their own freedoms" is IMHO not 100% accurate. Torvalds himself said he consideres kernel blobs a bad thing and includes them only because people want so. Eric S. Raymond (founder of "Open Source") takes voice on many freedom-related matters. To the extent I remember him mirrorring the HDCP master key on his site...

That said, they ("open source figures") likely do say some other things one shouldn't listen to

Magic Banana

I am a member!

Desconectado/a
se unió: 07/24/2010

Fair enough. Writing that, I was actually mostly thinking about Linus' adoption, and imposition to the rest of the Linux developers, of the revision control system BitKeeper, back in 2002. It was proprietary software of the worst kind: https://marc.info/?l=linux-kernel&m=103454948625224

J.B. Nicholson-Owens
Desconectado/a
se unió: 06/09/2014

name at domain wrote:
> While the "open source figures" are not dedicated to freedom the way we are,
> statement they "do not even value their own freedoms" is IMHO not 100% accurate.
> Torvalds himself said he consideres kernel blobs a bad thing and includes them
> only because people want so.

But not so bad that Torvalds tell users to get their proprietary kernel software
somewhere else. Nobody can fully comply with the language of GPLv2 (distributing
"complete corresponding machine-readable source code" which means "the preferred form
of the work for making modifications to it") for Torvalds' fork of the Linux kernel.
GNU Linux-libre, however, is 100% free software where one can comply with the GPLv2.

As for free software and open source philosophy in action as it applies to the
development of the Linux kernel, consider the BitKeeper years: Torvalds chose the
proprietary BitKeeper source code management software because Torvalds liked its
functionality, because he was offered a gratis BitKeeper license, and apparently
because Torvalds did not care that that choice encouraged others to lose their
software freedom with that program as he had in choosing BitKeeper.

Andrew Tridgell, one of the Samba developers, connected to a BitKeeper server, issued
a help command[1], and received a textual response back with command summaries.
Tridgell used that information to learn how one could submit code revisions to it
without running BitKeeper or having a BitKeeper license. Tridgell's effort was
labeled "reverse engineering" (which is a little odd considering that the help text
was output from the proprietary BitKeeper program -- as [1] says, "Tridge noted that
this sort of output made the "reverse engineering" process rather easier. What, he
wondered, was the help command there for? Did the BitKeeper client occasionally get
confused and have to ask for guidance?"). BitKeeper developer Larry McVoy tried to
cast the situation as though reverse engineering were a bad thing[2].

McVoy's response made no sense when viewed from the perspective of what's in the
public interest and considering what McVoy had already chosen to put into BitKeeper.
But once you see that McVoy's software was in jeopardy of being replaced with
fully-compatible free software, and that most computer news coverage was (and
remains) establishment-friendly -- there are plenty of so-called journalists ready to
frame a debate as if we should all work to bolster a proprietor's power -- then
you'll understand how proprietor-friendly Torvalds' reaction is in the exchange that
followed -- Torvalds was reportedly quite upset at Tridgell[3].

After the open source developers' BitKeeper licenses were pulled, Torvalds began work
on what would become git.

Torvalds' decisions are the choices of someone who has no interest in software
freedom for himself regarding software he didn't write. As far as we can tell he has
little interest in the software freedom of others except where granting software
freedom might help him in his own efforts. Such is a position quite compatible with
the younger, neoliberal counterreaction to free software known as the open source
developmental methodology. That take is diametrically opposed to the older free
software social movement's philosophy. Today you'll see proprietors champion open
source like Microsoft has shifted from calling open source nasty names to pushing the
slogan "Microsoft [heart symbol] open source"; a clear sign that *open source* poses
no threat to proprietors.

[1] https://lwn.net/Articles/132938/
[2] https://www.linux.com/news/bitkeeper-and-linux-end-road/
[3] https://archive.vn/EZPlI

Avron
Desconectado/a
se unió: 08/18/2020

> As a consequence, the free software movement criticizes proprietary software developers, whereas "open source" proponents usually do not see anything wrong with developing proprietary software.

I understand that the free software movement tries to promote the development of free software that satisfies most people's needs so that they can use their computer without running non-free software.

However, a company that charge people to run the proprietary software it has produced will make a lot more money than a company that produces free software, and most people developping software are not rich enough to work without getting paid.

> I do not think it is "a popular belief that the free software movement needs Socialism to thrive".

Apparently it is not, but I wonder how you see free software to eventually be successful. In principle, since capitalists made money before there was proprietary software, they could continue to make money and rule the world without making software proprietary. But do you expect that to happen? Personally, I support free software and I share nadebula.1984's view that it looks impossible in a capitalist society.

That said, to me socialism means power to the working people, like what happened for a short time in Paris 150 years ago. As far as I am aware, that never happened in China: after the chinese communist party lost its urban base with the massive slaughter by the KMT in 1927, it did not even try to regain any, it excluded its founder and behaved as a purely nationalist party. "China shakes the world" by Jack Belden is a good testimony of the foundation of the PRC.

Parodper
Desconectado/a
se unió: 05/01/2020

You can charge for free software.

Also, free software does not have anything to do with communism or
capitalism.

Avron
Desconectado/a
se unió: 08/18/2020

> You can charge for free software.

You can charge to develop free software, to maintain it and to provide support for using it.

You charge people for getting a copy from you of free software but anyone who already has a copy can give it for free to anyone else, so it is unlikely that you will make a living from charging for copies.

Can you charge for people to be allowed to run a copy of free software on their computers and block execution if they don't pay? I don't think so.

So I expect companies making proprietary software to always make a lot more money than companies making free software and to have the power to mislead users like when a fruit company pretends to promote privacy.

In that context, being able to not use proprietary software is likely to remain a permanent struggle.

Magic Banana

I am a member!

Desconectado/a
se unió: 07/24/2010

You charge people for getting a copy from you of free software but anyone who already has a copy can give it for free to anyone else, so it is unlikely that you will make a living from charging for copies.

Red Hat has done that for years, charging billions of dollars per year. Their subscription comes with support though.

loldier
Desconectado/a
se unió: 02/17/2016

Or SUSE, for that matter.

Access to precompiled software packages and updates is behind a paywall.

You can get a free development account for RHEL, though, but it's never guaranteed to last; they can pull the plug when they see fit.

Managing subscriptions in one-year increments is a nuisance and another layer of complication.

Magic Banana

I am a member!

Desconectado/a
se unió: 07/24/2010

However, a company that charge people to run the proprietary software it has produced will make a lot more money than a company that produces free software, and most people developping software are not rich enough to work without getting paid.

There is essentially no unemployment among software developers. Most of the money in the software industry does not come from selling the right to run the software. It comes from support: custom developments, contracts to timely solve problems, configuration, integration in the information system, formation, etc. Free software support thrives. Outside the business realm, there is public software development, even in non-socialist states. Also, crowd funding is growing. The Wikimedia foundation raised US$ 127.2 million in 2020, essentially from donations. And there are the remaining jobs dealing with software engineering: I am a university professor in computer science and I develop and distribute free software relating to my research, there is a lot of system administration work in all medium-to-large companies, etc. Developers can take such jobs too.

Anyway, most importantly:

Hoarders can get piles of money,
That is true, hackers, that is true.
But they cannot help their neighbors;
That's not good, hackers, that's not good.

In less lyrical terms, it looks like you need to abuse your users to make billions of dollars in the software industry, but that should never justify abusing users. By the same argument, one could for instance defend stealing: that can make "a lot more money" than getting paid to positively contribute to the society too.

Avron
Desconectado/a
se unió: 08/18/2020

> There is essentially no unemployment among software developers.

ISn't it much more difficult to get a decent position to work on developing free software rather than proprietary software?

Even if most of the money in the software industry comes from support, it is for support of proprietary software now, and the advantage of software being proprietary is the control on what it allows and does not allow.

I certainly support public software development this but how does it scale against proprietary software today? (by the way, to me socialism is about workers' self-management and democratic control of the economy, so I don't know of any socialist state so far).

> In less lyrical terms, it looks like you need to abuse your users to make billions of dollars in the software industry, but that should never justify abusing users.

That abuse is legal today, most people see it as normal and just try to pay as little as they can to get what they want, much like for any material product they buy.

In that context, the main advantage of free software is not having to pay for it but when companies making proprietary software get revenues without having to charge license fees that advantage disappears and people will just use what looks more attractive or easier to use in what they can get for free.

I am trying to promote free software as the only way for users to have control over their own computers, but people usually consider that too much effort.

My guess is that, even if there is success in promoting free software widely, which is a huge task, current laws make it possible to revert any such success at any time. Making all software public domain seems the only way to stop that.

Magic Banana

I am a member!

Desconectado/a
se unió: 07/24/2010

ISn't it much more difficult to get a decent position to work on developing free software rather than proprietary software?

If the developer only seeks a maximization of her salary, then she will more probably end up developing proprietary software. But I do not believe it is "difficult to get a decent position" (instead of a maximized salary) in the software industry that does not require developing proprietary software. Essentially all developers get high salaries. As far as I understand, video game developers have smaller salaries... but they are proprietary software developers.

Even if most of the money in the software industry comes from support, it is for support of proprietary software now

I do not believe it is true either: GNU/Linux dominates the server market. There are economic studies on that topic. As far as I remember, they show that free software support has been the most thriving segment of the software industry for many years now.

In that context, the main advantage of free software is not having to pay for it

Here also, I do not believe it is true. If I properly remember the studies I was referring to, companies using (some) free software point out the control of their computing as a major reason for their choice. That is precisely the point the free software movement makes.

I am trying to promote free software as the only way for users to have control over their own computers, but people usually consider that too much effort.

You seem to focus on personal computing. That is not where most of the money is. For Web browsing, word processing, watching videos, image manipulation, etc., I do not think it requires a big effort to gradually migrate to Firefox, LibreOffice, VLC, Popcorn Time, GIMP, etc. and then to GNU/Linux. But, yes, social inertia is big. And for gamers, it is much harder to migrate, for sure...

Beformed
Desconectado/a
se unió: 01/13/2017

I've heard rms that there is no way to ensure free software succeeds. You have to fight for your freedom every single day, else those who want to take advantage will do at every opportunity.

lanun
Desconectado/a
se unió: 04/01/2021

True. RMS also said that it did not matter whether the fight may be successful or not: if there is no fight, there can be no success.

That said, fighting takes huge amounts of resources, and resources are scarce. I can understand that people currently fighting for survival cannot simultaneously fight for software freedom, although they can benefit from that fight.