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Old 08-24-2012, 09:11 AM   #46
BlackRider
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Quote:
The very idea of "intellectual property" is evil.
That is a very arguable statement.

I think closed software is not evil by itself. The evil ones are the guys that try to lock your capabilities to use the software under reasonable limits.

I concur with Stallman in his position about the difference between software and other types of things covered by copyright licenses. Software is a tool which is deployed to perform a task or set of tasks. Software license locking might prevent your business from performing in optimal conditions. Industrial patent locking can bring another bunch of philosophical issues (it is illegal for me to use this machine to dig a well in Africa?). On the other hand, I find that art, music and book protection is mostly harmless. It can be damn annoying, but you are not going to die because you cannot listen to Metallica's last album.

Making software, art, music, books or whatever can take a big amount of effort. I have detected many people have recently started to demand "free" music or movies and rant when told about copyright laws. In my eyes, the one who invests the time and money to make whatever should have the right to decide how to distribute it with very, very few exceptions. If he decides to distribute his stuff freely, great! Otherwise, you are in your right to not use it and declare your reasons not to do so. I use free software because I like it, but I am not telling people to free their software if they don't want to. It's up to them, period.

It happens that I am a writer and that I favor Creative Commons licensing, but when I am told the "Books Should be Free as in Give them To Me" I feel the public is looking down at the effort it takes to write and publish anything. It makes me think they think that the effort taken is zero and that literature is near to worthless. It makes me very sad.

By the way, the whole GPL and Creative Commons thing would not work without copyright laws.

------------------------

Back to software: free software is good because you can provide your own support for it if the vendor quits the game, and because it offers many other advantages gained form source code manipulation. It is true that you are not likely to handle the source often, but when you need to do it you will be relieved by the existence of the GPL. I have myself mended some weird bugs I could not have fixed in closed source software.

However, more important than software are the protocols. A free protocol or format ensures there will be no vendor lock-in around that protocol, because anybody will be able to write his own implementation -free or closed. If mp3 gets locked for any reason, writers for mp3 apps will be screwed, but writers of Ogg apps are not in such danger. Free protocols are far better ensuring free competence and a healthy market.

Free software wouldn't be what it is today without open standards. Con you imagine what could have happened if TCP or some other similar thing had been controlled by a single vendor?

Last edited by BlackRider; 08-24-2012 at 09:14 AM.
 
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Old 08-24-2012, 09:38 AM   #47
Ser Olmy
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 273 View Post
To be honest it sounds more like the company you work for and environment you work in that would make free software safer.
Perhaps.

Have you noticed that the idea of closed-source software is so ingrained in most people's minds that they never even consider it possible to have software fixed by someone other than the vendor? When something breaks, even experienced sysadmins do nothing besides reporting the problem to the vendor and wait for an official fix. They hardly ever consider contacting a company with skilled developers, even if the source code is available. It just doesn't occur to them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 273 View Post
I think the key is to go with solutions which work for your situation -- in your case that would be open source but in others the choice may not be so clear.
My role was that of a sysadmin and consultant, and I had little influence over the customer's choice of software.

As for "what works", the client will evaluate the software from the PoV of the user. Does it look right? Does it have the functionality I need to get the job done? If so, it "works". If asked if the software works, no vendor will ever say anything but "yes". Nobody talks about what happens when it breaks, because obviously that will never happen!

In this case, it broke. Badly. So what does the vendor say now?
"Well, we haven't seen anything like this before. It could be caused a lot of things; the server, operating system pathces, the network, other software components... hard to say, really."
Yes, very hard to say, as the source code is unavailable and no representative from the vendor ever bothered to take a look at the broken system. The problem could be cosmic radiation or invading Martians for all they know. And since they haven't actually looked at the problem, they can use the same excuse next time: "well, we haven't seen anything like this before..." (implying that it must be related to the customer's setup).

The customer had to cover their own losses, the "partner" got an earful for being slow to respond, and they continue using the same system. Stuff. Like. That. Happens. All. The. Time.

I honestly believe FOSS could help solve some of these problems, and perhaps rid us of the least competent vendors by enforcing good (or at least better) coding standards.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 273 View Post
The phrase "you can't be fired for using Microsoft" is as true in many places as it always was, sadly.
It certainly is, but you can still lose your job if software from Microsoft (or any other vendor) causes the company you work for to lose money. They won't blame you for it, but you're still out of a job.
 
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Old 08-24-2012, 09:46 AM   #48
273
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ser Olmy View Post
Have you noticed that the idea of closed-source software is so ingrained in most people's minds that they never even consider it possible to have software fixed by someone other than the vendor? When something breaks, even experienced sysadmins do nothing besides reporting the problem to the vendor and wait for an official fix. They hardly ever consider contacting a company with skilled developers, even if the source code is available. It just doesn't occur to them.
The reason it never occurs to them is because they have an SLA in place with the vendor which puts in place certain legal obligations on both sides. I may be wrong but I would think even open-source vendors would consider it a breach of support contract to change their code on your systems. As I said before, to some companies it is potentially more expensive and more damaging to use non-supported software than it is to lose their data.
Your arguments are sound, but only in contexts where you have developers in house and you're not required to have support contracts in place.
 
Old 08-24-2012, 10:13 AM   #49
Ser Olmy
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 273 View Post
The reason it never occurs to them is because they have an SLA in place with the vendor which puts in place certain legal obligations on both sides. I may be wrong but I would think even open-source vendors would consider it a breach of support contract to change their code on your systems.
That's probably true, but in the SMB segment of the market (where I do most of my work), SLAs aren't all that common. My clients are using off-the-shelf software, and the support contract (if one exists) typically gives them access to software updates and in some cases, end user support.

My point was that few people outside the Linux/BSD/*NIX communities are familiar with the terms "Open Source" or "Free Software", and they are unaware of the benefits of using F/OSS software.

I once worked for a company that were considering developing a product based around GPL software. The biggest problem was to get the idea past management, because they couldn't get their head around the FOSS concept. "But what if the current developers abandon the project", they asked, and in the background company PCs were running obsolete software from Microsoft and Adobe, complete with known security vulnerabilites that would never get fixed.

I explained that the worst-case (and extremely unlikely) scenario would be an abandoned project, which we could then take over and basically do with as we pleased (within the very reasonable limitations of the GPL), but they would prefer that a company had ownership of the project and would "take responsibility" of it, ignoring the fact that no company ever does that for any length of time.

But we're getting far off topic here. qweasd, do you have a wiki or something detailing your progress? Is there any way to contribute to your list? I would be more than happy to do so.
 
Old 08-24-2012, 12:35 PM   #50
qweasd
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ser Olmy View Post
But we're getting far off topic here. qweasd, do you have a wiki or something detailing your progress? Is there any way to contribute to your list? I would be more than happy to do so.
No, what I have is an xhtml file so ghetto, I am getting redfaced just thinking about publishing it. It looks like the next release is right around a corner, and my methodology for 13.37 was flawed anyway. How about this: let's wait till Slackware 14, and then I'll make an ODS (libreoffice) table with all the packages and share it with whoever is willing to contribute. Each person can pick a segment of the table to work on. Then go carefully through the package sources on Slackware CD to establish whether a package is free according to these guys. If not, indicate which parts of the package are at fault (e.g. audacious is free, but may come with non-free plugins) and summarize the restrictions in a comment (e.g. "non-commercial distribution only", or "all rights reserved").

I am sorry to say, though, I am very busy at the moment, which is why this project had to be put on hold in the first place.
 
Old 08-24-2012, 12:40 PM   #51
Ser Olmy
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Quote:
Originally Posted by qweasd View Post
How about this: let's wait till Slackware 14, and then I'll make an ODS (libreoffice) table with all the packages and share it with whoever is willing to contribute. Each person can pick a segment of the table to work on. Then go carefully through the package sources on Slackware CD to establish whether a package is free according to these guys. If not, indicate which parts of the package are at fault (e.g. audacious is free, but may come with non-free plugins) and summarize the restrictions in a comment (e.g. "non-commercial distribution only", or "all rights reserved").
Sounds great. I'm in.
 
Old 08-25-2012, 11:44 PM   #52
Lufbery
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Hi all,

This is, as always when discussing free software, a fascinating discussion.

Like many here, I agree in principle with Richard Stallman, but find that in practice I need some non-free software to get the most out of my computer.

I think access to the source code is important, and I actually modify the "code" with some frequency. Let me explain the quotes around code in the previous sentence.

To me, as a non programmer, "code" means everything that's not a compiled binary -- the a "makefile.am" file, the configure script, etc. So the fact that everything I need to compile a program is available means it is possible for me to recompile programs to suit my needs -- by adding in an optional dependency, for example.

The fact that the source code is available and can be freely modified for so many packages also benefits . . . well . . . nearly everyone. There are numerous examples of projects that have forked (and even come together again) when useful software starts to stagnate. Libre Office is a very valuable fork. Window Maker seems to have forked into Window Maker-CRM and then reintegrated into a whole project again.

So, although my tinkering is not at the level of the folks who dig into the C source code to make patches, fix bugs, or add functionality, I benefit very heavily from the software freedoms defined by RMS and the FSF.

Warm regards,
 
Old 08-26-2012, 12:31 AM   #53
damgar
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Think how much trouble we'd all be in if Pythagorus had copyrighted or patented his theory. Apple just won a $1 BILLION judgement, based in part on having a "rectangular phone with rounded corners". It's gotten ridiculous. I agree that anyone should have the right to distribute their work as they see fit, but where would we be if we allowed one carpenter to patent "an angled brace for temporarily supporting a wall." But in software and industry it makes sense to allow patents and copyrights for methods to solving problems? The argument is flawed and takes advantage of the fact that the average person can't see code as being equivalent to the stud in a wall, or the texture on it.
 
Old 08-26-2012, 05:13 AM   #54
Martinus2u
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Quote:
Originally Posted by damgar View Post
Apple just won a $1 BILLION judgement, based in part on having a "rectangular phone with rounded corners".
this is in essence the legal system of one particular country being used as an protectionist trade barrier, despite constant lip services in favour of free trade.

the other force behind unreasonable concepts of intellectual property is the corporatocracy aiming to enforce business models. point in case beinge the UEFI debacle or the criminalization of circumvention of digital rights management.
 
Old 08-26-2012, 03:29 PM   #55
NyteOwl
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It's off topic but that Apple lawsuit won because the jury, especially the foreman ignored the judges instructions, AND the basis of patent law and ignored the premise of "prior art" altogether and used his ideas rather than the legal definition to speed deliberation.

We now return you to your regular channel.
 
Old 08-26-2012, 04:35 PM   #56
dugan
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Quote:
Originally Posted by damgar View Post
Think how much trouble we'd all be in if Pythagorus had copyrighted or patented his theory.
I don't know, I think the people who murdered him and all his followers might well have successfully challenged the patents.

Last edited by dugan; 08-26-2012 at 04:43 PM.
 
Old 08-26-2012, 10:02 PM   #57
vharishankar
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deleted.

Last edited by vharishankar; 11-02-2012 at 12:28 PM.
 
Old 08-26-2012, 11:20 PM   #58
qweasd
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vharishankar View Post
Patent law is actually clear: you cannot patent ideas, only inventions.
This may be clear to a lawyer, but I am not a lawyer, so it could as well be in Chinese to me. Words "idea" and "invention" are gods' gift to sophists. Put 6 philosophers around a table and in 60 minutes they will come up with 60 incompatible definitions of "idea".

One thing is pretty clear to me, though: "software" patents are not fundamentally different from traditional patents. It's patents that are evil, and "software" patents are just sometimes more obviously evil. Look, considerations of obviousness aside, if we can patent device with a button that responds to a double-click by using nothing but springs and gears, why can't we patent a device that does the same thing by using a general-purpose computer to detect a double-click? The software involvement is just as irrelevant as involvement of aluminum. One gets a monopoly on production and distribution of a device that does a certain thing, and if the general purpose computer is the only known way to accomplish that thing, too bad!
 
Old 08-26-2012, 11:44 PM   #59
T3slider
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Quote:
Originally Posted by qweasd View Post
Look, considerations of obviousness aside, if we can patent device with a button that responds to a double-click by using nothing but springs and gears, why can't we patent a device that does the same thing by using a general-purpose computer to detect a double-click?
Because the software implementation required to detect a double-click is already protected by copyright and needs to be completely reinvented (rewritten) in order for any other company to implement it. Hardware isn't protected by copyright but for some reason software (in the US) is allowed to be protected by both copyright and patents. Apple owns a patent for essentially searching multiple databases based on a single input query and displaying the tabulated results. They were granted a patent for doing multiple iterations of something that already exists. This to any rational being would make no sense. And to confuse matters, patents that were granted may not be valid and the only way to determine that is in a lawsuit. It is impossible for programmers to crawl through patents and make sure they are not infringing -- there are too many and it is literally impossible to write a non-trivial piece of software without violating several patents. To make matters worse, a willful infringement carries severe penalties so programmers would be wise to intentionally ignore patents altogether so they can claim they had no prior knowledge of the patent and thus no intent to infringe.

You do not know if you are allegedly violating a patent until you are sued, and you don't know if you are legally infringing until it is decided in court. And even if you are infringing, you don't know if the patent is valid until that is also decided in court.

I think RMS' position is too extremist for my taste in many cases but I whole-heartedly agree with his position when it comes to software patents (by which I mean patents covering processes only implementable via software) -- they should not exist.

Anyway, such a topic is only loosely related to free software and deserves its own thread.
 
Old 08-27-2012, 02:42 AM   #60
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deleted.

Last edited by vharishankar; 11-02-2012 at 12:27 PM.
 
  


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