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nair
August 17th, 2009, 08:36 AM
I have been doing a lot of reading lately on the web about open source software development, as I am now a brand new Linux user on one of my home PCs. I came across the High Priority Free Software Projects link yesterday, posted below:

http://www.fsf.org/campaigns/priority.html

A lot of these projects I find fascinating, and others I find a little bit ambigious or mysterious. Specifically, I didn't quite understand the nature of the first two projects, both of which are open source counters to Adobe developments, the first relating to PDF file formats, and the second relating to Adobe Flash (swf) content. Since receiving either PDF or flash content is essentially free for everyone already, I suppose that the Free Software Foundation specifically wants to make open source applications that can create, edit, or otherwise "deal with" .pdf and .swf files. In other words, it's not the free aspect but rather the open source aspect of these file types that is worth pursuing. Is that the general focus for these projects? Are Linux developers more interested in developing this content or simply receiving this content, or both?

Viva
August 17th, 2009, 09:15 AM
Firstly, Free software is not the same as Open Source, so you're supposed to use the former term when talking about the FSF. Flash is not Free. The flash plugin is free as in beer, but it is not Free software.

trilobite
August 17th, 2009, 10:05 AM
I have been doing a lot of reading lately on the web about open source software development, as I am now a brand new Linux user on one of my home PCs.

(snip)

Welcome!



(snip)
I suppose that the Free Software Foundation specifically wants to make open source applications that can create, edit, or otherwise "deal with" .pdf and .swf files. In other words, it's not the free aspect but rather the open source aspect of these file types that is worth pursuing. Is that the general focus for these projects?
(snip)

Yes, you've pretty much got it "spot-on" there! The "open source" aspect is very important. I can use Microsoft as a good counter-example. Allow me to explain...

Microsoft's Office apps (Excel, Word and so on) use their own proprietary (non open-source) format. This format is (of course) under the complete control of Microsoft, and they can change it at any time, for any reason. This means that those people (or companies) that have lots of their data in Excel or Word files have two possible options when Microsoft changes formats -

a) They can sigh, and just "go with the flow", paying more money for the latest MS Office suite which uses the new formats. Or -

b) They can say "blow this - we've had enough of this", and they can look at switching to (say) OpenOffice.org which is a free and open-source office suite.

"(a)" above is an example of "vendor lock-in".
Companies like Microsoft rely on people's "inertia", basically - that people will just passively accept a format-change and fork out more money for a new version of Office.

Fortunately, there are an increasing number of people and companies for whom that is no longer the case. They have reaslised that open-source apps can (and do) compete very well with proprietary ones, and often (in the case of (say) Firefox) **far exceed** the quality and features of their proprietary "equivalents" (Internet Explorer in that example).
Hope this helps.... :)
- trilobite

Bachstelze
August 17th, 2009, 10:23 AM
Not a support question. Moved to the Cafe.

SunnyRabbiera
August 17th, 2009, 11:21 AM
Both Flash and Acrobat are free to install and use, but not free to ship and redistribute by the end user, same thing goes with most proprietary software that is free to download, but not free to modify, redistribute or ship.

t0p
August 17th, 2009, 11:29 AM
OP: when talking about the Free Software Foundation and free software, "free" != zero cost. Rather, "free" is as in freedom... liberation.

So, software that costs nothing is not necessarily free software. And it is quite possible to have to pay for free software.

I suggest you do a lot more reading at fsf.org, if you want to understand the concepts.

bryonak
August 17th, 2009, 12:37 PM
OP: when talking about the Free Software Foundation and free software, "free" != zero cost. Rather, "free" is as in freedom... liberation.

So, software that costs nothing is not necessarily free software. And it is quite possible to have to pay for free software.

I suggest you do a lot more reading at fsf.org, if you want to understand the concepts.

Exactly... new users are often unaware of our usage of the term "free".
There are "free as in free beer" applications that you can download at zero cost.
Then there's "free as in freedom" software, which is what the Free Software Foundation, GNU and a good deal of FOSS (Free & Open Source Software) is about.
It's what we usually refer to when talking about free (sometimes capitalised as Free).

I recommend you read the preamble of the GNU GPL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/gpl.html) to get the basic idea.

Then there's Open Source, the other part of FOSS. It's less "Free" than Free Software in that it doesn't care as much about morals... it's the pragmatic approach, so to say. Many businesses prefer it because it allows them to close the derived code and make it proprietary (e.g. when it's BSD-licensed).

Here's (http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/open-source-misses-the-point.html) a good read on the difference.

Bachstelze
August 17th, 2009, 12:43 PM
Then there's Open Source, the other part of FOSS. It's less "Free" than Free Software in that it doesn't care as much about morals... it's the pragmatic approach, so to say. Many businesses prefer it because it allows them to close the derived code and make it proprietary (e.g. when it's BSD-licensed).

The BSD license is in no way less free than the GPL. Even the FSF lists it as a Free Software license.

bryonak
August 17th, 2009, 12:57 PM
The BSD license is in no way less free than the GPL. Even the FSF lists it as a Free Software license.

Not to start a dispute here: your statement is correct.
Mine too, if you read it the way I intended... the GPL is not more free than the BSDL, but it's more "Free" (which is what I've written ;) of course, given that you take the FSF's definiton of Free Software)
But let's not continue the hairsplitting.
Most Open Source Software is Free Software and vice versa. That's why we generally use the term FOSS. It's actually a small but nevertheless existant difference.

@EDavidBurg:
Yes, that's a matter of ... "taste".
It depends on whether you see unquestionable freedom or enforced freedom as "true" freedom.
Huh... I'm seeing ghosts ;D

Bachstelze
August 17th, 2009, 01:01 PM
the GPL is not more free than the BSDL, but it's more "Free" (which is what I've written ;) of course, given that you take the FSF's definiton of Free Software)


No, it's not ;) What is the FSF's definition of Free Software?

http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html


Free software is a matter of the users' freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. More precisely, it refers to four kinds of freedom, for the users of the software:

* The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).
* The freedom to study how the program works, and change it to make it do what you wish (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
* The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2).
* The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements (and modified versions in general) to the public, so that the whole community benefits (freedom 3). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.


The GPL and BSD license both provide these four freedoms. Therefore, neither is more "free" than the other.

bryonak
August 17th, 2009, 01:38 PM
@HymnToLife:
Hehe, you're right. Because both copyleft and the moral aspects are so present throughout the FSF's statements, I assumed they were the endpoint of the freedom scale.
As your link shows, they are not inlcuded in the basic definition. Thanks for the correction :)

nair
August 17th, 2009, 01:45 PM
So do these developers want to create an open source application that can receive these .swf and .pdf files, or create them, or both?

koenn
August 17th, 2009, 02:46 PM
So do these developers want to create an open source application that can receive these .swf and .pdf files, or create them, or both?
according to the website you refer to they want
a/ a free software Flash player
b/ free software to handle all aspects of pdf (as defined in ISO 32000)

forrestcupp
August 17th, 2009, 03:01 PM
@the OP,
You'll find out quickly that there are a group of people running the Free Software world who believe that it's morally wrong to distribute and even use proprietary software, so they choose to reinvent the wheel to create FOSS alternatives that usually take years to develop a version that is comparable to an ancient version of the proprietary counterpart, all the while preaching that one of the benefits of FOSS is that you don't have to reinvent the wheel. :)



The GPL and BSD license both provide these four freedoms. Therefore, neither is more "free" than the other.I would argue that BSD is way freer than GPL. For touting software freedom, the GPL sure has a lot of restrictions. I kind of like the zlib/libpng license, myself.

Bachstelze
August 17th, 2009, 03:07 PM
I would argue that BSD is way freer than GPL. For touting software freedom, the GPL sure has a lot of restrictions. I kind of like the zlib/libpng license, myself.

The message you quoted discussed the "freeness" of those licenses as defined by the FSF. Let's not start a licenses flamewar, thanks.

koenn
August 17th, 2009, 03:38 PM
@the OP,
You'll find out quickly that there are a group of people running the Free Software world who believe that it's morally wrong to distribute and even use proprietary software, so they choose to reinvent the wheel to create FOSS alternatives that usually take years to develop a version that is comparable to an ancient version of the proprietary counterpart, all the while preaching that one of the benefits of FOSS is that you don't have to reinvent the wheel. :)
That's a pretty good spin, worthy of a salesman or a lawyer, but you (hopefully) know it's not true.

For starters:
- Free software people's goal is to create free software (and, possibly, a free society).
They don't give a sh*t about not reinventing the wheel, on the contrary, it's actually their goal to have a free alternative for any relevant proprietary piece of software.

vs.

- Open source people are the ones that advertise 'not reinventing the wheel' as one of the the benefits of their preferred development model.


Both groups make clear distinctions betwehen themselves and the other group. Your statement hinges on throwing them both together in 'FOSS' to muddy the waters : they have different goals so attributing one group's goals to the other group in order to create a contradiction, is a fallacy.


just wanted to point that out,
not interested in an Open Source vs. Free Software debate.

forrestcupp
August 17th, 2009, 06:50 PM
Both groups make clear distinctions betwehen themselves and the other group. Your statement hinges on throwing them both together in 'FOSS' to muddy the waters : they have different goals so attributing one group's goals to the other group in order to create a contradiction, is a fallacy.
You know as well as I do that F/OSS stands for Free / Open Source Software. From Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_and_Open_Source_Software):

'F/OSS' is an inclusive term generally synonymous with both free software and open source software which describe similar development models, but with differing cultures and philosophies. 'Free software' focuses on the philosophical freedoms it gives to users and 'open source' focuses on the perceived strengths of its peer-to-peer development model. Many people relate to both aspects and so 'F/OSS' is a term that can be used without particular bias towards either camp.

They have different things they focus on, but it's inevitable that there are a lot of likenesses between the two camps.

You and I have been around for a while, and it's definitely been my experience that there are Free Software people who promote the benefits of not "reinventing the wheel". It's part of the mantra to help convince people that the philosophy is worth caring about.

koenn
August 17th, 2009, 07:12 PM
You know as well as I do that F/OSS stands for Free / Open Source Software. From Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_and_Open_Source_Software):
yes, and I also know that the term F/OSS is mainly used in situations where the (primarily philosophical) difference between Free Software and Open Source are quasi irrelevant, or by people who choose to not make the distinction (or don't understand that distinction).

On the other hand, one of the main spokespeople of FSF downright refuses to use the term 'open source', while the guy who coined the term Open Source is allergic to the term 'Free Software' ...



They have different things they focus on, but it's inevitable that there are a lot of likenesses between the two camps.

You and I have been around for a while, and it's definitely been my experience that there are Free Software people who promote the benefits of not "reinventing the wheel". It's part of the mantra to help convince people that the philosophy is worth caring about.
yes, but I doubt those people can be considered 'running the Free Software world"

Like I said, nice spin, but still spin.

Bölvağur
August 17th, 2009, 07:34 PM
GNU PDF (http://www.fsf.org/campaigns/priority.html#gnupdf)
Gnash — the free software Flash player (http://www.fsf.org/campaigns/priority.html#gnash)

I knot know the GNU PDF project but I think these are both clients to view but not edit.

Viva
August 17th, 2009, 07:37 PM
yes, and I also know that the term F/OSS is mainly used in situations where the (primarily philosophical) difference between Free Software and Open Source are quasi irrelevant, or by people who choose to not make the distinction (or don't understand that distinction).

On the other hand, one of the main spokespeople of FSF downright refuses to use the term 'open source', while the guy who coined the term Open Source is allergic to the term 'Free Software' ...


yes, but I doubt those people can be considered 'running the Free Software world"

Like I said, nice spin, but still spin.

+1. RMS wrote an awesome article about the difference between them. I think it is available as one of the RMS essays on fsf.org. Anyway, FOSS is a term used by neutrals who don't want to align themselves with either side.

schauerlich
August 17th, 2009, 09:43 PM
+1. RMS wrote an awesome article about the difference between them. I think it is available as one of the RMS essays on fsf.org.

http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/open-source-misses-the-point.html


Anyway, FOSS is a term used by neutrals who don't want to align themselves with either side.

Or by those who think the whole argument is semantics and pointless.

koenn
August 17th, 2009, 10:00 PM
Or by those who think the whole argument is semantics and pointless.
it is semantics - i.e. concerning words and their meaning - but that happens to be the point, so it's not pointless

SunnyRabbiera
August 17th, 2009, 10:18 PM
So do these developers want to create an open source application that can receive these .swf and .pdf files, or create them, or both?

No, thats not what we are getting at here.
PDF and swf creation is not the goal, no the goal is to create a 100% free as in freedom alternative to both flash and adobe reader.
Again you seem to mis understand the difference between free as in freedom and free as in beer when concerning software.
This is quite confusing yes but I think it can be explained like this:

The free as in beer approach:
You go into a grocery store, you walk to the back of the store and see a guy giving out free samples of a food that he made and wanted everyone to sample his new new recipe.
You can get the free sample but he is unwilling to tell you the recipe, you want more of his food but he then tells you that you cant have more samples and if you want more you need to pay him $5 or buy the full meal for $20.
He also tells the people who get the free samples cannot share them with a friend, and if they wanted a larger sample they would need to pay $3.

The free as in freedom approach:
You go into a grocery store, you walk to the back of the store and see a guy giving out free samples of a food that he made and wanted everyone to sample his new recipe.
You can get the free sample and then he offers you the recipe without charge and he also says that you can share that recipe with others.
He offers more then just one sample to you, he also samples his other recipes for free.
He also tell the people they can share their food samples without charge and a larger sample is also free.

Bachstelze
August 17th, 2009, 10:21 PM
No, thats not what we are getting at here.
PDF and swf creation is not the goal, no the goal is to create a 100% free as in freedom alternative to both flash and adobe reader.


And what exactly would the free alternatives to Flash and Adobe Reader do, if it's not about reading/creating Flash objects and PDFs?

forrestcupp
August 18th, 2009, 01:07 PM
The free as in freedom approach:
You go into a grocery store, you walk to the back of the store and see a guy giving out free samples of a food that he made and wanted everyone to sample his new recipe.
You can get the free sample and then he offers you the recipe without charge and he also says that you can share that recipe with others.
He offers more then just one sample to you, he also samples his other recipes for free.
He also tell the people they can share their food samples without charge and a larger sample is also free.

And then he goes home to his cardboard box on the street to try to comfort his starving children because he gave all his food and livelihood away to everyone else. He did offer to help people use his recipe for a small fee to be able to support his family, but nobody paid him for his help because there were so many people with his recipe that they all formed a forum and figured it out together without his help. Then the group of people all got mad at the first guy because of the mistakes he made in his recipe, and because he wasn't coming up with new recipes fast enough. So the first guy ended up having to listen to a bunch of ungrateful whining from all the people he gave the recipe to, and also from his wife who is mad that he wasted his time and can't support his family. :)

koenn
August 18th, 2009, 02:46 PM
Why so pessimistic ?
How about


one day, a guy who owns a world-wide chain of stores and restaurants comes in the shop, tastes some of the food, is impressed, and offers the guy a top level job in his multi-national company, where the guy gets paid to just continue doing what he did beforte: improve his recipes and create new ones. The guy takes the job and lives happily ever after.

23meg
August 18th, 2009, 03:30 PM
@the OP,
You'll find out quickly that there are a group of people running the Free Software world who believe that it's morally wrong to distribute and even use proprietary software, so they choose to reinvent the wheel to create FOSS alternatives that usually take years to develop a version that is comparable to an ancient version of the proprietary counterpart, all the while preaching that one of the benefits of FOSS is that you don't have to reinvent the wheel. :)

One of the benefits of (where are my big red arrows..) → FOSS← is that you don't have to (http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/archives/001145.html) reinvent the wheel.

You need a FOSS ecosystem to have that advantage: disclosed code, respect to the basic freedoms in running, modifying and sharing the code, open standards and specifications, participants that practice and contribute to the FOSS culture, so on. FOSS is not a magical formula that you can apply anywhere to reap its benefits.

When implementing a FOSS alternative to a piece of non-free, closed source software based on a closed specification, produced by a software company that doesn't contribute to FOSS in general, or your implementation in special to any substantial extent, if not straight out hindering them, it should be obvious that you're not going to be able to enjoy benefits such as not having to reinvent the wheel. That is, unless you take "reinventing the wheel" as known in FOSS culture out of context to include any act of producing alternatives to existing software.

I hate having to go to some length to state the obvious, but that's how it is: you have to have the wheel in order to be able to even speak about reinventing it.

dannyboy79
September 2nd, 2009, 02:46 PM
don't know if this link has been posted but I found it very useful.

http://www.linuxrsp.ru/win-lin-soft/table-eng.html