Mast Kalandar

bandar's colander of random jamun aur aam

Sat, 25 Aug 2001

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Letter to LWN on Freedom Zero and RMS


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Dear LWN,

I read with interest your editorial this week ("Let's beat up on
Richard Stallman") and the articles by O'Reilly and the others.
Of course this has led to another series of postings in various
fora and the debate will rage on. Here is my 2 paise worth.

1. RMS < FSF < GNU < GPL. But we are often guilty of equating them. In
particular, each time RMS makes a statement that people object to
they use it as an excuse to beat up on the FSF and sometimes the GPL
as well. Of course, RMS himself is guilty of over-reaching on some
of these inequalities...

2. The GPL is about the user's freedom. What O'Reilly (and open
source) is talking about is the developer's freedom. But the
distinction between users and developers is a grayscale and not black
and white. We all start as (l)users and (should) try to attain some
sort of mastery. The GPL says that every developer *must* help a user
in this by letting the user (a) use the program (b) study and adapt
it (c) get friends involved in this ativity (d) carry on the work of
developers that came before by helping others too.

3. If developers grant themselves the "freedom"/"power" to stop
helping users in this way *or* users grant themselves the right to
expect "readymade" fixes from developers forever, it is only a
matter of time before the division is created and made permanent.

Unfortunately, O'Reilly's "freedom zero" is easily distorted into a
freedom for developers such as in (3). The response from RMS/BMK also
too easily interpreted to mean a user's "right to expect" as in (3).

A cliche (actually the title of an Indian soap opera) may help!

"Sans bhi kabhi bahu thi"
(A mother-in-law was also a daughter-in-law once).

Kapil Paranjape.


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