Open and closed source...

Jon Eisenstein jon at
Wed Jan 17 20:42:59 PST 2001

On Wed, 17 Jan 2001, Nitebirdz wrote:

> On Wed, 17 Jan 2001, Jon Eisenstein wrote:
> >
> > So? What's your point? That's the whole idea of the BSD license. Anybody
> > is allowed to use it, as long as they acknowledge the originator. I don't
> > care if it's Microsoft using it, or someone else. In fact, I'm glad
> > Microsoft is using it. That means they have _something_ that's somewhat
> > stable in their installation.
> >
> > Personally, I favor the GPL over BSD, but understand the reasoning behind
> > the latter. If Microsoft wants to use BSD, let 'em. That's the whole
> > point. To distribute high-quality software for anyone to use.
> >

<snippity snippity>

> Your attitude sort of reminds me of those scientists who only care about
> the wonderful quality of their research without paying attention to the
> fact that is being used by an authoritarian regime for the wrong purposes.
> Should they sit down, relax and feel happy because someone is using a
> better quality product or theory even though it is being used for the
> wrong goal?

Let me say first that I am not a fan of MS at all. I'm pretty much the
only major MS-basher at my school, but only because of things that are
completely legitimate. Yes, I agree that MS is not using the market fairly
or legally, and that their business is run by marketing and not to produce
great software. Yet the fact is that they do produce software, some of it
very good, some of it very bad. The difference usually lies in the
procedure of whether or not the software in question is being produced to
directly hurt a competitor. (Internet Explorer 3.0: Released hurridly to
beat Netscape --> Low quality software; Age of Empires (yes, I'm aware
that it wasn't directly programmed by MS, but they needed to follow the MS
release schedules): Focused on getting the game right --> High quality

As for the comparison to research scientists, above, I think this is a
completely irrelevent and narrow-minded view. I'd agree with you if the
research was being done to fulfill a certain "evil" goal (biological
warfare). However, most of the research that I believe you are referring
to does not fit this category. For example, space research was funded
largely to produce better missiles. Of course, the benefits of that
program cannot be ignored. You would not be communicating with such a
remarkable technology if it weren't for the "missile studies".

My point is, all public research has side-effects. I cannot think of
anything offhand that produced good results without some bad. Obviously,
you consider MS's use of BSD software as bad use, but think of those
companies that use BSD software and run their businesses completely
legally. The BSD license is not perfect, but for many situations it's a
much better alternative than the GPL. BSD gives you as much right to use
their code as they give Microsoft. It bridges the gap between free and
proprietary software. Face it, we're not at a point right now where the
entire world is going to stop using proprietary. It's just too much of a
lucrative opportunity to pass up.

You keep advocating that the GPL makes the world better by promoting free
software. This is true. But providing free code to anybody that wants it
is also making the world better. It's different goals, as you said, but by
bashing one while advocating another hurts the software community as a
whole. Most people don't use free software and wouldn't use free software
at this point in time if there's an alternative. It's sad, but true. If
they want to use free software, they will. Until they do, let them use the
next best thing.

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