[linux-elitists] Fwd: Re: Great recent Unix software

Shlomi Fish shlomif at iglu.org.il
Tue Feb 15 18:00:54 PST 2011

Hi all,

I apologise for forwarding my reply to Teh Entar-Nick to the list and thus 
breaking the thread, but I replied to the list while CCing him by accident 
(which is normally what I want to do in lists with a policy that's not as 
pedantic), and my message was held for approval by a moderator.

This is basically another "GPL, BSD, and why can't we all be friends" E-mail, 
but people may still find it insightful.

Regards and sorry again,

	Shlomi Fish

----------  Forwarded Message  ----------

Subject: Re: Great recent Unix software
Date: Tuesday 15 Feb 2011, 11:59:40
From: Shlomi Fish <shlomif at iglu.org.il>
To: linux-elitists at zgp.org
CC: "Teh Entar-Nick" <nick at teh.entar.net>

On Monday 14 Feb 2011 19:25:45 Teh Entar-Nick wrote:
> Shlomi Fish:
> > 2. tmux - screen done right.
> Anti-GPL muppetry aside, tmux fixes a lot of long-standing problems with
> screen and keeps a tight focus.  

[Possibly good tmux advice snipped]

> Their whining about the GPL in all the literature does sour me on the
> development community, though.  The GPL won, guys.  It's doing its job
> fabulously.

I recall a time when someone sent a question to board at hamakor.org.il asking 
which licence to pick, and one of the board members (a qualified attorney in 
law) told her to use the GPL, which may not have been what she wanted. 
Previously, back when he studied for his B.A. in law, he had said he told me 
that someone asked him if he can apply modifications to a GPLed program 
(PHP/etc.) on the server to extend it, and that he thought he couldn't. 
However, I told him that one could deploy a GPLed program on a server and 
modify it as you please without needing to release the modifications as long 
as you keep it inhouse (that was well before the Affero GPL, and the GPL 
version 3 still allows it.). This story illustrates that many people buy into 
GPLv2/GPLv3's popularity and think it does what they want, even if it doesn't.

When someone asks me which licence to pick, I normally ask them a few question 
like whether they would want an inclusive work to be licensed as FOSS, or 
whether they also want to allow linking from other licences. But many people 
are told to use the GPLv2 or GPLv3, or don't really understand the difference 
between the licences.

In any case, I don't think that the open-source world is a competition to be 
own or lost. Some programs are GPLed or otherwise on a strong copyleft licence 
and it's OK for them. Some programs are BSDLed and it works fine for them. 
Some programs are LGPLed or otherwise a weak copyleft licence (e.g: glibc or 
Firefox) and it also works fine for them. If you know which licence you want, 
then any addition to the open-source world will be welcome. And sometimes non-
free or not-entirely-free software is better than nothing.

To quote Monty Python "We must be united against our common enemy.". This 
enemy might be proprietary software or even just general non-usability or non-
functionality of modern computer systems (which still need improvement.). 
We've got enough entropy to fight as it is.

One of my projects ( http://fc-solve.berlios.de/ - yes, I know I talk about it 
a lot) would likely be much less successful had it been GPL, because there are 
plenty of small vendors of Solitaire programs who would like to release them 
under non-free licences, such as shareware, software for smart phones, tablets 
and other portable devices, etc. Granted, back when I released it, I just 
found the GPL too confusing and complicated , and so chose to put the source 
code under the Public Domain, however defined (it's MIT/X11 now), but I found 
it very instrumental later. The fc-solve library got integrated into several 
free and non-free larger programs already, which made me happy and most of 
them credited the program and me, somewhere.

D. Richard Hipp has been making a decent living (though not a very large one) 
out of SQLite which is Public Domain source code, and the SQLite team is also 
considering to convert it to a BSD-style licence, because some people now pay 
Hipp for commercial licences because the PD is unusable for them.

I don't think I care too much whether the GPL won or not, and the whole GPLv2 
vs. GPLv3 and LGPLv3 is a huge problem, which made me think much less highly 
of the GPL.[Platonic] There's also the issue of copyright assignment, which 
has been a notable problem lately, and is a complete non-issue with BSD-style 

Should you prefer using a BSD-style program instead of a superior GPL-style 
program? It depends of course. And some OpenBSD and other *BSD zealots can put 
the FSF-style free software purists to shame when it comes to being zealots 
about the fact that every FOSS program must be BSD-style. (Some of them even 
claim that the GPL or even the LGPL are not "free" or "open-source".). 

I am an Objectivist who primarily uses Linux on my PCs and releases his 
programs under the MIT/X11 licence. I know a German libertarian who uses Mac 
OS X primarily and likes to release his code under the GPL (while being 
clueful enough). If you ask me, if FOSS (that only a subset of it can make use 
of GPL compatible) was so superior, why doesn't he uses it exclusively? As 
much as I like FOSS and prefer to use it, and am a bit suspicious of non-open-
source software (originally due to the whole fiasco other people and I in 
person had with http://better-scm.berlios.de/bk/ ), I still would not want to 
make my open-source programs less usable by both FOSS and non-FOSS, and don't 
rule out that there are legitimate proprietary uses to my code. And I 
certainly don't want to worry about how people abuse my licensing because I 
write FOSS code for fun and for self-satisfaction and desire that it will be 
utilised in the most diverse and inventive ways by users and co-developers - 
not so I can later press charges against people for infringing on my 

(I originally intended to send a different E-mail, but then decided to write 
this one.)


	Shlomi Fish

[Platonic] - I don't feel the GPLv2 and the GPLv3 are two incarnations of the 
platonic ideal of the "GPL". They are different and mutually incompatible 

Shlomi Fish       http://www.shlomifish.org/
My Public Domain Photos - http://www.flickr.com/photos/shlomif/

Chuck Norris can make the statement "This statement is false" a true one.

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