Tim O'Reilly Responds to "Freedom or Power?"
Subject:   RMS Geek Cruises Wireless Device Driver Debate
Date:   2001-12-29 10:36:30
From:   dunhamb
During LINUX Lunacy, a Geek Cruise offered last October, I met RMS aboard the Holland America Maasdam. My team was Beta testing an 802.11b CISCO wireless LAN so that network services could be provided across various decks to numerous seminar rooms. My company, MOUStech.NET, LLC had arranged for a CISCO wireless partner, Excalibur, to provide the wireless access points and wireless cards at no cost to the Linux Lunacy attendees for the seven day cruise, about $12,000 worth of equipment. (In January MOUStech.NET, LLC is providing a CISCO and 3COM 802.11b wireless Internet Beta at the Geek Cruises PERL Whirl aboard the Veendam.) Although the device drivers offered by CISCO for the wireless cards on CDROM, as well as the wireless card itself, was offered to Stahlman at no cost, the device driver was not open source or even compliant with the Four Freedoms, and therefore not "free." The CISCO wireless Linux device driver did work with numerous versions of LINUX, but RMS made a point of mentioning (flogging) the device driver issue in his public talks during the cruise, putting it in the context of the almost famous printer driver issue that launched him on his quest for the holy grail of free software many years ago. I agree with RMS that CISCO should offer open source device drivers for those who need them, and free software device drivers for those that need them. CISCO has more control over its hardware and software than technicians in the field however, when market share motivates them, the drivers will be offered, or until someone gifted like RMS can write one. That would not be myself or my technical staff, however. Sorry. I would therefore like to publically apologize to Richard for making light of his St. IGNUtious comedy routine during the cruise, and saying that he should update the character to be "Usama Bin LINUX," founder of the perfect GNU state (or at least a tropical island dictatorship). It was a poor joke at his expense, and not all that humorous in retrospect. It demonstrated a lack of altruistic compassion on my part to make such a joke at his expense. I would like to therefore make it up to him by offering to buy tickets for him to see "A Beautiful Mind." My wife recently read the novel about Nash, and now I feel so bad about making this comment about RMS. Stahlman is a very brillant person.