Skip to content
Welcome guest. | Register | Login | Add
About | Wiki | Legacy

CNR.com and World Domination

The GNU/Linux community is facing a great opportunity that it must take advantage of, the turn of the tide of 64bit computing over an increasingly obsolete 32bit computing. The time is ticking away and if we want our operating system to dominate on the desktop we must act now, even if that means making some compromises. This is pretty much the premise behind the paper known as World Domination 201, an elaborate analysis of this opportunity, current status of the operating systems market with regards to GNU/Linux and what needs to be done for GNU/Linux to take advantage of the opportunity and come out as a winner.

Its authors, Eric Raymond and Rob Landley are taking the conclusions they posed in this paper quite seriously. The scene is already being set and the plot for world domination has already begun. And as far as they are concerned, this is the only or the best way forward. What I see as signs of the plan being put in motion are the promised release of Linspire's CNR software installation service to other major distributions through CNR.com, Eric Raymonds involvement with the Freespire project, Linspire's recent partnership with Ubuntu and ESR's recent adoption of Ubuntu as his distro of choice.

There were also some talks about the "codex" CD mentioned in the paper, a package of legally obtained easily installable proprietary codecs that were to be sold by Linspire.

So let's go over this situation again. We have the most popular and one of the most user friendly and advanced GNU/Linux distributions, Ubuntu, parner with Linspire and adopt their CNR.com service. We also have Ubuntu talk about including some proprietary drivers and blobs into their default installation. We have Linspire offering CNR.com to all major distributions and we have the authors of the "World Domination 201" paper working behind the scenes in support of these strategies. Yes, indeed, the plan has been put in motion.

The Plan

The plan indeed does involve a compromise, if not to the Open Source way of thinking then surely to the freedom-emphasizing Free Software philosophy because it calls for adoption of non-free components in order to make GNU/Linux compelling for mass adoption. However, as I originally understood it, this compromise was to be a temporary one. It was to be made because the free replacements of these "essential" non-free parts would not be fully available in time for the 64bit opportunity to be seized, but the opportunity couldn't be missed.

The idea is to do everything we have to do to make GNU/Linux a dominant operating system and then use this prevalent position to influence others to provide us with the rest of what we need, that is, to replace the proprietary components we're using with free ones.

For example, as presenters of the dominant operating system, major GNU/Linux vendors could be able to put an overwhelming pressure on AMD and Nvidia to release the source code of their graphics card drivers as Free Software. While not everyone shares the ethical philosophy behind Free Software, most people, even in the Open Source community, do believe that having a source code and freedom to share and modify it allows for better technical maintainability, adaptability and overall functional efficiency. This would suggest that there would be enough motivation in the community to push for replacements of non-free with free, even after the dominant position has been achieved.

However, in order for this plan to work, it doesn't appear essential to adopt proprietary software for things for which fully capable free alternatives already do exist. Doing this would mean compromising more than we have to and quite probably risking getting too comfortable with running proprietary software on our systems to want to change this later on.

World Domination of what exactly?

In fact, when you look at what CNR.com will be, there is a possibility of a whole new proprietary software market being created within the GNU/Linux field, thanks to Linspire and CNR.com alone. When asked about how will Linspire financially benefit from CNR.com, CEO of Linspire Kevin Carmony responded:

CNR is a free service, but users have the option of purchasing commercial products and services. We share that revenue with the vendors of these products. This is the main source of revenue for Linspire, so expanding the number of users should increase our sales revenue.

And there lies the crux of the problem. First of all, note that when Kevin says "commercial" he most likely refers not only to commercial Free Software, but to a large extent to non-free proprietary software as well. It is worth noting that equating proprietary software with "commercial" software in a way that implies that all Free Software is non-commercial suggests lack of understanding of what Free Software and indeed Open Source is all about. Second of all, if selling proprietary software is the core revenue source of Linspire and if it will be selling proprietary software through CNR.com service, there is a distinct possibility of a whole market being created around proprietary software by the CNR.com site.

How could that happen? Well think about it. CNR.com will likely be quite popular among people who switch from Windows to GNU/Linux because it will allow basically one-click installation of software in a friendly way. This popularity will then be one of the selling points of Linspire when they offer to sell proprietary software of proprietary vendors through CNR.com. As this leads GNU/Linux popularity to grow more and more, the larger amount of proprietary software vendors will want to sell their software to the GNU/Linux crowd and CNR.com will appear to be the best platform through which they could do that.

Before we know it, this would lead to an increasing number of proprietary applications being sold and advertised through CNR.com to the GNU/Linux users. Rest assured that these proprietary programs will include programs for which perfectly functional Free Software equivalents exist.

So how can a freedom loving Free Software user support this ongoing strategy by this new Linspire led "conglomerate" for world domination if Linspire would actively promote the use of proprietary software among the GNU/Linux users (because it is their core business)? How can we trust that once we do achieve the dominance of GNU/Linux, that this OS which was supposed to be completely Free wont be just another hybrid of free and proprietary?

The more I think about it, the more I am concerned that the "World Domination 201" plan at work here is more about the domination of a yet another mixed operating system and not the world domination of software freedom. And is that even worth having? If this is really what we are fighting for then why not just save us the effort and support Mac OS X for they have already made an incredible operating system which is a hybrid of non-free on top and free on the bottom.

It really comes down to a simple choice for everyone of us. Either we care about software freedom and prevalence of *that*, or we care about a yet another OS, "Linux", and the domination of merely *that*. If we care about the former, we will examine critically what Linspire and CNR.com will be offering and if it turns out to be a efficient pipe of delivering proprietary software to the GNU/Linux land, in addition to being a yet another nice way of installing Free Software, maybe it would be better to just stick to our existing installation tools, apt-get, pacman, yum etc.

Or maybe the freedom loving community should forget about Linspire and set up an equivalent service to CNR.com which won't be pushing proprietary software on us. GNewSense guys, any ideas? Eye

For those who may now be asking, "But how do we then achieve world domination and take advantage of the opportunity without CNR.com or even without a compromise?" Well, stay tuned to Libervis. In our next article we may just answer that question. Smiling

Thank you
Danijel

More information:

Comments

democrates wrote: I guess

democrates wrote:

I guess the Machiavellian side of me would welcome any loss of revenue to the anti-freedom os vendors, and the impact of news that their market share has begun to fall in favour of free os's.

Same here actually, of course, the less money for proprietary software development the better (and consequently more money there will be for Free Software development). Of course, however, that "free os" would really have to be a free os.

If you ask Richard Stallman, he would tell you that even a very small amount of proprietary software in a free system (like 1%) would make that system basically non-free as a whole, because you wouldn't be able to share that whole in freedom when that single non-free license makes it illegal. You have to remove that non-free part to be able to share that system (assuming that the license of that non-free part forbids free copying and redistribution).

This is why if you want a legally completely free system you can't get an OS with even 1% of non-free in it. However I'm entering some rather complex and murky waters here. For example, Ubuntu contains some non-free bits and is yet free to share as a whole, probably because the license of these non-free parts allows sharing even while it doesn't allows derivate works and misses the source code. For that, different kinds of restrictions apply.

But in any case, as soon as you add something non-free you basically taint your freedom a bit, make a bit of a compromise because if you care about that, then you have to be constantly aware that "yeah, my system is free *except* this binary blob here, that driver there, these codecs here, etc" It is an annoyance, it is like a little rock in your sneakers that keeps hurting your feet while you try to run. You want to get rid of it.

But of course, you really have to look at it this way to even care. Those who don't care enough to even know the license of what they're installing will be unaware of whether they are signing off any rights and which those rights are. For those people who can't even afford to care, somebody else should choose (us techies, distribution vendors etc.). This is why I always advocate 100% free by default.

Uh, now I've ranted quite a bit there.. let's go to the next point.. Smiling

Quote:

On a wider point which I'm hazy on, would more free os users guarantee more leverage for free drivers?

Guarantee? To be honest we probably can't really know that for sure. We would "likely" have more leverage, but would it be a guarantee that they will listen to us more than they would if we just decided to refuse shipping their proprietary drivers *today* and build our steam on our own (reverse engineering those drivers that we can, and boycotting the products for which we can't), I don't know. But it's a good question to tackle for the next article. Smiling

Quote:

I know my dad would rather clean out the garage than use a command line, so freecnr.com or a gui installer like adept is where to reach him. Could our facility highlight beside each option, 1. Price 2. License Restrictions. This way he can compare and learn to choose wisely for himself.

I think that unfortunately a_thing is right. People don't read license agreements even if they fly with big letters in their face. As soon as they reas the word "license" and a button that says "agree" somewhere, they'll hit it and move on. That's mainstream population for you today.

So we really have two options:

1. Don't even offer anything proprietary from this supposed FreeCNR.com, therefore simply removing the possibility of them getting proprietary software in such an easy way. Of course, the problem here is the usual. If something wont work without proprietary software the general mainstream type of user will likely just attribute this to the OS as a whole and call it a piece of junk for it doesn't work. So, it's not a perfect option, hiding proprietary software and the truth of it completely.

2. We include proprietary parts in FreeCNR.com, but in a special separate section which we could maybe even call something like nonfreeCNR.com. In it we would include *only* things that are usually highly demanded and for which free alternatives don't exist yet or are simply not even functional yet. So no pushing of unessential proprietary applications and bragging about them paying for our service, like on CNR.com. In fact, the section could have red, but attractive "warning" labels which would not display the license of these things, but a simple, quick, short description like this: "Software in this section is free to install, but illegal to share with anyone else, without source code and probably could contribute to destabilizing your system". That's it. no EULA, nothing hard to understand. Just something to make the one clicking to get this proprietary software step back a bit and consider the consequences of what they're doing.

The second point isn't the best either, for the mere fact it means a compromise (uncompromising would be to not at all offer any proprietary software), but if we'd follow a "temporary compromise" strategy then this could be a way to offer users the convenience at their own choosing, but with a slight slap in the wrist, a warning, a first step towards educating them about the danger of proprietary software. Of course, the red text would have a "read more" link, so curious souls can indeed go and learn more about that weird warning they're seeing. Smiling

This would be much better than what CNR.com will be, and is much more in line with the WD201 plan. It's just not totally uncompromising, but it's a pragmatic step towards a goal that is rid of all compromises.

Note though that I'm not yet definitely embracing the "temporary compromise" theory as completely necessary. It'd be good to further examine what exactly can we accomplish completely without non-free software.

Quote:

Application tutorials may be another channel to reach users with some *brief* copy that gets our message across and links to further info. Such copy could be re-used by a lot of free
apps,

Indeed. On a freecnr site it would be a good idea to feature such tutorials.

Your arguement is backwards

 

"If more and more of these "niche software" were available more and more people could (and most probably would) use Linux."

Without good OSS apps there is no reason for people whom use proprietary "niche software" apps to switch to Linux. The only way Linux will achieve larger market share it to improve OSS apps. That is what is happening and why proprietary "niche software" apps are becoming more available on Linux.

So using Netscape in 1997

 

So using Netscape in 1997 when there was _no_alternative_ was a bad thing? Boycotting them would have helped them to open their source code?

Show me open source tax

 

Show me open source tax software. Also explain to me something well over 50% of the population needs every year is a niche.

Neither Eric nor myself run

 

Neither Eric nor myself run Linspire. (Eric advises them way more directly than I do, but that's by no means the same as being CEO.)

I personally don't like the "click and run" approach. Linspire was working on "click and run" long before we wrote the 64-bit deadline document, and they repurposed an existing project rather than start a new one.

The important part is that they can sell the license bundle to OEMs so we can get preinstalls so a pediatric oncologist doesn't have to switch off his pager for six hours a week to fiddle with his PC if he wants to use Linux. They also need to be able to sell the license bundle to end-users so OEMs aren't _special_. And the licenses need to be portable so you don't have to pay for them AGAIN when you move to a new machine.

And the _really_ important part is to identify what all the patents are and when they _expire_. Which unfortunately won't be until _after_ the new standard software platform for x86_64 gets entrenched.

> No, you don't. But CNR is

 

> No, you don't. But CNR is encouraging the uninformed
> to use nonfree software.

Because the uninformed would clearly jump onto straight Linux that can't view DVDs or internet video if there wasn't this darn CNR thing in the way.

And moving somebody's sytem to 80% free software is _worse_ than leaving them on Windows, because that remaining 20% is just so clearly superior that once we've given up the advantage of the Linux kernel Stallman didn't write, we can't possibly replace it later. Our only hope is bundling our advantages with our disadvantages to cram them down people's throats in the name of freedom.

For the same reason, porting Gimp and FireFox and OpenOffice to Windows is just evil because it dilutes the purity of free software. We can't give them the choice to move towards our position without going all the way because increasing choice decreases freedom!

Rob

>Show me open source tax

>Show me open source tax software.

Turbocash which is under the GPL as far as I understand. It is reportedly being ported to GNU/Linux, but I don't know how long this will take as it is currently written in Delphi.

RTFA

 

What does CNR have to do with the article? The only non-free software advocated by the essay was the Codex, which have free implementations, but can't be used for legal reasons. The essay doesn't even mention CNR at all. CNR does have problems, but don't confuse it with the Codex.

I never said "World

I never said "World Domination 201" article mentions CNR. It mentions Linspire as a potentially good choice for a provider of the Codex CD.

The reason why I focused on CNR making a connection between it and WD201 is that CNR quite obviously fits the spirit of the article and the announcement of it becoming available for major distros comes almost right after the WD201 has been published. Another connection is ESR being on the board of Linspire which gives him quite a bit of influence on what the company does.

> Neither Eric nor myself

> Neither Eric nor myself run Linspire. (Eric advises them way more directly than I do, but that's by no means the same as being CEO.) (...)

Alright, so this would basically mean that CNR was not necessarily a direct product of your paper and that you did not have so much to do with CNR and its expansion to other distros as I might have thought. Linspire may have been influenced by the paper, especially considering that one of its authors is on the board of Freespire, but you can't control what people do once they read your paper.

However, I guess I just don't trust ESR so much. It seems to me more and more that you and him aren't exactly on the same page even with this issue. I am afraid ESR just wont care enough to emphasize the exact strategy outlined in the paper and that he will easily let Linspire compromise even more than the paper suggests as necessary. I wouldn't be surprised to see ESR rally behind CNR.com service once it is fully out. We know what his views are and they are utterly against the ideological standing presented by the FSF.

To recap the point, if WD201 advocates a compromise that is temporary and only in areas where the compromise is really necessary to catch the 64bit train, will ESR be strict enough in enforcing this vision and strongly urge it to be exactly like this or will he let Linspire or whoever a lot of leeway with proprietary software?

If nothing than for your participation on this site and your clarifications I find myself much easier to trust you that you'll honestly "stick to the deal", but I'm not so sure about ESR.

Add to that my ongoing uncertainty in whether any compromise is truly necessary right now and whether 64bit train is really all that important as the paper makes it out to be. Some here believe that we will eventually prevail anyway, even by sticking to 100% Free Software by default.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.