Dr. Roy Schestowitz: Obviously, quite famously, the FSF has made a statement about Facebook and my question was, what is your take on Google Plus? I know you’ve stated that in your Web site very briefly. And also, are there any centralised platforms that you actually deem benign?
Dr. Richard Stallman: Well, the first question is, well, the FSF doesn’t talk about Facebook too much. It’s a different issue from the Free software issue. So, I’m concerned with other issues of freedom besides that of Free versus proprietary software. So, I disapprove of Facebook because it collects a lot of personal information and I don’t think it’s good for anything to do that.
“I urge you not to use such communication systems which demand to know who you really are.”When I give a speech, at the beginning I ask people, “please don’t put a photos of me in Facebook.” And now I explain why. When you put a photo with people in it in Facebook, Facebooks asks people — asks users — to enter the names of those people. In other words, that photo gives Facebook an opportunity to do ad surveillance of those people. Those [can't make out the word] the victim of having a photo put in Facebook. So, I would suggest that if you are friends with somebody that you treat that someone well by not putting photos of that person in Faceebook. And and in any case, I ask people not to put photos of me in Facebook. Now, there are many other bad things Facebook does. See stallman.org/facebook.html for a list of quite a few.
But what about Google Plus? Well, from what I know, which is not everything, Google Plus does some of these bad things but not all. One bad thing that they both do is require people to give their real names. Now, Google Plus says that in some cases we’re wiling to publish a pseudonym but they demand to know the person’s real name. Well, I think that’s enough reason not to use it. I urge you not to use such communication systems which demand to know who you really are. Because if they do that, they’re basically one more eye of Big Brother.
I think in practice one of the issues is many of the browsers these days have actually got some surveillance built in and one of the usual excuses these days is security, so they try to prevent phishing scams and things like such that are absolute; I think since Internet Explorer version 7 and Google Chrome and other browsers by default they will track the users and leave a trail, or at least provide the corporate maker of the browser, with a list with pages you visit, so the other releases…
“…Google can forcibly impose software changes and the user can’t say no.”Those are non-Free programs. Internet Explorer is non-Free and Google Chrome is non-Free. Not only that, Google Chrome has a universal back door, which is another way of saying auto-update; basically it means that Google can forcibly impose software changes and the user can’t say no. This is the same thing that Microsoft has in Windows, so Microsoft can also impose software changes. Any malicious feature that’s not in the program today could be remotely installed tomorrow. So, once a program has a universal back door, you must consider it not merely malware but universal malware.
More insights from Stallman are to be published in the coming days.
Dr. Roy Schestowitz: I want to know how big a threat you think the so-called “secure” boot is considered to be to the Free software movement.
Dr. Richard Stallman: It’s a disaster. Well, except that it’s not secure boot that’s a disaster, it’s restricted boot. Those are not the same. When it’s front of the control of the user, secure boot is a security feature. It allows the user to control what programs can run on a machine and thus prevent — you might say — unexpected malware from running. We have to distinguish the unexpected malware such as viruses from the expected malware such as Windows or Mac OS or Flash Player and so on, which are also malware; they have features that hurt the user but users know what they are installing. In any case, what secure boot does is that it causes the machine to only work with (?) programs that are signed with a certain key, your keys. And as long as the user controls which keys they are, then it’s a security feature. However, it can be chained into a set of digital handcuffs when the user doesn’t control the keys. And this [is] happening.
“We have to distinguish the unexpected malware such as viruses from the expected malware such as Windows or Mac OS…”Microsoft demands that ARM computers sold for Windows 8 be set up so that the user cannot change the keys; in other words, turn it into restricted boot. Now, this is not a security feature. This is abuse of the users. I think it ought to be illegal.
It’s a matter of control by the vendor of course, not control by the user himself
Exactly, and that’s why it’s wrong. That’s why non-free software is wrong. The users deserve to have control of their computers/
I think that not only Windows is going to be an issue in fact, if you consider the fact that even a modified kernel is going to be in a position where it’s perhaps not seen as verified for execution. Right, I’m saying, it might not only be a malicious feature in case of something like Windows running on it, it’s also for — let’s say — a user of the offered operating system but it’s free if the user wants to modify the operating system, for example…
The thing is, if the user doesn’t control the keys, then it’s a kind of shackle, and that would be true no matter what system it is. After all, why is GNU/Linux better than Windows? Not just ’cause it has a different name. The reason it’s better is because it’s freedom-respecting Free software that the users control. But if the machine has restricted boot and the users can’t control the system, then it would be just as bad as Windows. So, if the machine will only run a particular version of GNU/Linux, that is a restriction feature. And I haven’t heard anyone doing that yet with GNU/Linux, but that’s what Red Hat and Ubuntu are proposing to do things — somewhat like that — for future PCs that are shipped for Windows. But it’s not exactly that. And my reason is, the users will be able to change the keys. They will be able to boot their own modified version of the system of Fedora or Ubuntu if they want. So, what Fedora and Ubuntu were proposing doesn’t go all the way there. They’re proposing to do things to make it more convenient for users to install the standard version of those systems. But if things go as it has been announced, users will still be able to change the keys and boot their own versions. So, if all the restricted boot — but it will be something that goes sort of half-way there — it’s somewhat distasteful.
“The thing is, if the user doesn’t control the keys, then it’s a kind of shackle, and that would be true no matter what system it is.”On the other hand, with Android, which is another mostly Free operating system which contains Linux but doesn’t contain GNU, it’s quite common for the product to have something equivalent to restricted boot, and people have to struggle to figure out how they can install a modified and more free version of Android. So, the presence of the kernel Linux in a system doesn’t guarantee it’s going to be better. And I’ve heard someone say — oh, it hasn’t been checked — that a particular or kind of Android device is actually using an Intel chip with restricted boot.
One of the concerns that I think is worth raising is the fact that, as far as I know, with many of the embedded devices, especially those based on ARM, I believe it’s not even possible to get into boot menu to disable so-called “secure”…
That’s where Microsoft is really going all out, because Microsoft has ordered essentially — demanded — that those shipping ARM devices for Windows 8 make it restricted boot with no way to get around it.
Yeah, which also means of course waste of… all sorts of impacts on the environment. Any time that hardware become obsolete with the operating system itself is not being used of course…
“So it’s a very damaging thing that Microsoft is doing and so we need to look for every possible way to stop them or tweak what they’re doing.”Well, it’s worse than that. It means basically that those devices, you have to throw them out if you want to escape to the free world. And this — in the past — we were able to install, to liberate a computer by installing Free software on it instead of its user-restricting operation system, and this of course was tremendously helpful to the spread of GNU/Linux because it meant that users could move to freedom. It would be much harder if they had to buy another computer to do so. So it’s a very damaging thing that Microsoft is doing and so we need to look for every possible way to stop them or tweak what they’re doing.
Well, I wanted to ask you, one of our readers — his name is Will — is asking me if you have seen any new good hardware that can take coreboot.
I’m sorry, what?
One of my readers — a guy called Will — he has asked me if you have seen any new good hardware that can take coreboot.
“So, what we really need to do is make coreboot libre, just as we make Linux libre (which doesn’t have the blobs)…”I don’t know. Basically, I don’t keep track of hardware models. I only remember their names anymore, except for the one I use, which is, the Lemote Yeelong and it doesn’t run coreboot but it will run timar [?] in GRUB, it has a Free BIOS. When it comes it has a Free BIOS, which is why I chose it. But in terms of running coreboot, well, the machine which you run coreboot on are Intel-type machines. Now, there are a couple of… there is a problem, and that is, a lot of the Intel — and also AMD — CPUs require a microcode blob, and coreboot has these microcode blobs, which is the same kind of problem as firmware blobs in Linux. So, what we really need to do is make coreboot libre, just as we make Linux libre (which doesn’t have the blobs), keep (?) the coreboot libre (which doesn’t have the blobs) and then we need to see which processors actually run adequately without any microcode blob. And we’re looking for somebody who wants to lead this project ’cause it takes work. Now, leading this project doesn’t mean that you personally get all these kinds of hardware; oh, no, it would be asking the whole community to test things, but somebody has got to ask the community to do it, spread the word, receive the responses, put them together, and publish the list. Would (?) he like to do that? If he is really interested in having the answer to this question, maybe he’d like to help get the answer, and that would help the whole community.
More from Stallman is to be published in coming days.
Summary: The first episode with one host and a warmup before an interview that’s planned with Richard Stallman
Tim has been busy, but he let me carry on in his absence until he gets back. I did not script or rehearse this episode; instead, I dived right in and improvised as usual. This episode covers Android sales, my Android development project plus experience, a tablet lacking basic features, and my observation that plugins/apps do not add so much more so to make Android usable for technical work as opposed to play and amusement. “Dreamhouse” by Steve Poltz is played as the first song and then I speak about Nokia’s cuts, MeeGo, failures with Microsoft, and shrinking cash piles. Microsoft’s losses are mentioned and then Apple-imposed Android ans (in the US), as well as lost patent cases around Europe. Oracle’s patent case and USPTO reform are mentioned in light of dissent from a prominent judge who makes the objective of software patents abolition seem reachable. “Get U Home” by Shwayze is the last song played in this short show.
Summary: The first episode in a long time discusses changes in form factors and the stronger points of Linux
Today we spoke about Nokia, Linux, proprietary software on GNU/Linux, and finally something about LibreOffice. We didn’t prepare topics in advance, but it should be an entertaining episode nonetheless. The show closes with “Ceiling Of Plankton” (a song by Givers).
Summary: The last episode of season one of TechBytes and an eclectic catchup with news
Identi.ca, Disapora, and Facebook were discussed in the context of the Web. We then spoke about Mark Shuttleworth on tablets, Unity in Ubuntu, KDE, Trinity, and Apple/Microsoft aggression against Linux, including the outrageous patent deals. “Barcelona” by Giulia y los Tellarini was played around the middle. We ended by discussing what to do in season two.
Summary: Rusty joins Tim and Roy for a show that covers issues of the day rather than issues of the week
IN LAST night’s show we spoke about Putin mandating GNU/Linux for government use by 2015 and some related topics including Microsoft’s subversive actions against Free software in government. We played “Rule the World” by Inch Chua and then said a few words about the Linux Foundation and Nokia, which comes back to Linux in a sense. “Precious” by Minipop was played followed by discussions about Android and CyanogenMod. “El Tigeraso” by Maluca was then played followed by a discussion about servers, the release of ownCloud 2, and finally a few worlds about Bristol City Council and open source. “Take This One From Me” by It’s True closed the show.
Summary: Rusty joins Tim and Roy for a show about issues of the day/week
Rusty is back for another splendid show which suffered a few sound issues in the first segment. We start the show with wonderful news about Tim’s newly-born daughter and then talk about Steve Jobs’ death as well as Richard Stallman’s reaction to it. We then speak about Apple’s anti-Android strategy and take stock of Android’s success, noting that Microsoft’s patent trolls at Intellectual Ventures launched recently a lawsuit against Motorola — an issue that antitrust regulators turn a blind eye to. “100 mph (in 2nd Gear)” by Gemma Ray gets played followed by a discussion about Ubuntu 11.10, Unity experiences, and PCLinuxOS 2011.6, which introduced Tim to KDE in a much better way. “Everyone’s Got ‘Em” by White Ghost Shivers is then played and we begin a segment about KDE and tablets, later to mention India’s low-cost tablet, Microsoft in tablets, and the general shift in form factors. “Government Name (Spontaneous Lover)” by Rockwell Knuckles is then played, ending with a discussion about social networks such as Diaspora and Google+. The whole show closes with the song “El Rogadero” by Banda de Turistas.