11.25.20

The Non-Technical (or Lesser Technical) Software User That Wants Software Freedom

Posted in BSD, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux at 12:44 pm by Guest Editorial Team

Open Letter to Figosdev from Mogz (a reply to this one)

Duck with Slinky

Summary: Assuming that Free software should care about what users — not only developers — really want (and need) it’s important to understand how they view the current situation (with growing waves of corporate takeover and compromises, even expulsions)

First, thank you very much for posting your open letter, and for registering my genuine concern that free software succeed, and for apologies. I really appreciate that a lot, and thank you for taking the time to respond in detail. I apologize also, for the delay in response (ill health delayed me finding your letter). Very interesting to also read your commendable history of contributing, and past posts. Reading the quotes and your responses is bringing more clarity to my questions and concerns, so thank you for that.

For example, I realise that I need to make it clearer that part of what I’m addressing is a resource loop-hole, non-tech users who deeply care about privacy/freedoms. More about that later.

Winter Fun seriesI understand what you’re saying regarding [Alex] Oliva [who] won’t fork, thus Linux won’t be fixed, and that integral large packages (perl, python) can’t be forked, and too few devs to fork halfbuzz, plus the Gnu Project aren’t making the effort to fork what they could. It was actually a relief to read things in your response that nobody else ever says, such as most devs don’t care about users/freedoms, about having contributed to bad projects, who is fine with mixing with github … that makes the list a lot shorter regarding who/what to give energy and time to, also. I don’t find it depressing to have a clear bullet-list that shortens my own list, so I can double down on what IS positive. Stopping paying attention to users/devs who ignore problems, who don’t take things seriously, for example, is very uplifting to realise further, too; no more writing to some main linux youtubers (nb not gardner) and receiving no responses, for example! To read that you too are fed up with the attitude to users is very heartening, as nobody says this stuff. No longer feeling like some kind of lone crazy person, lol. And when people see mirrored their own real feelings, they definitely feel they can relate, and it can move them to be part of things.

“I see BSD is being pointed to as the ‘bunker’, but that is a big step for any non-tech people.”There’s been an unnerving journey of realising what’s going on, but, if the only people talking about this stuff are saying it’s all too rotten to fix, that has to be looked at seriously, along with my own experiences, observations and concerns to date. A main thing I live by is that there’s a time comes when stepping out and away from something becomes critical; that frees up energies for what is timely and important to move onto, and to not step away would jeopardize what CAN be safeguarded and built in the new space. As long as everything’s been examined and understood fully before taking such a clear step, better to observe from a distance and be doing something positive with life, rather than go down with the ship.

You asked directly what sort of hope I want to see … really clear bottom-line summary about how things are, which the letter from you is already covering more. Also, what people can do, and HOW (for non-techs), in order to maintain the freedom/privacy/values that are so important.

I don’t mean about coddling infants, as you reference, but those who don’t have any tech DNA yet want to get on the BSD ship/into the new place, to support free software, respect, privacy, care about users, but know they just can’t get their head around that without clear instruction. The corporate are dumbing people down by the year, ‘bread and circuses’, ‘leave it to us’, ‘we make your life easy’ (as we siphon off ALL your data and make money) … they want people’s energies, power, everything, whereas what I mean is what empowers people, the ladder that can get them into that place, where they can then do what they do best, contributing in other ways. You can’t give a jet to someone and expect them to fly it, but if they’re a passenger on the jet, they could be a doctor, a lawyer, anything non-tech, but still play a critical part.

“If the talk all the time is about values and who/what cares about users, then let’s care about the users, actively and practically, helping them to find a ‘bunker’ and batten down those hatches, as they wait for the albeit large tornado to pass, and meanwhile can do what they can in the ‘bunker’ to hatch something new.”I see BSD is being pointed to as the ‘bunker’, but that is a big step for any non-tech people. Can there be a beginner series on running an easily installable BSD, to get non-tech people started? Are there a few people willing to do that? Are there any very beginner tutorials anywhere already, all in one place and up to date? How many non-tech users, who deeply care about privacy/freedoms, read Techrights? Are most of them lurkers, since privacy/being offline is so important to them? I have many questions, lol. If a series were done, it could be shared all across the Linux places? So even non-techs, who could number far more than realised, can take part? adding important numbers of people who really care. There’s a very vocal part to Linux, and it tends to be those pushing for Wayland and the corporate and gaming … no wonder those who care about the freedoms, or are non-tech, may often be found increasingly offline, but will be reading articles, and wondering HOW to function and, in parallel, how to add to the numbers actively making important shifts.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m talking about bringing more on board those who care about the values. I have no ability or desire to code, or become more tech … I want only to support the freedoms, values, respect, the space where people can be themselves and as happy as possible. That is the only reason I crossed over to Linux. I leave the technical aptitude to those who practice that so well, who have that DNA, while I do what I do best.

So many new users have come over in the last year. People who care and want to contribute tend to want a clear list to get on with, to know how serious things are, at the same time as beginner instruction on HOW to exit from Linux. They’re the sort of people we want, who care about privacy/freedom/respect/values, so how do we get them to the ‘bunker’, even if that ‘bunker’ is e.g. at first a non-ideal BSD install, but at least a starting place to learn, and with clear tutorials as a main priority? Get everyone who cares to the best place possible, where they can function and have a foundation that doesn’t feel like shifting sands; then the new can come through when possible.

“Those good at tech can do an incredible contribution by distilling what they know into a simple clear set of tutorials.”I can’t possibly be the only privacy-conscious and non-tech person on Linux?! So please don’t mistake any of what I say as me trying to get personal help for me; I know ‘go offline’ is my answer, if there’s no other way, but I’ve believed for a long time that there must be many users similar to myself, but who won’t speak up or ask … that’s been a theme in my life, and anyone’s life who can’t stand by and say nothing, when it comes to the crunch … and there’s always others afterwards who say they agreed! Those people can read and ACT independently, no head above the parapet stuff, via clear tutorials, and that shifts things away from the negative corporate who treat Linux as their resource to mine, and it really matters that the corporate, and corporate-supporting, lose the numbers and influence, and any kind of attention. Providing very clear tutorials would end up being very low-maintenance overall, once the tutorials are done. Gathering those in one place is also very important, rather than lots of bits everywhere that may be old or new, accurate or not. I understand you will have your own life and commitments, so my question is an open one, about if there are people who would do tutorials.

To jump to covering the depression part a bit more … it is definitely not about avoiding the real truth, which ends up freeing people up to go where IS positive. If others are reading messages mainly pointing out what is depressing, they can get the message nobody else is going to do anything, and everything’s too difficult, which makes their fight harder, and makes getting involved just about impossible. It can seize them up. ‘Let’s all be depressed together’ doesn’t work, in this instance, except briefly at the start, to know we’re all on the same page.

Just to reference the ‘not enough work/effort is going in’ too … that can’t be where things stop, and is certainly not what’s written on my page. If the talk all the time is about values and who/what cares about users, then let’s care about the users, actively and practically, helping them to find a ‘bunker’ and batten down those hatches, as they wait for the albeit large tornado to pass, and meanwhile can do what they can in the ‘bunker’ to hatch something new. Rolling over and saying we’re defeated is what the corporate want … no freedoms, privacy, respect, happiness, stable space to function, etc. There’s loads can be done about shifting across to BSD, that can bring in a lot more people that normally can’t, or have tried, to be involved in the movement. Such articles can add to the already very good truthful articles, and inspire people, and article writers, helping to generate momentum in shifting across to BSD, making it doable, if that is the definite consensus about where we all need to be going.

Those good at tech can do an incredible contribution by distilling what they know into a simple clear set of tutorials. Just as with drawing on how many non-tech users there are out there, those with tech ability not sharing what they know would be a big loss. It’s uncomfortable to be asking regarding doing this initial outlay, but if it brings in lots of non-techs who care about what matters, and the move across to BSD can gain big momentum, that could buoy everyone up and really achieve something productive. I’d rather it be me rattling off all the tutorials, but that’s a complete non-starter. I can follow very clear tutorials and be part of the shift, supporting the freedoms, caring about users, and I can contribute art to the cause. There’s no way I would put these ideas on the table if I wasn’t willing to contribute something in kind, and I know I would regret it later if I didn’t ask now.

Would expanding the range of articles be something useful to do? … focusing on other things e.g. those stepping away and how they’re doing it, those dropping big tech and how great that is, those who left working for big tech and how they’re doing better things now, how hyperbolaBSD is coming along/interview … after the critical tutorials about how to cross over! Articles from non-techs who’ve been able to go to BSD via the tutorials? How many more users does BSD have this year? By all means, the clear truth, but also articles that cover the features of the better place we all want to inhabit. Just throwing out some ideas, in case anything is useful.

“And, as you rightly say, covering the difference between open source and free software is very important; another tutorial!”Let’s also remember that the corporate psychopaths have many blind spots, not caring about or being able to recognise the things we do, thus not able to come up with the appropriate solutions either … yes, they read and watch, and their answer to everything seems to be ‘shut them down’/’invade their space’, never dialogue or connect, but there are far more non-psychopaths in the world than psychopaths, otherwise there wouldn’t have been 30 years of Linux before this corporate/psychopathic stuff started to rear it’s head. The tech sites that promote the corporate etc want us to believe there aren’t enough good people out there to make a difference, and such as Red Hat, showing their cards the very next morning like that, wasn’t very bright, so not crediting them with lots of real wisdom seems a wise thing to do!

Interesting to read the work you’ve done. I too worked with the homeless, but in non-tech ways. Background of lots of carework, then art (digital). I didn’t know about your remastering tool! It would be great to see the article about that, and maybe others reading, or just finding, TechRights don’t know about it also.

“Art can certainly lift people, get things expressed, be very unifying (in the traditional pre-PC/diversity way), and literally brightens up the world.”Thank you again for your response, and it’s refreshing to dialogue and get clearer on things, my wish being that all kinds of users can be involved, including non-techs, as, beyond all the ‘stuff’, I’m certain there are doable things that can really shift things along more in the direction we want to go, and the more numbers the better and faster things can shift.

The more I think about this, the more I think creating that place we need involves bringing in all types of user and very clear and basic documentation, as numbers and the how-to are integral to that creation. Potential new users today, who’ve just realised they need to make a shift, could see a set of BSD tutorials that are actually easier to understand than Linux documentation, and just go straight to BSD, for example. People need to be informed, included, and to have the tools, then the numbers just keep rising, along with those good at tech, and that new space takes shape. And, as you rightly say, covering the difference between open source and free software is very important; another tutorial! lol.

I agree that a non-corporate community/usergroup(s) is very important; no egos, no diversity, no PC, but just basically be decent, which I think would be there, when people are making effort to do something because they care about people being free and are all working together on the same page. None of your ‘giafam’s okay’ half-hearteds! It would also need to be solidly private/encrypted, so no big tech can get in and threaten or harm people. Maybe we’re all watching to see which of the new communities pan out better, but there needs to be one secure one we all know of and go to, yes? Gathering information, tutorials, whatever is the ladder to get more people on board, and into a new space. Information and energy frittered everywhere doesn’t seem to be working for Linux as well as it could now, so one central place is definitely important. Some direction on that I feel is important too, so users know what is the best place, where are people at, etc. I can’t access the Slated site, but understand what you’re saying about big tech’s agenda and the ways they try to take people’s freedom and power.

“My conclusion, when trying various non-systemd distros, was that it was all about enclaves and either deliberate or broken-tech barriers, which, despite relating to them wanting their own space, made it impossible to take part in moving away from systemd.”I haven’t heard Free Culture spoken of, and need to look up Lessig, for sure, so thanks for pointing me that way. Art can certainly lift people, get things expressed, be very unifying (in the traditional pre-PC/diversity way), and literally brightens up the world. Creative people tend to have plenty of ideas and inspiration to draw on, to apply to real world issues, too, so I look forward to reading more about Free Culture and what others are doing with that at this point. Great to hear that there is openness to free-as-in-freedom art being a good contribution, too! I need to balance what I do with health issues, but am used to working around that, and would be able to reliably contribute art, for sure; my pleasure.

I couldn’t agree more about Devuan too. My conclusion, when trying various non-systemd distros, was that it was all about enclaves and either deliberate or broken-tech barriers, which, despite relating to them wanting their own space, made it impossible to take part in moving away from systemd. Every non-systemd distro I tried that week ended up the same. So thanks for not recommending Devuan, lol. I run Anarchy and Mate, not ideal but as lean as possible, at this point, so fully agree with tidying up a small distro. Debian seems a massive monolith, and definitely looks like an overwhelming amount for anyone to take on. Getting away from the problems is definitely good. Am up for the adventure, for getting away from the dark, to somewhere where things can get done, in freedom and stability.

From this self-advocator, who will never stop championing what enables people to have choice and freedom, and who doesn’t feel quite as out in the forest as I did, thanking you again for not being one of those who shunned, and instead is refreshingly direct and fair, signing off for now.

11.01.20

Ashtrays of Human Rights and Tech Rights

Posted in BSD, Debian, GNU/Linux, Kernel at 10:29 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Travellers

Summary: The way things are going, especially so far this year, we’re going to have to become a lot more active (in the activism sense) and campaign for better society; repression has soared during the COVID-19 pandemic and further exacerbated due to Donald Trump’s fear of losing the election, only to be held belatedly accountable for his crimes (he already jokes aloud about having to escape the US in case he loses the impending election)

THIS coming week chaos and violence are predicted in — and for — the United States (we’ll spare the links; there’s no lack of them). We’ve already taken note of which corporate candidate is less harmful and which one is less harmless (double negation because we’re excited about neither candidate).

“2020 was an extraordinarily scary year for the “tech rights” of people; privacy is increasingly being framed as a health hazard…”The world is going in a very negative direction, putting aside the health crisis. People tend to focus on human rights aspects, such as asylum-seeking and race-baiting. We try to remain focused on technology because it’s a subject we understand better and are suitably equipped to comment on.

2020 was an extraordinarily scary year for the “tech rights” of people; privacy is increasingly being framed as a health hazard (some places go as far as banning cash payments as if coins or banknotes are the most potent infection vector, not people speaking to each other’s face in some pub with uncovered beverages/drink glasses). It was Halloween yesterday and not a single family/child knocked on our door (eerily unusual) because we’re going into lock-down in a few days and people don’t trust each others’ palms (or even objects that touched those palms). This sort of “new normal” makes organising for change a lot harder, except digitally.

Linus PaulingSome readers might choose to feel or actually be “offended” by the view that next week (or later this week, if Sunday is judged to be a week’s first day) we still won’t know who becomes/remains president in the US. No inauguration date until January and maybe no decision on the matter until then, either…

These are dark times, both politically and technologically. There’s a correlation between those two things (e.g. misuse/abuse of technology to enable human rights violations, as IBM did ~85 years ago in Germany and a century ago in America). Companies that wish to be seen as racially “woke” are anything but… it’s just smoke and mirrors.

To the best of our understanding, our server maintainer is applying to leave the US (for Europe). She’s not the first. To some, the last straw was Bush with his illegal wars; to others, Trump is more than they can chew.

Linus Torvalds, a Finnish citizen, was naturalised in the US more than a decade ago (to the best of our knowledge he’s still a dual-national). He moved pretty much all of Linux to the US-based fake ‘nonprofit’ (called after his main project, which is in turn named after him).

The other day an associate reminded us of what OpenBSD received for opposing illegal wars (OpenBSD is the other famous OS founded by a South African, originally). To quote Australian press:

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has stopped providing funding for a project which involves OpenBSD, apparently because OpenBSD lead developer Theo de Raadt made statements which could be considered anti-war to a Canadian newspaper.

OpenBSD is one of a number of free Unices which are increasingly being used on servers due to their reputation for security. NetBSD and FreeBSD are two others; they all have a common base in a project which began at the University of California in Berkeley and had the name Berkeley Sofwtare Distribution.

A good part of the $US2.3 million grant from DARPA, the research and development arm of the US military who in 1970 set up what evolved into the internet, has already been used by de Raadt even though he was not very happy about the source.

Canada’s Globe and Mail quoted him as saying: “I actually am fairly uncomfortable about it, even if our firm stipulation was that they cannot tell us what to do. We are simply doing what we do anyways – securing software – and they have no say in the matter. I try to convince myself that our grant means a half of a cruise missile doesn’t get built.”

The money was provided to the Portable Open-Source Security Enhancements project run at the University of Pennsylvania.

It’s no secret that today’s Pentagon, which drops bombs as frequently as British people nowadays check their so-called ‘phone’, favours Linux. Linus Torvalds is no Linus Pauling (whose mugshot is shown above).

'Trump’s Military Drops a Bomb Every 12 Minutes, and No One Is Talking About It' and 'Brits Now Check Their Mobile Phones Every 12 Minutes'

10.24.20

Look How Many Tux I Give!

Posted in BSD, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Kernel at 2:41 am by Guest Editorial Team

By figosdev

Hyperbola GNU/Linux
By Márcio Alexandra Silva Delgado (coadde), CC BY-SA 4.0

Summary: “Long live rms, long live (Hyperbola) GNU/BSD, and happy hacking.”

In 2007, I removed my last copy of Windows.

Now, 13 years later, I will remove my last copy of GNU/Linux. Why the hell not?

For the full context of this decision, let’s travel magically to the:

Early 1990s: I’m using a 9600 bps modem in Windows 3.x to go on bulletin boards (BBS). Someone tells me I should get an “Internet” account with a university, using “telnet”. Within 10 years or so I’ll watch a friend telnet into her uni to get her homework, but at the time I don’t know what a telnet client is.

Mid 90s: I read about “Linux” in the newspaper. (Newspapers were big, grey, cheaply printed stacks of paper folded into plastic bags, which teenagers would throw at your home from cars or bicycles). I also read about Internet cafes. I go around looking for an Internet cafe that doesn’t run on Macs, because I want my first time online to be on a PC. I don’t use an Internet cafe until 2004, but my first time on the Web is on a PC, some time before 1998.

Late 90s: I have a tomsrtbt floppy, which technically allows me to run Busybox (or something similar) with the Linux kernel. I learn how to mount DOS partitions, copy files, write text to a file, and do very little else with it. I want to copy my tomsrtbt disk, but it’s > 2 mb which for a DOS user, is extremely confusing. I knew there were specially formatted floppies that allowed that sort of thing, but I was not familiar with the process for creating one. I don’t have abundant Internet access.

“The only way to really remove Internet Explorer (rather than just removing it from the list of installed programs) is to not install it in the first place.”2000-2002: I purchase Red Hat for about $30, though perhaps unsurprisingly it does not boot after trying to install it on my 486. Someone gives me my first Windows 95 machine. I tell them I can fix it, they say “keep it, I have a new one.” It’s a mini tower, which I either carry home or take on the bus.

I’ve learned how to install 95 and 98 from the compressed files on the install CD. This means I can install from a hard drive and floppy, without worrying about booting from CD or whether the CD/drive is working. Not everything has a good CD drive these days, so this is useful. It’s possible all the installations are legit, as I’ve collected enough (valid) licenses and keys and I still like DOS and Windows 3.x a lot.

The only way to really remove Internet Explorer (rather than just removing it from the list of installed programs) is to not install it in the first place. I make custom install files for Windows 95 without Internet Explorer. You have to alter checksums to do this, but it’s easier than it sounds. Also, pretty tedious.

I purchase Mandrake for $5 and it installs, but I don’t know how to become root (ha) and I can’t seem to write to any files (I never created users for tomsrtbt, so I was used to being root like in DOS).

“The 2.x kernel is SO MUCH faster than 3.x, but the 3.x kernel supports more hardware.”I get Windows (95) down to 10mb, 5 compressed. That’s right. Control Panel doesn’t work, the GUI barely loads, but until it does there is no ATAPI support for my DOS-based CD writing program. I’m running Caldera OpenDOS and getting online with Arachne, but I boot (from a floppy) into 95 (yes, with the GUI — You have to edit MSDOS.SYS) to write CDs.

My girlfriend is amazed by what can be done without Windows, and tells me “You should make this available on more computers!” I explain that the license doesn’t make that possible, and I’m eager for a day when I can run “Linux” with a GUI (with a Web browser).

2003: I get a Windows 98 machine. I start working on what is probably my first programming language.

2004: Instead of tomsrtbt I now have Pygmy Linux, which chainloads from 32-bit DOS. I don’t use it for anything at all, I’m just trying it.

2005: I get Ubuntu, but it’s too slow for practical use, taking minutes to boot on the low-end Pentium I’m using. I try removing packages, but they’re all tied to other packages (Not too familiar with APT yet). I start trying various distros on CD, on a friend’s desktop which is more powerful than mine. I still use dial-up, they have high-speed connection.

I keep looking for a distro that can use my external 56k modem to connect to my ISP, I even look for an ISP that this will work with. No luck. I can get online with Windows or even DOS, but nothing else. As I’m trying to figure this out, about 800 people ask me if I’m trying to do this with a “winmodem” (I know what it is).

“With a faster, portable, wifi-capable machine with a like-new CD writer, I am trying more distros.”2006: DSL starts on my Pentium II. Due to some weird issue with the CD drive, it takes 7-15 minutes to boot (then it’s alright). I look for a graphical upgrade to Pygmy Linux that chainloads from 32-bit DOS. I read about (but never find) Monkey Linux.

While searching for that I learn of Puppy Linux, including a version designed to chainload from DOS. Puppy runs graphically on my equipment, though it doesn’t like most of my hardware. The 2.x kernel is SO MUCH faster than 3.x, but the 3.x kernel supports more hardware. I stick with 2.x, and don’t even have SATA support (but I don’t have SATA hardware either).

I invest in a wireless cardbus adapter and a wired Ethernet cardbus adapter, neither of which are supported, but I hold onto them — thinking I might find support for them eventually.

I get a used P4 laptop running XP. For the first time, I’m going to places where I can use wifi. I customise the heck out of XP, replacing standard Windows features with freely licensed software, as I did with Windows 98. I replace the Windows shell with something like BB4Win.

With a faster, portable, wifi-capable machine with a like-new CD writer, I am trying more distros.

2007-2008: DSL replaces Windows 98 on my Pentium II, Xubuntu replaces Windows XP, letting me use my cardbus wifi adapter (but not the built-in adapter). I start using high-speed Internet all the time. I try countless distros. I get a USB-based wifi adapter (“How neat, it can add wifi to either a laptop or a desktop”). But nothing I run supports it. I throw it in a drawer.

2007 is the year I finally go Windows-free, using GNU/Linux with high-speed Internet.

2009: Curious about OLPC, I am eager to try out Sugar. I try Sugar-on-a-Stick, I go to a Linux user group where I happen to play with an XO-1 in person, I see one other XO-1 in a museum, and because they have Sugar included, I try out Trisquel with Sugar. Pippy, a tool designed to help Year 4 students and later get introduced to Python, reminds me of QB and I start learning Python.

Trisquel is the first FSF-approved distro I try. It’s also the first distro I try that supports my (Atheros) USB wifi adapter. Of course several of the other distros I’ve used only fail to support it because of release cycles and my own upgrade timeline, but an impression is made: you really don’t need non-free drivers for consumer hardware. Trisquel works!

2009-2011: I start having drive trouble due to power management issues, and when I read about it I find that you can mitigate the thing killing my hardware by changing hdparm settings. But it’s not announced to much fanfare, and as I read about the various responses to the issue for various distros, I get pretty pissed off.

Ubuntu doesn’t care, Debian releases an immediate fix — not just a command-line workaround, they make the fix the default from that point onward. Other distros make excuses about how the fix might not work on everything.

“Although I’ve given money to Devuan, and money and equipment to related projects, I am increasingly unhappy with the cult-like abuse from some community leaders and at least one official team member.”On top of this, Debian is getting the non-free crap out of their kernel as of 6.0. I start favouring Debian for the level of quality and responsibility they demonstrate. I still favour a blob-free kernel.

2012-2014: I’m running Debian and giving away free machines with Debian pre-installed, with sources. I’m writing a curriculum for a night class on refurbishing machines with Debian. My girlfriend and I make Debian logo Christmas ornaments with a laminator. My monitor has a Debian logo sticker over its own logo. I raise well over 100 dollars for SPI, Inc. and I’m happy, even thrilled to be promoting GNU/Linux with real free software and real hardware. I don’t tend to use non-free repos or non-free drivers, I also discourage others from running either.

I notice systemd coming in when rc.local stops running after an upgrade. I mostly run stable but I have one machine running testing, because testing is notoriously stable for what it is, and I want a heads up on what Debian has coming down the line.

I start reading about systemd, and exploring my options. I try Debian GNU/Kfreebsd and read about Devuan. I stop giving away Debian machines, not wanting to saddle anybody with that. The most reliable and responsible operating system, which based on its history really had me thinking I’d never need to find another distro, has jumped the shark and said “FUCK YOU” to everybody. Alright then, fuck you too.

“The idea of automated remasters (OLPC also uses that idea for creating their own distro) is that instead of distributing a new ISO every time you make a few changes, you just distribute a custom remaster script instead.”2015: In February or March, my Debian testing machine (also the one I use the most) now runs the pre-alpha of Devuan. While I wait for Devuan to mature and gain a sources ISO/single download like Debian has so I can start giving Devuan machines away (with sources, like I did for Debian) I start working on an alternative to my PC refurbishing curriculum. Without a distro I can recommend to everybody, I start working on a cross-platform programming language — trying to make a language that is more practical than Logo and easier to learn than BASIC. It’s just an experiment, I don’t worry about how outlandish the goal is. I know the actual thing is going to be modest, and that’s the idea.

I start introducing it to people in person, and within a year it is what I wanted — a language that lets me explain and introduce coding basics to people who had trouble with BASIC or Python. People I’d talked to about coding for years who tended to glaze over and not be able to explain anything I had told them, could now point to code and tell me what it did. I consider that a victory.

The language is called fig, and it was included in the best Devuan derivative I knew. Devuan did not yet have a Live CD, but there was a live Devuan derivative (I tried two of those) and the maintainer went to go work on Devuan Live officially. It was one of the better decisions Devuan made; he was the best person for that role.

2016-2017: Although I’ve given money to Devuan, and money and equipment to related projects, I am increasingly unhappy with the cult-like abuse from some community leaders and at least one official team member. I distance myself from Devuan, using fig to make automated remasters of Puppy Linux, Refracta, Tiny Core, Trisquel 8 and Debian 9 — among others.

“But although I still have nice things to say about Dyne and its founder, I do not believe in or recommend Devuan.”Originally this is not called Fig OS, but I am encouraged by some Puppy fans to move from the Puppy name (because it’s a turn off to people who think “Puppy” sounds less serious) and from the Refracta dev who is concerned it might confuse people further (Refracta already refers to remastering tools and a distro that is made with them). So I actually settle on “Fig OS”, and then “Distro-libre” as I add more source distros.

The idea of automated remasters (OLPC also uses that idea for creating their own distro) is that instead of distributing a new ISO every time you make a few changes, you just distribute a custom remaster script instead. The download is measured in kb instead of gb, plus it’s 100% source code and you get a line-by-line “receipt” of every change made to the base system.

I design it not just for one distro family, but try to keep it as flexible as possible. Originally it can mix Devuan-based Refracta with Ubuntu/Puppy-based Tahr — if you use Puppy, you know it’s more accurate to say this is like mixing Devuan with Puppy than Devuan with Ubuntu. Devuan is multi-user. Puppy Tahr has so much of Ubuntu stripped out.

The automated remaster of Trisquel 8 replaces systemd with upstart, creating a bootable Live ISO that boots Trisquel without systemd. I’m very proud of that. This was at a time when Trisquel had pretty much abandoned the idea of users having a choice about subservience to corporations. That’s a shame, when they were once the flagship distro of the FSF, and the one that convinced me that fully-free distros were possible and even practical. It’s not just that they don’t fix this — they don’t even care!

The automated remaster of Debian 9.5 also creates a bootable Live ISO that boots with sysvinit. While Devuan certainly does more, and there was a time (when it looked like Devuan might gain more volunteers) that I agreed with their level of overkill, at one point later on I was starting to think MX was a better thing to support than Devuan. I have had positive experiences with the leader of Dyne and I still this Dyne is a good organisation — that’s a pretty big deal these days, when this timeline is coming up on 2019.

But although I still have nice things to say about Dyne and its founder, I do not believe in or recommend Devuan. That team ought to split up (Dyne should abandon it for better things) and go their separate ways. Whatever “Devuan” is will be better without it being Devuan. The maintainers may disagree, but they’re also wrong. The biggest problem with Devuan is Devuan. It’s largely the same problem that Debian had, minus enough volunteers.

“If you’re calling yourself a “hacker” because you’re allegedly out to playfully subvert a corrupt authoritarian tech industry, but you conflate a couple of minor interruptions by the person who created the movement you belong to with a safety threat of some kind, maybe you’re NOT a hacker.”Then in 2018: Microsoft purchases GitHub.

MOTHER. FUCKER.

Also, a bunch of traitors stab rms in the back by pretending a question or two asked out of turn by the president of the organisation makes LibrePlanet “unsafe”. Holy George Fucking Orwell! If you’re calling yourself a “hacker” because you’re allegedly out to playfully subvert a corrupt authoritarian tech industry, but you conflate a couple of minor interruptions by the person who created the movement you belong to with a safety threat of some kind, maybe you’re NOT a hacker. Maybe the word “shill” or simply “tool” is better. Perhaps you’re really a fascist, disguised with the trappings of the left.

What a great year. But 2019 gets even better!

2019: Free Software projects, not interested in tech industry hegemony, start leaving GitHub in droves.

But NO! They actually gravitate TOWARDS the incredible suckage, coinciding with bribes from their new masters. Oh, we can’t say “masters” anymore. MASTERS, MASTERS, MASTERS! What the actual fuck, people?

RMS, who in fact called Epstein a “serial rapist”, defends a deceased colleague on a mailing list that both individuals used to contribute to (and rms still did) but it’s not the attacks on the deceased colleague that are considered inappropriate for the list (obviously that’s fine) it’s the defence that draws the wrath of the shill industry, who then make money assassinating rms and saying he “defended Epstein.” The tech press is full of liars and scumbags that might as well have worked for Joseph fucking Goebbels. (Oh, fuck you too, Mike).

“I started installing FreeBSD, OpenBSD and NetBSD on various machines.”GNOME, MIT, SFC and FSFE and even traitors inside the FSF all dogpile rms, who then steps down from the FSF. Some of these same individuals also attacked him at LibrePlanet, over NOTHING — you can watch the actual non-incident. They were simply waiting for the best opportunity to make a fuss. Seriously, that’s all it ever was.

Shortly after, someone hacks his personal website (which by the way, was not hosted by the FSF) to make it look like he was no longer the leader of the GNU Project either.

This reminds me (on a lesser scale, obviously) of when Faux News faked the Bush Jr. victory by running a clip saying he won the election before he won.

At some point in the past two years, I talked to rms about the possibility of a fully-free distro based on BSD. By sheer coincidence (but I’m very pleased) in 2019, Hyperbola announced the first FSF-approved distro to switch from the Linux kernel to a Fully-free distribution based on OpenBSD.

2020: Eager to get away from as much of this crap as possible, away from the shills, from init systems that Microsoft controls the contributions to (with their Code of Conduct and their bans of accounts from several entire countries, and their absolutely monopoly-level power that comes with owning GitHub, which we were warned against creating for years) I decided not to wait for Hyperbola, even though I love what they’re doing (and you should, too).

“I mean they tried to have a coup in the GNU Project in 2019, and that hasn’t even stopped in 2020.”I started installing FreeBSD, OpenBSD and NetBSD on various machines. I am still running GNU/Linux on ONE machine; I didn’t plan for BSD to take over my workflow as quickly (or as smoothly) as it eventually did. You can see the kind of stuff I went through getting rid of Windows.

OpenBSD 6.8 is out, and since I’ve just upgraded all my other machines (along with other work, etc.) from GNU/Linux to OpenBSD 6.7 (I have one machine running NetBSD, and I don’t recommend FreeBSD because it’s doing far too much with GitHub compared to the other two) I am looking for what I should install 6.8 on. I am talking about this week, not next year. Of course I also want to run HyperbolaBSD, but I’m getting familiar with what’s upstream right now, before HyperbolaBSD is even ready.

What’s the appeal/common sense justification of BSD? Among some other notable advantages, when people want to fork BSD, they just do. They don’t spend years begging someone else to or keeping fingers crossed — they just do it. It’s been done several times by small teams of people. Just based on that, you’d think it was easier than forking OpenOffice!

“Hyperbola wants you to be free, they didn’t fork Linux — instead they’re making BSD free, because that’s easier.”When Free Software has as many threats as it does today, threats the FSF basically ignores, leaving us to fend for ourselves (and even challenge their overly, obsessively conservative bullshit — don’t get me wrong, Open Source is still MUCH worse, but the FSFE and SFC have already fallen to Open Source; SFC is now a gateway to OSI and basically to hell, NOT to freedom) we need more autonomy or we are simply going to be taken over, the way GNU is gradually being taken over.

I mean they tried to have a coup in the GNU Project in 2019, and that hasn’t even stopped in 2020. GNU needs to be salvaged. Fortunately, Hyperbola is setting good examples on how to do just that. The FSF is just getting closer and closer to GitHub, doing big-budget-style videos promoting things like Jitsi (Guess who controls Jitsi? Not the FSF!) Free Cloud Foundation? That’s going to make IBM very happy! You’ll be able to talk to at least 150 people about it on the GitHubiverse!

If it isn’t even forkable, it’s debatable that it’s really free. Linux is demonstrably non-forkable — nobody is forking it, nobody is going to fork it, people fork BSD instead, repeatedly. The whole thing, kernel and all. Hyperbola wants you to be free, they didn’t fork Linux — instead they’re making BSD free, because that’s easier. BSD-libre! GNU/BSD, even. And fuck you again Debian, for trying to kill exactly that.

This is the thing that the FSF doesn’t seem to understand. For purposes of freedom, GNU/Linux is no longer viable. It is a corporate shitshow of DRM, sellouts and mountains of Big Tech fuckery. Yes, there are some (VERY) nice things about the kernel, but they’re not making us free, they’re making us subservient to GIAFAM and especially to Microsoft — the biggest corporate enemy of Free Software in both history and the world. An enemy that spends years lying about “love” — about LOVE!

So it can spy on people and help literally kill for profit — not simply by letting people use their code as some Open Source fakes whinge about (your dumb license won’t stop the DOD anyway, as they don’t have to honour copyright or patents) but actually getting contracts worth billions to make war (not “Love”). That’s why “fake” is the right thing to call these shills who pretend to give a shit who lives and dies in other countries (along with what it does to the environment).

“So now we are using “ethics” to reinforce a monopoly.”United Nations: “You know, we think these are war crimes that you’re committing.”

Various Countries: “But?”

United Nations: “But also we are concerned that your actions are destroying the sustainability of the human race itself.”

Various Countries: “Is that all?”

United Nations: “No. What we want to talk about right now is the license for the software running your drone systems…”

Various Countries: “Oh, NO! Don’t worry, we’re switching right back to Windows for that! War tribunals and the end of sustainability are bad enough, without VIOLATING SOFTWARE LICENSES!”

Great plan! People often talk about how munitions are even more dangerous because they’re not as “precision” as people say they are, occasionally taking out wedding parties when they want to get “just one!” terrorist, but that’ll all be “Better with Windows!” Mayyyyybe Coraline just thought JEDI would be more “ethical” if we could use licenses to ensure only Microsoft had a product they were legally allowed to sell for such purposes (Put that in your intake and smoke it, Bezos!)

So now we are using “ethics” to reinforce a monopoly. Or were we using “love” to create weapons systems? All this marketing gets confusing! I guess that’s why Windows is Linux is Winning! Now pay up, Android, you think all this “love” comes for free?

The FSF sits idly by while Microsoft and GitHub (and their own GNU contributors) and GNOME (as usual?) lie to you about the viability of this dystopian future we are already living in. Some of these people are not “mistaken” — they are actually lying to you. Two-legged Zoom spying bad, Four-legged GitHub spying good? Doubleplus WTF? The FSF just sits there, like nobody knows better. Well one guy, but OMG, He Said…

“For a minute it looked like rms was done; but he’s still fighting, we can be thankful for that. He’s not going to win against the FSF though — it will still be years still before the FSF does a course correction, away from this mess that started TWO YEARS ago.”“Free Software is bigger than Jesus!”

No, that was John Lennon. Remember folks, what rms said! Burn all your copies of the GPL! (This sort of bullshit is SO old and SO STUPID…)

Hyperbola GNU/Linux logoFor a minute it looked like rms was done; but he’s still fighting, we can be thankful for that. He’s not going to win against the FSF though — it will still be years still before the FSF does a course correction, away from this mess that started TWO YEARS ago. FIVE years if you count the systemd power grab — and you should. Corporate hegemony is always a problem, even GPL-(2 only!)-licensed corporate hegemony.

So anyway, bye bye, Linux. I’ll see you on underpowered trinkets and tablets, I’m sure.

Now get the fuck off my PC. We’re done here, penguinshit.

Long live rms, long live (Hyperbola) GNU/BSD, and happy hacking.

Licence: Creative Commons CC0 1.0 (public domain)

10.07.20

Hyperbola is the Gnu GNU

Posted in BSD, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux at 9:23 am by Guest Editorial Team

By figosdev

Hyperbolas as declination lines on a sundial
Credit: Piotrus | CC BY-SA 3.0 | Source photo

Summary: The kernel or distro that Richard M. Stallman likely envisioned for the GNU Project, plus Linux and BSD as assessed by figosdev (who uses both)

Apologies in advance to the Hyperbola devs; this is not an effort to promote them and if it were, I’m sure they would be embarrassed. My impression of them is they are sincerely too modest to think of themselves as the centre for what’s left of the Free Software movement. All they’re trying to do is build Hyperbola. I will advocate that they should do more, though not by themselves.

However, they are doing things (in their effort, not their attitude) like the centre of what’s left of the Free Software movement.

If I was eager to promote Hyperbola, the first thing I would do is find someone who could do a better job of it than I could. I only talk about this because of how crucial it is to the future of Free Software.

The FSF (the actual organisation, not the office) has become rickety, and caved in. RMS insists it’s safe to go back, but this is uncharacteristically optimistic of him. It has a new roof, which I don’t trust either — because the rest of the building is still falling apart. So I see the fixes as being of symptoms, not overall structural integrity. Also the new roof sucks, but at least I’ve heard people vouch for it.

“We know GNU is under attack, because it was already attacked last year.”If this were just a response to the news and upheaval of the past year, I would be sure I was overreacting. The thing is though, I predicted that collapse. I’ve watched this thing for years, very closely, and I warned this would happen. Maybe next time I make a prediction it won’t happen; I don’t have a time machine. We know the FSF has enough money, so if we are talking about the state of their survival, then we are talking about the mission, not the budget. I don’t even trust people who focus on the budget (so I think it’s a bit cynical that of all people, the treasurer was put in charge — when people are saying the F$F is all about money now, not freedom).

Their video campaigns look bigger than past efforts, but it’s to promote things like Jitsi that are controlled by Microsoft. You can still find essays that talk about how OpenWatcom is non-free, but the FSF is going to keep steering you towards clown-computing and GatesHub, no matter what.

That doesn’t look good for the future of GNU. We know GNU is under attack, because it was already attacked last year. They tried to make it look like it didn’t have a project leader. Given the number of high-profile software projects trying to “restructure” to shut out their leaders, it’s difficult to pretend there is no pattern — but the GNU project was attacked repeatedly, at the same time the FSF was. Those attacks have not stopped, they haven’t ended. GNU is under constant attack from people trying to dismantle it — people who move parts of the GNU Project to GatesHub are traitors, and people who move parts of GNU away from GatesHub are (probably) heroes.

People who believed in the FSF are leaving, even those who support rms. They will probably be happy, as I am, that rms has not quit. He continues to fight for your freedom. The FSF continues to pretend they do.

But the FSF does not recognise most of the threats that have undermined them for years, including the problems that unseated their president. People realise more and more that Mozilla and Linux have nothing to do with freedom, that telemetry and mass surveillance are anti-freedom, that the FSF doesn’t have the power to fix these things.

Hyperbola has even less power, but they make no excuses — they fight.

“Hyperbola has even less power, but they make no excuses — they fight.”And instead of saying “we don’t have the power” as their excuse, Hyperbola makes decisions that matter — so if they can’t fork the Linux kernel, they will do what the FSF did long ago — which is use a Free Software kernel that works and can be maintained. Hurd is led by a traitor, while Hyperbola grabs a kernel long-downstream from a kernel that was upstream of the one rms chose to base Hurd on. (OpenBSD isn’t based on Mach, though unlike Linux they have a common ancestor).

In the earlier days of GNU, bold decisions were made to keep the project viable. Today, BAD decisions are made to make the project more popular.

Hyperbola is doing it right. And if you want to save Free Software, if you want the movement to outlive its founder, bold (but GOOD) decisions will need to be made. Look to Hyperbola for inspiration. The future of GNU may not be under a single umbrella — though I’m not unaware of the good reasons that GNU was. Those reasons are important. But if GNU falls, what’s important is that we are not empty-handed in terms of hope for the future.

In 2017 (or early 2018) when we talked about the erosion at the FSF, their failure seemed more hypothetical, destined by principle, but even if the writing was on the wall it seemed a bit crazy to consider it — even with good reason to. It was so far-fetched.

GNU isn’t doing better in 2020 than the FSF was doing in 2017. In fact it’s doing worse. So I think it’s possible for GNU to collapse in the next 5 years — I usually give these things 5 years and they usually happen faster. But it’s more important to save GNU than the FSF.

GNU is the only thing holding the GPL up. Sure there’s a lot of other GPL software, but most of it is on GitHub. Without GNU, Copyleft will have no (sincere) champion, no flagship. It will have support, but that will fall apart as organisations like SFC exploit it — it will have more exploiters undermining it than supporters keeping it viable.

GNU is the last stand for Free Software (as Free Software) before it collapses. What collapse looks like is just a long, steady timeline of erosion without renewal.

On a software front, Hyperbola can shore up some defenses and set good examples for the next generation of Free Software. But if that doesn’t happen, GNU will go the way of the FSF and take Free Software with it. GNU IS going that way, slowly. The big question in all of this, is what people are going to rally behind. Nobody knows the answer to that — only what will happen if they don’t.

“On a software front, Hyperbola can shore up some defenses and set good examples for the next generation of Free Software.”We desperately need more projects taking examples from Hyperbola. I doubt they want to be a giant umbrella project, but even if you don’t do work “under” Hyperbola, you ought to be doing work LIKE Hyperbola. You will learn more about how to ensure the future of Free Software from watching them than you will from watching the GNU Project. Which isn’t to say you shouldn’t watch both — what’s happening in the GNU Project is really horrible.

Salvaging and preserving and bolstering the GNU Project is of greater importance than ANYTHING the FSF is doing. The F$F is DONE. Free Software is not, yet. RMS is not, yet. Hyperbola is not, yet.

GNU is dangerously close.

But GNU is still the best example there was — it is vital for it to continue. GNU was built on top of UNIX and ultimately on top of the GPL, and Hyperbola will be as well.

GNU had humble beginnings, and Hyperbola does as well.

We should be measuring projects by their integrity, not their fame or fortune. On matters of integrity, Hyperbola is building a foundation as GNU loses one.

I am not saying we should replace GNU. I’m saying we should salvage it, save it, and the FSF will not do it. Many of the people in charge of GNU will not do it.

So whatever Hyperbola inspires us to do, we ought to have a plan in place for when GNU does collapse — so that most of it is alright either way. I think Hyperbola could do that on their own, but it’s just as well if someone as principled as Hyperbola does it.

I give a vote of no confidence to Trisquel and its leadership, who have spent years letting IBM and GitHub take over. The same goes for most FSF-approved distros. I don’t want to say “every distro except Hyperbola” as I do not follow every FSF-approved distro as much as I have followed Trisquel, but Trisquel is done, too. Trisquel has gone from being a flagship of Free Software (10 years ago) to a mockery of itself. As far as software freedom goes, it’s as stupid and backwards as the Ubuntu it’s based on.

“The uglier option is that Free Software dies. That does not preclude the option of putting it back together, but it’s more work and will set us back for decades instead of years.”Devuan is also done — the project has no integrity at all, and Dyne (an organisation that does seem to care about your freedom, led by FSF-approved-distro creator Denis Roio) should pull the plug on it and let Devuan fend for itself. Debian is even worse; Roy should find a better distro to use (but that’s just my opinion).

But I will hold out the possibility that SOME other currently FSF-approved distro besides Hyperbola is up to assisting this task, I simply don’t know which one it would be. We have to stop thinking of freedom in terms of the resources these groups/developers have, and think instead in terms of what they do with the resources they have. Quite often what they do is make compromise after compromise until something becomes a joke, and in hindsight you could have told them so — but you wanted to believe, because they had the means (though not the will).

We’ve all made that sort of mistake before, leading to misplaced trust — it simply has to be something we try much harder to stop doing. We can’t afford more compromises, we need to put Free Software back together while we still can.

The uglier option is that Free Software dies. That does not preclude the option of putting it back together, but it’s more work and will set us back for decades instead of years.

Stop putting faith in things that have no direction, led by people with no spine. We are so far set back (except in terms of available source — but in terms of almost everything else) that we need to start thinking like the beginnings of the GNU Project, not the present — if we want it to have a future.

Hyperbola is not merely a good example, it is a fully-free operating system with a future. That’s what we need, but we also need to save GNU — if we want the GPL to survive. Hyperbola is already helping with that.

“Hyperbola is not merely a good example, it is a fully-free operating system with a future.”Stop supporting projects that make constant excuses for compromising your freedom, and focus on the (very few) that do things right. You’ll have far fewer choices in the short run, but you’ll have more freedom (and with it, more choices) later, if you do this now.

And I am sorry for the bother Hyperbola will get because of this, if anybody listens that is. These are things that need to be said, about things that need to be done, and Hyperbola will manage. The rest of us need to manage, too.

Long live rms and GNU, and happy hacking.

Licence: Creative Commons CC0 1.0 (public domain)

09.22.20

Erosion of Free Speech and Tolerance of Opposing Viewpoints in Free Software Communities

Posted in BSD, Deception, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft at 12:05 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“It is by the goodness of God that, in this country, we have three benefits: freedom of speech, freedom of thought, and the wisdom never to use either.” –Mark Twain

Computer lecture

Summary: The concept of free speech is being reinvented by oversensitive people who nowadays expand the list of exclusions/exemptions (from scope of ‘permissible’ speech) to politics and criticism of large and highly abusive corporations

THERE is this old and pseudo-philosophical conundrum about free speech in general, e.g. tolerating the intolerant. Or questions like, are we tolerant for not tolerating speech that we perceive to be inherently intolerant?

“Having received about 40,000 comments in this blog, there are many that I strongly dislike; but we never censored comments, not even ones with racial slurs in them.”The subject isn’t new. The debate isn’t unprecedented. There are, however, things that can be said in the context of free-as-in-freedom software.

Free speech absolutists have to be quite tolerant (and no, we’re not talking about nazis who disguise themselves as “free speech”) because they need to not necessarily respect but let words be spoken/written/published despite loathing those words. Cultural differences too are a factor.

Having received about 40,000 comments in this blog, there are many that I strongly dislike; but we never censored comments, not even ones with racial slurs in them. Those are just a reflection of what society is and we draw the line at physical threats (those are a special case and there are well-established laws for dealing with them, even restraining orders and arrests).

A speakerYesterday in IRC someone brought up Gab; well, Gab isn’t an ordinary site because there are many violent cults there, ones that seek to implement ethnic cleansing and death threats are commonplace there. So put Gab aside as a special case. What’s special about it isn’t mere racial/ethnic agitation but its uniquely violent nature (including members proceeding to mass murder, based on things that inspired them in Gab, legitimising those acts). The management of Gab obviously does not condone such violence and it cooperated with authorities when it had to; but those who block Gab (e.g. Fediverse factions) have some legitimate grounds for doing so, noting the large proportion of violent (in nature, explicitly) output emitted from there.

So again, just to clarify, when we speak about free speech we do not include (within scope) every single utterance of nonsense, especially not calls for genocide. There have long been laws for dealing with these, aside from the realms of speech alone (many murders are preceded by threats, whether it’s domestic violence or disputes over drugs; there’s an interest in prevention of lethal/fatal violence).

Some hours ago Derek Taylor (also known as DistroTube) published this video/view entitled “If You Support Free Software, You Should Support Gun Rights” (similar to the sorts of things ESR likes to say) and last week he published a video that uses words like “virtue-signalling”, “social justice warriors” etc. (coming across like part of a group that’s widely perceived to be intolerant). I’ve spoken Derek Taylor online but not offline (he’s in the US, very far from here) and I largely agree with him on many technical things (I strongly disagree with his older stance regarding Torvalds and Stallman — a stance he may have changed since). But in Daily Links there’s no reason not to include this “pro-gun” video, even if many of us do not share his views. The feature image for that video is of him holding a rifle. Stay classy, eh?

It’s truly regretful that, putting “wings” aside (the political duality — a superficial binary standard), a certain polarity in the Free software world now deems people or classifies people as either “left” or “right” (some go further and simplify with “anti-Trump” or “pro-Trump”). This is partly the reason why ESR, both co-founder of the OSI and for a period of time chief of the OSI, got banned by the OSI earlier this year (‘canceled’ from mailing lists, at least). His views on Free software — oh, sorry… Open Source — licensing did not seem to matter because his choice of words seemed political on the ‘wrong’ side of politics. This isn’t the way to have an healthy and productive debate about software and ethical issues. Sure, we don’t all agree about politics. And if ESR thinks that there’s “vulgar” form of “Marxism” somewhere, let him say it. One doesn’t have to agree with him. To outright ban him (from his own creation) says a lot about the lack of will to come up with a counter-argument. This is to be expected somewhere like China. Do we really wish to go down this route?

What I find a lot more concerning, personally at least, is censorship of people not for the ‘wrong’ political worldviews (the people who suffer the most from it call it ‘wrongthink’ or similar terms) but for criticising bad corporations. Here’s an example that is very new and very disturbing:

bsd.network

Language of dictators: “if you give me lip about this, especially as a “joke”, you’ll get blocked and/or lose your account” (and he’s not joking! Not tongue-in-cheek a statement!)

As an associate of ours put it: “In the bsd.network link [...] we see what CoCs are really about.”

We recently saw the same thing in Rust/Mozilla/Reddit (banning Microsoft critics).

In an act of recognition and solidarity we recently reproduced many articles from Daniel Pocock, whom I believe got in trouble for doing ‘too much’ complaining about corporate influence if not takeover by large corporations such as Google and Microsoft (both pay Debian and the FSFE) — two companies which his technical work (SIP etc.) seeks to make obsolete.

Dig a little deeper into the context of the above quip/toot and find this (pinned even):

bsd.network CoC

So the CoC seems to have been magically extended to, “do not criticise Microsoft” (an OpenBSD sponsor by the way; this is no secret). Do we want to go down this route of making it impermissible to criticise large corporations and oligarchs, especially those who pay us? If so, isn’t that just bribery for silence? Are we enforcing politeness here or merely covering up misconduct and censorious behaviour?

09.15.20

RMS Really IS The Father of “Open Source”

Posted in BSD, Free/Libre Software, FSF, OSI at 7:24 pm by Guest Editorial Team

By figosdev

Father

Summary: Keith Bostic explains that Richard Stallman (RMS) played a role in BSD becoming free

I will often put the conclusion and point I’m making right in the title. This time, I consider the conclusion far less important than the facts behind it.

The title is tongue-in-cheek; I know rms HATES being called “The Father of Open Source” but the facts still point to this being sort of true. I wrote this to share the facts, but an article still needs a title.

“My move years ago to Free Software from Open Source was based on the former being more real and more honest than the latter.”RMS of course, is the father of Free Software. When I started out with Open Source, I found too many inconsistencies that I often summarise as “Open Source rewriting history”, which is to say it lies to people. My move years ago to Free Software from Open Source was based on the former being more real and more honest than the latter.

Credit where credit is due, for the things OSI co-founder Perens has been candid about. Eric S. Raymond (ESR) has stated his opinion on various occasions, that the position of rms in all this history was overstated — and he has frequently damned rms with faint praise.

This is part of the rhetoric of Open Source, and I find it terribly petty. They, in turn, react to people trying to set the record straight (the record they lie about) as US being petty. But the bulk of how I feel about it can nonetheless be summed up in the letter Perens wrote to the Debian community in 1999, where he says that Open Source “overshadowed” Free Software, and that this was “never fair”.

Having gradually become disgusted with Open Source, even calling it a scam on several occasions, I think we got many glimpses of the present several years ago. Today, even some people who use the term “Open Source” (thus giving OSI more power to speak, while Free Software loses notoriety for its work that OSI co-opted) are disillusioned with the Linux Foundation (LF) while I consider LF to be a perfect example of what “Open Source” has always been.

Techrights is hosting old Debian emails that are already referring to source being “Open” in 1996, most of the “Open Source Definition” had already been written as the Debian Free Software Guidelines (by the same author), and OpenBSD forked from NetBSD in 1995 — years before “Open Source” was “coined”.”However, when I complain about “Open Source” I am complaining about the same thing Perens did in 1999 — the “Open Source” that began when Christine Peterson “coined” the term in 1998. Techrights is hosting old Debian emails that are already referring to source being “Open” in 1996, most of the “Open Source Definition” had already been written as the Debian Free Software Guidelines (by the same author), and OpenBSD forked from NetBSD in 1995 — years before “Open Source” was “coined”.

It’s no revelation to OpenBSD developers (or to pre-SCO Caldera, who used the term “Open” for two products in reference to the source being available) that Open isn’t new, but it’s news to some of the people who think Open Source (largely) started in early 1998.

Since going back to review the history of Open Source (as OSI-led) is what made me leave it behind for something more honest, I have also become increasingly curious about the pre-history of OSI-led Open Source, namely the BSD world.

Father and sonI don’t as of yet put pre-OSI “Open” in the same category as the BRAND “Open Source” (or OSI), because I’m not at all certain that’s fair to do. I mean everything I’ve complained about with regards to Open Source is from 1998 onwards. So what about the rest?

Of course Perens and ESR can have the credit for OSI, and sometimes OSI has taken the credit for things Free Software did (and to be fair, Perens and Eric Raymond were certainly contributors to Free Software, even before OSI was founded. Maybe Raymond felt he never got enough credit for his contributions).

But this doesn’t answer obvious (for some) questions about who we can thank or credit for the freedom that BSD offers.

“I admire rms a great deal, but you don’t have to like him to admit when he has a point.”This is a new chapter of history in my experience, even if it’s an old one to those who were there. So the conclusions really DON’T matter as much as the facts that lead to them. Still, as I work on getting an overall picture, the exploration is fascinating. Marshall McKusick (Often referred to as Kirk McKusick) gives interesting lectures on the history of BSD, and those aren’t the only history I’ve paid attention to but they certainly help.

I was at one point directed to a quote from Keith Packard, of X11 fame:

Unfortunately, Richard Stallman, the author of the GPL and quite an interesting individual lived at 5405 DEC square, he lived up on the sixth floor I think? Had an office up there; he did not have an apartment. And we knew him extremely well. He was a challenging individual to get along with. He would regularly come down to our offices and ask us, or kind of rail at us, for not using the GPL.

This did not make a positive impression on me, this was my first interactions with Richard directly and I remember thinking at the time, “this guy is a little, you know, I’m not interested in talking to him because he’s so challenging to work with.”

And so, we should have listened to him then but we did not because, we know him too well, I guess, and met him as well.

He really was right, we need to remember that!

These are familiar sentiments for people who have paid attention to Bruce Perens over the years (both for and against rms) both publicly and in Debian-private. I admire rms a great deal, but you don’t have to like him to admit when he has a point.

I wouldn’t have written an article just to quote Keith Packard. It’s not that Packard isn’t notable, he definitely is — it’s that this quote by itself “isn’t news” enough to inspire an article about it. What I was looking for was a better understanding of the differences between BSD and rms, or BSD and the FSF. And I know there are plenty; I greatly admire the work of Theo de Raadt (which I use as I type this) but he has often railed against rms and Free Software — and I am still very sincerely interested in getting “BSD’s side of the story” on all this. I avoided OpenBSD for a long time because of the song “Home to Hypocrisy”, which lampoons rms as both a hypocrite and as being unreasonable.

“The head of FreeBSD (of their foundation?) wants to work more closely with Linux developers. I don’t think that’s going to yield any fruit, I think Linux is going to become more corporate and useless and co-opted.”At a time when Open Source has worked so hard to discredit rms, I certainly don’t feel like that’s fair. On the other hand, I really do appreciate the work de Raadt has done (I don’t think he even wrote that song) and I don’t automatically hold it against him that he and rms have had their differences about philosophy — OSI came about later. The more I read about BSD’s justifications for their way of doing things, the more tolerable I find it. Note I said tolerable — I did not say I entirely agree with it.

What I have said about this is that BSD is not (ever) going to do things the FSF way or the rms way. The head of FreeBSD (of their foundation?) wants to work more closely with Linux developers. I don’t think that’s going to yield any fruit, I think Linux is going to become more corporate and useless and co-opted. But who knows what is really meant when the head of the FreeBSD Foundation (not de Raadt, who started OpenBSD) talks about working more closely with Linux developers?

I know some of de Raadt’s feelings — because he speaks very candidly about them — regarding copylefting BSD software. He’s NOT a fan. He questions both the legality and the morality of doing so; but rather than paint this as de Raadt vs. rms, as de Raadt may (unintentionally or deliberately) do, I think of this quandary as BSD vs. Free Software. And not in the sense that it’s antagonistic, (which it sometimes is) but I’m extremely interested in both the legality and ethics (“morality”) of doing so, because I think it’s a good direction for Free Software and regardless of what my opinion is, it’s EXACTLY what is already being done.

“Yes, he is the person who coined POSIX, but BSD predates POSIX. It predates the FSF and even GNU.”I happen to support it. And although de Raadt has his objections, I’m not yet convinced that BOTH rms and say, Eben Moglen (or for that matter, emulatorman) have this wrong. I want to understand the BSD position a lot better, but that doesn’t mean I’m necessarily going to agree with de Raadt on this.

I don’t expect cooperation from BSD — I’m NOT out to convert BSD into doing anything they’ve been invited to do a thousand times. They have their way, Free Software has its way. What I support is Free Software doing (within reason and ethical limitations) what it needs to do to survive. That’s why I continue to support adding to BSD and copylefting the additions.

But my interest in understanding BSD’s position is no less sincere. They have a complaint, I do not doubt their honesty (I find BSD far more sincere than I find Open Source in general, even if very many people consider BSD to be PART of Open Source) and even if it takes years I would like to understand their position well enough that I COULD advocate it myself, IF I wanted to. That doesn’t mean I will, but it’s never been a boon for me to misunderstand the positions on either side. I want intimate knowledge of BSD’s real position — despite the obvious fact that “BSD” is far from a single entity; as much as (or even more than) with “Linux”. This “position” will certainly have facets.

But getting back to the central theme of this article, as well as back to what McKusick has said about BSD history, he credits Keith Bostic, (Not to be confused with Keith Packard) the “third” person hired to work on BSD in the early days. What does he credit Bostic with? Among other things, making the whole of BSD freely redistributable. Several people worked on that of course, once the push and then the decision was made. It’s Bostic who is credited with the pushing.

To me that’s extraordinary; I mean here you have this really wonderful OS that I feel is important to the future of Free Software (more than Linux at this point) and it’s an important part of the past and present as well. And this Bostic sounds like the rms of BSD! So what could I learn if I started there and tried to find out more?

I may find more and until then, I have a quote directly from Bostic himself. I asked him about it, after reading this FSF page: “People sometimes ask whether BSD too is a version of GNU, like GNU/Linux. The BSD developers were inspired to make their code free software by the example of the GNU Project, and explicit appeals from GNU activists helped persuade them…”

I was a bit sceptical. I really consider rms to be one of the more honest people you can find in the tech world, but I wouldn’t trust him (even based on my own personal experience) to NEVER a. overstate or understate something or b. ignore / dismiss a detail that I consider very important. I think people who disagree with him tend to overstate these, at least a bit unfairly, but though I consider rms MORE honest than most people, these are the boundaries where being sceptical is a real possibility.

So I asked Bostic himself. Originally, his reply was:

“It’s true. John Gillmore & Richard Stallman convinced me that opening up the sources was worthwhile, we wouldn’t have done that without their urging.”

He continued to spell the name that way later but I’m fairly confident he was referring to John Gilmore, co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

This is a huge deal to me, because I’ve long noted the penchant Open Source has of painting rms has a has-been, as someone whose contributions to freedom are incidental or overstated — he is the Chief GNUsiance after all, and some people would prefer you think of him as Merely a nuisance — a busybody, an insufferable know-it-all sticking his nose into YOUR work.

“As for why it matters that RMS was part of this, as I’ve said before — the reason some people (even at the FSF, and in at least the more modern variety / chapter / establishment of Open Source) people try to downlplay Stallman’s role is so they can downplay the importance of his movement — You know, Us.”His awards and recognitions are many, though I’m more impressed by his work than his recognition. And yet in getting into this history, I honestly expected to find a very vital part of Free Software (some say “Open Source”) history that we CAN’T give rms much hand in. Yes, he is the person who coined POSIX, but BSD predates POSIX. It predates the FSF and even GNU. So surely, (I thought before asking Bostic) someone is exaggerating Stallman’s role, right? I mean, what does rms really have to do with BSD?

When I asked if I could quote him, Bostic clarified what he had already said. He said of course the collaboration between BSD and the FSF was limited (I would assume it was more limited than the collaboration with Debian, which we are learning more about these days) but there was cross-talk, and that “I’d credit John Gillmore more than Richard in our push towards Open Source, but both were there, and John was certainly working with Richard, IIRC.”

This is very cool as well. I didn’t know Gilmore or the EFF (unless there is another person and I have this wrong) had any connection to this stuff either.

I already know (from the talks McKusick gave, circa 2010/2011 at various conferences, which he probably still does) that the goal of liberating BSD came later, probably in the 80s or even the 90s after the FSF was founded. The famous lawsuit that followed also came later, which was still going on when Linus Torvalds announced Linux (Torvalds has said that if BSD hadn’t been tied up in litigation, Linux probably would have never been written. But that’s already a common quote).

As for why it matters that RMS was part of this, as I’ve said before — the reason some people (even at the FSF, and in at least the more modern variety/chapter/establishment of Open Source) people try to downlplay Stallman’s role is so they can downplay the importance of his movement — You know, Us. Attacking rms, as Techrights published well before he was ousted, is a goal as part of attacking Free Software in general. Downplaying rms downplays the importance of freedom itself. “Don’t listen to these guys, they’re spouting the same garbage Stallman says”.

Of course BSD (broadly speaking) has their own take(s) on freedom, not entirely in line with the FSF’s, or Stallman’s, and which sometimes will overlap more with the thing that “Open Source” now refers to.

“I consider history more important to the present than it is to the past. Without it, the present is missing context.”I am still interested in learning more about that. But in trying to do exactly that, I learned that rms has had influences even in ways which I would not have guessed.

The conclusion of this article is not the most substantial aspect of it, by far. I think the details and the facts are pretty interesting, in light of the things some people say. I still think Keith Bostic is a very big deal as well, and it was an honour to be able to talk to him. I would still thank him and credit him for his effort in liberating BSD — I kind of doubt Gilmore and rms would have gotten quite as far in the BSD world without Bostic as part of the interface!

But that’s a common theme in the BSD world (and the tech world, broadly speaking) as when it was up to someone at DARPA to evaluate BSD’s TCP/IP stack vs. BB&N’s, and the “neutral third party” chosen by DARPA was someone who the BSD devs had already worked with. It’s good to have advocates and people who understand your work, even when your offering is already great.

“As far as Linux, I’m a supporter of all Open Source systems… If you create a tool that people find useful and that moves us all forward, well, I’m going to support you in that!” — Keith Bostic

I consider history more important to the present than it is to the past. Without it, the present is missing context. This benefits some, but truth (and therefore justice) benefits more from context and a fair treatment of facts. I want to do both BSD, and rms (thus our movement) justice — and that means a superficial take on facts will get us less than a reasonable study of history will. I find these things interesting, but not as trivia. The “big picture” matters now as much as ever, and the details (with care) may yet get us there.

Long live rms, Long live BSD, and happy hacking.

Licence: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0)

09.06.20

BSD, and Ultra-Orthodoxy in Free Software

Posted in BSD, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux at 11:04 pm by Guest Editorial Team

Article by figosdev

Eye again

Summary: “I have done a lot of work, migrating my equipment and files and getting familiar enough with BSD.”

The title will imply to some that these two things are related. You can sort of relate any two things by making a comparison, but here it is incidental. I want to talk about both, but comparison isn’t the primary goal.

“I have done a lot of work, migrating my equipment and files and getting familiar enough with BSD.”When I think of BSD as an alternative to GNU/Linux, I don’t present it as a solution but as part of a solution. BSD is not as free as it could be.

I have done a lot of work, migrating my equipment and files and getting familiar enough with BSD. On some level I had a bit of familiarity already due to using the command line on a Mac, when I was doing some volunteer work that was entirely unrelated to Free Software or even Open Source. They had Macs, Macs have command line tools from BSD — I am not utterly surprised when I have to add a path — such as “.” when I use find, for example. It still does get me occasionally:

# find | grep [...] 

usage: find [-dHhLXx] [-f path] path ... [expression]

# find . | grep [...] 

[Okay.]

This (standard UNIX/posix) behavior bothers more than all others, but I already knew about it and it is minor. Are there others? Oh, yes. And at first, some were worse. For me, there is no /dev/sda. While sda becomes sd0 (okay…) ‘/dev/sda’ becomes sd0c… there is no /dev/sd0 (for the entire disk) but /dev/sd0c is the equivalent of /dev/sda.

What’s the equivalent of /dev/sda1 then? Sometimes it’s /dev/sd0a, but if you have a thumbdrive that would be /dev/sdb1, you probably want /dev/sd0i. No, it’s not Roman numerals, though it might as well be. Run disklabel sd1 (no /dev) to be sure.

“Relying on a minimal distribution like Tiny Core has made migration much easier, and that’s a feature.”At first I thought you needed to EDIT the disklabel every time you wanted to access an ext2fs partition. I was pretty much ready to give up on the human species at that point. But you don’t have to, and I would rather change the partitions than edit the disklabel, but you are really going to HATE when you have an ISO image written to a thumb drive and a partition created after that.

Relying on a minimal distribution like Tiny Core has made migration much easier, and that’s a feature. Debian may have at one point been a Lexus as far as distributions go, but that is harder to replace than a Nissan Leaf — at least I thought that metaphor would work, until I looked up the list prices and found the Lexus CT is actually comparable to the Leaf. Go figure.

Only readers who are old enough (or old fashioned enough) will get any reference I make to the Intel 486 sx.

“It is, to be sure, incredibly refreshing to be able to comment on the state of GNU from the outside.”Either way, in just over two weeks I have moved myself into an interesting situation: if I wanted, I could be Linux-free (as in not running the Linux kernel on anything I use) within 24 hours. That’s not a goal yet, I’ve been trying to have it as a real option (I now do) and BSD is what I’m doing most of my computing with now. ZERO of my workflow is actually dependent on my GNU/Linux machine. I could move the files off it and run BSD on it instead, it would probably take an hour or two. Installation can be done in about 15 minutes.

This is incredibly refreshing! Linus Torvalds could throw himself off a bridge, GKH could continue selling the kernel off to Microsoft (it’s not like he’s the mastermind of this, he’s really just a guy they approve of — but that’s sort of dubious enough of an honour itself) and the GNU Project could finish migrating to Microknauth GitHub — by the way, did anybody ever ask which direction GNUstep was a step in?

It is, to be sure, incredibly refreshing to be able to comment on the state of GNU from the outside. I am not typing this on GNU/Linux, but this screen / setup looks just like it did a few weeks ago — dwm, xterm, tk-based editor — I am very sadly running Firefox (ugh) instead of IceCat. I miss IceCat, but the Hyperbola team does have its own browser project which in theory (in all seriousness) is better.

“Of course everything GNU (BSD has similar problems) is GitHub-based, from Automake (Perl) to linux-libre (moving to Perl and Python away from awk and Bash) to GNU libc, to zlib1g.”I would love to be using that right now — I don’t love the Web anyway (the whole thing is bloatware) but running Firefox makes me HATE using the Internet. I’d rather have constipation than Firefox, but although I’ve made a couple of sacrifices — overall, migrating to an entire OS that gives me a little hope for Free Software is better than most applications. I tried NetSurf from ports, but it is completely unusable — it just sits there, mostly unresponsive, mostly incompatible with anything. If the only thing I wanted to do online was read Techrights, I still couldn’t do it with the BSD port of NetSurf.

Firefox brings in dbus, of course. And it refuses to run unless /etc/machine-id is valid. UGH. This isn’t an application I would wish on anybody. But the browser issue on GNU/Linux isn’t a lot better, it’s a little better — IceCat is a small bandage for a serious wound. It’s built on Rust and Jasmine (and HarfBuzz) from Microknauth GitHub, and that’s not likely to improve.

Here’s stuff you won’t have to compile to try out, if you want to run real GNU stuff on BSD: GCC, Wget and Nano and Bash are all GNU tools, available from ports in OpenBSD. Of course ksh is standard, they prefer permissive tools. You won’t change OpenBSD, but they won’t try to change you either; you can make your own fully-free BSD with GNU Bash and Wget and everything in the GNU Project that you can compile, but I have removed less, lesskey, zless and tmux because they are GitHub-based: http://cvsweb.openbsd.org/src/usr.bin/tmux/alerts.c

“There is logic when it comes to boycotting GitHub, though a lot of it comes down to avoiding it whenever possible.”Of course everything GNU (BSD has similar problems) is GitHub-based, from Automake (Perl) to linux-libre (moving to Perl and Python away from awk and Bash) to GNU libc, to zlib1g. GNU Wget actually has code from Fakebook’s GitHub (zstd compression library). Hooray. Curl on the other hand, is based entirely on GitHub itself, so that’s not really an alternative.

I do have a sort of work-in-progress criteria for what I boycott when it comes to GitHub, since the only way to really avoid it entirely is to create a completely new operating system. With BSD, that is more possible than it is with GNU/Linux — nobody has demonstrated a will or an ability to fork Linux, while several people (Hyperbola being the one FSDG-respecting example) have forked BSD with surprisingly small teams of developers.

There is logic when it comes to boycotting GitHub, though a lot of it comes down to avoiding it whenever possible. I’d really like to do better than that, but that’s where we are at the moment. Without a fork of Perl and a fork of Python, the GNU Project will never be GitHub-free. Nor will GCC or Clang. GitHub is a terrible monopoly. Speaking of, here is a project Google doesn’t want you to know exists: https://reverseeagle.org/

I actually couldn’t find it with Google. I tried about five ways, some of which should have worked — I had to use the not-very-privacy-respecting DuckDuckGo (found it on the first try) to get the URL. I had no idea they had their own .org domain.

“The nicest thing about using BSD though, is experiencing a group of people doing EXACTLY what they claim be doing.”I’m not suggesting that YOU can’t find Reverse Eagle with Google, only that five tries wasn’t enough. This project: https://codeberg.org/ReverseEagle/DeGoogle-FOSS is probably the reason, and it’s one of the cooler things they do. Props and thanks to Derek Taylor for featuring it on his video series. This page: https://developers.reverseeagle.org/replace/github/ is the one I really wanted to share with you. But there is a lot more going on at Reverse Eagle, and I hope more people will notice them.

The nicest thing about using BSD though, is experiencing a group of people doing EXACTLY what they claim be doing. Sure, OpenBSD has non-free firmware. And I will summarise its lead developers position on it — and I know that Hyperbola will address this issue.

Unlike FreeBSD, the lead developer of OpenBSD (Theo de Raadt) does not allow any non-free software (binary-only or NDA-stifled) in the main development tree. He makes an exception that Hyperbola won’t, for what we Free Software types call “non-free firmware”.

“ROM firmware (read-only) means you can’t change it without replacing the chip.”His position is that firmware does not run on the CPU at all, it runs on the device itself. The alternative in many instances, to non-free firmware — is ROM firmware. Once it is read-only and cannot be written to (perhaps due to a fuse making a setting permanent in the chip, which is a technology that already exists https://puri.sm/learn/intel-me/ in consumer hardware) the FSF takes no issue with it. This is a very strange position rms has, and from a position of figuring out what to boycott — I think I sort of get it. But to most people it sounds pretty ridiculous.

ROM firmware (read-only) means you can’t change it without replacing the chip. Fuse-set firmware (now read-only) means practically the same thing. Only when the firmware is still writable is it practical to complain about whether or not you can change the firmware. Right?

It’s not my intention to misrepresent the position rms has on this — it’s been years since I’ve read about it.

The position of Raadt (I recently read an email he wrote about it) was this:

Wait — so you’re saying that proprietary firmware on re-writable firmware is LESS FREE than proprietary firmware on a ROM chip you can’t change at all?

“You actually lose the ability to fix something with software only.”This position blurs the distinction between a purely practical mindset and a freedom-respecting philosophical position. In the short run, ROM firmware is much more useless to someone who wants free firmware than rewriteable firmware with a non-free blob on it. Also (according to some in the email thread) “blob” has a slightly different meaning in the security world, and OpenBSD is written by people for whom “blob” is a different word than the one people from the FSF use. It’s simply an opportunity for misunderstanding. (Note also that “Open” as in “Open Source” was allegedly coined in 1998, but OpenBSD was called OpenBSD a couple years prior).

In the short run, based on de Raadt’s explanation — the Orthodox position on firmware for the Free Software makes roughly ZERO sense. In the short run, it actually presents a setback: from firmware the user doesn’t control that you ideally want to replace, to firmware the user doesn’t control that you CANNOT replace using only software (because it is no longer writable). What’s the advantage again? None — zero. You actually lose the ability to fix something with software only.

But from the standpoint of a boycott, boycotting ROM firmware is a waste of time — you can’t change ROM at all, so there’s no gain in demanding it. But boycotting non-free firmware is (to replay the official position on drivers instead of firmware) the only way to get manufacturers and/or driver authors to care about supporting Free Software. It’s slow-going and was sabotaged by “Linux” and Open Source, but progress is made from time to time.

So only in the long run does the completely counter-intuitive idea that looks a lot like “ROM is better than rewritable and non-free” actually make any sense. It makes sense to an activist in the long haul for real progress, but not to someone who knows (correctly in fact) that in the short run it won’t achieve anything. In the short run it’s actually worse, because you can’t fix it!

“So only in the long run does the completely counter-intuitive idea that looks a lot like “ROM is better than rewritable and non-free” actually make any sense.”The positions of rms are not religious, as some Microsoft “Evangelists” (their own term) would have you believe, but they are orthodox. And with the attacks from Open Source, I will point out my own defense of orthodoxy:

Orthodoxy (even without violence — orthodoxy With violence is correctly referred to as extremism) is a pretty effective way to preserve most of a culture for a very long time, as society around it changes. Ultra-orthodoxy on the other hand, frequently becomes isolated and cut off from society.

What bothers me about ultra-orthodoxy is that (in common with cults) it requires essentially magical thinking to justify even simple daily activities that the ultra-orthodox have to practice. This can be very tricky to define. For example: every Shabbos, Orthodox Jews are forbidden from kindling a fire from sundown to the next sundown. This is interpreted by rabbinic authorities as including the operation of light switches, but since the prohibition only applies to Jewish people, anybody else (non-Jewish) is free to operate lights for them.

“Activism does mean putting aside what the world wants (sometimes) for what it ideally should be like.”It’s difficult to define exactly where the line is or should be, but I actually put that custom on the Orthodox side of things, rather than the Ultra-orthodox. If you’re an Orthodox Jew, this sort of thing is very basic. If you’re a Free Software advocate, you already know that software under an NDA isn’t freedom-respecting. The rules are complex, but they don’t require sophistry or mental gymnastics to justify them — they can be explained and justified deterministically.

Ultra-orthodoxy takes things another leap in some direction. It is more serious than orthodoxy, and justification becomes more contentious and authoritative. There will be traditions that the Orthodox are literally barely capable of understanding or relating to. Not everyone feels that ultra-orthodoxy is oppressive, (I used to have an acquaintance who was happy with it) but this is no safe measure of whether it is oppressive or not.

“Free Software is idealist, and if it ceases to be idealist then it ceases to be about freedom.”What’s most interesting (and relevant) about this is that orthodoxy survives (and slowly evolves with the world) without losing its Orthodox status, while ultra-orthodoxy does flips and lives in isolation for the sake of avoiding any change whatsoever. And my point here is not simply that we should “just relax” and compromise for its own sake, or just to make things easier on ourselves. Activism does mean putting aside what the world wants (sometimes) for what it ideally should be like. Free Software is idealist, and if it ceases to be idealist then it ceases to be about freedom.

But the threat of ultra-orthodoxy is customs that we can only justify with authority, sophistry and magical and non-deterministic reasoning. I’m not against you thinking magically, though I am more or less against magical thinking being IMPOSED on people — I’m against theocracy for similar reasons.

There are actually very few things about Free Software this will apply to — most of the logic that causes us to do what we do is pretty straightforward, and most of the responses Free Software has to problems are easy to implement without sophistry or philosophical contortion.

“If a project wants FSDG status, that imposes certain restrictions on what can be discussed on the project’s own forums.”One corner we could be painted into though, is the horribly-named FSDG, or Free Software Distribution Guidelines. Despite being familiar with both acronyms, I spent more than 45 minutes today thinking I was talking with someone about the Debian Free Software Guidelines, because if you move the “D” in FSDG twice to the left, it becomes DFSG — the precursor to the Open Source Definition (Debian still uses the DFSG, it has for many years). But 99% of my complaint isn’t about the name.

The FSDG goes farther than the Free Software Definition, but that isn’t all it does. It extends to matters regarding documentation (mostly for our benefit) and things you might think of as outside of software itself. Not that OpenBSD (yes, we are making comparisons even if they’re not the main point of the article) treats documentation as fully outside the creation software — a feature without documentation is considered a bug in the OpenBSD world. There are some differences between these worlds, but OpenBSD is more freedom-respecting than FreeBSD (which does not forbid software under NDAs, and which develops its package manager on GitHub).

My original problem with the FSDG was the effect it had on speech itself. This doesn’t loop back around immediately to forbidding an entire CATEGORY of 4-freedoms-respecting actually-free software, but it does get there (and that is the main inspiration for this article).

If a project wants FSDG status, that imposes certain restrictions on what can be discussed on the project’s own forums. I’ve always been told I make too much of this (great if that’s actually true) but I think the practice stands on its own for demonstrating its effects. My original complaint was that there are instances which go beyond “free advertising” for non-free software (I can certainly understand why that would be considered spam on a Free Software forum) but there are legitimate discussions of non-free software, particularly for people who are interested in creating, locating or promoting free alternatives.

The FSDG is in my opinion, stifling in this regard — but with just the right forum leaders, and just the right amount of interaction from the FSF (they are not strict enforcers about this — I think they mostly impose the requirement and then leave it up to the project) you could get by talking about software in a reasonable fashion. I don’t like it though, because freedom doesn’t love rules that are poorly conceived and sloppily implemented (except when they fail, of course).

But there is a “big picture” concern that in my opinion, puts the FSDG squarely in the category of ultra-orthodoxy I’ve been talking about.

“This is another really refreshing thing about running BSD, particularly OpenBSD — I strongly feel that it is the most UNIX-like OS (in terms of the Fifth Freedom) that currently exists.”We want all software to be free software. That’s the goal of the free software movement. I also want control over MY computing. That’s one of my reasons for using free software, and it’s commonly noted as a goal and benefit — for the user to have control over their computing.

Of course I acknowledge that when we say “freedom” you have to be specific for it to be a meaningful conversation; as usual, I am referring to the 4 freedoms in the FSD. I would say the 4 freedoms plus the freedom to NOT run (or to boycott) the software. I’ve been promoting Peter Boughton’s Fifth Freedom ever since he wrote one that fit what I was looking for.

This is another really refreshing thing about running BSD, particularly OpenBSD — I strongly feel that it is the most UNIX-like OS (in terms of the Fifth Freedom) that currently exists. I hope the Hyperbola devs notice, because they can keep that going as they make a fully free version. In some ways they do seem to notice — Hyperbola has a good track record for removing dubious components from GNU/Linux.

The thing is, GNU was possible in part because the Fifth Freedom already existed. It was much easier to replace component after component of UNIX to create GNU, by virtue of the fact that UNIX was so modular already. Don’t like it? Don’t keep it. Want it gone? It’s easy to remove.

“There are too many efforts to try to dictate or “nudge” what software I have running or installed, and I’m not okay with that.”Since pedants will start telling you how dependencies work because it’s an easy straw man, thanks — I know dependencies, I’ve written scripts to remix software distributions in my own language and even that (the language) has dependencies, I think most people get that.

But the encroachment (the takeover) of dependencies is the issue here, and it’s been talked about enough that we don’t need to make the article even longer by explaining it.

I want to be able to boycott software — I want to make it easier to boycott software. I want developers to (within reason, and not necessarily a heck of a lot more than they ALREADY did about 10 or 12 years ago) respect the fact that I want to remove software from my computer that I don’t need or want.

There are too many efforts to try to dictate or “nudge” what software I have running or installed, and I’m not okay with that. I am not asking for something new, either — I was content with the level of modularity that existed just half a decade or so ago. Things have gotten ridiculous. We might have to go back a little farther than 5 years if we really want to fix it, but this is not a theoretical level of control the user has — it is truer to say this is an established level of user control that we have now lost.

And when I delete a bunch of files, I want to be able to share that with other people who have similar goals. Maybe only a few will care, but that’s not the point. It’s free (as in FSD) software that may do something like… take a non-DFSG GNU/Linux distribution and automatically turn it into one that fits all the wild requirements of the DFSG.

But that software will never ITSELF be DFSG-compliant.

So that means it has to be separate from ANY DFSG-compliant distro.

And it means (to the letter, at least) that you can’t even talk about that software.

    The first rule of Free Software Distribution Club, 
    is you DO NOT talk about Free Software Distribution Club.

Followed to the letter, anything LIKE Linux-libre, the GNU Project itself, or any script (this is something GUIX has to deal with) or my own distro-libre project — before being accepted by the FSF has to run through an ideological gauntlet to be allowed an exception to its own rules, so that it may automate the creation of DFSG-compliant software.

Because anything that automates the creation of DFSG-compliant software, to be DFSG-compliant, must include its sources and must also not refer to non-free software (or places that refer to non-free software).

As with the seemingly-pretty-crazy ROM/Writable firmware “paradox”, I can understand most of this. You don’t want to say something is FSDG, then just have the authors start plugging in things like Skype and Minecraft and whatever else Microsoft decides to buy next year and still calling it a “Fully-free, FSF-approved distro”.

You want to create and endorse projects that ONLY move distros from less free to more free, NOT the other way around.

As the creator of linux-libre said recently, it is possible to avoid a catch-22 with linux-libre sources. It involves doing more of the steps manually.

I’m not satisfied. If the (approval) process forbids automating the process of making software more free, it is the (approval) process that should be tweaked, not what the developer does. And this is not a hard fast rule itself, rather it should apply enough to make the point for this example at least — it should be possible to automate the work of creating an FSDG-compliant distro without the scripts triggering the FSDG itself.

Followed to the letter, the scripts that remove non-free software must themselves be kept secret, because they REFER TO non-free software!

Here are some ways to address this:

1. Simply use an authority, like rms or the FSF, to grant exceptions to the rule when it is sane to do so.

“Open Source always wants to change the rules, so they can get more non-free garbage into everything you do.”This is the most likely solution, because that’s how the FSF tends to work anyway.

2. Change nothing — if you want to liberate 100 free software projects at once, you can simply go to the same manual trouble Alex Oliva goes to for linux-libre: TIMES 100.

3. Make the rules saner / improve the process

I LIKE THIS ONE! PLEASE SIR, CAN WE HAVE SOME MORE?

Open Source always wants to change the rules, so they can get more non-free garbage into everything you do. I get it. We have to be CAREFUL. This is like changing code that’s part of a mission-critical system; you have to sometimes, but you want to avoid it and you want to be extremely careful when you do at all.

But there are precedents as well. For most Free Software, the GPL is designed to not allow linking by non-free software. In some instances where it made enough sense, the FSF has created the LGPL instead. It rarely recommends its use, but the important thing is they went out of their way to allow exceptions when it made enough sense to do so.

The GPL3 is in a few ways that make VERY good sense, stricter than the GPL2 in what it allows to be taken away from the user (less) but it also changes a few rules from GPL2 that are harsher for the user. Check the GPL3 FAQ for details. The point of this comparison is that not only does the FSF sometimes make exceptions when it’s reasonable (as with the LGPL) but they also sometimes tweak rules to make them easier, not only to make them stricter.

The FSF has the authority to make a beneficial change to the FSDG. The benefit of the change is already (in my opinion) in the spirit of the FSDG. Although it may at first seem impossible to change the FSDG along these lines without defeating the purpose — I can hear the parrots sqwaking already that the entire FSDG would collapse “like a flan in cupboard” if you made it so you could reference non-free software. But the FSF is smarter than that, and frankly lots of people are up to making this workable. It’s far from impossible, it’s not even a magnificent feat if they pull it off.

“The next time someone comes along with an idea similar to linux-libre, Guix or distro-libre, I want them to benefit.”None of this implies that the FSF has enough sense to make this work — if we are talking about problems the FSF “WONTFIX” there are bigger ones, to be sure. I’ve written off the FSF as a worthwhile organisation. But I consider this to be as much about rms as the FSF, and I’d actually keep 99% of the DFSG (it serves a real purpose) rather than throw it out and make a reasonable exception for scripts the MAIN PURPOSE of which is to remove non-free software — to do the very work of FSDG-compliance itself, but to make it easier to do at a greater scale.

I do not think paranoia and isolationism is the better option here — although I do not (AT ALL) trust the Guix devs who would benefit from this, it is not for the Guix devs (who I don’t like, support or endorse — I would sooner accuse, warn of and write off) that I make this argument. On the contrary — the fact that they are finding the same issue as a problem makes this argument all the more relevant at the moment, though I hardly consider Guix a good example of the benefit. But the issue keeps coming up, and I think this is a real weakness of the FSDG.

The next time someone comes along with an idea similar to linux-libre, Guix or distro-libre, I want them to benefit. The fact that I no longer support Guix is truly a side issue, and entirely so.

Once a script has a primary purpose of DSFG compliance, it should be allowed within the DSFG-compliant distro. And once the script ABANDONS that primary purpose, it should no longer qualify as DSFG-compliant. I believe this is (or is already most of the way to) a safe exception. We can do this. It mainly needs the blessing of the Chief Gnusiance (I honestly don’t give a damn about what the FSF thinks).

Will he make this a priority? I doubt it. And to be certain, this change has so much less meaning without his attention. Unfortunately, we were very close to rms having a true successor but the FSF blew that, in its corrupt and mutinous state. Obviously we can all make this change in policy ourselves (as a matter of enforcement) though a legitimate, authoritative change to the policy itself (from a legitimate authority who might make a small reform to the FSDG) would be better, if unlikely.

If I thought it were impossible, I wouldn’t go to the trouble of talking about it. But I think the odds are small of this improving. The FSF does make exceptions and improve policies, but I think this is pretty rare.

Ultimately I want the FSF to be conservative in some regards — I actually think we ALL do, or the FSF would actually fall apart.

I mean in this regard (it clearly has in other ways already).

But even if the FSF really has the job of being orthodox and reasonably strict, there is always going to be a line (somewhere) between “reasonably strict” and “self-defeating and basically nuts”. Some people will always act like they’re the same thing, too. I think Free Software can be reasonably strict (how about “reasonably principled” — does that sound more favourable? It’s something I think we should continue to care about) without staying in corners we have painted ourselves into — where we are forbidding from creating software that has a clear and defensible goal of helping people fight against non-free software, but must MENTION it to do so.

I have already defended orthodoxy as a way of preserving culture. But I have also defended evolution as a way of improving it, without losing orthodox status.

The rest is up to… well, frankly everybody.

And let’s take into account the possibility that nothing changes in policy (the letter) but that practice alone changes… Or in other words that the “FSDG never REALLY forbade this in the first place…”

Okay, then at least will be one (more?) example of the FSF foregoing literalist silliness for a sane exemption to a very strict rule of its own making.

Some rules actually require a fair amount of strictness to work at all. I think the FSDG (I have to type that about three times to avoid the DFSG habit, you know — every time) is an example of that. I’m not suggesting we make it NOT strict. Just that we take away the craziest part of it, and that we do so in a way that does NOT cause it to collapse.

Again, if I thought it wasn’t possible…

Also, could we please change the damned name? It can still be the Debian Free Software (Damnit, it even unpacks as DFSG!)

It can still be the Free Software Design Guidelines historically, though it would make 2020 a slightly nicer year if it was the year we decided to rename them to the “Libre Distro Guidelines” or LDG. SO. MUCH. NICER.

My poor fingers thank you in advance. (No, not that one. That finger is reserved for “thanking” the backstabbers who signed the Guix petition).

Also rms, if you deliberately named the FSDG to be nearly identical to DFSG on purpose to mess with them, that was just bastardly:

Free Software D…n Guidelines
D…n Free Software Guidelines

I doubt you did it intentionally. “GNU/Linux” has a very good reason for it. “GNU’s Not Unix” is clever and funny. That’s more your style than being nasty. Either way, I really do hate the name!

Long live rms, and (At the very least!) Tolerable Hacking.

Licence: Creative Commons CC0 1.0 (public domain)

08.25.20

[Meme] Sometimes It’s Smarter to be ‘Dumb’

Posted in BSD, GNU/Linux, Security at 8:38 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

In yesterday’s news: “Consumer Reports Study Shows Many ‘Smart’ Doorbells Are Dumb, Lack Basic Security”

COVID-19 masks: Linux/BSD Security, Proprietary Software

Summary: Just having devices that are based on BSD (UNIX) and “Linux” (GNU) isn’t enough for security, especially if the underlying software is secret and ports are left open, passwords unchanged etc.

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