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Richard Stallman at Berkeley

Richard Stallman and others in the free software movement may not like my choice of words to describe his speech on Friday, Feb. 23. But to quote a large software conglomerate way north of here: Wow.

Tod Landis, the Technical Editor of Open Source Reporter, and I drove up to Berkeley from Santa Cruz to see Stallman speak (but not before picking up mutual friend, uber-geek and Web host operator without peer Cameron Spitzer on the way in San Jose), and Stallman did not disappoint. In fact, he was engaging, funny, passionate and thought-provoking during the course of the two hours in which he spoke.

More importantly, Stallman was convincing about the need to promote the free software philosophy and further the free software movement. Specifically, he touted the need for people to get involved not only with the Free Software Foundation, but also with some of the FSF’s projects, primarily their efforts around stopping DRMs and Bad Vista (both of which can be found on the FSF site).

Also, he explained how GNU was really a significant part of the operating system everyone calls “Linux,” and that because Linux is only the kernel and all the other aspects of the operating system were from GNU. Hence, it should rightfully called GNU/Linux instead of just “Linux.”

So noted, Professor Stallman: We at Open Source Reporter have made a note of it, and will refer to all operating systems as such in the future.

He also revealed what he uses on his computers (Blag), and stated that there were only three distros that provided fully free software: Blag, gNewSense and a third one that I didn’t get (Ulteo, maybe?).

As one of the crowd’s non-geeks (or as a geek apprentice, perhaps), my observation is that Stallman comes across as a very eloquent and very engaging in presenting his views to the audience. I understand his passion and urgency in promoting things like abolishing DRMs and calling Vis-duh and Microsoft on their individual and collective shortcomings. He effectively and convincingly lays out the reasons why free software and open source software are different, and how open source could stand to be more like free software.

Stallman’s “Saint Ignutius” schtick was very entertaining, and in ordaining the crowd into the Church of Emacs, he warned that as adherents we should “beware of Vi, Vi, Vi — the mark of the beast” (get out your geek-to-English dictionaries: Vi is another editor, and VI of course is the Roman numeral for six; hence six-six-six, ba-da-boom!).

The talk was attended by between 75-100 people, mostly Cal students with a few of us older folks in the audience.

I understand that the audio for this speech is supposed to be available on the Free Software Foundation’s Web site (http://www.fsf.org), but I haven’t found it yet. It would be good to give it a listen, because it touches firmly on the need for free software, and how we should go about promoting it.

I came away from this speech with a better understanding of free software, converted to the free software movement, and with a couple of items of worth — a FSF lapel pin and a Richard Stallman autograph on my FSF card.

[FSF Associate Member]

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