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Old 08-23-2012, 05:02 PM   #31
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Quote:
Originally Posted by amani View Post
It is quite easy to run 100% free software on most PCs without binary blobs.
Yup, it's quite easy to go without hardware acceleration, WiFi and programs like Flash and Google Earth. The question is, do you want to? I know my computers would have been a complete waste of money and next to useless for the purposes I want them for without proprietary software and binary blobs.
Linux with binary blobs drivers and software is limited enough without limiting it further.
By the way, I agree that free (as in GNU) software is the ideal and it should be worked towards. However, not using proprietary software is cutting off your nose to spite your face. Just look at how exciting the machine RMS uses is -- no modern games, no movies, limited choice of web browser and that's just off the top of my head.
 
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Old 08-23-2012, 05:14 PM   #32
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First, let me be clear on my personal view: The very idea of "intellectual property" is evil. No person or fictional legal entity can "own" a thought, idea, sound, string of words, mathematical expression, pattern, etc. If one mind can think it and do it, so can any other - without restraint. Until we are free of the concept of intellectual property, "Liberty" will remain just a word. Flame away...

But that is not the purpose of this post...

Quote:
Originally Posted by H_TeXMeX_H View Post
How many times have you changed the source code to a program ? and if and when you did, did it really give you more control ?
To answer the question, yes I have.

About 4-5 years ago I began to use and financially support a terrific UML modeling tool named BOUML. It was QT3 based and GLP2 and fit perfectly into my work flow. I did a few bug fixes and wrote a couple of extensions that made it much more useful to myself and fed them back to the project. I was also working on a QT4 port of the code as it was falling pretty far behind.

About this time for reasons of his own, the original author and project BDFL decided to take it proprietary by subscription based license. In the process he alienated (abused would be a better word) pretty much everyone who had contributed to and used it, myself included. I probably would have become a subscriber - it was lower cost than the money I had put in previously, but decided not to do so after that episode.

But I also had become very dependent on using the tool for my own work, and have a LOT of time invested in it, so I have now heavily modified and continue to use the last GPL'd version. I still use the QT3 code as my own QT4 conversion has proven to be beyond my own limited skills to this point.

So, while I do not look at or modify source as a matter of course, being able to do so in this case was a lifesaver. It happens for any number of reasons, and it is important.

Being able to do so is FREEDOM. Not being able to do so is... something else.

Last edited by astrogeek; 08-23-2012 at 05:18 PM.
 
Old 08-23-2012, 07:56 PM   #33
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Not to long ago Patrick Volkerding himself, recommended that we users sign the FSF's petition against secure boot. I am grateful to the FSF, the EFF, and to the many others who fight to liberate software and to defend us from the social and economic injustice caused by the centralization of wealth and power.

The concept of "SHOW ME THE CODE" works! I'm not a programmer, but if someone in the free software community
tries to slip some back doors into a program, this community will show that person up on an immediate basis.

Best regards
 
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Old 08-23-2012, 08:13 PM   #34
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I'm happy with Slackware's approach to 'free software'. I like that it comes with my wireless drivers. I like that it comes with Firefox and not 'Iceweasel'. I like that it just works without me having to tick a few boxes to enable non-free repos.
 
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Old 08-23-2012, 09:32 PM   #35
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Quote:
Originally Posted by H_TeXMeX_H View Post
How many times have you changed the source code to a program ? and if and when you did, did it really give you more control ?
The point it not how often one actually has to change the source code, but that you actually can, should the need arise.

Whoever controls the source code to a program, decides how that program works. Whoever controls how a program works, has full control over the data that program produces, stores and manipulates. And therein lies the problem.

A few posters in this thread take the position "as long as it works, I don't care if it's free or not". I can certainly sympathize with that, and on the surface it seems like a pragmatic and quite sensible approach. There's just one problem: You really have no idea how or even if any given closed-source software actually works, and should it ever stop working, there could be dire consequences.

Example: In the Microsoft Office suite, there's a rather nice-looking (OK, that's a matter of opinion) e-mail/groupware application called Outlook. It has a decent interface (IMHO), and integrates very well with Microsoft's e-mail offerings, as one would expect. It's closed-source and uses proprietary file formats and communication protocols, but hey, as long as it works, right?

The 2003 version (and all prior versions) of Outlook has a nasty bug that causes it to corrupt the local mail store if the file size exceeds 2 Gb. When this happens, you may not be able to open your inbox. The corruption can occur gradually, so you backups may be partly useless. Microsoft offers no solution. Had the application been Free (or even just Open Source), you could have fixed it yourself or hired someone to do it. But it isn't, and as a result your mail archive is effectively unavailable to you.

The applications themselves are not the real issue. Control over your data is. Amazon Kindle users who had their copies of George Orwell's "1984" (oh, the irony) removed from their own devices can relate to this. And since control over your data is closely tied to the control over the devices processing that data, the openness of operating systems and applications becomes an issue.

I applaud qweasd's efforts to create a list of licenses for all Slackware packages. As Rodhlann pointed out, this will make it much easier to gain corporate acceptance for Slackware. Every distribution containing non-free software should have such a list.

Last edited by Ser Olmy; 08-23-2012 at 09:34 PM.
 
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Old 08-24-2012, 12:14 AM   #36
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Quote:
Originally Posted by H_TeXMeX_H View Post
It is a good idea to make such a list. Make sure to list exactly what kind of license it has, because I don't mind no source redistribution. All I care about is seeing the source, not redistributing it or making modified copies.

If you want we can help, are you going through by category or just in alphabetical order ? If people want they can volunteer to go through a category or package whatever to whatever in a category. Just have a sample of what the list looks like so we can merge it when it is finished.
I was doing it just like you wanted: piled everything that's free according to FSF into one category, and made a brief description for every non-free license. Now I want to wait for Slackware 14 to come out, and then I will definitely let you know.
 
Old 08-24-2012, 12:20 AM   #37
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I wonder what would happen if Linux users weren't "I don't care if it's free, as long as it works". If nobody was using nvidia proprietary drivers on Linux, maybe nvidia would have opened the source 5 years ago and we would be richer now.
 
Old 08-24-2012, 06:15 AM   #38
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Quote:
Originally Posted by m.knives View Post
I wonder what would happen if Linux users weren't "I don't care if it's free, as long as it works". If nobody was using nvidia proprietary drivers on Linux, maybe nvidia would have opened the source 5 years ago and we would be richer now.
Personally, I'm not willing to make that kind of sacrifice. Using Linux is hard enough without further complicating matters.
As I said, just look at how little RMS's machine can do.
I'm sorry if that offends some, but I buy computers to do the things I want of them not to help anyone's cause. I would not, in fact, buy a computer at all if it were limited to free software only.
 
Old 08-24-2012, 07:06 AM   #39
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 273 View Post
Personally, I'm not willing to make that kind of sacrifice. Using Linux is hard enough without further complicating matters.
As I said, just look at how little RMS's machine can do.
I'm sorry if that offends some, but I buy computers to do the things I want of them not to help anyone's cause. I would not, in fact, buy a computer at all if it were limited to free software only.
There's no reason for anyone to be offended by your statement. You should have the freedom to make whatever choices you think are in your own best interest. I would like to point out, though, that the cause you'd be helping by choosing free software is very much your own. It is in your best interest to retain control over your own data and devices.

Unfortunately, the nature of this issue is such that the negative effects of non-free software and systems may not be evident until you actually experience a loss of some kind, and at that point it is too late. As such, I question whether most people are able to make a fully informed choice about proprietary vs. free software, because the issues at stake are simply not that obvious or well known.

I've seen the entire CRM and payroll system of a customer become unavailable overnight due to an obscure (and probably date-related) bug in the software they were using. They were lucky, as a complete reinstall and subsequent manual migration of their data to new servers solved the problem, but they suffered some serious losses in the 4 day period the system was unavailable. To this day, I don't know the exact nature of the bug that caused this to happen, and neither does the vendor. It could very well happen again.

If something like that happens to your company, you stand to lose your livelihood. Should it happen to your employer, you could be out of a job. If it happens to your bank or an investment firm they happen to be using, you could easily lose your pension. And if the closed-source software is controlling a medical device, a bug could straight-up kill you.

I can see how the free/non-free debate may seem rather irrelevant when you're considering whether to install a closed-source Nvidia graphics driver or go with a crippled F/OSS version, but generally the stakes are somewhat higher than risking virtual death in an FPS due to poor frame rates.

Oh, and the reason Nvidia won't release the full specs to their chips so that proper F/OSS drivers can be made, is that they're afraid to get sued by patent trolls exploiting the (decidedly non-free) patent system. We would all benefit from more openness.

Last edited by Ser Olmy; 08-24-2012 at 07:18 AM.
 
Old 08-24-2012, 07:34 AM   #40
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I'm not convinced that free software is any less likely to cause a system failure either though?
I'm not sure how the CRM system being free software would have helped at all in that case. The system would have gone down anyhow, and the data recovery process would have been the same. Heck, if the vendor who has the source doesn't know where the bug is how would it help that the people who had the source were members of the free software community?
What proprietary software does cause is vendor lock-in and the requirement to upgrade software as the vendor sees fit rather than in your own time. It also ties you to other products (for example some software only manageable via Internet Explorer) that you otherwise stop using.
Personally I view free software as a protection against vendors rather than system failure.
 
Old 08-24-2012, 08:06 AM   #41
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 273 View Post
I'm not convinced that free software is any less likely to cause a system failure either though?
I'm not sure how the CRM system being free software would have helped at all in that case. The system would have gone down anyhow, and the data recovery process would have been the same. Heck, if the vendor who has the source doesn't know where the bug is how would it help that the people who had the source were members of the free software community?
Had the software been at least Open Source, we could have:

- examined the source code
- attached a debugger to find the problem
- fixed the problem ourselves rather than having to wait for the vendor
- benefited from having lots of people looking at the code, and perhaps avoided the problem in the first place

Obviously, programmers in F/OSS projects can and do make mistakes just like in-house programmers or contractors working on closed-source projects. The difference is that you have no way of identifying a bug in a closed-source application until you actually experience its effects, and when you do, you don't have the option to fix it.

Also, a vendor selling a closed-source application can get away with the most appalling incompetence as long as anyone allowed to see the code are covered by an NDA. Just look at some of the code that ends up on thedailywtf.com. There's no way a company would be able to pull off someting like "VirtuDyne" (probably SimDesk) had the code been Free or Open.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 273 View Post
What proprietary software does cause is vendor lock-in and the requirement to upgrade software as the vendor sees fit rather than in your own time. It also ties you to other products (for example some software only manageable via Internet Explorer) that you otherwise stop using.
Personally I view free software as a protection against vendors rather than system failure.
Agreed. I mentioned the vendor lock-in angle in an earlier post.

Still, having hundreds/thousands/perhaps millions of people examining the source code is likely to offer substantial benefits compared with having to trust an internal development team of, say, 10 (and as a customer, you have direct access to exactly 0 of them).

In the case with the CRM application, what saved the day was the fact that the underlying database was readily accessible, and could be moved to another server. We still had to use the same application, though, as the database layout and business logic was/is undocumented.
 
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Old 08-24-2012, 08:22 AM   #42
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Quote:
Originally Posted by m.knives View Post
I wonder what would happen if Linux users weren't "I don't care if it's free, as long as it works". If nobody was using nvidia proprietary drivers on Linux, maybe nvidia would have opened the source 5 years ago and we would be richer now.
I think its a lot more likely that they'd have just discontinued the Linux driver. If you buy a computer that includes a specific manufacturer's hardware, I don't think its excessive for that manufacturer to maintain control over their drivers for it. Sure it'd be nice if they went totally open-source, but unless every manufacturer did the same it would give a definite competitive edge to Nvidia's competition. Its bad business sense on the part of the company and their investors. Profit talks louder than community good will, and I'm happy enough with Nvidia paying attention to the Linux community as much as they are now.

just my $0.02 (or my ninety quadrillion Zimbabwe dollars)
 
Old 08-24-2012, 08:35 AM   #43
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Ser Olmy, I'll not quote as it'll end up too long and I'll answer generally.
I am not sure how you would expect to be able to debug somebody else's code quicker than them? Of course if they didn't care about your custom then, yes, it's possible you'd come up with a fix before them if they even cared. This, of course, is irrelevant if your company doesn't employ any developers -- in that case it's possibly going to be as cheap to give the vendor money for a bespoke patch as it is hire a team of developers to fix the bug.
I also don't think that thousands of developers would be looking at the code for a CRM system. Some FOSS projects seem to have only a few developers so they're just as pushed for coder-time as closed-source projects.
So while I think in some cases using free software is safer -- it's not the case for every business.
Then there's the regulated businesses for whom support contracts and vendor SLAs are a requirement. I've seen comments on similar topics to this along the lines of "We're better off losing data and having outages with a vendor to blame it on than using open source. This is because if anything does go wrong with open source we cannot prove due diligence in a court of law."
 
Old 08-24-2012, 08:53 AM   #44
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 273 View Post
Ser Olmy, I'll not quote as it'll end up too long and I'll answer generally.
I am not sure how you would expect to be able to debug somebody else's code quicker than them? Of course if they didn't care about your custom then, yes, it's possible you'd come up with a fix before them if they even cared. This, of course, is irrelevant if your company doesn't employ any developers -- in that case it's possibly going to be as cheap to give the vendor money for a bespoke patch as it is hire a team of developers to fix the bug.
You asked how having access to the code would have helped in this particular case, and my answer was based on that. I do know how to use a debugger (it's not difficult at all), and as the problem in this case was an application refusing to even start, it wouldn't have been too hard to figure out what (or at least where in the code) the problem was.

Also, where I live, programmers are a dime a dozen. They're not all brilliant, but I'm sure they would have been able to assist me in solving this issue.

As for the vendor, the time aspect was the problem. This is not some small locally-developed application, and the programmers aren't even in this country. I have to report the bug to a company that has "partner" status, meaning they know how to install and configure the system, but do not have access to the source code and employ no programmers.

So I have to wait, first for attention from a representative of the "partner" who can escalate the problem, and then for the vendor to actually deal with a problem reported by a small customer in a country on the other side of the globe. We don't even register on their radar, and we can't even pay our way to the front of the line, as no such option exists in their support system.

In this case, having access to the source code would have made all the difference in the world.
 
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Old 08-24-2012, 09:01 AM   #45
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To be honest it sounds more like the company you work for and environment you work in that would make free software safer.
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.
The phrase "you can't be fired for using Microsoft" is as true in many places as it always was, sadly.
 
  


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