Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
GNU is Not Unix

RMS Says "Software As a Service" Is Non-free 715

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the ok-thats-a-bit-inflammatory dept.
BillyG noted an RMS interview where he says "'Software as a service' means that you think of a particular server as doing your computing for you. If that's what the server does, you must not use it! If you do your computing on someone else's server, you hand over control of your computing to whoever controls the server. It is like running binary-only software, only worse: it's even harder for you to patch the program that's running on someone else's server than it is to patch a binary copy of a program running on your own computer. Just like non-free software, 'software as a service' is incompatible with your freedom."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

RMS Says "Software As a Service" Is Non-free

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 27, 2009 @10:02AM (#27730217)
    Try and stop me, Emperor Neckbeard.
    • by SuperKendall (25149) on Monday April 27, 2009 @10:08AM (#27730293)

      The first hiccup in your company internet connection will have you scrambling to replace many of the services you signed up for...

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by FictionPimp (712802)

        My internet connection has only gone down 3 times that I can recall in the last 5 years.

        2 of those times were blackouts. So I wasn't using my computer. The 3rd was because of a communication problem causing my service to get shutoff a few days before my new service was installed.

        I'm not worried about losing the internets.

      • by EastCoastSurfer (310758) on Monday April 27, 2009 @10:46AM (#27731035)

        Maybe we shouldn't rely on phone service or power service either then. Last time I checked phones were more critical to most companies than being able to access the internet.

        You simply need to recognize the risk if you internet goes down and have back up plans to work around it.

    • by impaledsunset (1337701) on Monday April 27, 2009 @10:55AM (#27731207)

      I believe he uses the word "must" as in "you must not try to check if your gas tank with a lighter [darwinawards.com]". You are free to do so, but he wants to tell you that it is a bad idea. And in his opinion, it is a ridiculously bad idea. It is certainly worse than proprietary software, and we all know what he thinks of that.

      I would have to agree with him. Preferring software as a service vs. software running on your machine is a bad idea. It might be convinient in many cases, but you shouldn't trust a third party with your data and your work, especially when you can avoid it. It might not look that bad, but as you already have the tools on your computer, it's not worth it even if the issues don't look like a big deal to you.

      This does not apply in each case you use 'software as a service'. Examples of acceptable use of software running on someone else's server would include using Slashdot for news discussion, using web hosting services and using GNU Savannah for your software project. His point is not to use Google Docs to edit your private documents, and not to use Gmail to send your private mails, or to be more specific - not to let them become a replacement for your office suite and mail client/server.

      Of course, avoiding any software services is nuts, it is not needed, and it is not even possible. And running a program on your friend's server doesn't hurt, either. You should, however, be well aware of the risks. Unfortunately, in many cases you have to trust your data to a third party. Read stories about leaked private information here lately? Then I say you shouldn't let your word processing and spreadsheet needs become a part of those cases. Simply don't do it.

      • by Decameron81 (628548) on Monday April 27, 2009 @11:28AM (#27731799)

        I believe he uses the word "must" as in "you must not try to check if your gas tank with a lighter [darwinawards.com]". You are free to do so, but he wants to tell you that it is a bad idea. And in his opinion, it is a ridiculously bad idea. It is certainly worse than proprietary software, and we all know what he thinks of that.

        I would have to agree with him. Preferring software as a service vs. software running on your machine is a bad idea. It might be convinient in many cases, but you shouldn't trust a third party with your data and your work, especially when you can avoid it. It might not look that bad, but as you already have the tools on your computer, it's not worth it even if the issues don't look like a big deal to you.

        This does not apply in each case you use 'software as a service'. Examples of acceptable use of software running on someone else's server would include using Slashdot for news discussion, using web hosting services and using GNU Savannah for your software project. His point is not to use Google Docs to edit your private documents, and not to use Gmail to send your private mails, or to be more specific - not to let them become a replacement for your office suite and mail client/server.

        Of course, avoiding any software services is nuts, it is not needed, and it is not even possible. And running a program on your friend's server doesn't hurt, either. You should, however, be well aware of the risks. Unfortunately, in many cases you have to trust your data to a third party. Read stories about leaked private information here lately? Then I say you shouldn't let your word processing and spreadsheet needs become a part of those cases. Simply don't do it.

        I totally disagree. I realize there may be some inconveniences with using online services sometimes, but we should try and face the challenges to solve those issues, instead of simply tagging them as evil.

        If there are privacy issues, we should look for ways to avoid them, by using cryptography or legistlation where necessary.

        It's all about progress. We wouldn't be doing ourselves a favor by just rejecting it. We should embrace it and fix whatever issues show up in the way.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by dbrutus (71639)

          Well, the fix is to periodically sync your data to your own machines and have code that could replace the SAAS if you wanted it to. At that point the SAAS vendor is just providing you with convenient, quick access to the cloud and if they go away, you can just buy some hardware and rapidly be back in business for your own stuff at a degraded speed.

          But nobody does this which is why SAAS is a bad idea for anything other than 'nice to have' uses that you could live without.

  • Dupe? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by maccallr (240314) on Monday April 27, 2009 @10:04AM (#27730235) Homepage Journal
    Seems uncannily like this story from a month ago: Richard Stallman Warns About Non-Free Web Apps [slashdot.org]
    • Re:Dupe? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Jurily (900488) <jurily&gmail,com> on Monday April 27, 2009 @10:10AM (#27730345)

      Seems uncannily like this story from a month ago: Richard Stallman Warns About Non-Free Web Apps

      Newsflash! RMS has the same opinion he had a month ago!

      • Re:Dupe? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ShieldW0lf (601553) on Monday April 27, 2009 @10:42AM (#27730969) Journal

        If you agreed with RMS in principle, and wanted to create a SAAS business that is ethical, how would you do it?

        Because really, it's the entrapment that makes it non-ethical, not the collaboration.

        Making sure your users are able to get copies of their data in a useful format that are complete enough for them to walk away from you is an obvious one. Using an entirely open source stack and releasing any changes and improvements you make back to the community is another, more indirect one.

        What other steps might you take?

        Seems to me, releasing your entire source tree wouldn't necessarily be relevant for a lot of web apps, because they're more about representing network effects and business relationships on a grand scale, and are only useful if you wish to also be a service provider. Giving someone the source code that makes eBay run isn't going to be particularly useful if all they want to do is sell used merchandise.

        Anyone got any clever ideas?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by rabbit994 (686936)

          Easy, release the code that powers your SAAS. In most cases, the appeal of SAAS isn't the fact I can't run the same code myself, it's the fact I can pay you to do it for me and when it breaks, it's not my problem, it's yours.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            I would argue that simply releasing the source code is insufficient.

            Many companies who use SaaS webapps and such simply don't have the expertise among their own employees to run the source code themselves if the provider were to disappear overnight. It's somewhat ridiculous to expect every small business owner to hire someone to set it up for them, and even if they did, they wouldn't gain anything - they would still lack understanding of how things work, and if it breaks (or if someone breaks it) they're s

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by AlXtreme (223728)

              Owning the machine running the open source code, and even having the machine onsite, does not mean it's any more "free" than the original SaaS if you lack the expertise to fix things when they break. Does RMS really think everyone currently using SaaS should develop that expertise?

              Having the expertise is a whole different question. Not everyone can debug a program, but that doesn't mean that it isn't useful to have the source code of a program for those people that can.

              If the SaaS you are using is open sour

    • Re:Dupe? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Sockatume (732728) on Monday April 27, 2009 @10:23AM (#27730595)
      No, that was about how doing tasks with web apps was bad. This is about how the whole concept of doing computing on a machine which is not under your control is wrong.
      • Re:Dupe? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Sockatume (732728) on Monday April 27, 2009 @10:28AM (#27730675)
        On reflection, it seems that RMS has reached the conclusion that software freedom is beneficial, therefore the absence of software freedom is harmful, and furthermore that any absence of software freedom is unacceptable. I look forward to him publishing future articles from a home-built, hand-fabricated microcomputer, or perhaps some sort of elaborate open-source mechanical turing machine, when he decides that nonfree microcode is unacceptable. ;)
  • Obviously! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RiotingPacifist (1228016) on Monday April 27, 2009 @10:05AM (#27730255)

    I'm no RMS fan (GPL2 all the way) but isn't this shit obvious?
    The only point in software as a service's defense, is that at least you know you don't own the software.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rumith (983060)
      The problem is, paying for all that computing power, data storage, software development and other stuff may occasionally not be my goal. Sometimes I just want to browse a damn photo gallery or write an online document.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by fm6 (162816)

        Sometimes I just want to browse a damn photo gallery or write an online document.

        You can't! It's wrong! Stop now, before it's too late!

        Yeah, I'm being sarcastic. I've always thought that RMS's notion of "free software" was totally out of touch with practical realities. But this latest proclamation makes me realize that he subscribes to the Everybody's Like Me fallacy. That is, he believes every computer user is enough of a hacker to compile and run all the software they will ever need. For some of us, that's simply too much trouble just to make a silly ideological point based on bad eco

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by drooling-dog (189103)

          ...he subscribes to the Everybody's Like Me fallacy. That is, he believes every computer user is enough of a hacker to compile and run all the software they will ever need.

          My dog lacks the skills to survive in the wild, and so she happily submits to all of the restrictions that I impose on her life. She can't even pee unless I'm willing to get off my ass and take her outside. The tyrrany is about as absolute as tyrrany gets. If she could talk to you, though, she would probably say that this is just fine, and there's no need to change things.

          Sometimes the hardest part about freeing the oppressed is convincing them that they are indeed oppressed. If all they know is life as it

        • by marco.antonio.costa (937534) on Monday April 27, 2009 @12:48PM (#27733117)

          That is, he believes every computer user is enough of a hacker to compile and run all the software they will ever need.

          Yes! I mean, what the fuck is he thinking?! I'm not a damned hacker who can type a document in OpenOffice and save it to - of ALL PLACES - my LOCAL machine!

          This man should have a haircut and shave mandated by law enforcement!

          Talk about fallacies...

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Yvanhoe (564877)
        And, sir, you are making an insightful point and making RMS statement insightful as well : the FOSS world lacks a solution for what you propose. I am of the opinion that now that it is possible to use a FOSS machine comfortably as an internet client, we need a way to put easily, securely, and without too much required knowledge a web/mail/picasa/DNS/whatever server at home and stop relying on companies to do this.

        Ubuntu Server is going this way but is not there yet completely.

        you are right, sometimes I
    • Re:Obviously! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Lumpy (12016) on Monday April 27, 2009 @10:16AM (#27730463) Homepage

      no it's not.

      I had a customer just last week ask for us to get his backups from carbonite. I was confused and he said," I stopped paying for it a month ago, I want the copies of my backups from them."

      I had to explain to him that you cant go to the car wash and demand the dirt off your car given to you after the wash cycle. It's gone, they delete all of it when you stop paying them.

      He still did not fully understand it. And this is a college educated business owner.

      "that's unprofessional of them to delete MY data."

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Tuoqui (1091447)

        Well it is a bit unprofessional. As a backup company they should keep the backup on hand for a period of time (probably 6 months) before deleting it. I mean at least then you can charge for several months of service at once and possibly a graveyard fee, that is dusting off the backups of your backups to get the data accessible. You might come off as a bit of an asshole but at least you'll have saved the day.

        • Re:Obviously! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Registered Coward v2 (447531) on Monday April 27, 2009 @11:10AM (#27731489)

          Well it is a bit unprofessional. As a backup company they should keep the backup on hand for a period of time (probably 6 months) before deleting it. I mean at least then you can charge for several months of service at once and possibly a graveyard fee, that is dusting off the backups of your backups to get the data accessible. You might come off as a bit of an asshole but at least you'll have saved the day.

          While that may be a good idea in general it can also cause problems as well; unless what they do is specifically called out in the contract.

          For example:

          If the owner assumed the information was deleted when the account was canceled; if they discover you kept the data they may get upset and decide to sue.

          If they cancel and you still have the data and they get involved in litigation you may then get dragged in and have to provide the data. Who pays for the recovery? Or, if you delete at some later date you might be in trouble for "obstructing Justice" if criminal acts are involved.

          You don't delete it for some period of time after the contract expires; but for some reason you lose the data. Who's responsible for recovering it?

          Far fetched? Maybe. But why risk it. Delete it when the contract expires and move on. Why take the risk?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Jurily (900488)

      I'm no RMS fan (GPL2 all the way) but isn't this shit obvious?

      Do my rms-ian freedoms include deciding to use a website I know doesn't release the source code? Or is that more like the BSD freedom?

      • Re:Obviously! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday April 27, 2009 @10:23AM (#27730601) Journal
        Nobody has any intentions of stopping you from doing so. RMS merely recommends that you don't. I've never understood why that raises so much ire. Were he proposing coercive measures to stop you, I'd see it; but (correctly) noting that, if you use SaS, you have fuck all control over the software is simply true.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by geminidomino (614729) *

          Nobody has any intentions of stopping you from doing so. RMS merely recommends that you don't.

          Really? He should read RFC 2119.

          "Software as a service" means that you think of a particular server as doing your computing for you. If that's what the server does, you must not use it!

          Sure sounds like an imperative to me.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by GreyWolf3000 (468618)
      Do you know who wrote GPL2?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510)

      I'm no RMS fan (GPL2 all the way)

      Huh? Who else gets credit for GPLv2?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jellomizer (103300)

      That is the reason a lot of people go with SaaS, Because they don't own the software, and the responsibility to maintain it.
      I am sure some SaaS companies will be willing to Sell you the Software and some would even give it to you Open Source, where you can modify it to your whim. But the value of SaaS is the fact that you don't need to keep the code up to date or all the maintenance and backups.

      SaaS is like taking the Bus,Cab, Limo vs. driving yourself. Are you giving up your freedom if you let someone else

  • by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman AT gmail DOT com> on Monday April 27, 2009 @10:05AM (#27730257) Homepage Journal

    ...for spotting the major con of software as a service. I'm sure companies and individuals considering the use of such services will now weigh this con against the pros and develop an informed decision about whether or not a given service is right for them.

    For services where personal data is kept, I'm sure that concepts like security, trustworthiness, and portability of data are key concerns.

    • by Bigjeff5 (1143585) on Monday April 27, 2009 @10:26AM (#27730661)

      Is it really a con?

      I always thought the whole idea of SAS was simply shifting and consolodating the effort of creating and servicing software to (hopefully) lower costs. Not eliminate them. Kinda like call centers for help desk support (they usually manage multiple companies' help desks at one center), only it's serving your software. Honestly, who said paying someone else to serve software for you to use would be free? There's a contradiction in that statement if they did.

      I'm surprised anybody needed to point this out. It blows my mind. And calling it a con? I'll bet they never thought anybody would be dumb enough to think it's free! Even at the most basic level.

      Wow.

      • by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman AT gmail DOT com> on Monday April 27, 2009 @10:49AM (#27731097) Homepage Journal

        I always thought the whole idea of SAS was simply shifting and consolodating the effort of creating and servicing software to (hopefully) lower costs. Not eliminate them.

        That would be under the pros category.

        There are a lot of advantages to having someone else host your data. But there are also risks. Which RMS did put his finger on, but he's far from the first to do so. If anything, he's blowing the whole thing WAY out of proportion. (Thus the mildly sarcastic tone of my post.)

        My basic issue with RMS's logic is that he doesn't want to trust anyone. Because if you don't trust anyone, you can't be double-crossed. Right?

        The only problem is, society cannot operate without trust. At some point I have to trust someone else to handle a repetitive task, least I needlessly waste my time. Not to mention the myriad of skills I'd need for basic survival!

        Think of it this way: Without trust, we would all be too busy farming, hunting, building our own homes, fabbing our own materials, and providing our own healthcare. Technology would go absolutely nowhere, because just one of those items is a full time job. Anyone not skilled enough in any of those trades would probably suffer a horrible death from starvation, disease, exposure, or predators. Even if people share discoveries ala the GPL, who would have time to examine and build upon the discoveries?

        Thankfully, we trust each other. At least enough to where I let someone else farm the food, someone else build my house, someone else provide medical attention to myself and family, etc. I pay for those services with the expectation that my food will not be poison, my house is safe to occupy, and my doctor is a skilled medical practitioner. Society has a number of checks and balances to help verify those levels of trust, and thus we arrive at "good enough".

        If there's anything I've learned over the years, save for a small percentage of exceptions, "good enough" is many orders of magnitude better than "superior". :-)

        • by melikamp (631205) on Monday April 27, 2009 @11:17AM (#27731617) Homepage Journal

          Dude, compared to your idealistic hippie post (not that it's bad in itself), RMS sounds like the oracle of common sense.

          The only problem is, society cannot operate without trust.

          Certain aspects of it do operate without trust. Any time you see 1000000.00 written on a check, you can (and should) forget about trusting anyone.

          Think of it this way: Without trust, we would all be too busy farming, hunting, building our own homes, fabbing our own materials, and providing our own healthcare.[sic]

          You are thinking of what we would do if we did not have a money-based economy. This has nothing to do with trust.

          RMS is correct in distrusting commercial software manufacturers and providers. Time and time again these people (with MS and Apple in the lead) have tried to fuck us over by supplying us with software that is bloated, insecure by design, intentionally buggy (DRM), cannot be configured, spies on us, comes with file format lock, etc., etc. A few exceptions aside, none of their code ever gets open, not even the oldest stuff. In order to get a functional product, the community has to rewrite everything from scratch, and they won't even open their code after we have a superior FLOSS product. Why??? Because commercial software manufacturers hate us and distrust us. They want us to bend over, take it from behind and scream like we are enjoying it while writing them a large non-refundable check.

          Fuck that. RMS may be nuts, but he is looking after your interest, unlike MS, Apple, Google.

          P.S. I really don't mean to sound dickish, I am just sick tired of stupid commercial commodity software. It's hurting pretty much everyone, and it's awful.

  • Not to mention (Score:3, Interesting)

    by atomicthumbs (824207) <atomicthumbsNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday April 27, 2009 @10:06AM (#27730265) Homepage
    ...you can't use it when you don't have an internet connection. Why doesn't anyone think about this?
  • Ok, seriously (Score:4, Insightful)

    by FictionPimp (712802) on Monday April 27, 2009 @10:07AM (#27730287) Homepage

    Does anyone give a shit anymore?

    In any case, I use a few software as a service type websites that offer their software as a gpl download so I could install it on my server and run it myself.

    In fact, I'm doing just that with dimdim (netmeeting software) for my work.

    But seriously, this is getting old.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by El Lobo (994537)
      Exactly. I use whatever tools I want, and "my freedom" and the limits I want to impose to "my freedom" (whatever THAT is) is only my business. I use the tools I like/need, and there are free tools, commercial, open source ones, binaries only, etc. They help me in my work and I pay whatever *I* think is worth to pay for them. That is my freedom. But having some long bearded troll telling me what my freedom is and what I must do and not do... that's not freedom, that's the closest to catholicism we got on the
  • by prayag (1252246) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [aluran.gayarp]> on Monday April 27, 2009 @10:08AM (#27730291)
    RMS is right of course. Software as a service is not free and one should always be at guard while using them.

    Having said that, it is also important to realize that general public does not care, if its free. If you just ask them, "Do not use it." It does not help the cause. Shouldn't you instead try to educate them and warn them of the pitfalls ?

    The world is not black and white. And software as a service is here to stay. When would RMS realize that ?
    • by mr crypto (229724) on Monday April 27, 2009 @10:18AM (#27730503)

      Agreed. RMS's advice seems to be to run your own server, but how many people can or will do that? If he presented a viable alternative for the masses I'd be more sympathetic.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by drzhivago (310144)

        Well obviously the viable alternative is to run software and services that he's approved.

        That's the problem I've always had with him, that it's "my way or the highway."

    • by tepples (727027) <tepples@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Monday April 27, 2009 @10:20AM (#27730525) Homepage Journal

      The world is not black and white. And software as a service is here to stay. When would RMS realize that ?

      Even RMS's organization offers software as a service: Savannah [nongnu.org], a hosted free software development tool suite based on a fork of SourceForge.net's software.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      RMS is right of course. Software as a service is not free and one should always be at guard while using them. Having said that, it is also important to realize that general public does not care, if its free. If you just ask them, "Do not use it." It does not help the cause. Shouldn't you instead try to educate them and warn them of the pitfalls ? The world is not black and white. And software as a service is here to stay. When would RMS realize that ?

      The problem is that RMS is a zealot on a mission; and zealots never let things like reality intrude on that. While they can accomplish many things; they often begin to harm the very things they worked hard to bring about. To them, compromise is simply not an option; and will rail against those who do. Meanwhile, people who actually want to do things and understand that building lasting things requires compromise and viewing the current situation as it is, not as they want it to be as an important part of

  • by Lemmy Caution (8378) on Monday April 27, 2009 @10:08AM (#27730307) Homepage

    Software-as-service is only free if you own or have consistent access to a given computer. For the millions of people throughout the world who have been given the ability to use online applications for free (at cybercafes, etc) even though they could never afford a computer, RMS' line is almost insulting.

    And what does this mean for mobile computing?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by derGoldstein (1494129)

      I don't think he was insinuating that no one should use any computer they don't personally own. You could make the argument that software isn't free at all since you need a computer which can never fail or become obsolete. You're always going to be dependent on *some* type of infrastructure, including electricity (which would mean that software that runs on a computer which doesn't have its own generator/crankshaft attached to it isn't free either).

      He's pointing out (something that is somewhat obvious, IMO)

    • by huckamania (533052) on Monday April 27, 2009 @10:31AM (#27730745) Journal

      Can't you imagine all of the web based applications converted to work on a single computer...

      Twitter - A single text entry box with a 126 character limit that appends to the text already displayed.
      Facebook - An html file on your desktop that links to your media folder.
      Google - Grep from a bash shell.
      WoW - A virtual landscape with no other players, just lots of rats (this already applies to 2nd life).
      StumbleUpon - A file browser.
      Wikipedia - Man pages.

      Where do I sign up?

  • by MarkvW (1037596) on Monday April 27, 2009 @10:10AM (#27730335)

    I've got some really neat cloud for you. I'll set you up real cheap, free even . . .. You're gonna like this stuff. C'mon, give it a try. You won't get hooked . . ..

    You can always quit later . . .

  • by grasshoppa (657393) <skennedy.tpno-co@org> on Monday April 27, 2009 @10:10AM (#27730349) Homepage

    I have a business problem which a properly programmed computer can solve. I can either;

    a) Hire a programmer, or a team of programmers, to create this application for me.
    b) Utilize a proprietary application, with a contract to protect my rights.

    Is the proprietary application free? No, but it does increase my efficiency 10x over. Would I get that kind of increase by hiring the programmers? Not after you take it to account all of the overhead I have with that plan. It just doesn't make business sense to go with option A, regardless of my personal belief on the topic.

    As for my client? Ya, they simply do not care.

  • taxicab analogy (Score:3, Informative)

    by Cmdr-Absurd (780125) on Monday April 27, 2009 @10:16AM (#27730453)
    You can take a taxicab instead of owning a car that you can work on in your back yard.
    You don't get to do mechanical work on the cab. You don't care.
    You are paying for the service -- which includes not having to worry about maintaining the thing.

    The whole point of SAaS is turning over control and headaches to someone else.
    • You can still WALK if the taxicab grinds to a halt. You can hail one from another company, beg a ride from someone else who owns a car.

      A better anology would be to have ONLY privatly owned cars and no public transport of any sorts, no bicycles, no footpads. How much power do you think big oil would have then?

      The problem with having your data in the cloud is NOT just that your data is out there, but the way you use it is as well. If gmail fails I only not only use my emails themselves, but all my settings.

  • So... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Culture20 (968837) on Monday April 27, 2009 @10:26AM (#27730645)
    I should be running my own instance of /. at http://localhost/ [localhost] ? Then I could patch /. to not have "idle" and editors I don't like. RMS, you're a lifesaver!
  • by mea37 (1201159) on Monday April 27, 2009 @10:43AM (#27730975)

    I don't think it's exactly news that RMS has an extreme view of what "freedom" means in the context of software. If at any moment you don't control exactly what every computer does on your behalf, your freedom has been taken away? Well, ok, let's put this in perspective.

    What's more important -- freedom in computing, or freedom in what you eat? What would it take to have RMS-style "freedom" with respect to your food? Do you know that when you buy agriculture-as-a-service, you don't control the growing practices, the chemicals used along the way (sure, they may label it as pesticide-free, but how do you know?), the method of harvesting, shipping, the treatment of the workers, the sanitation of the food along the way, etc. ad nausium?

    You could go self-sufficient, if you have the skills and the up-front money to make that happen. Thoreau would advocate that. But the thing is, that's not the life most people would choose (and isn't that what freedom is about -- choice?). And interestingly enough, if everyone today decided to live that way, the population would be unsustainable.

    So, yes, you're handing some control over to someone else. Yes, it's something you have to weigh as you exercise your freedom to choose when and how to use these services. And yes, that issue has been enough to keep me from using some services. But there's a world of difference between knowing that a service isn't the same product as traditional software, and saying that you "must never use" the former.

    The problem with RMS is, he divides the world into products that give you complete freedom, and products that have zero value.

  • by davidwr (791652) on Monday April 27, 2009 @10:46AM (#27731041) Homepage Journal

    Telephony as a service is not free. If you use a telephone carrier which manages your advance custom calling features like voicemail or call waiting you are at their mercy if they change software.

    To be truly free you must manage your own PBX and voicemail system and it must be open source.

    --
    Payroll outsourcing is not free. If you use a payroll outsourcing company to manage your payroll you are not free. You must use an in-house payroll system and it must be open source.

    --
    Outsourcing your banking needs is not free. If you want to be free, you must own your own in-house bank and use only open-source software to manage it.

    --
    Outsourcing electricity is not free. If you want to be free, you need your own generators with fuel created or captured under your control. Of course, if you use computers to manage your in-house electrical grid, the software must be open source.

    --
    The list goes on. The point is: Duh. The whole point of contracting things out as a service is so we don't have to worry about is as much. With that comes the risk of vendor failure. Using closed-source software or for that matter open-source software that you yourself don't maintain is somewhere between the extremes of "doing everything in house, under our control" and "complete outsourcing, where we have no worries other than 'it better just work.'"

    I bet most die-hard open-source advocates outsource their power and banking and most outsource at least some of their non-plain-old-telephone-service telephony needs. Even an open-source PBX or cell phone isn't truly open if it depends on a carrier whose failure would deny you phone service. In summary: To some extent, we are all p0wned by someone, and most of us like it that way.

  • by presidenteloco (659168) on Monday April 27, 2009 @10:49AM (#27731081)

    and are not suited to doing it well.

    If that sounds elitist, so be it. Reality is that people have all kinds of different skills, and a small percentage are good programmers. I can't run a marathon or play a cello, and I don't mind anyone saying so.

    While I agree with RMS that software should be free, I don't believe that means that people should not simply use information services that are provided for them on managed information infrastructure.

    In the 70s if you wanted information, you hired a programmer to write a program for you.

    In the 80s and 90s if you wanted information, you used a program that was already written.

    In this decade, if you want information, you use an service on the web.

    Unless you are that most rare breed; an open source software geek, in which case you may still be in the business of gluing together or even modifying programs and web services.

    I would believe more that free software was intended for the masses if it had in general any kind of document quality or code simplicity. But expecting Joe Six-pack to deal with maven builds, hierarchical make files, and package dependency graphs. Hah!

  • by tarsi210 (70325) <nathan@na t h a n pralle.com> on Monday April 27, 2009 @10:53AM (#27731169) Homepage Journal
    "'Sewer as a service' means that you think of a particular sewer as doing your poop disposal for you. If that's what the sewer does, you must not use it! If you do your pooping on someone else's sewer, you hand over control of your poop to whoever controls the sewer. It is like using truck-stop toilet paper, only worse: it's even harder for you to wipe an ass that's sitting on someone else's toilet than it is to wipe an ass sitting on your own bog. Just like dye-free Charmin, 'sewer as a service' is incompatible with your bowel freedom."
  • by nurb432 (527695) on Monday April 27, 2009 @11:01AM (#27731311) Homepage Journal

    If you get the service you want, this is bad why?

    As long as you get the choice of discontinuing service and move to another provider at will, who really cares? Until you are *forced* to use provider A, there really isn't an issue that they 'control your computing'. ( they really don't )

  • by ScentCone (795499) on Monday April 27, 2009 @11:07AM (#27731433)
    I completely trust a restaurant's food suppliers, chef, wait staff, sanitation, and even their "non-free" recipes, when I outsource meal preparation because I'm feeling lazy that night. So? That's the whole point of it. Let someone else worry about it, and understand that you're making some compromises. I'm not sure which is worse, The Prophet's loopy, hippy-dippy hyperbole, or his condescension and patronizing nonsense.
  • by seeker_1us (1203072) on Monday April 27, 2009 @11:07AM (#27731441)

    "Software as a service" means that you think of a particular server as doing your computing for you. If that's what the server does, you must not use it! If you do your computing on someone else's server, you hand over control of your computing to whoever controls the server. It is like running binary-only software, only worse: it's even harder for you to patch the program that's running on someone else's server than it is to patch a binary copy of a program running on your own computer. Just like non-free software, "software as a service" is incompatible with your freedom.--RMS

    So if I remotely log into a linux server running 100% GPL software, and use that software to crunch data, it's non-free and I must not use it, because the server is owned and controlled by someone else.

    So now software isn't free by it's license, it's free only if it's got a free license and it's on your personal box.

    Ironic, because I was introduced to free software on my universities mainframe (e.g. emacs, LaTeX) and now I find out that wasn't free at all because I didn't have the money to buy a computer that could run it locally.

  • by Wolfger (96957) <[wolfger] [at] [gmail.com]> on Monday April 27, 2009 @11:12AM (#27731519) Homepage
    We must only do what RMS tells us we may do. Then we shall be truly free.
  • by Alzheimers (467217) on Monday April 27, 2009 @11:39AM (#27732015)

    If server-side processing is a bad thing, shouldn't he also be against X, SSH, VNC, and HTTP?

    And if you consider the CPU as the "Client" then server microcode not on-die must also be remote, such as coprocessors, daughter boards, and peripherals.

    Not to mention Beowulf clusters of anything.

  • by DaveV1.0 (203135) on Monday April 27, 2009 @11:50AM (#27732185) Journal

    I will use what I want to use, which will be the tool I think is the best for the job. I am free to choose what I want to do and don't need RMS or anyone else telling my what I should and should not use based on some bullshit ideology.

    Fuck you very much.

  • This Just In (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rssrss (686344) on Monday April 27, 2009 @11:50AM (#27732187)

    There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.

    Mr. Stallman, and the ever shrinking group of people who care what he thinks, need to grow up. Nothing is free. Absolutely nothing. Everything has a cost. And everybody is subject to constraints on their knowledge, wisdom, and actions.

    If we are lucky, the costs are well within our ability to pay, and the constraints are not heavier than those that rational civilized men place on themselves for the sake of good order and pleasant society.

  • by RegularFry (137639) on Monday April 27, 2009 @11:52AM (#27732225)

    The last time he made this sort of noise, we ended up with GPLv3, and look how well *that* has turned out.

  • While I agree in principle with Stallman's concerns, there is in my mind a bigger economic concern that doesn't seem to bother him:

    • Adoption of software-as-a-service will inevitably lead to subscription charges for use of software.

    When that happens, we will have lost even the anemic facade of "ownership" of the software we use. Big Software salivates over the arrival of that day.

    The further economic abuses and concentration of wealth that software-as-a-service will bring is, to me, a far bigger loss of freedom than what worries Stallman.

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not "Eureka!" (I found it!) but "That's funny ..." -- Isaac Asimov

Working...