If you're going to call hypocrite, it would help to be right

Story: Why Stallman is right about Steve JobsTotal Replies: 10
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Oct 16, 2011
6:34 AM EDT
Stallman is a nasty jerk.

Let's look at the line Varghese quotes so approvingly:

"Steve Jobs, the pioneer of the computer as a jail made cool, designed to sever fools from their freedom, has died."

Stallman chooses his language very carefully, so it is fair to parse his statements carefully.

"The pioneer.."

"The" is singular. It implies a unique and exalted (or infamous) position. "Pioneer" is somebody who ventures into new areas.


Whatever Jobs may have been, he was there at the beginning and he was alone.

"jail made cool".

That's an interesting thought all by itself, but let's try to figure out what that means, in light of Job's unique pioneering status.

He could be referring to all of the parents given little choice but to take their kids to see Toy Story, Monsters, Inc, The Incredibles, Wall-E, etc. But..."The pioneer"? Disney went down that road years ago with "Fantasia", "Sleeping Beauty", "The Lion King", etc. That jail was built years ago. And it was cool right from the beginning. Pixar made it more fun. They didn't invent the idea of trademarks, copyright, or being forced to stand in line at the concession stand. They did, however, make some nice movies that let grown-ups enjoy the same thing their kids were watching. Maybe Stallman objects to people having a good time.

He could be referring to Apple computers. Apple was there in the early days with the Apple II. Jobs and Wozniak certainly were among the pioneers of personal computing. But that jail thing...

The Apple II -- reflecting Wozniak more than Jobs -- wasn't exactly a jail. It was chock full of slots and empty space inviting hackers to fill them up. All kinds of non-Apple stuff, including a Z-80 card (made by Microsoft!!!) running CP/M found their way into those slots. Sounds like a freedom machine, not a jail, esp with reference to contemporaries like the TRS-80.

If he's talking about computers, he'd have to be talking Mac, which was very Jobs-driven. The Mac OS has always been proprietary and, except for a brief period when Jobs had been exiled from Apple, available only on Apple hardware. But the Mac came out in 1984, well after the IBM PC, and TRS-80, early Atari computers and a slew of others, not to mention big iron world where IBM had always been proprietary as hell. For that matter machines like the Commodore 64, the soon-to-be released Commodore Amiga, and the Atari St also used proprietary Operating Systems. CP/M could be used on a variety of hardware, but the OS itself was proprietary.

In that regard, Jobs was just One of the Crowd, not that unique Satan on Earth, "The Pioneer". That first Mac, if it was a jail, wasn't even especially cool. It was a feeble little device that didn't find a market until postscript laser printers let it become a desktop publishing engine. Then it "severed fools from their money" in much the same way that Video Toaster equipped Amigas (much cooler than Macs) severed fools from theirs: It let them do sophisticated work for a fraction of the cost of the dedicated proprietary hardware of the day. Hmmm. Sounds like it saved those fools a whole bunch of money and...maybe that's not so foolish.

Later Macs could as easily be characterized as Freedom Machines as jails. Many of the people buying Macs are moving away from the also proprietary Windows platform, and doing so willingly. Those Macs can run Linux, if you choose, and are built on top of a BSD kernel which --- lo and behold! -- can natively run a great big pile GPL'd software.

One place where "the pioneer" fits is iTunes, a truly wretched and DRM-infested piece of work inflicted on millions upon millions of somewhat innocent victims. But.... remember the genesis -- iTunes started out as an online music store making major label recordings available for download. The record labels were not going to let their cash cows go out the door for free, and they were not going to let them go up for download without protection. The alternative to iTunes was not Napster -- which got sued out of existence -- it was taking a trip down to the record store (remember those/) to buy expensive CDs full of music just to get one song they wanted. iTunes was and is a jail. I suppose it's even cool in some dysfunctional way. Severing fools from their money? Maybe, but...those fools are saving a lot of money by downloading just the songs they want instead of buying whole CDs.

The truth is that Steve Jobs was a businessman. He did many of the bad things businesspeople do. That is not what made him special. Many others walked that road before him. What made him special was the way he drove products that people wanted and enjoyed, products that made their lives better. Other people try that and end up making Zunes. And he did it right up to the end of the life, even making a deal with the devil (Microsoft) to save the company he founded and others destroyed in his absence.Jobs may not warrant hero-worship, but accolades are well-earned in much the same way we can celebrate Thomas Jefferson and George Washington even though both men owned slaves.

Richard Stallman, on the other hand, was a true pioneer and a free software giant who seems determined to go out as a nasty little troll.

Kind of a shame given what we owe the man.


Hmmm. As I noted earlier, Jobs was pushing forward to the very end. I notice that today's LXer postings include a story on the sorry state of high-profile Gnu projects. Maybe Stallman should pull his foot out of his mouth long enough to right the ship.

Oct 16, 2011
12:09 PM EDT
This seems to be my 'metoo dino' day. It is never effective to wag the finger of shame and tell people "You must not do this." Or to call them fools, or to rant how stupid they are for using The Wrong Stuff. That never works. Duh. What works is a positive approach that highlights the advantages of Free Software. If we can't offer an attractive alternative, if Free Software can't attract people on its own merits, condemnation and judgment surely are not going to fill the gap. I'm rather appalled at how many supposed free software fans don't understand the difference between being effective and being a jerk who chases people away. It's a broad, bright line.

Oct 16, 2011
1:36 PM EDT
Darn it, tuxchick,

I just can't get the rating button to work. Karmic 5 stars to you.

Oct 16, 2011
2:08 PM EDT
@tuxchick: I fully agree with you. I've attended quite a few LUG parties around here over the last ten years to see what harm zealotry can actually do. Tell folks they got it all wrong, and all you do is chase them away. I have a nice hands-on example of how things *can* work out. More often than not, I have to install a lone Linux server in a SOHO network, in replacement of a Windows server. Client machines are usually a mix of Windows XP, Vista and Seven. I setup my Samba server, connect all the clients, show employees how to use the thing, and sometimes, I get the chance to sneak in an additional Linux client. What I do in that case is teach one employee how to use the machine. More often than not, folks call me back and ask me if they can take the migration a step further, until the average scenario for client machines is nine Linux clients and one single Windows client to run the accountant's MS-only software on. Use the Force, but don't force :o)

Oct 16, 2011
2:42 PM EDT
dinotrac: you are a few steps ahead of me. i can't even 'find' the rating button!

tuxchick, you have now fully redeemed yourself for some of your comments against kde4.0. thank you!

greetings, eMBee.

Oct 16, 2011
5:07 PM EDT
Their is a rating button?

Oct 16, 2011
5:10 PM EDT
@koriel -

If you click the ruby slippers together three times while saying "I want to rate this comment", it will appear.

Oct 16, 2011
5:13 PM EDT
Ahh i see, so this rating button is in Kansas then.

Oct 16, 2011
5:38 PM EDT
Quoting:Ahh i see, so this rating button is in Kansas then.

No, only in the Land of Oz. :-)

Wonderful land of Oz


Oct 16, 2011
5:47 PM EDT
>No, only in the Land of Oz. :-)

Which can be mistaken for Kansas if Happy Hour goes too long.

Oct 16, 2011
9:04 PM EDT
Thanks, DIno, for saying what I assumed I'd be flamed to hell and back for saying.

Tuxchick: I agree, I've been saying that for years but I feel like no one ever listens :-

Perhaps people do, though.

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