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Re: [Fsfe-uk] Mac OS X refund

From: Andrew Savory
Subject: Re: [Fsfe-uk] Mac OS X refund
Date: Mon, 21 Jan 2008 11:56:55 +0100


(I suspect arguing this viewpoint on a FLOSS list is a bit like trying to make snowballs in hell, but ...)

On 1/21/08, Dave Crossland < address@hidden> wrote:
On 21/01/2008, Andrew Savory < address@hidden> wrote:
> > > thank goodness my OS (Darwin) is built with free software!
> I'm well aware that OS X is not completely free.

HMMM :-)

You sound sceptical. Do you really want me to explain to you the provenance of all the code on my machine? What bits are under which licence? This is why I wrote "built with free software" rather than "is free software" for example.

> It just happens to be better than some and worse than others, and to
> hit a pragmatic sweet spot I am happy with.

It just happens to be worse than some and less worse than others in
terms of freedom, which is more important than secondary values of

I'm sad to hear you are happy with a proprietary OS.

I'd certainly be happier with a fully free OS that does everything I want and need in a way that is sufficiently usable. I'm quite sad that it isn't available (yet).

> > 2) Where is the Aqua source code?
> Not the OS?

Not the Darwin OS, but certainly a core part of Mac OS X, which I
assume you are referring to synecdochally as "Darwin."

No, I was referring to Darwin as the underlying OS kernel, almost synonymous with the Linux kernel. Yes, I guess we could argue that the OS is the sum of the software parts. But Aqua is more akin to an X window manager, and technically not needed to make the machine itself usable. Yes, I guess I'm stretching the point since Aqua is one of the key "usability pragmatic choices" I've made. But I could run Gnome (I actually did that for a while, but the memory overhead of running Aqua and X was killing me).

> > 3) Where is the Finder source code?
> Not the OS?
> > 4) Where is iTunes source code?
> Not the OS?

You appear to be making an arbitrary distinction between applications
and operating systems.

This arbitrary distinction was made by proprietary operating systems
who set up rackets currently called "ISVs" by Microsoft.

The GNU OS doesn't make this distinction; all programs normal users
want are part of the OS, such as music library players and
spreadsheets. The OS programs are distinguished from custom programs
written by the users and their organizations privately; 9/10
programmers jobs are writing such custom code, I heard, but this is
not very visible because of its private nature.

Given that the Finder and iTunes are shipped with Mac OS X, it seems
hard to say they aren't part of the Mac OS X OS.

Well, iTunes is an optional install, rather than an integral part of the OS. Finder has drop-in replacements (cf. PathFinder). It's an interesting argument that the OS and the apps are an arbitrary distinction. But why shouldn't that distinction exist? (There's nothing to stop people paying for a packaged FLOSS app such as Gimp or Firefox, to add to a bare basic system, after all.)

> > 5) Why is dtrace on OS X crippled so it can't probe iTunes?
> A very good question.

And a good reason to ditch Mac OS X asap.

A developer tool that has been made available so that others can improve their programs, but that happens not to work as it should yet, is not a reason for a user to ditch an OS. Heck, that it's been added at all is a good start.

> Dave: I'd argue with your statement "Not running a free software OS means
> one doesn't value freedom very
>  much personally." I value freedom very much personally (and I do get
> annoyed with people that think it's a binary equation).

I don't doubt you value software freedom, but it seems clear to me you
don't value it very much personally; this is not a binary equation, as
you say. Instead, it is a question of your attitude, IMHO.

Well, I'm glad it's clear to you. Sweeping presumptious statements like that do quite a bit of damage to efforts to encourage the adoption of FLOSS! It comes across as "I am holier than thou".

If you said "I am using the Apple computer with Mac OS X I bought last
year and I only just realised that software freedom matters, so I'm
planning to buy my next computer with a motherboard that runs a free
BIOS and use gNewSense" that would be valuing freedom a lot, even
though you were running the same OS.

How about "I used a Linux-based machine for 5 years, and found I was more effective using Mac OS X to do my Free Software development and advocacy"? Where does that sit in the world of valuing freedom sufficiently to meet your exacting standards?

> I pick and choose where and when to fight the battles. For example, I can't
> fight any battles if I don't have a job to pay me. I can't do my job with a
> solely free computing environment (which sucks).

The idea that, because you are paid money for something, you are
excused from ethical obligations to refuse software you can't share
and inspect, is bogus.

The idea that in order to make FLOSS prosper we have ethical obligations to refuse to acknowledge everything else is bogus.

In the long run, FLOSS always wins out. Will we get there quicker if 10 people switch today based on your notion of "ethical obligation" but then take 10x as long to do their FLOSS work?

We have an ethical obligation to [stop whaling/dumping/sew the patient up], since there's a finite amount of time to save the [whale/planet/patient]. There's no such problem for software. Free is good for you, me, and for the commons. Are restrictions morally wrong? No. They are detrimental to the software ecosystem, they prevent the user doing what they want, but there's no force or duress or killing involved here. I think the "ethical" argument is a great way to upset people and harm the adoption of FLOSS.

There are jobs with solely free computing environments, I have one,
and I hope when you next switch, you'll get one too :-)

I choose to spend my time helping corporate customers understand the benefits (and drawbacks) of FLOSS, and to help them make the transition. Inevitably, it means I work in mixed environments where it is not possible (or responsible) to say "thou shalt solely run GNU/Linux".

In some situations compromises on software freedom can be useful (eg,
LGPL) for creating  more software freedom; with jobs, it is important
to have an agreed roadmap away from any proprietary software you use,
and to be willing to resign if the roadmap turns into a sham.

Compromises help us reach our goals. You should have more faith in others to know when to make the right compromise to ensure freedoms down the road.


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