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GNU is Not Unix Links Linux

How Psychology Today Sees Richard Stallman (psychologytoday.com) 247

After our article about Richard Stallman's new video interview, Slashdot reader silverjacket shared this recent profile from Psychology Today that describes Richard Stallman's quest "to save us from a web of spyware -- and from ourselves." By using proprietary software, Stallman believes, we are forfeiting control of our computers, and thus of our digital lives. In his denunciation of all nonfree software as inherently abusive and unethical, he has alienated many possible allies and followers. But he is not here to make friends. He is here to save us from a software industry he considers predatory in ways we've yet to recognize... for Stallman, moralism is the whole point. If you write or use free software only for practical reasons, you'll stop when it's inconvenient, and freedom will disappear.
Stallman collaborator Eben Moglen -- a law professor at Columbia, as well as the FSF's general counsel -- assesses Stallman's legacy by saying "the idea of copyleft and the proposition that social and political freedom can't happen in a society without technological freedom -- those are his long-term meanings. And humanity will be aware of those meanings for centuries, whatever it does about them." The article also includes quotes from Linus Torvalds and Eric S. Raymond -- along with some great artwork.

In addition to insisting the reporter refer to Linux as "GNU/Linux," Stallman also required that the article describe free software without using the term open source, a phrase he sees as "a way that people who disagree with me try to cause the ethical issues to be forgotten." And he ultimately got Psychology Today to tell its readers that "Nearly all the software on our phones and computers, as well as on other machines, is nonfree or 'proprietary' software and is riddled with spyware and back doors installed by Apple, Google, Microsoft, and the like."
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How Psychology Today Sees Richard Stallman

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  • by iMadeGhostzilla ( 1851560 ) on Sunday May 07, 2017 @03:39PM (#54372253)

    and I still do but I'm slowly accepting there's some wisdom in forcing the software we all rely on to be transparent.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      He is mad, he is like a young James T. Kirk, he would interfere in the development of young civilizations, trying to save their souls by preaching free software philosophy, but these young civilizations are not prepared for the power software brings, so they destroy themselves.

      Such is why the prime directive exists, and it should apply within all levels and sub levels of human culture.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by taiwanjohn ( 103839 )

        I wouldn't say he's "mad" but he is very eccentric. I'm glad that Psych. Today delved into that aspect as much as his advocacy, which folks around here are already familiar with. IANA psychologist, but I would diagnose him as OCPD, [wikipedia.org] along with whatever it is that causes him to do weird shit like plucking the tips of his hairs and eating them... in public... at the dinner table... (a scene I witnessed from the next seat, about 15 years ago).

        As an OCPDer myself, I can easily see how his moral rigidity wrt soft

        • I would diagnose him as OCPD

          Did you get your diagnosis from a stranger on the Internet?

          No? Then consider clarifying that your 'diagnosis' is nothing more than a passing thought.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      He isn't mad. Far from it.

      He's just right, and that ticks off many people who don't want to "get" it. Watch now all those infantile asshats poking fun at him to detract from what matters.

      Telling the truth and standing by it ain't always easy. And he's not... always diplomatic, mind you :-)

      • by jbn-o ( 555068 )

        I think that what you posted is greatly undervalued, and likely underappreciated here on /. (which is chiefly an "open source" forum, built to eschew software freedom and malign anyone who pushes for viewing the issues discussed here in terms of how we treat each other, or increasing and preserving software freedom).

        How many talks from Eben Moglen include the phrase "Richard was right" or "Stallman got there (earlier, before most others, etc.)"? I can't keep track of them all. Moglen is right too; it's lone

      • The problem is not that he's right, the problem is that he is solely an idealist. He has a vision of an end goal, which is one that many people would agree is beneficial, and he has some convincing arguments as to why the status quo is bad, but he doesn't have a coherent plan for how to get from here to there. He's like the street-corner communists who correctly point out the flaws with capitalism, describe an egalitarian utopia, have no plan for how to implement it, and then complain that people are stil

    • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Sunday May 07, 2017 @04:17PM (#54372447)

      ...and I still do but I'm slowly accepting there's some wisdom in forcing the software we all rely on to be transparent.

      RMS is a bit crazy and certainly could be fairly described as a fanatic. I also think he is a clumsy advocate, a terrible public speaker, and his arguments aren't always grounded in reality. He is too easy to dismiss as a loon by those who have an interest in doing so. That doesn't mean he's entirely wrong. While I think he goes off the deep end a bit with his moralizing but in practical terms he is quite right that there is a huge loss of value to society in allowing too much of our tools to be kept under lock and key.

      One of the great things about owning a drill press for example is that I can open it up and tinker with it if I feel the need. Nobody can tell me that I cannot. I might void a warranty but that's my choice and I can willingly take that risk. Heck I can even sell the modified device in most cases. But with most proprietary software I cannot do the equivalent tinkering. I can't open it up (figuratively speaking) and tweak the tool to my particular needs. Free (as in speech) software remedies this problem.

      I don't have a principled objection to the existence of all proprietary software but RMS is very correct that if we lack a large toolbox of software tools that we can modify and adapt and build upon then we are ultimately causing very real and measurable harm to society. Imagine where science would be today if scientists were prevented by law from sharing their discoveries. Imagine a world where tool makers weren't allowed to improve on or use tools made by others. Imagine if chemists couldn't share chemical formulas. We are at risk of the doing something incredibly stupid in making it too easy to prevent the sharing of mere instructions for machines. That's not a moral argument - it's a practical one. We're limiting our own economic future by having clumsy copyright and patent laws that allow a few to lock up much of what should be accessible to all.

      • > I can open it up and tinker with it if I feel the need

        Right, but the difference is that it's much more expensive for you to replicate that drill. If you buy a piece of software and get the source code so you can tinker with it, you can replicate and distribute that software at pretty much zero cost.
        They are not giving you the manufacturing design specifications and assembly line process with that drill either.
        Still, if there was one driving force the last 20+ years to get where we are today in comput
        • Make that GNU/Linux. My apologies RMS and thanks for your relentless determination!
          Great article btw!
      • by TeknoHog ( 164938 ) on Sunday May 07, 2017 @06:14PM (#54373043) Homepage Journal

        Imagine where science would be today if scientists were prevented by law from sharing their discoveries.

        I've got the impression that Free software is simply the scientific method applied to software. So it's not just the rantings of an eccentric for the past few decades, there's a few more centuries of tradition behind the general principle. But as everything in the world revolves more and more around proprietary software (including natural sciences, ironically), a little reminder won't hurt.

        I also agree that the Free scientific approach is an enormously practical one. I might even say that practicality is all that matters in the long run; morals are really just a short-term way of reminding people of long-term issues.

      • One of the great things about owning a drill press for example is that I can open it up and tinker with it if I feel the need

        The comparison you are making is flawed. Free software is equivalent to free blueprints. The compiled code is analogous to the physical drill press.

        Of course, a compiled program is usually licensed: you likely can't reverse engineer it or resell it.

    • Despite his quirks, he's achieved more than you or I will.

      In some ways, that's the definition of greatness: overcoming your weaknesses to accomplish something.
    • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Sunday May 07, 2017 @04:58PM (#54372645) Homepage Journal

      Now I try to stay away from Holocaust/WW2 comparisons, because that trivializes crimes against humanity, but I do try to draw lessons from them. And the most important is that ordinary people take their cues from what people around them seem to be OK with. All those war criminals who claimed they were personally appalled by the Final Solution but were just following orders weren't necessarily telling self-serving lies; internally people people are often conflicted, but externally you can count on them to conform.

      What makes Stallman irritating is his stubborn non-conformity, even in minor points. He always insists on discussing things on his terms, which is something everyone dislikes when it's turned on them. But his pig-headedness is not a valid reason to dismiss his concerns, particularly where you have concerns yourself and most especially in areas where you have concerns and yet somehow you find yourself going along.

      In a society where ordinary people are conforming with madness, it's only the crackpots who are sane.

    • He's certainly abrasive; but his track record is markedly better than the people who spend most of their time claiming to be 'futurists' or other flavors of technological visionary. Unfortunately, the predictions he gets wrong are usually the situations where things got worse, faster, than anticipated(the most notable example is probably "Tivoization" and the more general rise of computers that are entirely under the control of whoever has the signing key; rather than merely being deeply unhelpful and requi
    • >and I still do but I'm slowly accepting there's some wisdom in forcing the software we all rely on to be transparent.

      Transparent isn't enough. It needs to be modifiable.

      I bought a television that after purchased updated its firmware to install ads in the input select bar. (A high end Samsung 4K TV that absolutely couldn't use a low price to justify the advertising.) The real kick in the nuts was that 2106 Samsung TVs run Tizen, which is free software - but cannot be, you know, actually modified by the u

  • The reasonable man (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PPH ( 736903 ) on Sunday May 07, 2017 @03:58PM (#54372333)

    ... adapts himself to the world;
    the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself.
    Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

    - George Bernard Shaw

    • ... adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

      - George Bernard Shaw

      The unreasonable man is unable to be at least reasonable enough to get anyone to put up with their unreasonableness long enough to listen to them, so they aren't as effective at making progress as someone who is reasonable.

      George Bernard Shaw also said "Better to keep yourself clean and bright." Stallman fails on that first one.

      He also said that it was the mark of a truly intelligent person to be moved by statistics. He never heard of lies, damn lies, and statistics. Figures might not lie, but liars figur

  • Stallman is RIGHT. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 07, 2017 @04:14PM (#54372425)

    Nothing else matters. You can hate the man or feel inconvenienced by what he says. Nothing changes the simple fact that he's right.

    • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Sunday May 07, 2017 @04:41PM (#54372579)

      Nothing else matters. You can hate the man or feel inconvenienced by what he says. Nothing changes the simple fact that he's right.

      I don't hate or love the man. Nothing he does inconveniences me in the least. But he's not "right" about everything. He does have many very valid points, quite a few of which are logically unassailable as far as I can tell. Tools that cannot be modified or improved are a serious hindrance to society. Human society was built on the ability to make, modify, improve, and share tools. The notion that we can write mere instructions for a machine that aren't allowed to be shared with anyone is a very dangerous and stupid idea. Imagine if scientists were prohibited from sharing discoveries and formulas and you get a good idea of the severity of the consequences.

      But he also makes the mistake of making it a moral argument in places where it clearly is not. Perhaps worse, he does so in places where a moral argument is unnecessary or even counterproductive. Morals vary from person to person and society to society. This allows people who do not share his moral belief system to dismiss him easily. Much of what RMS argues for can and should be argued from an economic perspective. RMS should explain it to people why it is in their own economic self interest to have free (as in speech) software. It's FAR more likely to be persuasive and the end result is the same - more people using free software. Economic self interest is a much stronger incentive to most people than abstract morals about tools that most people barely understand how to use much less build.

      I agree with RMS for the most part but let's take his work and improve on it just like he hopes we will do with code. He's done some good work but it's imperfect and its up to the rest of us to build on it and make it better.

      • > Imagine if scientists were prohibited from sharing discoveries and formulas and you get a good idea of the severity of the consequences. You don't have to imagine that, that's to some extend reality.
      • And yet people can be motivated by money to create better tools. Just because it's proprietary doesn't automatically mean that there's no progress or that it's worse for the task it's designed for.

        Look at the game industry. GLP games are simply not competitive^W^W^W^Wsuck, even though the theory goes that anyone can contribute to make it better, so it SHOULD be better than closed source.

        • Why do you have such a boner* about Stallman? Really, can you explain yourself?

          (* we know you're not an XX chromosome female, don't even try to pretend, dude. There's a lot of hot pumped testosterone motivating the way you play your comments here)

      • But he also makes the mistake of making it a moral argument in places where it clearly is not. Perhaps worse, he does so in places where a moral argument is unnecessary or even counterproductive. Morals vary from person to person and society to society. This allows people who do not share his moral belief system to dismiss him easily. Much of what RMS argues for can and should be argued from an economic perspective. RMS should explain it to people why it is in their own economic self interest to have free (

        • Oh, look, you've reinvented the open source movement, right down to imagining that the most important thing in the world is the number of people using your products.

          Who said anything about popularity? Economic self interest can simply be having access to the code so you can tinker for your own personal use. It is hardly limited to mass market popularity.

          The Free in Free Software means freedom.

          Freedom isn't just what RMS says it is. He has merely one perspective among many on what freedom is. Others see it differently. While I actually agree with him in most cases I think his tactics to achieve his stated goals are routinely stupid and/or clumsy. I admire his uncompromising stance but you can be uncom

      • by Lennie ( 16154 )

        He does not argue it from an economic perspective, because he knows that economics can change easily (think cloud: it might be cheaper and you have less stuff to manage). Morality does not on a whim.

        • You have that precisely backwards

          He does not argue it from an economic perspective, because he knows that economics can change easily

          Economics doesn't change at all. Capitalism works precisely because it harnesses economic self interest in useful ways. It is largely unconcerned with what that self interest is at a given moment. Arguing that free software is a moral issue is fine but to claim that morals don't change is clearly not true. Worse it's routinely not the best approach. Economics is a much more dependable basis for a rational argument. That's not to say that making a moral argument shoul

    • But he's not right; His GPL license imposes way more restrictions on software than *BSD licenses. Stop drinking the kool-aid.
      • But he's not right; His GPL license imposes way more restrictions on software than *BSD licenses.

        Actually, it imposes way more restrictions on copiers than *BSD licenses. This has the end result of making the software itself more free, which is why we call it Free Software. That's the exact opposite of what you said ("imposes way more restrictions on software").

        • No, the facts are simple. You can use *BSD licensed code far more ways than you can GPL'd code. Try selling a product with GPL'd code and not giving the source on demand. That's why the playstation runs on FreeBSD. And why Apple used it for their base (while still contributing upstream).
          • No, the facts are simple. You can use *BSD licensed code far more ways than you can GPL'd code. Try selling a product with GPL'd code and not giving the source on demand.

            If the facts are so simple, why are you still getting this wrong? Neither license has an edge over the other when it comes to the ways you can use the code. It's only when it comes to distribution that the differences come into play. Even then, you can still distribute it to all the same people, charge money for the distribution, et cetera.

  • by Elfich47 ( 703900 ) on Sunday May 07, 2017 @04:18PM (#54372453)
    The issue Stallman has (software that is not under lock and key, can be freely modified and redistributed is good) but oh my god he needs to stop acting like the bearded freak show on the city corner on a soap box screaming THE END IS NIGH.

    Yes, spyware, malware, freakware, stealware is bad and open source software can help address these issues. But coming off as a loose cannon who is going to insult anyone who is not in lockstep alienates everyone you get within ten yards of. It also doesn't help that Stallman has a reputation as a misogynist, immediate turning off half the audience that could be sympathetic to the issue he is bringing up.

    Stallman is going to have to decide which is more important: The content of the message he wants to deliver or how he plans to deliver it. Eventually some other person is going to package the exact same Stallman is saying in a more palatable form for mass consumption. Come to think of it, its already occuring with mainstream Linux distributions. But eventually someone who is charismatic and how the technical background will supplant Stallman as the flag bearer for the "Purer open source" that will protect everyone.
    • oh my god he needs to stop acting like the bearded freak show on the city corner on a soap box screaming THE END IS NIGH.

      Why? It's pretty clearly working for him. Note that Psychology Today just gave him a platform to spread his ideas to a new audience. They didn't interview Simon Phipps, Director of the Open Source Initiative, or even Bruce Perens or Eric (sorry Bruce). Acting like a false prophet has advantages in directing the media.

      The main thing he would benefit from is avoiding his tics, like biting his nails while talking to people. But overall his persona attracts a lot of positive attention.

      • Acting like a false prophet has advantages in directing the media.

        It didn't work for any of the people at the OSI who claimed to have invented the term "Open Source" a year after Caldera was using it as a marketing term because we were already using it in the community...

    • You know what Stallman would think about that?

      He'd love it!

      You seem to be under the impression that Stallman is after the glory of being the one that makes this happen. Nothing could be further from the truth. He simply wants it to happen. If it takes someone else grabbing the torch and running doesn't matter, as long as it happens.

      This is very clear in how he advocates for everything he advocates, and in the approach he takes. This is not about him becoming a leader of some sort. He does not want that. It

      • by Elfich47 ( 703900 ) on Sunday May 07, 2017 @07:03PM (#54373273)
        Anyone who stays in a particular field for 40 years has a calling. Anyone who is it for the glory would have already moved on. That isn't my point.

        To the uninitiated, Stallman comes off as screaming at clouds. Let me have a couple of thought exercises:

        1. To most people, their android/IOS/Windows/Mac machine does what they want it to do and they don't think about it much beyond that. They don't have the time or the energy to look under the hood and play with the engine. They just want it to work, and Windows and Mac does that. Yes, Linux has gotten *alot* friendlier in the last 20 years but it isn't going to hold your hand like Windows and Mac does. So (like it or not) convenience is winning the war. So when Stallman comes by screaming the "end is nigh", "proprietary software is bad" uneducated people look at him like a screamer. The alternatives are not perceived as useful or inconvenient, even if more secure. So he is fighting an uphill battle.

        2. Go watch people debate on the internet about a hot button political issue: Guns, Abortion, HealthCare, Taxation; You name it. It will quickly breakdown in to a couple of camps: The ProPeople and the ConPeople who will go at it all day and the WhyDon'tTheyShutUpPeople who might have been interested except someone who may have been friendly flamed them out of hand. Now change out Guns/Abortion and insert OpenSource or FreeSoftware. A lot of people get turned off by the zealotry and set it on ignore. Stallman's approach to people can be very inflammatory. I understand he has a specific message and is out to push that message. Without adjusting the presentation to account for the audience is like trying to teach Sanskrit to a pony. He has a reputation for insulting his audience or driving people away. I understand he is a purist, he is allowed to be a purist. But it turns alot of people off. Stallman wants people to go cold turkey and most people can't or won't do that.

        Bringing people around means you have to find some common ground and a place where these people are willing to change. Start with a web browser, mail reader or art program (FireFox, Thunderbird, Gimp) and get them comfortable with those changes. Introduce them to additional programs that can replace the proprietary programs they used day-in, day out. That means programs that can replace iTunes, Word for Windows and every other daily use program out there. These programs have to be the real deal. Open/Libre Office does not have 100% of the functionality of Word so it isn't a replacement. iTunes is even harder to replace-yes there are music/move players out there; until it also has a movie,music store that can also update your phone with music it will be a tier 2 product.

        rant over.

        TLDR - Rehashing old arguments why open source software is at a competitive disadvantage to proprietary software.
  • I thought Psychology Today disappeared after Phil Donahue went off TV back in the day.
  • i agree with RMS (Score:4, Insightful)

    by FudRucker ( 866063 ) on Sunday May 07, 2017 @04:21PM (#54372473)
    GNU/FOSS is the way to go if you want at least a reasonable sense of peace of mind as to what your PC or laptop is actually running, even if you dont audit the code yourself at least it is open source and the GNU/FOSS Open Source community can look though it. so if any bugs or strange behavior appears it can be fixed or if some dirty crook tries to sneak something nefarious in the software it will be found and routed out

    Kudos to RMS & Torvalds and the GNU/FOSS community at large
    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      GNU/FOSS is the way to go if you want at least a reasonable sense of peace of mind as to what your PC or laptop is actually running, even if you dont audit the code yourself at least it is open source and the GNU/FOSS Open Source community can look though it. so if any bugs or strange behavior appears it can be fixed or if some dirty crook tries to sneak something nefarious in the software it will be found and routed out

      Here I actually miss a better permission system like mobile apps have. For example, if I run a photo editor there's no reason for it to have for example network access, microphone access or general file system access. It should have access only to those files I open using a system dialog. That of course wouldn't be a cure for everything, but a lot of the time I feel the legacy of PC applications come from a world where everything is permitted unless explicitly blocked. It ought to be the other way around.

      • Privilege escalation exploits are a dime a dozen, so ultimately all those permissions can be circumvented. They serve to block semi-good actors (people who are only trying to track you, not completely control your system).
        • by Kjella ( 173770 )

          Privilege escalation exploits are a dime a dozen, so ultimately all those permissions can be circumvented. They serve to block semi-good actors (people who are only trying to track you, not completely control your system).

          Sure circumvention is possible but a real company with employees using an exploit would be sued and hopefully put in jail, the barrier would at least be a lot higher than giving yourself permission on page 92 of the EULA. And even in the event of a hacker it would decrease the attack surface, for example a cryptolocker couldn't just start encrypting my files it'd have to escalate first. Obviously it wouldn't solve everything, but don't let perfect be the enemy of good.

    • How long did the OpenSSL Heartbleed bug exist before it was discovered? 2 years.

      NTP has been around for more than 30 years, and still has more than 150 bugs waiting to be fixed.

  • Looks like he goes around bribing people:

    He also sometimes carries zero-dollar bills, which he uses to bribe people, including passport agents. As Stallman says, “It’s legally valid and any U.S. agency will give you zero dollars in gold for it.” He gave one to Barney Frank hoping he’d vote no on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which bans breaking digital restrictions management. (Frank voted yes, and Stallman “lost all respect for him.” Plus Frank kept the cash.)

  • At one point, he single-handedly matched an entire team of programmers in productivity, feature for feature:

    In his outrage, Stallman spent nearly two years single-handedly re-creating (and sometimes besting) every new Symbolics feature in the MIT code, keeping LMI alive. The feat astounded his fellow software designers. Eventually Stallman saw there was no future in Lisp machines and decided to do something constructive rather than vengeful. “And that’s GNU,”

    • by tomhath ( 637240 )
      It's much easier to re-create features than develop new ones. No discussion about what it should do, what the priorities should be, easier to test because you have a truth model, etc.
  • ...like any zealot he's easy to undermine due to his rigidity.

    He does a lot of good, and that's what's important. People look at him and think "if only he was perfect" - that's missing the point. He's not perfect, he's weird, obsessed (compulsively so), rigid, and he does have ego problems they're just once removed from himself and buried in what he has replaced 'the self' with in his mind - his mission.

    But that doesn't mean what he says isn't true. Much of it is.

    The irony being that what RMS calls "free

  • by westlake ( 615356 ) on Sunday May 07, 2017 @06:34PM (#54373157)

    The geek has been trying to dethrone Microsoft Office for longer than I care to remember without having any great impact on Microsoft's small business and enterprise markets. Photoshop remains the choice of professionals.

    Ideological purity or political correctness is not a substitute for the software users need or want.

    Part of the problem is that the geek sees only the code and not every element that contributes to the success or failure of a program --- and there his resources are often lacking. The game engine is not the game.

    • The geek has been trying to dethrone Microsoft Office for longer than I care to remember without having any great impact on Microsoft's small business and enterprise markets.

      A solid replacement for Excel is entirely the barrier there. Once that exists, the Microsoft Office empire will crumble.

    • The geek generally doesn't care about Office because the geek doesn't use Office. That is the main reason not much happens in that space; Office is the weapon of choice for memos. That may well remain so, but it doesn't much matter, that is not where the battle is fought. Office is pretty much irrelevant.

      The huge animation studios run Linux - because it provides the stability and long support cycles they need, and they do not run Photoshop. The market is a lot more fragmented than sweeping generalizations a

  • What about psychiatry? :P

  • It's the Stallman Slam Article time of the year. Springtime as usual. Wonder if we'll get about half a week's worth of that feminist talking-point shit next?

  • The open-source community has mostly shifted to BSD-style licenses these past few years, which has lead to a huge influx of people being paid to work on open-source projects, career prospects for people working on open-source in their own time, and generally better technology.
    All you get by using copyleft is loneliness and obsolescence.

    We live in a pragmatic world, not some hippie utopia.

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