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GNU is Not Unix

Richard Stallman Answers Your Questions 527

Posted by samzenpus
from the listen-up dept.
A while ago you had the chance to ask founder of the GNU Project, and free software advocate, Richard Stallman, about GNU/Linux, free software, and anything else. You can read his answers to a wide range of questions below. As usual, RMS didn't pull any punches.
Capitalism and You
by eldavojohn

Your monkish lifestyle would leave most people who work in software screaming for a Lear Jet and you have stated "I've always lived cheaply ... like a student, basically. And I like that, because it means that money is not telling me what to do." Growing up in the United States, I have been served the koolaid of Capitalism several times and I have been taught that the inherent competition and struggle for money in all aspects of our lives make us the greatest country ever. I've read a lot of your comments on intellectual property reform and I can't help but feel that it just isn't compatible with capitalism. Have you ever had problems rectifying your stance on intellectual property with capitalism? Do you see any problems at all with no copyright or patent laws inside a capitalistic society?

RMS: First, I need to correct an apparent misunderstanding. I do not have a "stance on intellectual property", because that would mean using the term "intellectual property" in my thinking. I take pains never to do that, because that term is an obstacle to clear thinking. Every time it is used, it misrepresents the legal reality and spreads confusion.

I judge copyright law by its practical requirements and their practical effects. I judge patent law by its practical requirements and their practical effects -- totally different requirements and totally different effects. These two laws are different on every practical point; all they have in common is a very abstract idea which is of no practical significance.

I want to encourage clear thinking about copyright law. Separately, I want to encourage clear thinking about patent law. The first step in clear thinking about these laws is not to lump them together. In particular, never use the term "intellectual property", since it lumps them together.

I must not respond directly to a question that treats copyright law and patent law as a single issue. If I did, I'd be lumping them together and spreading the confusion I want to clear up.

However, I can split it into two separate questions.

First, copyright. Copyright is a legal restriction on certain kinds of use of works of authorship. The US has always had some sort of copyright law, but it has changed tremendously. The US has always practiced capitalism, but many sorts of works were, at some time in US history, not covered by copyright. Thus, we know it is possible to have capitalism without copyright.

However, I don't advocate simple elimination of copyright as a solution.

Works that are designed for use doing practical jobs must be free; however, simply eliminating copyright on those works would not have this result. In software, it would make things worse, because copyleft is based on copyright. Without copyright, programs could still be made nonfree using EULAs, tivoization, and nonrelease of source code, but we would no longer be able to prevent this using copyleft.

If we wanted to legislate to make all these works-for-use free, we would have to go further than just eliminating copyright on them. In an ideal world, we would do this, but I don't propose doing it now.

As for works of opinion and art, I don't think they must be free. I advocate some reforms of copyright for these works but I see no reason to abolish it.

Patent law is a totally different issue. A patent is an artificial monopoly on using a specified idea. There have been successful capitalist countries that didn't have a patent system. My expertise is in computing, so I campaign to eliminate patents from computing, where I know they are harmful. However, Boldrin and Levine present good arguments that patents do mostly harm in every field and that it would be better to eliminate patents entirely.

With any or all of these changes, we would still have capitalism; only some details would be different.

I feel like you have this admirable and altruistic quality where money isn't the ultimate driving force and when you speak to people who base their entire lives around money, there's a fundamental disconnect that is overlooked.

RMS: Arguments are always based on values. The free software movement is based on values of freedom and community -- that is where it differs from open source. People who don't share those values will simply not get it, no matter what I might say. Since that's inevitable, I don't worry about it. I do my best, and I persuade some, which is better than giving up and persuading none.

Re:Do you like being worshiped ?
by capt.Hij

This brings up a good point. Let me rephrase the question. Mr Stallman, you are regarded as a founding father of the free software movement, and your opinion on free software carries a lot of weight. Because of this you are put under a harsh spot light, and every little thing you do is magnified. For example, your comments about Steve Jobs immediately after his death were broadcast quite widely. To some people the timing showed a lack of taste and were seen as disrespectful.

RMS: Those people evidently were more concerned with forms of politeness that with substantive good and evil. Someone told me I should not criticize Jobs because he could not defend himself -- while thousands were lionizing him with the indirect support of Apple's PR machine. Compared to that, I was David against Goliath.

Because of your status in the free software movement your statement was used by some to smear the larger community. How do you feel about this kind of attention?

RMS: I stand by what I said about Jobs. Apple is your enemy, and if you don't recognize this and fight, you're being a chump.

If someone tried to spin my statement as something to be ashamed of, please fight back by arguing with his spin.

Have you given it much thought, and what kind of insight can you share about the situation you are in when your private and public mannerisms are misconstrued to be part of a larger group's views and outlooks?

RMS: I hope that a lot of the community shares my views of Jobs and Apple. I ask them to stand up and be counted.

Apple's favorable public image, including public admiration of Jobs for side issues, is a crucial asset in its war against our freedom. To tarnish its image, we need to speak loud and clear about Apple's wrongs. When Steve Jobs is praised for the elegant styling of the jails he designed, we must respond that it is wrong to put users in jail. Speak up and spread the word!

Role of the FSF
by ssam

It seems to me that in the early days of the FSF the main role was writing software. A huge chunk of that code is what makes up modern day free operating systems. A lot of it is class leading software (bash, gcc, emacs, etc). In the past few years it seems that the FSF is far more involved in campaigning than coding. Is this an accurate view of the situation? Is this intentional, and if so why? Should the FSF be trying to create a class leading web browser, for example.

RMS: In the first years of developing the GNU system, before Linux completed the system, not many people worked on free software. A few staff hired by the FSF made a big difference to our progress.

Once GNU/Linux caught on, lots more people got involved, so that the few people the FSF could hire were inevitably a tiny fraction of what the community did. Meanwhile, our other jobs became bigger and more important. For instance, once the DMCA made it illegal to release free software to handle common media formats, just writing free software was no longer enough, so we launched the DefectiveByDesign.org campaign. A year ago we launched our campaign against Restricted Boot, which is the way Microsoft perverts Secure Boot into an anti-security feature.

"Success" is not our goal; we're not here to win a race, we are here to win freedom. I didn't write GCC with the idea of making a "better" C compiler. I wrote it so there would be a freedom-respecting C compiler, and while I was at it, I did the best job I knew how. We didn't develop GNU to have a "better" operating system than Unix; we developed it so we could have a freedom-respecting operating system. It's the same today.

Thus, if we could raise money to hire a few software developers, we would spend it on projects that are more than technical improvements. For instance, it would make no sense to try to develop a web browser that is "better" in a merely practical sense. There is no reason to think we could outdo the Firefox developers in what they are good at, and it would be wasteful duplication to try.

Instead we are trying to do something that Firefox does not aim to do: protect the user's privacy from surveillance by web sites, and protect the user's freedom from nonfree Javascript code. A volunteer is working on our variant of Firefox, called IceCat, with changes for these purposes. We don't have funds for this, so would you like volunteer to help?

GNU visibility and factioning
by Digana

GNU is supposed to be a free operating system as well as a group of people working towards building this OS. To a casual observer, however, GNU does not appear very active.

RMS: I've decided to post new package releases in a more visible place in gnu.org.

Development of GNU is done by volunteers, so the level of activity is up to you. If you wish GNU were more active, join in the work on some GNU package that interests you. For instance, it would be useful to have more developers for LibreJS, which detects and blocks nonfree Javascript, and for IceCat.

Some of the most prominent and supposedly GNU packages, such as Gimp, Gnome, GTK+, and R are mostly GNU in name only. The hackers working on these projects have very little interaction with other hackers working on GNU projects and they very frequently espouse views contrary to GNU's philosophical aims. Thus to an outside observer, GNU does not appear to be a cohesive group of people working towards a common goal.

RMS: The GNU project is not as cohesive as I wish it were. To some extent, this is a consequence of an approach that was necessary. The only way to develop something as large as the GNU system through the work mostly of volunteers was to divide it into projects that could be implemented mostly independently by different people. The design of Unix lent itself to this. The fact that the GNU system incorporated programs such as X and TeX, that were developed by other people or groups that regarded the GNU Project as just a user, pushed in the same direction.

There is always a centrifugal tendency when many groups work mostly independently. It is often hard to persuade the developers of one component to do what improves the system as a whole rather than what will make their own component more useful and successful.

By 1990, when we started the HURD kernel, I expected that in a couple of years it would be working and we would integrate the GNU system. However, the HURD didn't work at all until 1996, and in the mean time the community began using GNU with Linux as the kernel. By the time we started using it that way, others had integrated the GNU/Linux combination, making various GNU/Linux distros.

The initial goal of GNU, to have a free operating system, has been achieved; the initial sharp focus on completing a free Unix-like system is no longer applicable. This doesn't mean our work is over; most GNU/Linux distros today contain nonfree software, and there are more things that we expect a system to do. We still need people to seek out and do the development jobs that need doing in order to win freedom for the users of computing.

My first step to make the GNU Project more cohesive was in 1999. In the 1980s and 90s, when I appointed someone as the maintainer for a GNU package, I took for granted that he would understand that his job was to manage a part of a larger project, and what that implied. In 1999 I realized this could not be taken for granted, so I began explaining this relationship to new maintainers and asking new maintainers to agree to it. However, the relationship with a few packages had already become distant.

Many GNU mailing lists being private further the public perception that GNU is not even actively producing software anymore.

RMS: Our main packages have public discussion lists, but that's a choice for the package maintainer to make. Feel free to suggest changes to the maintainer.

What can be done to remedy this situation? How can we strengthen GNU, make it reach out again to the people it's supposed to be freeing?

RMS: For the most part, this is up to you. When you start working on a new free program, do you propose making it a GNU package? Would you like it to be part of a coherent GNU Project? If so, please write to me.

How to reverse the aggregation problem?
by concealment

A problem with software and operating systems is what I call the "aggregation problem," which is that what we have now is an aggregate of past solutions to problems that may no longer exist. The stuff piles up, increasing complexity and decreasing the uniformity and effectiveness of the interface. At what point do software projects call for a top-down redesign? How can free software do this where industry cannot?

RMS: I don't have any solution to offer for this particular problem, other than the slow methods we are using now. Partly that's because I don't think this is the most important issue -- I think our freedom is more important than technical improvement.

However, this is not the only area in which more uniformity is desirable. Around 1990, I designed a protocol for configuring and building packages from source: you type `./configure; make install'. It would be nice if all free software packages supported this uniform interface, but they don't.

To help implement that uniformity, a GNU volunteer recently made it very easy to use Autoconf in Python packages, so that they can build and install using our uniform commands. If you maintain a program in Python, how about adding this support? Every user that isn't a Python programmer will be glad he can install your program without learning a special Python build method.

What project is using the wrong license?
by gQuigs

What free software project is using a license that doesn't actually match with it's mission - or hinders free software in other ways? In other words, if you could *magically* switch the license of one project - which would you choose and why? Examples: Move Mesa to GPLv3, Move Linux from GPLv2 to v3, Make android GPLv3, GCC - from GPLv3 to Apache.

RMS: If I could magically change one program to GPLv3, it would be Linux. One of the improvements of GPLv3 is that it blocks tivoization, and Linux is very frequently tivoized. (Many Android devices contain a tivoized copy of Linux.)

While we're talking about magic, I'd change the license of LLVM also.

Another program that is important to convert is LibreCAD. This is more than a fantasy: the developers of LibreCAD are working on replacing the old GPLv2-only code that they included, so as to switch to GPLv3-or-later. Would you like to help?

What do you think of non-free, non-software works?
by Shlomi Fish

Dear Dr. Stallman, In this Slashdot feature"Stallman is quoted here saying that game engines should be free, but approves of the notion that graphics, music, and stories could all be separate and treated differently (i.e., "Non-Free.")." However, this feature does not give a citation from you for that. To add to the confusion in a post to the Creative Commons Community mailing list, Rob Myers said:

"RMS's views on culture are coherent and consistent with his views on software. But he's treating game assets as a matter of functionality (software) rather than speech (culture). There is an issue with the latter not being free.."

So I'm a little confused. Do you approve of people using non-free licenses for cultural works, including the CC-by-nc, CC-by-nc-sa, CC-by-nd, and CC-by-nc-nd licenses? If so, when?

This is especially important given the fact that in the process for formulating the latest version of the Creative Commons licenses (4.0), there has been some requests to deprecate the non-commercial (nc) and/or no-derivatives (nd) options (which I doubt will happen, but is nonetheless some thing some people feel strongly about).


RMS: After some 12 years of stating my position in all my speeches on Copyright vs Community, and publishing transcripts, I'd expect interested people to have found it. But here it is.

Those works that are made for doing practical jobs must be free. This includes software, educational works, reference works, text fonts, recipes, and 3d-printer models for objects for practical use, as well as some other things.

Works of testimony and opinion, and artistic works, don't have to be free as in the four freedoms, but their users should have more freedom than now. I think people should be free to share them (noncommercial redistribution of exact copies), and to remix them. Putting DRM or EULAs on them should be banned too. I think all the CC licenses do these things, more or less, and I use CC-ND for my statements of my views, including this one.

Two of the nonfree CC licenses, CC-NC and CC-NC-SA, have a peculiar problem: they lead to making works which are orphan before they are born.

I call this a "peculiar problem" because I don't think these licenses are bad in principle. The problem is purely a matter of practical consequences, and it seems they should be avoidable, yet I can't see a way to avoid them. I hope one is found; in the mean time, I urge not using these two licenses.

Favorite hack
by vlm

Give me your best hack. Specifically something YOU did personally not hire / grad student. Hardware, software only (yes yes the GPL is cool but I'm looking for code or schematic or at least a description of something made out of source or solder) I can't put words in your mouth but the ideal answer would be something like "I'm particularly proud of the O(n) memory garbage collection routine in emacs implemented around '89 and how it worked was very roughly ..." or "I really like my homemade fully automatic automotive relay based routing system for my OH scale model railroad sorting yard" or "I built my own legal limit ham radio amplifier" almost certainly a different topic of course, but something of this form of answer.

RMS: I can't remember all the hacks that I was proud of, so I can't pick the best. But here's something I remember fondly. The last piece of Gosmacs code that I replaced was the serial terminal scrolling optimizer, a few pages of Gosling's code which was proceeded by a comment with a skull and crossbones, meaning that it was so hard to understand that it was poison. I had to replace it, but worried that the job would be hard. I found a simpler algorithm and got it to work in a few hours, producing code that was shorter, faster, clearer, and more extensible. Then I made it use the terminal commands to insert or delete multiple lines as a single operation, which made screen updating far more efficient.

Why FDR and Churchill?
by eldavojohn

During a Q&A Session a while back you were asked about people and movements near and dear to your heart and you said "I admire Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, even though I criticize some of the things that they did." I love World War II history and I also find myself in a love-hate situation with Churchill. Could you go into further detail about what specifics lead you to single out these two over leaders like Lincoln, Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin or even historical figures who have enabled information itself like Turing, Shannon, etc?

RMS: I like math, and I respect good mathematicians, but I don't admire them as heroes. The people I admire are those who fight for freedom.

Why did I mention Roosevelt and Churchill in particular? I didn't make a list of all the leaders I admire and then choose the ones I admire most. That would be a big job, and my memory does not lend itself to that, so I didn't try. I mentioned the people that came to mind.

I was thinking of leaders that fought against evil tyranny. Of the five leaders you mentioned, Roosevelt and Churchill had the hardest fight against the greatest evil. King George trampled the colonists' rights, and the Confederacy fought for slavery, but Hitler's genocidal empire was much worse.

If I were judging peacetime political leadership, I would not choose Churchill; perhaps Jefferson.

Stolen bag / laptop in Argentina
by Cigarra

What ever happened with the stolen bag and laptop? Did you get something back? Did you LOSE data (that is, was something not backed up)? Are you mad with the organizers / country that hosted the event?

RMS: My friends never found any sign of what was stolen. I lost some files, those which were outside the directories that I regularly backed up, but nothing really important.

I don't blame the speech organizers or Argentina in general for this theft. The reason I will never go to Argentina again has nothing to do with the theft. I announced it before I arrived in Argentina: I object to the requirement for visitors to give their fingerprints. I refuse to go to any country which has that policy, and I hope you too will refuse to go to any country that would demand your fingerprints.

Revolution OS ...
by i.r.id10t

Interviews with you comprised a big percentage of the documentary Revolution OS. If it were to be remade today, and the financial aspects ignored, what do you think would be different? If you were producing such a documentary today, what would you focus on?

RMS: I didn't make that movie, so how to make it was not my decision, and how to make one today would not be my decision. But I see some things that would have to be different.

Much attention was paid to business leaders of the open source bubble, which popped after the interviews. The movie ended saying how some companies' stock had gone down. If the movie were made today, those people and their commercial claims would probably not be in it. Also, I would not be found at a "Linux" event; shortly after that time, I concluded it was self-defeating to legitimize events that call the GNU system "Linux".

Other advocates
by SirGarlon

Who, other than yourself and the FSF, do you consider to be effective advocates for software freedom? Please name individuals if you can.

RMS: Eben Moglen and SFLC, Bradley Kuhn and the Conservancy, Frederic Couchet and APRIL, Via Libre, Alexandre Oliva, Octavio Rossell, Quiliro Ordoñez, are the ones that occur to me. I have probably forgotten many.

Open Source and Ethics in research?
by tsquar3d

RMS, I am a PhD student in computing and I have run up against an interesting problem. I consider FOSS to be at the core of my personal philosophy.

RMS: I have to point out that there is no "FOSS" philosophy. The term "FOSS" is a way of referring to two different philosophies: free software is one, and open source is the other.

When you want to refer to both philosophies, I recommend "FLOSS" rather than "FOSS". "FLOSS", or "Free/Libre and Open Source Software", gives the two equal visibility, whereas with "FOSS", "Free and Open Source Software", "Open Source" is more prominent. But you can't possibly agree with both of these philosophies, because they disagree at the deepest level. Your views might be one, or the other, or a mixture, or something else, but it can't be both of them at once.

See here for more explanation of the difference between free software and open source. To me it is not just a pragmatic issue, but an ethical one.

RMS: It sounds like your philosophy may be closer to the free software movement. We consider this an ethical issue, whereas the usual open source philosophy presents it as a practical issue alone.

Therefore, in my research, I use all FOSS software. Now, the problem arises when trying to justify my use of FOSS to colleagues and supervisors.

RMS: Why do you need to try to justify your _own_ use of free software? I'd expect you to decide, and follow your own decision, with no need to justify it to anyone else. Is there something I have misunderstood?

The time you need to argue is to convince other teachers and researchers to move to free software.

I have tried to make the case that it is an ethical issue, and have argued the merits of freedom and academia, however, I invariably am told "that's not an academic argument".

RMS: I suggest you respond "I'm a citizen first, and an academic second, so I care about ethical arguments as well as academic arguments."

This is incredibly frustrating and annoying to me as, in academic research, we are constantly being restricted by "research ethics" (e.g. the ethical treatment of subjects, plagiarism, etc.) and I am more than willing to bet that if a researcher objected to a methodology based on "religious principles" they would be excused.

RMS: I don't understand -- "excused" from what? I am not sure now what issue the argument is about. Are they criticizing you for your decision? If so, you don't need to be "excused", you just need to stand firm and proud. Or are you asking them for permission? There, too, standing firm is best, but it is trickier.

Or are you asking them to change their practices? That is good to try, but there is no guaranteed recipe for persuading others. I suggest telling them about the malicious features commonly found in nonfree software, to bring home to them that this is an important issue. Also, raise the issue publicly so as to build consciousness of the issue and search for allies.
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Richard Stallman Answers Your Questions

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  • "Elegant jails" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dystopian Rebel (714995) * on Monday January 07, 2013 @12:16PM (#42505737) Journal

    "Steve Jobs is praised for the elegant styling of the jails he designed"

    Well said, RMS.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by SilenceBE (1439827)
      It is ironic because it is people like RMS and people like you who praise him for his views, that are a part of Apple's succes.

      The problem is that those jails serves a function. When you enforce very strict rules how somethings behave or look that it is decreases the learnability factor and that users will perceive it as easier to use. Even the "elegance" (look at the aesthetic usability effects) has a role.

      You can argue that those "jails" aren't needed but unfortunately a lot of developers (and FOSS
      • Re:"Elegant jails" (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 07, 2013 @01:47PM (#42506891)

        The "my mother doesn't care about X, she just wants Y" argument is so tired and frankly worthless.

        There was a time when the typical mother didn't care about freedom of religion, or freedom of speech, or any of dozens of other things that are rather important.
        Just because your mother doesn't care about freedom of computing doesn't mean it isn't just as important.

      • by jbolden (176878)

        I'm not convinced that it is because iOS developers are so much more talented.

        I don't think it is a question of more talented it is a question of who are the iOS developers. Apple customers have consistently shown
        1) A willingness to pay more for software
        2) A willingness to buy applications that are mainly interface upgrades of open source solutions
        3) A hostility towards software with a bad UI

        The result is people who design for iOS spend time on graphic design. So in terms of interface, yes they are

        • Re:"Elegant jails" (Score:5, Insightful)

          by HaZardman27 (1521119) on Monday January 07, 2013 @02:34PM (#42507529)
          This is exactly what I was thinking. Also, I don't really think it's the job of programmers to make an elegant UI. The job of a programmer is to make functional software, perhaps with an elegant API that the designers and UI/UX engineers can latch on to while creating an elegant UI. Free software tends to lack those elegant UIs because the free software movement tends to attract more programmers than it does designers.
      • by dkleinsc (563838)

        You can argue that those "jails" aren't needed but unfortunately a lot of developers (and FOSS developers are even worse) couldn't design a good usable interface when somebody doesn't hold hands. Give them too much freedom and you will get things like The Gimp.

        Here's the very obvious counterargument: If somebody puts a really bad UI out there, nobody will use that program, and the bad UI will die. If they put a kind of bad UI out there, some people will use it, some won't, but either way it's their choice.

        Using your example of the GIMP: Those who like the current GIMP interface can use it, and those that don't will continue to use Photoshop or whatever other image editor they'd like. And because it's Free Software, anyone who is sufficiently motivated and/or fund

      • by samkass (174571)

        I like to think of iOS as "rails" not "jails". A train doesn't have a steering wheel, but the rail gives it different efficiencies and protections.

      • Re:"Elegant jails" (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Monday January 07, 2013 @02:10PM (#42507221)

        It's all this stuff that made me a "recovering ex-geek." With all the evil in this world, this is what geeks get up in arms about? I should be insulted and politically attacked because I use an iPad for basic Internet functions? Seriously? This is what gets people riled enough to insult strangers?

        I use GIMP, Blender, Inkscape and POVRay on my Mac. Does that make me less of an apostate? Is my soul saved? Oh, wait, am I in the Sunni or Shia part of the open source world? Get out your best bathysphere, because this shit does not have a bottom.

        Yes, fine, debate IP law and copyright and all that. Lots of meat and important issues there that I agree matters. But stop with the attacks on people who have different use cases or sometimes want something slick and trouble free for a specific purpose. Anyone who thinks less of me because I buy a gadget they don't like is kindly invited to blow the nearest chimp.

        • by tnk1 (899206)

          The reality is there are few things to get riled up about to begin with. An understanding of the situation of the people on the other side and consideration of their needs and viewpoints usually defuses these issues to some extent. Where the conflict truly does become one where you can't compromise on, you simply have to fight the war and win it, but you do it within the lines. There are people in real wars who don't always kill each other for the sake of killing one another, they kill to take objectives

      • by Smauler (915644)

        The problem is that those jails serves a function. When you enforce very strict rules how somethings behave or look that it is decreases the learnability factor and that users will perceive it as easier to use. Even the "elegance" (look at the aesthetic usability effects) has a role.

        No, the jails do not serve a function. Standards serve a function. The entire x86 revolution was based upon standards, not jails. It was based upon anyone being able to replicate the standards.

        You can argue that those "ja

      • You're mixing two topics that aren't related to each other.

        Has Stallman ever said, "A unified design is bad"? Has he ever said that elegant user interfaces are undesirable? Has he ever lead a protest against beautiful hardware? Has he ever even claimed to be an expert on user interface design?

        The elegant design and easy user interface is incredibly handy, and valuable. The jail is the part that does not need to come along with it, and is immoral and hurts consumers and competition. Stallman and t
      • by melikamp (631205)

        The problem is that those jails serves a function.

        And this function is to keep users helpless, powerless, deprived of rights, separated from each other, and under constant surveillance.

        When you enforce very strict rules how somethings behave or look that it is decreases the learnability factor and that users will perceive it as easier to use. Even the "elegance" (look at the aesthetic usability effects) has a role.

        It is only the elegance that makes it easier to use. You totally failed to demonstrate how the missing freedoms (to run, to study, to modify, and to share modifications) are making it easier to use. A simple mind experiment will show how much you are confused. Imagine that the entire Android-related stack was exactly, almost literally the same, but free: the core OS, the har

    • I get the Apple is evil thing. I do. Please though, tell me what company I can trust? Should I trust Google with one of their phones for example? I think that ship sailed. I was thinking maybe one of the new Ubuntu phones, but wait, Canonical is in the middle of user privacy issues.

  • Wait a minute... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by w_dragon (1802458) on Monday January 07, 2013 @12:20PM (#42505781)

    I object to the requirement for visitors to give their fingerprints. I refuse to go to any country which has that policy, and I hope you too will refuse to go to any country that would demand your fingerprints.

    Such as the United States?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I suppose he doesn't need to give his finger prints because he's a citizen. But I'm not sure about that. However, that's only one of the reasons *I* don't visit USA.

      Captcha: Probed

    • Re:Wait a minute... (Score:5, Informative)

      by dskoll (99328) on Monday January 07, 2013 @12:34PM (#42505969)

      The United States doesn't yet demand my fingerprints because---lucky me---I'm Canadian.

      But it does demand fingerprints of most visitors. Someone needs to file a Freedom of Information request to find out how many crimes or attacks this policy has prevented per dollar of implementation cost. Then compare that to the US deficit and use some common sense.

    • I object to the requirement for visitors to give their fingerprints. I refuse to go to any country which has that policy, and I hope you too will refuse to go to any country that would demand your fingerprints.

      Such as the United States?

      Yes, they took mine last time I visited the US. I think if you were to visit here (UK) your fingerprints would be validated against those in the biometric passport (or visa), unless you live here.

      http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/customs-travel/Enteringtheuk/fingerprint-checks-at-border/ [homeoffice.gov.uk]
      "Passengers will need to provide their fingerprints each time they travel to the UK with a visa, entry clearance or biometric residence permit. Fingerprints will be held for a maximum of two working days, and will then be d

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 07, 2013 @01:24PM (#42506607)

      I'm not sure about Argentina, but I suspect their reason for requiring fingerprints from American visitors is the same as in Brazil: reciprocity. Brazil only requires fingerprints (and Entry Visas) from citizens of those countries which require the same from Brazilian citizens. I know for sure that Argentina doesn't require fingerprints or visas from Brazilian visitors.

  • by al3 (1285708)
    "I want to encourage clear thinking about copyright law. Separately, I want to encourage clear thinking about patent law." I have also seen (in these days of international trade pacts) counterfeiting lumped in with copyright infringement and patent violations. I am unsure of how the law looks upon this, but to me it seems different enough. If one illegally downloads a song or a movie and violates copyright, they know it is not an official copy, and are getting an exact copy of the original. I think of coun
  • Oh boy. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    There have been successful capitalist countries that didn't have a patent system.

    I wish he named them.

    I don't get this -

    RMS: Those people evidently were more concerned with forms of politeness that with substantive good and evil.

    Good and Evil?! To me, evil is some despot murdering people or starving them; not some business guy getting market share.

    Perspective people!

    His whole perception of "good and evil" with regards to software IP (Oops! He doesn't use that term!) is black and white thinking and doesn't lend itself to progress.

    • by dskoll (99328)

      His whole perception of "good and evil" with regards to software IP (Oops! He doesn't use that term!) is black and white thinking and doesn't lend itself to progress.

      Well, OK. "Evil" is a strong term, but I can certainly agree with RMS's stance reworded as "Good and Bad".

    • Re:Oh boy. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 07, 2013 @12:40PM (#42506055)

      I think the problem is that you define progress using monetary terms and he defines it in terms of freedom. It's a question of priorities.

    • To me, evil is some despot murdering people or starving them

      What about taking away someone's freedom?

      Or do you only consider capital crimes as evil?

      • Theres a huge difference between taking away market choices (ie, by not offering them) and stripping someone of personal liberty; a difference that he apparently does not get.

        RMS comes across as an intelligent dude, and I respect that he is consistent, but he seriously lacks perspective and I think his priorities / values are all out of whack. I feel like if he had to compromise with MS for example to keep GNU alive and kicking, he would rather go down with the ship; its noble but its not terribly practica

        • Re:Oh boy. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by serviscope_minor (664417) on Monday January 07, 2013 @01:13PM (#42506477) Journal

          Theres a huge difference between taking away market choices

          OK, please fine one place ANYWHERE where RMS mentioned "market".

          He didn't. It's about user freedom.

          feel like if he had to compromise with MS for example to keep GNU alive and kickin...

          If you don't stick to your principles then they are little more than fond notions.

        • by jbolden (176878)

          How is he not practical? Think about how many "unrealistic"goals he achieved. RMS may not like the apple analogy but the think different [youtube.com] shoe fits.

    • Re:Oh boy. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by phantomfive (622387) on Monday January 07, 2013 @01:22PM (#42506593) Journal
      I've worked with people who were very excited about finding ways to lock customers into their product, even though they knew this was not best for their customers.

      Hurting other people for your own benefit? That's a reasonable definition of evil. Not every person is in a position to despotically murder or starve people.
    • by beelsebob (529313)

      RMS: Those people evidently were more concerned with forms of politeness that with substantive good and evil.

      There's inherent misunderstanding of what politeness is here... Politeness is an encoding of what people consider to be "evil" and how to avoid them.

    • by Jmc23 (2353706)
      Ah, you must be USian.
    • by Hatta (162192)

      Good and Evil?! To me, evil is some despot murdering people or starving them; not some business guy getting market share.

      Perspective people!

      You need to gain some perspective. In the real world, most evil is not done by supervillians. It is done by ordinary people serving their self interests.

      Look at the 2008 financial crisis for instance. A large number of bankers made a large number of unethical decisions to benefit themselves, any of these decisions would have had little negative effect in themselves b

  • Now includes the US. I'm kind of surprised he didn't comment on that (given he's pretty outspoken anyway).
    • by cpghost (719344)
      He probably didn't realize that Argentina and a couple of other countries apply the principle of equal treatment. They take fingerprints of US citizens (sometimes ONLY US citizens) because the US takes fingerprints of their citizens. What comes around, goes around. RMS, whom I respect a lot and whom I met personally once, should campaign against his own country not only taking fingerprints, but also shoving all those newfangled biometric passports down the throats of the whole world's population.
  • by slim (1652) <john@nOspam.hartnup.net> on Monday January 07, 2013 @12:41PM (#42506067) Homepage

    For the last 20 years I've been an advocate of free software, but I've also merrily made an exception for gaming systems -- buying a series of consoles and handhelds which are as closed as platforms can be. I wasn't *quite* able to explain why this was OK.

    RMS helps:

    As for works of opinion and art, I don't think they must be free. I advocate some reforms of copyright for these works but I see no reason to abolish it.

    Word processors, printer drivers, operating systems, central heating controllers, sequencers, web servers, should be free - games, music compositions, etc. - not so much.

    • Word processors, printer drivers, operating systems, central heating controllers, sequencers, web servers, should be free - games, music compositions, etc. - not so much.

      I don't understand - So if I create great software to manage an HVAC system to great efficiency I have to give it away, but if I make Angry Birds I don't? What's the difference?

      • by slim (1652)

        I don't understand - So if I create great software to manage an HVAC system to great efficiency I have to give it away, but if I make Angry Birds I don't? What's the difference?

        Not quite. You can sell whatever you like, but we don't have to buy it.

        Given the choice of your highly efficient non-free HVAC software, and somewhat less efficient free-as-in-speech HVAC software, many of us would prefer to use the free-as-in-speech one. At least we can understand and improve that one.

        Whereas, I have no qualms about buying a non-free Angry Birds; I have no intention of every improving it, nor do I anticipate some other hacker doing so.

        You've also made the classic false conflation of 'give

      • by xaxa (988988)

        Word processors, printer drivers, operating systems, central heating controllers, sequencers, web servers, should be free - games, music compositions, etc. - not so much.

        I don't understand - So if I create great software to manage an HVAC system to great efficiency I have to give it away, but if I make Angry Birds I don't? What's the difference?

        Having purchased the HVAC system I might want to make changes to it, by changing the software. It's an important thing. (RMS started all this stuff when he couldn't get the source code to a printer driver).

        Angry Birds isn't important.

    • by paulpach (798828)

      I've also merrily made an exception for gaming systems -- buying a series of consoles and handhelds which are as closed as platforms can be. I wasn't *quite* able to explain why this was OK.

      RMS helps:

      It is ok because RMS is wrong. I will probably be voted down for this, but here it goes:

      In any voluntary exchange, being buying food, cars, software or whatever, the only people that should be able to decide the terms of the exchange are the individuals doing the exchange. If I buy a software that has a "I must wear a chicken suit to use this" license, it is because I determine that the software is more valuable to me than the requirements the license has and the money I pay for it. Therefore, as lo

  • by blue_adept (40915) on Monday January 07, 2013 @12:42PM (#42506073)

    "Works that are designed for use doing practical jobs must be free; " ... uhmm... and that would be because...??

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cgaertner (1004238)

      Because vendor lock-in is a form of monopoly and interferes with free market economy. In general, it's not possible to hire the programmer of your choice to enhance the software you own, and RMS considers this unethical.

    • Levels the playing field. If everyone has access to the same tools, anyone can produce a competitive product - good for innovation, job creation, etc, etc.

    • Re:free work(s)?? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Maximum Prophet (716608) on Monday January 07, 2013 @01:59PM (#42507075)

      "Works that are designed for use doing practical jobs must be free; " ... uhmm... and that would be because...??

      It's a Philosophical starting point, like arguing for Democracy over Monarchy. It'd be very, very, difficult to experimentally determine which system is really better under all circumstances, so we resort to thought experiments.

      RMS assumes that Freedom is better than Slavery, even if you are offered many shiny baubles to sign over your freedom.

  • LLVM (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    While we're talking about magic, I'd change the license of LLVM also.

    Yes, Richard, I bet you would. LLVM proves that much of what you say is a lie, and that the industry can co-operate perfectly well on important tools without coercion via copyleft or any psuedo-religious nonsense about "good" and "evil". Getting that under GPL would be a huge win for the walled garden you are attempting to construct yourself. I can't imagine anything worse for the progress of LLVM, though, than to eliminate most of its

    • by jbolden (176878)

      RMS saw lots of open source projects that started with MIT style licenses end up closed. LLVM doesn't prove anything. As BSD style licenses are coming back into fashion we'll see where we stand in ten years. I suspect watching BSD style project close will change people's mind about copyleft, the same thing that was true by the mid 1980s.

    • by samkass (174571)

      While we're talking about magic, I'd change the license of LLVM also.

      Yes, Richard, I bet you would. LLVM proves that much of what you say is a lie, and that the industry can co-operate perfectly well on important tools without coercion via copyleft or any psuedo-religious nonsense about "good" and "evil". Getting that under GPL would be a huge win for the walled garden you are attempting to construct yourself. I can't imagine anything worse for the progress of LLVM, though, than to eliminate most of its contributors by arbitrarily changing its licence to something that's not useful for them.

      I was thinking something similar. He insists on calling the Linux operating system GNU/Linux (as if MIT's X-Windows, BSD, or anyone else contributed nothing), but says he'd change the license if he could-- but he can't. That he wants to prevent tivoization, something Linus is on-record as supporting.

      Half the reason LLVM has advanced so quickly is that it's not GPL. Similar to all the Apache projects.

  • quote (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Monday January 07, 2013 @12:56PM (#42506251) Journal
    " I do my best, and I persuade some, which is better than giving up and persuading none.:" --RMS

    And this is why he is successful.
  • FLOSS in research (Score:5, Informative)

    by PSVMOrnot (885854) on Monday January 07, 2013 @12:58PM (#42506289)

    Regarding tsquar3d's question on FLOSS in research; I too have come across this in other fields of academia.

    There are a lot of pro's to using FLOSS for research besides the ethical, and if you do need to justify your use of it then it is likely these you will need to rely on. So, off the top of my head, and with a more general not necessarily CS view:

    Verifiability: you can trace the source code and know precisely what is being done in your analysis.

    Reproducibility: you can distribute the exact version of the software you used for your analysis, to allow others to reproduce your results.

    Longevity: proprietary products will stop being supported eventually and as such make it much harder to reproduce results at a later date.

    Extensibility: it's quicker to make your awesome new twist on an existing analysis if you can just extend the existing software

    Naturally this doesn't apply to all fields, or situations but these are all things I have come across while doing various things with applied machine learning.

    On the other hand you will need to consider these points from the other side too. If you switch from the standard proprietary software your department uses then you have to prove that your new software provides the same results, or account for any discrepancies.

    Similarly, if any extensions to the proprietary software have been made you may have to reproduce them yourself (and verify them, and so on).

    In the end you have to weigh up the pro's and con's and see if the pro's of using FLOSS out weigh the con's, and in your case as a PhD student, also consider whether you actually have enough time to make the switch. (Unless you already have).

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      Verifiability: you can trace the source code and know precisely what is being done in your analysis.

      That one is only mostly true: You can trace the source code, which is great most of the time, but if you have a "creative" compiler, it might do something different than what you'd expect, and if you run on "creative" hardware, it might do something different than what the source code and compiler expect. This is the old Reflections on Trusting Trust [bell-labs.com] argument.

  • Semantics (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 07, 2013 @01:14PM (#42506491)
    If he spent as much time writing code as he spends soapboxing about the semantics of phrases like "Intellectual Property" and "FOSS", the GNU OS would be done and he wouldn't have to piggyback the GNU name on Linux.
  • Not while you impose that one-sided, open-ended contract you portray as a 'copyright assignment'...

    • by kthreadd (1558445)
      GNU recommends copyright assignment, but in the end it's up to the maintainer. Several GNU projects does not utilize copyright assignment.
  • Apple (Score:4, Interesting)

    by davydagger (2566757) on Monday January 07, 2013 @01:57PM (#42507033)
    "RMS: I hope that a lot of the community shares my views of Jobs and Apple. I ask them to stand up and be counted."

    damn skippy. On my feet.
  • Who defines ethics? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by segfault_0 (181690) on Monday January 07, 2013 @03:47PM (#42508581)

    What qualifies Stallman as an expert on ethics?

    I like free software as much as the next guy, but Richard's personal software peccadilloes don't constitute a new ethics -- only society as a whole can define what is or isn't ethical.

    Actually I think he puts it in terms of ethics as a shortcut to having to defend the legal and financial ramifications of what he is suggesting. He's basically saying you should give away your software because it's the "right thing to do". If someone claims that his stance isn't friendly to competitive markets he claims they are calling him a communist and that he's the victim of a personal attack.

    This guy is full of rhetoric and I'm not sure why he would still be considered a leader in this movement.

    • by UnknownSoldier (67820) on Monday January 07, 2013 @04:36PM (#42509357)

      To play Devil's Advocate ...

      > What qualifies Stallman as an expert on ethics?

      First, well when you invent a new kind of license that thousands of people use in their projects that gives him some validity based on experience. What new paradigm of license have you invented and given away? And how does it help guarantee freedom?

      Second, he has been correct about warning how companies can misuse licenses.

      i.e. "Right to Read" and how Amazon deleted copies of 1984 on people's Kindles.
      http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/right-to-read.html [gnu.org]

      > This guy is full of rhetoric and I'm not sure why he would still be considered a leader in this movement.
      And your personal ideology is any better? Because you haven't posted anything why we should follow yours ...

      Lastly, are you familiar with this George Bernard Shaw's quote?

      "The reasonable man 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."

      I may not agree with RMS on everything but I admire and respect his dedication to an ideology.

  • by twistedcubic (577194) on Monday January 07, 2013 @04:31PM (#42509259)
    Just want to say thank you to RMS for fighting for our freedoms!

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