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GNU is Not Unix Software

Richard Stallman Answers Your Questions 394

samzenpus (5) writes "A while ago you had the chance to ask GNU and Free Software Foundation founder Richard Stallman about GNU, copyright laws, digital restrictions management, and software patents. Below you'll find his answers to those questions."
RMS: By way of explanation, I launched the free software movement; what I say about software issues is based on our values of freedom and community for the users of computers. We classify programs as either "free" or "nonfree".

A few of the questions asked about "open source software" in such a way that, responding to them directly, I'd be classifying programs as "open" or "closed". That I will not do, because those terms presuppose a different philosophy based on different values.

Rather than give no answer to those questions, I modified them to say "free software" instead, and answered them that way. (Square brackets show these changes.) I hope the answers to these modified questions are of interest to readers. They are rather different from what an open source supporter would say.

by click2005

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

RMS: Nonfree software is likely to spy on its users, or mistreat them in other ways. It is software for suckers.

Awareness of this is spreading, which helps us make the case for free software to people who are not computing experts.

As for the internet, it has been turned into a spy network. A considerable fraction of the massive surveillance (but not all!) applies to the internet. Most use of the internet involves web sites that snoop on users, which is poisonous. That's in addition to the snooping by ISPs themselves.

Massive surveillance of people in general endangers human rights and democracy; but we should remember that US snooping agencies do this mostly by piggy-backing on businesses that massively collect data about people.

Therefore, it is not enough to legally limit the government's access to the digital dossiers about us. We must prevent those dossiers from being made, either by business or by government. We must legally require digital systems to be redesigned so that they do not accumulate data about people in general.

Here is my full position on massive general surveillance.

by Anonymous Coward

What is your opinion on cryptocurrencies?

RMS: In general, I am in favor of ways to pay each other cash on the Internet without going through a payment company that keeps track of all payments. I would like to be able to pay an on-line service with cash the way I pay cash for all the things I buy today.

However, Bitcoin payments are not anonymous. To serve this need requires anonymity at least for the payer. People are working on trying to improve Bitcoin in that way.

I am not an expert on encryption, and I can't judge the security of any particular cryptocurrency. What I do know, and what is illustrated by the recent collapse of several exchanges (banks, in effect) due to robbery, including MtGox, demonstrates that, here as in any field, the security of a practical activity that uses encryption is a very different question from the mathematical validity of the encryption system or the correctness of the software. It may take years to develop cryptomoney exchanges we can have confidence in.

These currencies raise economic issues, too; but not necessarily the way many people think. The number of bitcoins is capped, but new cryptocurrencies can always be created, so that the total number of Xcoins for all values of X has no particular limit. Does this mean that the value of all cryptocurrencies will inevitably tend towards zero? Not necessarily; that depends on how much people accept various other cryptocurrencies -- a sociological question, not an economic one.

I don't enjoy risk, so I will not do speculation in cryptocurrencies any more than I do in other commodities. I may use them for payment if and when it becomes possible to use them anonymously to buy something that I can't get with cash. To resist surveillance, I do buy goods with cash in a store, so that no data base knows what I bought -- therefore, I don't pay over the internet. But I would use an anonymous cryptocurrency to pay for services and downloads.

Cell phones
by Anonymous Coward

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?

RMS: I certainly do not! A cell phone is Stalin's dream: its movements are tracked, and it can be converted (through the universal back door) into a listening device.

AC: If not, I'd love to hear your perspective on life without one these days, where its just assumed that people own one.

RMS: Please help teach everyone that this assumption is false!

There is a way to make a cell phone acceptable _for occasional communication only_: put a one-way pager in the phone, so people can page you if they are trying to reach you. That way, you can keep its radio connection off most of the time. When you get the page, you can decide when and where to reveal your location by connecting the phone to the network.

Of course, the software in the phone's main computer should also be free, but that is a separate issue. In other words, nonfree software in that computer is one assault on your freedom, and the phone system's location tracking is another.

The software in the baseband (phone radio modem) processor can't be free, at least not as things stand now. So the phone needs to be designed so the baseband processor can't talk to anything (peripherals, antenna, etc) unless the main processor permits it, and so that the baseband processor can't change the software in the main processor. Ideally the software in the baseband processor should be immutable, so we can treat it as a circuit.

AC: As a follow-up, where exactly do you draw the line concerning [freeness of software] 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.

RMS: The case of the toaster is very clear: we can't tell, except by taking it apart, whether it has a processor and software or a special-purpose chip. Since that we can't tell the difference, it makes no difference: therefore, a program that will never be changed is equivalent to a circuit. I don't care whether a toaster or microwave oven contains software.

A very common design approach nowadays is an appliance or peripheral that contains software that could be changed, but normal use does not include changing it. I think we can still disregard that software, as regards the ethical issue of free vs nonfree software; it is just a short way into thr gray area. However, such devices can be a terrible security threat, because a corrupted computer can install malware in them that will propagate. Devices which have this problem include USB sticks, microSD cards, disk drives, and the cameras that go in computers.

Where is the other side of the line? If the device has an "update firmware" button, that firmware is software meant to be changed, so it is unacceptable.

GTK future?
by Anonymous Coward

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?

RMS: I can't see the future, because nobody can. I hope that GNOME and GTK will be very successful. Please help make it so.

by mrflash818

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.

RMS: I regret to say I have no response. I never try to think about what computing might be like 25 years from now; it would be a waste of time, since I know that I don't know.

I can tell you something about free software 5 years from now: most of it will be the same as today. Free software does not change rapidly. (I think that is a feature; our society teaches people to overvalue innovation so as to distract them from more important things such as freedom, democracy, and giving everyone a comfortable life). Most of the GNU/Linux system in 5 years will be the same as what we have now; some components will be new, but they will be a small change compared with the system as a whole.

The GNU Hurd kernel (and the GNU/Hurd system, which is GNU/Linux with the Hurd instead of Linux) is not a high priority for us any more, because it would be a replacement for the free parts of Linux, and we don't need to replace those. Volunteers continue to work on the Hurd, because it is an interesting technical project.

The parts of Linux we need to replace are the nonfree parts, the "binary blobs". But replacing those has nothing to do with the GNU Hurd. The main work necessary to replace the blobs is reverse engineering to determine the specs of the peripherals those blobs are used in.

That's a tremendously important job -- please join in if you can.

Free hardware? Why not?
by jkrise

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.

RMS: When you say "free hardware" I think you mean hardware whose specs are known, so we can develop free software to run it. I call that "documented hardware". When I say "free hardware", it means to transpose the concept of free software to hardware. This means People are free to copy and change the hardware; if it is made from a design, that design must be free, with the same four freedoms that define free software. But that is mostly an issue for future technology. Documented hardware is what we need now.

The scarcity of documented hardware is indeed a tremendous problem. In general I don't see any way we can fix it except by reverse engineering to figure out the specs.

jkrise: 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.

RMS: This would cost millions of dollars, and we have no skills or experience in hardware manufacturing, so we couldn't do it.

We could try to raise funds to pay for reverse engineering of the VPU in the Novena laptop -- if we could find skilled reverse engineers ready to take the job. Can you introduce me to any?

Shorter copyright
by oneandoneis2

I believe you're in favor 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 [proprietary] fork of, say, emacs. How do you feel about that?

RMS: For this very reason, I oppose shortening copyright to 5 years without making some other change to prevent this harmful consequence. See

With the 10-year copyright term I propose, this problem would not be significant.

People often identify proprietary software with copyright; there was a time when I did, too. However, that's a mistake. The two principal methods used to make programs proprietary are (1) EULAs (a legal method) and (2) keeping the source code secret (a technical method). Two secondary methods are (3) copyright (a legal method) and (4) putting the executable in a tyrant device (a technical method, see below). Patents are used too, but only to reinforce the others.

To defend our free software from being made nonfree, the only one of these four that we can use is copyright.

People like apps
by thetagger

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,

RMS: These "advantages" can seem impressive to those who don't see what they cost in freedom. The most basic thing we must do is say, "I'd rather have nothing than have that," and then act accordingly.

thetagger: in many cases, also monetized through stolen personal data.

RMS: Please don't use "monetized" to mean "make money from". That word stinks of the attitude that "Profit justifies anything". See

Besides which, the word's correct meaning is "to use something as a currency."

thetagger: 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,

RMS: I personally will ignore it, because there is nothing about it that I want. Even if we assume it is has no phone radio connection, so it is not Stalin's dream, a computer with a small screen and no keyboard is so inconvenient as to be useless for me.

However, we need to try to bring freedom to mobile computer users. We must not ignore them.

thetagger: try to get onboard with Replicant and F-Droid,

RMS: If you want to use mobile computers, please contribute in this way.

But we will never have, in the free world, the sort of "social" snooping apps that so many internet users spend their time in. We can't compete in terms of the misguided values that our adversaries promote in order to ensnare people, and if we did, we would be doing wrong. We have to set an example of rejecting those values.

thetagger: try to bring in a new generation of free software developers that is native to the mobile environment,

RMS: If this is meant as an alternative to the previous two, I don't understand what it means. We welcome people of any and all generations in everything we do.

thetagger: or avoid the mobile "ecosystem" completely

RMS: In general, I avoid the word "ecosystem" in connection with computing because of its amoral premises.

In this case I'm at a loss for what it means. I don't understand how this option differs from the first option, "Ignore mobile and hope it goes away."

thetagger: 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?

RMS: When you say "free hardware", I think you mean documented hardware. (See above.)

We can in principle make our own documented hardware, but the only way that would directly help is by avoiding the need for reverse engineering to figure out how to run the peripherals. In practice, though, I think reverse engineering is probably easier.

However, preventing the tracking is another matter. The only way I can envision to prevent the tracking of geolocation of mobile phones is if you have them disconnected from the network nearly all the time. (Well, in theory it might work to carry a parabolic antenna so you can communicate with just one tower. Maybe that would prevent the use of triangulation to figure out where you are located. I don't know whether this could be made to really work. Does anyone want to try it?)

Fundamentally, privacy-preserving computing has to be done mainly in your own computer. We have to reject the dependence on servers that the proprietary world is pushing people into. Freedom requires local application programs, rather than "web apps" or server-backed "mobile apps".

Do you foresee a viable Free Car OS?
by Medievalist

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?

RMS: I don't see the future, so I can't tell you what will happen. I can comment on the problems I know about now in the automotive field, but I can't tell you whether we will win, because that depends on you.

It will be a hard fight to free the software in our cars, but it is essential for drivers -- and not just those that might wish to soup up or customize their cars. The issue affects everyone.

Proprietary software is an injustice in itself, but it also leads to further secondary injustices, such as malicious functionalities. In the case of cars, those can include surveillance and back doors, as well as DRM in the entertainment system.

To exclude those malicious functionalities, the users need to have control over the software. In other words, if you want to have even a chance to make sure that the only back door in your car is the one that lets you reach into the trunk, the software must be free/libre. Anything less is inadequate.

The question asks whether open source software might be almost as good as free software. The main difference between open source and free is in the values they are based on: free software raises the issue as a matter of right or wrong, while open source studiously avoids saying that. However, what's relevant to this question is the practical extensions of the two criteria. Those are _almost_ equivalent; nearly all programs that are open source are free software.

Source code that is open source but not free is rare. On GNU/Linux you will probably never encounter any. In a car, however, you really may find programs that are open source but not free. The main case of nonfree open source programs today is when you can change the source but you can't change the executable.

How is that possible? In such cases, the source is released under a free license; it is free software, and it is open source. You can change this source, but that doesn't do you much good, because you can't run your changed version. The executable comes signed by the manufacturer, and the processor it runs in is designed to reject any executable not signed. (We call such processors "tyrants".)

In the cases I know of, this program is a version of Linux, and the reason they can make its executable nonfree is that Linux is distributed under GNU GPL version 2. If it were under GPL version 3, the seller would be required to give you the signature key to sign executables for your car.

Android uses Linux (but not GNU; the only thing in common between the Android system and the GNU/Linux system is the kernel, Linux). If Android is used in a car, its executable is very likely to be made nonfree in this way.

Of course, tyrant processors can contain software whose source code is nonfree, even secret, and this too occurs in cars. However, those programs are not open source either, so they are not a difference between free software and open source.

What this shows is that we must insist that car software be free/libre; open source is not good enough. It is not enough to be allowed to play ineffectively with source code.

See here for more explanation of the difference between free software and open source. See Evgeny Morozov's article on the same point.

Projects not being done
by mwvdlee

Ignoring preference of [free software] license for a minute, the [free software] landscape has lots of software to satisfy a wide range of users. What piece of software is still sorely missing from the [free software] landscape that isn't yet being seriously attempted by any project? Short version; what [free software] projects still need to be started?

RMS: The most important missing programs are firmware for various peripheral devices, to replace the "binary blobs" found in the vanilla versions of Linux. Linux-libre deletes the blobs, and all the free GNU/Linux distros use deblobbed versions of Linux; that gets us a totally free system but it can't operate those peripherals.

It is also important to develop Gnash enough to handle the current version of Flash. People like to imagine that Flash is dead, but reports of its death are premature.

Look here for other things we would really like people to do.

free software into law?
by paulpach

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?

RMS: In an ideal world, there would be no nonfree software. I think it is possible to get pretty close to that. But I don't propose to make nonfree software illegal under today's circumstances, because it is a leap too far; the public is not ready for it. Most users do not think that nonfree software is an injustice. A law that does not have public support is going to meet resistance.

What I advocate, for today, is to ban some egregious practices found in many proprietary programs, including digital restrictions management (see, censorship of applications (jails) or works that can be viewed, or requiring code be signed with a key the user does not have (as in Restricted Boot; see

Of course, there are other measures governments should adopt to recover computational sovereignty and lead society towards freedom.

We should also ban the practice of asking users of digital works to agree to contracts (EULAs) that give them less rights than copyright law allows to users.
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Richard Stallman Answers Your Questions

Comments Filter:
  • Um... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Nemyst ( 1383049 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2014 @12:21PM (#46929817) Homepage

    RMS: Nonfree software is likely to spy on its users, or mistreat them in other ways. It is software for suckers.

    Yes, because insulting people who make or use proprietary software is a surefire way to convert them, right? The FLOSS community as a whole could use just a little bit of tact overall (RMS chief among them).

    • Re:Um... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2014 @12:33PM (#46929955)

      Tact is like political correctness. Avoiding calling someone a dumb idiot doesn't make him any smarter.

      • Touting how libre software solves all of your security concerns right after everything that wasnt IIS just got their private keys stolen because of libre software, is a bit ridiculous.

        Im sure he would be quick to explain how wonderful Tor is and completely ignore how ineffective it probably is towards the NSA; but then, as far as I can tell its not about reality for him, but the ideology. I would hope that eventually Stallman will realize that we do not live and work in a vacuum, and that in the real world

        • by mspohr ( 589790 )

          Where did he say libre software solves all of your security concerns?

        • by Glock27 ( 446276 )

          Touting how libre software solves all of your security concerns right after everything that wasnt IIS just got their private keys stolen because of libre software, is a bit ridiculous.

          Keys were stolen because of a software bug, free software or not. The fact is that the overall state of software "engineering", is poor. I'm quite sure there are plenty of similar issues with closed-source software, although there is the under appreciated benefit of "security through obscurity".

          The point holds, though, that open source software should generally be more bug-free than closed source. What we need are more motivated people (and better tools) to search for vulnerabilities. It's much better when

      • Tact is like political correctness. Avoiding calling someone a dumb idiot doesn't make him any smarter.

        But they sure as hell wont listen to reason when you reasoned argument begins with "Listen, you're an idiot for the following reasons..."

        Linus needs to take this to heart as well.

        • Re:Um... (Score:5, Informative)

          by BitZtream ( 692029 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2014 @02:13PM (#46931445)

          Linus doesn't start off telling people their idiots. He starts off very nice and cordial in every instance I've ever seen of him blowing up.

          He blows up when you repeatedly do something he has ASKED you not to do and then try to act like you are doing nothing wrong.

          I think you need to stop reading headlines about Linus and read the actual conversations the headlines are written about and the back story leading up to them.

    • Re:Um... (Score:5, Informative)

      by LordLimecat ( 1103839 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2014 @01:08PM (#46930455)

      Not only that, but he acts like "free" software wasnt just hit with some of the most massive security holes in the last decade, over the last few years--
        * the OpenSSL bug hitting everything thats not IIS
        * the SSH random number bug which required everyone to regenerate their keys
        * the IPSec kernel flaw some years back strongly suspected to have been added by an intel agency (cant currently find source or date, it was ~2008-2010).

      Thats not to mention the uncountable critical flaws that have been patched in the kernel over the last several years. If stallman is making the case that libre software magically solves the NSA problem, hes out of his mind. But then hes a fanatic, and seems unable to accept that there could ever be any benefits to closed source software, ever-- even in situations like with BestCrypt, where it continues to be the only trustworthy software source that can do whole disk encryption for all major OSes out there right now (Truecrypt cannot handle GPT Win8 disks, and is somewhat short on the trust factor).

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by MikeBabcock ( 65886 )

        Having bugs is an inevitability what with how software is written by fallible humans.

        How those bugs are identified, handled and fixed is the issue. In proprietary software, the OpenSSL bug might not have even come to light as it did, and a fix certainly wouldn't have been released as immediately as it was.

        You misunderstand the value of F/OSS. It is not that our software is bug-free and theirs is buggy, its that we can see and fix our own bugs and not sit on our thumbs waiting for a fix. ... cf http://nake []

        • Another advantage of Free Software is that, if we like, we can examine the source code for back doors and the like. It's much easier to see that a Linux system isn't reporting to the NSA than Windows 8.1 Update 1 (although it's a herculean project even in the easier case, we can at least theoretically get lots of people on Linux).

        • Re:Um... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by LordLimecat ( 1103839 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2014 @09:25PM (#46935797)

          Having bugs is an inevitability what with how software is written by fallible humans.

          If I had seen anything resembling this concession from Stallman it might be something, but one of his responses centers around how this whole NSA thing is "because proprietary software", ignoring the massive damage done by the heartbleed bug in OpenSSL.

          My point isnt that closed source is great and opensource is bad; I use android, I had Ubuntu as my primary OS from 2006 to 2009, I use and love Chrome (a chromium offshoot) and used (and loved) firefox for about the last decade prior to that. My point is that some people like Stallman are ideologically unable to accept that there are any benefits to closed source or any flaws with open source, and its absurd. The real world is calling, and "free software" isnt a panacea for every problem, or even for every computer problem.

      • Re:Um... (Score:5, Informative)

        by UnknownSoldier ( 67820 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2014 @03:07PM (#46932187)

        > Not only that, but he acts like "free" software wasn't just hit with some of the most massive security holes

        You seem to be under the delusion that the philosophy used to write the software under magically makes it immune to bugs; no one is claiming that.

        How many bugs in Windows, worms, viruses, trojans are closed / non-free source??

        The WHOLE point of open / free source is that you and everyone else CAN contribute to make it better; in contradistinction you don't have that freedom with non-free closed source. Over time, in the long run, free/open source software is better for society instead of worrying about hidden back doors in closed non-free propriety source code and/or binaries.

        You are making a mountain out of a mole hill.

    • Would you say any less to someone who willingly worked for a tyrant, or allowed their government to be tyranical? Being a sucker is being a sucker and while most people seem to prefer not having their nose rubbed in it, that simply makes them part of the problem.

    • You could refute this point with "People advocating for the use of the GPL are likely to discourage the use of other licensing models through the use of FUD."

      Because that's exactly what RMS just did. Commercial software has been around for decades, without being "likely to spy on it's users".

  • Extra Answer (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 06, 2014 @12:21PM (#46929821) []
    > Mr. Stallman, do you ever play computer games (video games)?
    > If so, which ones?

    From: Richard Stallman
    Subject: Re: Slashdot ask RMS what you will
    Date: Tue, 06 May 2014 02:46:49 -0400

    The answers will be published soon, but the questions I got did
    not include anything about what video games I play.

    I won't have nonfree software on my computer, and that includes games.
    But in fact I would not have time to play video games even if they are

  • Interesting (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Registered Coward v2 ( 447531 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2014 @12:30PM (#46929921)

    RMS points out, in regards to paid apps:

    These "advantages" can seem impressive to those who don't see what they cost in freedom. The most basic thing we must do is say, "I'd rather have nothing than have that," and then act accordingly.

    the when asked about developing free hardware says:

    This would cost millions of dollars, and we have no skills or experience in hardware manufacturing, so we couldn't do it.

    To me , those two comments gets to the crux of free softwares challenges:

    Without tangible rewards that allow people to do thing they like to do many things would not get done nor would we get many new innovative things. Sure, some people will code for the fun of it but that doesn't mean they will develop as complex and useful systems as the for profit world generates. Free software is nice and a lot of it is useful and as polished as non-free apps but a lot isn't. In the end, it is neither a better nor worse solution, just a different one.

    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by BasilBrush ( 643681 )

      Free software is nice and a lot of it is useful and as polished as non-free apps but a lot isn't. In the end, it is neither a better nor worse solution, just a different one.

      Any software with a UI tends to be worse when it's FLOSS.

      And then there's the other problem that FLOSS software tends to be copied from commercial software. Without commercial software, computing would stagnate. RMS even seems to accept that FLOSS is far slower moving in one of his answers.

      • Re:Interesting (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2014 @02:38PM (#46931823)

        Any software with a UI tends to be worse when it's FLOSS.

        Windows 8 proves you wrong. As bad as GNOME is, it's got nothing on Windows 8.

  • by SocietyoftheFist ( 316444 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2014 @12:36PM (#46930003)

    He is like a Tea Party supporter or a vegan PETA member, far off the mainstream and living in a fantasy world.

    • by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) * on Tuesday May 06, 2014 @01:01PM (#46930341)

      If you want to ignore him, then WTF are you doing posting in this thread?

    • by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2014 @01:07PM (#46930443) Journal

      He is like a Tea Party supporter or a vegan PETA member, far off the mainstream and living in a fantasy world.

      He's even more annoying than those clowns because he has the tendency to be proven right eventually.

      Can we just ignore him please

      At your peril.

    • He talks about "What we lose in freedom" as a cost, and assumes it exceeds the benefits of mobile apps. Honestly, the cost of freedom is high for me: obtaining an app's source code, understanding it, modifying it, and re-deploying it carries an immense burden. Typically, the desired functionality is not worth the effort from me, and therefor a proprietary app for $2 is a huge economic win over an open source app that will require $2 (at $37/hr???) for me to update.
    • by Dareth ( 47614 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2014 @01:24PM (#46930737)

      I read what he has to say because I have respect for his accomplishments regardless of his point of view. I do not have to agree with everything he believes in. I want software that works. I am as likely to use a blob (non-free) driver if it works as to use a free one that works.

      I personally benefit more from having a mobile phone than I fear being monitored or tracked by it. I am aware that having this phone does allow for this to happen. I was joking about "TV watching us" more than 10 years ago. It was actually funny, and I got "picked on" for saying it. That joke isn't funny anymore these days.

      • I figure that it doesn't really harm me if the government knows what I do day-by-day. If I ever want to drop off the radar for a bit I can leave my cell phone at home and pay cash for things (I suggest occasionally taking fairly large amounts of cash out of your account, not regularly, so it isn't really suspicious to get some.). I'm not going to be able to evade any targeted surveillance, but I can do stuff without being actively on the radar.

    • Not a fantasy world, but the past of computing paradigms. He doesn't use computers in the "modern way" so he really doesn't understand the realities of "modern computing". His brand of activism isn't helping as much as he thinks it is.

      Simply put, programmers need to eat, they can't all be guys who get paid to talk who used to squat at MIT. They make apps and proprietary software to live.

      • been done outside of free software.

        I'm with you—his brand of activism isn't helping. It also isn't hurting. It's just irrelevant at this point.

        That's sad because there's definitely room for forces to be aligned against DRM and proprietary-ness, and the FSF ought to be on the front lines of making important contributions in this regard.

        But FSF advocates often simply write off most of what regular people actually care about. It's not "let's create a society in which you can watch your Hollywood blockbus

  • Thanks RMS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by just_another_sean ( 919159 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2014 @12:47PM (#46930165) Journal

    Well I came late to the party and it's already filled with Trolls and the flames are rising.

    Call it karma whoring or whatever. I don't have enough mod points to make the AC's disappear so at the risk of it turning into ash in this thread I'll just simply say:

    Richard, thanks. You are a big part of why I became a GNU/Linux user.

    I still won't use emacs though! :-)

    • So I have that going for me. I don't subscribe to ideologies, they are too confining and dividing.

      • Who said anything about ideology? I just like the software I use and I believe Richard deserves some credit for that. When I found Linux it's because I was trying to move up from programming in the $200 VB environment I bought at a computer trade show. VC/C++ was too much so I tried finding a free C compiler. In 1994 gcc and GNU/Linux were what I found. I've been a fan and user ever since...

    • Re:Thanks RMS (Score:4, Insightful)

      by LordLimecat ( 1103839 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2014 @01:26PM (#46930785)

      He has done a lot of great things, but his general set of ideas is only workable for the sort of person who is allowed to reside for free on campus at berkeley. Someone who thinks apps are terrible because they justify their existance through profits, and doesnt connect the dots to why a truly free phone cant happen (its not profitable), isnt living in the real world.

      The things he pushes for are great. I love free software, I love that there is that pressure out there for commercial software to succeed. I even love that people like him are enthusiastic about it. But I think Stallman takes it way over the edge and sees free software as the end, not the means. Software that is free but does not meet my needs does me no good; a cellphone that is free but I cannot buy (unaffordable, never makes it past prototyping) is useless. Sometimes truly smart people like Stallman take their ideology so far that they make the good the enemy of the perfect.

      • I absolutely agree and appreciate the tone of your post. Thanks for not pointing out his hygiene or body weight and focusing on what you like and dislike about his message.

        If I had put a little more thought into my post it probably would have come across more like yours but I knee jerk reacted to all the personal attacks.

        As you said it's hard to agree with everything he says and does and a lot easier for him given his chosen lifestyle to stand firm on his ideals than it is for most of us.

        But that also doesn

      • by robmv ( 855035 )

        You and me are probably near the same side, being balanced in our needs for freedom and commercial software to succeed, but I think that for every extremist, from jailed devices, data miners, etc. we need the other kind of extremist like Mr. Stallman. It is the only way to have balance.

    • Richard, thanks. You are a big part of why I became a GNU/Linux user.

      He's a big part of the reason I became a FreeBSD user.

  • .. but I assume questions were given before it occurred. I would have like to have asked RMS, what happened to his assertion hat source code transparency will protect us from very bad code, because many people's eyes are on it. But everybody could look at OpenSSL source for years and see the potential for Heartbleed and it never got caught until it was too late.

    • Did RMS ever claim that free software was a protection from very bad code? I think you're confusing him with Open Source proponents like ESR. RMS is very clear in his writings: free software is a political movement, not a way to make high-quality software.

      Also, is proprietary code any better?

  • Thanks, RMS! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bob9113 ( 14996 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2014 @01:01PM (#46930355) Homepage

    Thank you for taking the time to reflect on and respond to these questions. In a world consumed with pragmatism and acquisitiveness, it is inspiring to see a person put so much thought and effort into reconciling his principles with his actions.

  • by Bryan Ischo ( 893 ) * on Tuesday May 06, 2014 @01:06PM (#46930433) Homepage

    I have always been a staunch supporter of RMS against those who attack him just because he holds so strictly to his values. You may not agree with him, but I think you have respect his tenacity in sticking to his position and the personal sacrifices he makes to do so.

    That being said, how absolutely boring it is to read essentially the same message ("all software should be free and you should refuse to use any software that isn't free") repeated about 15 times with 15 minor variations. Surely RMS isn't this one-dimensional. I wish there had been some more interesting questions that weren't just prompts to repeat the free software mantra over and over again.

    I met Stallman in 1999 or so, at a conference and went along with him and a bunch of his 'cronies' (people who seemed to know him well and defended him like rabid dogs) to dinner. I was honestly surprised to learn that he wouldn't use passwords on any of his computer accounts (somehow this topic came up when someone else asked him a question); I never learned exactly his feelings on the matter because when I tried to ask for some clarification I was immediately shouted down by his cronies who thought I was trying to hassle him or something (I assure you, I wasn't; I just wanted to understand his position better since I had never heard of someone refusing to use passwords and didn't understand why).

    Now 15 years later I read his responses to these questions and it all feels very much the same. He's apparently super paranoid (worried about the government eavesdropping on your cell phone calls and tracking you? Wishing for a pager so that you could perfectly control how much tracking information you give when you answer your phone? Jesus christ, get over yourself!) and thinks everyone else should be too.

    Honestly, my opinion of RMS was knocked down a notch or two by this interview. I can still appreciate in a sense someone who is so true to their values, but this level of one dimensionality is disappointing. Perhaps the questions are to blame though, they didn't give him alot of opportunity to talk about much else besides the FSF party line.

    • by Dixie_Flatline ( 5077 ) <> on Tuesday May 06, 2014 @01:30PM (#46930833) Homepage

      I think, honestly, that he IS that one-dimensional, and that's exactly what proselytizers kind of need to be. Any variation in his message stands to weaken it.

      I don't actually believe in much of what he says, but I feel that, like many extremists, that he serves a really useful purpose from the perspective of philosophy. Most people won't adopt his views, but he serves to pull the middle over to his direction a bit and create a space where more of us can work. GNU/Linux wouldn't be the same without him, and he keeps the whole community a bit honest.

      As he gets older, he'll be even more set in his ways. He can learn new tricks, but only within the confines of his philosophy. Fundamentally, I don't think he knows that trading freedom for convenience is something that people always do, in every society, and always have. Without that acknowledgement, he thinks that it's reasonable that perhaps everyone would rather go without a phone instead of give up a bit of theoretical freedom.

    • by aussersterne ( 212916 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2014 @01:42PM (#46931003) Homepage

      He's got decades of this under his belt. Ask him about whether red sauce or green sauce is better for drive-through tacos, he'll talk about freedom and oppression the same confounding ways.

      As for myself, I'm much more in the Torvalds camp. Substantive freedom is a practical freedom as well as a prophylactic one; it's the freedom not just *from* things but *to do and participate in* things.

      Sure, I want the freedom to protect my data or change my software. But I also want the freedom to buy and use a device that I think is great, or to participate in the mobile ecosystem (sorry, RMS) because I find it to be useful.

      RMS can't distinguish between the two, or between the different kinds of restrictiveness at issue—the commercial software restrictiveness that is certainly annoying and terrible for our world, but also the FSF-styled restrictiveness that shoots itself in the foot and ends up being exactly the same.

      In both cases, the end result is that I can't do what I want with my software/hardware. The commercial interests are at least open about it: we don't want you to do that because it would hurt our profits. The FSF is less open about it: we're not responsible for this, it's their fault—you're free to do your own thing.

      Yes, maybe in theory I could rewrite the entire GNU codebase from scratch or get a world of developers together myself to do my own thing, but substantively speaking, in terms of actual opportunity structures available to me right now, today, or next week, or indeed for most people *as themselves, during their regular lives*, there is about the same amount of substantive freedom and restriction involved.

      If I want to do X with my tech, and company X won't allow it with their toolchain, and the open computing world won't support it for ideological reasons, the net result is still that *I* am *practically* unable to do X with my tech.

      Part of the FSF problem is that they often delegitimize X. RMS's answers about, say, "cloud" computing or the mobile ecosystem are instructive here, and mirror common answers in free software developments from techs. "That is not a real thing, it's just marketingspeak, you are a victim of ideology, and no, we won't help you."

      Operating under the Thomas theorem and using the well-respected argument made by Rawls, I'd say that RMS fails to distinguish between summary rules and rules of practice. For RMS, there are only summary rules—things that we decide or don't decide to do, and espouse for utilitarian reasons. All of his arguments are utilitarian in nature (though often convolutedly so). Even when they involve other people or "society," his arguments boil down to rational self-interest calculated according to a very narrow range of values and goods, discounting the rest.

      He ignores the dimension of rules and practices that are oriented toward social life—toward behaving in ways that others understand and that enable one to substantively participate in public and group life by virtue of conceding them as ordering principles for "how the world works right now."

      The FSF vision of computing is, ironically, radically individualist and lonely in this regard—it is all about "what I can accomplish on my own." The only "we" that it acknowledges is one that is made up entirely of people that have precisely the same ideological outlook, goals, desires, and summary rules as the self. All other forms of "we" are reimagined as secretly selfish people that *claim* to be a public, but are in fact actually seeking to dominate one another. For RMS, "we" hasn't happened yet and he is trying to bring it about through summary means—as a rational self-interest calculation.

      But a world of identical "free-people" in which the "we" finally comes about by virtue of the universal embrace of FSF values simply doesn't and won't exist—people are different, desires are different, and that which is in one person's self-interest is never necessarily in everyone's self-interest.

      To believe in

    • by CronoCloud ( 590650 ) <cronocloudauron&gmail,com> on Tuesday May 06, 2014 @01:46PM (#46931051)

      The thing is, I think he's the way he is because he never grew out of the 70's MIT AI Lab paradigms of computing. He's never used a computer the way I or you have. He's basically been sitting in front of a console in Emacs for almost 40 years. And Emacs itself is based on the even earlier paradigm of TECO. So basically RMS computes like it was 1962. You've read how he uses a computer, right? []

      So he's totally out of touch. He'd never be able to explain the average tablet/phone user why they shouldn't use it.

      tablet user: I use it to watch netflix and play games

      RMS: You shouldn't use ti for that because it requires non-free software.

      tablet user: but if I don't, how can I watch movies and play games.

      RMS: you should use a free tablet

      tablet: where can I get one and can I use netflix and play angry birds.on it

      RMS: You shouldn't play non-free games or use netflix.

      You get the gist.

    • how absolutely boring it is to read essentially the same message ("all software should be free and you should refuse to use any software that isn't free") repeated about 15 times with 15 minor variations. Surely RMS isn't this one-dimensional. I wish there had been some more interesting questions that weren't just prompts to repeat the free software mantra over and over again.

      It's not RMS's fault that he was asked similarly un"interesting" questions that each came with the repetitive prejudices (asking abo

  • I think the assertion of a mobile phone listening device "universal back door" requires a citation. Anyone? Google only finds sensationalist journalism and not any real research, eg from 2006...

    • Only evil phones can track you, a one way pager in your phone would never track you.....

      It's closed source, but like a circuit, so you know nothing evil is in there.....I hope his toaster and microwave are NSA listening devices.

      • I hope his toaster and microwave are NSA listening devices.

        Why? Do you really have to dislike him so much and wish ill upon him just because you disagree with him?

    • He's probably referring to the theoretical backdoor that could exist in just about all baseband modems...I wouldn't be surprised if the NSA had something in-house that appeared "universal" from the user's perspective.

    • In almost all Cellular phones there are at least two processors and operating systems. There is the regular operating system and processor that you use to use the phone. There is another processor though, with it's own proprietary OS that operates the radio. This processor actually has override control over the entire phone with access to main memory and the at least theoretical ability to override and interrupt the main processor whenever it see fit. This processor also initializes first and then boots the

  • by sanosuke001 ( 640243 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2014 @01:11PM (#46930505)
    Why did he keep assuming that the free hardware questions referred to "documented hardware" and not free hardware as he stated? When I think of free hardware I think of free designs that I can build myself with the right tools. In effect, it is documented hardware by default. Why assume the commenter didn't know what they were talking about? It seemed kind of mean-spirited.
    • Same reason he had to tell us he can't see the future multiple times when obviously the poster was asking about his opinion on the direction technology is heading. It's not like any person on the planet thinks he can actual see the future. If he could I doubt he'd spend all his time doing his insane preaching.

      He's an asshole who uses language as a tool to feel superior.

    • by mspohr ( 589790 )

      I think he was being precise. Some people might confuse "free hardware" with "free beer" and I think he wanted to make it clear that "free hardware" was not free beer but documented beer.

  • by davydagger ( 2566757 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2014 @04:23PM (#46933217)
    Despite being socially obtuse and offputting, Stallman is not only litterate in his correspondence, uncompromising in moral character, and keen at percieving threats to our freedoms.

    Most Americans are not. Instead most Americans look to the TV, we look to celebrities. We look to proffesional PR men, and "Event organizers" more concerned about their own social capital and position on the ladder. We've become a nation of 12 year old girls, more concerned about appearance than substances. This is why America is rotting.

    If more people had principles, we wouldn't have to worry about SOPA/PIPA, the DMCA, and people might vote for canidates that made a diffrence.

    Between him and Schiener, I say is this generations two defining intellectuals.

I've finally learned what "upward compatible" means. It means we get to keep all our old mistakes. -- Dennie van Tassel