08.06.20

[Meme] RMS Succeeded by a Microsoft Sponsor

Posted in FSF, Microsoft at 8:06 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Don’t suppose the FSF will ban GitHub any time soon

Traa Hotline Bling: Whoa! Microsoft

RMS on Microsoft Github

Summary: Congratulations to the FSF, which elected a president almost a year after pushing RMS (its founder) out; but questions need to be answered by the new president, who apparently sees nothing wrong reinforcing the Microsoft monopoly, participating in a PR ploy designed to distract from the notorious ICE contract, and even paying Microsoft (as if it deserves the money)

Controlling Your Computing

Posted in Free/Libre Software at 7:16 am by Guest Editorial Team

2020 figosdev

Index

Control key
Chapter 2: Controlling Your Computing

Summary: “We at least want our software to be free, and for a while, that was possible. We want software to be free again, so let’s talk about what made it free, what made it less free, and what could hopefully improve in the future.”

In the early 1980s, freedom was a tan-coloured plastic slab that featured several cables and dark brown keys. I never owned a Commodore 64, but I did learn to code in BASIC on a PC.

The C64 connected to cables for power, video output, and possibly a floppy drive or low-speed modem for communicating with the world outside your home. When you switched it on, it would load a BASIC interpreter from a ROM chip. This was typical of 8-bit machines from the era.

“Far too much software is written around the idea that the designers know best. Which is funny, because most of us have never even met.”If you had a floppy drive, you could save and load programs with it — you could even purchase games made for the C64, which were typically more elaborate than something you would want to type in. There were magazines featuring simpler programs to type in and try out. Nobody could stop you from changing them, though they did not typically come with a license that allowed free redistribution.

The machine I’m typing this on is also a plastic slab covered in dark-coloured keys.

Keyboard grey

I know this drawing is unreasonable, but it gives you the idea — flat, covered in buttons, with a space for a trackpad (which is missing; it was beginning to be an annoyance so I simply removed it). Not shown are four cables: for the mouse, monitor, Ethernet and power.

I didn’t buy the computer this way; it’s a laptop, it had a screen attached. I used it with the screen until that didn’t suit my purposes anymore; when I get tired of a folding screen (or if it breaks) I may just remove it as well. Hence the C64-like form factor.

“What I don’t want is Windows, which it came with. I actually removed it in the first 30 minutes I owned the thing.”Ideally, computing should work this way as well; if you really don’t like a feature, you should just be able to remove it. The machine is less portable now (at least while in use) but when I put it front of a larger screen, I don’t have to worry about folding the laptop screen out or putting it somewhere that it isn’t in the way. Its closer to what I want, rather than what the designers wanted.

The designers might explain that I have other options that make more sense to them; I could put it off to the side and use an external keyboard. And that’s nice — but I prefer this keyboard to my external, otherwise I would be using that.

I am well aware that I had other options than removing the screen. And I’ve actually used several of those options previously, out of not wanting to go to the extra trouble. But the thing is, this is my computer. The designers don’t own it or have to use it — I do. And my obligation on how to use my computer is to myself, not to them.

Far too much software is written around the idea that the designers know best. Which is funny, because most of us have never even met.

“At the very least, I want to be able to type things and save files — I usually want a machine to able to get on a network as well.”If I were to design this machine for someone like myself, I would have made the screen easier to remove and reattach. You would be able to get the screen in a plastic case, rather than one designed to go into a plastic case; it would have a thin cable on the outside, and an external connector (like a desktop monitor) — and you would be able to remove the hinges without opening the rest of the laptop.

Most laptops wouldn’t be made that way though, because it would add to the cost and people wouldn’t want to save the difference. Instead, they pay a lot more to fix it if it breaks. Regardless, I managed to detach the screen and get the thing back together. Sometimes Free Software works this way; lately it doesn’t work that way often enough.

They do make a few portables that have detachable screens, but the screen isn’t really what detaches — what it really disconnects is the keyboard. The screen is still attached to the part that does the computing; this converts it to a tablet, but (unlike this machine) all the parts that do the computing are packed too tightly together.

Besides, I got this thing because nobody wanted it anymore, and they didn’t even want to bother to sell it online. I got it for less than $100.

If I want to turn this machine on and have it do anything, there’s no chip with BASIC on it — it needs an operating system. At the very least, I want to be able to type things and save files — I usually want a machine to able to get on a network as well.

What I don’t want is Windows, which it came with. I actually removed it in the first 30 minutes I owned the thing.

“A computer running Windows is a computer that Microsoft has more ownership of than the person who bought the computer.”Windows and MacOS are not yours — you don’t control updates, Microsoft and (maybe) Apple do. You can’t copy and share them, you cant make changes and share those either. A computer running Windows is a computer that Microsoft has more ownership of than the person who bought the computer. So if you want your computer to really be yours, you first have to remove the stuff that Microsoft put there. And that means you need to be able to install different software in its place.

Not everybody feels ready to do this — it’s an adventure, and it doesn’t always work the way you hope. Even before I installed anything, I was running a different OS off a USB stick — this gave me some idea of what it would be like to install something other than Windows. We’ve gone from running BASIC from a chip to booting a completely different OS from a chip — only now the chip is in a fob that you can attach to your housekeys.

Although we eventually want equipment that we are free to design, modify and share, manufacturing costs and industry processes still make this mostly prohibitive. We at least want our software to be free, and for a while, that was possible. We want software to be free again, so let’s talk about what made it free, what made it less free, and what could hopefully improve in the future.

But first, let’s talk about the role that education plays in making you less free.

Licence: Creative Commons CC0 1.0 (public domain)

User Libre: Free Computing For Everyone, Start With Perfection

Posted in Free/Libre Software at 6:29 am by Guest Editorial Team

2020 figosdev

Index

  • You are here ☞ Chapter 1: Preamble/Introduction (Start With Perfection)

Canadian Thanksgiving perfected
Intro / Chapter 1: Start With Perfection*

Summary: “As the threats to user freedom evolve, so too must the response to those threats. So long as freedom remains the first priority, worthwhile responses will give more power to every user, and keep limits on how much control can be imposed by developers.”

In the early days of computing, when computers were too large and expensive for anyone but a government, large business or institution to own, software was not a product — it was simply work.

In 1980, software became copyrightable in the United States. Prior to this, companies were hiring computer programmers out of university settings and using Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) to keep them from sharing the source code to their programs. It is from this source code that most software is created.

“You can’t actually create a legal monopoly on putting together certain ingredients and making a certain dish, but as long as there are unique expressions (wording) of a particular recipe, that particular wording is copyrightable.”Before there were programming languages to write source code in however, there were simple processor instructions that could be keyed into the machine, toggled in on switches, or even punched into cards or paper tape.

When you punch a series of numbers along with plus or minus keys on a calculator, you are telling the machine to move numeric values into certain places in the processor. Early programming was very similar.

The transformation of computing from work that assists an industry to an industry in its own right, is not unlike the transformation of years of cooking and handing down family recipes into fast food chains and best-selling cookbooks. You can’t actually create a legal monopoly on putting together certain ingredients and making a certain dish, but as long as there are unique expressions (wording) of a particular recipe, that particular wording is copyrightable.

For several decades, and for at least a decade or two longer than “Open Source”, the Free Software movement has worked to liberate every user from a fast-food Hell of proprietary computing. Its founder Richard M. Stallman (“rms”) and his organisation, the Free Software Foundation, have long fought efforts to poach free coders for proprietary work in unethical companies.

“For several decades, and for at least a decade or two longer than “Open Source”, the Free Software movement has worked to liberate every user from a fast-food Hell of proprietary computing. Its founder Richard M. Stallman (“rms”) and his organisation, the Free Software Foundation, have long fought efforts to poach free coders for proprietary work in unethical companies.”After nearly 40 years and a number of outstanding successes, Free Software is once again struggling with an industry eager to poach free coders. And to stop that from happening to this generation, Free Software will need to “bootstrap” a slightly new approach, to respond to the new ways the industry has learned to thwart user freedom.

The goal of Free Software is simple and perfect: for all software to be free. This refers to freedom, not price — Free Software does not mean that commercialisation itself is a problem; you can get paid to work on Free software. But what many companies prefer to do is trade concessions and get the user (or developers) to make compromises that put companies back in control again.

“Most of the compromises rms has been attacked for not supporting, are compromises that would limit the freedom of the user in exchange for some short-term and subjective benefit.”For most of his career, people have attacked rms for being unwilling to compromise — but this is exactly where we want a movement to start: with a no-compromise quest for freedom and liberty. Most of the compromises rms has been attacked for not supporting, are compromises that would limit the freedom of the user in exchange for some short-term and subjective benefit.

If we allow such compromises at all, we must be certain that they do not add up to a major erosion of user freedom. And where freedom must draw the line, is that compromises should be optional — while freedom remains our first priority. As the threats to user freedom evolve, so too must the response to those threats. So long as freedom remains the first priority, worthwhile responses will give more power to every user, and keep limits on how much control can be imposed by developers.

Licence: Creative Commons CC0 1.0 (public domain)
________
*Each chapter includes its own license information; most of the chapters are CC0.

IRC Proceedings: Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Posted in IRC Logs at 2:52 am by Needs Sunlight

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