I somehow managed to create a small ripple at apple.slashdot.com with a post a while back essentially giving my standard GNG rant "against" BSD licenses.

I've been meaning to find time to blog about this adequately, but haven't yet. So here goes the important point to me...

It appears that there are some that believe that FreeBSD accomplishes its work precisely by being so "free" that people appropriate it for their own commercial purposes -- but the initial work has so much momentum, its legacy contributions essentially create an interoperable conversation or standard. More simply, FreeBSD's openness meant Apple could choose it as the base of OS X, versus GNU/Linux. FreeBSD's stability, etc, meant that Apple did choose it. And now, no matter how much OpenDarwin whines (again, my characterization of one type of FreeBSD champion-er) about not getting the sort of collaboration from Apple they felt they deserved (apparently some packages from Apple wouldn't even compile, iirc), more Mac users now know how to use, say, the "ls" command than ever before. Apple users now know *NIX, where before they were simply masters of the Extension Manager.

This is a very interesting point. It's a much less idealistic motivation than my reasons behind GNG, and much MUCH less idealistic than Stallman's for GNU. One must also admit that it's been at least partially [very] successful. I'm not sure of an example more powerful than OS X & Free BSD, but that's a very convincing one.

Oh, don't worry. I'm not convinced, personally. Perhaps many FreeBSDers feel the way I've described, above, but many don't. Thus OpenDarwin's frustration. My post, entitled, "BSD's Fault," was only meant to speak directly towards OpenDarwin's predicament, which was the subject of the Slashdot story about which everyone was ostensibly speaking. If you don't want to end up where OpenDarwin is, failing because you expected a commercial company to return the favor they received when grabbing very open BSD'd code, then you don't use nor support BSD.

I'm also one that believes GNU/Linux's (and also Tomcat's and MySQL's, etc) adoption by many businesses is a much more powerful set of success stories than those of BSD's. The GPL does a decent job of delineating where its influence ends. With GNU/Linux, etc, where the app stops, many have been able to make a living programming new code (Perl, php, etc) or creating very impressive documentation (ora.net, anyone?) about these more closed, Freely licensed techs. That these techs are more prevalent on the server side means they are relatively invisible compared to, say, OS X, but their power in dollars (as a quickly picked, stereotypical measuring stick) is much much greater.

I believe Apple should feel their ethics demand they give more back to BSD, and help ensure that Darwin, OS X's FreeBSD, compiles for most serious hobbyists. Apple, not caring what these hobbyists add to apps in the future (and in some respects, I don't blame them), is treating and will continue to treat them as third class citizens. That's the fault of an idealistic interpretation of the way BSD works that GNU (or GNG) protects programmers from experiencing, and they still manage to get a whale of a lot of work done.

This leaves me wondering if GNU will ever be a serious contender for the desktop. I don't know.

Labels: , ,