Recently, Reddit users were given the opportunity to ask RMS (Richard M. Stallman) questions. The top 25 were answered by RMS here.
For anyone who doesn’t know who RMS is, he is the founder of the GNU project. He wrote Emacs and the GCC compiler. Much of what makes up a “GNU/Linux” (don’t ever let him hear you call it “Linux”), is the GNU tools. Linux itself is just the operating system kernel. Although the OS kernel is a very important part of the OS, a base GNU/Linux system has a ton of software from the GNU project as well. The OS doesn’t work without the kernel, and it doesn’t do much without the GNU tools.
RMS answered most of the questions as I would expect. The one question that stood out to me, although I haven’t made it through the entire list yet, is number 7. The question relates to how the open source world can’t create tax software and games that can compete with proprietary software. It’s a very good question. RMS mentions that the Free Software Foundation in Latin America does have free tax software. He also says
I don’t know whether our community will make a “high end video game”
which is free software, but I am sure that if you try, you can stretch
your taste for games so that you will enjoy the free games that we
have developed, or you can try Roulette Games.
Now, this is the part that really made me think. I’ve always been an advocate of free software, but do I really want to rely on free software to produce video games that compete with some of the games I play on PS3? I truly wish that they could make them, because I’d love it, but I don’t see it happening. Another major point to that comment is that games have always been the driving force in computer hardware improvements. The computer systems we have right now are only this good because of games.
That may be hard to believe, but for anyone that’s been playing PC games for decades, it’s common sense. Video games are it. That’s what all of this technology was built on. You were either playing games or writing them. Sure, computers have many other useful features, but games are responsible for these beautiful user interfaces and awesome sound.
Games kept getting better. Hardware kept getting better. A huge majority of the research and design came from game sales. All of that wouldn’t have happened without proprietary games.
RMS knows that, but RMS isn’t worried about games at all. RMS is worried about software freedom and he has many good points. Those same points could be applied to many industries. To me is seems like the old communism vs. capitalism debate. Extremes on both sides suck. It’s the happy medium we should strive for.