Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?
GNU is Not Unix

Interview: Ask Richard Stallman What You Will 480

Richard Stallman (RMS) founded the GNU Project in 1984, the Free Software Foundation in 1985, and remains one of the most important and outspoken advocates for software freedom. He now spends much of his time fighting excessive extension of copyright laws, digital restrictions management, and software patents. RMS has agreed to answer your questions about GNU/Linux, how GNU relates to Linux the kernel, free software, why he disagrees with the idea of open source, and other issues of public concern. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Interview: Ask Richard Stallman What You Will

Comments Filter:
  • Oh c'mon! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @01:09PM (#46347187)

    Why are these interviews always for some dude trying to sell his latest crappy software? Yet another way Dice has ruined slashdot.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @01:10PM (#46347205)

    Inbetween Google, Apple, Samsung, NSA, GCHQ, ... can we still make it?

  • NSA/GCHQ (Score:5, Interesting)

    by click2005 ( 921437 ) * on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @01:11PM (#46347221)

    What are your views on the recent NSA activities and how do you think it will change free software & the internet?

  • Opinion? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @01:13PM (#46347251)

    What is your opinion on cryptocurrencies?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @01:14PM (#46347259)

    How close are we to obtaining a truly free phone given that MWC 2014 has shown us a once proprietary Nokia running Android and do you have any further ideas as to how we can finally free the hardware firmware and what would be timescale until we see a truly free smartphone?

  • plan9 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lister king of smeg ( 2481612 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @01:14PM (#46347261)

    What are your thoughts on the gpl'ing of plan9 recently? What affect do you think this could have the gnu/linux ecosystem?

  • GPLv4 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @01:14PM (#46347263)

    Can the GPL version 4 become the 'Good Public License'? One which forbids use of the software for weapon systems and invading privacy? A committee by the FSF could for example determine what is 'evil' enough to prohibit its use.

    Do you think that's a good idea?


    Jasper Internet

    • Re:GPLv4 (Score:5, Informative)

      by gQuigs ( 913879 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @01:32PM (#46347521) Homepage
    • Words like "forbid" and "prohibit" seem to go against the idea of "free software".

  • Déjà Vu (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @01:15PM (#46347279)
  • Cell phones (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @01:16PM (#46347295)

    I read a little on your website [] about your take on technology that uses non-free software. Do you still not own a cell phone? If not, I'd love to hear your perspective on life without one these days, where its just assumed that people own one.

    As a follow-up, where exactly do you draw the line concerning openness of source and whether or not you use software. For example, do you toast bread in a toaster that runs proprietary code? Obviously we're talking about different things here, but I'm curious to know at what point you say "no thanks!" when it comes to locked down technology.

  • Do you think it's necessary, or even a good idea? Do you own any?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @01:18PM (#46347319)

    How do you view Facebook's initiative? In my opinion, it's even worse than DRM, because today I can opt out of DRM content. What if someday internet access that doesn't pass through Facebook become so expensive I can't afford it? How can we fight to keep the internet away from such corporate control?

  • GTK future? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @01:19PM (#46347323)

    Dear RMS, I for one am very interested in what your view is concerning the future of GNOME and specifically GTK. In the past there were concerns over licensing between GTK and Qt and there seems to be a rise in uptake of Qt. My question is whether you see there being a future in GTK and should developers consider moving their projects to Qt?

  • Question (Score:5, Interesting)

    by The Cat ( 19816 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @01:20PM (#46347333)

    Which site would you recommend for grown-up adults who used to visit Slashdot and who want to talk about computers, GNU/Linux and technology?

  • Quality (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @01:24PM (#46347377)

    In the recent Clang thread, you seemed to say quality of software either isn't important to you, or at least is less important than the software being free software.

    As someone who writes software for a living, this seemed like a "jump the shark" moment. (But maybe you jumped this particular shark long ago.)

    Does it do your moment a disservice to say things like to, and also to have software that isn't of the up-most quality?

  • How many (Score:5, Funny)

    by oodaloop ( 1229816 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @01:24PM (#46347383)
    How many times have you been attacked by ninjas?
  • GNU/Hurd (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mrflash818 ( 226638 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @01:24PM (#46347385) Homepage Journal

    Please share your vision for where you would like to see GNU/Hurd, and GNU software over the next 25 years, and what people would be doing with it.

    • How about relating how OS have failed to the point where users are running virtual machines. (We all know restricted software makes this worse, but it is not exclusively their fault.)

      GNU/Hurd does not seem like so much overhead today given the huge amount of waste a VM creates. Perhaps GNU/Hurd is better suited to address where things have been progressing?

      Multics doesn't seem so "bloated" anymore either.

      • "How about relating how OS have failed to the point where users are running virtual machines."

        Non Sequitur much? You should probably learn about Virtual Machines and why people use them. I'll give you a hint: VMs mean more Operating Systems, not less, ergo concluding that VMs are an indication that "OS have failed" is phenomenally ludicrous. (Also, I have no idea what the hell that is even supposed to mean)

  • by jkrise ( 535370 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @01:25PM (#46347409) Journal

    In my experience; it is far easier to obtain; install and work with Free Software than with Free Hardware. I asked you about this in person 2 years back; but you brushed it aside saying hardware is not trivial to copy.

    Recent events have proved me right; I feel. We simply do not have access to Freedom Hardware at low cost - even the Raspberry Pi has proprietary components in its hardware.

    Why can't the FSF pool resources; license technology from ARM Holdings; and build a truly Free Tablet, Free Cellphone and Free PC running Free GNU/Linux instead of the pseudo-free Android? I am sure the community will pay any money to buy truly free Hardware from the FHF.

    • Fast free video would be nice too. Hate having to choose between awful performance or proprietary binary drivers.
    • How does one verify that the hardware they designed to be free is implemented in the proper way? Since the FSF doesn't own any fabs, they'd have to commission someone else to build the chips. If you'[re talking about tablets and phones, they usually consist of a SOC (System on a Chip). How do you verify that they didn't place any back doors in the hardware when manufacturing the hardware. With software you can read the source, and compile it yourself (and even write your own compiler if you're paranoid)
    • by jrumney ( 197329 )
      You seem to start with an assumption that ARM Holdings would license their technology under a Free license to the FSF. If they don't, then you're back to what Stallman told you 2 years ago - hardware is not trivial to copy.
  • What do you foresee happening to GNU in the next 20, 50, and 100 years?

  • cloud and freeness (Score:4, Interesting)

    by GPLHost-Thomas ( 1330431 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @01:34PM (#46347541)
    Hi, Richard!

    In the debian-cloud list, we had a long discussion about wordings, which I also think is very important. It stroke me that you felt cloud was in essence non-free, and that you wanted everyone to stop using the word "cloud" which you (rightly) thought was too vague. But since there is also private IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service), I do think we may have fully free cloud systems.

    I never knew if I was able to convince you that a completely free IaaS software was very important to keep our freedom, and would like to know what is your current feeling about it.
  • Computer Games (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @01:34PM (#46347549)

    Mr. Stallman, do you ever play computer games (video games)?
    If so, which ones?

  • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @01:34PM (#46347563)

    I live a modest life, how ever I do need to pay the bills. For the most part I make my living doing stuff against the ideals of the GPL.
    Here is why.
    1. I am not charismatic enough to gain peoples attention, so I will not make a living off of speeches and publications.

    2. The software I write tends to fill a small niche, so it will not gain mass popularity outside that niche. So my products won't make a good resume item. And the owners of the niche mostly will not donate to my efforts, if they can get it for free. As well wouldn't be distributed on most systems.

    3. The software I write tends to be user friendly and intuitive to use. So consulting off the product or service isn't a good way either.

    4. The ease of Internet Download makes shipping of media seem barbaric.

    Now I would love to make all my stuff open source, however I do need to live, and I prefer if possible not to live off of government handouts. I am a software developer by heart and nature, doing it as a hobby would be a waste of my talents.
    So how would a 100% GPL developer operate in a small business settings?

    • by Warbothong ( 905464 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @02:05PM (#46348009) Homepage

      So how would a 100% GPL developer operate in a small business settings?

      The same way most other people in the world do: get paid for your time.

      Plumbers don't spend months installing pipework in the hope that someone might pay them at the end of it. They also don't lock the valves away and hold the key to ransom in an attempt to force such payment. They also don't meter your usage of the pipes they installed and cut you off if you don't pay (water utilities charge you for *fresh* water, but they don't charge you for recirculating the same stuff through your pipes).

      Why should software developers think any differently?

      PS: I get paid for writing Free Software, I have done at several companies. It's not difficult.

    • Shared source commercial source code licenses have often been mentioned as an option that would allow programmers to charge for the ability to access their software but at the same time would provide sources to the consumer of the software. This could also allow the consumer to upload changes they make to the software to a revision control system provided by the programmers who own the software. Free software is not the only way that users of software could be granted access to source code, a commercial sou

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @01:36PM (#46347593) []
    Would you maybe want to own one? Why?

    They seem to go different way than FSF does with "Respects Your Privacy" program - instead of modifying the modem to either be free or act "as a circuit", which both may be not feasible given their limited resources, they seem to go with the "sandboxing" way - giving the user a way to control and monitor what does the modem do. They want to achive the same result, but with different way than proposed by FSF. What is your take on that?

  • Who is your hero? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by korbulon ( 2792438 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @01:37PM (#46347597)
    And if not hero, then perhaps mildly inspiring personage (real or otherwise)?
  • I appreciate what you have done. I understand your ideology and wish you the best.

    Thank you.

  • by exa ( 27197 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @01:40PM (#46347639) Homepage Journal

    Dear RMS,

    Many users have fallen victim to spying software such as facebook, and have willingly or unwittingly surrendered their privacy rights to corporations which sell their information.

    Can Free Software salvage this situation and make the Internet a more private, a more free place for the common user? And what must we do about it?


  • Not a question for RMS, but a question about /. interviews. What happened to the one with Limor Fried, aka LadyAda of AdaFruit? Questions were asked but no response ever posted.

  • by snarfies ( 115214 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @01:44PM (#46347697) Homepage

    You are an idol on 4chan's technology board, /g/, including an iconographic picture of you in that board's sticky. At one point you've even addressed us, or at least some common misconceptions circulated on 4chan (

    Do you read 4chan at all? How did we come to your attention? Are you okay with your demigod status there?

  • How do you feel about the current popularity of beards, and what can I do to make sure my own beard style is not incorporated into a proprietary system?

  • "digital rights management" should read "digital restrictions management". I don't need software to manage my rights.

  • by jaiyen ( 821972 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @01:48PM (#46347755)

    Isn't it time to let this go? Fair or not, 'Linux' has won even if only because it's a more marketable name. Isn't encouraging community infighting over this distracting from many far more important free software issues?

  • by Archangel Michael ( 180766 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @01:48PM (#46347759) Journal

    Let me just state up front, I think the new versions of the GPL are becoming exactly what the GPL was originally used to protect agains, another intrusive EULA, restricting usage because someone doesn't like that usage. I personally use BSD style licensing, because I create for others to use, and I am not concerned with how they use it. My source is open, free, to use as you (end user / repackager / thief) see fit. By keeping my source pure, at my point, forks become the one-offs that are abandoned, while mine remains (i've already seen this). I truly believe that what goes around, comes around.

    My question is, when does "free" stop being free? My reading of the GPL3 is such that it is placing restrictions on use, simply because of how it is being used, not because of anything else. Using GPL 2, or better yet, BSD, one is not restricting its use, and isn't that better for everyone? Restricting use, is not "free" in my definition of "free".

    On the other hand, I admire your zealotry. People like you(and me??) drive the conversations we need to have, even if we disagree.

    • I think the new versions of the GPL are becoming exactly what the GPL was originally used to protect agains, another intrusive EULA, restricting usage because someone doesn't like that usage.

      The GPL does not restrict usage, not even GPLv3. It continues to apply only in the case of redistribution.

      My reading of the GPL3 is such that it is placing restrictions on use

      Redistribution goes beyond use, and is specifically the scenario the GPL was designed to have an impact in. You can continue to use software howe

  • Why not perhaps a more majestic creature?

  • In the aftermath (well we're still in the middle of all this...) of the current whistle-blower cases (Snowden et al.) many people related to them have been detained/questioned/.. by various agencies especially at airports. Have you yourself experienced more scrutiny towards your person this past year, have you ever been the subject/victim of questionable interaction with agencies in general, and how did you tackle these events?
  • Shorter copyright (Score:5, Interesting)

    by oneandoneis2 ( 777721 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @01:53PM (#46347845) Homepage

    I believe you're in favour of much-reduced copyright terms - a few years rather than the endless decades of today.

    If copyright were reduced to, say, five years, then the vast majority of GNU code would become public-domain - copyleft depending on copyright as it does, this would mean anyone could create a closed-source fork of, say, emacs. How do you feel about that?

    • That's interesting. Wouldn't the copyright / licensing on emacs be renewed with each new release though? IANAL - which of these is true? Emacs would become public domain Source code from versions of emacs released up to 2009 would become public domain Emacs would not be public domain at all, since it is still actively developed
  • by MouseTheLuckyDog ( 2752443 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @01:54PM (#46347867)

    I remember when compiz was new, demos of it running effectively on 7 year old machines.
    Recently I replaced the had drive in an old laptop with an SSD despite meeting the minimal requirements for Mint KDE I had many problems installing.
    I kept running into out of memory problems when the LiveCD used the ramdisk it created. Finally I created a VM on which I installed a basic copy of the distro, I then rsynced the files to the old laptop drive. There I tweaked a few thing installed grub, made the drive bootable. Then I booted from a USB dock installed ubiquity on the old drive and installed Mint to the SSD. This seems like a very exhausting process to go through to install Linux.

    In doing this I see a lot of defects in linux: growing memory requirements, drowing disk space requirements, inefficient sytems. In this sense Linux and free software seems to be becoming Windowized. Good archotectural decisions are been forsook for the sake of expediency, even to the point of exposing the systems to malware writers. Is this a concern for you?

  • People like apps (Score:5, Interesting)

    by thetagger ( 1057066 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @01:56PM (#46347897)

    There is an entire generation of people out there for whom mobile apps, mostly on iOS and Android, are the way in which they do their computing. The more successful apps are usually very well-designed with incredible user interfaces, an area where free software has not achieved much success, and sold at very low prices and, in many cases, also monetized through stolen personal data.

    It appears to me that the GNU project is mostly ignoring this important area - I am aware of Replicant and F-Droid but these are well behind their proprietary counterparts at the moment. What should we do? Ignore mobile and hope it goes away, try to get onboard with Replicant and F-Droid, try to bring in a new generation of free software developers that is native to the mobile environment, or avoid the mobile "ecosystem" completely and try to work on the hardware side and try to make free hardware that is not inherently trackable/centralized and then run free software on top of that instead?

  • In this day and age, where social media are ubiquitous, don't you think that governments need to catch up?
    Why don't you create an open-source set of tools that allows governments to start dialogues with their citizens, and allows concerned citizens to make their voices louder?

    To be more concrete, I'm thinking of one or more of the following:
    1. An _official_ moderated forum to host political discussions.
    2. Moderation of issues/comments on this forum should be hierarchical and based on a fair voting scheme, s

  • Why only software? (or hardware) Why not building architecture, art design, books, the complete design of say your car or an airplane? Isn't that the same? Wouldn't "society" benefit in similar ways if EVERY SINGLE PRODUCT made by man was open for everyone to copy and modify as they wanted?

    Where does this not just turn into flat out socialism? Now, I'm not a knee-jerk "socialism is bad" type... but I don't think it's naturally better or 'more ethical'.

    You might say "we've never seen quite my kind of so

  • Dear RMS,

    First of all, thank for your contributions to the world of software and agreeing on making that interview.

    In the world of software, I am often under the impression that the "proprietary" world develop the game-changers and that the free software follows. Because of that lag, free software appears to always be in position where it has to adapt to the world around it, which diverts lots of efforts or causes lots of frustration. The only parts where free software appears to pioneer is the infrastructu

  • by Kremmy ( 793693 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @02:15PM (#46348135)
    While I agree with your mission and am a fan of the work you have done, I can't help but feel you've managed to shoot yourself in the foot with how you've handled your beliefs. I recently commented about how I felt your insistence of free software purity has made it so your organization was unable to appropriately evolve with the technological environment. GNU/Hurd is a failure. I see Apple and Microsoft trying their damnedest to bring us back into the walled garden world of proprietary UNIX, without the benefits of UNIX. I see Unity, I see Metro, I see the app store commercialization of the package manager, I see you calling LLVM a tragedy. What I don't see is you and your organization having done the footwork necessary to make it so we have a choice. Those of us who value our computing freedom, I feel, have been let down by the lack of a reasonable solution from GNU. My assertion is that in 2014, the GNU Free Software Foundation has failed to provide us an 'out' from proprietary computing platforms.

    My question is thus: What do you feel can be done to allow yourself and the Free Software Foundation to move forward and solve this problem of failure?
  • by Medievalist ( 16032 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @02:16PM (#46348161)

    Automobile user interfaces have become increasingly complex and de-standardized as computerization reaches into the driver's seat. The major vendors don't seem to care about possible legal liabilities of designing inherently dangerous UIs.

    Google has enticed Honda, GM and Audi to join the Open Automotive Alliance, but that project seems more oriented towards selling android and nVidia products than providing an objectively better car OS.

    Do you see a future where a real Free (or at least Open Source) car operating system is a reality, or do you think the car makers will just continue to create unsafe and unstandardized vehicle UIs indefinitely?

  • by vilanye ( 1906708 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @02:24PM (#46348259)

    Given that compilers are something that very few programmers can realistically work on, why is your objection to LLVM so strong?

    Its licensing also means that the GNU compiler projects can use whatever advancements LLVM makes freely.

  • systemd (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zdzichu ( 100333 ) <zdzichu AT irc DOT pl> on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @02:29PM (#46348327) Homepage Journal

    How do you find systemd/linux? Systemd's success could decrease relevance of Hurd, as systemd is Linux only.

  • He's trying to enforce his Utopian dream via laws with which he disagrees. Copyright tells people who they can/can't copy information, yet he uses those laws to make sure people can't continue to copy information. It just seems so contradictory and idealistic.
  • by postmortem ( 906676 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @02:33PM (#46348379) Journal

    and when we are already there, favorite version of Windows?

  • by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @02:43PM (#46348499) Homepage

    Ignoring preference of open source license for a minute, the open source landscape has lots of software to satisfy a wide range of users.

    What piece of software is still sorely missing from the open source landscape that isn't yet being seriously attempted by any project?

    Short version; what open source projects still need to be started?

  • Birth of the Hurd (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Cronopios ( 313338 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @02:47PM (#46348587) Homepage Journal

    Peter H. Salus, in his book `The Daemon, the GNU and the Penguin' quotes Thomas Bushnell (the initial Hurd architect) as saying:

    My first choice was to take the BSD 4.4-Lite release and make a kernel. I knew the code, I knew how to do it. It is now perfectly obvious to me that this would have succeeded splendidly and the world would be a very different place today.
    RMS wanted to work together with people from Berkeley on such an effort. Some of them were interested, but some seem to have been deliberately dragging their feet: and the reason now seems to be that they had the goal of spinning off BSDI. A GNU based on 4.4-Lite would undercut BSDI.
    So RMS said to himself, "Mach is a working kernel, 4.4-Lite is only partial, we will go with Mach." It was a decision which I strongly opposed. But ultimately it was not my decision to make, and I made the best go I could at working with Mach and doing something new from that standpoint.
    This was all way before Linux; we're talking 1991 or so.

    In hindsight, do you regret that decision, or are you happy about Linux being the usual kernel in GNU systems (and the subsequent misnaming)?

  • Do you object to the use of the term 'Free/Open Source Software' (FOSS)?

  • Dear RMS, Assange was quoted as saying 'banish all Stallmanist thought' while developing for NetBSD, yet according to your website, you remain one of his defenders. Do you not find that a little ironic? Good sportsmanship!
  • What do you think about Slashdot's Beta?
  • by paulpach ( 798828 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @03:01PM (#46348827)

    You argue that it is unethical for someone to distribute software in a way that limits any one of the 4 freedoms to users.

    If you had the option, would you make it illegal to do so?

    In other words, if you had the option would you make it so that software developers were forced by law to use a free software license? or would you leave the option to the developers and try to convince them (without coercion) that it is the right thing to do?

  • What do you think of The Open Edge Content Delivery Network as a concept? []

  • rms, I recently read you were interested in developments for anonymized digital currency. Currency in its current form is the primary rational for restricting the sharing of information. All currencies I am aware of are based on the currency being scarce, which encourages artificial scarcity of information. Have you seen any attempts at creating digital currencies that are not scarce, but reflect value based on usage and distribution? Search engine tracks ratings of websites. Users get more individual value
  • The Gnu Free Documentation Licence (GFDL) has not been embraced with nearly as much love as the GPL and numerous issues have been raised:

    *Non compability with GPL (both ways).
    *Non-freeness (as deemed by Debian) of invariant sections.
    *Cumersomeness of having to print the full licence when distributing physical printouts.

    Wikipedia for example does not accept contributions licenced under the GFDL only.

    What do you see as a way forward in adressing the issues raised regarding the GFDL?

  • by atari2600a ( 1892574 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @03:13PM (#46349047)
    Mine grows with some bald spots & I want to obtain neckbeard status.
  • Blackphone? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Misagon ( 1135 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @03:58PM (#46349673)

    You (RMS) have said on numerous occasions that you don't use a cell phone because of privacy issues - that it can be used as a tracking device and underhandedly, for spying on its user.

    What do you think of the "security-oriented" Blackphone []? Secure enough for RMS?

  • GitHub (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kthreadd ( 1558445 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @04:58PM (#46350369)

    What's your opinion about GitHub and that more and more free software development is moving there?

  • by kthreadd ( 1558445 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @05:46PM (#46350923)

    Which programs do you use on a daily basis?

Usage: fortune -P [] -a [xsz] [Q: [file]] [rKe9] -v6[+] dataspec ... inputdir