Why the FreeBSD license will not be changing

Nathan Lay nslay at comcast.net
Thu Jan 10 21:38:38 PST 2008

Aryeh M. Friedman wrote:
> Hash: SHA1
> Mark Linimon wrote:
>> The FreeBSD license will not be changing.
>> How can I say this even though I am not an official spokesman for
>> the project?  Let me explain.
>> (a disclaimer first: I am on both the bugbusting team and the ports
>>  management team, and have been for several years.  However, I'm
>> not using either of those as a basis for the above claim.  Thus,
>> everything here is my _own opinion_.)
> I am not using my work on ports 2.0 (which is and will always remain
> under a 100% freebsd model) to make my claims just showing that I am
> not some one throwing rocks at a glass house only (I also live in the
> house)
>> FreeBSD is 3 things.  You understand 1.5 of those things.
>> - FreeBSD is a codebase.
>> - FreeBSD is a community of users and developers.
> I think the "official" freebsd community (i.e. the direct maintainers
> of freebsd.org and the foundation) have failed to make it clear that
> it is *USERS AND DEVELOPERS* not just users and *DEVELOPERS*... what I
> mean by this is a true community would be quite a bit more responsive
> (not just "if you have a problem fix it your self") to actual user
> requests.... this is not to say there is any way to improve the
> situation without some changes to the culture (very minor ones if you
> ask me)
>> - FreeBSD is a *culture*.
> Agreed and (see below) I am not suggesting it is wrong or that a
> fundamental change is needed I am only saying it should me more inclusive.
>> It's easy to see FreeBSD as a "codebase".  There's a web page, and
>> CVS scripts, and it all comes together as all these bits on a disk.
>> It _looks_ like a regular product.  But it isn't.  The software is
>> a byproduct of a process.
> And the whole aim of what I am talking about is improving the process
> not adding feature X... it is an issue of long term health
>> In that process, a community of users and developers works
>> together. Mostly they share two key goals:
>> - To create something "really neat"
>> - To have fun.
>> That's the *culture*.
> And that is fine as long as people do not start to use it for *mission
> critical* apps... once this starts to happen there is real money and
> real jobs at stake and to some extent people would be reluctant to use
> a product that is treated as hobby (this is why windows is still the
> dominate OS... see
> http://www.detroitguy.com/2007/12/21/the-truth-about-linux/)... do you
> really want people who think war is fun running the DoD?
>> To the extent that culture exists, we will continue to attract new
>> users and developers, and retain the old ones.  If it doesn't, we
>> won't.
>> And: ***every attempt that has been made in the past to change that
>>  culture has failed***.
> I am not purposing making a change to the fundamental nature of the
> culture just make it more attractive to potential contributors.
>> As well it _should_.
> And all health cultures are not afraid of making benefical changes.
>> Because once the culture goes away, all we have is the pile of
>> bits.  If forced to sign something that said "you _must_ contribute
>> back", my firm belief is that most of the current developers would
>> walk.  I certainly would -- and I say that as someone who has
>> contributed a great deal in the past.  I simply won't put myself in
>> a position where I feel _compelled_ to do so.  It's my free time,
>> and I'll do what I want with it, TYVM.
> That is fine for you but is it fine for the person who relies on the
> process to run their net... I highly doubt Yahoo! uses freebsd because
> it feels good... they use it is a solid product and increasing the
> amount of contribution can't possible be bad in this reguard...   btw
> I know of several people who used to be hard core BSD people but have
> switched to commericial linux distro's because they are betting their
> jobs/companies on it
>> Our *culture* is a very delicate dance between self-interest and
>> altruism.  (I'm not familiar with anything other than Open Source
>> that has this unique balance, but possibly amateur radio comes
>> close.)
> All this purpose is to state that balance more formally (there is not
> a single thing I have suggested yet that would force any
> user/developer visible modifications to how stuff is done {i.e. it is
> 100% optional based on the licensor's decisions in the matter not the
> verbage)
>> The FreeBSD community has always vehemently protested any attempt
>> to change the culture by e.g. turning the development process into
>> something directed by companies.  This is a feature.  Frankly, if
>> people want to get told to do something they don't want to do, it
>> just starts looking like work, and there's a lot better-paying jobs
>> out there than Open Source will ever be able to generate.  Letting
>> some outside entity direct the project would break the culture.  We
>> would be killing the goose to get the golden egg.
> And that is the very point reling one some kind of indirect subsidies
> *INCREASES* your depenance on large donors (companies, gov. agencies,
> etc. all that have some agenda beyond FreeBSD for FreeBSD's shake)...
> an other organization I belong to learned this very early on (1939) in
> it's history when John D. Rockefeller refused to donate more $5,000
> because it would ruin the org's purpose... it now has codified this
> and has been extremely successful ever since...
>> Having said that, there is increasing interest from some companies
>> in funding individuals to work on specific projects.  To the extent
>> that this work can be integrated without hurting the existing
>> culture, I'm all for it.  If we can have some kind of hybrid model:
>> fine.  But if anyone wants to take FreeBSD and make a commercial
>> enterprise out of it, fine, go ahead and do so, but please do it
>> somewhere else.
> See above... it is impossible to take money/work/whatever and expect
> to have to give nothing it return.
>> Now, with that background, let me return to my original point.
>> I don't have the power to go change the bits that define the
>> license. Even if I did, I wouldn't.  Even core, who I suppose
>> theoretically could, wouldn't.  If they did, they'd all be kicked
>> out on their butts in the next election -- if there were any
>> developers left who hadn't already forked and started a new project
>> with the bits and the original culture.
> I have an other item for the fortune file then "Residence to all
> change (even good change) is the common denominator between most
> non-Western countries and various BSD efforts".
>> So, the license isn't going to change -- and even if it did, the
>> people that changed it would be left behind as the community simply
>> moved over to a new name that reflected the original culture.
> I fail to see how minor change == the end of the world.... Now that
> being said I grew up in the city that orginal produced the main
> components of the culture you so love and even to this day hope it
> could work as envisioned but many factors make that city unsustainable
> in the long run and FreeBSD exhibits all of them... the primary fault
> is believing since people in the past have abused money to the harm of
> society that it is the root of all evil
>> I said earlier that you understood 1.5 things.  You see the
>> codebase. You have a poor understanding of the community -- which
>> is why you feel you've been badly received to this point -- you
>> simply don't understand how we work together as it is.  But the
>> thing you have absolutely no concept of, for whatever reason, is
>> the culture.
>> Our culture is fine.  Our license is fine.  If you don't like them:
>>  start your own.  The bits are there for the taking.
> Purely from my own personal self interest I would actually like to see
> FreeBSD and all other OS's fail... I am making these purposes for
> idealistic reasons only (and likelly to my material harm a few years
> down the road)
>> Now please, go away and stop putting your plans for whatever
>> project under whatever culture you're trying to establish, under
>> our banner, on our mailing lists.
> See above... if this was plans for my own projects I would do my best
> to really screw freebsd up as much as possible (I  know one can argue
> that is in fact my goal but it is not)
>> Thanks.
>> mcl
> - --
> Aryeh M. Friedman
> FloSoft Systems, Java Developer Tools.
> http://www.flosoft-systems.com
> Developer, not business, friendly.
> "Free software != Free beer"
> Blog:
> http://www.flosoft-systems.com/flosoft_systems_community/blogs/aryeh/index.php
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This license argument isn't going anywhere.  Even if a license change 
could solve FreeBSD's problems, they are not going to solve them in the 
near future.  I'm no FreeBSD developer, but I tell you, I dream of 
it...I bet you a ton of people dream of it.  My problem is time, I'm a 
student and I have a job...it takes an awful lot of time to learn how to 
write this kind of software.  Consider this, I have "The Design and 
Implementation of FreeBSD"...its a 700 page book.  How in the world can 
the average code tinkerer have time to read that in detail?  I also 
noticed there's no device driver book.  Two years ago, I took a course 
in Linux device drivers..not only was there an easy and concise book to 
read (Linux Device Drivers), but it was available to everyone freely.  I 
really don't think reward is as big of an issue as you make it out to 
be...to me this stuff is fun and interesting.  If you're here doing it 
for a profit, go work for Microsoft - they make a money making 
platform.  This system is a joy to run...it has its problems, but they 
all do.  My only suggestion is try to make it less painful to learn how 
to contribute.  The handbooks and man pages are great, no doubt...but 
perhaps more could be done to reduce the amount of time is takes to 
prepare a potential contributor.

Best Regards,
Nathan Lay

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