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Re: Opinion: NVIDIA drivers are a Good Thing [tm]



On Monday 17 May 2004 09:23 am, Rodolfo J. Paiz wrote:
>
> I've read a great deal of pro/con on this list about NVIDIA issuing
> closed-source binary drivers and had not formed my own opinion yet.
>

I think we need to remind the newcomers of the importance of FREE SOFTWARE 
versus OPEN SOURCE versus CLOSED SOURCE PROPRIETARY SOFTWARE. It seems that 
those people who don't care are the same people who don't read the licenses 
and don't understand the implications of their decisions.

I will try to show you what you are getting when you receive software under 
any of these agreements.

Richard Stallman is pedantic (in the negative sense) but he does a very good 
job of being the "prophet" in our community, and you better listen when he 
speaks, at least to understand the full implications of your actions. I'll 
try to summarize what he has been saying this whole time.

PROPRIETARY SOFTWARE is not open for tampering. You get software (usually 
for a price) and you are only allowed to use it in specific situations 
under specific circumstances. Violating the license makes you a criminal. 
You can and people do go to jail and serve time for violating these 
licenses. There is an organization called the BSA (Business Software 
Alliance) that is actively seeking people who knowingly or unwittingly 
violate these agreements. They force these businesses either to cough up 
extra cash or to face federal prosecution. (There is athird option: throw 
away all the proprietary software, but they don't present that for obvious 
reasons.)

The act of giving software to your friends can be a violation of most 
proprietary software agreements. Some software you can't even sell to a 
friend. The companies that peddle this software has gone so far as to treat 
everyone like a criminal, requiring you to prove that you have a valid 
license and that you are in accordance with the license by entering codes 
or validating hardware. (Windows XP for example.)

OPEN SOURCE software is much better. The software is open for inspection. 
This is good because most proprietary licenses forbid you even trying to 
understand what the software actually does. Many Open Source  (or 
so-called) licenses do not allow you to modify or modify and distribute the 
software. Open Source also includes all Free Software by nature. Just keep 
in mind that Open Source software sometimes has more restrictions than Free 
Software does.

FREE SOFTWARE (the pedantic kind) guarantees you several freedoms that Open 
Source softare cannot 100% guarantee, and proprietary software usually 
strictly forbids. Note that Free Software is not Freeware. Freeware is 
software you can obtain 'gratis' or without paying anyone. The "free" in 
Free Software is the "free" as in freedom or liberty. You may have to pay 
to get a hold of Free Software.

The guaranteed freedoms are (from gnu.org):

0. The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (on any hardware, in any 
configuration, etc...)

1. The freedom to study how the program works, and to adapt it to your 
needs. (Access to the source is a precondition for this.) This means you 
can read and modify the source code and recompile it.

2. The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help you neighbor.

3. The freedom to improve the program and release the improvements to the 
public, so that the whole community benefits.

The GPL in particular puts some restrictions on software designed to procure 
these freedoms indefinitely. Namely, while you can sell the software, you 
must distribute the source code and license it under a compatible license 
to those you sell the software to. This in effect gives you freedoms 1, 2, 
and 3. You also can't restrict the use of the software or encumber them 
with patents that have incompatible restrictions. The other restrictions 
are mostly obvious and you can read about them in the license itself.

LINUX and the GNU SOFTWARE that runs on it are a direct result of the GPL. 
Linux, and the GNU tools used to build and run Linux systems are all 
licensed under the GPL. Most of the other software on your Linux system is 
licensed under the GPL.

Other software may be licensed under a BSD type license (do anything you 
want with this but you have to say it comes from us). Richard Stallman 
doesn't like the BSD license because it allows people to take the software 
and close it off with their improvements. In other words, derivatives of 
BSD licensed software may not be Free Software, while GNU software and all 
of its derivates will always be Free Software. This is a minor quibble, and 
there are a large number of people that don't like the restrictions of the 
GPL, so it goes both ways.


If it weren't for the BSD and Linux and Gnu communities, and countless other 
communities, collectively the "Free Software community", you would not have 
the sum total of software you have today on Fedora.

It is because of this freedom that Linux can be rock-solid in a variety of 
situations. It is because of thise freedom that Linux 2.6 is so far ahead 
of 2.4, by orders of magnitude. On an OS level, Windows has been superseded 
by Linux a long time ago. How many architectures does Windows OS run on? 
How many partition formats does Windows OS support? What hardware does 
Windows OS support? Linux beats Windows by miles and miles in each of these 
categories.

Take any piece of software on your system and you will see that there is a 
community behind it developing the software furiously, at a pace quality, 
and consistency that no company could ever hope to match. As the number of 
users increase, as the demand for a particular feature grows, the software 
gets written and the bugs are patched. This system will scale infinitely.

-- 
Jonathan Gardner
jgardner jonathangardner net




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