2009-02-27

emacs, FSF, RMS

2009-02-27

On Feb 27, 7:56 am, Alan Mackenzie wrote:
> [ Newsgroups: trimmed ]
>
> Hi, Xah!
>
> In comp.emacs Xah Lee wrote:
>
> > Richard Stallman, from my interaction with him in the past 2 years,
> > and some reading of his post in emacs dev, i'm starting to find him
> > very annoying.
>
> Don't worry about it. People have been finding RMS very annoying for
> several decades. ;-)
>
> > It appears to me, he's been sitting on his fat ass, completely out of
> > touch as a coder for at least 10 years, have basically no knowledge of
> > modern languages and technologies, but pushes and dictates his
> > politics.
>
> Well, he has this habit of being right about things, sometimes years
> before most people are even aware of them.

Alan, stop that mentality.

Richard Stallman, contributed to society in 2 significant ways. One is his coding, producing many major software, such as emacs, gcc, etc. The other, with far more greater impact, and is the reason he is remembered in human animal history, is the creation of FSF with its GPL.

His technical, coding, contribution is unquestionably a positive contribution. His “free” software movement is, however, questionable. The reason that society recognized this social contribution, is partly, if not significantly, due to the fact that he is successful in spreading his philosophy. For example, to illustrate, if Hitler was successful, today he would be a hero, leader, founder, as opposed to a criminal. As another illustration, if US lost the war to UK, then the “founding fathers” of US would be considered criminals today who got punished by death. In fact, many of the leaders in the US at the time is doing quite morally questionable things besides treason.

Richard Stallman, also did some morally questionable things before he started FSF. In one perspective, you can consider him a software criminal. Lucky for him that at the time there was no software law yet. Else, he'd be in jail before he had a chance to mouth his manifesto. So, in this perspective, he is someone who breaks the law, got dissed by MIT, got pissed, with vengeance he starts the FSF to recoup his ego.

The above is one perspective. A perspective neutral, where human animal's behavior is considered foremost sans a context of any particular moral system.

> > The FSF's insistence of signing of legal paper to accept code
> > contribution is one huge obstacle too, for whatever good or bad reasons
> > they need to do it.
>
> It's irritating, yes, but hardly a huge obstacle. It's necessary
> because, under USA law (so I'm told), a copyright lawsuit can only
> proceed with the active involvement of all copyright holders. The
> advantage, from your point of view, is that anytime anybody violates the
> copyright of your code, you've got the legal resources of the FSF to
> back you up.

The FSF requirement of legal paper signing is a significant problem for FSF's software to progress forward.

First, let's presume that it is something that needs to be done in order for FSF to protect GPL.

Now, imagine, there are 2 software A and B. In A, there are paper works going by postal mail, as parts of how A grow code. In B, there is no such.

Today, thanks to FSF, vast majority of open source software uses model B. Just look at all code at Google Code, SourceForge, or numerous other open source code depositories. Today, the internet age where people watch movies online and all sort of online transactions, the paper work and postal mail agreement model is a major time drain and impetus killing.

to help see this, imagine, if all Open Source software today, those hosted by Google Code, Source Forge, all linux development, or any code on emacswiki, requires a postal mail legal paper signing before the code can be published, then, to what degree do you think will slow down the progress? Can you now see?

So, now you see, GNU emacs's requirement for signing legal document thru paper mail is a significant obstacle for GNU emacs to progress.

I have thought about how to remedy this situation for few minutes yesterday, but didn't see any solution or conclusion. First, we presume that it is in fact necessary for the paper work, as FSF says so. Ok, then what can we do? I don't really know. If the paper work is necessary, and of course FSF is practically the only one to protect the GPL, in a sense allowing the thousands other open source or “free” software to progress freely without paperwork. It appears to me we hav run into a inherent “unsolvable” problem. I was thinking, perhaps GNU software can be considered as kinda sacrifice, by requiring the legal paper work in order to protect GPL for the whole open source community, but meanwhile sacrifice GNU software's progress due to the very paperwork bureaucracy... but this can't go on for long, because eventually GNU's software will become so bad that people all uses other's open source software, and if that is so, then FSF's GPL protection role will rot out too, because only a very small percentage of people is actually using FSF's “free” software...

The above paragraph is a bit of rambling. In any case, i do doubt the necessity for FSF to require the paper work. Maybe it was important in 1990s or earlier, but probably not today. I even question if it was necessary in the 1990s. For example, there was BSD's license. And there's also the much simpler “public domain” release. Arguably these does not propagate the concept behind FSF. (that is GPL, of which Richard says is “fighting fire with fire”.) But in any case, consider today, with huge participation of google, apple computer, and quite several large organization and commercial entities participating in open source projects in major ways, it is question today that even GPL itself, is needed at all. Richard has been successful in his ideal of software. Today, that is largely already achieved to the extend that such concept can benefit society. (see note below) So, in this perspective, FSF can in fact can today close shop and the existing opene source and “free” software world may not fare worse.

Note: in the above, i didn't even discuss whether OpenSource or “‘Free’ Software” concept is it itself good for society. There are many debates on this.

e.g.
• A Case Aganist OpenSources (A New Paradigm in Intellectual Property Law?) by Mathias Strasser, 2001. http://stlr.stanford.edu/STLR/Articles/01_STLR_4/article.htm

For me, i believe that “‘Free’ Software” idea is indeed a good idea, but not so much how Richard paints it. The gist is that, software is a piece of good, and by the very nature of software, it can be copied without much cost. So, the traditional copyright law, usually allowing one single copy, may not be of the best interest to human animals as a whole, long term. In “‘Free’ software” ideal, software industry more becomes a service oriented industry, where coders gets paid to modify and customize existing software. This is also arguably a better business model when compared with existing copyright software laws or practices, where app is sold as a some type of permission to use.

> > The guy who wrote aquaemacs emacs, from the few exchange .....
> > i don't find him much of a respectable person.
>
> [ .... ]
>
> > (it goddamn pains me that each time i need to mention his [somebody
> > else's] name and find the correct spelling, i have to go to my own
> > emacs page because he almost ****ing make it a point not to stick out
> > his name as authorship where he SHOULD, as a matter of publishing
> > ethic. (he probably think it is a modesty. LOL my ****ing ass.))
>
> [ .... ]
>
> > frequently, whenever i use some open source software, often am amazed
> > at what kind absolute idiot created the user interface.
>
> Looks like you're having a bad day. Cheer up, and think of that tiny
> minority of free software hackers who actually do a passable job. ;-)

No, i didn't have a bad day. I get very irritated by idiots, in the same sense most tech geekers gets irrigated by “dumb users” or how society is being “dumbed down”. It usually don't effect my mood. I enjoy teaching, and i enjoy fighting with socially ignorant tech geekers, or geekers who's IQ are too low or speak beyond their brain. On this point, you can see some explanation in the following article:

• (Knowledge + Love) / Disrespectfulness
http://xahlee.org/Netiquette_dir/disrespectfulness.html

Xah
∑ http://xahlee.org/



http://groups.google.com/group/gnu.emacs.help/msg/56f90095e7d6f201?hl=en

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