What I think about FOSS

with 8 comments

I like free open source software and I admire people that write it and drive the big successful FOSS projects.  FOSS is cool.  It is even noble.   It’s pretty spiffy that some developers chose to spend time writing software then give it away free – with source code. I’ve done this in my own very tiny way here on this blog.

Some FOSS software is very good – Linux, Apache, MySQL, Mozilla are all things I have used and find technically pretty groovy.   For quite a while I used FireFox as my primary browser.   Its fast and I like how it handles tabs and downloading.

I think many software developers like to give software and source code away for free.   It seems to be part of our nature – or at least for many of us.   We like it when people find our stuff useful.  For the most part, its cool when other people leverage our code. But this isn’t always true.

I know lots of other developers (and non developers) at Microsoft feel this way.  They often say similar things.   This is a common topic of conversation at lunch, or over beers

If I could make a great living writing FOSS I probably would.  If I’m ever lucky enough to be independently wealthy, I probably will – when I’m not riding around on my big boat in the Bahamas.

Internally at Microsoft, we have a culture very similar to the public FOSS culture.    this is especially true within each of the major business units.   For example, in Windows, everyone can see all the code.   Teams often share code – either at the source level or by publishing it in DLL’s or libraries.    There is lots of internal discussion about code, coding, bug fixing and related topics.   team’s often have cross team code reviews.    Anyone can file bugs on anything.  We have a global bug tracking system.

We even have an internal version of CodePlex that is accessible to everyone in Microsoft – its quite popular and there is a lot of cool stuff there.   A lot of this is internal stuff that wouldn’t really be interesting to anyone else (like internal bug management tools, or project management tools).  But some of this makes it to CodePlex.

None of this isn’t rocket science – its pretty mundane stuff.  I’m sure the culture at Google, Apple, IBM and Oracle are similar.  The point is that while its hard for outsiders to see – I don’t think there is much difference culturally between Microsoft developers and FOSS developers.

I believe that you will see Microsoft and even the Windows org, publish more free open source things over time.   There are lots of good reasons to do so.   I’m a big proponent of publishing my next big team project as free and open source. This idea has a lot of traction.

But there are differences.  The most obvious two are that we think its fine to sell software.   We also think its fine that we don’t provide the source code to our bread and butter products.

Hey, I think its fine – noble even – if a person, group or company wants to write software, give it away for free and publish the source code under an Open License.

But the problem is the idea that all software should be free and open source and that software which isn’t free is somehow bad.  This is Richard Stallman’s position and that of many other FOSS advocates.   For example, the Free Software Foundation claim that Windows-7, OSX, and the iPhone are somehow threats to people’s freedom.  Really?  That is simply stupid.

What’s busted about this ideology is that they believe others are somehow evil, or sinful if they do not hew to the FSF ideals.  Don’t believe me?  Just read their web pages.

Note, i think its great if people want to make their software free. I don’t begrudge them the liberty to do this for a second.  The problem lies in the idea that anyone who disagrees with this, or doesn’t provide their software as ‘free’ is somehow bad or not supporting the freedom of others.

This is just busted.   Its a freaking free country – this is true from a libertarian, conservative, liberal, Democratic, Republican, or Tea party perspective.   Everyone has liberties.

Free Software folks are at liberty to write software and make it free.  Microsoft is at liberty to write software, sell it and keep the source to ourselves.  So is any other corporation or individual.  Don’t like it –  bummer for you.  Move to another country.   Or get the laws changed – just don’t bitch about it.

The issue here is that RMS and others are confusing freedom with liberty.  What is freedom to them isn’t freedom to me.  I want to write software, sell it, make a good or even great living and keep the source to most things to myself.   Its fully right and proper that I’m at liberty to do this.    Same for Microsoft.

Its awesome, right, proper, good and noble when the FSF and RMS defends their own liberty, and the liberty of others to write free software.  Its good to stand up for the rights of others.

But, it is  not ‘freedom’ when a person or organization wants to restrict the liberty of someone else.  This is exactly what RMS advocates – that all software should be free.  If he had it is way, all people would be forced to make their software free – That is exactly what RMS advocates.  This is un-American; it is not libertarian.  This attitude is simply selfish.

RMS and the FSF is great at wrapping the selfish notions in the language of political freedom and liberty – but make no mistake about it.  The are simply being selfish in many of their attitudes.

Remember, I fully support the right of people to write and publish free open source software. Its cool, its noble, its admirable.

But, it is immoral, snide, selfish and contrary to the ideals of American liberty to suggest that others that want to sell proprietary software are somehow bad, or sinful.

To you Mr. Richard M. Stallman and to like minded individuals, I say this: do not let your ideals of freedom tread on the liberties of others – that is not freedom – it is tyranny.

In America, yours and anyone else’s ability to to give people your definition of freedom is unimpeded in any way  The Free Software Community is at full liberty to do so. The path is actually very simple; write great software that 100’s of millions of people across the world want to use.

If you cannot do that then tough noogies.  Don’t lean on a poor ideology, demonizing language, and the desire to restrict the liberties of others just to suit your own selfishness and make up for your own shortcomings.

RMS and friends – you have the ultimate commercial weapon – you are giving your stuff away for free.

Put up or shut up; get off your ass and write great software – that is they way you win.


Written by foredecker

February 27, 2010 at 5:50 pm

Posted in Rants

8 Responses

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  1. »What’s busted about the FOSS ideology is that they believe others are somehow evil, or sinful if they do not hew to the FSF ideals.«

    This is not quite true – as far as I know, the term FOSS was even coined specifically to mean both FSF-style »Free« software and »just« open source software not associated with RMS’s rather … uh … radical ideology.

    So, please be careful with using this term in a rant about Free Software in the Stallman sense of the word, unless you want to come off as insulting developers who just like to publish the source code for their projects without any ideological implications as well.

    David nadlinger

    February 28, 2011 at 5:14 am

    • Hi David,

      Plese read my post again.

      I like free open source software and I admire people that write it and drive the big successful FOSS projects. FOSS is cool. It is even noble. It’s pretty spiffy that some developers chose to spend time writing software then give it away free – with source code.

      If there are developers that can be offended by that statment, then there are some very thin skined devlopers out there.

      I am specificaly ranting about the Stallman (FSF) idea of freedom. I’m pretty clear about that – even link to the the FSF site.

      Its odd that you separte the FSF (the Free Software Foundatoin) and Stallman. Richard M. Stallman is the FSF’s president.


      March 5, 2011 at 12:37 pm

      • Hi Richard,

        I just noticed that you edited the one quoted sentence my comment was specifically about (where you had used the term FOSS while ranting specifically about the FSF), consider it meaningless then.

        By the way, I think our opinions on Stallman’s radical stance are quite similar. I very much appreciate the idea of open source software and have personally contributed to a few projects (including ones promoting the FSF idea of freedom) – but still I don’t agree with Stallman and his »forced freedom« ideology, for pretty much the reasons you mentioned in your post.

        David Nadlinger

        March 11, 2011 at 12:12 pm

  2. By reading you it seems that you have a fundamentally wrong understanding of what FOSS is about. It’s not about giving it away for free (as in $0 price), but about freedom. More specifically, you said:

    “For example, the Free Software Foundation claim that Windows-7, OSX, and the iPhone are somehow threats to people’s freedom. Really? That is simply stupid.”

    Every time I receive an office 2007 document and I can’t view it as it was intended because they’re written in a closed format, or when I buy hardware that I have paid 100% for and can’t use it to run any software I want or with any carrier I choose to, THEN that’s a threat to my freedom.

    Jorge Fierro

    March 5, 2011 at 10:08 am

    • Hi Jogre,

      You clearly didn’t read my post. I said

      I like free open source software and I admire people that write it and drive the big successful FOSS projects. FOSS is cool. It is even noble. It’s pretty spiffy that some developers chose to spend time writing software then give it away free – with source code.

      I completely understand the FSF’s idea of ‘free’. I even link to their defintion from my post.

      The idea that unless every word processor on the planet doesn’t share the same on-disk dociment format that people fredom is abrogated is just stupid. I can’t run a linux binary on my Windows PC? Does that mean I am not free? That would be true given your argument. The only way a binary could run on all machines if if they all had the some OS. It would be redicously impractical and expensive for evertying to interoperate with everyting elese.

      The part of the FOSS (Stallman) philosophy that I object to is that somehow propriatary softare is bad or evil and that the pepole that create it are bad or evil. There isnothing inherently evil or bad with propriatary software or he peole that make it and sell it. You may want to arge that the FOSS way is better and promote FOSS softare – that is just fine. Just drop the whole “propriatry is evil thing” and the “it treads on my rights” thing.


      March 5, 2011 at 12:22 pm

      • I read your post and I what I perceived was a taint of bias. Of course not everyone (me included) subscribes to Stallman’s radicality, but saying that claiming that the iPhone threatens people’s freedom is stupid, is just plain wrong.

        You chose to ignore the iPhone example that I gave. Did you know that Apple went to court over jailbreaking the iPhone so that it couldn’t be used with for example any carrier a customer CHOSE to? (as in, Apple didn’t agree that customers were FREE to use THEIR purchased devices as THEY wanted). The US government seems to agree with the FSF on this.

        Jorge Fierro

        March 9, 2011 at 10:11 pm

        • Hi Jorge,

          What is a ‘taint of bias’. That is both subjective and competley unactionable term. I’m not biased in the least bit – i’m quite clear in my disagreement with much of the FSF philosphy. I think much if it is stupid. That’s not bias – its disagreement and critisim.

          Unlike the people I disagree with – I don’t feel they are evila or bad. I just think some of their ideas are stupid (there is that word again) and I disagree with them.

          Nobody is making you use an iPhone. if you have one, then you purchased it and agreed to a contract of your own free will. You were at liberty to do so. You could have easily purchased another phone on another carrier – an Android phone perhapse. I maintain that its stupid to cliam that the iPhone (or any other propriatary system) aborgates anyones freedem. Yes, you may not be able to do anything you want with an iPhone, but you are less free becuase of it.

          you are ignoring my argument – that the FSF and many other similar advocates are labled as bad or evil perflectly legal and ligimtate things. People and companies are at libertiy to create and sell propriatary systems. Nothing about htat is evil or bad and cliaming so is just stupid.

          Note, please read my post again carefully. I think open source software is super cool. I’m all in favor of it and many of the people that create it are good and noble. Its the idea I summarized above that I object to.



          March 10, 2011 at 8:04 pm

  3. Wow, what a great post.
    What FSF advocates is wrong and I have had trouble convincing others of this. I will be using the “FOSS confuses freedom with liberty” from now on.

    Carson Flint

    March 5, 2011 at 8:57 pm

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