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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.

08.21.20

So It’s Come to This?

Posted in BSD, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux at 8:28 pm by Guest Editorial Team

Article by figosdev

A misunderstanding

Summary: “You can’t count on GPL to protect you if the copyright holders of the GPL software are themselves controlled by Microsoft.”

When a legal team’s worth of disclaimers and qualifiers doesn’t stop people from misunderstanding (or misrepresenting) you, it’s time to leave. I’ll try not to do the same in kind.

I read Roy’s article, it’s awfully nice. Just look how nice it is:

“…too polite to mention who said that BSD-type licences were a step back for freedom. That was me. I had been saying this to figosdev several times, but he never agreed.”

That’s not true, actually. But it gets better:

“In very simple terms, which don’t require a law degree to comprehend, a GPL-type licence (copyleft) protects one’s code from becoming proprietary software”

Except when it doesn’t. Sometimes GPL fails. What can I tell you about that? There’s this book I did… Let’s see what it says about this very issue:

“While the GPL made the kernel what it was last week, what it is today and what it will be (Zombie Linux) is thanks to Jim Zemlin and his Microsoftie second-in-command at the Linux Foundation.”

What I’m referring to is the fact that the Linux Foundation controls the software, and the Linux Foundation is controlled by a company that is (as Roy himself put it) a “serial GPL violator”.

You can’t count on GPL to protect you if the copyright holders of the GPL software are themselves controlled by Microsoft. Does that mean GPL is worthless? No. But I’ve documented various ways in which it was compromised, including in Chapter 19 (which Roy didn’t republish, but then it was very recent that the original was published anyway).

(The “license” I’m referring to in that title is CC BY-ND, a non-free verbatim-only license, NOT the GPL.)

“The new monopoly move is to use the license and find other ways of restricting the use. It happened with Tivo, it happened with the anti-GPL3 lobbying, it will happen with these political mutinies and political manipulations.”

My stance has long been that GPL (as well as GNU/Linux) IS BETTER (on average), COPYLEFT IS BETTER (at least for the most important things) but it is not an impenetrable fortress. If you treat licensing like an unstoppable firewall, and ignore the OTHER THREATS to free software, you’re going to watch Free Software fail — as it has for the past 5 years.

How was the GPL going to keep rms from being ousted, or from Microsoft taking over the Linux kernel?

IT CAN’T. More immediately relevant — how does GPL3 stop Tivoisation when Microsoft front groups lobby Torvalds against it? IT CAN’T — I simply mean the license is not (cannot be) the entire picture or a stand-alone solution to software freedom. Other defenses are necessary as well. This is what I keep saying, because this is what the Free Software movement neglects at its peril.

Of course I don’t expect the GPL to BE all-powerful — my argument is that nothing can make it that reliable. It’s better than the BSD license, [you gonna twist that quote around somehow too?] especially for vital projects like the GNU Project, but one very important thing Roy left out is that the GNU project ONLY recommends copyleft for substantial works:

Small programs

“It is not worth the trouble to use copyleft for most small programs. We use 300 lines as our benchmark: when a software package’s source code is shorter than that, the benefits provided by copyleft are usually too small to justify the inconvenience of making sure a copy of the license always accompanies the software.”

This is highly relevant, because a lot of the programs I write are actually quite small — and even the FSF doesn’t care if I use copyleft for those or not (or if you do). They actually say “It is not worth the trouble” in those instances.

Rather than dismiss the GPL entirely due to it not being a perfect weapon against all non-freedom, my advice has been to recognise other threats and address those with tools that work against them. Permissive licensing is not what ousted rms — Codes of Conduct and Safe Space policies were.

If you compare what happened recently to the OSI plan Perens admitted existed to oust rms years ago, you can see the similarities between that and the actual timeline of what happened with LibrePlanet, the resignation, and the coup from Guix and GNU devs trying to create a new policy not unlike the one from LibrePlanet.

No matter what license you use, this is what’s going to destroy the Free Software movement. Without a movement, the license really doesn’t do much. GPL only works when it’s defended. The Linux Foundation isn’t going to defend Linux. People — do the math here. The GPL not withstanding, Linux (the kernel) is not protected by it, because the people who can relicense it DO NOT CARE about freedom at all.

What I’ve said over and over is that free licenses are vital to establishing software freedom, but they are not enough by themselves to defend and preserve it. There I’m referring to all free software licenses, including the GPL.

But what really pisses me off, is that Roy simply ignored (and contradicted) most of what was said in the article he was just now referring to, which I consider misrepresenting me and misrepresenting my argument — whether deliberately or because it just doesn’t matter to him.

Here's Roy:

“too polite to mention who said that BSD-type licences were a step back for freedom.”

The single line of email I was referring to, said EXACTLY this:

“BSD only takes us further away from freedom.”

This new article from Roy stresses the licensing, but FFS, if you feel THAT STRONGLY about permissively licensed code — don’t use X11 or Python (any flavour) then. They’re both permissive. If you contribute to either of these, you’re committing the same sin that BSD is. But Roy says:

“Never contribute Free software to a framework controlled partly or fully by proprietary software companies. Never ever.”

Okay, so that will ultimately mean no Linux kernel for Roy — because as he’s said countless times, the Linux Foundation is controlled by Microsoft. Linus is also.

But even though this new article is all about licenses, MY article was not. At all. I sure tried to clarify that:

“As I’ve said in the book that was just run here, GNU/Linux is dead. I still use it, I can certainly understand if you do, I would ideally like the GNU Project to be salvaged. Its mission is very important.”

“On the subject of copyleft, this article is more about kernels than licenses. On the subject of copyleft, this article is more about kernels than licenses. I have defended the value of copyleft on many occasions, as well as HyperbolaBSD.”

Hyperbola is an FSF-approved distro, and I also strongly approve of it. I think it’s the last FSF-approved distro that actually fights for your freedom. But if it’s BSD, does that mean it’s a step backwards for freedom?

My article: “I routinely promote Hyperbola as an ideal”

My article: “I’m using BSD to get closer to HyperbolaBSD.”

Quote from Roy:

“…too polite to mention who said that BSD-type licences were a step back for freedom. That was me. I had been saying this to figosdev several times, BUT HE NEVER AGREED.” [emphasis added]

My Article that this one references:

“I have defended the value of copyleft on many occasions, as well as HyperbolaBSD.”

As with Hyperbola. I made it VERY CLEAR that I was talking about BSD the software, NOT BSD the license. (Which again, is akin in being permissive to countless other software that Roy uses — so what the actual heck?)

It gets better though:

“Maybe GPL isn’t for everyone…”

I actually sent Roy an editor not long ago, which was permissively licensed, which I started working on and personally made it GPL3, as a matter of fact.

Not only did the permissive license allow this — I also talked to the author of the permissive version and advocated (successfully) that they make future versions of the project GPL3 as well.

And that’s the same software that I’m using to type this article.

“…or maybe people have been brainwashed by Microsoft proxies such as Black Duck to believe that GPL is neither beneficial nor desirable/popular.”

Oooooookay… It’s obvious to me what’s happening here. I guess that’s my cue, then.

“If you’re so smart, why don’t you pick up your cues faster?”

“Are those my cues?”

“Yes, and they ought to be dry by now; why don’t you pull them up out of the cellophane before they scorch!” — The Adventures of Nick Danger, Third Eye

Long Live rms, and happy hacking.

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

Why I Prefer GPL/Copyleft

Posted in BSD, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, GPL, Law at 3:32 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Ripley and Alien: BSD licence, GPL licence

Summary: Copyright-based copyleft licences generally advance us towards the goal or the status quo where all software is free/libre (freedom-respecting) and abundant/available for all, without discrimination against anybody

THE latest guest post from figosdev (published this morning) was too polite to mention who said that BSD-type licences were a step back for freedom. That was me. I had been saying this to figosdev several times, but he never agreed. It’s one of the many things we cannot agree on (albeit we still agree on most things, both technical and political).

“Never contribute Free software to a framework controlled partly or fully by proprietary software companies. Never ever.”The only time code that I wrote was BSD-licensed (I always choose GPL by default) was when I was forced to relicense (or lose the right to have my code hosted in a repository). Some proprietary software company that lobbies for software patents made this licence choice for many thousands of volunteers and imposed that choice on all of them, without even a consultation. So the code would be either relicensed BSD or would be removed. It’s a real shame, isn’t it? At one point I was the top-ranked code contributor (number one position for overall number of downloads among almost 10,000 developers).

Lesson learned?

Never contribute Free software to a framework controlled partly or fully by proprietary software companies. Never ever.

“…if the goal is to put Free/libre software everywhere, then BSD contributes not towards it but against it.”In very simple terms, which don’t require a law degree to comprehend, a GPL-type licence (copyleft) protects one’s code from becoming proprietary software; the code is totally useful and usable, but the adopter is required to reciprocate by giving back improvements to it. BSD-type licences are just the opposite of it. Some call them “liberal” though it’s a misnomer as from the user’s point of view liberties are taken away (the “liberal” as a word alludes to the freedom one has to exploit and deny access to code).

Maybe GPL isn’t for everyone, or maybe people have been brainwashed by Microsoft proxies such as Black Duck to believe that GPL is neither beneficial nor desirable/popular. Either way, if the goal is to put Free/libre software everywhere, then BSD contributes not towards it but against it. Sure, BSD may be better than totally proprietary, but the end goal/outcome is black boxes. We don’t want that in a democratic society. It harms trust, it makes back doors easier to obscure/conceal, and it helps deny access to “improved” versions of software. Ever noticed how much Apple charges for the only computers permitted to run the Apple operating systems?

08.20.20

BSD (for Tiny Core Users)

Posted in BSD, GNU/Linux at 11:38 pm by Guest Editorial Team

Article by figosdev

A lifeboat

Summary: “You wouldn’t call a lifeboat a “step backwards” if knew you needed one. Stay on the ship, if you prefer it.”

You can still use this introduction, even if you don’t use Tiny Core. I am using Tiny Core lately, because it is one of the better distros for avoiding systemd.

As I’ve said in the book that was just run here, GNU/Linux is dead. I still use it, I can certainly understand if you do, I would ideally like the GNU Project to be salvaged. Its mission is very important.

“Very recently, I was told that BSD is a step backward for freedom. I do not agree. We have a setback, this is true — but nobody is going to salvage or save the Linux kernel.”On the subject of copyleft, this article is more about kernels than licenses. I have defended the value of copyleft on many occasions, as well as HyperbolaBSD.

Very recently, I was told that BSD is a step backward for freedom. I do not agree. We have a setback, this is true — but nobody is going to salvage or save the Linux kernel. Torvalds won’t. GKH certainly won’t, he’s part of the problem. The Linux Foundation won’t, IBM won’t, Alex Oliva won’t. But before you blame Alex Oliva, I don’t think anybody will save it — that’s what I mean when I say GNU/Linux is dead.

What about Hurd? You go ahead. Maybe this will be a renaissance for the Hurd kernel. I never talk about that, because I seriously doubt it. But it’s a cool kernel, the lead developer is a backstabber and personally, there’s no interest in Hurd here. People will continue developing it of course, just like they keep working on ReactOS.

“RMS said that if it isn’t actively maintained, the FSF can’t endorse it.”The difference between a “step backward” and a “setback” is the starting point. If not for setbacks that have already happened, BSD (in general) would be a step backward in some way, from where we WERE 5 years ago. Until this week, “5 years ago” was also the last time I tried BSD. I’ve spent 5 years looking at our odds of salvaging or forking Linux. I don’t think they exist, but maybe they do.

BSD may be a step backward from where we were, but they’re not (IMO) a step backward from where we are. Ultimately I think BSD is all we’ve got for the future of the GNU Project. I’m far from alone in this — in many ways I’m behind on this.

I personally talked to rms about the options for a Free-as-in-freedom version of BSD a year or two ago. I asked if he knew of any such option — he did not. It was then that I found LibreBSD — but it’s based on GitHub, and receives few updates. It frequently looks abandoned.

“Eventually Hyperbola — the only FSF-approved distro to take modern threats to software freedom seriously — would switch to BSD. To me this alone speaks volumes.”RMS said that if it isn’t actively maintained, the FSF can’t endorse it. Eventually Hyperbola — the only FSF-approved distro to take modern threats to software freedom seriously — would switch to BSD. To me this alone speaks volumes. It isn’t the basis for my argument, though it makes me feel we are on the right track. The Hyperbola team is serious about your freedom. Trisquel gives you systemd, and Trisquel fans / users quote lies from systemd’s own creator to justify its inclusion.

As was said on another Free software blog, most of the people who hate systemd do not use free kernels or fully-free distros. But they are crapping on those who used free kernels and/or fully-free distros until systemd showed up. They’re not giving you the whole picture.

A number of those people (myself included) have retreated to options that give users more control over adding and removing components, but which sadly lack fully-free kernels.

“Alpine is not fully-free, Tiny Core is not fully-free, but Trisquel is Free In License Only.”This isn’t because fully-free kernels are no longer important — it’s because lots of things are important, and a distro with a fully-free kernel that is controlled by Microsoft (GitHub) and IBM is still controlled by Microsoft and IBM — and that’s NOT free. We’ve made this point a thousand times, but people ignore it. On our side of the argument are fully-free FSF-approved distro devs like Denis Roio (DYNE:bolic) and Hyperbola.

You guys should listen up.

Alpine is not fully-free, Tiny Core is not fully-free, but Trisquel is Free In License Only.

Meanwhile, the Linux kernel is getting things like DRM and corporate sabotage, not to mention it’s the battleground for a fight against copyleft — using copyleft.

Given the concerns about Copyleft being used by corporations against freedom (this shouldn’t be considered impossible, when the point of Copyleft was the exact opposite — using a monopoly against itself — so you’re going to argue that it’s impossible to use something that uses a monopoly against itself — AGAINST ITSELF? This is basic recursion, you should know better…)

“Meanwhile, the Linux kernel is getting things like DRM and corporate sabotage, not to mention it’s the battleground for a fight against copyleft — using copyleft.”I’m not against copyleft, but CopyleftConf being co-opted should make us think about why this is happening. In my opinion, we should have a Free Software taskforce to watchdog and comment on the future of copyleft as a solution — and/or threat. I have no horse in that race — I’ve defended copyleft as a political solution, but if it fails and becomes a problem, I would simply not use it then.

If we can continue the trend of using copyleft as a working solution as the GNU Project has in the past, we probably should. But it may take some effort.

My interest in BSD is the same interest that GNU had in Linux — we need a kernel. I realise that BSD has its own permissively-licensed tools, but the first version of BSD I ever used was GNU/KfreeBSD — a hybrid solution if anything, with the GNU userland.

Maybe instead of bending over for Debian, someone should have done more to defend things like GNU/KfreeBSD instead of defending a weapon like systemd used against it and everything like it. It’s too late now, but go ahead.

You’ll never be free again with the Linux kernel, so what are YOU going to use?

“…linux-libre isn’t (and won’t be) a fork, so a fully-free linux kernel that will become less and less free over time isn’t a solution as far as I’m concerned.”Again, I have no problem with temporary solutions like Alpine and Tiny Core. I asked rms and Alex Oliva for a libre kernel for Tiny Core on numerous occasions. I know it doesn’t work that way — but it would have helped, they could have listened. Oliva used to (as far as I could tell) promote linux-libre by creating it for certain distros, he really should have added Tiny Core to the list. It’s not like Arch was fully free, but there was still a linux-libre for it. (I’ve used Parabola before. Also ConnochaetOS).

But linux-libre isn’t (and won’t be) a fork, so a fully-free linux kernel that will become less and less free over time isn’t a solution as far as I’m concerned. It’s just a holdover. Feel free! But I’m looking for solutions.

I routinely promote Hyperbola as an ideal, but my first GNU/Linux distro wasn’t fully free, however it WAS a huge step forward from Windows.

“When people see you say no, even once, you may inspire them to follow your example. To give help consistently, you can make this refusal a firm practice, but refusing occasionally is still help.”Richard Stallman

“I could just sit here and fiddle with Tiny Core, but the reason I’m running Tiny Core is to say “no” to systemd and GitHub, as much as possible.”Is it better to be fully-free? OF COURSE it is. I didn’t switch to Debian until they had removed the non-free software from their kernel. That was a giant leap forward. I barely ever used non-free wifi either (I barely ever use wifi at all for that matter). The person who told me BSD is a step backwards, neither uses a fully-free/FSF-approved distro, plus he sometimes uses non-free wifi. I mean, this is ridiculous — I was (and lean towards being) more of a free software purist than he is now.

I am STILL advocating we say “no” to all of this non-free stuff.

The difference is, I know where we are right now — and BSD is likely a step forward from where we are, not from where we were. If you have a time machine, great — get in and enjoy GNU/Linux. Maybe from somewhere in the past, you can fix its future (according to some authors, you’ll only create an alternative timeline. But hey, it’s a timeline where free software sucks less than in this one. Enjoy!)

I’m using BSD to get closer to HyperbolaBSD. I could just sit here and fiddle with Tiny Core, but the reason I’m running Tiny Core is to say “no” to systemd and GitHub, as much as possible. I’d love to say no to MUCH MUCH more — that’s going to take time and effort. And more people realising what HyperbolaBSD already has.

I thought about Fury and Nomad (these are other BSD flavours), but both are developed on GitHub. I just stopped using a GNU/Linux distro for that, I’m not interested.

I’m interested in OpenBSD, because that’s what LibreBSD and (I think) Hyperbola are based on, but I downloaded it a while ago and haven’t managed to get it installed yet. I’m also interested in NetBSD. DragonflyBSD is 64-bit only, I’m not interested in that (This is also why I haven’t tried PCLinuxOS).

I was avoiding FreeBSD for various reasons, above all their ridiculous Code of Conduct. They switched to a slightly less ridiculous one recently — okay, so it’s not my first choice. But Tom is in love with some aspects of it, so I’ll compromise a little and try it if it installs more easily than OpenBSD (which I’ve retained the same amount of interest in.)

Bingo!

So at freebsd.org you’ll find docs plus an FAQ

So far, I’m leaning on the EXTENSIVE FAQ, mostly.

Under “Get FreeBSD” I find numerous options fo the i386 platform — Installer Images (nope) and Virtual Machine Images (yes!)

I will explain why I made this choice in a moment.

So I click back and then forward, to 11.4-RELEASE — click on the raw.xz and download about .24 GB, which I then copy to my Tiny Core server. I figure its specs are most likely to work on the first try. I have trouble booting this thing from anything except CD or DVD, I don’t want to spend the media (the easiest to find media here is also the crappiest) and I don’t want to swap drives out today.

So I boot Tiny Core to ram, no extensions — copy the raw.xz to ram and write it to the drive (again, this is from ram) using unxz -c FreeBSD-11.4-RELEASE-i386.raw.xz | dd of=/dev/sda … if I’d followed some relevant instructions I would have paid attention to details like sector size.

I read basically zero instructions, and simply worked out my own way to install this — with a single command, once the file was on the system in ram. I know this image is for VM users, it’s exactly what I was looking for and doing it this way converted my server partition scheme from DOS to GPT. Which is not quite what I’d hoped for, but is pretty cool if you think about it.

I rebooted and hoped for the best — and it’s running FreeBSD.

Fewer things worked immediately than I wanted, but more things worked than I expected — the USB keyboard works, the screen works, it actually boots!

Because I’ve used BSD a little, plus I’ve never been interested in Linux developers’ attempts to deprecate things for whatever hipster douchebag garbage Lennart and Co. are pushing, it wasn’t all unfamiliar. As with Tiny Core, ifconfig still works. It’s friendly and simple, I like it. I didn’t have to look up how to check if there was a DHCP lease.

Based on my experience I tried Single-user mode first. I don’t think Multi-user worked yet; I don’t know if I got the DHCP lease in Single-user mode or not — I know Multi-user does.

The eth0 interface (I know, systemd has its own BS) is sk0 on FreeBSD. You won’t need to, but if you want to run the DHCP client for some reason it’s “dhclient sk0″.

I didn’t get it working until today, but to mount /dev/sdb2 on /mnt/usb with an ext2 partition it’s mount -t ext2fs /dev/da0s2 /mnt/usb.

Single-user mounts / as read-only, to fix this “mount -o rw /” works. I used addser to create a user-privileged user, passwd to set the root password. I bet bsgconfig (very nice setup tool) would have let me do this as well, but I didn’t find it until later.

Once you have a password or user account, you can login to it from Multi-user mode. It’s a menu option when you first start up. From there (as root) I mounted a usb with an ext2 partition — it should also work with ext3 (you still use -t ext2fs) but I haven’t tried it. EXT3 Journaling is not supported.

Multi-user mounts / as rw (“soft-updates” — up to 30 seconds before a write syncs) and the sync command is available, but I don’t know if it works the same as in GNU/Linux.

The reset and clear commands work. You will find you have sh instead of bash — it is more minimal. The userland differs a bit from FreeBSD to OpenBSD to GNU — ls is in all of them, while BSD is closer to POSIX-only; GNU extends options.

In theory, bsdconfig lets you install more packages. I haven’t managed yet. I think it’s OpenBSD that lets you run Linux (ELF) binaries, but only 32-bit ones — I don’t know if FreeBSD does (let alone without installing extra things). I’d really like to have GNU Wget back.

Running bsdconfig, I saw an option to install PyPy. I’d love to. The clock is set now (old server, dead battery) so maybe it will install now. I recommend reading the FAQ at least. I’m on part 8.

I’m amused and pleased that uname -a works. I guess it’s from Unix (maybe that’s the “u” in “uname”) but I know Unix is what gave us things like ls and sed, it’s these commands I’m not sure whether they’re Linux-specific (most “Linux” commands are GNU commands or originally Unix commands, of course) that I find most interesting at the moment.

I want to learn BSD, so I will be more ready to use HyperbolaBSD when I get it running. So instead of just talking about BSD as an option for the future of Free software, I can actually have greater familiarity with the topic.

This is research. But if you think this is a step backwards — particularly one I’m making, rather than trying to move forward after a setback — that’s your opinion. You’re welcome to it. I’m still trying to be more free. Guess what? We don’t have the options we used to have.

GNU/Linux isn’t a real option anymore. But go ahead; some of us who do care a great deal about freedom are looking into other options, with very good reason. Some of us talk about GNU/BSD now; but GNU/BSD isn’t going to happen without a kernel. Or without BSD.

I said more than a year ago that we needed lifeboats. That’s what this is, you know. BSD is (now, thanks to Microsoft, GitHub and IBM) a lifeboat for the GNU Project, while the FSF supports Microsoft, GitHub and systemd. You wouldn’t call a lifeboat a “step backwards” if knew you needed one. Stay on the ship, if you prefer it. The rest of us hope to rebuild, but at least will try.

Some of the points of this article may prove due to misunderstanding what was said. That’s okay, no harm done — but I don’t think running FreeBSD right now is frivolous or silly, or I wouldn’t do it.

Long Live rms, and happy hacking.

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

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