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Stallman Attacks Gates, Microsoft, & Charity Foundation 976

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the business-as-usual dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Richard Stallman, founder of the Free Software Foundation, has an article in the BBC in which he maintains that Gates' departure from Microsoft doesn't mean the end of proprietary software and that the free software community needs to stand strong to undo the damages Bill Gates, Microsoft, and other proprietary software vendors (explicitly naming Apple & Adobe amongst them) have done. And he slips in a claim that the Bill and Melinda Gates charity foundation doesn't really help the poor; it just pretends to while actually subjecting them to greater harm."
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Stallman Attacks Gates, Microsoft, & Charity Foundation

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  • Too far (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sayfawa (1099071) on Saturday July 05, 2008 @08:18AM (#24065383)
    I'm one of the biggest GPL zealots around here, and RMS is high on my list of respected people, but come on. There are whole medical labs dedicated to fighting TB and AIDS in southern Africa that wouldn't exist without the Bill&Melinda foundation. How is that hurting anything?
    • Re:Too far (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 05, 2008 @08:28AM (#24065425)

      There are whole medical labs dedicated to fighting TB and AIDS in southern Africa that wouldn't exist without the Bill&Melinda foundation. How is that hurting anything?

      Careful. Ask that around here and you're bound to get a few hopelessly ignorant responses from people who honestly believe Gates has done more harm than Hitler, and his giving away of billions in charity is all a ruse to solidify his ill-gotten position of power.

      I've heard RMS when he's come to give talks at my university. I admire his dedication, sure, but anyone who tries to claim that he's done more good in the world than Bill and Melinda Gates is just painfully out of touch. There are more pressing concerns in the world than software, and no, getting rid of proprietary software won't magically fix disease, starvation, etc (cue the "but we empower nations to fix their own problems with free software!!!" responses)

      • by xtracto (837672) * on Saturday July 05, 2008 @09:41AM (#24065925) Journal

        Ahem, ahem...

        I am not really impressed by B&M gates foundation... and the use they have given to it:

        e-Mexico [infoworld.com].

        Which was about to be kickstarted with Open Source (with the backup of HP, IBM, Sun, etc)... until Bill Gates went to Mexico to speak with Presidente Fox... aaaaand, guess what:


        Microsoft has pledged $60 million in software and training to help fund Internet kiosks that are being built in remote communities. The software maker has also allotted $10 million to train workers in small and mid-size businesses, along with an additional grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to the country's VAMOS MEXICO program to be used to move the country's libraries online.

        Ohh, Vamos Mexico... the foundation from Fox's wife which has been investigated for allegued corruption practices. [nytimes.com]

        Oh yes, B&M Gates foundation are God's messengers.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by chthon (580889)

          The B&MG foundation is just something that screams out hypocrisy. All Gates' actions spell out mostly that he cannot live with the fact that it is possible to earn money with around free/shared/given away software, that reality defies his letter to the Homebrew Computer Club.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Careful. Ask that around here and you're bound to get a few hopelessly ignorant responses from people who honestly believe Gates has done more harm than Hitler, and his giving away of billions in charity is all a ruse to solidify his ill-gotten position of power.

        Well, I don't think he's done any harm by giving away his money. But I'll point out that he did the world far more good in the process of earning his money than he'll ever do giving it away.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ozmanjusri (601766)
        Ask that around here and you're bound to get a few hopelessly ignorant responses

        Clever use of the "Poisoning the well" logical fallacy. Your Marketing professor would be proud of you.

        There are very valid reasons to be suspicious of Gates' new-found generosity. And there are certainly very valid reasons [iht.com] to be wary of the path the Gates Foundation is taking to world health.

        Their close financial ties to large pharmaceutical companies [wsws.org] is another example.

        According to a report published January 7 in the Los Angeles Times, the Gates foundation invests its assets in companies whose operations induce some of the health problems it seeks to combat.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TeknoHog (164938)

      There are whole medical labs dedicated to fighting TB and AIDS in southern Africa that wouldn't exist without the Bill&Melinda foundation. How is that hurting anything?

      How about a look at the big picture? Gates & co. are robbing the rich, and giving a fraction of this money to the poor. The alternative could be that we used Free software, and instead of the money going to Microsoft, it could go more directly towards helping the poor.

      • Re:Too far (Score:5, Insightful)

        by OSXCPA (805476) on Saturday July 05, 2008 @08:42AM (#24065509) Journal

        So you propose some sort of tax on free software to pay to the poor? Or, Microsoft keeps charging for Windows but makes it GPL and gives whatever money they get to the poor?

        How does your proposal work - specifically, how does the money get to the poor, and from whom?

        I'm not a MS fan at all, but given we can all use free software if we choose to and donate money to the poor, unless your plan calls for mandating Microsoft give money to charity, that company has nothing to do with the aims you espouse.

        PS - The Gates foundation may only give 'a fraction' of what it 'robs' (how does one rob by soliciting donations, again?) from the rich to the poor, but it is still donating more than you or I ever will, and therefore, has done more good than you or I will likely do in this context.

        • Re:Too far (Score:4, Insightful)

          by dvice_null (981029) on Saturday July 05, 2008 @09:00AM (#24065615)

          > how does the money get to the poor, and from whom

          Consider governments. They buy Microsoft products and the money comes from the national budgets. If they wouldn't buy the products, they could spend the money e.g. to health care (usually direct benefit for the poor) or they could even donate some of it to the countries that are more need of money.

          The point is that the money could be spend on something more important. And usually at least some of it helps the poor also.

        • Re:Too far (Score:4, Insightful)

          by TeknoHog (164938) on Saturday July 05, 2008 @09:40AM (#24065911) Homepage Journal

          So you propose some sort of tax on free software to pay to the poor? Or, Microsoft keeps charging for Windows but makes it GPL and gives whatever money they get to the poor?

          Many governments already donate for the health and development of foreign nations. It's paid by things like income tax. Better than the Microsoft tax, IMHO.

          PS - The Gates foundation may only give 'a fraction' of what it 'robs' (how does one rob by soliciting donations, again?) from the rich to the poor, but it is still donating more than you or I ever will, and therefore, has done more good than you or I will likely do in this context.

          I assume the donations don't come from thin air, but rather from the profit generated by Microsoft's illegal business practices. And since I already mentioned governments, individual people are not the fair point of comparison here.

    • Re:Too far (Score:5, Informative)

      by FooAtWFU (699187) on Saturday July 05, 2008 @08:36AM (#24065465) Homepage
      We've had articles [slashdot.org] on this before.

      Scientists who were once open with their research are now 'locked up in a cartel' and are financially motivated to support other scientists backed by the Foundation. Diversity of views is 'stifled,' dominance is bought, and Foundation views are pushed with 'intense and aggressive opposition.'"

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Bert64 (520050)

        Yes, if they were truly interested in helping the suffering they would publish the medical research so that others could assist the process and everyone could benefit.

        Instead they are actually researching medical treatments for the benefit of drugs companies. If the research became public, profits would be much lower due to competition, but the benefit to the sufferers would undoubtedly be much higher.

        Consider this...

        A drug that cures HIV/AIDS with a 1 month course would be highly profitable in the short te

        • Re:Too far (Score:4, Insightful)

          by zippthorne (748122) on Saturday July 05, 2008 @11:08AM (#24066751) Journal

          Consider this: A pharmaceutical monopoly could hold the second state. But there is such a strong incentive for a single company to destroy the others to it's own benefit (they could presumably charge as much for the one-month treatment as the lifetime-of-treatment the other companies provide, and people would pay it. They'd pay in installments if they had to) that even a two-company coalition would find it very difficult to hold together.

          Furthermore, the countries which centrally plan their pharmaceutical industry have also not found a cure for HIV.

          Conclusion: No matter how much you bellyache and whine about some percieved wrong on the part of pharmaceutical companies, The reason we don't have a cure for HIV is that curing HIV is very difficult.

          In the meantime, you're just going to have to deal with the consequences of your hedonistic lifestyle. Be very careful with the butt-sex (or avoid it entirely) and try to keep your fluid swapping within monogamous relationships.

          And not just for yourself. By becoming infected, there is a minute but non-zero chance your fluids could become part of the blood supply, or taint an improperly cleaned dental instrument, or somesuch, and therefore affect someone who didn't get to enjoy the acts which lead to the consequences.

          AIDS is only a problem because there are lot of selfish mofos out there. And not just the greedy pharma companies, either.

        • Re:Too far (Score:5, Interesting)

          by spauldo (118058) on Saturday July 05, 2008 @11:12AM (#24066781)

          I've heard this before, although generally about cancer. The problem is, that idea only works if the drug companies are a cartel.

          Let's say you're an executive for EvilCo, and your company develops that one month treatment for AIDS. You've got two choices:

          1) Patent it, sell it for major short term profits
          2) Sweep it under the rug, continue selling treatments for long term profits

          Option two sounds the best, right? But you don't exist in a vacuum. If your researchers found the cure, then how long until SatanDrugs, LLC or BeelzePharm makes that same discovery, and will they do the same thing you are? Maybe they already have. Maybe they're on their way to the patent office now...

          It's kind of like the old prisoner's dilemma scenario. You can't trust every other company to act for the collective good for the industry, and since any one of you could sell out for short term profits, why not you?

          There's also another problem, which is that it's a cold hearted bastard thing to do. If your R&D department actually discovered a cure, you think the people who know about it are going to sit quietly while you sweep it under the rug? What kind of PR are you going to get when they go public? The only way to guarantee they'd keep quiet would be to have them killed. Otherwise, your company would have the worst PR incident since the holocaust.

        • Re:Too far (Score:4, Insightful)

          by ColdWetDog (752185) * on Saturday July 05, 2008 @11:38AM (#24067037) Homepage

          Consider this...
          A drug that cures HIV/AIDS with a 1 month course would be highly profitable in the short term, but individual sufferers would only need a month supply, and eventually HIV would be all but eradicated and the market would dry up.

          Or Consider this: Due to the complex nature of retroviral diseases, we just don't KNOW how to create a drug that will eradicate the virus. Even longstanding and well funded attempts at creating a vaccine have largely failed. More money has gone into HIV / AIDS research than breast cancer (too lazy to look it up, it may be some other common disease, but the point is failure to "cure" AIDS doesn't come from lack of trying hard). It is a limitation of our understanding of the biology of the process rather than a capitalistic conspiracy to steal money from poor Africans.

          And to all of you who think that Free Software would allow third world countries to magically fund hospitals, schools and other Good Things

          Consider this:

          How is it that certain African countries are sitting on huge mineral resources and still manage to keep a majority of their population at starvation levels? It's not money per se - it's greed, corruption and a lack of institutional stability. Magical Free Software won't improve this situation one iota. Bill won't improve the situation all that much, but he's likely to do more than three million LAMP servers running on hardware scrounged from dumpsters.

        • And here is why you are wrong.

          You are assuming that CEO's are concerned with the welfare of others, specifically the next CEO.

          If a Pharma companies found a cure for AIDS, the CEO and board would make BILLIONS for themselves in bonuses because there profits would skyrocket.

          Sure in 5 years when the money started to level off they would make less profit,but why would the CEO give a rip?
          God help the CEO if the shareholders found out he withheld a cure, because there shares prices would triple.

          In short, there is no motivation for the people the run companies to kept it away from the public.

          5 years would be very quick too. It would take years and years to get everyone cured. My point would be true if id manufacturing and distribution was instantaneously.

      • by Latent Heat (558884) on Saturday July 05, 2008 @10:17AM (#24066265)
        Lee Hood, the dude who developed the automated gene sequencer, was at the U at the end of May. He talked about what he is up to these days, which is running some kind of medical research foundation in Seattle using a lot of Bill and Melinda Gates money with some NIH support in the mix.

        He mentioned that while all of the biology and engineering tech were all IP'd up, the software side was FOSS -- Google Cytoscape to look up their software project. Predictably, he mentioned that Bill Gates was against this arrangement, and Lee Hood mentioned it took a lot of upper-management pep talk and persuasion to get his in-house software people to be happy about it as well.

        I didn't bother asking Lee Hood questions about the software aspects as it was a biology symposium and the grad students were more interested in the biology aspects of the project, but I looked up Cytoscape, and guess what, it is written and extendable in Java. And this is largely on Bill and Melinda's dime.

    • Re:Too far (Score:5, Informative)

      by vertinox (846076) on Saturday July 05, 2008 @08:38AM (#24065483)

      There are whole medical labs dedicated to fighting TB and AIDS in southern Africa that wouldn't exist without the Bill&Melinda foundation. How is that hurting anything?

      Well this is what he said according to TFA:

      Gates' philanthropy for health care for poor countries has won some people's good opinion. The LA Times reported that his foundation spends five to 10% of its money annually and invests the rest, sometimes in companies it suggests cause environmental degradation and illness in the same poor countries.

      So basically, he being outed as a Charity basher because he is citing the LA times article [latimes.com] that the foundation only spends 10% of its money on actual helping the poor. He doesn't say the organization shouldn't exist... He's pointing out that they aren't doing their best job of giving to the poor because they are investing for a return.

      Read the LA Times article and decide for yourself though.

      • Re:Too far (Score:4, Insightful)

        by RonnyJ (651856) on Saturday July 05, 2008 @09:00AM (#24065611)

        The reason they 'only spend 10%' is because they have a endowment to maintain. It's far better for them to use 10% of their endowment yearly, recouping that money through investment, and then being able to sustain that level of spending indefinitely (rather than spending everything in one go!)

        For anybody wishing to bash the foundation though, the 'only spending 10%' figure provides a useful point as many people will jump to a negative conclusion without actually thinking about it.

        • Re:Too far (Score:5, Informative)

          by IrrepressibleMonkey (1045046) on Saturday July 05, 2008 @09:13AM (#24065707)

          The reason they 'only spend 10%' is because they have a endowment to maintain.

          I'm not sure anyone is criticising the foundation's financial model, but the LA Times has questioned the nature of the investments that the foundation makes to sustain itself.

          http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-gatesx07jan07,0,6827615.story?coll=la-home-headlines [latimes.com]

          I believe the assertion being made is that the foundation's charitable efforts are being sabotaged by its unethical investments.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by RonnyJ (651856)

            I'm not sure anyone is criticising the foundation's financial model

            Some people are taking it in a negative way though because of the tone of the article and how it mentions but doesn't explain the financial model. Just look at the parent post I replied to, to see somebody who took the financial model as a negative:

            So basically, he being outed as a Charity basher because he is citing the LA times article [latimes.com] that the foundation only spends 10% of its money on actual helping the poor.

      • Re:Too far (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Shihar (153932) on Saturday July 05, 2008 @09:06AM (#24065649)

        The point of a charity investing a hunk of its money is so that it can exist beyond its initial contributions. If the charity just blows all of its money, its life will last as long as people contribute to it and die the day that stops. On the other hand, if you dump a shit-ton of money into it, have that money start making a healthy interest rate, and just spend the interest, the charity continues on basically forever with its supply of cash always building, or at least remaining the same.

        • by westlake (615356) on Saturday July 05, 2008 @01:08PM (#24067825)
          In October 2006 the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was split into two entities: the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Trust, which manages the endowment assets and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which "... conducts all operations and grantmaking work, and it is the entity from which all grants are made." Also announced was the decision to "... spend all of [the Trust's] resources within 50 years after Bill's and Melinda's deaths." This would close the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Trust and effectively end the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. ... Warren Buffett has stipulated that the proceeds from the Berkshire Hathaway shares he still owns at death are to be used for philanthropic purposes within 10 years after his estate has been settled.
          The plan to close the Foundation Trust is in contrast to most large charitable foundations that have no set closure date. This should lead to lower administrative costs over the years of the Foundation Trust's life and ensure that the Foundation Trust not fall into a situation where the vast majority of its expenditures are on administrative costs, including salaries, with only token amounts contributed to charitable causes. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation [wikipedia.org]
    • Re:Too far (Score:5, Informative)

      by IrrepressibleMonkey (1045046) on Saturday July 05, 2008 @08:44AM (#24065521)
      Have a read of this article from the LA times:

      http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-gatesx07jan07,0,6827615.story?coll=la-home-headlines [latimes.com]

      I think that's what Stallman is referring to.

      Don't know how much is true, but it makes depressing reading.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mrchaotica (681592) *

        Holy cow, it's just like his strategy for software: break stuff so that you increase the market for fixes!

        • Invest in oil -> cause prostitution and mosquitoes -> give out more treatments for HIV and malaria
        • Write a crappy OS-> cause hacking and malware -> sell new OS versions and add-on security programs

        Between that and this [informatio...house.info], Gates really does sound evil!

    • There are whole medical labs dedicated to fighting TB and AIDS in southern Africa that wouldn't exist without the Bill&Melinda foundation. How is that hurting anything?

      Gates said 30 years ago that all the work he invested in making some programs should be paid back by the people "stealing" his products. But then he imposes a very expensive tax for ALL computer users in the world. And then he plays dirty to make sure other people don't give the public better and cheaper products (I'm talking before the Free Software revolution happened).

      Don't you think that's being a little hypocritical about it?

      By forcing governments to use expensive Microsoft products you prevent said co

    • Re:Too far (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ThePhilips (752041) on Saturday July 05, 2008 @09:43AM (#24065935) Homepage Journal

      As well as on numerous occasions (esp. during M$ antitrust trial) it was revelead that Bill & Melinda Gates foundation was used to funnel money into "independent" entities who were FUDing against Open Source and other M$ competitors. Also there were many reports of donations filled with freebies like M$Wind0ze and M$Office "for millions dollars." Hardly a charity.

      Check that too - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_and_Melinda_Gates_Foundation#Criticisms [wikipedia.org]

      They might be doing something good - for a change - but essentially the B&MGF is business and nothing else.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by strabes (1075839)
      I don't know anything about the foundation and I'm certainly not an expert on foreign aid (I've taken two classes on development at my university), but I just wanted to answer your question about how aid agencies can do harm. People in the West seem to have this idea that if we give enough money to the poor they will escape poverty. However, the reason the poor are poor is not because they don't have enough money, it's because as a community are unable to sustainably produce wealth. So when given aid money
  • Oh God, (Score:5, Funny)

    by Daimanta (1140543) on Saturday July 05, 2008 @08:22AM (#24065397) Journal

    My mind is screwed. It immediatly thought of RMS wielding a big a big katana running like a madman towards Gates and a legion of MS employees.

  • by speedtux (1307149) on Saturday July 05, 2008 @08:22AM (#24065401)

    Is Stallman so desperate to make Mr. Gates out to be the bad guy that heâ(TM)d sink this low?

    I don't see any "low sinking" about it. First of all, the money Gates is so charitably donating, is money he acquired from an illegal monopoly, so it is reasonable to follow where it is going.

    Second, there is a good argument to be made that foundations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are harmful and are mainly entertainment vehicles and tax shelters for the rich.

    Third, why shouldn't Stallman comment on this stuff? He started the Free Software Foundation out of social consciousness and civic concern; of course, he would comment on other social issues and may well take action, even if they have nothing to do with software.

    And why should Stallman be "desparate"? Free software is doing better than ever before, while Microsoft just keeps failing in everything they do.

    The rest of the NeoSmart files contains more bullshit. For example:

    Stallman somehow neglects to mention that â" regardless of whether morally acceptable or not â" Microsoft had the legal right to demand payment in exchange for their software.

    There is no "neglect" about it. It is not at all clear that Gates had that legal right at the time; in a sense, Gates helped establish that right, to the deteriment of us all, according to Stallman's reading.

    I don't agree with what Stallman says, but he is at least consistent and logical. NeoSmart is a bunch of bullshit and FUD.

    Is Microsoft getting so desperate that they have to step up their bullshit and FUD machine another notch? I guess it's a good sign.

    • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Saturday July 05, 2008 @08:30AM (#24065437) Journal

      Second, there is a good argument to be made that foundations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are harmful and are mainly entertainment vehicles and tax shelters for the rich.

      When I read how charities are a 'tax shelter', I realize how stupid the writer is. And in this case, how dumb the moderators are.

      Give away a dollar to save 40 cents. Brilliant strategy. Especially when you consider the wealthy can probably reduce their tax liability to 20 cents or less per dollar.

      Tell you what... give me $10,000 and I will give you back $4,000. Then you to can do the same brilliant 'tax shelter' strategy.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by OSXCPA (805476)

        Come on, this is /. not the AICPA [aicpa.org]. Give a nerd a break on bad math skills!

        Seriously, you would not believe how often accountants hear 'laypeople' talk about how much of a 'scam' charitable donations are for the rich. It is a popular meme that just will not die, mores the pity.

      • by mdfst13 (664665) on Saturday July 05, 2008 @11:35AM (#24066981)

        Give away a dollar to save 40 cents.

        No, you're missing the point. When he gave the money to the foundation, he was not giving it away; he was just transferring the money from his personal wealth to the foundation's wealth (which he controls). I'll shift from the Gates foundation (which may be entirely legitimate) to the Ford Foundation for the example.

        Henry Ford transferred stock from his personal wealth to the foundation. He gave away nothing, as he controlled both his personal wealth and the foundation. The difference is that when he died, his heirs paid inheritance taxes on the personal wealth transferred from him to them; no tax was paid on the foundation assets, even though control passed from Henry to heirs.

        The Ford Foundation has since stopped being the largest owner of Ford stock (in 1956, when the stock went public) and stopped being controlled by the Ford family (in 1976, when Henry II stepped down).

        It's also interesting that the Ford Foundation gives away an even smaller proportion of its assets than the Gates foundation does. According to wikipedia, the Ford Foundation [wikipedia.org] gave away only $530 million on assets of $13.7 billion, about 4% rather than Gates' 10%.

        Transferring wealth to a foundation is not like giving money away. The money isn't given away until the foundation actually does so. While its under foundation control, it can still be controlled by the person who established the foundation (depending on the rules of the foundation). That's ignoring any additional dodges, e.g. using the foundation money to issue loans to your corporation or employ your relatives.

    • by LibertineR (591918) on Saturday July 05, 2008 @08:32AM (#24065445)
      You see, many of you try to define Microsoft by YOUR rules. That is stupid.

      To suggest that "Microsoft is failing at everything they do" is just ridiculous. Microsoft is concerned about the generation of DOLLARS. Their rules are about making MONEY. In that sense, they are spectacularly successful at what they do, whether you or I agree with their motivation, ethics or whatever.

      Its like trying to say that China sucks because they are not a Democracy. Sure, they may suck indeed to you and me, but to China, they are doing just fine.

      Stallman is a horrible spokesperson, in the sense that he allows himself through his own words to be defined as a kook, allowing his goals to be written of as the rantings of a madman.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Coneasfast (690509)

      First of all, the money Gates is so charitably donating, is money he acquired from an illegal monopoly, so it is reasonable to follow where it is going.

      This is not RMS' argument. His argument is that the charity invests some of their money into companies like oil plants which pollute the air, see this article [latimes.com].

      If you're going to defend RMS, at least get it right.

      From the article:

      Monica Harrington, a senior policy officer at the foundation, said the investment managers had one goal: returns "that will allow for the continued funding of foundation programs and grant making." Bill and Melinda Gates require the managers to keep a highly diversified portfolio, but make no specific directives.

      I don't think they're specifically looking for investment in oil and gas companies, this just happened to be one of their investments (I'm not saying that it's OK, but RMS can blow things way out of proportion).

  • Common decency (Score:3, Insightful)

    by msgmonkey (599753) on Saturday July 05, 2008 @08:35AM (#24065457)

    would atleast dictate that he refers to Bill Gates as Mr Gates rather than "Gates", I find it offensive and I'm not the one even being attacked.

    I once read something along the lines that presentation is90% of the arugument or something along those lines.

  • Article focus (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RonnyJ (651856) on Saturday July 05, 2008 @08:36AM (#24065463)

    As someone who doesn't really follow the free software movement, I think he should have focused on promoting the advantages of open-source, rather than bashing those that are free to license their software whichever way they choose.

    Gates didn't invent proprietary software, and thousands of other companies do the same thing. It's wrong, no matter who does it.

    Utter nonsense - and it reflects badly on the FSF. How exactly are you going to persuade these companies to become more open-source friendly, if all you do is bash them?

  • Wow! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 05, 2008 @08:36AM (#24065471)

    But Gates didn't invent proprietary software, and thousands of other companies do the same thing. It's wrong, no matter who does it.

    That's your opinion and I don't agree with it.

    Microsoft, Apple, Adobe, and the rest, offer you software that gives them power over you.

    No, it doesn't. As a matter of fact, if all of my computers were to vanish right now, my life wouldn't change that much. It might even be better. You want to talk about power over people? Have a look at the banking industry.

    A change in executives or companies is not important. What we need to change is this system.

    The system will change. That's just the nature of things. Whether or not it needs to be changed is irrelevant.

    I disagree with most of what this guy has to say. If anyone creates a piece of software or anything else, it's their right to do as they please with their creation.

    Here's an incredibly intelligent person who has the emotional development of a 15 year old.

  • Harm? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by magamiako1 (1026318) on Saturday July 05, 2008 @08:37AM (#24065477)
    Ugh I know this is flame bait but I have to say it as it's on topic.

    I still don't see the harm that Gates brought to the computing industry with Microsoft. They brought a unification to the desktop and IT that simply didn't exist before, and pushed for standards that made it easier.

    And even now there are still problems with all of this. Look at the browser market. Even if IE were not involved, you still have the problem that Firefox, Opera, and Safari render pages differently. Their performance is also very different. So say, a website that you write for one may be great on performance but when launched in another browser be completely and utterly poor.

    Even setting "standards" for rendering don't resolve that, as exactly "how" those standards are implemented are left up to the developers. Then you still have the issue that Safari is the most common browser used on Macs, and that's certainly going to heat up as Safari 4 makes its rounds.

    Either way, Microsoft tried to reduce this as much as possible. And they succeeded. Despite the fact that millions of people don't know how to use the computers they use every day, they still use them and have access to them. You can still get an education with them.

    There are points where IT nerds don't want to learn anything new anymore--it's just at a much higher point than the average person, but still exists...
    • Re:Harm? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by grizdog (1224414) on Saturday July 05, 2008 @09:05AM (#24065637) Homepage

      I disagree with your point that it was Microsoft that brought "unification to the desktop", a point that is often repeated.

      It was IBM, not least through there open hardware policy, that wiped out any significant competition and brought a single platform to the desktop. Microsoft, very shrewdly, hung on for the ride and then jumped off at just the right time. It was a brilliant business plan, maybe the most perfectly executed business plan ever, but they were not the ones that created the common platform. Nor did MSOffice, et al, accomplish anything in that department other than bring most of the desktop under the auspices of the same company. Heck, they completely blew it in the database department, after acquiring the most promising company out there, Fox. IE did nothing for "unification", quite the contrary, and the list goes on with malware protection, email clients, and all the other standard stuff on the desktop. People were sharing documents and spreadsheets before Word Or Excel came on the scene.

      What Microsoft accomplished was to replace other products with their own, not so much with better engineering as better marketing, and get their name out there as the most ubiquitous --> preeminent name in desktop computing.

  • by ricegf (1059658) on Saturday July 05, 2008 @08:38AM (#24065485) Journal

    When I first read rms' potification, it made a certain sort of sense. If you've ever been threatened by the BSA, as I have - twice - you begin to recognise that many software vendors use EULAs to give themselves ridiculously expansive rights, far beyond the government's constitutional limits (at least in the USA). Enter my house to audit my computers? In your dreams.

    After a great deal of thought, however, I realize that his view on free software and society actually do make a lot of sense. Free-as-in-liberty software is worth supporting IMHO. So this former Microsoft enthusiast does. Still use a Microsoft mouse, though - they make great hardware. :-)

    I have no opinion on the Gates' foundation - I favour charity, obviously, but I'm not up to speed on the details of their goals & policies.

    --
    Written on the best-selling N800 GNU and Linux tablet.

  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Saturday July 05, 2008 @08:41AM (#24065505) Homepage Journal
    Microsoft, Apple, Adobe, and the rest, offer you software that gives them power over you. A change in executives or companies is not important. What we need to change is this system. That's what the free software movement is all about. "Free" refers to freedom: we write and publish software that users are free to share and modify.

    In other words, "Do as I tell you, or you are a dumb slave"

    Don't get me wrong, I love free software, but more than that I enjoy software that just works. If its free, I'll use that first, but Stallman has always seemed to say that, "Freedom is what I say freedom is, and if you don't do what I tell you to do, then you are not free" Give me a break.....
  • by b0rsuk (1109751) on Saturday July 05, 2008 @08:43AM (#24065511)
    From the article: "To pay so much attention to Bill Gates' retirement is missing the point. What really matters is not Gates, nor Microsoft, but the unethical system of restrictions that Microsoft, like many other software companies, imposes on its customers."
  • Shameful.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kiwioddBall (646813) on Saturday July 05, 2008 @08:53AM (#24065569) Homepage
    Its one thing to be passionate about free software, but you can go too far. In the real world, If he held any position of importance at all, Stallman would have to resign his position after a comment like that. Stallman obviously thinks software is more important than people. He is dead wrong. Something wholly good is coming out of the software that he is criticises. Is free software going to feed people and cure disease?

    Stallman would also be wrong if he thought that all the money that the Gates foundation plays with is sourced from Microsoft. Warren Buffett has given most of his fortune to the foundation also. To even imply that such philanthropy is harming the thirld world is nothing less than criminal.
    • To even imply that such philanthropy is harming the thirld world is nothing less than criminal.

      No, what is criminal is that people like you take it for granted that dumping large amounts of "aid" on third world countries is going to help them. There is not a single nation in the world that has come out of poverty through external aid.

      but you can go too far.

      Yes, you did go too far. It's people like you that condemn millions to die every year by offering them handouts and creating dependencies instead of re

  • Bill's argument (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 05, 2008 @09:07AM (#24065659)
    I ask this out of genuine curiosity and ignorance.
    As I recall, Gates's main argument is that programmers must make money for their work, as there is no incentive for them to produce software otherwise.
    Apart from a few benevolent souls who produce software in their spare time, how exactly is completely free software a sustainable model? Or is the argument that you make your software open source but not free? Does this mean someone else can copy your hard work and produce a customized version?

    I still haven't really grasped what incentive a business would have of producing software without protecting their work. Or is Stallman advocating a Red-Hat/Suse sort of thing, where you produce software and charge for consultancy? Meaning the more obscure your software is, the better?

    How can you produce desktop software using such a model?
  • by MadMartigan2001 (766552) on Saturday July 05, 2008 @09:09AM (#24065671)
    "feeding the poor" sounds really warm and fuzzy, but without a reversal in global population growth what are you "really" achieving? How about spending some of that money on weekly radio and TV spots that counteract the religious propaganda that we see and hear every day. I've love to see that, a syndicated radio network that examines sermons from famous religious leaders and exposes the fear and hate mongers that they really are. Now THAT would be charitable.
  • by kent.dickey (685796) on Saturday July 05, 2008 @09:22AM (#24065769)

    My look at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation shows it was founded with two primary purposes:

    - Tax dodge--giving money to a charity reduces his personal income taxes. By giving it to a charity he controls, he gets additional benefits.
    - As PR for Microsoft against the anti-trust investigation.

    Bill Gates has been rich since the 1980s, but his Foundation didn't really get any significant money until 1999. And then Bill then realized around 2004 that he could run his Foundation as his "retirement", and so started giving it more focus.

    By checking out the contributions provided at www.gatesfoundation.org, you can see (this is complicated by the fact he had two charities, with the primary one now being the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation):
    - As of 1998, Bill Gates had donated a grand total of $300million to both of his charities. That's not for that year, that's over all previous years combined, with interest/appreciation. This number is embarrassingly low for a person worth $100billion. However, it's probably just about the right amount to maximize his tax savings on a yearly basis. Also, the charity was building an endowment, and not spending all that much money.
    - Then suddenly, in 1999, in the middle of the Microsoft anti-trust lawsuit, he gives $15 billion. He gives another $5 billion in 2000.
    - Then, once the anti-trust lawsuit effectively ended, in 2001, he gives $0. Yup, check it out yourself. Probably because he took a loss that year due to the stock market drop, didn't need the tax writeoff anymore, and didn't need the PR.
    - In 2002, he gives $82.5million, again, back to the tax dodge. He gives $81.9 million in 2003. He's still worth $40-50 billion dollars due to Microsoft stock.
    - In 2004, he starts to give his charity a little more notice, and starts donating $700million in 2004, $442 million in 2005, $333million in 2006, and $1.2billion in 2007.

    I wouldn't be surprised if the recipients of his money found it had lots of strings attached, but I'm not interested enough to dig up all this dirt. Although it's nice he's giving some of his money away, IMNSHO, it's just about the least he could do (except for the $20billion PR stunt). I also think the expenses for this foundation are quite high, and are probably more of a tax dodge. The foundation also spends considerably less than he has contributed, so it's building a very large endowment. It seems benign. So far.

    I liken it to a king tossing silver coins to the rabble around his carriage--but doing it only when the press is around.

  • Richard Stallman (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Decameron81 (628548) on Saturday July 05, 2008 @09:25AM (#24065791)

    Richard Stallman is not about freedom. Richard Stallman only cares about end-user freedom.

    But I fail to see why end user freedom should be more important than the developer's freedom to choose. It's almost as if developers were evil by default from his point of view. Unless of course they embrace the GPL.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Wister285 (185087)

      This is an excellent point. It reminds me of Henry Ford's sentiment that someone could have any color for their car so long as it was black. The FOSS community can keep trying to do what they can to unseat Microsoft's reign, but until their products actually as designed totally with the average user in mind, Microsoft will dominate.

  • Stallman is an idiot (Score:4, Informative)

    by RichMeatyTaste (519596) on Saturday July 05, 2008 @12:36PM (#24067549)
    I work for an organization (www.fhi.org) that gets quite a bit of money from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation for any number of health related studies and/or programs. For him to say what he did shows that he has no idea what he is talking about, as the programs they sponsor serve a definite need.

    No, the foundation cannot solve all the issues that these people face. Whether it is a lack of viable employment, stable food/water supply, sanitary living conditions, or just a dictator who generally opresses them, their problems are much greater than just general health.

    I've got news for you Richard: Open source software isn't the solution to their problems either.

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