GNU-Darwin: GNU listing, FSF bounty program

Posted 16 Oct 2003 at 14:55 UTC by proclus Share This

We have new links at GNU Project, and they have provided a bounty program to help us keep non-free software out of our Distribution.

Some of you may not realize that this has actually been a major hurdle and a long term goal of the Distro. RMS requires that everything be in perfect GPL compliance and in sync with other FSF policies before links can be posted to GNU Project. There haven't been any production-level OS distros listed at GNU for quite a long time. Many have tried and failed, but we made it in spite of the obstacles that we faced. Our website has improved considerably in response to the excellent comments that we received from them. Even more changes may be expected in the future in order to maintain our status as the most free Darwin distro.

It appears that GNU-Darwin is the only installable *nix OS distro that is linked from GNU Project at this time. Hopefully this initiative will provide an example so that we can be joined by many others. As part of the preparation for this initiative, our GPL-compliance and free software status is now quite robust. On the internet side of the Distro, this means that a source code iso image is now available together with our OS installer iso.

The PowerPC version of the OS is on hold until we can develop a version that works without the proprietary drivers. We are now bundling source code discs with all of our hard media offerings, which includes over 7 gigabytes of distfiles for those who order our popular Package DVD-R's. To our knowledge, we have purged every non-free bit. This is all brand new, and a very good deal, IMHO, since we have not increased any of the prices.

It always feels great to do the right thing. As always, many thanks to GNU Project for assisting us in this excellent initiative!


Offtopic: Curious, posted 16 Oct 2003 at 18:18 UTC by judge » (Master)

Did the GNU people use the payware cdrecord or the free alternatives.

oh, come on, posted 16 Oct 2003 at 22:17 UTC by jbuck » (Master)

I'm puzzled that you even have to ask, judge. The GNU people would rather cut a hand off than use proprietary software. In the early days of the GNU project they had to use proprietary Unix systems, but they haven't needed to do that for about ten years.

Sorry, but..., posted 17 Oct 2003 at 06:08 UTC by tk » (Observer)

...I still can't for my life figure out why one'd want a free OS that's compatible with MacOSX, of all things. I can semi-understand why the GNU Project in its infancy was striving for Unix compatibility: this made it easier to test programs, and also allowed it to harness on previous coding efforts. But now that we already have GNU/Linux, BSD, etc. why's there still the need to piggyback on commercial systems?

Does GNU-Darwin exist to allow people to use proprietary MacOSX software without a proprietary OS? But you just said that you're committed to purging all traces of proprietary software from GNU-Darwin, so that can't be the reason.

Or does it exist to let users and developers think they're cool? But surely your goal is nobler than that, so I must've missed something...

Links, posted 17 Oct 2003 at 08:57 UTC by slef » (Master)

Links of two kinds. First, why on earth are you using target="_new" everywhere? Please let me decide whether I want another browser window. If you won't, please at least put a note so that I don't click on your horrible links. Surprising the user with unusual behaviour just annoys.

Second, I note with interest that the link from GNU to Debian GNU/Linux was only recently removed. I guess that is another pressure for the vote about non-free to be re-presented soon.

possible clarification, posted 17 Oct 2003 at 16:52 UTC by proclus » (Master)

"RMS requires that everything be in perfect GPL compliance"

It has been pointed out that people might be confused by this statement. Of course, we should only require GPL compliance as called for by the software licenses themselves. Free software is what is important, not necessarily the GPL, a fact of which GNU-Darwin is actually a good example ;-}.

Re: tk, Sorry, but..., posted 17 Oct 2003 at 17:12 UTC by proclus » (Master)

The whole point of the bounty program is to show that we are definitely not "piggy backing", as it were, on proprietary software. GNU-Darwin has become a standalone free OS. We do not "depend on" or "enable" proprietary software (although the Distro clearly benefits from our proximity to capitalization centers of the Apple community). We are maintaining compatibility with Mac OS so that we can provide a rational glide path for Apple users to software freedom. In this sense, GNU-Darwin exists so that Apple users can have favorable exposure to free software, and assistance to abandon proprietary software. I think that all of this is inferred by the masthead and the about page. If it needs further clarification, please feel free to make a suggestion.

Re: tk, Sorry, but..., posted 17 Oct 2003 at 17:12 UTC by proclus » (Master)

The whole point of the bounty program is to show that we are definitely not "piggy backing", as it were, on proprietary software. GNU-Darwin has become a standalone free OS. We do not "depend on" or "enable" proprietary software (although the Distro clearly benefits from our proximity to capitalization centers of the Apple community). We are maintaining compatibility with Mac OS so that we can provide a rational glide path for Apple users to software freedom. In this sense, GNU-Darwin exists so that Apple users can have favorable exposure to free software, and assistance to abandon proprietary software. I think that all of this is inferred by the masthead and the about page. If it needs further clarification, please feel free to make a suggestion.

Re: Links, slef , posted 17 Oct 2003 at 17:21 UTC by proclus » (Master)

What browser are you using? I did not notice this behavior. Sorry for the inconvenience.

OT - the proper way to HTML code it, posted 17 Oct 2003 at 21:10 UTC by johnnyb » (Journeyer)

would be to do <a href="whereveryouwant.html" onclick="'whereveryouwant.html', '_blank'); return false;">Click ME!!!</a>

This way, if they have Javascript turned off, they get the "normal" HTML-ish way. Also, it works well with right-clicking. And, you can use it in XHTML strict. However, I forget whether you're supposed to return true or false.

Links, posted 18 Oct 2003 at 10:21 UTC by slef » (Master)

I am using Mozilla, for all it matters. The proper way to code it is to not try to open a new window at all. Let the user choose whether they want a normal link, or to right click and pick "Open in New Window". If you feel you really must open a new window, warn the user that you've perverted the normal user interface. This is basic interface design, surely?

Re: tk: Sorry, but..., posted 20 Oct 2003 at 16:40 UTC by Xorian » (Master)

Isn't the "free" in "free software" about preserving the user's freedoms? Doesn't that necessarily include the freedom to use the software wherever and however you wish, even when that means inter-operating with/running on top of proprietary software?

I can understand a free software project not expending effort to be compatible with proprietary systems, but I don't see how it makes sense to be specifically hostile toward them. Since Darwin is, in some sense at least, the core of MacOSX, it seems like they would have to do more work to not be compatible, and I can't understand why they would do that.

(Maybe I'm just misunderstanding your post, but I've read it several times, and thought about it over the weekend. Care to clarify?)

Re: Xorian: Sorry, but..., posted 20 Oct 2003 at 21:49 UTC by proclus » (Master)

My previous post says that we continue to maintain Mac OS compatibility, so I'm not really sure what you are asking.

As for user freedom, GNU-Darwin certainly supports the right of users to make their own decisions. It is also important to note that proprietary software is used to take away user freedom, to turn them against their allies, to trap them into monopolistic treadmills, against their interests, and for the profit of another. If the user chooses GNU-Darwin, then they will be free of that malign influence.

We are maintaining Mac OS compatibility so that Apple users will have a clear and rational pathway to escape proprietary software and enjoy the benefits of software freedom. Those benefits are most accessible to those who abandon proprietary software, so we are trying to help users do that. That is why we have deleted all non-free items from our servers.

Whose Freedom Does The GPL Protect?, posted 21 Oct 2003 at 02:10 UTC by Ilan » (Master)

But for Apple Users (as all end users), the greatest freedom is The Freedom To Get Stuff Done With A Minimum of Fuss And Live A Better Life Through Technology. Free Software people have not traditionally recognized this as a freedom. In fact, more often than not they have deprived end users of this freedom, and have been utterly indifferent to the oppression end users experience with bad user interfaces. When you get down to it, the GPL is not an end user's idea of freedom, it's really a programmer's idea of freedom. The GPL defends the rights of programmers, not the rights of end users.

Don't take this as a flame, but rather a friendly piece of advice: Unless you offer Apple users a system that not only gives them the freedom they had with Apple's proprietary software, but is so usable they have even more of this freedom, they will never truly consider your software to be free (as in speech) and will not use it.

Freedom from talking about freedom, posted 21 Oct 2003 at 05:12 UTC by tk » (Observer)

Hmm, is Ilan truly "Living a Better Life" via the technology he praises so much? I have to eat, he has to eat; I have to study, he has to study; I'll have to work, he'll have to work. Where's the better life?

proclus: If I read you correctly, he's saying "we support users' rights to make choices, but given enough information, a rational user will invariably choose free software." Is this correct?

Sometimes I wonder about these discussions of freedom...

GNU Darwin(offtopic again), posted 22 Oct 2003 at 18:37 UTC by judge » (Master)

Is gnu darwin actually used for anything? Is rms going to put his weight behind it? Is this the gnu hurd replacement due to hurd being slow to develop?
I just can't figure out the purpose of this OS. Free is all good and well, but it's kind of pointless if nobody uses it. What's is the target "market" for gnu darwin? How's the hardware support? Does it still support a ridiculously small range of hw like the originial x86 darwin did?
What's are the technical features of it?

some replies, posted 22 Oct 2003 at 21:20 UTC by proclus » (Master)

Wow, what a week! Things are winding down a little now, so here are some more replies.

Ilan: We are definitely thinking about the typical Apple user's notion of freedom. One of our developers has written an article exloring this interesting contrast between FSF-style and Apple-binary-user-style freedom. Apple users have plenty of one kind of freedom, maybe more than anyone else, but they have historically been excluded the FSF-style freedom. Since the introduction of Darwin, we now have an opportunity to introduce them to that freedom as well, which is what GNU-Darwin is about. I have an article, where I explain our interaction with Apple and Apple users. Personally, until the Apple-binary-user-style is underpinned by some real FSF-style freedom, then it is little more than a gilded cage. GNU-Darwin is our opportunity to make that change.

tk: I think that it takes a supreme intellect to choose software freedom on the basis of rationality alone. GNU-Darwin helps users to experience the values underlying software freedom; by using our software instead of proprietary solutions, and by watching the Distro in action. With these experiences in hand, the rational path will become more accessible to them.

judge: "Is gnu darwin actually used for anything?"

You make me laugh my evil Darth Vader laugh, Hahaha! ;-}. Here are some practical links.

GNU-Darwin: Science applications
GNU-Darwin: Parallel Computing Arrives
GNU-Darwin ports help ease Linux envy

Be sure and check the screenshots. There is also work almost in press (dead trees), and a manuscript in preparation as well, all of which was created with GNU-Darwin. I use GNU-Darwin tools to develop for the Feynman cluster (son of Sirius), which is a 64 node GNU/Linux cluster at Cornell University, and for administration of our beamline workstations at the MacCHESS synchrotron facility. Hurd is under development, but we clearly have a free production level system right now. Finally, GNU-Darwin recently become financially self-sustaining (excluding my salery ;-), thanks to our sales and advertising revenues, and we were running Google ads aimed at "Linux" users this week. I think that about covers your questions, but if you have any further items, please feel free to ask.

one more, posted 22 Oct 2003 at 21:43 UTC by proclus » (Master)

Arg, I forgot my favorite!

Researcher brings Open-Source Software to the Mac

Rational = free software?, posted 23 Oct 2003 at 08:55 UTC by tk » (Observer)

I often get course notes in the form of PowerPoint presentations. Since I have access to Windows machines, what I normally do is to simply fire up Microsoft PowerPoint and print out the notes. Do you mean to say that a "rational", "intellectually superior" approach would be to download the humongous thing known as OpenOffice, then go through the hassle of freeing up disk space, installing it, etc. etc. etc. etc. just so one can print out those same slides?

Seriously, I don't see how going this convoluted route will increase my "freedom". Even if I use M$ PowerPoint now, I still have the option to switch to OpenOffice any time later. As long as I don't do brain-dead things like writing programs that require specific M$ software, I'm safe.

The bottom line is, even given enough information, the rational choice may not always be free software. Thus I agree with Xorian, there's no need to be purposely hostile to proprietary software. A lot depends on the specifics of the situation, something which software freedom zealots tend to gloss over.

ppt, posted 23 Oct 2003 at 11:21 UTC by proclus » (Master)

I say, Stop using PowerPoint. There is no reason at all to use it, as there are plenty of free alternatives. Software freedom sometimes takes extra effort, but it is worthwhile to do and only helping yourself. You learn more with free software, save a ton of money, and you free yourself from the onerous proprietary license, as well as from the infamous upgrade treadmill trap. It is clearly most rational to stop using PowerPoint as soon as possible.

Re: ppt, posted 23 Oct 2003 at 13:13 UTC by tk » (Observer)

In this situation, none of the advantages apply:

  • learn more with free software: Like... what?
  • save a ton of money: Many of the Windows machines I have access to aren't mine; as for my copy of Windows, I can't refund it.
  • free yourself from the onerous proprietary license: To reiterate, I'll always have the option of switching to OpenOffice later, so where's the problem?
  • well as from the infamous upgrade treadmill trap: Again, I can always switch when that happens. On the contrary, if I download OpenOffice now, when M$ changes its file format to PowerPoint 2010 or whatever, and I get course notes in the new format, the huge copy of OpenOffice I've downloaded would've become useless anyway.

Re: ppt, posted 23 Oct 2003 at 13:50 UTC by proclus » (Master)

tk: The situation your are describing is a kind of tyranny, an oppressive monoculture of software. It is good to oppose such things. Teach people to bring files to you in formats that are compatible with free software. It will be better for them, for all the reasons stated. In the long run, it will be benefial to you as well.

Re: ppt, posted 29 Oct 2003 at 04:16 UTC by tk » (Observer)

Does anyone see a problem here? I just want to print a PowerPoint presentation, and suddenly I'm shouldered with this great responsibility of teachine people about free software. And for what? Long-term benefits? Well, there's always a longer term......

I can't care less about whether the situation is a "tyranny", an "oppressive monoculture", or whatever. Is RMS, the great enemy of oppression, going to help me in my studies when I can't print my course notes? If I can't get a job, will he get me one? Certainly not! He'll just continue his high-sounding rhetoric, and I'll still be stranded. What's the point of all this "freedom" talk if it doesn't solve the problems I do have, and instead creates even more problems for me?

Cause and Effect, posted 6 Nov 2003 at 10:11 UTC by slef » (Master)

Interesting little exchange above. tk has presented a problem caused by non-free software. proclus gives solutions which deal with the cause, but tk wants to deal with all the effects and doesn't care about the cause. The cause is someone else's responsibility.

proclus wants to cure the sickness, but tk is only worried about the immediate symptoms. If proclus offered tk a cure that had some side-effects, would tk take it? Would tk ask proclus to cure everyone with the illness simultaneously?

This seems to happen in other fields. One example: Many people agree that the dominant market positions of large food store chains cause problems, like inflating fresh produce prices while not paying the growers fairly. You can ask them to act against the sickness by buying from independents and growers, but most won't. They won't accept the side-effect of only being able to buy everything in one place on market day. Instead, they attack the immediate symptoms by campaigning that the food stores cut prices and pay farmers more. That doesn't seem sustainable. It is less work now, but more work in total, unless something else cures the sickness.

Accommodate or educate?

Tyranny, posted 7 Nov 2003 at 04:34 UTC by elanthis » (Journeyer)

The problem is, there is *absolutely nothing* tyrannical about Closed Source software. *Nothing*. Somebody wrote it. They put tons of research, development time, testing, etc. into. They want to be paid back for that effort, be able to afford further research into more improvements, etc. So they charge for it. The user *decides* to pay this price, and (usually) abide by the simple rules that the software must be paid for by each user. That's it. End of story.

Are there exceptions? Sure. Microsoft Office can be a huge pain, because Microsoft goes out of their way to make sure competitors can't compete. Now, is that a problem with Closed Source software, or with just Microsoft?

I have a game installed, Neverwinter Nights. It's Closed Source. Has it locked me into anything? No. Does it deprive me of any $DEITY-given rights? Nope. I gladly paid $50 for the chance to have fun playing it with my friends. I gladly gave up the "right" to distribute copies. (Who the hell decided I have the right to give away something someone else made, anyhow?) I live on without the ability to modify the source.

Computers are a tool. They exist in order to accomplish a task. If Free Software isn't capable of accomplishing the tasks I need done, there is *nothing* you can say to work around that. No Free Software project is capable of letting me have as much fun as many Closed Source games do. No Free Software is easy enough to use for most non-geek users. No Free Software allows tk to access his course notes. (Same for me, to be honest - OOo 1.1 can't handle some of the ones I get.)

And you want us to do what about? The non-geeks who find it too difficult to install software in a Free OS are supposed to instantly learn how to program and fix the problem quick enough for them to get their software installed in a reasonable time frame? The entirety of the scholastic community is supposed to up and switch to a new Office Suite that can't read some of their old documents, many of their students can't read the documents out from (i.e., ones who can't even install OOo because they lack the knowledge to do so), and which has a UI that is more complex and less polished than what they already have? You want people using computers in hospitals to just let people die because no Free Software exists to do what they need? You want planes to never fly again because Free Software simply can't be trusted to be bug free enough? You want almost all software research and development to cease because nobody has the money to do it, since they lose their only revenue stream, and not that many people can live off of selling hardware or services?

I'll tell you this - most people hate paying for software. Most hate how buggy the large amount of software they pay for is. Most hate having to pay for 3 copies even tho they own all three computers they want to install it on. Quite a few of these people *know* about Free Software, have had the "ideals" explained to them, and have seen the benefits enumerated before them. Some have even had the chance to try some Free Software. And yet, despite all that, the majority of them are still using Closed Source software. I know several people who just switched to Windows XP from RHL. Why? Because all the "evils" of Closed Source software are *worth* it to them, because your ideals, your benefits, are absolutely and completely worthless to them in light of *their* needs. There are cases in which Free Software just simply isn't good enough, and your ideals don't matter. The ability to modify source is uselss to non-programmers. Low cost and sharing of software (i.e., your "neighboors" don't have to pay) is moot when the users think the price of the software is *worth it* for added convenience, features, compatibility, etc.

The *only* way to make Free Software worth it to these people is to make it able to do what they need, as easily as they want. If they think $200 for a copy of Windows they can't share is worth the cost because no Free OS is capable of serving their needs, your ideals have failed. Time to face the facts and realize that real users don't give a flying hoot about ideals, they care about using their computers to do what they want.

Instead of wasting all your time and energy pointlessly trying to make sub-par quality software solely for the sake of being Free, you'll further your goals a *lot* more by spending your time making Free Software *good enough*. Help make OOo more polished and usable. Help make it so software installation doesn't require years of UNIX command line experience. Help make a desktop that doesn't feel like what the commercial world left behind in 1995. Help make it possible to install a hardware driver in the OS without needing to understand what a kernel is and how to manually download and install a newer one. Do something that the users you're fighting for actually care about. Fighting supposed "tyranny" that users actually prefer over the freedom you offer on philosophical grounds is a waste of your time. The people working on KDE/GNOME, on Autopackage or other simplified software managers, on Free games and game enginess, on, on Mozilla, or on countless other projects, have done more good to your cause than you ever will with GNU-Darwin, which (relatively speaking) is going to go mostly unused.

The sooner more Free programmers realize these things and start working on actually improving software people want or need, the sooner you're going to reach your goals of a Free Software only world. If all you're doing is making more Free Software that isn't good enough, what the hell is the point?

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