08.04.10

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Richard Stallman Explains Why Microsoft is ‘Infiltrating’ Free/Open Source Software Events

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FSF, GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft, Patents at 8:24 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“I’ve killed at least two Mac conferences. [...] by injecting Microsoft content into the conference, the conference got shut down. The guy who ran it said, why am I doing this?”

Microsoft's chief evangelist

Summary: The freedom of the software we all sometimes use is under attack, in part thanks to companies like ACCESS and Microsoft, which found a partner in Tim O’Reilly and others who take money to change the direction of Open Source (taking it further away from Free/libre software)

FREEDOM is essential for GNU/Linux to actually achieve something in the market. Lacking the values of freedom, we may end up with kill switch-enabled Android devices which self-destruct upon modification (yes, we are looking at you, Motorola). The Free Software Foundation (FSF) — and Richard Stallman prior to this foundation’s inception — has spent literally decades preaching to people all around the world the importance of digital freedom (autonomy, independence, liberty, equality). Attacking Stallman we’ve seen hostile companies such as ACCESS, which allegedly spreads its tentacles to other platforms like GNOME (claims that are somewhat harder to back now that they run to Android for rescue). DigiTimes indicates that LiMo is dying this week:

As Vodafone has decided to forgo the planned launch of the LiMo-based 360 H2 and will not offer any LiMo handsets, the future development of LiMo has turned pessimistic and the best choice for the LiMo Foundation is to merge with the Linux Foundation, Taiwan-based handset makers have commented.

Is anybody surprised at this point? One discouraging aspect of LiMo is that it promoted/endorsed software patents. It disregarded freedom even more than Google, at least based on its representatives. This brings us to the main point of this post, courtesy of the wonderful folks at The Source. In recent months we wrote a great deal about Microsoft's attempt to "infiltrate" (Microsoft's word) Free/open source software events, even Linux events such as LinuxTag [1, 2]. The Source lists some important points regarding another Microsoft sponsorship of a Free/open source software event:

[A]lthough Mr. Savluc defends Microsoft’s sponsorship role, he simultaneously confesses that:

* Microsoft is “not right”
* Microsoft’s speakers “lack passion”
* Microsoft “is wrong”
* Microsoft speakers “pretend they love FLOSS”
* Microsoft “will try hard to slow down FLOSS adoption”
* Microsoft “will not change if we talk to them”

The Source has also spoken to Stallman, who offered insightful, concise, and toned-down remarks about Microsoft sponsorships. Stallman says:

Accepting the money from Microsoft would, in itself, do not harm. But Microsoft typically demands a price for its sponsorship, a price that implies a change in the nature of the event.

The price might be, let someone from Microsoft give a speech. The price might be, don’t say that proprietary software is evil. The price might be, present Microsoft sponsorship in a way that inhibits you from denouncing Microsoft’s software as unethical.

One way or other, Microsoft wants us to stop saying the most important thing to say: “Proprietary software is an injustice and we want to help you escape from it.”

This issue does not arise for OSCON because that is an open source event. “Open source” is the term used by those who do not wish to take an ethical stand against proprietary software. OSCON did not need to sell out its principles in order to accept Microsoft’s money because it never had such principles. I heard that O’Reilly Associates distributes manuals with Digital Restrictions Management. which can only be read using nonfree software. I don’t know for certain if that is accurate, but it would not conflict with any principles ORA ever stated.

OSCON is the sort of event Microsoft would like our community to have, one that avoids raising the issue of the injustice of proprietary software. If eLiberatica is to live up to its name, it must not take OSCON as a model.

As another example of the harm of proprietary software, consider this ripoff from the news:

The days of finding Windows discs nestling at the bottom of a PC box are fast coming to an end.

Current practice does away with backup discs, with vendors instead taking the cheaper option of installing recovery software on a hard disk partition, leaving the buyer with no physical copy of the operating system they paid for.

[...]

Beneath an offer to buy backup media for £15 the company says, “a recovery disc is the single most important accessory to have with your new laptop”.

The world needs less proprietary software and more Free software. Some people inhibit this. Tim O’Reilly ought to be thinking what vision of the world he helps promote because the last time he commented in Techrights he expressed no regrets about taking money from Microsoft to help Microsoft. He shifted the question to other companies in order to cover up selfish, misguided deeds.

“We cannot hope to own it all, so instead we should try to create the largest possible market and insert ourselves as a small tax on that market.”

Nathan Myhrvold, Microsoft at the time (now a patent troll)

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34 Comments

  1. Florian Mueller said,

    August 4, 2010 at 8:33 am

    Gravatar

    I can’t comment on any of the others but I don’t think there’s any reason to assume that Tim O’Reilly compromises his values just for a conference sponsorship or his recently-formed Microsoft Press alliance. Tim once supported my efforts in the EU through an endorsement; but he disagreed with me strongly on the bnetd case where I sided with my friends at Blizzard.

    Concerning RMS’s point about ““Proprietary software is an injustice and we want to help you escape from it”, I would encourage everyone to take a close look at the sources of funding of the FSF and affiliated organizations such as SFLC and to realize the discrepancy between that condemnation of proprietary software and the actual business strategy of some of those sponsors.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Now you’re flogging a dead horse used also by the Stallman/FSF antagonists from ACCESS or Microsoft.

    You can find many rebuttals to it.

    Florian Mueller Reply:

    The OSDL is controlled and driven by companies whose core business is in almost all cases proprietary, and the SFLC resulted from an OSDL IP fund. Just one example. I also heard from industry colleagues that the FSF constantly tries to raise funds from proprietary software companies.

    Concerning Tim O’Reilly again, please consider he’s independently wealthy. He sold a minority stake in an early Web company in 1995 or so for $40 million and his publishing company has been profitable for a long time according to what others in the computer book industry think (I still have contacts in that field, it’s basically where I started).

    Florian Mueller Reply:

    OSDL was renamed the The Linux Foundation, I forgot to mention. Still the same problem.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    And it has nothing to do with the FSF.

    Florian Mueller Reply:

    You would argue the SFLC, whose OSDL connection I mentioned, has nothing to do with the FSF? No overlap in terms of key persons etc.?

    Florian Mueller Reply:

    Is there even one example in the world where the FSF, FSFE, SFLC or any other FSF affiliate refused to take money from a company whose core business (or even entire business) is proprietary software?

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    You should politely ask them, don’t ask me. If they had refused, they would not publicise it though (for obvious reasons relating to tact).

    Jose_X Reply:

    As is mentioned below, can Muller or anyone point to cases where the FSF has changed their position in any significant way? When you do, then we will consider looking for a money trail.

    I understand why proprietary companies would donate money to groups that attack these companies’ most profitable business approaches. It allows them to say they contribute and support openness, competition, and the community. It serves as a teaser of potential increasing amounts that would come if the message by the attackers were to be changed.

    verofakto Reply:

    You can find many rebuttals to it.

    Could you provide one? All I remember were apologetic semantic gyrations that exonerated the FSFS based on the presumption of moral purity yet did nothing to actually address the hypocrisy itself.

    Your hostility towards O’Reilly has a long history IIRC, and is probably fueled more by your fury at his promotion of Open Source, which in typical cult fashion, you consider an apostate movement that must be stamped out through any and all means so that “free software” and your hero Ricky can be given their rightful due. As usual you’re so angry about imagined slights and conspiracy theories that you can’t see the forest for the trees.

    verofakto Reply:

    Incidentally, you might want to disclose that “the wonderful people at The Source” is just the one guy who used to spend all his waking hours logged in to your chat room. You know, in the interest of disclosure, which you seem to require of everyone but rarely if ever seem to do yourself. That reminds me of the time you called your friend’s “Goblin” blog a “lone voice” while he was probably chatting with your on IRC. lulz.

    twitter Reply:

    Florian ignorantly or maliciously invites us to:

    I would encourage everyone to take a close look at the sources of funding of the FSF and affiliated organizations

    The Free Software Foundation gets almost all of its meager budget from member subscriptions. We can be sure they would never accept a donation that restricted them in the ways that RMS rejects above. Perhaps Florian should donate to the FSF and read up instead of slandering them.

    It is interesting how this topic attracts Microsoft defenders and offensive trolls who seek to change the subject in comments. They really hate the basic message,

    One way or other, Microsoft wants us to stop saying the most important thing to say: “Proprietary software is an injustice and we want to help you escape from it.”

    It is one which more people are realizing is correct. I expect this to be expressed more frequently despite obvious harassment by Microsoft representatives. Source code is useless without software freedom and those who oppose software freedom harm others for their own benefit. Non free software is an injustice that can only survive by other crimes.

    It would be better to take the conferences back than it would be to cancel them. Go there, get what you need from it, share it with others who are interested and protest the things that are wrong.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Florian is receiving ‘backup’ from Novell staff now. :-)

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Oops. Use this link.

    twitter Reply:

    I am more surprised that Florian called the FSF corporate toadies than I am to find out that Novell or Microsoft employees would use Twitter to smear Boycott Novell again. Florian can’t help what other people say but what he said for himself is clearly wrong and divisive. It might echo around the fauxpen source crowd’s talking points, but it won’t fool anyone.

    Having thought more about this and what taq says, I’d recommend people save their travel money for a better free software conference. If the money is spent and can not be refunded, go and protest. In either case, let the organizers and everyone else know why you don’t like what they are doing. The goal of software freedom is served by telling people that software freedom matters.

  2. taq said,

    August 4, 2010 at 9:20 am

    Gravatar

    Roy, check this out: http://events.linuxfoundation.org/events/linuxcon-brazil/pt/programacao

    Look at the third keynote. That guy was from SCO and seems that played an important role when “finding” the Linux “infringing” code, and at ApacheCon he talked about run Open Source tools on Windows Server.
    Since LinuxCon is an event about Linux, I’m not sure if he will talk about the same thing, but if he will, I really don’t see a point what Linux, the kernel, will have related with his speech. LinuxCon is a conference about Linux!
    Anyway, I’m canceling my registration there.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Yes, Groklaw wrote about this man many times. He stayed with SCO almost until the end. Now he helps Microsoft strategise versus Linux (same thing he did at SCO).

    This is not the first time that the Linux Foundation gives a platform to Microsoft. I reckon that Microsoft is playing the “intolerant” card (as in, “you zealots should invite us too or accept our invitation of ourselves”).

    Florian Mueller Reply:

    Concerning Groklaw and funding from companies with proprietary core businesses:
    http://floatingpoint.wordpress.com/2007/03/27/osdl-payments-to-pamela-jones/

    verofakto Reply:

    Well now, I bet that was never featured on BoycottNovell.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Dan Lyons, who has a long anti-Groklaw and pro-SCO agenda, does not name a source

    “Between late 2005 and early 2006, OSDL paid “$40,000 to $50,000″ to Groklaw, my source says.”

    Just a rumour then. Never verified.

    I’ve also noticed that you follow/befriended Maureen O’Gara.

    Florian Mueller Reply:

    Over the years, Maureen O’Gara has written things I agreed with and things I disagreed with. Concerning SCO, I once saw that “war pay” quote, and it might as well have been a joke.

    Concerning Dan Lyons, if OSDL and Groklaw both declined to comment, that’s interesting per se.

    verofakto Reply:

    Just a rumour then. Never verified.

    Lo and behold, burden of proof is suddenly important.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    @Florian Mueller

    How do you know they declined?

    Florian Mueller Reply:

    The article to which I linked says so: “Peters ducked me for a few days and then refused to comment. The foundation’s PR rep also refuses to provide a statement.
    PJ did not respond to an email from me on this.”

    I can’t imagine that a senior Forbes editor would make this claim without actually having asked. He’d put his whole reputation as a journalist at stake.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Forbes editor, eh? You mean, the guy who was systematically attacking Linux for years before that? If I were in Peters’ shoes, I would not “duck” him, I would told him to sod off.

    Florian Mueller Reply:

    She apparently did talk to him but told him she wouldn’t comment. If she talked to him, she could also have denied that they funded Groklaw, but she didn’t. I don’t know about his history of attacking Linux. The key thing is that Forbes is a high-profile magazine and whether one agrees with one of their editors on a particular issue or not, it’s a safe assumption that they don’t lie if they claim they asked someone for comment who declined.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Do you have links about that?

    Florian Mueller Reply:

    Links about what? I provided a link to that Dan Lyons blog. Concerning your tweet, I didn’t say that Groklaw is an IBM drone, but I said that it’s interesting per se that neither OSDL/LinuxFoundation nor Groklaw (nor IBM, for that matter) denied Dan Lyons’ story even though he asked all of them.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Fake ‘Steve Jobs’ is not a valid source and I too would not speak to this troll if I were her. Just because she didn’t respond doesn’t mean she has something to hide. I could mail steveb@microsoft.com and ask him if he paid you; after a while with no response I’d deduce that you work for him?

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Oops. Wrong nesting. Response was to:

    Links about what? I provided a link to that Dan Lyons blog. Concerning your tweet, I didn’t say that Groklaw is an IBM drone, but I said that it’s interesting per se that neither OSDL/LinuxFoundation nor Groklaw (nor IBM, for that matter) denied Dan Lyons’ story even though he asked all of them.

    Florian Mueller Reply:

    With the greatest respect (under the circumstances) for you, Roy: there’s a difference between Forbes asking a question and you (let alone me with my much smaller blog) doing so. Moreover, the OSDL/LinuxFoundation not only remained silent but refused to comment, as Dan Lyons reported.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    It’s not Forbes, it’s a troll who used someone else’s name to get attention (Steve Jobs).

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    He also ditched this blog of his years ago.

    http://technocrat.net/d/2007/4/6/17445/

    Mr.Ironic Reply:

    Too late, you’ve already tried that tactic with Mono:

    http://techrights.org/2008/10/09/shopping-for-mono-protection/

    Oops. Guilty of something you are trying to accuse others of. Anyone actually surprised? I’m not.

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