Time Magazine: Man of the Millennium

Peter da Silva peter at baileynm.com
Tue Sep 29 13:13:10 EST 1998

In article <6ur44m$h9j$2 at news00.btx.dtag.de>,
Matthias Warkus <mawa at iname.com> wrote:
>OK. So I'll say "Free Software" as in GNU, and I'll be careful to pronounce it
>with capital letters.

See, that's the problem. Regardless of what you think of Eric, the term "open
source" (no capitals) is more useful than "Free Software" (capitals or not).
You don't have to spend as much time explaining it, you can get right into
using it without having to reprogram people or alienate them.

>> >Hmm... to me, the creation of the General Public License certainly was a
>> >keystone.

>> I believe the Berkeley license predates it.

>But the Berkeley license doesn't lock code out of proprietary development,
>unlike GPL does.

No, but it keeps people from withdrawing code from the open source domain just
as well. And that's the important thing... contrast it to Zmodem or Kermit,
where there's no open code base to build "free software" on at all. If Karels
and McKusick wanted to, they couldn't stop FreeBSD from distributing their
BSD derived software. And the interesting thing is that the proprietary
BSD, BSDI, isn't consistently ahead of the open BSDs... which means that
open source has enough advantages that it *can* compete on a level playing
field with proprietary derivitives of the same source.

To me that says the GPL isn't as critical as you think.

>> It's a useful tool, but without people on the inside willing to push it's
>> not any kind of golden key.

>I think you can claim that of anything.

That's the point. There is no magic bullet. There are a number of different
models that work. None of them are indispensible.

>> Remember, I've been using UNIX since the 6th edition. Tools that have been
>> tossed into the pool since then won't be considered central. The only
>> tough one I can think of that I'd really miss is groff.

>So what about TeX?

What about TeX? I don't have TeX installed on any of my systems.

It's a great tool, but how is it central to an operating system? For online
documentation (what I use groff/nroff for) TeX has a number of significant
disadvantages: it assumes a bitmap output device, for example, and it's
complex to parse... it's more practical to write your documents in an SGML
DTD and convert that to TeX or HTML or groff or what have you for final

And besides, TeX predates the GPL, so you can't say the GPL made TeX possible.
If the GPL didn't exist, Knuth would have published it under another open
source license.

In hoc signo hack, Peter da Silva <peter at baileynm.com>
 `-_-'   "Heb jij vandaag je wolf al geaaid?"
         "Tell init(8) to lock-n-load, we're goin' zombie slaying!"

More information about the Neur-sci mailing list