Rchard Stallman vs Darl McBride

Levi Pearson levipearson at gmail.com
Wed Jul 21 11:56:58 MDT 2010


On Wed, Jul 21, 2010 at 8:16 AM, Stuart Jansen <sjansen at buscaluz.org> wrote:
> On Wed, 2010-07-21 at 00:09 -0600, Levi Pearson wrote:
>> At work we have a wireshark plugin for an in-house protocol that we
>> don't distribute.  We also developed a couple of decoders for
>> protocols we're helping to develop through IEEE, and we submitted
>> those back upstream.  You can find me in the AUTHORS file, though it
>> may not be in a stable release version yet.  Sometimes it's useful to
>> have our in-house protocol and the IEEE draft protocols in the same
>> build, but we've got to be careful not to distribute those builds when
>> we're sending out builds with the draft protocol updates to people
>> we're working with.  It's a minor annoyance, but annoying nonetheless.
>
> Two things:
>
> (1) When you consider how much work has gone into Wireshark, and the
> fact that you didn't pay a dime for it, whining about managing a plugin
> is petty.

I did say it was a pretty minor annoyance.

> (2) Consider how the situation would be different if you had used a
> proprietary product instead. You probably still wouldn't choose to
> distribute your secret sauce plugin. Assuming you could share the tool
> the same way you are with Wireshark, which you probably couldn't.

Of course we wouldn't distribute the secret sauce plugin.  If a plugin
API was available (which would be the only way it would be useful to
us) we'd also still distribute the plugins for the protocol decoders
we're distributing, if it was permissible.  The API would undoubtedly
make distributing plugins separately from the main package easier than
Wireshark does, which would completely alleviate the annoyance, since
we wouldn't have to maintain separate builds.  There's no motivation
for Wireshark to make this easy, since they prefer you to not write
them as plugins and to submit them back to the main repository.  If
there was a proprietary tool that had met our needs in this way and
Wireshark wasn't available, we would have paid for it without a second
thought.  Probably would have been one of the cheaper tools we use.
If neither had been available, we'd have written our own tools, which
would definitely be more annoying, but licenses would have little to
do with that.

> Sounds to me like RMS is annoying ergo you must find any excuse to
> attack the GPL.

I find RMS *and* the GPL annoying.  I find Free Software fanatics even
more annoying when they go preaching.  However, I think the GPL can be
a useful tool, and I might use it or something like it in some
circumstances myself.  I just think it's given a little bit too much
credit sometimes for the software situation today, and I think a lot
of people use it out of adherence to Free Software Philosophy rather
than for technical reasons.  That's their right, but I'm likewise free
to share my opinion about it. :)

I didn't start my part in this thread with the intention of making you
think I was whining about the GPL.  My original point is that I didn't
want to hear a presentation from RMS, because I didn't think it would
contain useful technical information.  Other people drove the
discussion towards GPL and its importance; my comments on it have not
been intended to attack it, but to provide a perspective on it from
outside the FSF worldview.  I think I've been pretty fair (if
sometimes not terribly specific, opening myself to clarifying missives
from people who assumed I didn't understand it) in my assertions about
the GPL, and I've admitted that I might be wrong about its level of
influence on the software landscape today--it's definitely debatable.
My examples were not meant to whine about GPL, but to illustrate that
it hasn't had much of an effect on companies I've been involved with
contributing back to projects.  The things we kept back would have
been kept back under a more permissive license, and the things we
contributed would have been contributed as well, because it just made
sense to do so.  The GPL was mostly irrelevant, aside from creating a
minor annoyance.  This is purely anecdotal, but so have been the other
examples I've seen.

        --Levi


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