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GNU is Not Unix Software

Stallman On the State of Free Software 25 Years On 367

Posted by Soulskill
from the industry-of-free dept.
TRNick writes "What's the state of free software, 25 years after GNU's birth? TechRadar has an interview with Richard Stallman to find out. Stallman thinks free software is making good progress: 'Nowadays hardware developers are also increasingly likely to publish the interface specs so that we can develop free software that works with the hardware. Perhaps we are turning the corner, but we still have a big fight on our hands before all computer users have freedom.' But how many of us actually run an operating system that Richard Stallman would consider free? Many of the more popular GNU/Linux distributions, including Mandriva and Ubuntu, bundle proprietary code with their free software packages. Perhaps free software has reached a large enough install base that companies are happy to use it for their own gain, but aren't quite so willing to make their own commitments to free software development. How important this is to the success of free software depends on how strong your stance is on freedom is."
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Stallman On the State of Free Software 25 Years On

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  • obligatory (Score:5, Funny)

    by ionix5891 (1228718) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @11:46AM (#26320263)
    • OMG. This is no joke: I thought Richard Stallman and Eric S. Raymond were the same guy, for the last YEARS! I never thought that there would be two crazy bearded men loving weapons and GNU!

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by osu-neko (2604)

        OMG. This is no joke: I thought Richard Stallman and Eric S. Raymond were the same guy, for the last YEARS! I never thought that there would be two crazy bearded men loving weapons and GNU!

        Really? I suspect half the population of /. fits that description (I do). :p

  • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @11:49AM (#26320269)
    The problem with Stallman's approach is the assumption that most people want the free software ideal. The reality is that most people are not even knowledgeable enough about their computers to even understand what free software is all about, why it matters, and why they should care. All they see is Windows with driver support in one corner, Mac OS X working out of the box on bundled hardware in the other corner, and Linux/BSD/etc. in the last corner with poor (but slowly improving) driver support that may or may not work out of the box.

    What Stallman needs to do is catch up with the biggest development in the computing world of the past 25 years: the growth of computer users who do not know anything about their computers, and do not care to know. Most people do not care about the legal or technical issues surrounding their software, they just want to get online and do stuff. Stallman insists that when somebody sends you a .doc file, you should refuse to open it and insist that they send you a PDF or ODT file instead. Great when you are dealing with engineers and programmers, but not so great when you are dealing with people who think you need to create a .doc file in order to attach an image to an email.

    Disclaimer: I am a big supporter of free software, and I do wish that more people would learn more about their computers so they could at least understand that they have a choice.
    • by mgiuca (1040724) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @12:13PM (#26320445)

      That's exactly right, and that's why the biggest things to happen in free software -- in promoting Stallman's cause -- in the past decade have been the very things he cries out against.

      Dell putting Linux on PCs, preinstalled! Fantastic. It works out of the box, and your average user *just might* stumble upon it without having to go out of their way to learn about it. (But that's not cool, according to RMS, because it has some non-free software).

      Ubuntu happened! Fantastic. Linux for human beings. For the first time, we can give Ubuntu CDs to our grandmas and get some degree of success. It's a Linux distro that's tuned for normal users. It looks great. It can play DVDs and do 3D graphics. (But that's not cool, according to RMS, because there are binary blobs).

      I'm sure there are more examples. My point is that we aren't going to "win" by mouthing off every Linux-based OS or computer with non-free code in it, or, as you say, by refusing to open Word documents. That's just being stubborn. We're going to win by piece-by-piece showing the world what free or almost-free software can do.

      • by HalAtWork (926717) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @03:48PM (#26322067)
        Sure, it'll be piece by piece, but there still needs to be a unified vision of an ideal to work towards, otherwise nobody will know what exactly is happening "piece by piece", and FLOSS wouldn't be a community driven force in the software industry, it would just be a strange phenomenon. In a way, RMS is the Steve Jobs of OSS. And people still buy Apple products even if they think Steve Jobs is crazy.
    • I'm sure I'll get negatively modded for this but why has he been modded Troll? That's poor moderation.

      Perhaps the parent's POV on what Stallman thinks of doc files might be a bit extreme to some people but he has a point. Most people don't care and that won't change until FOSS has marketing like MS or Apple as people don't realise how much of the internet is run on free or open software and how much it has done for them already.

      After all good marketing has helped Apple come back from the brink of deat
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        "Perhaps the parent's POV on what Stallman thinks of doc files might be a bit extreme to some people but he has a point."

        http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/no-word-attachments.html [gnu.org]

        I really was not kidding: Stallman does believe that you should demand free media if you are sent entangled or proprietary media.
        • Then I'd have to agree with you. You can't undo decades of Office documents by demanding ODF documents as nice of a thought as that may be.

          His heart is in the right place but we should focus more on getting people using something that uses both document types and then getting them to change to ODF will be easy.

          As we know, if everyone uses Word then to the average person Word is as open as they need.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      The reality is that most people are not even knowledgeable enough about their computers to even understand what free software is all about, why it matters, and why they should care.
      ...
      computer users who do not know anything about their computers, and do not care to know.

      This is exactly the point. Why should people care if they don't need or want to modify code? The only thing most people care about is if the tool does the job it is intended to do. If it can't, they will find a tool that will. If you a

    • Stallman insists that when somebody sends you a .doc file, you should refuse to open it and insist that they send you a PDF or ODT file instead.

      I don't see what's so important about returning .doc files unopened unless a popular piece of copylefted free software with three O's in the name fails to open it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      What Stallman needs to do is catch up with the biggest development in the computing world of the past 25 years.

      Not going to happen. This is a man who, by his own admission [lwn.net], doesn't surf the web. He doesn't go into detail, but I feel it's pretty safe to assume he doesn't want to defile himself by viewing a website that might be hosted or created with non-free software.

      The man is completely out of touch with today's computer users. Any why wouldn't he be? His legacy has been about holding onto the past. To maintain a world where people like him were the real power users. A lot of people give him far more credit

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jbolden (176878)

        His crusade was piece by piece to lay the groundwork for a free OS, and then when that happened to piece by piece lay the groundwork for a free application stack.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by vorwerk (543034)

      > most people are not even knowledgeable enough
      > about their computers to even understand what
      > free software is all about, why it matters, and
      > why they should care.

      To add to this, I think that there are many people who are familiar with free software, but who do not want to go to Stallman's extent of refusing to use or interact with non-free software.

      Personally, I view software like I view any other tool in my workshop: I have some tools that I've made myself (on a lathe and all), I have some

  • Compromise (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Epsillon (608775) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @11:58AM (#26320331) Homepage Journal

    Whilst I respect Stallman enormously, I still believe that absolutes and extreme ideals are damaging to any cause. For example, how many of us can say with hand on heart that we don't use an MP3 decoder? A nVidia graphics card? Firmware for the Intel wireless cards? In RMS's eyes we've tainted our freedom, but in reality these compromises allow us MORE freedom of choice, not less.

    I'm a great believer in the BSD way of doing things: Here's some code, it's free, use it however you like as long as you don't claim it's yours and we're not going to treat you like a second-class citizen if you install Flash because, quite frankly, you need to make compromises such as this these days. Idealism is all well and good in the abstract, but when you need a piece of information that's hiding inside a Flash-covered web site, freedom should really be the last thing on your mind; making your life more difficult for an ideal is not going to change anyone's minds whilst the majority are accepting the status quo. It just makes you look ridiculous and you end up with rather less freedom, realistically speaking, than you started out with.

    • "For example, how many of us can say with hand on heart that we don't use an MP3 decoder? A nVidia graphics card? Firmware for the Intel wireless cards? In RMS's eyes we've tainted our freedom, but in reality these compromises allow us MORE freedom of choice, not less."

      One of the issues here is that most people need to work with others, and as free software remains in the minority, the need to work with others forces us to use proprietary or entangled software. If you asked for a sound sample from someo
      • by Epsillon (608775)

        Exactly my point, but worded in a far better way. I tend to use FLAC or Vorbis instead of MP3 and I try to choose my hardware with an eye to various HCLs. I use ATi or Intel graphics where possible (sorry, Via, your S3 offerings are simply not compatible enough, although you do try to be open) due to things like GEM and AMD's R6/700 information release. This goes to pieces when purchasing notebooks, naturally.

        However, I am in the enviable position of being the final arbiter of what goes into the machines I

    • Re:Compromise (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MoonBuggy (611105) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @12:12PM (#26320439) Journal

      I've always though Stallman's views were quite useful to have around.

      I forget where I read it, but someone once pointed out that if you need a new computer at work you should go in asking for $10,000,000 - then when you get laughed out of the office and come back asking for a ridiculous gaming rig that costs $5000 you might just get it.

      It's the same theory, in my view. Realistically he's never going to get what he wants, but just the act of having him there campaigning for it makes 'middle of the road' suggestions more reasonable by comparison.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        I forget where I read it, but someone once pointed out that if you need a new computer at work you should go in asking for $10,000,000 - then when you get laughed out of the office and come back asking for a ridiculous gaming rig that costs $5000 you might just get it.

        It's the same theory, in my view. Realistically he's never going to get what he wants, but just the act of having him there campaigning for it makes 'middle of the road' suggestions more reasonable by comparison.

        Except that's not what really happens is it? The guy who asks for the $10,000,000 computer might get the $5000 system in the end or he might get shown the door or otherwise told to shut up and get back to work. Even if he gets it, everyone who had to deal with that guy has silently written him off as a total asshole to be avoided and skipped over for promotions in future.

        And so it is with Stallman. If (one of) the most vocal advocates of free software is a ranting loony who has no concept of the real world

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by smaddox (928261)

          Talk sense (for long enough) and people will listen.

          You have too much faith in the masses, if you ask me.

          The door-in-the-face method is a psychologically proven method of manipulation.

          Talking sense? The verdict is still out.

      • by smoker2 (750216)
        "If you don't have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true ?"
        • Re:Compromise (Score:4, Insightful)

          by DrgnDancer (137700) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @01:14PM (#26320901) Homepage

          Dreaming is all well and good. Practically speaking however, in a world full of more than 3 people, some compromise is necessary if you hope to see any of that dream come to pass. Stallman can dream all he wants about of world of perfectly free software, but in the real world, those of us who wish to eat use the Windows box our company gives us at work. We deal with user that don't know the difference between floppies and CDs (alright, that was years ago, but not that many years), let alone the difference between free and closed OSes. There are three types of people that can afford to be zealots about open source: those who don't need to worry about money, those who never use a computer at work and are pure hobbyists, and FSF employees. As far as I can see everyone else has to make some sacrifices somewhere.

      • by Jim Hall (2985)

        I forget where I read it, but someone once pointed out that if you need a new computer at work you should go in asking for $10,000,000 - then when you get laughed out of the office and come back asking for a ridiculous gaming rig that costs $5000 you might just get it. It's the same theory, in my view.

        In the real world, most companies have a standard desktop/laptop spec. How it works in our office: if you ask for a laptop, you get a choice of 3 different laptops. If you want a desktop: you have a "choice" of 1 model. Each of these costs us less than $2500 (the spending limit before it becomes "capital equipment".)

        They're all beefy systems, for what they do: Managers usually get the lightweight laptop with less memory and SSD drive (runs Office, Firefox, email just fine.) Developers who need mobility usua

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by FalcDot (1224920)

      One person's freedom ends where another man's freedom begins.

      So when a developer uses *his* freedom and develops in Flash, he ends up taking away everybody else's freedom because now they must use Flash as well if they want to see this site.

      Installing and using Flash is *not* giving yourself more choice, it's taking back the choice that others took away from you. And that shouldn't happen.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Do you realize how preposterous this is?

        Flash is a tool. (Not one I like or even use, but that's because the abuses of Flash are generally worse than the benefits.) You don't have an inherent right to demand that everyone use shit you yourself have vetted as being oh-so-FREE-SOFTWAAAAAAAAAAAAAARE. If you want to view that developer's Flash, then you must descend from your holier-than-thou cloud and use Flash. It's not "losing freedoms," it's playing nice with others. Because you're free not to use their sit

      • So when a developer uses *his* freedom and develops in Flash, he ends up taking away everybody else's freedom because now they must use Flash as well if they want to see this site.

        But who loses freedom when a developer uses his freedom and develops in Flash and tests in Gnash? Or when someone writes a document in Microsoft Word and proofreads it in AbiWord or OOo Writer before sending it out?

    • by argiedot (1035754)
      Out of curiosity, what's wrong with an mp3 decoder? LAME is LGPL.

      Personally, while I'm willing to make these compromises (I have nVidia graphics drivers - though personally I was happier with Intel's, and I have an Intel wireless card), I'm a great fan of Stallman. Someone's got to be the extremist for things to change.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Epsillon (608775)

        I'll just let RMS himself answer [marc.info] that one.

        I agree with him on this one (I'm sure that will come as a great relief to RMS {/sarcasm}). MP3 is a proprietary codec and is riddled with patent liability (is it Lucent that own most of it now?) and so forth. More and more media players support FLAC and Vorbis and the need to use MP3 is shrinking by the day. If only the Shoutcast mob would stop using it exclusively.

  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @12:04PM (#26320371)

    Sorry, but it's true. As such it is no surprise that few people use things he'd consider free. He has a very rigid definition of it, one that many people might disagree with. For example the BSD crowd might say his definition is messed up since it doesn't include the freedom to take something and make it not free.

    Regardless, because of his stance on it, most people don't use software that's Stallman Free(tm). We live in a real world, and imperfect world. Most people have to be a bit pragmatic with things. If that means using software that isn't Stallman Free, well then so be it. Ubuntu is concerned with being easily usable and widely adopted, not with idealism.

    Also there is still the large unanswered question of how everyone can make money in a free software world. Some software it's not a problem for. For example:

    --Software that runs hardware. You are buying the hardware, the software is just something that helps make it go. Thus it isn't a problem to have anyone able to copy and redistribute it. Heck, might even be to your benefit as maybe they make it better. Your money is in the device, so the software needn't be restricted. Embedded devices would be an example.

    --Software that needs support. You aren't selling the software here, what you are selling is service on it. The software is complex, and/or is used in a complex nature. Thus people are going to have difficulty doing it without professional help. That's what you sell, is the expertise to make it all work as they want. The software is free, the service isn't. Enterprise Linux would be an example.

    --Software for a service. You offer a service, like hosting or something. You have software to make that possible and to interact with it. This works as free because people aren't paying you for it, people are paying for your service.

    There are probably more too. However there are some major categories that don't work like that. The biggest would be a lot of consumer applications, like games and such. If you design the app well, with good tutorials and intuitive interfaces, people don't need anything else to make it work. Thus if you make it free software, where they are free to simply give it away, then they've no need to pay you for it.

    Well this doesn't work if you want software to be made as anything more than a hobby. For someone to do something professionally, as in to devote most of their time to it, that thing has to pay. People have to eat, they have to pay rent, they have to buy things they need. That means they need a job that pays. So if there's no way to make money off their software, well then they can't have a job making it. It can be a hobby, but not a job.

    For example I have a hobby redoing soundtrack from old games. It amuses me, and others seem to enjoy it. However it isn't my job, and can't be. For legal and practical reasons, I can't make money on it, certainly not near enough to support myself. Thus it gets relegated to hobby status. I work on it when I like, when I've free time. Ends up taking a long time for that reason. What takes me a year I could easily do in a couple weeks if I were being paid to do it and directing all my efforts at that. However I'm not, so it happens on my terms. I do only projects I like, only when I like to do them.

    So unless we want to see large classes of software relegated to that sort of status, we either have to allow for non-free software, or to figure out a way that people can make money on all free software. Also please not by "make money" I don't mean "make a token amount of cash through a few donations." I mean "Make enough money to support themselves and their family in a manner befitting of their skill and education." A hobby can't become a job just because people toss you a couple hundred dollars now and again. It's got to be something you can support yourself on.

    Thus far, I've heard no solutions and can't come up with any myself. So we have to deal with the reality that not all software can be free software.

    • "--Software that runs hardware. You are buying the hardware, the software is just something that helps make it go. Thus it isn't a problem to have anyone able to copy and redistribute it. Heck, might even be to your benefit as maybe they make it better. Your money is in the device, so the software needn't be restricted. Embedded devices would be an example."

      This is an interesting issue in the free software world, that is difficult to approach fairly. It is becoming increasingly common to use programmabl
      • That means that for the hardware to run, there must be firmware available, either on a flash cell (which increases the cost of the hardware) or in the driver (which now has a free software complication).

        I've seen 2 GB USB memory cards for 5 USD retail, and I'd imagine that FPGA firmware would fit in a much smaller, cheaper flash chip. So aren't there specialty hardware makers willing to increase MSRP of a peripheral by $5 to cover the cost of proudly putting a penguin on the box?

        • Sure, there are, and you are probably already using such hardware without even realizing it (except for the "Penguin on the box" part). It does, however, increase the cost of the hardware, and requires the hardware to be redesigned with all sorts of other functionality, like reflashing for firmware updates, loading the firmware from that flash cell (if that is to happen automatically, then the hardware must be designed to do it automatically), etc. There is also a more complex testing requirement, to ensu
    • by _|()|\| (159991) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @12:42PM (#26320639)

      [Stallman] has a very rigid definition of [free] ... it doesn't include the freedom to take something and make it not free.

      Actually, Stallman's definition of free is straightforward and intuitive, and it does include BSD, MIT, public domain, etc. What you may find objectionable is that he prefers copyleft. As a practical matter, due to the nature of copyleft, he prefers licenses that are compatible with the GNU GPL. Take a look a the FSF's page on licenses [fsf.org] for more information.

    • by smoker2 (750216)

      --Software for a service. You offer a service, like hosting or something. You have software to make that possible and to interact with it. This works as free because people aren't paying you for it, people are paying for your service.

      And how is that different from "Software as a service - to your employer" ?

      What if you find yourself working in an environment where you code, script or otherwise hack all your own tools to accomplish your assigned task. The masses aren't capable of it now, but then they've

    • Sorry, but it's true. As such it is no surprise that few people use things he'd consider free. He has a very rigid definition of it, one that many people might disagree with.

      The really funny part is that "The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2)" is bounded by edict (it has apparently been judged that people do not benefit from having a Tivo) rather than something sane like assuming that anyone who wants a copy probably does benefit from having it.

  • Mandriva (Score:5, Informative)

    by phoxix (161744) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @12:08PM (#26320407)
    Mandriva comes in two flavors: One, and Free. The Free version [mandriva.com] is just what it sounds like: 100% free software. No proprietary browser plugins, drivers, apps, etc.
  • Linux Torvalds? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 04, 2009 @12:37PM (#26320585)

    "While Linux Torvalds gets most of the plaudits nowadays for the Linux kernel, it was Stallman who originally posted plans for a new, and free, operating system."

  • by mgiuca (1040724) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @01:02PM (#26320815)

    RMS is always so adamant that we call it "Free Software" and not "Open Source Software". Problem is, whether Free Software is a better name for it or not, it's got hideous problems. The main one being this (from TFA):

    Search Google for 'free software' and the top result is a site dedicated to mostly proprietary software that's free to try, but often crippled by shareware licensing or demo restrictions.

    You just can't use the term "free software" around normal people - they don't get it. They use the term "free software" themselves all the time, to mean Internet Explorer and Stupid Window Theme Pack For Windows 30 Day Trial and other garbage. Like it or not, the term is overloaded, and RMS's definition is not the default.

    I prefer the term "open source". It's far less ambiguous (the ambiguity between "open source" and RMS-free is a much more subtle distinction than the ambiguity between "free software" and RMS-free). People either know what it means, or don't know what it means (and I can explain). Much better than people assuming it means something it doesn't.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by k.a.f. (168896)

      RMS is always so adamant that we call it "Free Software" and not "Open Source Software".

      You know, that's probably because those are very different things.

  • by bcrowell (177657) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @01:08PM (#26320859) Homepage

    It's amazing that GNU is 25 years old now. In 1984 I was using a TRS-80, and the latest thing I knew about proprietary versus nonproprietary software was that Radio Shack had given up on the idea that customers would only be able to buy software from Radio Shack -- they had finally come around to the point of view that it was OK for third-party software houses to sell applications that would run on their OS. How many people are as far ahead of their time as Stallman was in 1984?

    There are plenty of obstacles remaining, but I think it's impressive as hell how much you can do with free software today, and how easy it is to do it. My mother in law, who's in her 80s, installed Ubuntu on her computer this year, with just a little help from me over the phone. She actually had more trouble installing java (which she needed for her favorite online Scrabble app) than she did installing the OS. My neighbor came over for a beer yesterday and asked to see my Linux box. His main reaction to Gnome was, "Wow, I didn't expect anything so professional looking." When he contemplated the idea of using Linux in his home office, the main concern I couldn't answer satisfactorily was whether or not it would work with his multifunction fax machine/copier. So, okay, no, he probably won't run Linux in the foreseeable future. But it's amazing to me that the big obstacles are now confined to issues as peripheral as that. Heck, you'd probably have a lot of the same concerns if you were contemplating switching to MacOS from Windows.

    Intellectually, I think Stallman was very clever with his invention of the GPL framework. No matter how many BSD-versus-GPL flamewars there are on slashdot, I think any impartial observer has to admit that the general approach (using copyright for a purpose diametrically opposed to most people's idea of the purpose of copyright) was pretty novel in 1984, and it's been wildly successful, even in other contexts. Wikipedia is a good example. The fact that WP is GFDL licensed is what makes people comfortable contributing to it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      When he contemplated the idea of using Linux in his home office, the main concern I couldn't answer satisfactorily was whether or not it would work with his multifunction fax machine/copier.

      Whether a printer or its non-printing features work under Linux is rarely a difficult question. If you know the model number, you can probably find it on OpenPrinting [linuxfoundation.org] (apparently the new name of linuxprinting.org). When I have looked up multifunctions in the past, I have found helpful information on how to get the scanner working.

  • by Stormy Dragon (800799) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @01:54PM (#26321231) Homepage

    How important this is to the success of free software depends on how strong your stance is on freedom is.

    Stallman reminds me a lot of George Bush; if you disagree with his position on something, you're accused of being against freedom.

  • Stallman's vision (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cdrguru (88047) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @02:27PM (#26321477) Homepage

    As someone that grew up with computers, I can understand Stallman's vision. I don't agree with it, but I can understand it. He would like to think there are 1.5 kinds of people in the world: those that write code and those that haven't gotten around to writing code. His sense of "freedom" is important to both parts of that, assuming that is all there is to humanity.

    I think it is much closer to say there are three groups: those that write code, those that should not be writing code but are trying and those that will never, ever write code. Call the last group "users". What RMS misses completely is the last group is probably the most important. They are utterly at the mercy of the first two groups, and they are continually being disappointed by the second.

    The ability to design computer software is an art and it is not one that is easily taught to people that just don't get it. Writing clear, functional, concise code that implements a design is much easier to teach but in the world of open source and free software these two roles are usually combined. And, from looking at a lot of code in the open source world, much of it is from the folks that aren't doing a good job of design and probably shouldn't be writing code either.

    The future is not one where everyone is a programmer. The world is bigger than that. There are a lot of people that have no desire to ever be anything more than a user and for them being handed a piece of software that is intuitively easy to use, relatively bug-free and gets the job done for them is what they want. From both proprietary and open source software development users are continually handed non-intuitive, buggy software that accomplishes something less than 100% of the job. And, collectively speaking, our users deserve better than that.

    Probably the biggest problem I see with open source is the lack of critical review. Without this someone that turns out garbage code will continue to do so forever. Unless they stumble upon their own code and have to maintain it for years. Even then, it takes a stern taskmaster to reinforce the idea that if it isn't maintainable, it wasn't worth writing in the first place. And that if all the users can't use it how they want to, it isn't doing the job either. Yes, I do mean all the users and all of what they want it to do.

    Where is the professional society that builds up talented but rudderless newcomers? Where does someone that wants to be turning out a "professional" quality product go for help? Universities? No, I don't think so. Most commercial establishments are just as driven to produce something "good enough" that they just have a hope of maintainability and usability. Sometimes they get lucky, but most of the time they do not. And we wonder why software development gets a bad reputation?

    RMS would like us to each be able to fix the bugs we find and extend usability to take something that does 50% of the job we need done and fix it so it does 100% for us. Nice idea, but it comes from a flawed premise - a sort of universality of programming ability. The reality is major talent will be always rare and it is up to these folks to help out and guide those with ability but undeveloped talent. And then there are the users. These will always be in the majority and they cannot help but rely on the people with ability and talent to do what they cannot do. I do not think the mantle of this responsibility can so easily be passed off on the users.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by arevos (659374)

      Probably the biggest problem I see with open source is the lack of critical review. Without this someone that turns out garbage code will continue to do so forever.

      Isn't this more a problem with closed source software? Quality of code seems more important for an open source project that wishes to attract volunteers than a closed source project where the developers are paid.

  • by macraig (621737) <mark...a...craig@@@gmail...com> on Sunday January 04, 2009 @04:22PM (#26322339)

    Free and open source software - hell, ANYTHING open source and free - is not about "freedom" per se. It's about cooperation rather than competition. It's about that dirty economic word socialism versus Mother Nature's status quo capitalism.

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