"Twice a year I get to release the song & lyrics, and write a little commentary on something the project dealt with other [than] the release. Hope you guys enjoy," said OpenBSD creator Theo de Raadt, including a link to the latest OpenBSD song. The OpenBSD project maintains a six month release cycle, with the upcoming 4.3 release officially scheduled for May 1st, 2008. Each release includes a song relevant to issues faced by the project during the past six months. The song for the upcoming 4.3 release is titled, "Home to Hypocrisy", with scathing references to some recent postings on the OpenBSD -misc mailing list by Free Software Foundation creator Richard Stallman. In his commentary, Theo explained, "we release our software in ways that are maximally free. We remove all restrictions on use and distribution, but leave a requirement to be known as the authors." He continued, describing the recent confrontation on the OpenBSD -misc mailing list:
"We have a development sub-tree called 'ports'. Our 'ports' tree builds software that is 'found on the net' into packages that OpenBSD users can use more easily. A scaffold of Makefiles and scripts automatically fetch these pieces of software, apply patches as required by OpenBSD, and then build them into nice neat little tarballs. [...] Richard felt that this 'ports tree' of ours made OpenBSD non-free. He came to our mailing lists and lectured to us specifically, yet he said nothing to the many other vendors who do the same; many of them donate to the FSF and perhaps that has something to do with it. Meanwhile, Richard has personally made sure that all the official GNU software -- including Emacs -- compiles and runs on Windows.
"That man is a false leader. He is a hypocrite. There may be some people who listen to him. But we don't listen to people who do not follow their own stupid rules."
"Since you did it three times so rapidly, I am calling you a liar. And since you refuse to undo your commercial support in Emacs and GCC, I am going to call you a hypocrite."
GNU Project and Free Software Foundation founder Richard Stallman posted a message on the OpenBSD -misc mailing list titled, "real men don't attack straw men", suggesting that some comments he had made were being misrepresented. He noted, "one question particularly relevant for this list is why I don't recommend OpenBSD. It is not about what the system allows. (Any general purpose system allows doing anything at all.) It is about what the system suggests to the user." He went on to note that though he knew of no non-free software included in the base OpenBSD system, there was non-free software distributed via the ports collection, "if a collection of software contains (or suggests installation of) some non-free program, I do not recommend it."
In the email, RMS added that he was unsure whether or not OpenBSD includes any non-free firmware blobs. It was pointed out that OpenBSD is known for being explicity focused on not shipping blobs. As for binary firmware, Reyk Floeter explained, "there is a major difference between binary blobs and firmware images; the blobs are loaded as code into the OS kernel, but the firmware runs directly on the device on crappy embedded micro CPUs." Reyk is the author of the reverse engineered ar5k HAL OpenBSD uses to support the Atheros wireless chipset, which was recently adopted by the Linux-based MadWifi project in their ath5k driver. Reyk added, "I'm clearly against binary blobs in the kernel, and in contrast to most of the GNU/Linux dudes I _did_ some against it by writing ar5k, instead of pointing into the wrong direction. This open firmware discussion is just a joke to make the relevant discussion, binary blobs in the OS kernel, irrelevant." Marco Peereboom added, "OpenBSD is by far the most free OS in the landscape. Everything that ships with it is free or else it won't be distributed with it. There is not a single open source OS out there that is more careful than OpenBSD on licensing, copyrights and frivolous patents."
BitKeeper was first utilized by a Linux project in December of 1999, when it was employed by the Linux PowerPC project. Then in February of 2002, Linux creator Linus Torvalds decided that BitKeeper was "the best tool for the job" and started using it to manage the mainline kernel, an event that received much attention in the free and open source communities [story], and beyond. BitMover, the company behind BitKeeper, was founded by its current CEO, Larry McVoy [interview], who originally conceived of BitKeeper as a tool to keep Linus from getting burnt out by the growing task of managing the Linux Kernel. Since Linus began using the tool three years ago, the pace of Linux kernel development has doubled [story].
There are two definitions for the word "free" that are commonly used to describe software. The first is "Free as in Freedom", and the other is "Free as in Free Beer". BitKeeper was made available freely under the latter definition, allowing free and open source software developers to use the tool without having to pay any money. It was provided under the agreement that anyone actively using the free tool would not develop a competing product at the same time. In other words, the aim was to provide a tool that could be freely used, but not freely cloned. At the same time, a more advanced version of BitKeeper has been sold commercially, and both products remain the intellectual property of BitMover.
A vocal group has long protested Linus' use of BitKeeper, considering Linux the free and open source flagship product. GNU Project founder Richard Stallman [interview] is among the protestors, harshly criticizing Linus' decision to use a non-free (as in freedom) tool [story]. However, most acknowledge that no free tool currently exists that is as powerful as BitKeeper, offering the ability to perform truly distributed development. Attempts to reverse engineer some of BitKeeper's features have lead to repeated cautions by BitMover. Most recently two such reverse engineering attempts have contributed to BitMover's decision to end the development and availability of the free BitKeeper product.
Richard Stallman founded the GNU Project in 1984, and the Free Software Foundation in 1985. He also originally authored a number of well known and highly used development tools, including the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC), the GNU symbolic debugger (GDB) and GNU Emacs.
To better understand Richard Stallman and the GNU project, I recommend you begin by reviewing their philosophy page. On it you will find a wealth of information.
We began this interview via email, but later had to finish by telephone after Richard Stallman fell and broke his arm. He was kind enough to speak with me at length, discussing his first contact with computers, his time in the AI lab, the current state of the GNU Hurd, his current role in the Free Software Foundation, the problems with non-free software, and much more. The following words offer much insight into how we got here, and what challenges we still face.
Mark Mitchell commented today on the gcc-announce mailing list that the recent GCC 3.3.1 release [story] includes a new file titled 'README.SCO', expressing outrage at SCO's recent legal actions against the Linux kernel. From the document:
"As all users of GCC will know, SCO has recently made claims concerning alleged copyright infringement by recent versions of the operating system kernel called Linux. SCO has made irresponsible public statements about this supposed copyright infringement without releasing any evidence of the infringement, and has demanded that users of Linux, the kernel most often used with the GNU system, pay for a license. This license is incompatible with the GPL, and in the opinion of the Free Software Foundation such a demand unquestionably violates the GNU General Public License under which the kernel is distributed."
The statement goes on to discuss the possibility of dropping GCC support for the SCO Unix platform in protests, noting however that at this time it would be more of an inconvenience to users than SCO itself, "but we cannot indefinitely continue to ignore the aggression against our community taken by a party that has long profited from the commercial distribution of our programs. We urge users of SCO Unix to make clear to SCO their disapproval of the company's aggression against the free software community." Read on for the full statement, written by Richard Stallman and Eben Moglen.