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07.12.20

All Software Should Come With a Cheat Mode

Posted in Free/Libre Software at 4:03 am by Guest Editorial Team

Article by figosdev

Dice

Summary: Cheat modes are useful for developers because they enable debugging, and are sometimes called “Debug mode”

This article is more about an ideal than a hard rule, but it’s an ideal that I want to encourage.

Lately I’ve been teaching a little about minicomputers, as a different perspective on coding and program design. I don’t know a lot about minicomputers, but then I’m not teaching expert-level stuff either. In the process, I’ve learned some cool things myself. I am happy to note that there are people I can consult about and discuss minicomputers with who have actually worked with them.

One of the things that is very cool about minicomputers, is that some have a “cheat mode” even for the CPU itself. I was going to call this article “all software should be programmable”, but then I realised that cheat modes were not just a great metaphor for what I mean, they’re a good example.

I did not play all that many games on computers, at any point since I learned how to use them. I played Ghostbusters on a PCjr connected to a television, I played with an Atari 2600 before most people had ever played Mario on an 8-bit console, I played Tetris and Solitaire, and I played a handful of DOS games — including Monuments of Mars and Commander Keen.

“Cheat modes are useful for developers because they enable debugging, and are sometimes called “Debug mode”.”My original experience with computing (other than a few month stint with an 8-bit cassette-based Timex Sinclair) was a command prompt, a graphical, mouse-driven DOS application for drawing, and a manual for writing in BASIC. I would eventually learn that changing the code in BASIC programs was a lot of fun (and extremely educational) but it gave me an opportunity to try a lot of programs for free — you could just borrow (or purchase) a magazine or book from the library or a friend, and start typing things in.

Monuments of Mars was a simple CGA game that I honestly thought was one of the coolest things ever. The graphics were simple, but the structures put together with sprites (along with aliens and robots that had only two to five frame “animation”) were something I found exciting. Jumping up to shoot switches to turn them on and off was also cool.

I did eventually go to the trouble of beating both Commander Keen and Monuments of Mars without cheating, of course. But I honestly found cheating was more fun. At the time, I was more interested in the possibility of making games than playing them, and I wanted to explore the levels more than I wanted to jump up and shoot robots. Obviously, straight game play did demonstrate things that cheat mode did not — like how far a jump will actually get you when it’s not unlimited and basically flying.

Cheat modes are useful for developers because they enable debugging, and are sometimes called “Debug mode”. This is also true of ODT mode for some late-model PDP-11 machines. But the cool thing about cheat mode, whether you’re talking about a minicomputer CPU or Commander Keen, is that a lot of boundaries created by the game are transcended. This is something we generally want in our programs.

“The term window is a bit like “cheat mode”, especially when you’re root.”It’s a unique feeling to suddenly be able to walk through walls, fly around, visit game levels that were inaccessible or discover hidden levels and easter eggs. When you’re writing code, a lot of this is simply the nature of being able to tell the computer what to do. And there are levels of accessibility, to be sure — I don’t have to recompile the operating system to be able to open a term window and become root. The term window is a bit like “cheat mode”, especially when you’re root.

Obviously I’m not saying that administrators shouldn’t be able to lock down certain features, including root and sudo — but the owner of the computer should be able to override everything; that’s one of the promises of Free software. But this idea is about exposing a bit more power to the user, for those who would use it.

And it’s not a new idea — ODT mode on the PDP-11 let you change any value at any address. BASIC let you do more or less this with the PEEK and POKE commands. The Sugar platform was designed for a laptop that had a “View Source” key that was meant for native applications, not just HTML and JavaScript. And various games let you use cheats to add points, ammo, health and extra lives.

Before Minecraft, the Sims let you build a house with unlimited access to materials. I was more interested in putting weird houses together than actually playing. If I was using Minetest, it would be the same. It’s cool that Minecraft is also a game, but what I really want is a voxel building application.

“This is a fun way to introduce the concept of variables and coding to users.”Having explored some of the recent Unity-based games designed to teach coding — I’m not interested in promoting them, though I did want to be able to rate and explain the concept — for some of them, “cheating” (debugging the playing field) is really one of the goals of native game play. If you want to cross a bridge, the way you do that is by loading the bridge values in a widget and changing them so the bridge is long enough to cross.

This is a fun way to introduce the concept of variables and coding to users. You could put this sort of thing in so many games, including ones that aren’t written for a non-free engine; instead of just having a cheat mode, you could make it so the player could bring up an option to “hack” individual objects in the game.

For Monuments of Mars, which came out decades earlier — I found that save games were basically two bytes — one was the ASCII value for the saved level (there were only about 20 levels per game) and the other was an ASCII value for how many charges you had left for the gun. Rewriting this binary file using BASIC (or a hex editor, though writing a few reusable lines of BASIC for the task was satisfying) was extremely fun for a beginner.

I also put a cheat mode in the text editor I’m using / extending / writing. The goal is to have something to use instead of Leafpad. It doesn’t have proper word wrap (it just wraps around mid-word like the cat command does) but it does let me pipe text to it like a graphical version of “less” and CTRL-T runs whatever text is on a certain line as a shell command. So for example, there is no word count feature, but while I’m typing this I can hit CTRL-S to save and then type:

    wc cheatmode.txt

And if I hit CTRL-T then it tells me how many lines, words and characters the file I’m writing has. I could also open a term and do that, but this lets me do it right from the text editor. Then I just select the output, delete it and keep working.

This is more than a way to have features available before I even implement them. It means that I don’t have to copy text to and from the term window nearly as much. Output is piped directly into the editor, and every line of text in the editor is a line of text I can run.

People who use programmable text editors already know how cool it is to be able to do this, but I don’t really love Vi or Emacs. I use GNU Nano and Leafpad — these are not editors known for a lot of features. I like them for their simplicity, and if I make a programmable text editor it’s going to be designed for simplicity as well. Suppose I want to run some figplus code:

    figplus
    p "hello world" split p " "
    forin each p
        c randint 1 15
        now each colourtext c print
        next

Then I select those lines of text and hit CTRL-T again. This isn’t implemented yet, though the first line of the selection would be “figplus” — telling it I want to run “figplus” code. It then treats the rest of the selection the way it’s designed to treat selections that begin with that keyword. Since a child process can’t change the cwd of a parent process natively, I’ve already implemented a “cd ” command that changes the cwd for the editor process via os.chdir. If Leafpad had this I would use it!

I could take all the code for figplus and stick it in the code for the editor, but since this creates a second version of figplus to maintain, I think I will just have it call figplus from the shell — much easier to implement and maintain for snippets of fig code (doing it this way will create a few limitations).

I could have it simply save the code to a file, compile and run it — and if I make it process standard “fig” that is how I will most likely implement it. But just to extend the capabilities beyond shell code, all it needs to do is take these lines:

    p "hello world" split p " "
    forin each p
        c randint 1 15
        now each colourtext c print
        next

— put a newline between them:

    p "hello world" split p " "\nforin each p\n    c randint 1 15\n   
    now each colourtext c print\n    next

— change the double quotes to single:

    p 'hello world' split p ' "\nforin each p\n    c randint 1 15\n   
    now each colourtext c print\n    next

— and add double quotes to each side and call with figplus:

    os.system("figplus05.py -c " + chr(34) + 
    "p 'hello world' split p ' '\nforin each p\n    c randint 1 15\n 
    now each colourtext c print\n    next" + chr(34))

Then CTRL-T can run fig code as well as shell code. And we can add other commands too, like:

    append-to log.txt
    These lines will
    be appended to
    the log file.

Highlight that, CTRL-T, it writes what I’ve highlighted to a file. The only tokens processed by the editor are “append-to” and “log.txt”.

Again, this is not the first editor that does stuff like this. But it’s written in Python, it’s PyPy-compatible, and it’s designed the way I like it. The lack of a Code-of-Conduct is just a bonus.

To distinguish “all software should have a cheat mode or be programmable” from something like “all software should be as insecure as browsers with DirectX support, let’s note a couple of things here:

The editor doesn’t actually DO ANYTHING with the text when it loads. It doesn’t get parsed, no automatic actions are taken.

To run code, you have to hit CTRL-T on a line that has code on it, or select code and hit CTRL-T where it recognises the first line of the selection. This is nothing like JavaScript, which runs when it’s loaded and parses the entire document. It’s not even like HTML.

“Different programs benefit from different cheat modes.”The entire document is just text — it may not even contain code, but the editor has no idea if it does or not until you highlight something and ask it to run what’s highlighted.

Different programs benefit from different cheat modes. A video game that lets you change how long a bridge is might not benefit from calling shell code (it probably won’t, unless the game design is very unusual). JavaScript might pose a security risk to the user sometimes, but the JavaScript console itself is less likely to.

One thing that saddens me at times about JavaScript (and HTML) is how complex it has gotten. To have a “cheat mode” or be programmable, I don’t think every application needs a full-fledged, general-purpose scripting language. Though that’s one way of doing it.

Simple languages with a handful of commands (10 to 100, just for some simple features) with simple syntax provide enough of a window to the program, to get more people interested in programming and computing in general. Sometimes you may need more than that, which is alright. But I’m still talking about all this in the context of homemade software I think corporate software should have features like this as well, but sometimes (as with Minecraft, Mozilla and LibreOffice) corporate software already is programmable or has debug or cheat modes.

As for the amount of work it took to add shell code processing to a text editor, I can actually grep the code while I’m writing this:

    nl = chr(10) ; from os import popen as po
    cmd = self.textarea.get(1.0,tk.END).split(nl) # get text
    cmd = cmd[int(self.textarea.index(tk.INSERT).split(".")[0]) - 1] # get line cursor is at
    f = po(cmd.split(nl)[0]) # call shell
    self.textarea.insert(tk.INSERT, nl + f.read().rstrip() + " " + nl) # update editor
    self.textarea.bind('<Control-t>', self.find_file)

This is slightly abbreviated, but basically what I added to make the feature possible. I’ve since added the ability to background processes with & (which first indicates the desire to background, and then is passed to the shell).

“…sometimes (as with Minecraft, Mozilla and LibreOffice) corporate software already is programmable or has debug or cheat modes.”Adding a cheat mode doesn’t have to require redesigning the entire program. It just takes thinking about what would allow the user to transcend the usual boundaries and assumptions of the program they’re using — to create an interesting and perhaps useful new window into the program itself.

As for snippets of code, particularly shell code and quick scripts, how can those have a cheat mode? In my opinion, if you’re running a line of easy-to-edit shell code or a few lines of Python, you’re in “cheat mode” already. Though for applications substantial enough to consider adding a feature, it’s worth thinking about what sort of code you could use within the running application — partly to make it more useful, and partly for the sake of education and encouraging the next generation of coders.

leafpad cheatmode.txt & # (I haven’t added font sizes to the editor yet; this will make it easier to proofread) &

Long live rms, and happy hacking.

Licence: Creative Commons CC0 1.0 (public domain)

07.07.20

Monopolies Erode Freedom, Freedom Erodes Monopolies

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft at 6:26 pm by Guest Editorial Team

Article by figosdev

Welcome to Gitrepo, professor

Summary: “There are so many reasons that GitHub makes projects less free.”

Recent articles from Techrights have spawned discussions with a hundred comments or more, and one of Tom’s articles was translated into both Spanish and Czech.

Many of these comments contain confusion as to what the “big deal” is about the GNU Project being eroded by GitHub, while one claims that singling out the GNU Project is “sensationalism” — wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that all software is being eroded by GitHub?

If you haven’t heard it before, it’s news to you (or to me). The recent articles have possibly led to more responses than all the similar articles we did combined; one problem in the article (my fault, really) was that I had made a single comment about how the redirects appeared to be made after Stallman was ousted.

“Whether you dispute or agree with this point, RMS is no longer the FSF President, and this is the context in which the phrase “rms was ousted” was written.”That was probably an error — note that when that comment was made, it was not intended for an article. It was intended as a “heads up” or a lead for people at or close to Techrights.

But it certainly has sparked a debate. I honestly felt that this was redundant and too small a thing to cover, but the responses have proven otherwise. It would be foolish to squander the opportunity to address some of the misconceptions about the GNU-Hub:

1. RMS wasn’t ousted

Actually, we have reasons to believe he was deliberately given misleading information, leading him to step down. Various factors (some of which we predicted months ahead of time) make the realistic definition of what happened to rms closer to “being ousted” than voluntarily resigning.

Officially of course, he resigned. More truthfully, it seems that several deliberate and dishonest actions fed into his stepping down. The reasons for our predictions and the confirmation of our suspicions came from very different places. It’s not at all unrealistic to say he was “ousted”. It’s almost ridiculous, however, to say his resignation was “voluntary”.

2. RMS is still head of the GNU project

Again, this is officially true; and Elizabeth II is still technically the head of state, but she can’t actually use her power for very much except bestowing it on other people.

Whether you dispute or agree with this point, RMS is no longer the FSF President, and this is the context in which the phrase “rms was ousted” was written.

“There are so many reasons that GitHub makes projects less free.”Note also that there have been two further coups since he “voluntarily” resigned as President; one to fake his resignation from the GNU Project, and another to try to “vote” him out of the GNU Project. It would be naive to assume that these various (and closely timed) efforts to unseat him from all forms of influence were unrelated; though it is technically possible they are not from the same groups of actors.

This is all highly relevant, however, since rms has made it clear that GitHub is wrong for Free software. To quote, “GitHub does things that are quite bad for Free software and is not interested in changing them. If you want to move off Savannah, please pick some other place.”

3. GitHub doesn’t make software projects less free

There are so many reasons that GitHub makes projects less free. The FSF lists several of them — when people “refute” this notion, they always seem to leave part of the reasons out. Perhaps this is because there are so many (it’s also because the people who refute this don’t care about or necessarily even consider your freedom).

Above all, joining GitHub helps one of Free software’s most tenacious enemies — it hands control over to a company that continues to promote software patents, attack copyleft, and attack (and try to control) various software projects, including the Linux kernel. Let’s not pretend there is any reason to trust Microsoft. There are plenty of reasons not to.

4. GitHub isn’t controlled by Microsoft

This one is just funny. Microsoft’s M.O., not just recently, but throughout the history of the company — has been to try to control every competitor in the industry. Along those lines, GitHub is probably the best thing they could have ever purchased.

Microsoft goes out of their way to control companies they don’t own — you think they don’t control companies they literally own? That’s marketing/P.R. nonsense. It’s pure nonsense.

5. Git is distributed, GitHub doesn’t lock users in

Git was developed by Linus Torvalds, and its future is tied into Microsoft via the Linux Foundation — which is practically a Microsoft front group by now.

“Let’s not pretend there is any reason to trust Microsoft. There are plenty of reasons not to.”But the lock-in that makes GitHub so successful is a “side-channel” attack on project autonomy, not unlike their similar tactics against proprietary software. Techrights has covered side-channel attacks on software freedom for years now — if you can’t attack GPL-licensed directly, just attack copyleft, attack the FSF, attack rms, and lock users in with years worth of community exchange they can’t practically move to any new service.

The effects of lock-in are obvious to behold, but somehow the lock-in itself remains something users (and fans) are in denial about.

In short, if you suggest that people leave GitHub, they will state the reasons why it’s not practical to do so — this includes naming the very causes of lock-in as things they can’t afford to leave behind. But if you suggest that lock-in occurs, they will say it doesn’t exist.

Discussions of lock-in efforts that work around the license will invariably shift towards mentioning the license. Do people not know how much effort Microsoft has made to erode and minimise the effects of the licenses that are supposedly impervious to Microsoft? This is a corporation that seems to take over entire organisations, just to get at their code, activists and licenses.

6. You can’t blame the GNU maintainers, they only move to GitHub because Savannah sucks

Of course you can blame the GNU maintainers. Both the FSF and rms have made it perfectly clear that moving to GitHub is a bad idea — you can blame the developers for not heeding the warning. RMS is still the head of the GNU Project, right? Officially, at least.

“As you can perhaps tell from this list, a lot of excuses are being made for doing the wrong thing — against the Chief GNUisance’s advice and/or leadership.”In practice, the maintainers aren’t listening and quite a few have moved to remove rms from his position. They are hopefully in the minority, though the problem isn’t “all GNU maintainers” — it’s many of them. It’s enough that we can certainly blame GNU maintainers.

As you can perhaps tell from this list, a lot of excuses are being made for doing the wrong thing — against the Chief GNUisance’s advice and/or leadership.

As rms pointed out in 2015, if people aren’t happy with Savannah (a platform forked from SourceForge when it was still Free software, which provides the GNU project with more autonomy than most other solutions — a clear advantage in and of itself) there are better options than GitHub — GitHub was already among the worst options even before Microsoft owned them.

So hating Savannah isn’t a legitimate reason to use GitHub; it is a legitimate reason to consider other options, the worst of which by far is GitHub. Yet due to lock-in and network effect, people take the path of least resistance (a path associated for centuries with erosion of freedom and autonomy — freedom requires vigilance, does it not?) and then try to paint that as a reasonable, logical decision.

If you don’t care about freedom — which is exactly the accusation being made here — then yes, it is somewhat reasonable and logical (within the context of a very glib and superficial decision process).

“The GNU Project couldn’t move to GitHub without drastically changing the nature of the GNU Project.”If on the other hand, freedom still matters — there is absolutely no reasonable way that anybody would move a GNU project to GitHub.

This is basic litmus test stuff here. The GNU Project couldn’t move to GitHub without drastically changing the nature of the GNU Project.

7. The GNU Project isn’t that important anymore (we’ve actually heard this recently).

The various attacks we’ve documented on the GNU Project over the past few years suggest otherwise. It’s also really a change of subject; like a bank robber saying “I only took Pound notes, and they’re in a giant slump anyway since Brexit”. They were still valuable enough to steal though, right?

Also, if the GNU Project doesn’t matter, why haven’t all GNU/Linux distros switched to the BSD versions of everything? Like the BSD version of Emacs, for example. (Wait, there isn’t a BSD version of Emacs?) I don’t use Emacs, though I know there are several clones. Most of the Emacs fans I know are using the “real” Emacs though.

8. Why single out GitHub and Microsoft? There are other monopolies

This comes up so often, it probably originated at Microsoft (I’ve read stories on Techrights that suggest it might).

“It’s good that people are making all these excuses. It means they suddenly feel the need to justify this series of very bad decisions.”It really shouldn’t be necessary to explain, when one company is doing far more than any other to control Free software and the GNU project, why we would single out that company above the others. That’s just common sense, but it gets questioned anyway because that’s just how P.R. campaigns work — against common sense.

IBM also does a great deal of harm in this regard, but we talk about that all the time. So not only is there a perfectly good reason to single out Microsoft — we really don’t single them out, at least not to the exclusion of talking about other problems with other companies.

It’s good that people are making all these excuses. It means they suddenly feel the need to justify this series of very bad decisions.

We are (and were) aware of the fact that not all the changes are recent; for example, GNU Radio and GNU Aspell moved to GitHub in 2016; Microsoft didn’t purchase it until 2018. And we’ve known this since May.

That doesn’t change the fact that the GNU Project has continued to erode. Perl (which is not part of the GNU Project, but the most important parts of the GNU Project rely on Perl) just moved to GitHub two months after rms resigned. ALSA (GNUsound has modules for ALSA and Jack, which are both now based on GitHub) and NPM both moved farther into GitHub since the Microsoft acquisition was announced, and Techrights has talked about Python being bribed into Microsoft’s clutches for months.

“GNU is THE Free software project, the cornerstone of the Free software ecosystem.”We are singling out the GNU Project for the same reason we put stress on Microsoft’s efforts to control it; Microsoft is one of the worst actors in this regard, even bribing people to join GitHub (people defending the GNU-Hub debacle have said perhaps they enjoy getting “free” hosting on the enemy’s dime; we think the bribery suggests that Microsoft is clearly investing in control — there is nothing “free” being offered here, and it’s pretty naive to think there is) while the GNU Project is the most important Free software project. GNU is THE Free software project, the cornerstone of the Free software ecosystem.

Funnily enough, the only thing that led me to notice this happening to the GNU Project, was trying to get an idea of how much it had happened to other important projects. We started tripping over projects close to (then within) the GNU Project. So of course we wanted to know how compromised the GNU Project had managed to get.

Certainly people dispute GNU’s importance, because (as with Nokia Handset) you have to devalue your enemy first, before you can destroy (or own) them. Whether that’s rms or the GNU Project, you can’t expect people attacking your freedom to say that it matters.

You can tell that freedom is under attack when monopolies gain influence. One erodes the other, if you are giving into Microsoft and Github you are sacrificing freedom and autonomy. They’ve gone to great lengths to get people to do just that — and they still do. The fact that people are denying this is a story by itself; it might as well be the 11th coup in the past year.

Long Live rms, and bring back GNU someday.

Licence: Creative Commons CC0 1.0 (public domain)

07.06.20

Update to GNU Project Bleeding into Microsoft

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft at 6:24 pm by Guest Editorial Team

By Thomas Grzybowski and Editor

At the end of June we published an article that has been viewed over 25,000 times since. After more research has brought additional information to light, some clarification to the previous information may be in order. The earlier article stated about:

https://gnu.org/software/macchanger

https://gnu.org/software/jwhois

https://gnu.org/software/fribidi

https://gnu.org/software/httptunnel

https://gnu.org/software/which/

https://gnu.org/software/guile-dbi

That “[i]nterestingly, most of these redirections seem to have made fairly recently, not long after Richard Stallman was ousted.”

This should now be restated: “Timings of redirection can be difficult to trace, as they can go through changes. A couple of these redirections seem to have occurred recently, since June 4, 2018, with others having been in place earlier. In any case, the existence of the redirections to GitHub and the participation of these projects in GitHub has continued unaddressed over time. It is also worth noting that “redirection from GNU” is distinct in meaning from having a significant presence on GitHub. An additional number of GNU projects have presense on GitHub. GNU “less” for instance, now redirects to http://www.greenwoodsoftware.com/less/ , although it is unclear when this first took place; and note that “gnu less” is also active in a repository on GitHub.”

Accuracy matters and some have pointed out that the projects were in GitHub even before Stallman was being pushed out. But that’s another matter altogether; we all along focused on the redirects themselves.

06.29.20

I Won’t Ever Support the FSF Again — That’s Their Own Fault

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FSF, GNU/Linux at 4:09 am by Guest Editorial Team

By figosdev

Holding money

Summary: “There have been several coups (or several coup stages — I’ve counted and named 5 or 6 of them) at the FSF in the past 2 years, and the largest of them is something we warned about — did anybody listen? I guess not.”

I wish rms would step away from this stupid thing. Yes, I would support rms, but never the FSF again.

Lately I’ve been teaching the history of Free Software. It’s a very relevant topic — it’s the thing that got me into Free Software in the first place.

The first free software distribution I tried was tomsrtbt. Since I learned computing in DOS, tomsrtbt made a lot of sense to me — you have a boot floppy and some basic commands, if you want something more elaborate you install a bunch of other stuff on top of it.

A lot of the details about it made less sense, but at the time I really had very little idea what was going on. I read about “Linux” in the newspaper, and being new to everything, I had to navigate the messaging (and propaganda) of various organisations to find a fit. Like many swindlers, Open Source has a very good elevator pitch: We are like Free Software, only better: More reasonable — Friendlier — Easier. We understand you.

“Seriously, I ran into Open Source types who constantly reminded me to be nice to monopolistic corporations. This is nothing happenstance — along the way Torvalds himself has compared criticism of Microsoft to “extremism” and “hate”, and more recently, Jim Zemlin of the Linux Foundation (who treats Torvalds like crap) has compared criticism of Microsoft to “kicking a puppy”.”Great.–So L. Ron Torvalds invented 1s and 0s, which we now call L’s and T’s, and our big mission is to get Microsoft to make Windows Open Source. I can’t wait.

Of course I’m being sarcastic, but it’s been more than a decade and I still feel like Open Source is one of the biggest bridges that was ever sold. Open Source acted like Free Software is full of sacred cows, and being “Open” is whatever I want it to be, but this is the Big Friendly Lie followed up by “Oh, you mean I can’t make fun of Microsoft anymore?”

Seriously, I ran into Open Source types who constantly reminded me to be nice to monopolistic corporations. This is nothing happenstance — along the way Torvalds himself has compared criticism of Microsoft to “extremism” and “hate”, and more recently, Jim Zemlin of the Linux Foundation (who treats Torvalds like crap) has compared criticism of Microsoft to “kicking a puppy”.

“Bruce Perens resigned from OSI within a year of co-founding it with Raymond, saying that it was unfair and that Open Source had overshadowed Free Software.”As far as I can tell, Microsoft has been sacred in the Open Source world for more than a decade. Yet it was the Open Source Initiative (now its co-founder Eric Raymond) who hosted the Halloween Documents. But then Microsoft claims to “Love Linux” so who knows what the Open Source people really think?

Bruce Perens resigned from OSI within a year of co-founding it with Raymond, saying that it was unfair and that Open Source had overshadowed Free Software. It obviously didn’t take long for OSI to turn into a Frankenstein. But it was my interest in computing history that led me to figure out what a sham and ploy Open Source really was. Disillusioned, I set out to support Free Software.

Free Software had a good elevator pitch too — it’s like Open Source, except it’s the real thing.

And support it I did! I switched to a fully free distro, I learned how to write scripts in Bash (until I started using Free Software, I’d coded mostly in BASIC) and Javascript and Python, I bought lots of stuff from the FSF, became a member, and learned all the pro-Free-Software arguments that Open Source loves to sidestep (but still borrows for hype now and then).

“Like when NPR says it’s “Listener-supported”, this sidesteps the reality that they’re co-opted by giant sponsors like the Gates Foundation.”This idea of borrowing ideas for hype is important, because it’s what I think the FSF is doing now. Like when NPR says it’s “Listener-supported”, this sidesteps the reality that they’re co-opted by giant sponsors like the Gates Foundation. NPR doesn’t care about its listeners. (I used to support them as well).

It’s about here that a few people put on their Linus hat and tell me this is about “hate” — I’ve got the same thing to say about that whether we are talking about OSI, NPR, the FSF or something as unredeemable as Wal-Mart: I don’t like paying people to lie to me. Bullshit should always come with a discount — it shouldn’t cost extra.

“Bullshit should always come with a discount — it shouldn’t cost extra.”The reason people hate Microsoft is they hate the abuse that Microsoft dishes out. The fact that Jim Zemlin thinks hating abuse is like kicking a puppy goes to show how sick and twisted he really is (and Linus almost certainly knows this, since Zemlin has clearly spent years abusing him).

Microsoft lies — A LOT. And people don’t like being lied to and taken advantage of. If you can fool them, they might. Microsoft spreads a lot of money around trying to fool people, and we’ve talked a lot about that.

If software is free, it won’t tie you to a bastard monopoly like Microsoft.

Now I wish that handing users over to Microsoft and calling it “Freedom” was the worst thing that the FSF did in the past year — because they’ve done far too much of that. For several years, people have complained that the FSF was handing users over to other unethical proprietary software companies, and attacking free software.

And the FSF has done what about this?

Fixed it?

Encouraged people to fight it?

Admitted there is even a problem?

No! The FSF has done:

NOTHING!!!!!

They’ve actually told users a bunch of crap.

And I wish THAT was the worst thing the FSF has done in the past few years — but it’s not.

There have been several coups (or several coup stages — I’ve counted and named 5 or 6 of them) at the FSF in the past 2 years, and the largest of them is something we warned about — did anybody listen? I guess not.

“Forget about a coup, there ought to be a revolution right about now. And I don’t hold anything against rms, this isn’t his fault. He was played. He was tricked. He was taken advantage of and lied to as much as anybody, if not more. They screwed him over regarding his entire career.”First of all, they Lied to rms. They lied a lot. And rms talks like he was the only victim. Hullo, we actually pay you people. We aren’t just random people sending email, we are also Customers. And whether or not anybody has noticed, THE FSF LIED to COUNTLESS USERS who have supported (with money and volunteering) these assholes for years and years.

They lied to everybody. And what have they done to those responsible?

I’ll give you a hint, it starts with “NOTH-”!

Forget about a coup, there ought to be a revolution right about now. And I don’t hold anything against rms, this isn’t his fault. He was played. He was tricked. He was taken advantage of and lied to as much as anybody, if not more. They screwed him over regarding his entire career.

If you want to know who I hate more than Microsoft, it’s SFC. YOU’RE SCUM, guys. SCUM. Worthless SCUM, and you also lied to everybody. You’re frauds, and I hope you have to fold — but you won’t, because you’re taking money from Google and Microsoft (enemies of copyleft) for CopyleftConf, so rather than fold you’ll simply be absorbed into the whole IBM/Microsoft thing just like the FSF. You’re a complete traitors to everything.

“You’re opportunistic and you vote against the person who gave all of you your “jobs” — unless you count Red Hat and Google.”RMS still believes he’s the head of GNU — and you know what? He should be. Without rms there would BE no GNU. And to remove him you had to have a lot of fraud and a lot of lies and people had to take advantage of those lies and fraud to make it work. You’re all scum, you’re all traitors. And when freedom really is under threat — what do you do?

You’re opportunistic and you vote against the person who gave all of you your “jobs” — unless you count Red Hat and Google.

Of course I’m not talking as much about the people who have sat idly by and said and done nothing. Sure, you’re part of the problem too, but that’s not enough to call you a traitor for. You aren’t ACTIVELY part of the problem. I’d almost thank you. And if you really don’t know, you really can’t be held accountable for that. That’s innocence. Though some of it is a bit naive.

This is an organisation that is vying for trust, but it blew it — all of it.

“You can’t talk about freedom anymore — all you’ve done is crap on it. You can’t talk about trust anymore — all you’ve done is squander it.”This is an organisation that crapped on its founder, and crapped on every decent user that ever supported it.

The FSF is a scam at this point — it wasn’t built on lies, but the “new” FSF is built on fraud and bullshit.

How are you better than IBM and Microsoft? YOU ARE IBM and Microsoft. You need to raise funds? Ask your biggest sponsor to go melt down some more gold teeth. They’re literal Nazis, and you’re in bed with them, taking their money AND doing bad things. Okay, so you’re just taking money from a corporation with one of the most inhumane histories of any company ever. Whatever, I get it.

But once you change and start doing things their way — and you have — then it’s a very big deal that you let them bribe you to do evil.

You can’t talk about freedom anymore — all you’ve done is crap on it. You can’t talk about trust anymore — all you’ve done is squander it.

You don’t deserve to be called the FSF — you’re the BSF now. Heck, you’re FBS. Everything you stand for is DONE. And it’s YOUR fault.

So I’m very sorry rms, but I refuse to support your organisation anymore. For one, it’s not your organisation anymore. It was sold off to IBM. That’s their own fault. Everyone on the board should just GTFO. You’re all bloody useless. You killed it. Piss off! There’s nothing more useless than a board that kills the organisation.

What you all let happen was shameful.

But what’s more — and this is no hyperbole (I wish it was) there’s simply no way to get back what you had. Not just trust — relevance.

From now on, you’ll be “buying” that relevance, and just like no user is free when they sign in to Facebook, no organisation is free that lets itself fail this entirely and All For A Buck. People who aren’t stupid know that non-profits can and do sell out, sure the words “non-profit” make that sound impossible, but there are countless examples to the contrary. Thanks to you, there’s now one more.

When it’s time to deny the fact that you’re all soundbites and rehashed old shit from now on:

“FSF <3 GNU/LINUX!”

You’ll get plenty of help from your good P.R. buddies, and the shills you’ve taken on as volunteers.

“You don’t care about our freedom — You certainly don’t care about rms, and you definitely don’t care about the truth.”All that matters is every donation you get is for a lie.

You don’t care about our freedom — You certainly don’t care about rms, and you definitely don’t care about the truth.

You stabbed your founder in the back — and all of your members.

You are the Former Software Foundation. And I will never, ever support your bullshit.

Nothing is going to bring the “real” FSF back, because it’s dead. You might as well try to bring back Miguel! Do you think you can?

When is the last time a 501(c)3 sold out everybody and actually turned around and went legit again? Has it ever happened?

It’s the stage in the game where everybody has to find a way to fool themselves.

Have fun with that.

I don’t think Free Software is dead, and I do think it will always matter. I hope it will come back soon. You’ll know when it does, because users will matter again. They sure as hell don’t matter to anybody right now — except themselves.

So I told rms he should start a GRASSROOTS free software organisation. He said, “how would that be different?”

“A REAL grassroots free software organisation would have thrown IBM out by now as well, recognising that nothing more toxic than a bunch of CORPORATE NAZIS has ever dragged the FSF down into illegitimacy.”Well for one, it would always have people fighting for it. It wouldn’t have shills in charge, because people like the ones running the FSF right now, would be shoved out the door.

A REAL grassroots free software organisation would have thrown IBM out by now as well, recognising that nothing more toxic than a bunch of CORPORATE NAZIS has ever dragged the FSF down into illegitimacy.

But users can’t do that, because only sponsors matter to the FSF.

Sure, they’ll lie to you and say you matter to them. They’ve been doing that for years.

And you’re welcome to listen to their crap and believe their lies. Heck, everybody I know has believed a lie or two — especially when they wanted to believe.

To paraphrase something rms used to say, “I’m sorry to tell you this, but there is no FSF”.

It’s not like OSI is better, they’re even worse. But the same thing happened to both organisations. The sooner we can stop pretending the FSF can come back from this, the better. Freedom does still matter — and users need self-advocacy. All they’ve got is a bunch of liars trying to start a coup (and a shocking number of those behind the coup are linked to the biggest sponsor).

“I’ve made several predictions — including the ousting of rms and the sale of Red Hat.”It’s not like SFC is better, they’re as bad as OSI!

FSFE is even more corrupt than the FSF is, so screw that.

I’ve made several predictions — including the ousting of rms and the sale of Red Hat. Here’s one more: wait for the FSF to betray users in a big way, AGAIN — very soon. Their true colours are showing up everywhere. All you have to do is wait.

Long live rms, long live Free Software, to hell with the BSF. They’ll never lie to you as well as Microsoft does, but they’ve gotten far too good at it to deserve your money. You shouldn’t help them lie to people, either. The gaslighting from these traitors won’t stop, they work for IBM and Microsoft now — not for rms and certainly not for users.

Licence: Creative Commons CC0 1.0 (public domain)

The GNU Project is Bleeding Into Microsoft (Updated)

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft at 3:35 am by Guest Editorial Team

By Thomas Grzybowski

The bleeding roses

Summary: “A large part of this “loss of integrity” is simply a lack of desire to resist competition, or even recognize the nature of the threat.”

WITHIN the conduct of human endeavors we usually think of Work in the categories of various forms of interpersonal reporting hierarchies, even if sometimes modified into something of a web. You can see these hierarchies when we discuss politics or corporate structures. Yet these paths of influence can often cross nominal boundaries, such as state or national boundaries, or corporate boundaries. Sometimes we can see the boundaries breaking down, with new inter-and-intra-community structures forming. In this flux I see the the GNU Project bleeding into Microsoft.

There are a number of empirical signs of the breakdown of boundaries between Free Software and Microsoft, such as the “Windows Subsystem for Linux”, but most insidious is the movement of GNU development processes onto the Microsoft-hosted platform, GitHub.

If one goes to the GNU Home site where they list their official packages there are some alarming observations to be made:

When you click on: https://gnu.org/software/nana/
Where you actually end up is: https://github.com/pjmaker/nana/

I find this deceptive and very concerning. For a number of important reasons, hosting GNU development on a proprietary Microsoft platform should be verboten. And for users to be programatically redirected away from the GNU site to the Microsoft site is ethically criminal, and foreboding institutional death.

Now try these other GNU projects:

https://gnu.org/software/macchanger

https://gnu.org/software/jwhois

https://gnu.org/software/fribidi

https://gnu.org/software/httptunnel

https://gnu.org/software/which/

https://gnu.org/software/guile-dbi

A sad situation. Interestingly, most of these redirections seem to have made fairly recently, not long after Richard Stallman was ousted. (see update here)

And then there are other disturbing development projects – if you take a look: GNU Bison consistently sees quite a lot of very current activity on GitHub (https://github.com/akimd/bison); and Flex, an important component of GNU Bison, is located entirely GitHub, provided under a BSD license.

https://gnu.org/software/flex/flex.html –> https://github.com/westes/flex ; https://github.com/westes/flex/blob/master/README.md .

GNU Radio, also a GNU project, goes a step further and conducts the major parts of its development cycle on GitHub. It’s not clear that they use the GNU sites for anything other than mirrors.

https://github.com/gnuradio/gnuradio/

https://github.com/gnuradio/gr-dpd/

https://github.com/gnuradio/gnuradio/pulls/

https://github.com/gnuradio/gnuradio/issues/

The growth and attraction of GitHub is based upon a number of factors, especially the social nature of the software development environment. Microsoft primes the pump for a “network effect” through the GitHub project sponsorship program:

https://help.github.com/en/github/supporting-the-open-source-community-with-github-sponsors/about-github-sponsors

Monetary grants given to projects make moving there more attractive, and the monies can be used by the project leader to make the project more attractive to developers. Because the Free and Open Source Software world is interconnected, as each particular migration or action takes place, the effects connect to the community on a global scale. As more and more developers and users become focused towards Microsoft GitHub, the resources and interfaces there become increasingly difficult to resist depending upon, and the paths or streams of community influence become too strong. The GNU Project is being swept away in a river of powerful influences.

Some folks have seen the process described above as a “loss of GNU integrity”, and it is that. But a large part of this “loss of integrity” is simply a lack of desire to resist competition, or even recognize the nature of the threat. Most importantly and most immediately the very core machinery of the Free Software Movement is being undermined and swept away by strong currents into a Microsoft-controlled domain: github.com

Licence: Attribution-ShareAlike CC BY-SA.

06.24.20

Three Steps to a Free Software Reboot

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux at 10:33 pm by Guest Editorial Team

Article by figosdev

CTRL+ALT+DEL sequence

Summary: “Do we teach people to code just so they can be forced to use GitHub, or so that they have a choice, or so they can help us fight against such a monopoly?”

This was going to be called “Three Necessary Ingredients”, but I was reminded of Lawrence Lessig’s address at Dartmouth called “Rebooting Democracy”, and I decided to borrow his CTRL+ALT+DEL sequence.

“We need to take back control of this movement.”The CTRL+ALT+DEL key combination was originally used to reboot a PC, and now gets hooked for other purposes as well. As to why write yet another article like this, it’s no secret that I’ve nearly given up on the free software movement — at least for now. But when people have questions about fixing problems with the free software movement, I often feel the opportunity should not be ignored.

For the moment, I’m particularly enheartened by a comment made to a previous article:

Now that our “platform is burning”, what are the things we should do? Is it still possible to put out the fires? How do we discern friend from foe? As far as I’m concerned, the pragmatic user who doesn’t care about the Libre process is just a tourist and shouldn’t be counted among our numbers. Do we still have sufficient numbers to turn the tide?

I actually liked the entire comment, but maybe this is the part that’s the most important to address. So let’s talk about these three things I think we will need:

CTRL:

We need to take back control of this movement. And by “control” I don’t mean the kind of top-down structure that sponsors have co-opted, I mean in the sense that each user needs to have “control” of their computing. Only a grassroots movement can save one that is centred around a group of 501(c)3 and similar organisations that were co-opted by sponsors.

“Only a grassroots movement can save one that is centred around a group of 501(c)3 and similar organisations that were co-opted by sponsors.”I’m not entirely against these non-profit corporations — they are probably necessary for certain types of goals. When the FSF was founded, it made perfect sense to have a 501(c)3 non-profit for handling things like equipment, donations, office space, and printing costs and merchandise.

We may always need non-profit organisations as some part of what we do, though I don’t know of any that were fully salvaged after being taken over by sponsors (Bill-and-Melinda-Gates-sponsored NPR comes to mind).

“I am wary of the implications of not only Microsoft and IBM but also Google funding so much of what the “free software” movement does lately.”My problem with these organisations is their inherent vulnerability to corporate takeover. It shouldn’t be possible — trying to control a non-profit through obvious-strings-attached deals with for-profit sponsors ought to be against antitrust law, but we know that antitrust law is more rhetoric than anything these days. I am wary of the implications of not only Microsoft and IBM but also Google funding so much of what the “free software” movement does lately.

So even if these organisations prove to be a necessary evil (and I’m not trying to prove they are, only acknowledge what I consider a likelihood) there is a great and non-hypothetical danger in letting them speak for us. When these organisations speak for us, they get co-opted and begin to to stifle conversations that are necessary for us to advocate.

“When these organisations speak for us, they get co-opted and begin to to stifle conversations that are necessary for us to advocate.”I wrote about the dangers of this with regards to rms getting ousted, after the first stage of the coup regarding LibrePlanet — before rms was ousted. I also wrote that ousting rms was not unlike ousting most of us — if he isn’t “allowed” to represent the movement he founded, how permitted are we? Indeed, that was all before the mailing lists were being censored to remove any messages that supported him. So once again, this concern was not only valid — it was later proven realistic.

If we do not find ways to speak for ourselves, and if we do not try to hear each other, we effectively outsource all of that to an organisation that could be run by rms one day, and a global patent troll the next day. As long as we rely on monolithic organisations for advocacy, this proven vulnerability remains.

Obviously maintaining anything other than a fringe advocacy, without relying on some level of centralisation is easier said than done. But it is not unheard of. When it comes to other sorts of rights, there are many different organisations and groups espousing many different points of view. Not only do I consider this natural, but I consider it unavoidable if our goal remains for “all software to be free software”. That was the goal of the free software movement.

“Freedom does not automatically produce choice in all things, but choice is a common byproduct. Its absence is telltale.”I’ve written a lot about ways we could go about decentralising the free software movement, for those of us who are sincere about self-advocacy and not simply trying to drive a wedge into the FSF so that large corporations can take over — that’s what “open source” did, first to OSI and now to the FSF, on behalf of GIAFAM and other corporate interests. The THRIVE guidelines (which are about self-organisation, more than they are about “conduct”) include some of my very best ideas about this.

ALT:

If we expect things to change, we need alternatives to the status quo. Freedom may outrank choice, as some people say — but if you have no choices, it’s unlikely you have any freedom, either. Freedom does not automatically produce choice in all things, but choice is a common byproduct. Its absence is telltale.

“Although I no longer support Devuan, I continue to support the idea of forking distros to remove IBMd.”Free software has a love/hate relationship with choice — those of us who have paid attention are aware of the problems caused by license proliferation. I personally think license proliferation is a negative thing, and exceptions are much rarer than examples. But I am also aware that without forks, LibreOffice would not exist and OpenOffice would likely be proprietary now. Although I no longer support Devuan, I continue to support the idea of forking distros to remove IBMd.

In fact, I support the idea of forking EVERY non-free distro to produce a libre version. The FSF does not. RMS does not. But just as Trisquel is still better than actually using Ubuntu, I firmly believe this holds true for any distro. It holds even more true for distros that offer something no free distro really offers.

Of the current list of “fully-free” distros the FSF endorses, none are as lightweight as Slitaz or as modular as Tiny Core. I have long advocated (to rms and to others) that we create a fully-free version of Tiny Core. In fact I would say that (despite a kernel I would prefer be replaced with Linux-libre or something from HyperbolaBSD) Tiny Core has a greater commitment to freedom than Trisquel at this point.

“But the FSF is not paying attention to any modern threats, and the only “freedom” Trisquel offers you now is something very cynical.”The definition of “fully-free” that puts linux-libre above all else, but allows IBM and Microsoft (via systemd and the Linux Foundation) to co-opt practically all functionality is overly specific and lacking the vigilance needed for the user to be free. I think for the most part, it’s a good definition. But the FSF is not paying attention to any modern threats, and the only “freedom” Trisquel offers you now is something very cynical.

Trisquel was the distro that made me switch to fully-free and Linux-libre in the first place, and as recently as Trisquel 8 I made an automated remix that replaces systemd with upstart — even on the live DVD. This relied on upstart being in the repos, which I highly doubt is a permanent fix.

I spent no more than a day or two on that automated remaster script, and at least one person asked me to share the workings of it (it’s free software, but consultation sometimes beats documentation) so they could create a similar project. I wanted to demonstrate the idea, and to be able to say it had been done. But I don’t think Trisquel cares about your freedom anymore. I believe they think they do.

“Modularity is the closest that “one-size-fits-all” can get to pleasing every individual’s needs.”It’s not just that we need more distros. We need more software that respects the user’s right to NOT run the software — we need more software that is not designed to push YOU into using a thousand other things you don’t want at all.

And I think this was an intrinsic, de facto part of free software from the beginning, which we ignored the importance of until it was half-gone. I think this is the primary route (apart from lies, threats and bribery) that enabled corporations to take over free software. The 10th THRIVE guideline says:

Communities should avoid, as much as possible and practical, efforts to lock other users into their software or distributions. The more important and popular (and fundamental) the software is, the more modular and optional and flexible the software should ideally be. Even the distro itself should become more modular and universal — via thoughtful design conventions, rather than rigid and demanding standards.

As long as we are free to be different, we will have differences. Modularity is the closest that “one-size-fits-all” can get to pleasing every individual’s needs. In fact I think it’s unlikely that computing will ever take care of your every need. Sometimes what you need is pen-and-paper. Sometimes what you need is a completely new idea. If computing took care of every possible need, what would be the point of writing new software ever again?

Corporations try to corral us into their one-size-fits-all plans because that’s what gives them the most power to control users. They practice colonialism, and denounce (and even fear) our ability to form tribes.

“Corporations try to corral us into their one-size-fits-all plans because that’s what gives them the most power to control users.”Tribes are the antithesis of the sort of control that corporations want. This is why “tribalism” is such a dirty word to people who used to work at IBM and Microsoft. They want us to be “unified” — under their control. Empires promise everlasting peace to those they consider savages, but first you must give yourself over to the empire. Eventually you will learn that their promises were lies.

Our ability to celebrate (and yes, sometimes argue about) our differences scares them, whenever they can’t use it to cynically give themselves more power over what we do. They are supposed to have control over the narrative, control over our computing — control over everything we do. They would even like control over what differences we are allowed (and not allowed) to have or even talk about. Tribes are chaos to such schemes. But freedom isn’t bothered.

“Empires promise everlasting peace to those they consider savages, but first you must give yourself over to the empire. Eventually you will learn that their promises were lies.”This isn’t to say that every kind of chaos helps. It’s a known fact that GIAFAM have introduced their own preferred forms of chaos into our movement so that they can take control in the aftermath. The FSF is now unfortunately as good an example of this as any. But it’s worth mentioning that the form of “chaos” we represent to them is simply being true to ourselves and not all being the same corporate cookie-cutter person. The form of chaos GIAFAM spreads is the means to an end, where they get more control than before.

As for cloning rms, I am alright with the idea of a thousand rms clones, provided that they think and speak for themselves. I’m not bothered by leaders and followers — I find parrots who simply regurgitate words without serious critical thought (with outsourced values) to be much creepier. Talking to people like that is like talking to a wall.

But you also can’t expect people to just change their minds because you’re “right” and they’re “wrong” — even if your position does have more merit in any context you can imagine, people just don’t work that way. We want to advocate for freedom — to make the very best arguments for it we can, and invite other people to do the same.

“The sincerest form of advocacy isn’t something that can run on auto-pilot.”If there’s a phrasebook (or a dictionary) we all have to regurgitate lines from, that isn’t any kind of “freedom” I’m interested in. If you really are an advocate, you’ll have to learn to support the lines you repeat with your own words and your own thoughts and feelings. The sincerest form of advocacy isn’t something that can run on auto-pilot.

I have cautiously promoted the idea of linking together free software with other ideas. The FSFE (an organisation I have zero admiration for) has done this with veganism, for example. I have proposed that anti-capitalists create their own free software organisation, but this sort of thing is just an example though, and part of something broader and more universal.

If we really want all software to be free software, that includes specialty software. To design specialty software for various groups, those various groups need to have input — and possibly even training. I don’t think one organisation can possibly satisfy those needs — it makes more sense from a sheer laws of physics (and theory of communication) perspective that we would have smaller organisations for special purposes, possibly linked together by voluntary (optional) umbrella organisations. These organisations can (and possibly ought to) remain smaller, by virtue of not taking on too many tasks.

“If we really want all software to be free software, that includes specialty software.”But I am cautious to promote that because I realise that side-interests have co-opted free software already. If that is inevitable, we need to find a better way to deal with that inevitability than we have done so far — I think we can have specialised free software organisations, but the danger of having free software co-opted is always there. If we have many different organisations with many different side-interests, perhaps it will be necessary (and thus hopefully encouraged) that we NOT let a single interest take over for all the others. Free software is the thing we have in common.

So I encourage anti-capitalists to create their own anti-capitalist free software organisation — to promote both free software and anti-capitalism as they think best. This does not mean I think all free software organisations need to adopt such a stance. That’s the difference, and I think that’s important.

Above all, alternatives are about the freedom to try new ideas — this is important to science as well as philosophy, and the idea of calling a user “free” when they have no opportunity to try new things seems very cynical to me.

“Freedom and Vigilance do go hand in hand, though to be truly free you must also be able to resist efforts that are made to enslave everyone — even when those efforts are seductive and more comfortable.”Sometimes the worst ideas — about dragging everyone in the same direction regardless of what they want, are presented as “the freedom to do something different”. I believe in that freedom, but I certainly don’t believe forcing everybody to do the same thing has anything to do with the freedom to try new things.

DEL:

The commenter from the other article asked if we still have enough people we can count among ourselves. I ask myself that all the time, and I don’t know the answer. There’s a bit of a Catch-22 to get past here, in that we won’t know how many there are to fix this until enough of us are promoting something that appeals to them.

If every effort to establish freedom for the user is met with 12 offers to sell the user out — or even sell ourselves out — we need to be able to practice saying “No”.

This is another reason why the freedom to NOT run the software is so important — if you haven’t developed the ability to say “No”, then it means nothing when you say “Yes” and are agreeable. If you are only agreeable (as people are encouraged to be as a matter of course these days) then you are not acting with agency — you are preaching Freedom without any concept of what it is actually like.

“If enough people are saying “No” at the same time — even if they aren’t all saying no to exactly the same things, they will eventually be heard.”Freedom and Vigilance do go hand in hand, though to be truly free you must also be able to resist efforts that are made to enslave everyone — even when those efforts are seductive and more comfortable. Nobody can expect everyone to be stoic — but the very idea of Civil Disobedience that inspired Gandhi and King was coined by a minimalist — a person who repeatedly said “no” to many of the things that keep life from being simple, as well as many of the things that keep life from being questioned.

If we do not question our way of life then we cannot change it — we are stuck waiting for someone else to give us the means, on their terms. We cannot have freedom without questioning. There is no surer way to question your everyday habits than to step outside of them, as much as possible — to do something completely differently for comparison.

If we question more and more, if we become sceptics of the elaborate monstrosity that computing invariably becomes when we don’t have control, again and again I believe we will find that minimalism is always closer to freedom than excess — and I don’t tell you this from a mountaintop or a monastery. Even Thoreau (so I’m told) went to his mother’s house to do laundry. At least half the benefit of minimalism is in the effort to get there.

If you are looking for a place to get started, my advice will usually include a boycott of some kind. Boycott everything — boycott all software, if it pleases you. But if you can’t boycott all software, at least try to use as little software from GitHub (sadly, that’s most of it now) as possible. And when you discover that includes parts of the GNU project, boycott that as much as possible. And maybe eventually, we can drag Perl out of Microsoft’s clutches and get GNU Automake working again.

But since virtually all software seems to require either Perl or libFFI or zlib1g (all GitHub) at some stage, boycotting all software is the logical solution. Boycotting as much as possible is the practical solution. Changing nothing is the non-solution.

“But ultimately we need to teach the teachers computer literacy (too many were taught that computer literacy is the ability to use applications, nothing else — like using an Office program means you understand the computer and aren’t helpless once the application closes or does something peculiar) — too many literacy programmes are centred around making people proficient with a specific Brand of computing solutions.”If enough people are saying “No” at the same time — even if they aren’t all saying no to exactly the same things, they will eventually be heard. And possibly even answered.

Finally: “Rebooting” Implies Booting —

Getting things started again means we need places to start. And while I would have said “Start with the boycott” (and by all means, feel free to!) it’s more reasonable to start at the beginning. We need to learn and preserve history, to get a better idea of where we are.

If you take that to mean history in general, so be it — though I’m referring to the history of computing, the history of things like copyright and patents which (for better or worse) have had profound impacts on our freedom — software wasn’t even copyrightable in the USA until 1980, locking up software required an NDA prior to that. If you want to fight GIAFAM you need to learn about your enemy. It also helps to learn about our heroes (for one, it shows what utter propaganda we’ve been dealing with for the past few years). And I’m referring to the history of the free software movement.

All of this is context that gives us more power over our lives. Knowledge is power, and learning is a powerful workout.

When I talk about creating free software organisations for various purposes, I don’t only mean different intersections with politics. I also mean a free software organisation that specialises in education. I’d still like to see computer literacy initiatives that work with teachers to design tools they understand and can teach more powerfully with.

But ultimately we need to teach the teachers computer literacy (too many were taught that computer literacy is the ability to use applications, nothing else — like using an Office program means you understand the computer and aren’t helpless once the application closes or does something peculiar) — too many literacy programmes are centred around making people proficient with a specific Brand of computing solutions. This is deliberate and suits the owners of the brand, but it is a cynical miseducation.

“Do we teach people to code just so they can be forced to use GitHub, or so that they have a choice, or so they can help us fight against such a monopoly?”Teaching everyone to code is still the best route to universal literacy in my opinion, though how we do that makes all the difference. Do we teach people to code just so they can be forced to use GitHub, or so that they have a choice, or so they can help us fight against such a monopoly? How and what we teach makes all the difference.

To make all this work, I think we need to do a lot of collaborative research. This doesn’t mean putting all our eggs in one basket, or all our faith in a single institution. The dangers of doing that are well demonstrated by now. Nor should we simply trust everybody. Instead, we should gradually establish a broad, grassroots network of networks (just like the internet itself) and work together to figure all this stuff out.

How should we organise that? On each of our own terms. That’s not just the cost of freedom, it’s the benefit as well. And I don’t think we should torture ourselves with boring institutional learning, unless that’s what you feel driven to do. Instead, think of the Wright brothers. To succeed where others failed, they took it upon themselves to learn whatever they could about the subject — they were pioneers, not experts, nor were there classes they could take on how to produce powered flight — such “hooey” was discouraged by most of the day’s scientists as frivolous and stupid.

“The next free software movement won’t always be comfortable for the user, and not all the conversations will be pleasant because that’s how things work in real life — and it will all require some pioneering.”They started small, building working models of increasing size, until they had an airplane that could carry a pilot — all they needed was the engine. They also knew that for their model to create lift, it required flying against the wind. They accomplished what no one else had through lots of curiosity, reading, experimentation, and iteration.

The next free software movement won’t always be comfortable for the user, and not all the conversations will be pleasant because that’s how things work in real life — and it will all require some pioneering. But it could still be fun, sometimes. Flying against the wind is something you can feel, and I think most aviators would consider it worthwhile.

Love live rms, and happy hacking.

Licence: Creative Commons CC0 1.0 (public domain)

06.23.20

Microsoft Layoffs, Second Time in Less Than a Month (and People Lose Their ‘Mixer’)

Posted in Microsoft at 12:46 am by Guest Editorial Team

A crying Ukrainian kid: I gave everything to Microsoft. But it wasn't profitable to Microsoft. So they flushed it all down the toilet.

Summary: The corporate media or most of the news right now would rather have us focused on Facebook (not Mixer layoffs [1, 2] and shutdown); GitHub may be next as it loses lots of money; it’s all about control and leverage, nothing else

06.22.20

The Implications of an Increasingly Corporate FSF

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FSF at 9:45 pm by Guest Editorial Team

Article by figosdev

The corporate wear

Summary: “Who’s going to defend our 4 freedoms then? The people who bribed the watchdogs? The people who decapitated our organisations?”

The Cumberland Science Museum once held a simple exhibit in optics that you can recreate at home: a pane of glass with lights on either side, that allowed those seated to dim or brighten the lights on their side. You can achieve this at home after dark, if you have switches for lights outdoors as well as indoors.

“…Mozilla (who is upstream from GNU IceCat) is hiring people from Microsoft and getting Microsoft cozier with Rust — a language that is not only based on Microsoft GitHub, but one you need in order to compile IceCat.”If the lights are brighter on your side than the opposite, your side will act as a mirror and show your reflection; people on the opposite side will see you. If the lights on your side are dimmer than the opposite side, people on that side will see their reflection (the glass is opaque) and the glass will appear transparent from your perspective.

This is not unlike what’s going on right now at the FSF, where things are increasingly transparent for corporations, but for the rest of us they are increasingly opaque. And while that may be a fun opening for an article, the implications of this aren’t very fun at all.

While GNU Radio, GNU Bison and GNUstep (along with several GNU maintainers from Red Hat — a company now owned by the FSF’s largest corporate sponsor) drag the GNU project further into Microsoft’s clutches, Mozilla (who is upstream from GNU IceCat) is hiring people from Microsoft and getting Microsoft cozier with Rust — a language that is not only based on Microsoft GitHub, but one you need in order to compile IceCat.

“Yes, they like to pretend that Source = Transparency, but tell that to the spooks who approached Torvalds because they wanted a backdoor.”The FSF claims to be against imposing DRM on the user — from this standpoint it is not only understandable, but welcome, that IceCat ships with EME (the now standard DRM for the web) disabled from about:config. From a freedom-respecting standpoint, this is the least they can do.

You have to wonder if we will be so lucky when DRM ships with the Linux kernel itself. Of course I’m not referring to Direct Rendering, but Digital Restrictions Management. As that sort of ugliness creeps into the kernel, one hopes this too will be shipped with it turned off (or removed if necessary).

The nice thing about free software is that it comes with the source and a free license. This means that if everything else breaks down, you can still pore over the code and mirror it — whatever that may cost — these days it seems a lot of projects cant find it in their budgets to host their own code, let alone mirror it; as they keep moving to GitHub because it’s “free”. But we are also free (as in permitted) to host the code they couldn’t justify the costs of hosting themselves.

“Tell that to the Microsoft engineers who design everything around the fact that they control updates more than you do. These are the same people gaining control of Mozilla, Python, the Linux kernel, and (very gradually) the GNU project.”I have personally (often with tools informed of what I was looking for) sifted through gigabytes of source because its less bother than navigating the labyrinthine channels of doubletalk and broken promises that pass for news, forums and mailing lists these days. Yes, they like to pretend that Source = Transparency, but tell that to the spooks who approached Torvalds because they wanted a backdoor.

Tell that to the Microsoft engineers who design everything around the fact that they control updates more than you do. These are the same people gaining control of Mozilla, Python, the Linux kernel, and (very gradually) the GNU project.

The problem with the Source = Transparency equation, is that we didn’t just have the source. It’s a very nice thing to fall back on, as a last resort. But the fact is that what we called “transparency” in the days when these things were built, went a lot farther.

“We had a Mozilla that would still have said “NO” to DRM — we had a kernel that wasn’t controlled by several people from Microsoft.”It was source, plus a tech press that wasn’t entirely in these corporate pockets, plus mailing lists that weren’t being stress-tested to see how many lies they can hold without buckling. And you had watchdog organisations (including Mozilla, though more importantly the FSF and debatably, OSI) that were far less compromised.

As the FSF is being hollowed out, as if by termites, Big Blue (along with Big Red) is propping up the structure so it doesn’t collapse — at least not on them. But who brought the termites, and who fired the exterminators? We didn’t just have the source, we had the source and a functioning Free Software Foundation.

We had the source and a functioning FSF, and a non-ousted leader. We had a less-bribed tech press, who were owned by a larger number of corporations (then at least 6; now 5). We had a Mozilla that would still have said “NO” to DRM — we had a kernel that wasn’t controlled by several people from Microsoft.

“If we turn around, what do we find? Do we find that GNOME has SETTLED with patent blackmailers?”You can’t even count the number of side-channel attacks, (we didn’t mention the lobbying against copyleft, by SPONSORS of CopyleftConf!) but people keep on with the mantra of Source = Transparency. And with the sliders out of our hands, all the side-channel processes that used to throw their weight behind the source when it came to transparency, become more opaque for us and more transparent for the likes of Microsoft and IBM.

What’s truly hilarious about IBM and Microsoft controlling free software more and more all the time, is that — not only are they still suing us for control of the software we wrote to be free — they’re the same companies (or they controlled, leveraged or bought the same companies) who controlled our computing before we declared freedom! So one day we were fighting against them, and the next day, when we were supposedly winning, we said “Hey, you know what? Why don’t we go over to your side?”

“Do we find that while these people talk about “transparency” it’s been 3/4 of a year since the founder was ousted on predominantly bogus terms, and the FSF still has two presidents, neither of whom can possibly tell us when things will be back to “normal”?”I mean if you can beat them, why not join them — as they fight against us? It only makes sense, right? We just won’t call it fighting, we’ll give it some other name and everything’s cool now.

But we actually lost the fight against DRM becoming a web standard, I guess that’s okay as long as we have the source to IceCat, and we lost most of the people who would keep watch and tell us if something rotten happened, but that’s okay as long as we have the source, I guess — and we lost the founder of the organisation that fought the most for our freedom, but that’s okay, because he still controls the GNU Project.

And of course, he asks people not to move parts of GNU Project to GitHub and they do it anyway, but that’s okay, because we still have the source code, amiright?

“GNU leadership petition (about 1/3 of which was people from Red Hat, the biggest FSF sponsor)”It’s like we are staring at the front door, while people come through the back or the side and take everything in the house, but that’s alright — the door is still right there! If anybody messes with the door, we will be sure to find it right there in the source code!

If we turn around, what do we find? Do we find that GNOME has SETTLED with patent blackmailers? That rms actually runs the GNU Project about as much as the Queen actually runs England? Do we find that while these people talk about “transparency” it’s been 3/4 of a year since the founder was ousted on predominantly bogus terms, and the FSF still has two presidents, neither of whom can possibly tell us when things will be back to “normal”?

Nor can they tell us what happened to the founder’s personal website.

“None of what’s going on is legitimate, the FSF is simply rotting from the inside and getting propped up by the biggest sponsors.”So you had a coup over LibrePlanet, then we predicted a coup at the FSF which now has happened — a coup to oust the president, then someone tampered with his website to make it look like he didn’t control the GNU Project anymore. In the context of all else, too little was made of that event, because it was clearly part of a coup that remains ongoing.

Let’s count the stages of the coup here:

1. LibrePlanet petition
2. FSF presidency
3. GNU leadership petition (about 1/3 of which was people from Red Hat, the biggest FSF sponsor)
4. GNU leader’s personal website tampered with
5. Ongoing (separate) GNU petition (months later, as recently as April of this year?)

We already mentioned the 5th stage, that one keeps going even now.

None of what’s going on is legitimate, the FSF is simply rotting from the inside and getting propped up by the biggest sponsors. Even if that didn’t match a lot of well-known corporate takeover strategies, it still obviously is one.

“Every aspect of everything to do with free software is now compromised, until we get the source code as our “receipt” of getting screwed over.”But gee, gosh, which corporations are trying to take over?

Those two? Really? Again? I guess antitrust law really is dead. You can buy all the non-profit orgs you want to, these days.

So back to being a poor user here — who are you supposed to get real answers from, since you have transparency? Because while it’s nice that we have the source, every process that has anything to do with:

1. Development
2. Distribution
3. Watchdogging
4. Organisational structure
5. Communication

Every aspect of everything to do with free software is now compromised, until we get the source code as our “receipt” of getting screwed over. You can email rms right now — you can poke at him for months, it won’t get you any closer to the answers you want or need as a concerned user or free software supporter. You can talk to all THREE presidents — the former, the figurehead, and the corporate puppet — but you won’t get useful answers. Who has them?

“Everything on GitHub is already run by Microsoft — including GNU Bison and Perl, which are used to build everything that uses GNU automake.”This is the FSF In Absentia, and OSI is already run by Microsoft. Red Hat is already run by IBM. (But they say it isn’t, so that’s cool). Everything on GitHub is already run by Microsoft — including GNU Bison and Perl, which are used to build everything that uses GNU automake.

Are we still pretending that this is going to turn around? Because when you do turn around, there’s nothing there.

It’s just a reflection, the ghost of free software.

It’s just a corporation now — and if anybody still cared about the reality that allowed the free software movement to be built, they would be just as worried about the fact that all those elements are in fact now missing, and missing at roughly the same time.

“Who’s going to defend our 4 freedoms then? The people who bribed the watchdogs? The people who decapitated our organisations?”But hey, we still have the source code, Tra La La La La… but who is going to fight for our right to host it? (And to Use it, and Study it, and Change and Share it?) We have the source code and a license, so we don’t need a working, transparent FSF? (“Oh you can see our financial…”) YEAH, BUT THAT’S NOT WHAT WE ASKED YOU GUYS, IS IT?

No real answers = No real organisation. Because puppets can’t really talk!

Who’s going to defend our 4 freedoms then? The people who bribed the watchdogs? The people who decapitated our organisations? The people who can’t, won’t answer your questions, but who will just deflect them? The GNU maintainers who are more loyal to Microsoft GitHub than rms, who make fun of users’ concerns in the mailing lists?

“The GNU maintainers who are more loyal to Microsoft GitHub than rms, who make fun of users’ concerns in the mailing lists?”There’s nothing left of it but smoke and mirrors, and (when the lights come back) the big monopolies we spent more than 30 years gaining independence from. Remember that? More than 30 YEARS!

We sure showed those guys!

Long live rms, and — Whatever, I guess!

Licence: Creative Commons CC0 1.0 (public domain)

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