225: Open Source

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Open Source
Later we'll dress up like Big Oil thugs and jump Ralph Nader.
Title text: Later we'll dress up like Big Oil thugs and jump Ralph Nader.

[edit] Explanation

Richard Stallman, or rms after his handle, is an old-school hacker known these days primarily for establishing the Free Software Foundation and initiating the GNU Project in the early 1980s, which produced major portions of what would later be the GNU/Linux operating system. In this capacity, he's also known for being one of the most ardent and outspoken proponents of free software, sometimes called open source software. In fact, his advocacy is so emphatic and polemical that he has garnered active dislike from traditionalists who believe that software source code should be retained as a trade secret by its developer(s). While this dislike may not rise to the level of hiring ninja assassins to remove him from the world, it is strong.

GPL refers to the 'GNU General Public License', which is a copyright license written by the FSF that covers all GNU software and plenty of other free software besides. It stipulates that software so copyrighted must always be provided along with full source code, and that everyone in possession of such software is free to use, study, modify, and redistribute it for any purpose whatsoever (including sale or resale) provided they give due credit to any other contributing developers, also provide access to the complete source code, and retain all copyright notices.

Legally, this gives all users of such software exactly the same rights under copyright as the developer(s), and prevents any developers from ever taking away those rights from users, which is the defining feature of 'free-as-in-libre' software. It also has the effect of making all software derived from GPL software thereby also GPL, even if 'derived' merely means 'borrowed a few lines of code from'. Some (e.g. Microsoft's Steve Ballmer) have therefore argued that this makes GPL software behave as a kind of 'license virus', which spreads GPL-guaranteed freedoms to any software used in close conjunction with GPL'd software during development, such that businesses should actively avoid adopting free and open source software, so as not to jeopardize software developers' legal standing with regard to proprietary IP copyrights.

The wording "For a GNU dawn!" is pronounced "For a g'new dawn!", following the pronunciation of GNU.

Eric S. Raymond is a famous hacker who wrote The Cathedral and the Bazaar and has been something of an unofficial spokesperson for open source as a software development methodology. The plan to prank Eric Raymond next is a bad one: he is an experienced martial artist, swordsman, and firearm enthusiast.

Linus Torvalds is the creator of the Linux kernel, an free/open source operating system kernel inspired by the Unix kernel, which proved to be the final component that, combined with then pre-existing GNU system functions and userland components, produced the first fully free operating system, Linux. The plan to prank Torvalds should provide more entertainment as the mild-mannered Finn, while known to be strongly, abrasively opinionated, is otherwise mostly harmless.

Ralph Nader is a famous consumer rights advocate, most famous for the 1965 book Unsafe at Any Speed and for running for US President in 2000.

At his talk at JCCC3 [1] (as well as in a note in XKCD: Volume Zero),Randall mentioned that the comic he originally published had the assassins say "free software" and Richard Stallman says "open source software". He swapped the two terms after complaints that Richard Stallman was opposed to the phrase "open source" [2]. Even after this change he got an e-mail from Stallman himself saying that he didn't even want to be portrayed in the same comic as the words "open source".

Stallman's well-known opposition to the term "open source" stems from the fact that "open source" refers specifically to a methodology for software development involving allowing customers to actively participate in development and testing of software products by giving them access to in-development source code and soliciting feedback; as such, the term was first adopted as a means to promote free software ideas to business interests. In contrast, Stallman and the FSF view free software as a political issue concerning the basic freedoms that should belong to all computer users, and thus 'open source' as an appeal to software businesses misses the point of getting individuals to think about their rights as users.

[edit] Transcript

[Richard Stallman is sleeping on a bed.]
[Suddenly, two ninjas jump through the skylight.]
Ninja 1: Richard Stallman! Your viral open source licenses have grown too powerful.
Ninja 2: The GPL must be stopped.
Ninja 1: At the source.
Ninja 2: You.
[Richard Stallman wakes up immediately, and pulls his katana out of its sheath from under his bed.]
Richard Stallman: Hah! Microsoft lackeys! So it has come to this!
Richard Stallman: A night of blood I've long awaited. But be this my death or yours, free software will carry on! For a GNU dawn! For freedom!
Richard Stallman: ...hey, where are you going?
[The ninjas step out the window.]
Ninja 1: Man, you're right, that never gets old.
Ninja 2: Let's do Eric S. Raymond next.
Ninja 1: Or Linus Torvalds. I hear he sleeps with nunchucks.

[edit] Trivia

  • Because of this comic Stallman has been given a katana by fans of xkcd. [3]
  • The phrase "So it has come to this" is also the topic of another xkcd comic.

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"Richard Stallman is famous for beginning the GNU Project and is outspoken on the topic of Open Source software and Free software." Specifically, he is an outspoken critic of Open Source, and an outspoken proponent of Free Software. Blaisepascal (talk) 02:09, 29 August 2012 (UTC)

Ah, thank you. That's good to note. lcarsos (talk) 05:25, 29 August 2012 (UTC)

GPL isn't a recursive abbreviation for ‘GNU Public License’, then it would have to be called ‘GPL Public License’. GNU in itself, on the other hand, is a recursive abbreviation for 'GNU's Not Unix'. -- 15:38, 9 March 2013 (UTC)

 Done (Though I actually noted this myself and fixed it; then noticed your comment :-) ) Mark Hurd (talk) 10:45, 18 April 2013 (UTC)

The pronunciation of GNU is actually "g'new" not "new". 02:06, 29 December 2013 (UTC)

~ ~ ~ ~ Aren't ninjas supposed to be stealthy and silent? Of course, they could have been made to announce their mission to Richard before (perhaps) killing him, but still... (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

The point is not to kill him, but to startle him into a response to an absurd situation which the pranksters find humorous. -Pennpenn 03:00, 15 January 2015 (UTC)

The comic isn't quite explained here. Did the ninjas kill RMS, or were they just pretend-ninjas trying to scare him? Is the blob in the last panel a blood smear or a hood being carried? (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Read harder, there is RMS's comment on them running away. 21:02, 22 July 2014 (UTC)

I have a bit of an issue with calling non-free software traditional. RMS is the traditionalist here. He created GNU for that very purpose, to get back to the traditional method of being able to access and modify your source, and then share any fixes you made with the wider community. 21:02, 22 July 2014 (UTC)

Linus Torvalds isn't "mostly harmless". 16:25, 25 March 2015 (UTC)

There is a bit of allusion to the movie Brazil, where government goons break into people's homes, cutting through walls and ceilings, in their pursuit of idealists who provide free services -- which is incompatible with the governing economic system. Mountain Hikes (talk) 21:52, 24 September 2015 (UTC)


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