JG: The Open Source movement that has
spun off of the Free Software movement says that the reason that
software should be free is that it results in better software and
more customers -- purely practical benefits. The Free Software
movement is about freedom, not business, of course. But do you
think that free software usually leads to better software as well,
even though that is not the utmost priority?
RMS: I would hesitate to make that claim. Some
free software is very well written; and wins users for its
technical merits. Other free programs are ugly inside and just
barely do their jobs, but they are very important nonetheless,
because we need to have some way to do those jobs. The free
software community offers some practical advantages for software
development. Proprietary software development has a practical
advantage too, of getting more money more easily. Proprietary
software developers are all doing something wrong, but this doesn't
meant they are all incompetent. Sometimes they can write software
that is good in a narrow technically sense. What proprietary
software cannot do is respect your freedom and your community.
Proprietary software divides its users and keeps them helpless.
With such a grave ethical strike against proprietary software, it
is hardly necessary to ask how it compares technically with
JG: What do you think is the best approach for
dealing with hardware when the mak+ers will not supply technical
specifications or supply a free driver?
RMS: We should use a two-pronged approach: some
of us should use reverse engineering to figure out how to use the
hardware, while the rest of us should boycott that hardware.
Keeping freedom sometimes requires a sacrifice. Fortunately, small
sacrifices are enough to keep this freedom. By buying a different
hardware product, even though it isn't quite as fast or costs more,
we can put tremendous pressure on these hardware companies.