Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook


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This discussion has been archived.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:
  • 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?

  • Shave, damn you! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @01:14PM (#46347257) Journal

    Okay, just kidding... but my question is this: How do you see the FSF remaining relevant 10 years hence - in other words, what is the FSF doing to keep from being obviated by the evolution of technology at large?

  • 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

  • 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.

  • by tom229 ( 1640685 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @01:17PM (#46347311)
    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?

  • 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.

  • 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 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)?
  • 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?


  • 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?

  • 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.

  • Re:Cell phones (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @01:49PM (#46347787)

    On a related note, does he go out to eat at restaurants? Because just like with non open source software, he would be consuming something that does not come with the recipe. How does he trust even the groceries that he buys hasn't been tampered with?

    This is why the free software movement is garbage. It makes no sense outside the world of software.

  • 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?

  • 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?

  • 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?

  • Re:Question (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JustinOpinion ( 1246824 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @02:24PM (#46348263)
    SoylentNews [] is a new site (based on SlashCode, in fact) that is complementary to Slashdot in that it seems to be targetting sci/tech discussions.
  • 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.

  • 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)?

  • 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?

  • 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?

  • Re: Denommus (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gIobaljustin ( 3526197 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @08:48PM (#46353023) Homepage

    A child is a child because they are incapable of making choices for themselves.

    That is simply incorrect. Children make choices for themselves all the time, and they also make mistakes. Likewise, adults do the same. Adults have sex with people and then later regret, and sometimes severely. Most adults are only a little bit less shortsighted than children, and yet they're allowed to have sex.

    But the bottom line is this: In each individual case, the prosecution should have to prove that rape took place. We should revise our nonsensical consent laws and such, as well. This is all mainly caused by irrational "for the children" people like you who spew forth circular arguments and then make moral judgements and pretend as if their morals should be enforced through the law.

It seems intuitively obvious to me, which means that it might be wrong. -- Chris Torek