Driving Mister Stallman: My 1994 Jetta (with the specialized California license plate “GNU LNUX”) and I had a special guest over the last few days: the Free Software Foundation’s Richard Stallman. RMS, as he is known, needed transportation from Palo Alto to Santa Cruz on Saturday morning, and at 8 a.m., we appeared at the doorstep of the home at which he was staying for a ride to KUSP in Santa Cruz for an appointment with a radio show.
After a spot of tea, we loaded up the Jetta and headed southwest. For the most part, RMS kept to his work on his laptop in front of him as he rode in the passenger seat (no, I don’t know what he was working on — I didn’t look) but we did have time to talk about some of the upcoming events — the radio show, his Op-Ed piece running in the Sunday Santa Cruz Sentinel and his talk on Monday at Cabrillo College. He also commented on the road noise my car makes, but after 274,000 faithful miles, the Jetta can play Sousa marches with every passing mile for all I care.
On Tuesday morning, I drove RMS from Santa Cruz to the San Francisco airport, and the trip was a little more conversational. While negotiating the twists and turns of Highway 17 over the Santa Cruz Mountains (hoping all the while I didn’t hit anything, lest his laptop become a permanent part of RMS’s forehead thanks to the driver side airbag), we talked about a GNU-friendly “Intro to Unix/Linux” textbook (which may soon be available — watch this space) and how much alike surfing and love are. Other topics — the folly of highway expansion in the face of peak oil and a McAfee billboard on Highway 101 that said “Hackers are bad” — led us both on conversational tangents punctuated by work on his laptop.
We arrived at SFO after a side trip to Palo Alto to the home he had stayed in before to pick up an item he had forgotten. At 11, he had plenty of time to catch his plane. As we shook hand to take leave of each other, he left me with two words (and you can say them with me): “Happy hacking!”
[Note to P.L.: Not to worry — I didn’t tell RMS about the dream you had about him.]
Blue Screen of REAL Death: The Defense Department and Boeing plan to base their new Future Combat Systems not on Microsoft Windows, but on a GNU/Linux based system using Red Hat. The reason the generals made is clear — they don’t want to be beholden to Microsoft — but another more important issue arose, this from John Williams, a sergeant at the Boeing plant in Huntington Beach: “Soldiers don’t care about software,” he said. What they care about is “if it’s going to work.” That means the men and women on the ground have their lives depending on software, and that software has got to work or the result could be fatal. So, arguably, that counts Microsoft out.
[So how far did that chair travel, Mr. Ballmer?]
Coming soon (like tomorrow): Starting tomorrow, I am going to release eight straight blogs on eight distros I use and particularly like, and why. Call it “Eight Distros a Week” if you like, because I plan to. In any case, hope you enjoy it. Up tomorrow: AntiX 6.5 Spartacus and 7.0 Lysistrata.
(Larry Cafiero, editor/publisher of Open Source and Free Software Reporter, is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)