WPDFD Articles: Open Sores

started by Mrblack on Jun 1, 2004 — RSS Feed

Mrblack Mrblack
Posts: 40

Not to beat a dead horse, but reading your last "footnote" I couldn't help but notice that you are missing the most important point reguarding Free software.

This is a point that is missed by 99.9% of the population (those who use Linux as well) however so don't feel bad.  It took me a long time to get it also.

The term "Free Software", used in reference to GNU software has nothing to do with the finacial cost of the software, in fact as you illustrated, it can be perfectly normal to have to spend money on "Free Software".

The Free aspect has to do with freedom, and the lack of freedom provided by non-GNU software.

I understand that it is not your "job" to be a programmer however I think that you can understand the benefit to everyone who uses software that the programs you use are not restricted by copyrights, patents and other means.

A point that you make in your footnote that resonates with me is "Praise from other programmers is all very well but what about people who are highly demanding in their business needs and care nothing about operating systems or hardware minutiae.".  This is exactly why we need people such as yourself particpating in the development of Free Software.  The benefits of this were first obvious to programmers, now we need to enlighten users like yourself so that your contributions can also be folded into the development of software that not only competes with commercial applications on the basis of purchase cost, but on all other fronts as well.

This is where traditional, non-GNU software fails miserably.  A typical software company will only consider your feedback when it is fiscally benificial to them, whereas you can have a direct and measured effect on GNU software; all you have to do is join in the project.

And that brings me to my point.  If you are truly interested in providing up-and-coming designers with the tools they need to suceed, your time and effort would be much better spent joining ranks with GNU developers to produce superior tools instead of simply following suit with the less-sophisticated media and talking about the flaws.

I look forward to your feedback!

Joe Gillespie Joe Gillespie
Posts: 528

There is a fine line between 'freedom' and 'anarchy'.

Isn't the point that you have to have a direction to your freedom? Where does that direction come from?

Having commercial constraints is one way of providing direction, not the only way, but it has a pretty good track record. If a commercial product stinks, it will fail and disappear fairly quickly. Darwinian principles work for software (free or not) as well as for natural species.

I have to say I don't feel hampered in any way by using Adobe products but there are certain other companies whose products I avoid like the plague - no names!

That is an amount of freedom I can live with. I wouldn't like no choice, but I don't need unlimited choice. I have never NOT bought a program because it contains patents or has copyright issues. Remember, when you buy software, you are only buying a license to use it. It's that usuage that counts. It's like hiring a car. It's not yours but you can drive it. You can't respray it to a colour you like and there may be other restrictions, but I think they are fair.

As for 'joining ranks with GNU developers', I'm afraid that I can't work in a situation like that - just as I could never work in an open-plan office. I'm not, and never have been a 'team player'. I've nothing against people who do work like this, it's just not for me.

I've spent the last eight years helping web designers 'freely' with WPDFD so I think I've made my contribution to the great karma bank in the sky.

Mrblack Mrblack
Posts: 40

Thanks for the response, I have to say that I am a bit surprised.

You mentioned:

"I have never NOT bought a program because it contains patents or has copyright issues."

however due to the fact that so many applications build on the code of others, it's not always obvious what you're getting yourself into in this sense.  An example you can probably relate to is the GIF issue.

Unisys and IBM both hold patents for the LZW compression algorithm, which is used to in generating true GIF files.  One day (long after GIF became commonplace on the web) they woke up and decided it was time to cash in.  While the legal aspects are complex, in essense either one of these companies has the ability to go after anyone using this algorithm without licensing it, whether as a programmer or as a user.  Since general-purpose GIF libraries had been about for some time, they had made their way into many commercial and non-commercial products which you may have purchased.  Many people came in violation of this patent without any practical way of knowing it, and the result was that suddenly many companies (and individual users) became the target for legal action.

For example, if you were contracted to build a website and you did so using GIF files, your work could be targeted by IBM and you could potentially be sued, depending on what tools you used and how the vendor of those tools came about the technologies they use.  GIF is just one example, and you can bet that there are plenty of other companies who hold patents to commonplace technologies who are waiting for the right moment to flex this muscle.

By rejecting closed-license, copyrighted software you eliminate the ability for some patent holder to suddenly turn your world upside-down.  Anyone in the business of media authoring should be aware of the implications of licensing intellectual property and using GNU tools is one way to reduce the chances of having your work brought under fire.

However all that aside, the most disheartening part of your message was the complete and utter rejection of participating in something like the GIMP project.  Like I said before, and as you have noted in your various posts, the biggest thing missing from the GIMP (and many other GNU projects) is feedback from real-world users (not just programmers or linux zelots).  I agree wholeheartedly, however most of those who could provide this assistance share your attitude and position:

"Can't Someone Else Do It?"

These tools don't work for people like you because people like you won't work on these tools.  I don't want that to sound harsh but wouldn't you agree?

Anyway, like I said, I do value your feedback and appreciate you taking the time to respond.  This sort of information is very useful to the community.

Joe Gillespie Joe Gillespie
Posts: 528

mr.black said:

"Can't Someone Else Do It?"
These tools don't work for people like you because people like you won't work on these tools.  I don't want that to sound harsh but wouldn't you agree?

I think that you are probably right in this respect but have you ever stopped and asked yourself "why?" Why will 'people like me' not get invoived in such things? Why do people like me not use Linux (and even keep Windows at arm's length)?

I can sum it all up with two words, "Elegant simplicity". Unfortunately, the concept must be too complicated for some people who prefer to make things as difficult as possible. My son is an AI programmer for a major games company and delights in using command lines and, what amounts to communicating with the computer on its terms. I think that principle is fundamentally flawed. The computer should communicate on my terms. My car does! My Mac does (mostly).

The other important word is "transparency". A pencil doesn't impede the process of writing or drawing, the ideas go straight from the brain to the paper. Stick a computer in there and that transparency will be clouded to some degree. Sometimes it is a major barrier, sometimes it is a fight, at best it taints the ideas and forces them down avenues that they should really be going.

I realise that this is probably a different mind-set, but that's what we are talking about here. How can you possibly work with people with such a different fundamental attitude?

When I worked in advertising, there were 'suits' who acted as go-betweens between the creative department and the clients. In commercial companies, there are marketing people between the 'designers' and the 'engineers'.

Where is the interface between 'the GNU developers' and 'people like me'? Who is going to translate? We are Worlds apart.

Sometimes, you need 'middlemen' - bless them, salt of the Earth!

Mrblack Mrblack
Posts: 40


Something very cliche but appropriate occured to me, however...

I have a new understanding of your position and I appreciate your time!

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