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FSF's Richard Stallman Calls LLVM a 'Terrible Setback' 1098

An anonymous reader writes "Richard Stallman has called LLVM a terrible setback in a new mailing list exchange over GCC vs. Clang. LLVM continues to be widely used and grow in popularity for different uses, but it's under a BSD-style license rather than the GPL. RMS wrote, 'For GCC to be replaced by another technically superior compiler that defended freedom equally well would cause me some personal regret, but I would rejoice for the community's advance. The existence of LLVM is a terrible setback for our community precisely because it is not copylefted and can be used as the basis for nonfree compilers — so that all contribution to LLVM directly helps proprietary software as much as it helps us.'"
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FSF's Richard Stallman Calls LLVM a 'Terrible Setback'

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  • by Kremmy ( 793693 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @02:54PM (#46059105)
    is preferable to Proprietary Software constructed within obscurity.
  • by Archangel Michael ( 180766 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @02:57PM (#46059147) Journal

    so that all contribution to LLVM directly helps proprietary software as much as it helps us.'"

    And that is a problem why? THIS is the problem I have with RMS, is that anything that helps OTHER people is considered "bad" even if it helps you, equally.

    At some point, actively trying to NOT help others, even if it helps you, is counter Productive to your own cause. BSD license, doesn't harm ANYONE and is "more free" license, compared to GPL.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 24, 2014 @03:07PM (#46059301)

    Yes and no. LLVM is not as good at most things but RMS and everyone else can see that LLVM has a superior overall design, ala structure, extensibility, readabiliy, etc. He sees the writing on the wall.

    Folks here demonize RMS as being blinded by ideology, but the man is briliant and sees what is real.

  • by wanderfowl ( 2534492 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @03:07PM (#46059307)

    I'm starting to think that Richard Stallman is to free software what PETA and the NRA are to vegetarians and gun owners, respectively: Usually there's a kernel of a valid point buried in there somewhere, but the rhetoric is so shrill and overblown that nobody ends up listening for long. All the worse, people start associating all lovers of free software with his level of rhetoric, and zealotry is assumed where none exists.

  • GPL/BSD (Score:5, Insightful)

    by znanue ( 2782675 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @03:07PM (#46059317)

    I'll bite. I do think that RMS has a point about the open source compiler of record being under the GPL, as well as the operating system and other essential build tools and core platform elements. Many people will rightly point out, yet again, that GPL is a pretty aggressive license for most userland software, but when it comes to the platform itself, this aggression seems to be quite desirable. Also, these value statements seem temporally bound to the moment. Maybe in the future we will live in a set of legal and intellectual circumstances where RMS has basically won and that maybe a good thing.

    So I wonder he isn't right about it being sad that LLVM is not under copyleft.

  • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @03:10PM (#46059349) Journal

    > Except for the multiple paid versions of GCC compilers out there:
    > []

    The product you linked to, Codebench lite, is neither proprietary, nor paid.
    It's simply NOT a "paid version of GCC compiler", because it's not something you pay for - it's free and you can download the source.

    That same company ALSO sells support services and an IDE. They don't sell a compiler.

    > []

    Are you claiming that SNC is a GCC derivative? Citation? The wikipedia article mentions that they ship their compiler, which can be used INSTEAD OF the gcc-dereived compiler provided by the hardware manufacturer.

  • by Mdk754 ( 3014249 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @03:11PM (#46059367) Homepage
    Absolutely the case. I just find it entertaining that everyone gets so caught up in the how we make our software free that they forget it's still open source either way. Let the dev choose how they want others to use their code and don't worry about it. Do we have to have one license without the other? Can't they coexist peacefully?
  • by mx+b ( 2078162 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @03:11PM (#46059377)

    I like to think of it as, why are you doing FREE work for a proprietary company that has no obligation to you other than to possibly hide your name at the bottom of a long list of credits buried in the help menu? This is what the BSD license allows.

    If they aren't going to pay me, then I want them to have to contribute back anything they do with my software, which is what GPL requires. THAT is their way of paying me for my time -- that down the road I can save some time by getting help back from them. And not just me, but the entire community gets that help.

    If you are ok with that, then who am I to judge? But I don't think it is as simple as "anything other than his way is bad" -- it is more of a question of, does it bother you to do free work for people, or do you not care just because you think its cool? RMS's concern is that it bothers him to put effort in to let lazy people take it with absolutely no acknowledgement and pay, and even worse, prevent you from doing what you want with THEIR copy of your work! It needs to be a 2-way street.

  • by Microlith ( 54737 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @03:15PM (#46059447)

    I don't think he's asking you to agree with him. I think he's expressing his opinion of LLVM within the context of his goals. Given it happened on the GCC mailing list, I hardly see this as shocking or surprising.

  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @03:16PM (#46059469)

    I like to think of it as, why are you doing FREE work for a proprietary company that has no obligation to you

    Because it makes everyone's life better. If that's not reason enough, I don't know what else to tell you.

    What's wrong with doing work that you expect ZERO acknowledgement from anyone? I learned something doing the work, and something else somewhere I might use one day works better as a result. That's a win no matter how jaded a filter you chose to apply.

  • by Freedom Bug ( 86180 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @03:17PM (#46059473) Homepage

    RMS couldn't care less if other companies profit off of his work.

    What he cares about is some company taking his work, making it better, selling it back to him and then not letting him hack on it, fix it, port it to unapproved hardware, use it for unapproved uses, et cetera.

  • by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @03:19PM (#46059519) Homepage Journal


    One of the most ambigious words out there is "freedom." We can usually focus on some areas of broad agreement, but for the most part it's a word used more for its positive overtones than its accuracy.

    The Southern States, zealously supporting slavery, described themselves on the side of freedom. John Wilkes Booth wrote about glowingly. Why? Because the Feds letting the power holders in the South own slaves was, clearly, not interfering with their freedom to do so.

    I'm using the South as an great example, but there's an even better one, except the conversation would degenerate from here if I used it. Let's just say "You know who also said he was fighting for freedom?"

    I'm inclined to avoid using the word these days. In the mean time, using the term objectively, I think Stallman is probably on a better track than the BSD people. The BSD people would be better if it weren't for the existance of copyright. That changes everything, Stallman understands that, I don't think the BSD people do.

  • by Microlith ( 54737 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @03:24PM (#46059597)

    Why RMS is so against that yet claims to be pro freedom, I'll never understand.

    Because his goal is to ensure that no one finds themselves in a position where they're using a binary without sources. Someone in that position is not free, and the GPL is his tool to ensure that doesn't happen.

  • by Pinky's Brain ( 1158667 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @03:25PM (#46059613)

    It would behove Stallman to admit that his/GCCs insistence on obfuscated/incomplete intermediary representations was never tenable in the long term. If they had just adopted LLVM for GCC-Next when it was offered this wouldn't have been a problem ... in the end GCC had no choice to follow their lead any way with LTO, proving that the argument that it made proprietary backends too easy should have never been used.

  • by Aaden42 ( 198257 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @03:25PM (#46059617) Homepage

    It’s about giving freedom to the code.

    I dunno about you, but I’ve never had any code I’ve written pass a Turing test then demand emancipation. Ultimately, the person who spent the time to create something is the one who should get to choose what “free” means to them and release their work with the appropriate terms.

    Some developers prefer to favor the freedom of the people who get code from them, over the freedoms of people who might (or might not) get the code from someone else, second hand. That’s BSD licensing. I give you my code, you do what you want with it, including telling other people they can’t do the same.

    Other developers prefer to make commercial exploitation of their work difficult. They say you can use their code, but you have to give both the original code and your changes to everyone else. That’s GPL.

    Both are valid options, and there’s no reason the developers shouldn’t be “free” to release their code under whichever terms are most attractive to them. RMS’ claim that LLVM is somehow a “setback” because its developers choose to favor their immediate users’ freedoms is offensive. Stallman is in effect saying that developers *shouldn’t* have the freedom to decide how other people can use their code.

    Based on what I’ve read of RMS’ writings, I don’t buy his assertion that it’s about freedom of the code. It’s about undermining proprietary commercial software and moving towards a communism of software. I also think he’s a little bit jealous that LLVM really is a technically superior compiler suite and much more clearly written to boot.

    I really don’t have very much tolerance left for people claiming you can only be free if you do it their way. You keep using that word, but I don’t think it means what you think it means.

  • zero-sum? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mugnyte ( 203225 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @03:29PM (#46059679) Journal

    RMS's philosophy assumes a zero-sum combative environment for software: "free and uncapitalizable" vs "open-source and capitlistic". He's consistent and clear, but this zero-sum assumption is false. Closed-source innovations have cross-bred with open many times, either via concept or actual code contributions. The ecosystem mingles every time any coder merges their closed-source ideas with open or vice-versa. Freedom in this case lives at the meta level that allows individuals AND a market to thrive. We're not going back to an age where all the drawers of tapes are unlocked for everyone at all times, but where the concepts embedded in the tapes' content crossbreed and multiply. Freedom has thus encompassed RMS's idea (after all, GPLv3 is not prohibited) and that of a market-based economy. His stance that assumes zero-sum reveals a clear dislike for the existance of the market, which perhaps arose from a time when digital commerce could not be envisioned. However, digital-goods are indeed a very large market and that work to create such goods will come from anywhere, free, paid, donated and even (regrettably) stolen. It mirrors the real world, as it should.

  • by unixisc ( 2429386 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @03:30PM (#46059707)

    LLVM/Clang has existed for a while now, and one of the primary motivations behind it was the license, particularly w/ GCC going GPLv3. Suddenly, RMS one day wakes up and realizes that it's not copyleft? That's the very idea!

    I am not an Apple fan, but despite his rants, Apple has done a lot for LLVM/Clang, which I daresay wouldn't be where it is were it not for Apple and other proprietary vendors feeding back their changes upstream, despite not having to.

  • by Microlith ( 54737 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @03:35PM (#46059789)

    Argument from apathy?

    This is just another case of Stallman's ideological purity doing more harm to his cause than good.

    How so? I would argue that this drives home the point for Stallman that GCC needs to be better.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 24, 2014 @03:38PM (#46059851)

    So are you saying that BSD gets less contributions because of its licence and that GPL'ed software gets more?
    But then LLVM would receive less contributions and GCC would reign supreme.

  • by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @03:39PM (#46059859) Homepage

    One one side of the battle is RMS, on the other side is nobody.
    Everybody else just stayed home and kept coding because none of them really care about this battle.

  • by SirGarlon ( 845873 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @03:42PM (#46059907)

    Stallman said,

    ... all contribution to LLVM directly helps proprietary software as much as it helps us.

    as if that were a bad thing.

    He's confusing the promotion of free software with opposition to proprietary software. Those are two different things. The former is a productive activity that helps me as a user. The latter is an uphill battle that doesn't even really need to be fought. The best way to defeat proprietary software is to provide a superior, free alternative.

    I like to think of myself as one of the biggest Stallman fans out there. I think he is a visionary, and I totally agree with him that free software is important to a free society and the betterment of the human condition. But holding back from adopting a good compiler because someone proprietary vendor might also benefit sounds like cutting off our noses to spite our faces.

    In fact, if, as Stallman says, "sharing with your neighbor" is an ethical imperative, then one could say he's applying that selectively. (I am aware of his argument why this is the right thing to do; I just don't accept it.)

  • Re:Precisely (Score:5, Insightful)

    by orasio ( 188021 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @03:42PM (#46059913) Homepage

    The thing is that you are worried about computing in the current world.
    RMS is worried about the future of computing, and has helped shape it, winning several battles, even though he is losing the war.

    Of course there are IP laws/contracts/whatever that don't let you link to GPLed code. That's why it's GPLed, so the work of free software developer does not help those who want to shrink our freedom.

    You can use our work, if you share, if you don't share, go build it yourself. It _is_ us versus them, and RMS sees it very clearly.

    Fifteen years ago, RMS rants about a dystopian future looked exaggerated. Right now, they look like old news.

    You are right that the GPL is a PITA when you want to work with proprietary software, that's not a bug, it's a feature, which BSD software lacks. That's because the GPL is supposed to have a long term effect.

  • by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @03:44PM (#46059949)

    When open-source was first taking off, the GPL was necessary because only a small group of die-hard believers thought it would work. Having the work "stolen" into a proprietary product that successfully hijacks the userbase was entirely possible, and so a protective license was necessary.

    Now, open-source is common. Users are aware enough that it's nearly impossible to hijack a userbase - any good features added to a proprietary version will be quickly cloned in the open-source original, and few users distrust open-source software. Companies are rarely afraid to work with open-source projects or release their code, and many see it as an advantage.

    The GPL (and similar copyleft licenses) protects the open-sourceness of the project, but it also limits its usability. BSD or similar licenses do not offer similar protections, but also do not have the restrictions. Now that open-source has cultural, not just legal, defenses, GPL is not necessary unless you consider the open-sourceness of the code to be more important than the usability of the code.

    And so I think GPL is best treated as a transitional license. In areas of software where open-source dominates, it is no longer necessary. In areas where it faces strong opposition from proprietary software, it remains useful or even essential.

  • by Rob Bos ( 3399 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @03:44PM (#46059963) Homepage

    Historically, BSD licensing has created some big problems, with companies taking software, adding major features, and then providing it as part of their own Unix without feeding the changes back into the central tree. It's arguable that overly-permissive licensing terms gave us the extremly divided and nasty Unix market of the 80s and 90s, and that the GPL provided a sort of herd immunity against massively differentiated forks by making it possible to get features back into the mainstream trees in a consistent and timely manner.

    RMS has a distressing habit of being proven right, and I wouldn't discount him quite so easily.

  • by robmv ( 855035 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @03:46PM (#46059989)

    For example if I write a hello world program in C++ and iostream.h is GPL. Then hello world can't be released unless it also is GPL. See the problem?

    Wrong GCC libraries are GPL with an exception [], for example

    As a special exception, you may use this file as part of a free software
    library without restriction. Specifically, if other files instantiate
    templates or use macros or inline functions from this file, or you compile
    this file and link it with other files to produce an executable, this
    file does not by itself cause the resulting executable to be covered by
    the GNU General Public License. This exception does not however
    invalidate any other reasons why the executable file might be covered by
    the GNU General Public License.

  • well then... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 24, 2014 @03:54PM (#46060013)

    Maybe the GCC folks shouldn't have been so complacent, arrogant, and hostile toward their users :-(

  • by ciaran_o_riordan ( 662132 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @03:54PM (#46060015) Homepage

    For someone who isn't interested in free software or open source, your approach works: go with the flow, everyone do what they want.

    The result it that some software turns into a hand-out for companies that, in the long term, are trying to make free software disappear.

    If someone wants to be able to more with free software, then there's a question of strategies for achieving this. The user gets the same freedoms from BSD and GPL, but GPL says anyone building on top of the software has to contribute their improvements to the community. Only fair really.

    So, yeh, the two can coexist, but the GPL does a lot more to ensure that we have great free software in the future. If you think that's a good thing, then use the GPL.

  • by nobodyman ( 90587 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @03:55PM (#46060023) Homepage
    Let's see. If they don't care if derivatives wind up in closed-source projects, I'm gonna take a wild leap and predict that they won't care if derivatives wind up in open-source projects.
  • by poetmatt ( 793785 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @03:58PM (#46060055) Journal

    No, many people have claimed to have started moving away frmo GPL with GPLV3. Repeating a false statement more times doesn't mean it's more true. The people who claimed to have moved away needed GPLv2's loopholes and/or BSD.

  • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @04:04PM (#46060109)

    Then use only GPLed software on your computer.

    This story is about Stallman complaining because other people don't agree with his vision. Too bad.

  • by ciaran_o_riordan ( 662132 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @04:05PM (#46060133) Homepage

    P.S. I phrased this badly:

    > go with the flow, everyone do what they want.

    I'm in favour of people doing what they want. The approach I meant to criticise is "everyone do whatever and let's not discuss it, let's just see what happens".

    Everyone can and will do what they want, but I'm in favour of thinking about the options. If you want more free software to exist, choosing GPL makes sense.

  • by poetmatt ( 793785 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @04:06PM (#46060147) Journal

    No, it's not. That's not a choice, it's a false dichotomy.

    Open software constructed with open standards is preferable to proprietary software. You're implying that a lesser evil is somehow still ok. No thanks.

  • by ciaran_o_riordan ( 662132 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @04:17PM (#46060277) Homepage

    > then LLVM would receive less contributions and GCC would reign supreme.

    Except that Apple is funding LLVM. It suits their agenda, and their goal isn't to give a long and fruitful life to free software.

  • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @04:20PM (#46060341)

    But, using the BSD licence (or the LGPL) takes away an incentive to contribute to the free software project.

    Unfortunately, this ignores the distinction between "tactical" and "strategic", and between "foundation" and "application".

    Let's start with "tactical" vs. "strategic":

    If a set of code based on BSD licensed software is merely tactical, then you are vastly better off offloading the ongoing support for that to the larger community, and are therefore incentivized to contribute your changes back to the community. If a set of code based on BSD licensed software is strategic, however, then you are better off keeping it proprietary, since it represents the value your business brings to the market. By keeping it proprietary, you leverage your ability to produce something which is either difficult or nigh impossible for a competitor to duplicate in order to keep yourself in business.

    In the strategic case, however, you are still incentivized to contribute code back.

    A strategic advantage may not, and probably will not, last long term. At that point it becomes tactical, and you move on. But being tactical, you contribute it back. You may in fact do that when the code is in the process of converting from strategic to tactical, to avoid an upstart filling that ecological niche, and making it more difficult for you to maintain your code going forward. This is what we did when we contributed the Soft Updates code back to FreeBSD.

    Another reason to contribute back to a project when you are utilizing strategic code is to establish well defined interfaces between the tactical code in the Open Source project, and your strategic code that you maintain internally. For this to work out, the interfaces you design, and the boundaries between the code, has to be useful to others, or the contributions will not be adopted by the project. Again, you are incentivized to let parts of the strategic code out in order to support reduced ongoing maintenance of the strategic code you keep proprietary.

    Moving on to "foundation" vs. "application":

    Why did TCP/IP win? I was at Novell at the time during which the protocol basis for the commercial Internet was being decided. Novell was attempting to swing a deal with AT&T to get them to deploy a commercial network topology based on SPX/IPX; at the same time, Microsoft was attempting to get AT&T and Sprint, and whoever else they could get on board, to deploy a commercial network based on NetBIOS/NetBEUI.

    Although TCP/IP was vastly superior, despite its known flaws due to both the three way handshake and the socket shutdown mechanism, it was a close race: technical superiority has often lost out in the market to technically inferior technology with a large marketing budget and proprietary leverage for the purpose of profit. So why did it win? It won because of the BSD license: anyone could take the code and stuff it into a networking product or end node client or server system on a royalty free basis, and they could do it using the same code that their competitors were using.

    TCP/IP is a foundational technology. It has importance not because of its utility in and of itself, it has importance because of the ability to build interesting and useful application code edifices on top of the foundation it provides. It isn't itself an application.

    Applications, on the other hand, until there is an Open Source equivalent, under whatever license, are not foundational, they have value unique unto themselves. This is why Photoshop and Microsoft Office haven't been displaced, and still continue to sell.

    The mistake RMS is making here is considering a compiler as an application. A compiler is not an application, it is a foundation; further, it's not strategic, it's tactical. There's no reason to try and force the release of strategic or application code through the auspices of a license, because there isn't any.

    And this is why companies are investing into LLVM rather than GCC: the bag

  • Re:Us versus Them (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 24, 2014 @04:23PM (#46060377)

    The existence of LLVM is a terrible setback for our community precisely because it is not copylefted and can be used as the basis for nonfree compilers — so that all contribution to LLVM directly helps proprietary software as much as it helps us.

    Isn't it sad the way he sees this as a loss in the war of "Us versus Them" rather than as a "technically superior compiler" resulting in a bigger pie for everybody?

    Well he doesn't just care about technical superiority. He has never claimed that "free software" is important because it is inherently technically superior to proprietary code, or that it will always be more secure.

    In fact, the term "open source" was coined during the late 90s dot-com bubble precisely because Stallman has always argued that there are important ethical principles at stake in software development, and some people were worried that this concept of "behaving according to a set of ethics" would sound too much like hippy 60's nonsense. Businesses might be discouraged, and then how would we have got crazy stock market floations, dizzying P/E ratios and Scrooge McDuck-style money baths? Instead they wanted a way to push this growing set of software with revised presentation approach that was value-neutral, and so they came up with the idea that by rebranding it as "open source" and stressing only its supposed technical merits, the men in expensive suits would not be disturbed from their vocation of grabbing as much money as possible.

    You might not agree with Stallman's view on ethics - many don't - but it is a little sad to see how much crap he gets even for suggesting that people should stop to consider ethics before reaching for "a bigger pie for everybody".

  • by unixisc ( 2429386 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @04:28PM (#46060477)
    Linux is still under GPLv2, which has the loopholes that allow companies to make money off it. Like the so called 'Tivoization' aspect. Linus has been pretty firm that Linux would remain under it. Had Linux gone GPL3, people would have deserted them in droves. Also, had the BSD lawsuits been settled sooner, the BSDs would probably have been more successful
  • by Goaway ( 82658 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @04:29PM (#46060491) Homepage

    To clarify, Apple is the upstream here. They created clang themselves, and they never needed to even launch it as an open source project. They did anyway, because there are huge and tangible benefits to doing so, and everybody gains from it.

    Seems to me RMS does not actually believe that an open development model is better, since he feels the need to force people into it.

  • by perpenso ( 1613749 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @04:30PM (#46060501)

    Except that Apple is funding LLVM.

    Sort of undermine's Stallman's argument about corporations not supporting the community. There are supporters and there are leachers, both on the individual and the corporate side.

    It suits their agenda, and their goal isn't to give a long and fruitful life to free software.

    Nor is it their goal to destroy free software. They have supported many free software projects for many years. Yes those projects benefit them, so what? All that matters is if they contribute or if they leach. They seem to contribute.

  • by Immerman ( 2627577 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @04:34PM (#46060545)

    No, then he'd want to use all BSD/public domain software. GPL software explicitly prohibits you from doing whatever you want with the source, you are required to give back if you distribute derivative works.

    Agree about Stallman though - "Oh no, somebody is giving technically superior code with no restrictions to both us and our ideological competitors. The horror!". Yes, perhaps a legitimate tactical setback in terms of some sort of ideological "war", but if a compiler built within the self-promoting GPL ecosystem can't compete with the advances in an unrestricted BSD project then perhaps he should spend more time examining why that is and less time complaining about freely available superior products offering their advances to "the enemy" on equal terms.

  • by mbkennel ( 97636 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @04:35PM (#46060575)

    FSF doesn't have just an ideology of helping free software, it has an ideology of hurting proprietary software.

    Clang and LLVM are technically superior because they've been heavily modularized. FSF actively didn't want to do this with GCC and made it difficult because they wanted to make it difficult for GCC to be used with external tools, which hypothetically, could have been non-free software.

    Yes, the LLVM license & design, in contrast to GCC, permits Apple to integrate it with proprietary Xcode, but it also aids tools development from academics and free software writers.

    The facts are that GCC was there first, and precisely because of the political attitude of FSF which resulted in technical kneecaps flowing from that, other parties spend lots of money to develop a technically superior, and politically superior product. And today, a proprietary company with enormous bags of money is paying highly skilled people to develop slightly-less free open-source software.

    FSF and GCC had its purpose and ideology exposed to the world, a significant community, and it lost. With a more compromising attitude FSF would have found Apple contributing significant resources to GCC--after all it was the original part of NextSTEP and early MacOS development.

    I think GCC is very impressive and have used it for decades. Soon enough, though the future will be LLVM.
  • by perpenso ( 1613749 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @04:43PM (#46060697)

    But LLVM still gets the resources to make free software as a result. Does it matter if there's corporate support or the code is programmed by altruistic (and either poor or overworked) individuals whose souls are not so incumbered by finances?

    Linux is essentially developed by corporate sponsored developers, not the individual hobbyists of old. Last I heard the volunteers accounted for about 16% of Linux contributions, the rest coming from employees of one company or another (Red Hat, Intel, IBM, etc). With this sponsorship comes a degree of control, direction. There really is little difference between corporate supported GPL-based projects and corporate supported BSD-based projects. Corporation provide direction to both, the source code is available in both.

  • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @04:44PM (#46060705) Homepage

    > Because from what I've seen the two biggest users are Apple, who give back with projects like CUPS,

    You mean that project that was fully formed and perfectly usable long before Apple decided to "buy" it.

    If Apple did in fact actually improve CUPS, it's very non-obvious.

  • by ranulf ( 182665 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @05:09PM (#46061037)

    Someone building on top of a BSD-licensed software project has the additional freedom to retain and not release changes they make to that software when distributing their own build. GPL advocates say that this is a freedom that people shouldn't have, in order for all players to be even.

    Yes, this is exactly the issue. GPL isn't "more free" than BSD. Quite the opposite. GPL is far less free as it grants the users less freedoms.

    The BSD approach is "Here is something nice I made - have it and do what you like, hope you have fun!"
    The GPL approach is "Here is something nice I made - you can use it, but if you you have to let me play with you stuff. I don't care that your thing might be vastly better or more complicated than mine, if you're using my stuff you sure better make sure I can use everything you make."

    Which is really more free?

  • Fork it. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by flymolo ( 28723 ) <flymolo&gmail,com> on Friday January 24, 2014 @05:10PM (#46061053)

    If GPL is superior, do a GPLed fork of LLVM/clang and beat the BSD licensed version with their own code.

    You should be able to grow faster.
    You have access to their improvements, while they don't have access to yours.
    But then you'd be doing what you criticize corporations for, what you fear being done to LLVM by corporations.

    You obviously could, but it feels wrong to me. But if it's freedom you are protecting why does it feel wrong?

  • by Arker ( 91948 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @05:21PM (#46061199) Homepage

    "I work in a commercial software development company. We use OSS components, and we contribute back to the projects. They are all BSD/Apache variants. Our lawyers have forbidden us to touch anything GPL under any circumstances. It isn't as simple as many here claim that it is about whether we want to be contributors or freeloaders. We do contribute back in the OSS projects we use. But GPL is viral, and can very easily infect and "liberate" proprietary IP that is part of the solution."

    You do not understand the GPL, and more disturbingly it appears that your company lawyers are just as ignorant as you are. If they were competent their advice would be nearly the opposite. Any contribution to a BSD codebase needs to be evaluated carefully because it means that the code is immediately licensed to your competitors without restriction and they can embrace-extend-extinguish you right out of your market if you are not very careful. GPL is much safer, in that case competitors can only use the code if they in turn publish and license back their own modifications, which rather dulls the point on that particular lance.

    I would start looking for a new job, these idiots will probably run the company into the ground in short order.

  • by Goaway ( 82658 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @05:26PM (#46061267) Homepage

    No, the GPL prohibits releasing software on the App Store. Apple are just going along with the wishes of the authors of the GPL-licensed code there.

  • by ciaran_o_riordan ( 662132 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @05:49PM (#46061575) Homepage

    > undermine's Stallman's argument about corporations not supporting

    The LLVM model for attracting funding doesn't scale, and it defeats itself in the long term.

    LLVM are only getting funding because Apple wants to undermine GCC. Most projects can't be used in that way, so they can't be of any interest to the Apple category of funders. And Apple's interest in funding the free parts of LLVM will dry up as soon as they (if they ever) achieve the goal of undermining GCC. The LLVM licence allows Apple to switch to a proprietary approach whenever they want. (Although, in reality, they'll continue to contribute the non-flashy bits of code - the stuff they want other people to maintain for them.)

  • by ciaran_o_riordan ( 662132 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @05:54PM (#46061637) Homepage

    > Our lawyers have forbidden us to touch anything GPL under any circumstances.

    You need new lawyers.

  • by NoImNotNineVolt ( 832851 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @06:09PM (#46061837) Homepage
    That's not as crazy as you make it sound. Perhaps our enemies have a cancer incidence rate that is orders of magnitude greater than ours. Perhaps the US only has one cancer death a year, but "the terrorists" lose millions to cancer every day. Were this the case, then indeed, a cure for cancer would be a major setback to the US.

    That's a more accurate version of your analogy. The freedom afforded by the BSD license has value to the users of software, indeed. But it has much greater value to those who would sell proprietary forks. For example, I run OpenBSD. I like that it's open source, and I like that I can do basically anything I want with it, so long as I preserve attribution information. However, I haven't modified the code, and I don't really get any meaningful value from being able to do so and then sell my fork as closed-source software. As a counterpoint, Apple likes LLVM. They've modified it, and they're selling their proprietary fork as XCode. They've found great value in the freedom afforded them by the BSD license. The users of XCode, however, aren't seeing much benefit from the BSD license, because it never got to them. Apple ate it along the way.

    I think it's self-evident that the BSD license benefits "the enemy" (profit-generating businesses) more than it benefits "us" (the users of software), which renders your analogy misleading.

    Of course, this is a dramatic oversimplification of the BSD vs GPL debate, as there are many more implications of choosing a license than what is detailed here. I'm no GPL fanboi, and I can see why developers would prefer BSD simply to avoid all the legal confusion that comes with GPL. However, to portray GPL as crazy, or senseless, or wrong, is to be quite myopic. There are valid arguments to be made in favor of either license, and the philosophical differences are deeper than many are capable of admitting.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 24, 2014 @06:27PM (#46062025)
    You are an idiot who is looking at this totally backwards. Their contributions to BSD code are intentional and by their direct approval, and only has to encompass the parts they're willing to release, so that is not at all a problem. But mixing GPL code with their proprietary code means they have to release EVERYTHING - the whole project must be GPLed (unless they are able to keep the code in a separate binary). That's a huge hit to the company that does not exist with BSD licensed code.
  • by Nemyst ( 1383049 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @07:50PM (#46062793) Homepage

    LLVM are only getting funding because Apple wants to undermine GCC.

    You need a reality check badly. Apple doesn't give a shit about GCC, regardless of what your self-centered mind might think. They want a compiler that's good for their platform and lets them package it into Xcode. GCC would make this impossible. LLVM makes this possible. That's it. Perhaps if people like you didn't always have this absurd notion that corporations are specifically out to get you (instead of merely focusing on growing their business), you wouldn't be stuck as you are with many GPL projects withering or changing licenses.

  • by w_dragon ( 1802458 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @10:07PM (#46063673)
    In every software company I've worked at the codebase is roughly 5% critical, complex code that makes the company money, 95% boilerplate utility, ui, boring code that everyone tries to find ways to reduce. For that 5% it's important it be GPL-free since there's no way in hell the company will release it, and GPL violations can be expensive. Anything it links against in the other 95% must also be GPL-free. The rest of it can contain whatever free code reduces work for developers. Fixing a bug in boost may help my competitors, sure, but maintaining a fork just so I can jealously guard a little change in a third party library is a shocking amount of work long-term. The money rests in giving back and getting someone else to maintain as much code as you can, other than your core competence.
  • FUD, pure FUD and not only is it FUD it has absolutely not a fucking thing to do with either Apple NOR Google NOR the BSD license, which was the subject of the post you were responding to!

    You are making the EXACT SAME ARGUMENTS that the RIAA uses against copying, that somehow it will be "taken" from you, that unless you have control it will "go away" but its FUD, nothing but FUD. Did Webkit go away after Apple and Google started contributing? Nope if anything it has never been used more, its now on millions of devices and use by tens of millions daily. Did CUPS disappear? Nope the developer doesn't have to wonder where his next meal is coming from, that is all.

    So I'm sorry but bringing up some bullshit attributed to MSFT more than a decade ago has ZERO to do with Apple and Google and the BSD license, not a damned thing, just as this video of RMS munching down on toe cheese [] don't have a damned thing to do with Apple,Google, or BSD but hey RMS is for the GPL which competes with BSD so that makes it relevant!

  • by smash ( 1351 ) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @12:57AM (#46064523) Homepage Journal

    Do you seriously think gcc will ever get totally outclassed so long as they can borrow from LLVM as freely as the corporations driving it forward?

    Yes because some of the features in LLVM/CLANG are in direct conflict with design decisions made by RMS about GCC with regards to integration into other tools. This isn't a lack of ability option on the part of the GCC team, it is a lack of intent, or rather deliberate intent to NOT implement for religious reasons.

  • by cupnoodleboy ( 856625 ) * on Saturday January 25, 2014 @01:16AM (#46064607)

    If your company do not want to share the custom software produced by you or your company, it is fine and there is nothing wrong with it. On the other hand, as a result of the choice of your company, people writing GPL software also do not want to share with your company the software produced by them. I noted that in your post, you used the phrase "competitive advantage". People produce GPL software because they want to make sure that their software and any further improvement can be freely shared by users of the software. They do not write the software to provide your company "competitive advantage". Since your company enjoy profits from the custom software, it is completely fair that your company should pay the cost to rewrite any part of the software when necessary.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 25, 2014 @01:58AM (#46064757)

    EXCEPT, back when our custom software was written, some GPL code was included. This was legal and nothing wrong with it. Now, however, we are going to fall into the 'distributor' category by letting the contractor use our software. Now the GPL says we can NOT prevent the contractor from doing whatever he wants with our software, including giving it our competitors or using it in his other operations.

    So what did we do? Rewrote the software (more expense) to remove all the GPL parts, and instated a new company rule: no internal use stuff is to be based on GPL code, ever.

    This is the point of the GPL and indicates that it worked as intended.

    You used third-party code that came with an agreement that anyone using it is free to modify, combine, improve and sell their changes in order to save you time and money then tried to turn around and dishonor your agreement. The consequence was that you had to either release the code or remove the protected portions, as intended.

  • by Stewie241 ( 1035724 ) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @11:10AM (#46066275)

    That's not completely true... the GPL does not at all obligate you to make your changes available to the original developer. It only obligates people who distribute binaries based on your work to also distribute the source that accompanies those binaries. I am in no way obligated to distribute my new binary to the original developer and as such am not obligated to distribute the source (though anybody who I do distribute the binary to may request the source and provide it to the original developer).

    GPL emphasizes the freedom of the next generations, where BSD emphasizes the protection of the first generation.

    i.e. if I write GPL software and distribute it with the source, and somebody else takes that source and modifies it, and distributes it, then they have to provide the source and the right to modify it. So users two or three (or more) links down the chain have the same freedom as the original user.

    if I write BSD software and distribute it with the source, and somebody else takes that source and modifies it, then they have no obligation to provide the source, and thus there is no necessary benefit to lower generations. The BSD offers them no such guaranteed benefit.

    GPL sacrifices the freedom of the first generation to protect the freedom of the future generations.

Thus spake the master programmer: "When a program is being tested, it is too late to make design changes." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"