Friday, January 24, 2014

Clang vs. Free Software

Richard Stallman (via Hacker News):

In the free software movement, we campaign for the freedom of the users of computing. The values of free software are fundamentally different from the values of open source, which make “better code” the ultimate goal. If GCC were to change from a free compiler into a platform for nonfree compilers, it would no longer serve the goal of freedom very well. Therefore, we had to take care to prevent that.

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I agree with where RMS wants us to be. I don't agree with his method of getting us there. I agree with being exasperated in part with, so to speak, "all code being released except the useful bits", in as far as that happens, but I don't agree that progress hasn't been made. Far more code is shared now than ever before. The culture is slowly turning to showing your cards. Many businesses are now providing if not the code that makes their business their business then at least the code that makes that business run so well.

Yes, if going all the way straight to utopia was the only acceptable, honorable and morally defensible choice, I would like for that to happen as well. In the real world, forcing it upon people does not bring anyone closer. Companies that are unlikely to get along with the Free Software movement's methods do not go extinct, they just get resentful. It sets the stage for usurping the GPLed solutions for alternatives that are not encumbered with the political motivations.

As guerilla warfare goes, the Free Software movement is a sympathetic bunch, provide a lot of good and don't hurt anyone. But like all guerilla warfare, it hurts its own cause enough that it will never be a permanent solution and will never achieve anything close enough to peacably transition to.

Far more code is shared now than ever before

While that might be true, many of the products we buy and interact with are still locked down running non-free software.

It is my understanding that the GPL was created to prevent a world where users are not allowed the freedom to modify the products they buy. And it is my observation that we very much live in a world where we are not allowed the freedom to modify the (physical and digital) products we buy.

That's true and I'm not disputing it. But GPL isn't the only tool to fight that, and it's not the best tool to ensure everyone's freedoms when that fight is won. In the absence of such a fight, it's probably a good instigator of that sort of conflict.

Free Software is there to Win the Fight. Open Source is there to Get Shit Done, or to Scratch That Itch, if you will. I'm not begrudging RMS or anyone else for failing to create a solution without flaws and it's his perogative to fight for whatever he thinks is right. I am slightly pissed that the FSF prime objective sometimes gets in the way of non-discriminatory usefulness.

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