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Posts Tagged ‘Free Software Foundation’

The gospel of libre software

October 21, 2011 1 comment

Author Don Parris, who wrote “Penguin in the Pew” several years ago to help churches convert to GNU/Linux, has been a free/libre software advocate for years. So if anyone is qualified to write a “gospel” and give the good word of libre software, it is Don.

So when he wrote this blog item today, it is certainly one that deserves a read by everyone, whehter or not you are a free software advocate.

Go ahead and take a look — I’ll wait.

Don aptly sets up the challenges and issues facing libre software, and offers a solution where the core message of libre software is one that builds up, liberates and inspires people.

In my opinion, the most significant of many poignant and insightful points Don makes is this: “I am saying we don’t have to resort to negativity and name calling. In fact, if we resort to name calling, we’re in trouble already. I know. It’s really tempting at times. But we must never resort to name calling. Instead, we should encourage people to live, think and be free. We should connect digital freedom more closely with freedom of speech.”

Amen to that, Don. And thanks for writing a very insightful blog item.

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!

Wednesday housecleaning

October 19, 2011 1 comment

Someone asked me why I haven’t responded to some of the criticism hurled at me like monkey feces (his words, cleaned up, not mine) in the comments of my blog item about forking the Free Software Foundation.

It comes down to letting people who aren’t me speak their minds, since I’ve done that already in the blog item. As an aside, you can tell which person had read the blog all the way to the end, because there’s an addendum to it that only about 20 percent of the readers of the first item actually read. The lesson here? Read the whole thing before you respond.

To be honest, I tossed most of the juvenile and the libelous comments — those who posted the former, grow up; those who posted the latter, you’re welcome, and bear in mind others may not be so kind.

But to put this to rest, let me address some recurring themes here, like

You have an agenda: You’re right, I have an agenda: promote digital freedom. That’s it, in three words. So when roadblocks are thrown up to divert progress on this front, I advocate positions seeking to remove them. Am I suggesting Richard Stallman has become a roadblock to progress for the FSF? You think?

You’re appeasing your (corporate) sponsors: When you find any sponsors on this page, let me know. This blog is my own personal commentary on what’s going on in the FOSS realm. Sometimes I’m right, and sometimes I’m not. Either way, it’s my reporting on FOSS developments, and my opinion on FOSS issues, that you’ll find on this page.

You’re an attention whore: I was pretty happy just having the 200 or so daily views on this blog before the fork-the-FSF item. I have nothing to gain by having five-figure view stats here, and on the list of things that validate my life, this blog ranks fairly low. If you like the blog, thanks for reading it and I’m grateful for your subscription. If you don’t like the blog, I’m sorry it doesn’t appeal to you.

When are you going to start the fork? I said in the blog I thought it would be a good idea to fork the FSF. I didn’t say I’d be the one to start it, nor does having the idea mean I’m required to start it. I have much in the way of FOSS projects to keep me busy, and I wasn’t suggesting that I would be your “fearless leader.” On the contrary: As 20th century labor leader Eugene Debs once said, “I would not lead you into the promised land if I could, because if I led you in, some one else would lead you out.” The moral of the story here is to think and act for yourself. If someone wants to act on this idea of a fork, by all means do.

What have you done for the FSF/Free Software? This is a bogus question, because even if I hadn’t lifted a finger to promote free software, I’d still have the right to express an opinion on this issue. But let’s entertain the question, with cookies and milk if need be. Here’s what I’ve done for the FSF/free software: While a student at Cabrillo College in 2007-2008, I founded the Cabrillo College GNU/Linux Users Group — not a LUG, a GNU/Linux users group; this GLUG brought RMS to speak on campus; over the last several years, I have purchased multiple copies of “Free Software, Free Society” and have given them to those folks I thought would benefit from reading it, including a donation of two copies to the Santa Cruz Public Library (which had it in stock, but they could always use more copies); I drive a car with this license plate (and, incidentally, RMS has ridden in this car from Palo Alto to Santa Cruz, and from Santa Cruz to San Francisco International Airport); I started a local business in 2009, a consultancy that promotes the use of Free/Open Source Software in the small business/home office environment; I’ve also done a lot of other things that are too trivial to mention. Obviously this matters more to some than it does to me, but for those who asked, there you go.

So, how about we all move forward now, once and for all?

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!

Upon further review . . .

October 9, 2011 9 comments

Well, that was interesting. Little did I know that a simple, albeit furious and impassioned, voicing of an opinion would spark such a huge debate and brand me, to combine various comments on the blog, as an idiot drama queen with a telephone pole stuck up my hind quarters keeping the door from hitting me on the way out.

You guys . . . .

But seriously, this is “Exhibit A” for the case that cooler heads should always prevail. With the benefit of the more thought-provoking of opinions in the comments, and after discussing the issue privately with several people whose opinions I respect (even when I disagree with them), allow me to clarify, add, emblish and otherwise append some of the things I wrote in the previous item, like:

A glaring omission: While re-reading my blog post, it mistakenly reads like it’s just Richard Stallman’s statement on Steve Jobs that is the sole reason for my leaving the FSF. It’s not. The statement about Jobs is just a tipping point in a list of several incidents where I, and others, have run into resistance, censorship and pariah-hood by merely questioning the FSF gospel over the years that I have been a FSF member. As an aside, an e-mail exchange with FSF executive director John Sullivan — some long and detailed, some not — allowed me to air my grievances, and I am grateful to him for lending a proverbial ear to hear these concerns. Sullivan’s e-mail exchanges, as well as discussions with others, show there is room for change in the organization.

A change at the top of the FSF leadership is neccessary and vital. A fork of FSF . . . not so much. In fact, I will admit that in the heat of anger and raising the idea of a fork earlier — “better than raising a knife,” someone said in an e-mail — further discussion (mostly by e-mail, some by phone) point to a slight change of heart on my part; simply put, all options should be explored. Forking should only be a final option. From discussions I’ve had with current and former FSFers, there is already a fork — FSFE — but more importantly, I understand from others who share my frustration that there is a growing amount of room within the organization for the reforms that, in my opinion, would make for better leadership in, and progress on behalf of, the FSF.

Interestingly, the most compelling reason and argument not to fork is that it would essentially be reinventing the wheel. Changing it, as one would change a flat tire (as one person put it in a conversation), might be more appropriate. So I may be premature in floating the idea for a fork, and such as it is with the free/open source software world, that option is always there.

How to praise someone’s accomplishments when you disagree with them: Marcel Gagne probably wrote the best look at the passing of Steve Jobs from a FOSS perspective in a recent blog item. That beats quoting a Chicago mayor by several light years, and I wish I had written that item. Thanks, Marcel.

One thing is clear: From the comments, there is a clear line — albeit a wide gulf — separating those who want to have a rational discussion or debate about this issue from those who are merely Kool-Aid drinking dogmatards who are no different, from a behavior standpoint, than the Apple cultists they despise. Thanks to each and every one of you for commenting and/or contacting me personally: To those who wanted a meaningful discussion, I appreciate the candor; to the others, thanks for the entertainment.

As an aside, I just found out that WordPress may have been routing some responses to the spam folder, where they’re deleted. I noticed this when I pulled a response out this morning. So if you haven’t seen your comment, that’s probably what happened. If you want to try again, I’ll keep an eye out for it. If not, that’s fine too.

As Forrest Gump, would say, “That’s all I have to say about that.”

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!

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!

Zonker nails it again

June 16, 2010 Leave a comment

One of the great things about people writing things that you have been thinking — let alone things you wish you had written — is that you don’t have to do it yourself.

So, thanks to Joe “Zonker” Brockmeier for writing this on the Linux Magazine site about the “Party of Gno,” with some words that hopefully the Free Software Foundation will take to heart.

My thoughts exactly, Zonk.

[FSF Associate Member](Fedora ambassador Larry Cafiero runs Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)
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Adieu, Mandriva?

May 10, 2010 Leave a comment

With not much else to do — I mean, how many times can you go to Best Buy and change all the laptops’ browser settings to open either to Fedora, Ubuntu or FSF? — I thought I’d take a lap around the FOSS news realm. Imagine my surprise when I happened upon this:

Mandriva is for sale.

Mon dieu! The times you don’t have a disposable million dollars or two lying around . . .

My experience with Mandriva is limited — I tried it on several occasions but for some reason it never stuck. Not for lack of quality, of course, but just as a matter of personal non-preference. And I’ve been quick to use Mandriva as a foil in New Years predictions — not out of disrespect but more from the ease of poking fun at the “man” in the name.

[I found it interesting, too, when I came across why Mandriva changed its name from Mandrake: Apparently it had to do with a conflict with the publisher of the Mandrake the Magician comic strip.]

Regardless, Mandriva always had a solid community which was very supportive of the Lindependence Project when we did Lindependence 2008 and Lindependence 2009 in Felton. Having worked with people like Adam Williamson — once with Mandriva and now with Red Hat — and Rolf Pedersen, a tireless foot soldier promoting FOSS with Mandriva, I’ve gained a healthy respect for the distro despite the fact I don’t regularly use it.

One can only hope that the purchaser will continue to allow Mandriva to provide the same quality of distro going forward.

[FSF Associate Member](Fedora ambassador Larry Cafiero runs Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)
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