Is Free software really Free? The reason why I ask this is because I recently ran a Indiegogo campaign to help the Orca screen reader get better. Now before I get into my rant I must say there is something I over looked while running this campaign. I should have spoken to the Orca screen reader maintainer before launching this campaign, but I didn’t. With that being said I launched the campaign and everything was going pretty well. I was then contacted by the Orca screen reader maintainer and more or less was asked to stop the campaign. They wondered why I didn’t contact them first before launching the campaign and at first I thought to myself why would i contact you it is an open source project and since it is you can do what you wish with it right? Wrong and you will find out in this post why it is wrong. After sending a few emails back and forth with the Orca maintainer here are a few things that i learned. I was told that i was duplicating efforts with my campaign and it was basicly a waste of time. I replied that i wasn’t duplicating efforts and it was pointed out to me that in the description of the campaign I said that i wanted to help with the performance of Orca. It was then pointed out to me that is what the Orca maintainer was currently doing and that was duplication. Oh so let me get this straight if more than one person is working on the same thing that is duplication? Well we better let Google, Apple, Microsoft and the Linux kernel that they are wasting their time duplicating efforts. But wait a minute they are inovating and progressing with rapid development we wouldn’t want that with the orca screen reader right? I also stated in the campaing that i wanted to fix some of the bugs in orca. The reply to this in a email basicly said that Orca had no bugs in it. This took me by surprise considering there are currently about 247 bugs filed against Orca. I couldn’t beleive I was getting this kind of response for trying to raise money to pay developers to make Orca better. I mean don’t we want accessibility to be better on Linux?
So the question is Free software really Free? I mean one person can decide if they want to take patches and weather or not the project needs help. So one person can control the project and decide its fate? At least with proprietary software you know what you are getting into. i mean at least you know that it is being controled by a person or entity and you have no say about the direction of it. But with an open source project you would not expect this behavior would you? i have to admit I was quite disterbd by this behavior and what I thought Free software was all about was crushed. i now have a different view on it and i’m moving forward with this new view of Free and open source software.
i used to be that person who would bash Ubuntu for doing all of these things outside of the open source projects and doing there own thing. But now i say maybe they have had it right all of these years and i just didn’t see it. Ubuntu wanted to work with Gnome on the shell but Gnome didn’t want any help. So Ubuntu created Unity. Ubuntu created mir instead of working with Wayland. But maybe thats where we are going in open source all of the distros are going to be islands to themselves. Ubuntu will work on what it wants to work on and make itself better and the other projects can continue to do what they feel is right. Take a look at linuxmint they are also creating their own desktop along with a file manager and windowing system. They maintain all of this themselves. So linuxmint is just like Ubuntu maintaining their own packages and keeping to themselves. I’m afraid that this is where open source is going and it is losing the whole upstream philosophy and adopting proprietary mindset. Don’t get me wrong the source code will still be open but what good is it if the people maintaining packages won’t except bug fixes or enhancements. Or if they just flat out don’t want to work with you and are happy in their own little world. I guess with the 4 Freedoms from the FSF one of the Freedoms isn’t you must except patches and enhancements from anyone. So you get lots of people either forking projects because of this or this is why you have 6 video editors because no one wants to work together.
With this being said Sonar is now maintaining its own version of Orca and we will be developing on our own branch and we hope that Orca wil merge our changes and there will be no need for us to maintain our own branch. I really hope that the Sonar version of Orca becomes very different from upstream because then it would constitute a fork. I don’t want the version of Orca on Sonar to be very different from upstream because then that means Orca on Sonar could be possibly much better then Orca on every other distro. This is not what I want but what it has com down to.