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Letters to the editor should be sent to letters@lwn.net. Preference will be given to letters which are short, to the point, and well written. If you want your email address "anti-spammed" in some way please be sure to let us know. We do not have a policy against anonymous letters, but we will be reluctant to include them.

March 8, 2001

Date: Thu, 1 Mar 2001 10:40:54 -0500
From: "Donald J. Barry" <don@astro.cornell.edu>
To: letters@lwn.net
Subject: Stallman's position on OGG/VORBIS

Dear LWN:

I take gentle issue with your ascription to Richard Stallman of an
a desire for "a more restrictive licensing for libraries."  In doing
so, you are under the mistaken belief that the GPL is in fact somehow 
less free than the BSD license.

This entirely depends upon your point of view.  To a user, software 
freedom encompasses such issues as, "will this software continue to be
developed in the public sphere?", "will I find that my hardware is now
only supported by a proprietary fork?", "will someone else take software
I have contributed to and commercialize the results?".  In this core
sense, the GPL is the most free of all the licenses.  

I can understand Stallman's decision to tactically endorse a flexible 
strategy in the case of OGG/Vorbis.  But here's to FREE software for
just about everything else.

Don Barry,
Cornell University
Date: Sat, 03 Mar 2001 20:04:52 -0500
From: Thomas Hood <jdthoodREMOVETHIS@yahoo.co.uk>
To: letters@lwn.net
Subject: Stallman on Freedom and the American Way

RMS's latest article comes on the heels of a Microsoft
executive's insinuation that the free software movement
is un-American.  Stallman's reaction is to accept the
presupposition that the American Way is the one true path,
and to argue that the GPL is faithful to this path because
it accords with the principles of the American revolution.

Stallman uses Allchin's comments as an opportunity to make
the point (again) that there is a difference between the
way the GPL promotes freedom and the way that a BSD-style
"open source" license grants it.  Whereas a BSD license
grants the licensee freedom to do whatever he or she likes
with the licensed code, including the freedom to adapt the
code and not publish the changes, the GPL restricts the
licensee's freedom in this respect in order to guarantee
another freedom---the freedom of other people to see any
code derived from the licensed code.  It is the fact that
the GPL promotes freedom in this way that RMS thinks makes
the GPL truly American.  But this is disingenuous.
Stallman is not being entirely frank about the ultimate
goals of the free software movement.

I think we should be frank.  There is no point in fighting
a war of propaganda.  There is no denying the accusation
that one of the main aims of the free software movement is
a socialistic one.  I don't really care that in the U.S.A.,
calling something "socialist" means that it is soon
called "communist" and then "Stalinist" and then (worst
of all!) "un-American".  Sticks and stones.  One of the
advantages of the free software movement being so international
as it is, is that it ought to be easier for us to think outside
the box of American political discourse.

The GPL is socialistic in that it is designed to promote a
social goal, which is the establishment of a archive of free
software and a community of developers dedicated to enlarging
and enhancing it.  Ultimately it may occur that this body of
software becomes so extensive and attractive that it becomes
indispensible---that it becomes a public-domain homologue
for what Microsoft software is now.  The goal is to 
revolutionize the means of production of software and to
establish a new mode of software distribution: To each 
according to his need; from each according to his ability.
If the movement is successful---if GPLed software becomes
"the standard"---then it will be more difficult for software
companies to make money selling proprietary software.  So 
the free software movement is not only socialistic in its
goals, but dangerous to a certain form of capitalism too.
In the case of Microsoft Corporation, the movement is openly

To those who complain that these goals aren't the American Way,
let us simply say:  Well, if that's true, then so much the
worse for the American Way.

Thomas Hood
Date: Fri, 02 Mar 2001 20:48:59 -0500
From: Luke Seubert <lseubert@radix.net>
To: letters@lwn.net
Subject: Will Mozilla 1.1.1 be released in 2001?  Will it even matter?

Once again, the Mozilla project has fallen behind schedule, and the
release date for Mozilla 1.0 has been pushed back.  Details on the new
roadmap may be found at: http://www.mozilla.org/roadmap.html

The new roadmap reveals, among other things, the worst case assumptions
of Mozilla developers, showing that Mozilla might only reach version
0.9.6 in late 4Q 2001 if there are a lot of problems.  While we all hope
this will not be the case, the dreadfully slow pace of Mozilla
development over these past three years does little to discourage
pessimism in this regard.

The situation is even worse for those folks who prefer high quality,
feature complete, bug free software.  Common sense and experience tell
us to distrust 1.0 or 2.0 releases.  Whether proprietary, open source,
or free software; x.0 version programs usually have too many flaws.  The
recent release of KDE 2.1 is a good example of this in that it fulfills
the promises of KDE 2.0, now that it has a more complete feature set,
and far fewer bugs.

Mozilla likewise will probably not be truly ready for prime time until
Mozilla 1.1.1, which under best case assumptions won't happen until late
3Q 2001.  Frankly, given the endless delays in the Mozilla project, it
is not reasonable to expect a truly superb and complete browser until 4Q
2001 at the earliest, and more likely sometime in the first half of 2002
instead.  This could mean a total of four years for Mozilla to achieve
the promise made back in 1998 of a high quality, standards compliant,
free software, cross platform, integrated browser.

But will Mozilla even matter when it achieves true maturity, especially
in the Linux and *BSD worlds, which is the one place where Mozilla has
its best chance of success?  Consider that Konqueror, Galeon, and the
closed source Opera browser are all maturing quite rapidly. Combine
these browsers with your favorite GUI email client, newsreader, chat
program, and HTML composer, and you can have all the features and power
promised by Mozilla - but now, not "someday".

In war, an old axiom states that an imperfect battle plan implemented
quickly and with vigor will always beat the perfect strategy that is a
day late in coming.  Mozilla seeks to be the perfect
browser/composer/email&news&chat client that is all things to all people
on all platforms, and it may well achieve that goal.  But by the time
the goal is achieved, the battle may well be long over.

Luke Seubert

Date: Thu, 01 Mar 2001 03:32:29 -0600
From: Saber <fool@elven.org>
To: letters@lwn.net
Subject: quit crowing about DeCSS availability!

The last two LWN frontpages have smirkingly (is that a word :o) boasted of
how easy it is to get a copy of DeCSS even though the Bad Guys have been
spending a lot of effort to attack individuals spreading DeCSS. So what?

Heck, we can crash a bunch of punks into the courtrooms wearing DeCSS
t-shirts, but does that mean we're winning? Given: you cannot stop geeks
from bootlegging bits.  Problem: that's nothing compared to true
freedom. Will fancy software violating DMCA provisions reach consumers? No.

Saber Taylor
Date: Sun, 4 Mar 2001 18:29:31 -0500 (EST)
From: Tom Permutt <tompermutt@home.com>
To: letters@lwn.net
Subject: Napster, "the music industry," and free music

I always enjoy your writing, and usually agree with your point of view.  I
am disturbed, however, by your recent comments on Napster and "the music

When you write about software, you carefully distinguish the proprietary
software industry from the free software community.  Furthermore, you have
taken pains to distinguish advocates of free software from advocates of
acquiring proprietary software for free.

The overwhelming majority of musicians belong to something analogous to
the free software community.  Some create music for love.  Some support
themselves by providing teaching and other services.  Some have jobs
related to music where their most creative work is indulged as an adjunct
to what makes money.

We honor one another's ideas by copying them, disseminating them, adapting
and improving them.  There are ethical constraints on this borrowing, but
they have little to do with copyright.  We are pretty free with sources
because what we respect is the ability to do something with them.  All
this must be very familiar to you and your readers.

A tiny minority of musicians are associated with what you call "the music
industry":  the mass-market, recorded, popular music industry.  Most
musicians have little interest in these products.  Many of us feel they
are of inferior quality; many of us believe this industry is inimical to
the advancement of the art; but most of us just don't care about it.  We
recognize, however, that the products are accessible, successfully
marketed, and very popular.

The users of Napster, it seems to me, are overwhelmingly people who want
this kind of music, and want it for free.  I hold no brief for the
producers whose products they appropriate, any more than I shed tears for
the members of the Software Publishers Association.  I fail to see,
however, why advocates of free software should make common cause with
these nonpaying consumers of proprietary products.

I am mystified by these words:  "Piracy is not the issue.  It is, instead,
a dishonest smokescreen put up by those who feel that a lucrative business
is threatened by new technologies."  Unlike free software, the threat is
not from new products, but from new, unauthorized methods of disseminating
proprietary products.  If there is such a thing as "piracy," what else can
it be?

Tom Permutt

Date: Tue, 6 Mar 2001 17:09:53 -0500 (EST)
From: "Ken D'Ambrosio" <kend@flyingtoasters.net>
To: <cdreward@riaa.com>
Subject: An open letter to the RIAA:

Jack Valenti meets Obi-Wan Kenobi

It really is interesting, in the grand scheme of things: the Recording
Industry Associationg of America (RIAA) is desperately fighting a battle
in the judicial system to shut down sites such as Napster.  It even
appears as if they are winning.  The ironic, and, truthfully, sad part,
however, is that they Just Don't Get It: instead of fighting Napster, and
trying to hold back technology (neo-Luddites of the world, untie!), they
should be seeing this as a grand opportunity to expand their horizons.
However, the RIAA is interested in one thing, really: money.  Sure, they
dress their fight up as if they were fighting for the poor, starving
artists, but it's the record labels that they really care about, because
that's where Mr. Valenti finds his paychecks coming from.  And so, in an
attempt to keep their money, the are, instead, about to throw it away.  It
is likely in the extreme that Napster will be shut down in the very near
future -- it's virtually impossible for them to keep copyrighted music
off "their" service, since the music is really on the PCs of people
scattered across the country.  While they can certainly cut out names of
songs that are copyrighted, schemes (such as putting them into pig
Latin) are already in the works to circumvent this, and it's unlikely the
courts will care.  Therefore, I believe that Napster will, eventually, go

So where does Ben Kenobi come into the picture?  If you think back to Star
Wars, when Ben Kenobi is fighting Darth Vader, he says, "Strike me down,
and I will come back more powerful than you can imagine."  This is clearly
the case with the RIAA -- they obviously have no idea that they are
currently digging their own grave.  Instead of working with a centralized
"authority" such as Napster, to provide clients with easy, paid, access to
copyrighted material, they are going to squash the centralized authority...
and decentralized MP3 (etc.) sites will instead crop up to fill the
void.  Instead of having one tangible "foe," they will now have thousands,
if not millions, of sites, scattered throughout the world, in different
jurisdictions, running different software, all distributing (unpaid!)
copyrighted material.  If it's done right, it will even be untraceable.
There are probably just a few days left wherein the RIAA could actually
use Pandora's box for synergy; after they shut down Napster, however, they
will have won the battle, which will make their losing the war a virtual
certainty.  Instead of helping bring their artists into a more accessible
form of distribution, they will have slammed the lid shut on a what could
have been an unparalleled form of legal IP propagation, and will have
ensured that piracy, in heretofore unseen amounts, occurs.

Bottom line: the RIAA is the artist's (and studio's) own worst enemy.  The
Internet is here, but, instead of taking advantage of the single largest
peacetime economic engine ever, they're trying to fight it, and are now
doomed to fail -- hurting the very people they purport to represent.

It's really just sad; sad, and pathetic.  If I were a member of the RIAA,
I would certainly be calling for Jack Valenti's resignation right about
now, because it's 100% clear that he doesn't understand the forces at
work, and is causing infinitely more damage for both his clients, and the
users of the material, than would someone who understood, and *utilized*,


Ken D'Ambrosio

Date: Wed, 07 Mar 2001 07:56:20 +0800
From: Leon Brooks <leon@brooks.fdns.net>
To: bkproffitt@home.com
Subject: wrong planet

You wrote here http://www.linuxplanet.com/linuxplanet/opinions/3064/1/ that:

 > I started laughing very loudly when I saw the latest IBM ad for 
Linux. [...]

 > Linux is hardly at its best these days, now is it?

It's never been better, and will always be better.

IBM's ad shows that they have learned something from Microsoft's 
upending of the chessboard halfway through the passionfingering of OS/2. 
Many people are not aware that Microsoft VMS, derived from Digital's 
Mica project and better known as Windows NT, was originally called 
``OS/2 NT'' (the name was changed when Windows 3 sold well).

IBM have an exceptionally clear understanding, pounded home by bitter 
experience, that if Microsoft get control of the basic protocols that 
run the Internet, everyone else is dead meat. They are doing with Linux 
as Sun are doing with StarOffice: starving Microsoft of opportunities 
for unfair leverage.

Regardless of how well they (or others) do in the marketplace, IBM 
understand that uless they adopt and push an Open (Libre) platform, they 
and everyone else will eventually become a Microsoft-controlled zombie, 
absorbed into what many people half-joking call The Borg, a corporate 
Microserf. You may not think that's so bad (and many people would 
agree), but the survival rate of corporate Microserfs is not an 
encouraging one.

Peace, Love and Linux is entirely appropriate. IBM are no angels, but 
they (and everyone else) need a certain amount of freedom (not unlike 
the freedoms espoused in the Sixties) to survive, and they know it, and 
unlike most of the dazed, confused IT corporations out there, are doing 
something about it.

Time will tell, but I suspect that IBM will come out of this as a 
butterfly from a chrysalis, clear of vision and strong of purpose as in 
the Sixties, but having lost a lot of the bully from its character. Even 
if they don't, their support for Open internet infrastructure is a 
worthy cause, and needs your support, not your scorn.

It's not that I'm afraid to die. I just don't want to be there
when it happens. -- Woody Allen

To: letters@lwn.net
From: sharkey@superk.physics.sunysb.edu
Subject: Another take on Jim Allchin's statements
Date: Thu, 01 Mar 2001 15:41:31 -0500

There's be a lot of hullabaloo lately regarding Jim Allchin's statements
cautioning against the government getting involved in the development
of works to be licensed under the GPL.

(See http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/zd/20010220/tc/microsoft_clarifies_exec_s_open-source_concerns_1.html)

I've read very many broad interpretations of these remarks, but,
in this case I think it's better to give Mr. Allchin the benefit of the
doubt and interpret his remarks more narrowly.  What he is cautioning
against is the use of the GPL for "taxpayer-funded software development".

What people seem to forget is that the history of copyright law seems
to support Mr. Allchin's position.  You have to remember that the whole
purpose of intellectual property law is to increase creativity and
innovation among private citizens, not from within the government itself.
Because of this, government works are not eligible for copyright

(See http://www.loc.gov/copyright/circs/circ1.html#piu)

Government works are put into the public domain immediately.  That's
how we ended up with copies of the Starr Report on bookshelves across
the country seemingly within minutes of its release.  Anyone can print
copies of government works and do just about whatever they like with them.

Now, I don't necessarily think this is a good thing.  I'd love to see
the U.S. government start to fund software development much the way
science is funded now, but copyright law, as it is now, wouldn't seem
to allow this to be done using a license as restrictive as the GPL,
and without copyright, the GPL has no teeth.

Copyright law is always in a state of flux and you can certainly imagine
that the amount of congressional activity needed to establish a
National Software Foundation would be large compared to the relatively
small addendum to copyright law that would be needed to control
federally funded software with copyright, but Mr. Allchin is taking
the conservative view that copyright restrictions should continue to be
a right of the public alone.

You can agree or disagree with this position, but I don't really see
Jim Allchin expressing this point of view being Microsoft's attempt
"to create a cloud around the GPL" or "create a split in the free
source community" or any other such nonsense.  It's just a conservative
statement from a conservative person who works for a conservative
company.  No real surprises there.

Eric Sharkey
Date: Thu, 01 Mar 2001 21:30:22 +0000
From: Thomas Sippel - Dau <t.sippel-dau@ic.ac.uk>
To: letters@lwn.net
Subject: Three cheers for Jim Allchin and Microsoft's Freedom to Innovate


reading again after two weeks what Jim Allchin said about Open Source 
software destroying innovation, I think he has a point, and is
quite right to be worried. He is also right to be worried that 
legislators should understand this. The state has the power to force
people to do some things in a particular way. Take driving. The state
forces me (in Britain) to drive on the left hand side of the road,
in America, on the right. 

This stifles innovation. A manufacturer trying to build a killer product
round driving on the "other" side will simply get nowhere. The state can
also decide  between two competing products, both for its own use, and
for forcing people to use it. Often it tries to be scrupulously neutral
between competitors. But if there is a with-cost and a cost-free choice,
choosing the with-cost one, and asking people to fork out for that is
very difficult.

For the last eight years or so Microsoft had a two pronged marketing 
strategy. One side was build around "making it easier". Microsoft 
claimed to make computer use feasible for all those who can claim 
"I don't understand all this technology stuff". Having on your side 
the people who cheerfully claim to be too stupid to understand is a 
powerful weapon. It is almost impossible to argue against, because 
those who claim to be too stupid to understand will give you about 
two minutes to coonvince them otherwise, and then walk away because 
they can't understand your arguments.

This a wonderful strategy to employ when marketing to schools, for 
example. Yes, the software is not free, but it costs little and is
so easy to use, and the little ones are not technically versed enough
to use the somewhat uncouth cheaper or free software. But if the free
software works well enough, this argument no longer holds. Software
does not need to be brilliant - the Microsoft offerings are a splendid
case in point. Good enough software at a low cost or free (as in free 
beer) is an explosive mixture.

The second prong of Microsoft's marketing strategy was "innovation",
under this motto it has for some time waged war on its customers, and 
against all the rules it has been getting away with it. It has been 
doing this by ensnaring people, and in particular organisations, into 
the upgrade treadmill. Similar practices are common in many industries,
fashion, for example, or cars, where buying last years model is not
really the done thing.

With computers, due to the fact that there is still rapid technical 
development, people would of course like to have a newer, faster computer.
Just as they would like to have a newer car, or a new carpet in their
office. Organisations have long been able to deal with that. But with
software innovation, especially if done the Microsoft way, this is not
the case. If a few people in an organization get a newer version of
Office, and those on last years cannot read the documents they any more, 
then the organisation cannot just ignore that.

Of course, it could tell people with the shiny new boxes to shape up 
and save their documents in last year's format, or a compatible one 
like html. But hey, "I am too stupid to understand all this technical
stuff, I just click the 'Save' button, and it saves it. And I got this
new computer setup with these easy to use features, and now you tell
I should use it as if the stone age had never ended". 

Explaining why people should use compatible file formats costs time,
at least two hours for every hour of explanation (one person to do 
the exxplaining, the other the listening). And all that because the
employer is too mean to give everybody halfways decent kit. Why not
save this time and spend a few cents on software - the others will 
have to upgrade eventually anyway.

As far as innovation marketing goes, Microsoft's software upgrade 
strategy seems to me a lot closer to that of a glazier that pays 
thugs to smash windows than to that of a fashion designer or motor
company that makes last years model obsolete.

If there is free software available, than such a strategy does not
work any more, its impossible to undercut the price of the free
(as in beer) software, and where new features are actually wanted
people will build them into free (as in GNU) software. And if there
is a cost conscious Big User (like the state) going to use free 
software, then Microsoft's strategy is in tatters.

About two years ago there was an initiative in Austria and Germany
to ensure that public procurements consider an Open Source or free
alternatve. I guess Jim Allchin wanted to remind us that the free 
software is now good enough for those who "do not understand all that
technical stuff", and who "just want to get their work done".

I, for one, would like to thank him for that.

*   Why not use metric units and get it right first time, every time ?
*   email: cmaae47 @ imperial.ac.uk
*   voice: +4420-7594-6912 (day)
*   fax:   +4420-7594-6958
*   snail: Thomas Sippel - Dau
*          Linux Services Manager
*          Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine
*          The Center for Computing Services
*          Exhibition Road
*          Kensington SW7 2BX
*          Great Britain


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