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Things That the Free Software Community Needs to Replace/Counteract

Posted in Free/Libre Software at 10:11 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The world is changing and Richard Stallman‘s message adapts accordingly (the latest gadgets). A talk scheduled one day after his 70th birthday!

RMS 2023 talk

Summary: 5 of the things that will hopefully change over the next 5 years; today we give a short list

Free Software (or free-as-in-freedom projects) faces all sorts of obstacles. Those obstacles change a little over time, as new brands, companies, and trends (or cargo cults) emerge. Today we’d like to name just a few of them. The list will change over time and there this crude (in-progress) graphical overview in our wiki.

So without further ado, let’s begin.

Software Patents

“Some prefer to keep their code secret, usually because the code is ugly, messy, and unappealing.”Copyrights cover code. This has gone on for nearly half a century and it is not likely to change (if it does, it will be condemned as “plagiarism” — which is exactly what Microsoft seeks to achieve with GitHub/Copilot). There is no need for any patents on algorithms. Ask almost any software developer, either proprietary oR not, and the answer will be the same. Coders don’t want patents on their code. Copyrights are sufficient. For some, reciprocity in changes (copyleft) is sought and for others it’s about attribution. Some prefer to keep their code secret, usually because the code is ugly, messy, and unappealing. Nobody would wish to reuse it anyhow.

GitHub (and Other Centralised, Proprietary Code Forges)

GitHub is by far the worst thing that happened to Free software in recent years, even before Microsoft took this whole thing, exploited the newly-acquired control to harm the competition, and then laid off a lot of the staff (because there’s no money in it).

Useful alternatives to Microsoft GitHub:

In our case, we locally host Git and we wrote our front end for the Gemini Protocol.

Centralisation of ‘Trust’

Human beings who lack a sense of morality are trying to tell our geek buddies that Microsoft controlling the boot sequence (and many other things) is “OK” for GNU/Linux and for BSD. They’re self-serving liars whom we should learn to ignore, irrespective of their passive-aggressive bullying (and playing the “victim card”). We’ve covered this subject extensively since 2012.

The following year, in 2013, Edward Snowden unleashed lots of NSA leaks onto the media and — by extension — onto the world. As a result, many Web sites frantically rushed to adopt HTTPS (to appease perceived public demand). On the surface this may sound like fantastic news, but there were caveats. For instance, it was soon made known that certificates would be rendered free, with action from the Linux Foundation before Microsoft et al got deeply involved. The founder of this initiative died last year and what happened in recent years wasn’t his fault. His intentions were good, but this would open a new can of worms — a can nobody in the media wants to speak about frankly. In our experience, people who speak about these issues are subjected to smears and false equivalences (like “antivaxers”).

“The following year, in 2013, Edward Snowden unleashed lots of NSA leaks onto the media and — by extension — onto the world.”So let’s put in very simple terms what the issue we deal with here entails: Let’s Encrypt (LE, controlled by the so-called ‘Linux’ Foundation, i.e. monopolies and raiders of the Commons) is not security but mostly another increase/increment to the existing (very steep compared to Gemini/Gopher) entry barrier. If security was the true goal, it would be implemented differently. At the moment it compels people everywhere in the world, even non-technical folks, to rely on misleading Web browsers that impose US hegemony (scaring users if not outright obstructing/blocking them for disobedience), it makes self-hosting extra hard (in turn begetting further centralisation, i.e. censorship and surveillance against everyone), and for people who blog less than once every 3 months it makes no sense to rotate certificates every 3 month or pay annual fees to GoDaddy et al. Reliance on GoDaddy in in itself a security and safety risk, as GoDaddy can go for years without telling staff and clients that it suffered a serious security breach. GoDaddy isn’t the only one. Outsourcing “trust” is generally “risky business”. LE is the wrong way to solve a real problem, or a solution to a problem not Internet users were having but rich censors and media magnates had. It also makes hosting more expensive (support-related tickets ultimately increase).

“Let’s Encrypt was a good step but only one step in a direction,” an associate explains today. “Unfortunately Mozilla and Google have headed that off by preventing self-signed certificates.”

Because it’s “free” to be in the CAs everyone must do this now, right? ‘Democratisation’ is the fasionable buzzword (even crackers can get a free LE certificate and seem “legit”). No excuses to not support this ‘trust cartel’, which will one day be weaponised for political censorship of Web sites (through mass revocations; some people already viciously push to do this to Russian sites; it would be a slippery slope breeding distrust and suspicion of CAs’ true motivation/purpose).

Maybe we’ll elaborate some other day…

Buzzwords Pandemic

“Now they pretend that people need not search for authoritative Web sites and reputable pages on the Web, and all this because of the alleged sophistication of lousy chatbots — neither new nor innovative but Microsoft pays the media for a massive hype campaign during mass layoffs.”Buzzwords need to be replaced with substance. In the case of the EPO, we already see how “HEY HI” (“AI”) gets misused to grant loads of European software patents. And to borrow the above example of GitHub/Copilot, we see how mass violation of the GPL (copyleft) is facilitated, rendering compliance/enforcement virtually impossible. This is intentional. Outside the domain of code, some developers and Web sites seek to strip both attribution and licensing from various creative works, ranging from videos/multimedia to art and literature. There are many legal cases already (more than we care to count) dealing with this ‘pandemic’ of plagriarism-spun-as-HEY-HI (the OSI even took bribes from Microsoft to help promote this malicious spin). Here is the source code aspect, “but the same applies to all the works it is used to rip off,” an associate explains. “Each violation is a violation and due a large fine independently of any other violations.”

Call a spade “spade” and call plagiarism what it is, not “HEY HI”. It’s already shoehorned into other agendas, software patents being just one example (as noted before). Now they pretend that people need not search for authoritative Web sites and reputable pages on the Web, and all this because of the alleged sophistication of lousy chatbots — neither new nor innovative but Microsoft pays the media for a massive hype campaign during mass layoffs. “LOOK OVA’ THERE!”

Attack on the Internet

“The policymakers are in the pockets of several cabals of companies (different sectors), so one way to bypass their demands is to take the Net out of the hands of any particular companies.”There is an “ongoing net neutrality” disinformation campaign, an associate says, taking stock of “news” sites (conflict of interest!) helping the cable companies (often the same companies that own these reporters). They’re embracing the disingenuous and misleading labels for opposition to net neutrality and these are lousy attempts at double-billing (if not triple-billing). The articles latch onto hate towards G.A.F.A.M. and frame that as a fight wherein those who support net neutrality are in fact defending Microsoft and Google (nothing could be further from the truth). There are several ongoing attempts to decentralise the Net (IPFS is one notable effort) and we thankfully see more activity in Gemini this week — some of which praises GNUnet as well.

The policymakers are in the pockets of several cabals of companies (different sectors), so one way to bypass their demands is to take the Net out of the hands of any particular companies. The water supplier does not regulate how you use the water that you consume, right? it doesn’t even know how you use it.

The topology of the Net needs to change. It ought to be more peer-to-peer-like. The media likes to conflate such stuff with fake (‘cryptocurrrency’) coins and “dark web” (crime), but don’t fall for these bogus narratives from any hostile media company that doesn’t disclose its rather obvious conflict of interest.

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