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GNU is Not Unix

Interviews: RMS Answers Your Questions 246

The Free Software Foundation will be celebrating its 30th anniversary on Oct. 3rd. Recently, you had a chance to ask its founder Richard Stallman about GNU/Linux, free software, and other issues of public concern. Below you'll find his answers to your questions. Learn more about how you can join the FSF here, and help fight the good fight.
Companies Selling Actually Free Software?
by eldavojohn

I found your piece on selling free software to be pretty logical on paper. However, has it ever worked in the wild? Can you name companies or revenues that currently operate on this idea (and I'm not talking about services or support of the software)? I simply can't come up with a widely used monetized piece of software licensed under the GNU GPL whereby the original software was sold at a single price and shipped with the source code -- free for the original purchaser to distribute by the license's clauses. Can you list any revenue generation from that? I must admit I'm not exactly enamored with paying for free software (as in your definition of free) before it's written yet I cannot think of any other way this would fairly compensate the developer.

RMS: I have to exert all my self control to respond civilly after seeing the word "monetize". Implicit in that word is the idea that you want to turn everything into money. The only point in writing a program is to turn it into money. Feh!

I don't object to making money in an ethical way. I don't object to raising money ethically to work on free software. But when you talk in terms of "monetizing", your thoughts have become twisted in a direction that will lead you to be a parasite.

Simply selling copies of free software was an effective way to raise money when I wrote that article, and remained so through the early 90s. As you've noted, that isn't usually the case.

But we have effective ethical ways of funding free software development. For instance, selling support to commercial users, selling exceptions, developing solutions for clients' internal use, and crowdfunding. Simply asking satisfied users for donations works for some developers.

How do you feel about web applications?
by bigsexyjoe

I know you don't like Software as a Service. However, there are some web applications that really only work as a web application. Slashdot is an example of this. Do you feel that creators of web applications should be obliged to make their source code available? Also, if I am employed as web application developer, am I a bad person?

RMS: That's not quite correct. What I reject is somewhat different: Service as a Software Substitute (SaaSS). This means a service that does a job that you could do by running a program in your own computer.

The two concepts overlap only partly. I don't think I disapprove of _all_ the things you'd call "Software as a Service", because not all of them are SaaSS.

I don't like to use the term "web application" because it is designed to ignore a distinction I consider crucial, between the software in the server and the software in the client. Even if they are designed to work together, they raise totally different ethical issues.

To avoid confusing them, I insist on talking separately about "services" and "client programs". Of course, I reject a non-free client program like any other non-free program.

As for the server software that implements a service, that doesn't directly affect me as a user of the service. I don't even need to know whether it's done with software or by humans. For your sake, though, if you use software in your server, I hope it is free-libre so that it respects your freedom and you have control over your own server.

Slashdot is a web service. In the past, one could access it with a free web browser -- no special client software was needed. Maybe that is still true -- I don't know. Many web servers send programs to run in the user's browser, generally in the form of Javascript code. Most of these programs are proprietary, and I use LibreJS to prevent those from running in my computer. That means there are services that won't work for me. I value my freedom too much to run their non-free software.

If Slashdot sends Javascript code to the user, it should make sure that code carries a free license and (if minimized or otherwise transformed) a pointer to the real source code.

However, I am not happy about automatically running a program sent to my browser by a server even if it carries a free license. For users to maintain a modified version of that software is inconvenient even if it is authorized. Thus, I'd rather not run substantial Javascript code. If I am going to run a program on my computer, I want to install it the same way I install Emacs, GNOME or LibreOffice.

As always, I don't want to talk about "web applications". We must keep web services and client programs separate.

Ethical treatment of your users calls for making all your client-side software (including Javascript) free.

I don't think web services are wrong _in general_, but they raise various ethical issues. For instance, you shouldn't collect any data about your users, or remember what they do on the site, unless the essence of the service consists of remembering this data. A secondary "social" (I'd rather call it "antisocial") functionality does not justify imposing surveillance on users who want only the principal functionality.

Do not try to excuse adding a brick to the wall of massive surveillance.

Re: On the matter of smartphones
by Anonymous Coward

How do we take smart phones out of the control of corporations and back into user's control? There's GNU/Linux for computers which gives the users freedoms, but there's no equivalent for smart phones yet. I see this as a serious problem because people are largely abandoning computers and laptops to move toward smart phones and tablets. So my question is: How to make a smartphone that truly has the user's interest at heart? (Not trying to sell them apps, spy and track on them, restrict them to a walled garden, etc.)

RMS: There are phones on which you can run Replicant, the free version of Android. Some peripherals don't work, but you can do calls and texts.

Portable phones have another problem: the radio modem processor which talks with the phone network always runs proprietary software, written for a secret processor. Nowadays it checks signatures, so that software is tivoized; Even if we had free replacement software, the processor would refuse to run it.

Even worse, that proprietary program has a universal back door, so it can be altered by commands sent by radio. In most phone models, the modem processor can take control of the main processor and replace its software. Thus, even if you have installed Replicant, the phone company and others have the power to remotely overwrite it with something nasty.

The usual "something nasty" is software that listens all the time and transmits all the speech it hears.

By designing the phone carefully, it is possible to prevent the modem processor from sabotaging the main processor or from accessing the microphone. Unfortunately, we know of no such phone model that can use its peripherals without non-free drivers.

There is another problem that we can never fix, because it is inherent in the way the cellular network works. The phone sends signals all the time it is turned on (except in airplane mode), and the phone network uses those signals to determine where the phone is located. That system records where the phone has been.

In other words, every portable phone is a tracking device.

I know of a possible fix for that: build a one-way pager into the phone. Then you can keep the phone in "airplane mode" (no tracking) nearly all the time, and tell people that they should page you when they have something to say to you. When you are paged, you can decide when it is safe to connect to the phone radio network and reveal your location -- presumably when you are in a place that is not sensitive.

The future of private and free tech?
by Anonymous Coward

My biggest concern in this day and age is the dumbing down and commercialization of computing. What used to be open, interoperable programs has now turned into ad based, proprietary apps. We've gone from having something like Pidgin being able to run all instant messaging clients ad free to now having to download a separate app for every messenger, for example (no one uses the older ones anymore, or they've been shut down). Also, free standards like email have been falling out of favor due to corporate pushes to lock down users into walled gardens like Facebook. Of course there's always the option of not using these proprietary apps, but it really hinders your social life. Also, programs (now called "apps") are designed to milk the users for money, rather than to benefit the users, as you know is the case with things like " defective by design" DRM.

Is there any way computing can truly become free and user centric again, or do you think it's truly a lost cause? If so, how can we do it without losing connection with the rest of the world who will not give up their FB/WhatsApp/Kik (and don't answer their phone or emails anymore)?

RMS: Please don't associate me with advocacy of something "open". I have never used that term.

I disagree with “open source”, of course. However, before that term was coined in 1998, the term "open software" was used to mean something else. It meant that users could choose from various components that could interoperate. I think that's the term this question refers to.

Unix was referred to as "open software", in that sense. However, although Unix was "open", it was not free software or even close to it. Being "open" meant that the user had (in theory) a choice between various proprietary programs -- but that's not freedom, that's only having the chance to choose your master. Being "open" was insufficient because what we need is "free". That's why I needed to write a free operating system, the GNU operating system, to replace Unix.

That's why "GNU" stands for "GNU's Not Unix".

The first step in opposing these evil tendencies is to refuse, firmly and persistently, to yield to them. No matter what anyone else does, I will never be a used of Facebook. I will never use those messenger cr...apps because they are non-free software; not to mention that I won't use the non-free platforms they run on.

If that means there are some people I can't talk with, I will live with that. I might want to talk with them, but not badly enough to surrender my freedom to do it.

Your question presents the issue as an all-or-nothing binary choice, total victory or total defeat. But that's not how it is.

It's a shame that they use those, but we don't need them to _stop_ using those things just in order for us to talk with them. It's enough for them to resume using email and phone calls.

You could send these people a card, once in a while, saying "I'd still like to be friends with you, if you'd like to talk by email or a phone call. I won't be used by Facebook or run WhatsApp. I can't talk with you that way, but that's nothing personal. I'd like to see you some day."

Then either they get back to you or they don't.

On the matter of privacy
by GeekWithAKnife

In your opinion, how can a government strike a fair balance between privacy and snooping powers? Given that the government needs to be able to spy on potentially dangerous people and groups and such desires have grown legs, wings and multiple heads over the years...

RMS: Over the past 20 years, digital technology has been used to implement a tremendous increase in surveillance. Most citizens of the US live under far more surveillance than the citizens of the Soviet Union knew.

As a result, the balance between privacy and investigation is totally skewed. It's not just a little off, it is wildly wrong, so much that it threatens democracy. Democracy depends on whistleblowers to tell the public what the government is doing, so if surveillance is enough for the government to find and imprison whistleblowers, democracy is directly threatened.

We need to redesign digital systems so that they do not accumulate dossiers about people other than court-designated suspects. Read here for more arguments, plus suggestions about how to do this.

We should also praise Edward Snowden vigorously on every pertinent occasion. The US political class -- which mostly tolerates or promotes oppressive surveillance -- condemns him and continues to demonize him. It's up to us to oppose that.

This is why I lead "three cheers for Edward Snowden" when I talk about surveillance in my speeches.

The next big thing
by laffer1

What do you see as the next big issue coming up with software licensing that isn't addressed with the existing GPL and AGPL licenses?

RMS: I don't know of any. GPL version 3 seems to be what we need; there is no flaw or problem that would require another license.

People have suggested making a "Lesser Affero GPL", and I agree it might be a good thing -- it would take the form of an exception added to the Affero GPL -- but the first step is to figure out what it ought to _do_. What uses should it permit that the existing Affero GPL does not?

I am interested in getting suggestions about this from developers that have real software they might want to release under such a license.

Microsoft's Contributions to Free Software
by jrnvk

It seems like Microsoft is starting to contribute more to free products. What's your take on them joining the community, given their rather different approach in historical times?

RMS: Microsoft's most important software continues to be proprietary, and malware too. In fact, Windows 10 is even nastier malware than Windows 8 was.

This is an enormous wrong, and we can't excuse Microsoft for this just because it develops some free programs also.

What are your views on console gaming?
by Kethinov

It's long been possible to run entirely free software on a PC, but the world of game consoles has been a proprietary hellscape for many years. In recent years there's been an attempt to open it up in some very modest ways, mainly through the proliferation of Android "microconsoles" and other Android-based set top boxes. Do you find these new developments to be a step in the right direction and are you worried as I am that they're not catching on very well?

RMS: Alas, I know nothing about them. Since you say "open it up", and "open" is not the same thing as "free", I can't tell from your question whether those projects do, or can, lead to a community based on free games.

What I can say is that I wouldn't run a non-free game any more than I'd run a non-free operating system or a non-free compiler or a non-free messaging program.

Teaching about Free Software in CS courses
by daveagp

I teach CS at a university, often including introductory courses. Regarding free software, what message(s) is/are the most vital to communicate to people who are writing computer programs for the first time?

RMS: Here's the message I would give:

If you become skilled at programming, you will come to notice how non-free programs, denying you the source code, restrict and oppress you. But non-free software is prevalent only because the users tolerate it. As recognition of its injustice spreads, we will be able to put an end to it.

I have chosen free software for this class because I value my freedom and I refuse to give it up. Also because I don't want to be responsible for leading you to surrender your freedom.

Please read this for more about this issue.

Then I'd prepare to spend the next class session discussing that reading.

by ISayWeOnlyToBePolite

The Gnu Free Documentation License (GFDL) has not been embraced with nearly as much love as the GPL and numerous issues have been raised:

  • Non compatibility with GPL (both ways).
  • Non-freeness (as deemed by Debian) of invariant sections.
  • Cumbersomeness of having to print the full license when distributing physical printouts.

Wikipedia for example does not accept contributions licensed under the GFDL only. What do you see as a way forward in addressing the issues raised regarding the GFDL?

RMS: That is a fact.

  • Two different copyleft licenses, each with different requirements, can't help being incompatible. Thus, CC-SA is incompatible with the GNU GPL also. The only way to avoid that is if one presents the other as an option, as some other free licenses permit relicensing under the GPL.
  • You'll have to talk with the Debian people about that. I am not responsible for their views.
  • The GNU GPL has the same requirement: every copy of the work must _come with_ a copy of the license. I adopted that criterion so that works won't get separated from their license.

    Under today's insane copyright law, a copyright can last for more than a century. We can expect Disney to try to buy a 20-year increase soon, as it did in 1998. If you live 40 more years, works that you write today will still be copyrighted in 2125, unless we have defeated the copyright industry by then.

    We have convenient ways for a work to refer to a license, and I expect they will still work 5 years from now, but we can't count on them to function in a hundred years. In 10 or 20 years, the World Wide Web could be wiped out by the cr...apps that most mobile operating systems promote. Or, considering a much smaller change, the US government might confiscate the domain gnu.org for posting forbidden dissident material such as this.

    Keeping a copy of the license with the work is the only way we can make sure people several decades from now will see what how are allowed to use it.

I was disappointed when Wikipedia decided to change to CC-SA as its primary license, but given that it has done so, I can't criticize this policy.

I know of one way [of addressing the issues raised regarding the GFDL]: release your documentation under the GFDL.

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Interviews: RMS Answers Your Questions

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 10, 2015 @01:54PM (#50496613)

    I'm concerned that the issue of systemd wasn't addressed properly by these questions and their answers. Systemd is having a huge impact on the FSF, the GNU project, on Linux, and on the entire open source ecosystem.

    Regardless of what you may personally think about systemd, it has clearly been the most divisive force affecting the entire GNU/Linux community ever. We've seen it cause irreparable harm to the Debian project, as well as causing many problems for many people (the huge number of bug reports and mailing list postings begging for help confirm this). Some long time GNU/Linux users have been forced to find alternatives, including the BSDs. Since pretty much all of the major Linux distros now use systemd, even switching distros isn't an option. These people have to leave the GNU/Linux ecosystem altogether.

    The FSF should be shitting its pants about what systemd is doing to Linux, to the relevancy of the GNU software, and to the open source movement as a whole. Systemd has shown itself to be on the leading edge of driving Linux users away from GPL/LGPL/AGPL software over to software that's released under the BSD and MIT licenses.

    What we're seeing is that a lot of former GNU/Linux users are now using one or more of the BSDs, using lots of non-GPLed software, and absolutely loving every aspect of it. They're getting OSes that are respect and embrace the UNIX philosophy, which in turn makes them extremely reliable and trustworthy. They're getting software that's better than the GNU alternatives in many ways (like LLVM/Clang versus GCC). They're coming to realize that maybe the GPL family of licenses isn't so good after all, and that maybe promoting more freedom, rather than ideology, actually does result in better software. They're starting to use software written for the sake of providing good software to meet real-world needs, rather than using software that was written to fulfill a philosophical agenda.

    The GNU project and the FSF won't escape the harm that systemd is bringing to the entire Linux ecosystem. So it's very surprising that they haven't addressed the issue sooner, especially in a semi-prominent interview with a highly tech-focused audience like this one is.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      systemd is licensed under a GNU license. If you don't like it, use something else. I don't think Stallman gives a shit about the anti systemd whining. He is promoting a license philosophy, not dictating which designs are worthy and which aren't.

      Free Software is a free market. Redhat sees more benefit in using systemd than in using sysvinit. So do many other vendors. As long as they release under GPL, Stallman doesn't care. If you want something else, GO MAKE SOMETHING ELSE. Your whining is not going to do s

    • by Microlith ( 54737 ) on Thursday September 10, 2015 @05:38PM (#50498859)

      The "problem" with systemd seems mostly manufactured. Given it's covered by the LGPLv2, I suspect RMS's only concern would be that it isn't under the GPLv3.

      Everything you write seems to be unsupported assertions, attempting to drive to a pre-determined conclusion.

    • by spauldo ( 118058 )

      Richard Stallman has been around a long, long time. He's seen the like of systemd before, and he knows what's going to happen.

      Seriously, systemd isn't the first huge change to come down the pipe in computing. We've had several. He's witnessed the near death of LISP. He's witnessed the decline of the minicomputer and rise of the micro. He's seen "empires" (software and hardware company wise) rise and fall. He's seen UNIX rise to dominate the server room (IIRC, he's no fan of UNIX). He's seen non-free

      • I was around for those changes and many others.

        Systemd is far more fundamental than those.

        But hey, the proof is in the pudding. I spent two days trying systemd. I could not get it working properly. (This was with Debian, my favorite linux distro of all time.) Machines that couldn't mount an NFS point just booted to the rescue prompt. Networking didn't work. Many other issues. The whole thing just made me look at systemd as something that really has not been tested enough to have been distributed like wildfi

        • by spauldo ( 118058 )

          I doubt your claim that systemd is more fundamental than the C library change, but perhaps we have different ideas on what makes something fundamental.

          I don't really see it as any different. Yes, it's untested. Yes, it combines many different aspects of the base system into one thing. No, I'm not particularly fond of that, but hey, I liked libc5 just fine too. Remember all the software corner cases that wouldn't work with glibc? Or, if you were like me and used Slackware, the extreme pain in the ass a

        • by lucm ( 889690 )

          If systemd has the potential to further commercialize the linux world (certifications, certified distributions, enterprise support contracts, etc), at the expense of the rest of the linux world then I think it is something we could use an RMS comment about.

          Amen to that. Anyone who deals on a regular basis with RHN subcriptions can see how this kind of design is in line with Red Hat's approach. It's linux with a kill switch.

        • If you can't get standard modern software running after two days, that probably means you're not an expert and shouldn't talk about that thing.

          I've been maintaining systems since the 90s, and it is something new, yes. I have to look things up in the manual again, yes. But Sys V was always crap. We always knew it was crap. But the other stuff was worse. Until systemd. So now people that understand these things, and get to make important decisions about them like what to run in a distro, are switching to syst

    • This post is offtopic, and probably a troll.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 10, 2015 @02:00PM (#50496687)

    Sentiment? It's because open source threatens people's cushy jobs (real or imagined) so they run out in force to flame RMS, Free Software, GNU, etc any chance they get.

    tldr hater's gonna hate.

    Keep up the great work, rms ...you're kicking all the right ass!!

  • by T.E.D. ( 34228 ) on Thursday September 10, 2015 @02:05PM (#50496749)
    Reading what Stallman has to say is always annoying and appalling. Annoying because he isn't very polite to people he's talking to, and he's always demanding folks take actions almost nobody is going to take in order to stave off a future dystopia. Appalling because you realize that all his previous predictions of future dystopia have come true.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      See subject: Yet /. "just loves" him (as far as 'polite' etc. - he's just forthright & honest about his views).

      * I respect him myself - & I see your point(s) on the "dystopia" part - I think, personally, that "little revolutions" YOU start yourself, WITH YOURSELF & FOR YOURSELF, is how good ideas others notice take hold... doing it, yourself (then, after a good "testing trial run", possibly spreading those out to others, yes, for FREE!).


      P.S.=> I find them BOTH (RMS & LT) pleasingly ref

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The truth isn't concerned with politeness or comfort.

      That's the unfortunate burden of those who speak the truth.

      Whenever I hear or see RMS I can't stop thinking of Socrates.

    • by godrik ( 1287354 ) on Thursday September 10, 2015 @03:32PM (#50497585)

      Aggreed. I always find what RMS has to say interesting. You might disaggree with him. But his arguments are always well thought and well exposed. I find his position very clear and based on sound arguments.

    • by e r ( 2847683 ) on Thursday September 10, 2015 @04:06PM (#50497919)
      On the contrary, I found RMS to be extremely polite in his responses. Everything he said was 100% consistent and 100% focused on the good of all.

      Is it impolite to point out that you'll die if you jump, with no parachute, from ten thousand feet?
      Is it impolite to insist that in order to be safe everyone who ascends to ten thousand feet should have the benefit of a parachute?
    • @T.E.D.: "Reading what Stallman has to say is always annoying and appalling. Annoying because he isn't very polite to people he's talking to, and he's always demanding folks take actions almost nobody is going to take in order to stave off a future dystopia. Appalling because you realize that all his previous predictions of future dystopia have come true." link [slashdot.org]

      Won't address the issues attack the man instead ..
      • by Kidbro ( 80868 )

        I think you missed the major point of T.E.D.'s post, which is in the last sentence. Stallman does indeed tend to be right. Therefore, it is a bit unfortunate that his predictions are presented in a way that makes many (particularly among the influential) ignore them. Because, no matter if he's right or not (which he is), many have a hard time looking past his peculiar looks, behavior and way of carrying a discussion.

        (Also, you don't need to provide a link to the parent post. There's one right there beneath

  • Huh. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SuiteSisterMary ( 123932 ) <slebrun AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday September 10, 2015 @02:08PM (#50496769) Journal

    It's too bad he didn't deign to answer the first question.

    Also, he seems to have weird ideas that individuals are pure-hearted saints, and corporations are inherently evil and malicious. His smart-phone answer, which seems to indicate he thinks no person would ever, knowingly or accidently, do anything to impact the public cell network, should they be able to write their own radio drivers, but outright states that the corporations will install evil software on users's phones as a matter of course, is the most blatant.

    • by T.E.D. ( 34228 )

      To be fair, the first question was kind of a dick question. Politely phrased, true, but still very dismissive and challenging. Badly researched too. For instance, I can think of two full-blown commercial companies off the top of my head that make money off of GPL software development by selling less restrictive licenses. More certainly exist. Why does Stallman have to do this guy's own basic research for him?

      As for your second paragraph, I don't think he was saying that at all. Its probably reasonable to

    • The cellular radio thing is a power struggle between the everyman and the ruling class (corps and big government). Plain and simple. But because it's a very simple software system that has few features exposed to the user (and intentionally so), historically there's been very little room for middle ground when it comes to sharing that power. And since most of their customers/users/subjects/victims are uninformed about technology altogether, the ruling class has been content to allow these baseband processor

    • He answered it, you must not have read past the first paragraph. He said:

      we have effective ethical ways of funding free software development. For instance, selling support to commercial users, selling exceptions, developing solutions for clients' internal use, and crowdfunding. Simply asking satisfied users for donations works for some developers.

      And he linked to a broader explanation with some examples.

    • by kesuki ( 321456 )

      he understands individuals are not pure, he means the rights of the individuals are essential protection. he doesn't say we should have no laws!

  • by NecroPuppy ( 222648 ) on Thursday September 10, 2015 @02:17PM (#50496865) Homepage

    Why he could never really get support for the Hurd?

    I'm shocked.*

    *Not really shocked.

  • by nullchar ( 446050 ) on Thursday September 10, 2015 @02:21PM (#50496907)

    Would the phone as a pager idea really work? The towers would broadcast messages, and if your device matched the message, you would get a notification to connect to the network? Could you get 1-way text messages this way? If this were implemented on the cell networks, could I read all the broadcast or text messages in my local area by modifying my radio?

    • Re:Phone as a pager (Score:4, Informative)

      by selectspec ( 74651 ) on Thursday September 10, 2015 @02:41PM (#50497109)

      No, it would not - it would be even less private. Why? Because the cell network would not know which tower your phone was near and thus have to broadcast the page to all towers and all phones. Everyone in the world would know your phone needed to check-in. It would not scale (world has too many phones) and it's stupid.

      • by e r ( 2847683 )
        Because of the way radio works all towers and phones and radio receivers in range are already aware of all this and more. That's why RMS was pointing out the necessity of waiting until one gets to a safe location before advertising one's position.

        Tin-foil-hat? I don't think so; not after the app that tracked women's locations and gave a map. There have been others as well. [rhrealitycheck.org]
        • The linked app looks damn useful. Should I head home, or hide out at the bar to avoid the shitstorm that is PMS?

          Is it safe to have sex (and not make babies), is it time to have sex to produce a baby?

          If it is something you are already privy to, how is it creepy?

      • by quenda ( 644621 )

        Everyone in the world would know your phone

        Please don't be dumb - that's a trivial crypto problem to solve.

        And no need to broadcast so wide. If a handset was registered to a city, rathe than a single cell, that is maybe a few hundred calls paged per second, with a few bytes of crypto-hashed ID per call. Not a problem. Someone who travels could register for multiple cities. The idea is definitely workable.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        A better solution would be to pass a constitutional amendment protecting the cell tower data and making storage or collection of location information illegal. I'm sure it would still be done, but at least if it were discovered there could be prosecutions and it would be inadmissible as evidence in any trial.

    • Phone Just needs pager circuitry added, the page is broadcast from a satellite. Of course you might have to manually have to change your locale when you travel outside its foot print, i.e. fly LA to Chicago or NY.
    • Yes, yes, and yes. And yes dear child, that really is how "pagers" worked. And yes, that creepy guy down the street really was reading them all. Listening to all the cell phone calls, too; in the analog days, that is just how it was. Even know, I'll bet a standard shortwave radio can pick up a dozen unencrypted cordless phones in your neighborhood if you're in a city.

      Many areas still have active analog pager systems. You could really build what he is talking about, using deployed technology. Notice how many

  • by ruir ( 2709173 ) on Thursday September 10, 2015 @03:34PM (#50497595)
    My main question is about libre computing. The alternatives are either refurbished obsolete hardware, expensive or a sham at the moment.
  • Strawman (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Alomex ( 148003 ) on Thursday September 10, 2015 @06:14PM (#50499149) Homepage

    I have to exert all my self control to respond civilly after seeing the word "monetize". Implicit in that word is the idea that you want to turn everything into money. The only point in writing a program is to turn it into money. Feh!

    Strawman alert. The person is asking about how to converts one thing, free software, into money so he can pay the bills. RMS comes up with this bogus argument of "turning everything into money".

    I'm not impressed.

    • I understand the objection, since "monetize" is typically used in a perverse way. But Red Hat has a very successful business plan to monetize Linux, and contribute back to the community.

      When someone cringes at the *word* but does not understand the *definition*, that's when I exert all my self control, and fail, and call that person a fuckhat or similar.

      Implicit in that word is the idea that you want to turn everything into money. The only point in writing a program is to turn it into money. Feh!

      No, that's

    • Seriously, didn't you read past the first paragraph? The questions were answered in the next few paragraphs.
  • by kosmosik ( 654958 ) <kosNO@SPAMkosmosik.net> on Thursday September 10, 2015 @07:26PM (#50499579) Homepage

    > [RMS]: Most citizens of the US live under far more surveillance than
    > the citizens of the Soviet Union knew.

    Technically of course he is right. In Soviet times there was no Internet, no cellular network and no technical means to process all this data. So it is obvious that now the governments have more means to spy on citizens. But staying just on technical merits you could have said that "most citizens of the US live now under far more surveillance than the citizens of the Regan era US knew".

    The guy is just wrong. I live in Poland which was Soviet sattelite state (quite autonomous since it managed to free itself from Soviet grip). I remember my father talking about his workplace in communist times. Once on his job he joked about the shape of glasses the general Jaruzelski wore - he said he was a welder (since the glasses looked like welders). He said that in company of three other people in his workplace. Yet the next day he was called before party member who reprimended him. And this is not some unusual story - the truth about communist states is that about 10% of people around you were state agents reporting to security service (by will giving them benefits or forced to be f.e. blackmailed).

    And that is how totalitarian surveillance works - it uses people not machines. People who spy on you will always be better than any technology (unless the technology gets somehow intelligent which isn't happening in a few decades).

    I respect RMS but in this case he is really wrong.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      It's hard to compare apples to oranges. Sure, there were a lot of spies back in Soviet times, but these days every email and text message is recorded and file in a database, and most people have their location constantly tracked via the phones. In East Germany a large proportion of the population had a file, in the modern US and UK everyone has a file. The files aren't in binders any more, they are virtual and assembled on demand by a computer.

  • by aNonnyMouseCowered ( 2693969 ) on Friday September 11, 2015 @06:55AM (#50501475)

    " I know of a possible fix for that: build a one-way pager into the phone. Then you can keep the phone in "airplane mode" (no tracking) nearly all the time, and tell people that they should page you when they have something to say to you. When you are paged, you can decide when it is safe to connect to the phone radio network and reveal your location -- presumably when you are in a place that is not sensitive."

    This is actually a workable suggestion. The trick is to use a portable 3G/4G device. This can come either as a stand-alone model with its own battery pack or as a USB dongle that must be connected to your PC. The main purpose of this device is actually to provide mobile internet access for a device without a built-in 3G/4G connection (but only wifi or a USB port). But these can also be used to send and receive text messages. Google for mobile wifi or "mifi" to see examples.

If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of car payments. -- Earl Wilson