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06.13.19

Guest Post: Notes on Free Speech, and a Line in the Sand

Posted in FSF at 4:59 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Stuttering

Summary: We received this anonymous letter and have published it as a follow-up to “Reader's Claim That Rules Similar to the Code of Conduct (CoC) Were 'Imposed' on LibrePlanet and the FSF

I have never attended LibrePlanet. I have considered attending several times over many years, but I have always been turned off by the policies described around the event. These are not welcoming policies, they are stifling.

They are worded in a way that is difficult to find fault with — but what is not difficult is to figure out how they might be unfairly or unevenly applied to people.

“And yes, it is unreasonable to consider RMS a person who needs to be controlled.”I don’t mean that RMS (Richard Stallman) enjoys an unfair exception to the rules. If LibrePlanet’s rules are so stringent that Stallman runs afoul of them, then the problems are clearly with the rules themselves. And while the rules themselves have always steered me away from the event, I never thought they would be used to try to exclude Stallman himself.

There is no Free Software without Free Speech — the freedom to code is a subset of the freedom to self-express. And yet today, there are people from Debian, Red Hat, GNOME, Creative Commons and even the FSF itself who would throw away freedom of speech for the need to control people unreasonably.

And yes, it is unreasonable to consider RMS a person who needs to be controlled. He is a grown man, with problems like everyone else — in fact he has the exact sort of problems that your rules suggest you don’t want to discriminate against.

If you honestly don’t know what that means, I suggest you read “When Nerds Collide” by Meredith Patterson. It is the best article on the subject, and it talks about the stifling trend of controlling speech to the point of absurdity in geek-laden communities.

“It is talked about briefly in the biography once sold by the FSF, it was used in dishonest ad hominem attacks from both OSI president Simon Phipps and OSI co-founder Eric Raymond.”Stallman did not grow up in a time when he was likely to be diagnosed with his disability or condition. It is talked about briefly in the biography once sold by the FSF, it was used in dishonest ad hominem attacks from both OSI president Simon Phipps and OSI co-founder Eric Raymond.

While a disability is not a blank cheque for allowing unwelcome behaviour, it should at the very least not be a reason to discriminate unfairly against a person who created the very reason your Free Software movement exists.

What the hell is wrong with you people? If you wish to be anything but hypocrites, you would be creating a safe space for free speech, not a Trojan horse for unscrupulous people and narcissists to kick founders out of events hosted by their own organisation.

“Some of the same people participating in that debate have tried to pressure the FSF board of directors to stifle Richard Stallman’s contributions at LibrePlanet.”In 2014, Debian used a set of community guidelines to stifle a vital debate about the future of Debian. Some of the same people participating in that debate have tried to pressure the FSF board of directors to stifle Richard Stallman’s contributions at LibrePlanet.

Since that time, the quality, reliability and security of Debian have gone downhill. It was an operating system I had relied on, and raised funds for. But what Debian decided to do was hand over a major portion of its development to an arrogant, obnoxious, condescending German developer, who now works for a monopoly that assisted actual nazis in genocide — a monopoly who (unlike other such companies, such as Siemens) has never apologised for or admitted their thoroughly-documented participation in those atrocities.

This is a developer who won a Pwnie Award not just for his poor commitment to security, but his notoriously terrible attitude about it.

“This is a developer who won a Pwnie Award not just for his poor commitment to security, but his notoriously terrible attitude about it.”Well done, Debian! And you think you have a moral right to decide whether Richard Stallman is “safe” enough for LibrePlanet.

Obviously, the future of Free Software is what’s at stake here. If there is no freedom of speech, there is no “Free as in speech” either.

The future of Free Software is corporate policy, corporate control — and monopolies influencing development and silencing even the most important of critics.

This is not about who is “welcome” at events. It is about making valuable contributions unwelcome. How far along this doublespeak has gotten, to infect the FSF itself.

This is not about safety, any more than secure boot is about security. Like secure boot, this is about making these events safer for corporate sponsors.

“This is not about safety, any more than secure boot is about security. Like secure boot, this is about making these events safer for corporate sponsors.”As much as pointless, dehumanising nonsense like putting shoes on conveyor belts is security theatre, what you are doing is creating diversity theatre — you say you are doing it to be inclusive.

There was a time when everyone was welcome in Free Software, and all you had to do was decide to participate.

Today, it is about making people feel more welcome by kicking the most necessary voices out for saying things that might make someone uncomfortable.

You are fighting implicit and perceived exclusion with explicit and actual exclusion. And unless your desire is to silence people, you are doing a terrible job.

This goes against the foundations of education. Honest education cannot be determined solely by who is comfortable. Teachers must be free to teach facts regardless of whether people feel comfortable with those facts.

This goes against science. Facts cannot be determined by what people would simply like them to be.

“This goes against science. Facts cannot be determined by what people would simply like them to be.”This goes against freedom. If you only allow participation and communication from people you like, then there is no freedom– you are simply controlling everything.

There is a comic by Randall Munroe, which implies rather plainly the ridiculous argument that freedom of speech isn’t threatened unless the government is doing it.

Let’s be serious — if there is no culture of free speech, if the people will not stand up for the rights of others to speak — then the government certainly isn’t going to either.

You are engineering a future with no freedom, with no philosophical foundation for Free Software.

LibrePlanet isn’t Libre — it is subjugated by the desire to make speech “safe” for everyone.

“LibrePlanet isn’t Libre — it is subjugated by the desire to make speech “safe” for everyone.”Freedom of speech is not safe. And as Benjamin Franklin said, “[t]hose who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither.”

I am confident that Franklin would not be welcome at your events either.

That only makes a complete sham of your event — and people should rightly boycott it and just enjoy the (very nice) videos made there.

Through your content policy about the LibrePlanet videos, others may comment and participate in a way that you don’t control. That would probably be a better option than funding LibrePlanet at this point.

This trend does not bode well for the future of Free Software, or the Free Software Foundation. They have made admirable efforts (KIND) towards guidelines that are less likely to exclude someone with Stallman’s disability and gifts.

“Without diversity of opinion and diversity of personality, there is no freedom of speech (nor reason for it).”We should continue to try to make LibrePlanet more inclusive again. But only if we are honest about what inclusion really means. Our efforts to do so must not allow narcissists to exclude the most important critics and philosophers from sharing their points of view — all we will achieve is to steer the conversation towards something that could be very wrong.

Without diversity of opinion and diversity of personality, there is no freedom of speech (nor reason for it). These codes of conduct are about uniformity and control, they are not about safety. You should be absolutely ashamed of your dishonesty and manipulation — and your attacks on freedom.

You are hypocrites as well as liars, and you will destroy Free Software if people are foolish enough to cede control to you.

It would not be possible to say these things at LibrePlanet. And that is precisely the problem.

No free speech, no Free Software — FREE RICHARD!

04.23.19

Code of Coercion

Posted in Deception, FSF, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, OSI at 12:39 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Real screenshot, taken days ago

Zemlin and Microsoft

Summary: Entryism is visible for all to see, but pointing it out is becoming a risky gambit because of the “be nice!” (or “be polite!”) crowd, which shields the perpetrators of a slow and gradual corporate takeover

A COUPLE of days ago we published a reader’s suggestion for the site. It’s a longtime reader, who has been rather sceptical of the Linux Foundation (LF), the OSI, and even the FSF. We too have had our rare disagreements with the FSF (in this particular case awarding a Microsoft apologist other than Miguel de Icaza, now a senior Microsoft employee).

One subject we continue to explore is the LF because we recognise the obscene lack of understanding. The name, for one thing, is misleading because it is neither a foundation (nonprofit) nor about Linux. It is morphing into a giant narrative-shaping monster that helps OSI ‘tame’ Free software (as envisioned by the FSF), making it more corporations-leaning if not led. Today’s OSI blog posts are sometimes composed by Microsoft staff.

“It is morphing into a giant narrative-shaping monster that helps OSI ‘tame’ Free software (as envisioned by FSF), making it more corporations-leaning if not led.”We’ve already issued a call for help in researching various LF matters. Some people look into it. We need answers regarding Linux Foundation insiders in the media* (coverage for sale) and more information about their “training” business model (corporate sponsorships play a role). It’s not what it seems; there’s more to it than one can see on the surface. The LF is contracting journalists, selling coverage (sponsorships in exchange for puff pieces), and engaging in what the PR conglomerates call “perception management” (this is where the LF’s chief comes from). In recent years the LF chaps have helped market obvious lies and falsehoods such as “Microsoft loves Linux”. Microsoft loves Windows, which it now calls "Linux". The trademark is being misused, but that doesn’t seem to bother the LF. Microsoft has a long and very extensive history trying to make its products sound like the competition or hijack the competition’s identity (e.g. “Office Open XML”).

I recently chatted with Richard Stallman about the LF’s CoC after I had heard that a similar thing was likely imposed on Stallman. We exchanged many messages on this subject and wondered whether Torvalds’ criticism of companies like Microsoft would be curtailed by the new CoC. It is a difficult thing to prove. Self-censorship is sometimes unknown to those who are subconsciously subjected to it because, for instance, speaking out against corporate overloads who pay one’s salary (or a portion of it) is politically unwise. In politics it’s known as “campaign contributions” — a form of ‘soft’ bribe which at the very least buys silence or passiveness.

“In recent years the LF chaps have helped market obvious lies and falsehoods such as “Microsoft loves Linux”. Microsoft loves Windows, which it now calls “Linux”.”We are meanwhile hearing of a new CoC “draft outline”.

“No one really wants a CoC,” told us a source, “but that one adopted by the LF and projects is horrible.” We will probably write about it in a future article (when this is no longer a draft).

A Techrights member has meanwhile taken a look at Gource LF. “Linux is a huge kernel,” he explained, “really enormous, and the amount of work being done is mind-boggling. Gource provides way too much information and visual analysis won’t provide much. Nor will any other kind of manual analysis. But here’s how it’s done:

 	git clone git://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/linux/kernel/git/stable/linux-stable.git;
 
 	cd linux-stable;
 
 	$(gource --log-command git) > ../linux-project.log
 
 	gource --start-date 2017-09-01 --time-scale 4 \
 		--fullscreen ../linux-project.log

As many people are aware, swear words and other (even less controversial) things are being removed en masse by people from companies like Intel, citing the new CoC as justification/motivation. Intel is the same company whose employees smear the most prominent Linux developers (calling them “rape apologists” and such). As for Microsoft? Remember that it put ‘BIG BOOBS’ inside Linux. Sexism at Microsoft is rampant, yet it has been trying to project this stigma onto Linux.

“It seems to be getting worse. “Morality” and “ethics” are being leveraged by large corporations that are hostile to Linux in order to gain a tighter grip on it.”“It takes a long time to build up to autumn 2018 even at high speed,” our member wrote about Gource. “Maybe that will give someone some ideas on what kind of analysis can be done easily to identify what kind of damage, if any, is visible from the CoC.”

Back when Torvalds was pressured to take a break (willful but due to shaming) we said we would refrain from commenting, but seeing some recent developments at the LF we feel like it’s important to research the matter. It seems to be getting worse. “Morality” and “ethics” are being leveraged by large corporations that are hostile to Linux in order to gain a tighter grip on it.
_____
* Take for instance The New Stack, which the LF last linked to just hours ago. It has various LF projects, including the LF itself, as sponsors. This page reveals that the editorial team includes Libby Clark, who was at the LF for a long time and is still based in Portland.

04.16.19

Reader’s Claim That Rules Similar to the Code of Conduct (CoC) Were ‘Imposed’ on LibrePlanet and the FSF

Posted in FSF, GNU/Linux at 7:03 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

A conference

Summary: Restrictions on speech are said to have been spread and reached some of the most liberal circles, according to a credible veteran who opposes illiberal censorship

THE Linux Foundation (LF) isn’t what it seems from the outside. The name, the logo and the marketing make it look very “professional”, but what profession are these people? Well, the management is nontechnical and many come from marketing and branding (like Microsoft) rather than engineering and administration. It’s a cultural misfit.

“It’s a cultural misfit.”Having asked RMS (Richard Stallman) about the matter, and having exchanged a couple dozen E-mails per day (at most), we have been attempting to understand the difference between the Linux Foundation and the Free Software Foundation (FSF). Putting aside the FSFE gaffe last month (over copyright in the EU), we’re generally supportive of the FSF and its unofficial branches around the world (there is one in India too) because they focus on freedom rather than some brand or trademark. We also spoke to Alexandre Oliva (Red Hat and GNU) in an effort to verify claims that had been sent to us. This took weeks to fact-check and some of the claims remain to be proven because LibrePlanet, the FSF’s ‘equivalent’ of LF events, uses different terminology. One reader told us about “CoC for LibrePlanet drama,” but as it turns out we are hearing different stories. “At LibrePlanet,” says this reader, “I was surprised to see an old friend who really wanted to talk to me about all this CoC stuff. In fact, it was someone who tried to recruit me into being on the CoC staff for the next Hope. At first, I was interested, but I never went.

“At any rate — the word was, there was a forced CoC this year for LibrePlanet and RMS was like, “but not me, right?” 2 days before LibrePlanet, potential sponsors like SFC found out that yes, RMS will abide by the CoC. RMS told me he doesn’t make hiring decisions these days, but there is an opening in outreach. When I went to find this opening, I could not find it. So, I when to IRC and witnessed a user being threatened by the CoC. I freaked out. Of all the places I had thought I’d be free from censorship; it was the FSF event, right…

“It was really ridiculous. Anyway, I wonder if you had a chance to ask Stallman, the man himself…”

My conversations with him are generally private (unless I am given permission to share these), but the impression I got is that he opposes policies that stifle criticism of corporations (as opposed to individual people). Our reader wanted to know more: “What happened with the CoC at LibrePlanet?!”

Or more pertinent questions:

  • “Was there any pressure to implement a CoC — and apparently, even in IRC, enforce this?”
  • “Did he feel bullied into agreeing to the CoC?”
  • “Was there pressure from potential sponsors to incorporate a Code of Conduct?”
  • “Was the SFC that sponsor…?”
  • “Isn’t it true the former campaign manager of the FSF is speaking at LinuxFest Northwest about enforcing Codes of Conduct…?”

“If you want,” the reader noted, “I think there’s a story there… if dude was telling me the truth, which I have no reason to doubt him. Known him 2 decades.”

Those who are mentioned likely know who’s who, but we’re not mentioning names here (we keep it impersonal). We don’t want to be accused of emboldening personal attacks. This angle of the story has generally required me to do a lot of editing after asking around without divulging some identities/names.

“I, myself,” explained the reader, “am curious about what I had heard about the Code of Conduct enforcement at LibrePlanet and how it seemed RMS was pressured into abiding by a CoC. That, in itself, is very disturbing to me. I don’t know what exactly is going on over there, but it looks like somehow, they are pressuring him to abide by a CoC.”

01.28.19

Choosing Between Apple and Microsoft in an Age of Mass Surveillance and State-Mandated Back Doors

Posted in Apple, FSF, GNU/Linux, Microsoft at 12:51 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Apple and Microsoft

Summary: Why proprietary operating systems are universally dangerous and what we recommend instead

MARKET “FORCES” — as the mass media likes to call them (this media is among these forces) — tell us that we’re being given a “choice”. This choice, however, often excludes practical alternatives and instead presents a choice of brands, a choice of trade marks.

It is quite frankly worrying to see people choosing to pay for operating systems they very well know to be full of back doors. Some complement these with listening devices inside homes (eavesdropping on all the tenants) and sometimes even de facto CCTV, constantly connected to (and streaming to) surveillance companies in another country.

“There’s a business model there and it’s covertly hostile towards users. Many just aren’t aware of it. It’s a ‘sausage factory’…”In its early days (13 years ago) this site did a lot of GNU/Linux advocacy. Back in 2006 it wasn’t so clear whether GNU/Linux would dominate the market (even in servers GNU/Linux hadn’t yet reached the inflection point or “critical mass”). Nowadays GNU/Linux is a lot more popular everywhere, including the mobile market dominated by Android (Google never put GNU in it and it’s planning to remove Linux as well); GNU/Linux made strides in the laptop/desktop market (desktops, however, gradually become more extinct), e.g. with the Gentoo-derived Chrome OS. But these platforms do not offer freedom; instead, they’re all about surveillance. There’s a business model there and it’s covertly hostile towards users. Many just aren’t aware of it. It’s a ‘sausage factory’

At the moment we’re hosted by Alpine Linux (the hypervisor). It has been running smoothly, without even a single reboot, since we began the site’s migration around October. “A fork of the distribution, postmarketOS, is designed to run on mobile devices,” Wikipedia says, and “it’s heavily used in containers providing quick boot up times.” For desktop we nowadays recommend more or less the same things the FSF recommends and endorses. See “Free GNU/Linux distributions” and “Explaining Why We Don’t Endorse Other Systems”.

11.30.15

Richard Stallman and Eben Moglen on the Microsoft-Red Hat Deal

Posted in FSF, Microsoft, Patents, Red Hat at 6:56 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Richard Stallman and Eben Moglen
Photo source: Professor Conrad Johnson

Summary: Founder of Free software and author of the GPL (respectively) comment on what Microsoft and Red Hat have done regarding patents

WE FINALLY GOT some feedback regarding the baffling patent agreement which seemingly affects every user of GNU/Linux. We got this feedback from Stallman and (indirectly) Moglen, two of the Free software world’s most prominent individuals, especially when it comes to the GPL (GNU Public Licence/License).

Coverage of the Red Hat-Microsoft patent agreement can be found in [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13]. We sought feedback from Red Hat and spoke to low(er) level people for weeks, without ever hearing back from high-level management. After weeks of trying and waiting we ended up asking legal professionals to examine whatever legal contracts — even if under NDA or some other secrecy clauses that legally-binding deals may have — were involved. We first wrote to the FSF as follows:

Dear FSF licensing folks,

As discussed earlier in IRC (freenode), I have been pursuing answers from Red Hat regarding an urgent matter. I previously interviewed their CEO regarding patents and last week I spoke to a fairly senior person from Red Hat (unnamed for his own protection), for the third time this month. I wrote about 10 articles on this subject and it led to others writing about it as well, including some prominent bloggers.

“We need to understand what Red Hat agreed on with Microsoft on as Microsoft can use this behind closed doors against other companies, for pressure/leverage.”To put it concisely, Red Hat signed a deal with Microsoft which not only involved technical work but also what they call patent “standstill”. Who is this “standstill” for? Apparently Red Hat and its customers. I strongly doubt, especially in light of Alice v. CLS Bank, that a “standstill” should be needed. Red Hat does not threaten to sue Microsoft, whereas Microsoft did in the past threaten Red Hat (even publicly). This leaves those outside Red Hat in an awkward position and ever since this deal I have taken note of at least two companies being coerced by Microsoft using patents (over “Android” or “Linux” [sic]) or sued by one of its patent trolls, e.g. Intellectual Ventures. This isn’t really a “standstill”. It’s more like the notorious “peace of mind” that Novell was after back in 2006.

Red Hat has also admitted to me that it is still pursuing some software patents in the USPTO — a fact that does not surprising me, especially given the soaring market cap of RHT and the growing budget. This serves to contradict what people like Rob Tiller say to the courts; it shows double standards and no principled lead by example.

“The analysis and the voice of the FSF may be needed at this stage.”I have asked the FSF’s Joshua if it had looked into the patent agreement between Red Hat and Microsoft. Their lawyers in this case, Mr. Piana and Mr. Tiller (probably amongst others whom we don’t know about yet), would probably claim and even insist that it’s GPL-compatible, but the wording in the FAQ make it look exclusionary and there’s no transparency, so one cannot verify these claims.

We need to understand what Red Hat agreed on with Microsoft on as Microsoft can use this behind closed doors against other companies, for pressure/leverage. I am genuinely worried and fellow journalists who focus on GNU/Linux (Sean Michael Kerner for instance) tell me that they are too.

The analysis and the voice of the FSF may be needed at this stage. I have politely urged Red Hat for a number of weeks to become more transparent, whereupon some in the company said they had escalated these requests, but evidently nothing is being done, hence I feel the need to turn to the FSF.

I would gladly provide additional information that I have upon request.

With kind regards,

“In concrete terms,” Stallman responded, “what did they agree to do?”

“It is effectively a technical collaboration,” I told him, “which also involves a ceasefire regarding patents.”

“It is impossible to discuss whether it is good or bad,” he said, “until we know what it is.”

“We know too little about the patent aspects,” I explained.

Referring to Red Hat’s FAQ, Stallman said that I “seem[ed] to be talking about text I [Stallman] have not seen.”

To quote the relevant part for readers:

4. Does the new partnership address patents?

Red Hat and Microsoft have agreed to a limited patent arrangement in connection with the commercial partnership for the benefit of mutual customers.

The heart of the arrangement is a patent standstill that provides that neither company will pursue a patent lawsuit or claim against the other or its customers, while we are partnering. Neither company acknowledged the validity or enforceability of the other’s intellectual property; it is not a patent license or a covenant not to sue and no payment was made or will be made for intellectual property.

The partnership is between commercial companies related to their common customer offerings, spurred by customer demand. Both parties carefully designed for FOSS licensing compliance in building the arrangement and each party’s relationship to the FOSS community stands on its own.

“Covering only customers and not downstream users,” Stallman said, “it is not a good thing, but it may not do a lot of harm.”

“Covering only customers and not downstream users is not a good thing, but it may not do a lot of harm.”
      –Richard Stallman
I responded by saying “I hope that a thorough look into it will help remove uncertainty and get some hard answers. Right now it’s too vague or me and some fellow developers to conclude anything from.”

Days ago I asked whether “there been any progress on this case” because “I just want[ed] to be sure that licensing is looking for answers regarding the matter.”

Stallman, by that stage, seemed to have already spoken to a colleague and friend. “Eben Moglen,” he explained, “told me it doesn’t violate GPLv3. Other than getting that information, I don’t know what progress we could hope for.”

Well, as GPLv3 co-authors, their take on this sure counts. We therefore got an answer without taking a look at the contract itself (they had made access to it highly privileged information).

Assuming the case won’t go any further than this, we believe it helps set the record straight on the Microsoft-Red Hat situation.

05.13.15

Open Source Revisionism of GNU and Free Software History

Posted in Deception, FSF, Law at 3:20 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Richard Stallman
Source: Conference by Richard Stallman, “Free Software: Human Rights in Your Computer” (2014)

Summary: Media mistreatment of the very roots of Free/Open Source software (FOSS), which is now approaching 35 years in age and increasingly thriving

IN recent weeks we have found several ‘news’ articles that gave us cause for concern. Some were shared with Richard Stallman, a regular reader of Techrights, for his views to be expressed and portions of the correspondence can be found here (cautiously redacted to reduce potential animosity/tensions).

It is not unusual, especially these days (age of openwashing), to see the label “Open Source” misused. Not too long ago we identified some very gross distortion of the term “open source” to essentially openwash Facebook’s surveillance ambitions, focusing on poor people. Facebook traffic has sunk pretty badly over the past year (based on Alexa it’s a massive drop), so Facebook is trying really hard to frame/paint itself as “ethical”, even when it tries to expand its surveillance to people too poor to get connected to the Internet. This isn’t altruism, it’s opportunism and malice. It’s definitely not “open source” and the dot org suffix (Internet.org) is clearly inappropriate, not just misleading. “Facebook mistreats its users,” Stallman explained. “Facebook is not your friend, it is a surveillance engine.”

There was also an effort to delete GNU from history — an effort that has gone rather aggressive. Stallman was in the process of speaking to editors who jad allowed this to happen (dumb lawyers called GNU and Stallman’s text “Open source Manifesto” in the article “Open source Manifesto turns 30″). Stallman asked me to show him the original publication site and tell him how to write to them. It wasn’t too clear whether to write to the editor/site or the author/law firm. The former can issue some fixes/corrections, we tend to think, superseding what was contributed by lawyers. The article comes from a formal publication which often publishes patent lawyers’ pro-software patents columns (we have seen over 100 of them over the years). The target audience is lawyers. The latest is no exception to the rule. It is an article by Leech Tishman Fuscaldo & Lampl LLC and the Web site is London-based, with Andrew Teague as the Associate Publisher, Mark Lamb as the Publishing Director, and Chris Riley handling subscriptions. When it was first published Stallman was eager to contact “Either one, or both! [editor and writer] But the sooner the better.” No correction has yet been published. It’s nowhere to be found.

GNU and Free software are 30+ years old. A lot of people contribute to the misconception that it all started when Torvalds released Linux or when the term “Open Source” (not open source intelligence) was coined by the likes of O’Reilly. Watch the “Open Source” O’Reilly nonsense starting the clock more than 10 years later than GNU: “Twenty years ago, open source was a cause. Ten years ago, it was the underdog. Today, it sits upon the Iron Throne ruling all it surveys. Software engineers now use open source frameworks, languages, and tools in almost all projects.”

Rachel Roumeliotis is advertising OSCON 2015 (OS stands for “Open Source”), but she should know about GNU and its age. These people conveniently start the clock when O’Reilly and his henchmen got involved. They want all the credit and they want people not to speak about freedom. Eben Moglen already ranted about this, right on stage in an OSCON event nearly a decade ago.

“This shows how “open source” misses the point,” Stallman wrote to us. “If the frameworks, languages and tools they use are free software, that is good for their freedom. But if what they develop with those is nonfree software, it doesn’t respect our freedom.

“So open source “won” by ducking the important battle.”

Well, the “we already won” attitude (or notion) helps a defeatist’s approach; why fight for more freedom if “we won”? That’s what those people (even developers) who open a MacBook or some ‘i’ device want to happen; some would further insist that Apple and Microsoft are now “open source” players, so “game over”…

We have noticed that Microsoft is now googlebombing with “Windows open source”, promoting the ludicrous notion that it’s now “open” (or gratis), or that it will be so one day. It started about a month ago, maybe two; dozens of articles have served this PR strategy. we wrote some rebuttals and will write another one this weekend. There is a gross distortion of what actually happened and what is happening.

“Stallman was unhappy about the increasing prevalence of proprietary software,” said the aforementioned article From Lexology, “software protected by copyright law and usually licensed on a commercial basis by its owners.”

Yes, but Free software too is protected by copyright law, it’s just twisted into copyleft. “Source code is sometimes licensed under GNU GPL terms,” says the article, “a form of
“copyleft” rather than copyright.”

OK, so surely they know what Free software is and where it comes from. Why proceed with statements like: “The “open source” movement emerged in GNU’s wake. As with GNU, users of
open source code can look at the source code and modify it. However, unlike with GNU, they are not required to share their developments with the world at large.”

“We have noticed many articles throughout this past year or so — including some from Linux Foundation staff — that basically start history in 1991 as if GNU/Linux came out of a vacuum or from Torvalds’ bedroom.”Actually, unless they are using something like the BSD licence, they usually must. Then there are issues like SaaS, which are addressed by the AGPLv3, among other licences. But either way, Free software remains Free software, there is no justification for renaming it “Open Source” and calling the GNU Manifesto “Open source Manifesto”. It’s insulting to those who started the whole thing and wish to receive fair coverage or attribution, at the very least.

The Lexology sites presents some other issues, mostly to do with access, not just paywalls. Stallman asked: “Can you email me the full text of that article? I tried to fetch the page and what I got did not include the text.”

Stallman said he “wrote to them”, but more than a month later the article remains uncorrected, not updated, etc.

Another big load of revisionism (changing history) uses the “Open Source” label to delete GNU from history. Published last month, the article titled “At Birth, Open Source Was About Saving Money, Not Sharing Code” focuses on Torvalds (see feature image) and frames the movement as one that is centered around money. Stallman asked: “Is that someone opinionated who won’t listen to me?”

It is of course worthless asking for a correction when you know in advance none would be made. It later turned out to be part of a broader series of articles, some of which did cover GNU. I personally read several hundreds of items from the author and he’s more into ‘practical’ benefits, so I don’t think it would be worth arguing over. Some people just aren’t fond of freedom in the context of computing.

We have noticed many articles throughout this past year or so — including some from Linux Foundation staff — that basically start history in 1991 as if GNU/Linux came out of a vacuum or from Torvalds’ bedroom. Quite frankly, we think it’s an insult to history. We deem it negligent at best. Of course it leads people to deducing that the success of the system in its entirety is owing to the great “Linux values”, not GNU philosophy.

In summary, in our threads of communication with Stallman we were able to reaffirm that there were factual issues in the “Open Source Manifesto” article (it speaks about the GNU Manifesto) and despite Stallman’s request for correction, nothing has been done by the publishers. It’s like people just don’t wish to speak favourably about freedom in computing. Mac Asay, a Mormon (i.e. more superstition a religion than most other religions), compares Free software people to dangerous religions — a typical smear directed at a largely secular Free software community. Perhaps there are just those who are impossible to please because they are inherently opposed to control over one’s machine and would rather buy digital prisons from Apple than work a little harder to gain control or acquire freedom-respecting tools.

03.12.15

Richard Stallman: Why We Need Free Digital Hardware Designs

Posted in FSF, Hardware at 11:08 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

To what extent do the ideas of free software extend to hardware? Is it a moral obligation to make our hardware designs free, just as it is to make our software free? Does maintaining our freedom require rejecting hardware made from nonfree designs?

Free software is a matter of freedom, not price; broadly speaking, it means that users are free to use the software and to copy and redistribute the software, with or without changes. More precisely, the definition is formulated in terms of the four essential freedoms.

  • The freedom to run the program as you wish, for any purpose.
  • The freedom to study the program’s source code, and change it so it does your computing as you wish.
  • The freedom to make exact copies and give them or sell them to others.
  • The freedom to make copies of your modified versions and give them or sell them to others.

Applying the same concept directly to hardware, free hardware means hardware that you are free to use and to copy and redistribute with or without changes. But, since there are no copiers for hardware, aside from keys, DNA, and plastic objects’ exterior shapes, is the concept of free hardware even possible? Well, most hardware is made by fabrication from some sort of design. The design comes before the hardware.

Thus, the concept we really need is that of a free hardware design. That’s simple: it means a design that permits users to use the design (i.e., fabricate hardware from it) and to copy and redistribute it, with or without changes. The design must provide the same four freedoms that define free software. Then “free hardware” means hardware with an available free design.

People first encountering the idea of free software often think it means you can get a copy gratis. Many free programs are available for zero price, since it costs you nothing to download your own copy, but that’s not what “free” means here. (In fact, some spyware programs such as Flash Player and Angry Birds are gratis although they are not free.) Saying “libre” along with “free” helps clarify the point.

For hardware, this confusion tends to go in the other direction; hardware costs money to produce, so commercially made hardware won’t be gratis (unless it is a loss-leader or a tie-in), but that does not prevent its design from being free/libre. Things you make in your own 3D printer can be quite cheap, but not exactly gratis since you will have to pay for the raw materials. In ethical terms, the freedom issue trumps the price issue totally, since a device that denies freedom to its users is worth less than nothing.

The terms “open hardware” and “open source hardware” are used by some with the same concrete meaning as “free hardware,” but those terms downplay freedom as an issue. They were derived from the term “open source software,” which refers more or less to free software but without talking about freedom or presenting the issue as a matter of right or wrong. To underline the importance of freedom, we make a point of referring to freedom whenever it is pertinent; since “open” fails to do that, let’s not substitute it for “free”.

Is Nonfree Hardware an Injustice?

Ethically, software must be free; a nonfree program is an injustice. Should we take the same view for hardware designs?

We certainly should, in the fields that 3D printing (or, more generally, any sort of personal fabrication) can handle. Printer patterns to make a useful, practical object (i.e., functional rather than decorative) must be free because they are works made for practical use. Users deserve control over these works, just as they deserve control over the software they use.

Distributing a nonfree functional object design is as wrong as distributing a nonfree program.

Be careful to choose 3D printers that work with exclusively free software; the Free Software Foundation endorses such printers. Some 3D printers are made from free hardware designs, but Makerbot’s hardware designs are nonfree.

Must we reject nonfree digital hardware?

Is a nonfree digital hardware(*) design an injustice? Must we, for our freedom’s sake, reject all digital hardware made from nonfree designs, as we must reject nonfree software?

Due to the conceptual parallel between hardware designs and software source code, many hardware hackers are quick to condemn nonfree hardware designs just like nonfree software. I disagree because the circumstances for hardware and software are different.

Present-day chip and board fabrication technology resembles the printing press: it lends itself to mass production in a factory. It is more like copying books in 1950 than like copying software today.

Freedom to copy and change software is an ethical imperative because those activities are feasible for those who use software: the equipment that enables you to use the software (a computer) is also sufficient to copy and change it. Today’s mobile computers are too weak to be good for this, but anyone can find a computer that’s powerful enough.

Moreover, a computer suffices to download and run a version changed by someone else who knows how, even if you are not a programmer. Indeed, nonprogrammers download software and run it every day. This is why free software makes a real difference to nonprogrammers.

How much of this applies to hardware? Not everyone who can use digital hardware knows how to change a circuit design, or a chip design, but anyone who has a PC has the equipment needed to do so. Thus far, hardware is parallel to software, but next comes the big difference.

You can’t build and run a circuit design or a chip design in your computer. Constructing a big circuit is a lot of painstaking work, and that’s once you have the circuit board. Fabricating a chip is not feasible for individuals today; only mass production can make them cheap enough. With today’s hardware technology, users can’t download and run John H Hacker’s modified version of a digital hardware design, as they could run John S Hacker’s modified version of a program. Thus, the four freedoms don’t give users today collective control over a hardware design as they give users collective control over a program. That’s where the reasoning showing that all software must be free fails to apply to today’s hardware technology.

In 1983 there was no free operating system, but it was clear that if we had one, we could immediately use it and get software freedom. All that was missing was the code for one.

In 2014, if we had a free design for a CPU chip suitable for a PC, mass-produced chips made from that design would not give us the same freedom in the hardware domain. If we’re going to buy a product mass produced in a factory, this dependence on the factory causes most of the same problems as a nonfree design. For free designs to give us hardware freedom, we need future fabrication technology.

We can envision a future in which our personal fabricators can make chips, and our robots can assemble and solder them together with transformers, switches, keys, displays, fans and so on. In that future we will all make our own computers (and fabricators and robots), and we will all be able to take advantage of modified designs made by those who know hardware. The arguments for rejecting nonfree software will then apply to nonfree hardware designs too.

That future is years away, at least. In the meantime, there is no need to reject hardware with nonfree designs on principle.

*As used here, “digital hardware” includes hardware with some analog circuits and components in addition to digital ones.

We need free digital hardware designs

Although we need not reject digital hardware made from nonfree designs in today’s circumstances, we need to develop free designs and should use them when feasible. They provide advantages today, and in the future they may be the only way to use free software.

Free hardware designs offer practical advantages. Multiple companies can fabricate one, which reduces dependence on a single vendor. Groups can arrange to fabricate them in quantity. Having circuit diagrams or HDL code makes it possible to study the design to look for errors or malicious functionalities (it is known that the NSA has procured malicious weaknesses in some computing hardware). Furthermore, free designs can serve as building blocks to design computers and other complex devices, whose specs will be published and which will have fewer parts that could be used against us.

Free hardware designs may become usable for some parts of our computers and networks, and for embedded systems, before we are able to make entire computers this way.

Free hardware designs may become essential even before we can fabricate the hardware personally, if they become the only way to avoid nonfree software. As common commercial hardware is increasingly designed to subjugate users, it becomes increasingly incompatible with free software, because of secret specifications and requirements for code to be signed by someone other than you. Cell phone modem chips and even some graphics accelerators already require firmware to be signed by the manufacturer. Any program in your computer, that someone else is allowed to change but you’re not, is an instrument of unjust power over you; hardware that imposes that requirement is malicious hardware. In the case of cell phone modem chips, all the models now available are malicious.

Some day, free-design digital hardware may be the only platform that permits running a free system at all. Let us aim to have the necessary free digital designs before then, and hope that we have the means to fabricate them cheaply enough for all users.

If you design hardware, please make your designs free. If you use hardware, please join in urging and pressuring companies to make hardware designs free.

Copyright 2015 Richard Stallman. Released under Creative Commons Attribution No Derivatives 3.0 license.

12.31.14

Freedom in your computer and in the net – New Talk by Richard Stallman

Posted in FSF, Videos at 9:50 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Via Chaos Computer Club e.V: For freedom in your own computer, the software must be free. For freedom on the internet, we must organize against surveillance, censorship, SaaSS and the war against sharing


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