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07.03.20

Free Software Tackles Political Issues. Political Tactics Are Also Being Weaponised Against Free Software.

Posted in Free/Libre Software at 11:52 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog… until you start barking.”

Banner: A social art

Summary: Divide-and-rule tactics seem to have been exploited to weaken collaborative work on Free/libre software; the response to these tactics needs to start with realisation that this is going on (even if it’s done in a somewhat clandestine nature)

BACK in 2008 we wrote about how Microsoft had attempted to weaken the Free software community by playing off BSDs against the GNUs (and Linuxes). Internal documents from Microsoft revealed that it was on the agenda. The cult tactics of Microsoft aren’t new to us; we’ve covered those for many years and we provided evidence, too.

Society worldwide is being increasingly divided. It was always divided, sure, but the ferociousness of the division was never this bad in my lifetime. People are willing to kill one another over political differences and national leaders egg them on. They like it when people are divided, combating one another on a horizontal level rather than vertical level (things like gender/race, not class/finance).

“When the Free software movement began — and even in the UNIX/BSD camp — gender and class weren’t an issue; people had come from many parts of the world, from various ethnic backgrounds albeit usually from richer countries (where access to technology was possible back then).”Software freedom was, since inception, inherently political but also technical. The concept of sharing had an associated “justice” to it; people wanted to share with their neighbours things that were free to copy anyway; why should anyone stand in their way (except barons looking at the prospect of privateering and domination over culture/knowledge)?

When the Free software movement began — and even in the UNIX/BSD camp — gender and class weren’t an issue; people had come from many parts of the world, from various ethnic backgrounds albeit usually from richer countries (where access to technology was possible back then). There was nothting inherently racist and sexist about it, certainly not by design. Back then countries like Switzerland were only starting to consider granting women the right to vote!

Frankly, the interjection of all this “Free software is racist/sexist” thing seems to have come about more than a decade ago, metastacising in media in the pockets of corporations like Microsoft. They sought to shame us and to cause guilt, stigmatising geeks as a bunch of bigots and zealots who shout at the little girl, “THESE ARE MY TOYS! GO GET YOUR GIRLY TOYS!”

“In Free software everybody can participate, irrespective of race and gender, and in that sense it’s far more inclusive than the Oracles and Microsofts of the world.”I have never in my entire life witnessed someone (firsthand) mistreating a geeky female for being female. I didn’t actually hear people say things like, “computers are for guys!” I did, however, see code scrutinised and sometimes the code was crafted by a female. Equality means that code can be criticised irrespective of gender, right? That’s what Linus Torvalds did.

I generally reject the concept that Free software is any more racist or sexist than proprietary software companies. Maybe it’s not as good at hiding it (because of transparency, which is bolted into the workflow). It’s easy to accept that some malicious individuals exist among Free software developers; there’s no hiring process and there’s no discrimination. In Free software everybody can participate, irrespective of race and gender, and in that sense it’s far more inclusive than the Oracles and Microsofts of the world. How many people know about the racist agenda of Bill Gates and Microsoft's many Conservative/nationalist employees? They hide it from us. Because that’s what they’re good at: they hide things, not only code and bribes and back doors.

“A couple of years ago this guy called Ken Brown wrote a book saying that Linus stole Linux from me… It later came out that Microsoft had paid him to do this…”

Andrew S Tanenbaum, father on MINIX

Offence and Racism

Posted in Free/Libre Software at 11:07 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Because you are controllable

Summary: To those in positions of power and privilege (financial) you are controllable by guilt; dividing us and causing us to feel guilt and fear (over potential offence) is a powerful social control mechanism and pretext for dismissal, censorship, humiliation

THE term “offence” is rather broad; it can refer to crimes and felonies. It can also refer to feelings. Tyrants don’t wish to be ‘offended’ or disrespected; they even pass laws to protect themselves from this pesky “offence”; at the European Patent Office (EPO) both António Campinos and Benoît Battistelli have blocked Techrights for showing their offences. Apparently they’re too ‘offended’ when their staff can see their corruption, with evidence to accompany the claims (e.g. leaked documents and whistleblowers’ account/s).

The concept of being “offended” (as in emotionally hurt) is sometimes conflated with discrimination, as if to imply they’re necessarily the same and any feeling of lowered opportunity isn’t misfortune or a lack of merit; it’s always someone else’s fault. This may sometimes be the case, but it’s not a universal rule. But when it’s presumed to always be so, the severity of the response can lead to irrationality — a disproportional one. It thus needs to be corrected, one way or another, even if by means of vengeance (revenge).

“Sometimes it seems like a vocal minority, loud enough and potentially (unwittingly even) exploited by corporate boardrooms and autocratic politicians, seeks to represent a group that in practice it does not speak for (and cannot speak for).”It’s not secret that the concept of revenge tends to lead everyone astray; like the government choosing to kill a person just to prove that “killing is wrong” (death penalty). The logic behind it and the assumption it would discourage crime have been investigated; much has been disproved.

Right now we’re seeing some of these techniques being leveraged by both governments and corporations. Public and private sectors alike pass Draconian new laws and rules in the name of protecting us from “offence” (e.g. “hate speech” — a set of laws that cannot be enforced offline and barely online, either); if one actually asks those who are supposedly protected from being ‘offended’, the answer will sometimes be surprising. Many are rather cynical about the whole thing because the so-called ‘solutions’ do not actually tackle concrete problems. Sometimes it seems like a vocal minority, loud enough and potentially (unwittingly even) exploited by corporate boardrooms and autocratic politicians, seeks to represent a group that in practice it does not speak for (and cannot speak for).

“Who stands to gain from such fracturing? Probably those who laugh all the way to the bank. Well, a bank they need to take a plane to (because it’s in some offshore island).”The details above are intentionally vague; I’m deliberately leaving out examples to avert “offence”; I don’t wish for anyone to be ‘offended’. But the bottom line is this: almost everyone is a minority in some context. We’ve said it many times before. There are many elements to it, including religion, skin colour, ethnicity, gender, nationality, language, age, body type and so on. Few people can claim to be “average” and “normal” (or “majority” — however one defines it). Dividing us into subgroups and then shaming us into guilt would be good for nobody but those who wish to extract maximal labour (capital) from all of us. Divisive politics distract from class discrepancies and generally make the atmosphere ever more toxic. If you look at Free software communities, for instance, you may find that they recently became more divided, heated, even “toxic” over matters that nobody bothered with before. Who stands to gain from such fracturing? Probably those who laugh all the way to the bank. Well, a bank they need to take a plane to (because it’s in some offshore island).

07.01.20

Contrary to Common Misconceptions, Free Software is More ‘Corporate’ or More ‘Enterprise-Grade’ Than Proprietary Abandonware (All Proprietary Software Will Die)

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FUD, IBM, Microsoft at 3:23 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Let’s turn the tables on them because all they have is shallow marketing

A boardroom revisited

Summary: Free software can leverage the superficial and bland boardroom lingo/slang to promote itself; it would definitely harm or dilute/weaken the terms which proprietary software giants like to leverage against us

ANY piece of proprietary software will one day die for good unless its code is liberated (if that happens belatedly, like Microsoft releasing code it wrote before I was born… no sooner than 2020… then it’s worthless).

“When we look objectively at Linux and assess the breadth of usage of GNU or Curl or Firefox (well, not so much anymore because Mozilla lost its way) we quickly come to the realisation that the world is based on Free software.”FUD isn’t a new concept. Blame IBM for it. IBM started it. Evil company. Monopolist. Arrogant. Ask people old enough (like parents or grandparents if you’re young) how smug IBM engineers used to be back in the days they were presumed emperors of the universe, both hardware and software. Without IBM, Microsoft would be nothing (probably wouldn’t exist past the 1980s).

A month ago I quit reading "Open Source" news after more than 15 years (doing so every day!); it was so full of FUD and misinformation that I could no longer stand it. It was pure noise or close to pure noise (over 90% of it was garbage).

“So basically, what the media calls “Open Source” is nowadays more suitable (for pragmatic reason) or fit for purpose (technically) than this “enterprise software” or “commercial software”…”When we look objectively at Linux and assess the breadth of usage of GNU or Curl or Firefox (well, not so much anymore because Mozilla lost its way) we quickly come to the realisation that the world is based on Free software. It runs everywhere (never mind if the media calls it “Open Source”; the media giants have their own agenda, based upon the owners’). If there’s that (false) dichotomy of “enterprise software” or “commercial software” (what the media likes calling secret/proprietary software) compared to “free” stuff (they mean price but mockingly allude to free/libre software as shoddy), why do so many choose the latter — and more so over time, despite all the FUD?

Maybe it’s technically better, right?

And if it’s copyleft-licensed (GPL is still vast in the lines of code sense), then “enterprise software” or “commercial software” can have none of that (unless it decides to self-liberate).

“If Microsoft et al can hijack and warp the meaning of words, so can (should?) we.”So basically, what the media calls “Open Source” is nowadays more suitable (for pragmatic reason) or fit for purpose (technically) than this “enterprise software” or “commercial software”…

Let’s take control of words like ‘corporate’ (whatever they even mean), too. The openwashing agenda misuses these words to confuse us.

“What software do you use, Madam?”

“I use commercial enterprise corporate GNU software, thanks for asking, Sir!”

If Microsoft et al can hijack and warp the meaning of words, so can (should?) we. Messaging is very important, sometimes as important as the code, as with poor messaging it’s hard to convince people to actually use the code.

What Freedom of Software Actually Means to Us

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FSF, GNU/Linux, IBM, OIN at 1:27 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Liberty

Summary: Liberty or libre (freedom) is about more than brands or personalities, as names or institutions or individuals can change or completely perish; but concepts outlast superficialities

THE concepts put forth by rms (Richard Stallman) more than 35 years ago are more relevant than ever. Back then computers rarely had network connections (the Internet was immature and the World Wide Web was still waiting a decade in the future). The concept of back doors wasn’t quite the same in the 1980s; remote access through back doors is meaningless unless there’s a network. Maybe back doors as a concept made sense in the forensics sense (when physical access to the machine is possible, albeit data rather than packets may be encrypted).

Techrights started by dealing with the issue of software patents and standards almost 14 years ago. Prior to Techrights I had already written about patents elsewhere, including in my personal blog. The subject wasn’t new to me at all. About a week ago the FSF finally issued a press release on the matter, berating the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for what it called the “virus” of software patents.

“The concept of back doors wasn’t quite the same in the 1980s; remote access through back doors is meaningless unless there’s a network.”This gave me hope; is the FSF recognising the big picture and the big issues? Without elimination of software patents (35 U.S.C. § 101 got us closer to it, but IBM lobbies against 35 U.S.C. § 101 and it also pays the FSF) there’s no software freedom. Such patents impede the dissemination of free/libre code.

As per our latest Daily Links with an editorial comment, the IBM-connected OIN is still pushing software patents, this time disguised as “hey hi” (the EPO loves this term as a loophole for granting software patents in Europe). It makes one wonder if IBM, the ‘old’ big bad monopolist, is compatible with Free software (and by extension Red Hat as well). Why does the FSF allow itself to become financially dependent on the company that lobbies for software patents in India, in Europe and in the US? In other countries too of course… (but it takes more work to show this)

The author figosdev, who used to support the FSF financially, has pretty much given up on the FSF. To me, one key issue is the FSF’s silence on systemd (modularity under attack, probably for vendor lock-in) and IBM’s lobbying for software patents. How can the FSF reconcile all this?

figosdev wrote to me some hours ago to say: “By the way Roy, who else has pointed out that OIN is the GitHub of software patents?

“The latest moves into OIN and the latest moves into GitHub aren’t coincidental. The assimilation and annexation continues.

“Ultimately whoever owns OIN will own free software. Of course you can’t own OIN, can you? Wait, that’s like saying you can’t own the FSF or the GNU project.”

Sarcasm noted.

“I think rms made a mistake by embarking on that trip to Microsoft (a few weeks before he was ‘canceled’) and it’s clear that Microsoft/GitHub took none of his suggestions seriously.”My interpretation of Free software is somewhat personal; the concept itself is impersonal, but each can have a different interpretation of it. The advocacy of rms is still as lucid as ever, even if the FSF doesn’t give rms the limelight he deserves. I think rms made a mistake by embarking on that trip to Microsoft (a few weeks before he was ‘canceled’) and it’s clear that Microsoft/GitHub took none of his suggestions seriously. GitHub is a mess, full of JavaScript and lock-in. It’s totally proprietary.

To me, software freedom is about more than “GNU” or “Linux” or “GNU/Linux”. Seeing so-called ‘digitalisation’ of society (that’s what EPO calls it) and seeing software patents and secret code and clown computing and listening devices connected to these clowns makes me growingly concerned. Recently, in the United States, the drones of the police were taken up another notch. These combine surveillance with strategic response (violence). It may only be a matter of time before these Orwellian ‘machines’ (military gear) do to US citizens what’s already done to Somalis. What can we, as producers of code, do about this?

“To me, software freedom is about more than “GNU” or “Linux” or “GNU/Linux”.”The so-called ‘ethical’ licences mostly serve to distract from software freedom itself. They’re based upon the assumption that limiting access to software or restricting who can run it (a bit like UEFI ‘secure boot’) would somehow enhance freedom. It’s worse than misguided, it’s not enforceable (good luck getting military contractors to obey copyright laws, especially as some impoverished programmer with no lawyers), and it’s strategically weak.

I used to say that OSI and OIN and the Linux Foundation and whatnot are useless front groups beholden to corporate interests. The FSF is beholden to IBM, which in itself is a growing concern. The FSF should never have accepted corporate patrons at all.

So who to trust? Well, rms seems to have not been compromised. He’s still out there (or indoors; the coronavirus doesn’t help one who travels to give speeches). He’ll be out there for years to come. I predict that I too will be out there, hopefully for decades to come. Techrights will never take money from corporations and depending on how the Web evolves (or collapses) it may stick around for a couple more decades. Contingencies and successions are already in place. The site is in good hands, strong hands, technical hands. It can outlive all sorts of perils.

[Humour] Thinking Beyond Just the Linux Brand

Posted in Deception, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, OSI at 12:17 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Aragorn Merry Pippin Second Breakfast: I'm off, lads... I don't think he knows about software freedom

Summary: We’re supposed to believe that because “Linux” is dominant we finally have freedom; but almost all the very big companies that are using GNU/Linux leverage it for freedom-hostile purposes and keep about 99% of their code secret from us, so the fight for software freedom must go on

LOTR second breakfast: Are you going to keep fighting with us? No, Open Source has won. He doesn't know Open Source is a corporate ploy. Proprietary giants carrying on the way they always did. But 'openly', in proprietary GitHub openwashing monopoly.

06.30.20

A Lot of Things Are Offensive to Someone and Appeasing the Easily Offended is an Endless Adventure That Can Offend Free Speech Ideals

Posted in Deception, Free/Libre Software at 8:08 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Somebody doesn’t want “parents” and similar reasons can be seemingly endless, ultimately wasting energy/time (words change over time and they mean different things to different cultures/people/professions/languages/tongues)

I am an orphan and the use of the word 'parent' also causes me significant trauma

Summary: Free speech may be the main casualty of the recent flamewars, which were initially rationalised as ethics-driven and nowadays boil down to speech police

SOMETIMES it feels like the Free (libre) software community is being ‘trolled’ because some recent debates distract from technical work, wind up being needlessly divisive (perhaps by intention in some cases, splitting teams), and divert attention away from injustices like bombings, internment camps and other ‘business ventures’ that Amazon, Microsoft, Palantir and others profit a lot from. The intricacies due to slang and nuance further complicate all this. It is a losing war. The war makers love it!

“Think carefully whether we’re encouraging an open society that’s inclusive (of many views) or rather the very opposite.”I always carefully reread everything I write about this sensitive topic, knowing that someone might attempt to misinterpret and/or take my words out of context. I’ve noticed that corporate accounts or blogs composed by people who work for a company like Red Hat (IBM) or the politically-correct Debian are a lot less likely to express views like ours. And who can blame them? In this current atmosphere it’s almost inevitable they’d be accused of racism, sexism or some other form of immorality/thoughtcrime… if only they dared to disagree with some orthodoxy. Look what happened to Richard Stallman 9 months ago.

A society that is unable or too fearful to express particular viewpoints (notice in the screenshot above how speech is being restricted by the administrator, in a site controlled fully by Microsoft) we can expect more censorship of Microsoft critics because corporate crimes become unspeakable (depending on which corporation/s is/are in charge), whereas in the name of protecting the vulnerable we only allow one side of the debate to have a voice. Not an ideal scenario. Think carefully whether we’re encouraging an open society that’s inclusive (of many views) or rather the very opposite.

Feeling Vindicated About the Harms of Social Control Media Being Widely Recognised

Posted in Free/Libre Software at 5:57 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Social Control Media is like smoking. It only gives an impression of (temporary) calm.

Smoking boy

Summary: The cleansing of social control media sites reinforces our long-held views about social control media in general

MIXER is dead (much like Microsoft’s morale) while LinkedIn 'cancels' people/businesses and there’s plenty of press coverage right now about a number of social control media sites — notably Twitch and Google’s YouTube — banning people/channels for hate speech (not sure whether to use quotes, scare quotes or none at all). There’s also a corporate boycott against Facebook; companies that themselves deserve a boycott refuse to pay for Facebook ads. In some cases that extends to Twitter. Even Microsoft, which is very close to Facebook, joined the boycott. It’ll be in our next batch of Daily Links.

Notice the trend.

“In our case, the block/ban was simply due to the fact that we expose corruption. No rudeness, no falsehoods, just embarrassing leaks and accurate information, which EPO workers were happy to supply us with.”As readers are aware, Techrights is blocked from inside the European Patent Office (EPO). This is the only block we’re aware of (we’re accessible everywhere in China; we rechecked this very recently just to verify). António Campinos, who tomorrow celebrates 2 years at the Office, kept this ban initially imposed by Benoît Battistelli. In our case, the block/ban was simply due to the fact that we expose corruption. No rudeness, no falsehoods, just embarrassing leaks and accurate information, which EPO workers were happy to supply us with.

Third parties like social control media/networks that are centralised (federation means that applies to some degree to decentralised ones too) are censorship enablers. There are many problems associated with them. For instance, people can have thrown at them disgusting speech that they wouldn’t otherwise stumble upon (they would not access tasteless sites); conversely, some of that speech will be choked without reason or recourse. So we think that a proper way to handle society is to let disgusting sites have their own tasteless audience and keep people apart, rather than constantly fighting (divisive and misleading social control media is what I left behind three weeks ago). No need for censorship; merit can do its thing. The World Wide Web has long had Nazi sites around (even literally Nazi); that did not jump at people’s face (unless they actually bothered visiting such sites). The supposed ‘utopia’ of social control media/networks presumed “one happy family” mindset; instead, they use divisiveness (which they contribute further to) to increase user engagement and push ads (brainwash), manipulate election/referendum outcomes etc.

“The supposed ‘utopia’ of social control media/networks presumed “one happy family” mindset; instead, they use divisiveness (which they contribute further to) to increase user engagement and push ads (brainwash), manipulate election/referendum outcomes etc.”As we said before, if you are not in social control media/networks, do not get started! You’re not missing anything of value. Get a decent RSS reader, subscribe to sites you trust and off you go. Nobody but the ISP can censor you (and there are workarounds in case that happens too; de-platforming doesn’t work at DNS level).

Linus Torvalds Explains Why GNU/Linux Development Speeds Up (Likely Owing to Coronavirus Lock-downs)

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Kernel at 3:38 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Photo by Alex Dawson, 2002

Linus

Summary: The COVID-19 pandemic has so far boosted not only GNU/Linux market share; it’s also speeding up development, leaving proprietary software players in the ashes (it’s harder for them to make sales and to pay their developers)

THE MORALE at Microsoft is not good. It’s low. The company really wasn’t prepared for the pandemic. Its business model isn’t suitable unlike — let’s say — Amazon’s and Facebook’s. The big clients of Microsoft are big businesses and governments that grossly overpay for licences. Home working is an impediment to certain types of contracts. Budgets are in general decreasing. It did not surprise me at all that a month ago Microsoft admitted layoffs, then Mixer died, then Microsoft Stores were shut down indefinitely (all of them). The first two were spun by focusing on a replacement (“HEY HI” hype and Facebook) and the second was announced late on a Friday, spinning that as ‘virtual’ stores. We’ve long mocked the idea of ‘virtual’ conferences and summits or whatever. They’re ‘webinars’ at best; the conferences themselves get canceled, but organisers don’t have the heart to say it like that (they don’t accept that they wasted months of their lives organising something that would never exist!), so they call a bunch of webstreams from people’s bedrooms or living rooms ‘virtual’ <something glorified>.

“It did not surprise me at all that a month ago Microsoft admitted layoffs, then Mixer died, then Microsoft Stores were shut down indefinitely (all of them).”Free software is not affected or barely affected by all this. As we’ve noted for months, people being stuck at home often means they have even more time for coding, especially in their ‘spare’ time (many work on Free software as a sort of hobby, not for a salary). Unemployment may also mean finding a contingent occupation by which to pass time.

Yesterday, in the article “Linus Torvalds on the future of Linux kernel developers and development” (by SJVN, who really needs to abandon that awful publisher) Torvalds was quoted as saying: “I suspect 5.8 might be [so large] because of people staying inside but it might also be, it’s just happened that several different groups ended up coming at roughly the same time, with new features in 5.8.”

“For me, it’s the only reason I can keep a full-time job and still run Techrights, even more so during this pandemic (less time spent outdoors).”Here’s more: “None of my co-developers have been hugely impacted either. I was worried for a while because one of our developers was offline for a month or two. … [But,] it turned out that it was just RSI [repetitive strain injury], and RSI is kind of an occupational hazard to deal with. One of the things that is so interesting about the Linux community is how much it has always been email-based and remote, how rarely we get together in person.”

SJVN referred to that as “videoconference” (again, the glorified term “conference” — in this case a bunch of coders streaming from home).

Regardless, here you have it from Torvalds himself. He has long worked from home and he should know how beneficial this can be to productivity. For me, it’s the only reason I can keep a full-time job and still run Techrights, even more so during this pandemic (less time spent outdoors).

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