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Time to fork the FSF

October 7, 2011 230 comments

If you’ve read this blog for any period of time, you would have noticed, at the end of the blog, a button for the Free Software Foundation marking me as Member No. 5030.

It is no longer there, and with good reason.

So today I resigned my membership in the Free Software Foundation, so I am no longer Member No. 5030. I did so because Richard Stallman no longer speaks for me after making a completely ludicrous, tactless and heartless remark regarding the passing of Steve Jobs.

You can read the three-paragraph post here. There has also been commentary about it by Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols here and by Adrian Kingsley Hughes here.

Joe “Zonker” Brockmeier probably wrote the best commentary on the issue here.

Richard Stallman crafted an outstanding software license and wrote a outstanding treatise on free software in “Free Software, Free Society,” of which I have bought multiple copies and have given to people I thought would benefit from reading it.

Few have had the huevos to publicly call him out on things he’s done wrong or on miscues for which he is responsible, and those who have usually have faced a barrage of criticism from free software “advocates” who’ve attacked them with a zeal, ironically, reserved for Apple fanboys and fangirls. But the fact remains that Stallman’s dogmatic attitude and peculiar behavior has been an anchor weighing down a significant degree of progress the free software movement could have made to date.

One could argue, “OK, so he made a mistake with the Jobs thing. Give him some latitude.”

No. Not anymore. This is not the first time this has happened. From the GNU/Linux insistence to the “Emacs virgin” incident to a litany of other miscues that display a clear lack of leadership skills, it’s time people stopped saying, “Oh, that’s just Stallman being Stallman” and hold him accountable.

So I think it behooves thoughtful free software advocates to seriously consider forking the Free Software Foundation, and create a new organization; a more flexible, more responsible organization that marries today’s technological realities to the possibilities and necessities — especially the necessities — that the free software paradigm offers society.

Call me a heretic if you like, and if you want to debate this rationally, I’m up for that, too.

In the meantime, I will keep advocating for free software as I always have. However, I will do so now independently and not as a member of the FSF.

[NOTE: An addendum to this blog item can be found here.]

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software in his new home office. Watch this space.)

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Eliminate DRM!

Sometimes the best response is a shrug

September 22, 2011 3 comments

This week there was a sort of back-and-forth starting with Brian Proffitt in one blog item about Richard Stallman’s somewhat verbose Guardian article and a response by Bruce Byfield in a blog item about how he notices that lately people are picking on the Free Software Foundation. This kind of tete-a-tete is normally custom made for my participation, and last night I had thought about jumping in with both feet and an arm.

But you know what? Never mind. Just never mind. I had a whole blog item written last night. I went to bed. I woke up this morning and read my item. Then I deleted it. It’s just another “fuel, meet fire” situation that, despite my standard-issue remarkable and compelling prose (ahem), would have just removed focus from more important issues and would have created ill feelings.

So I’m just going to shrug, say “Ho-kay,” and write about something else.

Before I do, however, I will say that I do think Brian is right when he says that the Guardian article is another FSF broadside against open source, and that I don’t agree with Bruce’s arguments that the FSF is being picked on. Let’s look more importantly at the latter: The FSF does a lot of great things on behalf of software freedom, and does so with remarkably few resources. For this we are truly thankful. On the other hand, the FSF tragically has made an exact science of cultivating a “my way or highway” attitude (bring up dissenting viewpoints, as I have, and see how far you go), which makes its prevalent dogmatic stance a formula for organizational rigor mortis. For this reason alone (though there are others I won’t go into here), the FSF hand-delivers invitations for criticism — some of it deserved, some not — rather than than being victims of attacks for whatever reason externally. For all the great things he has done, Richard Stallman is largely responsible for this culture of dogma and rigidity, and when some — not me, but others — equate the FSF to being the FOSS equivalent of the Taliban, I’d like to argue against that comparison but, honestly, I really can’t.

But never mind.

Let’s go from one train wreck to another, shall we?

One of the items that is high on the tech radar today is the fact that Hewlett-Packard is about to push Leo Apotheker off the top of the building (the sentiments of some board members, it’s safe to say) and replace him with — I kid you not — Meg Whitman.

Meg Whitman. I would have prefered Slim Whitman — link to Wikipedia provided so the kids here don’t have to Google him. So while you read who he is, get off of my lawn.

This Whitman-for-Apotheker swap has been described as a “hangover solution” in one ZDNet blog item, a sort of “hair of the dog” after an all-night bender where the first question is, “I did . . . WHAT?!” And the best decisions are usually not made when you’re hung over. Hence we have Meg Whitman waiting in the wings when, according to people at HP, they have a very capable CEO choice in house with Ann Livermore.

While it would probably be best for HP to keep someone in house at the helm — that’s one vote for you, Ann, over Meg — whomever takes over hopefully will say, with one of their first utterances in charge, “Remember what we said about dumping our hardware and WebOS? We take that back.”

That would be nice, but on the whole that, too, probably deserves another shrug.

[FSF Associate Member] (Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software in his new home office. Watch this space.)

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Eliminate DRM!

The far and the wide

July 21, 2011 2 comments


OSCON 2011
Next up: OSCON. Get there if you can, and give them my regards because I can’t make it this year :-(

A wide assortment of issues and items have cropped up in the last several days, all of which are newsworthy and most of which cry out for comment. On the latter, that’s what I do. After all, they don’t call it “commentary” for nothing.

So let’s take a look at some of these digital news blurbs, like

RMS: Just say no to the Cloud: For once, I am completely and unequivocally behind the man behind the GNU. Richard Stallman wrote an article appearing in the electronic version of Der Speigel outlining the dangers of so-called cloud computing. It’s fairly simple — your data, held remotely, is not really your data since you don’t have possession of the drive that physically holds it. Yep, call me “old school” about this, and I’ll thank you for it.

But why is it in Orlando? The release schedule for Ubuntu 12.04 is out and it looks like the UDS — that Ubuntu Developer Summit to the unenlightened — will take place at the end of October or early November, in Orlando, Fla., as usual. Why? Disney World? Who knows?

Who’s on first? Though not a news item per se, Carla Schroder wrote an excellent piece on Linux.com about how to find out who and what is on your network. The Linux.com tutorials and “weekend projects” are generally top notch and very educational, and this one in particular takes one through how to go about doing some router spelunking.

Meanwhile back in the Sunshine State . . .: Florida is getting a lot of attention. Red Hat is holding its North America Partner Conference on Oct. 25-27 in Miami. That’s about 240 miles south of Orlando, where the UDS will be taking place about the same time, possibly. It’s a straight shot down the Florida Turnpike, if you’re interested. According to the VAR Guy, “the event signals a shift for Red Hat, which previously lumped partners and customers together at the annual Red Hat Summit.”

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have an appointment to fiddle with a newly installed version of CrunchBang.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

[FSF Associate Member] (Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software in his new home office. Watch this space.)
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