Stallman Spake

I love to hear Richard Stallman speak. He has a talent for digging down to the fundamentals before presenting his thesis. You have to be pretty thick not to understand the man:

RMS: Non-free software is not the world’s only problem. I undertook to work on this problem because (1) it dropped in my lap (I could not be neutral except by leaving my field), (2) I had an idea for how I could tackle it effectively, and (3) nobody else was even working on it.

I am not the best person to ask for this kind of help, because I focus on something else. Rather than trying to convince IT managers that it is more profitable to respect our freedom–I don’t know whether that is true–I try to convince computer users that they should insist on software that respects their freedom.”

That’s not actually a talk he gave but an e-mail Q&A back in 2000 but it’s just like his talks, clear and based solidly on principles that he lays out.

see Thus Spake Stallman – Slashdot

So, when commentators here assign all kinds of evil to RMS, I know they just aren’t listening or cannot read. RMS is not about harming anyone but making IT that works for people. It’s so easy to do that if you follow his advice and use Free Software, code that is accompanied by permission to run, examine, modify and distribute under the same terms. Those principles help ensure that by using the software you are not being lead around by the nose and enslaved by others. Compare that with M$’s EULA which definitely lists all the rights you give up by using their software. M$ was the reason I got involved with FLOSS so many years ago. I had not heard of RMS and FSF and GPL. That came later and I’m glad it did.

I recommend Debian GNU/Linux operating system which is not on RMS’s preferred list because Debian accepts that non-Free software may be OK and distributes some. I use Debian GNU/Linux in the real world where hardware may exist for which there is no Free Software, like Intel NICs. Rather than advising people not to use that hardware already owned and in the house, I recommend using a little non-Free stuff but being aware of compatible hardware for future purchases. Wasting hardware is unethical just as abusing users.

It’s too much for ordinary consumers, the vast majority of users of IT, to deal with a pile of such issues when moving to Free Software. Over time more manufacturers are supplying drivers for Linux so this issue may well disappear, but in the meantime some compromise must be made in practice. There’s nothing wrong with the principles however. It’s the right way to do IT with shared, re-used, redistributable software because it’s the best quality at the lowest price and it respects the freedom of the users.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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30 Responses to Stallman Spake

  1. George Wilson claims facts not in evidence, “the problem with Stallman is that it’s quite certain he’s not heard because of how he chooses to present himself and his arguments. “

    RMS is in fact a superstar commanding large audiences wherever he goes. Many have no problem understanding RMS’ arguments.

  2. oiaohm says:

    George Wilson
    –When you’re die-hard about something and bathe yourself in your moral and/or intellectual superiority you’re bound to piss people off.–
    Socrates pure example of this. Stallman is one of those odd chars of history that turn up.

    So far Stallman is not that bad yet.

    That is the problem controversy is around a lot of the historic greatest.

    George Wilson hey I ran into some more stubborn idiots with Linux and its stable ABI’s and API’s(yes the problem is they do exist) than what Pogson is. At least Pogson examples can work and you can find documentation todo it.

    Marketing people are always at least a little stubborn.

  3. George Wilson says:

    @oiaohm:

    Stallman has not been forced to behave like he does. It would be nice if we could strictly separate between what you deliver and how you deliver it. But that’s not the case. These two are interdependent. And the problem with Stallman is that it’s quite certain he’s not heard because of how he chooses to present himself and his arguments. The GNU/Linux “controversy” is just one example of that. This “controversy” is totally irrelevant for what he has to say, yet he takes his sweet time to lecture everyone who calls GNU/Linux just Linux about why this is wrong.

    When you’re die-hard about something and bathe yourself in your moral and/or intellectual superiority you’re bound to piss people off.

    Pogson has drank from this cool-aid, too. His stubborn insistence that Linux is right for everyone is so laughable because he so stubbornly insists on it. You simply can’t take seriously a guy who disregards everything else to prove a point.

  4. oiaohm says:

    bw I have already told you what keeps me going.

    Problem is its not that thought.

  5. bw says:

    “There are a lot of people who have done great research started great ideas who were basically raving mad.”

    Is that the thought that keeps you going? Too bad that raving mad is not sufficient, eh?

  6. oiaohm says:

    bw I am sorry to say to be in the to 10 list of worst behaved greatest thinkers that video is not even bad.

    Diogenes greek philosopher is getting close to the top of the list.

    There was a musical genius in recent times who even had a movie made about him.

    Stallman being somewhere in the top 100 is possible. The top 10 is filled by chars that make Stallman look quite sane.

    bw the extreams of humanity are quite extream.

    bw Socrates would not make the top 10 either. There are a lot of people who have done great research started great ideas who were basically raving mad.

    Socrates and Stallman are most likely around the same level. Socrates was either like with a passion, hates with a passion or person did not care either way. Stallman is quite the same in this regard.

    Problem is we do need people to push the limits. bw its how the human race progresses. Unfortunately being a limit pusher means you can be partly insane. Because no sane person would push the limits hard enough to find out where the real limits are.

    Lots of those insane people end up written up in the history books.

    bw if you had a time machine and could invite over the 10 worst behaved great thinkers of history it would be cheaper to build a new house than repair the damage to your house if you are still alive. Yes some of there food highly toxic.

    Sanity unfortunately is not a requirement to be a great thinker or to be written up in the history books.

    RMS is not as loathed as like Grigori Rasputin George Wilson. Grigori Rasputin classed as a spiritual leader to some groups in Russia.

    RMS appears bad but compared to the worst of history he is not that bad.

    The simple fact he is classed as a nuisance and a hindrance by some does not make him loathed. Everyone can normally find a few things RMS has said they agree with. He is a nuisance but he is a nuisance that causes us to think about things and how we going to address them. Does this mean we have to agree with him hell no.

  7. bw says:

    “Stallman is not even in the top 10 for the worst behaved…”

    My IT guy told me about this the other day:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I25UeVXrEHQ

    so don’t sell him so short on the top ten list. He can hang with the best.

  8. oiaohm says:

    Great Greek Author Socrates who Athenian law prescribed death by drinking a cup of poison hemlock. Because he was so annoying.

    George Wilson historically great thinkers being called childish, irrational and loathed is not uncommon.

    Heck by some of the recorded great thinkers of history Stallman is not even in the top 10 for the worst behaved for what he has done. Its not like he is walking around naked or other equally bad things.

    Now before you say Greeks were too open. I can dig out one of the great chemists who found out that the structure of the chemicals was just as important as the elements contained was also not known for is being the best to have in public.

    Unfortunately bad behaviour and ending up in the historic books is not uncommon. Of course not for the bad behaviour right? Socrates is in the history books because he asked why about everything its also why he ended up dead.

    George Wilson you link “A Dual Model of Open Source License Growth”. They maker of that does not attempt to answer why 2001 it changes.

    There is a really simple answer. If someone goes back and does a graph of what license projects started with it becomes clear. Its always been the case that new projects start with permissive licenses more dominate than restrictive.

    If commercial interests abuse the fact its permissive license and don’t give back to the project. Down the track the project normally forks and becomes non permissive.

    2001 on commercial interests have been better behaved for the most part. Yes chart of projects doing license changes shows this as well.

    Also there have been more new project per year since 2001 compared to the all the years prior. Reason spread and affordability of access to the Internet.

  9. George Wilson says:

    You are foolish and short-sighted to think anything less of RMS for choices he made.

    Why not? Stallman is socially dysfunctional and loathed by wide parts of the open source community. His irrational, childish insistence on it being called GNU/Linux is apt proof. You don’t want such a man as a spiritual leader. His having created GNU is in the past. Today he’s seen as a nuisance and a hindrance for open source.

  10. IGnatius T foobar wrote, “I lost all respect for Stallman when he stopped hacking and began making an entire career out of whining.”

    That shows more about your intolerance than RMS’ stature. Human being are free to adapt diverse vocations and careers. You are foolish and short-sighted to think anything less of RMS for choices he made.

  11. bw says:

    “this is FUD about acceptance of GPL as a sound basis for IT.”

    That is not the import of the article, I think. The article concludes in summary:

    “Such investments into a common good only make economic sense, if companies can reap benefits through complementary products that build on the
    common good. A restrictive license would restrict the creation of a competitively differentiated complementary product, so we believe that most companies will prefer a permissive license for the common good. The combined effect of increased commercial investment with the need for competitively differentiated products built on top of that shared investment has lead to an increase of permissively licensed projects and this obviously to such an extent, that number and size of permissively licensed projects have overtaken those of restrictively licensed projects. From this
    argument, we can only expect this trend to accelerate.”

    It is hard to argue that this is FUD without any evidence that the information is bogus. It is a fact that Android source, such as it is, is released on a permissive license basis and so the increase in what you call */Linux that stems from Android is just further proof that the paper is accurate.

  12. George Wilson wrote, “less usage of the GPL”.

    Wishful thinking by the enemies of freedom. Linux is covered by GPL and it shipped in far more devices than that other OS and with a much larger rate of growth, so, this is FUD about acceptance of GPL as a sound basis for IT.

  13. George Wilson says:

    Less and less usage of the GPL. Good things still happen.

  14. I lost all respect for Stallman when he stopped hacking and began making an entire career out of whining.

  15. George Wilson says:

    You’re looking good in this photo, lpbbear. The things Linux can do to you.

  16. George Wilson says:

    What “George” defines as his world involves only what he can personally see and smell…..and its a rather dark and smelly panorama where his head is.

    Where exactly would that mythical place be? In Pogson’s server room?

    Also, why do you quote my name? Is lpbbear your real name? Quite strange.

  17. lpbbear says:

    “@George Wilson Yes we DO care about free software. Why are you assuming the whole world is like you?”

    What “George” defines as his world involves only what he can personally see and smell…..and its a rather dark and smelly panorama where his head is.

  18. bw wrote, “It is hard for any one to judge another’s state of mind, but what occurs to me is that you are vehemently anti-Microsoft and use very harsh words, commonly reserved to arch criminals and historic tyrants, to describe Microsoft and its activities. You feel they are exploiting their fellow man so strongly that almost anything you may do to thwart them is not surprising. So your downloading Linux is not indicative of any real characteristic of Windows.”

    At the time I switched to GNU/Linux I was accepting it as normal that my personal PC crashed frequently but I would not accept that behaviour in my classroom in front of teenagers. It was only later that I realized M$ was the root of the problem. Before that I believed the crap that it was the hardware at fault. It was a year or two later that I became aware of Free Software even though I was using it.

  19. bw says:

    “Why the Hell did I go through the trouble of downloading an .iso image file by dial-up if the software M$ provided me was not crapware?”

    It is hard for any one to judge another’s state of mind, but what occurs to me is that you are vehemently anti-Microsoft and use very harsh words, commonly reserved to arch criminals and historic tyrants, to describe Microsoft and its activities. You feel they are exploiting their fellow man so strongly that almost anything you may do to thwart them is not surprising. So your downloading Linux is not indicative of any real characteristic of Windows.

    Also, in the Win95 timeframe, circa mid-1994, I don’t think that Linux was even marginally useful in personal computing applications. If you would like to suggest that Linux at that time was superior technically to Win95 then you should be most chagrined that it has failed to gain any significant adoption in the two decades that followed. How inept can its proponents be?

  20. M.C. says:

    @George Wilson Yes we DO care about free software. Why are you assuming the whole world is like you?

  21. lpbbear says:

    “Lose ’95 crashed daily in my classroom. I figured out how to crash Lose ’98 within five minutes by a normal user with a browser and a word-processor.”

    You know what was even worse? It actually could have been better were it not for Microsoft shoveling so much crap into those versions.

    Back in those days I used 98Lite to strip all the garbage out of Win98. Guess what? Win98 actually stabilized fairly well and ran a whole lot longer without so many issues.

    But Microsoft, in all its insane desire to rule the world, had to force feed consumers all the crap that had no other purpose in the OS other than to interfere with its competition. The end result was a buggy OS that cost users time and money trying to keep it running.

  22. bw wrote of M$, “The claim o “no regard for quality or security” is nonsense, too. There is no proof offered for any of that.”

    Why the Hell did I go through the trouble of downloading an .iso image file by dial-up if the software M$ provided me was not crapware? Lose ’95 crashed daily in my classroom. I figured out how to crash Lose ’98 within five minutes by a normal user with a browser and a word-processor.

    see Exhibit 419 in US DOJ v M$:

    Stress Tests 94 – 96 % pass rate since beta2 compared to 95% Windows 95 at ship

    MTTF Win 98 beta stays up 1h longer than Win 95 under user scenario stress”

    My Lose ’95 stuff stayed up about 20h of use before crashing. M$ was reporting thousands of bugs in just the OS while GNU/Linux could run flawlessly for months with OS + Applications.

    Compare that with Debian which has fewer than 30 release-critical bugs living and still will not release until it is ready… in 37K packages, not just the OS.

  23. oiaohm says:

    bw there are historic documentation of conflict of interest at the time of purchase of Qdos by Microsoft.

    The person making the sale from one company to you should not be on your payroll as well.

    Paterson signature is on the Qdos sale paperwork.

    Yet 1 year before. ‘At the end of May 1979, Paterson went to Microsoft to work with Bob O’Rear there.’

    bw its in the official history Ram quoted. Paterson should have excluded himself from the sales process based on conflict of interest.

    Courts in fact found in Seattle Computer favour and award a percentage of cash to them as well.

    The problem here qdos to Microsoft is a documented illegal sale because a party involved did not have the legal right to be signing because they should have excluded self.

    bw true history has Bill Gates as only a possibly guilty if he did not know that Tim Paterson had worked for him. Problem Bill Gates did. Tim Paterson and Bill Gates is guilty in this case. Maybe they did not know the law back then well enough.

    bw the reality no proper legal sales document it was stolen with inside assistance. Having a person you know write you a under value invoice because they are your friend is not in fact legal you can still be charged for being a thief just you and them go down .

    bw there is a important legal lesson there. Always check if you have conflict of interest or not.

  24. bw says:

    “It should be noted Microsoft stole DOS”

    I looked up stole and it says “The past tense of steal” This leads to:

    steal

    /stēl/

    Verb

    Take (another person’s property) without permission or legal right and without intending to return it: “thieves stole her bicycle”.

    Noun

    A bargain: “for $5 it was a steal”.

    You point to an amateur creation that says that they bought the rights and re-sold them to IBM for the first version. Then they contracted for subsequent version changes. That seems to be contrary to the verb definition of “steal” since all the legal rights were properly conveyed.

    So we are left with the noun and I can only agree that Microsoft bought what turned out to be a bargain although I am sure it was not so obvious at the time as it is today.

  25. bw says:

    “Nope. M$ made DOS sabotage software made for other platforms. Thus folks needed DOS in order to use their applications for business. IBM blessed that by putting DOS on their first PCs. M$ used “ISVs” to leverage the monopoly granted by IBM to extend to the mess we saw about 2005 with 95% of PCs shipping M$’s OS with no regard for quality or security.”

    You will have to provide a better explanation than this circular nonsense. It fundamentally says that people had to use DOS to run DOS-dependent programs. Well, DUH!

    The part where you say that IBM was complicit by “putting DOS on their first PCs” seems backward, too. IBM specified PC-DOS characteristics in going outside IBM to purchase an OS specifically and intentionally for their new IBM PC product. It was not any sort of attempt to enter into a conspiracy with Microsoft.

    To claim further conspiracy for ISVs creating applications compatible with this popular platform seems bizarre. Who would not want their product compatible with the largest single operating environment used by their potential customers? That is not conspiracy, that is just common sense.

    The claim o “no regard for quality or security” is nonsense, too. There is no proof offered for any of that.

  26. ram says:

    It should be noted Microsoft stole DOS:

    http://www.softpanorama.org/History/dos_history.shtml

    It is not hard with a hex editor to find CP/M comments in early versions of IBM-DOS and even quite late versions of MS-DOS.

    Had the Gates family not been part of America’s hereditary elite, Bill Gates would have had is ass sued off. That Microsoft could get away with its grossly unethical behavior opened the floodgates ever increasing corporate abuses, by Microsoft and others.

  27. George Wilson says:

    M$ made DOS sabotage software made for other platforms.

    That’s not the issue at all. Deep down you’re simply green with envy that Gates & Co. accomplished what they did. And today you’re nerd-raging about it here.

    As for your guru Stallman:

    It was necessary for others to create the label “open source software” in order to liberate the essence of free software from Stallman’s ideological worldview. What’s more to be said?

    Stallman can be put on a pedestal for his steadfast principles, sure, but the world doesn’t care. Millions of users are willingly enslaving themselves to Google everyday by using Android on their smartphones, and therefore Google’s services. That’s not to Stallman’s liking. Curiously enough it’s to your liking. Exposing you as the hypocrite you are.

    People like convenience. They don’t like ideological nonsense. They like their iPhones and iPads, they like their Android smartphones and tablets, they like their Macs, they like their Windows PCs.

    They don’t give a damn about Stallman and free software.

  28. bw wrote, “At every juncture, people chose the low price course of action except those people who felt that the higher price product was justified on overall benefits vs costs.”

    Nope. M$ made DOS sabotage software made for other platforms. Thus folks needed DOS in order to use their applications for business. IBM blessed that by putting DOS on their first PCs. M$ used “ISVs” to leverage the monopoly granted by IBM to extend to the mess we saw about 2005 with 95% of PCs shipping M$’s OS with no regard for quality or security.
    “Microsoft erected artificial barriers to the entry and growth of competing operating system vendors through its contractual relations with original equipment manufacturers of IBM-compatible PCs (OEMS). These practices included the following: (i) contract terms that required OEMs to pay Microsoft based on the number of computers shipped whether or not those computers had a Microsoft operating system preloaded (the “per-processor” contract); (ii) unnecessarily long terms for the contracts with 0EMs for the use of Microsoft’s operating system software products; and (iii) large minimum purchase obligations for OEMs (“minimum commitments”).
    Microsoft’s contractual relations with OEMS had created strong economic incentives for OEMs to deal exclusively with Microsoft. OEMs with a per-processor contract were obligated to pay Microsoft a royalty fee for every computer they sold with a specified type of microprocessor (e.g., the Intel 486). The royalty had to be paid even if the OEM elected to load an operating system on the machine from a different vendor. As a consequence, OEMS who did elect to load competing operating system software products had to pay a double royalty – one to the supplier of the software actually used and a second royalty to Microsoft.”

    See Exhibit 2517 in US DOJ v M$.

  29. bw says:

    This all seems rather odd to me. Years ago, Microsoft conjured up a software program that people started using to their benefit. It cost $50 to buy PC DOS. The alternative was CPM-86, if I have that correct, that cost around $300. Sophisticates, I understand, chose CPM and the general population went for the cheap PC DOS. Later on there was a similar face-off between OS/2 and Windows with similar price differentials and similar results.

    At every juncture, people chose the low price course of action except those people who felt that the higher price product was justified on overall benefits vs costs.

    After years had gone by, the choice was so lop-sided that OEMs were not interested in handling any higher priced product than Microsoft because of the lack of public interest. That created a fairly homogenous environment that naturally proliferated itself.

    You see that as some sort of evil. I just see it as a seller’s market that Microsoft harvested diligently.

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