A Strange Sort of Prison, a Strange Sort of Freedom

By  |  Sunday, October 9, 2011 at 5:19 pm

Free software advocate and GNU creator Richard Stallman has blogged that he’s glad Steve Jobs is gone. That’s, um, gauche. But it’s not why I bring up his post. He also calls Jobs “the pioneer of the computer as a jail made cool, designed to sever fools from their freedom.”

Apple products? Jails. Cool ones. Apple fans? Jailbirds. Foolish ones. Got that?

Eric S. Raymond, also a free software advocate, has also written about Jobs’ passing. He’s more dignified about it, but the gist is similar. He says:

What’s really troubling is that Jobs made the walled garden seem cool. He created a huge following that is not merely resigned to having their choices limited, but willing to praise the prison bars because they have pretty window treatments.

Same metaphor. Apple=prison. Apple users=prisoners.

I’d never tell Stallman and Raymond that they’re obligated to like Steve Jobs, Apple, or Apple products. Many people don’t. Many of us who do like Apple’s stuff have serious issues with some things about it. If you find the locked-down nature of the iPhone untenable, fine. Don’t use it. Complain about it. Try to get other people not to use it.

Neither would I tell them that there’s anything wrong with open software. I use open products every day. Actually, I’m grateful to Stallman and Raymond for the role they’ve played as champions of free software. They’ve both helped to make the world a better place.

But…

Boy, I do have a problem with the notion that Apple users are dopes who are being deprived–willingly or unwillingly–of their freedoms.

I get the idea. As Raymond mentions in his post, the original Mac was intended not to be opened up by users. The iPhone and iPad are meant to be used only with software approved by Apple and distributed through its App Store. Customizability and hackability have never been principal design goals of Apple products..even though plenty of people figured out how to open up their original Macs, and plenty of people figure out how to install unauthorized software on iOS devices.

The thing is, none of this limits my choice as a user of technology products. I don’t have to use Apple products. They are a choice. As is Linux. As is Windows. As is anything else you care to use.

But wait: It’s not just about gadgets. The stakes are much higher than that. Raymond is worried that Apple products are a gateway drug that leads to Apple customers’ defenses to lower their defenses to those who would rob us of our liberties in general, or something like that. He says: “[W]e cannot expect people to love tyranny in small things like smartphones without becoming less resistant to tyranny in larger matters.”

Tyranny? Nope, sorry. People who use Apple products considered their options, and chose Apple. If they regret their decision, they can dump it at any time. If you call Apple tyrannical, you’re using a definition of the word so loose as to strip it of any real meaning whatsoever. Something along the lines of:

Tyr-an-ny (noun) \ˈtir-ə-nē\

Displeasing to Eric S. Raymond

Maybe the popularity of Apple products is somehow stifling the creation and distribution of more open ones, thereby leading to a scenario in which Stallman and Raymond and everyone who dislikes Apple products have no choice but to use them? That would be terrible. But it doesn’t seem to be happening: The majority of people I know don’t own any Apple products, and seem to get along fine. They get to choose the products they want; so do I. And the open software community is thriving.

If you think people who use Apple products are prisoners, you’re essentially accusing them of being too stupid to make their own decisions. At least Stallman explicitly calls them fools! Raymond, with his pretty-window-treatment metaphor, apparently thinks Apple users are style-obsessed fetishists, too dim to make the right purchasing decisions. Which, oddly enough, is the same stance that Microsoft has been known to take.

(Raymond also resorts to using the always-handy line of attack against Apple fans by calling them cultists, which is a weird thing to do when you’re the one who’s so insistent that the other guy should adopt your beliefs.)

Me, I choose to use Apple products. Some of the time. When I’m not using other products, some of which might be more to Stallman and Raymond’s liking. I’m familiar with the pros and cons of my various options. I understand my needs. I think I’m as good a position as anyone to know what products will serve me well, or at least a better one than Stallman and Raymond.

Disagree with my stance if you will–as long as you understand that by doing so, you’re calling me a dummy. (Maybe I’m an idiot when I use Apple products, and a brainiac when I use ones that are more purely open…)

To repeat myself: You don’t have to work very hard to find things about Steve Jobs to dislike. You aren’t obligated to give the company he co-founded any money. You can even root against it, and take pleasure in its failures. But all Jobs ever did was make products that people were free to choose or ignore. Stallman and Raymond, however, seem to be confident that they understand what’s good for Apple customers better than Apple customers do. They’d be happier if the choices offered by Apple didn’t exist: Both say they hope that Jobs’ passing might hasten the end of the Apple we currently know.

Freedom, apparently, is just another word for agreeing with Richard M. Stallman and Eric S. Raymond.

Explain to me again what’s so damn liberating about that?

 
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145 Comments For This Post

  1. MJPollard Says:

    I’ll give Stallman props for having a set of ideals and sticking to them no matter what. Not a lot of people can claim to do that these days. That being said, anyone who says they’re glad someone is dead is a real lowlife in my book. I already thought that Stallman was a whack job, but with that remark, he’s now moved into the category of “rectal orifice.” Frankly, I think the free software movement would be better off without him constantly giving it a black eye with his idiotic remarks.

  2. Glenn Fleishman Says:

    There's also the delicious justice that if Apple had devoted millions of personhours into Darwin, WebKit (and its predecessors) and many other open-source/free licensed projects, that Android likely would have been difficult to achieve, and the state of Web browsing across all mobile devices would be vastly weaker.

    Google, too, has put vast resources into making their own open-source licensed software and putting value into others (as have IBM, HP, and pretty much everyone but Microsoft). But Google's customers-as-commodity mindset seems to be starting to bite them in the ass, and not fulfilling the notion of being outside the "prison."

    Why haven't RMS and ESR made the same kind of "prison" remarks about Android 3.0, which contains an enormous amount of licensed code that hasn't been released under the terms required?

  3. Prufrock Says:

    Yeah. As I run my GNU code in a virtual machine on my *shudder* Mac prison, I weep at how isolated I am from true information freedom.

  4. boemmel Says:

    Thank you, I think you nailed my viewpoint and described it better than I could.

    That line of argumentation really bugged me, you spelled out perfectly why and how.

  5. D3343 Says:

    I would never say I'm glad Mr. Jobs is dead. I'd reserve that for the likes of Osama bin Laden. And I did used to be a big fan of Apple, back in my IIe days, when Apple meant OPEN and PC meant CLOSED. Funny how those positions flipped over time. Back then Apple didn't try to prevent others from making hardware and software that would work with their machines, like they do now, and the experience was better for that, unless one is the type that needs to be led by the hand.

    I do think that a lot of Apple customers buy the product because it's cool, and not because they've really considered. I think a lot of Apple customers carry iPhones and iPads for the same reason people wear Rolexes–"Look at how wealthy and hip I am–I can overpay for a product to show off my coolness and my status." Steve Jobs fully intended this. I am sorry for his passing, but if his absence means that Apple trends a little differently and more toward openness in the future, I don't think that will be a bad thing.

  6. mike3k Says:

    I love how they never say a word about Windows, which isn't any more open than Mac OS X.

  7. Dave Winer Says:

    http://scripting.com/stories/2011/10/08/stallmanS

  8. Martin Says:

    I think part of the way someone would

    "Complain about it. Try to get other people not to use it."

    Is to do exactly what they are doing. Point out the yin with the yang about Apple's monopolistic, consumer unfriendly business practices.

    While I believe Apple's products are often the closest ones to meet the "Can my mother use this" test, I will not buy them and I will not recommend them because of their business practices. To say that perhaps Apple is better off is not very respectful of the contributions Steve made to both Apple and the larger electronics marketplace.

    I often feel that people overlook the business practices as "no big deal" and continue marching off the end of the cliff. Perhaps some stronger verbiage is what's needed to make the point?

  9. Harry McCracken Says:

    You do a better job of speaking for RMS than he does, Dave, in this case. And as I said, I admire the guy in multiple respects.

  10. Jon Svendsen Says:

    Because, on Android 3.0, you can still obtain the source code to a program you run, modify it, compile a new binary, self-sign it, put it on the phone/tablet and be able to run it. Pretty straightforward, really.

  11. Slaven Says:

    "I think a lot of Apple customers carry iPhones and iPads for the same reason people wear Rolexes–"Look at how wealthy and hip I am–I can overpay for a product to show off my coolness and my status."

    Except when they're not more expensive yet widely popular – iPad was the cheapest tablet in its class for almost a year. iPhone is about the same price (and sometimes cheaper) as high end Android phones. These types of "Apple is for fashion snobs" comments were old 5 years ago, today they just sound out of touch.

  12. Jon Svendsen Says:

    As you are probably well aware, neither Stallman or Raymond are talking about Macs in this context. They are talking about iOS devices.

  13. Gadgeteer Says:

    @D3343, I’m sure you’re just trolling, but you do realize that the Galaxy Tab 10.1 16Gb Wifi is $549 vs the iPad’s $499, right?

    The lazy “Apple products are more expensive” line just doesn’t work any more – we’re no longer living in the 90′s.

  14. linuxlover Says:

    Totally agree. And, yes, the Jobs passing comment was highly inappropriate.

  15. Pablo Bolognesi Says:

    After seeing the link on ESR’s blog, I came here waiting for a reasonable critique of his post… disapointed in that. Especially seeing the out of context quotes and the not quite just representations.

    Then a couple of commenters patting their own backs, and which clearly did not read the source posts, was a cherry on top of it.

    The missunderstading of why Stallman (as many others) call Apple fans “cultists” does not help:

    5 a : great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work (as a film or book); especially : such devotion regarded as a literary or intellectual fad
    b : the object of such devotion
    c : a usually small group of people characterized by such devotion

    (from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cult)

  16. AP² Says:

    (Disclaimer: I’m not defending Stallman’s or Raymond’s position stated in this article, just replying to some comments)

    MJPollack: He didn’t say he was glad Jobs was dead – in fact, he specifically said “I’m not glad he’s dead”. He said he’s glad he’s gone; by which he means, he’s glad Jobs no longer has influence in the computing world.

    You may still disagree with his position, but it’s not the same you were stating.

    Glenn Fleishman: A simple search would’ve showed you he did say Android is non-free and “cannot be said to respect your freedom.” In fact, he wrote a whole article about it: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/sep/19/
    But Android still lets you install apps from non-Google controlled sources. It’s vastly different.

    mike3k: That’s just hugely ignorant. He called Windows “Malware”, promoted the whole “Windows 7 Sins” campaign by the FSF, has lambasted the OLPC for using it, etc. You may disagree with him, but I doubt you’ll ever find inconsistencies in his positions.

  17. Glenn Fleishman Says:

    That's a specious response. Google hasn't released Android 3.0 publicly, which I believe they are required to do under the terms of the licenses for the packages they adapt for it, including the Linux kernel. They also committed long ago to release Android publicly on a routine basis for both major and minor releases. We're not talking about developer access.

  18. Steve Frawley Says:

    While Steve might have made an effort to put me in a 'jail,' I always broke away as much as I wanted. I have thoroughly customized all of my Macs and IOS devices. My uses are very different than many. Since I use a wheelchair, my needs can be very specialized and I have been more able to customize Macs especially to meet my desires than any other system over 33 years now. I was doing things with an Apple II in 1979 that you would not be able to do with the yet nonexistent PC for many years.

    Steve's prison has freed me to do more in my field and be productive despite physical limitations. All of my Apples have seemed like clay in my hands and even when Steve said something I might have not liked, it never stopped or even slowed me.

    Late one night many many years ago, after reading an article about him in Esquire I think it was I looked up and called Next. Steve answered the phone and we spoke awhile and he encouraged me and suggested I apply for a job. I had not yet finished my Masters degree and was encouraged to apply after. His encouragement that night follows me to this day and he has freed me to live a wonderful life with the machines he made all those years. I am honored to be a prisoner if that is what I have let myself become.

  19. Robert Martin Says:

    Stallman did not say he was glad Jobs was dead, just that he was looking forward to the end of his influence.

    It's telling that Cracken has to first acknowledge the Apple "Walled Garden" before defending Jobs. While I'm entirely willing to acknowledge that Apple is not so terrible a prison when alternatives do exist, the point made by Stallman and Raymond apply to Apples's [Jobs's] choice to design openness out of all of their products. To those of us who believe opennesss is itself a virtue, the absence of openness is necessarily the opposite of virtue; and when a corporate success as ocerwhelming as Apple's is based upon locked down systems, It is a giant distraction from the progress of open systems, which is naturally a great concern for both Stallman and Raymond; the influence of Steve Jobs certainly posed obstructions to their work.

    Stallman's eulogy was certainly rude, in the sense that it was impolitic and straightforward.

  20. Mark Sigal Says:

    Two quickie comments on this one. One is that the only ‘tyranny’ worth talking about wrt Stallman/Raymond is the tyranny of the All or None.

    Two is that while it’s nice to pretend that there is something nefarious about delivering user experiences that aren’t inherently open and hackable, most of us grok the goodness of a great dining experience where environment, meal and wait service is orchestrated for our benefit. We don’t get to demand that the restauranteur give us access to the recipes, or run of the kitchen.

    If you demand the right to have it your way, there’s always Burger King.

  21. AP² Says:

    “Google hasn’t released Android 3.0 publicly, which I believe they are required to do under the terms of the licenses for the packages they adapt for it, including the Linux kernel.”

    I’m afraid you’re are mistaken. A per the GPL – the kernel license – you are only required to distribute the source to the people you have given binaries to. Since Google doesn’t distribute binaries publicly, they are not required to release the source publicly.

    The people who _do_ distribute binaries are the cellphone manufacturers, and they do give it. For example, you can download the Android 3.1/2 kernel sources from the ASUS site, here: http://www.asus.com/Eee/Eee_Pad/Eee_Pad_Transformer_TF101/#download

    The rest of the software is not licensed under the GPL, but using a non-copyleft license, which means the distributors are not required to provide the source.

    In any case, I’ve already shown you how Stallman agrees with you that Android is NOT free.

  22. sushubh Says:

    from what i have read… they did not release source code of android 3 because they did not want companies to load phones with it.

    android 3 does not have features for phone calling. this is now fixed in android 4 and its code would be released as usual.

    benefits are obvious. we are not seeing chinese tablets or phones loaded with honeycomb in the market. they are all loading their devices with gingerbread or froyo.

  23. AP² Says:

    sushubh: yes, that’s Google excuse, but the reality is that they promise to keep Android free, and as Stallman’s pointed out, it’s not, at least for now.

  24. Glenn Fleishman Says:

    It's irrelevant why. The fact is that Google wants its "open" while eating in a closed shop. The paternalistic "we're not releasing code we promised (and are probably obligated to) because we think it's best for you" is precisely the opposite of the guiding philosophy of open-source licenses and movements.

  25. Jonathan Conway Says:

    The Free Software mob ignore the hierarchy of values.

    People always prioritize some values over others. I spend less on clothes because I prioritize money over looks. I spend more on my computer, because I prioritize a fast computer over money. I own an iPhone because I prioritize easy-of-use, convenience and design over most other factors.

    Stallman says there's a free-software alternative for almost every computing activity. Well sure, but does the alternative provide equivalent value in all areas, e.g. usability?

    It could be argued that most activities could be done without using a computer at all, e.g. corresponding by phone and snail mail, but again, this ignores the reasons WHY people prefer computers.

    It's all a trade-off. One person's values can't represent everyone's.

  26. Wayne Newton Says:

    Glenn, you appear to be confusing “open source” with free software, they are not the same thing. The GPL’d parts of Android have been publicly released by Google as required by the license (see discussion here: https://lwn.net/Articles/439444/). It is only the BSD-licensed parts that have not been released, as they do not require such disclosure. Thanks for reinforcing why Stallman’s ideal of free software is so important (http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/open-source-misses-the-point.html)!

  27. @WaltFrench Says:

    “Google hasn't released Android 3.0 publicly, which I believe they are required to do…”

    Guess you're not giving them extra openness credit for releasing code that Oracle claims was copyrighted and the were required to NOT do.

  28. Brian Keller Says:

    Microsoft has made many, many contributions to open source projects. Start here for some examples: http://www.bing.com/search?q=microsoft+open+sourc

    And here: http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/openness/default.a… (1st result from above)

  29. Glenn Fleishman Says:

    Where's the injunction? Oh, yes, there isn't one. And the effort by Oracle to get an injunction is new. And 3.0 was released to manufacturers, which is the infringing act in any case. And Google has put out a smokescreen of "you're not responsible enough" statements about why it's not releasing a major iteration when it swore it would do such.

    4.0 will come out any day now. Oracle hasn't stopped it. And that will restore "openness."

    Remember that Android isn't a set of code. It's code plus services, the Marketplace, and the trademark that Google controls and withholds at its own discretion.

  30. Glenn Fleishman Says:

    Let's not be engineering literal here. Microsoft's contribution to open-source projects is an infinitesimal fraction of its competitors. And Microsoft's core desktop and mobile operators systems aren't founded on GPL, BSD, and Apache licenses. Apple and Google "secret sauce" layers on top of huge amounts of code that may be freely used under the terms of software licenses without restriction. Microsoft's fundamental core is proprietary (which may or may not turn out to be an advantage, but jury is out).

  31. @WaltFrench Says:

    Well, Mr. Hoity-Toity, it's too bad that you aren't the full-time personal assistant to a hundred million people who want to have something they can feel comfortable or even that they've become empowered by using.

    Or perhaps you are Ms. Ultra-hot Babe whose presence would enhance the social status of people who actually care about social contexts other than the 1970s-era Komputer Klubs.

    I'll go a bit further than the original article did, in case the point wasn't obvious: condescension towards tens or hundreds of millions of people has to be recognized as a personality defect. In a forum where you claim superior social awareness, it can be seen as a serious cognitive defect.

    (Imagine how you or anybody else would respond if I told you that you were a cretin based on your preferring pop music to masterworks of German Romanticism such as Death and Transfiguration.)

    Dunno why anybody likes to badge themselves as inferior just because they have some particular tastes.

  32. @WaltFrench Says:

    Wait till they see metro, which looks to be about as open as iOS (unless you're a Windows developer and feel more empowered because you can now code for mobile using C#).

  33. Bob Says:

    “If you call Apple tyrannical, you using…”.
    Should be you’re.

  34. @WaltFrench Says:

    Thanks for the extra info. But if none of the top 5 mobile platforms are close to satisfactory, it seems he's going out of his way to insult the users of just one of them. Next up: a call for Brin and Page to “disappear” ? … All the top staff at RIM?

    I just don't get why so many people disdain ordinary people because they buy a certain brand phone. As opposed to a certain brand of car, or camera, or refrigerator; or live in particular cities; or attend certain churches. Why should we be reverting to tribalism in the 21st century? What's so bad with the underlying concepts of bourgeois democracy?

  35. Jon Jensen Says:

    Uh, perhaps you're not familiar with the FSF's longstanding equal opposition to Microsoft's limitations of user freedom. The most recent major site: http://en.windows7sins.org/

  36. Machida Says:

    I can understand a love hate feeling for Apple. Their gadgets are cool, but being closed to running software and forced to buy apps and not being able to see Flash are things I hope are things the future of Apple holds…. but probably not likely, meh one can dream.

  37. ToeJam Joe Says:

    Richard Stallman, eating his own toe jam – on stage:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I25UeVXrEHQ

    Don't think there is much more to add.

  38. Martin Says:

    calculate the total cost of ownership to:
    a) add 10 e-books
    b) add 10 popular apps
    c) add 30 mp3 downloads
    d) replace the battery

    How does it add up in 2011?

  39. Somebody Says:

    @Jon Svendsen: Actually, the Android 3.0 source code is still closed, as of today, unlike Android 2.0. Not open yet. No abierto.

  40. ToeJam Joe Says:

    a) Apple has made available hundreds, or thousands of books for free via Project Gutenberg on the iBooks store.

    b) There are thousands upon thousands of popular, free apps on the app store.

    c) Apple has a free music section, it's one of the top links on the main right navigation menu in iTunes. They also release a free single every week. They also give podcasts top billing in the iTunes store so people can release their own content and get it seen by millions of users – for free. Apple also provides thousands of free educational material from universities via iTunesU.

    d) If you have a bad battery that is not acting normally within the warranty period Apple will replace it for free. Otherwise they will replace it for you for a nominal fee.

    How does that add up for you, genius?

  41. DontRestrictMeBro Says:

    The gadgets are closed, they legally prevent me from putting my code on it and share my code.

    To all the sherlocks mentioning how android isn't open, of course it isn't! Most installations barely meet any definition of opensource. DO you think stallman supports closed android? No he doesn't. You've missed the point. This isn't about your precious phone markets, this is about the freedom of users and developers to do what they want to do.

    That's freedom.

  42. juepucta Says:

    That prison thing has been going on since the 80s, often said out loud by IBM/pc types (i've used both systems all my life – since i was 6ish).

    Oftentimes, like with most other things, the truth lies in the middle shades of grey. Not in the black or white extremes.

    Sure, it's a walled garden and the user is limited. Want to know something? People don't give a crap. In the same way a muscle car is fine and it's lovely if you want to be under it every weekend tightening nuts and bolts. For most people the car just has to run (witness the modern car that under the hood has nothing recognizeable but for the fluid bottles).

    Again, nobody gives a crap. Don't feed the troll.

    -G.

  43. Straw Man Says:

    You're claiming that the 99% of the computer population actually understands copyright, licenses and the idea of software freedom? FSF is all about trying to get users to understand why these freedoms are important to users who don't program. Sadly they don't get very far.

    Your offense at the idea of people being called criminals is based on assumptions that you have not supported in your article. For someone not to be ignorant they have to be proven to be knowledgable. Do most users know about software licensing and opensource enough to understand why you can't distribute GPL software others have made in the iOS app store? No they don't. Most programmers don't! It's law, it's licensing, it's legalese and abstract concepts.

    You made a strawman and I've taken it down.

  44. Harry McCracken Says:

    I've done lots and lots of following of the FSF, copyright issues, and other related matters. But I choose my products based on what they can do for me. As it turns out, some are free and some are proprietary.

    When it comes to technology products, there's only one definition of freedom that rings true to me: Getting to choose the products you want to use, be they iPhones, GNU, Windows, Android, a Commodore 64, or some combination thereof. Anyone who's sure he or she knows more about what's useful to me than I do isn't really interested in freedom.

  45. Peter Maurer Says:

    Brighter minds have made the same mistake that Stallman and Raymond are making their first baby steps towards right now: Robespierre, for instance, turned the idea of a Volonté Générale (general will) into a Reign of Terror.

    That's what I remind myself of whenever someone tries to tell me what's good for me — self-proclaimed liberators are potentially dangerous. They are religious warriors.

  46. @wkrwk Says:

    You've said right. A lot of people just don't care. If it's useful, they'll use it. If there's something better, they'll switch. All these school of thoughts are meaningless to most consumers, because actually they have other more important things in life to tend to.

  47. Mono Says:

    "Explain to me again what’s so damn liberating about that?"

    When you lost your hardware on the move from mac OS to OS X, when you lost your movies on the move from Final Cut Pro to Final Cut Pro X, when you loose all your iOS apps when you move to a different phone, that's when you realize what is so damned liberating about free software.

    People will always trade freedom for short term profit, simply because they can't imagine what their life without the freedom will be. What Stallman and everyone in free software is thinking about is the long term:

    What will happen when Microsoft goes bankrupt in 20 to 80 years? What about Apple? What about Google? The hardware you run your programs on will be worthless, a greeting card then will be more powerful than a super computer today, but the data you stored on the system will be worth much, much more than it is today. Thanks to the Gates and Jobs of the world you will never be able to get that data alway from the hardware because it is locked it, it is DRM'd to the particular hardware and software forever.

    Jobs ultimate contribution to society is to make the digital dark age we live in today all the darker.

  48. Harry McCracken Says:

    I LIKE free software and use lots of it. And I’ve moved between kajillions of platforms over the past 33 years, and survived it. I understand the implications of proprietary file formats. I’m smart enough to make my own decisions.

    Really, when you get down to it, Stallman and Raymond are saying that people who choose tools other than the ones they like are idiots, unable to make their own decisions. They aren’t advocating for freedom. They’re advocating for everyone choosing their path.

  49. yet another steve Says:

    1. Both the Apple II AND Mac OSX have always come with tools to program them. For free. Seriously. iOS is locked down to make it more secure and simpler. But that is hardly true of everything Apple's done despite the constant disinformation.

    2. Stallman misses the who human invention of the economic transaction. The world that has embraced free exchange of value has flourished, that which tried to suppress it stifled. He's literally re-litigating the cold war.

    It's good to be the customer. When one has a choice.

    3. The other thing fairly unique about Apple as a tech giant is that it has virtually no monopoly power. Yes it earned a temporary place as the dominant supplier of music players. But there were always plenty of alternatives. And that market proved to be a fairly temporary one waiting to be subsumed within mobile computing.

    Compared to the lock in of Microsoft or Google, Apple's got nothing. This has required them to move forward, invent new markets, and make their customers very very happy.

    I guess this is what gets reacted to: all this money being made by Apple whose customers DON'T HAVE TO USE THEIR PRODUCTS. Must be a cult…

  50. Phong Le Says:

    John Maynard Keynes said it best. "In the long run, we're all dead." It's vanity to claim that your belief is best for the long term.

  51. Phong Le Says:

    Richard Stallman did one thing right. He successfully used Steve Jobs death to promote his own beliefs. Now at least, some of the spotlight will go to him.

  52. Mono Says:

    "I'm smart enough to make my own decisions. "

    Don't confuse luck with intelligence. The last 30 years have been dominated, in the West at least, by the x86. Windows *is* x86. If x86 is superseded by something in the future the last 20 years of windows go down the toilet along with all the programs written for them as well as the data written by those programs.

    Free software was born the last time a catastrophe of that size happened, the PDP10 was canceled and 10 years worth of work on it were lost. Gnu and linux are future proof because they've already lived through a complete change in architecture and they will run on anything that has a basic C compiler written for it.

    Jobs was smart enough to see this and take the open source kernels from Mach and openBSD and put a nice finish on top.

  53. Jon Svendsen Says:

    Perhaps you're not talking about that. When Stallman and Raymond call something a prison, developer access is precisely what they're talking about. Whether a system is a prison or not does not depend on the freedom of the system, it depends on _your ability to do free things with it._ GNU ran on proprietary systems for years before Linux was ready. Windows and OSX systems are not prisons (yet). iOS devices, gaming consoles and most appliances are.

  54. Harry McCracken Says:

    I understand all that. It’s possible for two people of equal intelligence to know all the facts and come to different conclusions.

    (For the record: I don’t think Stallman and Raymond are stupid, even if they think I am.)

  55. Tyrannosaurs Says:

    Why are you replacing the battery?

    I've never had to replace a battery in any Apple product I've owned (iPhone 2 years plus, 24×7 use, still going strong, no noticeable degradation, 2 MacBooks, 5 years plus, no battery issues).

    MP3 downloads I can get from anywhere, I'm not limited, ditto eBooks. Apps – I spend less on as good quality apps as the Android using friends I have. There are good free apps for both platforms but there are as many expensive paid apps for Android as for iOS.

  56. Tat Says:

    He didn't say he's glad he's dead. He said something better than that, if not by much

  57. Mono Says:

    All this abstract talk of freedom and responsibility would be fine if I hadn't heard the exact same thing from the bankers before the last crash.

    Between them the US tech giants have something close to 5%-10% of US GDP locked up as shares. What do you think the bailout for them will look like in 15 years when all major fabs are overbooked making Loongson chips for China (which don't support x86 or ARM)?

  58. JDB Says:

    I am not a techie person and didn't understand most of what you were talking about so maybe I am a dumb Apple. But I love Apple products because they are very easy to use and don't shut down on me constantly (as in the stupid, horrible PC's I've had). I need a computer for my work, I use Ipod for my pleasure and have discovered IPAD for both. To me, they are simply tools to use as needs be and I want them to be easy and I want them to work with little effort on my part. And Apple products work very well. Better than anything else I have used. And I am happy to pay for easy and works well!

  59. Ian Betteridge Says:

    " iOS devices, gaming consoles and most appliances are."

    You missed out the necessary caveat "for coders". For people who want to express their creativity in other ways, and who don't code (which is the majority) they're liberating.

  60. Ian Betteridge Says:

    "When you lost your hardware on the move from mac OS to OS X"

    Oddly enough, I didn't. The PowerPC Mac I was using at the time happily made the transition, even though it wasn't new. It was still happily taking upgrades a couple of years later, when I donated it to someone else.

    "when you lost your movies on the move from Final Cut Pro to Final Cut Pro X"

    I didn't. I kept both around. Problem solved.

    "when you loose all your iOS apps when you move to a different phone"

    Well I could ask the developer to port it – which is, of course, exactly the same position I'd be in with any open source app too, as I can't code. I'd be relying on the largesse of a priest either way.

    "What will happen when Microsoft goes bankrupt in 20 to 80 years?"

    Their assets will be sold to someone else. Why will that matter?

    "Thanks to the Gates and Jobs of the world you will never be able to get that data alway from the hardware because it is locked it, it is DRM'd to the particular hardware and software forever. "

    You're conflating data freedom with open source – I don't blame you for that, as it's one of the lines that open source advocates often spin and you've obviously just fallen for it. It's perfectly possible to have data liberation without open sourcing applications, which is of course what Google is doing with their Data Liberation project.

  61. Ian Betteridge Says:

    That, Mono, is what's known in the reasoning business as a "non sequitur". Look it up.

  62. Ian Betteridge Says:

    "If x86 is superseded by something in the future the last 20 years of windows go down the toilet along with all the programs written for them as well as the data written by those programs."

    And you know what? I just can't get spares for my Ford Model T either. Damn that whole "progress" thing!

  63. cajundog Says:

    In truth, apple users do have a choice, but Raymond's worry about people lowering their defenses or as I see it, becoming numb to "control " is a nagging little truth….think Obama and healthcare and all the people who see forced insurance coverage by the government as good thing.

  64. TooOld Says:

    How could the verbiage GET much stronger? I think what's needed is to have that point made in a way that doesn't leave the point-maker sounding like a lunatic, even *gasp* in a way that clearly relates it back to ordinary people's lives.

  65. TooOld Says:

    "when a corporate success as ocerwhelming as Apple's is based upon locked down systems, It is a giant distraction from the progress of open systems, which is naturally a great concern for both Stallman and Raymond; the influence of Steve Jobs certainly posed obstructions to their work. "

    Can you defend this point a bit? How does the existence of Apple products interfere with the *development* of OSS products? Certainly it partially interferes with their adoption by users simply through competition…

  66. TooOld Says:

    As somebody or other pointed out in ESR's comment thread, he has not shown any evidence of linkage between these two things.

  67. Mark Hernandez Says:

    The world is full of people (writers and commenters alike) with poor critical thinking skills. I think we should avoid elevating them and simply ignore them. But we can't can we?

    We should, but most people can't ignore them. And that's because… ;-)

  68. Dave Winer Says:

    I think you're the one who's wrong here Harry. But I don't want to get into a long debate. Try to remember that someone died here, someone you say you care about. What you do here is much worse than what you accuse Stallman and Raymond of doing.

  69. DDinPDX Says:

    This is an old argument. Some people insist on "open" platforms, so they can mess around with the insides. Some are quite fervent about it, finding offense with those that don't agree or don't care. While I find open systems to be useful sometimes, I also like the "walled garden" approach as well. I'm in I.T. and often use cars as analogies for computer tech; it is something that people can relate to. I have an older car that is my toy. I love to tear it apart and tweak it and improve it with mods now and again. I also have a nice new car which is transportation. I have the dealer take care of it exclusively. It is a tool, a rather nice one at that but all I want is for that tool to work, I have no interest in tweaking it. That's the kind of product Apple makes. Buy it or not, but don't tell me it isn't as good for me or the world. It is just one approach.

  70. Jay Martin Says:

    Wow. I've never seen anyone (well, except Republicans) twist language and logic so thoroughly to try to explain bad behavior and spin the blameometer to someone else.

    What you did, Dave, is even worse than RMS.

  71. GQB Says:

    Stall man has turned into the tech Ralph Nader.
    Sad.

  72. GQB Says:

    And the very people dissing the iP4s for not arbitrarily changing it's appearance are those accusing Apple users of bing slaves to fashion.

  73. GQB Says:

    I think the true 'cultists' here are those mindlessly defending Stallman's clear lack of decency.

  74. GQB Says:

    Ah, poor prisoner.
    Go to Stallman and he shall show you the one true way.

  75. Ted Landau Says:

    Harry:

    While I agree with the spirit of your column regarding what Stallman and Raymond wrote, I do take exception to your comment: "If you find the locked-down nature of the iPhone untenable, fine. Don’t use it."

    For me, it's never be that easy of a choice. I find Apple products to be spectacularly great, better than any alternative. I use them and I am glad to do so. My computer has been a Mac since 1984. My mobile phone has been an iPhone since 2007. I have no intention of changing brands at this point.

    Still, I remain irritated by Apple's stance on jailbreaking (which I admit is not the same as "untenable"). I have jailbroken almost all of my iOS devices and expect to continue to do so. I have found jailbreaking to be valuable on numerous occasions. I wish that, at a minimum, Apple would not try so hard to block jailbreaking. They don't have to actively support it, just not so actively work against it.

    I have criticized and will continue to criticize Apple on this matter. I believe I can do so without being logically impelled to sell my iPhone and buy something else. You can occasionally find fault with and criticize something you love — and yet stay with it. Heck, happily married couples do so all the time.

  76. Phong Le Says:

    In my opinion you are being very vague about what Harry McCraken is doing and how it is worse than what RS and ER are doing.

  77. Bill Snyder Says:

    Stallman Raymond completely miss the dynamic of the computer industry over the last couple of decades. The strength of Apple from a user point of view — and it's relative weakness as a business vs. Microsoft — is that the Mac is CLOSED. That's why users of the Mac and related products don't have to deal with the lunatic compatibility issues that plague Windows. By closing the platform, Jobs et al controlled the user experience. BUT, by keeping it closed, they relegated it to a niche. Microsoft, on the other hand, allowed anyone to build Windows PCs, so they became relatively cheap and ubiquitous. Indeed, the Windows hegemony locked users in. We all know that until recently, it just wasn't possible to use a Mac at most workplace. And you had to have Microsoft products to work with other businesses. The iPhone is changing the game, but notice that the closed App Store provides users with a much better experience, I would argue, than the open Android Marketplace.

  78. Phong Le Says:

    "when a corporate success as ocerwhelming as Apple's is based upon locked down systems, It is a giant distraction from the progress of open systems, which is naturally a great concern for both Stallman and Raymond; the influence of Steve Jobs certainly posed obstructions to their work. "

    RS and ER should push open system forward not only philosophically but technically. The proper response to the success of closed system is to find out why it attracts so many people to it. Learn those things and try incorporating it into the open system. Maybe open systems should focus more on security, ease of use, eye-candy in addition to "freedom". Instead of doing these things, RS and ER insinuate that there is nothing good about closed systems, which is a tunnel vision view of the world and the population.

  79. Nathan Says:

    Stallman never said he was glad Jobs was dead, and he explicitly stated that in his post. He said he was glad Jobs was gone, as in from the industry, but took no pleasure in the man's death.

  80. Eren Says:

    You know who else had a set of ideals and stuck to them no matter what?

  81. ryanroberts Says:

    Stubbornly sticking to a set of narrow ideas is not something to be proud of. Being able to change your mind when it is right to do so is a sign of maturity and sound thinking.

  82. Derek Says:

    If Stallman is looking forward to the end of Jobs’ influence, he’d better be prepared to be disappointed.

  83. adrianoconnor Says:

    I'm pretty sure that Google will have released any GPL'd source code (like the Linux Kernel) as they are obliged to do. However, most of Android is not GPL — it's either owned by Google (they can release it however they like — see MySQL dual licensing for example) or it falls under the Apache license (similar to BSD, no obligation to release source). I'd be amazed if Google are breaking any licenses. They know what they're doing.

    What they are doing is breaking the spirit of open source. Again, that wouldn't be a problem — it's their code, they can do what they want – but it is a problem, because they've positioned themselves as being the white knights of mobile open source — and they aren't living up to that.

  84. adrianoconnor Says:

    I am a programmer who works closely with Microsoft products, day in, day out. I also know a fair bit about open source. I'm struggling to think of a single Microsoft open source contribution that really mattered.

    In fact, I just scanned this list: http://www.microsoft.com/opensource/directory.asp… and there is nothing there of any real value. Some of it might be nice to have for somebody, but I'm guessing most is just stuff that they probably want to forget about.

  85. Glenn Fleishman Says:

    Thank you for the superb and nuanced response. I think it would require real due diligence to see whether Google has toed the line on everything, and no one has the motivation to do that. So they get a pass, where other tech giants would be under closer scrutiny because Android is the last best chance for "open."

    But likewise, as you say, it's a positioning issue. If you don't release Android 3.0 because you judge it's better for the community not to, that violates the spirit of the intent from before 1.0 that Android is a constantly available contract-free, royalty-free licensing bundle of software that anyone may employ.

    It's never been quite true, because Google's juice is layered on top, and the source code isn't all open for examination. Google's ability to make Android seem open seems to be winding down.

  86. Richard Vickery Says:

    If you are in FSF software, it is really easy to get caught up in the "everyone should be involved" mindset, especially since we can make changes to the software in fantastic ways that we cannot in closed-source environments. There are many benefits, not the least of which is that you own and control your own hard-drive, which the other's make it seem like they own it and just lease your hard-drive to you. But the users of closed source are going to continue regardless of what we say to them because it is familiar to them. Stallman, Raymond, and everyone else in the open-source community who are not must get comfortable with that no one is going to change anyone; they have to migrate in their own time – which, at times, is even hard for me to swallow.

  87. Matthew McKenzie Says:

    Not buying it, Dave. You parachute in here and take some cheap shots, that's about it.

  88. Matthew McKenzie Says:

    I'm afraid I have little patience with this dichotomy — "virtue" vs. the "opposite of virtue."

    Most of us live, both by necessity and by choice, in the vast spaces that exist in between. RMS won't acknowledge that space, and he sure as hell won't live in it. That's his choice, but I don't think very highly of it.

  89. Jon Svendsen Says:

    As I have repeatedly made clear I am merely clarifying Raymond's and Stallman's views on the matter. As they see it, if you do not personally have the time or ability to write or modify software, you could always hire someone to do it as you see fit. Thus, the distinction between coder and non-coder becomes irrelevant, and software freedom matters equally to every user. All software is 'liberating' up until the point where it does not do what you want done. Then it becomes a matter of how you are able to change it.

    Anyway, since my attempts to enrich the debate in this sorry excuse for a community has so far netted me upwards of twenty downward-pointing thumbs, I'm throwing in the towel and leaving you to your regularly scheduled circle jerk. Have a good one.

  90. Dave Says:

    Unfortunately you're off a bit, they released the kernel and gpl parts as is required, but that is all they are required to release. As much of android is not GPL, they don't need to release it. It seems to be that many people complaining about the code release conveniently forget this part.

    As to whether or not that is good or bad is a matter of opinion, much like Apples walled garden and Stallmans very draconian open source rants.

  91. Glenn Fleishman Says:

    As I say elsewhere here, it would require careful due diligence to be sure Google did so. And releasing just the required parts is nowhere near the commitment to release Android as a whole, per statements over the last few years. Right now, 3.x is a closed system to developer and manufacturers who had to sign deals with Google to get it. It's part of the definition of "open" I don't understand.

    Apple doesn't play that game. Its OS and app store are closed, but it doesn't pretend they're open. Google eventually will make sideloading ever harder; mark my words. They've allowed carriers to sell phones in which certain kinds of software don't work (like mobile hotspots), root is unavailable, and sideloading is prevented without hacking to root.

    Android advocates often point to Google-branded phones as the alternative to such carrier lockdown.

  92. Travis Butler Says:

    Or perhaps, just perhaps, stronger verbiage won't work because people understood the point perfectly, and *didn't agree*?

    That's why I found Stallman's comments so condescending, and in fact insulting – in his world, apparently, the only reason for choosing an iOS device is if you're an ignorant fool. The idea that people might actually have considered the issues he keeps trying to shove in peoples' faces, and DO NOT AGREE WITH HIM, doesn't seem to be part of his mental universe; there's no possible way for anyone to have considered the issues and disagree with him, so all the people who do so must be stupid, brainwashed, or both.

  93. Travis Butler Says:

    "When you lost your hardware on the move from mac OS to OS X, when you lost your movies on the move from Final Cut Pro to Final Cut Pro X, when you loose all your iOS apps when you move to a different phone, that's when you realize what is so damned liberating about free software. "

    Bull.

    Another thing that really irritates me about OSS advocates is the way they seem to think OSS is a magic wand, and that somehow if the code is open, everything will be rainbows and light. In ordinary use for ordinary people, that's a load of horse pucky. OSS 'freedom' depends on:

    a) having programming skills
    b) familiarity with the language used
    c) code that is understandable by someone besides the person who wrote it
    Assuming a)-c) pass,
    d) enough time to work on the code; or

    e) if any of the above fail, having the time and money to track down and hire somebody to work on the code

    The last program I had orphaned was open source; I didn't know the language, I didn't have the time to learn it, and I sure as hell didn't have the money to pay contract programming fees for someone to update it.

    Oh, and if you go the contract programmer route, better hope the programmer is an good guy, because you've just exchanged dependency on a software vendor for dependency on your contract programmer. I've been through that, too, as the programmer who wrote the custom accounting software our company used in the late 90s refused to update it for Y2K compatibility; in the end, we had to start from scratch because we couldn't find anyone else willing to deal with his Alpha Micro code.

    I've been using computers for a long time, since the TRS-80 Model I in the late 70s. I have yet to see a single software platform that has been free of orphan software issues. Not one. Including OSS; take a look at SourceForge and try to be honest with yourself, how much code is withering on the vine because no one has stepped up to maintain it?

  94. Paul Creager Says:

    Since this is the Internet, I must pick nits with one comment:

    “Customizability and hackability have never been principal design goals of Apple products…”

    That was certainly not true in the beginning. The Apple II was extremely customizable. It came with expansion slots that spawned the early microcomputer industry with all manner of 3rd party peripherals. The motherboard schematics were included in the owner’s manual! Programming tools were freely provided and software sprang up from all corners. This was Woz’s baby and he wanted people to experiment and learn and do things that unfolded the computer’s potential.

    The locked-down, closed box philosophy didn’t start until the the Lisa/Mac era of Jobs. It is to this your article applies.

  95. Harry McCracken Says:

    You’re absolutely right. For some reason, as I wrote that sentence, I considered saying “With the exception of the Apple II,” but didn’t. Thanks for keeping me honest.

  96. Mic Edwards Says:

    GPL is a far worse tyranny than anything Apple has yet devised.

    Forcing people to be free is still tyranny.

    BSD is free.

    The GPL is an infectious idea virus that is no better that patents.

  97. Good Afternoon Says:

    What about the factories that apple employs to produce their products? Sorry but, if any company supports these chinese factories then surely there is something evil and cynical about it.
    http://bit.ly/jj2C51

  98. David Hamilton Says:

    OK, so some people (such as FSF) see computers – including phones – as platforms, for people to extend and customise.

    Jobs saw them as computing appliances, as product. Stuff that 'just works'.

    The great thing about computers is that they are flexible enough to be either, depending on what your needs are.

    Me, I have about 10 computers in my house (including a smartphone). I don't have time for them to be platforms – I would never get anything else done. One of them is a Linux server that I configured from scratch. It took a long time, and I won't be doing that again.

  99. Jason Says:

    The original post at Stallman.org just looks like sensationalism and link baiting to me.

    Since a quick search on Google for "Stallman" and "Steve Jobs" and "dead" produces "about 508,000 results," I guess it worked. Alexa also recorded a massive spike in pageviews.

    Harry, this article is as thoughtful a response as anyone could have written for such a crass statement, but I hate the fact that it's just going to send more traffic his way.

  100. GQB Says:

    Can we get back to the point? (which isn't about closed, open, free or imprisoned.)
    Its about the fact that Stallman is a disrespectful, callous douche bag who needs to be ostracized until he decides to rejoin the human race.
    Stop making this about some arguments he could (and does) make at any other time.

  101. James Says:

    I know people that have bought fans with only 3 settings! Idiots. Don't they know about fans with 5 settings and programmable tilting and wind control. My roommate most recently a couch that is all one piece, now we are locked in to that configuration for life! Who would buy such a thing when you can by couch seperates and arrange them in any fashion you want?

  102. David W. Says:

    I live and breath open source. I run Linux, and my job depends upon open source projects. Yet, I have an iPhone. Why? Because I want something in my life that works without worrying whether the application I’ve downloaded on it is malware or is stealing my information. Or, doesn’t always crash. I don’t have to follow the Net to find the correct drivers or how to build the most recent Android kernel or how to manage my battery, so it last longer than 3 hours or what apps are really malware apps that will attempt to break into my bank account or are dialers that dial $50/minute phone numbers.

    I want a smartphone that does what I want, and I don’t have to constantly tend and manage. In short, despite the fact I can build my own Linux kernel and normally champion open stuff, I prefer my closed iPhone.

    Walled gardens are not only pretty, but they keep out the weeds.

    (As well of all the various Linux boxes, I also own a MacBook Pro because they really are cool looking. And, they run all the standard open source applications)

  103. Steven Says:

    Write Rovio and ask for the Angry Birds source.

  104. Regan Says:

    I can only write from personal experience, but the irony is that by wilfully submitting myself to Apple 'imprisonment', I have been freed from the crash-prone and buggy devices that Stallman and Raymond cherish with such enthusiasm.

  105. Yogi Says:

    SO, what this boils down to is money. For RMS et all, it seems that any amount is too much. I guess they find computers and web access and such lying around, because here's what it takes to do anything you want with an Apple product:
    1) Buy one.
    2) Sign up as a dev. ($99, which gets you all the tools you need)
    3) write software that dos any damn thing you want it to.
    4) deliver that software to yourself, your friends and your family.

    Want to do more? Want to use Apple's systems to distribute your ideas? Play their game. Why should YOU get to spend someone else's money?

    Why is it that when Apple develops something from OSS, and releases that back (webkit, frex) that's "stealing", but when we do it, that's hacking?

    Since 1993, I haven't found anything I wanted to do to a Mac that I couldn't. While I never tried to hack the OS directly, I was always able to write extensions, or apps that did what I wanted. For my Mom, too.

  106. C. Scott Ananian Says:

    Sorry to disappoint you, but *every* device manufacturer uses chinese factories. On rare occasions the factory will be in Taiwan or Korea instead. There is no device manufacturing going on in the US.

    And, consistent with Harry’s general point, the workers in those factories *choose* to work there. It’s an opportunity to leave their rural homes and make a remarkable amount of money (by their standards) very quickly. They could choose to work elsewhere. They do not.

    (I’ve been to china, and have worked for two different hardware companies working with three different oems. I’ve been in the factories and talked to the workers.)

  107. FOSS agnostic Says:

    What esr and stallman fail to mention is that freedom of choice usually comes with free markets and capitalism, the profit motive, etc. Where was the full screen touch-sensitive smartphone before the iPhone? And why do the competitors look so similar to it? Was it a bad idea that Apple somehow tricked people into wanting? And is a removable battery really a feature?

    What comes across pretty clearly in this unending debate is that the two sides don't even speak the same language. They value different things. As noted above, cars used to require some knowledge of how they worked and some regular basic maintenance: today, you can buy a car that can allegedly run 100,000 miles before needing service. Bad for the local parts store, maybe, but are car owners going to miss those hours spent under their car? There may always be some enthusiasts who get some pleasure from it, but not many.

    The frustration might be voiced as directed at Steve Jobs and the dupes who buy his stuff but the real enemy is in their bathroom mirrors. They don't understand what other people value. They don't know how to deliver products that offer the convenience people want with the security or "freedom" they think everyone should have. So rather than admit that they are lousy communicators and worse yet at conceiving and delivering products, they blame the public.

  108. James Says:

    (*flounce) … And nothing of value was lost.

  109. matt Says:

    so…do you chastise Nintendo for not giving you "freedom"? What about Coke? Both of those are closed. Big deal? Nope.

  110. Sean Says:

    This reminds me of an IT guy I knew years ago. He said he used a Mac at home because after fighting with Windows at work, he wanted to go home to something that he could just turn on and use.

  111. matt Says:

    @mono – are you chastising other closed platforms and products such as Nintendo, Playstation? what about every single closed good that you also cannot tinker with — the secret formula for Coke, for example?

  112. bagelche Says:

    a) Oh, are those Kindle ebooks cheaper when reading them on an Android device?
    b) Plenty of free popular (and well designed) apps. Also, we should definitely argue against any compensation for developers. All coders must work for free, dagnabit!
    c) I rip my own, use creative commons, the Free Music Archive and plenty of other sources. your point?
    d) Don't need to, thanks. But, for arguments sake, how do you replace the Tab's battery?

    Adds up as a bunch of smoke without fire, right here in 2011.

  113. Jeff Berg Says:

    Where by "try so hard to block" you mean Apple has the temerity to patch the security vulnerabilities in iOS that provide the gateways to "rooting" the device. Other than that they ignore the jailbreak community–pretty much what you're asking for.

  114. Caliban10 Says:

    When the blackberry servers go down, no blackberry owner can surf the web or acces email. THAT's a prison.

  115. nick s Says:

    In practice, Stallman and Raymond's guild mentality shit creates no less of a walled garden than Apple's. They have no desire to make computing accessible to the masses, and object to those who do.

  116. NormM Says:

    I don't buy the argument that Apple prevents you from putting your code on the iPhone, or from sharing code. All of the Apple developer tools are free, and for $99/year anyone can compile and load whatever software they want onto their _own_ iOS devices, by joining the iPhone developer program. There is quite a bit of open source code available on the net to download and compile for your iOS devices.

    What is not available is most of the source code for iOS (or any of the source for the firmware) and Apple actively prevents you from changing those. But we live in a world where most media sources are not available to vendors who don't exert enough control (which Android also does), and most people wouldn't pay for software apps (as we see from jail breakers on iOS).

    What I think free software people really feel is that competition from non-free software is illegitimate and inhibits the development of higher quality free software. This argument I strongly reject. Free software is in an evolutionary competition with proprietary software, and it wins in some areas and loses in others. If it can't compete in much of the consumer space, it doesn't belong there.

  117. Good Night Says:

    What about them? Good luck buying a computer that isn't full of components manufactured in Chinese factories. Typically the exact same factories as Apple products.

  118. neethan Says:

    Steve Jobs?

  119. Yogi Says:

    Well, then they've changed their story, as they've both been screaming "walled garden" for what, 20+ years?
    And I can still write iOS code when I want to, to make my phone do what I want.

  120. AlfieJr Says:

    HM – you put your finger on it: some of the "Open Source Movement," including these guys, is in fact a genuine cult. in their orthodoxy, their "open" way is the only right way – morally superior – the one True Faith. other approaches like Apple's "walled garden" are branded not as "different strokes for different folks," but as evil. because they are much more popular and thus threaten the True Faith.

    ridiculous.

    and with their big mouths they give a bad name to all the rational Open Source users, developers, and businesses who work hard to keep it up to date and expand it as a viable alternative. there certainly are some companies that are trying to manipulate "open source" to their own private advantage and undermine that. but Apple and Steve Jobs are not anywhere near the top of that list. how about Microsoft and Google?

    a**holes.

  121. Alex Says:

    I certainly am not happy that Steve is gone, but I do take issue with a couple of your points.

    "Boy, I do have a problem with the notion that Apple users are dopes who are being deprived–willingly or unwillingly–of their freedoms."

    I'm an Apple user (and have been, on and off, since the 1980's) and I think this is a perfectly fair notion, at least in many cases. Macs have been growing more restrictive over time, very gradually (hardware as well as software) — how do you boil a frog? For example, a 2001 Mac laptop could (with the right software) play DVDs from any region, while a 2011 Mac laptop enforces the region lock in firmware so even VLC can't help you (though if you're lucky some random hacker has posted an alternate firmware for your particular model on an obscure French web forum that you can try).

    When I first bought an iOS device, I tried it out and asked questions in the store, but I still didn't realize just how restrictive it was going to be. I didn't know that OS upgrades would make it even more restrictive over time, or that web apps would be such unusably poor second-class citizens, or that I couldn't give my own apps to my friends. To this day I don't know how to get the data out of some of my apps, or how to back them up, or restore. I don't think I'm going to buy another one. And seriously, if somebody with a CS degree finds this confusing, I don't expect that most people understand it at all.

    "Customizability and hackability have never been principal design goals of Apple products."

    I think today one could claim they're not a *current* design goal of *the Mac*. Other Apple products, like the Apple II, were absolutely *fantastic* at customizability and hackability. If you were controlling homebuilt robots with your computer in 1990, you were probably doing it with an Apple. The Mac II series was very expandable, in some ways more so than PCs of the day (SCSI! multiple graphics cards!). The Newton, for all its flaws, had an amazingly flexible software language.

    You could summarize the entire life of Apple as a journey from "extremely hackable" (Apple I) to "almost completely un-hackable" (iPad). It's disingenuous to claim that Apple has always been designing products like the iPhone. In the 35 years the company has been around, this is a relatively recent position. To a journalist it should be no great surprise that some of us who are old enough to remember Old Apple feel duped by their recent restrictions, most of which arrived completely unannounced.

  122. Alex Says:

    For someone who claims to follow the FSF, you're doing a rather poor job of understanding the difference between "utility" and "freedom". (Even RMS doesn't do that: he never seems to make any claims about utility.)

    People vote for bread and circuses not because it brings freedom, but because it brings utility. The two are quite often at odds, in the short term. You can say you want bread because you can eat it, and that's an acceptable choice to make, but you should not confuse it for freedom.

    The fact that asking for bread sometimes also helps your freedoms does not mean you have somehow magically redefined "freedom" as "utility". It simply means that they are not opposites.

  123. Pzychotix Says:

    That's a good distinction that should be made. Nothing really prevents you from just building the iOS code directly and putting it onto the phone.

    Apple just prevents you from putting it on the app store.

  124. jbella Says:

    My iPhone 3GS needs a new battery because it barely holds a charge after 2 years of use. I went to amazon and bought a replacement battery complete with tools for opening the phone. Total cost: $7

  125. minimalist Says:

    The inconvenient thing about freedom of choice for many freedom advocates is that true freedom means accepting that people may choose differently than you would like them too. If someone believes the world would be a better place with fewer choices they are just a dictator pushing yet another ideology.

    Trust us, we know what's best for you.

  126. Harry McCracken Says:

    Sorry. Me choosing the tool set I want to use is freedom. Me being obligated to have the same priorities as Richard Stallman is not. Just what is so complicated about that?

    –Harry

  127. Geff Says:

    In many aspects (mail, music – if you have paid to have it all drm free) I agree apple isn’t a prison. However in some parts like the data in my iOS apps and in iBooks my data is imprisoned to apple

  128. Harry McCracken Says:

    I agree that I shoulda mentioned that the Apple II–mostly Woz’s creation–was extremely open. And there’s a good conversation to be had about how open or closed Apple products are, and some of it’s going on here in the comments. (It was a little bit outside the point of my post, which is that any definition of “freedom” which defines me as an idiot for choosing products that please me is damned strange.)

  129. John Says:

    You *do* realize that all of the Sonys and Dells and HPs and Lenovos and every other brand from your local big box stores are made at those same factories, don't you?

  130. Carlos Says:

    Both.

  131. Luke Smith Says:

    Theres lots of motivation to try and get the code. The thousands of people hacking on XDA, for a start. It's full of misguided attempts to get access to non GPL code.

  132. person287 Says:

    When I went onto his site the first thing I though was this just reeks of "I'm right, you're wrong, if you don't think like me just shut it". It just seems so arrogant, from the 'Don't use Facebook (It's evil bla bla bla)', the massive amounts of really unfounded propaganda, and the whole crappiness of the design of the site which just seems like he can't be bothered.

    This isn't a personal attack on him, and if he reads it don't take it personally because I'm not saying you are like that, it's just my impression from the info, and I understand that not all people will agree with me or might interpret it that way, but he just doesn't sound like the sort of person I'd like to be friends with!

  133. Jasper Says:

    Actually, Apple also prevents you from running your own code on a phone you own — the only way to get a binary on there signed with your apple account is through the app store, and the only way to run a binary is to have it signed.

    There is one backdoor: You can buy an iOS developer account ($99/yr), and add your phone as one of the 99 devices that that account uses to beta test its software. You can then proceed to sign your binary for that device using the dev account.

  134. bouncing12 Says:

    Perhaps before slandering someone's reputation, you could be bothered to read the text of what he said and realize that his exact words were "I’m not glad he's dead, but I’m glad he’s gone."

    Bad manners? Rude? Uncalled for? Sure. But in fairness, he said the exact opposite of what you paraphrased him as saying.

  135. bouncing12 Says:

    WebKit is a fork of KHTML, licensed under the GNU General Public License. Apple was legally required to make that fork open source. Darwin is completely irrelevant to everyone but Apple. Nice try, but ask anyone in the actual free software community, and they won't have kind things to say about Apple's "contributions".

  136. Glenn Fleishman Says:

    None of this is actually precisely germane. First, we're not talking about Darwin as a specific work of programming art that influenced the direction of anything. It's just part of the discussion. Second, Apple touches all sorts of projects, as it uses various open-source/free licensed code in Mac OS X Server, Mac OS X, and iOS. I've read the goddamned huge booklet for Apple AirPort Extreme with all the things they've licensed, and looked at contributions online. Have you? Apparently you rely on "actual free software community," which predisposes that everything at Apple is closed.

    Second, whether a fork or no, pretty much everything mobile is derived from WebKit, which has benefited from massive amounts of Apple's time.

    Third, Apple has put millions of hours of programmer time into projects available to everyone, for their own benefit, of course, but enlightened self-interest is a Randian cornerstone of open-source/free, with free as in freedom and actual selflessness on other corners.

    Fourth, the point I started with is that Google is presented as an avatar of open, which it is not. Apple is an avatar of closed, which it is not.

  137. bouncing12 Says:

    I don't mean to suggest that Apple has not contributed to valuable open source projects. Clearly they have, with WebKit being chief among them. Like I said, their hands were tied if they wanted to use KHTML code, but they've also released other related libraries under permissive licenses without being compelled to do so.

    But that's not the point. Microsoft has submitted patches to the Linux kernel. This isn't a contest over who contributes the most lines of code.

    WebKit is Open Source, but Apple may well be in violation of the GPL when it comes to iOS, where users of an Open Source product (WebKit) are prohibited from patching it, in any meaningful way, to run Flash (for example). In 2010, Apple went before the Library of Congress and actually argued that its own users should be treated as criminals if they dare to install unauthorized third party applications. Not that they wouldn't receive support, or that their warranties should be voided, no: Apple argued, in no uncertain terms, that it considered the act of using your iPhone to run software not approved by Apple to be criminal behavior.

    This is what we're talking about when it comes to freedom. Contributing here and there to some Open Source projects is great. Darwin is a welcome addition to the list of barebones Unix frameworks available for reuse. WebKit is almost certainly better than KHTML. And on and on.

    But all of those contributions pale in comparison to what Apple has done in the other direction: setting precedent that general purpose computers should have console-style lock-downs; lobbying that iOS jailbreakers should be thrown in jail; suing competitors that merely reimplement similar features to iOS.

    A slumlord who donates to charity is still a slumlord. (And for the record, Android is only marginally better and in many ways, Google is overall just as bad or worse.)

  138. Niran Sabanathan Says:

    Steve Jobs influence was in creating products that work. There is no mystery to the success of apple and its products. I have friends(mostly computer science type people) that bemoan the closed system of Apple. I don't care – as long as I can get my work done with a minimum of fuss and tinkering; this to me is real freedom.

  139. Job descriptions Says:

    I need an alternate of GNU code..any one?

  140. Michael Says:

    I am a fan of open source and a fan of Apple. The comments Stallman said about Jobs, being in poor taste as they were, are hardly Stallman's biggest sins.

    For that, in my view, look at what Stallman says about sex and children; about how it should be fine in public schools for kids to have uncensored access to porn. Stallman even goes so far to say we should relabel such porn as "educational material" and that blocking kids from this is harmful to them. Just utterly repulsive stuff. For more, do a Google search for the words: stallman sex children

    He is a repulsive man who does more harm to open source than good those days. Linus Torvalds and Mark Shuttleworth are much better faces of open source, even if you do not use Ubuntu.

  141. Professor Tom Says:

    And is precisely what Stallman accuses Apple of.

    Who ever knew that irony could be so delicious?

  142. 211 Says:

    Last time I checked, I can install Windows 7 on any compatible hardware I want and don't have to resort to what people I know refer to as a "hackintosh".

  143. Taehee Kim Says:

    Yes, Apple dropped IBM POWER platform support in 2007. By the way, a laptop I bought — Powerbook G4 Titanium 800 MHz — became utterly useless in less than 5 years. By the time I got into college, support for my laptop was completely dropped. Really, Apple accomplished that which you speak of (moving to a different family of processors) in just under 10 years.

    The beauty of code is that compilers can be built for different platforms. As soon as a new platform comes out, the C-compiler will be the first target. Which means it's up to the company to make the decision of switching. Unfortunately, Apple has done this a lot more often than Microsoft for their desktop OS.

  144. Moose Machine Says:

    Generally people are not techno-savvy and largely unaware of what computers can do for them. When people purchase cars not too many of them pimp it up and change the machinery unless it is broken, or unless they have a requirement for a higher performance. Apple follows a very negative philosophy of not giving their users the chance to do so. For instance, i want Flash because i need it. The device has the computing peripherals to provide it to me. I want the device to do what i want and the device does not have the right to dictate to me what i can or cannot do. It should be working for me, I shouldn’t be working for it. How can i do it? Jailbreak. But Apple threatens to void my warranty (it took a court order to tell them they were wrong). Sorry, Steve, i appreciate the visionary that you were, but your policies were munted. Hopefully his departure will lower Apple’s control freakiness.

  145. don hargrove Says:

    No, that's not what he's saying here Dave. I think you've got it backwards. Harry makes a fair & sensible point. Read your defense of Stallman and you're wrong. We don't have to buy into the "Jobs is God" meme but to start dissing the guy the way Stallman did when the grave was still warm was distasteful