Subject: Re: help! absolute beginner
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: 1998/12/17
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

* Joachim Achtzehnter <>
| Agree 100%.  I do believe that non-free software is a bad thing compared
| to free software, but in comparison with other evils in this world I
| consider it rather unimportant.  Life is not perfect, and if one has to
| compromise, better do it in a less important area.

  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, but, and this is my
  gripe: I get _better_ results in this exact regard from signing NDAs and
  license agreements than I get from stamping GPL on my code or using
  GPL'ed code, and in some cases, purportedly free code contaminates a
  commercial product to the point where one just cannot use it.  that's why
  I have come to talk about "unrestricted source availability", since what
  is free to you may be unfree to me, and what is unfree to you may be free
  to me.  e.g., because I cannot agree on behalf of my paying client that
  their code be subject to the GPL, I am _not_ free to use GPL'ed code in
  the development of our software.  however, because I do agree to a lot of
  other terms, I _am_ free to use source code that few other people are
  free to use because they don't agree to those terms (or haven't had the
  opportunity to).

  _real_ freedom is not subject to what you agree to, but in the ability to
  agree or disagree with whatever you want and proceed from there.  ergo,
  in at least one sense, "free software" is antithetical to real freedom.
  there is no such thing as arguing that people "should agree", and that's
  the change in attitude that I see from the Free Software movement: the
  freedom to choose commercial, proprietary, closed, or whatever software
  is no longer respected as much as it used to be.

| What exactly about my opinions do you have in mind here?

  "advancing personal ambitions".  you need hard evidence that that is what
  people are really after before you go public with such comments.  people
  have ambitions of all sorts and shapes, but you're denying them the
  opportunity to be constructive by saying what you did, because one whose
  goals are "advancing personal ambitions" _will_ be illoyal to his peers
  and causes if he thinks he can profit on and get away with it.

  always look for the constructive element in what people do.  you might be
  surprised how often it is not the "personal amibition" it appears to be.
  competent people very seldom place their person above their merits -- I
  have found it to be a disturbingly recurring trait of the incompetent to
  do so, perhaps because their merits don't quite cut it.  again, I am not
  willing to judge people that harshly without significant evidence.

| Is it that you think the OSI is a good thing?

  I have no opinion on OSI.

| Perhaps your expectations were too high?  Progress never happens over
| night.

  I tend to invest at least half a decade in something before I start to
  look for returns on investment.  I don't know many other people who are
  equally patient.  however, it doesn't appear that you need much evidence
  to imply that people believe in "overnight progress" nor that they might
  "advance personal ambitions", and your vagueness and non-committal form
  is quite annoying coupled with the vaguely derogatory style.  it could be
  that "progress never happens over night" is just a meaningless phrase to
  you that seemed to fit, but why repeat content-less phrases, and out of
  context, even?

| Agree with these lofty goals 100%, but have to say that in reality, like
| always, we'll have to live with compromises.  Not every piece of code
| will be as good as it could be.  And it doesn't really have to be either,
| if it does the job.  Writing software is not a goal in itself, most
| people write software to address a practical requirement.

  what _do_ you actually say here?  there are several paragraphs like this
  in both this and your previous messages.  I can't spot the contents or
  the issue you want to raise -- it's all very comfortably non-committal.

  I don't think life is about compromises, it's about goals and values and
  dealing with physical reality and other people's goals and values, and in
  this compromise is _sometimes_ a necessary evil, but reaching goals and
  upholding values is what makes it all worth it.  for me, competence is
  such a high value that I'm unwilling to compromise it against anything.
  we don't _have_ to live with compromises -- it's a choice as good as any,
  and you are free to walk away.  I do that sometimes, and I get this weird
  look from people who think they have to take all the shit that's given to
  them because "life's all about compromises".

| This is simply not true. Bad code has been removed from the Linux
| kernel on many occasions, and the same is true for other projects.

  only when it failed to "work".  I haven't seen people go over free code
  in the "review" sense.  but that's what it all needs.  (BTW, it appears
  that the FreeBSD people are actively engaged in code review internally.)

| But I don't see any big problem with this.  If it really works then why
| fix it?  The real problem with bad code is that it often doesn't work,
| especially in the face of changing requirements.  And after trying
| band-aid fixes a few times it is certainly advisable to do it right.

  it's bad because "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" has a bad habit of
  turning into "if we can't fix it, it ain't broke"¹, or, in more software
  terms, "it isn't a bug, it's a feature".

| Certainly. Of course I don't know you personally, but is it so outlandish
| to consider the possibility that _you_ may have changed a little too?

  as I said, I have ruled that out.  what changes have occurred have to do
  with reaching the goals that I had with my free software work elsewhere,
  and it appears that I'm not at all alone in this regard, probably because
  the protest movement against closed source and no access has succeeded in
  giving people access, but at much more _reasonable_ terms than the GPL.

| No doubt, the FSF is changing too, like everything else.

  I don't know what this statement means.  I don't know what the entirely
  equivalent statement that everything stays the same means, either.

1 attributed to Lt.Col. Walt Weir, USArmy
  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!