[nSLUG] On topic of favorite distros, and Linux on the Desktop

George N. White III aa056 at chebucto.ns.ca
Tue Mar 2 09:41:53 AST 2004

On Mon, 1 Mar 2004, Jeff Warnica wrote:

> I think this is the major distinction between the GNU "Free Software"
> and the OSI "Open Source" camps. GNU is a political movement with
> philosophic goals. OSI is pragmatic, pushing the theory that Open Source
> methodologies produce better systems, and that many OSS packages are
> better then their closed source competitors.

Those "philosophic" goals have practical consequences.  Useful software is
being "lost" due to business decisions (withdrawing a package that isn't
sufficiently profitable, buying up a competing package and then abandoning
it, or simple business failure where the backup tapes end up in the
landfill) or simple lack of interest by the author.  One example is the
Macsyma symbolic algebra system (which added proprietary extensions to the
same public domain code base used by GNU maxima, which is having to
reinvent the same enhancements).  There are many small packages that
can't be included in linux distros because the author put some ad-hoc
license conditions on the package and now can't be found to get the
conditions changed.  Publishers often encounter problems tracking down
copyright owners to get permission to reprint excerpts.

It isn't just a question of what software is currently "best" for your
task -- you have to consider the potential disruption to your task it
the author dies in a motorcycle accident or the company goes under,
gets split up by an anti-trust settlement, etc.

An alternative to GNU-style licenses would be an escrow system where
intellectual property protections can be lost if not actively maintained,
resulting in release of the source code, loss of copyright protection,

George N. White III  <aa056 at chebucto.ns.ca>
  Head of St. Margarets Bay, Nova Scotia, Canada

More information about the nSLUG mailing list