[nycbug-talk] lame...real lame Andy

Dru dlavigne6
Wed Jan 12 09:47:37 EST 2005

On Wed, 12 Jan 2005, Pete Wright wrote:

>> From the news.com.com interview with Andy Hertzfeld:
> http://news.com.com/How+the+Mac+was+born%2C+and+other+tales/2008-1082_3-5529081.html?tag=st.num
> How would things be different for Apple if they switched to Linux from FreeBSD?
> Technically that doesn't make much of a difference at all. Commercially...
> The more free software on the system, the more alliances it would allow them
> to make with companies like IBM, and some of the other open-source systems.

<paranoid view>

I read an interesting perspective in Bruce Montague's Elements of 
Operating System & Internet History, a FreeBSD Perspective. In my mind, it 
helped make some sense out of the nonsensical "why are all the big companies
publicly embracing GPL code while their use of BSD code remains 
unadvertised?" It gave me one of those aha moments, followed by the 
realization that something insidious may be going on.

Remember the days of Big Blue and that huge antitrust case against IBM 
that dragged on for decades? Well, "the charge against IBM was, in effect, 
that it was stifling the opportunity for a competitive software market to 
arise by bundling free software with IBM hardware". And that free software 
was basically SHARE (www.share.org) code; that is, code written by 
customers and given to IBM for distribution to other customers. (gee, that 
sounds a lot like what happened at Berkeley...) Anyways, the fledgling 
software market at the time argued that IBM was stifling the software 
market which eventually led to the anti-trust case.

Bruce then goes on to explain the intent and ramifications of the BSD and 
GPL licenses. The intent of the GPL is to prevent open source code from 
becoming commercialized (www.gnu.org/philosophy/shouldbefree.html). This 
is the part that confused me, seeing all of the big software interests are 
embracing GPL code left write and center. Whereas, the BSD license doesn't 
place restrictions on what happens to the code i.e. it can stay open 
source or end up in a commercial entity.

Bruce then explains how history is repeating itself: "The GPL is well 
suited for use as a commercial marketing weapon, particularly by hardware or
service companies which, similar to IBM in the late 1950s and 1960s, profit if
the cost of software is driven to zero...zero-cost software can be used to
undermine the software of a competitor and can contribute to monopolistic
behaviour. It can drive software companies out of business. It is unclear if
the current generation of open source software will have this effect or not".

If this is the case, it is certainly ironic that Stallman's vision of the 
ideal license is being used to promote the commercial entities he is so 
strongly opposed to.


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