Subject: Re: help! absolute beginner
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: 1998/12/18
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

* Erik Naggum
| well, I don't believe that "non-free software" is a bad thing.  period.
| I believe that blocking people's access to the whatever they need to do a
| good job and to understand what's going on is bad,

* Joachim Achtzehnter <>
| This is an interesting point of view.  The point of the "free software"
| versus "non-free software" debate is, of course, exactly about making
| sure that people get this access to what they need.  Sorry about
| repeating "old rhetoric" again, but your contradictory statements provoke
| such repetition.

  contradictory statements?  the point is there are _a multitude_ of means
  to get "access to whatever [you] need to do a good job" besides an
  organized free software protest movement, and that the criticism I levy
  against the movement is that it _doesn't_ achieve that goal because they
  protest too much and reasonably business-oriented people cannot use free
  software in their own products, thereby creating pockets of resistance,
  instead of a real movement.  it is even contentious whether a programmer
  can look at free software while working on software that is intended to
  be sold as such, as opposed to in-house tools.  free software works for
  and between programmers, but even we cross the border to userland once in
  a while, and different rules and conditions apply there.

  it appears that the only way you imagine getting access to source is if
  it's "free" in the FSF sense.  this is just not so in the real world.

| You should have highlighted the word _I_ in this statement.  You will
| have to admit that not everybody who needs access will get access in this
| way.

  I will have to admit no such thing.  have you ran out of arguments so
  badly you need to tell _me_ what to do, now?

  since I started working with computers in 1978, I have obtained a lot of
  "special favors" from people all over the place, only to realize that
  they weren't special at all.  I have had something to offer, and people
  have responded in kind.  remember my criticism against the people in the
  free software movement, that they just _want_ and don't care about what
  they get?  well, consider this possibility: that they don't have anything
  to offer anybody, so free software is their only hope.  how about that?

  I have previously argued that free software denies us the opportunity to
  use money as the currency of exchange of last resort.  that is, any two
  people who disagree can resort to exchanging money, because most values
  boil down to money sooner or later.  for free software, that is no longer
  an option.  nobody can buy their way out of the GPL.  however, the legal
  profession is _all_about_ getting into and out of various agreements in
  exchange for money.  what does this say about how the GPL is supposed to
  work in our society?  think about it.

| With non-free software access is not a right, access is a privilege given
| to whoever the people controlling the software want to give that
| privilege.

  you obviously haven't read the GNU Public License carefully or discussed
  it with a intellectual rights lawyer.  I have both, other businesses even
  consult me on what it means and what they can and cannot do.  (it is in
  part because of this that I argue against the idea that free software is
  intrinsically "good" and that non-free software is intrinsically "bad".
  first, values aren't intrinsic to begin with, but second, values relate
  to a context of other values, yet some programmers don't seem to get it.)

  in a nutshell: GPL is an agreement between the author and the user such
  that the user must refrain from a _lot_ of rights otherwise obtained by
  default once you buy or use something.  this is not unlike the
  shrink-wrap licensing that goes on in the rest of the software business
  and which is in for a rough time as the "contracts" get so involved that
  people cannot reasonably be expected to understand them.  in the same
  way,   "free software" is very aptly named.  the software may be free,
  but the _people_ using it really aren't.  it's a big difference.

| Effectively, the people who control the software get to decide who needs
| access.  It is in this sense that non-free software is bad.

  listen to yourself!  bombs over bagdad, this is so freaking annoying.
  free software is _more_ controlled in exactly this sense than source that
  does not lie in the open -- it has to, _because_ it is in the open.  do
  think about this, _please_!

| Clearly, the GPL restricts freedom in the sense that GPL'd software
| cannot be used in certain circumstances.

  precisely my point, and it's still "free"?  I don't think so.  there are
  some legal terms that are much stronger than "free".  one is "unfettered"
  and the other is "unencumbered".  (I use "unrestricted" because most
  people don't understand the two other words.)
| The way I look at this is that I accept this restriction because it is a
| means by which an author who makes the source available to everybody is
| trying to ensure that her work is not exploited by others who don't
| provide such access.

  and I accept the restrictions imposed on me by other licenses.  what's
  your beef with non-free software if you really understand that you do
  have to accept a number of restrictions?

| Not sure whether I get your point here.  If you are advocating that there
| should be absolutely no restriction on access to source code, then I
| agree.  But then, you said above that non-free software is not a bad
| thing?  I'm confused.

  commercial operators can agree to things amongst themselves on a case by
  case basis.  in contrast to this, the GNU _Public_ License affects people
  who are not party to the agreement, and they cannot negotiate further.
  GPL is like consumer law in Europe, where businesses are forbidden from
  entering special deals or rejecting customers on a case by case basis if
  they have announced something to be open for the general public.  the GPL
  is very much a take it or leave it proposition.  however, programmers and
  people creating software aren't consumers, they're businesses, and every
  country on earth has recognized the need for businesses to protect their
  interests in deals between themselves differently from consumers, whom
  some countries think the government should protect.

| You agree then, that source code access via an NDA is not the kind of
| unrestricted source availability we need?

  stop telling me what I agree to!  damn it, aren't you intellectually
  honest enough to handle the fact that I _reject_ the foundations for your
  beliefs without having me "admit" or "agree" to _your_ views!?  you don't
  undestand what I need, and yet claim to speak for both of us.  just quit
  that, OK?

  an NDA is no more restrictive than the GPL is, in each their senses.  if
  my goal is to do a good job, I do whatever it takes, and if it means
  having a client cough up a lot of money or me signing an NDA, so be it.

  do you understand _why_ there is non-free software?  I don't think so.

| Agree in the sense that nobody should be forced to agree with, or use
| the license of, the Free Software Foundation.

  then why can't they negotiate their own licenses?

| Note, that the right to create proprietary, closed software implies
| that freedom of access is explicitly denied, which I accept.

  you've got it all upside down.  access is _granted_, even in the GPL.  no
  wonder you're confused.  there exist no right to "access" what somebody
  else has created.  that person must obviously publish it first, and then
  our societies recognize that creators of things published need to make a
  living, too, and therefore protect them from all the people who just
  _want_ what they publish.  the GPL is a horribly involved legal document
  because it attempts to _deny_ what our societies have set up as the
  default and as an extension of the _right_ of any author or creator to
  maintain control over what he has written or created.

  the GPL is like a note on a door of a house saying "you are free to come
  inside and take whatever you want, but you promise that once you do so,
  you will open the door to your own house the same way and impose on any
  who enters your house the same requirement.  I will force you to comply
  with this requirement if necessary, and you agree to force anyone to
  comply with this requirement, or be in non-compliance."  this flies in
  the face of the way our societies are organized.  (that it might well
  reduce what would otherwise have been theft to zero because nobody dares
  steal anything is another matter entirely. :)

| Since you are giving out free advise, let me contribute some of my
| own: You may want to re-read some of your posts, one can detect an
| ever so slight tendency to "harshly judge people without significant
| evidence" even in _your_ posts. :-)

  amusing twist.  but notice what I said: "I am not willing to judge people
  that harshly without significant evidence."  now stress "that".  got you,
  didn't I?  :)

| Can't resist making another one of these "vaguely derogatory" remarks:
| Might this explain the tone in some of your posts? Being surrounded by
| incompetence must be hard to take! :-)

  we are USENET.  you will be derogated.  resistance is futile.

  in _fact_, I am positively _surrounded_ by competent people.  because I
  expect people to be competent and reward it with profound recognition, I
  very seldom have to deal with incompetents in real life (I think they
  just leave).  USENET is an exception, probably because it is very hard to
  emanate recognition in this medium, but so amazingly easy to communicate
  the lack thereof.

| We don't have to compromise on everything.  But I still claim that the
| statement "we have to live with compromises" is very true if you want
| to achieve anything that requires collaboration with other people.

  tell that to Saddam and Clinton.  funny how those who don't compromise
  get to run big corporations and countries and such, when all we're told
  all through our "education" is to accept compromise, innit?  could it be
  that compromise is the _best_ way to keep the public pacified and in line
  with what the non-compromisers want?  my guess is it's a lot easier to
  run a country (or a religion, as the case may be) of compromisers.

| Depends on the purpose of the review.  If the only objective is to
| replace "bad code" with "good code" for the sake of purity then I firmly
| believe that most substantial software systems cannot afford such luxury,
| it usually does more harm than good.

  huh?  replacing bad code with better code does more harm than good?

  I do code review _all_ the time.  I have other people go over my code to
  comment on it and understand it.  this summer, I had my client pay a very
  promising young programmer to look over everything I did with me and help
  me make it understandable and maintainable and correct.  it's the best
  work I have probably ever done.

  have you ever heard any author claim to have written all his stuff alone
  and never had anybody read it before it was published all at once?  in my
  years in the publishing world, I came to appreciate that the author is
  but a small, albeit crucial, part of the process from idea to finished
  publication.  this is, unfortunately, lost on the WWW generation where
  everybody thinks they can be a publisher, just like everybody thinks they
  can program a computer just because it doesn't ridicule their efforts.

  Attention, Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee!  We have
  intercepted a coded transmission from Bill Clinton to Saddam Hussein that
  puts your life in jeopardy.  Clinton is prepared to cease fire if all of
  you are killed by Iraqi terrorists, whom he won't prosecute.  Be warned!