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GNU is Not Unix Apple

FSF Response To Steve Jobs's Letter 572

boilednut writes "Steve Jobs's recent missive on the deficiencies of Adobe's Flash is still reverberating around the Internet. In this editorial, John Sullivan of the Free Software Foundation responds, arguing that Apple is presenting users with a false choice between Adobe's proprietary software and Apple's walled garden."
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FSF Response To Steve Jobs's Letter

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  • And Theora? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @09:22PM (#32060306) Journal

    I'd be more interested in a response from Xiph on Job's email concerning Theora.

  • by A. Bosch ( 858654 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (hcsob.suomynona)> on Saturday May 01, 2010 @09:39PM (#32060398) Homepage
    I RTFA, and I think it's the most well-thought-out criticism of Jobs' anti-Flash editorial I've seen so far The author maintains "the way out of the Adobe vs. Apple cage match is straightforward, and exists already: free software operating systems like GNU/Linux with free software Web browsers, supporting free media formats like Ogg Theora" and later concludes, "So, the correct decision in the dispute between Apple and Adobe is "none of the above." The past we need to leave behind is not just Flash, it's Apple's proprietary software as well." I agree with that in principle. I guess where I get stuck is, I do like OS/X. I like it a lot better than Linux. I'm not involved in cutting video but I work with someone who is, and they tell me they like H.264 a lot better than Ogg Theora. So...am I part of the problem? Is the Free Software movement not up to the task of competing with proprietary software? I feel like the trade-off I'm currently making with OS/X is acceptable -- for now. I don't see myself buying an iPhone (or iPad) anytime soon, but neither do I see myself getting rid of my iMac.
  • by RoadNotTaken ( 1702106 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @09:44PM (#32060428)
    He's implying that no-one should access the web with a closed OS under any circumstance. That seems ridiculous. There are many items that may benefit from web-access that don't need full/open access. I think right now people are arguing over whether or not a phone is such an item. Personally, I don't want root access to my phone. I'm happy to give up full freedom on my phone in exchange for it NEVER failing to do what I need it to do.
  • by MauiMaker ( 1802288 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @10:02PM (#32060542)
    Mr Jalopy posted a note [blogspot.com] on doing a search & replace of Adobe w/Apple and Flash w/closed. It reads rather well. Probably NOT what Steveo intended but if the turtleneck fits...
  • by A. Bosch ( 858654 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (hcsob.suomynona)> on Saturday May 01, 2010 @10:08PM (#32060584) Homepage
    > Where would we be if you had to use a restricted format to read normal web pages? Oh, absolutely; I agree. I'm not a video expert; I was told the quality of the Ogg Theora video paled in comparison to H.264, which is why I mentioned that comparison. I feel like "Open/Free vs Proprietary" sometimes means "Pretty Good vs Very Good." And sometimes "Pretty Good" isn't good enough.
  • by dr2chase ( 653338 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @10:16PM (#32060636) Homepage
    Corporate CEO not entirely honest? Oh, my, bring the smelling salts, I feel faint.

    I think it would be different if he were selling addictive poison, cooking the planet, or selling tainted food. Otherwise, this is just standard issue corporate deception.

    As I see it, there are several things going on that he doesn't want to talk too much about. First and foremost, above and beyond the slowdown, is that there are no standards for Flash advertising. It's a race to the bottom, and it causes everyone with a modicum of technical skills (i.e., 90th percentile or better among Apple's customers and would-be customers, I think) to install a Flash Blocker. We do this, why? Because it makes browsing better. How can Apple get that same improvement for the other 90%? One option is, he can ban Flash, and promote alternatives for popular Flash applications while he has the market ability to do it. Then there's the slowdown, and the desire to control the platform's evolution, and I would be surprised if he were not looking into the problem of HOW do you present advertising that doesn't annoy people. The App Store may be a model for that, too.

    Another obvious problem, not discussed, is the difficulty of virus-proofing the platform. It's not a matter of "user education" -- saying that, is another way of saying, "won't happen, ever". A side-effect of the no-interpreters rule, is that the only "programs" that run, are those that are eyeballed and approved at the app store. Flash, as a programmable widget implicated in previous hacks (e.g., the Flash+UPNP attack on DNS from home routers) is certainly on the list of things to avoid. Acrobat Reader in its full form (recently the cause of a PDF-hosted hack) is another bad guy -- another Adobe product. I don't know quite why Jobs doesn't talk about this (does this make relations with Symantec and McAfee difficult? Is this like talking about death in a hospital?), but it's an obvious reason to rule with an iron hand.

    So, I think it's just plain silly to complain about this. He's got good reasons, he's not talking about them, and I think the not-talked-about reasons are much more interesting than the official ones, or the complaints about how this chokes off innovation.

    And by-the-way, here's one way to think about what Apple might do, that has not much effect on the consumer, might make life better for them, but would be devastating to other corporations. Supposing that Apple did for the iPod/iPad/iPhone, what I like to do on my home router, which is just plain block all the popular advertising sites. If you want your advertising to be seen by Apple customers, you go through Apple. Why should I complain, that I am deprived of the ability to see ads that I already take actions to avoid? If Apple does a better job with the advertising, bully for them. But the advertisers, whoo-hoo, won't that be fun?
  • Re:Wasted argument (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @10:24PM (#32060672) Homepage Journal

    ubuntu is the closest thing (rich dictator at top making decisions) to OS X that linux has. But he's not talking about ubuntu, he's talking about the FSF. How many Aunt Millies use HURD?

    Ubuntu is loaded with software owned by the FSF. The entire GNU userland for example.

  • by gig ( 78408 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @10:39PM (#32060768)

    There is no choice when it comes to open standards. It's a Web developer's responsibility to build HTML5, it's a platform vendor's responsibility to include HTML5, it's a browser maker's responsibility to render HTML5, it's a tool-maker's responsibility to make their tools compliant with HTML5. The spec is not optional. Your website also has to use UTF-8 and TCP/IP and ISO MPEG-4.

    Consumers use the Web now. Regular people with phones, not tech people with PC's. You can't ask them to patch their system, use an alternate browser, install a plug-in, update a plug-in, or do any kind of I-T work at all. The model is CD/DVD players. A CD put into a CD player has to work. You have to make your CD to Red Book spec, and CD Players have to be to Red Book spec. End of story.

    Flash developers do not use the Flash tool to make Flash ... that is an Adobe conceit. They use Flash to make Web apps. In the HTML4 era (1999 through 2007), a Web app was HTML4 plus an embedded plug-in for Mac/PC. The entire Web was Mac/PC, and most users were techies. In the HTML5 era (2007 forward), a Web app is HTML5 on any unknown platform. The users are everybody. That is the reality. There are dozens of HTML5 platforms and only Mac/PC has a Flash plug-in. Adobe's FlashPlayer team is less than 8 people. How are that going to support dozens of platforms? How will the 3-4 updates per year be distributed to what will soon be 10 billion devices? Stop holding your breath.

    What has to happen is Adobe has to upgrade their nonstandard, proprietary, closed Web app tool to export HTML5 Web apps. They have to respect the Web app spec just as music tool makers had to respect Red Book. End of story.

    It's unbelievable to see FSF support a tool where developers write JavaScript, HTML, CSS, and include ISO MPEG-4 and wrap it up in a closed binary that only proprietary software from one vendor can render. Not to mention, Flash is 14 years old and has had 3 different owners. What if Microsoft buys Adobe (with cash) and screws it up even further, or Apple buys Adobe (with cash) and shuts it down? The Web cannot depend on a single $599 Mac/Windows tool to create and publish audio video. In 5 years, the Web will look like TV. Adobe cannot be the only one who makes VCR's. There is not even a Flash authoring tool for Linux!

    Standards are not an issue of choice. See HD-DVD and Blu-Ray DVD which together killed the fucking DVD! No, we are not going to have both standard and nonstandard Web apps. There is only one Web, and it's open, and you can build and publish whatever you want, with any tools, on any platform, as long as you respect the HTML5 spec. Users can use any device, from any manufacturer, to view the Web, as long as that device respects the HTML5 spec. The lack of choice with regards to the spec enables unlimited choice in everything else. See the billion CD/DVD players and exponentially more media and the world enriched by music and movies. Now, we are doing that for the Web with HTML5.


  • The real issue (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 01, 2010 @11:05PM (#32060900)

    What Jobs wants is to make the iPhone/iPad a unique experience so that people continue to buy iPhone/iPad. Everyone else wants the iPhone/iPad to be just like every other device thus eliminating the need for an iPhone/iPad.

    One is innovation driven by capitalism.

    The other is lack of innovation driven by ideology.

  • by wrook ( 134116 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @11:36PM (#32061088) Homepage

    If the trade-off you are making for yourself is acceptable to you, then be happy with your choice. From your post, it seems that you understand the benefits of software freedom. You realize that you are giving up those freedoms, but you are willing to do so because it seems that the software you use has features that you haven't seen in Free* software. As a personal choice, I, for one, won't criticize you. However, I will caution you that your support of a company that isn't necessarily working in your best interest may cause you problems in the future.

    I think it would be fair to categorize me as a software freedom evangelist. Maybe not a "big E" evangelist, though. I'm not going to say that you will go to hell for using proprietary software. But willingly giving up your freedoms does make it slightly harder for others to help you out. Free software tends to get "paid" through wide adoption. More users create more business opportunities to make money. By choosing to use proprietary software, you select for a future where software freedom is more difficult; for example where big business ties up software development to the point where nothing can be written without a patent deal. Some claim this is already the case with respect to video codec development.

    There are alternatives, though. I don't like the normal Gnome or KDE environments very much. But I use Compiz with GnomeDo to achieve a desktop environment that is similar and even more powerful in some cases than what is available on OSX. I can sympathize with your friend over the choice of suitable video codecs. Hopefully the opening up of the V8 codec will address his concerns. But in the end, you need to choose the tools that will allow you to succeed in your endeavors.

    Wherever possible it is great if you can adopt Free software into your usage patterns. It will be beneficial to a great number of people. I understand if you have to use some proprietary software where you don't have any choice. But in other areas if you can use Free software, comment on it, send bugs, etc, etc, that software has a better chance of improving. It does make a difference.

    * Sorry for using a capital F in "Free". I've lately adopted it in order to distinguish the difference between freedom and free of charge. I suppose I could use FLOSS, but Open Source is a movement (which I also support) which tends to focus more on process rather than end results. They aren't necessarily interested in software freedom or the plight of the end user. They are more interested in efficient development. Anyway, the F is not intended to seem pompous.

  • by Junior J. Junior III ( 192702 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @11:43PM (#32061134) Homepage

    When will it be out?

  • by herdnerfer ( 1586219 ) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @01:05AM (#32061544)
    The way i see it, Steve Jobs is just trying to make the easiest, crash free computing experience possible. I don't think Steve Jobs had the average slashdot reader in mind when he came up with the iPad, iPod, or even iPhone. He had joe sixpack and aunt jemima in mind. Coming from a large family, and being one of the few with extensive computer knowledge, i am always called upon to fix viruses, remove spyware, reinstall OSes due to unrecoverable crashes and when i see the iPad, i see a solution to MOST of this. I know my sister with an iPad to do her internet surfing with isn't going to click on some stupid pop up and download a virus, or play some new facebook game and get some crappy software installation required message. And without flash, she isn't going to suffer from computer freezes and crashes. Even if it does get some unrecoverable error, she would just hook it up to her computer, click restore from backup, and a few minutes later she is off to the races. I know the iPad cannot replace all computing tasks, especially with lack of printing support, but for everything most people do, this "closed system" works better and protects them from theirselves. Now it would be nice if they gave advanced users the option to unlock certain restrictions, but it is just not practical. There are plenty of people out there who know just enough about computer to want to unlock protected settings and still end up calling me every weekend to fix it. There are plenty of full tablet PCs out there, and have been for a while. Go get one of those if you cannot stand the restrictions iPhone OS brings. I for one say, boo flash, yay iPhone OS, and go Steve.
  • by QuantumG ( 50515 ) * <qg@biodome.org> on Sunday May 02, 2010 @01:22AM (#32061628) Homepage Journal

    Except that on iPhone, iPad, etc there is no choice. Apple prohibits any product which competes with their own.

  • by dhobbit ( 152517 ) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @03:53AM (#32062188)

    In the end the user wants to play his Facebook games and Apple says 'you can't on My iPhone or iPad' and they say 'okay' and play on their computer instead.
    Do they ditch the iPhone or iPad? Nope..... They go buy another one!
    When the general public actually decides to grow a pair things will change.

    I wouldn't necessarily put it that way.

    I paid $199 for my iPhone and I can't play Facebook games? Well, I guess that's just the way it is. At least until my best buddy starts doing it with his Android/WebOS/Symbian phone. When I see someone in my peer group doing that, that's when I'll say, "Wow! I know what my next phone is going to be!"

    Kind of like the Mac and Windows--you'll see one person switch and show off what they can do. That'll inspire someone else. That'll inspire a few more people. And so on and so on.

    There are several assumptions in that statement.

    1) Adobe will actually deliver desktop flash on Android. This is still a huge question all the demos I've seen are flash video. Haven't seen a lot of demos of farmville.
    2) Android manufactures will actually deliver the updates needs to use flash. Most of the currently shipping Android phones won't take the 2.2 update, of the ones that will OS updates are released by the hand manufacturer or the carrier which take weeks or month to get their customizations made and update images released.
    3) Flash on Android won't suck. Adobe doesn't have a great record here and could easily get this wrong and cause all the OS to crash, run slowly, kill the battery and drive 1000s of Android users to the iPhone.
    4) And all of that needs to happen before Facebook and others start releasing games in html5 or the AppStore.

  • by rmav ( 1149097 ) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @05:19AM (#32062448)

    Why was this modded insightful? As the originator of the free software movement Stallman simply wants the software people receive on the phone to be "free."

    And not only - it is ok to pay for free software. Source must come with it, you must be allowed to modify and install it. You can pay for the service, for assistance. Open source is not incompatible with commercial use. Only, it is more difficult to do that, because you have to rely on the quality of your services, and not on lock-in.

    For an example that comes closer to the mark, see Android.

    I find Android even worse than the iPhone OS (that is my platform), because it gives control of the firmware to the cellular phone manufacturers and cellular service providers - but not to the end user.

  • Your original comment specifically brought up "Microsoft Windows" as a direct comparison to the iPad (iPhone OS).

    No, his original comment was to a comparison of Apple and Microsoft "Apple wants me to be dependent on Apple. [...] At least Microsoft allows me the freedom to be "tasteless"."

  • It's why you shouldn't buy an iPad, sure, but to be fair, being dependant on Apple is one of the things that makes this device appeal to me. Simple reason being, I've seen Apple products time and time again trump their competitors in terms of usability, and that's the one thing that matters to me.

    "Sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor Liberty to purchase power."

  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Sunday May 02, 2010 @10:50AM (#32063864) Homepage Journal

    This is ripe for a car analogy actually.

    No, it isn't.

    You can pop the hood, swap in OEM parts, and tinker to your hearts content, and accept the consequences.

    It's illegal to make emissions modifications in some states, without approved parts... i.e. they paid taxes, mostly in the form of application fees. These fees must be paid every year to get a new C.A.R.B. E.O. number, even if the parts have not changed, nor has the engine upon which they are installed. I have an ATS 088 Turbo kit. It is an upgrade for the ATS 085. ATS 085 was made in 1985 and has new E.O. numbers for '86 and '87, for which filing fees were paid, though neither the engine they were installed upon nor the kit changed one whit. The CARB signed off on each new year without testing, because nothing changed... but they still get paid, even though nothing changed. In '88 they changed it and went through a whole new application process. Each subsequent year up until 1993 or 1994 or whenever the Powerstroke took over for the 6.9/7.3 liter International motor (actually, the powerstroke is based on the same block, then modified, but never mind that) the kit was simply blessed by the CARB again, because nothing had changed on kit or truck. I have a '92 and there's no difference in the turbo kit or its installation from '88. They still had to fork over cash every year for certification of that fact.

    Or in other words, it's all about the money. Jobs' goal is to stop you from using flash to access boatloads of free apps that don't go through the store, because then he can't even advertise to you.

    Or you can leave it alone, and have it serviced exclusively by factory trained technicians in factory authorized dealers.

    False dichotomy proving that an automotive analogy does not fit here. By law you can have your car serviced anywhere, using OE-spec parts, without voiding your warranty, due in part thanks to the Magnuson-Moss warranty act. The same is true of commodity computers.

    The point is, most people leave their engines unmodified (and receive the security of the factory stock maintained engine), but EVERYONE has the freedom to pop the hood.

    But numerous states put the modifications you're permitted to make in a walled garden... though none are so egregious as California, where I live... but since we have more people and more cars than anywhere else in the nation, it's relevant.

  • by Wovel ( 964431 ) on Monday May 03, 2010 @01:52AM (#32069544) Homepage

    Are there shortcomings? Why does everyone but me and Steve and like 3 other people seem to live in an alternate universe where Flash runs on all these mobile devices and the dang iPhone is just lagging behind?

    Adobe MIGHT have flash working on Android by the Q4 2010, don't hold your breath. When would that update reach users?

"Never face facts; if you do, you'll never get up in the morning." -- Marlo Thomas