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GNU is Not Unix Software

The GNU Manifesto Turns Thirty 214

An anonymous reader writes: It was March, 1985 when Richard M. Stallman published the GNU Manifesto in Dr. Dobb's Journal of Software Tools. Thirty years on, The New Yorker has an article commemorating its creation and looking at how it has shaped software in the meantime. "Though proprietary and open-source software publishers might appear at the moment to have the upper hand, Stallman's influence with developers (among whom he is known simply by his initials, 'rms') remains immense. When I asked around about him, many people spoke of him as one might of a beloved but eccentric and prickly uncle. They would roll their eyes a bit, then hasten to add, as more than one did, 'But he's right about most things.' I told Stallman that I'd spoken with several developers who venerate his work, and who had even said that without it the course of their lives might have been altered. But they don't seem to do what you say, I observed; they all have iPhones. 'I don't understand that either,' he said. 'If they don't realize that they need to defend their freedom, soon they won't have any.'"
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The GNU Manifesto Turns Thirty

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  • Convenience (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ledow ( 319597 ) on Wednesday March 18, 2015 @05:20AM (#49281687) Homepage

    Convenience trumps ideals more often than not.

    Though I consider myself an open-source programmer, and an open-source advocate, it's not for the same reasons as Stallman. It's not because of some fantastical ideal (even though I'm right behind things like Freedom of Information Acts etc. I consider them an entirely separate matter, and FoI kind of implies open-source at the highest ends of government, but we have neither FoI nor OS at those points anyway), it's because it makes things easier and my code isn't in any way "precious" that I need to lock it away.

    So when I go on forums, I apply my "IT guy" persona to things and thus you get automatic sharing anyway. How do you fix that problem? How did you configure that system to do that? What software did you use? Where's the script you wrote to do X? We share this information in the same way that we share code, and IT is quite an open profession in my experience. I can ring up old colleagues and get scripts and documentation that cost them HOURS of work sent over and nobody will make a big fuss about it. In fact, they're usually happy to help and the agreement is reciprocal anyway.

    That, to me, is the essence of open-source, not some cataclysmic Big Brother event stopper. The fact is that, where it matters, we never have had the code, or even the data, or even acknowledgement of the existence of the data anyway. And it's perfectly possible to run any system without reliance on a particular company and with auditable source and for free. The "dream" has been achieved but now people want to move the goalposts.

    I agree that we shouldn't rest on our laurels, but OS by its nature develops on its own anyway. The guys with iPhones? Maybe they like using iPhones and there's no OS equivalent that works how they want? Or maybe they are aware of the contradiction but want a fashion item. The beauty is that their choice is just that - theirs.

    The options are out there. They could run Android, even a "clean" non-Google version, at any point. The goal should be for the option to exist, not to FORCE everyone onto open-source against their will. To me, that just reeks of the same problem we were trying to avoid.

    And the options exist, therefore we're done.

    • Reality (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jellomizer ( 103300 )

      Stop blaming those other people for all the issues in the world, because they are blaming you right back. The idea that utopia can happen if people do it exactly my way, is not realizing the diversity in people and their particular needs.

      Just because RMS is right about a lot of thing doesn't mean he is always right. The same with everyone.
      Open source has its place, but it is also the cause for many of these outsourced jobs. As it gives people in poorer areas acces to advanced computing software, so they can

      • It is nice to be good and Nobel, but you still have bills to pay

        Dosent Stallman have bills to pay for his $10 million house and his private jet ? He wants the gulfstream G5 but because he works for the FSF and stuff and he can only have the beechcraft .

      • Open source has its place, but it is also the cause for many of these outsourced jobs. As it gives people in poorer areas acces to advanced computing software, so they can apply and say they have such skills and then undercut people who live in a higher income area.

        I think that's a stretch. The reason for that is that manufacturing has ALSO been outsourced, and to do that, companies had to build up the physical infrastructure. Labour is expensive, so it's worth spending a lot on saving labour costs.

        IOW, I t

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

        As it gives people in poorer areas acces to advanced computing software, so they can apply and say they have such skills and then undercut people who live in a higher income area.

        I thought that CS was the ultimate meritocracy, hence all attempts to increase the number of women and minorities in the workforce are just scams. Or are you saying that actually you resent anything that might provide you with competition in the job market?

        Beside which, any increased competition is more than offset by the new business (and thus jobs) created by open source. Look at Android, how many people directly or indirectly benefited from that? Android is of course built on top of Linux, and uses many

    • Re:Convenience (Score:5, Informative)

      by Raumkraut ( 518382 ) on Wednesday March 18, 2015 @07:40AM (#49282053)

      Though I consider myself an open-source programmer, and an open-source advocate, it's not for the same reasons as Stallman.

      FYI, Stallman would never describe himself as an "open-source advocate".

      "Open Source" is a software-development methodology - that software is better if more people can access the source code. The primary concern is toward the interests of developers.
      "Free Software", as advocated by RMS, is a philosophical position - that everyone should have certain rights over the software they use. The primary concern is toward the interests of the end-user.

      I believe that RMS takes the position that Free Software is a moral and ethical issue: That it is immoral and unethical to deny a person knowledge of, and control over, the software which they use. At an extreme, consider what rights people today have to so much as audit the code in their car, their insulin pump, or their implanted heart defibrillator (spoiler: they have no such rights).

      • "Free Software", as advocated by RMS, is a philosophical position - that everyone should have certain rights over the software they use. The primary concern is toward the interests of the end-user.

        In contrast, I've always thought that the primary concern was towards the interests of the software. Think of the software you write as something you want to grow and evolve beyond what you can do for it yourself. The GPL with Copyleft nicely serves your (parental) interests as the author, and the interests of the software as an entity in its own right to grow and evolve.

        Now, consider the interests of the end user. The user would want maximum freedom - to use it, to change it, to distribute the source cod

        • In contrast, I've always thought that the primary concern was towards the interests of the software.

          I agree with your view, but that terminology is anthropomorphizing an inanimate object, which IMHO makes it difficult to understand the benefits of that approach. If GPL achieves "what's best for the project", few people will care.

          I've been recently describing what's good about the GPL by highlighting the knowledge about the software.

          Compared to other FLOSS licenses, the GPL/copyleft ones, are the ones which

          • There certainly are pros and cons to various FLOSS licenses, and as you illustrate, the GPL/copyleft licenses serve a particular need. What bugs me about "Free Software" as an idealogy is that it's supposed to be about preserving our "freedom". We can all be in favor of, in the abstract, so that's a pretty strong selling point (and therefore, BTW, a pretty good source of demagoguery by RMS.) But when it becomes concrete, we need to think a little harder about exactly which sorts of freedom are gained and

            • There's a frequent misunderstanding when people talk about freedom with respect to the GPL. The concept of "freedom" is itself not well defined, and historically there are at least two competing and somewhat opposing definitions, "positive" freedom (which is about maximizing the amount of things people are able to do) and "negative" freedom (not interfering with things that others want to do). The GPL is primarily concerned about the former, and your complaints are about the latter.

              The goal of the GPL is th

            • You say you couldn't use the software, which is not completely true. You couldn't use the software in the way you wanted to, which would be against the wishes of the people who had made (or translated) the software. You wanted to use that software and reissue it in a way that that none of us would consider Free (or Open Source) software. Since you weren't interested in producing Free Software, why did you think you should be able to take advantage of Free Software?

              I'm not trying to criticize your acti

              • You say you couldn't use the software, which is not completely true.

                Sorry that I didn't spell out that I meant that I couldn't use it from a business point of view. I assumed that readers would be able to figure that out without me having to explain every detail.

                Although many people make money selling GPL'ed software, it just doesn't make sense for many business scenarios, in which case the business "can't use the software" (again, in a practical business sense.)

                In my case, the business is a small one that I operate out of my home as a sideline. It sells something extreme

      • The primary concern is toward the interests of the end-user.

        Kind of, the primary concern is what the end user can do with the source code. This is the reason free software isn't particularly interesting to people, because end users are not programmers and thus are almost never interested in the source code. Free as in gratis is great for end users but freedom with respect to the source code isn't particularly useful to them.

        It's a great model for advancing corporate interests, they can employ or contract developers to get their needs met and can even keep those chan

    • Re:Convenience (Score:4, Insightful)

      by TuringTest ( 533084 ) on Wednesday March 18, 2015 @08:34AM (#49282275) Journal

      Convenience trumps ideals more often than not.

      Ideals are not there to achieve convenience. They exist to steer us away from convenience, to avoid short-term gains that would push us into some long term dead-ends.

      So ideals are not useful because we live by them on a day to day basis, but because they warn us when we deviate too far from them. Of course, having a few idealists that *do* live by their principles is a useful reminder for the rest of us that agree with them, but are nonetheless swayed by convenience.

    • The "dream" has been achieved but now people want to move the goalposts.

      Indeed, I installed Epic's UDK recently purely out of curiosity. All the tools you need to make high quality 3D graphical applications with an emphasis on games. Automatically installs the free versions of visual studio, (yet another great example of free tools from a commercial software house). The only "catch" is that they will take 5% of your revenue if/when your app/game exceeds $3k per quarter. I recall the days of CD distributors that would charge up to 60% of revenue just to print and ship the media.

    • by HiThere ( 15173 )

      That's almost, but not quite it. Another part of the answer is that people discount future expenses, and the further into the future they are the more they discount them.

      And do note that this is largely sensible. Our knowledge of the future isn't very good, so any projected future reward or cost is uncertain, and the further into the future it is, the more uncertain.

      P.S.: That we currently have the option to change to FOSSish phones doesn't mean that the option will continue to exist. And I said "FOSSis

  • Why So Important (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Wednesday March 18, 2015 @05:25AM (#49281707) Homepage

    The core principle of any democracy is knowledge must be free. Democracy ceases to be such when knowledge is priced beyond the reach of majority and they are forced to vote based upon ignorance. Computers are the best tool in making knowledge accessible and as such should never be priced out of easy access to the majority. Every citizen should have the right to readily access all the knowledge they want, in order to make informed decision about their democracy. Not selected highlights, not edited with secrecy, not distorted by lies but factual, validated information backed with explanations and when required, taught by suitably qualified professionals. Denial of information about the society they form a part of, in order to manipulate their consent, is autocracy by ignorance.

    • Re: Why So Important (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Bert64 ( 520050 ) <{bert} {at} {slashdot.firenzee.com}> on Wednesday March 18, 2015 @05:59AM (#49281793) Homepage

      The problem is that the world is just too complex, that even the few of us who want to understand and make informed decisions cannot be experts on everything...

      • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
        It not hard to be keep reading on what the security services have done to crypto, compliers, shipped hardware, OS, telcos and networks.
        The big brands are helping, not able to fix, do not want to fix or in collaboration with the security services to ship tame, back door, trap door products.
        If the shipped, offered or rented compiler is adding extra code or making applications that are open to network intrusion then people can also select other more tested products.
        Divest from the tame big brand junk. Star
  • Yes he's right (Score:5, Interesting)

    by aaaaaaargh! ( 1150173 ) on Wednesday March 18, 2015 @05:28AM (#49281717)

    He's right about most of the things he says, and that's also the reason why there are so many haters.

    If you look closely at the opponents of the free software movement you'll find out that most of them have no good arguments at all (except lame ad hominem attempts). Or they use weak fake arguments they do not believe in themselves, because they are (i) working for a large company dealing with proprietary software, or (ii) are disgruntled independent developers who really really would like to use some GNU libraries but at the same time refuse to respect to the licence.

    • Re:Yes he's right (Score:5, Insightful)

      by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Wednesday March 18, 2015 @05:49AM (#49281767) Journal

      He's right about most of the things he says, and that's also the reason why there are so many haters.

      He also pulls no punches when it comes to saying uncomfortable unpleasant things. It's even worse that some of those have come to pass.

      Anyway, I also predict this thread will be full of wild claims about RMS many of which are flat-out untrue and demonstrably so. Because almost every thread involving RMS winds up that way.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by gnasher719 ( 869701 )

        Anyway, I also predict this thread will be full of wild claims about RMS many of which are flat-out untrue and demonstrably so. Because almost every thread involving RMS winds up that way.

        So to start it off, you started with a wild claim of your own...

        So basically before anyone can post anything that you don't like, you declare all such posts to be flat-out untrue and demonstrably so. Congratulations.


        • So basically before anyone can post anything that you don't like, you declare all such posts to be flat-out untrue and demonstrably so. Congratulations.

          It would be a wild claim if it wasn't true. I've spent a lot of time debunking +5 informative posts on slashdot which are completely and utterly untrue.

          Or you can just disappear into la-la land and make up stuff about what you think I'm going to do. That works too, and goes right along with making up stuff about RMS as well.

        • Anyway, I also predict this thread will be full of wild claims about RMS many of which are flat-out untrue and demonstrably so. Because almost every thread involving RMS winds up that way.

          So to start it off, you started with a wild claim of your own...

          A prediction is not a claim. Its seeing the future and saying what one think will happen.

          And that future are already here. So was a correct prediction too.

      • > He also pulls no punches when it comes to saying uncomfortable unpleasant things.

        This is certainly true. I've met the man at a conference, and mentioned my attempts to bring client's and partner's work into the published, ideally free software and open source where necessary world. He considered my and their work with "software as a service" to be immoral, because all the software should be directly in their hands. We didn't have time to discuss it longer, nor to discuss the inability of most home user

        • even while I find myself fervently wishing that he would bathe more often.

          Now that is an oft-made claim which *is* true.

        • by olau ( 314197 )

          He considered my and their work with "software as a service" to be immoral, because all the software should be directly in their hands.

          Well, I'm not RMS but from some of the remarks I've seen from him on mailing lists, it's not just the software but also very much the data. He's against the idea of giving up data to a third-party.

          In the light of the Snowden revelations, you have to admit there's some validity to his point.

          ... nor to discuss the inability of most home users to maintain a robust or secure database

          I'm sure his response would be that we should figure out ways to help them do that. There are in fact people working on these kinds of things, e.g. the FreedomBox project. It's of course a much harder engineering challen

        • A long time ago, somebody on Groklaw was complaining that RMS had casually mentioned to him that the Groklaw guy's Gameboy (or whatever) was immoral. What surprised me was how seriously the guy took RMS's comment. It wouldn't bother me at all, since I disagree with RMS on that point, but he was upset.

    • Theres a difference between being *right* and *having people agree with you*.

      • Theres a difference between being *right* and *having people agree with you*.

        Absolutely. It's just that being right without the ability to convince people of it seldom leads to earthshaking revolution... you run the risk of losing out to someone who is clearly wrong, yet charismatic and convincing.

        This is often the World we live in today, suffering because the person who thought up the head tax couldn't debate as proficiently as the proponent of the metered gas mask.

        • And yet Linux distros are among the most-used OSes today, and those are mostly based on a GPLed kernel and a whole lot of Gnu software. Basic software development tools are now mostly free (you can do pretty much anything with Visual Studio Express, for example, just not as easily as with versions you pay for). He inspired the Open Source movement, which is a lot more politically acceptable. Comparing the pre-RMS world and now, I'd say he did cause an earthshaking revolution.

    • He seems to believe that software has some special place in the world rather than it just being another type of end result of human effort. Why should I give away my source code if I don't want to? I put my time and effort into creating it so it is MY choice. His opinion is irrelevant.

      I don't know his opinions on copyright in general but would he suggest an author give away his manuscript for free then hope for a few coins to be tossed his way as virtual charity? Or ditto a painter?

      If people want to give aw

      • > I put my time and effort into creating it so it is MY choice.

        He would be right up there with the notion of personal choice. His contention is that closed software removes your personal choice to do what you want to with your hardware, because the hardware is under the control of the software, and the software isn't under your control.

        The freedom to do whatever you want with a given piece of GPL software is enshrined in the license, where it does not conflict with the freedoms of the next person to rece

      • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

        his gnu ideology depends on copyright, that's the fault I have with the guy.

        you see without copyright you can't make copyright licenses that force people to share the changes.

        and yeah you can say that you don't want to share your code and he can say that he doesn't want to use and depend on it then. that's the whole point, that if he depends on the software you make and you don't give the source and possibility to recompile then he is dependent on you and you have power over him, can screw him over for mone

        • I'm not sure that you've thought this all the way through. Imagine a world without copyright on software. Would the philosophy behind the GPL still be distinctive? I would say it would not: although it would make making the clause about distributing the 'preferred way of making modifications' untenable, it would allow everyone to modify and distribute source code if they have it, it would allow anyone to decompile, reverse engineer, modify and distribute. If I can distribute your binaries without repercussi
        • You could read what RMS had to say about that. He thought that, since he couldn't get rid of software copyrights, he'd use them in a different way. RMS can be surprisingly practical, and is willing to bend (not break) his principles for tactical advantage. Consider the LGPL, and the special licenses on bison and flex.

          As far as the iPhones go, I never was forced to update to an OS I didn't want, and my phone continued to work just fine the way it was. It wouldn't necessarily be possible to get new app

      • by silentcoder ( 1241496 ) on Wednesday March 18, 2015 @08:25AM (#49282207)

        Yes, to see the proof of your claim just look at the cooking industry. Recipes cannot be copyrighted (they are explicitly excluded from copyright protection under international law). Which is why there are no chefs. Oh wait sorry, it's why all the chefs keep their recipes strictly secret and only provided finished food and none of them ever publishes a cookbook... oh wait.

        For the nitpickers: yes a cookbook can be copyrighted but the recipes inside it cannot, you are always free to copy one, modify it, use it and even put it in your own cookbook modified or not.

        Software is a lot more like a chefs recipes than it is like an authors book.

      • by Sique ( 173459 ) on Wednesday March 18, 2015 @08:52AM (#49282385) Homepage
        First of all: Software has a special place in the world. Software is a distilled form of knowing how to do things. Software is a way to actually store work: You do the work once and then use it again and again without further effort. Software itself doesn't degrade, it just might lose its uses. Software can be endlessly replicated with an effort that is minuscle compared to the effort necessary to create it in the first place. Once in the world, software is not a scarce good.

        And yes, it is your choice what do do with the software you write yourself. No one will ever tell you different, except your employer. It is also your choice to smoke, to tell racist jokes, to not ask for help, to let your house rot away and to spend all your money on blackjack and hookers. Richard M. Stallman has no rights to your software at all.

        But you too have no right to other people's software, because they have the same rights to do with their software as they like. If you want to get access to it, you have to play nice. You can spend huge amounts of money, which is the market economy way of doing things. But why? Software per se is no scarce good. The only reason you would have to spend huge amounts of money for a good that is easily replicated again and again is because other people don't play nice too.

        Richard M. Stallman set up some rules how to play nice when it comes to software. You are not required to play nice. But then expect others not to be nice to you too.

      • It is your choice to be an asshole with your shitty software, just like it's your choice to be a racist or a homophobe or whatever. No one is going to force you to be a decent human being.

        But we have a political ideal that I would like everyone to conform to: don't be an asshole and don't use or produce non-free software. No one is going to force you to free your software. But, I hope for a world in which the last closed source software author huddles in a corner, death grip on his precious, precious codes

  • I was pleasantly surprised by the New Yorker's coverage of the shift from "free software" to "open source", which while less detailed (unsurprisingly) than other sources such as Free as in Freedom 2.0 also presented it simply as a thing that has happened, rather than either of the extremes that are usually applied: it's the worst affront ever to software freedom, or as the liberation of programmers from the crazy extreme ideology of RMS. Personally I'm more interested in free software than in open source: the source code is a means to an end, not an end in itself. But it's good to see that view handled as a view and the events (and responses to them) presented, without turning the story into a justification or rationalisation of the view. BTW, still waiting for that planned Chaosnet support...
  • by nut ( 19435 ) on Wednesday March 18, 2015 @06:25AM (#49281867) Homepage

    A lot of software developers are doing what RMS says a lot of time. It's just that almost noone does it all the time.

    It's clearly evident from the amount of GNU and GPL software out there that wasn't written by RMS that people are following his ideas. And that those ideas have succeeded, simply by the success of that same software in the marketplace.

    It's not a failure of the ideal when developers of open source also write proprietary software to pay the bills.

    • A lot of software developers are doing what RMS says a lot of time. It's just that almost noone does it all the time.

      It's clearly evident from the amount of GNU and GPL software out there that wasn't written by RMS that people are following his ideas. And that those ideas have succeeded, simply by the success of that same software in the marketplace.

      It's not a failure of the ideal when developers of open source also write proprietary software to pay the bills.

      I agree; especially if your really value freedom, i.e. the ability make your own choice about what you want to do rather than be forced to comply with one set of restrictions or another on your freedom to chose. RMS ideals, at their core, are about restricting your ability to make a choice, a more fundamental freedom, IMHO, than being free from proprietary software. Not being able to develop proprietary software means my choice to control what I create is removed from me, and thus I am less free. Being abl

      • Not being able to develop proprietary software means my choice to control what I create is removed from me, and thus I am less free. Being able to chose to develop proprietary software in no way limits anyone's ability to develop free software and thus the existence of both implies a greater degree of freedom than envisioned by those exposing a world with only free software.

        Free software is not about freedom for the developer. It's about freedom for the user. Closed software enslaves the user. They own their device, but their device obeys the software developer, not the user.

        Is a world in which you are not allowed to own slaves less free? I suppose, in a "freer," but perverse, world you'd be free to enslave others.

        • Not being able to develop proprietary software means my choice to control what I create is removed from me, and thus I am less free. Being able to chose to develop proprietary software in no way limits anyone's ability to develop free software and thus the existence of both implies a greater degree of freedom than envisioned by those exposing a world with only free software.

          Free software is not about freedom for the developer. It's about freedom for the user. Closed software enslaves the user. They own their device, but their device obeys the software developer, not the user.

          Is a world in which you are not allowed to own slaves less free? I suppose, in a "freer," but perverse, world you'd be free to enslave others.

          Bullshit. No one is forcing you to use proprietary software; the user has complete freedom to chose what type of software to use. To use your argument, free software enslaves the developer by forcing them to work for someone else without any choice or compensation. In that reverse free world yo are free to enslave others under the guise of freedom. Welcome, citizen, to the new free world. We have been at war with Eastasia forever.

          • Wrong. The software developer is not forced to develop software at all.

          • free software enslaves the developer by forcing them to work for someone else without any choice or compensation.

            Nope; nobody is forced to write free software, and RMS wanted developers to earn good livings. RMS used to ask, at his talks, how many developers were paid based on their software being sold, and it was usually a small part of the audience. Most developers are paid to cover specific needs their employers have, and would be paid no matter what the license. We tend to forget that because the

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 18, 2015 @06:44AM (#49281907)

    When I first encountered GNU it was in the age of Windows 3.1 and 386 processors. I had just received a shareware utility program which included GNU tar as part of the distribution. I read the GNU General Public License of GNU tar and it impressed me because it was refreshing to see a program license that not only gave me unlimited usage of the program (GNU tar, not the shareware utility) but also gave me the right to study the source code, modify the source, and then redistribute the program. All the other programs that I've noted at the time had various usage and distribution restrictions in their licenses and GNU tar was outstanding in this regard. I was not a programmer at the time but I understood the utility in being guaranteed the right to modify the software.

    The next time I encountered GNU was during a Stallman lecture about his free software movement. He taught us that proprietary software is anti-social and harmful to our freedom. How could my beloved software (that has served me well for such a long time) harm my freedom? The idea that I could have total freedom in my computing were implanted as a result of that lecture but I was too addicted to the software I was using to do anything meaningful afterwards. His GNU system that he wrote for the express purpose of escaping from the world of proprietary software was too much of hassle to bother with; I was quite comfortable with my system that ran Windows 98.

    As time moved on, I had to use and manage all sorts of software in my job and in my personal life. I started to notice the points that Stallman had indicated: proprietary software intends to divide society by restricting users from sharing the software while simultaneously encouraging users to adopt the software, users are locked into a single source of help if the software needs fixing and users are helpless to help oneself, the users' computing belongs to the owners of the software which means it's quite possible that the owners of the software put their own interests before the user by putting in a backdoor to protect their interest.

    Time and time again, Stallman had proven to me that I chose a life where my own computing did not actually belong to me. When I realized this, I knew that I had to start migrating my computing into the world of free software. It's been many years and it's cost me a lot of money and today, I am proud to say that 100% of my personal computing and the vast majority of computing in my businesses actually does belong to me. Thanks Mr Stallman, the cost was expensive but your activism taught me of a life where I don't need to bound to the rules imposed by proprietary software and by association, you've also given me the passion to consider the wider topics of society, politics and freedom.

  • by Viol8 ( 599362 ) on Wednesday March 18, 2015 @07:03AM (#49281951) Homepage

    And if I have personal freedom I can choose to buy and use an iPhone if I want (I don't, but not for the same reason as RMS).

    While much of what he says is right wrt software, unfortunately he has a bad dose of myopia or tunnel vision, call if what you like, about the wider world and how software interacts with it at the personal and societal level.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 18, 2015 @07:18AM (#49281987)

      Stallman doesn't believe that having an option implies having freedom. Stallman believes that freedom is a matter of self-control and your choice to accept your iphone means that you've chosen to let Apple control your life in your phone. You may have paid for your iphone but Apple controls it and you are forbidden to control your iphone.

      Stallman doesn't have the myopia that you think he has. He knows fully well that wide world uses proprietary software and people are happy with their choice of software. What he's doing is to teach society that a life of proprietary software means that we live subject to the will of other people. Stallman cannot (and does not) force people to dump proprietary software. He teaches what he knows and hopes that some people will agree that self-control and social solidarity are things worth advocating.

      • by Viol8 ( 599362 )

        "You may have paid for your iphone but Apple controls it and you are forbidden to control your iphone."

        When you buy a house or flat in most countries you arn't allowed to absolutely anything you please with it. So what? Its just a phone.

        • > in most countries you aren't allowed to [do] absolutely anything you please with it. So what? Its just a phone.

          And where does it end?

          Printers and their DRM ink cartridges?

          Game Consoles?

          TVs?

          Computers?

          Cars?

          It is _already_ illegal to _inspect_ some of the things you "own" due to the greedy and immoral DMCA.

          When you can't even charge the _battery_ this is _already_ going TOO FAR.

          * https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/... [eff.org]

        • by Qzukk ( 229616 )

          When you buy a house or flat in most countries you arn't allowed to absolutely anything you please with it.

          Hey, there you go, appeal to everyone's undying love for homeowners associations to get your point across!

          Except... it'd probably work better if they weren't so generally hated.

      • Some people are capable of building/configuring their own PC and others aren't- so buying an off the shelf PC might be best. Or perhaps the capable person values their time too much to bother. I don't see anything wrong with this.

    • unfortunately he has a bad dose of myopia or tunnel vision, call if what you like, about the wider world and how software interacts with it at the personal and societal level.

      Such as? And stick to actual things he's said.

    • And if I have personal freedom I can choose to buy and use an iPhone if I want (I don't, but not for the same reason as RMS).

      You failed to understand his point. Maybe a car analogy will help.

      You have the freedom to run your car into the tree in your front yard. Stallman is not trying to deny you that freedom. He's merely pointing out that it will destroy the tree, probably your car, and suggests that it's a rather stupid idea. In the quote in the summary, he is lamenting that a lot of people do stupid things.
      Do you understand the difference between forbidding you from doing something, and trying to convince you not to do it? B

  • ...but you have to give him points for consistency and not giving the first damn what *anyone* thinks of him. It can sometimes be a little grating, but generally it's quite refreshing to interact with people that lay all their cards out, whom you don't have to second-guess or wonder whether they have ulterior motives.
    • ...but you have to give him points for consistency and not giving the first damn what *anyone* thinks of him.

      What does Stallman do for a living? Travel around, make speeches about free software, and get paid for it. He has to say what he says, or nobody will pay him anymore.

      • What does Stallman do for a living? Travel around, make speeches about free software, and get paid for it. He has to say what he says, or nobody will pay him anymore.

        Are you implying that RMS is in it for the money?

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

        So anyone who wants to speak about anything vaguely political has no credibility once the accept any money? John Stewart Mill isn't worth listening too because he published his ideas and was paid for copies sold?

  • Does anybody know if the online document is the definitive copy of Stallman's published letter to the editor? I'm also curious about the other GNU docs, not that I think they were "retconned" to fit current realities in the software world today. But mainly because I think these documents should be preserved for their historical worth, warts, typos and all. It would interesting to study the progression of Stallman's thought from a focus purely on getting that proprietary printer in the corner to work to a mo

  • Cyanogenmod with F-Droid, Firefox OS, Nokia N900....?

    • Sadly there's no such thing as a truly free phone. The radio firmware is still a binary blob.

      To be honest, that's where the focus of the open hardware movement should be. We have options for free computers (locked bootloaders, though...), but we can't get free phones at all. The Ubuntu phone almost made its kickstarter goal. Perhaps a truly free phone could get some attention...

      I'd volunteer for a free radio project. I can do digital design and VLSI, but my experience with that is about 10 years out of date

  • But they don't seem to do what you say, I observed; they all have iPhones. 'I don't understand that either,' he said. 'If they don't realize that they need to defend their freedom, soon they won't have any.'

    Some of the most powerful communication tools of current times are things like a smartphone and Facebook. RMS is correct about the privacy risks, and actually the situation is getting worse every day. But at the same time those are very practical tools and you lose a lot if you just throw them away. This is the dilemma.

    That being said, at some point I expect there be a larger movement where some people will just find all the datamining and advertising too much to bear, and will stop using those services. Io

  • by Marginal Coward ( 3557951 ) on Wednesday March 18, 2015 @09:34AM (#49282637)

    The impact of RMS and his "GNU Manifesto" have been undeniably powerful, but I wonder what the software world would look like if there had never been an RMS. I'm certain that we would still have something like "open source" software. There would still be something like the MIT-style permissive licenses. There would still be a BSD version of Linux. Heck, a college kid from Finland might even still have created his own UNIX kernel, and maybe somebody would have pulled together all the pieces of a UNIX-style ecosystem to create a second UNIX-clone operating system that users were able to contribute to and modify.

    Next, someone else might even have invented something like "Copyleft", wherein copyright law is actually used, jujitsu-style, to preserve the ability to copy rather than to limit it. Now, that's a pretty clever idea, but surely someone would have thought of it.

    Maybe these things would have happened slower - much as light bulbs and cars might have happened slower without Edison and Ford, but would undoubtedly have happened.

    That said, would Communism have happened without "The Communist Manifesto?" I'm not so sure. No idealogy can exist without its ideologue.

    • Correction: "There would still be a BSD version of UNIX".

  • by mrflash818 ( 226638 ) on Wednesday March 18, 2015 @11:35AM (#49283591) Homepage Journal

    Without him, I probably wouldn't have had the career I was able to have, nor enjoy the Debian distribution I currently enjoy every day.

    I am grateful.

System going down at 5 this afternoon to install scheduler bug.

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