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JesusGeeks: RMS Speaks

Sep 24, 2001, 18:15 (4 Talkback[s])

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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 freedom.

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.

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