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Richard Stallman: In Defense of Red Hat

Oct 12, 2000, 22:57 (28 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Richard Stallman)

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By Richard Stallman

The Toronto Star article criticized Red Hat for omitting the GNU Project from a list of milestones in "open source" software. I must defend Red Hat for this; it would be improper to include GNU in such a list, because that would be associating us with the wrong movement. We have done our work as part of the Free Software Movement, it reflects the idealism of that movement, and we want users to know this. So we ask people not to label us or the GNU operating system with the term "open source".

By contrast, the inclusion of Unix in the list is both anachronistic and incorrect. Unix was developed many years before the Open Source Movement was started (in 1998), and it never met that movement's definition of open source software. The source code of Unix was available only under a nondisclosure agreement, which for most people was available only for a prohibitive fee. And redistribution of the source to the public was not allowed at all.

Red Hat did right not to add the GNU Project to *this* list. But it would be right and proper for their history page to present another list, describing milestones in the development of the GNU/Linux operating system. GNU and the Free Software Movement should figure prominently in that list.

I would like to correct a couple of other minor errors in the article. I am afraid of water only when it pours onto or covers my head, and I love a hot soothing bath. (I fear, though, that I might lounge in the tub for more time than I can afford to spare.) Also, though most women have tended to have little romantic interest in me, there is occasionally an exception.

Finally, I take full responsibility for the technical decision to develop the GNU kernel based on Mach, a decision which seems to have been responsible for the slowness of the development. I thought using Mach would speed the work by saving us a large part of the job, but I was wrong.

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