Linked by Eugenia Loli on Wed 23rd Jan 2008 22:07 UTC
Linux With Linux on the desktop going from a slow crawl to verging on an explosion, many have toiled with the question: How do we make this happen faster? A well-known Austin-based Linux Advocate thinks he has the answer.
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RE[3]: Linux for the masses
by sorpigal on Thu 24th Jan 2008 22:12 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Linux for the masses"
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"The reality is, as much as BSD fans might like to deny it, Linux is a *guarantee* of lasting freedom, BSD is not. GPL'd code cannot be closed off, BSD code can. Companies can contribute to GPL projects secure in the knowledge that their competitors are not being handed an advantage that they themselves will not also have. Average Joes can contribute to a GPL project secure in the knowledge that the code will not be hijacked and made unavailable to him in the future.

To suggest that BSD code can be 'closed off' so that people can no longer access the source code is disingenious in the extreme.

BSD code can be used as the basis of closed software, hiding changes, improvements, regressions and problems of all kinds. The closed software can then be pushed by its backers and succeed over the open software, for a variety of reasons including (possibly) that it might be better. This cannot (legally) happen with GPL'd software.

GPL'd software is good for mandating a future in which code-visible-and-editable is the norm. BSD code is nice, but it does not mandate this. Because it does not *force* code visibility it implicitly supports code hiding, even though it is itself open.

Suppose a company takes some BSD'd code and incorporates it into their product, makes sales, makes a profit, but does not contribute money or patches back to the original application. Society is harmed by a closed application existing, society is harmed by the company's customers choosing the closed application instead of the open application from which it was in whole or in part derived, and society is harmed by improvements not flowing to all users.

It is not sufficient that existing and future users of the BSD'd version continue to use it and be free. The code has been closed off to the detriment of society.

If said application had been GPL'd instead then the company would be faced with reimplementing the functionality in a probable inferior way, or they would be required to publish their changes. Even if they chose to roll their own society would still be served by its probable inferiority driving customers to options which *were* based on the GPL'd code.

BSD code can never be closed. You can fork it and close that, but what's to stop you using the existing code base?

This argument is always raised whenever the BSD license's drawbacks are discussed. Nothing can stop you from using the last free version the day after the fork, and nothing is likely to stop you at any time. That's not the point I was making and I think it is as disingenuous for you to suggest that it was as it is for me to suggest that BSD code can be closed off.

As for freedom, I fail to see how a license which *restricts* usage can somehow be considered 'free'.

I know you do. I have this conversation often with my BSD-fan friends; we continue to fail to understand each other on this point. It's an ongoing problem. I run in to the same problem debating socialism vs. libertarianism for many of the same reasons, regardless of which side I choose.

We can argue all day about whether the greatest freedom for the greatest number will be achieved by limiting some freedoms today; I expect we wont agree. We can debate the fine semantic points concerning just who it is whose freedom is being abridged; I suspect we wont agree on that, either. I'd just as soon not start... people seem to like voting me down for saying things which offend their ideals.

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