FSF Free Software, Open Source, and Communism

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .
why not open source
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Xah Talk Show 2020-08-26 lisp keyboards, arrow key history, emacs dash problem, open source problem

2019-07-24 This article is largely written in 2002. The main content is largely not updated. Only links, logo, etc are updated.

Of the Open Source, which is one of the most paltry idea of humanity, of dolts' musing, paupers' plead, a offshoot and outright turncoat of Stallman's vision and hardship, dressing itself as the mediator between FSF and business men, fiddling and hawking a pipe dream of its own; a pot calling the kettle black; thieves and slouch's back seat. And in the end, it's just another fantastic fad pest of the world that is lingering. A sucker of programer's blood. A ruse for the enterprising corps. A disparate incongruous splash of vaporing nothingness that we shall see. —Xah Lee, 2002-05

. Addendum. Apparently, i was wrong. As of 2011, FSF's “Free” software concept is becoming oblivious, while Open Source, as supported massively by Google, and thousands of Web companies and technologies, are thriving.

gnu head
GNU Logo
opensource logo 20070822051640 Opensource logo 2014
Open Source Initiative, original logo, inaugurated ~2001, and 2014 logo.

GNU's Not Unix

GNU is Free Software Foundation's project name. The project is to create a operating system and complete suit of applications that allows anyone to distribute and modify freely. The name GNU is a “recursive acronym”, standing for “Gnu's Not Unix”. Implied in the name is the hatred towards software commercialization and incompetence that is Unix™. The word gnu in English means a type of bull-looking antelope, therefore the mascot.

Open Source is a movement in software industry officially began in 1998. Its creed is that the workings of software must not be secret. The “source” in Open Source refers to the source code of software. Open Source started in 1998 lead by Eric Raymond et al. Open Source is now a legal entity called Open Source Initiative, a non-profit organization full-fledged with board members and policies, peddling its ideology.

Stallman is a freedom extremist with stringent principles. He wrote a valuable text editor “emacs” and a C compiler “gcc” that became a foundation of unixes in the 1980s. The Free Software Foundation is founded by him officially in 1985. He created a licensing scheme called “GNU General Public License” (GPL) that makes in principle any software based or derived from GNU project must also bear this license (or equivalent), effectively a viral system. The unix community's love for freedom and Stallman's deeds have engendered a large FSF following in the unix community. Among unix community there are also dissidents, who do not like the idea of freedom being applied forcefully by law as in GPL. Coupled with Stallman's unrelenting and difficult personality, a schism gradually developed in the freedom-loving unix community. Some developed a dislike towards Stallman.

The GPL made a number of unix project extremely popular. The foremost is Linux the operating system. In about 1996, dot com era is thriving like wildfire, along with the GPL propelled Linux with free applications like Apache web server, Perl scripting language, and MySQL database making a brouhaha in the Info Tech industry. The gospel of Stallman's stringent ideology and propaganda often scared off the businessmen who are trying to use FSF's technologies to make some bucks.

In 1998 Netscape Inc released their browser code to the public in hope that it will be improved by the internet programers as to save itself from extinction by the technically superior Microsoft Internet Explorer browser. Releasing source code to the public by a major corporation is a first in industry. Eric Raymond and others, leading parts of the freedom-loving unix community, took this opportune shocking publicity and started the Open Source movement. It is supposed to mediate the conflict between the stringent Stallman's Free Software ideology and the real-life business world, and promote freedom in software. It focus on non-secrecy of software as its name implies. Open Source is also strongly a movement of Microsoft Hatred. The Open Source people have a strong hatred toward Microsoft, both its products and business practice. Open Source thus stole the limelight from FSF in the public, and officially marks a split of the freedom-loving unix community.

The adversary between the FreeSoftware (FSF) and Open Source groups are implicit and heated among themselves, but when it comes to general matters of Microsoft, software patent, software restrictions, both groups are on the same boat. In media today, the term Open Source does not makes a distinction between FreeSoftware vs Open Source ideologies. It refers to any software that does not come with traditional commercial licensing scheme and can be downloaded on the web along with its source code.).

HURD logo
The Hurd logo. The Gnu's planned operating system

Hurd is doubly recursive acronym. “Hurd” stands for “Hird of Unix-Replacing Daemons”, while “Hird” stands for “Hurd of Interfaces Representing Depth”. According to gnu.org, Thomas Bushnell is the primary architect of the Hurd. Hurd is planned to be the OS for the GNU project, and programers waited for its completion over a decade, but finally around 1997 Linux took over, for all practical purposes. The artist of the Hurd logo is Stephen McCamant (alias@mcs.com). I love this Hurd logo, and i love the acronym's expansion. The logo symbolize supreme abstraction and elegance. The acronym kicks sloppy happy-go-lucky unix moron's asses.

GNU and Tux

The august gnu and the carefree penguin. This art symbolize the attitude of FreeSoftware people and the often Open Source people towards commercial entities. The FreeSoftware people tends to be philosophical and absolute, while the Open Sourcers tend to be slacking and easy-going. Notice the GPL prominently displayed on their uniform. They are postured to fight the so-thought-of Greed crime. Who is the artist?

Essays on Open Source

What Desires Are Politically Important? (by Bertrand Russell)

[Why Utopian Communities Fail By Ewan Morrison. At https://areomagazine.com/2018/03/08/why-utopian-communities-fail/ ]

[A Case Against Open Sources By Mathias Strasser. At https://journals.law.stanford.edu/stanford-technology-law-review/online/new-paradigm-intellectual-property-law-case-against-open-sources ]

Reading Notes on Basic Economics

Microsoft Hatred