By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
"In marketing," says Raymond on his Web site, "appearance is reality. The appearance that we're willing to climb down off the barricades and work with the corporate world counts for as much as the reality of our behavior, our convictions, and our software." Open source, Raymond argues, "is a pitch for 'free software' on solid pragmatic grounds rather than ideological tub-thumping."
At LinuxWorld, however, Stallman's tendency to thump a tub now and then didn't seem to be enough to justify the criticism he was getting -- which by Thursday, the conference's last day, was starting to displace Microsoft bashing as the group sport of choice. Industry writer Nicholas Petreley's talk on the Linux impact made repeated disparaging references to FSF's refusal to pay its way at LinuxWorld, even though as an official "dot org" (nonprofit) it was entitled to attend for free. In a prominent news article circulated after the conference, Stallman was portrayed as an ideologue burdening his software with "value-laden judgments" that undermine the earnest efforts of OSI to bring Linux into the mainstream. The San Francisco Examiner's post-conference characterization of the FSF as "old-school, bearded hippies" neglected to mention that one of the GNU Project's most prominent developers at LinuxWorld, Manuel de Icaza, is 27 and clean-shaven. Nor did it mention that GNOME, the GNU Project's friendly, flexible desktop environment, was one of the show's software hits. "Old-school, bearded hippies" seemed to be as much of a marketing slogan as "open source": rhetoric to make the Open Source Initiative, by contrast, look appealing to the businessperson.
To the average geek concerned only with good software, however, GNU still looks pretty good, and profitable to boot: GNOME, which is free software in every sense -- gratisand libre-- is an emblematic example of what Tim Ney calls a "private-public partnership" between the free-software people and the computer industry. It has been bundled into Red Hat, the Linux distribution IBM plans to support. Red Hat pays salaries to programmers hacking GNOME, and plans to contribute a portion of GNOME's profits to FSF.
"We've kept using the word free, because it's not strictly about commerce," Ney explains. "Free software is a new modality, like the gift culture of Native Americans, in which your worth is measured by how much you give away, as opposed to an exchange culture, where you're worth what you receive. It isconfusing to some people. But it's still what we're trying to promote."
Next week: Selling Linux to science