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Re: [Fsfe-uk] Just a Minute

From: Simon Waters
Subject: Re: [Fsfe-uk] Just a Minute
Date: Mon, 15 Apr 2002 15:37:04 +0100

Peter Clay wrote:
> So what specific things is AFFS intending to achieve? The creation of a
> Free UNIX-like operating system (which AFAICT is the goal of the FSF)? 

The creation of a Free UNIX-like operating system is the goal of
the GNU project not the FSF.

To quote from the FSF brochure, which I'm sure they won't mind

"The FSF is a tax-exempt charity, dedicated to promoting
computer users' right to use, copy, modify and redistribute
computer programs. The FSF promotes the development and use of
free software, particularly the GNU operating system, and
GNU/Linux, and helps to spread awareness of the ethical and
political issues that relate to these rights.'

'.... working towards the goal of eliminating the need to use
proprietary systems and programs.'

'... the FSF protects, preserves and promotes free software.'

Copyright 2001 FSF Inc - quoted for discussion purposes.

So the goals and aims of the FSF are wider than the GNU project.
In eliminating the need to use proprietary systems the need for
a free operating system is a pretty important step.

GNU aims to build an OS (or two) and some applications, but the
FSF aims to promote and protect free software.

> The wider use of GNU/Linux in education and charitable organisations? The
> abolition of software patents? Are our priorities our users and free
> software, or what?

I must plead to having missed the meeting. These days I lack the
energy to be running up to London all the time.

Personally I feel the organisation should focus on the
environment in which free software operates; patents, government
and EU policy, crypto law, open standards. 

Rather than specifically promoting a specific product or

> Personally, I'd like to see a credible organisation lobbying government on
> behalf of the users and developers of Free Software on freedom issues such
> as patents, crypto (both mandatory and forbidden, ironically), and other
> matters that arise.

> I'd also like to see as much of the money that public services spend on
> software licenses as possible redirected into Free Software development.

Agreed, people must recognise this is far more than persuading
government to use Free Software - most departments already have
a Linux server somewhere or their web site on Apache etc.

Don't know if it is current, but a lot of US federal government
software was "open source" (Restrictions applied), in that it
was made available to the US public (who had already paid for it
after all).

That is the kind of goal I would like to see, where free access
to government source code, and a commitment to make government
software free software whereever possible.

The ultimate software reuse is where your government only pays
once for each type of application it has developed.... Given the
sums squandered in National Insurance systems, Finger print
databases, air traffic control systems, health service systems,
such a policy ought to make a significant difference to my tax
bill. Better still if such systems were only ever written by one
government and shared, especially if it creates a market in
e-Government system support and development. Where as at the
moment this is a niche that Microsoft are digging away at
monopolising, both here in the UK, and abroad.
> These are seperate issues. It's not clear to me at the moment which one
> AFFS is more naturally inclined to support.

I see no problem with generally raising awareness of particular
products, and the idea of a database (hey a list will do fine
for the moment), but I see it very much as a quick way of find
the "ethical" software products, in the same way one might use
"Ethical Shopper" magazine to decide which brand of coffee or
soap to buy/avoid.

Whether the AFFS does this is I think secondary, but it is
pretty easy goal to achieve, and it is good to have a few easy
to achieve targets - helps create a sense of accomplishment, and
progress, which is all to often lacking when dealing with

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