08.18.20

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Free Software is on the Wrong Track, But It’s Not Too Late to Correct That

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FSF, GNU/Linux, Kernel, Microsoft at 4:35 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

On the right train track

Summary: Big, big money is being sunk into the war on Free software, replacing it with veiled brands that are symbols of proprietary software and monopolies; the answer to that isn’t simple and the response is guaranteed to generate resentment and abuse from sellouts (working for and salaried by those proprietary software giants and monopolies)

THE very fact that public institutions here in the U.K. see no problem outsourcing their communications to Slack (proprietary, foreign-owned, surveillance capitalists that leak highly sensitive and confidential data that will inevitably result in espionage) is quite revealing. The very concept of autonomy and sovereignty means nothing to “techs” who are in charge; to them, so-called ‘cost-savings’ come first even if vendor lock-in and/or loss of privacy has an enormous cost associated with it. I won’t mention or name some of these institutions and people, but they know who they are; some of them also turn to Microsoft (e.g. “Teams”) and to GitHub as if being “open” means outsourcing to proprietary monopolies. Dishonest journalism contributes to this misconception.

“This is the sort of thing RMS has long understood. He was so often ridiculed for it. Some disliked his principles so badly that for over a decade they’ve worked relentlessly to dethrone him.”Maybe there’s a communication problem; maybe the leadership of the FSF developing on Microsoft servers (GitHub) and Linux Foundation doing the same — sometimes even using Windows Server — continues to contribute to the problem. How are we supposed to explain to people that proprietary software is unethical when some of us still use it? What sort of message does that send? That our own software isn’t good enough and even we, ourselves, aren’t ‘dogfooding’ it?

This is the sort of thing RMS has long understood. He was so often ridiculed for it. Some disliked his principles so badly that for over a decade they’ve worked relentlessly to dethrone him. We’re currently investigating who or what was behind the anti-GPL lawsuit of Daniel L Wallace (we might phone him later today). Those things so often turn out to have been bankrolled by Microsoft, but those responsible are being evasive about it. The person who pushed RMS out of the FSF (from the inside) was paid by Microsoft last year and this year.

“For freedom or for Free software to win we cannot be too soft; we’re dealing with something like the Mafia here and making compassionate compromises won’t work out, except for the Mafia.”There are many sellouts among us (this morning we wrote a couple of posts about Jim Zemlin) and they gravitate towards money (the word “sellout” has “sell” in it, so it’s already about money). Unless we identify this problem and speak about it (e.g. Microsoft still bribing officials to sign deals and colluding with heads of states for massive contracts) we won’t make progress as an effective, principled movement. I’m still in my thirties, so I’m relatively young to the movement (Stallman started GNU when I was a year old), but at least I can say that since my teenage years I’ve used GNU/Linux and I’ve long rejected proprietary software as well as games. I never actually experienced DRM firsthand. Activation codes? Yes. Old computer games used to have them.

“The Foundation is so bad that it put inside its management a Microsoft employee (yes, salaried by Microsoft!) with no technical background — someone who had worked for Edelman (professional liars of Microsoft, who also bribe bloggers for Microsoft).”For freedom or for Free software to win we cannot be too soft; we’re dealing with something like the Mafia here and making compassionate compromises won’t work out, except for the Mafia. They consolidate monopolies or shared monopolies (oligopolies) with help from corrupt officials like Donald Trump and his cabal. They receive billions of dollars from taxpayers’ debt and compete for roofless military contracts while the Orange One hands over to them foreign companies (by political blackmail, which is illegal; it’s collusion). Stop acting like all we need is more restrictions on speech (banning words, passing codes of conduct whose net effect is silencing dissent). That’s only helping — and is likely happening because of — the 'polite' corporations that bomb people. Don’t be too soft; don’t be too courteous. Don’t be rude, either. Be factual, be principled, don’t be shy to say “no!”

Linus Torvalds still says “no!” (sometimes)

Don’t worry, he won’t say “no!” for much longer. Seeing what happens in the Linux Foundation this year is rather devastating. We’re still researching some of the latest developments and the media looks the other way. If it exists at all. It’d sad to say that no-called ‘news’ sites that cover Linux have not got any latitude; they just relay lies, puff pieces and ‘easy’ stuff; ZDNet is a megaphone of the Foundation because it’s rhyming with Microsoft PR. And look who nowadays runs that place. Andy Updegrove is still listed in this page (first in the list, letter “A”), but his firm was dropped by the Linux Foundation based on latest IRS filings. Is this page up to date? Is Mr. Updegrove still there at all? The Foundation is so bad that it put inside its management a Microsoft employee (yes, salaried by Microsoft!) with no technical background — someone who had worked for Edelman (professional liars of Microsoft, who also bribe bloggers for Microsoft). LF management has at least two people who came from Edelman! Let’s face it: the Foundation is nowadays more of a PR agency and mediator for proprietary software giants than it is a technical thing. If it was technical, it would have its own Git repositories for everything; today’s LF leadership decided to outsource to Microsoft just about everything (GitHub pays them for it) and they use Windows. For those who paid attention last week, Facebook bought from the Foundation not only lots of openwashing puff pieces; it also bought itself another seat at the Linux Foundation’s Board (it has two now; those are literally on sale and Microsoft has not one but three seats in the Board now). How did this happen? How does it keep happening? Well, it’s sold. Microsoft paid, so Microsoft got the seats is paid for. It gets to control Linux in exchange for money. No wonder so much is becoming entrapped inside GitHub, which incidentally had another GNU/Linux incident (yesterday Liam Dawe published “Libretro / RetroArch were hacked, wiping some [GitHub] repositories” and it's a familiar story by now).

The sad thing is, if not the saddest of all, is that rational people are being mocked for pointing out all the above. The Foundation has a new term for Microsoft critics (even while Microsoft keeps attacking Linux in the courtroom, in the press and elsewhere). They’ve moved on from “toxic”; Microsoft sceptics are called puppy kickers. People who distrust Microsoft advocate animal cruelty, apparently… so we must shun them. “Just so you know,” figosdev told Mr. Zemlin, “most puppies don’t have 10-billion-dollar defense contracts.”

This morning we took time to closely examine the 25 Board members in the Foundation, only to find that every one of them works for a proprietary software company or a company that primarily distributes non-free software. So we generally know what “Linux” — the brand at least — really stands for these days. It’s about predominantly proprietary software companies or “clown computing” companies that maintain some GitHub “repo” ‘on the side’…

That’s “Open Source” in 2020. It’s just proprietary software companies pretending to give a damn.

Now, in terms of diversity, which the Foundation certainly lacks, people like Zemlin are proud and glad to say things like “First Asian” or “First Female” or “First Minority”, e.g. inside the Board (not diversity in motivation); that sort of diversity says not much about technical and mindset angles (opinions). How about… “First Free Software” person inside the Board? Well, as many people can still remember, they basically banned (and kicked out) all “community” participants several years ago. It’s 100% corporate now, with the sole goal of raising as much corporate money as possible. Today’s ‘Linux’ Foundation isn’t a non-profit but an extension of massive corporations that dodge tax and do their biddings through a misleadingly-named outpost. Today’s Foundation doesn’t give a damn about freedom or even about Linux. Mr. Zemlin will soon be a one million dollar (per annum) man. Not bad for someone who became unemployed and wanted to become a chef only a couple of decades ago…

Want some more inconvenient facts? In one single year the Foundation increased spendings on salaries by more than 10%. The Foundation does empasise that it does so to compete with “market” rates, but there’s no oversight. None. They basically decide among themselves how much to pay themselves. In one single year the Foundation grew from 69 million dollars in spendings to almost 97 million dollars — to the point of actually losing money. It’s like EPO where few managers milk the institution (giving themselves endless bonuses) because they don’t care about the EPO’s future. How many people in the Foundation actually care about Linux and actually use it? They don’t even understand the kernel! They know just about nothing about it. They use Windows and “Macs”… so they sit around the table, talking about something which they reject (imagine the awkward silence if someone asked, “IS ANYBODY HERE USING LINUX?”). And speaking of Mac users, Andy Updegrove championed OpenDocument Format (ODF) and understood Free software only to a very limited/some extent (he’s about standards, not freedom). Well, of course the Linux Foundation got rid of his firm and chose something else… even less freedom-aware (it’s in the IRS filings). In one year the Foundation spent a quarter million dollars on advertising. What of? Linux? Or itself? The Foundation’s ‘bookkeeper’ is not listed in the site, but surely she can understand that they operate at a loss while tossing millions of dollars at a bunch of nonsense theat they grossly overpay for. Gregory K-H (yes, “Gregory” it says) receives an annual salary of about $350,000 (including other compensations, we assume tax free). That’s a lot more than Novell/SUSE paid him, but the Foundation insists that those salaries are reasonable and in line with market standards. Nobody even enforces that principle. Certainly not the IRS…

We need to identify the sellouts and the pattern of concessions; we must understand that those who stand in our way aren’t just companies like Microsoft but also their facilitators, which include this so-called ‘Linux’ Foundation, OSI, and maybe even SFC (for selling Microsoft several keynotes this year). They might threaten with banishment and call us “rude” or “toxic” or whatever… like they’ve called RMS for who knows how long…

First they demonise, then they dehumanise. See this latest piece from (probably) Daniel Pocock, who got in a lot of trouble after he had spoken against receiving Google’s money (amongst other scandals shrouded in secrecy for cover-up purposes, dodging accountability).

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