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Open Letter to Mogzagain (No Worries)

Response by figosdev

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Summary: figosdev responds to a concerned reader of Techrights, who wants Free software to succeed

Don't know who Mogzagain is; seems alright.



Can I call you Mogz?

People don't usually have this many questions and comments -- that's no problem, it's in response to a long article.

Let's get to it:

"I'm really questioning why these are posted. Very demoralising, and this one seems to say overall that none of us are joining forces or investing assets/time/effort/support, but users should fix linux themselves."

Let's see -- "users should fix linux themselves" is not exactly what I would say.

Linux is an operating system kernel. It takes skilled developers to maintain that. Skilled developers cover a very wide range of things, but I do not expect "users" (per se) to fix Linux.

What I had hoped was that the people already making it free (linux-libre developers) could expand into fixing other things. I actually thought this was possible -- I've spent years polling people and trying to meet this team (or handful of individuals even) willing to take this on.

I don't think that team exists. If there was any chance of that, I'd want to hear more details. They haven't come up.

BSD, on the other hand, is demonstrably forkable. In other words, relatively small developer teams have simply forked BSD -- kernel and all.

NetBSD was doing some things that some of its developers wanted to drastically change -- the changes weren't welcome, so they just forked it into OpenBSD. It would be nice if Linux had that, but it doesn't seem to. I'm really not trying to project a bias or be a "pessimist" about this one. I'd also love to be wrong.

...

"...not meaning to be unpleasant, but it's taken me half an hour to calm down enough to hopefully contribute something that might lift things"

Sorry about that. Hopefully some of the things that upset you were misunderstandings. Don't get me wrong, there are people I'm willing to upset. As far as I can tell, you weren't one of the people intended.

...

"if rms/oliva joined forces, steering things with a strong hand, small numbers, and refusing big tech, there could be hope"

Yes, "if" -- but rms doesn't code anymore. He mostly nitpicks things, but they're often important nitpicks. A fine example was when he made a big deal in 2015 about parts of the GNU Project moving to GitHub. He was against it, he listed reasons. Some of the GNU developers didn't listen. Now it's controlled by Microsoft.

Not all nitpicking is a bad thing. It won't produce code, but it might prevent code from doing things that harm user freedom. The GNU Project was designed to give freedom, not just to produce code.

Oliva is not going to fork Linux. Without a fork, I do not think Linux is going to be fixed. But if I thought Oliva was even going to try to fix Linux (you might think he would be the sort, I would too), then I would reevaluate the statement I made about it. Again, "if".

...

"and they have the experience and 'clout', so it seems wrong to say the little ppl should be achieving what they could, without that support"

That's really not what I meant or said. I totally appreciate that you got that from what I was saying, but since it doesn't sound like you're happy about it, I hope it helps that I didn't mean that.

...

"no idea why 5 github-linked packages aren't forked, seeing as oliva runs the libre kernel"

Let's look at those 5 packages (there are actually more) -- Perl, Python, zlib1g, libFFI, HarfBuzz

Perl and Python could be mirrored -- that would help if it was an official GNU mirror. They're going to have a difficult time justifying that when there are other parts of the GNU Project like Bison and GNU Radio that have moved there.

Nonetheless, Perl and Python are both used in build tools.

Automake for example, relies on Perl. In fact at least 54 different projects use it.

But GNU clearly isn't going to fork Perl or Python. They're enormous.

If we are realistic about the GNU developers, there are probably not enough people to fork HarfBuzz. But let's be optimists and pretend that's a sure thing.

LibFFI allows other languages (like Python) to interface with C. I've never used it, I'm really not sure how it works, but it seems to be required by nearly everything. Basically every graphical library brings in either LibFFI or zlib1g -- and any program that uses PNG graphics brings in zlib1g.

It would be a really good idea to fork or at least mirror LibFFI and zlib1g. But the GNU Project isn't showing the will to do this -- they don't think it's important enough to not have things like this controlled by Microsoft.

I don't know how familiar you are with the linux-libre project. It's simpler than forking these projects. If you ask Oliva, I'm confident he will tell you, it's simpler than forking these projects. I'm not underrating his skills -- in fact I'm not rating his skills at all, I'm rating the amount of work he's going to do on this.

I don't expect Oliva to do this anyway. The only reason he comes up with regards to this is he does linux-libre.

...

"figosdev should consider that telling others to fix linux isn't going to work when you tell ppl the leaders won't unite and nobody's really doing anything"

I don't expect you to be familiar with the things I've written, but in the past I've talked about upgrading the Free Software movement (in much more positive terms) and then I talked extensively about saving the FSF --

I warned people that rms would be ousted. I'm not taking all the credit for that, others warned that as well. But those warnings were still written in a way that suggested we could stop it from happening.

Now he's out, and all the points I made years ago about making certain the movement continues are more relevant and more urgent.

Maybe this approach won't change anything, but I've tried being more positive in the past.

A note: Oliva himself gave feedback on my article. I won't pretend he loved it, but he did seem to like some of the points made. He also corrected something that I would address the correction of in the article I wrote the next day.

...

"if rms/oliva prefer the fsf, why is figosdev writing saying users should fix everything, alone"

That's really not what I expect them to do.

...

"can't weaken a monopoly by being part of it"

I strongly agree. And this is what bothers me about GNU getting closer to Microsoft. It's deadly, and self-destructive. The developers don't seem to care, and that's worrisome.

Oiaohm is absolutely correct that most projects don't have enough manpower. I don't expect everybody to "learn to code", but we should at least try to teach everyone how -- not only so more people can contribute, but because it's the easiest way to increase computer literacy (as well as user confidence).

I wrote a programming language specifically to make that easier. A lot of people would probably argue that it wasn't necessary, but they don't know how it came about.

I was already trying to come up with ways to teach Python or JavaScript or Bash to anybody. I made lots of observations about the things that slowed people down that are NOT fundamental to coding, which I removed to create my own language.

I also took a lot from the easiest educational languages ever written.

Whether this is helpful or not, Free Software needs more people who can code. And if more people were interested in coding, it would be a lot easier to explain the importance of Free Software.

Free Software is important whether you code or not, of course -- and even if you don't core, having freedom makes it easier to do things when you can hire a person or find a friend that does know how to make changes.

But it's a lot easier to explain that to someone who does know how to code, so even if they're not making changes to the GNU Project, it's easier to promote Free Software if more people are coders.

If everybody is on GitHub though, it's sort of moot -- those people are interns for Microsoft one way or another. And Microsoft doesn't play for freedom, it plays for keeps (and control of the ecosystem).

...

"if rms/oliva joined forces, forked the 5 packages, and gave ppl some hope, surely a far better way to spend time and inspire users"

That really isn't going to happen. I don't think I implied that (ordinary?) users would do that, but certainly someone who is trusted by the GNU Project would have to do it. Some of the GNU developers trust GitHub, so their opinion isn't going to help determine if the mirror is in a good place or not.

Even the new FSF president trusts GitHub.

...

"why write articles saying users should fix it all when every response is so demoralising and depressing"

Right now people are ignoring so many problems, it creates an existential threat for the GNU Project. Not taking this threat seriously could cause more trouble than being demoralising.

If people are going to continue feeding Microsoft's monopoly, the GNU Project will not achieve its purpose.

People mark a species "endangered" in hopes of people making an effort not to kill it off, not to depress people. the result is worse if they insist on pretending things are alright when they're almost certainly not.

...

"ppl need some hope, and surely rms/oliva uniting is doable and would be something really good"

'What sort of hope would you like to see?' Is a good question for you to be answering right now.

Hope may truly be needed, I agree. Though I don't think it's the only thing that is needed.

...

"surely it's a waste of time to have anything to do with the fsf; they were behind rms being ousted, so have made it VERY clear which side they're on"

I agree, but I also understand the sorts of things that might keep people there past the time that it's reasonable. I suggested to Stallman that he should create a "more grassroots / less corporate" Free Software movement. I don't think he's going to, but I think it might really be necessary.

I suggest the same to anybody who thinks it's a good idea. There are caveats with that approach, of course. There are always caveats with any decision that is very big.

...

"but ppl need hope, and others to be positive, so, yes, that article does have a responsibility to contribute something positive, not demoralising"

I do not consider it my responsibility to give a pep rally when there are problems this big. The problem goes beyond morale, and the solution needs to go beyond morale.

...

"plenty of users have helped and donated, and suddenly everyone talks like that never happened"

I have donated as well -- generally to causes that were disappointing.

I've donated money and equipment to developers. I don't regret spending the money or giving up the equipment, though I can at least think of better projects now -- none of the projects I tried to support before GitHub was sold or Stallman was ousted have continued to help.

A lot has changed. Debian is the biggest disappointment on the software front. I worry for Python. I wish I'd given the money to PyPy, but one of the developers I gave it money to did a lot for me, I don't really blame him for what happened.

...

"so why doesn't figosdev be realistic, and thankfully brief ..."

I am being realistic, you're asking me to sugarcoat things.

Brevity is irrelevant. You decided to read my article. You could have skimmed or ignored it, you know.

...

"nobody's going to work together or help; you're all on your own, regardless of how much you may have contributed"

It's not my fault if (too many) developers stop caring about users. If I call them on it, it's not to depress the users.

...

"watching ms all day is not going to save linus"

"I would say plenty of users have donated, bugfixed, helped in countless ways, over many years ... but everyone talks like they do nothing"

I think it's more likely users have given too much support to projects that don't care enough about their freedom -- this is nearly the opposite of saying that users have done nothing.

...

"there weren't issues until big tech was allowed in; now users are 'lazy', 'greedy', should fix it all themselves, and no talented leaders will combine to do anything."

You've read a lot of things into what I said that I simply didn't say.

But we seem to agree that big tech is the problem here.

...

"whether short of resources or not, demoralisation and lack of effort is what is preached?! if rms had that attitude 30 yrs ago, no freedom or gnu would have happened"

I can't really improve on what Oiaohm said: "its not exactly lack of effort. the words is more those looking at the problem and seeing that the amount of work/effort going in is not enough."

Where you get that I blame the users more than the developers, I don't follow. I can understand why that would be upsetting, but not why you think that's what I meant.

...

"if a non-optimist can achieve the incredible things he did, I suggest he wasn't a non-optimist for real"

I would suggest that you assume that pessimists fail where optimists succeed.

Stallman is not an optimist. He is quoted as calling himself a pessimist in general.

He is a stubborn pessimist, and so am I. You might call a stubborn pessimist a non-non-optimist -- but a lot of people would still think (and often complain) that Stallman sounds very negative.

Let me give you an example from my own advocacy -- you tell me if this sounds like pessimism or what:

I wanted to share GNU/Linux with people. So first, I spent more than 10 years learning how to use it. I tried more than 50 distributions, easily (I've tried more than that). I learned Bash scripting (for some value of Bash scripting) and I told everybody I know about it, wrote about it, tried to give people copies of it.

I talked people into dual-booting. Sometimes that went alright, mostly, not great. It's not that dual-booting is all bad, it's that the people I talked into trying it didn't like it.

So I stuck to installing it on machines that people didn't want anymore. Only they still didn't want them after that.

I set up a homeless shelter with machines running GNU/Linux, and went in on a regular basis to do all their updates over SSH (on the LAN because nobody had the user and password for the AP to configure a port, and I didn't want to reset it for them as I didn't want to be responsible for their network as well).

Finally I found a way to give people GNU/Linux that actually made (everyday, self-proclaimed "non-computer people") happy: when they had computer problems, I would take a free computer and say "you can use this one if you want -- if you like it, you can keep it".

If these (particular) people had a computer and I removed software and installed GNU/Linux, they would think it was broken: "Windows looks wrong, can you fix it". "That's not Windows". "Why did you break Windows?" "I didn't, I put something else on". "Why didn't you just fix Windows?"

But if I give them a computer that wasn't theirs, they don't care what's on it. No frame of reference as to what "broken" is. This is how a lot of people think (sadly) and they're not interested in learning the facts. The facts aren't any less important, and I do try to tell them.

Eventually the platform I was using became unreliable, so I created a tool to remaster distros automatically...

It's not like I just complain. But when I spend years working around what I consider unnecessary and deliberate bullshit -- yes, I'm going to call bullshit!

...

"the devs that are going more corporate-favouring, infecting distros and the kernel, and getting the ms dollars, is no help, but surely rms fought that 30 yrs ago, and forged a path"

And for 20 years, Microsoft has fought against him.

I think they knew that he would be a problem for them with GitHub (among other things) so they finally used an old plan from OSI to get him out.

They say it was because of some MIT emails, however they were pulling the same shtick one year before at LibrePlanet. Over a couple of interruptions, including one question for the speaker by the president of the organisation.

The emcee tried to assert their authority over the president of the organisation, and the president (Stallman) didn't go for it. So they tried to say that made LibrePlanet "unsafe", which is some of the most fantastical bullshit I've ever heard.

Point being, this is all super-rotten. But you seem to already be aware of that, which is good.

...

"countless ppl have stepped up and helped"

I'm really not disputing that. A lot of the things I write heap up qualifiers to every broad statement I make: "of course this doesn't apply to everybody". To be honest, the fact that countless people have helped doesn't change what I'm talking about: the saboteurs we both seem to be aware of.

If we agree they exist, what's the problem with talking about it? And if I talk about it, why do you (seem to) think I'm blaming you?

...

"only free software guts and determination will win this, as rms did 30 yrs ago"

I strongly agree. But if the statement "only free software guts and determination will win this" is not itself demoralising, I don't think you should interpret my article a lot differently.

...

"ppl who are naturally complacent do that, but not those who care about freedom/privacy etc"

I think you believe I wrote about the people who actually "care about freedom/privacy etc". The thing is, I was talking about the people who are naturally complacent.

...

"it's so frustrating that ppl LET things be infiltrated"

Yes, it is.

...

"...red hat disgust me, how they leapt onto the fsf the morning after rms was kicked out"

'We think our advice could help the FSF find better people to work with, you know, for diversity. By the way, we worked with Hitler!'

...

"so those saying 'I had to take big tech money' are shams and didn't care about freedom/users"

Bingo.

"but where do those NOT harming linux/others go is the critical question"

Exactly. If I want users to do anything, it's to create that place -- because right now, it really doesn't exist.

Why do I want users to do it? So that users are in control of it.

We could ask the developers to do it -- but as Oiaohm correctly points out, they're spread very thin already. And it doesn't leave users with the autonomy they deserve. Both are real problems that I didn't make up. I encourage users to work on those, and I provide ideas as to how.

No takers yet.

...

"again, what can be done for linux users who care about privacy/freedom, and rapidly are having no island to inhabit"

That is a better summary of what I was talking about in the first place.

"rms started from very little and achieved incredibly ... surely we need to take him as the inspiration if we hope to get back what matters"

Again, I agree.

"those of us who care about privacy/values need an island, preferably with rms/oliva there, something like that"

That would be cool.

...

"...back to my point about the article, telling users to do the work, without any support/inspiration or the rich experience of e.g. rms/oliva"

I don't recommend "without any support/inspiration or the rich experience". Oliva is still around. So is Stallman, though he's very quiet.

By all means, people should draw what inspiration from them that they can. I encourage people to learn more about the history of Free Software especially -- because the history shows what a sham Open Source turned out to be, and because learning more about how Free Software worked from the beginning will help people understand how to "reboot" the movement. History is very informative about that sort of thing.

And as far as learning about Stallman goes -- the history is very inspiring.

...

"I'm the least tech person on linux probably, lol, and do art, only, but used to donate LOADS, until I go so fed up with the attitude to users"

Frankly I am also fed up with the attitude towards users. A person I used to talk to wanted to set up a new organisation specifically for users of Free Software. He wanted me to be the president, I said I would be happy to work with the organisation if it existed.

"but where [are] the leaders who care, who make an effort, who value freedoms and users, instead of constantly saying 'you fix it', when you can't alone"

What is really needed is a new community (an island as you put it, though I'm not sure an island is what you want per se) or I prefer larger (not too large) networks of smaller communities -- so that the small communities can be self-policing and have autonomy and self-advocate.

There's no way around self-advocacy. If you can't do that, (hint: you're self-advocating when you bring up these complaints of yours) other people will do it for you. When they fail to understand you, or even fail to care, you're right back to needing self-advocacy. So that's a must.

A lot of people are coming out of the (corporate) woodwork to say users are more helpless than they really are, and need to be coddled like infants -- I'm not talking about software! I'm talking about the ways communities are run.

It's all a sham to put corporations in charge of communities -- or put another way, to eliminate community and replace it with corporations. And it's working.

Sadly, only users can stop this. And if they join together, WE will help them in whatever way we are able. But we can't do it for them, it just doesn't work that way. There are too many problems now, for the organisations that existed before to solve this -- and that is precisely the point of the corporations doing it this way.

It is, to put it simply, the "advice" IBM gave to the FSF after Stallman was ousted, writ large. And that's rotten.

You know that years before this was about terms like "blacklist" and "master", it was about putting dollar signs in Micro$oft? That was their original objective: to get communities who hated abuse from monopolies to start treating their corporate "masters" with respect.

That article became exactly 10 years old on Wednesday. All this political correctness was already in motion a decade ago, but it wasn't about diversity, it was about bowing to Big Tech.

Diversity is great. They're hijacking it to move corporations above criticism (International Blaxploitation Machines...)

...

"going offline more, using rss, having thought that was at least better than being on the browser"

Awesome.

...

"have tried SO much online, but there's so much unpleasantness, lack of commitment, unfair criticism, and I have made stands, and you just get shunned"

Hopefully you do not feel shunned right now. Here we can disagree. It isn't mandatory, but it is an option.

"I could only teach art!"

Art is very useful to the movement. Personally I am disappointed that Lessig did not have greater success encouraging Free Software to pay more attention to Free Culture.

To me, the people who really get both of these concepts are of the greatest service to each movement. If you're an artist, and you add some free-as-in-freedom work to what we do, that's a help. I'm hardly the only person who thinks so.

"I've contributed fully painted professional wallpapers, offered stuff, etc"

Cool.

...

"unbelievable that ppl donate to mozilla etc"

Indeed. Telling people to "donate to mozilla" is almost as silly as telling them to send donations to Microsoft!

...

"if you want something done, let me know now"

Maybe hang around Techrights a little more (IRC is fine) until something comes to you? (Or comes to us?)

There's a lot going on, and (I don't speak officially for) Techrights needs people that care about these issues.

"what can happen? ... back to figosdev's article, which may as well have said 'you're on your own', as rms/oliva won't be there, etc"

Really not what I meant.

"what are ppl to do, when the most inspiring ppl aren't collaborating, those who have rich experience?"

I write about that too. I could just start talking about it here, though it might be redundant.

"figosdev says there's no real point creating groups, as big tech will just take over"

Not at all, I was talking about creating groups that are more resistant to big tech. And those groups need people who understand the things you do -- or who can learn them.

The idea of the groups being plural is part of the resistance to big tech -- which wants to consolidate everybody (via things like GitHub, Twitter, Facebook).

Fediverse is sadly all on GitHub. Most of the tech is on GitHub -- I blame the people who aren't trying to move.

I focus mostly on the treachery of "neutral" devs and actual shills, but ultimately it's the users who must find the will to boycott and/or salvage as much as possible that is currently controlled by GIAFAM.

...

"he did an article saying is it Tiny distro is best, but increasingly these solutions become more technical, beyond non-technical users, etc, or nothing will work, etc"

Everything really is tied into GitHub at this point. That's the problem. A tiny distro is best, but only if it's not developed on GitHub.

People who are on Windows or Apple can upgrade by moving to ANY sort of distro. Hopefully they will avoid ones with systemd, as that is another trap (also GitHub-based).

Most of the systemd-free distros are GitHub-based as well. I won't go into the serious problems Devuan has right now, but I don't recommend it to anybody. You know what happens if I recommend Devuan to you? I've done you a disservice. I'd rather do Devuan a disservice than you, and I don't even know you.

The reason I recommend a tiny distro is it has the fewest problems to solve. It's honestly much closer to impossible to fix something like Debian at this point than build a community around fixing up a smaller distro.

However, I've stopped using GNU/Linux and focus on BSD. Same logic as that which went into using a tiny distro, really -- it's a bit farther from the problem.

The computer term "booting" (you may well know this, but I'll say it anyway) comes via the term "bootstrapping", from the phrase "pulling oneself up by their bootstraps" -- a humourous and impossible / paradoxical image of progression.

I don't suggest we simply take users and drop them in the middle of the forest to fend for themselves. However, hard times lay ahead whether we do nothing and wait, or try to do something. It won't happen unless more users are up for an adventure, for trying new things, for taking an initiative (just not the Open Source Initiative, please).

Users are the only people who are qualified for some of this stuff. And it's hard to find devs who haven't sold out already.

But you're not alone, in fact, we are -- relatively speaking, there aren't enough of us yet. And when there are, we aren't going to agree on everything. So we need a way to disagree on some things and still make progress on the important things.

...

"truth-telling is important, but the message seems to be we're f*cked, sort it yourself"

You seem to already be as disillusioned with the FSF as I am. Consider the possibility that what I was going for isn't "it's up to *you*" but rather up to *us* (and you...) not up to the people who say "Support The FSF! Join Today!" Because the latter is indeed hopeless. I think you said so yourself.

However, to put it that would be even more negative. Maybe it would be clearer though...

...

"we're all depressed and fed up, yes, ms buying github and red hat selling out, is really crap, but is the only solution ultimately offline?"

I was hoping for groups both online and offline -- like websites and usergroups. I mean, it doesn't have to be websites and usergroups, but that's what I think of.

Usergroups were created to help people become familiar with stuff that now so many people are familiar with. In that regard, they may not be as popular as they were before (or perhaps they are. I've only been to one).

There is a lot of unfamiliar territory ahead. We have much more to tend to than what's become mainstream.

...

"nothing personal, just really concerned and hope something constructive can emerge."

That's exactly what I would say to you, sincerely:

Nothing personal, just really concerned and hope something constructive can emerge.

Long live rms, and Happy Hacking.

(You didn't have to read the whole thing, by the way. You could have even used grep -- or CTRL-F, or hit PgDn a random number of times, although Mozilla... you know what they're like).

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No wonder Microsoft is panicking
Today in UEFI 'Secure' Boot Debates (the Frog is Already Boiling and Melting)
Over at LQ today
[Meme] A "Modern" Web's Message in a Bottle
So-called 'security'
Brittany Day: Still Chatbot Slinging, Producing Fake 'Articles' About "Linux"
random garbage produced (and censored) by Microsoft
Almost 4k Gemini Capsules, 5th Anniversary Only Weeks Away
The Web will continue to deteriorate
Microsoft: $1 Million a Day for Contempt of Court Orders (Justice Department)
Microsoft behaves as if it's 100% exempt from laws
Catbodia? In Cambodia, Microsoft's Windows Fell to All-Time Low of Less Than a Quarter.
Cambodia is leaving Microsoft behind
[Meme] Deadnaming
Guess who uses a name that was deprecated well over a decade ago?
[Meme] 'Secure' Boot in a Nutshell
Ask Microsoft if it is "safe" to boot Linux
New Press Report Explains Microsoft Severance and Quiet (Undisclosed) Layoffs
Some people will call this "loophole", whereas others will opine that it is outright illegal (but kept secret to circumvent scrutiny)
Global South is Android/Linux (Windows Era Has Come to an End Already)
I've decided to take a quick glance at South American trends for all operating systems
[Meme] Unified Patent Troll
Unified Patent Court remains illegal and unconstitutional
The European Patent Office is Sinking
Officials (or national delegates) at the European Patent Organisation have long been warned about this (by staff representatives from the European Patent Office), but they ignored the warnings
A 3-Year Campaign to Coerce/Intimidate Us Into Censorship: Targeting Guest Writers (Intimidation)
Some high-profile people have told me that the serial defamer is a "monster" (their word), so why would Neil Brown wish to help him?
Summer in the Air
We have a good pace going on owing to health, positivity, inertia and good software tools
GNU/Linux Activity in Belize
From an economic point of view, Microsoft needn't worry about Belize, but when it comes to preserving the Windows monopoly/monoculture Belize matters
Links 28/05/2024: Back to MP3, NVIDIA Sued by Authors
Links for the day
Gemini Links 28/05/2024: Bad Beach and TLS
Links for the day
Microsoft Windows Fell From 100% to Just 7.5% in Sierra Leone
Based on statCounter
In Benin, Microsoft's Windows Fell Below 10%, GNU/Linux Surged to 6% or Higher on Desktops/Laptops
That's nearly 7% - a lot higher than the average in Africa
Over at Tux Machines...
GNU/Linux news for the past day
IRC Proceedings: Monday, May 27, 2024
IRC logs for Monday, May 27, 2024