[linux-audio-dev] Free Software vs. Open Source: Where do *you* stand?

Pete Bessman ninjadroid at gazuga.net
Mon Feb 20 14:55:53 EST 2006

Well, I'm about to crack open a can of worms, but let me just say that
I'm 100% not interested in starting any debates/fights/riots/states-of-
emergency.  All I'm interested in is hearing where people stand and why
--- I don't want to persuade people one way or the other, and I'd like
to ask that everyone restrain themselves when feeling the urge to tell
someone that they're wrong.

I'm doing this because, after having been a part of this community for a
while, and a developer for some time, I'm having an "is it all worth
it?" moment.  I personally like the Linux environment more than Windows
and Mac --- I find it to be better suited to a technically inclined
person like myself.  And with each iteration of the distros and desktop
suites, it comes closer to meeting and surpassing the competition in
core computer functions.  It's already got the server side of things
dominated, and when it comes to surfing the web, checking your email,
burning cds, listening to music et al, it's definitely a contender.
Better in some areas, worse in others, and mostly only suffering because
of proprietary technologies that have become standard.

But, and this what it's all about, when it comes to my personal reason
for living --- music --- I'm forced to admit that on technical merits
alone, I have a hard time arguing for Linux.  I'm personally a "just for
fun" kind of guy.  I'm basically from the utilitarian-libertarian
school, and while I did try the "free as in freedom" thing for a while,
it was a poor fit.

I happen to have some very significant qualms with the way "intellectual
property" (if RMS was right about anything, it's that this is a poor
term for non-rivalrous creative goods) is currently being handled ---
there is a huge and easily observable disparity between what the laws
say and what people do, and common sense tells you that that probably
means the laws are messed up.  So, for me, open source and creative
commons are a way to sort of skirt the issue, or at least push things in
a better direction.  Also, there's something just sexy about open
source.  But for me, that's where the non-technical merits of it stop.

What I'm saying is, I think we can all agree that, when an open source
solution is technically superior to, or on par with, a proprietary
solution, then the open source solution is the way to go.  But what
about when the proprietary solution is better?  If the open source
solution is good enough, then it makes sense to use it since it's bound
to be cheaper.  But if you really need the best tool for the job, then I
don't see the justification for using the open source solution.

Things obviously change when you're a developer, since you can bring the
open source solution up to, or beyond, the level of the proprietary
solution.  The question, then, is will you get more pleasure out of
doing so than pain?  That's where I am right now.  I really, really want
to get an album out --- and I also want it to be really, really good.  I
want to use the best tools for the job, and in my evaluation, those are
proprietary tools.

OTOH, with a little work, I think the LMMS + Ardour can actually be the
best, or at least good enough.  I also happen to enjoy doing open source
development, so this wouldn't be a bad path to pursue.  But ultimately,
I want to get back to making the best music that I can make --- it's for
that reason that I think I'm going to finally go back to a dual boot
machine for the first time in 6 years, and take a vacation in Windows

None of this is to say that I'm through with Linux and open source as
music making solutions --- far from it.  And I'm certainly *not* trying
to encourage any body to follow my lead.  In fact, I hope people get
pissed reading this and double their development efforts :-)  It's just
that, right now, rolling proprietary sounds more appealing than rolling

This email is way, way longer than I intended it to be, and for that I
apologize.  Remember that I'm not looking to stir up any hostilities, I
just want to hear where people stand on The Issues and get a sense of
the community.  I predict that there are people here on a moral mission,
and there are people here because they get a chubby out of openness and
collaborative development and such.  But I don't think I'm going to see
anybody who's primary interest is making music --- although I'd love to
be proved wrong, and I certainly think that things will be different in
the future as the tools get better.

So let's hear it!

WHAT is your NAME?

WHAT is your QUEST?


Pete Bessman
"So this baby seal walks into a club."

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